Things have dramatically changed for me here in the last four weeks. As a bit of a recap, I thought I’d share why. In June, I decided that I didn’t want to keep going the way I was, and, as people kept asking, I was going to launch a coaching project. And while there had been a lot of interest in private, in public, people were just…less engaged I guess. And that’s ok – with everything going on in the world, it might not just be the right time for it, but it left me feeling less than stellar, if I am honest.
Tempus and I have been talking for a while now and one of the things I had observed is it’s hard for me to care full time for myself, my daughter and the house and run my business, let alone write, which I’d barely had any time for. Tempus, who is my beloved other half came down with Covid a couple of weeks ago, and as he recovered, one of the things he said to me was that I could consider just stopping for a bit… he’d support my writing.
I run businesses, but I do it to write…
Ultimately, while I run a hosting, coding and formatting service, and planned to teach coaching classes, but I do it all – all of it – in aid of my family, and books. I’ve always thought of myself as an author, though I am really quite good at other stuff, apparently. And I’m very lucky – I get to do a lot of fun stuff. But…
The honest truth of all of this is as my daughter has grown older, although she manages college, there are other things, like me, that she finds very stressful, and unfortunately, as an adult, she is encountering them more and more. I’ve often got to support her, which is absolutely ok, but it has meant that I’ve got less time to do other stuff, and, as I have mental health issues too, something had to give. And it did. Luckily, the ‘give’ was a choice, rather than what I know other people often face, so now, I just…change direction. It’s not as easy as it sounds, and over the coming weeks, I’ll be explaining why.
At the end of the day, I’m lucky
While this isn’t how some people experience this kind of push, I am effectively now a part time looking after the house, and part time writing. Which is both exciting and scary. And I thought I’d be talking to you guys about it as we go, because, quite honestly, I think some of the advice will be useful – I hope – to other people. The next few weeks and months are going to be incredibly exciting for me – and I hope, for you guys following along. It does mean I get less time to play with code and other stuff, but honestly? I’ll happily trade that off, for now, to get to support my daughter, look after our house, and best of all, write. That adventure starts fully on October 1st, though I’ve been doing prep all month for it, around CV19, and other illnesses. ANd I’ve got some interesting stuff to show off, already. That’s coming up on Thursday 😉
I’m in a bit of an odd, vulnerable place right not. And it’s been going on for about three months. Because I literally started writing this post in June of this year. And stopped.
I don’t know how to put into words how hard the last few months have been, if I’m honest. It’s been a rollercoaster of trying to work out what to do and how to do it, and if I’m entirely honest, it’s been painful and unpleasant and just not fun. A lot of it too has to do with stuff not really in my control. I am disabled and care for someone disabled, and the last few years have seen that ‘commitment’ as it were, rise and rise. The more time I put into getting better, it seems the more time I need.
In June, things really started to slip. I wasn’t in a fully regular routine and with summer just around the corner, all my grand plans for getting help and getting stuff done(TM) were shattered when various things happened. Fast forward three months, last week, and everything just… collapsed in a spectacular fashion.
There is a light at the end of that tunnel
This week, we’ve had a house full of sick people – my beloved caught Covid (he dodged it, somehow when we had it, but we think we picked it up at Alton Towers as a few days after our day there, he was so ill that, completely unlike him, he took to bed for most of the day from Saturday till this morning. He’s much better now, to my intense relief), and we’re slowly sliding back into a routine of sorts. But on Tuesday, after he’d thought about stuff I’d been saying I guess, he told me that he wants me to just focus on writing for a bit. To stop trying to fight against ‘the tide’ because though I was trying something big and bold, the public encouragement was there, but in private, more people wanted ‘a free slot if everyone else was paying’ than the people actually choosing to engage with the plans themselves. Months of work on designing a coaching project aside, the discouragement I felt – and if I’m honest still feel – became so palpable, that I … I spiraled completely.
My beloved to the rescue…!
