How’s Everyone Coping With The Latest COVID-19 Isolation Restrictions?

So…how’s everyone travelling?

YOU’RE NOT, I assume, and neither will you ever consider booking a cruise ever again, I would take a guess (if you’re of sound mind).

Photo by Curology on Unsplash

In the spirit of Gloria Gaynor, I am surviving, although as you can imagine, this is not a great time for hypochondriacs. Reassuringly, very little has really changed in our house, aside from an escalation in the toilet seat debate and some highly competitive stockpiling of toilet rolls in our own bathrooms.

Fortunately – and that is a serious downplay of that word in an uncharacteristic attempt at sensitivity – we don’t have young kids at home, and having worked at home together for some time, we are used to avoiding each other as much as possible within the strict, self-imposed boundaries of our home. But it’s funny how much this crisis has improved communication – in general.

It has certainly increased mine. Anyone who knows me well will be aware that I would rather have a mammogram than make a phone call, and yet I’ve been Messengering and WhatsApping like a Millennial over the past week – mainly in my attempts to keep tabs on anarchist, older members of my family.

My stepmother has reported back that my father is adhering to the new restrictions, much to my surprise. Apparently, he has taken an uncharacteristically sensible approach to isolation in spite of his disgust at the government’s decision to open the supermarkets to his age group between 9 and 10am – when he rarely surfaces before 10. I think the word he used was “unrealistic” in his description of a decision he believes is based on unfair stereotyping about old people being early risers.

Evidently, he’s not too worried about catching the virus, because ‘It’s only going to get the really old buggers” he tried to reassure me as I counted the hairs in his nostrils during our weekly video chat. And that’s why he put his chances of survival his the hands of alcohol rather than government restrictions and has upped his whisky consumption – “Just to be safe.”

Mind you, Dad has always been a pragmatist. I’m pretty sure he mentioned the same “more chance of getting run over by a bus” analogy during our conversation that he used to terrify me with during my childhood, hence, although he has always blamed my mother for my issues with anxiety, I’m beginning to question his accountability.

Meanwhile, the other old man in my life has been burying his head in the sand – particularly in relation to our finances. Having agreed to curb our spending at our last finance meeting – instigated by him, I should add – I was somewhat surprised by his expenditure on golf over the past few weeks – since curtailed by the closure of all courses yesterday.

“Essential?” I queried as I trawled through the bank statement and watched him splutter some excuse about therapy for his mental health in these highly anxious times. So it’s anyone’s guess how he will fare as we move forward.

He hasn’t been quite as successful at concealing the delight on his face each time one of our social engagements is cancelled. I swear he rubs his hands with glee each time the government limits the number of people that can gather in a group, and any day now I expect him to bunker down with the dog in full isolation mode.

Who Said Marriage Was Easy?

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Mariella Says (in the Relationship section of The Guardian today, in response to a letter about a loveless marriage): “It’s easy to pontificate about tolerance and investment in a relationship and far harder to put it into practice. During times of difficulty it’s imperative we remember why we got hitched in the first place.”

Dear Mariella,

Prior to the old man working from home, whenever we had those marital arguments when I needed to inform him delicately about something he was or wasn’t doing that was pissing me off, I would preface it – in an attempt to soften the blow – with a genuine request that he returned the favor. I gave him free rein to constructively critique whichever parts of my behavior he deemed were speeding up our progress towards the divorce court.

However, because he’s an annoyingly, genuinely nice bloke, he always insisted that he had nothing to complain about – a strategy, I convinced myself at the time, that was a passive-aggressive way of getting even with me.

But recently, things have changed. Marriage is hard. It can stretch the patience of a saint – which I’m not – and the longer we cohabit 24/7, it seems, the more finicky my husband becomes about my living standards in comparison to his –  particularly in relation to those quirks of mine that don’t meet up to his more exacting middle-aged-man standards about tidiness.

