Winding the clock back to the end of December last year, when the New Year was so shiny and new it had yet to begin, I had a conversation with my therapist where I had a definite “light-bulb moment”. In need of motivation for the year ahead, I decided to write a list of up coming events and extras (mostly outings) which would give me something concrete to look forward to, brightening my semi-life..
During the year, I’d attended several weeks of a pain-management program. We were taught how to set manageable goals, by making them S.M.A.R.T.:
My “Looking Forward” list was an extension of this technique. I followed one last piece of advice from the psychologists, which was to make goals public to give help to be able to stick to them, injecting intentionality into the project.. That’s why I published it as a blog post. Friends and family heard of, or read of, my plans with enthusiasm, and encouraged me to do my utmost to accomplish as much as possible.
The original list from 27/10/15 was as follows:
“In 2016 I’m looking forward to….
- Becoming an Auntie for the first time
- A close relative’s big birthday
- Going to see Boyce Avenue (a band who first found fame on YouTube coverong
- Going to indie food fest
- Going to a theatre show (yet to decide on what, where and when)
- Going to the seaside I miss the sea
- Visiting Susan with Debs and a sidekick
- Listening to Daily Audio Bible Every Day
- Keeping a gratitude journal (find a regular time to do this every day. Maybe 6pm?)
- Keeping up with Pain Management Programme activities:
- Review goals on a bi-weekly basis
- Every Thursday at 11.30am read through PMP course material
- Practice mindfulness at these times minimum
- Review Activity Level – is it at as steady a level as possible day by day?
- Reading a book a month on a completely new topic I know nothing about.
- Going to a different church from mine every 6 months
- Streamlining my spending (not sure yet what this looks like
- Sending a small but appropriate gift and/or card to a friend going through a hard time, Aim to do this a few times this year.
Six months on, my life is unrecognizable, partly from the move to a new area, no longer living independently and receiving 24/7 care. Some items on the list have had to be abandoned, (was unable to use passes for indie food fest,)as it is harder now to find carers to accompany me on outings, since the home can be short-staffed at times, and everyone is needed here. The home do their absolute best to allow some of the requests where at all possible. Going out is now mega-tough.
It wasn’t all good!
Items 8 and 9 required habit-forming to really impact my life, and sadly this just did not happen. At the end of last year and beginning of this one I had a period of illness where I was unable to leave my bed at all, due to a nasty bout of cellulitis in my good foot, which lasted 5-6 long weeks. The antibiotics alsocaused havoc in my body, lowering my immune system, and ensuring another infection soon followed. Once all of this had healed, I became more fatigued than I have been for years, losing the energy I had built up with extreme care over a number of weeks while attending the Pain Management Programme and building activity levels. I’d been feeling better, and that was all gone. Upset, my mood sank lower, and my comping mechanisms became more and more erratic. A care-planning meeting added to the upset at the time, as it seemed nothing was achieved at all that was much practical good. However, those who needed to realise just how hard things had got for me began to see just what I was facing, the first of several answered prayers in the first 3 months of the year. Some weeks later, I was given respite, and following that, funding to make it a permanent move. The swiftness of the answer meant that no one was prepared for it, and 10 minutes before leaving for the Boyce Avenue gig, I finally heard the answer I’d been seeking. Almost 3 months on, I’ve now settled in the home.
First Gig in Years and a meet n’ greet!
Fortunately, some items on the list were completed before the move, and some I’ve documented in this blog. I became an Auntie to baby Euan on 11th February this year. I made it to my Gran’s 80th Birthday meal at the end of May, and loved it despite all the effort. Going to the Boyce Avenue gig in mid-March was a guaragutan effort too. Organising a side-kick, taxis to and from the O2 Academy, and the all important tickets of course. To ensure I’d no problems with my ostomy while out, I just didn’t eat an evening meal, and drank as little as I could. I’d guessed, correctly as it turned out, that getting to the disabled toilet would be a palaver, and this was the only way to avoid those stresses. My strategy worked until I got home, which was a relief. I didn’t want to miss any of the gig and was fortunate enough to briefly meet handsome Calum Scott, from Britain’s Got Talent (2015), the support act to the UK-leg of Boyce Avenue’s tour. If you are wondering who the heck they are, check out the You-Tube links to their music.
Despite all the upheaval in my life, I’ve managed to continue thinking about what I learned from the Pain Management Programme, and attend two further sessions, but missing two due to illness. I’ve pulled out of the programme now due to the difficulty of travelling two or from Leeds, and of finding a side-kick. However, at an appointment this week, I’ve been given a reading list, and will be sent programme material in the post at the times the group meet with each other. Very happy with those arrangements, to allow me to continue learning and accomplishing my goals. One, was to gradually begin writing and publishing blog posts again, another to continue with gentle exercises and stretches I was given while attending the course, and the other goal to go out with visitors rather than staying in. Due to my change in circumstances, the third goal is not so achievable. I know I am doing as much as I possibly can and am learning to be content with that.
I’ve surprised myself with how much I HAVE done, and I’ve gained new memories, made new friends, re-acquainted with old ones, and built on aspects of myself I knew needed more work. I have more confidence from pushing myself despite often feeling lousy. Doing more has pushed me to want to do more, despite reduced energy levels these days. The days in-between activity days have become recovery days rather than rest days. Having a ‘rest’ just is not enough. I’ve needed more and more sleep after outings, and even in the days before hand. I now read veraciously, and more widely than before, from Women’s fiction, poetry, books on how to write poetry, fiction or memoir, a book of Spurgeons sermons on prayer, which I’ve not long begun, and many more, even some YA books. I colour in, am back listening to music, and nudging my friends if it’s been a little long between contact.
I’ve yet to go to the theatre, but have recently been to the cinema, and have plans to go again to see the much talked about movie version of ‘Ab Fab’. Hopefully I’ll get to see the seaside over the summer, possibly visit my friend Susan who doesn’t live all that far away. Of course, I have yet to have the operation I’ve been waiting for.I’m looking forwsrd to getting rid of my heavy hernia! I am sure there are other things I can add to the list. If you have any suggestion, feel free to post a comment below.
One thought on “Taking inventory: From the outside looking in”
It sounds as if a bit of goal reshuffling needed to be done after the move to your new home. Yes, you have done quite a bit!
I remember at one point, years back, when I was very depressed my counsellor gave me this homework: Write down one thing you’ve done well, at the end of each day. Could I do it? No!!! Well, not at first. But slowly I got the hang of it. Eventually it was increased to writing two things I’d done well. It really did help me, this homework. It sounds as if you are going quite well with your positive self-talk. Good on you!!!
I really like the idea of making goals SMART. It does help to have things to look forward to, particularly when we’ve lost so much. For me, when I’m really low, I need to narrow it down to just the next day: What’s one thing I’m looking forward to tomorrow? Sometimes I’ve cried just thinking about facing “tomorrow” and it takes some time to come up with one thing to look forward to!!! But having that one thing helps when you wake up the next morning.
I really admire your tenacious spirit. Keep up with the hard work you’re doing to maintain your joy and hope in what your call your semi-life.