Bleak

It’s another bleak old day. Definitely a two jumper day. July 4th was the day when many places like pubs reopened in the England. Well in some parts, rather briefly. A local attraction here opened at 10am and closed a couple of hours later due to the bad weather and high winds. Definitely a two jumper (sweater) day.

Definitely a day for no house work. Disney Plus movies, warm drinks and giving son the attention he needs.

This photograph reminded me of old times. Pre parenting days. When I went through tough periods. When I went through challenging times. Times when I seemed to stumble and constantly lose my way. I would need to reset my inner self. Take a breather. Back then I would book a climbing or walking trip. A weekend in the wilderness. The bleaker the better. That’s what I needed to do my personal reset. Yes I would be tired on my late Sunday drive back but normally I was in a much better mind set. Ready to rumble again.

Fast forward to 2020. Those climbing and walking trips are no more. Single parenting means no timeouts. No weekend long resets. Just keep going. Any internal resets have to be done on the hoof. So with some uplifting words from a friend swirling around my mind, I find myself outside. Sat on the garden fence with a hot drink. Taking a few minutes to breathe. Imagining walking through the bleak landscapes and starting a reset. Yes definitely time to go again.

Another day

Another hot one. One more day then proper weather sweeps back in.

Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s overthinking. Maybe it’s these crazy times. Maybe it’s lack of sleep. Maybe it’s feeling just a little bit alone in this fight. Maybe it’s just one of those days. But today has been on off day. A down day. A misfiring day. A depressed day. I get these days. Not as many as I used to but it doesn’t really help when they strike. These days it definitely feels like good weeks and bad days. So it’s a bit of a surprise when the bad days sneak up on you. All the more frustrating because there is not a definite cause. No warning. Just wake up feeling this way.

A day when

  • The mojo has gone on holiday.
  • Life feels hard and unremittingly uphill.
  • Just feeling yucky.
  • Everything is an effort.
  • The daily workout was completed but never got out of 1st gear.
  • You just want to sit and slouch.
  • That smile is an effort.
  • Routine things become annoying.
  • Those various body injuries just hurt that little bit more.
  • An old photo which made you smile yesterday today brings a tear.
  • That inner demon is just a bit stronger today. The negative voice is just that bit louder.
  • Definitely a little snappy and quick tempered.

Basically low and deflated. It will pass but until it does then it’s no fun. I was going to swear but I won’t. Let’s get through the day and see what tomorrow brings. If it’s the same feeling then maybe a bit of shock therapy is required. I think I will ask son to fill a huge bucket with cold water then fill it with ice cubes and whatever else he fancies. Then he can dump it over me. It worked last time I was like this, maybe it will work again. Only one way to find out….

Lost Friends

And another rose photo…. I have to say out garden is blessed with weeds and roses. Each year they appear and they always feel like the return of friends.

Last night I had another weird dream. This time it took me back to my university days. It started off by showing that my career path had been influenced by a slip of a pen. I had applied to do a degree in Economics but had been put on a Home Economics course. A degree in cooking for the worlds worst chef, OK.… But the main part of the dream was centred around friendships. All my college friends were on the course but no one recognised me. As hard as I tried, nothing. I was just blanked by them. Most unsettling.

As ever the weird dream put an end to my nighttime sleep hopes. So it was time to drink tea and think. A quick search on the internet found recent pictures of some of my old college friends. I just about recognised them. Would they remember my face which is perfect for radio – probably the same I guess. But here’s the key thing. These were really close friends. Yet when was the last time we met up in person. Our careers and life’s moved us apart. I’m not sure it was even this century. But it doesn’t stop there

  • I haven’t seen my schools friends since I first left my childhood home to go to University.
  • One really close school friend I did keep in contact with. We would meet up every few months. But again our life’s drifted further apart and the last time I heard she was living in Israel. That must be over 20 years ago.
  • My climbing friends still keep in touch via letters. Yes letters – how old fashioned does that sound…But we haven’t been climbing together in 6 years.
  • I still keep in regular text contact with a good friend who I went to football matches with. But I’ve stopped going to games now due to circumstances, so we don’t meet up in person.
  • Work and parenting friendships have come and gone.
  • Friends in the village have dwindled. Some have moved away, some have sadly left this world.

