Back to Normal

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks, in anticipation of the new year ahead, ‘What do you fear most?’

The immediate answer that comes to mind is that I fear that the population of the world will get their wish and everything will go ‘back to normal’, as in exactly as it was before this global pandemic hit. Because in my opinion too much of what we considered to be ‘normal’ is what helped get us here into this Godawful mess in the first place.

I know there are conspiracy theories that want us to believe Covid 19 was developed in a lab somewhere in China then let loose on the Chinese, and then let loose elsewhere – this belief is especially prevalent in the USA, it seems. To my mind those kind of elaborately constructed theories tend to come from people who want the blame to fall anywhere but on their shoulders. People who can accept anything other than the simple truth that if we insist on messing with the natural environment too much, eventually nature will start to bite back.

We fly back and forth across the world with no more thought than if we were visiting our next door neighbours, effectively shedding and spreading invisible virus as we go. Our cumlative carbon footprint blackens the scorched earth and kicks huge holes in the ozone layer and melts ancient glaciers and creates giant pot-hole undulations in the permafrost as we bury our blinkered heads in the ever-warming sands of time and hope someone else somewhere else will eventually find a solution that absolves us from all cuplability. We know the cost of everything yet the value of nothing.

A selfish culture of ‘Me me me’ and ‘Now now now’ have seemingly made shallow spoiled brats of far too many of us – we demand our individual human rights with no thought of the effect that may have on others. We have forgotten that with rights come responsibilities. We need to be collective custodians of the planet, not conquerors. We need to learn the lessons Covid 19 brings us, understand that a little humility in the face of the power of nature is not a sign of weakness but of strength and wisdom.

So there we are – ‘back to normal’ is what I fear most for 2021. Let’s hope my fears are unfounded and life post-Covid will turn out to be wonderfully perfect instead… 🙂

Uncomfortable with Confrontation

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks

When it comes to your friends, your spouse, your significant other, or members of your family, is it better to confront them about things they say or do that bother or upset you or is it better to ignore those things in order to maintain peace in your relationship?

Hmmm… Suffice to say I’m someone who is uncomfortable with confrontation in all forms, regardless of relationship. I have a lifetime of experience of not rocking any boats, not playing devils advocate just for the sheer hell of it, not unnecessarily sticking my head above any precariously positioned parapets, just keeping-my-mouth-shut people-pleasing at all costs – basically no jumping in unless I’m pushed beyond reason.

To be completely honest I’m even feeling uncomfortable with the thought of writing what I really want to say in this post because I feel like I should be really careful with what I share to be sure that no-one who reads my blog takes issue with my personal opinion to the point of commenting adversely… But then maybe that’s the whole point of posing a provocative question in the first place? Oops! 🙂

To ‘Me’ or Not To ‘Me’…

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks Do you blog anonymously? Why or why not? Hmmm… So basically to ‘me’ or not to ‘me’, that is the question…?

This is my fourth blog here on WordPress, and these days I use my real name and post honestly about my my real ongoing everyday life experience, because I’ve discovered that however cautious I feel about data protection and keeping my online identity as safe as I can within reason, I find that for me I also need to feel comfortable about sharing enough of myself to feel my virtual presence is genuine.

My first foray into blogging was totally anonymous – it was a cautious attempt to give myself a voice to discuss living with a lifetime of recurring depression which worked wonderfully for the first few months, but then I found it all became too restrictive and weighty. I soon discovered that part of the benefit of having a voice is the right to choose not to use it, so I deleted that blog and started all over again.

My second blog was far less anonymised, I used my own first name and opened up the field a bit on topics to cover beyond depression, but eventually that blog floundered and was deleted too – I felt as long as my initial focus was based around writing about my mental health, however light-heartedly, it constrained me too much when what I found I posted most was photographs and poetry for fun. So eventually, that blog, too, bit the dust.

Blog three was based entirely on what I knew I posted most of – images and words – where I not only used my own name and posted photographs of myself but also I twice attended the brilliant ‘Bloggers Bash’ in London, actually meeting other bloggers face to face, which was a great experience as much as anything because it brought home to me that whatever names they choose to post under there are real, recognisable people behind their blogs.

And then for a while I just stopped blogging altogether, and the longer I stayed away, the less I felt like going back to it, so I took a deep breath and chose to delete that blog too. But after another few months I started to wonder about how the bloggers I liked to follow were doing, so I decided to start another new, totally generic blog that would allow for any extended gaps of non-posting from time to time – and here I still am.

Here I discuss enough of my real life to feel truly connected to my blog, but hopefully not enough to disclose or expose the identities of my husband, my children, my grandchildren, my extended family, my friends. I feel I’ve been blogging long enough now to pick up from blogs when people are being their genuine selves whatever name they blog under, and in general those are the bloggers I like to follow most.

