Decisions, Decisions, Part I: Employment

As my regular readers will know, at the end of last year I made the very difficult decision to leave my job as a litigation lawyer and move into a more policy-focused role without any litigation element. It was a big change, and it felt like a big loss. As much as I adore my new job, there are certainly elements of my old job I miss. Most of all, I am sad that the decision wasn’t one I could make because I wanted to, but because I had to.

Now, as my endo and adeno continue to cause trouble, I’m faced with another decision – reducing my hours.

Today, I want to talk about how you make these types of decisions. I highly recommend using a journal to write down your thoughts on this, or to talk at someone. I find it helps solidify my reasoning and makes me think it through logically and thoroughly.

Basically, there are a lot of questions to ask yourself.

First, and most obviously:

1) Can you physically do it?

Whether you are asking this about the number of hours your are working, the type of work you are doing now, or the type or work you are looking to move into, it is the most basic consideration. If you cannot get through a full day without the pain driving you to your knees, or sending you to the bathroom to cry multiple times a day, or forcing you to take serious painkillers that compromise your ability to do your job in other ways, it might be time to rethink your current work.

When thinking about this, don’t just take into account whether you can struggle through a work day. Think about whether you can get through a work day and still have the strength to feed yourself, keep yourself clean, and complete those basic necessities of life? Life does not begin and end with work, and if a full-time day in your current role results in you collapsing into bed fully dressed as soon as you crawl through the door every day, that job is not working for you. Some days like that are a reality for many people with chronic pain, but if that is the majority of your days, it is not sustainable and you will end up in a really, really bad way.

2) Are there changes you could make that would let you keep the status quo?

Now, it may be that cutting your hours is the change that lets you keep your job, but other things might work too. If you work in a standing role, such as at a checkout, and you find that painful, could your employers give you a chair? If you have an office job that involves sitting all day, could a sit-stand desk help? Would a heatpack at your desk make a difference? If you struggle more in the mornings, could you start and finish work later, or vice versa if your pain is worse in the evening? Is there any way you could work from home for a day a week?  If you have to wear a uniform, are there allowances that could be made for a stretchier waistband or more comfortable shoes?

Remember that the Disability Discrimination Act mandates people making reasonable adjustment for disability (see section 5). If you aren’t sure that what you are asking for is reasonable, or your work is saying it isn’t, consider a chat with a lawyer. Legal Aid commissions around the country have helplines for free advice, and many lawyers will give you a free initial consultation or do the first 15 minutes for free.

Please note that the above is not legal advice.

Ultimately, though, if there isn’t an adjustment that will do enough to let you stay where you are, that’s another sign it may be time to move on.

3) Can you afford it?

Sadly, this is the worst question, but it is one of those horrible realities that ultimately dictates what you choose. It can put you in an awful situation where your body can’t physically afford for you to keep working, but your family (or even just you) can’t afford for you to not. Let’s not pretend that the DSP is a lot of money, even if you can get it, and Newstart is even worse.

That being said, it is still a relevant consideration. If you have a marketable, flexible skill, there might be things you can do to supplement or create income outside of Centrelink. For example, if you are fluent (and certified) in a second language, you could pick up some translation or phone interpreter work. If you have good English skills and can work at a computer, editing or transcription might be good. If you are a superb knitter, perhaps there is an Etsy store in your future. With all of these, though, bear in mind that your income is reportable to Centrelink and may reduce your payments accordingly, so assess whether it is worth it for you.

If you don’t have a skill or the energy to market it, what else can you do?  Are cheaper accommodations an option (noting that moving is a big deal even when you are healthy)?  Are you eligible for government housing or rental assistance? Are there any costs you can cut down on?  These are not nice questions to ask, and I hate the idea that people have to go through this, but it is a relevant consideration.

If you know that you cannot physically work any more, but also have no idea how you can possibly afford not to work, speak to a disability advocate, social worker, or community lawyer.  Ask what funding options there are and what you need to do to qualify for them.  Get as much medical evidence as you can from your treating team.  I can’t guarantee that things will be fun or easy (in fact I can almost promise it will be agonisingly frustrating), or even that you will be able to find the answer, but it will help inform your choice.

What are your other options?

If you are considering a workplace change rather than unemployment or a reduction of hours, what are the options for you to move on to?  Is your prospective employer likely to be flexible?  Will the new job suit your needs?  Will you enjoy it?  Seriously, mental health is important.  You want to like your job, especially if you are spending a lot of time doing it.  Will the new job allow you to grow and advance?

These questions are, sadly, less important that the physical and financial needs, because, well, you need to be housed, fed, and capable of standing up.

 

None of the above will give you an answer, but I hope that asking yourself these questions helps make the decision a little clearer in your mind.  It may also help you justify it to other people (not that you should have to, but there are always judgemental people).

Have you had to make a decision like this?  How did you decide in the end, and do you feel like it was the right call?  Let me know in the comments.

The Financial Impact of Endometriosis

Last year, the SBS programme Insight did a segment on endometriosis, estimating that it costs Australia at least $7.7 billion per year.  Our problem uteruses (uteri?) are bad for the economy.

The impact at an individual level, though, is arguably far more devastating.  Not in dollar amounts, perhaps – the idea that I would ever lose out on $7.7 billion dollars is estimating just a smidge high – but in terms of what it costs us as a percentage of our expenses.  Now, as another financial year winds to a close, seems a perfect time to discuss that.

(I want to apologise if I’m slightly incoherent.  I have another cold and I’m muddle-headed, dizzy, nauseated and slightly rambly, and my hands keeps trembling so I’m making some exciting typos.)

I don’t have super statistics about what endometriosis costs each sufferer.  I can only really talk about how it effects me, and the anecdotes I hear from others in the community who mention missing work, having to quit jobs, etc.

For me, missing work is by far the biggest impact.  I burn through any paid sick leave I have extremely quickly.  If it isn’t endo pain, it’s an infection or illness because my overburdened immune system can’t stand up to even the most pathetic germs.    That means that on days I don’t work, I don’t get paid.  Currently, my Prostap injection has failed me, and I’m home sick yet again because I can barely stand up and I’m so swollen that clothes actually hurt.  Also, the abovementioned cold.  I’ve made it to work one day this week.  That means I’m looking at another pay cycle at effectively half pay.

Of course, for sufferers who can’t work or can only work part-time or in casual roles, the financial impact is even worse.  I’m very lucky to have a good job with a good wage.  Many people can’t say the same.  Some have the fight of their lives to try and get the Disability Support Pension, which is not much, and have to live off Newstart in the meantime, which I understand is considerably less and puts you below the poverty line.

Regardless of whether I get paid or not, the cost of my Prostap is $358 every six weeks.  I’m fortunate enough to have private health insurance, so I get $100 back.  (It’s worth noting that Prostap is on the PBS if you have prostate cancer, so it will only cost $48 then.  If you have endo, no PBS benefits for you).  Add to that the cost of the hormone replacement therapy, which is $50-$100 monthly depending on the pharmacy.  I have actually stopped taking it because I didn’t find it that helpful, but it was an additional cost for several months.

Then, of course, there is the cost of surgery.  If you pay privately, you are looking at thousands.  If you go on the public waiting list, you could be waiting over a year depending where in Australia you are – more time with more pain and therefore more lost income and more money spent on pain management.

