February Update

Mid-way through February so I thought I would do another check-in on my goals.

Manage my health better; good diet, regular exercise, good sleep routine, balanced work/life, positive thinking and good mind/spirit/body maintenance. 

Good diet: So, still doing weight watchers although the holiday to Mauritius did make for a challenging time.  A couple of good learning points:

(1) Alcohol was where I ended up spending a lot of my points – which fair enough, we’re on holiday and I like wine and champagne and cocktails.  But if I have alcohol my ability to be disciplined with my food choices is very, very reduced – I need to watch for this in the future

(2) Travel and food was where the real challenge came in – not a great deal of choice even in business class – if I go on holiday again (thinking of a cruise with Dad in June) then I’ll need to plan better to take care of this

While I am certain I have blown my weekly targets for last week and this (although discipline is back on the books for the next three days of this week), I don’t think that I’ve put all the weight I lost before the holiday back on (still fitting reasonably comfortably into my size 12s) although I am certain I’ve put on a few pounds.

I’m intending to be very disciplined this week (even with a visit from Kate on Friday) and the following but resume a more relaxed approach in March.

Regular exercise: I’m in a lot of pain today so not the best time to think about this as I feel barely able to walk.  Travel is exhausting and physically stressful on my body, and I did push it a little yesterday as I went out to drop in my repeat prescription request, cleaned the bathrooms the cat sitters used, and then I did lots of laundry to try and get everything ship-shape again.

So, I plan to rest as much as possible this weekend and keep the physical to a minimum.  Next week, I’ll resume my walking up Oxford Rd regime.  I’ve got a spa day on Sunday at the Midland so I may investigate joining the gym there…and investigating overall what is the best approach.  The additional housework/cleaning I did to sort everything out before Mauritius has given my limbs some tone and I’m keen not to lose that.

Good sleep routine: Haven’t really done very much with this so this will be another ‘to-do’ over the next month as I try to implement a routine – mainly lights out time to start as this is my major failing point.  If I don’t give myself the opportunity for 7-8 hours of sleep I’m on a losing streak immediately.  And let’s not speak of the disturbed/unrestful issues that come with CFS and fibromyalgia.

Balanced Work/Life: This went out of the window in the run-up to hols as I was desperately trying to get everything done before I left.  Again, something I need to work on when I am back in the office next Monday.

Positive thinking: Much, much better than I have been for a long time.  I have a lot of good things in my life right now so keeping positive is not difficult.  I just need to keep focused on the positive and not let the negative creep in.

Good mind, body & spirit maintenance: This is something I’m adding to the goal because this is about every-day looking after myself not just the specific objectives I’ve listed out – yes, a good diet, regular exercise, etc. are part of good maintenance but this is wider.  It’s having care each day about the basics – taking time to mentally balance myself, moisturise my skin, clean my teeth properly, shave my legs…it’s taking the time to do my nails and wear jewellery and feel good about myself.  I’m better at doing some of this when I’m on holiday (sun-cream and taking care of my skin is very important) but I could do better at home too.  But I really need to think about what this particular objective is about and create a plan of action from that.

Spend quality time with family and friends; make time and make sure I have energy to keep my promises and spend the time with people!

I feel like I’m doing well with this one so far this year.  Had a great dinner with Kath before the holiday (with another pencilled in), seeing Kate on Friday, still have my lunch date with Carl arranged and I have another few socials to get in the diary now I’m back in the country.

Sheila, Dad and I have just spent a holiday together so we’re probably overloaded on spending time with each other!  I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the last twenty-four hours of just me and the cat.  It was a good holiday.  Lots of sea and sun mainly with a few lunches and dinners with family crammed in.  It is challenging being in Mauritius – the climate, the mosquitoes, the language and the different culture all make it challenging.  But it was right to go and celebrate Dad’s birthday with him and I’m pleased we went.

All in all, I don’t think I need to do anything more than what I am already doing here.

Get settled in my new job, map out my future ‘work’ and make it happen; get an achievable plan for my future career.

I said last time I’m focusing on getting settled in my new job at least until March and that’s what I’m doing.  I actually do love it and believe I can make a difference – I am making a difference.  I may change my mind when I go back into the fray next week but right now, this feels like it was a good move for me.

What I do need to do is a complete financial review sooner rather than later, and I can start ruminating on ‘future career.’

Write what makes me happy; make writing enjoyable again.

I haven’t done anything.  Not too surprising because my available energy has gone to cleaning the house, doing my diet and working my tail off to get everything in a place where I could go on holiday.  The plan to restart writing Aftershocks crumbled in the face of those priority calls.

The holiday didn’t really allow for much writing time and what there was I used to read and relax – to restore energy.  I believe it was the right decision but it nags at me that I’m a month and a half into the year and haven’t made any progress on any of my writing projects.

