Shingles anybody? It’ll make you feel better.

I was looking at this post, earlier and a few days before that, this one.

Both are about trying to balance career with other things, in the first being a Mum, in the second illness. So this is not for the people happily churning out a book every month, or painting prolifically. It’s for the people who could but haven’t the time.  My books take about 2 years to write. If I had the glorious luxury of being able to write 9-5, the whole year I reckon each one’d take 6 months, tops. That, right there people, is frustration.

Eyebombing, the only art I have time to do nowadays.

Eyebombing, the only art I have time to do nowadays.

However, these days, I think I’m surprisingly happy with my lot and I’ll tell you the secret. Shingles. run with me on this one, it’s going to take a while.

This isn’t a Mummy Blog but I am a Mum, which is why I thought I’d write this post is for the other Glacier Girls and Guys who are living slowly because they’re parents and they have to. It’s also for anyone who is a Parent who feels that by not enjoying each and every single minute they are somehow betraying their child(ren). In any job there are going to be bits you don’t enjoy. Being a parent is a job and in this respect, it’s like any other.

The other trick, I think is that we all tend to get a bit Monty Python Fork Sketch about being parents. Sometimes, all we see are the bad bits. That’s a habit but it’s not an easy one to shake especially among those of us who tend to be a bit anal about getting everything right. Seriously, though it’s amazing how quickly the good bits become background noise.

McMini goes to school but in the holidays, mostly, it’s just me and him. Sometimes it’s a challenge – usually on days when my energy levels are not quite compatible with his – but mostly we have fun. I think we always  have but it’s only recently I’ve been able to see it like that. Because… well… the truth is, I had a bit of a melt down.

A little while back, three, four years ago? Something like that, the reactor really cracked. The journey down took a year.

My in laws came to live with us for three months, from May to September. I love them dearly and gladly took them in but I found it peculiarly stressful. The fact that I did upset  me. November, the cold set in and my Dad took a real nose dive. My worry about my parents intensified along with me feeling that I was failing them. I crept through the winter, torn between staying at home and looking after my boy and going down to Sussex and looking after my folks.

Meanwhile, I was trying to be a decent Mum, fun to be with, understanding, full of ideas, kind and loving, when I couldn’t remember the last time I’d completed a thought without being interrupted and felt like shit.

Then one of my friends was diagnosed with lung cancer and given 5 weeks to live and  I took stock. I had a loving husband, a lovely little boy, a very dear family, a fantastic group of friends and a car to die for. Hell, I’d even written a book. I knew it was all good but the frustration of caring for a little one and being torn in two different directions at once was beginning to get a bit  much. I knew I was happy ‘on paper’ it was just that in reality I didn’t seem to be able to convince myself. I was perennially angry and mardy and grim and I didn’t like it. Or me.

During this time, I didn’t write or paint. There just wasn’t the slack in the system. The ambient levels of background worry continued to climb into the red zone, my emotional glass was full and the tiniest thing on top would make it brim over and have me in tears. Eventually it all went pop.

It was a Friday, late March or early April and I got home from dropping McMini off at nursery and started to cry. I cried for hours. I mourned for my Dad, for my friend, and for my Mum as she shouldered responsibility for everything my Dad had used to do. I picked up McMini from playgroup puffy eyed and wondered if I was having a nervous breakdown. But I finally understood how it was I could love my life, and the people in it, the way I did and still be sad. And it was OK and it made sense.

The next morning, I woke up feeling as if a huge weight had been lifted, with a new and certain understanding of my world…. and shingles. I’ve never felt so shit and so relieved at the same time. Sure, shingles was bloody painful, but I knew I’d hit the bottom. The only way from here was up, and finally I had some fucking clue which direction up was in. And I felt something else. I felt strong, and solid, and grounded.

Shortly after that, my friend with lung cancer died and in the same week another one did, too, unexpectedly, three days before his 42nd Birthday. I became aware that you can lead a full and happy life, and still find your brain is in a bit of a knot. So, thinking I might need a bit of help I went to the Doctor to see if I could get some counselling on the NHS.  She referred me for something called cognitive behavioural therapy although by the time I got to the top of the waiting list, I’d kind of worked it out for myself, but the basic gist is this:

  1. You cannot do everything you want to do, only what you can do. This is the hardest thing in the world to accept.
  2. Once you’ve understood your limitations, think of ways to work within them and let the other stuff go.
  3. Concentrate on doing things that play to your strengths.
  4. Draw a line under your mistakes. You can’t change them. Move forward and aim to avoid making them again.
  5. Concentrate what you’ve achieved rather than what you’ve failed to do.
  6. If something is wrong, tackle it. Fix it.
  7. Don’t look at other people and compare them to you, they and their circumstances are different.

If you can manage that, you can enjoy and appreciate the things you are able to achieve and you’ll feel less trapped by the stuff you haven’t done. And that will make for an easier going, happier you and perversely, I’ve found I achieve more now that I’ve stopped worrying about it… (mostly). Sure, I am not the daughter I hoped I’d be and probably not the mum, but I know I’m fulfilling both roles about as well as I can and I’ll settle for that.

Yes, is difficult to adjust to the glacially slow process of your own life once there are kids in it – and I’m the queen of the big Jessies there, because I only have one. It’s also difficult to adjust to the fact there are bits of your brain, like your intellect, that you don’t get the chance or just don’t have the energy to use.

