Trying To Keep Going and A Shed Full Of Food

Thursday 16th July 2020 21:00

It’s been a chilly grey sort of day mostly, but at about three the sun came out, and I settled in my favourite spot tucked away in the ‘back’ garden, with my notebook and timer. A bit of (rather late!) morning page brain dumping, and now here I am musing on where I go from here. Not literally go – I still haven’t ventured more than a few yards from my front door; four months and counting. But where do I go with my life.

Woah, deep stuff! Well, I suppose so, but not necessarily. More practical than deep at this point. The virus situation as I see it, while we may be in a lull at the moment, is inevitably going to get worse again. People here generally seem to be thinking and behaving as if it’s all gone away – which of course is just what it needs to spread again! And a resurgence in the not too distant future, even if it’s not until the winter, is absolutely inevitable. Nothing I can do about that but keep myself safe, and accept I won’t be making any (barring emergencies) trips out in the world for some considerable time to come. So I really do now need to up my game working on something – or several somethings – from home.

I’ve been utterly preoccupied for almost the whole time of this largely self imposed lockdown, on staying as safe as I can, on keeping bang up to date with the science and the facts of the pandemic, and latterly on preparing for what might come next as best I can (ie building up stocks of essentials, not so much because I think things will become unavailable again – although I think it’s a real possibility – but more because I think deliveries will be hard to come by once more as we head into another surge and it gets dangerous out there again). So The Big Shed is filling up nicely with all manner of essentials, and I’m able to ease off worrying too much about not having anything to eat. I have masks of various kinds in case I need to go anywhere that demands the wearing of one (although of them all, I still find my old substantial diy dust mask the most comfortable, sadly now probably more likely to exacerbate my asthma with the ingrained dust, than protect me from anything). I also have a little solid brass ‘dolphin’ on a retractable cord that I can use to press buttons and open doors. And plenty of 70% alcohol hand gel.

So in a practical sense, I’m well on the way to being prepared for another six months of self sufficiency.

Now I need to work on my mental health.

That isn’t so good.

I have to be honest with you, I haven’t been doing so well mentally. I’ve been utterly dismayed by the selfish irresponsible behaviour that seems to have come to the fore, globally, but also very much in my immediate surroundings, and deeply disappointed and saddened by a few people who I’ve thought of as friends, who’ve also behaved with stupidity, and a dangerous irresponsible selfishness that I would never have attributed to them.

And I’ve listened to myself ranting and raving, begging other friends who think it’s enough to “follow the government guidelines”, to be careful, to stay safe, to understand the risks! And I’ve tried not to be hurt when one by one they’ve stopped calling. I understand: they don’t want to hear about my fears. When they ask how I am they don’t want to know

I’ve felt more aware as the weeks have gone by of having to get through this completely on my own, and I’ve felt afraid every waking moment of every single day (and have dreamt of being afraid every night).

I know for me, the virus is still as deadly as it’s always been. It may be less prevalent just at the moment, but it only takes one contact with it. So I’m staying put for the foreseeable. Which makes the question of making a living an even tougher one. And I’ve put it to one side for far too long now.

So thinking cap firmly back on again then.

Garden story planning. How can I tweak Drawing4Health to be something other than the thing it was centred around being – ie to not be about free public gatherings to draw and swop materials together? What other possibilities are there? Can I bear to go back to IT stuff? Try to put simple tech skills teaching online? Aaargh, it really isn’t what I want these last working years to be about. I’ve done it. It was fantastically well timed back in the nineties for me. It gave me the means to run my own business, and made me a good living. But I’m way behind on my knowledge, and I just don’t care enough to use all my time trying to keep up to date now. It’s who I was. It’s not who I am now. But can I afford that cop out?

Last weekend I finally accepted that the cost of keeping my computer training business website out there just wasn’t justified. The local classes were long gone, and teaching people one-to-one in their own homes isn’t going to be viable again now. So I let it expire when the hosting and various versions of the domain came up for renewal, and I waved goodbye to The Reluctant Mouse and all the fun things I’d done with it. And then I let most of the small spaces domains go too. It means a saving of about £200 all told over a year. That’s a good few weeks’ groceries. My stomach will be grateful.

Somehow I have to move on. I have to do this utterly alone. No-one’s going to wave a magic wand. No-one is going to feed me. I’ve had 45 years of practice; how hard can it be? To just. Keep. Going.

Tomorrow the forecast is for more sunshine than we’ve had for a few days, so maybe I will find some inspiration sitting in my garden; maybe that “Got it!” moment will arrive. Maybe I’ll ring the doc, see if I can get some tablets to take away the gloom, and the loneliness. Maybe I’ll find ‘me’ again, and get through 24 hours without tears rolling down my cheeks for no reason.

Or maybe I’ll just concentrate on surviving again. Day 130. And order some more supplies…

You Can’t Find A Solution Until You Know What The Problem Is

Thursday 30 January 2020 21:35

I woke this morning with a light bulb moment of understanding of last night’s gloom (sorry about that folks). I’d been beating myself up for spending time on something that wasn’t concerned with making some income (looking for a space locally for a creative group) and I was forgetting that this ‘journey’ isn’t just about money, it’s also about creating a life that sustains me in all ways, not just financially.

I wasn’t feeling hopeless, I was berating myself for feeling hopeful about what I thought was the wrong thing.

Having cleared that up I went back to sleep, but just before I did, I decided on a name and a more precise aim of what I want to do; thus Drawing 4 Health was born. I even have a logo in mind.

