Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Paul and illness

It's been a while since Paul first started to be ill with a (not very well specified) neurological problem - since the last week of September in fact. The first few weeks, with strange behaviour, hospital stays and tests, anxiety about what it might be, were horrible. The next few weeks with reassurance that it (whatever it might be, and no-one was too sure) was nothing life threatening, and would correct itself in time, were less horrible, but equally uncertain - full of temporary adjustments to cope with a new situation, and lots of waiting for things to improve.

A few weeks later, and it became clearer that 'temporary' meant months rather than weeks, and that recovery wasn't just around the corner (but was most definitely still there on the horizon). We adjusted into better routines - Paul starting to take care of Ellie one day a week, me working full time. But there were also new challenges to take on board, not just adjustments to Paul's 'absences' and memory loss but Paul's work moving him to a no pay situation, and the possibility of losing his job if he didn't recover soon.

In my work life, I deal with change management quite a lot - using theories and beliefs about how change is hard to accept and how people resist it, particularly when it is imposed with no choice. But all this happening at home has reinforced to me that whilst it is not always easy to change, in fact adaptability is a great human strength. Once you have accepted that something has changed, it quickly becomes normal; what you are used to.

It felt like a huge upheaval at first - and it was. But now, I know that Paul does not always remember things, I know that Paul has to walk or take the bus, that if we go in the car I will be driving, that we have no spare money to buy non-essentials, and Ellie knows that her Daddy will look after her while Mummy goes to work (instead of the other way round) and that if she goes out to the local shop or nearby playground with just Daddy she has to sit in the buggy. I don't usually even consciously recognise that these things are changes, or that they are linked to Paul's illness - in fact, I rarely even think that Paul is ill. After all it's not like he's confined to bed, or taking medication. On the whole, this blase acceptance works fine just occasionally it's counter productive - but that's a post for another time.

Today, however, has had a combination of events which have reinforced that Paul is ill. Not that he is any different from his (now) usual self, but external events have tapped on the glass frame of 'alrightness' that we have placed around ourselves.

This morning Paul had a 2 hour EEG to check the functioning of his electrical brainwaves (or something like that) - frustratingly he had a cluster of 3 absences on the journey there, and one on the journey back, but none at all whilst wired up. The EEG didn't show anything. Which on one hand is good, as it means he definitely has not got epilepsy or anything permanent; of course, on the other hand, it means we still don't know exactly why he is having them, or if there is anything apart from time which could correct it. There's something about a hospital test which reinforces in a very strong way that someone is ill, and raises concerns and anxieties about them, even when you rationally know that these are unnecessary.

For good measure, Paul also had his final sickness review for work this afternoon. Since Christmas he's been to see the Occupational Health Unit, had reports written by his consultant, had various meetings with his manager and the Human Resources person. The outcome of all of this (not at all unexpectedly by this stage) is that since no-one can say with any certainty when Paul will be better (although they can say that it won't be next week, or even next month) then Paul's contract is going to be terminated at the end of March. Financially, it doesn't make a significant difference to us - they've not been paying him anything other than state sick pay since November. Emotionally, we had been bracing ourselves for this - reframing Paul's role from 'off sick from work' to 'stay at home dad'. But still.

One at a time I think we could have shrugged off, ignored, these events. From behind that protective glass screen of 'alrightness', we could have looked upon them with a calm detachment. But together, they made me realise that my husband is ill. They made Paul realise that he is ill. They made us both recognise that our life is, and has been, shaped by Paul's illness. That we are here making the best of a difficult situation, rather than being somewhere that we have chosen. It's been a tough day.

But now, writing and reflecting, I realise - although I have just written that we are not somewhere that we have chosen - that it is not entirely true. Some of our choices have been taken away from us. Yet being forced to rethink our assumptions about our lives and our roles (and our finances) has enabled us to see options and paths which we had not noticed before. Obviously I wish Paul were well, but being here - where we are right now - is not such a bad place to be.

Blogging balance

Life has been busy recently - and it's been a challenge trying to keep to my new year 'resolution' of balance. The level of challenge is probably best summarised if I tell you that I've been so busy, that I literally forgot all about the word balance being a resolution. Which probably isn't the best approach!

