Back To It

I know my place of work wouldn’t begrudge me taking more recovery time but I don’t feel its needed and I’d rather not tap that good will unless or until I need it. With that in mind I dove back to it and soon caught up on what was going on. I then only needed to suggest a couple of course directions and affirmations to the team. That was when the consultations started.

I’ve got a reasonably high profile at the moment. I run the biggest group of libraries, and have fostered and encouraged engagements with local groups to build up our offers and develop innovative ways of working in addition to the core library services. I’m also vocal and proactive on equality and diversity issues and initiatives.

As a result I’ve started to be the ‘go to’ person for opinions and signposting on related queries, and have just been asked if I mind deputising in as EDI service representative for the libraries. If it helps people and opens doors and opportunities for fairer services then I’m there. If nothing else it’s something that’s close to my heart.

A Little More Human

I’m ending up the weekend feeling a bit more rested and functional than I have in a while – I’ve even managed to have a bowel movement four days after the operation so I guess I can start acknowledging that I’m full of crap again 😉 I was starting to worry that my body was so traumatised by the whole experience that I would need to retrain myself.

The quiet worry of it all did end up giving me a headache this morning, I think it was made a bit worse by having agreed to run a one shot game this afternoon using the UnFamiliar kickstarter rules for 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons.

I had only a vague idea of a plot, but had at least knocked up some characters guided by some prompts I’d put into the group chat yesterday.

I ended up pretty much winging it. The background has all four characters being ex-Familiars to a small number of spellcasters who had developed a spell between them to emancipate them.

Lady M played a flying squirrel who used to spy in aristocratic circles. Lady W played a Staffordshire cross that had ended up being a carer for their master in their dying days, the cub joined in with a boisterous frilled dinosaur that knew kung fu, and boy s played a fussy ex lab rat who had picked up alchemy and a few spells along the way.

Their tale involved rescuing a library researcher who had “fallen” into the delivery system and was now trapped in the stacks, locked in a cage as an unauthorised item. Shenanigans ensued.

So, an odd return to the tabletop, but the cub has expressed an interest in playing more, so who knows what will happen next…

Well That Was An Experience

Fighting every urge to rush back to work, I’m instead listening to medical advice to rest for 48 hours, backed by the fact that my insides feel like someone’s had a good rummage in there. Which I suppose they have.

I had a double procedure yesterday to investigate my stomach issues. I had both an endoscopy (camera down the throat) and a colonoscopy (camera up the bum) with sedation. The surgeon was happy with how it all went, saying there were no nasty surprises, so that’s a relief. He did remove some polyps but was reasonably sure they were non-cancerous and he took some biopsy samples as well. All are being sent for testing, which should take a couple of weeks.

The experience was, as far as these things can be, relatively good. Having done the laxatives and fasting, I checked in and did the usual checklists of medical questioning to double check against what they already knew. For me there was a joy that there’s a bluntness to conversations with the nurses and doctors so we could relax into joking and not dancing around the terminology and details. It actually helped relax me.

I dutifully changed into the requisite gown and backwards disposable pants, took infacol to settle my stomach/get rid of bubbles in the guts, and then we were into it with, I have to say, the most painless cannula fitting I think I’ve ever had! I honestly didn’t even feel the needle and as a veteran of these things I have an appreciation of the skill that can take.

I was going to be sedated, which was a mercy, and it kind of worked in that it knocked me sideways briefly enough for the actual insertions. Being me and awkward like that, I kept waking up. As you do. Apparently this is not uncommon as they try to keep the sedation light. They had mentioned it before the procedure so I was more bemused than alarmed. They added more sedation a couple of times but again it was brief periods of being out.

Rather than feeling any worry, I instead watched the screens with fascination and switched to gas and air when they’d done with my throat. I remember admiring my own internal gut structure and it certainly all had a healthy glow as far as I could see. It reminded me of some of my organic flowing artwork, truth be told.

And then we were done, they wheeled me back to a recovery bay to observe me for an hour so I sat up with my phone and let people know I was okay. It meant I could coordinate my release with Lady M so I could walk out the door, wander round to the car park and meet her coming up from the car.

