Facing Fear

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Busy Dark Spiral Staircase

I saw a beautiful thing on the Internet: a boy who has been blind since the age of two skateboarding.

Now I have been on a skateboard, as a teenager, aided by my best friend who thought everyone could stand on a thin plank of plyboard on wobbly wheels at the top of a hill at the top of the lane by her house and survive.  (Yes that was the same friend who put me (her non-cycling friend) on her Dad’s bike to cycle into the village.  Yes, that bush was still as flat the next day as I was sore).  I can’t quite see the attraction, much less sense, of trying to defeat gravity on concrete either.  So what was so beautiful?

There was a powerful lesson in the short clip I saw and it was all about fear.  Can you even begin to imagine how it would feel to be on the board in a skatepark without seeing a single thing around you?  I can’t get my head around it.   What about you?

Well, I’m not suggesting that we all go out and start skateboarding.  That isn’t the moral.  But maybe we should turn the question ‘why not’ around.  Instead of making ‘why not’ a negative question, it can be a positive question.  Why can’t I do that?  Why can’t I do that?  It’s all about attitude.

Is fear a good thing?  Maybe it can seem like emotional bubble wrap, protecting us physically as well as mentally and emotionally.  But can you go through life cushioned in bubble wrap?  Should you?

Sometimes the best thing to do with bubble wrap is to burst it.

It’s pretty therapeutic actually.

Go on, give it a try.

Good, yeah?

So likewise with fear.

Sometimes I guess that it can be protective but that sometimes too it out serves its purpose, it becomes redundant, superfluous.

Are you really afraid of the dark or are you just afraid that you’re afraid of the dark?

Is the dark even the reason you leave the light on at night?

Fear can be something we carry with us, sometimes we don’t even really recall where we got it from or for how long we’ve been carrying it around with us.  Sometimes we forget what we’re actually afraid of.

I’m afraid of people.

Well, that’s not true.

I’m afraid of embarrassment and I’m afraid of conflict and confrontation.

How can I deal with a fear so big that it’s just called ‘people’?

Well, pretty much the same way that I deal with everything else, ostrich-style.  I pretend that it’s not there, I pretend that it’s not really happening, I ignore it.  Or try to anyhow.

But if I break it into smaller fears then I can actually claim quite a lot of my life back.

I don’t have to hide in metaphorical bubble wrap every time I leave the house.

Just in certain situations.

And maybe eventually I can start to find ways of peeling back some of the bubble wrap in those situations.  Maybe I’ll just always be Sensitive.

You may have thought that my last post was negative.

It wasn’t.

I realised that I don’t know any more what I’m actually afraid of yet I often feel fearful and fear holds me back from so much.  Whilst I respect the occasional phobia I don’t want to give in to that fear, any fear much less to some unidentified fear of anything or everything!  I know that fear has to be kept in its place otherwise it will just consume me.

So I made that list.

Funny enough, most of them are to do with feelings, emotions or sensations.  I am Highly Sensitive, after all.

But it’s actually not a very big list is it?

I’m challenging things. I’m trying to find balance.  I’m trying to choose for myself.  I’m trying to change.

One step at a time and often several steps backwards when Life gets in the way.  And it does, regularly.  But I keep trying to keep moving forward anyhow.

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I Fear

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A word cloud of my fears

Getting My Head Straight

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I’ve had a little wobble psychologically but my head is back on track now but I have so much that I could write about!  (And, unfortunately, you can be sure that it involves knitting).  Anyway, for the time being, I’m going to catch up with an award that the very lovely Emily over at My Pajama Days gave me.  The title of her post just about sums it up, sometimes a little bit of recognition is like a splash of sunshine on a very bleak day.  It cheered me up during my own wobble but I couldn’t quite deal with the formalities just then.

liebster-award-21

Being something of a pedant, even in other languages for which three years of schooling left little impression, I had to check the gender of liebster.  My suspicions were right, it’s masculine.  It should be meine liebste when addressed to a female blogger.  Though I’m not sure whether many bloggers are in the habit of calling each other my dearest.

Anyway, pedantry over, I return to formalities.

I have to answer these eleven questions:

If I had a million pounds, I still couldn’t buy happiness.

What is the best gift you have ever received?  Some would say life, but I value love more.

What inspires me?  All sorts of things, all sorts of people.  But I do need sunshine.