For a man with the attention span of a five-year-old, working from home gives him an opportunity every thirty minutes or so, to wander about the house and find fault. Indeed, RULES have been imposed in relation to a whole host of trivial domestic things that I don’t give a fuck about – one example being how the dishwasher is loaded – and not being of the ilk to care unduly about the minutiae of chores that serve no real purpose other than to help me meet the domestic hygiene criteria for the purposes of my family’s safety,  I have little interest in whether the mouthwash sits on top of the vanity or beneath it.

Furthermore, his attacks pertaining to my sloppiness have brought out an unlikeable, childish side to my personality that prior to this impasse in our marriage, I had never noticed before. Hence, I find myself going out of my way to annoy him. I load the bowls on the top shelf of the dishwasher or I stand cutlery up “the wrong way”; I leave dirty coffee cups in the car and on my desk, and half-empty water bottles dotted around the house.

Honestly, for a man who in some ways is more alpha-male than the combined panel of dickheads at the Kavanaugh hearing, his tanties about domestic trivialities have become really rather annoying, and the idea of living with a nagging husband for whatever remains of our time together, much less appealing.

However, for the sake of our marriage, I have resigned myself to maintaining my oppositional stance in the face of this direct threat. I have always believed that a good relationship needs balance. And in the same way that a dash of chili makes food more interesting, I have always maintained that the minute our relationship begins to resemble a Korma, I’ll be outta here, pronto, in search of a Vindaloo.

My most unforgivable offense, I am told, is the way I stack the box of new eggs on top of the old in the fridge – a habit, I have decided, that I will never apologize for nor surrender to. In fact, I intend to provide the kids with some intense training in fridge stacking until my husband gets some purpose back into his life – or indeed, gets a life.

Why Do Some People Make You Feel That Pursuing Your Dreams Is A Cop Out?

live-your-dream-2045928_1920Currently, when I’m asked at social events ‘what I do’, I metamorphose back into a little girl, look down at the floor nervously and respond, usually in a pathetic whisper ‘I’m trying to write a book’ or ‘I’m trying to make a career out of writing’, then pray they don’t ask me about it. The look of pity, by way of response, is a given. It’s the sort of look you’d expect if you told them you were terminally ill or related to Trump or that – God forbid! – you’re a full-time Mum.

 

And because I’m a paranoid bitch with anxiety, I choose to interpret that look as they think I’m a failure and that they believe my choice of words is either a) a cover up for ‘doing fuck all’ ie. I’m a “lady who lunches”, or b) they secretly believe that as a fifty-something woman, surely I’m a bit past it to pursue my dreams?

 

Which all seems a little ironic when I thought that the fashionable thinking in regards to lifestyle is about having choices, escaping the rat race as quick as you can, (unless you love what you do), or chasing your dreams before North Korea nukes us. Literally, hundreds of memes enforce this view on my social media pages each day.

 

Perhaps I’m over-sensitive as well as paranoid, but (just occasionally) a ‘good for you!’ or a patronizing pat on the back for ‘having a go’ wouldn’t go amiss. I like to think that I am encouraging when someone describes to me what their job entails – even if secretly it does sound like watching paint dry.

 

Perhaps the reason so many writers and people who work from home appear trapped by the demons of their craft is the solitariness of the job, which inevitably breeds doubt. With no peer support or encouragement, or any chance of an ‘employee of the month’ award, you have to have a deep-seated belief in what you’re doing to survive.

 

Do people really think that I don’t know that I have less chance of getting published than flying to the moon? But will reminding myself that only 0.1% of the writing population get published – and only those with the first initials JK – spur my creativity to greater heights?

 

Even the old man looks at me suspiciously when I lie in bed an hour longer than he does of a morning, trawling through the news sites and social media in search of ideas.

 

‘Where do you think I get my ideas from?’ I snap back at him when he asks me what time I’m getting up, sensitive to the fact that I feel the need to justify my time.

 

Perhaps it is envy. When you tell your friends that you work from home, it is rather like admitting that you’ve won the lottery or you got some half-price Blahniks in the sales, and you can hear yourself play down your efforts and try to negate the luck of that swim in the ocean at lunchtime.