Tuesday night, I’d had a rough day (plague house, shingles break out for me, cold-sores starting, the works), and I went up to bed and I said to him ‘I can’t do it’ and he said ‘k. Tell me what’s in your way?’ And I told him. About how people want to do it but don’t seem to be signing up, about how it feels like the wrong time to be asking people to commit to coaching in this environment, how most of all, it’s not easy to teach people mindfulness, abundance and accountability when I’m not a reflection of it myself. He went very quiet and said.
“I think it’s because you’re not writing. How about you stop and do that for a bit.” I told him that the business wouldn’t survive if I didn’t get this to work, and he said “We’ll make it work. Trust me.” And that was it.
I’m not saying it’s not going to be painful, but, he’s right. I wished for a way to afford to write again, and it’s not the one I’d have chosen, but I am grateful that he’s willing to back me until I’ve got that bit of my life square again.
It’s still taken a couple of days to write this. I’m still dealing with a shame spiral I CANNOT fathom, because I feel like, once again, I’m letting people down. But at the same time, I’m actually willing to look at my laptop again. I’m sad because I won’t get to earn my Remarkable the way I wanted to, but…I don’t need one to write. There’s a lightness of heart to go with the ‘oh, I don’t like this’ failure feeling.
So….yeah…that’s been my last three months. What about you guys?
(actually, one notable exception. Ludosport. I’ll talk about that next blog post).
I’m not sure if people have much of an idea of my history with Nanowrimo, but I’ve been writing every November since 2003. Every November, I write 50,000 or more words. The only time, to date, that this wasn’t the case was 2004.
It started in 2002 actually…
In 2002, while I was writing after breaking off ties with someone I’d been working with, and working on some pretty difficult stuff, someone told me about Nanowrimo. At the time, my ex and I were still together, and though everyone thought we were ok – I mean, my daughter was a year old, we had a three year old son. But he was pretty convinced that I shouldn’t be allowed to write, that if I was going to manage it, I’d have written that bestseller. Already. He wasn’t a bad man – we have two amazing children, but neither he nor I were not good for one another. Between 2002 and 2003, we seperated.
Fast forward to 2003
Single, unhappy and lonely, I decided that I would take my mum up on her offer, and I vollunteered to run as an ML…for the whole of Scotland as it happened then. We all met in a very loud pub, I made lots of friends, and discovered a gaming club called GEAS. 2003’s Nano was also Glass Block. And Elliot Peters firmly entrenched himself in my life. Elliot is Glass Block. Eventually, when the library of posts comes back online, that’ll make more sense, but he’s one of my backlist books. Tomorrow, he goes to an editor for update before we re-release him, thanks to my beloved’s help. In 2003 though, I hadn’t even met him. Instead, I had Elliot, waking me up at 4am and telling me stories. Y’see, Elliot thinks of me as a confessor of sorts. And Internal Affairs as he’s a cop. As I live with psychosis of several kinds, this is completely normal to me, but I know some people find it uncomfortable that my characters are *really* real. Others aren’t. It’s ok. I was seven months from my other ‘leading man’, Farran. Five or so from Tempus. And I quite honestly had a ball during Nano. Honorable mentions at this point to John, James, Gregor, and everyone else I met during those months of writing. You all made my Nanowrimo so much fun, and in fact, that was true for the whole time I helped out and ran Scotland as the ML.
I did promise you a love story, didn’t I?
Well, the truth of the matter is, and it’s a story I’ve told several times, without Nano, I wouldn’t have gone to GEAS, and in all likleyhood, Tempus and I wouldn’t have met. I can’t actually say that for sure, because I might have taken it into my head to look into D&D again, but… I’d given in on that having my kids. Tempus and I have been together 17 and a half years. We origonally just decided we wanted to hang out and have a bit of fun, but…a year in, when it came down to actually thinking about the future, neither of us could actually picture a time without one another. By 2006, we’d moved to where we are based now for his work, as he’d graduated in 2005. 2007-2011, Uni for me. It’s not all happily ever after. My mental health is a challenge we meet with varying success, but he and I share many interests (newest one, solving our arguments with lightsabers, aka we’re both going to train and learn Ludosport.). It’s no secret we’re both gamers, and we’re both super geeky, but we do have enough divergent interests that we can be together or apart. But, I truly believe I was lucky, and that Nanowrimo plays a huge part in that for me.
