A Toss Up

I found out the other day that I’ll be going back to work very soon, and I feel very much in two minds about it all. On one hand I’m delighted to be beginning the process of creating a new normal to get back to, but on the other hand… the reality of risk is rearing its ugly head along with the fear of the unknown.

Intellectually, I know that the country – the world – cannot go on forever effectively hiding from Covid 19, holed up in hope of a miracle vaccine that can make us feel safe again. At some point in time we all have to face our fears, adapting and making the necessary changes to society that allow us all to live with Covid 19 in the community rather than potentially die from it.

But emotionally I feel decidedly anxious and wary, because however much I’ve found it frustrating at times I’ve got used to feeling snug and safe in my own home and it seems crazily counter-intuitive after months of a very successful ‘Stay at Home, Stay Safe’ campaign to now be told it’s OK, it’s safe out there too even though the virus hasn’t gone yet – basically it has to be OK because the economy is collapsing.

It’s all about finding a precarious balance, isn’t it? We balance the risk of going out into the scary world where a deadly invisible virus awaits by wearing some kind of protection from infection, and because full Hazmat suits are not practical daywear for most of us in our daily lives, we compromise and stick to wearing a simple face mask and using hand sanitiser and keeping our distance from others to keep us safe.

We have to balance the risk of catching a virus that might kill us against the risk of having no future income to live on, which in a very different way also might kill us in the end. So somewhere along the line we have to meet in the middle. It has to be done, and I know it’s almost time for me to get back out there and get on with it. And in a weird way I’m quite looking forward to it, except for when I’m not.

The department store I work in seems to have created a well-managed environment for both staff and customers to move around in, with plenty of safety measures in place to protect everyone as much as possible. So I can’t help but wonder how I’ll be feeling on my first day back, smiley and safe or frowny and fearful? Right now it feels like it could be either, and it’s going to be a toss up as to which actually wins out on the the day… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Toss

Coffee, Tea, or Milk of Magnesia?

I thought I was going to be totally stumped today by Linda’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt of Coffee, Tea, or Me – flirty phrases are just not me, especially not embarrassingly dated stuff like that.

Then I read John Holton’s SOCS post mentioning about air stewardesses back in the day writing a book of that name and suddenly it all became clear. Yup, in the context of the sexist world of the original ‘trolley dollies’ (such a ghastly, demeaning name) I can see how that phrase might come about.

But to be honest the thing that struck me most about John’s post is the 1970s ad he’s included at the bottom for Milk of Magnesia – because oooh, there’s something I can post about, family medicine cabinet staples from my childhood! I suppose it’s a kind of Stream of Consciousness post once removed – related to Linda’s topic, but indirectly, through reading John’s post.

I so clearly remember the blue bottle of Milk of Magnesia, we were usually given a spoon of that white milky liquid for the solid kind of bellyache caused by constipation – I can even remember the odd taste of it. It was joined in its choice of eye-catching blue glass bottle by a little jar of Vicks Vaporub – its powerfully strong menthol heating sensation when rubbed on your chest and back was used to relieve congestion due to a cold.

My dad used to be bothered with indigestion a lot so there was always a tin of Andrew’s Liver Salts to be had – a spoon of that dissolved in water would fizz up into salty bubbles to be drunk down straight away, usually followed immediately by a huge belch, to settle any stomach discomfort. And I remember dad also carried little white square Rennies tablets in his pocket at all times for his heartburn.

Another duo of products that spring to mind is a tub of Vaseline petroleum jelly and a tin – a proper round tin, not a tube – of thick, pink Germolene antiseptic ointment. Now there’s a smell to stick in your nostrils. In my mind’s eye I link the strong smell of Germolene to the memory of fabric sticking plaster strips, because scrapes and grazes were cleaned with the sting of diluted Dettol, Germolene antiseptic ointment was applied, then a plaster cut to size was stuck over the top and you were sent on your way.

The painkiller I remember most from childhood is Disprin, a dissolvable asprin. If there was such a thing as ibuprofen available way back in the 1960s and 1970s they definitely didn’t make it as far as our medicine cabinet. These were the main generic products I remember, but I was ill a lot as a child so had my prescribed medicines to take too – Phenergan Syrup for my allergies tasted absolutely vile… yuk!

OK, that memory has put me off now, so I’ll just stop there while the going’s still good 🙂

Cranky

I feel cranky and grumpy as hell

But what ails me I just cannot tell

Heavy chest, feeling rough

Yet no fever or cough

And a perfectly good sense of smell

I’m so tired of feeling this way

Short of breath on and off through the day

Tightness tugs as I breathe

Getting old, I believe

Childhood asthma returned? Who can say…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Cranky

Meh-nopause

Let me start by saying – my blog, my experience, my opinion, so I understand that other mature women will probably have very different ideas on the topic. In fact I know I might feel very differently about menopause myself in a year or so, once I get more used to it – but right now this is how I feel about it all.

