As I look back fifteen months from today at where and how I am now, I can assure you that things were very different then. Not just for me, but for this beautiful world we live in too. There was no pandemic that we knew of, but my health was not as good as I should have liked either. In fact I needed treatment twice a week for a leg wound that simply would not heal. It was painful too, so I wasn’t sleeping at all well. It meant that I would fall asleep in an armchair at the wrong times, instead of going to bed at the right ones. I wasn’t eating properly either, but I didn’t let my friends know as I thought this was just temporary, that the wound would heal and I’d be out and about in no time. But that did not happen. I also tried to keep things to myself. Perhaps I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t manage on my own any more as I had for so many years. That was the physical effect of this on me.
When I was a child, as I grew up at home I had my parents, elder brothers and family around me. At school there were teachers, but I didn’t chat to my school colleagues all that much. I joined a music group and played a trumpet and I played chess, so I was mixing with others. Then I left school and was at work for thirty-eight years. Photography was one of my hobbies, I was part of a few different musical groups and singing in choirs, I became interested in home computers when they appeared on the scene, I also got married then divorced. I learned a great deal about many things, as well as about myself. I even started and ran my own business for a while. All this meant that I moved around the Midlands a fair bit, so I never settled in one place for very long until recent years. They weren’t always the happiest of times, but I wasn’t on my own all that much. I do know now that working as I did in a communications company certainly taught me and helped me to communicate! But then I retired and after a while some poor health along with my disabilities caught up with me. In fact by not looking after myself and not letting others know about things, by insisting I was fine, I made myself worse. That was silly of me. It took the knowledge of my habits by friends and neighbours as well as them not seeing me out and about or answering my phone that got whoever it was to break into my flat last year and get me to hospital. For that I don’t think I can ever thank them enough. My point is that throughout all of my childhood, school and work I always had people around me. Then, for the reasons I have already stated, I was on my own for much of the time each day. Yes, it was foolish of me not to talk about it, but sometimes the hardest lessons to learn are the most painful and most folk do try and learn from their mistakes. In fact it is sometimes the only way to learn. What I had never thought of before was that the majority of us are never truly alone. Some are, perhaps out of choice for different reasons, but throughout our lives we usually have someone we can turn to or chat to somehow. But my foolishness was having a negative effect on me emotionally.
So last year, there I was in hospital where I was told that my heart rhythm wasn’t as it should be, but thankfully the electric shocks I was given then stabilised things. Following that I contracted Covid-19 and was therefore kept isolated for a fair while until I recovered. I was then moved to a few different Care Homes before arriving at the place I am at now. I am sure many of you will pick up on the fact through my writings that since moving here I am dramatically happier, hence my weekly blogs. Only now have I realised that in hospital and Care Homes alike, there have been people for me to interact with. I was and am not alone. So I have had to face an aspect of my well-being that I had never considered before, that of my emotional health. I have also been talking officially with medical students from the local University Medical School, under the watchful eyes of their tutors of course. That is a proverbial two-way street as they are learning from me about how I am coping as well as being managed, but I am also able to perhaps help them in their studies, so they perceive life from my point of view and maybe in this way I am ‘giving back’ a little for all the amazing help I have and am having in my life. I am more able to recognise and cope with aspects of my health that I hadn’t thought about before. I do wonder if we forget just how important the emotional side of our well-being actually is. It surfaces at times of special events like Christmas, birthdays as well as births, marriages and deaths, but they are always there. So many of us try and keep our emotions under control, but I think that can be a rather negative thing sometimes. I am still learning to let my emotions out on occasions, as some of the staff here in this Care Home have seen. But it was not always that way with me. Many years ago I was quite a shy individual and would avoid confrontation if at all possible. But that did me no good at all. Then came the time for me when things had to change. I had been promoted at work, but was finding it difficult to cope as I was getting stressed by the attitude of a co-worker towards me. These days we would call it ‘bullying’, but I let it happen to me. So one morning I arrived at work and was firmly told by a colleague there to go see a doctor. So I did. Despite not having an appointment there I was seen quite quickly and was given a bit of good advice, along with some tablets to take. They weren’t full-blown tranquillisers, but I relaxed a little. So it was that a few days later I was back at work and sure enough, this same person started having a go at me again. I looked at them and in an assertive tone, I told them to shut up and not talk to me unless it was about a work issue or they had something good to say to me. I felt really good at that, but it went very quiet for quite a while that day! The positive tone worked and the bully left me alone, which often happens. A few months later I was moved into a completely different office, doing harder work but with some really good people. It is true that two of them sitting opposite me reorganised my desk, as that way my desk was laid out the same as others on the team, (at least, that was their excuse!) but that helped me too and I am grateful for all they did. It helped me a great deal. I felt better in myself and was learning to deal with other people and work as part of a proper team. That all led to far greater experience and promotion, as well as a change of office to a different city. Moving house took some time and so for a few months I was travelling by train to that new city. I even ‘chatted up’ a certain young lady on the train journey and we were together for a number of years. That really did open up the emotional side of my life!