If you could have a “do-over” in life, what would you try to do differently?  Regrets are one thing but if we could undo particular episodes of our lives and live them over, we could end up missing out so many of the good moments too.  It takes a little rain.

What is something that most people don’t know about you?  That I write!  (You guys do though).

What is your favorite magazine?  Magazines promise such a lot but tend to disappoint, I think it’s because I can read one in about half an hour.  They don’t last, they’re kind of like a sugar high rather than anything substantial.  I’ve had to give up food magazines because my box of recipe cuttings is now taking over the world (and cluttering my head) but my favourites are the Sainsburys’ Magazine (decide for yourself where or whether for the apostrophe) and the relatively new Vegetarian Living.   As a teenager, the now defunct Vegetarian Good Food was a huge support and inspiration when I turned veggie-ish.  I think knitting magazines however are pretty good value, you get dozens of patterns (which individually would cost the same each as the magazine) and even a free toy.  I like free toys.  And value.  The Knit Now magazine is my current favourite, it’s done a lot for my confidence.  (Hm, I can write quite a lot about magazines, not good!)

What is your proudest moment?  I’ve spent a lifetime trying to avoid pride, the sinful kind with a capital P, so I can’t really answer this comfortably.  Knitting occasionally does sneak prideful moments on me.

If your house was on fire, what one thing you would grab before getting out?  Fire is one of my biggest phobias.  The idea that something can consume and destroy everything in such a short time is unbearably painful for me to contemplate.  When we were children, probably even preschoolers, my mother drilled us very thoroughly in what to do in a fire, it involved pushing a mattress out of the window and jumping out.  (Fortunately due to variations in topography, this bedroom window wasn’t much further than three foot above the road).  Evacuation didn’t involve grabbing possession.  However as I also have a phobia of losing things, I would devastatingly conflicted in such an circumstance.  It’s why I keep my backed up photos in a metal filing cabinet.

What are you most afraid of?  Oh, pretty much everything.

If you could have any job, just for a day, what would you do?  In such a fantastical world where clearly confidence isn’t a problem, I would write the book.

This is where I discover that I wasn’t actually meant to answer these questions but different ones.  I’m sure that I’ve mentioned that I’m not good at reading through instructions (or patterns) before starting.

Anyway, I’ll do those another day, it’s nice easy blogging for bad head days.

Then I have to award it to another eleven (why are they so keen on eleven?) bloggers:

  1. Jester Queen (because she adores awards)
  2. Me, Mine and Other Bits
  3. thekitchensgarden
  4. The Sweaty Knitter (I’ve learnt so much from Karen Berthine’s blog!)
  5. Susan B. Anderson (and from this one too!)
  6. The Kitchen Witch
  7. Rubber Chicken Madness
  8. Little Cotton Rabbits (aren’t they gorgeous?)
  9. theycallmejane
  10. Happymaking Designs
  11. thecvillean (if he survives!)

Feel free to answer either set of questions!

Here’s the second set:

  1. How do you balance your creativity with your life?
  2. Why did you start blogging?
  3. Do you own more books in print or electronically?
  4. What kind of music do you listen to when you write?
  5. Which of your 5 senses would be the most devastating to lose?
  6. What is the worst advice you have ever received?
  7. What is the best advice you have ever received?
  8. What food comes to mind when you think of “comfort food”?
  9. Do you crave salt or sweet?
  10. What one thing are you most proud of from this past year?
  11. What one thing to you most hope to achieve in the next year?

A Day of Battle and of Bravery

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Supplements in a Pill Organiser

~ Trigger Alert ~

It’s funny how I try to move on so fast, I try to block or forget as soon as possible, perhaps to give me the strength and focus to deal with the immediate presence.  I’m also not entirely convinced that you want to hear tales of non-events in my insignificant and mundane life but you probably would at least like a break from the knitting.  I’ve done a lot of knitting lately.  It helps.  You will be hearing more about it, don’t worry, I won’t let you off entirely.  And I did knit yesterday.