I know people blog for many different reasons, both for business and pleasure, but I find myself drawn more towards those who post with a personal touch. I also prefer to be able to visualise the person I’m interacting with online, but it’s not necessarily a hard and fast rule – looking at you here in your cartoon paper bag, Fandango!

People’s personalities tend to come through the page regardless, and I find it is that personality behind the scenes I like to engage with. Hopefully that’s also why people follow me here on my blog, too! 🙂

Quarantine Questions

Having been subjected to stay at home restrictions (to one degree or another) over the past six months, would you say that quarantine has made you a better person? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Hmmm. Has this pandemic made me a better person? Different, certainly, but better – no, overall on balance probably not…

Lockdown began with a deep fear of what might happen if I or anybody I loved caught the virus. Scared, I stayed at home for the duration as instructed, and enjoyed being a loner home-maker and a gardener for a while. But as the weeks passed I became increasingly disheartened, disconcerted, distressed. I missed people, and places, and soon it seemed like partisan politics got in the way of everything else and none of it made any sense any more.

As the infection rate and death toll here in the UK first rose alarmingly and then gradually started to fall week after week, I questioned the lack of testing, the lack of track and trace, and seriously struggled with the free-fall never-endingness of feeling trapped in a groundhog-day-style lockdown limbo. It felt like as a collaborative community we could not simply hold our collective breath forever, and that sooner or later something somewhere would have to give.

And eventually when the time came I went back to work. New rules, new restrictions, new possibilities for potential infection to get my head around. People to see and places to go, granted, but cautiously, carefully, all masked up and keeping our distance, dancing around each other delicately as if surrounded by an invisible forcefield like repelling magnets of similar polarity. Social contact, but still without any physical contact. Together but apart. The new normal.

To date thankfully my family are all fine in that none of us have had Covid, but other long-term ongoing health problems have become far more difficult to deal with across the months and the generations. ‘Protecting the NHS’ when it comes to Covid seems to have meant forfeiting so much else health-wise for so many of us, even now that first peak has passed. The importance of continuing family connections definitely means more to me now – I know potentially there is a lot to lose for all of us if things go pear-shaped.

Six months on I now feel frustrated as well as fearful. I still don’t want to catch this damned virus but I also want to live, not just continue to exist: I want to enjoy life again. What I miss most is the freedom to just be, without having to think about it. Go out where I want, see who I want when I want, socialise or not as the mood takes me. Now we no longer have that freedom I do appreciate what we have lost – perhaps temporarily, perhaps forever.

But whereas before I tried hard to be someone with a ‘live and let live’ mentality, I currently find myself far less tolerant of those selfish individuals amongst us who choose to demean, debunk, disregard and blatantly dismiss the scientific reality of our current global situation. I feel like saying to those self-important ignorant idiots – well, screaming at them, anyway – it’s not fake news, fuckwits, get with the program!

So on one hand I’m more grateful for what I have, but on the other hand I’m definitely far less trustful of others. Some of the time I’m wary and weary, emotionally exhausted, easily irritated. The rest of the time I’m just happy to still be alive…

Fandango’s Provocative Question

The Story of Who I Am

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

Is the concept of ‘you’ continuous or does the past ‘you’ continually fade into the present and future ‘you’? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of ‘you’ sticks around?

This is a question, or at least in variations on a theme, that has been on my mind for as far back as I can remember. And having studied questions of identity in depth as part of my degree studies (a blend of psychology and sociology) I may have a more rational, intellectual, academic ‘head’ answer to give, but choose instead to focus my reply on my entirely confusing ‘heart’ emotional response.

Here I am at 56 years old, and however much I understand that our identity inevitably grows and changes along with our life experiences, to me there is an integral part of me that feels much the same as I always have done. In the same way as I look at photographs of me as a child and recognise my external self in that past image, so I can experience a similar core recognition of uninterrupted internal self across the years. In essence I feel that I am who I am, who I always have been, an accumulation, an amalgamation of all the nascent me’s that ever existed.

It’s as if my own memories all layered together make me feel me, my sense of self a kind of constant continuation of my life narrative to date. It is perhaps that ongoing internal life-story that makes me feel most like me – my hopes, my fears, my desires and my disappointments all dissolved and diluted into a complex cocktail of me-ness that remains whatever I do and wherever I go in life. I can look back comfortably and know that I was that person at that time, and now I am this person at this time, and that changing experience feels just fine to me.

So there we go, a pretty confused emotional answer to a pretty confusing question! 🙂

Schools of Thought…

This week’s Provocative Question from Fandango asks:-

Do you believe that children should be required to return to school for the new school year?

