Chaos, connection.. and broken internet (47.20)

After having some plaster repairs a few weeks ago, we repainted the bathroom on Sunday and Monday. I say “repainted the bathroom” – what we did was repaint only those areas that had had plaster work done. Something strange happened when we opened the bathroom paint. It curdled. Like old cream, it turned into a chunky mess. We managed to thin it out by adding water and stirring but when Sunday’s initial touch up dried, we could see the coat we had just applied was a different colour to the paint already on the walls. Something happened to the paint between when we first painted the bathroom years ago, and now, and the paint is very much not the same colour. Even after a second coat it didn’t improve – it now looks like there are three different colours of paint in there.

So that triggered an argument a discussion about repainting the bathroom completely, in a completely different colour. I suggested soft pink, Husband suggested dark blue. I never seem to do well at paint discussions. And even when I’d been brought around to the merits of dark blue paint (in such a small room?) and we found a colour we liked (from the most expensive paint maker, obviously) and we then found a similar colour we liked (from a less expensive paint maker), we had another disagreement because someone (i.e. Husband) tries to do everything on line and disregarded me saying three times, “Why don’t you just ring them (the paint retailer) up and find out if they can do our colour in bathroom paint?” Much grumbling ensues. Because heaven forbid you have to actually ring someone up and talk to them.

We also repainted one wall in the bedroom where we had plaster repaired. We’d tried the patchwork approach there as well and that looked terrible. Partly because of the subtle differences in shade between paint-on-the-wall and old-paint-from-the-tin. But also because finish of the wall paint was matt and the finish of the tin paint was silk. So we repainted the whole wall and it looks great now. The crumbling plaster is gone, and the wall now has one texture.

Yes, that bathroom painting disaster was just one of many things that happened on Shit Monday. I’m not calling it that because it was a bad day. It wasn’t a bad day as such. But there was some actual shit in the form of crustiness all over the cat’s behind. I don’t know if he fell over while doing his toilet because his back legs aren’t great (arthritis) but he reeked, and despite mine and Husband’s (let’s face it, mostly mine) efforts to clean him up, he was very resistant to being scrubbed, and even from what he would let me get to, some of this stuff was stubborn and stuck to his fur. And there was only so much contact with that stuff I could take. So stinky! I eventually had to get scissors and snip away at some of the offensive fur. We’ve got him an appointment at the vet next week just to have a check up, because apart from this, he’s also compulsively licking his butt and his chest.

But apart from literal shit, there was some emotional shit to be got through on Monday too, in that I heard back already on that job I applied for – that they are not taking my application any further. I don’t know how I feel about it. I knew that applying for this job was shooting for the moon, I just didn’t expect to be knocked back so soon, especially as it was an internal position. *Sigh* *Shrug* Move on.

Being knocked back for a job isn’t great, but at least this rejection was in fairly neutral language. Because words can hurt. Words can also heal. It’s not just something we all know, there is actual neuro science behind it. How you interact with other people can have a physical effect on your brain. This article was interesting as it outlines the science of what’s going on in your brain in terms of connections, body chemistry, heart rate, even how your inner organs operate, when you interact with others. Kind words really do provide a balm to someone who is sad or in pain, helping to top up their ‘body budget’.

This tied in with what I was hearing in Niall Breslin’s meditations this week. He’s been talking about togetherness, and a sense of community, how human beings really just want to connect. This week his meditations were based on his interview with the photographer Ruth Medjber, who has published Twilight Together, a book of portraits, taken through people’s windows in Ireland during the first lockdown. He’s emphasised that connection is important for human beings. That we should ignore the speech of opposition going on out there (Jeremy Vine I’m talking to you) and focus on what we have in common. Listen to each other. Not become media fodder or entertainment.

Yes, I need to stop listening to Jeremy Vine on BBC2 when I’m making lunch. He basically starts each segment with statements on the topic of the day from people with opposing views, and then encourages listeners to get in touch if they agree with either of the opposing views. It’s probably meant to be providing both sides of the story but actually it’s just people disagreeing with each other, sometimes quite heatedly. And if I’m stepping out from my work headspace to have some food, I don’t want to get caught up in an argument.

And that’s something that was covered in two mental health webinars I was viewing this week: Limit your contact with negative people or things that don’t make you feel better. Don’t stay tuned into the news all day. And don’t listen to Jeremy Vine at lunchtime, they should have added.