I like my new doctor’s surgery.  The receptionists are very friendly and helpful, no longer do I feel that I am expected to produce a death certificate in order to book an appointment with my GP!  However I haven’t really felt up to doing battle at half past eight in the morning with a clogged phone line to make an ’emergency’ appointment, I slowly mustered the strength (motivation?  energy?  courage?) to phone up and make an appointment at a slightly more civilised hour (for them and me).  It meant that I’ve been without my happy pills liquid for a few weeks.  It’s probably shown.  (It’s also probably why it was so hard to make that appointment, something of a circle with teeth).  I took the next available one which was last week.

I’m back on the medicine and things are immediately looking up.  Life and my head are less fluffy, I am more focused, better able to concentrate, better able to get things done.  I like that.  It helps.

But the doctor wants me to try tablets again.  I have to admit that I’m a little scared.  Scared enough to keep forgetting to take one. I can’t face the threat of crippling nausea just yet.

I’m taking my supplements regularly and I’m forced to conclude that they are doing something.  It’s hard to be categorical about such things and it mayn’t work for everyone but the circumstantial evidence is that my physical health has improved significantly since I started the regime and I didn’t catch the absolute stinker of a cold that smote husband last week. That’s what sold it to me.  There’s been some nasty lurgis already going around and I really couldn’t care to dwell on how far catching something like that could set me back.  I’d rather avoid them.

Anyway, the talking lady who I have already been to see a couple of times recommended that I have a liver function test done because I haven’t ever had that one and the need for one has bypassed my medical notes.

Now, a liver function test doesn’t sound too bad.  But it’s actually a blood test.  You know, the scary type where a needle wielding blood sucker takes a run up like a shot put beast and inflicts a great deal of misery.

You may therefore conclude that I’m not keen on blood tests.

(And whilst I apparently overuse hyperbole, I also have a nice line in understatement too).

I was very good.  I asked for a blood test.  I did.

Why, I’m not entirely sure.  It was definitely something that I was asking myself Monday night when I couldn’t sleep and when I could, kept having nasty dreams.  It was definitely something that I was asking myself Tuesday morning when I woke up with a sense of dread.  It was definitely something I was asking myself afterward.

The new doctor’s surgery is friendly and clean.  They have a good choice of magazines in large piles in convenient places.  Children are allowed to play, run, talk and scream.  I don’t think I’m allowed to do two of those.  One of those I can’t either.  They have little stickers up to say that breastfeeding is welcome.  They have comfortable chairs in a comfortable layout.  I like it.

You have to wait in a different part of the building for the nurses though.  Very strange.  It was rush hour, lots of people getting all sorts of things done, diabetes checks, flu jabs.  And some other people who looked very nervous and anxious.  I wonder what they were there for.  I probably looked them too.

Eventually I got called up.  The nurse was also friendly.

But that wasn’t necessarily going to make us friends.

I don’t believe in being friends with people who are intent on harming me.

I am very wary.

She did a very good job of the stabbing.  I have to admit that I was impressed.  There was a pillow to rest my arm on and one of those special elastic bands that is a sign of a good blood sucker.  She told me to close my eyes (the nurses at my previous doctor’s surgery seem to think that you want to watch and they flump your arm down on the desk) but I already had.

It went fine.

However, I had warned her that I have a problem with ‘passing out’.

Actually, I wish I did pass out.  It would be immensely more pleasant and I wouldn’t have to feel anything until I come around feeling a lot better and refreshed for my loss of consciousness.

I have a delayed reaction.

I’ve made it all the way down the corridor before collapsing before.  I look fine when they chuck me out to deal with the next victim.

Then it hits.

I started feeling rather woozy.

Even nauseous.

Nurse asked me if I’d had anything to eat.  I managed a laugh.  Me, not eat?!  Me, skip breakfast?!  I’d even made myself porridge in the hope of counteracting ill effects.

But, no, I wasn’t going to escape.

I had a sip of water.  I had brought a bottle because I knew I’d need it.

The wooziness got worse.

I put my head between my knees.

I am well-trained.  And experienced.  Unfortunately.

It’s like a hot, burning, painful head rush without such acute dizziness.

I had some more water.

It was getting worse.

The sensation had spread to my entire body.

I said that I had to lie on the floor.

The nurse looked a little bit concerned.

I told her I would be fine.  Eventually.

She said that she would go to another patient and see them in another room.

I had pins and needles, numbness and prickles all over my body.

I felt absolutely wretched.

Then it broke into something worse than a tropical fever, I probably wasn’t running a temperature but boy I was soaked.  (Not ladylike at all, sorry).