Of my six grandchildren, the eldest is 18 and has already left school and the youngest is not quite two years old, so has not yet reached school age. But by the time our schools return here in Scotland on 11th August, we will have two five-year-olds due to make the important move from nursery to their first year in primary school, a seven-year-old with ongoing health problems beginning his third year, and a nine-year-old starting her fifth year in primary school.

All of our school-age grandchildren are really looking forward to attending school in person next month, but are understandably worried about the virus. They’ve missed their friends and have missed their teachers but know that lockdown happened to everyone to help stop people getting sick and dying. They have been keeping up as far as possible with schooling online, but it’s inevitably been a bit patchy over time and not quite the same as being full time in their purpose-built learning environment.

Scotland has chosen to have a much longer period of lockdown than England before starting to ease restrictions, and thankfully for now our levels of new infections and deaths are relatively low so we are in a position where schools returning full time is not such a contentious issue as it may be in some other countries. However contingency plans are still in place to allow for a differently organised ‘blended learning’ approach if this becomes necessary due to a resurgence of infection in the future.

So right now I must admit I feel pleased that schools here are returning soon, and as long as adequate safety measures are in place for all students and staff I think it is definitely the right thing to do here in Scotland. The children are keen to be back in their usual learning routine, five months has been a long time for them to feel like they have been missing out. They are happy to be at home, but are happy to be out at school too. They like their little bit of independence and the support of their peer group.

Too much longer away from school and I would probably fear their emotional health might begin to be seriously compromised, but children are generally resilient creatures with an elasticity of expectation and experience leading to an easy adaptability and acceptance of ‘what is’ that we have somehow lost as adults. The hope is they will catch up as their schooling progresses, make up for lost time, start to feel secure again in life. Hopefully lockdown will have provided a different type of lesson to be learned long-term.

But would I be feeling the same if I lived elsewhere? Probably not…

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 🙂

Making a House a Home

Getting away from all the negativity and craziness in the world just now, Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:-

What is the one thing in life you are most excited about right now? Why?

For me, I’m excited about the ongoing process of making our house into our forever home. We moved in last October, mid-way through the month, and decided to take our time taking stock of everything before making too many major changes too quickly. It all felt so strange to begin with, it was not only a move of 600 miles to a new house for us but also to a different city, a different country, and neither of us had jobs to go to. We’d both grown up in the local area, a long time ago, but hadn’t actually lived here for decades.

There is quite a bit to do long-term in the house – we need to replace all the windows, the kitchen units and the boiler and renew the loft insulation, and also do a bit of re-routing of wiring in the loft while the area is temporarily cleared of storage flooring, so decided not to start decorating anywhere until we’d completed all the messy background work first. And we’ve also left the old floor coverings in situ throughout the house – so once the bigger changes are made, and the painting and wallpapering is done, we’ll replace the carpets at that point, but until then we’ll live with what was already there. Not at all to our taste, but definitely livable with in the meantime.

We could of course have just bought a brand new property in walk-in condition, but this was the house we both fell in love with, regardless of what needs doing to it. This is where we want to create our new home, whatever it takes and however long it takes us to get there. For us, moving from a Victorian one-bedroom first floor flat conversion in London, England with no outside space at all to a 1930s three-bedroom detached bunglow in Inverness, Scotland with a mature garden front and back has been a masive change in environment for us to get used to, however welcome a change it may be.

The timing of our move in mid-October meant we missed all the warmer summer weather and instead hit the start of cooling down towards winter, so planned initially for a quiet time spent simply settling in to our vastly increased living space during the coldest months, deciding to really get going in the spring once the weather picked up enough to start making some of those big changes. Except of course just as that time appeared on the horizon coronavirus and lock-down happened, and much of our advance planning came to an abrupt halt for the duration. And everything is still pretty much on hold even now.

So since moving in almost eight months ago we’ve changed all the blinds and curtains and all the lighting, and have taken off a couple of unnecessary internal doors between the kitchen and dining room. We’ve chosen and bought wallpaper for the living room, master bedroom, and dining room, and have removed the built-in under-counter fridge and freezer which had both seen better days, replacing them with a super-energy-efficient free-standing fridge-freezer. We’ve bought a sofa, a set of six dining chairs, two large oak wardrobes, an oak chest of drawers and two oak bedside units.

And the extra three months of frustrating lock-down down-time effectively kicking our heels workman-wise has actually turned out to be surprisingly beneficial as far as the long-term house and garden planning goes. The longer we live here, and the more we get a proper feel for the space we inhabit, the more the house is subtly indicating what it wants, showing us what might work best for us all. We’re seeing how the natural light coming in changes along with the seasons, getting a real sense where our original plans might need to be tweaked here and there to best attain our particular vision of what ‘home’ means to us.