I’m planning on spending some of today and tomorrow doing some writing.  It’s important to me and I need to get back on the horse so to speak.

Overall then, I’m making good progress – I don’t feel stalled as I did in previous years and there is a lot to feel good about as I read back through this review.  I just need to keep it up!

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Where am I with my 2018 goals?

I thought I’d take stock of where I am on 2018 goals.  Not sure how often I’ll be doing this but taking regular review is probably a good thing.

Manage my health better; good diet, regular exercise, good sleep routine, balanced work/life and positive thinking. 

Weirdly, I have made progress!  Let’s break it down.

Good diet: Since my Dad left, I’ve been doing Weight Watchers – completely online.  I have a few observations which I’m going to share.

Weighing & Measuring:

I guessed at my starting weight, basing it on the last time I weighed myself and the clothes size I now fit into.  I’m never keen on weighing myself because I think psychologically I get hung up on the number and that can demotivate me if the scales don’t show progress.  I can’t remember where I got it from but I remember someone once saying on a talk show or diet programme or something where they suggested your clothes and how you felt about yourself should be your measure.  I really like this approach and it’s working for me.  At some point when I’m ‘happy,’ I’ll weigh myself and see if this actually matches what I think I should be (which is based on medical height/weight ratios for ‘normal’ and a BMI of 20).  Until then, a couple of days ago my clothes started feeling looser – just marginally, a small amount – but looser.  I was able to fit into a pair of trousers which are designed to be close-fit without feeling I had to do the dance of ‘breathe in and wriggle.’

How Weight Watchers is helping:

So I’m not one for diets.  I have tried a couple in the past – mainly low carbs, or cutting out chocolate/crisps and trying to eat healthy, and I did try weight watchers a couple of years back but felt it was too restrictive.  Anyway, with the Mauritius trip looming, I talked myself back into joining because regardless that I think I know what diet will help me lose the weight, I believe I need help in identifying recipes and keeping track of what I am eating.  And – I’m really pleased.

What was eye opening was I accidentally joined a couple of days before my Dad left so for the first few days I simply tracked what I was eating and taking note of how many points I was actually racking up ‘normally.’  It was no surprise I was over the daily allowance of points and then in short order the weekly.  So with the evidence I am effectively eating too much of the wrong things, I actually sat down to plan the first week of meals, checking back in weight watchers online for recipes and to understand the points of the meals and to ensure I was always under.

It’s not difficult to realise that prepping your own food rather than using convenience is less points.  Vegetables and fruit generally are zero point so a large salad with a little dribble of balsamic vinegar and some kind of lean protein (fish, chicken, boiled egg) can make up at least one of the meals leaving lots of points available for the second.  Again, bulking a meal up with vegetables also makes sense.  It’s also probably no surprise that the carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice and potatoes) carry high points so inevitably you eat less of them – although you don’t have to cut them out completely or eliminate them.

This first week has worked.  I’ve reduced the ‘high points’ foods I’m eating and I’m eating more of ‘low or zero points.’  I’ve got a better understanding now of the value of the foods I’m eating and it means I can make better informed decisions about my food and what I eat.  Plus the fact that I give myself a choice psychologically works better than the sense I’m denying myself something.  Yes, I’m not having a vinaigrette on my salad but I am having potatoes in my stew.

Planning & Preparation: I’m not sure why planning and preparing being the key to success was such a surprise to me since I’m a project manager and the last time I looked, plans and prep are the key to any successful project, but wow does planning and preparation count here.

There’s two parts to that – one is planning the food for the week.  I sat down and worked out a food plan – breakfasts, lunches, dinners and even snacks.  In fact, given I usually have the same breakfast that was easy – cereal and milk.  Determining the snack was easy too; I have a current favourite cereal snack bar and so that was the choice.  Once those points are subtracted I’m left with 60% of my points to divide between lunch and dinner.  So I plan it out with the aim to remain within my daily target or lower, and not to use the weekly target which is there to help handle a meal out or I guess a cheat day.

That’s not to say I’m not flexible; firstly, as I do most of my shop online I do have to live with the sell-by dates on the food and so I had to revise the second week plan a lot yesterday once the shop arrived.  Secondly, I’m being kind to myself so if I don’t fancy the meal I planned when the day arrives, I simply search online for something on the day which works with what I have in the fridge and is within my daily points allowance.

Preparation is also key and not just ensuring I’ve bought the food ahead of time.  While I’ve always known making my own lunch and taking it in is much better than buying something in a café or from a shop, I’ve usually failed a lot of the time to make something and take it in.  Last week, I pushed myself to ensure I did prep the night before so I could have the lunch I planned.

