Settling and Accepting…

Fandango asks a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week, and is actually one that I’m pondering in real life right now. He asks:

Do you see a difference in settling for things and accepting the way things are? If so, in what way are they different? If not why do you feel settling and accepting are the same?

Hmmm… Well, the convoluted back story to my rambling answer is that I’ve had ongoing/ recurring problems with the ligaments in and around my right hip since my late teens and early twenties, when I was pregnant with my three kids for pretty much three years in a row.

I was diagnosed a long time ago with a Sacro-Iliac Joint Dysfunction which is annoying and extremely uncomfortable more than anything else and frustratingly it still plays up occasionally (usually when I’ve inadvertently done something to it), needing some concentrated targeted exercise on my part to mend – until the next time it plays up.

My kids are now all in their late 30s and I’m in my late 50s, so one way or another I’ve been dealing with my dodgy hip/ lower back/ leg pain on and off for a long time. By now I generally know when to rest it and when to push it to work it off, and it’s got me this far so I must be doing something right.  

Recently, however, I hurt my hip while mowing the grass in the garden – not actually that unusual an occurrence for me. I kind of turned and twisted at the same time while turning the mower around and my hip protested immediately, admittedly to an acute level of pain way beyond the norm – it felt a bit deeper, somehow a bit more than I’d had before.

I tried my usual programme of a few days or so of deliberate rest and exercise and anti-inflammatory pain medication but although the ligaments and muscles seemed to be moving OK the internal hip pain remained and if anything, it got worse as time passed. So after a few weeks (I’m nothing if not stubborn!) I finally accepted maybe something else was wrong and I probably needed to see a doctor.

The doctor duly arranged for me to see a physio, and after a thorough manual examination the physio diagnosed osteoarthritis within the hip joint itself. I’ve got to have an X-Ray to confirm exactly how much degeneration/ disintegration there is, but it seems there’s not much doubt as to what’s causing my hip pain.

I have no more range of movement with passive manipulation of the joint than when actively moving my leg myself, and although my left hip allows for an easy 40 degree rotation before it meets any resistance at all my right hip sticks fast at a measly ten, at which point it absolutely hurts like hell, screaming in its refusal to move beyond the barest minimum.

The rest of the physio consultation consisted of discussing potential treatment of what is clearly going to be a long-term problem to learn to live with – no quick fix, no cure, just a sensible programme of mobility management on into the future, and the sooner I start thinking about that, the better. In one sense, it’s no big deal.

It’s an age-related wear-and-tear arthritis in my hip, so it’s inevitably going to slow me down a bit – I mean it already has slowed me down these past few weeks, it’s been depressingly debilitating at times – but it’s not something that’s going to kill me. I’m going to need to support and protect my gradually disintegrating hip joint as best I can from now on, carefully doing just enough to keep it strong but not enough to exacerbate it.

So here’s where the settling/ acceptance thing comes in. In my current situation I have no option but to accept that my ongoing hip problem is now a lot worse than it was, and clearly I’m not going to be able to continue to manage it in quite the same laissez-faire way as I have for the last thirty-odd years. I’m not going to be able to carry on doing everything the way I’ve always done it, and some things will have to change, like it or not.

Even now physically I can’t curl up on the sofa, because already my hip just doesn’t bend that way so I’m sitting differently. I’ve already been sleeping with a support cushion between my knees for the last few weeks to allow my hip to remain reasonably level, otherwise the pain wakes me up every time I turn over in bed. And I already wear supportive cushioned footwear due to having Plantar Fasciitis, so that’s a start.

I realise I might have to start walking with a stick at some point to further reduce the stress going through my hip joint with every step – to be honest I’d probably find it helpful even now, although psychologically I’m not quite there yet. And I’ll have to change the way I do the gardening, maybe creating some raised beds instead and rethinking long-term access to the back garden (currently via stone steps leading down from the patio).

But one of the reasons we bought a bungalow in the first place was due to looking ahead to potential mobility problems as we got older. This is maybe a bit sooner than we’d intended for contemplating such considerations but the planning was already in place for accommodating such a change in circumstances once we’d retired.

Thinking about the way I like to live my life now, I’m sure I can adapt the way I do some things – most things in fact – but probably not everything. Only time will tell. So for those things I will have to give up at some point, is that going to be me settling for something less than ideal, or simply accepting my new reality?

I think for me it will necessarily be more of a positive acceptance of my new limitations, because in my mind the idea of just settling for something sounds unacceptably second best, as if you’ve decided to spend the rest of your life mourning what you simply can’t have or can’t do instead of focusing proactively on what you still can do and still have in your life.