In between surgeries, there are multiple appointments with doctors and specialists.  Bulk billing doctors are a treasure, but if you can’t get those and don’t have a healthcare card, it’s usually at least $40-$50 per visit after the Medicare rebate.  If you need to keep going to the doctor to get medical certificates, new prescriptions or things like injections (such as Prostap or Zoladex) that adds up very quickly.  I’ve put off doctor’s visits and even buying medications before because of the cost.

Tax time is generally the only time you get a break.  My absences usually result in me being overtaxed and getting a bit back at tax time, but that’s one lump sum a year.  If I get anything back this year, it will be going straight to paying off some debt, and anything left over I will spend on wild items like moisturiser, because I’m currently scraping dregs out of jars rather than spending out on something like that that I view as a luxury, even though my face might crack and fall off without it.

I do want to finish on a slightly more positive note, though.  These are some methods I have used to try and minimise the impact on my savings.  They won’t work for everyone – you have to a) have savings, and b) have enough to put into them – and I’m by no means a financial planner, so please don’t take them as gospel.  I acknowledge my privilege here in that I am relatively well-off, and I beg you not to try and do things you can’t afford because of the idea that if you aren’t saving you’re a terrible adult.  If you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it.

1)  I budget by percentages and priorities, not dollar amounts

I carefully budget what my pay will go towards.  However, because I can’t guarantee I’ll be getting the same amount each week, I allocate percentages rather than figures.  If I say I have to put $500 towards savings a week (a pipe dream even at full pay) then I’m going to be struggling when I need to pay for petrol and groceries but only got paid $600.

My biggest percentage goes towards the mortgage, with smaller percentages for my savings account (to be touched only as a last resort), my emergency account (to be drained before I touch my savings but only if I have nothing left in my spending account), and charity (I can’t engage in much else in the way of service or activism, and giving to charity is a vital part of helping me feel like I’m making a difference despite that, so it’s non-negotiable).  I budget a particular percentage for paying off debt, but since it is to my parents and they are Very Nice People they are happy for me to not repay them if something else comes up like a vet bill (thanks Max) or unexpected medication or a small pay, so I have a little leeway that fortnight.

2) I quarantine my savings

As described above, I have two savings accounts – one for actual savings, which gives me a higher interest rate as long as I make regular deposits and don’t remove money from it, and one for emergencies, which has lower interest but allows me to remove money as needed.  I top both up at each pay with the same amount, but will always take from my emergency account first.  If I don’t have to take from it, great, I’ll earn more interest than I would with the money in my spending account, but if I do, it’s there and not being spent on other stuff.

I have absolutely got to the point before where I’ve blasted through my spending account and my emergency account (usually when big bills coincide with big medical issues) and touched my savings before, but this helps minimise the chances of that happening.

Of course, if you don’t have the income to split like this, this may be a terrible idea.  If I get paid a really small amount, I will skip putting stuff in the emergency account and put it in savings instead.  If I get paid even less than that, neither account gets a dollar.  You’ve got to be flexible with any system and put the money where it needs to go.

3)  I pay attention to my super

I was lucky enough to attend a financial planning seminar for women in law last year, and one thing that was emphasised is that women, particularly young women, don’t pay enough attention to their super.  One the poorest demographics in Australia currently are old women, who often have very little or no super and who have not taken an interest (or not been allowed to take an interest) in their own financial matters.  You should always be in involved in your own finances.

In terms of super, the advice given was this – if you are with a solid super fund, which most industry funds tend to be, and you are many years away from retirement age, don’t be afraid to put some of your money (not all!) in the higher risk option for your super fund.  The risk is relatively low, because it isn’t all your money and you are many years away from needing it, and the payoff can be high.  As you get older, move it all into lower risk options.  This will hopefully maximise the amount you get at retirement in a way that doesn’t expose you to unnecessary risk.

I stress that this was advice given to me by financial planners, not something I’m just saying.  It is entirely at your own risk if you do this and I’m not personally advising it (or advising against it).  It is something I do, however, because I want a good retirement to make up for the difficulties I’m having now.  That’s when I imagine I’ll actually have the health to do fun stuff, and I’d like to have the wealth to back it up.  Don’t sue me if doing this fails for you.

4)  I do my best not to feel guilty when I can’t meet my financial goals

So, this one is no use as a savings tip, but it is super important.  Financial pressures are real and they suck.  Often we have to give up on things we want and abandon or delay savings goals in order to pay the bills or buy food.  I avoid articles about “how I paid off all my student debt and owned seventeen houses by the time I was 25!” because they are usually a) written by someone with no idea how privileged they are and b) make me feel bad, not motivated.  You really can only do your best.

 

How has endo affected your finances?  How do you do your best to combat it?  Let me know in the comments!

 

April Gratitude

Another month has passed astonishingly fast, and it’s that time again – a monthly gratitude post.

Not going to lie, April has been super hard, and so finding things to be grateful about has been trickier than usual.  I haven’t really had any spectacular lows, but it’s felt like I’ve been in a constant slump.  I’ve had a number of sick days, and had a really bad experience with my last Prostap injection (a painful infection at the injection site and ongoing struggles with the side-effects).  The ongoing pressure of the adenomyosis and the general malaise and lack of hope that comes with chronic pain has been exceptionally hard to deal with.

However, I made a commitment to be more grateful and positive this year, and these posts force me to consider the good things in my life, so let’s go.

1)  Easter

Close-up Photo of Bunny Plush Toy
Image description: a grey felted rabbit holding a pink felted egg with white spots.  It is standing on a next on a wooden board and there are some white flowers next to it.  

I wrote about what Easter means to me as a chronically ill Christian, so I hope I’m not cheating by mentioning it again.  There are plenty of reasons to be grateful for it, though.  A four-day weekend (followed shortly by ANZAC Day), lots of chocolate, and, of course, the celebration of Jesus’ sacrifice that means an afterlife in paradise.  That’s always good.

2)  Girl’s night

I got a chance to spend the evening with my four best girls.  We are a diverse group in both personalities and backgrounds, but we still have plenty in common – enough that we have stayed friends for ten years during the most turbulent times of our lives.  Perhaps our greatest commonality is our love of great food, which we ate at tonne of.  One of this fabulous group is from Bangladesh, and boy, does her mum create the most amazing feasts ever.  I could LIVE off her dahl.  Her spinach is mind-blowingly good.  She is single-handedly responsible for making me like cauliflower.

Sure, it was incredibly high FODMAP and I was in agony the next day, and I accidentally ate a chilli, but it was entirely worth it.  And now I’m craving her spinach.  Damn it.

Also, the chance to see my four wonderful best friends is always so good.  Everyone should have that friend or group of friends that they love and trust and always feel incredibly happy to see, even when life is hard or you don’t want to socialise.  This is that group.  There is no feeling in the world like spending time with my girls.

3)  ANZAC Day

Red Petaled Flower in Macro Photography
Image Description: a red poppy on a field of grey grass.