Risks: There are a couple of risks.  Firstly, it is all a little too easy just to eat all my daily points, as in ‘I have 3 points left – fantastic I can have 3 rich tea biscuits with my last cup of tea.’ I’m thinking maybe I need to come up with a ‘points jar’ and for every point I save daily put a pound towards something nice for myself.

Secondly, there is a lot of work involved and I know when I’m very tired (and let’s face it tiredness is not unusual for me since I have CFS) the urge to simply get a take away rather than facing cooking is huge.  Until I go to Mauritius, I know the thought of what my aunts will say about my weight gain since the last time I was there is kind of keeping me determined not to fall into old habits but I probably need to think up mitigations here too.

All in all though, I’m on track with the better diet goal this year than I have been at this stage in previous years so I’m pleased.

Regular exercise: This can be a real stumbling block for me as I have a chronic condition which doesn’t really like exercise and punishes me with a lot of pain and stiffness in the aftermath.  That said, I decided to make my evening walk up to the taxi rank to get home my regular exercise.  Again, I’m not pushing myself to do every day if I’m in a lot of pain.  But I am again forcing myself to really make the choice every day.

I’m not unaware though that the walk is not enough to really make a difference – it’s low intensity and while beneficial on some level is only probably 25% of the exercise I should do.  Equally while weight watchers allows me to count the house-keeping towards ‘fit points’, I really do need to think about what other exercise I can incorporate going forward.

Balanced Work/Life: Yeah, this is my big stumbling block.  New job with a LOT to do.  It’s inevitable I’m struggling to get the balance right once more.  However, I have managed so far to avoid working during the weekends.  I need to focus on this more.

Positive thinking: I’m pulling myself up every time my thoughts drift in a negative direction.  However, I feel so much better mentally than I did before starting my new job last year.  Back then I felt stalked by the black dog of depression; it loomed over me, stood waiting at the door.  Now, I feel it’s a good distance away; not out of sight completely – it hasn’t quite left town, but maybe it’s more than a few streets away.

I think the other thing that helped here last weekend was actually spring cleaning the kitchen.  It began because I wanted to clear out the fridge, freezer and pantry before I embarked on my better diet but once I’d begun it seemed mad not to carry on with the rest of the kitchen.  I’m keen to keep up the momentum, but trying to do anything in a work evening is difficult due to my fatigue, so it looks like my weekends are the best opportunity; tackling the conservatory tomorrow.

Spend quality time with family and friends; make time and make sure I have energy to keep my promises and spend the time with people!

I feel like I am doing OK on this one too.  Friends-wise, I had to cancel a meal out with Kath just before New Year but we have another planned for the end of the month.  I already have a visit from Kate in the diary for February and a lunch date with Carl in March.  I’ve reached out to have a coffee with an old colleague from Guinness but haven’t heard back, and I’m intending to reach out to a few more people over the next week to make arrangements for coffee, lunch or dinner.

Family-wise, while New Year was a wash with both Sheila and I sick, we enjoyed a meal with Dad the night before he headed back to Mauritius and obviously we’re going to see him in February.

The risk here is will my health allow me to follow through on all these arrangements?  That’s the tough question.

Get settled in my new job, map out my future ‘work’ and make it happen; get an achievable plan for my future career.

So, right now and probably for the next three months, I’m focusing on getting settled in my new job.  There are a lot of positives; the team is lovely, the work is interesting but very doable, and I feel at home.  My boss is a good man.  There is no anxiety attached beyond the normal desire to make sure I do a good job and don’t do anything to risk passing my probation.  As a way to earn a living, it’s good.

That said, the fatigue is a constant factor which makes it difficult for work to be completely and totally enjoyable.  I’m tired – a left over from the overwork and anxiety of the previous years.  Most of the time I want to stay in bed rather than drag myself to work – any work.  But I can see that I could achieve a work/life balance in the future here so I know I need to stick with this, keep trying to balance everything so I’m not exhausted, and allow myself to recover.

Write what makes me happy; make writing enjoyable again.

This is probably the one which I haven’t spent any real time actively doing.  This blog is the first real writing I’ve done this year.  Some of that is the job; some of it was my health over New Year; some of it is that I’m prepping for beginning to finish my Aftershocks series so have yet to put text to document as I wanted to (a) watch at least the season I’m writing about (and today I realised I probably need to watch the subsequent seasons too) and (b) read the series from the beginning again so I can pick up the threads I had laid down.

Also, one of my old articles will be published in an actual book soon so while I haven’t written anything new I’m thrilled with the idea of being published in a book!

Overall, I’m really happy with the year so far (all thirteen days), and I’m hopeful about the rest of the year.  Until next time.

2017 in review and 2018 goals

It seems like every year goes that much faster than the one before.  I can hardly believe we’re reviewing the year again.