The whole thinking behind “Drawing 4 Health” is encouraging people to discover the benefits to their mental wellbeing, of just picking up a pen or pencil and having a go. When I got up this morning I decided I really should take my own advice…

Hey, it works!

I stuck a virtual pin in a list of possible things to draw and came up with a video titled “Very Easy! [that caught my eye immediately – I felt today was the day for Very Easy] How To Draw a 3D Hole”. Not something I’d ever have thought of searching for, but oddly perfect. (Which my first attempts weren’t, but that was fine.)

It’s called “anamorphic drawing” I discovered, and I soon realised this is the stuff that those amazingly talented pavement artists do, where you see apparently vast gaping holes, and stranded people perched on the top of pillars of rock that descend into the underworld. I’ve always wondered how they do it! Wow.

Oh boy and it’s fun. As I was filling in the black bands on the first hole I could literally feel the stress and the gloom melting away. It did dawn on me, after I’d added the footprints and the prone body deep in the hole, that it could be misconstrued as being linked to last night’s mood, but it really was just coincidence.

The illusion of depth is all to do with the angles and the shading, and in these very first two attempts I haven’t quite got either of them right, but it’s fascinating, and even already, as you swivel the paper round or change the angle, the holes change. Double wow. I’m hooked.

Picking up my sketchbook today and just playing, made the biggest difference to my mood. I didn’t need to draw proper pictures, or get everything “right”, I just needed to play; and the magic happened.

That, is what it’s all about.

Wading Through Treacle With Concrete Wellies On

Wednesday 29 January 2020 21:40

The pressure I’ve put on myself this month is beginning to get to me. I’m researching, and brainstorming, and writing, from before dawn until late at night; and getting nowhere.

I’m writing it’s true, but I’ve no energy or concentration left to do any drawing, and that’s beginning to feel counterproductive.

The novel that for a few years has been whispering in my ear to be written, seems to have got hold of a megaphone now; but it’s a story that I’m reluctant to write. Where it’s leading is fascinating, but it’s a story that’s based in the future, and I can’t see a way to avoid it being all darkness.

Bizarrely, so much of the research I’m doing with regard to generating income online keeps pointing me into the frightening future we’re hurtling towards, and I’m in need of some sunshine right now.

The isolation is getting to me too, though I know it’s the only way I can do this; but it’s increasingly lonely. The solution is far from simple (although a lottery win might go some way towards it 😀 ). What I need is people who are in the same boat, to pool ideas and resources. No-one can understand how frightening this is…

I type that, and tears well up. Bad day.

One positive thing I did, today, was write to the people with the beautiful space nearby that would be perfect for a ‘real life’ creative circle. It’s a long shot that they’ll be interested, but it would give me a huge lift if that dream could be made a reality. It’s not an income generator so doesn’t count as progress in that sense, but it would be nice to feel I’d got something positive happening creatively.

On Friday evening I’ll do a round up of how the first three weeks have gone – what I’ve really achieved, if anything. Then Saturday starts a fresh week and Month 2. I need it to bring some fresh energy with it, and I need to set some proper goals.

Now it’s only 9.30pm, but I’m pooped. There’s a hot water bottle warming the bed, and Jessie’s curled up on the pillow, so I think I’ll call it quits for today and hope to be greeted by some inspiration and a lighter spirit in the morning.

Sorry. I did promise to be honest and report on the bad days. I’m still hoping they’ll be few.

Outward Bound – Alone In The Middle of Nowhere

Monday 20 January 2020 22:45

To celebrate my 30th birthday, I went on an Outward Bound course in the Lake District.  As it happened it wasn’t quite the fun adventure I’d expected, not least because a couple of days in we were all told we were to be bundled into a minibus and driven out into the middle of nowhere, dropped off individually at a mile or so apart, with the most basic and minimal supplies, and left to fend for ourselves for 48 hours. 

As we’d paid a lot of money to stay in a beautiful old manor house make new friends and enjoy sustaining ‘home cooking’, spending 48 hours of the 5 day stay alone, with minimal provisions, in the middle of a field, felt like a complete con. At the last moment, on the understanding that I could do that, any time, under my own steam and at zero cost, I declined to take part, caught an early train home, and thought no more of it; until now.

Today it suddenly occurred to me that I feel like I’ve been dropped into the middle of nowhere now, utterly alone and with minimal provisions, and left to survive; and this time there’s no option of simply taking the train home.

I feel lost, cold, clueless, and as if I’m in way over my head. What am I doing?

The Outward Bound people who devised that original challenge did, I’ve no doubt, consider it a worthwhile one. Maybe if I had taken it then, and come through with flying colours, I wouldn’t feel suddenly so ill equipped for surviving it now. 


I think I need to add a footnote to posts like this to emphasise that it’s simply to record how I’ve been feeling. I hope it doesn’t come across as a cry of “poor me” (I can’t promise there won’t be any of those over the coming year, but I do promise they’ll be rare, and you’ll know if a post fits that particular bill; in fact I may create a “poor me” category so at a glance you can avoid them!).

Getting through times of doubt, and momentary despairing that all is hopeless, is all part of the journey. I know that looking back on such times from a much better place shows them for the imposters that they are, which in turn helps to face up to them the next time they rear up.

Oh… another thing that ADHD causes problems with is the ability, or rather lack of it, to control emotions. It’s a scientifically recognised wiring thing. But that’s for another post.