Perhaps what I’m saying is that once you’ve done everything you possibly can to improve any given situation, whereas ‘settling for something’ sounds to me like taking a glass half empty approach with something notably and regretfully missing from the past, ‘accepting the way things are’ is more about looking at the glass as half full of possibility and hope for the future, and personally I know which I’d rather do…         

Worrying Times…

Fandangos’ Provocative Question this week asks:-

What worries you most about the future? Why is that your biggest concern? Or are you not that concerned about the future?

I’m definitely one of life’s worriers, always have been, so I tend to find I’m always fretting about some stuff or other, necessary or otherwise. So right now I still worry about things, but as time passes and life moves on I find my concerns are not always about the same things as before…

I used to worry a lot about being an introvert in an extrovert’s world, about being too much of a home bird rather than a party animal, about feeling uncomfortable and awkward in large groups. Yet during our successive lock-downs I’ve kind of come into my own and feel strangely naturally equipped to cope with such a serial lack of social interaction. Being at home more in a world where being at home became not only acceptable but also expected for the greater societal good has gently, day by day increased my confidence in who I am. I find I no longer feel the need to apologise for not being more of a dynamic go-getter in life, I’m happy enough just to be me within my own tiny circle of intimates.

I used to worry daily about my weight, my hair, my looks, my overall appearance. About getting visibly older and slowing down and gradually fading from sight in a vibrant, fast-paced world made predominantly for the purpose of encouraging bright young things to sparkle and shine. Embarrassingly these all seem now to be such personal vanities of insignificance in the grander scheme of things. Now I’m learning to come to terms with my ageing body in a quieter, less demanding life, and I feel much calmer and OK about who I am at heart. But as my husband has recently turned 60, and I’m in my late 50s and still on the road to recovery seven months on with Long Covid, these days I find I’m necessarily fretting a lot more about my internal health than my external appearance.

And looking outwards I’m a lot more concerned than I used to be about what the future holds for all four generations of my family – my parents, my husband and I, my children, and my grandchildren. I’m concerned about the febrile political landscape here in Scotland, in the UK, and how the inevitable fallout from Brexit will affect us all financially and how we might build our international relationships across the globe. I’m concerned about the logistics of vaccinating the whole world against Covid, and where we all go from here, because until the whole world is vaccinated this pandemic cannot be truly over. And I’m increasingly concerned about climate change, with images of what feels like half the world burning and the other half drowning filling my TV screen every night it seems it is no longer a threat for the future but is already upon us in the here and now.

So I suppose my greatest concern for the future is not knowing what it might hold long-term for humanity as a whole. We might have a history of priding ourselves on the arrogant, entitled way we think we are in control of nature, readily using and abusing its resources as if there’s no tomorrow. But in reality, underneath it all nature is and always has been in control over the entire planet and we must learn to accept that anything else is just an illusion. So ideally we must all mend our ways before nature calls our bluff and we find out too late that because of our greed and ignorance we are stuck in the middle of a real-life disaster movie of our own making where someday soon there really might be no tomorrow on the horizon…

Fusspot and Clart

Fandango asks an interesting Provocative Question this week – he asks:-

Do you feel that people are more attracted to one another by their differences or by their commonalities? And why do you feel that way?

Looking at my own relationship with my husband, which so far has lasted for 48 years as friends, 21 as a couple, and 9 years married (concurrent, of course!), my answer is – both, in equal measure.

Starting with our differences, ooh, there are so many! My husband is a gregarious American by birth and heritage, I’m self-consciously quiet with understated British reserve. My husband is an extroverted night-owl, I’m more introverted and usually up with the lark. My husband is tidily organised in all things; order and method are his watch-words. With him quality over quantity wins every time, he’s a real perfectionist always. He’s always excellent at finding the exact right size of dish in which to store leftovers but has absolutely no natural sense of direction.

And me? Well I’m not a total disaster in the tidiness stakes, just not a neat-freak in any sense; I’m far more comfortable living with a little creative chaos and in most things ‘good enough’ is good enough for me. I’m totally rubbish at judging small volumes or areas but nevertheless have an excellent perception of larger-scale distances and directions. We joke with each other that as a couple we’re complete complementary opposites and often call ourselves ‘Fusspot and Clart’ – my husband works hard always to keep things ‘just so’, whereas I’m definitely more slapdash and messy in my approach to anything and everything.

