Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Resting and being thankful

These days between Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve feel like a gift.  They are a secret stash of days which don’t really exist, which no-one makes plans for, where normal routines are suspended.  They are almost the ‘rest and be thankful‘ stage of the holidays – a chance to recover from the shock of Christmas and reflect before the new year begins.

Christmas stole December from me.  I had, until then, felt that I was getting the hang of living: of working, running a fairly basic home and keeping us all fed, clothed and with clean plates to eat from.  And then, in the darkest month of the year, I am suddenly required to fit in Big Girl’s fourth birthday, and Christmas planning, and Christmas socialising, and buying, wrapping and posting presents, and Big Girl’s fourth birthday party.  Unsurprisingly, it didn’t all fit.

My Christmas was lovely.  I am dubious about the benefits of having two Christmases for a two-year-old and four-year-old.  It is possible that there is such a thing as too much excitement, and that the crashing disappointment of The Day The Presents Stopped is too much to bear.  But Big Girl and Small Girl behaved beautifully for most of Christmas.  Their excitement at discovering that Father Christmas had been, and had eaten the food we left for him, was a delight.  We had a relaxed day with a few of my family stopping over.  I loved having a quiet Boxing Day with them, staying in our pyjamas/new Disney princess dresses (delete as appropriate) all day, trying out roller skates, not having to do anything.  I love not having to go anywhere.  Not really having to plan anything.  No impending Large Event (well, apart from the fourth birthday party tomorrow.  Seriously, who *plans* a party between Christmas and New Year? Oh, me…) to think about.

And I am feeling very fortunate to have Big Girl and Small Girl for these few days.  So much of our life is busy, rushed and structured.  We always have to get somewhere – to nursery, to Meeting, to catch a train, to see friends – that even when we don’t actually *have* to get somewhere for a particular time, I forget that it’s ok to dawdle.  We’ve been making things with some of their lovely presents.  We’ve played with their new toys.  We’ve had lie-ins and late breakfasts.  Also, somehow, it finally seems possible for Small Girl to go up and down stairs by herself without me worrying that she will fall all the way down. And it finally seems reasonable to let them play upstairs by themselves without them destroying everything I own or themselves.  I feel a new stage in our life as a family is opening up, where perhaps I will sit downstairs reading quietly, uninterrupted…

I got some lovely Christmas presents too – some presents which encouraged me to be a little bit more creative, use my brain, try to write a bit more.  I feel so excited at the prospect of a new year: a clean slate, a blank page, a fresh start.  After the excess, the disruption, the hijacking of my life by Christmas, I can feel all this space and time – and potential – ahead of me.  It’s a giant reset button – when everything settles back down, what will I choose to be doing?  I’m not sure yet, but I think it’s going to be good.


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I have just made contact arrangements with Ex-Husband.  This is something I have been doing on a regular and frustrating basis for almost two-and-a-half years.  His random shifts at three weeks’ notice have meant that I’ve been constantly living with one set of arrangements while discussing another, leading to frequent confusion and weariness, as well as frustration over Ex-Husband’s apparent lack of understanding about Big Girl and Small Girl’s needs and his unwillingness to believe anything I say about them.

So his text today saying that he had a temporary shift pattern from January until September was incredibly welcome.  And we now have a fixed arrangement which suits both the girls and me.  I am so relieved.  I can now plan ahead.  I can plan to see people with the girls.  I can plan to see people without the girls.  I can buy tickets to the theatre without risking wasting my money.  I can book in work events in the evening.  I can do all these things as much as I like, with the proviso that the temporary shift pattern may become permanent in March, but may shift a couple of weeks either way in the process.

But the astonishing thing is how easy it was to agree the arrangements.  He texted me his shift pattern.  I emailed him a suggested contact arrangement, along with my reasons for it.  He texted me with a couple of alterations.  I said ok.  It was done.  Reasonable and civil.  No angry texts going back and forth.  No sitting at my desk swearing for five minutes.  No dread at each incoming text.  No anger and grief at being unable to make the arrangements my children need. It gives me some hope for our ability to work together in the future.

And not just that – I posted a status on Facebook expressing my happiness and relief and watched as ‘likes’ and congratulations piled up.  I feel overwhelming gratitude – that my life is becoming workable; that there is a tentative sense of control; that perhaps I do not have to continue to suffer a painful relationship with Ex-Husband; but most of all the knowledge that I have so many friends who care about me, who support me and who are hoping for good things for me in the coming year.

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How birthdays are like sandwiches

Birthdays are difficult in a single-parent family.  Well, for me, anyway. Without a rational, reasonable adult to show some appreciation for all the hard work put into a birthday, and commiserate over the less than lovely bits, it can feel a bit pointless.  Today, Big Girl’s fourth birthday, started quite badly.  Despite having lots of lovely presents which she was really pleased with, new birthday pyjamas and a birthday helium balloon, she spend quite a lot of the morning crying, complaining and refusing to choose which breakfast cereal she wanted.  I was trying desperately to get us all ready to leave in time to get to Eureka! for her  birthday trip, preferably without shouting, and she hid under the kitchen table and said she didn’t want to go.

