BULLET JOURNALING – November

It was quite difficult to settle on my November bullet journal theme.

There was so much uncertainty, pain, even nastiness each time I tried to watch the news that it became difficult to sit through it. I questioned humanity, or the lack of it. I wondered for the umpteenth time why it was so problematic to accept wearing a mask – if those working at the ice cream shop have always worn masks because it was hygienic to do so, why couldn’t we when there was a pandemic?

Anyway, I digress. This post is about my trusty bullet journal and the theme I settled on.

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It is my tribute to Louisa May Alcott, writer of the series that made me wish I had sisters, a Marmee and time for make believe dressups, writing, messy relationships and all the ingredients for a memorable growing up period. Alcott was born in November.

diary page with a quote that resonated
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But, with today’s backdrop in mind, I wonder what the reactions might be to a title like Little Women.

Ungrateful Daughter Diaries

Before I go any further with this post, readers are advised that there are flashes of self-care internal battles in this post. Anyone who does not believe in self-care or mental health should proceed with caution.

In 2018, my father was diagnosed with Stage 3-and-a bit colon cancer; the cancer was successfully removed, together with a chunk of his colon, and he has been able to live a fairly normal, active life. 

On Monday, he called me to say his doctors wanted him to go for an MRI scan because there were “abnormalities” in his latest health check. He said my mother, who claims to know everything, everyone and what’s best for everyone, insisted it was high time I took responsibility for my father’s care, so I should go with him to the MRI lab on Tuesday. Fact – my mother avoids medical facilities as she has had a double mastectomy and hip surgery; I  understand her reluctance but I resent being ordered to accompany him when I would have willingly done so – he only had to ask. Why, when I am a working adult, does my mother think I will take kindly to being ordered about? I also resent the implication that I don’t take enough responsibility for his care. 

After the MRI session, my father wanted lunch before heading home. Over lunch, he talked about his childhood, English football, the US elections, recounted several arguments between my mother and her sister, and then he asked if I’d spoken to my aunt.

Squabbles between my mother and her sisters are nothing new: they grew up bickering and that habit persists to this day. What has changed is the passing of the younger sister in August 2019, and the elder sister having to sort through her effects. Because my late aunt named me as co-executor, I have obviously met with my surviving aunt (the other co-executor) at the lawyers’ and she has mentioned her unhappiness about my mother’s constant accusations that she is taking too long to clear out my late aunt’s things, and my mother’s demands to have items she had given her to be returned. Fact – my aunt is 91 years old and I feel the task is mammoth, emotional and she is doing it alone, so let her take her time and pace herself! Why is she handling this alone? Because my other aunt would not have wanted my mother anywhere near her things. Why am I not helping? My doing so will trigger more aggressions from my mother, and the suspicions that I have made off with things of value. 

Back to my father’s question. I would be damned no matter how I answer because he will report it to my mother and she will have another go at my aunt, after calling me all sorts of names and recounting my sins to the neighbours, her friends and her relatives. I settled for, “I haven’t talked to her about the house.” My father accepted that but followed up with, “What has mum done to you that makes you so ungrateful?”

This is a question that really didn’t need to be answered in a cafe in the middle of Covid-19. But never have I been more grateful for this disease because my father is near-deaf, refuses to use his hearing aid but, thanks to Covid-19, the nearest tables were 1.5 metres away. 

I told him I am not ungrateful. I am well aware of her sacrifices raising me; she has never let me forget her struggles and how she had to do everything on her own because her husband and sisters were useless. But there comes a point where gratitude and filial piety can get overtaken by survival needs and emotional self-defence. I told him of instances where I heard her telling other relatives about how I was a disloyal, uncaring, unfilial, lying, useless daughter, and that I had poisoned my relatives’ and my own family’s minds and opinions against her.

I told him of two occasions (there were others) where she upset other people at social events and I was politely requested not to have her present in the future. I told him of a school event where she ranted at me in front of the principal, teachers, students and other parents for something I never did. How much, I asked my father, was I supposed to take from her? Did he really think I should remain “grateful”, and for what exactly? I told him smoothing over ruffled feathers in those situations was already paying for “grateful”. And that “grateful” and survival were two separate issues. Fact – the question I also wanted to ask was: where were you, dad, in all of this? Did you never know mum clearly has problems? 

I don’t know how much of what I said was heard. Or if anything registered. Or if it meant anything to him. Or if he’d been simply tasked to ask that question by my mother and he would report whatever he could. I do know that the circumstances were not ideal for that conversation. My father was not an ideal discourse partner. My mother will never accept anything I say anyway because she is never wrong and she knows everything.

