Strategies for Staying Calm
Stay Calm and Cycle
What a week we’ve had. Having waited so long to get my lovely dad home we only managed six days before he had to go back into hospital.
Having an ambulance arrive should be dramatic, but it has almost become normal for us.
Dad is in hospital with a different complaint, but he is still quite poorly. We are waiting for a care package to be implemented that is sufficient to keep him safe at home. It is definitely time to follow my own advice on being patient! I am mindful though, that if I am stressed, how much worse it must be for dad and my mum.
Strategies for Staying Calm
I am trying to think of strategies about how to stay calm. I’m hopeful you might be able to suggest some as this is all I can come up with.
· Mindfulness of living in the moment and not worrying too far ahead.
· Remembering to be grateful.
· Trying to look beyond my own immediate bubble of concerns.
· Acceptance. As my mum always says ‘what can’t be cured must be endured.’
· Talking things through but not obsessively so!
Concentration and Calmness
When I’m a bit stressed I find it very difficult to sit still, but I don’t manage to achieve anything very productive. I find it difficult to concentrate for long on anything and seem to spend my time up and down to the fridge - snacking! This is not good!! What I should do is try to look outside my own situation and remember to be thoughtful to others as it really does help.
This week I’ve been trying to read Ali Smith’s Summer. I always find Smith challenging. I found How to be Both quite difficult and didn’t find it easy to link the two different stories. Maybe there is no need to. Having said that I think her language is the most lyrical and powerful that I’ve read in recent years. Smith (Ali, not my Mick) always leaves me feeling very anxious about the world we inhabit. It is strange though, despite these underlying nagging concerns about climate change, Brexit and such like it is the stuff that is happening directly in our family that dominates. I wonder if other people are the same.
Cycling to Calm
The only thing I’ve managed to spend time doing this week that is all productive is some cycling. Mick and I are participating in the Help for Uganda fundraiser by contributing miles and donations to a virtual 6480-mile ride from the UK to Uganda. The purpose is to raise the necessary funds to complete the building and equipping of a school for children with sensory disabilities in Jinja, Uganda.
I've pledged to cycle 200 miles in September. I know that isn’t a huge amount, but I am discovering that try as I might it is impossible to find a route that is downhill all the way to a destination and back home again!
Our team (Deb, Fiona, Mick and I) has managed to raise 750 pounds so far and are trying to reach a thousand. Here is our charity page – all donations, however small are very welcome. #Justsaying - or as I say to amuse the kids, ‘Justsayinghashtag’
Empty Nesting Again
Both the girls are away at the minute so our house is an empty nest! Betsy is with her boyfriend, which she has been looking forward to. Annie has returned to London (after a quick visit home for her birthday. (How did we become old enough to have a 22 year old?) Annie is working for a recycling company, in between trying not to stress about her dissertation. She has been telling me how her office has a pool table, coffee bar and proper bar, which is free for employees to enjoy. That is not how I remember office environments! Thank goodness that Saint Mick (of Broughton, not Thana) is here to make the empty nesting a little easier. Our coffee bar is also free, other than the odd trip to the supermarket to buy more beans! I’m not sure drinking copious amounts of coffee will keep me calm, but I’m going to give it a try anyway!
Exploring how to be positive and patient
I’ve written before about being positive and as a rule I’m quite good at keeping a glass half-full approach to life. Remembering to be grateful and kind is key. I have to admit though that in the last couple of weeks I’ve struggled to be patient or positive. At times it has felt like “I’ve had to fake it to make it.” As Brene Brown would say in the Gifts of Imperfections, which I've mentioned before, I’ve needed to ‘dig deep’.
Somehow ‘digging deep’ seems to have worked and when I woke up this morning it felt almost like a switch had flipped and I could see things more positively.
Looking for the Positives
July has brought both ups and downs.
On the plus side, and it is a big plus, my lovely Saint Mick of Thana is back in Beech Close full time. At the risk of gushing, he is the kindest, most quietly supportive fellow I could ever wish for. On the downside he snores a lot.
It is sad not to have said a proper goodbye to Bangkok, but we can perhaps return there one day. In the meantime I’ve got all my friends’ Facebook photos of them hopping from one beach to another as a means of reminding me of how lovely Thailand is – grrrr… not jealous at all! I say that tongue-in-cheek as I know many of them would have much preferred to travel home and see their family this summer and are actually making the best of their own difficult situations.
