Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Half (Term) Life

Well, at least today was payday - if not for me (I never get paid a bean) , then for the husband, who very generously sees it frittered away on food, mortgages, diesel, Starbucks etc. etc. It seems a particularly long time since money last entered our account and since we were literally down to our last brass razoo, there was a great feeling of relief to know that we could at last afford to use the debit card again without going into the red. It's rather lovely today: warm and sunny with a light breeze, but we've had to make a trip into town to stock up on those things which aren't really necessary, but make life a bit easier when you get them. Baby wipes, new shoelaces, razors, dog poo bags, that sort of thing. Town was busy, teeming with tourists determined to enjoy its history and picturesque nature. I have no problem with that, except it makes the streets a bit of an obstacle course. Fortunately the city-centre is pedestrianised during the main part of the day, although you do see the occasional loon who has not realised this and is forced to run (or drive) the gauntlet of meandering, sausage roll-munching rubberneckers. It's time to renew the bright-eyed boy's passport as it runs out before our summer holiday. It will be his third passport: the photo on his first one was taken at ten days old, and the second at five years. It's a little poignant to see his little life measured out in five year spans. When this next passport expires, he'll only have a year before he applies for an adult ten-year one. How time flies.

Half term is nearly over and, in truth, these holidays have not been too successful. We all seem a bit fractious, pulling in different directions. I think we're tired, bored and a little unsettled, but maybe that's just me projecting my own feelings. I'm uneasily aware that my studies have gone by the board just recently, but it's very difficult to stay fully motivated when I'm not really part of an academic community. There's no-one in my particular field to sit down and discuss ideas over a coffee with. I miss going into uni and meeting up with folks before and after classes - to tell the truth this distance learning is all a bit lonely: hour after solitary hour on the computer, or silently reading. I'm also in limbo again, funding-wise. If I receive nothing again this year, I'm faced with another year of scraping train fares, money for books, ink-cartidges, paper etc. with no prospects of attending conferences or anything above the absolute minimum. I've got enough put by for another year's part-time fees, but it's a bit of a half-life - like being an academic semi-member of the living dead! Fingers crossed, chin up eh? Worse things happen at sea.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Sun Also Rises.....

Dawn was beautiful this morning, the eastern sky lit by a honey-coloured sun. I know, because that's what time I first got up to make myself my first cup of tea. After 90 minutes or so of 'serious' reading (Schweizer's The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle) the husband's alarm went off and, peering outside once more, I was disappointed to see that the glorious sunny start had dissolved into a uniform sheet of grey. It's actually started raining now: cold raindrops sporadically rattle against the window-panes and it's chilly enough that I am wearing a fleece over my teeshirt. I've put some washing on and am still trying to decide whether, if I peg it out, the stiff breeze will overcome the damp atmosphere. The children are still asleep (or at least, in bed). What on earth can we do to amuse ourselves today? Whereas a year or so ago they were quite content to be entertained as a unit, their different rates of maturation (the girl has grown up exponentially) now entail quite separate requirements and expectations. The bright-eyed boy is still, in effect a child, and wants child's diversions and fun. The girl, although willing to go along with such jollities for a while, has become far more introspective and self-reliant, spending a lot of time on her own drawing and 'writing lyrics'. I am secretly delighted by such artistic creativity, seeing in her the private worlds that I myself constructed as a very young person, and am more than happy to provide the wherewithal for their pursuit. But it IS a complete nightmare to keep them equally happy and entertained. Consequently I am involved in some plate-spinning, catering first to one and then the other. Getting out of bed this morning, the husband suggested that I 'take them to the gym' (primarily on the grounds that it was free!). I can certainly see the theoretical merit in this: physical exercise releasing endorphins, waking the system, oxygenating the blood etc. In reality, though, what it would mean would be howls of protest followed by half-an-hour (max) of desultory flumping about, followed by a not-unreasonable demand for sustenance. Swimming is unfortunately out of the question during half-term as the pool is like baby soup. Yes, I know that I am a completely ungrateful wretch, that I should feel privileged and lucky - and deep down I do. I really and honestly do - d e e p down.....It's something that women who become mothers (or become mothers once again, like I did) later in life should be told well in advance, whilst being shaken firmly by the shoulders: by the time you get to fifty, you're pretty well knackered, physically, emotionally, psychologically and mentally. All you're really fit for at this age is dozing on the deck of your yacht with a Jilly Cooper, reflexologist and martini to hand. Not organising thrifty and amusing diversions for disaffected sprogs whilst, at the same time, vainly and pointlessly harbouring academic pretensions! Serves me right.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

May Day! May Day! May Day!!!