Then I turned yellow.

I can hardly describe what it feels like but it’s not at all pleasant, I assure you.  It’s sort of like the worst physical symptoms of a panic attack, a hypo and goodness knows what else all combined.

Ten minutes later (or more, I wasn’t checking) I had got to a point where I could take a few sips of water.  Thank goodness for those ‘sports’ style lids.  There’s a lot to be said for sucking like a baby when you’re ill.

Slowly I raised my head.  Then my back.

I sat for a while, still not feeling at all well.

I got out the biscuits that I had wisely brought with me too and starting munching those.

It isn’t the same as a blood sugar attack though, I know those too, nor had I even seen a needle or a drop of blood.

Slowly I made it back up to chair level.

The nurse came back.

I think she was quite pleased to see that I was still alive.

Then she decided to take my blood pressure on the other arm.

Taking my blood pressure for some reason also makes me feel woozy.

But I was less yellow at least.

Because I am a new patient, she asked me lots of general questions then decided to add insult to injury.  Literally.

I was sent into the corridor to be weighed.

The mortification.  It was about that time I decided that wearing DM sandals and a large corduroy skirt to the doctor’s had not been a good idea.

Well, at least they’re thorough in their inspections.

I guess.

Then I toddled off into town, clasping my elbow a little tightly.

(I don’t trust myself not to start bleeding again either.  I did that walking back from my first extraction this summer.  I learnt by the second and kept the wadding in my mouth all the way home.  Apparently walking back up the road counts as strenuous exercise in my body’s world).

Whereupon I did something entirely foolhardy.

You see last week I discovered a small dent in my back tooth, the one that was being squashed and possibly damaged by my misaligned wisdom tooth.  (How I am to be wise when they’ve taken half those teeth from me now, I don’t know).  I was a little concerned.  I last saw the dentist in the spring and she promoted me to yearly visits instead of six monthly ones.  It’s now six months.  I didn’t really know that you can just make an appointment with your dentist when you feel you need to rather than wait for your regular check up but my dentist nurse friend assures me that this is not only possible but a good idea.  (My dentist nurse friend is lovely, she was quite happy to stick her head in my mouth and investigate the six foot piece of string that I had hanging around weeks after my second extraction.  She’s brave.  I have been known to bite).

It was only a small hole-like thing, it wasn’t painful and six months will quickly pass.

By yesterday I could fit my tongue in the gap.

That scared me.

I made a decision.

I went up the very steep stairs and asked for an appointment.

Voluntarily.

They gave me one that afternoon.

I think that means that I should like them but I still have mixed feelings.

There wasn’t any point in walking home to walk back into town again so I hung around for a while, wondering at my madness.

I saw the dentist.  She has a new nurse, a trainee, a young apprentice literally.  Who seriously struggled to say my first name.  It made me laugh.

My dentist was neither worried about me turning up before time nor surprised to see me.

We discovered that the hole was now painful.  Dentists are good at helping those sorts of discoveries.

She said that it was not a proper hole per se but where an old filling had fallen out.

She added that it was not one she had worked on.

I agreed.

Previous dentist strikes again.

We thought that they had all been replaced but apparently not.  There is one more.

Or was.

It probably was only being held in place by the wisdom tooth pressing against it.

And now it’s gone.

I don’t think highly of old dentist.

I do think quite well of new dentist.  She’s lovely.  And getting used to me.

She checked all of the other ones while she was at it.

And found a diddy hole on the opposite side.

She said that I would have to make two appointments.

I tried to negotiate for it to be done in one go.

However, apparently, I’m not allowed to have both sides of my jaw numb at one time.

I’d rather get it over and done with.

But now I have two more dentist appointments booked, October’s page on the calendar is looking very dentist-y all of a sudden.

And I know whose fault it is.  Sometimes I wish that I would keep quiet.

Oh and husband tells me that my phrase ‘growing a filling’ is incorrect.  I can’t grow fillings only holes.  He’s getting to be quite a pedant.  He was dissecting and criticising the grammar of an advertising poster yesterday too.  I wonder who he’s been spending too much time with.

