I have just wrestled a feather bower out of my puppy’s jaw.
This sums up life at the moment. Anything might happen. And usually does. As the days open and close in perpetual motion and seem to be on an endless loop, what we can choose to see as groundhog day, still contains the unexpected, bizarre, sharp and shocking moments as flashes of life affirming mini dramas unravel one by one. The mundane doesn’t stand a chance when our days are spent in a daily land-girl battle, not just against keeping the indoor life flowing, but keeping well, keeping everyone alive and keeping us all from going ever so slightly insane…
In my life as a singe parent, a Teacher, an Artist and especially in current circumstances. I have an understanding, as I’m certain you do, of the value of routine in our home, week, and in each day. It’s what we all need to feel safe and sustained. Without an internal clock, a pencilled in timetable, no matter how flexible, we lose track a bit, lose purpose and even stop eating or sleeping properly. Nurturing everyone, even your pets, needs a tiny bit of stage direction. And a lot of appreciation for the unexpected quiet bits twixt the chaos.
This routine will be hugely different for you, your neighbour, your partner, your friends. Its personal. But stick to the bits that are working at the moment. Instead of letting frustration creep in, keep forcing the legs out of the duvet at the same (ish) time, go with the flow of however this is for you. It won’t be for ever. But the skills you find to cope, they will last you a life time
A day in the life here can be turned on its head very quickly. One or more of this lot can sustain an injury, have a tantrum, break something, cover the floor in mud, escape or need sustenance
So my daily life is an extremely loose plan. My favourite and quietest time in the morning, is early. Everybody is either asleep or sleepy, including most of the world. Working on Painting or writing then, my head feels calm without the family zoo soundtrack in the background. The flipside to this at the moment with chronic fatigue is really early nights . But again, for now, this is ok. And gets the job done.
The morning begins with the all important cup of tea and half hr of TV. I like to draw or yank pictures from magazines, or write notes for an idea. This time is so precious, it gets super-multitasked! I usually end up with a dog on my sketchbook. Currently, there is a cat in my armpit. This lovely morsel of daytime quickly starts to need fuel so I graduate to very strong black coffee, without which, no limb would unfurl at all, and I would still be on the sofa at teatime.
There is then a lot of chopping vegetables for Guinea pigs, plus more for our dinner, whilst simultaneously refereeing excitable in-house paw to paw combat.. collecting up random strewn objects, changing everyone’s bedding, tidying up, and organising the creature from the black lagoon…I may have a bath which doubles as my ten page a day of reading time- any subject I am currently looking at. If it isn’t a high pain day, I will accompany the morning walk or try to stretch within pain limits.
Finding ways of coping, with day to day health symptoms has become tough for everyone, with most routine care being cancelled or postponed. For those suffering with auto immune conditions, many are simply fending for themselves as not all are categorized as worthy of priority. But ask anyone with arthritis, m.e, fybromyalgia, endometriosis.. what having flu would do, on top of their already fatigue blasted system and they will agree it would make sense to include them, especially if they are also a parent.
The general attitude of many gp’s and consultants over the last five years has been to override what I knew and trusted about my body’s decline and symptoms, and to assume it must be in part negligence, an attitude of negativity and focusing on the pain itself or having nothing better to think about. This is quite hilarious, but also quite frightening. Frustratingly, it was looking like I had finally got somewhere, pre lockdown, after years of separate operations and worsening joints and mobility, it now appears that it should have been diagnosed as Lupus. Much like the p.d.a. diagnosis for children, the years of discomfort and fallout could and should have been seen. Standing in the way is the trust by our healthcare system that many of us DO connect the dots ourselves and know that we are not all suffering from a collective mania.
I know many people now struggling to get treatment. So it is imperative to be doing as much as you can for your own self care, investigate your condition and live well between appointments. If I have learnt anything is to be clear with your concerns, ask for what you need and keep on top of your pain with medication. Stay warm, wear pain patches, stretch, take vitamins and trust your own pace. Help is still there if you ask,
Next is emails, sorting the latest pictures to upload onto various pages or writing blog posts. Drawing to share with groups or for a new project, such as a commission. I listening to audio c.d.s from the library van usually, with one finger hovering on the pause button anticipating a disruption to the story every 29 seconds !! If this sounds idyllic, believe me, a run of peace to finish anything is rare . Once the Bear starts to wake up, I Manoeuvre a pre teen out of a pile of bed covered in old crisp packets, squidgy toys, and the folded washing that was supposed to be hung up yesterday; (to much gurning and grumping), the sun rises and the day’s particular subtleties begin. It is like getting on a bus ride on an American Highway with no toilet stops.
Medicine and pain patches keep the inflammation down somewhat, but winter isn’t easy for chronic pain conditions. Being cold, especially damp cold makes things worse. There is very little one can do about the exhaustion. My philosophy is to ensure most of what I eat and drink is healthy, adhering to what I have learned about my system. Which makes room for a square of salted dark chocolate, a dollop of mayo, a bagel once a week or a glass of vodka. Diets fail because in absence the mind creates a vacuum . Which naturally fuels desire. keep it topped up just enough to feel you’re still alive and you can concentrate on living.
