The Gratitude Challenge

It’s the last day of the 30 days of gratitude challenge! The point of the challenge was to acknowledge the things and people which make our lives brighter, and also to realise that we have lots of things to be grateful for. I’m grateful for this challenge for those reasons, but also in a different way.

I don’t let myself get upset about things for very long. I come up with a plan (hence my blog name) and ‘get on with it’. Which is all very well and good, but, actually, it’s ok to be upset about unfair things in life. Taking part in this challenge made me take stock of my current situation and made me realise that while there are still many lovely things I can be grateful for, I have lost a lot. To quote one of the doctors treating me: I know I’ve lost a lot, but I didn’t *know* I’d lost a lot. I dealt with scary situations ‘too well’ and ‘got on with it’. Now I feel like I *know* those things. (which is a good thing)

Writing about the things that I already felt grateful for in a way which explained them to other people let me see everything from a different perspective. Coming up with the things I was grateful for wasn’t hard, I do that anyway, like I wrote about in this post. But explaining why I’m grateful for what might be quite simple things to other people was the challenge for me. It let my brain catch up with what’s happened. And for that I’m grateful.

I really liked reading other people’s posts because it was lovely seeing my twitter feed filled with positives rather than rants about Brexit, the NHS debate and the US election! It also gave me more insight into some of the people behind the blogs I already follow, and introduced me to new blogs. I look forward to the next challenge!

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My Body

Day 29 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is my body. I laughed when I saw today’s theme. Not in a bitter way, but because it’s something I joke about a lot.

My body is really frustrating. It’s double the weight it was 2 years ago (literally), I don’t think any of it is symptom free, and it does the exact opposite of what it’s meant to. O2 sats dropping and a wheeze? Endocrine not asthma. Silent chest? Asthma not endocrine. My blood sugars go down when they’re supposed to go up, and vice versa. Adrenal Insufficiency is typically recognised by a sudden drop in BP, mine goes up instead (as do some other people’s). In my case, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a giraffe.

Having said that, it’s also quite clever. It was supposed to have died a few times, and didn’t. For example, the last day I went to work, I had to do a routine random cortisol blood test in the morning before I went in. I then taught four year 7 classes, ran a lunchtime club and taught GCSE music after school (a pretty full on day). The next day I felt ill so I didn’t go to work, and got woken up by my GP ringing me when the test results came back, telling me I needed to go to GPAU at the hospital *right now*. The blood test from the day before came back as ‘undetectable’ for cortisol, which means ‘you’re probably dead or in a coma’. Normal for that time of day would be 400. I managed to teach a full day with my bloodwork like that- that’s pretty good going!

I hate the fact that I’ve put on so much weight, because I love(d) sports and exercise and now can’t do those anymore. I could write a long list of things my body makes me put up with every day. I have pre-osteoporosis, so my Grandma probably has better bones than me. But at the end of the day, I can’t hate something which is still functioning despite all its flaws, and for that I’m very grateful!

 

My past 

Day 27 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is my past. Something which I definitely took for granted at the time, along with the majority of the population, was my education.

Not everyone in the world has access to an education up to 18 years old, it isn’t always free and it’s not always available to girls. So the fact that I had a full school education is something to be grateful for.

On the whole, I had caring teachers and a good school life. Having been a teacher, I can see how easy it would be to walk out of my classroom on the bell and sit in the staff room at breaks, and refuse to deal with anything that doesn’t involve actual lessons. But lots of my teachers didn’t do that, if we were interested or had problems, they made themselves available. As tiring and as stressful as being a teacher was, I tried to make sure I was always around when I was needed. 

I was allowed to study the things I found interesting. Today STEM subjects are favoured by our government and arts subjects and languages are seen as a ‘waste of time’. How sad. 

I had the chance to go to university. I learnt more than a subject while there, it taught me a lot about living, friendships, living by myself and all the boring things which come with being a grown up. But at least I had housemates to commiserate about these things  with rather than being thrown in at the deep end by myself! 