I am aware the situation in that household is percolating away and may well boil over. I am aware I am dodging things and am stuck in the middle. And this sorry situation has taken a toll on my health (could this be the trigger for the heart attack?). I should probably also have sought help way earlier. 

But that conversation went better for me than I expected. I didn’t get emotional. My father wasn’t angry so that meant I hadn’t been disrespectful or totally illogical. I was clear headed and firm. And I have therapy to thank. 

Therapy has taught me that I can’t change the past or who people are, or tweak the present, especially if they deny a need for their own self-examination. It has taught me that there is a difference between being grateful and being a victim, being filial and being abused. It has taught me that abuse takes many different forms and not all bruises are seen on skin. 

Therapy has taught me that there are toxic parents. That mothers can suffer from narcissistic personality disorders, or be bipolar, or simply not be equipped to be good mothers. That fathers can be compliant because they go along to get along. That siblings don’t all get along and that the child sometimes has to be the adult.

Therapy has taught me that my mother’s script is not mine; I have a right to write my own.

And writing this has been cathartic.

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Frustrated

AAARGH!

Right. With that out of the way … deep breath … write.

January started well enough. The world and its politics continued spinning along. Then came February. With Valentine’s Day and all its accoutrements, life still seemed normal. Shops, physical and virtual, had morphed from Christmas themes to embrace hearts, bears and cupids.

Then came March, and bam! Gone was the cherubic cupid, here was contagious Covid, and the start of a period of frustration that continues to this day.

I had to work from home during the lockdown. The biggest frustration was coping with a new regimen that had been thrust upon me with little preparation or training. Where there used be the banter and bustle of a normal workplace, now there was just the restricted rectangle of a computer screen for all manner of communication whether it was verbal, written or everything in between.

My days were spent flitting between Zoom or Google Meet instead of a Conference Room or break room, clearing documents on PDFs and softcopies that refused to be edited, cursing the devices when the screen froze or programs hung or inexplicably shut down, wasting time searching for files that never arrived or ended up in strange shared folders. Technology will never replace human contact and spirit.

I also volunteer at a library which, obviously, had to shut its doors and my heart cried for the regulars I knew would be adrift because there was no access to reading materials, companionship and a quiet refuge. I think about these regulars constantly, wondering if they are safe, if they have food and care, if they are mentally up to the conditions imposed upon them.

Each day, I watch as the news reported the ever increasing toll on human life and on humanity. Each day, I cheer and salute every single one of the frontline workers, praying for their safety and continued good health. Each day, I pray for a cure, a solution to the shortages of supplies and aid, and for the horrible numbers to stabilise.

I’m not going to ask why this virus descended upon us. Ebola, H1N1, SARS … these should have taught us that viral pandemics are inevitable. But I am going to ask why things became such a disaster. Those earlier viral spreads should have taught us that by being vigilant, by being prepared, by being well stocked in supplies and medicines, and by taking charge and having a robust plan, we should know what to do, how to do it, and do it for the sake of our citizens. Yet there are leaders that cannot lead and citizens who care little about each other.

This virus is novel. How we should deal with it is not. Yet, here we are.

To be honest, things are not the worst where I am currently. Despite the quarantines, masks, swabs and restrictions to our movements each day, I am grateful there is adequate healthcare, enough facilities, and a low death toll. I am grateful I still have my job and I look forward to resuming in my library. But I know not every country is in a good place at this moment and it frustrates me.

To every single person who has been affected by this virus, or lost someone, I am deeply sorry. I have no words that can take away your pain. To every one who has had to make sacrifices in one form of another, I thank you. To every one, be safe.


___________________

RDP ~ FRUSTRATION


The Event

If there ever was a time I was woefully unready for what would confront me, it would be 1 July 2020. You see, that was the day I suffered a heart attack, aka The Event.

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If you’ve known me awhile, you’ll know I’m struggling with a poor relationship with my mother. And that the current distancing situation has been both a blessing and a challenge. However, I never saw this challenge coming.

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Well, on the Tuesday before The Event, I’d gone to work as usual and then had lunch out. Where I live, work and dining out are allowed provided a group does not exceed 5, and work spaces are spread out and we work in teams to reduce intermingling.

I felt tired and not terribly chatty but passed it off as the after-effects of having submitted two projects that morning. Then I went home and had dinner with my family.

I felt muscle spasms across my back and a pokey hollow feeling in my chest. Again, I thought it was exhaustion, and regretted not having headed home early for a nap! I had an early night instead and woke up feeling normal.

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Wednesday was my off-day so I was at home when the spasms hit at around 2pm. This time, I felt like I was running a vertical marathon and unable to stop. My chest felt as if it was splitting apart, I couldn’t fill my lungs and then came the cold sweats … and the realisation that this was Not Good!

I went to the hospital.