Our similarities, though, although far fewer when listed on paper are nevertheless just as important to point out. Looking from the outside in, physically we are of similar height and build (short and stocky), and both look young for our ages (as in other people are usually surprised to hear how old we are), so in all practical ways we fit together well as a couple. We’re both first-born children of young parents, and were both brought up with a strong work ethic. We’re of similar ages and are both educated to degree level, achieved under our own steam as mature students.

We both have had our struggles with ongoing mental health issues over a lifetime so are able to provide each other with much-appreciated mutual understanding and support at all times. Our political views and values match closely, as do our moral standpoints, and our attitudes to money and family and friendship and the importance of looking after the planet are really closely attuned. We are both natural home birds at heart rather than party animals, both enjoy preparing and eating good fresh-cooked food, and both love spending time in nature.

So although on the surface we may have many differences, deep down the fact that we share the values and attitudes in life that matter most to us means that overall we both keep each other on our toes like any other antagonistic pair in nature, yet at the same time feel wonderfully safe and secure in our lives together. For me it’s the perfect combination of give and take, of similarity and difference, and to be honest I wouldn’t change any of it for the world ❤

A Regretful Anomaly

Fandangos’ Provocative Question this week asks:

‘What is your biggest regret in life?’

Ooh, that’s a biggie for me! It’s taken me days thinking it over to even start to contemplate what to write. And in the meantime I’ve been reading everyone else’s response and the general consensus is ‘No regrets’… So that has left me pondering and angst-ing over it even more…

I mean I have loads of regrets, including mistakes I’ve made and decisions I took too long over and opportunities missed and misunderstandings over things not said and things that can’t now be unsaid… I regret having hurt people in the process, especially my kids. Yep, that’s definitely my biggest regret, messing up my kids due to my own dysfunctions. The fact that it wasn’t deliberate doesn’t make it any easier to live with.

So I suppose amongst the blogging fraternity the fact that I do have regrets probably makes me some kind of regretful anomaly… Oh well! 🙂

Subjective Over Objective, Every Time

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

Where do you get most of your news from? Do you consider your primary news source(s) to be objective purveyors of truths and facts?

In a word – no. I expect every single news item from every single source imaginable to be subjective to a certain degree, because all news is written by a human being somewhere on the planet and all human beings necessarily have a certain angle/ perspective/ opinion/ agenda that means they can never be truly objective, however hard they try.

Of course many so-called ‘news’ sources don’t even try to be objective, they just force their own fabricated falsehoods on an unquestioning public, for money or ratings or political power or whatever. And on the other side of the coin many viewers and readers choose only to view versions of a story that align with their favoured subjective stance and follow these often outlandish ‘truths’ with blind fervour, aggressively denying all other possibilities.

The trouble is, there is no one ‘truth’ that reigns supreme. Truth itself is subjective, as it necessarily follows the particular norms of culture and society as it stands at that given moment, it does not in any way speak for all people in all places at all times. So as long as you bear that in mind, you’ve got a chance of finding a balance that bears witness as evenly as is humanly possible in any given circumstance.

The trick is to try to peruse as many different news sources as you can, within reason, triangulate opinion and use your own common sense (not blind faith) to work out what the most accurate real-time global position might be on any given topic. Look outside of your own little world – politically, culturally, socially, morally. What do other countries think? Other nations tend to make up their own minds about where the ‘truth’ lies, and judge accordingly.

Remember one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, depending on which side of the argument you fall on at any given time. Right and wrong, good and bad are inherently subjective positions, therefore any news reports on topics that require judgement will also necessarily be subjective. Keep in mind that history is always written by the victor, take all news stories with a hefty pinch of salt and you’ll be fine…

Rest, Relax, Recharge

For this week’s Provocative Question Fandango asks how we recharge when we feel depleted?

Would it surprise anyone who reads my blog that for me, I usually prefer to recharge by spending time in nature. Sometimes that means going for a walk – in the woods, along the canal, by the sea – or sometimes it just means spending time in my garden, whether actively gardening or passively resting.

It’s not a big garden, but as we used to live in a first floor flat in London with no outdoor space at all, with not even a window box allowed, I’m just delighted to have any size of garden space to relax in 🙂

From Buxom Blonde to Menopausal Matron

For years I was a natural buxom blonde. Natural in that my boobs are big without any intervention and my hair is blonde at source. In the past I suppose I had a reasonably nice curvy figure (although having three kids by 21 left their mark) and as I got older I used to dye my dulling dark blonde hair lighter to try to re-capture that youthful brightness. For the longest time I looked young for my age, too, so people would see me and judge accordingly. In many people’s eyes big boobs plus blonde hair equals bimbo – vacuous, dumb, shallow, whatever the particular stereotype du jour.