Manage my health better; good diet, regular exercise, good sleep routine, balanced work/life and positive thinking.

So.

Yeah.

That didn’t happen.

It’s not that I didn’t try because I definitely tried.  I started out with the best of intentions.  But sometimes it feels like the universe just conspires against you.

Work/life balance isn’t ever going to be achievable if you’re trying to do four roles, each almost a full time proposition itself, in a highly pressurised environment with insane and unachievable deadlines and workload.

For a healthy person, that’s challenging.

For a person with chronic conditions, it’s like trying to climb a mountain after swimming an ocean and trekking across a desert.

Life becomes trying to find the energy to go back to work rather than actually living.  And anything that might take time or energy in the life part, such as making a dinner instead of getting a take away, or getting some exercise rather than simply reading through the latest online stories…well…let’s just say it’s not a supportive environment to doing the right things.

Given all of that, you won’t be surprised that this year has been hellish from a health point of view.  Achieving a ‘I can work but that’s about it’ status has been really the best I’ve gotten my health to be during the last twelve months.  In the interim, I’ve had to deal with severe migraines, tachycardia, dizziness and severe pain just from the chronic conditions.  So unsurprisingly I also had to deal with depression.

Even now I’m recovering from a chest infection because my sister turned up with a cough at Christmas and my immune system is totally compromised and in no shape to fight off any kind of attack.

Hopefully 2018 will be better.

Spend quality time with family and friends; make time and make sure I have energy to keep my promises and spend the time with people!

I have managed this in parts.

I’ve generally managed to meet up at least once with key friends.  I had a lovely day out with Carl at the beginning of the year, a nice lunch with Kath, another lunch with Al.  Kate and I have managed a couple of evenings of catch-up, our usual trip to cinema and lunch for Christmas,  and a nice spa day with David with us too as a celebration of us knowing each other for a scary 25 years now.

Family wise, Sheila and I managed to get together for key dates around birthdays, and to take in a couple of films.  Dad and I headed to Italy for a tour in August and spent quality time together seeing the sights of Venice, Verona, Florence and Rome, and which included Dad throwing up on a bus.  As a family, we’ve gotten together for Christmas and it’s comfortable now.

But because my health is always a bit dodgy, I’ve had to cancel plans with both friends and family at times.  I really, really need to get the health side of the equation under control so I can spend the time I want with friends and family.

Decide what I really want in the work part of my life and make it happen; really determine my future work, plan for it and start to work the plan.

I end the year in a very different place work-wise than I started.  I’ve changed jobs and organisations and I’m in a good place now.  I’ve started working at a University, still doing a programme management role, but with a great team and it feels right.  It’s still a lot of work and I can tell I’m going to do a lot of prioritisation and juggling but for the first time I feel this is where I want to be.

 

It was a wrench leaving my old place, because I did love the team I had built, and the people I worked with.  But it was a struggle there for many reasons and I feel so much better out of the organisation.

Long term, I still probably do need to work out what I want versus what is achievable given my health conditions.  So next year I’m going to need to map that out more.

Write what makes me happy; I love writing and I just need to write what makes me happy and stop obsessing over unfinished projects or worrying I’m never going to get that original fiction written and published.

This really ended up with my writing almost nothing.  I have written some things but I’ve struggled to find the time and energy.  Something to correct in the New Year.

2018 Goals

Manage my health better; good diet, regular exercise, good sleep routine, balanced work/life and positive thinking. 

I’m not going to make a change to this goal.  This ultimately has to be the priority.  If I’m as healthy as I can be given the chronic conditions, then the rest of my goals will at least not have to get through the hurdle of my not being well enough to make them happen.

Spend quality time with family and friends; make time and make sure I have energy to keep my promises and spend the time with people!

Unsurprisingly, I’m not changing this goal either.  Spending time with the people you love is what life should be about.  And as much as I’m an introvert, I know time with loved ones is something to cherish.

Get settled in my new job, map out my future ‘work’ and make it happen; get an achievable plan for my future career.

I am separating this out into two parts.  For the first half of the year, I want to settle into my new job, and ensure it has a solid foundation to make it through (a) the probation period and (b) the immediate next 3-5 years.

In the second half of the year, I want to spend some time working out longer term where I want to go and do some planning to get me onto the right pathway to make that happen.

Write what makes me happy; make writing enjoyable again.

I’ve hardly written anything this year.  I want to ensure I’m writing again in 2018.

And that’s it – for another year.  Let’s all have a good 2018.

2016 in review and 2017 goals

So the annual review is upon me!  Let’s see how I went…

Enjoy time with Family & Friends: Quality not quantity but making time to keep up the relationships in my life is important to me.

