A study in contrasts

It’s been a mind bending week. A few nights ago, I was sleeping on a lovely bed with room service for breakfast and a private spa bath, last night I slept on the floor of the local ER with hospital cornflakes for breakfast and I can’t remember when I’ve last showered. There’s something about spending the night in the ER, no matter how freshly washed you might have been when you went in, you always feel grimy and smelly when you come out. I’m so exhausted and sleep deprived at the moment that everything feels upside down and inside out, days do not progress in an ordinary linear fashion and my sense of time has gone compressed and surreal. The short version of my week is this – I had a wonderful birthday and a party around a camp fire where I was thoroughly spoiled by friends. Rose then swept me away for a romantic surprise holiday in a fancy country club for a lot of luxury and pampering over three wonderful days. On the last day Rose started getting sick, I brought us home and since then we’ve been doing the rounds of locums and trips to the ER to manage 2 severe ear infections. Zoe is also sick with ear infections so I’ve taken her to the vet and she’s on drops and tablets. I’m near collapse with exhaustion and lot of bad fibro pain. I have managed to keep enough housework happening that we have clean socks to wear and clean bowls and spoons. I’m also supposed to be in the middle of a crazy 5 full days of work and study, but as I got about 3 hours sleep last night I cancelled today.

It’s been a really full on couple of months. We’ve done the house move with Rose, the sudden death of my friend Leanne, we’ve opened our studio and had our first dreads clients, then Rose has been suddenly offered a fantastic job on a nine month contract and accepted that, I found out that the government has ceased funding the Bachelor of Visual Arts degree I’ve been working on for the past several years, which leaves me with some difficult choices to make as I cannot complete the degree in the remaining time it will be offered, I’ve finally made sense of my paperwork and some major headway on my backlog, and a couple of dear friends are planning weddings and have invited me to be involved. I took my car to be serviced and discovered there is a huge crack in the firewall which will cost about $1,000 to fix, so in the meantime I’m borrowing vehicles to get around. There’s been so many ‘hurrah!’ and ‘oh crap’ moments that my head is about to fall off.

My business plans are in disarray, I’m physically exhausted and struggling with constant pain, and need to do a major overhaul of the plans for the next year in light of everything that’s happened. It’s not all bad news, a lot of it is very exciting and there’s some great opportunities happening. But I am confronted by the reality that what I am doing at the moment is not sustainable. There’s nothing like having a couple of days off to really notice how overwhelmed you have become. At the moment I’ve just got my head down to get through this week, then I’m going to start making some big decisions about what I’m doing and how. It will turn out okay! I believe that.

This was the scene of my lovely birthday. Rose organised it and friends helped with lights (we forgot about that), a beautiful cake, and cleaning and suchlike. It was lovely. It was also kind of embarrassing and a bit stressful being the focus of attention, and there were guests who didn’t know anyone else who I worried about and people I think I should have invited but didn’t think to at the time, and people I wanted to come but couldn’t get hold of (some of my friends are very much non-tech and don’t even keep a phone running consistently) and a lot of opportunities for guilt and stress along those lines. However, for all my faults, I had a very nice evening and although some aspects may have been a bit awkward I think most of the guests did too. There was also bunting, and what’s not to love about bunting? 🙂

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We prepped a lot of food. We baked spuds on the fire and asked people to bring their own toppings as there were quite a few food allergies and special diets to cater for and I wanted to make sure everyone could eat something. I also baked up a big batch of apples with an oaty crumble filling that was delicious, and a quadruple dish of self saucing chocolate pudding. I ran out of phone battery so there’s no photos of these or the lovely cake.

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I made the usual chilly evening hot drinks too, a big slow cooker of hot chocolate, and a rice cooker of mulled mead. These were the flavours I spiced the mead with:

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I also got all creative and made up some little dread art in the form of tiny bird coils and silk sweet pea blossoms to wear. I really like getting to make things.

