Taking inventory: From the outside looking in

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.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

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….

  1. Becoming an Auntie for the first time
  2. A close relative’s big birthday
  3. Going to see Boyce Avenue (a band who first found fame on YouTube coverong
  4. Going to indie food fest
  5. Going to a theatre show (yet to decide on what, where and when)
  6. Going to the seaside I miss the sea
  7. Visiting Susan with Debs and a sidekick
  8. Listening to Daily Audio Bible Every Day
  9. Keeping a gratitude journal (find a regular time to do this every day. Maybe 6pm?)
  10. 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?
  1. Reading a book a month on a completely new topic I know nothing about.
  2. Going to a different church from mine every 6 months
  3. Streamlining my spending (not sure yet what this looks like
  4. 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.
the days that changed my life
month-per-view calendar

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.

Five Minute Friday : Truth

These last few weeks especially, I’ve had to deal with an awful lot of truth: Companies you depend on let you down, equipment you rely on breaks irreparably too often for comfort, people you thought you could trust let you down, others you knew for a long time betray you or move on, illness takes its toll, so where once you could cope, you now feel you are hanging on by your fingertips. Migraines, pain, dehydration, fatigue; it all takes its toll, and suddenly you find yourself running… running to the only One who is big enough to take your burdens from you, and in time reshape and reuse them for good.

praying-hands-1427667-s
Photo Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/gallery/jamesclk

Fleeing to the One who is Truth has brought comfort and rest – ten straight hours of it in one 24 period. Books of morning prayers, a devotional on pain, daily devotional notes of various kinds and other Godly books have allowed Truth to seep into my soul, and to know the One who is Truth is helping me through days of illness, appointments and fatigue in ways I thought I could never do… Truth is, I know One who will never leave or forsake me, and who has not allowed me to drown in the water.

If you are struggling today, seek out the Truth, the only One who can help. The website www.lookingforGod.com is a good place to start.

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This post was written for Five Minute Friday. Do check out the ink and have a go yourself, I’d love to read it. Comment below with your link!

Five Minute Friday : Better Together.

I never used to like ‘me time’. I used to crave the company of others and hate spending so much time on my own. I have to say that these days the opposite can often be true. Perhaps the right balance is somewhere in the middle though. Together is Good. Together is to be treasured, worked on, and savoured. I have a friend I love to bits who I meet up with a couple of times a month. We have lunch, and sometimes, followed by hot chocolate. Depends how much time we have, or what mood her little boy is in, as these days, he is part of things too. A lot of my together time happens in my flat, at church, or even online. Scripture says ‘not to give up meeting TOGETHER as some are in the habit of doing’. Truth is we need each other. We were never meant to function alone, at least not all the time. Solitude is good, especially time along with our heavenly Father, and time to rest, recuperate, and repair our depleted energies. We were made for interdependence on each other though. I am reminded of this several times a day, because I need help from other for a lot of the basics of life.

If we are Christians though, our dependence is on God first, not on our own strength alone. We were made for fellowship, and community with each other. To give each other the comfort we have known God give us. These days, I often seek support and give support online. I have written before about friends I really value who I am unlikely to meet in person until heaven. There are others that for health reasons I most over talk to via technology. I do not often have the energy to meet up, but I do know my friends are there, and can keep tabs on how they are doing. I mussed Church last Sunday as I had not slept well at all overnight and felt awful, though texts appeared from three or four close friends, and the same with Facebook messages with another one or two. I know they noticed I was absent, which is important. We each long to be noticed, by this I knew they cared and I knew they were there for me if I needed them. Even short phone calls can have the same effect. Together is healthy, and together is good. Together with God, and together with each other. Stronger together, weaker apart.

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This post is for Five-minute Friday. Why not have a go yourself? I’d love to read it!

Five minute Friday: Laundry

I wrote this short post yesterday for ‘Five-Minute Friday‘, but forgot to post it, so here it is!

I am someone who has rather a lot of laundry. I’ve been without my ‘big wheelchair’, and so been so tired from half-baked attempts to get around other ways, I have had a bag accident once a day where I’ve had to change half or all clothes and put them in the washing machine. Yuck. They’re not pleasant and involve lots of effort to sort, either by me or others, depending what’s happened.

clothes pegs on a washing line
clothes pegs on a washing line

But then there is that other kind of ‘dirty laundry’ – those things we would not wish others to know, and if they do, then it is embarrassing and extremely unpleasant to face the consequences, and it may be something which hurts others, by it a rumour which gets out, an affair gets discovered, or an argument between an (ex) couple on social networks such as twitter or Facebook. Any of those things, or countless other examples could be called ‘airing our/their dirty laundry in public.