Highlights of this year definitely include a holiday to Niagara Falls with Dad, resuming a close relationship with my sister in the wake of her marriage break-up, and spending time at Christmas and New Year with both.

Niagara Falls was great.  It was a hectic but lovely week.  The Falls themselves are breath-taking.  The moment when we were on the boat and stood beneath them, water falling all around us, spray everywhere, the sound of thunder in our ears…there is nothing like nature to really gain perspective of our place in the universe.

It was a tough beginning to the year when my sister decided to leave her relationship and begin anew.  It was good to be able to provide her with a shoulder and a safe place to turn.  It was sad to say goodbye to her partner who has been a part of the family for so long.  In some ways the nature of the split lessens that as undoubtedly I’m biased to my sister’s point of view, but still the ending of something is always sad.  It’s been nice though to welcome my sister’s new love interest and be supportive of their relationship.

So, it was nice to end this year with time with family.

On the friends front, I still enjoy weekends with my best friend, with our mutual Uni friend; still managed a lunch with an old school friend and to meet up for dinner with my old work friend.  However, admittedly friendship time has been sacrificed because of my health once more so that’s something to improve on next year.

Be creative: Spend time on my writing projects

On the positive side, I was able to finally finish the epic Harry Potter fanfiction I was writing.  It ended up being a colossal 800,000+ words.  Eep!  No wonder I’ve barely been able to write anything else in the interim.

I also managed to write a 60,000+ word fanfiction novella for a challenge back in November.  It proved that I can if I put my mind to it write a good story in a short space of time – and helped cement my ability to write original characters (even if they were surrounding a canon Stargate character).  Of course, I managed to do this while I was off sick from work so…I need to find a way to do this and work.

The other two projects I wanted to work on – finishing off a second part to a previous fanfiction, and resuming my Aftershocks series did not progress as planned.  But I am hopeful to make headway in the New Year.

Think long term: Make a step towards my future and don’t just focus on paying the bills today

This goal I think went really nowhere this year bar a couple of applications to Universities which were not successful.  I need to put some time and energy into this next year.

What I think this year has shown me workwise is that I have no long term future with the place I currently work at.  It’s a great organisation; good people; very supportive of my health issues but…I cannot see a future for me there – not long term.

Improve my health: Better diet, more exercise and keep on with the positive thinking

This did not go well.  I’ve struggled health-wise and continue as we close the year to struggle.

A large part of that can be put down to the fact that I think I’m in perimenopause and pretty much getting hit with every single negative symptom from hot flushes to dizziness, from increased severe headaches to poor sleep, from mood swings to cramping.  And what I have only just realised in the last few months is the impact this condition is having on my chronic conditions; poor sleep and headaches increase my fatigue while mood swings trigger my fibromyalgia.  Joy.  I’m only just learning patterns and need to get a better grip on managing the perimenopause before it floors me completely.  My mum once told me when Nana went through an early menopause Nana took to her bed for 3 years; quite honestly I wish I could.

Some of it though can be put down to my own continuing poor habits; too much work, exercise-shyness, not going to sleep in a regular way, and sliding into poor eating when I’m tired.  There are things I can do to improve my health despite my chronic conditions.

2017 Goals

  1. Manage my health better; good diet, regular exercise, good sleep routine, balanced work/life and positive thinking.
  2. Spend quality time with family and friends; make time and make sure I have energy to keep my promises and spend the time with people!
  3. Decide what I really want in the work part of my life and make it happen; really determine my future work, plan for it and start to work the plan.
  4. Write what makes me happy; I love writing and I just need to write what makes me happy and stop obsessing over unfinished projects or worrying I’m never going to get that original fiction written and published.

 

 

Women to Admire – the U.S Election

I’ve spent the last six weeks basically at home trying to recover from my latest run in with my chronic conditions and a new condition (because physically my body hates me) which has left me with an enormous amount of time on my hands.  Rather than waste it watching UK daytime TV, I decided to watch the unfolding drama of the 2016 U.S Election via YouTube.

It’s a historic election with the first female presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on one hand, and Donald Trump on the other.  And there is probably a hundred blog posts which detail the twists and turns of this election with its scandals and its stresses already so that really isn’t my focus of this post.

What is my focus is the women who I have noticed and admired during this election campaign.

Michelle Obama: The current First Lady of America.  Intelligent, warm, funny and stylish.  She is a class act.  In every speech I have seen President Obama give where he mentions her, his respect and love for her is visibly apparent.  And when she speaks, she demonstrates a poise, a way to comport yourself as a woman, as a strong woman which is admirable and aspirational.

In all honesty I have no idea what her contributions have been during her time as First Lady.  What I do know is that the speech she gave in response to the revelation of Donald Trump’s Access Hollywood video (where he was recorded talking about immediately beginning to kiss women, about getting away with it because he was a star, about grabbing a woman’s body)…that speech was nothing short of epic.