And you wouldn’t guess who was busy weighing DM sandals and corduroy skirt late last night?  Well, they were thwarted by the fact that the scales only like things above four or five kilos but fortunately, according to these ones, they had managed to lose ten kilos during the day.  Maybe it was the stress.  Various experiments are being planned to test accuracy and also in the weighing of clothing.  But a lack of exercise and only being able to tolerate macaroni cheese was always going to catch up with me but I am still vastly humiliated.  And plan to give up eating for at least five minutes.

Working Out

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Brick Wall

I’m not entirely convinced that ‘working out’ has the right connotation.  It’s a fairly positive term, indicating a deliberate choice to develop something through to resolution, that is to say, a successful outcome.

Working out does, of course, have other meanings.  In this modern age it is perhaps most often used as an exercise term.  It’s about putting yourself through some routine that challenges you perhaps, but certainly develops you.  There will be effort and strain and the results may not always be tangible, at least not immediately.  I can see how this compares with my psychological health situation.  Perhaps ‘working out’ is an apt expression for what I am going through mentally after all.  The routine may not be as well-defined, moving from one exercise or piece of equipment to another, but my mind does journey from one problem or issue to another, linking them, building ideas, trying to find (hopefully) even a resolution to a situation.  I also hope to come out the other side as a better, stronger, healthier person.

There is a key downside to this physical comparison.  I am a notoriously slow learner when it comes to motion memory.  The steps don’t sink easily into my grey cells and they definitely aren’t keen on staying there.  Learning to knit is a case in point.  I have laboured for many years to get to a point where just the basic skills come naturally, inherently to my fingers and my brain.

So it is psychologically.  I find myself dealing with the same problems and issues time after time.  Sometimes I haven’t learned what I need to do or say, sometimes I forget what I decided was the best course of action as emotions and misguided principles sway me yet again, sometimes life sweeps away the best of intentions or knocks you down with some other crisis or other.

This brings me to another use of the term.  Long again when maths was a compulsory part of my life not just an accidental hazard when cooking, shopping or knitting, I was often required to provide my ‘working out’.  I’ve never been good at this.  I often go straight from beginning to end in one move, somehow instinctually, relying on gut more than rational thought or science.  This doesn’t impress teachers and examiners; they want you to prove how you got to your end and why.  Sometimes in psychological health, you have to slow the journey down, however painful, and break it into steps.  One step at a time, leaving a clear trail of working out behind you, evidence that can be used again in the future, maybe even as protection.

As you may have by now guessed, I have been struggling with my psychological health.  (I really don’t like the expression ‘mental’, I don’t like the added connotations).  It’s funny how as my physical health improves so my psychological health declines.  The reason is simple, I have more energy.  More energy to fret, to worry, to grieve, to pain.  And I don’t necessarily get much choice in the matter.  The nights are full of flashbacks and nightmares and the days are spent moping around feeling miserable and lethargic.

Even after all this time, I still debate which is the worst state: lacking the actual energy to do anything or lacking the motivation (despite probably having the energy) to do anything.  I don’t know.  Both are paralysing, frustrating, laden with guilt.  I don’t like either in my life, there is so much more I could be doing and, more importantly, enjoying.

There’s been a lot of ‘stuff’, as usual, going on this year which I haven’t had the energy to process so when the energy started returning all those issues came flooding in.  My anxiety levels haven’t been brilliant throughout the year but increased energy takes it to new heights.  I’m fighting a lot of old phobias and problems that I have for the most part kept successfully under wrap for the last decade.  It’s a little bit terrifying to be dealing with them all over again.  As well as frustrating. And shameful.  I expect better of myself, I want more control.  I need more control.  This isn’t a pleasant ride.

So while my head sorts itself out (relatively, of course), I haven’t really been writing here.  My head is too full, too busy, too distracted, too overwhelmed.  I’ve had to work through some things, old and new, working out what is real and not real, what is true and not true.  I’ve been trying to find my feet and my place in the world again.

It can be easy to sometimes sweep the horrible, painful, messy debris under the metaphorical carpet but the pieces are still there and the heap just gets bigger.  I bury things, it’s not something I advocate, in fact I tell everyone else that they need to talk, that they must talk.  Maybe there’s a touch of the hypocrite in me.  I tell other people that it’s important to show your feelings and discuss things whilst I keep quiet about the things affecting me and cover up my emotions as much as possible.  Perhaps on some level it is easier.  However, life unfortunately has also taught me that is what people want from me, what is expected.  I try to deliver but the mountain under the carpet sometimes gets a little too noticeable.