It used to be quite fun to see the look on people’s faces when I surprised them with the reality that I’m actually quite smart – I gained a first class honours degree at 40. Or parents would say to me in a patronising, parental tone ‘Wait til you have kids, then you’ll see!’ and I’d point out I already had kids, I’d been a mum since I was 18. My voluptuous soft curves often belied my underlying physical strength – beneath my layer of fatty tissue I also have well-built muscle. On initial acquaintance for various reasons I often simply wasn’t the person people assumed I was, and for many years that social dissonance almost became part of my identity – I was often able to use the stereotype to my advantage.

But as time passed it bothered me more and more to so easily be dismissed by others as irrelevant in a snap judgement just because of how I looked. It stopped being fun and instead I found it increasingly frustrating. In my late forties I stopped dying my hair and deliberately lost that ‘blonde bombshell’ look I’d kept for so long. And now I’m in my late fifties my once-shapely figure is more menopausal matronly than sexy hourglass, my dark blonde hair is greying and it seems the old stereotype no longer applies. So am I taken more seriously now? Nope, not a bit of it – it seems I’m still routinely dismissed as an irrelevance in society at large, but now it’s because of my advancing age rather than being a buxom blonde! 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Advantages

PS After publishing this post, it was brought to my attention that it would be a suitable answer for this week’s Fandango’s Provocative Question, which asks:

What impression do you think you give when you first meet someone?

So I’m cheating and using my post to answer this challenge, too! 🙂

Provocative Question Medley

Best sandwich?

Sizzling crispy smoked bacon on thick-cut soft white bread with lashings of butter… Mmm..!

What’s one thing you own that you should really throw out?

All my emotional baggage from the past.

What is the scariest animal?

Anything that kills humans, regardless of size.

Apples or oranges?

Apples, every time, even juiced. Citrus messes with my reflux 😦

Have you ever asked someone for their autograph?

I’m an introvert, so no, never in a million years…

What do you think happens when we die?

We stop breathing.

Favourite action movie?

Batman Begins… Does that count as an action movie? Plenty of action in it…

Favourite smell?

Now you’ve made me think of bacon sandwiches, all I can think of is bacon cooking, all sizzling and smoky and crispy… Mmm…!

Least favourite smell?

Probably vomit of all varieties – it makes me want to throw up too… yuk!

Exercise – worth it?

Maybe, if I could be bothered.

Flat or sparkling?

Flat water, sparkling wine.

Most used app on your phone?

WhatsApp

You get one song to listen to for the rest of your life – what is it?

Can I choose a whole album? Meat Loaf, Bat out of Hell, played in order all the way through… the absolute anthem of my youth. And if I absolutely HAD to choose one track only it would probably be Paradise by the Dashboard Light… All 8 wonderful minutes of it… Brings back so many memories, and that’s all I’m saying! 🙂

Describe the rest of your life in 5 words?

Growing older but not wiser 🙂

Fandango’s Provocative Question

Housework, Hobbies and Hopes

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week:

How many hours, on average, do you spend per day (or per week) on blogging-related activities? And what do you think you might do with your time if you didn’t spend it on those blogging activities?

Without putting any sort of numerical value in it, right now I feel I spend way too much time on blogging-related activities. But on reflection maybe that’s a tough judgement call to make in the middle of winter in the middle of a Covid lock-down, one year into a world pandemic.

I mean, we legally can’t visit friends or family or basically socialise with anybody at all beyond our immediate household so a lot of ‘normal’ leisure activities are severely curtailed for the duration. Life has become far more restricted for everyone, so for now blogging has definitely become more important to me as a way of feeling I’m still reaching out, still keeping in touch with the rest of the world.

Usually, when I’m out at work or otherwise busy with everyday real life I inevitably blog a lot less. But right now I’m furloughed from work so I have a lot of free time and real life for me at present consists pretty much of housework and hobbies. And blogging is most definitely one of my hobbies, so in general however much hobby time I have gets divided up accordingly between all the fun stuff I like to do.

Other current hobbies include watching TV (and that encompasses watching DVDs and other recorded media too), gardening (hello, it’s winter in the North of Scotland, you’ll be lucky in this weather), crochet (although thinking about it I’ve not actually done any crochet since we moved into our house 16 months ago), photography (some of which gets shared on my blog), a lot of colouring in just for fun, and writing the occasional poem when the mood strikes me (also to be shared on my blog).

