Category Archives: Work and Studying

The One Where I’m Put Into Storage …

storageThe Boss has finally noticed that I’m not operating at full strength over the last couple of months so has decided to put me into storage.

We’re working on a particularly large renovation so he hired a storage container for me to use as an on-site office, which means I’m within yelling distance, but far enough away to be able to doze off and/or daydream.

He bought me a MacBook Air for me to project manage everything and so far I have created some lovely colour-coded tables and notebooks. I’ve played around with the fonts and sizes and can easily pass a couple of hours highlighting and un-highlighting everything in bold or itallic.

My office also doubles as a mini-kitchen, complete with a table and chairs for the labourers to take their breaks. I have a kettle, microwave, toaster, fridge and radio, plus ample supplies of biscuits which is an ongoing struggle of avoidance. I also have a set of shelves where I have arranged (and rearranged) loo roll, cloths, tea-towels, kitchen spray, etc). It’s truly amazing what you can find to do in a storage container.

I miss being more hands-on, but my balance is shot, I don’t walk in a straight line and when I yawn, the labourers start yawning too. I’m a bad influence. So, The Boss does all the wandering around the site stuff, looking serious and important, then feeds all the relevant information back to me, which I promptly forget. After much trial and error, we’ve now developed a system of notes which he sends straight from his phone to my Mac. Genius. I then put them in the correct colour-coded table.

As I’ve been so poorly, The Boss has been picking me up for work recently and this is when the real work gets done. We brainstorm, which is quite funny as it’s my brain that’s playing up, but actually, it’s a good way to push projects forward as we swap ideas and chew over problems.

A couple of people have asked me why I’m so determined to stay in work despite feeling absolutely dreadful but I’d rather feel dreadful yet useful in work than dreadful and useless at home. I’ve been there, done that too many times.

However, I do have one fear. I remember as a kid watching a film where the baddie was hiding in a storage container at a port. The doors were closed and the last scene was of that container being craned onto a huge ship, bound for somewhere thousands of miles away. Every time I close my eyes (just for five minutes, lol), I worry that I’ll wake up on my way to China with nothing to sustain me but a packet of Kit-Kats and a half-eaten ham roll …

 

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Definitely In Spirit, Not So Much The Body …

cementFlexible working is great. Until it isn’t.

Over December and January, it meant that I could take off oodles of time with MS.

Luckily we were fairly quiet, so I spent day after day on my sofa, nursing my fatigue and nerve pain, feeling very sorry for myself and admiring my Nordic-Noir Christmas tree, i.e. it had white lights on it and not much else (too tired).

Now we are in February, those days are coming back to haunt me, and how. Money is not so much tight as non-existent. There’s no more days off and I’m still not 100%.

The good news is, I’ve devised ways to be in work, without actually doing that much. It’s genius:

  • On a large building site, I try to have complicated A3 plans open and nod, seriously, pen in hand. There’s always a pile of cement bags to sit on and cultivate the ‘hmm hmm’ look.
  • If there’s no plans, I sit on the cement bags and look up, with a pondering expression. People will think I’m checking out the roof pitch. For added authenticity, I open the calculator on my phone and tap furiously.
  • I waylay contractors with questions I already know the answers to – plumbers and electricians love nothing more than talking you through their work, wire by wire, pipe by pipe.
  • I count the bricks that have just been delivered (being careful to check the invoice beforehand so I already know the actual number).
  • Make teas and coffees for everyone. If I do this, no one will care you’re actually doing nothing at all.
  • If all else fails, I grab a brush and hold onto it for dear life. I look busy and it’s a great way to stand up straight.

So this is what I have been doing, alongside practising my ‘eyes wide open but I’m fast asleep’ look. I’m getting pretty good, which is why I think The Boss has twigged just what I’m up to.

He bought me a teeny-tiny computer a couple of days ago, so we can synch stuff. Which means I have to do some work. He’s also looking in to office spaces and has booked me into the Apple Store’s ‘Macs for Complete and Utter Numpties’ session next week. (there’s a pretzel store opposite, result).

As my best qualities are bossing people around and typing up spreadsheets, he’s taken the MS into account and is making the most of my talents. I’m a people person and there’s only so much you can say to a pile of cement bags and a tonne of sand.

I’m excited to be moving into a more office-based role. And the best news? It comes complete with zero office politics (I can’t argue with myself/no danger of being sacked for having MS), I still get to wear my builder’s gear to work as I’ll also be out and about checking up on our contractors and I can appear somewhat creative as I open my tiny Mac in the nearest coffee house.

If I could just work out how to use the Mac, I’ll be fine.

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Goodbye, I’ll Miss You

mastersLast week, after two years hard graft, I handed in my dissertation.

As I pressed the ‘send’ button, I expected to be flooded with euphoria.

I envisaged cracking open the Champers, unwrapping a bar of Dairy Milk and viewing my cleared desk with bliss.

Reader, I cried.

I felt bereft. I couldn’t bear to leave my desk. My books were neatly back in their shelves, mounds of paper shredded or filed. I had a fresh page on my notepad. The scribbled ramblings I had wasabi-taped to my walls were in the recycling bin,.

All evening I wandered around the house, sadly picking up my stapler, stroking it and putting it back in its place. I opened a book about critical thinking skills for old times sake. I rearranged my Sharpie pens in their pot, light colours to the front.

What was going on?

The Masters has been a cruel mistress, luring me in then kicking me in the guts, leaving me anxiety-ridden and confused. At other times, I would be in seventh heaven when I manged to string a couple of sentences together that actually made sense. Many a conversation with The Teenager would be interrupted with me suddenly saying, ‘hang on, an absolutely genius point has just popped into my head, gimme a bit of paper.’

