My Garden – The Place Plants go to Die…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “A Plot of Earth.”

One thing you need to know about me is that I kill plants. Unintentionally, I hasten to add.  I have a row of half dead orchids sitting above my kitchen sink, that I am willing to come back to life, without much (who am I kidding? – any) success. I have a tendency to fall in love with a plant, whether it be an orchid, a cactus, or a sunflower, and buy it on a whim making all sorts of hopeful promises that this will be the plant that I can keep alive.  Then within a few months the plant deteriorates and dies. Sometimes without any logical explanation as to why. My sister has said before that my home/ garden is “the place plants go to die” which is very hurtful, but unfortunately truthful as well.

That’s why I’m aiming small.  If I had a plot of land and unlimited financial resources I would plant and maintain a beautiful garden filled with live and flourishing plants (and I’d probably need to employ a gardener to keep it that way)!  I’ve always dreamed of having a vegetable and herb garden. But also a wild garden filled with wildlife. I’ve made the effort in my garden at home to install nesting boxes and bug boxes which all sit unoccupied – probably because of the reputation that all the plants within my garden cease to exist within a short period…

A plot of earth, to me means hope and life, not the misery and death that befalls most of my purchases!

RIP to all the plants I have killed in my gardening career.

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Anxiety as an “Unexpected Gift”

I read something today that really resonated with me, and as part of my Blogging 101 assignment I thought I would take the concept of that post and express my own thoughts about it. You can find the original post here.

The author, Asher, talks about how his Bi-polar disorder has affected his life in a big way, in both very negative ways, but also really positive ones.  He mentions that the disorder can provide times of extreme clarity, insight and creativity, and that the positives of Bi-polar are often dismissed in discussion.

Asher’s main point is that living with Bi-polar has enabled him to take control of his own life and define success in his own way.  I would argue that the same is true of living with my anxiety, albeit on a smaller scale.

When I first found out I was an anxiety sufferer (although I had suspected for years) I had to take time out from my university studies as I kept having acute panic attacks.  During that time of my life I had placed myself under immense pressure, and was following a career path which wasn’t right for me.  It was a very difficult year of my life, but made me stronger, and changed me in ways I didn’t expect.

  • I got an admin job on a 6 month temporary contract, which although relevant to my studies, was not what I envisaged myself doing long term.
  • I re-evaluated my career aspirations in light of my anxiety – not I hasten to add because I felt like I needed to settle for something else as I was unable to do what I had planned – that wasn’t the case at all.  If I’d decided to pursue that career, I could have done.  But the presence of my anxiety, made me have to address the elephant in the room.  Even with techniques to control it, I still had to live with it.  Was this career aspiration going to suit my mindset long term? Did I actually want this job, or did I like the idea of it? My conclusion: the idea was better than the reality.

I finished my studies and am now, funnily enough, working with my employer from my year out. However, my role has developed in many different directions. I’m now involved in event planning, social policy and research work, strategic planning, fundraising.  These are all things, which my anxiety helps me to do – I know that sounds odd!  One side effect of my anxiety is that I like to plan for lots of different eventualities (usually catastrophes).

Now managed, anxiety doesn’t control my life as much as it did, but I have been able to hone it as a skill for my work.  I’m doing a job that I love, that I never would have imagined doing. So for me too my anxiety is an “unexpected gift.”

Thank you Asher for making me realise!

Anxiety: Obsessive Crisis Management Planning

I’ve mentioned before that I suffer with anxiety.  Part of my problem displays itself as an incessant need to plan for disasters in everyday life.  Some would say that planning is quite sensible.  By planning you feel prepared for stressful situations and this keeps you feeling in control.  However, obsessive planning is where sensible meets irrational.