Having worked in challenging schools, I can see how easily influenced pupils are. Even really well intentioned pupils can find themselves on the ‘wrong path’. I don’t know whether it was my doing or my teachers’ guidance, but I stayed on the ‘right’ one. 

Life Lessons 

Day 28 of the 30 days of gratitude is life lessons. I wrote a post similar to this for the blog every day in May challenge, so I’m concentrating on more recent life lessons.

– I’ve learnt who my real friends are. It wasn’t a nice process to go through, to realise that 90% of my ‘friends’ seemed to think that friendship should only work one way- in their favour- but now I’m really grateful for the 10% of friends who stuck around.

– Doctors can be very clever people, but they’re not always right.

– good doctors and nurses are like gold dust. Keep hold of those ones!

– my gut instincts are good.

– human bodies are actually really clever things. They do so much we don’t even realise half the time, and most people still treat theirs worse than their car or a pet. You only have one body, when it breaks you can’t replace it.

– having the best job, family, car, Facebook profile…. whatever people ‘compete’ over, isn’t the be all and end all.

– people formulate their own opinions and most are unwilling to change them, despite explanations and attempts. That’s their own stuff or insecurities.

– I don’t have to waste my energy on people who don’t care about me. This sounds really harsh, but it’s not. I’m not rude about it, but I’ve stopped making the effort with some people.

-it’s great to look forward to the big things like holidays and life events. But there’s a lot of time that goes by in between that we shouldn’t be wishing away.

My Hidden Talent

Day 26 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is my hidden talent. There are a few things I’m ‘good at’, which I’ve written posts about as part of the my loves of my life and my projects entries in this challenge. But not many people know that I have really good empathy, which I think is a really useful attribute to have.

Empathy means being able to feel what someone else is feeling, putting yourself in their shoes. I wrote a post about chronic illness where I said I don’t like hearing ‘it could be worse’ statements in relation to my illness, and my empathy-ometer is why. Whenever I feel or experience something, I scan through what other people might be experiencing in the world and contextualise my problem against a whole range of other ones. So I spend a lot of time feeling guilty if I’m having a down day, because I’m thinking about people who are homeless in Africa (for example) and how they have it worse and I should just ‘get on with it’. Therefore, I don’t need to hear ‘it could be worse’- I’ve already been there in my head. I’ve been working on acknowledging that it’s ok to have days where I do nothing and rest because that’s what I need to do, and to ignore my empathy gauge on those days.

I also find it really hard to watch violent or horror films. Blood and gore doesn’t bother me, but I feel whatever the people who are being attacked are likely to feel. So if someone is running away from a murderer, I feel a similar level of anxiety. I hate sci-fi films where someone has to sacrifice themselves to save the planet because I feel what that must feel like. If you combine that with the fact that my body doesn’t respond well to stress, it’s not a good mix!

But having empathy like that has its advantages. I can really easily work out what someone else is feeling and why. This was really useful as a teacher because I could work out the pupils who were naughty and the ones who were in a bad place and needed help, and then work out what help would benefit them. I knew when to apply pressure and when to back off. I could recognise when a pupil was acting out of character and help them work through their feelings before they got out of hand. It’s not always about talking things through, sometimes it’s knowing about when to stay silent and wait, or talk about other topics. I could also tell when pupils were lying, which they hated, but was very useful! Adults are particularly interesting to watch because they try to manipulate and change situations more than children do, for both selfish and non-selfish reasons.

I haven’t got any science behind it, I just like watching people and I get a feeling about things. I don’t always let on that I’ve worked something out about a person (I’m pretty good at working out if women are pregnant!), because if someone has news to share it’s their news not my guessing that’s important.