This lack of balance has also been evident in my approach to blogging. You will possibly have noticed that my posts have been, shall we say, sporadic this year. For weeks I've been too busy, and preoccupied with other things to get further in my thought process than " I really ought to post". Ideas for things to post about - pretty much nil. Then the last few days, I've had more ideas for posts than I know what to do with - far too many to actually narrow down to writing just one, and no time for writing more than that.

Still. I have remembered the word balance. I have added the word order to my vocabulary too, as I think this may help achieve balance. I find it hard to be balanced in a world of chaos. (I'll make that my more advanced resolution for when I have basic, bog standard, balance sorted!).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The garden challenge

Did you notice the garden through the window in that last post? Here's a closer look :

It's clear that despite my increased gardening effort in the last year, the previous 2 years of neglect (or at best minimal input) has left a less than showcase garden. We've removed the plants we disliked most, but have since been overwhelmed by weeds (which had presumably been put off by the previous garden inhabitants).

Anyway, this year - I'm going to make a garden in which
1)I can relax in the evenings with pretty flowers rather than weeds, and with a Pimms (or maybe a Kir or maybe a glass of chilled white wine - well you get the idea)
2) We can all have fun and play on weekends (and Paul and Ellie can during the week too)

And to make this a real challenge, not only shall I be hampered by my minimal gardening skills, but I shall also have only a maximum budget of £50. (Although, this excludes the money we need to find for a new shed - the other one is at best unstable and falling to bits, and at worst verging on dangerous!)

But before you are driven to comment " You fool, why try to achieve the impossible" . Remember that gardens always look at their worst in winter, not to mention it's amazing how pretty a glass of Pimms can make anywhere look! Besides, we're already pretty much there with aim No 2... we had a lovely 'party' outside today.

"Competent Mother" status revoked

Today, I was with Ellie whilst Paul had a lie in. Actually, I say I was with Ellie but actually I had gone upstairs for a few minutes. Literally no more than 5 minutes. Honest.
By which time...

I couldn't help but ask Ellie why she had put cream all over the window - she's usually such a logical child. Her response? "The window was a bit sore". Anyway, she helped Paul and me to clean it up, and little more was said about it.

Which was probably an error - as I realised over lunch, when I casually asked her what she should do if the window was sore again. "Put cream on it" she replied promptly. We chatted for a bit about this, and she now fully understands that it would be much better to tell Mummy or Daddy.

And the cream has been moved to where it should have been in the first place - far, far out of reach!

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Gruffalo's Child

Sorry, no posts for a while - maybe one day I'll fill you in on all that's been happening, but it's nothing really spectacular so don't feel you're missing out at all....

Today, though, was exciting*. Today was Ellie's first trip to the theatre. And she loved it, which I think is pretty good for a 2 year old. It probably helped that we took her to see a play of the book The Gruffalo's Child. It was really good fun, cleverly staged with just 3 actors and minimal scenery and some catchy songs too. Ellie sat enthralled for the first 30 minutes, and easily managed the last 25 minutes with a few little prompt to sit still and watch.

And, the play answered the question which has occassionally crossed my mind during numerous bedtime readings - why do the animals tell the Gruffalo's child where the big bad mouse is, when he doesn't exist?! The answer, of course, is self preservation when they realise they are face to face with a gruffalo (albeit a small one!).

Ellie really loves this book (this, Winnie the Witch stories and Toot and Puddle are constant bedtime choices). And I have to say I like it too. The story is a good sequel to The Gruffalo, but I like the way that it plays against traditional stereotypes. The only parent in the book is The Gruffalo - who is "Dad". No sign of Gruffalo mum, and in my experience of pre-school books there aren't many single parent men represented. (Indeed there aren't all that many stories where the Dad takes on a key role as carer - something I've become more aware of now that it seems very likely that Paul will be a stay at home dad). Similarly, I appreciate that the adventurous, brave, exploring child is a girl - I remember reading it for the first time and feeling a moment of surprise (and pleasure) as I read that "she tiptoed out of the gruffalo cave".

And to think, that without a child I would have missed out on all of this - it almost makes those 5.30 am starts every day worth it!

* and that's without the additional excitement for me of having a 1.30pm performance in York, and at 11.50 am finding that my car that has decided (very uncharacteristically) not to start when I am trying to leave work in Wakefield 35 miles away....!