I have a number of plans in place for various disasters if they strike.  You know the usual:

  • What to do in a fire
  • What to do if a burglar breaks in
  • Zombie apocalypse – This one is proving problematic. From watching The Walking Dead, it’s clear the only way to survive a Zombie apocalypse is to have a hell of a lot of guns and bows and arrows etc.  Living in the UK weapons aren’t as freely available in an emergency as they seem to be in the USA.  This has presented a few kinks which I’m still ironing out

Probably my most irrational planning occurs when I have to go somewhere I do not know via public transport.  At the end of this month, I am going to my best friend’s birthday party in Brighton via train.  I’ve not been to Brighton before, but for those of you that have used English trains, you may know that they aren’t the most reliable and they do tend to have a lot of disruptions.  Especially in mid-January.  Some of my favourite reasons for disruptions in the past have been “a small track-side fire” and “a swan on the line”.  Anyway, I digress.  This is my struggle when planning to use public transport:

Ordering tickets

  • Check the route ten times to make sure it’s actually going where I need it to go
  • Ask my sister to check to make sure I haven’t misunderstood the route
  • Panic about whether there will be a disruption making my tickets null and void
  • Panic about internet shopping and security
  • Panic that the tickets will get lost/ not get to me on time

When tickets arrive

  • Panic about how many tickets there are – why are there so many? Oh no it’s OK it’s just the seat reservation numbers and receipts as well. Phew!
  • Paperclip tickets together so they show the correct route
  • Panic I’ve paper-clipped them together wrong

Week prior to travelling

  • Constantly checking the weather forecast in case of snow/ rain (twice a day) – not just for my area, but also for destinations along the route
  • Following train providers on Twitter to keep track of train disruptions
  • Constantly checking National Rail website for details of engineering works
  • OH MY GOD WHERE ARE THE TICKETS? Oh it’s OK. They’re where I left them.

Few days before travelling

  • Check the weather forecast a few more hundred times
  • Panic whenever I hear any mention of the weather/ my upcoming trip
  • Write a lengthy list detailing my route, including: departure time, platform it will be leaving from, final destination of train, make of train and destination arrival time, for each leg of the journey. I will then keep this in a safe place.
  • OH MY GOD WHERE ARE THE TICKETS? – Oh it’s OK they’re where I left them.
  • Packing: OH MY GOD, I’ve forgotten X, Y, Z. Oh no, it’s OK I’ve found them. I just packed them like two minutes ago.

Day of travelling

  • I’ll wake up stupidly early after dreaming either about a disruption free journey or a horrendous journey where I was naked/ the train crashed etc.
  • I won’t be able to eat because I’m too busy freaking out
  • I’ll put my tickets in a different purse from my money, in case I get mugged or something and can’t get home
  • I’ll keep my list (see above) on my person so I can check it about 1000 times over the course of the journey
  • Before leaving I’ll check the train sites and weather forecasts again just to make sure nothing catastrophic has happened since I went to bed the night before.
  • I’ll panic I’ve forgotten to pack about 10 things, so will basically unpack and then repack
  • OH MY GOD WHERE ARE THE TICKETS? – Oh no it’s OK they’re where I left them.
  • I’ll get on the train after checking the sign on the front of the train, the time and the board at the station all match what’s written on my list.
  • Once on the train, I’ll then check that the destination list displayed includes my destination.
  • Then I’ll panic I’ve lost my list and have to check about 10 times that it is safe.

Funnily enough, usually the journey is fine and I do make it to my desired destination.  Furthermore if there is a hiccup along the way I am usually equipped to deal with it and not have a full blown break down.  And even more shockingly, when I get to my destination I have a lovely time!

I feel I need to say, I have exaggerated a bit in this post.  I’m not as bad as I make out.  All these thoughts do cross my mind, but I have lived with my anxiety long enough to know that they are irrational.  I just thought an insight into my irrational thoughts might be quite funny/ enlightening for others to see.  Let me know what you think.

“A Person of Extremes”

I suffer with anxiety and for most of my life, I have been an obsessive planner.  Someone once described me as being a “person of extremes”, which has stuck with me, and lately I’ve been noticing this about myself a lot.  Once I get an idea in my head, I obsess about it until it becomes a reality, at least for a short while, until I begin to obsess about the next thing and the thing after that.