These incredibly cute photos of my friend's little girls and her husband doing a nappy car change reminded me how travelling with infants can be a bit full on. You need to pack everything except the kitchen sink!
Getting Better after Health Concerns
We have had a couple of health setbacks this month. My dad’s foot had become infected whilst at his rehab centre and he had to be admitted to hospital. This was a good call as intravenous antibiotics are quick and effective. It has been a challenge though. Poor communication and missing x-ray paperwork meant he had to stay in hospital longer than was strictly needed. Having said that some of the teams up at the hospital have been brilliant. Looking back at my blog I was writing about the NHS and my dad’s health about a year ago. I am afeared middle age is making me repetitive!
The noisy hospital environment is not good for my dad’s well being so I felt ridiculously relieved to finally get him moved back to rehab late on Wednesday night. The hundred plus phone calls (largely to an automated generated machine who couldn’t understand me), and the missing sets of newly bought clothing I took in for him faded away into insignificance.
A big positive is that dad’s new room in the rehab centre has a window, so for the first time in a month we were able to go wave to him yesterday. Dad looked tired but quite well considering the trauma of the last couple of weeks. He gave us a smile and a wave. Dad seems to have left hospital ‘sans hearing-aid’ so this week’s task is to get a new one organised. Once more … grrrrrr….
Little did my dad know that at the same time he was back in hospital he had one of his granddaughters just down the corridor from him in a different ward. My typically understated and calm Annie found herself in tons of pain with what we thought was a kidney infection, but what turned out to be a kidney stone. There followed three nights in hospital. Her main response was that she was ‘relieved she hadn’t been making a fuss or being melodramatic for nothing.”
Annie is now back home recuperating on the sofa and doing lots of extra hours for her virtual internship to make up for the time she missed during her stay in hospital. She is resilient, funny and kind and makes me proud. That’s a lot to be positive about.
With all this ill-health Mick and I didn’t manage to get to go down to Torquay as planned. This was disappointing as we had hoped to surprise my lovely friend Carolyn who lives down there, but there will be other opportunities to see her.
I have had some lovely reminders this week of how lucky I am to have some great friends.
Carolyn sent the girls and me these lovely hearts to which cheered us up no end. Another great friend Jackie and her gorgeous son Bill sent me a pampering set. I’m looking forward to closing the bathroom door (in this overcrowded bungalow!) and having a lovely quiet relaxing bath. As I light a candle with a relaxing and soothing scent, I’ll also perhaps indulge myself with a nice cup of one of the specialist teas my other dear friend Rachel sent me a couple of weeks ago.
My friends are a tower of support and for that I’m very grateful. The gifts are an added bonus which just prove how spoiled I am!
Despite our aborted trip to Torquay it isn’t all gloom and doom for the Flint Smith family re holidays. Annie did manage to get to Spain for a week to collect her belongings. I think that was bittersweet for her, so I’m pleased she has come back home to us before heading back to London in September. Betsy has also managed a little mini-break with her boyfriend. They opted to go to Liverpool. I’m not really sure why, but they seem to have had fun.
Trying to be Patient
I am naturally quite a self-reflective person and in recent years I’ve been surprisingly positive. I don’t think, however, I need to dig particularly deep to discover that I am not a patient person. I always want things completing ‘yesterday’. I think this is partly why this further setback for my dad has been so frustrating. It is, of course, much more challenging for him and my mum. They don’t deserve it.
These last few months have felt a little crazy. We need to be patient just a little bit longer regarding the timescale of getting my dad home to mum. We’ve had a small blip, but can now look forward positively. We are back on track though and that’s a big positive. Some things we simply can’t change, so as my mum says, “what can’t be cured must be endured.”
A couple of years ago I wouldn’t have predicted that the whole family would be back living in the UK, not currently working and coming out the other side of a global health pandemic. We have got through it so far and are so much luckier than many people.
I have had the huge bonus of having the girls at home with me all through lockdown. I’ve had several months of enjoying their company and not having to worry at all about everything that comes alongside their living away from home. I know that they can’t stay forever, but I’ve got them a little bit longer yet. That’s a massive positive for me.