But I’m exhausted. My throat is fine, not a hint of soreness, but stomach and guts are aching gently as they wake back up and are reintroduced to food and drink.

So that’s a new experience. It’s not one I’m wanting to have again any time soon but at least I now know what to expect and that’s therefore another fear thrown in the bin. Time for a rest.

Quick Update

Another day closer to the procedure, and after yesterday’s ultrasound scan today was mostly about PCR tests, sorting laxative prescriptions, and going into isolation. Being a conscientious sort I have of course been keeping colleagues and staff appropriately briefed and told them I’m going to be unavailable for a couple of days. In accordance with the book of sod, this has then meant that my phone has been pinging non-stop with notifications and questions. I may have quietly growled at the last person to call me and have now put my phone on “do not disturb”.

One nice thing to have happened this week has been the introduction of a new colleague at my level, taking over the Farnham area libraries – and as it transpires I already know them a bit. They used to run the local Harris + Hoole coffee shop in the local Tesco a couple of years back. They still had the stunned expression of information overload that everyone has when being shown round and introduced to everyone, but hopefully that will ease quickly enough. I think they’ll get their feet under the table quick enough.

I’m still not sure if the twist in my stomach is illness or anxiety.

Rainy Day

Its my Saturday on duty (I get about one a month) where I’m one of the senior staff available to back up the branch managers, call in reinforcements, or provide some direction as required – and its the first time this year I’ve stepped back into one of the libraries as I’ve been partially isolating ahead of the hospital visits over the next few days. For the most part this has me sitting in my office working through a series of tasks I’ve prioritised while listening to the heavy thud of large raindrops on the window sill and roof edging next to me. It’s underlaid by the wet hisses of cars driving through standing water on the roads, and the faint clunk of doors opening and closing elsewhere in the building.

The biggest surprise for me this morning though was the anxiety that gripped me about coming in. There was a dread about getting up and getting in and being back in a public building – not because of any fear about the job but I think mostly tied in to my anxieties about the hospital and the active preparations I have to make next week for it. I may just take the next few days off as sick leave so I can focus on and deal with whatever needs to happen or that comes of it all – and I know that I’ll be supported by all in doing so. Indeed, there was some surprise by staff that I was in given they know how unwell I’ve been recently. I’m certainly not feeling chipper, as much as I wear the mask at the moment. I’m not sleeping properly, and my appetite has fled, leaving me with a hazy fog in my brain that isn’t doing any wonders for my mood.

I think its partly a legacy of working in the public sector on the frontline for so long that I want to fly the flag and be present as much as I can be. I appreciate the value of being visible on many levels, and one of those is just the reassurance that there is a more manager-y manager around on the weekend – that the wider support structure and hierarchy is up and running and so business as usual can take place. There’s also buried in there a guilt about being unwell that I just can’t shake – some kind of conflation of sickness as some kind of failing that I know is utterly false, and yet I can feel it dragging claws in my guts quite separate from the discomfort of whatever is wrong with me.

Right now, my mood seems to match the rain – a cliche, but then they all have to come from somewhere to be so widely recognised. Here’s hoping for a break in the weather in a bit.

Just When I Got Cocky…

I have various medical investigations over the next week or so, and I’d managed to get to the point of thinking “maybe I’m imagining things” as I’ve had a few weeks of good health. As if to remind me to stay in my lane, my body decided to flare up again the last couple of days and now I’m back to being exhausted and cautious again.

I’m so used to being the “strong and handle everything” person in and for family that the concept of not being able to bounce back so quickly from illness is proving a nasty shock. I watched Encanto the other day and the character of Luisa who is literally carrying other beasts of burden and treating every request as an instant order to prove their worth hit just a little too close to the mark. Her song about pressure is now living rent-free in my head at the moment (but then it is very catchy).