I may be pretty anti-violence, but I am not against people standing up to invaders.  I can also appreciate the courage, heroism and comradeship displayed by the ANZACS and the other soldiers of WW1.  Can you imagine how terrifying it would be to suddenly see a tank coming over the horizon in a war where cavalry with swords were still in common usage?  Can you imagine the mud, the blood, the terror, the cold in winter and the searing heat in summer, the disease, the privation and the utter uncertainty?  I don’t think war is something to celebrate, but the qualities of the soldiers who fought are, and their deaths should be remembered and commemorated.  I am grateful for what they did to ensure that we won the war.

4) An income

In the last month I’ve seen a lot of articles and the like on the difficulties of people with chronic illnesses who also have to deal with a low income or poverty.  This one in particular tugged at my heartstrings.  Australia has a good social security system compared to some countries, but as a lawyer I heard a lot of stories about people struggling with bureaucracy and a lack of understanding of the nuances of their condition.  I am incredibly grateful that I don’t have to battle for Centrelink, or try and live on the amount dispensed.  A stable income, having enough left in your pay after the necessities to save or give to charity – these are privileges that cannot be underestimated.

5)  Changing leaves

Landscape Photography of Trees
Image description: a tree with golden and green leaves shades a green field to the left and a brown path to the right.  The path has red and gold trees on the right that form a sort of tunnel.  Glimpses of bright blue sky are visible at the top of the image.  

As I wrote last month, I love autumn.  I’m enjoying the cooler weather still, although I’m not thrilled with some of the very cold mornings.  What I am loving this month is the beautiful autumn colours as the leaves change from green to shades of gold and red.  Some of the older suburbs with the European trees are just incredibly beautiful in autumn.  It was a particularly big shock for me when I took a week off sick at work to go from driving down the street my office is on and seeing it go from a green tunnel to suddenly almost bare, with the road covered in golden drifts of leaves.  I also really love the smell of autumn leaves as they break down.  It’s so earthy and rich.

6) Fitness 

During April I took advantage of a Fernwood sale and bought myself a membership with some personal training.  My PT, Emily, is really fun and works me within my limits, but doesn’t let me slack off.  I’m really exciting to be getting my fitness back on track, and have been taking on some additional exercise as well (I swam a kilometre for fun the other day!).  I’m doing almost an hour of warm-up before my sessions, and it is really, really relaxing for the brain.  I can just focus on my body and making it work.  It’s great mindfulness.

I also really enjoy feeling exhausted and sore for a good reason, as opposed to just feeling exhausted and sore because disease.  It’s satisfying and makes me feel proud of my achievements.  I’m not losing any obvious weight (thanks menopause!) but I am feeling my muscles harden up and I have a little bitty line on my biceps that looks like it could be a muscle.

7) Vegan smoked salmon

Since going vegan, people often ask me if I miss meat.   Generally speaking, no.  Sure, I enjoyed bacon and rissoles, but I never really got excited about steaks or chicken.  I genuinely do enjoy the taste and texture of fake meats better in 99% of cases.  However, I loved fish.  I definitely didn’t give up eating fish because I hated the taste.  Gardein Fishless Fillets filled a big gap for me, but I really, really missed smoked salmon.  Thankfully, the Cruelty Free Shop has started carrying Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Smoked Salmon.  It’s not a perfect replica but it is very close and soooo tasty.  I had so many slices of toast with Tofutti cream cheese and some chives.  Heaven.  Happy little vegan.

8) Macaron adventures

Three Assorted Flavor Breads
Image description: three macarons in a pile.  The bottom is cream, the middle is pink and the top is brown.  

Disclaimer: the macarons in the picture above are not mine.  Mine only vaguely resembled macarons.

Image may contain: food
Image description: macarons with the insides exploded out.
Image may contain: food
Image description: a slightly less exploded macaron.  

 

Pictured above: attempts one and two.  They tasted fine.  I’ve never tasted macarons before, vegan or otherwise, so I have no point of reference, but these were nice, with a light marzipan flavour.  I definitely need to have another crack and try and get them better, but I think eventually I’ll get it.

I baked them with my sister and it was a bit of a giggle.  It took us HOURS and she managed to turn our sugar syrup into a solid rock, but I enjoyed it, even if it was incredibly frustrating to put in all that work and just get explosions.

This is the recipe I used.  On my second batch I turned the oven down to 250F and it worked much better.  I’ll keep playing and let you know if I ever manage it.

9) Love Nikki

Image result for love nikki
Image description: a pink-haired anime girl with flowers.  She has pale skin and brown eyes and is smiling.  She is the titular character in the game Love Nikki,  

If you play mobile games with pop-up ads you have probably seen some for Love Nikki.  It’s basically like Pokemon but for fashion.  Your character, Nikki, is inexplicably transported to another world with her cat, Momo, and ends up in a bunch of styling contests.  The game has a bunch of content and paying players definitely have a big advantage, but even my cheap self who just plays the free version can get heaps out of it.

It may seem like a silly thing to be grateful for, but it’s another thing I can do for fun when I’m really sick and stuck in bed.  Apps are great for the chronically ill.  Plus, I really like anime and pretty clothes, so this ticks all the boxes.  Let me know in the comments if you’d like a more in-depth review.

10) Sex Education

Image result for sex education

I don’t mean the school lessons – mine were patchy and weird at best.  Highlights included being told repeatedly to just “keep your pants on!” in a strong US accent, and pictures of diseased genitalia.  That’s a Christian school vs a public school for you, I suppose.  Both freakish and not particular useful, just in very different ways.

What I am actually referring to is the Netflix show, Sex Education, starring Asa Butterfield (you may recognise him as the titular character of Ender’s Game).  Whilst this show does have more sex scenes than I really want to see (probably unsurprising, given the name), it also deals really, really well with some very real issues – poverty, abandonment, over-protective parents, divorce, sexual trauma, abortion, vaginismus, slut-shaming, parental pressure, revenge porn, stigma against virginity, stalking, drugs, homosexuality (both repressed and flambouyant) and the attendant prejudice and danger, and a raft of others.  The characters are engaging – some are deeply loveable, some are deeply tragic, and it is just incredibly well-written.  If you don’t mind a whole bunch of nudity and want a show that really tugs the heart-strings, this is a good one for you.  I was hooked.  I am not kidding when I say I laughed, I cried, and I determined to teach my hypothetical future children strong lessons about their self-worth and ensure that they get proper sex education.

The Biggest Difference Between Adenomyosis and Endometriosis – It’s Not What You Think

Massive CW for fertility, pregnancy, hysterectomy.

Brace yourselves, kids.  This one’s getting personal.

As you may know from recent posts, my formerly tentative diagnosis of adenomyosis is now officially confirmed.  Unlike my endo, which showed up on precisely no scans ever, my adeno showed up loud and proud at the top of my uterus on an MRI.

I’ve talked before about what adenomyosis is and how it differs from endometriosis.  The biggest difference for many is that adenomyosis can be cured by a hysterectomy, which endometriosis cannot.  That’s kind of what I’m getting at with this post, but also not.  It’s the results of that dissimilarity that has been the biggest difference for me.  For the first time, I’ve had to think really seriously about what I want from my future.