So in terms of actual physical friend meet-ups it’s down to one chap I normally work with. He occasionally drags me for a game of golf. There are so many stories right theremy golf career is about as good as my cooking career. But due to the pandemic I have not seen him since the start of March.

Life and my choices have sent me down this path. Living in a rural area, bereavement, single parenting and autism in the house have all contributed. But it is was it is. A huge element of personal choice comes into the mix as well.

Yes this is sad but I am so lucky. The gaps left here have created space for blogging friendships. I’m doing the best job in the world – parenting. Job is the wrong word, it’s more a privilege. I have a great life. But I do so worry for others. Feeling alone can be such a dark place. Alone and yet claustrophobic. No one to reach out to. No one to interact or grow with. Some choose that option freely. But many are forced into it by circumstance. Illness, age, special needs parenting, single parenting, location, social factors, fears and yes a pandemic. It’s so easy and unfortunately very convenient to forget about those who drop off the grid. Last night was a timely reminder for me.

Take care my friends.

Thinking

During the summer months two things happen. The Sun beats down from cloudless skies….. And we get constant nosey Parker’s…..

Another largely sleepless night. A combination of a touch of tooth ache and another crazy dream. Great time to get a tooth problem as my dentist is just reopening having been closed for months. Reduced capacity and a horrific waiting list – deep joy….

Yes the crazy dream woke me up but it was so funny. Strangely featuring talking cows. I was trying to garden and the cows were helpfully chipping in with gardening tips. I hadn’t realised that cows knew so much about stuff.

While waiting for the early morning rain to stop, I was pondering life. And not just about talking cows and whether it’s a woolly hat exercise routine. I was thinking about thinking. Some of my thinking is good. Other types of thinking is not so good. It’s taken me years but now I can see this. I do have a habit of overthinking. My thinking starts good. I look at a problem or an issue or a memory. The first thoughts are constructive. How to make things better. The happy stuff. The sad stuff. What to do next. How to live the moment. How to make Son happy.

Then the overthinking kicks in. The second, third, fourth thoughts are hardly ever positive. My internal voices start.

  • What a mess.
  • I caused this.
  • I got that wrong.
  • People will be shaking their heads at me.
  • I am rubbish at this.
  • Why did I do or not do that.
  • People will think less of me.
  • I have so many faults.
  • I am going to make these mistakes again.
  • It’s going to go wrong.
  • I am a loser.
  • I look weird.
  • I talk funny.
  • Poole think I’m an oddball.
  • I am such a let down.
  • Completely useless.
  • They will be laughing at me.
  • And on and on.

Suddenly a never ending downward cycle is perpetuated. I’m spending all my energy on negativity. Living in the past. Forgetting about living today.

So yes thinking is good. But I need to stop the second and third thoughts. Stop the over thinking. That’s easier said than done. It’s a life long battle for me. One thing has got me through life. Helped ease the pain when I have fallen. That is to make sure that I never take myself too seriously. I’ve learnt to poke fun at myself. Ok it might not be great for boosting the confidence. But actually it means that I can accept myself better. It’s also a way of switching off the overthinking. Plus if it makes other people occasionally smile then it’s a complete result. In life it’s often easier to poke fun at others. I’m so not keen on that. Hopefully I will only do that when I know the other person likes it or by their self centred actions – they earn the right for a bit of parody. Unfortunately these days there are a lot of deserving targets. Just got to ensure I save the best put downs for me. You see it’s good for me.

Red rose

Whisper it very quietly. A red rose in Yorkshire. The white rose is our counties symbol and our historic rival, Lancashire has a red rose. The two neighbours have had bloody civil wars and conflicts over the crown…. Now thankfully the battles are restricted to the sports field.

Not the only battle being waged here.

Anxiety and adverse reactions to it, are very common for individuals who are on the autistic spectrum. It can take so many forms

  • Social fears and crowds
  • Fear of being alone
  • Noise
  • Thunder
  • Germs and illnesses
  • Eating and food types
  • Animals
  • Heights
  • Darkness
  • Bright lights and colours
  • Types of clothing

Too many to list. Some of these may have sensory origins and appropriate medical help should be sort. Whether that help is available is another matter….