Our love story isn’t over. I don’t believe it ever will be while either of us are here, but it’d be nice to think that we’ll have a child together and live long, happy lives together. I really do love him, and without Nanowrimo, who knows if I’d have had this chance.
You’ll note, I don’t refer to him other than ‘Tempus’. It’s because he’s not keen on talking about himself online. There are a very few pictures of us together, and I’ve added on to the bottom of this post, but I do know one thing. My life is a very good one, and I love that it’s with him.
This is me and him, 2018, in the Dominican Republic. The full length shot of me with a boogie board was taken about an hour before, for those that know it.
He’s my bad idea bear, my beloved, my companion, my gaming and sparring partner. We talk books, games, movies. We tell each other jokes and pass on research from cyber security and infosec, and have a date night every Saturday. We go exploring good places to eat, we giggle at one another playing Fallout 76. We have our friends over for Gloomhaven. We’ve raised two wonderful young adults together since the 20 year old (@artenapan) was about 2 1/2, and her older brother too (he’s just as private as Tempus in many ways, so you’ll see him referred to as ‘Wonderboy’, or Titanboi. He’s in his 20’s too, and a wonderful man, and all of us are gamers of one sort or another. But Tempus… He’s the best person in the world, and I’m so blessed.
And, one final, bonus fact. He’s the reason I have most of my pen name. He encouraged me to stay as Kai when I explained why I’d changed my name, and I did. In late 2004, after we’d been together for a few months, I asked him if I could use his last name so that when we get married, I didn’t need to rebrand. He didn’t even blink. Like I said, he’s an awesome guy. And that’s my Nanowrimo Love Story 🙂
I’m on a few weeks of classes, to learn how to work with one of the major systems we’re using right now. I’ll be talking about that more, and I have to say, I’m really excited. The next few weeks are also ‘Freshers’ for me. I start back at Uni next week, and have several exams that I need to prep for.
One of the major things I’m noticing is that I’m still as willing to do everything I used to get up to, but I get about three into my 20 piece daily list (I used to manage it), but I’m not who I was. Part of that, I have to be honest, is probably to do with being depressed. Part of it has to do with my issues with anaemia and persistent illness. A LOT of it has to do with maintenance insomnia. (I’ll be coming back to that one later, but the short version of that is I have *finally* taught myself to go to sleep pretty much when I go up to bed. Sometimes I go up and meditate and I fall asleep. Sometimes, I just go to sleep after reading for a bit. What normally happens though, is around 1am to 2am – one and a half to two hours before I’m thinking I fell asleep, I wake again. I don’t really help myself at this point, because I’ll have a drink of iced tea. Sometimes I can roll over and go back to sleep. Most of the time, I can’t. It lasts till…sometimes…8am, before I finally get to sleep. In short, it’s hard to plan a day when you don’t know how much sleep you’re getting the night before, and unfortunately, whatever else I have going on, sleep creates problems if I don’t get enough of it). Most of this is all pretty well known, if you know me, even in passing. It means that my hours are often a bit scattered, but, I’m working on that. My partner and I have talked. While I’m not an early bird, I don’t like that I’m split shift sleeping. I don’t know if what I’ll end up doing is sleeping for a bit, getting up to work, then sleeping more. It might mean I can write in a set period of time, I don’t know.
The changes though – to make things easier for myself, and the things I want to do, while I’m doing my classes on WordPress design and Fresher’s week for the Open University, I’m going to start setting up all of my blogs, and connecting them up, collapsing or closing those of them that I can’t spend time on right now. It’s not permanent, I hope, but even if it is, moving on isn’t always bad. So I’ll be mapping that out. It’s the first step in about a million, if I’m honest. I’ve got books, I’ve got information to share out, I’ve got things I need to – and want to – do.
