Hugs, Hope, and Happiness

Today my youngest daughter, her partner and their three children came to visit, and to my delight I was able to have grandchildren hugs for the first time in four months!

It’s been a beautiful sunny day so we pretty much stayed in the garden, apart from the kids nipping in to use the loo or for one of us to make a cuppa, but now that lockdown restrictions here in Scotland have eased enough to allow us to meet indoors as well as outdoors (with adults still social distancing, but children not having to any more) it makes a family visit so much easier.

And I’ve been back at work since Friday, helping to get the store set up for customers returning when the business re-opens tomorrow, so altogether this week it feels like we have some forward movement in life at last – not too much too soon, but about right for where we are in the pandemic. I’m hopeful all goes well as lockdown lifts even further, and we can begin to find our way out of this coronavirus crisis as a community without causing any more harm to our health.

So my weekly smile this week consists of huge hugs, a heart full of hope, and the happiness of taking a cautious step or two in the right direction at last. Sending peace and love to all of you, because right now I feel like I have more than enough to share 🙂

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

Expectation and Disappointment

I’ve definitely been feeling decidedly pensive over the last few days…

I hadn’t realised how much I’d been looking forward to Scotland moving to Phase 2 of easing lockdown restrictions from yesterday, with the expectation that the original roadmap plan set out weeks ago would be followed. But although we have indeed moved on to a Phase 2 of sorts, the initial tentative plans have now had to be altered and it feels like nothing offered has helped ease my particular situation, or at least enough to make any practical difference to where we were before, and I’m so disappointed.

I listened with mounting hope to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making her update statement live on television on Thursday, but as the new reality of her words slowly sank in, instead of celebrating as I’d expected, I sat and cried. I do understand exactly why things are as they are – outdoor transmission of Covid 19 is low, but indoor transmission is still problematic so for most of us, indoor gatherings of any size are out – but still, it hurts.

I’d hoped at least to have a fixed date for returning to work – but sadly, the store I work in is enclosed within a shopping mall, so no re-opening for us yet. And although I’d really hoped for a move towards being able to meet family members indoors, that’s still not happening yet either. Outdoor garden visitors are now allowed to come in to use the loo as long as they touch nothing else, and we can meet up outdoors with more than one household a day but groups can still number no more than eight, social distancing is still required as before, and overall travelling distance is still restricted.

It’s not the end of the world, I know, but it really shocked me to be so overwhelmed with disappointment at the minimal changes possible for me – I hadn’t realised I was holding on so tight. I know it’s excellent news for single people and single parents with young children to be able to create an extended household with no social distancing required, but I’m not in that situation. I know it’s excellent news for all shops opening directly onto a street to be able to open again at the end of this month, but I’m not in that situation either.

So in the meantime I’m left alone with my brooding thoughts much of the time while my husband is at work, and I just have to get on with it all as it is… I watch as new infection numbers rise across the world where many places have re-opened too soon, and on the whole I feel relieved that here in Scotland we’re playing a cautious waiting game, but still… I’m tired of everything feeling so stuck and stagnant, and I just want it all to be over so we can feel safe again, meet up again, be together again with hugs and laughter…

One day we’ll get there, and if all this self-sacrifice and social restriction means I can get through this pandemic without losing any family members to Covid 19, it’ll all be well worth it in the end. But until that time, what we can’t cure, we must endure… Sigh! 😦

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Pensive

To The Wire

I think I mentioned last month that I was finally job-hunting again, looking for part time work here in Inverness now that life feels a bit more settled for us. We’d allowed for around a six month grace period after moving the 600 miles from London to Inverness, living off our savings while finding a house before starting looking for work. And here we are having taken that six months to the wire, now living happily in our new house, ready to move forward in life.

So at the end of January I started job-hunting locally as planned, but discovered to my frustration that in Inverness, January is probably about the worst time of year to look for work. It seems that everyone who has worked on temporary contracts over Christmas is now back on the hunt for work too, but in general companies have not yet begun recruiting for staff to cover the tourist season – and Inverness always expands hugely over the summer months due to tourism.