I struggled to write academically, my sentences more often than not beginning with, ‘I think my work is good and getting better’. Whole days, weeks would go by when I wrote nothing and every time I walked past the papers on my desk, I would sigh.

In the week since I pressed that button, I’m lost. I’m binge-watching trashy shows, reading trashy novels and eating trashy comfort food. I feel weird. I don’t miss the anxiety and I do feel chuffed I finished it. I just … miss it. I guess it’s because I nurtured it from nothing into something I’m proud of, despite the lack of long words and sentences.

The Teenager, my eternal sage, put it bluntly yesterday: ‘Are you sure you wanna do a PhD? Not sure I can handle it. Did you get the chicken nuggets in yesterday? I’m starving.’

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Mastering The Enemy …

mastersYou know when you can’t string a sentence together with MS and your brain goes foggy?

Yup? What better time to start a Master’s degree (insert smiley face here).

That’s the way I was thinking two years ago (MS does funny things to your brain).

Back then, MS was The Enemy Incarnate, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, and had to be defeated at all costs. I had been writing random blog posts for a while (still do, lol) and wondered whether I could write anything else. So, I looked around, called a few universities and signed up for a Master’s.

It was then that sheer terror set in. On many levels:

  • MS – brain fog, memory issues, parking …
  • Age – how would it be to go back to Uni when I was the old enough to tell the students off?
  • Style – or lack thereof. How to pretend I fitted in. Scarf? Glasses? Something academic-y?

So, I got my mugshot taken for my ID card, shuffled along to the first meeting and wished I had shuffled right back out again. I was completely and utterly out of my depth, brand new notebook and pens notwithstanding. My fellow students used words like, ‘protagonist’ and ‘Stein-esque’.

My first attempt at a short story (about a decapitated mouse) was met with silence and a withering response. Too complicated, too long, too … strange.

The thing is. I wanted to give up. I went so far as to try to formally withdraw from the course. It wasn’t for me, obviously. I grew to hate my headless mouse and everything it stood for – a symptom of my failure.

But. I trucked along. I attended most of the tutorials, inspired by my fellow students. We critiqued each other in uniquely British-polite ways and nudged each other along the path to true creative writing.

And so I came to the dissertation.

Long story short, it evolved from a germ of an idea into a little pod. And with some nurturing from my friends, it grew into something I’m really proud of. It’s 10,000 words. Just had to get the critical essay done and that would be me – a Master’s.

One problem.

My essay is terrible.

I have six weeks to turn it around and send the whole thing in.

Sounds like a lot of time, but every time I try to sit down and write (re-write):

  • The cat is on my seat
  • The plants need watering
  • The fridge needs rearranging
  • The Teenager needs an emergency cash injection

I will get there. I will purge my dire sentences, such as, ‘I pull no punches with my story’ and change them to something like, ‘with my narrative, I will not hesitate to draw upon brutal imagery’.

Doing this is my way of getting back at MS. I want to push my boundaries, explore new areas and prove to myself that I can still ‘Do’.

The January deadline is looming and keeps me awake at night, along with the usual nerve pain.

As for now, I’m off to organise my books into alphabetical order and clean my fork prongs with a micro-cloth.

Really.

p.s. I cannot end this post without a very special mention to the supremely patient Dr. Kate North, my dissertation tutor. Thank You.

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What Lies Beneath

hardhatI’m becoming increasingly aware that I’m not really getting away with it at work.

And there was me thinking it would be the dead giveaways – the tripping over every single thing, the fatigue, the balance.

No.

It’s being ‘too well’.

MS, eh?  – you’re never too ill nor too well, eh?

I’ll explain: over the last four years, I have calibrated (shackled) myself to MS – so I now obey MS like a good servant and go to bed early, wake up early (in the dark) and more often than not, fall asleep on my sofa after work. That’s how I deal with the clinical fatigue and nerve pain. And it kills me, I hate it. But …

… luckily, I work for someone, The Boss, who also starts early. Result! Or so you would think. I truck up at 7am, yawning, the first person there, and catch up on a little light University reading. The Boss arrives, we chat over coffee, day begins. I then finish at 2pm.

And that’s the problem.

Honestly, I don’t mind being called ‘Half-Shift’. I can take the jokes, the swearing, the rib-nudging.

As the lone female in amongst upwards of seven blokes, I think I can roll with the punches and to be fair, I’ve developed a thick skin, which can only help me in the dating scene, no? Every cloud.

Plus I can speak knowledgeably upon many subjects, including drainage, tracking down antique architrave and where to source the best windows this side of the M4.

But, because I can hold my own, the shouts of ‘Oyyyyyyy-oyyyy Half-Shiiiiiiiift’ when I leave at 2pm are growing ever louder. And I’m not happy.

What they don’t realise is:

a) I earn less than them

b) Having to lie on the sofa for hours on end is not, NOT, a cushy life

c) I would give anything to have a normal job. One where I didn’t have a pink hard hat

So, yes, my co-workers have a laugh at my expense. And you know, no matter how hard I try to explain, they don’t understand. I’m not saying I want a ‘softly-softly’ approach, far from it. I’m made of far tougher stuff.

But, a wee bit of understanding wouldn’t go amiss? And what they don’t see is:

  • The ridiculous nerve pain
  • The twerking/twitching in my head and arms
  • The dead feet
  • The garbled speech (I cover this well – I’m Glaswegian!)
  • The utter soul-destroying fatigue
  • The endless days I have to take off work to recover from a spike in symptoms

I just wish, for once, they would be chuffed to see a peep with MS, still working, still trucking along. Despite everything. Rock and hard place …

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