Actual Blogs

I’m a hypocrite

I came across a school paper this week that set out a series of rules that should be completed each day ‘before you turn on the screen’. It included:

  • made your bed
  • had breakfast
  • dressed, brushed your hair and brushed your teeth
  • completed 20 minutes of reading AND 20 minutes of writing or colouring AND played outside for 30 minutes AND made or built something creative
  • cleaned a room 
  • helped someone in your family in another way

My first thought was, “Jesus Christ!”, and my second was to quickly check if these rules are intended for the adults or just the kids. I would physically harm anyone who tried to make me follow these rules. Not really, but I would call them some rather disgusting names. In my head. I’m a coward really.

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But it made me think… do I set rules for my kids that I don’t follow myself?

First of all, let’s tackle the screen time one. I spend the majority of my day looking at a screen, for work, for communication and for entertainment. I think there are few people left who don’t multi-screen – watching TV while intermittently checking messages and social media on our phones.

It’s rare that I won’t have looked at a screen before completing any of the first three things on the list. Often I look at my phone before I’ve even got out of bed!

We live in the digital age and, here’s the point, so do our children.  Reading a story or watching a story – who gets to say which is better? I love books, theatre, film and TV, and blogs, let’s not forget blogs. They are all just telling stories. We recognise Shakespeare as the ultimate writer, but let’s remember that the majority of his celebrated work was written as plays – for people to WATCH. Could TV and film and even You-Tube arguably be considered as just ‘modern theatre’.

My boy has just shown me a Spiderman world he’s created in MineCraft, with pants-wetting excitement and pride because he’s worked out how to build something he’s not done before.

  • Is he being creative? – tick
  • Using logic, intellect and tenacity? – tick
  • Writing and colouring? – (in computer code) tick
  • Social skills – tick. He has friends who share his passionate hobby and they discuss ideas and teach each other new skills. 

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So why do screens get such a bad rep? “Because of risks to eyesight, posture, lack of exercise” my argumentative brain cries. OK, all fair points. We have to watch those, for kids AND adults in the digital age. But my brain’s back with a counter-argument: is that different to when we had to learn from all the back and lung problems people had in the industrial age when manual labour, like working in a mill or a mine, was the norm?

So I do watch what my boy does, and try to make sure there’s a balance of activities and responsibilities. The same as I try to make sure he gets enough exercise, sleep and healthy food. I admit I’m absolutely guilty of being more bothered about those rules for him than I ever apply to myself, which makes me a total hypocrite. He eats better, sleeps longer and gets more exercise than I ever do. 

I think I might just cut him some slack on the screen time.

Will I turn into my mother?

They say it’s inevitable that a girl will turn into her mother. Good God that’s scary.

If it’s true then I’d better get my finger out, because I’ve got work to do.

If it’s true, then I’ll become the most loving, thoughtful and generous woman I know.

  • I’ll be able to mend clothes, bake great cakes and get any stain out of anything.
    (Seriously, she can do that!)
  • I’ll know the best treatment for every childhood illness.
  • I’ll be a wise but humble woman and a fiercely loyal friend.
  • I’ll remember birthdays, anniversaries and all those little things that are important to others.
  • I’ll be fun to be with but also happy to be on my own, in my garden, with a book.
  • Oh and I’ll be an amazing gardener who knows the names of plants and trees and birds (the proper names, not just ‘that one with the red leaves’)
  • I’ll be polite enough to meet the queen, but those close to me will hear me prove I know all the rude words too.
  • I’ll be a spelling and punctuation nazi, and even pull a pen out of my bag to correct graffiti on a public toilet door.
  • I’ll be an amazing grandma, and my grandchildren will look forward to seeing me, especially as I’ll always have a freezer full of the best ice-cream known to man.
  • And I’ll always, ALWAYS, drop everything the second my (grown up) baby needs me.

Fuck, that’s a lot to live up to! If I ever manage to get close to being as wonderful as my mum, my son should feel very lucky indeed.