Our son has had to face down and battle a number of these fears. One fear in particular has been ever present. The fear of illness, germs and death. These are genuine, life altering fears and anxieties. Fears which became even more real to him when he lost his mum and both grannies in such a short period of time. We were lucky in that finally his medical notes were passed to a young nurse counsellor. Over the last few years she has done stellar work with him. He trusts her fully – no mean feat. Unfortunately government cutbacks have resulted in far less contact time. Any contact has now temporarily ceased due to the pandemic.

The pandemic has really shaken things up. For our son it has ramped up his fears and anxieties. Now they are off the chart. This manifests itself in so many ways

  • Constant hand and face washing,
  • Frequent hand washing finally taking its toll on the skin,
  • Repeated changes of clothes,
  • Reluctance to leave the house or garden,
  • Refusal to touch many items – telephones, handles, gates, letters, food packaging, surfaces and clothes which have not been washed that very day,
  • Trips to the bathroom every time a bug or fly brushes against him (summer and living next to farm land mean that can be every few minutes),
  • Refusal to venture anywhere near strangers and anyone outside of our household – one of the reasons I can’t arrange for someone to come and repair our boiler,
  • Any food deliveries or parcels having to go into quarantine for at least 4 days before they are let into the house.

So we battle on. Eventually his nurse counsellor will be able to see him but until then it’s self care.

  • We try to maintain a diary. Record and document the anxieties. Try to get a handle on what we are dealing with. Is it improving or getting worse. What improves things and what makes things worse.
  • Trying to balance avoidance with small doses of learning exposure. Yes avoidance works but it doesn’t address the route cause. So carefully controlled small anxiety exposures needs to be factored in. Yesterday that involved both of us putting our hands on the grass for a minute. Then without washing our hands observe if anything bad happens….
  • Trying to slowly control the hand washing. Setting a time limit on the seconds he is allowed to wash his hands for. Currently that’s the time it takes to say a nursery rhyme. Trying to encourage him not to use soap for a number of the hand washes. Get into the habit of properly washing hands when IT IS NECESSARY.
  • Yes he has a range of fears but we can’t deal with them all at the same time. So we only ever deal with one fear at a time.
  • Allow as much access to those things which help him relax. If he wants to go on YouTube, or play an Xbox Game, or watch a movie – then he does….

We all have fears and anxieties. Some disappear, new ones appear and some stay with us for life. With Autism and Aspergers these fears can so easily be ramped up. Yes we hopefully can find ways to eliminate our worries but realistically some fears are with us for life. I guess the secret is trying to provide a range of tools and strategies which we can have at our disposal to help manage those fears when they strike. In that way it still allows us to keep living and enjoying life. That’s the plan with our son.

Saturday

A Bee with purpose.

I know I’m not the only one who feels like this but this morning I just can’t get going. I should be sat here writing a post after finishing my morning workout. Raring to go with today’s fun and mayhem. But no. Not even got my gym clothes out of the washing machine yet. Just can’t seem to get going….

The Sun is shining and it’s quite warm, so I can’t blame that.

I just feel like a computer stuck in safe mode. Only operating on reduced power. Just going through the motions, slower than normal. Feeling a bit sorry for myself.

  • I’m tired, didn’t really sleep last night,
  • I’m fed up with the thought of having to wear a chemical and biological warfare suit when I want to pop out to buy some chocolate or post a letter,
  • I’m sick of living in a country run by self serving clowns,
  • I want to hear news which does not involve a virus,
  • Annoyed at the thought of forgetting to do routine stuff. Stuff like probably forgetting to press the washing machine ON button last night….
  • I want to go running in the hills without having to stay alert and measure out my safe distance,
  • I want to have a car that basically works and one which has a replacement brake system which has been stuck in China since March,
  • I have had enough of walking into the kitchen and not finding any food which is even vaguely suitable for IBS,
  • AND I am so frustrated at seeing my beloved Son not feel able to venture out through the front garden gate and experience any of the beautiful world we live in.