Anyway, undaunted I initially applied for eight part time jobs throughout February, most on a temporary basis and only a couple offering a permanant contract, and from those applications was offered four interviews out of that possible eight. Of those four interviews, two were unsuccessful, and to my delight two have resulted in prospective job offers. But one of those job offers turned out not to be quite as suitable as the other (due to anticipated ongoing hours of work), so thankfully for me it was a no-brainer as to which job I accepted.

Anyway, I actually had my staff induction in a local department store on Thursday, and have worked my first two shifts over Friday and Saturday, so here I am finally back at work again – woo-hoo! It’s certainly not been as easy finding work in my late fifties as it was in my twenties and thirties, or even in my forties for that matter, but I’m relieved to have found a permanant part time job with exactly the right amount of hours I was hoping for in a store I regularly shop in, in a department that seems to suit me so well 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Just a Jumble of Jobs

When I first left school I learned about the importance of writing a good Curriculum Vitae, or ‘course of life’, otherwise shortened simply to CV, in order to sell yourself and stand out in the saturated world of the employment market.

The idea was to provide a positive sense of progress from one thing in life to another, a sensible story of education and work from school through to wherever you are now. So you would start with your contact details and a single sentence personal mission statement blurb-y kind of thing, then record your educational achievements, then show a clear career path from past to present, then highlight any particular skills you’d like to mention. Sounds fine, except…

My life course is not at all a straight linear path progressing neatly and clearly from one level to the next with increasing complexity and responsibility. It’s more of a ragged jumble of unlinked jobs interspersed here and there with a couple of full-time chunks of educational improvement, and extended gaps of family focused housewifery. And the older I got, the more nonsensical it all looked trying to record it all succinctly on one sheet of paper.

To be fair to myself, for a long time the type of jobs I was applying for (and getting) had no need of a CV at all. The Healthcare, Civil Service and Education sectors that take up a good 15 years or so of my working life required filling in a succesion of very robust sector-specific in-house application forms. But still I persevered in the background with updating that old-style CV of mine until about 10 years ago, when once again a CV became a necessary tool for job-hunting and I had a bit of an epiphany that turned it all on its head.

To make sense of the story of where I was in life at that moment I realised I needed to create a skills-based, not a career-path-based CV. So ever since that moment of clarity I find it much better to have my contact details at the top, then a section highlighting my transferable skills built up over decades of working a variety of jobs across many different sectors, then have my simple list of previous employment, and finally a small section at the bottom noting my further and higher education.

What my CV says about me now is – this is the mature me, these are the transferable skills I can bring to your company, this is cumulatively where I gained that experience – and oh, by the way, I have a degree. It feels much better this way, feels a more authentic record of who I am and where I am in life just now, and far better suits the type of work I’m looking for these days. I’m not a career-girl, and realise now I never really have been, although for a while I gave it a good try…

So right now I’m job-hunting again for the first time since relocating from London to Inverness, and am looking for something part time, reasonably local, that doesn’t require me working evenings or nights. My children are all adults now with children of their own, we’ve bought our own home and are mortgage free, and I’m not looking for any level of responsibility or anything that requires tipping that precious work-life balance too far towards taking work home with me, mentally or physically.

So realistically I’m basically looking for minimum wage retail employment or something along those lines. And if anything in that line isn’t forthcoming any time soon, I’ll consider going back to working in a pub, which is what I did for the last five years we lived in London. So in my own best interests I definitely don’t want to be shoving my degreee down anyone’s throat, or highlighting how many zeroes I used to earn annually working as a univeristy administrator way back when.

And being well into my mid-fifties now, I really need to try to turn my advancing years into a blessing not a curse, into an eminently employable and reliable jack-of-all-trades broad range of experience, not a past-its-best badge of out-of-touch obsolescence. But it’s not an easy task, and rejection is still rejection and it still stings, however old you are.