So what do I need to do?  Figuratively, I need to sit down and clean up the mess.  I’ve been going through all sorts of stuff, old and new (it’s amazing what you can find under there) and I’ve asked to go and see someone about it too.  That’s a big step.  A very scary big step.  And honestly when all they can promise me is twelve sessions then I wonder if it’s worth it.

But at least it’s encouraged me to return to my old therapy of writing things down.  Of exploring and discussing things in writing.  I haven’t been able to write like that for a very long time; a few years ago someone took my book off me and decided to take umbrage.  It was just as well that the whole thing was a statement of fact and didn’t have a tad of opinion but I guess some people don’t take kindly to the truth, especially not in ink.  It hurt and did a lot of damage.  It’s taken a good few years to build the courage back up to virtually even hold the pen over the page.  But now I have returned, it was the ‘therapy’ that kept me going through quite a few dark patches in my teens and it’s been very hard to deal with the last few years without it.  I need to write.  It allows me to make sense of the world.  However, not being able to write in my own private space also prompted me to take up this blogging adventure, whether that’s a good thing or not I’ll leave you poor readers to decide.

I’m using something online to measure my moods.  The pedant in me questions the accuracy of it and well, asking someone whether they feel hostile is always going to provoke hostility.  It has been interesting though to use it to chart my ups and downs (especially as I thought my mood was fairly static but apparently not) and since I started writing it all out there’s been a definite mood improvement.  This is even more significant as I’ve just run out of that all-important medicine which I have been heavily relying on the last few weeks, especially when it comes to the anxiety (which it’s been barely touching), there was even days when I was taking double doses (I’m sure that the new GP will have something to say about that).

Writing helps me.  It’s a space for discussion, to turn things around and see them from different perspectives.  I can drag a statement from my messed up head then question it, each question prompting more meditation which brings me clarity and sometimes even resolution.  Sometimes it’s simply about getting the words, the ideas, the problems out of my head and onto a page, beyond me, free from me, leaving them there in the twisted loops of ink.  I can challenge myself and provide the working out.  I can move on but I can also choose to come back.  Writing like this has always felt liberating.  It makes me and my head lighter and clearer.

Maybe I am working things out after all.

Oh, and although I like writing, I don’t like carpet.  Never have.  It collects too much dust and bugs and rubbish.  Metaphorically and figuratively.  Can you get mental laminate?

 

 

 

Braving the Dragon

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Yellow Yarn

People seem surprised when I say that I’m shy.  It came up in conversation the other day with some friends who, despite knowing me pretty well, just didn’t know that.  I am.  I’m shy.  I don’t like talking to strangers.  I don’t like social situations.  I even feel uncomfortable walking down the street.  I feel like all eyes are on me.  I feel that every word is someone saying something bad or nasty about me.  I feel watched.  I feel judged.  I feel criticised.  I’m not comfortable around other people.  Although paradoxically, I don’t like being on my own for long periods and can be fairly gregarious, I enjoy company.  Or maybe, at least, the idea of it.  In reality, I’m anxious, fretting over every possible thing that I may say or do wrong.  Afterwards, I torture myself for hours replaying all the gaffes and feet-in-mouth moments, cringing at my ineptitude.

One of the hardest situations is going into a shop.  I don’t mean the anonymous black holes (or white, they have far too bright lights in my photosensitive opinion) that modern supermarkets are, I’m talking about the proper, traditional, old-fashioned ones where you’re one on one with a shopkeeper having to ask for things or they can see your every move around the shop.  I hate that.  Sometimes I’ll even try to avoid going into places like that.  (It’s kind of hard when ninety percent of your wardrobe comes from charity shops though).

I have a local yarn shop which isn’t very local; it’s ten miles away in my hometown.  Ten miles is a big distance in this small country, especially when you don’t have your own transport.  It’s an hour away by bus.  And more crucially, a lot of money on a bus ticket away.  I don’t get there very often but as you know I’ve had some special projects on my needles of late that have required special yarn.

I’ve always loved shops like this.  There was a tiny fabric shop that we used to visit when I was a child; it was a single aisle between floor-to-ceiling stacks of fabrics, a cavern of different textured rolls.  We would huddle in front of the counter at the far end, my mother taking an agonising amount of time to make some decision or other, usually involving curtains, whilst I would dream away my life in a fantasy of different coloured ginghams.  I loved the diversity of colours within a simple print, stripes, squares, gingham; the endlessly possible variations on a theme.  We weren’t allowed to touch but I always remember the cottons more than glossy, netted or silky.  I guess that I was always practically minded.