Well that’s it. Time to start living. Writing those grumpy cat words have done the trick. I finally feel motivated to get my gym stuff out of the washing machine (don’t care if they are unwashed). Going to do some exercise then going to get my big backside back in gear. Going to have some fun. Going to make Son happy. Going to watch some German Football. Going to root about the bottom of the freezer for some nice food. Going to talk to a real good buddy and see if they fancy playing an online game. Then the day will finish with a great movie night, eating full fat crisps and watching a very silly film.

We can do this…..

What are you doing…

What are you doing…..

This morning’s workout was cold, breezy and often damp. It’s odd. If I had been running across the fields, I would quite enjoy those conditions. It makes me feel so alive, help blow the cobwebs away. But when I’m restricted to the garden. When I’m trying to do push-ups and throw a kettlebell about – it’s not fun, not fun at all.

So why do I do it?

The obvious reason is fitness. Another key reason is that I need to stay as fit as I can (for as long as I can) for our Son. When he wants a game of football, I don’t want to be found wanting. He doesn’t have friends in the village to pass that responsibility on to.

But there is another reason for being cold and wet while trying to lift weights above my head. It’s very like my Dad and gardening….

Dad left this world many years ago. In the end it was a blessing as he was clearly in pain. The things he enjoyed doing were now beyond him. One of which was gardening. He would spend hours outside or in his greenhouse. Regardless of the weather he would be gardening. I can see him in the pouring rain, clearly cold and very wet finding some plant related task to complete. He would go out stressed and clearly not happy with life. A few hours later he would return relaxed and smiling. Yes he would often rush to the fire to try and warm up, but he was in a much better place than he had been.

Dad clearly struggled with his life. Pretty sure with depression. He suffered in silence. Talking about the D word was just not the thing to be done in those days. One of the few things that worked for him was gardening. It was his release. The thing that could help release the demons. His medicine. That’s why he went out in all weathers.

Exercise is my release. Whether that’s trail running, hill walking, weight lifting, cycling, CrossFit…. that’s my medicine. Sometimes activities like climbing have to stop, but they get replaced. It’s my daily release. It’s an anchor to help maintain life balance. People like The Rock have talked about this better than I ever will. We are all different. What works for me may not work for you. I guess we all have to find our thing, that activity which becomes the anchor. Maybe that is sport, maybe it’s writing, or music or knitting or cooking or gardening. Whatever it is, we need to find it. We then need to find the time to do it. That’s why tomorrow morning, whatever the weather is like, you will find me outside, running round the garden. Yes it might look odd but it makes perfect sense to me.

Swimming

Yesterday the sun was shining and the garden was filled with colour. Today the sun is gone. It’s cold, very cold. A biting strong wind blows across a grey landscape.

The weather matches my mood…..

After days of care free smiles, today the smile is a little forced. Thoughts are a little darker. The world seems a cold and increasingly lonely place. Rather than thinking of memories as precious blessings, all too easily my wanders to thoughts of what has been lost. What is no more. Waves of self doubt crash in. Problems outweigh opportunities.

But that’s life. Just like the weather you get good days then bad days. In my case the secret is to try and make sure it doesn’t turn into Good Days and then Bad Weeks. That’s the risk with my depression. It’s so easy for me to fall into that negative mindset. Nothing comes after the Bad times. Life becomes a never ending slog.

I look out of the window at the awful weather and what do I see. Yes no sun, but the white and red flowers are still there. They still have colour and beauty. That reminds me that the weather may change but hope can always remain. Got to keep working at this thing called life. Bad times will pass and the sun will return. Yes even in Yorkshire.

As I get older, I become more convinced that life, bereavement, whatever journey I’m on is like swimming. Swimming to an ever receding islands. As hard as I swim, that island can never be reached. If I stop trying then I will definitely start to drown. Somedays the waves are heavy, the tide against me. Swimming is so hard. But if I keep going then eventually the waves will ease and that tide will change. Flowing in my direction. Still have to work but suddenly swimming becomes enjoyable. Enjoy those moments, live in the moment.

So today the swimming is hard work. But got to keep going. Got to keep aiming for that island.

Safety

Today’s out of focus wildlife action shot is of someone who lives in our roof. Actually taken yesterday when the sun was shining. Our housemate is about the only member of our household who gets out these days.