We’ve got some figuring out of our future to do, but there’s no rush. Mick is enjoying being able to see more of his mum and dad. I even heard talk of him picking up a paintbrush over at their house!
Once the girls have returned to their lives, (which I guess they do have to!) I’ll still have my Saint Mick of Beech Close here with me. For now, I’ll hold on to that as the biggest positive of all.
Returning from Overseas
I woke up this morning to a typically wet and drizzly English day. The sky is a blanket of grey cloud and there's a chill in the air. When I don't need to go anywhere I quite enjoy a rainy day. Settling indoors with a book and, ideally, a bar of chocolate is pretty close to heaven for me.
Today the weather made me feel gloomy so my thoughts went immediately to Bangkok. It doesn't drizzle there. The rain comes down in torrents that flood the drains. It make everyone late for work, ruins shoes and then disappears as quickly as it arrives. I laughed at myself to think that I was actually missing Thai rain as I've cursed it often enough!
Nostalgic for Bangkok
I am missing Bangkok, and at some point, no doubt I'll go on to create a sensible article on managing change, addressing closure and so on. There is lots to miss - some of it heartfelt, most of it people based, but some of it just plain bonkers and as shallow as an English puddle of rain. These are some of the things, in no particular order, that I'll miss.
Things I Miss in Bangkok
My friends. I've posted loads of times about it being people not places that are important. Thank goodness for social media as my friends are all in Bangkok. They are, by and large stranded over there, until the corona virus is sorted out, so are all spending their summers renting villas on beaches, doing huge road trips across Thailand and generally living the travellers' dream. Not jealous at all!
The pool. I'm not a particularly good swimmer, but going to the pool was my number one stress busting activity in Bangkok. I can't imagine ever ever having such a lovely place to swim again. During those times that I was living, but not working in Bangkok, I'd get up for a swim and once finished be spoiled by the restaurant staff bringing me a pot of tea as I reclined next to the pool watching the golfers. That was the life! I like to walk now, as it serves a similar purpose, but .it isn't quite the same.
Having a full time housekeeper. When Khun Nong came to work for us we struck gold. She is a lovely person who helped us run our house like clockwork. She became a friend who I miss each day. Prior to Nong working with us I have so many funny stories of housekeepers who weren't quite so good. I think the story that tops the bill was coming home from holiday to find that one lady had painted several rooms and random bricks in our house bright pink. To this day I don't know why!
The weather. It isn't just the Brits who discuss the weather. I love the drama of Bangkok storms. I never quite got used to leaving a shopping mall and being hit by a wall of heat. I miss the conversations amongst my library team as they buttoned up in scarves and cardigans (if the weather dipped below thirty degrees!) about how chilly it was. I guess as an English person weather has to feature in what I miss.
The quirks. All cultures and societies have 'norms' that seem quirky to outsiders. I often noticed different ways of living as Mick drove us all to school. I miss seeing people in the street making their offerings to monks in a morning; I miss seeing old ladies walking to the early morning markets in their PJs; I miss the wais that Thais offer as a sign of respect; I miss having to stand stock still as the anthem was played at 6.00 pm and the flag was raised on a morning. I miss seeing adults going to university in what is essentially a 'school uniform'; I miss watching people meticulously sweep their patch of land outside their house; I miss the old man we drove past every day sat outside his house in a sarong and a deck chair and ample midriff showing. I miss it all.
The traffic. I don't really miss the traffic and I'm glad that roundabouts don't pose the problem in the UK that they seem to in Bangkok. Getting my last driving license was a bit of a drama that, now I'm not there, I can think back fondly to! It didn't seem to matter so much if I occasionally forgot to indicate. Seeing cars and motorbikes laden with people and belongings, coming up a dual-carriageway the wrong way was simply normal. I kind of miss it not mattering if I didn't follow the rules!
Shopping. I miss the madness of shopping in Bangkok. From early morning flower markets to top end designer shopping, it was all like entering a parallel universe. I miss the ladies marketing expensive products, shouting through loud microphones in glamorous outfits.
Restaurants. Living on the edge of Bangkok I didn't often venture to the restaurants in town. I do miss our old favourites though, especially having the salmon at Wine Connection, or pizza on a Friday night. The Green and White was an institution! We spent a lot of time with the kids playing 'word games' and chatting in restaurants, or when they were a bit bigger, sitting drinking coffee and beer (back in the days before I was teetotal) whilst the girls met their friends and we were hanging around to collect them.