I’ve flirted with the idea of children before.  I mean, I am married, and in my late twenties, so it is something that many people would assume is the next natural step for me.  I’ve kind of always assumed I would end up with children, because it’s what you do, right?  You grow up, you meet a nice boy, you get married, you have two and a half children and a white picket fence.  The circle of life, etc.  At the same time, however, I have never been overly maternal.  I don’t get clucky when I see a baby.  I’m not all get-it-away-from-me – I can hold them competently enough, and I can entertain children for a few hours (it literally used to be my job, after all), but I never really felt the need to have one myself.  Add to that the fact that there are so many children in need of a good home, that our planet’s population is increasing at a rapid pace, that I could potentially pass these awful diseases onto a daughter, and that I really resent the idea of taking yet another hit to my career and to my body when both have already had to endure a great deal, and children just never became an immediate priority.

There’s also the fact that I’m terrified of pregnancy and childbirth.  It looks hard.  It makes your ribcage expand.  All these awful words like “episiotomy” and “tearing” get tossed around.  The thought of losing bowel control in front of a bunch of strangers, and worse, in front of my husband, also doesn’t appeal.  It’s undignified and painful, and I’ve had enough of both.

But now I have adeno.

As long as I had endometriosis I knew that I would have to make a decision on the topic at some point, because endometriosis *may* have an impact on my fertility.  My original plan of leaving it to my thirties was not one that various doctors have encouraged.  Still, I assumed I had time, and that at some point down the track some sort of maternal instinct might kick in, or I might at least feel a bit ready.  It hasn’t to date.

With adeno, however, suddenly the possibility of an outright cure is being dangled in front of my nose like a very shiny carrot.  One operation – albiet a serious one – and my pain could be gone.  My endometriosis is being managed so well by Dr Edi-Osagie that for the first time in years, the prospect of a fully pain-free life seems within my grasp.

Of course, if I have a hysterectomy, then it is bye-bye to the prospect of biological children.  Yes, adoption is an option, but let’s not pretend that it is easy, cheap or inevitable (multiple chronic illnesses tend to count against you in the assessment process, I do believe).  So now I have yet another of those awful choices that endo and adeno leave you with – do I endure the pain for longer, and potentially experience more when my contraceptive devices are removed, in the hope of conceiving a child, or do I jump at the chance of a cure right now and lose the choice forever?

If I chose the first option, how long do I wait?  I always wanted to be financially stable before bringing a child into the world, and I’m not badly off, but I’m not where I would ideally like to be.  I wanted to be further into my career.  I wanted to have travelled more.  I wanted to do a lot of things that endo has prevented me from doing, but that a child will also make more difficult.  I wanted to feel more ready, more sure.  It’s such a big decision – is it fair for me to be making it with even the slightest doubt in mind?  What do you do when you have doubts about either option?

Is it fair of me to put my husband through this?  I’m already a bit of a burden at times (many times).  My pregnancy could be really difficult and make it even harder on him.  He’s self-employed where as I have a stable income – there’ll be an additional financial pressure on him.  If I do successfully carry to term – let’s not forget that miscarriage is a heightened risk for women with endo – will I be able to recover from the birth easily, or will my health struggle like it does with everything else?

What if I’m a terrible mother and my child grows up to be an incel or something?

Ok, I’m less worried about that last one.

On the flip side, I don’t know if I’m ready to lose that choice.  When I bake a cake or read a great book or see a fantastic movie, I think, “I want to share this with a child someday.  I want this to change them the way it has changed me.”  I want to share these things with a younger generation, and it’s at the moment it’s not likely I’ll get to do that in a “cool aunt” capacity.

Either way, it is a huge decision, and I’m wrestling massively.  I think I have decided, but I keep flip-flopping.  Whatever I end up doing, though, I resent the adenomyosis for forcing me to make this decision before I am ready.  I resent the endometriosis for stealing away my chance of doing all the things I wanted to do as a young married couple before I had children.  I resent that being a chronically ill woman is littered with such awfully difficult choices.

Have any of my readers faced this decision?  Were you ambivalent about children?  What were your thought processes?  I am so keen to hear from anyone in a similar situation.

March Gratitude

Yes, it’s April now, but too bad, you’re going to hear what I was grateful for in March anyway.  Suck it up.  Be grateful.

1)  I went to Melbourne for the first time

Bird's Eyeview Photography of City Landscape
Image Description: a picture of Melbourne from the air.  It is dusk and the lights in the buildings are on.  There are a lot of tall buildings and a river with bridges over it.

Yes, I am one of those Australia-dwellers who had never actually been to Melbourne.  For non-Australians, there is this ongoing rivalry between our two biggest cities, Sydney (New South Wales) and Melbourne (Victoria) about which one is better.  Both have lots of nice old buildings, stacks of traffic, and road rules that make it very difficult for visitors to have a clue what’s going on.

To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed with Melbourne as a city (heresy, I know).  It’s not really that different from other big cities to me.  I just don’t like cities that much.  However, I did get to see one of my best friends whom I haven’t seen in ages, drink a zingy bubble tea, attend an interesting seminar, and try Lord of the Fries for the first time (very tasty).

2)  I saw Julie Bishop

I went to a very interesting seminar at which Australia’s recently resigned Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, was speaking.  Love or loathe the Liberal Party and its members, I think Julie Bishop is a very impressive, articulate and well-informed woman who has been a bit of a trailblazer in an arena still very much dominated by men.  She also has some amazing clothes.  It was a privilege to get to hear her speak in person and I was very interested to hear her views.

3)  I made a cake

I love baking and cooking, but they can be difficult for me, because standing for long periods is a huge trigger for my pain.  This one is pretty quick and easy, though, and it was a big hit at work!

I made two six-inch cakes instead of one eight-inch cake, and layered strawberry jam, fresh strawberries, and Sarah Kidd’s delicious cream cheese buttercream between them and on the top.  I still have stacks of buttercream left over, so I’m going to make some cupcakes for next week and continue to buy the love of my coworkers with delicious vegan baking.

4)  I went to a cafe and there were millions of dogs

It was a brunch, and the food was very tasty, but the DOGS.  There was a tiny dachshund puppy in a wrap like a baby, with the softest head I have ever touched.  There was a huge lollopy smiley golden retreiver.  There was a beautiful sleek black greyhound called Jazz, who wanted lots of strokes.  There was a bear that the owners tried to pass off as a St Bernard.  It had paws the size of my face, and I have a fairly average-sized face for a 178cm human.  There was a pitbull with a smile that lit up the whole day.  Basically, it was heaven.  There was cake and dogs.  What more could you possibly want?

5)  The weather got colder

Dirt Road Cover by Dried Leaves
Image description: a shot from close to the ground of orange leaves on a dirt road.  Above them is an avenue of treats with yellow foliage.  The sun is shining through them.

It’s no secret that I love spring, but I also adore autumn.  Summer in Australia is just too hot for a pasty white child like me.  I sweat and I crisp up at the edges, and the backs of my legs stick to chairs.  I don’t like it.  Autumn, for the two weeks it seems to last in Australia, has days in that perfect 18-25 degree range, with enough sunshine to boost the spirit and enough grey rainy days to let a girl cuddle up under a soft cushiony duvet with an animal and her husband.  Perfect.

6)  I learned some salsa

Thursday 21 March was Harmony Day in Australia, a day about celebrating multiculturalism.  As part of it, my workplace hosted a salsa class.

A bunch of corporate types trying to salsa in suits will always be good value, but the class itself was just clean good fun.  Was it good for my endo?  Not even slightly.  Did I have a slightly sweaty blast and get some good cardio and strength work in?  Sure did!