Memories

Day 25 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is memories. 2016 has been a bad year for making memories in general for me. I left my career in teaching, I’ve spent more time in hospital than ever before, my niece died… There’s plenty more, but that’s not the point of this blog. Aside from the horrible things, I’m really struggling to remember the good things because my memory is really poor at the moment. However, another blogger wrote about how she’s made a happiness jar full of good things that happen, which she writes on pieces of paper and adds to it throughout the year. I think I might start this, not necessarily as an annual thing like she does, but so that when I’m feeling a bit fed up about everything I can remind myself of the good or funny things which do happen. Nice suggestion, Nikki! 🙂

A memory I do like to think about is when my husband and I were in Death Valley on Honeymoon last year. We spent a couple of hours in the evening/nighttime star gazing. There were sun loungers on the terrace outside our room, which is a bit ironic because there’s no way you’d want to be sunbathing in Death Valley when the sun’s up- you’d fry. But the temperature at nighttime was lovely and warm, the animals and insects were out in the desert below which you could hear, and the sky was really clear. You could see every star in the sky as it’s a protected Dark Zone. It was really peaceful and relaxing. There were other people doing the same thing, but no one was really talking, everyone was just taking in the atmosphere. In a city, it’s easy to forget the enormous-ness of the world, and even in countryside, there are still trees and mountains which ‘get in the way’ of your line of sight. Here, the whole sky opened up and it made me have a different kind of respect for the different parts of the world and how we only ever see a tiny part of it, no matter how well traveled or broad our horizons might be. Even though we didn’t actively do an awful lot in Death Valley, it was one of the highlights of the trip for this reason. I loved other bits of the trip as well, and they’re also great memories, but I particularly like this memory because of the way it made me feel settled at the time.

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Seasons

Day 24 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is seasons. A few years ago, I would have said my favourites were summer and winter. I love long summer days and twilights, and the fact that it’s warm and sunny and everything looks and feels so much better when it’s sunny. But I also like cold, frosty weather and the way everything looks when it’s crisp outside. 

Now I hate both because they cause me no end of problems healthwise for lots of reasons I can’t be bothered getting into. So my favourites now are spring and autumn. 

Spring is the start of everything growing again, it’s like waking up from a deep sleep. Autumn is the opposite. But both have lovely colours and varied weather. Plus I can go out in a t-shirt without feeeling like I’m overheating, like in summer, or getting odd looks because it’s -10 and I’m still saying I’m hot. 

My Greatest Accomplishment

Day 23 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is my greatest accomplishment. This one’s quite hard! I could rattle through a list of things I’m proud of having done or accomplished, but that risks making it sound like my CV. And there’s a difference between an accomplishment which you can tick off or talk about every now again, and an accomplishment which makes you feel like you’ve actually accomplished something on a regular basis. 

With that in mind, I think my greatest accomplishment is having lived abroad. I lived and worked in France for a year as part of my university degree. You can be as prepared as possible for living in a foreign country and I was able to speak and understand French pretty well since I was studying it, but no matter which way you look at it, it’s still a big culture shock. Everything is different, not necessarily in a bad way, but it takes some getting used to. I went through a stage where I didn’t know what my identity was because I couldn’t express myself in French in the same way I do English. I can’t fully explain what it feels like to live abroad, I think even if you move abroad with your family, it still feels incredibly lonely and, well, foreign, at first. 

So managing to feel settled and like I belonged there is an achievement. And I think it’s my greatest achievement because of what it taught me:

– I learnt how to be happy in my own company. I went running and traveled a bit by myself. 

– I know I can get myself out of most situations if I put my mind to it. I was a bit unlucky while I was there: I dislocated my shoulder in a ski accident, I injured my knee and had to have a knee op, my husband’s car broke down and we had to get it repaired, my jaw locked itself shut, and I got lost in strange cities a few times. If I can negotiate all that in a foreign language, I know I can definitely do most things in English. 

– it reminds me that there’s 2 sides to every story. Things don’t translate 100% between languages, a lot of the time nuances or implications don’t quite work. The way you phrase things is important, but not everyone thinks that way. So sometimes you have to try and see things from the other side to fully understand.

– I know what it feels like to live and learn in a foreign language, which helped me no end when teaching. 