Learning about a different culture. I got myself into 'hot water' so many times when I didn't understand how Thai culture works. From 'saving face' to 'land of smiles' to 'everyone being involved in every task’ the nuances of learning about a new culture is never dull and kept me on my toes. It is this learning about culture, learning about your own unconscious (or conscious) bias, in your interactions that is one of the fascinating things about living overseas.
Our Dogs. Who would have thought that I'd have ended up having two dogs! Fizz sadly died in 2018. Everyone is super sad that we can't bring Wizz back, but she is too old to travel. Wizz is happy though as she is happy is going to move to live with our lovely housekeeper's mum. She already knows her well As she sometimes stays in the summer with Nong when we have visited the UK.
Adventures. Mick has been coming across old photos whilst he has been packing up our lives in Bangkok. We've had some fantastic adventures and trips. My friends with small children have been reminding me how, when travelling with little ones, you basically need to pack everything except the kitchen sink. It's hard work, but what memories are made of.
My library colleagues and friends. It's a good job I said in no particular order as this should be near the top of my list. I still miss my library colleagues and I've made friends for life there. I've also collaborated with the wonderful Khun Duang on our books. (I really must do something about getting the drafts we still have completed into a finished format!) I learned a lot about leadership when I took on the library role and it is testament to my colleagues that they gave me a chance and forgave all the mistakes I made!
Khun Lyn and Pang. When I go into my kitchen in Bangkok I have a view out to the temple that Khun Lyn was cremated in. Lyn and Pang from the library both sadly died from cancer whilst I was there.. Seeing the sun set over Lyn’s temple each evening always reminds me of Lyn. I miss her.
The brunches. Oh my goodness, we have had some great brunches, especially at the Sheraton Grande. I've wonderful memories of Christmas days there too. Back in the day they were boozy affairs with a ton of eating and free flow bubbles. I haven't found a similar place in the UK yet.
Unwanted visitors. As I write my friend just sent me a text of a snake and the caption "the only thing I had to share the beach with today." I miss the unexpected of never quite knowing what you might come across just outside your door. In our case it was often monitor lizards that came calling.
Day trips. For most of our time in Bangkok we were just getting on with life. Going to work, helping the kids with their homework and activities, such as music lessons dominated our time. Every now and then though we'd make the effort - be tourists for the day and go off exploring the city. This sometimes extended into a staycation with a 'sleep over' in one of the fancy hotels in town. Whether with Mick, Mick and the girls, or my friends we had some great times.
Turning 50! I had a ball. My dear friend Rachel coordinated a wonderful afternoon tea, followed by a trip on the river, and cocktails. Mick had then arranged a very swanky night in the Shangri-La where we had the most fantastic suite you could imagine. I turned 50 in style!
The Kids' Achievements. The kids had a ball at school. There's too much to write about. Plays, musicals, sports teams, charity groups ... another post beckons!
The beach. I should say the beaches. My memory is shocking and I couldn't begin to say which beaches we've visited when. We've taken a lot of walks, made a lot of sandcastles (less so recently) and used a lot of suncream. I miss going to the beach.
The view from my soon to be ex-apartment. This matters more to me than I expected. I love our view. However nice your neighbours are waking up to their front lawn isn't so exciting.
Moving Forward when Relocating
The rain has stopped so I think that it is time that I stop reminiscing. I think it is ok to miss things though. It doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to our next adventures as I really am. I've not mentioned missing Mick as he is going to be back with me next week. :) I'm looking forward to our shipment arriving which Saint Mick has just packed up. Having my Thai belongings around me will be lovely reminders of a fantastic time living overseas. I'm sure there were bad bits too abut living in Bangkok, but today I can't remember any of them!
A House Full
I haven't written anything on my family page for such a long time. Largely, because during the corona virus lockdown there hasn't felt much to say. I've been thrilled to have the girls at home with me, upset to not be able to get back home to Mick in Bangkok and frustrated for mum and dad that, almost six months after his fall, dad still isn't back home. There has been plenty of adjustments to having almost a house full, but we've done ok and muddled along.
At last I have some news. Mick is heading home and we will have a proper full house again soon. I am sure that will bring its own joys, woes and frustrations! Right now, though, it is making me smile.