Most women at some point encounter the disrespectful man who stares a little too long at her breasts, or legs, or bum.  They encounter men who won’t take no for an answer in a bar, a club or at an office party.  They encounter men who think they are entitled to take what they want from a woman without consent because they believe there is a power differential which allows them to take what they want; to use women, to consider them as less than a man and therefore free game.

And Michelle Obama’s speech captured exactly what I felt about the video, about the predatory behaviour women deal with and reminded us all very sharply about why it is not OK.

Ana Navarro: American Republican strategist and contributor on CNN panels.  Feisty, fierce and formidable.  Her biting wit and wonderfully tell-it-how-it-is bluntness have been a real highlight for me.  I think we’d disagree about a great deal of policy but I admire how she has handled herself in some of the most contentious panel discussions where Trump surrogates have attempted the most bizarre justifications and spin for his behaviour and actions.

Samantha Bee: Host of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.  I’ve enjoyed a lot of the commentary from the comedy/talk shows arena (Seth Meyers, John Oliver, James Corden and Stephen Colbert) but she holds her own amongst the crowd.  For me she picked up one of the stand-out moments in the third debate by pointing out Hillary’s authenticity and sincerity at making the statement that government has absolutely no place in telling a woman what they can do with their bodies.

Jedediah Bila: One of the hosts of American TV show The View.  Again, politically we’re probably on opposite sides of a lot of policy, but I find she talks a lot of just plain old common sense; her arguments are well-constructed; they’re practical; she shows a great moral core – she comes across as someone who lives her values.   Outside of the political discussions, she just comes across as someone who would be a fun friend, a great person to share a drink at a bar and talk about the world with.

Megyn Kelly: Host of The Kelly File.  Another person with whom I probably don’t share much political agreement but I admire her journalism.  Regardless of network, she has been fair in her coverage; poised, sensible and intelligent in her commentary.  Her response to Newt Gingrich remains one of my favourite moments of the campaign.

Hillary Clinton:  She’s not perfect but actually she’s more admirable because of that.  If society and women’s equality had moved faster, she would have been and arguably should have already been president instead of her husband back in the ’90s.  I hope the U.S. gives the chance to become their first female President.  I admire her on many levels; I admire her service, her intelligence, and I admire her fortitude.  She has continued despite the haters and the misogyny; despite the double standards which have meant like many women she has had to achieve twice as much and demonstrate over and above the required skillset to gain her place and make her case.  Whether she wins or not, she deserves plaudits for making the attempt and making it possible for the next woman to stand up and be counted.

So, that’s my list of admirable women.  If I had a dinner party and could invite who I wanted right now, this would be my dream guest-list.

Brexit -Democracy in action

On 23rd June 2016 Britain voted to leave the European Union.

It is an historic, significant and important event which has already had a political, economic and cultural impact even within the first twenty-four hours of the announcement, and will continue to have impact for the years to come.  Perhaps that is why as someone who has studied history I feel the need to document my thoughts today.

I voted to remain. The constituency where I live – a major UK city voted to remain.  And yet, almost 52% of the total population of the UK voted to leave.

Shock and disappointment has been the reaction today within my community.  It’s been a bit like tuning into the results of a reality talent programme and realising the favourite who could actually sing and go onto have success is out because not enough people voted.

But that’s not true here.  Over 70% of the population turned out.  We’re engaged in this debate, in this issue as an electorate.

Clearly the nationalistic rhetoric on taking back our sovereignty, the very real concerns people have around immigration and terrorism (leaving aside the more racist aspects of those arguments which undoubtedly were at the heart of some votes), and the inherent and historic bias against Europe which is so part of the British culture has all led to a winning vote for the Leave campaign.

The Remain arguments centred around economic strength, cultural liberalism and the position that we have more political leverage working as a member of the EU than as a single country – better in than out. It wasn’t enough.

Perhaps the forewarning of a negative economic impact was too general, too esoteric.  Perhaps the cultural liberalism which appeals to city dwellers who see the living reality of a cultural melting pot in action on a day to day basis is not the reality of the majority of the population (most major UK cities voted to Remain).  Perhaps cultural liberalism in a world which deals with the threat of terrorism does not provide the security blanket some feel is required.  Perhaps the fact that even Remain supporters sheepishly concede that the EU needs reform and is perceived as a gargantuan bureaucratic money-pit was a gaping hole in the argument.

I’m sure the coming days will see a lot of dissection of why the Remain campaign failed to achieve a successful outcome; why the Leave campaign was successful.  From my perspective it comes down to two things: security and identity.