So, I’m going to try and pace myself in between the medical poking and prodding and keep thinking positive and practical thoughts to keep my spirits up. I’m almost looking forward to getting sedated next week to force me to stop…

Game Moments

I’ve been quietly – and sometimes not so quietly – enjoying the sheer indulgence of Assassins Creed Valhalla during this holiday period. In particular I’ve been checking off various myth and history references, along with different slants on plays. There are also some decidedly tongue in cheek pop culture references that have made me sit up, especially as to my eyes they come from a place of cheekiness and joy.

Some sample references have included a version of the story of Grendel and his mother where you refuse to take credit and so the character of Beowulf is created by the writer as a stand-in. There’s also an extended set of interrelated missions about a deposed lord and his three daughters that I’m pretty sure is a King Lear reference. For me though there’s two sets of references that have really stood out.

The first of these is set in the Weald and features a boy alone in the wood next to a big tree, trying to secure some honey for his friend who has been looking after him. Its a quiet little mission that does indeed have a bear (called Winifred) appear, eat the honey, and then amble off into the woods to play. The tree is a pretty good facsimile of the classic illustration of the tree from Winnie the Pooh, and you can carry it.

The second is in Essex, on the edges of Epping Forest, where a band is being harrassed by a priest who objects to their music. The lead singer, both in dialogue and visual appearance, is called Keith – and the whole thing is a very silly easter egg reference to The Prodigy. It is irredeemably daft and I love it for its sheer indulgence.

I’m a sucker for deep lore dives in games, let alone pointers to places and history I’m familiar with. I’ve been smiling with the memory of these moments, and that’s no bad thing.

Rambling Brain

I’ve done a couple of hours driving here and there the last few days, just helping ferry a couple of people around or doing shopping trips, and with it has come another round of my brain deciding that focusing on the road and tapping my fingers along to various songs wasn’t enough and that to keep itself from getting bored it would take me on a trip down memory lane – mostly as I zipped up and down the A3.

Of course, being my brain, it felt that the best use of this time wouldn’t be to reminisce on family holidays, or small achievements. It wouldn’t even touch on memorable journeys. No, my brain decided to let the weasels pick out a broad selection of cringe-worthy and relationship-sabotaging events from my mid teens to early twenties. Why? Possibly because I’ve been having a good time recently despite being tired and depression likes to keep things not just grounded but positively subterranean.

So passing certain junctions recalled conversations containing oversharing, while others sparked sort-of-pleasant memories that then bounced on to bemused introspection. One memory for example was of being at the Surrey County Fair with my girlfriend at the time and her family. We had VIP passes so had entry to a large food tent for lunch, which included arrays of whole cooked salmon and assorted side dishes and finger foods. Seeing the general melee of people and wondering where the queue started, I was told “Oh don’t worry about manners, get in there and tuck in. Only the middle class worry about manners – the rich and the poor don’t bother or don’t have time.” This would have been the late eighties, so make of that what you will. Funny how I’ve forgotten that for so long and a simple sign for Guildford brought it back.

That then of course led to more unspooling memories, both good and bad from around that time, and how badly I handled the aftermath of that relationship ending. I remind myself that I was little more than a boy, with some trauma in the background, and had a lot of growing up and healing to do. This isn’t the easiest to do all at once, so it took me a few years and along the way garnered enough moments to make me cringe for the best part of an hour while the show progressed in my mind’s eye.

As Lady M reminds me – I was young, I did stupid shit, the world hasn’t ended, and nobody was harmed along the way beyond some embarrassment or hurt feelings. My counsellor has pointed out on similar past occasions that the brain hides a lot of our memories until such time as we feel safe enough to begin to process them properly. Sometimes all kinds of things get caught up in the confusion along with the actual trauma events and suppressed at the same time so its not that unusual for the most random things to pop up all fresh and ready for inspection as other things heal.

My personal take is that my depression is getting desperate if it thinks that the merely embarrassing will get the black dog barking – especially when it starts looking at relationships given my wayward and idiosyncratic present. Perhaps its just my healthier brain pointing out that the lessons I’ve learned along the way would have served me well in the various memories dredged up and that therefore they were worth learning.