However, Amanda Martin’s post (the first link) summed it up perfectly when she said that the whole point is, she wouldn’t trust anyone else to do it. I wouldn’t and as for progress on other things. Well, it’s a bit like getting over shingles. When you are chipping away at something day after day, it’s easy to forget what you’ve achieved.

A few years ago, when I was absolutely at the end of my tether, I remember complaining to a friend, in tears, that I’d only written five words that day.

“Well,” he said, “That’s five words that weren’t there yesterday.”

And that’s the trick, isn’t it? Not to look at the oceans of stuff you haven’t done and the stuff you don’t have but to let all that bollocks go and look it the way it really is.

Life hasn’t stopped. It’s just slowed down; and who knows, we may be hankering for this when faster times come.


Filed under General Wittering, Good Advice

17 responses to “Shingles anybody? It’ll make you feel better.

  1. Thank you! Thank you for the link and thank you for the perspective. Life is all about compromise (and I’d say, if in doubt, watch Shrek Forever After! Sums it up nicely.)

    • Thank you! I’m glad it helped and I will watch Shrek the foreverafter at the first available opportunity…. because I love the Shrek films.



  2. Embrace boredom as your friend. When bored, time mores more slowly for you. Hence there is more time to be contemplative and achieve some balance and serenity, both of which are essential…….

    And do not forget how short a time you have before McMini prefers your car keys and your purse to you yourself…you’ll be horrified how short a time that can be after it has passed.

    • 😉 Oh fret not, I’m not bored, I’m fine and actually, these days, loving being a Mum. But it hasn’t always been straightforward and there are days when all the things demanding my time, knee appointments, McMini, family commitments, Christmas make it difficult to squeeze in any writing time. I love them all (well, except for the knee appointments which are necessary but not exactly ‘lovely’) and it’s not a big deal. I’m just impatient to finish the trilogy, that’s all.



  3. Just a quick comment to say the book arrived and I’m really looking forward to reading them.

    Horrible when friends our age die – words cannot describe it.
    I know what you mean about the guilt too – 9 yo was in tears on Fri cos I havne’t been reading to her lately and havne’t baked with her – so spent 3 hours with her in the kitchen on Saturday! I feel like I need to lie down in a darkened room for a month but hey, I’ll do that when I’m dead 😉

    I did that cognitive stuff too – brill guy by the name of Owen Fizpatrick, came about rather strangely but long story. But yes, it takes time for it all to sink in but boy, I love waking every morning and feeling happy and contented. Nothing like it xxx

    • Weeee! Glad you got the book, I’m looking forward to yours. And yes, CBT has completely changed my way of thinking and I am now happy and content in a way I never was before. The people who say happiness is a state of mind are onto something.

      Friends dying is always grim but at the same time, I always try to console myself with the fact that they get to go as they’d like to be remembered and if anything has taught me how to live it’s the realisation that there’s really no telling when I may die.

      Love your line about the darkened room. McMini also gets visibly down if I don’t play with him and I, too, have been neglecting him a bit, of late.A massive lego session this afternoon, I think.




      • I think as kids become more independent it is easy to think they are happy doing their own thing while you are working, even if in same room. I have a small desk in living room where I work while they are playing or watching TV, reading etc . I’m glad she said it – back to reading aloud to them in another week!

      • I can imagine. We try to make sure one of us tells or reads McMini a story every night. He gets reading homework from school so I tend to sit with him and do that before bed, too. I always like it because he cuddles up to me and fidgets… well… a little bit less and we just snuggle and read something.



  4. Until they became too old, reading to the kids at night – every night – was one of my treasured parental pleasures. I hope that they do it for their kids in due time.
    (Just not for a bit. I’m too young for Grandfather status!)

  5. When my kids were young (they’re both grown now) I became so involved in their school and extracurricular activities that it took over my life. I think it was good for them, and for me in some ways, but I resented not having much time to write. Don’t do as I did. Set aside time for yourself, even if it’s only an hour or two each day. You’ll feel better.

    • Don’t worry Lyn, I do. I think it’s easy to get sucked into these things but I’ve always been pretty firm about me time and with my parents as they are I also have to factor some slack into the system. If anything happens and I need to stay with them for a bit, or sort something out for them, the time has to be there to do it in. McOther has been brilliant in this respect as has his employer. So the writing time goes up and down but it’s always there. It has to be or I would go insane.

      So far, communication, with everyone involved, has done the trick. If McMini understands the reasons behind what’s going on and I support him and answer his questions, I am confident that he can handle most things.



  6. I very much appreciate this post. Thank you for so frankly sharing your actions and reactions in the face of these important life events.

  7. I need to read more of your posts, dig into the archives a bit. Even though I’m way on the other side – most of the shoes have dropped with a thud – there is always something that is going to go wrong in life, and the attitude is what gets you through in one piece. ‘Do your best, and consider it a success.’ Don’t remember who said it quite like that, but it’s true.

    • Thanks. It’s done me good to re-read this. I was a lot more grounded and sensible then than I am right now. Although I know why and I’m ok with it. Even so I hadn’t realised how much I needed to have a word with myself until I read that. So true though. Your best is all you can do.



Leave a Reply to willmacmillanjones Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.