Right now I’m finding that menopause feels meh. And when I say ‘menopause’ I don’t mean that whole extreme peri-menopause period which felt a bit like puberty in reverse – all dramatic hormonal upheaval and irregular bleeding and mood swings and hot flushes and night sweats forever and a day. I mean the what comes after that, the ‘pause’ bit.

Without a doubt peri-menopause was difficult enough to deal with in that I found the long-term erratic disruption of my natural, familiar bodily rhythms both physically and emotionally draining. Because for me, forty-odd years of monthly menstrual cycles only ever interrupted by three straightforward pregnancies didn’t go at all gently into that good night, but most definitely raged and then raged some more against the eventual dying of the light!

It was certainly a tough time, which coincided with several other tough times in life, and emotional upheaval was the name of the game for a good few years until my now-you-see-them, now-you-don’t hormone levels finally gave up the ghost for good, and at the end of last summer we marked the end of that extended period of life turmoil by selling up and moving to where we live now. So now here we are, happily living in the house we intend to make our forever home, able to settle down properly at last.

And then only a few months later coronavirus came, and now here we are in lockdown… And lockdown feels meh too. So for now, for me, the combination of getting to grips with the realities of menopause and the too-much-time-on-my-own-to-think closed-in-ness of lockdown means life feels altogether a bit too meh for my liking right now. Don’t get me wrong, I love that we live here, and I love that all the practical upheaval of difficult stuff is over at last.

I love that I don’t have a diary punctuated periodically by coded symbols indicating bouts of bodily bleeding. I love the money I save in not regularly having to buy sanitary products any more. I love no longer having unsightly hormonal skin breakouts every month. And I really love that I don’t feel like a screaming banshee on steroids anymore, or end up dissolving into floods of tears every five minutes or so for no reason at all, just because my huffy hormones are in a strop.

So no more up-and-down-in-mood menstrual cycles for me, and no more all-over-the-place peri-menopausal symptoms either. Instead I’m simply left with the interminable flatness of menopause, made all the more noticable right now by the interminable flatness of life in lockdown where every day for me feels like groundhog day. I spent so long wishing for a peaceful life, inside and out, and it feels like now I have it, I don’t actually know what to do with it.

I know I’ll get used to it eventually, the flatness, and no doubt in time I’ll find it liberating to be free of the stormy upheavals of hormonal fluctation. I’m sure I’ll come to love the internal peace that such a flat calm brings to the previously undulating turbulance caused by the natural ebb and flow of female life. But right now, for me menopause feels meh, and there’s nothing I can do to make it feel better but wait until it does… 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Mature

My Health, My Life, My Choice…

Fandango asks a very topical Provocative Question this week:-

Which pre-pandemic activities are you ready to resume (or have you already resumed)? Which, if any, pre-pandemic activities are you likely to continue to avoid?

To date, due to Scotland’s continuing lockdown combined with my particular personal circumstances, none of my pre-pandemic activities have been resumed in full as yet, and I suppose I’ve had to be ok with that so far. However, with any luck we should be having a wholesale move to the next stage of re-opening soon, and to be honest I’m absolutely ok with that, too.

The main thing I’m keen to move on to is to be able to see other members of my family indoors, even with social distancing still in place, because that makes visiting with everyone possible in a way it’s not at the moment. Visiting with small groups outdoors only with no access to a toilet is definitely better than nothing but isn’t really feasible or practical for all: You still have to live close enough in the first place to make that possible.

And I’m definitely ready to go back to my job in the ladieswear section of a local department store with limited customers, careful social distancing and wearing a mask as soon as this is allowed. My husband has continued working in a local supermarket throughout lockdown, so by now people are used to how to behave in shops during the pandemic. Hopefully there won’t be too much of a free-for-all rugby scrum in womenswear in an Inverness department store – not sure when larger stores will be allowed to open again though, so exactly when that might be remains to be seen.

But when it comes to socialising in larger groups with strangers close by, however much I’ve missed it I’m not so sure how quickly I’ll go back to going out comfortably for a coffee with friends, or out for a pub lunch, because having carefully avoided other people for the last three months I’m not sure how relaxed I’d feel to be in that kind of environment straight away. And of course the point of going out for coffee or for a pub lunch is to relax and enjoy yourself, so we’ll see how that goes.

So whatever our Government proclaims we’re going to be allowed to do and when we’re allowed to do it with regards to this pandemic, I’ll probably go along with it in spirit but will nevertheless keep my own counsel and make my own decisions on looking out for myself into the future, until I know for sure my behaviour in public isn’t likely to make me end up really sick or worse, end up dead. My health, my life, my choice 🙂

Brightening my Day

We’ve just had Mental Health Awareness Week (18-24 May 2020) and I’m very aware that my mental health is not great just now.