What a stinky, unsavoury mess, right. The name for examples like that is sin. The only One who can wash our dirty laundry clean is the Lord Jesus. His blood washes us clean, giving us brand new, shining white garments to wear. Things have happened recently which have made me acutely aware of my own shortcomings, because I let my standards slip badly. I am so grateful to Jesus who gives me something I don’t deserve – his unmerited favour, a good gift called Grace (a bit like getting ice-cream even though we’ve been naughty, instead of what we do deserve – punishment. I can never fully grasp what Jesus did for me, and continues to do for me, but what I do grasp, I am extremely grateful I can give up my dirty laundry and be washed clean – so can you!

Mirror, Mirror (2)

Mirror, or vintage iPad (thanks obni)
Mirror (Photo credit: christing-O-)

A comment left underneath the post I wrote about Standing Out Sitting Down said how insightful the post was, which has given me some confidence to attempt this prompt from the 14th August:

Think of your blog as a mirror: what does it reveal? Consider your blog name, theme choice, design, bio, posts… what does every element tell you about yourself?

The title, ‘sat n all that’ was actually thought of by someone else. One of the carers, actually who I don’t see now but they used to have loads of shifts with me. The blog started as a project to take my mind off things round the time I was struggling to adjust to changes in my circumstances, and to give me another purpose to my day. I find it a little easier to think of titles now, but found it impossible in the beginning. The title started off as ‘I may be sat, but I’m all that’, but I felt it wasn’t snappy enough, and wanted to write about more than just being sat in a chair, or only about disability issues. After all, my life is more than these things. My life is not nearly as varied as I would like; ‘special someone’ is no longer on the scene, I am unable to work, and I’ve even had to cut down on the blogging, to keep up with it. However, I have amazing friends, a great church family, and have more interests now, so do still have variety of people of things important to me to write about.

The design started as something else, though I can’t think what it was now. When choosing a theme, I wasn’t really bothered about the aesthetics. I wanted something clear and easy to read, so as wide a range of people could get access to it as possible. As ‘barrier-free’ as it could be without designing a site myself from scratch, as a few friends use screen reading software, and I wanted anyone who read it to be able to get access to it on whatever device they use to  surf the web. That says a lot about me, really. I’m an open, friendly person, and I find a lot of purpose in reaching out to others, in whatever small way. Plus, a lot of disability access is  an afterthought, and not from the outset, and I wanted to think about it from the beginning.

The theme is trickier. I like the idea of being a ‘niche’ blogger, and I guess I am in some ways as I write about disability, or faith, or more often, disability AND faith, together. Both are integral to my life, and intertwined in many ways. My faith in Jesus is central to helping me cope with my challenges, and my challenges deepen my faith. I didn’t want to write narrowly on just one theme, as I lacked the confidence to think I could come up with posts easily enough on just one theme… plus, as I say, I couldn’t really separate the two, so I am much happier with a ‘hybrid’ blog. I think, now the blog is a year old, and though there have been stretches of about a month at a time where I have written little, I am more comfortable with the themes I write about these days.

If you look at the ‘tag cloud’ to the right of a post, the topics I write about most are in bigger letter than subjects I write about less often. At this time, the topic in the largest lettering of all is ‘disability’. I am not entirely comfortable with that, as there are so many bloggers out there with a disability, people who have campaigned for years, advocated for others, been active in politics, and really know their stuff. I feel so intimidated by that because I worry so much that their writing on disability issues is so much more informed than mine, and what right have I to write about it so often when any of them can do a better job?

This is partly a complete lack of confidence, and a desire that if I bother to write at all I want to write informed, quality content; otherwise, what is the point? I guess it is partly about perspective too. It sounds idiotic to point this out, but obviously no two people who live with a disability will have the same views even, on their disability, so it stands to reason both will be able to offer different perspectives. I find it absolutely unbelievable that my most popular posts have been disability related.

The first post to which substantially more people read, and the first shared more widely, was one I wrote at the end of last year, about David Cameron’s speech at 2012’s Party Conference. Specifically, focussing on two little words he used: ‘Compassionate Conservatism. Now, a complete oxymoron…!! This particular post was also (he claims!) read by my MP, – WOW! My most popular post ever, I wrote very recently, about not being able to work, and trying to address the popular thought that if some severely disabled people can work, then why can’t every disabled person do likewise. To my amazement, this post was shared around upwards of 100 times, and has been viewed 400-500 times, at least! I’d never have thought my most popular post would be about these things, rather than something completely personal or something faith-related that I feel I know more about. I suppose I just am ‘myself’ when i write, as much as anyone can be, of course.

Another post read a lot is ‘The days that changed my increasingly complex life.‘ It was the first time I wrote about something really personal, and what I thought and felt about it too. The reaction to it really surprised me, as some people got a lot out of it. Those kind of posts seem to be the ones that really strike a chord with people; again, something that surprised me. It was reasonably natural, though tough, and painful, to write about, as I am very much a ‘heart-on-my-sleeve’ person. In some ways, the people who read this blog have shaped what I write about.