The half-term holidays are here again (again? So soon already?!) and have unfortunately coincided with a severe lack of cash, owing to the fact that
a) it's been a five-week month, and
b) a Visa bill has arrived with the Venetian trip expenses (hotel) and two birthdays'-worth of presents on it, and
c) it's car servicing, road tax and insurance renewal time.
The weather, so lovely and balmy over the weekend, has defaulted back to the distinctly chilly (although that's been partially moderated by some sunniness this afternoon). The husband, faced with the prospect of returning to his ever-increasing pile of responsibilities, was surprisingly upbeat. Looking out of the window this morning at the dull greyness, it was me who was distinctly fed-up. Daughter no.3 impressed me with her organising skills as she arranged to meet some friends for a trip into town. She was most dischuffed when they proved themselves to be both immature and ungrateful (she'd offered to buy two of them a Subway sandwich, which they'd initially claimed to want, and subsequently turned their noses up at - it was her pocket-money she was spending on you, you morons!) and cut short the trip to meet me and her younger brother in Starbucks where we were scraping a filter coffee and a small bun. That's the family allowance gone - and it's another three weeks or so before the next payment. It's no wonder that parents are getting deeper and deeper into debt. There's really no cheap way of entertaining the kids during the school holidays. Don't give me that guff about baking and sticking and board games. Been there, done it, got the jam stains. Nowadays children are far more sophisticated and intelligent than that. They'll go along with that sort of stuff, but it holds little of sustained interest for them. We've also done the gym, swimming, museums, art-galleries, nature walks, projects, workshops, yadda yadda....What would they really like to do? Travel: travel abroad and get away from this miserable, chilly, sunless land. Me too, for that matter!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Early Summer....

Yesterday was daughter no.3's birthday. Whilst she spent the day happily playing with her new guitar accessories, dressed in her signature black outfit and drawing manga out in the garden, we spent a more reflective time wondering where the last twelve years have gone......

It seems like only yesterday that I was sitting in my hospital bed in the early dawn light gazing down on my newest baby, filled with awe and tremendous, tender love. I'd slept sporadically sinced she'd been born just after midnight, the early post-natal hours fortified by Mars bars, tea and Vivaldi's Gloria.

As the sun went slowly down last night we sat in the garden, warmed by the wood crackling in the cheminea, and toasted her health. Little glass lanterns twinkled amongst the vines on the pergola. "In another six years - less than half your life so far" said her Dad "- we'll be celebrating your eighteenth birthday, with the prospect of you leaving home for university, or college."

She reflectively chomped on her crisps "Whatever" she said.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Diagnosed! At Last!

I am happy to announce that I have reached a diagnosis for my condition - I am officially a cyberchondriac!!!

I've felt increasingly anxious that I actually had some sort of nasty medical condition: in fact that's been on my mind last thing at night as I've drifted off to sleep----unsurprisingly, I've been waking up sweaty and tachycardic (see! I even know the technical jargon!) with a dull ache that seems to be centred on the caecum (ha!). various unpleasant thoughts drift through my head, mostly to do with incurable conditions, not living to see the kids grow up etc. etc.

Ironically, it was whilst surfing the web to identify the cause of the latest symptom that I came across the Wikipedia article on hypochondriasis and - blow me - it described me to a tee!

' excessive preoccupation or worry about having a serious illness' Check!

' afraid of any reminder of illness that they will avoid medical professionals for a seemingly minor problem' Check!

'....some others live in despair and depression, certain that they have a life-threatening disease and no physician can help them, considering the disease as a punishment for past misdeeds' Check!

'Common symptoms include headaches; abdominal, back, joint, rectal, or urinary pain; nausea; itching; diarrhea; dizziness; or balance problems.' Yep...had most of those!

Apparently, the internet has spawned its own version of hypochondria: cyberchondria, where the individual prone to such health fears trawls the web and becomes convinced that they have something awful, cancer and MS being favourite self-diagnoses. (Check!) However----

'Patients with hypochondriasis often are not aware that depression and anxiety produce their own physical symptoms that might be mistaken for signs of a serious medical disease..... Intense anxiety is associated with rapid heart beat, palpitations, sweating, muscle tension, stomach discomfort, and numbness or tingling in certain parts of the body (hands, forehead, etc.)' ...Errr...that's me....!

It's part of a continuum that runs from depression and what my husband terms Too Much Time To Think.

I guess I am at the latter end of this rather sad spectrum. Another clue as to my 'problem' is that 'it' (as predicted by the article and others related to the 'condition') 'improves' immensely with physical exercise (which, I suppose releases 'happy' hormones) and goes completely unnoticed if I am involved wholeheartedly in some project, meeting or converation. Only to return during the night, or when I find myself on my own. Sometimes, though, this obsession threatens to rob me of my day-to-day happiness, rendering me tetchy and self-absorbed.
Knowing what the problem is is an immense relief actually: I shall definitely make an extra effort to do something positive to relax...maybe renew my interest in the gym, which always makes me feel better after I've been.

My medical dictionary (another dead giveaway for a hypochondriac) rather amusingly compares the difference between hypochondria, malingering and hysteria:

'The malingerer may say he has a headache when he has none, in order to evade work or responsibility; the hysteric does something similar at an unconscious level and gets a real headache without physical cause; the hypochondriac spends a happy day trying new remedies for a headache that might come on.' Or, in my experience, feeling utterly wretched and convinced that death is imminent.

So it's all in the mind, then. But as the article notes: 'A simple suggestion of mental illness can often trigger one with hypochondria to obsess over the possibility.'

Dammit---I knew I was ill!!!