Social worker in recovery; speaking up loud & proud!

I have not written a blog for months. Mostly as life has been too challenging or too sad to write about it. Either that or I would have written an angry rant . Even now I am not sure what to write about but feel compelled to record something about my work life.

I have been wary about writing about work. I tend to keep my work life away from my other world. I am also really frightened that any speaking up will destroy my career. That is a really hard thing to write. I think the experience of last year was full on organisational bullying from so many directions it left me feeling vulnerable. I was going to write broken. But that is not true. Throughout this last year at whatever I was having thrown at me my values and principles kept me strong. I have always and will continue to work on “doing the right thing”.

I will never ever take my strong congruent professional and personal self ever for granted again . What a roller coaster that has been this past year. I keep my professional and my personal life separate and it is fair to say that this blurred in 2016. The challenges of bringing up children that challenge and working for a local authority with little or no compassion for family life left me broken at the end of 2016. So many folk have said to me my losing my old job was “personal”. Not sure what to say to this. It is very hard to realise that however capable or skilled or committed I was to my job I lost my job because of the “personal”.

I have always worked in social care and up hold the words social and care as integral to my personal and professional values. As a social care professional I fundamentally believe if you do not as an organisation create a culture of care and respect for employees then it is ridiculous that you will in any way be able to provide a sustainable model of social care to support the community we serve. In challenging times all we know as a constant is our professional values and skills and if we do not take the time to nurture these then we are left broken as I was at the end of 2016.

Values, principles, vision statements are all headings we use . They are often on strategies, policy documents , terms of reference and processes. But when we fundamentally do not up hold those values and do not use them as the framework for day to day practice then why bother? We work with people often in the most challenging times of their lives. What most folk want in crisis is empathy, compassion and kindness not a process.

We work in challenging times and individuals still need care and support. Last year I worked in an organisation that seemed to forget  the focus of CARE & SUPPORT . I could say that running social care by accountants is a dangerous game but you would call me naive. I could say referring to people as unit costs or bed numbers is also naive.  I do not want to give you the wrong impression . But more than ever when the pot of resource is smaller and we are having to make it go further then surely we have to constantly ask “ are we doing the right thing?” . When as a professional you are constantly going the extra mile , coming home later and later then you have to know that this is because you are “doing the right thing”.

I am proud to be a registered social worker and anyone who knows me or has worked with me knows I am passionate about social work practice in the adult world. I see us agents of social justice and as having the skills and importantly the values and principles to enable individuals and communities to help themselves.  An organisation that shifts its focus to spreadsheet and fails to get the practice right in this respect is flawed. In challenging times we must work hard as change makers knowing we are “doing the right thing”.

I need to share and record the experience I had of  sitting in meetings for hours when mentioning  CARE or SUPPORT and asking  “ are we doing the right thing?” is like mentioning the emperor’s new clothes. This  is soul destroying. Writing restructures gone 7pm at night which is unprincipled and based on little evidence except for a fantasy bottom line leaves you exhausted . No one listened so I gave up speaking.  As I reflect and write I realise the   professional shame I felt and the inner conflict this caused as it impacted so heavily on my values and principles.

My lasting memory of this  organisation I worked for on and off for nearly twenty years was the interview I “failed at”. This post was to provide leadership for the social work  workforce and safeguarding. Both areas I have strong knowledge skill and plenty to say about! When the unseen presentation question is “how will you get 40% of the residential care budget?” I knew it was time to go. I have never interviewed badly in my life. Mostly as I apply for jobs I want, believe in and am planned and prepared. With this one , I didn’t want, didn’t believe and thus did not give the right answers to the wrong questions!  However what this experience gave me was the gateway to walk away  this organisation.

So here I am now post voluntary redundancy. I have a new job in a new organisation. I keep telling people I love my new job. The joy of returning to work in an organisation that upholds my personal and professional values I will never undervalue. Yes times here are challenging . But the challenges are addressed with leadership that ask “are we doing the right thing?”. Conversations are about delivering best practice so that the individuals we serve get the best CARE & SUPPORT. It’s not perfect but nowhere is. But conversations are about getting it right. People have conversations about individuals, families, communities and their lives. There is intent to do the right thing with less resource. But values and principles are real. They are real as they are demonstrated in behaviour both as an organisation and personally and professionally. The challenge is still there. We are in challenging times in adult social care but the approach is different.