#UnbalancedRoleModel

Slow down?

There’s a song and video doing the rounds called ‘Slow Down’. Everyone gushing how they sobbed when they watched. But I didn’t. I’m clearly a cold-hearted freak. Am I missing an essential mothering gene? 

Apparently Mothers around the world are hailing it the best song ever made. Accompanied by a compilation of videos of children playing, smiling with their parents and siblings and showing beautiful memories of everything in a perfect childhood.

The message is clear, “time with your children moves so fast”. 

I get the message – there are plenty of ‘blink and you miss it’ phases of raising a child. I’m just not feeling the sentiment with quite the same emotion, for two reasons:

 The stages the singer wants to Slow Down weren’t that fucking picture-perfect in reality

My experience so far tells me that actually it just gets better. So bring on the future! 

I can honestly say that every age my Ginger Boy has been so far, has been my favourite. When he was a new born baby, I remember people saying that babies are boring until they start to talk and show some personality. I was absolutely outraged! Had they not met MY baby? My completely gorgeous, expressive baby whose gurning face made me laugh every single day? 

But of course, as he grew in size and expression, I have to admit, babies are pretty damn boring compared to what comes next. And while I cherish all those memories of me bursting with love as his tiny fingers wrapped around mine, they are also entwined with memories of a period of no sleep, a mini breakdown and phoning friends asking how long this period of crying through the night (him and me) would last. 

 I most certainly did not want that time to Slow Down!

Last week my friend made a sad face because her youngest is now potty trained. I was amazed that this was not a celebratory event. She explained that it signifies he’s growing up and he’s not a baby anymore. Apparently many people feel the same way when their kids hit a significant milestone. 

I get it (I think), but again I was left thinking that I must have a heart of stone. When we reached that stage there was absolutely no mourning period. All I felt was a joyous realisation in a garden centre that when Ginger Boy told me he needed a poo, I was no longer required to perform the obligatory shit-sniff before taking my toddler into a disabled toilet, lay him out on a plastic tray, stinky end nearest my face, and hold his windmill-propelled legs away from my head with one elbow, to stop me being hit in the face by a shoe, a wet wipe or, let’s get real… actual shit. It never EVER occurred to me that I might look back on that phase with anything more than a vague fondness for the comedy shit related memories. I certainly don’t ‘miss it’!

And that’s how I feel about life, not just motherhood. Life phases are amazing. I don’t mourn for any of them or want them to Slow Down because there’s always something else ahead to look forward to. 

 For example:

‘School days are the best of your life’. Yes they are but…. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be old enough to go to the pub

The butterflies in your tummy for a first kiss are fantastic. But… Look at what comes later (sex obvs!) – a long term intimacy that’s well worth moving on from those butterflies

My single, party days were amazing. But…. then I got to meet my husband. 

Does my practical attitude mean I’m cold? Maybe. Should I take the video’s advice and Slow Down? Perhaps. The good phases and the bad phases and everything in between, all move fast. Thankfully I have a good memory and about 1000 photos to help me remember the good bits (I never took any photos of the poo windmill in action, so maybe I’ll forget those bits. Maybe that’s not a bad thing). 

I guess in summary….  I’m thankful for where we’ve been so far, happy with where we are now, and excited about where we might go to tomorrow. I don’t want to slow down OR speed up. I’m just grateful to be on this roller coaster of a parenthood ride. 

Little Miss Tidy

Look. LOOK! I tidied a cupboard.

Now, who’s going to give me a well done sticker? I’d like one that says ‘Little Miss Tidy Super Star’ please.

untidy-cupboard
dumping ground

 

tidy-cupboard
smug

 

I’m not sure anyone will realise what a big deal this is. I’ve just been contemplating removing the doors or replacing them with glass so that everyone can see just how tidy I am.

But then of course I remembered that I’m not naturally tidy, and it won’t be long until it becomes a dumping ground again.