To give an example, over the past few months I have been trying to find a hobby.  However, it seems to be quite difficult for me to have a hobby of any kind without turning into some kind of future career prospect!

I used to love art, which I gave up when I left school.  I didn’t give up for any real reason, other than I got a job, then went to college, so didn’t have much time to do it anymore. Anyway I began to obsess about painting and sketching, and for a while, I began to do it again, after I’d spent a small fortune buying all my materials and equipment.  And for a short while I was REALLY happy.  I even began to think about a career change, and began to look into art courses, so that I could become a designer and then perhaps in future move into design professionally.  I got as far as looking at an Open University prospectus and looking into finance options for beginning a part time course, when, for lack of a better phrase, the novelty wore off and I began to think about the next fad to take over my life.  All that remains from that dream is one (badly) painted canvas hanging in my living room, a half filled sketchbook and my made up company name: The Topsy Turvy Design Company.

Another example would be the time I decided to up-cycle run down furniture from charity shops and car boot sales into desirable items.  I did hours of research on Pinterest and other sites for tips on how to chalk paint and distress furniture.  I read design blogs and magazines, visited DIY shops to get wall paper samples and buy paints.  I bought my first item, came up with several designs and got stuck in. I sanded (until my hands were raw), primed, painted, and used wallpaper to spruce it up.  I never finished it.  I didn’t have any varnish or polish to finish it off – I was going to get some at the weekend but never got round to it.  Still, it looks great from the front… just don’t look too closely as I couldn’t be bothered to sand and paint the back.  I’m just glad I never bought that electric sander I watched on EBay for 2 days, otherwise it’d be sitting unopened under the stairs.  To think, if I’d stuck it out I could have been the proud owner of Victoria’s Custom Furniture Emporium!

You may think this makes for a depressing read, and clearly I hate my life.  But that simply isn’t true.  I have a wonderful fiancé, a beautiful home, and I work for a charity that is very close to my heart.  Yet sometimes I must admit I do feel a bit lost when thinking about my long term life goals.  I love my job, but charity work doesn’t offer long term job security. Also I have this notion that my life must be filled with purpose to matter.  I just haven’t figured out what that purpose should be just yet!

To name a few of purposes I thought my life should have, but have come to realise since that it probably wouldn’t work out:

  • Mother of 10 children (aged 4) – Even then I knew this one was ridiculous as I theorised several would have to sleep in the bath as I couldn’t cater for enough beds.
  • Author and illustrator (aged 6) – I could save money by illustrating my own books
  • Doctor (aged 7) – I figured this probably wouldn’t work aged 10 when I was extremely relieved I was chosen to become a prefect rather than a first aider at primary school!
  • Artist (aged 14-16) – I was sure art was what I wanted to do until I couldn’t do it at college.
  • Solicitor (throughout college and university) – I studied law at university and really enjoyed the subject. I was sure I would become a successful lawyer and work for a commercial firm once I graduated.

Post graduation I decided not to pursue my dream of becoming a solicitor.  A part of me was relieved, as I think deep down I knew that legal practice wouldn’t be the right fit for me.  Looking back I think that law became my obsession at College because art wasn’t available as an option anymore.  I enrolled intending to take art, then the course didn’t run.  I think I latched onto the next best thing, my law class.  That time of my life was not the happiest, there was a lot of turbulence.  I think I clung to the idea of getting out and moving onto better things, through being a lawyer – it would whisk me away to a brighter future. Yet when I finished my degree I was in a better place emotionally, so perhaps I didn’t really need it anymore; I had already achieved the brighter future I had been hoping for.

Being a person of extremes, focussing on one dream with such intensity, then realising I never really wanted it in the first place, has left me feeling confused about what to do with my future.  I’m not expecting I’ll find the solution any time soon – I’m just determined to enjoy finding my way to the right path.

My latest obsession: Writing a blog just for fun about my experiences.  I intend to beat the cycle and make sure that this is not just a short term craze, but something longer term.  I’m not sure what I’ll write about just yet, but I’ll start with my thoughts, feelings and observations and go from there… Enjoy!

I welcome your comments and observations.