You can imagine my delight when barely into double figures my mother promised me new curtains of my choosing.  I’d never had curtains purposed for my own room, designed with me in mind, just the ones which were there when I grew into the space.  In fact, I hardly remember those ones.   I was ecstatic, a trip to the fabric cave and to choose my very own fabric for the first time.

We got there.  My mother made a decision.  Some glossy, stiff curtain fabric.  In brown.  With cream accents.  It wasn’t my taste.  I didn’t care how grown up and sophisticated it was.  I hated brown.  I still do.  Especially coffee and cream shiny fabrics.  With bows.  And an Austrian blind.  I was totally anguished, pained both by the hideousness and the disregard.

I loathed those curtains all my teenage life.  Eventually I rebelled and bought purple muslin tab topped curtains with my own earnings when I was nearly out of my teens.  I do have small moments of rebellion.  That and bluetacking postcards to every available wall space.

I don’t remember going back to the fabric shop after that trip.  I miss it.  I still rejoice in the simple and plain, I am a fan of cotton and natural fibres.  Some things don’t change.

However these days, it’s not boredom and pins and needles that make visiting the yarn shop a challenge but anxiety.  Anxiety washed over me in my teenage years like an overwhelming, all-powerful tidal wave.  Small shops have never been the same since.  Nor have I.

The yarn shop is a small shop where all eyes are on from the moment you walk through the door.  There are two women there; I think that they might be mother and daughter.  The younger one is fairly friendly and I can cope with her but the older one terrifies me.

I mean no disrespect or offence of course and I’m really not trying to cast asparagus on her.  It is probably entirely a figment of my own paranoid, nervous imagination but I dread going in there and finding her on duty, a doyenne with knitting needles in hand, presiding over her kingdom with a stern expression.

It’s a little bit like modern airport travel, going through security where the presumption is that you’re guilty unless proven otherwise.  I feel like a criminal the moment I step through the door and the bell jangles over my head.  I feel guilty; I feel that I don’t deserve to be here somehow.  I don’t know enough, I don’t spend enough, I’m a really bad knitter and yes, I’m still wearing that hat.

I go and hide behind the display unit and gather my nerves.  I feel watched, judged and found to be wanting.  I peruse the cheap acrylics but then worry that she’ll think less of me.  I also worry that she’s decided that I’m stealing buttons despite the very large sign that says I must take the tubes to the till for them to be counted out.  All the special yarn is actually behind the counter so you have to walk past a very sacrosanct barrier between one world and another, a range of yarns that are stacked in traditional cubby holes to the ceiling in a bewildering array of colours, weights, brands and prices.  They are expensive.  Most things are in my world.  I have to apologise and step over the line if I want something; usually it’s just behind her chair so she has to move.  I feel like I’m turning beetroot red and liable to stammer.  Most of the time, these yarns are out of my price range and experience.  I know that she knows that.  What I really want to do is bury my hands in the large basket of reduced yarns.  I like a bargain and have the nose and determination of a bloodhound when I get going.  But it isn’t very dignified hauling out all the yarns in the basket to find something that I actually want to purchase.  I am mortified by my apparent desperation.

My knitting is slowly getting better.  It’s taken four years to learn but I think I can say with some certainty (although perhaps not confidence) that I’m getting there.  I’m about to take on a very scary project (more information will come, don’t worry) but it required special yarn.  Not nasty cheap acrylic from the cheap shop.  (Even the price of that has gone up!)  I also managed to end up with some time to kill, having to hang around the town because my mother wouldn’t let me knit in the bank when she went there.  (She somehow feels that this is an illegal activity, I’m not sure why; neither was she very happy about reassurances that I always knit in my bank).  I got left to roam the streets, which doesn’t amount to much in this small town, a few charity shops, a few cheap shops and a yarn shop were all that could call to me.  I can sniff those out though.

To the yarn shop, I went.  I had a plan.