At least for a week though I shall occasionally peak inside, and then walk around with a smug smile on my face. Because even if only for a short time, and only in a small space, I can say that I, an Unbalanced Woman, achieved tidiness.

This day will go down in history. Fuck it, I’m off to make my own sticker….

little-miss-tidy

I love you, but do I like you?

When I first meet someone, a new friend, partner, work colleague, whatever, I ponder ‘do I like them?’. I assess their characteristics: Are they a nice person? Do they make me laugh? Do I enjoy their company? Do we have things in common? And so on.

But when they have been part of my life for a while, like a few years or decades, I stop thinking about it. By then I assume I must just love them – love them enough to keep them in my life rather than just let them drift away.

So I’ve been thinking… If you’ve loved someone for years, or you are family, does love replace like?  And is that OK? Whether that’s your partner, your sibling or your best friend, do you ever stop to think ‘do I still like them?’ or even perhaps, ‘do they still like me?’!

When we love someone do we take for granted the things that we once noticed as good characteristics? I think that just possibly, as time goes on, we are more prone to notice and acknowledge their faults and the things that niggle us. I’m pretty sure that if a made a tally chart of the times me and my husband comment on each others’ flaws, vs the times we point out each others brilliance, the flaws list would be just a touch longer. I doubt we’d need a recount to be sure.

This week me and my Unbalanced Man went on a date. Just us. It’s a rare thing. Usually the need to get a babysitter means we’ve been driven by a specific reason – an invitation to a party or night out with others. Very rarely do we make a conscious decision to spend sociable time out of the house with each other. Only each other.

And let’s be totally honest, on a normal night – mid week or weekend – when we reach that special time where it’s just the two of us, we don’t set the table, light a candle, pour a glass of wine and debate the deep and meaningful topics of life. Don’t be ridiculous. We plop a plate on a tray table (you know those ones with the bean bag thing underneath), choose something to watch on TV and act like we’re on Gogglebox.

Other than comments about our chosen TV programme, the sum our our conversation post kid bedtime is not much more than three questions and answers:
1. Q: How was your day?
A: Busy.
2. Q: What shall we watch?
A: Whatever, you choose.
3. Q: Are you making a brew or what?
A: Sigh… Yep

So do we actually still like each-other? I know I love him, I know I appreciate lots of the things he does and I know that we’re a good partnership. But, that’s all a bit grown up and a bit practical.

Then…. date night. Suddenly I become acutely aware that our conversation will probably need to run past the usual 20 or so words (Yes, I did just count them).

I found myself getting giddy on the train into town, telling stories from my day and talking about plans for the weekend and I actually paused and thought, ‘slow down crazy girl, we’ve got all night to talk. Don’t say everything now or we might run out of things to say later.’

Is that bad? I was actually sort of nervous. I know that’s ridiculous, but in a weird way it was also exciting because it turns out that we did have plenty to talk about. And before you get suspicious, it wasn’t all about planning the practical stuff we need to do next week, or the typical parent cliche of talking about our kid all night. We just talked. Not about anything in particular, just about stuff. And that’s when I remembered how much I LIKE him. Truth be told, I’ve never even stopped liking him, I just forgot to think about it for a while. Perhaps that’s a good, comfortable, natural progression, or perhaps it’s a little sad.

We came out of the restaurant to find a bar with a live band playing and immediately knew that was what we both wanted to do. Because we have things in common! There it was. Just like being on a first date, I was assessing him all over again and I LIKED him. We find it easy to talk, to make each other laugh, to be nice to each-other.

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Even better…… later, I got lucky!
We might even go on another date soon.

Today I’m going to get it right

I’ve decided to make a big change – to have a ‘Positive Mindset’ as the books say. I will visualise ‘the me I want to be’. 

Hell, I can have it all, I can find that work / life balance, and I can be That Woman.