I have got my social care passion back. I also feel my  social work values, principles, skills and knowledge may make a difference to providing care & support and “doing the right thing?” for individuals, families and communities. I love my job and have professional self respect again.

 

Celebrating the creative stuff

My life has been so challenging that I thought I wanted to write something soul searching. But I am not I am going to write about dancing and drawing.

Taking some time out from having a day time job means I have got back into my creative side. ( It also means I am also spending way too much time meeting other folk’s needs but that is a different blog !). I have started drawing again. On clearing out my work notebooks I realised I doodled way more than I thought! I have also realised that carrying a notebook everywhere whether it be a meeting a dance class or a random place like the pub can be considered a good thing! At work everyone sat with their laptops reading emails whilst I doodled and took notes. A key indicator why I got the redundancy to pursue employment elsewhere!

Anyway I am digressing or rambling on. This is what I have been doing; meandering with my pens and sketching, illustrating, doodling.  I am not dismissing them but owning my little book of drawings and put them out there for world to see initially as fb posts and indeed as cards. I shall my doodles go where they need to and try not to turn them into some huge art project that yet again I will fail at doing. It is a habit of mine.

I am good at big ideas but sometimes they are so big they can’t happen. It is like I make them impossible to achieve. I have always done it with my art. I would consider myself a failed artist. I couldn’t keep the high standards and big projects I created and hold down a job and bring up kids so I stopped making art. I doodled everywhere instead. I have had to destroy nearly ten years of confidential work notebooks and there were pages and pages of doodled borders. So in 2017 I have committed myself to treating myself to doodling opportunity. I have a box with pens, paper and bits and bobs beside my favourite chair. I am also carrying my notebook but calling it a journal to shift into creative thoughts and ideas rather than facts and figures. I like notebooks so no hardship to keep buying beautiful ones!

Meanwhile I am celebrating the little drawings I have done. I am not planning to turn them into never to be painted paintings, not to be stitched embroideries or stuck down collages I like them as they are. I have shared them on the internet and I have this past week had some simple cards made to see if they will sell.   I shall keep meandering about with my pens and see where it takes me.

Dance seems to be returning to my life too. It is bringing me joy again. In part I am sure it is because it is not “another thing to have to do” after my stressful job. But also having a break has been good and I am interested again. So I have created a new class in a new town. I have found a room, put up posters and started to teach again. It is quite challenging establishing a new class as no one appears to   wants to be Shakira anymore! Of course there is also some relief to this as teaching that revolving door of Shakiras was as I remember exhausting!

This time around I am starting classes very clear about what I want to offer students as a teacher.  My classes are focused on these principles:

  • Getting individuals to find their inner dancer and explore being the best dancer they can be
  • Experience joy of dance and dancing with others
  • Getting the basics right and building up from great technique.

 

I think dance is like learning a language, if you cannot pronounce basic words then your complex sentences do not make sense! I know this is something that always makes me go looking and seeking always willing to develop my dance language.

I shall always have a love of traditional belly dance but I am so enjoying learning the new language of Gypsy Caravan Belly Dance. Dancing in a group is fun and I am enjoying exploring new moves and different combinations to create. I like the connection between self-development and dance development that Collective Soul programme offers and have met some great new dance friends. I am also enjoying being taught by great competent teachers; Wendy Hughes and Deirdre Mac Donald whenever and wherever!

So in my over enthusiasm there is a danger I will go way to big and want to do everything at once! Deep breath I have held back from this approach. I have a small group of lovely women with which to start a class with which is preferable to hordes of Shakiras! I have women with dance experience of all kinds and with some great creative ideas to bring to class. We also have live drumming to dance to and now we have some great vocabulary we are now building some dances to the drumming!  Meanwhile I shall personally explore Gypsy Caravan Tribal Style and enjoy the journey it takes me on.

So I have started to seek dancers out there who want to learn to speak the same language that I know of belly dance.  As I am passionate about teaching and getting students to really fine their inner dancer I kind of thought my passion and experience would sell itself but it’s not working like that! It seems perhaps the usual politics of the dance world has changed little since I have been away with the positives and negatives. I am refusing this time to be dragged into the negative world as there are so many great dancers and women out there all supporting each other.