Finding your Niche for Published Articles
Whilst we have been apart I have kept busy and I've written a lot of articles (even some with possible earning potential) on diverse issues for a variety of publications. Avoiding arguing with grown up children, respecting your oldies and running a library effectively during lockdown to name a few.
The key to a good blog is to find a 'niche' and you can see that I don't have one (Jack of all trades and master of none!). I seem to babble on about many things. That's why it works better to write for someone else. I've got a lot of articles for different journals on Medium including book reviews, managing temper tantrums and exploring the level of toxicitiy in friendship.
It seems a shame not to occasionally put something on here though and having our family back together is something I wanted to share.
Being Apart from your Partner
With the corona virus situation I haven't seen Mick for many months. (It's an odd thing living away from a partner. It needs managing carefully. Time seems to go really slowly (but the weeks tick by before you know it too!) Overall, being apart hasn't been fun though, in fact, at times, it has been downright sad. As there wasn't an easy option for Mick to return to Thailand if he visited us this summer, we have taken the plunge for him to leave work and return to the UK.
I'm EXCITED to have Mick back with us, but I am also a little bit anxious. We have a lot of 'next steps' to figure out, not least finding another job!
It is a very strange experience to pack up a whole life from over 6000 miles away. (Who would have thought we would have stayed 18 years!) It is beyond weird to think that I won't be seeing my friends again, but at least social media helps me keep in touch. I guess it's not so important, BUT I can't believe I am not going back to my lovely Thana city pool, or having any more of my lovely brunches. (I'm so shallow!) Mick returning is a good move though and, whilst I am allowing myself a little nostalgia about our life in Bangkok, we've got lots to look forward to and oodles of adventures ahead.
When I quit work suddenly back in 2018 I was super busy and the impact of not having a job only came later. I didn't anticipate how that would feel. Work is such an important part of our identity, so I do worry a little for Mick. He seems quite happy though with the idea of relaxing and reading. He has A LOT of Waterstones gift vouchers to spend, that the teachers have kindly given him. Little does he know I've got a lot of 'jobs' lined up for him!
There will be lots of new blogging opportunities for me in the future about how things pan out. Work and identity; managing a busy household, village life, leadership, job hunting; relocating from overseas... to name but a few.
For now though I'm just going to enjoy the idea of having the old lad back here with me. I'm counting down the days. I can no longer call him Saint Mick of Thana but he is still my grumpy old fella. Our place in Thana City, Bangkok will become someone else's home. I just hope they love it as much as we have.
We're going to miss you Thailand.
The Personal Touch - Gifts and Cards
I woke up this morning to a lovely 'Happy Songkran' card from my friend Duang in Bangkok. She is also the esteemed illustrator of two of my children's books 'The Day the Wi-Fi Broke' and 'Just Five More Minutes'. (She draws under the name NokIsMe). The card featured a Happy Songkran message with the star of the book, a little girl called 'Lucy' wearing a protective face mask. It made me smile and once again, I wondered whether I should return to this series and write some more titles. (A thought for another day!) My thought for the current time was how nice it is to get personalised messages, cards, and small gifts. This took me to a podcast I'd been listening to yesterday, which emphasised how completing altruistic acts can reduce anxiety and generally make a person feel better. This is something that we could all benefit from right now!
Kind Things to Do When You're Bored
With this in mind I have come up with a few ideas of things to do that are kind, altruistic (thus anxiety reducing), fairly cheap and easy (I'm not the best crafter) and can fill the time during these strange times of self-isolation.
Right now, I seem to feel quite busy - in fact, overly busy, some of the time - the truth is that I am only busy (fulfilling my personal goals, (as designed by Annie) and being mum, daughter, etc. (sadly not wife so much at the minute, as Mick is stuck in Bangkok.). I'm making my day as full as it can be so as to stay sane. I'm not sure my kids will vouch to the fact that I'm succeeding, but ...
Looking back at my suggestions, for things to do when bored they do seem to be a bit nostalgic, leaning towards getting in touch with people we haven't seen in a while and might not see in a while. It is nice to keep in contact with people though and now is definitely the time to share good feeling and kindness.
I definitely plan to pass the time by completing one or two of these activities today. The focus of doing so will hopefully make me feel a little less stressed with life too. If you are bored and complete any of them, let me know in the comments how you get on.