People forget that the primary reason why Europe came together economically was to effectively tie ourselves so closely together (although admittedly France and Germany were the main targets of that binding) that a third world war would be too devastating to even consider.  We went into Europe to maintain security.

But in recent years, Europe hasn’t been the main threat to our security. 9/11 changed the world.  Terrorism rooted in Islamic extremism became the major security threat to Western civilisation. This was underpinned by the terrorist attacks that followed including the 7/7 attack in London.  The rise of ISIS and the continued terror attacks across Europe in the recent year has increased concern about security, especially when media reports regarding the Paris attacks drew attention to the ease in which terrorists were able to traverse across borders within Europe.  Compound this with a surge of refugees fleeing Syria and…and there is a valid and real security concern.

And security is important.  To feel secure is important.  It is an essential human instinct in order to survive.  If we truly perceive our being in Europe to make us less secure than more secure now…is it any wonder that this need in the end proves stronger than by contrast an idealistic dream of tolerance, peace and harmony which is not the harsh reality in which we live?

Personally, I believe that immigration is an essential part of growing as a society as it brings skills and ideas to our economy, politics and culture – needed catalysts and impetus for positive change which brings us closer to that dream of a reality of tolerance; that compassionate immigration is a sign of a civilised and mature society.  I believe strongly in Benjamin Franklin’s oft paraphrased proposition that those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.

To me, leaving the EU because of security is a sacrifice of our freedom.  It is saying to the terrorists that we are terrorised.

But I understand the fear.  I understand the concern.  And I don’t discount the validity of either.

Undoubtedly there are some in the Leave debate who have taken this concern and played on those valid fears; have taken the argument further into racist and bigoted rhetoric.  And undoubtedly there are people who sincerely agree with that rhetoric.  As a mixed race woman who grew up in a school in the Eighties with only three other coloured children, one of whom was my sister, it’s safe to say I know racism exists and continues to exist.  But I think it would be very foolish to believe that all Leave campaigners are racists.  Unfortunately I also think the second key reason why the Leave campaign won, cultural identity, has been co-opted in recent years by a political party which is a racist and bigoted organisation.

I like the cultural melting pot; I’m a child of the melting pot.  I like being able to eat from a different part of the world every night if I wanted to by simply walking down one street in the city in which I live.  I like the fact that we acknowledge faith is important no matter what the religion is and that everyone has a right to their faith.  I like that people can be open about their sexuality and have the same rights as heterosexuals.  I believe social and cultural tolerance is important and strive to work to correct my own prejudices and misconceptions. I like being a citizen of Europe.

But I like being British.

I love tea.  I like how the weather is always a topic for small talk.  I applaud our queueing behaviour and silent disapproval with raised eyebrows and pursed lips when someone jumps the queue.  I enjoy how every time there is a football tournament the country goes mad and we all get caught up in Wimbledon every year.  I have a soft spot for the Royal family.  I’m proud of our music, literature and art; our rich cultural history.  I love how there is a core of British upper lip and inner strength within our people when something goes wrong; how we can all pull together in a crisis.

Identity is so important to every single human being.  How we identify ourselves creates our world; it creates the perception of our world. And perhaps the truth is the majority of our population still identifies as British and considers Europe as ‘Other.’  There are culturally ingrained prejudices against Europe built over years of past conflict and skirmishes.

And let’s be honest; the paraphernalia of the European Union doesn’t help itself.  There is a perception of a lack of transparency with bureaucratic dictates conjured up in the corridors of Brussels coupled with an impotent European Parliament that holds no real power.  There is a cultural grumbling against European laws which make no sense; of the very real sense that we have lost our voice in the formation and implementation of many laws which govern us.

Despite my fervent desire to remain, I will concede I do believe the European Union needs to change and reform its machinery of governance and engagement.

And so I can understand why identity and the want to retain our identity through enacting laws in our own parliament and which we can hold our elected members of parliament to account for might be at the heart of many who voted to Leave.

In the end understanding the need for security and that we still hold such a strong sense of identity, it is perhaps somewhat explainable why the vote came out the way it did.   Which is good because I needed an explanation and a way to justify this for myself.  Whether I’m right or wrong, who knows really, but this makes sense to me.

Why do I need to justify this?  Because I am at heart a democrat.  I believe in democracy and the right for people to say to their law-makers ‘this is what we want’.  I believe that someone has the right to stand up and argue for the opposite position to mine and that they should be heard no matter how much I dislike and disagree with their point of view.  I believe that if we have a democratic process we need to follow it.  We’ve voted to Leave.  It’s not the outcome I wanted. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do, economically, socially, politically, culturally.  I’m disheartened and disappointed that this is the result.  But as a democrat I acknowledge that Leave is the result.