My motivation for doing anything much, in tandem with my melancholy mood, has been pretty low lately. I’ve been pushing myself to do ‘fun’ things to try to force myself out of it, bringing temporary relief at times but overall I feel I’m failing miserably at keeping my head above water. So while the weather is nice today I’m simply spending time pottering about aimlessly in the garden, letting go of the stranglehold grip on my own feelings and just letting the colours and smells and sounds of nature work their magic on me.

We had a lot of rain over the last week so all the flowers are looking bright and plump and the foliage is a really rich green; everything looks sated and content. I notice the old roses I cut back so drastically before the winter are finally starting to bud, and I’m relieved to see the large fuchsia bush by the gate I also hard-pruned almost to the ground is filling out nicely. Not having killed off either the fuchsia or the roses the first year we live here is certainly a good reason to bring a soft smile to my face.

As well as the ‘frequent flyer’ wood pigeons, seagulls and crows never far from sight we also have several blackbirds visiting regularly, the drab brown understated females as well as the striking black males with their orange beaks. And for the past couple of days I’ve also seen a few delicately-tinted blue tits flitting about hither and thither, pale yellow breasts and soft blue backs catching the sunlight as they dart about. Learning anew to recognise some of the childhood birds I now see regularly again makes me smile a little, too.

So in a week where I’ve been struggling to smile much at all without frantically forcing it through sheer willpower and definace against the lingering lure of depression, today I’m finding surprising solace in my garden by simply letting myself be – allowing myself to feel down when I feel down, and in turn feeling powerfully rewarded by the magic of nature’s own remedy helping to brighten my day.

Weekly Smile

Day 63: So Near and Yet So far

Day 63 of Stay at Home here in Scotland, with the tantalising promise (if all goes well) of the beginnings of a slight lifting of lockdown restrictions later this week, in that outdoor contact will finally be allowed between two separate households, as long as social distancing is maintained.

To be honest I’m finding it really difficult right now to stay in what amounts to full lockdown mode while everyone in England has already had a taste of relative freedom for the last couple of weeks. Although in an attempt to reduce our collective frustration, thankfully last week our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon shared in advance the Scottish Government’s full ‘Roadmap’ out of lockdown including the welcome announcement that Phase One of easing restrictions will begin on Thursday 28th May.

But until then, all previous Stay at Home rules apply… Sigh!

One week more of total lockdown for Scotland is not much to ask in the grander scheme of things – and the First Minister has given us fair warning of her future intentions – but to me it feels very much like that last week of work just before you go on a long-awaited leave. Your head is already in holiday mode but your job still needs to be done properly, conscientiously, with full focus. Yet all around you, you see friends already on holiday, enjoying their new-found comparative freedoms and forgetting that you have not yet reached that point.

I know there are absolutely no shortcuts to getting through this pandemic for anyone, huge mistakes have definitely been made along the way and we’ve got a long and bumpy road to travel yet, but personally I’m oh-so-ready to move on from this stultifying stagnant stage, however cautiously and carefully. I understand we need to take it all one step at a time, in the smallest of tentative baby steps if needs be, but I firmly believe in general we do need to begin to move on now. We have successfully flattened the curve of Covid-19 infection and protected the NHS, and that was what we were asked en masse to do.

We were neither asked nor expected – well, other than those shielding of course – to remain self-imposed reclusive captives in our own homes for unspecified months on end until an appropriate vaccine had been found and tested and approved before the world moved on again. But for the bulk of the population it makes sense that we learn to keep our distance and protect ourselves and others from infection, even if it means drastically change the way we live our lives outside the home for good. Because I think the time has come when we do all have to learn to live in the outside world again, even if it means going on living with this virus into the future, and not just exist in limbo as we have been.

I’m not in any way advocating acts of mass idiocy or individual selfishness, or of disregarding the rules or treating them with disdain. I’m simply saying it feels to me like it’s time as a nation the rules and expectations changed so we all stop floundering around treading water in absolute panic and start to learn to swim forward a little again, stroke by measured stroke, until we can gain enough confidence as a country to loosen our deadly coronavirus chains and as a people together look outwards once more to appreciating the everyday joys of living, instead of focusing inwards only on the fear of dying.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Shortcut

Anxiety, Boredom and Creative Doom

Day 53 of lockdown, and I’m having a crap day. I just can’t be bloody bothered to try to be anything other than meh. My anxiety levels are simmering at just below screaming, my brain is bored of nothing but the same old, same old, day in, day out. And my motivation to be creative, which has been faltering fast lately, seems to have flat-lined completely.

So far today I’ve showered and washed my hair, I’ve done a load of washing and have hung it outside on the line, and I’ve tried to generate enough enthusiasm to take some photographs of a vase of flowers but honestly, my heart is just not in it today. I can’t even find the emotional wherewithal to go out for a walk, and that’s almost unheard of for me.