7) One perfect rose

I’m a big fan of the poetry of Dorothy Parker.  She wrote a poem called “One Perfect Rose.”  It goes:

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet–
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
“My fragile leaves,” it said, “his heart enclose.”
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

Well, from my garden in March came one perfect rose, and it made me very happy.  Unfortunately, I cannot seem to get this picture off my phone and into this post for the life of me, so, if you want to see it, along with pictures of random flowers that make me happy and many pictures of corgis, cats and wigs, have a look at my instagram, @offbalancespinningtop.  

8) Dinner with my friend

Despite living in the same city as her, I don’t get to see one of my friends nearly as often as I’d like.  However, we started the month with dinner together and I love spending time with her so much.  She is the sweetest, kindest person and just makes everything better.

9) Youtube Fun

I spent a fair amount of time on youtube in March.  Possibly more than was healthy.  Anyway, I had a great deal of fun binge-watching Safiya Nygaard’s videos.  She’s just so fun and happy and does such wacky stuff, and she bawled like crazy when she got engaged, which made me happy-cry.  A good time all round.

10) Queer Eye Season 3!

Image result for queer eye
Image Description: a picture of the Queer Eye Fab Five.  From left to right: Bobby (pale, blonde hair and beard, wearing a suit and a happy expression); Karamo (dark skinned with a closely trimmed black beard and a faint fuzz of black hair, wearing a very shiny suit with a grey tie and a suave smile); Antoni, pale with brain hair, clean-shave, wearing a suit and looking soulful); Jonathan (pale with brown flowing locks and a joyful face); and Tan (white shirt and black jacket, tanned skin and dark and light grey hair in a quiff, also looking suave but less smiley than Karamo).  

I love Queer Eye.  It is so heart-warming and Tan France’s hair is an international treasure.  The fact that Season 3 has come makes my little heart sing.  My favourite episode was Black Magic, in which Jess, adopted and then rejected when she was outed as a lesbian to her conservative family, learns how to trust and love again, as well as getting in touch with both her sister and her own identity as a black woman.

There was a very disconcerting episode in which a very tall man shaved off the nice beard Jonathan Van Ness had carefully given him.  I was in shock.

Do you watch Queer Eye?  What was your favourite episode in Season 3?  What made you happy in March?  Let me know in the comments!

Kindness Quotes

This post is spectacularly late!  I’m sorry for the long gap between posts – I’ve been really struggling with sickness and pain management recently and it has left me with no spoons for writing.  I’ve been struggling with trying to get the balance of my latest medication (Prostap) right, and have had my tentative diagnosis of adenomyosis confirmed by MRI.  I have a lot of half-finished drafts sitting there, but I’m going to kick things off with my collation of daily quotes that I used during March.

Kindness is a big theme in my life – not because I always manage it, but because I always want to be kinder than I am.  There are so many things to be kind to in this world – yourself, other people, animals, the planet, people you love and people you hate.  To me it is vitally important.  My biggest failing in trying to achieve kindness is my tendency to gossip.  Sure, I’m not criticising someone to their face so arguably it can’t hurt them, but I think being kind in that kind of consequence-free environment is a far greater mark of character than refraining from being unkind to people face-to-face, where the fear of repercussions is greater.  Also, do unto others, etc.  I’m working on it, but I still find myself doing it a lot.

I also really suck at being kind to myself sometimes – don’t we all – and that’s an area I’m doing my darndest to work on.  As part of that, I’ve recently joined a gym (Fernwood finally seduced me with their persistence and a good deal on price) and am having some PT sessions to get my body back on track without hurting myself (or at least, without hurting my endo.  My muscles hate me right now).

I want to preface this by saying that I don’t agree without reservation with all of the quotes here, but generally speaking I think they all have a good message, and that some are incredibly important to remember.

Now, without further rambling:

  1. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”  – Aesop
  2. “For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”  – Audrey Hepburn
  3. “Kindness in words creates confidence.  Kindness in thinking creates profoundness.  Kindness in giving creates love.”  – Lao Tzu
  4. “Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like.  More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.”  – Dennis Prager
  5. “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.  A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”  – Saint Basil
  6. “You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  7. “I’ve been searching for a way to heal myself, and I’ve found that kindness is the best way.”  – Lady Gaga
  8. “Love and kindness are never wasted.  They always make a difference.  They bless the one who receives them, and they bless you, the giver.”  – Barbara De Angelis
  9. “You can tell by the kindness of a dog how a human should behave.”  – Captain Beefheart
  10. “Contact kindness can accomplish much.  As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”  – Albert Schweitzer
  11. “Just imagine how different the world could be if we all spoke to everyone with respect and kindness.”  – Holly Branson
  12. “I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to these teachers.”  – Khalil Gibran.
  13. “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”  – Samuel Johnson
  14. “Kindness is more important than wisdom, and the recognition of this is the beginning of wisdom.”  – Theodore Isaac Rubin
  15. “Guard well within yourself that treasure, kindness. Know how to give without hesitation, how to lose without regret, how to acquire without meanness.”  – George Sand
  16. “I make mistakes daily, letting generalisations creep into my thoughts and negatively effect my behaviour.  These mistakes have taught me that the first step to successfully choosing kindness is being more mindful about it, letting go of impatience and intolerance along the way.”  – Daniel Lubetzky
  17. “The true greatness of a person, in my view, is evident in the way he or she treats those with whom courtesy and kindness are not required.”  – Joseph B Wirthlin
  18. “Human kindness have never weakened the stamina or softened the fibre of a free people.  A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.”  – Franklin D Roosevelt
  19. “Transparency, honesty, kindness, good stewardship, even humour, work in business at all times.”  – Humphry Davy
  20. “The man who practices unselfishness, who is genuinely interested in the welfare of others, who feels it is a privilege to have the power to do a fellow creature a kindness – even though polished manners and a gracious presence may be absent – will be an elevating influence wherever he goes.”  – Orison Swett Marden
  21. “Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness.”  – Lucius Annaeus Seneca
  22. “Treat everyone with respect and kindness.  Period.  No exceptions.”  – Kiana Tom
  23. “Every minute of every hour of every day you are making the world, just as you are making yourself, and you may as well do it with generosity and kindness and style.”  – Rebecca Solnit
  24. “The best portion of a good man’s life is his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.”  – William Wordsworth
  25. “You will never have a completely bad day if you show kindness at least once.”  – Greg Henry Quin
  26. “Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”  – Harold S Kushner
  27. “Unexpected kindness is the most powerful, least costly, and most underrated agent of human change.”  – Bob Kerney
  28. “Strong people don’t put others down…they lift them up.”  – Michael P Watson
  29. “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.”  – James Keller
  30. “Do not let kindness and truth leave you.  Tie them around your neck as a reminder; write them deep within your heart.”  – Proverbs 3:3
  31. “Consistent acts of kindness trump random acts of kindness.”  – Anonymous

How have you tried to be kind to yourself or others this month?  What about going forward?  Let me know in the comments.

 

February Gratitude

CW: pregnancy, body image

As I mentioned in January, one post I really want to try and commit to each month this year is a list of things I am grateful for.  It is actually quite challenging.  Although I’m generally a positive person who lives life at a level I would call “content”, and only occasionally swing into bouts of terror and sadness, this is quite a challenge for me, particularly since I want to put my animals and my family on every list and I have set myself the challenge to be grateful for new things every month.  Anything that stretches my ability to be grateful, however, I suspect is a good challenge.  Practice, after all, makes perfect.