My new Balanced Woman Resolutions…

  1. I will work my designated hours, nothing more, and I will mentally switch off and stop thinking about work in the evenings and weekends 
  2. I will spend more time phoning or making plans to see my family and friends and less time making hilarious quips on Facebook to people I hardly know
  3. I will keep a tidy house, and I will complete DIY tasks the same week as I start them rather than a year later 
  4. I will eat only healthy food, be ‘drink aware’ and take up yoga, so I can show off my new body balancing skills as well as my happily balanced life skills. I will not quit after 3 classes. 
  5. I will go to a personal shopper in an expensive department store and ask them to find my true, inner style-goddess who has been hiding under ‘jeans and a top’ for the best part of a decade
  6. I will make myself presentable by actually washing/ styling my hair and putting make-up on before the school run instead of praying for rain so that I put my hood up and my head down and not scare anyone with my tangled, Medusa style mop
  7. I will be socially organised and remember significant dates for the people I love. I will even buy birthday cards and presents way in advance instead of running to Tesco two hours before a party to see which box of chocolates / kids toy looks least like it came from a supermarket
  8. AND I will recycle everything, actually use that compost bin, be a good neighbour, join the PTA and perhaps volunteer to organise a community event, and.. and… and spend quality time with our cats.

April fool!!

FUCK THAT unachievable dream. I’ll be the same unbalanced mess I always am, winging it everyday and enjoying the chaos. On the rare occasions I get any one of those things ‘right’ I will celebrate those moments as exactly that – a lovely moment. But a woman (or man) that’s perfect all the time is only found in Disney films.

Viva la Unbalanced Life!
(Ooh I really must learn to speak another language too)

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#UnbalancedLife #Worklifebalance #Aprilfool

Literally Unbalanced

Hypothetical question: Due to illness you are told that you need to do less and rest more, you can probably only manage 80% of what you did before the illness. Would you:

  • A. Cut down your work hours, and therefore your salary
  • B. Spend the weekend resting at the expense of family time
  • C. Make like an ostrich, stick your head in the sand and pretend you can still be Wonder Woman (until you collapse).

This is the question I’m currently battling with, and the reason I started writing as Unbalanced Woman. It’s become a sort of therapy – a way to get thoughts out of my head and make sense of them. A way to accept that I’m not Wonder Woman and stop (try to stop) feeling guilty about it.

(If you’re interested in what’s wrong with me you can read What’s wrong with the miserable bitch anyway? below – but I’m giving you the option to skip the moaning parts and get straight to the point)

Here’s the point… Illness or not, do lots of women battle with this conundrum? I know I did before I was poorly. I can name so many Wonder Women in my life who struggle to manage everything they want to do, think they have to do, feel they don’t have choices. Is this part of the female make up?

This is probably illustrating that I have so far been attempting Option C – refusing to admit that I am not Wonder Woman. Of course I covet her figure, her graceful running ability and her sparkly knickers. Who doesn’t? But Wonder Woman is also a Super Hero. She can sort out the world, do the right thing, make everything better, and of course with glossy hair and full make-up every minute of every day. She’s like a modern day Facebook thread. You’d never see her posting photos of her losing the battle with the bad guys because she’s got a phone in one hand, a child on her hip and wearing old, elasticated-waist pants because her lycra body suit is still in the wash.

Well this Wonder Woman is admitting defeat. I’ve tried. God I’ve really tried. But I’m knackered. I’m fucked. I’m crying. Is this the point where something has to give? But again…. what?

I still can’t shake the feeling that being poorly is an ‘excuse’. That I need to get over it. People talk about ‘invisible illness’ being so hard to explain to others, but actually it’s so hard to explain to myself. I have got into a habit of saying “Last year I got dizzy. I still get a bit tired some days” – soft, non-threatening words to gloss over a problem and move on.

My Neuro Physiotherapist (who knew they even exist?) is a wonderful lady with a heart of gold, a wicked sense of humour and some hard truths. Her tough love is just what I’ve needed. She says the only way I will face up to what’s really happening is if I start being honest about it. She has urged me to start to tell people that I’ve had, and I quote, “a horrendous brain dysfunction” and actually also makes me say “not had, but have” – present tense, because – and this is the hard bit – I’m not better. I’m significantly better than I was a year ago, but I’m not fully ‘recovered’. I might never be.