So now we will need to put in motion the apparatus which will enact the reality of it.  We will renegotiate our treaties and agreements; we need to enact a number of legislative bills where the UK has been covered to date by EU legislation, and we need to work out what it actually means for our day to day lives.  We’ll need a new Prime Minister since David Cameron stepped down in the wake of the result.

Leaving will be long difficult process, and today has seen only the beginning of the impact it will have on our lives, on our economy, politics and society; on Europe. We are seeing history in the making, democracy in action.  And that both enthrals and terrifies me in equal measure.

 

2015 in Review & 2016 Goals

OK, so I haven’t visited for a while.  I figured on just stopping the blog completely in 2014/2015 but I figured I needed somewhere to plan 2016 and this offered itself up as a location!

I didn’t really set myself goals in 2015 but let’s have a look and see how I did against 2014’s.

2015 in Review

1. Family & Friends: Make time for them and make this a priority

This year has been difficult on family and friends front.

Uncle Ken passed away early in the year.  It was devastating for all the cousins since for most of us, he was the last link with the parent (whether father or mother) we have lost, and for the older cousins an era with Nana and Granddad that they remember more than my sister and I.  The funeral was lovely – packed church, a great coffin hand-painted with a cricket scene and a nice wake at the cricket club to follow.  In many ways, he was already gone and had been when the tumour did its damage, and so it felt like a relief for him that he was in a better place; that he was no longer stuck in a home and the inactivity his physical condition imprisoned him with.  But I miss him.  I miss him a lot.

I managed to get to my sister’s for her birthday so that was a win.  My sister and her partner are facing some challenges and so towards the end of the year we’ve seen a great deal of my sister; Christmas and she’s due to spend the next weekend with us.

Dad continues to spend a great deal of time in Mauritius and I did fail to get there this last year due to a poorly kidney and then exhaustion.  I must make a concerted effort this year as seeing him in the UK alone means that we’ve hardly spent any time together, especially as I retreat to my room to prevent the cognitive drain of constant noise – he usually has either the TV or radio on.

On the friends front, I did badly but I think I’m doing better; my best friend and I get together fairly regular and we now include our other mutual Uni friend on at least one weekend.  I’ve established a good friendship with a friend at my old workplace which I think will lead to semi-regular lunches/cinema trips/etc. I’ve kept in contact with an old school friend and we both enjoy boozy lunches so…altogether not bad but really I could do with getting out more.

Balancing my life between work and play is something of an ongoing battle within me.  Unfortunately as work gets very busy and I spend time being conscientious and putting additional hours in, my energy levels just don’t have enough juice in them to accommodate spending time with friends and family.  Clearly I need to rebalance.

2. Write More: I’d like to complete the epic story I’m working on but beyond that simply write for fun!

Well, I completely failed here.  I’ve hardly written anything.  Which is kind of not true as I have written over 150,000 words here and there – there’s just not a great deal of completed work to show for it.

The epic fanfic remains that – unfinished although we are almost there.  I want to finish off a fanfic I started in 2014 and which is also almost there.  And, I want to return to finish my Aftershocks fanfic series.

Beyond that, I have the outline of two novels I want to write and self-publish and a non-fiction book on leadership.  I really need to ensure I create time for writing.

3. Financial stability

Short term: think about finding something else to bring in money

Well, I left my old place (let’s call them ABC).  Let’s just say that between the outdated HR policies, the lack of understanding around my disability and the pace of the business (there was never a moment to take a breath), I wasn’t sad to leave.  There were some great people there though and I hope they find continued success.

Short term wise I have found another job.  The new organisation is much more supportive on the disability front although the pace has been frenetic because of an ongoing project and deadlines as soon as I started.  I’m hoping things settle down in the New Year.  That said, I’m concerned that it won’t be a long term option as I’m not seeing the need for my role long term.

Long term: focus on what I really want to do and make it happen!

I’d like to get my Masters and Doctorate in psychology and go into academia.  It’s just configuring how I make that happen when I’m working full time and barely have enough energy for family, friends and writing as it is.

4. Think positive / health: Continue focusing on improving my physical and mental health

Health-wise I’ve had a very dodgy year.  Kidney problems, followed by nerve damage in my once-broken elbow, and then I managed to wrench my hip and knee aggravating inflammation there.

And I’ve been exhausted because I’ve been working too much and not taking the time I need to rejuvenate.

Plus I feel overweight and unattractive.

Sigh.

On the positive front, I’m not depressed.

2016 Goals

  1. Enjoy time with Family & Friends: Quality not quantity but making time to keep up the relationships in my life is important to me.
  2. Be creative: Spend time on my writing projects
  3. Think long term: Make a step towards my future and don’t just focus on paying the bills today
  4. Improve my health: Better diet, more exercise and keep on with the positive thinking