This is the seventh week of Son’s own version of the lockdown. A few dog walks in the early weeks but then going through the garden gate became increasingly difficult for him. Even in the security of our car, a simple trip out onto the road becomes an anxiety crisis. When he returns he immediately washes his hands for minutes then has to have a shower and bath. These are genuine fears. Fears that effect his life. The excessive need to wash is not new. He has been shown how to clean his hands like a nurse. He has hand washing drills that set time limits. But sometimes it’s best to let these lapse as the excessive cleaning is often more about ridding his soul of anxieties rather than purely removing germs from his skin. Especially when a virus surrounds him which has so many unknowns.

He won’t be alone in these fears and feelings.

A chap in London with a little NHS badge announcing that the lockdown is being eased or lifted is not the end of the matter. It’s not as if it’s a water tap which we can instantly turn on and off. That’s also assuming that the virus remains under control and doesn’t spike again. Under Control is a rather worrying definition these days. It appears to mean keeping daily infections running into thousands and deaths below 300 a day. That’s just hospital based deaths not including the huge numbers occurring in care homes or in the wider community. For many the easing of restrictions is just the start of a long and painful slog. No sudden street parties for them. It’s about trying to repair bridges between the safety of their homes and the wider world. Picking up sufficient confidence to walk past that front gate. To meet people again. That’s going to be so tough with no guarantee of success.

So for the foreseeable future, our little starling will be the only one venturing out.

Sitting here

It’s early morning and I’ve just finished my workout outside in the breezy Yorkshire air. Son is still asleep safe inside. I’m looking out into the distance and seeing no sign of human life. In the far distance you can just about see the main road leading to the coast. At this time of year it should be nose to tail with caravans and cars packed with excited families. Today it is completely deserted. I patiently waited for five minutes. Not one vehicle. Then I fall backwards and look at the heavens. An empty sky. Yes clouds and fleeting glimpses of lukewarm sun, but not one single aeroplane. To the East we can see one of the main air corridors. We often excitedly get the Flightradar24 app out and check where the many planes are heading. America, Canada, Europe, Asia. Today nothing. Not one single vapour trail.

Has the world stopped turning?

Three years ago our little home stopped dead yet the world kept turning. It was a harsh lesson. Even when good people leave us the vast majority of the world is oblivious. In the days after the funeral I would question

Why has the world not stopped…..

Well it appears to have stopped now. Yet does it help. NO.

Later I am inside listening to music on the radio. It’s a sobering experience. Usually listeners are requesting celebratory songs for weddings, anniversaries and birthdays. Today the airwaves are frequently filled with songs dedicated to rock lovers who have lost a fight with an unseen new enemy. My heart goes out to you all. It was only a matter of time before someone requested Alter Bridge and Godspeed. The finest song I’ve come across about loss. My bereavement go to track.

Test me once again
You know I didn’t do anything
Set my life on low
You know I could have had it all
Drifting out of place
With no direction and no escape
Set out all alone
Oh to a place I don’t belong
Without you
I know that I must change
Without you
I’ll never be the same
No
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Test me all the way
Surely you know
I’m not afraid
Prove now once again
That I will never see the end
Without you
I know that I must change
Without you
I’ll never be the same
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Cast away
Our regrets and all our fears
Just like
Like you did when you were here
And then the days
They ran out
And then the days
They ran out
Farewell
Godspeed
And goodbye
You have lived
And you have changed
All our lives
Cast away
Our regrets and all our fears
Just like
Like you did when you were here
And then the days
They ran out
And then the days
They ran out

Lyrics by Tremonti/Kennedy (source Musixmatch)

Even after a few hours the cars and aeroplanes are still missing. The world may still have stopped. But son is finally rousing himself. Our little world cannot permanently stop. He has a childhood to live and enjoy. So one more sip of my hot drink and find that happy face. Reach for that bag of tricks we all have and find a way to shut this horrible situation out for a while. Start having as much fun as we can. Let’s keep living and hope the world starts turning again real soon.

Stay safe my friends and I really hope you find your own way to smile. Maybe if enough of us do this then we might just be able to start the world turning again.