14th June 2012
Today I had a busy day. Busy by my current standards at least, since not only did I take the children to school on time and walk Meg, but I also managed to work in school for an hour in the morning and almost two hours in the afternoon. And I am not asleep. This is definitely a win. Hooray.
I must pace myself. I am very bad at pacing myself. I rarely do it. My usual MO is to feel a little bit better, get over-excited, wonder if I can manage something, do it, double it, add some more, agree to do another three things after that and then collapse in a heap of weeping rubble shortly after. The trouble with this is that these days, it seems to take me so bloody long to recover from this kind of idiocy. My last blog post charted the beginning of an awful Saturday evening at home, when I fell out big time with my eldest over emptying the dishwasher. For fuck’s sake.
Following the debacle of him storming upstairs, me removing his phone from him, him sabotaging the internet router and me shouting at him, he left the house and stormed off down the road. With me, obviously, in hot, or perhaps given how ropey I was feeling by that time, tepid pursuit. To cut this long and tedious story short, and to avoid the build up of stress and anxiety in my reader, I will reassure you that I caught up with Corin eventually, about a mile down the road, and in a cunning pincer movement with my ex-husband in his car, we stopped him in his tracks and got him home. Phew.
As a result though, I was knocked out for most of the weekend and the beginning of the week. It’s taken me time to recoup my energy and emotional pizazz, and today I was unsure if I would make it into school or not. I struggled to wake up, even with the dog licking my nostrils, which goes some way to demonstrating just how sleep-hungover I am in the mornings. But I was determined to pace myself today, and not overdo it.
So I took Meg for a walk after dropping off the sprogs, and I got about half as far as I’d hoped I would in the time. “That’s ok,” I told myself, “just take it gently. It’s not yet 9.00am”. And I gently pottered back with her to school. At this point, of course, the self-pacing gets a little trickier. When you are in school, in a classroom with twenty-six four and five year olds, you are either FULLY ON or you aren’t there. There is no halfway house.
My task today was to work with the whole class in small groups to create sculptural representations of the five coloured Olympic rings. Or, more simply, to use willow rings that had been prepared, to source and weave coloured stuff round them. This, I love. It’s my favourite kind of activity. I love getting the kids to think about what we can attach to a hoop, how will it be secured? What would look good? I love seeing my children really wracking their brains how they can make ivy stay on willow, how they can attach feathers, and then the lightbulb moment when it all comes together.
Obviously, stuff falls off. Things don’t stick or the idea you have doesn’t quite look as good as you’d hoped. On the other hand, the ivy we found had massive shiny leaves and looked amazing on the ring. And when I popped home at lunchtime, I found a big bunch of peacock feathers in my stash of art stuff, which we wove into the leaves. Looked fantastic!
So, pacing myself. Hmm. Well. I managed to go home at lunchtime. This is an achievement, because usually I get carried away and say, “yes, I’ll hear readers”, “Yes, I can play the piano for you,” or “Yes, of course I’ll teach the class football and erect a marquee in the field and bake cakes and invent a time machine which cures cancer, etc.” That tendency could be ascribed to my immense arrogance, but in actual fact, it’s really just excessive enthusiasm and a splash of hypomania. I know I can’t really do all that. I do know that, honestly. But I’m always prepared to have a go, want to try, and at my worst, I take no account of the physical or emotional cost to myself. I don’t think I’m alone in this. We all want to achieve things, make people happy, keep the peace or show willing to people we like and respect. Sometimes, saying yes can be a kind of addiction. It’s a way of saying to ourselves that we are good and liked and accepted. We can value ourselves by the number of yeses we say.
The trouble with this is that like any kind of currency, ‘Yes’ becomes devalued too if overused. You can flood the system. People stop asking you to do things, because they assume that you will do it anyway. Instead of being pleased that you did your normal job and a little bit extra, the day that you are not quite feeling energetic enough for the extra bit, you will look as though you’re slacking. Nobody will thank you. Saying yes ALL the time, can lose you the respect of those around you, I fear.
So my new strategy, dangerous though it feels, is to say “No” regularly. Do my extra stuff when it doesn’t cost me too much. Do it when I want to do it, when I can. Not just do it, make myself ill and pretend that I’m fine, pretend that that’s ok. It isn’t ok. I am lucky that the colleagues I am currently working with understand this, and know that I will do absolutely as much as I can do. And I mean precisely that. Not more that I can do. For years I have been saying a blanket “Yes” to everything asked of me, I’ve been surviving on adrenalin, optimism and the belief that you can sleep when you are dead.
That’s kinda true. But unfortunately that sort of thinking made me sick. Perhaps other people are made from stronger stuff than me, and they could keep going for longer, not fall apart like I did seven months ago. That’s been hard to accept. Maybe. But that’s ok too. I’m made how I’m made. I’m doing alright. But I must keep reminding myself that I am not invincible, I do have limitations and if I push myself through them now, I will go back to square one with my bipolar disorder. That is not an appealing scenario. So I am learning to pace myself, think of what I might be able to do and then halve it. Or two-thirds it at least.
Today I did a little more than I intended instead of a little less. But I didn’t go completely bonkers. We made five rings. I didn’t join in with the dancing at the end, though I was sorely tempted. *HIGH FIVES SELF* And when a colleague asked me if I could carry an amplifier from the field to the hall, I said, “Actually, no I really can’t.” GO ME.
If I can wake up tomorrow morning without aching legs like jelly and brain-fudge, then I know I paced myself today. I think I did alright actually, I’m feeling optimistic.
Note to self, Charlotte: JUST SAY NO TO DRUGS MAN. In this case, the offending narcotic is the word “YES”.