Do I wanna read? Nope. Do I wanna cook something nice? Nope. Do I just wanna sit here and stew in my own juice? Um… no, not really, but it’s what I seem to be doing. Enough already with the lockdown limbo blues, I’ve got no business feeling so down. Thankfully no-one I love has even caught coronavirus never mind died from it. Things could be so much worse.

But yet I feel increasingly dissatisfied, frustrated, tearful, angry, and on top of all of those feelings I feel guilty for struggling so much with having to spend a few measly weeks at home. In the grander scheme of things I know it’s really not such a lot to ask, but oh, how I want it to end soon. A month I was prepared for, even six weeks at a push. But two months feels like too much.

Physically I feel fine, mentally, not so great. Too much time to think with nowhere to go to get away from myself. No daily distractions from my depressive demons. Nothing to mask my melancholy misery. Just full-on me, annoying and irritating myself, getting in my own face 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’m holding on so far, but for how much longer… who knows 😦

Daily Diary: ‘Stay at Home’ Day 48

Four dozen days so far, seven weeks tomorrow, and frustratingly we are still in lockdown although apparently the Prime Minister is giving us a speech tonight about potential plans for finally grinding the gears of life back into some kind of forward motion action.

But it feels like all we’ve done is delayed the inevitable. Stuck in our seige mentality while holed up at home we may well have succeeded in suspending time temporarily, but the corona-clock is still ticking. The virus is still there, biding its time, waiting it out until we all stick our heads above the parapet and then boom, infections will begin all over again.

The world is well on the way to creating a vaccine – it’s in the process of being tried and tested, I understand, but we’re not there yet. I know loads of people have got sick, and far too many people have died (and are still dying every day), but in the grander scheme of things globally hardly any of us have had it and so it is not possible to have any level of herd immunity within the greater population.

To have abandoned the testing/ tracking/ tracing tactic so early on in the UK means we are now inevitably playing catch-up. We may have accurate hospital numbers but no clear idea of who exactly has had it for sure in a lesser milder form within the wider community, or indeed how many people may be asymptomatic yet shedding virus unintentionally, so it feels like we can have no clear exit strategy other than a messy hap-hazard sort of suck-it-and-see approach.

I’m not at all saying that lockdown has been the wrong strategy, but that lockdown alone should not have been the only strategy. ‘Stay at home’ was always about buying time, about delaying mass infections, keeping them coming in definable dribs and drabs rather than deadly droves. So surely it should also have given us the invaluable time behind the scenes to mass-test and have tracking and tracing running in the background so that we could have had detailed data by now?

I mean, we can’t all stay at home indefinitely – but we don’t really want to catch a virus that potentially may kill us, either. So personally I feel stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place – and it’s hard to see how nationally we can navigate such perilous straits apparently without either the necessary knowledge or equipment to see us successfully and safely through… 😦

Age-Old Dilemmas

Dementia and delirious,

High fever and forgetfulness –

Such stressful times I must confess,

Hope nothing more nefarious?

With virus deadly serious,

Clear diagnosis undefined

Leaves worry keeping pace behind.

No matter what my dad has got,

Infected catheter or not,

Bewilderment meets rambling mind…

My dad’s been in hospital for the last three weeks. He turns 84 in the middle of next month, has survived four strokes and has vascular dementia with a noticably progressive deterioration over these last few months.

He was initially admitted with a bad UTI (urinary tract infection) and after a course of antibiotics to clear the infection was fitted with a permanant catheter to help make things easier for him to be back at home with my mum, where he desperately wants to be. But in spite of the excellent care he’s receiving he’s now developed another high temperature along with another UTI, so has started on another course of antibiotics but for obvious reasons has also had to be swabbed for Covid, although it’s highly unlikely he has it.

He’s already been in a room on his own in the hospital and has been barrier nursed from the start so for dad, the only real immediate change for him will be there will now be absolutely no question of him going home for at least the next two weeks, just to be sure. And at this rate it seems he might not even get home for his birthday. Or for mum’s birthday a few days later. And the thought of my mum and dad each having to spend their birthday on their own after nearly 60 years together makes me feel so sad.

It’s tough enough not having been able to see either of my elderly parents for a while due to lockdown, but now with dad in hospital it feels even harder. I’m torn, because I know he’s in the best place for now, but I know he hates being away from home and in unfamiliar surroundings. And I know it’s giving mum a much-needed rest from it all, but still I can’t help but worry about him all on his own in hospital.

I know there are many families across the world separated from their loved ones just now, some in truly dire, life-threatening circumstances. I know that in the midst of a world pandemic, my dad is just one increasingly frail old man with dementia who’s already lived a full life, who now finds himself stuck in isolation in hospital because of ongoing problems with his waterworks, but he’s still my dad and I love him more than I can say ❤