Just being here at all is still exciting for me, living in all this wonderful space, dreaming and planning and enjoying what we have already achieved so far as well as feeling full of hope for the future. This is what we spent a long time aiming for in life, and here we are at last living in our own four house walls within our own four garden walls. Making our house into our forever home, our way, one amazing day at a time… 🙂

Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

‘How old are you and how old do you feel – older or younger than your actual chronological age? Do you generally act your age? And what does ‘Acting your age’ mean to you?’

What a fun question! I’m 56, and will turn 57 towards the end of the year. And do I feel my age? Well, yes and no.

My body is clearly ageing, especially since I hit menopause – my depleted hormone levels also seem to go hand in hand with the depletion of whatever lubricaton allows my joints to move smoothly. Additionally I’ve got a growing collection of niggly ongoing health problems I didn’t even imagine existed when I was younger.

And my skin has visibly sagged and wrinkled quite a bit, my hair is greying and my eyesight has deteriorated so badly I need reading glasses to see anything at all close up. I know in general I definitely look as well as feel my age these days. Or rather, I suppose I look and feel just like an overweight, post-menopausal middle-aged grandmother, which is exactly what I am!

But on the other hand, my husband and I have known each other since childhood so can often be found giggling like teenagers at something stupid we find amusing, and somehow the years just melt away. It does feel strange sometimes to think back to when we were kids and realise just how many decades ago that was. We watch history programmes about stuff we actually remember happening, and look at each other and think – shit, when did we get so old?

I suppose I act my age in the sense of being a repsonsible adult and behaving in ways any responsible adult would – I don’t have to think about putting any effort into ‘adulting’ anymore, it just happens that way automatically. But then, I’ve been a mum since just before my 19th birthday so having to behave like a grown-up has been part of my life for a long time now.

But do you know, the thing that surprises me most these days is that I just don’t care if anyone else thinks I act my age or not – I have three grown up kids and six grandkids and I’d probably be the first to admit I may be older, but not necessarily wiser, and that’s just absolutely fine by me… 🙂

Who is this Ruth who Blogs Here?

‘Tries hard but could do better…’

Fandango has asked a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week – he asks:

‘Are you the same person on your blog as you are in real life? Do you like yourself more in the virtual world than you do in the real world?’

What a cool question! All I need to do now is work out how best to answer it. Who is the Ruth who blogs here? Hmmm…

I think my blog me is just a normal everyday part of my general public persona. You know, the polite friendly smiley person who is a trusted work colleague or something similar – much more than a nodding-acquaintance-in-the-passing, but not anywhere near as intimate as the kind of relationship as I might possibly share with my closest friends and family who know all the deepest darkest skeletons in my closet and have seen me at my absolute worst time and time again and continue to love me anyway.

I do sometimes share quite private stuff about me on my blog, but carefully, thoughtfully, and hopefully while still maintaining a bit of dignity and reserve. Because at my core I have a life-long fear of not being good enough, which leads to me being a people-pleaser at heart, which in turn brings me to a frustrating tendency always to try to blog with care so as not to offend. And as a result of that in-built caution I’m very aware of differences in societal norms between bloggers, and therefore how much that cultural awareness (usually) plays into the overall attitude and tone of my posts.

Over the years across other blogs (long gone now) I have shared insights into my life-long struggle with depression, and none of you can fail to notice I’m not at all religious and my politics veer way more to the left than the right. I can be quite strongly opinionated at times, and so struggle hard not to be overly judgemental of others when I do find myself having an online rant. Most of my posts are therefore probably relatively bland and ordinary and harmless in content, and I do try to keep my blog as a positive creative space, although that’s become increasingly difficult to stick to in the current global political arena.

And what do I think of her, this virtual Ruth who blogs here? Generally I think she’s OK, and most of the time we mirror each other’s views in perfect harmony but sometimes I want to push her into being even more honest in what she writes about the stuff that really matters to her. Sometimes I think she skirts around the edges too much, paddling cautiously in the shallows instead of just diving in deep and to hell with it. Sometimes I think she’s just too reserved, too polite, too people-please-y… and at those times she slightly disappoints me. Sometimes I wish she was braver, and cared a little less about what other people thought of her. (But to be honest I think like that about me irl too…)

So what can I say – this persona that appears on the pages of my blog is most definitely me, but I suppose only one part of me. She’s the virtual equivalent of me with my hair done and make-up on, in the smart-casual clothes I wear to go out in public. The confident adult me who understands how to behave well, how to respond appropriately for my age. The careful adult me who is concerned about what other people think of me and always acts accordingly.

So there we are, and here I am, having concluded that I probably feel pretty much the same about the blog me as I do about the real me – basically ‘tries hard but could do better’ 🙂

One Liner Wednesday