 

But losing an income is not all fun and games, not when that second drink at the pub with a girlfriend can cause a domestic rift; the only holidays abroad you enjoy these days are those of your friends on Facebook, that you live vicariously through, and dinners out are a luxury. And chasing my dream was about more than being paid to do what I love, it was about putting my mental health first and being more cognizant of the preciousness of each day – which doesn’t pay well either.

 

And I know I am lucky.

 

Ever Feel You’ve Lost Your Way?

I posted this meme on my Instagram page this week and it obviously resonated with my followers, so I thought I’d share it with you.

 

I have a morbid addiction to allowing those “bad chapters” in my life cloud the good ones, and sometimes the clouds get really dark and fluffy, and no matter how many “gratitude” posts I read or how many  memes about happiness I am inspired by, I can’t seem to clear them and retrieve the happiness from my soul.

 

You know that I am generally a glass half-full gal, (full to the brim if I can get away with it), who is only too aware of each person’s responsibility for their own happiness and the importance of living life to the full. And in general, I am quite proactive when it comes to soul-searching and finding impulsive short-term solutions to my problems.

 

But this time, I have struggled to find my way out of the maze.

 

I gave up one of the best jobs I’ve had a few months ago because mentally I wasn’t coping with its demands alongside the impact of other forces in my life, and I needed to take some time out to mend my broken wings. The loss of my salary – as pitiful as it is – means that we are cutting our cloth accordingly, (although not as short as the old man would like), hence the fourteenth house move.

 

The idea was to try “something else”, which was to be “writing”, you might remember, and the dream started off well. In the first month of my “sabbatical”, I returned to my manuscript, signed up for some courses, got my blog into better shape than it had been for a while and I felt excited. I was ready.

 

Not even the first rejections that began to dribble into my mailbox put me off and I managed to brush their implication aside. I know the story of JK Rowling’s difficult road to publication by heart and as I am obviously the next JK, I was mentally prepared for those evil little reality checks. What I was less prepared for was the outcome of my other dead cert plan during my time out – to get my son’s life on track while I was at home. Stupidly, I believed that under my supervision, his life would fall directly into place and when it didn’t – hasn’t – my confidence began to flounder. I questioned my purpose.

 

As a creative, you can guarantee that as soon as you start to question your purpose, your ideas dry up and all productivity comes to a grinding halt. And again, even though the advice to writers is to keep writing through a “block” – even if the only words you get onto the page are a load of old bollocks – my focus had disappeared along with my confidence and the coordination required to juggle so many different balls and I went into self-protection mode. I began to avoid the blank screen that symbolised my failure completely.

 

I lost my way – perhaps because I’m better when I’m chasing my tail with no time to over-think. They do say that retirement is dangerous and although I am not in that position, I can see where the life of the wannabe “writer” – in particular, the lack of social interaction and abundance of focus for just about anything other than putting words on a page – can be dangerous.

 

It’s time to stop watching what time the neighbors leave the house to go to work; it is time to stop checking Aldi’s Wednesday and Saturday “specials” online; it’s time to stop looking up recipes on Taste.com that I will never cook. It is time to put those bad chapters behind the Great Wall where they belong, pull up my big girl panties again and find my way back. Which is why, my friends, I am gifting you this generous page of complete bollocks.

 

 

 

What’s The Secret To Being Organized?

files-1614223_1920It’s Monday, which means compiling my new “to do” list for the week – one that I suspect will contain the exact same number of tasks on it by the end of the day as it has this morning.  

 

Would you, like me, prefer to have your labia pierced than do admin?

 

Last week, I was forced to pull my head out of the sand (halfway) in an attempt to get some shit done, the sort of shit that now plagues my sleep patterns because I’ve put it off for months. “Life lesson number one, for reaching adult status” is learning that denial and avoidance are only effective for so long.

 

  • Bills have to be paid
  • Cars have to be insured
  • Family has to be fed
  • Scripts have to be updated
  • People need to know where you live now

 

It turns out that the stuff is on your “to do” list is there for a reason.