Other top tips were:

  • Movement – if you’re working from home, get up and move around, get outside, exercise.
  • Connection – do what you can to stay connected to people. Humans are tribal beings who want to connect. If you find yourself wanting to avoid connection, that is the time to push yourself to connect. Don’t get out of the habit.
  • Don’t forget fun – there’s a lot going on and a lot to pay attention to but remember to schedule some time to do something you enjoy, something just for you. Give yourself the gift of a little joy.
  • Try to eat well, stay hydrated, keep a good sleep routine. (Yes, I know that for some people these basic things are difficult, and that no matter what the psychologists say, some people can’t get to sleep without chemical assistance).
  • Find something to look forward to – make plans. Know there will be an end to this. And although life won’t go back to what it was, life still goes on.

Our internet has broken this week (I think our router has died) and we’re working off our phones until someone comes to fix it on Monday. As there’s no point trying to stream anything (unless you want to watch the spinning spooling circle for hours on end) we’ve started our 3rd jigsaw. This one is a picture of Tower bridge. The bridge bit is colourful but London city and the river Thames around it are all shades of brown, which we expected to be difficult, however we got the main body of the jigsaw done in three days, now all that remains is the blue sky with white fluffy clouds, and that is going to be a pain, I can tell already.

Christmas. Is it too soon to mention the C word? Certainly not for some people in my neighbourhood. I’ve seen at least two Christmas trees up in people’s windows, the corner shop at the bottom of the hill has real trees outside for sale already, and my neighbours have hung some lights in their window. I don’t mind the lights, after all it’s a grey and grim time of year so why not add some pretty lights to make it a little bit nicer? But trees? I’m not so sure about that. It’s still November. When do you consider it appropriate to put up a Christmas tree? Are you doing anything different because of Covid?

We’ve had our persimmons for a month now, and one of them finally got ripe this week so we were able to eat it. The inside looked a bit like a tomato but had a kind of caramel fruit-custardy flavour. I’m not sure it’s something I would seek out again, but if it lands in my oddbox, at least I know I don’t hate it.

Wednesday run – it looks like my lazy self will keep on winning the early morning challenge that keeps me in bed this winter – except on Wednesdays when Husband has to get up early to call his brother in New Zealand. But when I do go out, my aim is to do 3 miles. (For some reason the stupid app I’m using to track my running is set in miles and doesn’t seem to want to change to km.) I am now at a point where I can say I do like running. I like being outside. I like the exercise. I feel it in my body when I don’t exercise or move enough. It’s like I’ve woken up some kind of beast that demands to be fed. And I get moody when I don’t get outside.

Today I did the ‘last’ tidying up of the garden before winter. I raked the leaves off the lawn, cut down the last of the raspberry canes, and spend a happy couple of hours repotting the tulip pots. I love tulips and I have got some in the garden but most of them are in pots. One thing I know about tulips is they can make the soil toxic if left untreated year after year, (tulip fire, I think it’s called), so every year I empty out my pots and re-mix the soil with new compost and fertiliser. It’s a tedious process but today the weather was mild and it was quite nice to be outside in the sunshine, getting my hands really muddy (I don’t know how I will get all that dirt out from under my nails). Standing up felt good after hours spent hunched over the jigsaw.

My birthday champagne arrived this week! I should point out I don’t normally make a fuss about birthdays, in fact I am usually quite the opposite, like I have some kind of creeping fear – not about getting older, but about having a party. Some part of me worries that no one would show up. (At least this year everyone has an excuse to not show up.) But this year as it’s a round birthday, I thought I should do something memorable. (How about a global pandemic, is that memorable enough for you?) So I’ve got some champagne. I’ve ordered some snacks from Waitrose. I’ve asked Husband and household-bubble-friend to make me a rainbow cake because someone at work had one (when? earlier this year? late last year? The Before is merging into one space of time) and it was so bright and colourful I decided I wanted one. Because this year in particular, couldn’t we all do with a little more brightness and joy?

I’m going to finish with a poem. I’m seeking out poems like never before this year. I like this idea that we are all nothing more than a collection of atoms spinning in space.

Often I Imagine the Earth
by Dan Gerber

Often I imagine the earth
through the eyes of the atoms we’re made of—
atoms, peculiar
atoms everywhere—
no me, no you, no opinions,
no beginning, no middle, no end,
soaring together like those
ancient Chinese birds
hatched miraculously with only one wing,
helping each other fly home.

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