I’m confident I’ll get there eventually, though, and hopefully my odd jumble of jobs won’t hold me back in my quest – at least they show I’m capable of adapting to many different work situations! 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Progress

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Epiphany

Gobbledygook Take II

I just remembered a funny conversation that took place years ago, while I worked as a Floor Manager at McDonald’s – I was going round the customer seating area with the Lobby Hostess, and we were discussing toilet checks. She said she’d swept the floors and wiped down the hand dryers, and I reminded her (trying to be tactful in a public area where people were eating and we were going to be overheard) not to forget to check the porcelain was clean too. She stopped in her tracks, a lovely Glaswegian lass with a strong voice that belied her petite constitution and said ‘Whit? Aw aye, right – yous want me tae check the chanty’s nae boggin’!’ I guess from her perspective, my attempt at being discreet about a clean toilet bowl was nothing short of gobbledygook! 🙂

Busy Doing Nothing

So far I’ve been studiously avoiding this week’s prompt word of ‘busy’… but not because I’ve been ‘too busy’ to write a post about it…

‘Busy’ conjures up for me all the restrictive oughts and shoulds of constant and visible busy-ness prized so highly in our Western capitalist consumerist society, and feelings of shame that by that reckoning I’m not worthy of comment in that regard. It’s not that I don’t do busy – I can (and do) still have periods of extreme busy-ness in my life. But at 55 I also have plenty of prolonged periods of rest and relaxation, those magical spells of mental and physical time out from… well, from all of it really.

I’m tired of having to justify myself to others who respond judgementally to what they consider my lack of involvement in the treadmill of modern life. I mean, I did that for years – for decades – out of necessity. I brought my three kids up as a working single mother, and now they’re all grown up with families of their own I can choose to work part time and be a (rather lazy) housewife the rest of the time. And I don’t see my lack of rushing around in the rat-race as a negative thing – for me, it is a truly positive choice.

The whole ‘work/ life balance’ thing is a bit of a 21st Century theoretical buzz-word just now, but not many people actually consider what that means in practice. The reality of achieving a successful work/ life balance will in all probability look different for everyone – in my experience it’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all concept, because people want different things in life. But the important thing is it always has to be about balance. If you always prioritise the importance of work over life regardless of personal circumstance, then where’s the balance in that?

For me, I’m considering the concept of work/ life balance over my entire lifetime – I worked hard to do well at school, leaving at 17 with a good education, then got married at 18 and had my three children before I turned 22. I had a very difficult marriage and got divorced from their dad then worked a combination of part time and full time while bringing them up as best I could. After my children grew up I studied full time for a degree, then worked full time again for the next decade while paying off my student loan. I’m re-married now, and my husband and I have paid off our mortgage so we are embracing a kind of pre-retirement limbo-lifestyle.

People (usually working people, actually) ask me a lot what I do with my time when I’m not at work, as if I’m being somehow over-indulgent and selfish in allowing myself so much ‘free’ time. Well, I do a bit of housework, and a lot of reading, photography, colouring in, walking for leisure, enjoying nature, cooking, watching TV, blogging, thinking… so in a way I do have a busy life, but my style. Busy too enjoying family relationships to an extent that hasn’t been possible in years, invaluable with ageing parents and young grandchildren in the mix.

Honestly, I really like my life this way, quiet and unassuming and relatively easy compared to how it used to be. I don’t need pity from high-flyers for not being a career-minded go-getter like them, that’s just not me and never has been. OK, so I have a good degree under my belt yet I choose to work part time in a local pub – so what? I could go back to working for bigger bucks in central London again with all the stress and responsibility that goes with it, but why the hell would I want to do that? Been there, done that, happily wearing the T-shirt with my jeans every day instead of being all trussed up in ‘smart business dress’.

Roll on retirement, that’s all I can say, then I can legitimately start being busily retired and to hell with having to explain myself to others… and I honestly, genuinely, really truly can’t wait! 🙂