1)  fLash Lash

This may sound terribly superficial, but since we’ve already established that I am I’m going to plough right ahead anyway.  My friend put me on to this lash serum.  I was really sceptical at first because the idea of a lash serum just sounds really gimmicky to me.  However, I’ve been using it for about a month now, and it works!  My lashes are actually longer.  I tried to take a before and after, but unfortunately my before is really blurry so it’s extremely hard to see any sort of difference.  The difference isn’t huge – certainly nothing as dramatic as the pictures on the website –  but it is noticeable, and I love it.  I will definitely be repurchasing this one.  (And no, sadly this is not a sponsored post and I do not get any money from spruiking the wonders of fLash Lash).

2) Maternity jeans

I’m not pregnant, but I am now a sworn devotee of maternity jeans.  I’ve never actually tried them before, although I have written about them as I know other endo-warriors who wear them.  Now I’m not sure I ever want to wear anything else.  I tried on this pair yesterday and was blown away.

A1308027
Image description: a pair of legs wearing black skinny jeans with a rip on each knee standing in a Scandi-style room with a white crib.  There is a wooden window seat next to the legs with a cream cushion and a grey throw.

They look like jeans, but they feel like leggings and they are so soft and comfy on the belly.  They are actually quite flattering, and I say this as someone who has always felt very self-conscious about the width of her hips in leggings and skinny jeans.  With a pair of biker boots they are positively badass.  Badass comfort – what more could you possibly want?  You could fight crime and look cool in these things.

3)  New friends

Whilst I still miss my friends from my old workplace, particularly my fLash Lash friend and another lovely woman who left a few months before I did, I am delighted to have found such incredible people at my new job.  They are mostly women, and they are all wonderful – friendly, helpful, chatty, hardworking, collaborative, and always up for a jaunt to the local coffee shop or grocer.  They’ve made me feel so at home.  Great colleagues make for a great job even when the work isn’t tops, and I love the work too, so it’s great all round.

4)  My employer’s attitude to disability

Although I have thankfully not had to put it to the test in a “I’ve only worked three hours in the last month” sort of way, my employer so far seems really pro-disability and supportive of disabled staff.  We get personalised desk assessments (everyone, disabled or otherwise) and if you have a pre-existing condition they get in a physio or other specialist to do it.  Mine has resulted in a better chair and an extra plug so I can have my electric heat pack plugged in at my desk.  This means no more awkward trips to and from the kitchen every forty minutes juggling a piping hot wheat bag that will be painfully hot at first and then cool down annoyingly quickly.  This hugely increases my ability to stay at my desk working.  It makes such a difference.

5)  Cool weather

I don’t do terribly well in the heat.  I am too white for days much above 30 degrees.  I like a gentle cool breeze on a warm 27-28 degree day.  English summers are largely perfect, in my eyes.  Summers here are dry and baking and seem to parch the moisture right out of you, except when it is stormy in which case they are hot and sweaty but still leave you really thirsty and dry on the inside.  Thankfully, February has largely seen a move to more gentle temperatures.  As I write this, we’re expecting a top of 24.  Perfect.  Love it.  I know I’ll be having the opposite feeling come winter, but right now I’m happy as the proverbial clam.

6)  Nice hair

It’s not always nice, but yesterday I got a haircut and now it’s just spiffy.  It’s great while it lasts and it makes me happy.  It smells nice, too.

7)  Adventurous tomatoes

I didn’t plant any tomatoes this year.  My plants just ran riot last year and I had more tomatoes than I could comprehend, so I thought I’d give them a miss this year.  Despite this, I have four or five tomato plants sprouting in the garden, including one that is growing in the cracks of the pavement again.  They are plucky and determined plants, and I’m actually pretty excited because I do like tomatoes.  I also have a single brave chili growing in my Vegepod.  I’d forgotten I even planted chillis (did I plant chillis?  Is it even a chilli?  We’ll find out when I cut it open, I suppose).

IMG_3818
Image description: my hand, holding six slightly oval little tomatoes.  One has a green stem on it.  There is dirt on some of them and on my fingers because they are fresh from the garden.

8)  Valentine’s Day

Like most people, I’m not a huge fan of the commercialism that inevitably springs up around days like this.  However, I am a fan of the idea of love persevering, and a brave man helping couples marry in secret.  I also like the reminder it brings to have a special date with my husband and take an evening to really cherish our relationship.  We’ve endured a lot together and it’s really important for us to make happy memories too.

9)  The Done app

As you may know from my previous mention of my dairies, I’ve switched from a bullet journal to a more traditional (but also very fullsome) planner this year.  One other thing I’ve done is make my habit tracker digital.  There’s an app called Done which allows you to track 5 habits for free, or as many as you like for $6.99.  I paid for the full suite.  I’m sticking to tracking my habits far more effectively when it’s on my phone, and it is actually easier to view trends there.

Image result for done app
Image description: text that reads, “Track any goal or Habit.  Track an activity multiple times a day, week, month or year.”  Beneath that is a grey silhouette of a phone.  On the screen it says, “Done”.  Beneath that are five bars.  A partially-filled yellow one says “Wake Up Early: 3.  This week, 03/04 mornings”.  A partially filled red one says “Workout: 5.  This month: 08/10 sessions.”  A partially-filled bright blue one says “Drink Water: 3.  Today: 04/08 glasses.”  A partially-filled lilac one says, “Meditation: 3.  Weekly: 02/03 sessions.”  A fully-filled blue one says, “Less coffee: 5.  Today: 00/02 cups max.”

When you have reached your goal for the day/week/month/whatever, the bar fully fills up.  The number on the right refers to your streak of how many days/weeks/months in a row you’ve managed the habit.  It’s quite motivating and really quick to do.

10) Finally getting over this cold (I hope)

This darn cold is dragging on and on and on, as they always do when you have an immune system as useful as the male nipple.  However, I think it might finally be going away.  I can feel something almost like energy waving a tentative hand in my direction, and my headache is only dizzying instead of catastrophic.  Progress!

 

 

A Collation of Hope

Early in January I talked about a number of quotes about hope that I’d been writing down.  It’s a practice I’ve continued throughout January and intend to keep up all year with various themes that seem applicable and relevant to my life.  Next month will be courage.

This isn’t really a proper post so much as a list, but I thought I’d put all 31 of my quotes for the month here in case anyone needed some inspiration.  For completeness sake I will also include the quotes from my last post.  I won’t explain my thoughts on them all this time: this is just for reference in case you need a quick little soundbite of hope.

All of these quotes represent, to me, an important aspect of hope.  Hope warms, it empowers, it pushes you on.  It is really hard to do.  It can spark revolutions or just make a hard day a little easier.  It is something we have the power to share.

  1. “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re doing something.” – Neil Gaiman
  2. “Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, “it will be better.”” – Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  3. ““Hope” is the thing with feathers –
    That perches in the soul –
    And sings the tune without the words –
    And never stops – at all –

    And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
    And sore must be the storm –
    That could abash the little Bird
    That kept so many warm –

    I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
    And on the strangest Sea –
    Yet – never – in Extremity,
    It asked a crumb – of me.”
    – Emily Dickinson

  4. “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  – Desmond Tutu

  5. “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.