Struggling with Writing
One of the things I saw that was interesting this morning – in fact, it was the first thing I saw opening my phone, was this post from Neil Gaiman.
I think there’s a lot of this that’s important. For writers, creatives. For life. We have bad days. We do what we can, but sometimes it’s just a day that doesn’t move…anything. And then, one day, a good day. Maybe a few. Maybe a whole bundle of them, in a row, like a huge gift. And really, I do mean this could be *anything* we do in life. Sometimes, we find that it’s hard to do things. That’s ok too.
I’m between my good and bad right now. On that middle ground of being able to see both. I might slide back into bad. I’m working on the things I can reach from here. It’s all ‘low hanging fruit’ and learning for me. Uni starts next week, and I’m getting through to finish year one of three just as soon as I pick myself up and get a plan on….
Which is next. You’ve got this guys. And so have I…
The last few weeks have not been the best for me, but by far and away, the things that hurt the most are, if I’m honest, the way a few friends have reacted to my boundaries. And how, from there, pulling in to defend myself has been ‘abandoning’ them. And how that’s left me with issues with all sorts, from what I do from here to my religious outlook, to how I move on. I don’t think I’ll address all of it here, it’s a bit complex. The two bits I want to touch on are boundaries, and being out in the barrens.
I’m actually fairly odd in the sense that I don’t ‘like’ boundaries for myself. I feel that it’s very artificial to tell someone you ‘can’t something’ that isn’t basic human decency. And that, I hate to say, was my first mistake.
The rank bitterness alongside that first mistake and trying to understand why people behave this way has been painful. Adding to the depression that was already settling on me, I’m really struggling to deal with anything right now, but, as I’ve been asked to write some mental health books if I get through this bout of crippling misery. But it’s made me evaluate a lot of things, and why my life isn’t ‘right’ and it all comes back to routine and boundary. Both of which, my brain seems to process much the same.
On the curves?
There’s another word for what happens when I lose everything, whereas this is kinda like where I end up when everything is gone and I’m left to clean up a mess or three. And there are many versions of this place. There’s the one I deliberately create when I need to move on from a bad place, and have to destroy it to cut ties. There’s the one that happens when I’m sick and can’t tend my stuff, and then there’s this one…
This version of it though is kinda worse. Because it’s a bit of both. In an irony, I’m honestly not sure even *I* really understand, when I’m sick and come off routine, that’s when the trouble really starts. Free spirit and all that, I still need a pretty firm framework. And currently…
I’m not sure I know what to do. I feel horrible, if I’m entirely honest. I’m not exercising or eating regularly, I’m not sleeping correctly. I’m disrupted understandably, because of the changes in the house (we’ve still got our BED to replace). And I feel a bit like a brat, if I’m honest, but we’ve changed so much in the last month and a half, and it’s been a lot of ‘I don’t really get the choice’ belonging disposal, as the garage flooded/was damaged. Again, I’m well aware I’m lucky. It’s not everything I own. It was a LOT of my books though, a lot of stuff we moved and stored (I’m now learning that storing in the garage is not for cardboard boxes. So, we’re converting what we are storing out there to plastic tubs.). It was stuff I’d protected when I left my ex. It was mine. It’s gone now. I don’t feel happy (Marie Kondo lied) – but I’m so overwhelmed, all I can really say was it was books, and some other ‘stuff’. Because at some point, to keep dealing with the garage, I had to just stop paying attention. So, I’m a little bit miserable, if I’m honest. I do really feel like of everything that went, it was old toys and lots of my things. It’s not *accurate*, but it’s been something I’ve learned over the last year – there’s a difference between what I know, what the reality is, and how I feel about it. And that I’m not – really – right or wrong. Just sad.
We then did the conservatory, the dining room (converting it to my office, in part), and we got brand new couches (I’ll share some before and after photos once we’re all settled properly). But, for someone that doesn’t *like* change, it’s been a lot for me to deal with. And it’s stirred up stuff I really don’t like.