It must have been a sign of the severity of The Event because I went from check in (mandatory temperature check and Safe Entry registration) at the hospital entrance to the OR in less than 30 minutes. No usual 2 hour wait for a doctor this time!

I was strapped to an ECG machine, had multiple needles inserted to draw multiple vials of blood, had two teams of personel to change me out of my home clothes and into scrubs, had chest x-rays done and gone from the Emergency Admissions area to the Heart Centre OR.

I had no time to feel fear really. I was more agog at all the activity going on around me and I remember thinking these medics were as efficient and coordinated as Formula 1 pit crews! Two doctors explained that they’d have to put a stent into one of my arteries; it would be inserted via an “injection” near my right wrist. I learnt later that they’d also spoken to my waiting family. Throughout, a nurse held my hand or kept her hand on my shoulder, patting me in silent comfort. Bless this lovely person!

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In the OR, the surgeon explained the processes and asked if I wanted to watch how the stent would be inserted. Sure. Why not. The other option was to stare the overhead lights.

A huge video screen was angled towards me, and I was thus privy to an exclusive front row seat to view my beating heart. Coloured dye flooded the screen and highlighted the problem artery. Suddenly, a stent appeared in place like an elongated UFO. This was the moment that brought immense relief from the pain and tension, and the moment of total peace.

“You feel nothing now, right?” the surgeon asked from the other side if the monitor. “No more pain?”

Today, I would have asked if that meant I had moved on to some other plane but at that moment, being able to inhale normally was good enough!

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I spent 2 nights in the Cardiac ICU and was discharged to recuperate at home for the rest of July.

So here I am. I’ve had 2 weeks of Cardiac Rehab and physiotherapy sessions. I’ve spoken to a counsellor, and will be meeting a dietician next month. Then I’ll be meeting my surgeon to discuss affairs of my heart moving forward.

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There has been nothing conclusive about the cause of the event. My bloodwork, blood sugar, cholesterol and so on were all within range, as was my BMI.

My physiotherapist wonders if The Event was stress induced. So do I, particularly considering how much has happened in the past 12 months.

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Right now, I want to rest and heal. It feels weird to not go to work. And it is (selfishly) annoying that there’s nothing new on the telly. The books that I want to read won’t arrive in time so ebooks will have to suffice.

But I am breathing. It is enough because I am unready to leave yet. I know it’s not up to me but I pray for more time to take time for me. To let go of people and situations that do me no good. To chart new paths and learn new skills to enrich my world and make me a better, calmer person. To accept that there are lifelong medications to take and that certain activities will no longer be possible.

I am, at least, ready to make positive changes.

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RDP ~ UNREADY

Ungrateful Daughter Diaries ~ Rosy Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

You may have read my earlier posts about my struggles in my relationship (or non-relationship) with my mother. Nothing has changed.

Social Distancing has ironically made it easier to cope in some ways: I was not able to visit and, as bad as that might make me out to be, I found that this was a relief. Afterall, if I didn’t have to meet her, there would be no friction.

I made sure to call on my father’s birthday, and I sent bread or food hampers over the lockdown weeks since the bakeries in their neighbourhood were shut. I called to check that things were well.

Guess what? Not even my father (he goes along with my mother to get along) contacted me to say anything about receiving any hamper – just to be clear I don’t need thanks, just an acknowledgement that the food had arrived so I could follow up with the delivery folks, if necessary.

My aunt has since informed me that my mother had ranted and raged upon the receiving the first hamper. She snarked about my sending food for only my aunt and father and refused to touch any because nothing was meant for her. My aunt even had to stop her from giving the second hamper to her neighbours.

The amount of food should have made it clear it was for everyone but I had forgotten about the narcissist’s martyr complex. I had allowed myself to overlook her cruel tongue. And I had deluded myself, once again, into thinking I should care.

My aunt also informed me that my mother has prepared 3 letters to be sent to my father’s relatives, each one detailing my multitude of sins. And she has had her lawyer draw up a new will in which I would get nothing.

Like it matters. I don’t want things. What I want is some measure of civility so that my own family doesn’t have to witness this acrimony. What I want is a regular mom. What I want is a dad who can support me. What I want is a situation where sending bread shouldn’t unleash another cycle of cruel words.

So, tonight, I finally broke down.

Tonight, I accepted that I am going to have to stand on my own, and stand up for myself. I am an unwanted child who has had her reputation smeared to anyone with hearing abilities; even my father has not denied that when my mother visits relatives, she speaks ill of me.

If even sending food because I cannot visit (not that I would have wanted to visit) is a problem, then either I am truly abhorrent to my mother or I am the stupidest person alive to continue to delude myself that being filial matters, and to believe that I have parents.


RDP ~ Rosy Hues