  6. “There never was a night or a problem that could defeat sunrise or hope.”  – Bernard Williams
  7. “Though hope is frail, it’s hard to kill.”  – When You Believe, The Prince of Egypt
  8. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”  – Helen Keller
  9. “Fairytales are more than true – not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell tell us dragons can be defeated.”  – Neil Gaiman, misquoting C K Chesterton
  10. “I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.  That myth is more potent than history.   That dreams are more powerful than facts.  That hope always triumphs over experience.  That laughter is the only cure for grief.  And I believe that love is stronger than death.” – Robert Fulghum
  11. “While there is life, there is hope.”  – Marcus Tullius Cicero
  12. “I don’t think of all the misery, but of the beauty that still remains.”  – Anne Frank
  13. “Everything that is done in this world is done by hope.” – Martin Luther
  14. “We must free ourselves of the hope that the seas will ever rest.  We must learn to sail in high winds.” – Aristotle Onassis
  15. “There is nothing like a dream to create the future.” – Victor Hugo
  16. “Carve a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain of disappointment.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.
  17. “Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all…As long as matters are really hopeful, hope is mere flattery or platitude; it is only when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength.”  – C K Chesterton
  18. “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations.  I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow them.” – Louisa May Alcott
  19. “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” – Nelson Mandela
  20. “I dwell in possibility.” – Emily Dickinson
  21. “When I’m stuck with a day that’s grey and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin and say: the sun’ll come out tomorrow, so you’ve got to hang on til tomorrow, come what may!  Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow, you’re always a day away.”  – Annie
  22. “Hope is passion for what is possible.” – Soren Kierkegaard
  23. “If you lose hope, somehow you lose the vitality that keeps moving, you lose the courage to be, that quality that helps you go on in spite of it all.  And so today, I still have a dream.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  24. “This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
  25. “A leader is a dealer in hope.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
  26. “Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey towards it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.” – Samuel Smiles
  27. “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.  The important thing is not to stop questioning.” – Albert Einstein
  28. “You are not here merely to make a living.  You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement.  You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” – Woodrow Wilson
  29. “Where there’s tea there’s hope.” – Arthur Wing Pinero
  30. “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other form a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” – Robert Kennedy
  31. “You may not always have a comfortable life and you will not always be able to solve all the world’s problems at once, but don’t ever underestimate the importance you can have, because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.” – Michelle Obama

January Gratitude

In the spirit of keeping some positivity in what could otherwise be a fairly gloomy blog, this year I want to commit to finishing each month with a post on things I am grateful for that month. I’m going to push myself to list ten things per month and to look for the silver lining even in the bad things.

Not every bad thing will have a silver lining, and some months will have far more good than bad, but I like being happy and I am trying to wire my brain to go to a happy place more than a sad place.

Before I begin, I want to note that I do not want the fact that I or other chronically ill bloggers do this as a stick to bludgeon those who don’t. Depression and anxiety can’t be cured simply by “choosing happiness,” and the realities of chronic illness are that happiness can be hard to find. It is not the duty of the ill to be positive.

This sickly sausage, however, is going to try. Without further ado, this is what I’m grateful for in January:

1) Three weeks of holiday

As readers will know, last year I made a very quick and terrifying decision to leave my old job and go into a different role. Between leaving the old and starting the new, I had about three weeks without work. This let me relax properly, let go of the tension that I had built up during the year, get on top of some outstanding domestic tasks, and really focus on my health. I was able to use the time to run, swim, sleep, play computer games, take mornings slowly. I was able to build some good habits around fitness, getting 5,000 steps a day and doing some form of exercise daily, even just walking the dog (who was delighted to have me home).

2) Beach time

After not having gone to the beach in ages, in January I got to go twice. I love being at the sea, swimming, diving, smelling the salt air and hunting for tiny fish to watch. My husband reintroduced me to boogie boarding, which I hadn’t done since I was a little girl. I’d forgotten how fun it is!

Image description: a man holding a lead with a corgi jumping on the end. They are at the beach, in the surf. This is my little corgi Pearl finding out that waves are wet and splashy, and bigger than her.

We also discovered that our dog hates the ocean, possibly because she is so stumpy.

3) My new job

Nice as my break was, paid employment is a privilege. Even more important than my income, however, is that my new job is interesting and challenging – I’ve never done anything like this before and I’m actually really enjoying it. Equally important is that my colleagues are truly lovely. I do miss my old work besties, but we still chat regularly on facebook and in the meantime, I’m building relationships with (mostly) women I already admire and respect.

4) My catio

One of my Christmas presents from my parents was some money to put towards an outdoor enclosure for my beautiful, noisy, pest of a cat. This 1.8m enclosure lets him feel the wind in his whiskers whilst staying safe from the various perils of cars, dogs, and other cats. It also stops him from terrorising the local wildlife. His favourite outdoor activity is eating the grass.

Image description: a ginger cat looking at the camera. He is lying on the top platform of a grey, multi-tiered cat tower. He is inside a large cage made of netting covered in a green shade cloth. There is a litter tray, a kennel and a pink chair in the cage, which is placed in the corner of two brick walls and floored half in grass, half in pebble-dash path. This is Max enjoying his outdoor time while I do some garden chores so we can hang our together outside.

I think its super cool and I can’t wait to deck it out with more stuff for him.

5) Thunderstorms

My dog may be scared of storms, but I love them. I love watching the horizon glow with sheet lightning, or see bolts flash and crackle across the sky. Summer thunderstorms here are brief but generally very impressive.

6) New Pathways

Some news that I haven’t yet shared on this blog is that I was recently given a tentative additional diagnosis of adenomyosis. I’ll blog more later on what that is and how it affects the sufferer, but for now I am focussing on this: my ongoing post-surgery pain has a possible explanation, and therefore a possible treatment pathway. I’m not just a weirdo and my surgery wasn’t a waste of money.

7) My parents’ lovely Czech neighbour

He gave them a whole bunch of plums from his garden, which is an act of sweet neighbourliness that I just love, and I profited because my parents passed some on to me.

8) My new diaries

I’ve talked previously about my cool new diary set from Leaders in Heels. I’ve really loved how they’ve worked for me throughout January to keep me motivated and organised, whilst still giving me space to doodle and journal.

Image description: four books in a stack; a black one with white writing, a pink one, a lilac one and a dark navy one. A ginger cat is lying behind them and his tail is flopped over them. The books and cat are on a blue checked bedspread with a red wall in the background. Max keeping me company on a flare day and looking after my diaries for me.

9) Fun hair

I bought a bunch of wigs recently. Some were purchased last year during my horrible experience with tramadol. Some were purchased in January when I realised I love wigs.

Image description: a head-and-shoulders shot of a twenty-something white woman against a cream wall. She has long grey hair in a half-up style and sparkly blue lipstick. She is wearing a blue cold-shoulder dress with white nautical symbols on it. I love this grey wig from Wig Is Fashion. My real hair will never be this long, and I’ve always loved the way grey hair looks but didn’t want to bleach my hair or commit to dying it. This wig finally let me have it and I feel like a witchy mermaid. It’s great.