My view has always been to promote fellow teachers classes and encourage students to go out and explore.  One big positive dance community is what we should strive for including offering the diversity that belly dance has to offer. It has been lovely that some teachers that I have known for years have encouraged and supported me. Secure in what they have to offer they give me peer support and not perceive me as a threat!

So on the advice of one such peer I have created with help a new website! It brings together all of the above to share what I can offer about belly dancing and gives a glimpse into my other creative activity too. It started off as a “need to do” and has turned into a clear statement of intent!

In return I have created an event that all my supportive peers and other lovely dancers and drummers can come together and celebrate the joy of dance and drumming. It has been far too long since I have brought dance  world friends together to share and celebrate what we all love!

Life is about getting on and grabbing the shimmy moment or indeed drawing a little doodle!

My website with all its’ doodles can be found at:

http://www.judeetee.co.uk

Grief makes me catatonic, a post Christmas present

I wanted to start to write about my lovely friend and all that she achieved in her amazing life, but I find I cannot share this, not yet. So as I write I find this blog is about the impact her loss has had on me at a time when I found myself to be rock bottom, emotionally battered, bruised if not broken.

I have made a public display of my heart being broken I think to validate the loss that she brings us all and to reach out to others. I want her family and friends to have that validation, to know they are not alone and that their wonderful partner and mother was a wonderful woman and needs to live on in hearts and minds.  Friends have written to me connected by her wonderful friendship. Folk have written beautiful words to me, words that make some sense of the overwhelming loss we feel.  Folk are connecting out some because they have lost a dear friend, an inspirational dancer, teacher mentor and others as they feel the love, the emotion and somehow need to be a part of something so beautiful.

This cloak of grief I am wearing comes after a year of challenge. That sounds good doesn’t it? Let us describe a state of mind. Not so long ago I lay sobbing, I had no hope. Inside and personal resilience was empty. It has come at me in all directions.  As I write this I realise it is worth noting how much has gone on in 2016:

  • Not so Smallish boy demonstrated how upset he felt in the spring. I have spent my whole life explaining my boy to professionals, but as usual no one listened and the whole event whirled out of control. I seemed unable to help him or us. A supportive school saved the day. This was not because safeguarding professionals saved him, or therapy sorted it. Or health and safety plan worked. School sorted it because a Head teacher and his colleagues are kind, compassionate and care about the children they work with.
  • Early summer the boss at work having unrelentingly bullied me for a year goes on gardening leave. I may write more about work once I leave, but note at this point not one single 1:1 or supervision session in 2016. From this point onwards we are left to somehow get on with more work being piled on and a feeling of wanting to seek blame
  • Summertime and my lovely step daughter comes to live with us. We have waited a long time to have her here. But this comes amid a sea of concern, and a tidal wave of a distressing history to respond to. Professionals again are in our lives, a feeling of judgement about every action or decision made.
  • Autumn time and our blended family is intense and emotional and there is daily high drama. There are highs and lows but the emotional input as a Mum is exhausting. I just want to keep us all safe from each other’s emotional trauma. It is a daily roller coaster of stuff to deal with. We are also responding to tricky teen years. This is not smallish boy and little cute daughter this is not so small often tricky teenagers! Being a parent of a quirky boy I am often scrutinised and judged as a Mum, being a step parent feels I am constant under scrutiny and judged daily. Drama judgement challenge. I am expected to hold whole family together in a storm where others hit out, act out or hide. The personal spills into my professional life, and I am already feeling I won’t survive.

I see the whole of last year in black and white a grey filter with our wedding in colour! We somehow created a day against the odds. The week before I am late at work with the pressure or restructure over my head, two days before at a school appeal, and day before washing and dressing my Mum. I smile as I write this as our wedding was a wonderful day of celebrating love, relationships and family and friends. I remember how my lovely man looked at me that day and hold his love close. I remember being surrounded by happy family friends and family feeling love and joy. This is also the last memory and meeting of my lovely friend, playing the zills and hanging out with folk chatting, laughing , living life. What a wonderful memory to cherish always.

  • Post wedding we continue to ride the storm. Work increases in pressure, home life increases in drama and what is needed from my dear blended family. In the midst of this my lovely Mum needs more care and support but I am struggling to help her as she is so far away.
  • I am trying so hard at work to sound reasonable. My values and ethics are challenged from every angle but I try to be a voice of truth. Trouble is I am so stressed  with home life I am starting to sound hysterical. The crying doesn’t help/the crying never helps. No one listens and I seem to sit in meetings which are full of smoke and mirrors. It feels we are all talking about the emperors’ new clothes and no one dare say anything.