– I learnt how to stand up for myself. Once I’d found my identity in French, I realised that I spoke my mind more often and was more assertive. This wasn’t a bad thing because I’m very much a person who wants to please people, even if it’s at my own expense. Now I’m back in England, if I need to be more assertive, I think in French. 

– it taught me to respect others cultures. I think most people would say that they’re tolerant of other people’s beliefs and cultures, I thought that too, but I don’t think you can fully appreciate it until you’ve had to live completely differently.  

Living abroad is something that not very many people have accomplished, so I’m proud of that fact. The experience I got from it is something that I can look back on in many situations and I’m really grateful for the experiences it brought me. 

#30bbdaysofgratitude challenge

Challenge

Day 22 of the 30 Days of Gratitude Challenge is What is your greatest challenge and how do you plan to overcome it? My greatest challenge is ill health. I had poorly controlled asthma 4 years ago, and 2 years ago my asthma was stabilised but I was diagnosed with Adrenal Insufficiency the same week. I’ve written a few posts about the impact its had on my life, which you can read here, but the long and short of it, is it’s a life-long, disabling, life-threatening condition which can be pretty tricky to manage.

So I kind of already partially overcame the ‘challenge’ because I didn’t die when perhaps less stubborn or not as resourceful people would have done. That sounds fairly dramatic, but looking back knowing what I know now, I was critical a fair few times, I just didn’t know it at the time.

Drama aside, I’m not planning on overcoming my challenge of ill health. I tried to ‘get better’ for the past 4 years. At the start of 2016 I started seeing a new consultant and with that came the realisation that trying to beat my illness(es) is just not going to happen- it won’t get better or go away and trying to overcome it and be ‘normal’ was making everything a lot worse. It was tricky prior to seeing my new doctor, because medics were still telling me it was overcome-able before, so it wasn’t completely my fault that it took me a long time to get to that point.

What I learned this year is that you can’t wait for the ‘when X happens, I will….’ moments in life, because they either don’t come or they don’t happen in the way you think they’re going to anyway. I did that with my asthma- my asthma is better but I’m not doing the things I thought I would now. Other people do it with work, buying a house…. Life is what’s happening now. It might not be the way that you want it, but it’s still happening, so you can choose to wish for things that might never happen or you can work with what you’ve got and be grateful for that. That’s why I started my 30 things to do before 30 lists. 

So I’m overcoming my challenge of ill health by (trying) not to overcome it. Which is not as easy as it sounds, in fact it’s bloody hard. I’m the type of person who works out plans to fix anything and everything (hence my blog name), but with this, I can’t. I won’t get better and I might not be able to do the things I planned out for my life which other people take for granted. It’s actually been better for me since doctors stopped telling me to ‘get on with it’, I’ve been able to make more of my own choices and I don’t feel like I’m chasing an unknown pipe-dream anymore. But it’s a bit like watching a train crash, I’m watching it unfold, I can’t intervene and I can’t change the outcome, but that doesn’t mean I don’t hope for things to change. I just have to wait and see the extent of the damage when everything stops moving.

Why I’m Grateful to Live in this Era

Day 21 of the 30 days of gratitude challenge is era. This is a pretty good time to live in compared with previous ones. We have running water and electricity, in fact, the majority of people now see wifi and smartphones as essential items rather than luxury ones. We might technically be ‘at war’, but our homes aren’t being bombed every night and people aren’t being drafted up for war (*touch wood*). While pockets of discriminatory people still cause problems and spread hate, we have anti-discriminatory laws to help make sure that people aren’t treated differently because of their race, gender, sexuality or religion. We’ve got lots of medical technology and free hospital care which means that more people are living longer than ever before. Technology can do amazing things and connects people from all over the world in nanoseconds. We’re able to travel and see things so much easier than ever before. 

This is a pretty good era to be alive in. In the western world, lots of people in our generation have never known true poverty, hardship or discrimination. That alone makes this a pretty good era. 

#30bbdaysofgratitude challenge