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…

Raging Toothache, Creativity And Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

Sunday 24 May 2020 4.05pm

From the moment of the UK announcement by BoZo almost a fortnight ago, telling us he was lifting most aspects of the lockdown, my anxiety levels rose again. Not to the degree they were at the start of all this, but nevertheless my focus on at last getting some creative work done was somewhat shot again. I reminded myself of Maslow’s Hierarchy, and that you can’t expect to concentrate on making ‘pretty things’ when you’re frightened for your life, and tried to cut myself some slack.

After a few days I really was managing to focus a bit. The weather was going to pick up again and my garden story idea continued to fill me with enthusiasm. I was coming to terms with the apparent fact that everyone immediately surrounding my physical world was just going to do as they pleased. I had routines in place to keep myself as safe and healthy as possible. It was going to be a long haul, but it was going to be ok.

Then last Sunday, the toothache started.

Not long before last Christmas a chunk of one of my teeth broke off, taking an old filling with it. About half of the tooth remained, not in a very good condition, but apart from the sharp edge it wasn’t troubling me. I booked an appointment with the dentist anyhow, expecting a quick new filling and thinking probably best to get it done before the Christmas break; just in case.

He took numerous x-rays and, directing me to look closely at a specific point on one of them, made the observation “it’s terribly close to the nerve!”. From that moment on it seemed clear that he really didn’t want to touch it.

Even when I returned for a second visit, one at which I thought we’d agreed I was going to have it extracted, he revealed that doing so was almost certainly not going to be straight forward, and then declared he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his Christmas knowing I was in pain from the extraction; so it was left. At that point it wasn’t causing me pain (I’d long ago taken a nail file to the sharp broken edges), and I couldn’t reconcile asking a dentist to work on it who I knew didn’t want to work on it, so I pretty much decided I’d forget about it.

Until last Sunday. When it began aching.

A couple of times in recent weeks I’ve bitten on it and winced with pain (oddly, raw spinach, as in a salad, was an absolute no no – I can only think there must be an acid or an enzyme it releases), but it was a sharp pain and gone almost immediately. This was different. This didn’t go.

By Monday evening it was unbearable. I tried a mild painkiller and it did nothing. I tried every “old home remedy” I could find. I had no clove oil but I had cloves, so I chewed one lightly and then stuck it in the hole. No help, just bits of soggy clove stuck in my tooth.

I thought I remembered brandy being the thing to put on a poorly tooth. It’s not something I’ve ever drunk, but I was certain that somewhere I had a tiny bottle, bought once upon a long ago Christmas when I’d resolved to make my own pud (I never did). I pulled everything out of a kitchen cupboard. Yes, there at the back was a very pretty hip flask shaped bottle of, according to the label, a very good cognac. It could be 15 years old. (Does cognac go off?) It appeared to be unopened so I took a chance, swizzled a cotton bud inside, and stuck it on the tooth. No relief at all (but I did discover that very good cognac is NICE, and wondered if maybe I should just forego solid food and buy a few bigger bottles and drink the pain away).

My dilemma was going to turn out to be multi facetted, but at that point I hadn’t quite taken this in. My first thought was quite simply that although the pain was unquestionably bad enough to make any fear of extraction redundant, with my car off the road, and with a lift or taxi out of the question given the impossibility of social distancing, I’d have to walk to my dentist; only a couple of miles, but would I be ok to walk the half an hour home after being sedated?

With my stress level rising again, I remembered the dentist at the end of the road! OK yes they’re private and so it would cost money I need for food, but it would solve the problem. Yes. I’ll see if someone will loan me the money and I’ll go to them. Sigh of relief. Stress level starts to drop again.

I checked the website of the expensive dentist and it said they are doing emergency work. I rang them but only an answerphone giving a mobile number for emergencies. I rang the mobile number. After many rings it was answered with silence, and then a hesitant, “Hello?”, which didn’t quite sound to me like a very expensive dental practice poised to be answering calls from patients! I carried on regardless but was told in no uncertain terms that they are not at this time doing ANY face to face dental work, and that anyway I should contact my own dentist. I was further told my own dentist may refer me to an emergency clinic (where??), but the clinics are only taking patients who have had a course of antibiotics (“…but I don’t need antibiotics, I just need my tooth out”).

As instructed, and because it now seemed the only option, I rang my own (not absurdly expensive or private) dentist and the phone was answered by a real, efficient, dental receptionist. Promising. A few recommended immediate things to try (all of which I was already doing) and she assured me she’d ask my dentist to ring me the next day. Progress. I’d resigned myself to the walk. Soon be over.

The next day my dentist rang. No, they (too) are not doing ANY face to face dental work (the assurance on these practice websites that they are there for emergencies, apparently means they are there to advise you only). Again, I was told of a few recommended things to try (like painkillers, as if it wouldn’t occur to anyone with raging toothache to take painkillers!). It was suggested that I might like to ask the pharmacy for an Emergency Dental Kit (apparently this comes with some temporary filling material, like putty, which as in my case it’s not a hole so much as a half a tooth missing, I knew wouldn’t last 5 minutes), and then, “Sorry. That’s all I can offer. If it gets worse ring again. There is an emergency clinic about 25 miles away [I can’t walk that far!], but they probably won’t do an extraction either. Only life threatening work.”

So there we are.

To be fair the pain fluctuates. Some of the time it is just a sort of background soreness, and providing I’m ultra careful eating (nothing hot, nothing cold, nothing crunchy, or sharp – in fact, lukewarm soft suckable food is the only sensible choice), then most of most days I can get through providing I keep calm; stress exacerbates it instantly, as does evening, and attempting to sleep sends it raging so that’s the time I keep the painkillers for if I can, as I don’t want to take too many. This is going to be for the long haul, not just a few days, and given the condition of the tooth, it can only get worse.

Old Maslow got it right.

I’m hoping if I can just manage the pain, I can move up to the next levels. Because, like the virus, this isn’t going away any time soon. For the moment I’m somewhere between red and orange, and I’m going to have to work my way slowly up (obviously leapfrogging things like ‘connection’ and ‘freedom’!).

I didn’t think about it when I chose a sky blue to colour in the top level of Maslow’s hierarchy, but just at the moment it feels a little like the sky is what I’m reaching for.

Not Marching Forth (Or Even Fifth)

Thursday 5 March 2020 22:35

I’ve stalled.

I’m floundering in a bit of a depression at the moment. Not managing to do much of anything, just when I need to be ‘up and at ’em’.

Mostly I’m not getting around to drawing until late at night – when I’m tired and the tremor in my right hand is at its worst – like this cafeti√®re that I drew last night. It’s completely wrong of course. My intention was to add watercolour, but having inked in the coffee I was so tired I just carried on with the big fat black pen… 🙄.

Despite the shiny bits being so completely wrong though, each time I’ve looked at it today, I find I’ve grown a little fonder of it. Through no fault of its own it doesn’t look like it should. Like me at the moment (the nasty shingly blistery bumpy painful rash thing is back with a vengeance).

In fact, looking at the drawing now I remember the handle was the bit that I thought would be impossible, and it’s the one bit that pretty much worked.

Sometimes the easy things are hard, and the things you think you’re going to struggle with, aren’t so bad at all.

I need to remember that.