I believe I have cried nearly every day since autumn. An odd day may go by, but generally most days there are tears. Some may observe this as my stressed state of mind, my sick certification says “stress related condition” but some of it really is the result of yet another crappy exhausting thing to deal with.

  • Late autumn I have to apply for a job I neither want nor believe in. I am the person who does dream interviews mostly in fact I coach people to interview well. I interview badly. On reflection I give answers to questions my bosses do not want to hear. I am interviewing for a job I neither want nor care about. Naturally I do not get this job and at least have some self-respect to not apply for others in an organisation that clearly places no value or respect on who I am and what I have to offer.
  • I finally collapse in a heap defeated. I have voluntary redundancy agreed with mixed feelings of relief and fear.

This results in my skills and knowledge and experience not being needed so here I am now waiting for my notice to conclude whilst I attempt to rebuild, recuperate, recover.

Then my Lovely wise gorgeous friend leaves us. I am broken hearted. I thought she would be there forever. She was so string this is how she made me feel. You can overcome everything. No time for me though, time to do Christmas, with elderly frail Mum needing daily care, presents to wrap, blended family to blend, and relations to entertain.

New Year arrives. My immediate response to where I am at the moment is to fix myself, apply for a new job (I do not want that will be as stressful), worry too much about money, try and fix all the families woes (I am not the only source of income, pathologising normal teen behaviour, kids grow up) and rush into making it alright.

Grief however makes me catatonic. No rushing this time for me. In fact I get sick and have to sit still!    I have drawn, written, and created. I seek wise friends to talk with, trying to make sense of my future and deal with the now. I gently dance and explore a new dance style with a friend. Dance is my old friend who always gets me through dark times. I reread the text from my friend … so glad you’re dancing again… encouraging me to set up a new class and I do. I do because I have time to breathe. My head is not time to enjoy dance and it reignites my want to share.

Through the pages of my daily writings both conscious and unconscious and through every book I read every walk every activity I do I return to same place. Every message from wonderful women, every conversation, in dreams, in thoughts I come to the same place. I try to look for a job get myself stressed about the future; I start to rush towards plans. If I plan, rush keep busy I do not have to feel.

This week I wrote I missed the conversations with my lovely friend. In response folk said talk to her, they said they still did to loved ones, talk to her they said. Grief makes me sit still, it makes me wail and weep but also makes me still and quiet. I stop rushing and rather than “talking” I listen and I look and I feel. As a creator I have to express so I write and I draw. I listen by reading. I listen by listening to my unconscious and conscious mind and listen to the past and a sense of a bigger “present”.  In grief there are some words of wisdom, I write them over and over again in unconscious morning pages, in my journal. I read them in books, they come in well intentioned Facebook pictures, are sent in emails and MSN messages and texts. Friends allude to them when walking; friends offer the actions to these words to help me heal.

Patience Kindness Love Compassion

I am sitting still

I am listening

I dance, I draw, I write, I feel

I continue to cry.

There is a desire now to describe and analyse reflect and decide actions. But I am not. I am stopping writing now. I am still and I am listening but please note: very subtly very quietly I have been a little bit kind to me. Ssssh please do not tell anyone, folk might think I am selfish, self-absorbed!

 

I cry. I will sit. I will wait. I will dance drum and dream,

What is going on in my life right now from so many directions is so painful I cannot share it here. As I write tears again stream down my face. I am at a point that every aspect of my life has been turned upside down from work home family and friends nothing will again be as it was before. I am grieving and it hurts hard.  As a really positive can do individual  however challenging life gets I can always see a glimmer of hope but feeling so distressed and crying so much means I am having to look really hard for that glimmer of hope.

I am weary with the grief of it all. This year feels that every time I have dared to celebrate life and feel good then some other major miserable hard challenge has come crashing into me.  I pick myself dust myself down only to be knocked down again. I know that at this very moment in time the tears are good and I need to grieve.  I am struggling to find any kind of meaning in what is happening to me but what I am finding myself doing is reading and writing, talking to wise caring friends and trying to seek meaning and some direction to go on.