I used to answer more of the ‘daily prompts’ provided by WordPress, as i lacked the confidence, and often the inspiration, to come up with my own topics. This has got easier as time has gone on. Also, given the squeeze on welfare claimants that is about to get so much worse, the stereotypes peddled by the Government, and some sections of the media, and the ‘hot potato’ that is the Welfare State, the topics offer themselves at the moment, and it is also topics that are a big part of my life, whether I want them or not. No benefits, no money, therefore no independent life. As my Mum says, they didn’t bring me up to sit on the sofa for the rest of my life… so I really value the semblance of a life that I do have, and it gives me much more to write about than if I sat on the sofa the majority of the time!!

Movie of the year?

Yesterday’s daily prompt caused me to look at it twice! I have often be told that my story would make a good book, or that I should write my story down one day. I guess I have done this in partial way as some of this blog includes memoir style material. As I know who I would love to play the lead, I would love my story to be a book and a movie. Carey Mulligan would be perfect to play the lead in the movie version of the book. Great actress who would draw in the punters, and who has played characters in movies belonging to the drama genre before, including but not limited to her role in the likes of An Education.

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This biopic certainly includes plenty of drama. More than one near death experience, disability, illness, life-saving operations, love, romance, faith, and miraculous scenes, including a couple of appearances from royalty…. There are also many supporting roles, with a great support cast. There is also potential for future movies given the relative youth of the protagonist… However, let’s focus on this particular movie for now.

Drawing of a film reel
Drawing of a film reel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It begins with my early life, with me being rushed to a special care baby unit, having been born 12 weeks premature at 28 weeks gestation, following an emergency birth. There is a touching scene early on, and the first of the miraculous moments, which shows the story of how I got my name. Some of the crucial scenes in my early life will keep you on the edge of your seat; including visits to resus, and touch-and-go operations where I was the smallest baby the surgeon had ever operated on.

My early childhood was no less dramatic, as my brain was starved of oxygen at some point before, during or after birth, resulting in a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. The diagnosis was certainly bleak, as it included intellectual delay as well as physical disability, and the extent of these was unknown at the time. Consequently, from a few months old until I was 3 or 4 I attended a centre for babies and children with special needs. Here i received input from a pediatrician specialising in Cerebral Palsy, physiotherapy, and specialist care. The next miraculous moment shown on film would be that I had progressed enough to be one of the first children with a disability in my region to attend a mainstream nursery. I would later meet 2 of those who had attended this nursery at secondary school!

Some time after this, there was a house move to Dunblane, where I attended nursery, and went to the same school that Andy Murray, tennis player extraordinaire would later attend!! In my first two years at primary school I had a full time assistant with me due to my level of need. When I was six, we moved back to Aberdeen.

In some respects, my primary school life was largely uneventful when compared to the events of my early life, so this would play no part in the review, though would occupy a few scenes in the movie. Miraculously, I caught up intellectually, and when I was 11, had no further need of the assistant who was with me for four years, as I was able to continue primary school on my own. This caused a ruckus at the time. Secondary school too would play no major part in the movie. There was a house move at age 14, where I stayed until I moved to central Scotland to begin my first degree in 2001. It was here I would meet some of the friends I still have today, and where I would meet my current ‘Special Someone’… though a little more of that later!

The move to university was one of 5 days which changed my life forever, and the events of these 5 days, or even periods of my life, would be the focus of the major part of the movie focusing on my adult life. The only exception to this would include a scene with my childhood ‘adult baptism’, in which I explain why Jesus became the central focus of my life, (or certainly should have been!!) from then on. The next part of the movie would include university days, which showed the beginning of adult illness.

Further scenes became more dramatic, including a move across the border, a life-saving operation, the scene in which I was told I would now require an electric wheelchair full time, and the scene in which I was told I had no choice but to have the ‘care’ I had tried to avoid from age 22 when other disabled friends begin to suggest it, Other scenes include a couple of romances, one on/off romance with a childhood best friend, and another with a former Paralympian!

The movie ended with an update to the present day, showing some of the complexities of life as a wheelchair user who needs help with the basics of life, but has a stellar supporting cast, including the events which explain the introduction of ‘Special Someone’, and the reliance on faith to survive, and thrive through every day, eventful or not. The movie therefore fits the ‘Christian biography’ category, but is far less cliched than some representations of the genre!!

To be continued…

last week, musically speaking

This morning contained a fair bit of music, between the radio breakfast show I listened to, the band practice I heard before church, and the various worship songs I attempted  to sing along with. My afternoon only contained a little bit of music,  by comparison. This evening, here’s my personal response to today’s daily prompt. All of these videos, except the 5th one, applied to each day last week in different doses. On Friday there was relief, the day on which the final video applies. I felt, through the week, as though I were searching, and that day, peace finally came, or rather, I allowed myself to be at peace. Rather than giving my burdens up and snatching them back again, that is!
 

Here’s to a new week! 🙂