Hmmm… So what is it I DON’T do now that I blog?

My immediate response is to say ‘reading’ – I used to read A LOT of fiction, I generally had at least one book on the go at any given time, especially when the kids were small. But to be fair that was decades ago, my kids are all in their late thirties and life has changed a lot since then. Reading was my go-to fantasy escapism that didn’t rely on anyone else, that I could pick up and put down however many times was necessary and that was always 100% portable. I grew up reading, as did my mum and my maternal grandmother – we used to share books amongst ourselves. And I used to read a lot of women’s magazines, too.

So when DID I stop reading fiction so compulsively and completely?

If I’m honest that happened a long time before I started blogging, and probably dates from when I was studying for my full time degree as a mature student. For three years solid I read voraciously myriad academic books and journals and articles and essays and essays and even more essays. I absolutely loved studying and learning and all that entailed, and for those three years academic stuff was pretty much all I read. And I suppose when wholesale reading is so firmly associated with work not leisure it stops being a form of indulgent escapism.

After I graduated I seem to remember I didn’t read anything I didn’t have to for the longest time, so not surprisingly other hobbies soon filled the gap left by reading for pleasure and I simply never picked it up again to quite the same extent. I do still read my beloved paperbacks, but not like I did before. And anyway, blogging includes reading as much as writing, just not entire novels. It’s more like reading while being involved in an interactive multi-functional magazine of life you also contribute to, filled with stories and snippets and tips and shared interests and opinions and creative connections.

I’ve been blogging on and off for seven years, and in all honesty I hope to keep on blogging for years to come. I’m sure my blog will inevitably change and grow as I do, ebbing and flowing with the tide of life. In the future sits retirement, potential ill health and infirmity, and all sorts of possible alterations to my everyday experiences that may affect how I interact with the world going forward. I may blog less at times, and more at others. I may move away from one thing and towards another. I may even change direction entirely.

But overall I feel blogging has become such a valued hobby, especially since Covid ran riot across the world, I don’t see me giving it up in favour of anything else any time soon, so however much time I spend on it is never going to be time wasted, is it? 🙂

How Do I Love Thee?

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

To be honest I’m not a great fan of crude capitalist consumerism at the best if times, whether it be centred around the mass celebration of Christmas, or Easter – or Valentine’s Day. I truly believe it’s possible to mark all of those special days on the annual calendar with an appropriately appreciative level of tradition and ceremony without either breaking the bank or filling the world’s landfill sites with cartloads of cheap commercial crap just for the sake of it.

Because surely if you love someone, you can show them every day, quietly, and very personally, just how much you care. Small impromptu gifts of flowers and chocolates and suchlike ‘just because’ are a regular enough feature in our house, both in the giving and receiving, throughout the year. And in a similar vein hugs are never far away, several times a day, as is holding hands when we go out together. And of course small, thoughtful, random acts of kindness never go astray in life and love.

So this year as usual I’ve bought my husband a perfectly lovely and loving standard-sized Valentine’s card, and I know he’s bought something similar for me, and we may well exchange small meaningful gifts of mutual appreciation, and enjoy a nice meal (usually home-cooked) with a nice glass of wine in honour of celebrating our love on Valentine’s Day, but nothing over-the-top ostentatious or showy or extravagant – that’s just not who we are as a couple, and never have been.

Overall on a continuum of overtly romantic to not romantic at all, my husband probably scores a bit more highly on the sliding scale than I do, but that just makes me try a bit harder because I know how much it matters to him. He’s more of an extrovert and I’m more of an introvert, so it just comes easier to him than to me to wear his heart on his sleeve. Although I must admit the longer we are together, the more comfortably open my heart becomes when it comes to displaying my innermost feelings more readily.

The most silly romantic thing I’ve probably ever done was to get up early one Valentine’s Day to cover the entirety of the kitchen cabinets and counter tops of our flat with a whole pad of pink heart-shaped sticky post-it-notes and also one of flower shapes, just for fun – it took me ages but the look on his face when he came through to be greeted by such a profusion of pink hearts and flowers everywhere he looked was absolutely priceless!

Hmmm… Maybe I’ll try that again this year… Bigger kitchen in the house than the flat though, so I’ll definitely need a lot more post-it-notes… ❤

Fandango’s Provocative Question: Valentine’s Day