See? I can do positive!

The Yearly Round-Up

I’m somewhat torn between “good grief, that was a long year” and “wait a minute, it was just March!” as I settle down to write this. The blog has continued to grow – as of the time of writing there are 7,943 views from 4,075 unique visitors, 874 likes were recorded and 7 comments. By far the biggest draw is the main page for the new blog entries, while the rest of the traffic is split between old gaming writeups, a click-baity item I once wrote about almost but not quite having a polyamory tattoo, and a short story called Identity Crisis that I wrote back in 2017.

I’m not aiming to make a financial empire out of the site – there’s links to merchandise, true, but even that’s just artistic odds and ends and nerdy support for my friends and family – so while I’m sure there are bots and even SEO experts champing at the bit to offer me advice on how to grow and monetise the blog there isn’t any interest in doing so. The statistical figures are of passing interest in a “huh, that’s cool” way rather than a driver of activity. If they were, I’d probably not enjoy writing the blog so much.

That’s not to say that it doesn’t sometimes feel like a job or a chore, but I see it as good practice to keep in the habit of writing, even if it isn’t the rolling production of fiction that in my mind’s eye I would prefer to be doing. The real world, alas, distracts me far too often with maintaining the household, working the day job, and looking out for my loved ones – but on reflection that’s a good thing. It means I’m present for people, am keeping relatively active, and am looking after myself. That last one still feels a bit of a radical concept.

A lot has happened this year – including three months of boy s and the cub moving in while they relocated more locally – but there was also a promotion, a more active engagement with LGBTQ+ issues at work, and marching in Surrey’s Pride Parade with colleagues and clients. I’ve built a team of managers who are passionate about outreach and engagement with local communities. I even sold a few tshirts and started an erratically scheduled podcast. Editing of short stories and sharing those with a wider circle of people for feedback has occurred.

And I’ve started to feel less guilty about not managing to achieve absolutely everything all at once, let alone the illusion of productivity born of being busy all the time. Hopefully that will help me manage my health better as the doctors continue to prod, poke, scan, and probe. Fingers crossed, and all that.

That’ll do for the year in review I think. If you want more details, the blog is literally here to dive into – I’m going to make a cuppa and have a light lunch now. See you soon.

Busy or Productive?

I’ve been a little subdued and quiet the last couple of days, and have generally put it down to post-Christmas and indeed post-work tiredness. Without the artificial deadlines to work to I’ve been allowing myself to not get worried about being productive, and therefore haven’t been plunging into being busy. I think I’ve fallen into the creative trap of actively trying to be productive and instead falling into making busy work that hasn’t really satisfied by the end of it. Whether that’s been attempts at drawing that I’ve given up on after a few strokes, or attempts at cleaning that have ended up just moving things around and solving nothing – its been frustrating because I’ve been putting the expectation of things on myself.

So, bearing in mind I booked this time off, I’ve been consciously giving myself permission to sleep – and to just be. It’s made me aware just how tired in my bones I’ve become, and how much rushing around I’ve been doing. Stopping a while has been needed.

With the stepping back from trying to wrestle my brain into a more creative space has come some actual creative work – like the sketch page presented here – which I have quietly developed over the last couple of days while we’ve caught up with tv shows.

The quiet grind of editing short stories has also brought some dividends too, with a growing number of more polished pieces amounting up to a respectable collection of pieces suitable for publication in the near future. I’m very carefully not putting a deadline on that happening, but in my headspace I have an expectation on how much more I need to do and it isn’t as daunting as that felt even a few weeks ago.

So, by stepping back from being busy, I’ve ended up being more productive – and I doubt I’m the first person to notice this or comment on the irony of it. Some people thrive creatively working to deadlines, others don’t – and some, like myself, perhaps are creative in different ways or find more satisfaction in pieces created when not pushing to be busy for busyness’ sake.

I’m going to go and play some games online now, and not feel guilty that I’m not creating something, or working on something, or worrying about some deadline that really doesn’t matter because I made it up and there’s no need to stick to it. The world keeps turning.