That shit is hard to say because it’s hard to accept. If I say it, it means I believe it. It means it’s true.

I’m trying it out, I’ve said it to a few people but it’s so dramatic and it turns into a longer, more invasive talk. Whilst I’m a confident person, this type of attention actually makes me squirm and I just want to go back to being a Wonder Woman impersonator, using my metalic wristbands to deflect any uncomfortable sympathy.

But again it makes me think… we all do it. All the time. A woman who feels like she should have cartoon-style match sticks holding her eye lids open will typically say “Yes, I’m fine. Just a bit tired. Anyway how are you, you look amazing!” and then order a triple shot coffee and anything with sugar in it.

Deflect. Cope. Crack on. (Crack up?)

Can I change? I think I have to. I’m told by everyone that my health comes first. Perhaps I need to listen. But why didn’t I listen before I became ill? Why don’t any of us?

I’m really trying to lift my head out of the sand. Perhaps I can do it bit by bit – be an ostrich but wearing sparkly knickers and shiny wristbands.

Now there’s a picture I like. Can someone draw that for me? I think that would help!

x

What’s wrong with the miserable bitch anyway?…..
I year ago I started feeling dizzy. Just for a few minutes here and there. I remember the first instance was in the shower and I had to hold the walls to finish getting washed. It was a really weird sensation.

As the days and weeks went on it happened more and more often so I went to the doctor. Assured that dizziness was almost always an ear infection or low blood pressure I continued putting up with it. But when I got worse and worse and it became clear that it was neither. A couple of MRI scans and visits to a Neuro Consultant, I was diagnosed with a ‘Vestibular Dysfunction’ which means that my brain had forgotten how to balance properly and had to work much harder to keep me upright.

It’s relatively new in terms of understanding it, which is why it’s hard to explain what’s wrong and when I need help. But I’ll try.

Where our brains normally scan our surroundings and ‘orientate’ to judge space and distance, my brain will respond to all movements by becoming disorientated – whether that is me moving, or things moving around me. So I could sit still, in an room where nothing else was moving and feel fine. But if I walk, go to a busy place or even watch ‘action’ on TV, my brain gets confused.

The same for ‘scanning’ with my eyes. So reading and shopping (looking around for things) can completely throw me. Even now.

In the past I have described my symptoms as like being permanently drunk. At my worst I would wake up feeling like I’d had about three glasses of wine – a bit floaty and not too confident in myself. I’d be able to walk, but not too quickly, and certainly not drive. As the day went on, it was like adding several shots of tequila – feeling like I should sit down and be looked after until someone could take me home and put me to bed. At worst, it’s like being in a washing machine or on the waltzers and even when lying down with my eyes shut, I can’t get off the ride.

Lots of people said that feeling permanently drunk must feel fantastic – cheap date etc, but it’s also like having a hangover at the same time. And sometimes I will look like I’ve been drinking – I’ll walk unsteadily, needing to hold on to things. I’ve heard of others becoming quite reclusive because they are scared to be in pubic in case they fall or people judge them for daytime drunken behaviour.

I considered wearing a T-shirt saying “I’m not a drunk, I’ve got a vestibular dysfunction”, but no one knows what that means anyway.

I’ve been very lucky to be referred to an expert Consultant and Neurological Physio who have helped me to retrain my brain, eyes and vestibular system to balance me again. I have great understanding of my triggers which means I can avoid certain activities and I know when I need to rest.

As I say, I’m not recovered, but I’m doing really well and I’m incredibly grateful for the progress I’ve made. I know there are many, many others who have not had the same support and have to cope with life on long term medication just to manage the nausea.

TV Voiceover… If you have been affected by any of the issues covered is this blog, you may find this website useful:
http://vestibular.org/understanding-vestibular-disorder