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We also had marshmallows around the fire. It was a big, hot fire, we used as much wood as I usually go through in three or four camp-fires! You can just see some of the fairy lights over the camp fire:

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The next day Rose took me away. It was a very watery weekend, I really love water. I swam in the ocean and had several spa baths a day. We were lying in bed at one point, feeling so clean and skin so soft and everything so lovely, and said to Rose how come this bed feels so clean? My bed never feels this clean even with fresh sheets. She said – your clean sheets are still covered with pet hair. It’s true! It was really nice to sleep on such clean sheets. This is one of my happy memories from the trip, I had a bath with a cocktail, some good chocolate, and a new book of poems we bought from a market that morning. All the hot spas really helped my pain levels too.

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Another good memory. We did lots of tastings of cheeses and olives and local produce. We kind of spent two days pretending we weren’t poor, didn’t have lots of responsibilities or work to think about, and weren’t short of time. I didn’t touch my phone or get on the net or social media at all. I didn’t do any thinking or planning about business things, didn’t answer emails or return calls, it was just uninterrupted time off. I often work evenings and weekends, and many of my days off are full of housework and admin. Taking a whole day off has become extremely unusual, and I find that there is a very blurry line between work and the rest of my life.

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For a few days, this wasn’t the case, and it was like turning back into myself. Without chronic pain and the constant demands of work I relaxed properly for the first time in months. I wasn’t irritable and overwhelmed, I didn’t feel that near permanent sense of not being able to catch my breath, that shrieking inner alarm that I cannot manage this that has been going off in my head since Rose got her job. I felt like Sarah again. I had fun, I relaxed, I enjoyed myself and could be present in the moment and breathe it all in. It is so difficult to be present when part of your brain is always managing admin, chewing on tough problems, trying to plan the next few months. It was nice. I want more of it. It doesn’t have to be about money or luxury, it’s a simple thing at the moment of accepting that I cannot do what I am trying to do the way I’m currently trying to do it. I want more capacity to enjoy the rest of my life and I want less time in really bad pain.

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The very first thing we did on getting to the hotel – shift all the mini bar contents to a drawer, and close it!

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I found this beautiful old clock at a market, my next door neighbour Aunty Marie used to have once just like it when I was a child. I’ve wanted one of my own for a long time to remember her by. It was so nice to be able to bring home some mementos of this wonderful trip!

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Dinner brought to the room one night, we ate in bed. We lived very extravagantly, and there was a lot of cheese. 🙂

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A memory to treasure – we found a lonely fire by the bistro one night and sat by it drinking strawberry and lime cider while I read Something Wicked this way Comes to Rose.

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Lunch by the sea on the last day.

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My beautiful Rose. She’s such a romantic, such a generous partner and fun companion. I’m blessed to be with her.

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Exploring little towns and second hand shops, it was good to be away. I love travelling.

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And last night in the ER. I made a striking figure in my pyjamas. It’s so hard to advocate for yourself when you’re in terrible pain (ear infections are agonising) and the one thing I’ve found consistently through all hospital stays – whether for physical or mental health reasons is that it’s a better trip if you have good company. Someone who knows you can soothe you, help the pain relief be more effective by reducing your anxiety, can advocate for you – get you another blanket or find a nurse or ask questions or remind you about an important detail you’ve forgotten. More than anything, a caring companion journeys with you, you don’t have to handle problems alone. You are seen as someone who is loved by someone else, a person who is important to someone, a person who probably isn’t always as overwhelmed or hard to connect with because clearly someone else thinks the world of you. It changes how you are treated, helps to humanise you however you are presenting. It makes a huge difference.

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So for now, the plan is sleep, rest, reach out and connect to try and stop my head spinning so much, and get through the next few days before re-evaluating and new structure for the business. It’s going to be good, and I’m happy that it’s happening now, not after a major crash. I love Rose and my friends and family and my life and I want to spend more of my time able to enjoy what I have and connect with those I care about. 🙂

2 thoughts on “A study in contrasts

  1. A lovely post, Sarah. I felt warm reading this. It is good to celebrate the good times amongst the bad. My partner and I had a similar holiday recently. A life affirmig post.

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