This is where I say ‘no more’. Not no more change, just no more slipping schedules, no more ‘skip exercise, can’t be bothered’. No more accepting that I have to feel this way. We do, most of all, get to decide how we react and change things, if we can, and quite honestly, I would be remiss in not trying. I’ll be stuck within the limits of my spoons, of course, but I think some of this is…inertia. So I want to deal with that. Maybe it’ll turn out all I have is the spoons for this, maybe it’ll turn out that I’m just tired and not doing as well as I could because I’ve accepted that. I honestly can’t say on that score.
The thing is, this time, I’m going to talk about it, and whether what I’ve learned this year works, starting from about as close to ‘base’ as I get. And, quite honestly, though I’m not in a place of complete ‘clear board’, I *am* close enough that I can maybe get this to work.
I’ve still not decided exactly *how* I’ll be talking about it. Whether it’ll be a blog, or vlog, or a mix, but, as I’ve also been tagged to talk mental health for a series of books, and burnout is a real thing that often leaves people in barren areas a lot like this, so maybe this isn’t quite so self indulgent as it feels, and I should be less self-conscious. There are other elements to this, such as our complete inability to remain pregnant, which I don’t think is exactly helping my state of mind, but mostly, I’m just struggling to find my way, and I want to do something about that, even if that something isn’t what others think of when they think of the stuff I’m talking about.
To start, I’m going to do something about my wake/sleep cycle. And eating regularly. And, I’m going to see about exercising daily. That’s the framework. Everything else, like work and writing will still happen, and fit in around the other stuff… but….that’s what I’m going to focus on for a bit. Hopefully in time to start back at uni, who knows.
I hate the phrase ‘new normal’. Much like the fact that I don’t like mental health being classified as ‘normal’ or ‘abnormal’. Quirky language bit of my brain aside, I think making judgements like that is something that makes it difficult to accept that we’re all a little…different. There’s no one way to be.
But… ‘new normal’ and ‘freedom day’…
In the UK, they’re referring to something that may be (it actually has been postponed) postponed, called ‘Freedom Day’. In the UK, the day we lifted lockdown was literally going to be referred to (by our rather off-piste PM, I have to say) as ‘Freedom Day’ and all it really represented was us finishing lockdown and seeing if we see a new spike.
Don’t get me wrong. Since March of last year, things have been really difficult for many reasons. But my life had been about lockdown before lockdown was a thing. I’ve not left the house on my own for…. well, up until last week, with a few very notable exceptions, I’ve not left the house alone since around 2015, I guess.
It was insidious at first. I’d stop wanting to go into town unless I had a reason. Part of it, of course, was because of the really bad fall and learning to walk again, but by that point, we had a treadmill in the house. But I guess that’s around when I stopped leaving the house. By the time we were treated to the holiday *of a lifetime* (and I’ll be real, I’ve actually had two since mid 2015 – one in 2016, one in 2018) to Disneyland by my in-laws and hubby-to-be, they were making arrangements with the staff to make sure I wasn’t startled during large events, and I wasn’t able to leave the house. I wasn’t really working outside of the house either – I tried a few times but it never really…took, I guess. My terrible mental health got worse too because I didn’t mesh with my care team and a few things were missed. By the time the pandemic was in full flow, it had kinda…snuck past me because I was dealing with my son’s kidney issues, and though he’d been cleared the morning we went into lockdown, there was something…almost unreal about what happened for those first weeks.
Privileged, I know
We weren’t badly affected by the furlough, though my own buisness didn’t qualify for any help, most of my time was actually spent supporting my young adult children through the various challenges that the pandemic was raising for their mental health, mine and everything else.
We are a year on now, and though a lot has happened, I actually think that I’ve come out of this a lot less ‘scathed’ than others, I’m not sure that any of us will know normal again. And I don’t really know how to explain it. What I do know is that life – in all its forms are fragile and it’s hard to talk about it in terms that we all relate to because I can’t think of anything that is remotely like this, not in my experience.
Whatever the ‘new normal’ is, I hope our PM understands that his cliched behaviour and almost childish soundbites aren’t helping. Sound and fury, signifying nothing.