It’s too hot at the moment to take advantage of them, but this year I’ll be able to change my hair up easily and without having to commit to a different style or colour. Exciting stuff.

10) How privileged this list is

The fact that I can celebrate these small, trivial things like wigs and plums is because I was born into and continue to live a white, middle-class life in a developed nation. When I turn a tap, I take it for granted that I will immediately see clean water. When I open the pantry, it might not have as much chocolate as I’d like, but it will certainly have food (usually 16 million tins of diced tomatoes, for reasons I don’t fully understand). I am highly educated, I have a stable job, and I am not persecuted for my gender, religion or anything else. My government may change PM more often than I change jackets, but we are unlikely to see coups or major bouts of civil unrest. I am safe.

What are you grateful for this month? Do you keep a gratitude diary or something similar?

Setting Goals

It can be really hard to set goals when you are chronically ill.  You never know if your illness will get in the way of you achieving them, so sometimes you wonder, “why even bother?”  It’s particularly hard at this time of year with all the instagramspirational quotes that start floating around, about how the only barrier is your mindset and all that nonsense.

I still think it is worth it, though.  Without goals, the year ahead can stretch away like the road across the Hay Plains on a hot day – empty, tedious, and exhausting.

Hay Plains - Highway
Image description: A road in the Hay Plains.  A plain tarmac road in very flat, dry country stretching off under a big blue sky.  A single “kangaroo crossing” sign.  https://travelista.club/guides/australia-the-hay-plains/

I find setting goals helps add something to the landscape.  It lets me feel accomplished when I achieve them and gives me something a little closer that endless horizon to rest my eyes on.

There’s a couple of tricks to it, though, in order to prevent you from feeling hopeless or overwhelmed.  Here are mine:-

1.  Use the S.M.A.R.T. method

If it is a big goal, like that favourite of new year resolutions, losing weight, don’t just have that general concept floating around.  The SMART method says that goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.  In other words:-

  • Don’t make your goals too vague.  If you can’t say what success will look like, how will you know when you’ve achieved it?  A generally vague goal, like, “be a better person” is only going to be useful if you can qualify exactly what you mean by that.  Being specific about your steps to achieving that goal is also really useful.  For instance, one of my goals this year is to finish reading the Old Testament.  I have set out specific milestones of when exactly I want to finish each book, and how much I need to read each day to achieve that.
  • To quote lifestyle website YourCoach, “Measurable goals means that you identify exactly what it is you will see, hear and feel when you reach your goal.”  In other words, what will success look like?  Sometimes it’s really obvious – I’ll know when I’ve reached my goal of qualifying as a SCUBA diver when I get my qualification.  In others, it’s a little harder.  For example, I’ll know that I’ve reached my goal of improving my Arabic when I can read any word, even if I can’t translate it, and have a basic conversation about specific subjects.
  • Attainable is the most important one for spoonies.  If you can’t walk 1km without pain, don’t set your sights on climbing Mt Everest this year.  Kosciuszko is probably out of reach too.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t aim high, but aiming high should also be within reality.  “Improve my fitness” and setting smaller, more defined goals might be a more successful choice.  If you set the bar way too high and consistently fail to reach it, your goals will feel like a burden rather than a motivation, and you’ll feel like a failure.  That’s not the point of having goals.
  • Relevant is the “why” for your goal.  Why do you want to achieve the thing?  I want to speak Arabic because I love learning new languages and it’s a handy one to have.  I want to learn to SCUBA dive because I tried it once and it was amazing and I want to be able to do it regularly and safely.  I want to finish the Old Testament because it is important to me to know the Bible so I can better understand my own faith.  I also think goals shouldn’t be too burdensome.  If you are dragging your way through a Goodreads classic reading list because you feel like you have to in order to be a better person but you actually hate classic literature, then drop it.  Find a goal that you won’t hate.  I love classic literature but reading it won’t make you a better person, particularly if you hate every second of it.
  • The original timeliness aspect of SMART planning suggests deadlines, because motivate people into action.  That’s good if those deadlines are going to be achievable, but for spoonies I feel like timelines might be better than deadlines.  It is really hard for us to commit to things with 100% certainty, and deadlines are no different.  Timelines are more suggestions than hard and fast “it must be done by now or else”.  We need still need timeframes for motivation and to make our goals realistic, but we also need flexibility.

On that note…

2.  Be flexible

If you don’t achieve your goal within the specified timeframe, it is not the end of the world (unless your goal is to save the world and there’s some sort of ticking clock I don’t know about, in which case, please don’t be flexible).  I’ve set what I think are realistic goals.  Ideally, I’d like to qualify as a diver by early March, but I may have yet more unforeseen medical expenses or bouts of unpaid sick leave which mean I simply can’t do it financially.  If it can’t happen then, that’s fine.  I can learn to be a mermaid some other time.  Our lives are made up of constant compromises, and sometimes even our big goals have to take a back seat.  That’s totally ok, and you shouldn’t feel like a failure or berate yourself if that happens.  Timeframes may change.  An entire goal may become impossible.  Chances are, it’s not your fault.

That being said…

3.  Hold yourself accountable

This is one of those hard ones where you have to strike a balance between not letting your illness become an excuse not to do something you actually could do, and forgiving yourself when it prevents you from doing something you wanted to.  If you are having a good day, use it (but don’t overdo it).  If you are having a bad day, do what you can but don’t force yourself past your own limits.  Allow yourself time to rest and recover, but don’t let it turn into laziness and slacking off.  Of course, this needs to be set by your standards and your body, not society’s standards in general.  They may think time you need for recovery is slacking off.  It is not.  Don’t buy into that.

So, those are my top three.  I also want to share the planner I’m using this year, because it is absolutely great for goal setting.  I realised I was running out of time, energy and motivation to keep up with a bullet journal and I needed to sacrifice the flexibility it offered me in favour of something pre-planned.  For Christmas my parents gave me this beautiful set from Leaders in Heels.

Make It Happen Bundle
Image Description: a pink notebook with “Nevertheless, She Persisted” on the front, a dark blue note book with, “Think Big, Dream Bigger, Set Goals, Make it Happen – Daily Planner” on the front, and a lilac note book with “Make It Happen – The Leaders in Heels Planner” on the front.  

Whilst it is a little heavy on inspirational quotes and a very shallow, marketable form of  feminism, it does have all the functions I need.  The weekly planner in particular has a big focus on goal-setting using the SMART method, with room for three primary goals (a sensible number, I think).  It has annual, quarterly and monthly reviews, which really encourage reflection and accountability.  The daily planner also has three daily goals.  So far, I’ve had a very productive year.  Normally I flounder a lot when I’m off work because I have no schedule, no clear goals and no accountability.  Sitting down at the beginning of the day and writing down what I want to achieve gives me focus and drive, and it is sooooo satisfying when I achieve all the things on my list.  The third book is just a notebook so I can still do bullet journalling things like make a lot of lists.  9.5/10.  I take half a point off because the weekly planner smooshes Saturday and Sunday together, which I hate.

 

What are your goals for this year?  Do you have plans on how to achieve them?  Will you be rewarding yourself if you get there?  Let me know in the comments.  I also invite my readers to keep me accountable on my goals and nag me throughout the year about achieving them.