It’s hard for her as well.  She’s already had one birthday at Daddy’s house and there’s only so much excitement she can take.  She’s already tired because – well, all children seem to be tired in the run-up to Christmas – and the heightened excitement and expectation of her birthday seems to also increase the unhappiness she has about living in two homes.   And if it’s hard for Big Girl, pity poor Small Girl.  *Two* days of it Not Being Her Birthday, of presents she can’t open and cake which isn’t for her.  It’s almost unbearable.

Today has been like a sandwich.  Getting up was pretty horrible, and we had the sort of bedtime you get when a two-year-old sleeps for an hour-and-a-half on the way home at 5pm.  But the middle, the filling, was pretty lovely.  We went to Eureka! with two of Big Girl’s friends and their parents, who are also friends.  (A small piece of advice, single parents with more than one child: cultivate friends with only children.  It improves your adult-to-child ratio on trips out no end).  We had a train journey, and we explored the museum, played at cooking and garages and delivering post and found out about our bodies and made interesting sounds.  The museum was fairly empty so we got to play with most things as much as we wanted.

And while it has been difficult, I’m no longer thinking back four years and wondering how it all went so wrong.  It is sad not having another adult to share this with, someone else who loves Big Girl as much as I do.  But I had a fun day with two good friends.  And I think back over the day, all the different things we’ve done, everything which has made Big Girl happy, and I have a sense of accomplishment.  *I* did this.  All by myself. It’s quite an achievement.

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Well, I wish it could be pizza every day

Big Girl and Small Girl have gone to their dad’s.  They are not back until late afternoon on Monday.  The temptation to stay in my pyjamas for 42 hours watching West Wing and ordering pizza is phenomenal.  Really, I could do this and no-one would ever know.  Well, apart from the two groups of friends I’ve arranged to meet later today.  I could cancel.  It would be fine…

But I have told Big Girl that I will get our Christmas tree this weekend, so we can decorate it when they come home from Daddy’s house.  Where they are also decorating a tree.  We’ve managed to agree on which child will get to put the star on the top of which tree – pretty impressive separated parenting, I think.

I’m also planning on getting out all the presents, wrapping them, and working out what I still need to buy, and then buying it.  And writing Christmas cards.  And tidying my lounge to make space for the Christmas tree.  And finding the decorations…  It’s quite a busy weekend ahead, but there’s probably a little time for West Wing and pyjamas

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Winter of discontent

I find myself sitting half way down the stairs, texting my sister.  I just can’t be arsed to go all the way downstairs.  And it seems a bit pointless anyway. Everything seems pointless.  And meaningless. And miserable.  Just too much effort.  I tell my sister that I am miserable.  And that everything is too much effort.  That my children are being horrible and naughty, and that my whole life feels significantly more effort than it’s worth, and yet I am obliged to continue on with it.

It’s December.  I have Seasonal Affective Disorder.  I am constantly tired.  I can’t find the motivation to do anything.  Everything is too much effort.  It all seems a bit pointless.  This is unfortunate because December is also a very busy month.  You know, Christmas.  My family coming for dinner on Christmas Day.  And Big Girl’s birthday.  And Big Girl’s birthday party.  And possibly a trip to visit a friend over New Year’s Eve.  I am behaving as if I really believe all these things will organise themselves if I just watch enough West Wing.

Minimising the effects of SAD is fairly easy.  I spend half an hour a day sitting in front of a light box and just feel miserable, rather than living with unrelenting despair.  Unfortunately, one of the symptoms of SAD is that it is incredibly hard to get out of bed at all, never mind half an hour earlier.

It’s ok though.  Soon it will be Christmas, and I think this could be the Christmas my children will most enjoy, and the Christmas I will most enjoy them enjoying, because they will be two and four – old enough to understand it but young enough to still enjoy the magic.  And I know that even if it *feels* like everything is pointless and meaningless, it will be worth doing all the things I know I have to do to make that magic happen for them.

And then there’s just January to survive.  January is pretty much like December, except without the pretty lights and nice food.  I survive January by holding out for that moment in March when the clocks go forward and I weep with joy at all that lovely daylight.

SAD is pretty crappy.  I have friends who have cancer, and whose children have cancer, and there are people out there who can’t afford to feed their families, and so it feels pretty lame to be crying because ‘I feel sad because it’s a bit too dark’.  But it’s debilitating in a low-level way.  The good thing is this: I used to feel as if this would never end, as if each winter were Narnia-esque, that I had always been miserable and would always be miserable.  But I know now that everything passes, that everything can be survived.  I may not be very cheerful right now, but quite soon I will be again.

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