 

I have a sneaking suspicion that the old man will cite my bulging in-tray as grounds for divorce one day. His lack of tolerance for my more Bohemian idealism and laissez-faire attitude to organization puts added pressure on a marriage already squeezed to one inch of its life from working at home together. A minimalist, he believes that the only thing that needs storing in our home is the artificial Christmas tree, and he aspires to be paperless. Conversely, I am a world-class procrastinator with an allergy to small print, deadlines, and final demands.

 

Just about the only incentive for me to sort through my in-tray is the threat of prison.

 

Between you and me, there may be a summons to jury service somewhere in that tray; there is certainly documentation that relates to the sale of our first house, and I am hopeful that my degree certificate, the scans of my children in utero and their vaccination records are also in there.

 

Yet I feel conflicted about how much time these menial tasks take up, when who knows how much time I have left in this world. I don’t want to be on my death bed thinking ‘well, at least the dog’s jabs are up-to-date,’ I want to go into my next world at peace, a spirit freed from the shackles of society. I don’t want to be comparing the cost of new tires or house insurance when I could be walking my dog, writing or researching which new wine to try at the weekend. Time is precious now. It has taken me fifty years to learn not to sweat the small stuff and now I want to enjoy the empowerment of this newly acquired wisdom. And if those papers didn’t have such a frightening habit of growing into big, scary, adult-looking papers with big, bold red lettering on the front of them, I would continue to ignore them.

 

Some of the permanent residents on my list necessitate more than filing or making a phone call; they involve leaving my study, my heater and my dog; showering, dressing, LEAVING THE FUCKING HOUSE!

 

SEEING PEOPLE!

 

 

 

 

Food Goals When You Work From Home

One of the main benefits to working from home, aside from the greater job security than that currently offered by the FBI, is the 24hr on-site cafeteria. 

I have instigated Google’s food policy in our house. They don’t allow their employees to be further than 200 feet from food at any time – a strategy that ‘inspires innovative thinking’ they believe, as well as a greater appreciation for food, in my experience. Particularly now, as we enter winter, and I’m cold and beginning to miss the luxuries of the modern office, (and in particular, ducted heating), and have turned to food for comfort.

Without the usual office time-wasting distractions of forming scrums around the coffee machine, bitching in the toilets, sending funny emails about the boss, kicking the photocopier and social media, food has become much more significant in my new working environment – perhaps too significant.

And the best part is there is no judgment.

There’s none of that pressure to take in the grossest, sludgiest green smoothies for breakfast; no need to hide my Nachos under my sprout salad sprinkled with caterpillar semen for lunch, which I then used to top up with Maccas when I was ‘doing the mail’. No, you see I can eat what the fuck I want to in my own home, and if suits my very busy schedule to eat ten smaller (hmmm!) meals per day, I have earned that right.

Even so, I have begun to see the potential pitfalls in this new partnership. The fifteen-pound weight gain (on average) of Google employees over their first year of employment, has been termed the Google 15, hence I haven’t got close to the scales in months. But I ask you, with no-one to have hour-long chitchats in the toilets to discuss current events, (the size of Jon Hamm’s penis, for example), how exactly is a girl supposed to fill the gaps in her concentration?

It has been said that the lack of physical contact with the outside world can be a disadvantage to those who work from home – research that I suspect was reported by someone who has either never worked from home or who actually likes people  – and I now see how that sense of isolation could lead to an eating disorder for the lonely writer. Chocolate chip cookies have been my support through several, highly stressful hours to deadline.

I’m lucky that I have been able to learn from the best when it comes to my WFGs (work food goals), my progress in which he will assess in my annual review. Because there has to be some biological reason that my husband, who also works from home, has to run 7ks a day to maintain his current weight.

He works at the other end of our house – the end with heating, (an issue that is escalating and as such has been added to the next team meeting agenda). His office, which doubles as a nap-pod and reading room – in fact, any room name he can invent to avoid me – is even closer to the evil magnetism of the kitchen and I hear him and his furtive rustlings in the pantry; the tell-tale timeout beeps from the fridge door.

The waft of melting butter on crumpets is all it takes to pull me out of my steely focus on work and straight into the cookie jar, a consistency which is certain to score me a 5 at my review, I hope.

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