During my time working for this particular firm I was moved around every few years, mainly because of their changes and reorganisations. One move brought me in contact with folk I had worked with a few years before and that was good. I was also invited by a work colleague there to attend a talk being given on a particular form of Relaxation Therapy and Meditation. It sounded interesting, so I went along and sure enough it was to my liking. I attended a few more talks, read one of the books this person had written and then learned more about his work. This man was Srinivas Arka. A while later I was visiting my dear mother and I told her about this, but I then had to explain to Mum how this was not a religious group I had joined and my faith as a Christian had not changed in any way. What I found was that this relaxation therapy helped me to remain calmer in stressful situations. I still have more to learn on this, but it works for me. So after all these years, by bringing all this together I feel like I am perhaps now a better, more fulfilled person. To use a well-known phrase, I may have ‘found’ myself. I try not to get in any way annoyed or upset over those things that I cannot control, whilst those things which I can control or at least have an input to, I do my best by always giving an honest and clear opinion. I believe that the old saying how we “can lead a horse to water but we cannot make it drink” is very true. Just like my dear Dad did, if at any time I am asked for my views or opinions I will give them. If I am certain on a point I will say so, but if I am unsure I will also make that clear. Likewise, if I do not know I will say so, rather than just guess wildly! But then if I don’t know, there are bound to be others who do know as well as there being other ways to find out.
A quote I like is “the one constant in this Universe is that things change”. That really is ironic. During these past twelve months we have all found ourselves in need, missing friends and family, unable to do the things we have been so used to doing. We have been learning to use technology in new ways, adapting to limitations, even simply adapting to how we pay for items. I feel certain that we must continue to adapt and to cope with these changes in a positive way, having faith that things will change for the better as they did for earlier generations, but most especially not being afraid of change or afraid of asking others for help. It really isn’t easy, as I have found out over these last twelve months. For me it feels like a new level of bravery. Another aspect of this change can be to learn to trust, knowing that we may be hurt in the process. I try to remember that by doing so I will be much stronger as a result. If we remember that steel is made from soft iron and in order to become stronger it has to change, but not always in appearance, it goes through processes of both heating and quenching. The changes are inside, and are only noticed in how it behaves. It adapts. A good few years ago I was helping out in preparation for my teacher training course and one of the students needed additional tutoring. They needed guidance on a particular subject, so I had to explain not just what a spreadsheet was and how to use it, but what it could be used for. I learned that this student was very keen on a particular sport, so using a spreadsheet they were able to insert game scores, then calculate league positions and create charts on a season-by-season basis. For this student it was a ‘lightbulb’ moment, as all became clear. An ability to share knowledge can be invaluable, especially if it is then used to pass on to future generations. There are always different ways, but they are often tailored to suit individual needs, and should be.
But it is not just the knowledge, it can also be how best to use it. A few years ago, when my eldest brother ran his own business by adapting motor vehicles for use by people with disabilities, he was called out to fix a car. Being a qualified motor engineer, my brother checked out the vehicle and promptly got the car working again by hitting an item in the engine with a hammer. He charged the customer his standard rates, but the customer was unhappy at the cost for such seemingly little work. So my brother politely pointed out that the charge wasn’t just a call-out fee, it was also for diagnosing the problem, knowing which tool to use, just where and what to hit as well as exactly how hard. The customer paid. Like I have said, it is not just the knowledge, it can also be how best to use it. I see that happening every day in this Care Home, as the Carers here know when to listen and when to be firm, like dealing with a child. For me it is a fascinating learning experience during these troubled times. I still have minor physical wounds that continue to heal, I do still get emotional at times but I say my prayers and am thankful. I look back over the last fifteen months or so and I know that I am happier now than I have been for quite a while. I am at peace, despite how things are.
Time for a smile. This week…
Whilst in a second-hand shop one day I bought an old record called “Sounds Wasps Make”. But when I got home and played it, I said to myself “These aren’t wasp sounds”. Then I realised – I was playing the Bee side…