 As my knitting has improved so has my knitting confidence.  I know what I’m talking about.  Most of the time.  If not then I’ll just shut up.  (Perhaps, if nerves don’t get the better of me.  I have the gift of the waffle).  That knowledge has probably come from stalking the forum boards on Ravelry, I learn through osmosis.  These days, I can talk knitting with the best of them.

I went on the offensive.

She was there, behind the counter, waiting, watching.

I cheerfully greeted her and made small talk about the atrocious weather, making sure to comment on her baby knitting.

She replied.

I explained what I was looking for and how I was terribly sorry but it would be in that sacrosanct space behind counter and probably even behind her chair.  I smiled, I was charming, I chatted.

I got my yarn.

We discussed the confusion that American terms and patterns can cause.  I found out that 5 ply (which the American sport weight is) is actually available in this country and is traditionally used to knit up guernseys.  We discussed the one that she was making at the moment.  All small talk.

I got some other supplies.

I smiled some more and waltzed at the shop.  Having paid, of course.

It was exhausting.

But the dragon has been conquered.

We’re now on speaking terms.

I will not be quaking in my DMs quite so much the next time I go in and find her on duty.  And of course, I will make sure to ask how her gansey is getting on.

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Progress Report

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Me

I am not an hysteric, I just don’t like the dentist.  At all.  I died.  I’m sure.  And have had my face, skull and jaw completely reshaped courtesy of some wrestling moves by the dentist guy, that’s why they make you wear those safety goggles you know, so that they can spend an hour leaning all their body weight on your eye socket.  Oh and wisdom teeth are absolutely massive with two long pointy down things at the end.  Did you know that?  I spent four hours sleeping off the local anaesthetic (dude felt the need to wave a foot-long stabbing device around and stab me three times with it) and six trying to stop the bleeding.  It took me another hour to manage a slice of cake.  Still feeling quite sorry for myself.

More Importantly, the Blue Tits

I reread that article about hand rearing passerines.  I have to admit that the first time my eyes just stopped at the hand feeding which was such a priority then and the reason we were searching for information.  Can we feed them?  What do we feed them?  How do we feed them?  There is a lovely big section on fledging too so I think we may have enough information to guide us forward again.  The babies seem to know what to do themselves, which is so remarkable.

It was reading down through the article that I noticed something very useful.  How to identify your babies!  Two words: nail varnish.  Thankfully my mature tastes in nail varnish mean that I do not have a discreet monotone rainbow of pinks and reds, I have colours.  We painted some legs up!  Have you ever painted a blue tit’s toes before?!  I wish we had known sooner but as the first one was named Birdie, we clearly didn’t expect to end up with an entire brood on our hands.

If you’re skimming through the photos that I’m about to share, you may want to consult this handy guide!

Birdie – blue (metallic, oooh)

Feisty – red

Manky – yellow (but Feisty obviously kicked him whilst his varnish was still wet because Manky has a red foot too, just to confuse matters!)

Sneaky – orange

Rocky – green

Yesterday morning we had two fliers.  Then three.  Finally Birdie wanted in so we balanced him on the edge of the tank and got the hang of it straight away.  He hasn’t looked back since then, he’s into everything and is even starting to self-feed.  He took a shine to our cake earlier.  Ssh.  Four birds flying around keeps you on your toes!  There’s nothing quite like two birds flying, at speed, towards your head from opposite directions.  Or walking around with a bird on your head.

Our sitting room has become their aviary, they’ve been out most of today.  Just be careful where you sit because these guys seriously aren’t potty trained.  They don’t wear nappies either.  We’re spending a lot of time taking roll call, chasing, feeding and cleaning.  Great stuff.

Husband in particular walks in, casting his eye about:

“One, two … three … four … … … five!”

Manky is behind the others.  That’s for sure.  We don’t know what the future holds for him but we’ve had him out of the tank with the others and sometimes, when you’re not looking especially, he’s suddenly on a completely different surface!  This evening it’s clear that he has a hop, climb, flap combo which is working for him.  There’s even been a few short glides, we’re very proud of him!  There may be hope.

Rocky prefers to hide in corners.  Birdie has a predilection for perching in odd places.  Sneaky has taken a shine to the electric fan that we’re having to use because all our doors and windows are having to be kept closed at the moment, for obvious reasons.  Feisty is sporting quite a hairdo.

Some photos:

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Aren’t their colours amazing?  (No, I don’t mean the nail varnish).

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