Jobs get done at Skye Blue house between hauling the child and pup into fresh air, and I survey the damage created in a short but fraught hour !! I then try to get any Artwork done in the morning when Bear has a post walk nap and Leah is either at school or now at home school..
By the afternoon, the limbs and eyes are painful, and my energy nose dives, so having things prepped like wood for the fire, having tea ready, and chores done is a useful routine.
These pictures show the little shed gallery I had intended as a presentation space as well as where my work was stored initially in lockdown. As more and more things have had to come back from galleries and shops, as will be the case for so many artists, I have taken the decision to store some of it, until such times as it can be seen together. However, a huge selection of prints and smaller, post friendly new artwork is available and I will be bringing you information about that soon .There is no stable source of sale flow for artists that feels safe. Other than online. And separate avenues are blossoming in an organic way which is lovely. I look forward to showing you a new website for these in the near future.
Having a bouncing pup and a child off school makes it quite tricky to achieve the quantity of Artwork which had begun when I became a full time Artist. ! It has been a transition time for us all. And that’s OK. . A good friend of ours Phil, a print maker told me once that good things grow in the gaps between times. And that always struck me as true. Often more is achieved drawing in a sketchbook than sitting in front of an empty sheet of paper for hours. And there is a lot to be said for the self discipline of accomplishing a small task a day towards each of your dreams- one drawing, or one box of sorting things out, or one page of writing, or one shelf in the shed. Sometimes any more is too hard. But chip away and your acorns do grow.
Artwork is done if possible, poems written in the bath, or at the sink, and in between the laundry is done, the shopping ordered, the post posted. Every day the whatsapp groups begun in March are chatted to, drawings are shared, and connections maintained. A couple of times a week we check on neighbours and add things to our shopping for them if needed.
If we’ve had to get food shopping, we go at 7.30 in the morning, and it is always a struggle for me. The tiny trolley overflowing as the large ones are too low for me to reach down into. Juggling, A toppling trolley, usually a random huge thing on top and on crutches. My hands are extremely painful at the moment, so packing things twice is also way too hard. However, the staff in Berwick Aldi often open a checkout so I can unload slowly before someone goes onto the till. Which as we all know, with Aldi express checkout skills, makes a massive difference. I want to thank the Aldi staff in Berwick for always being so kind to us, and making us want to recommend them.
Our other favourite places to shop in Berwick are for the zoo.
Direct Pets and pets at home in Berwick, both of whom have made us and Bear so welcome. So much so that on one very memorable occasion when I opened the car, bear clambered onto my head, jumped off, ran into the shop on his own, springing the automatic doors open. Luckily they knew him and gave him the biscuit he was after.
(Yes, I was ready next time.)
They took this picture of him for their facebook page, choosing his new bed. Look at this contrasting post from the Pets at home page in August…
Here at Pets At Home Berwick, you know we love a puppy!This is 8 week old Bear having his first trip to pick his bed and some toys! He is a Poodle, Lurcher, Collie and Deerhound cross, and how beautiful is he
We are indebted to the lovely people everywhere that are kind, see a need and just help. Those opposite types are thankfully rare. And like certain public figures eventually their devious traits become obvious.
So, after wresting my slippers from bear’s mouth, cleaning the fire out, resting, feeding everybody again, and shoving child and animals into any available sunshine or box, artwork, writing, laundry and cleaning gets done in no particular order, until pit stop for lunch.
Afternoons are either hibernating, or occasionally out for a little vitamin D. One of the best places to take the Bear is our beach. On this particular day it had been lousy weather so we had it to ourselves, and then this gorgeous light washed the picture in psychedelic colour. We are holding on to these moments between the news bulletins, the sunshine between the storm clouds, even for a few minutes between naps…
Watching old home movies, finding colour and patience and snippets of funny kept us entertained over the festive season, and although I am not keen on too much technology for kids, it keeps us connected, and able too laugh with those we care about. As long as there is still a fire, boards games and a little conversation!
We move through the treacly days with as much energy as we can find and source little pockets of joy in between the have-tos and must -we- reallys…
We can’t do much, but we can make the most of what we have right now, we keep teaching our groups in this annoying technical format until we can make proper hand prints and sandwiches and hear the soft rumbling of pencils on paper and Radio Paradise in the background. And we yearn for the day when we are wrapped in so many bear hugs by friends we forget to draw at all.
The universe is certainly dealing a tough hand , reminding us we don’t always hold all the cards. Much as we like to think we do as a species. I know that my wisest and dearest friends all hold the common hope that we might just hold onto a few of the better aspects of having life as we know it being put on hold. There is still choices in each minute by minute we live through, and we have the strength of spirit we need to stay ok if we hold on .
Thankyou for sharing our day and sending you whatever superpower you most need to get through.
Stay safe by listening to yourself. Much love,
Liz at the beach Hut xxx