I have now stood still and I am crashing down from flying high as superwoman the wonder woman who can fix everything. This woman has lost her cloak of hope and is empty of energy and solutions. I can never stop giving it goes on and on from smallish boy to smallish step girl to next work project to giving and organising lifts to dance workshops, to dropping stuff off, to listening to friend in crisis, to caring for elderly Mum, writing large boys CV, to earning the money needed to put food on table the list goes on and on. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told to focus on self-care and looking after me but each time something blocks or overtakes all the energy I have.

I can’t work out how other folk do it. There does seem to be folk though who manage to trip through life making sure their needs are met in a way I find so tricky to comprehend. My life is always complicated and always someone or something needs something from me. I am realising I have no idea how to put myself first. Actually that is not true. I tried really hard to do this on our wedding day. In the doom and gloom thinking of   my wedding day feels me with colour and brightness and joy. But if I was to tell you that weeks before and after wedding I was doing over 40 hours a week at work trying to deliver a challenging organisational restructure, I was at a formal appeals panel two days before my wedding and doing hands on care the day after and cleaning bathrooms the day after that you will see the challenge there was to overcome? For us no honeymoon, no chance to share some quality time together as a couple no we are back on sorting out everyone else’s needs.

Even writing this makes me feel bad. I know some other people who have worse challenges than me and I should stop moaning.  Even when I went to the GP I felt guilty for asking for time off from work to recover! This is time off from an organisation that has had me working over 40 hours a week and then has not given me a job in the new restructure and has completely and utterly worn me out so I have lost my sense of professional self. I feel guilty about taking time off to care for me ? You have to remember I am superwoman and I am the strong woman with strong sense of self who never falls over. I feel guilty and bad that I have failed and am admitting defeat.

I am sat here now consciously remembering the number of times I have been told of the need to take care of me. I have had healers, doctors, friends, coaches and family all tell me this. The thing is I do try. But to carve out an hours dance practice results in a blended family drama, or more chores left to do later. An afternoon out means a stressful drive to school pick up, a weekend off means a long drive on M5 to go care for elderly Mum. It is just not easy, so many aspects of my life I cannot say no.

The big one as well is that I have to earn money. Not pocket money I am not a lady who lunches but I have to earn a significant amount of money to   contribute to keep the roof over our heads and the family show on the road. This is a biggy for me as when I read the touchy feely stuff about self-care people don’t seem to lead the life I lead. When I think about life changes it always comes back to how can I earn enough money? This needs clarification. I have worked part time for work life balance to bring up large and not so small boys. To do this poverty sat right behind me every step of the way. I was supported by my loving Mum but most of my life I worried about money. For last two years working fulltime has giving me respite from money worry and allowed us to do some happy things like travel but as I have described it has come at a cost to me. Work life balance means earning money and choices are compromised whilst you bring up children and put them first. It is also worth noting that a lot of our resources in the last year have flown out to support others.

I am trying however not to moan but to write it as it is. This way I can own it and try and find a different direction to move on. Something has to change and owning where I am at has to be start. Even at this point there is family stuff going on that I have to pull together, sort out and try and get going. Blended families are such a challenge and yes I shall admit really hard work. I am the glue that keeps us all together and this takes effort and energy.    Even now I am fighting to find some headspace as well as time for me. Folk tell me to do this and we all know what I need to do but it is the how that is proving challenging.

So I am writing this out as reflection looking at all that has gone on and wanting to capture some glimmers of hope. Or indeed some way of making sense of where I am in my world and if there is possibility of a different way.  So even though I am laid out on the floor crying here are some things and stuff that I have been given or experienced in recent weeks that I have started to think about.  Here are some events and information that others have shared I am using to try and make sense of where I am at and the how to move on:

Coaching conference.

I arrived at The WME coaching conference at real low ebb. I love coaching and mentoring and am passionate about being a coach and John Blakey woke me up by talking about a “trust vacuum”. He said that organisations both public and corporate have lost the trust of the people hence the reason for Brexit and Trump being voted in. For me it resonated in the stress caused by working in an organisation that has a trust crisis when everything is shifting in restructure, where there is nothing or no one to place trust in anymore.

John however gives us hope he talks of Trust becoming the new glue for society and organisations. He cites trustworthiness as an organisational lead aspiration, and offers 9 habits as practical tool:

Ability – to deliver to coach to be consistent

Integrity- Be honest be open be humble

Benevolence – evangelise (spread good news) be brave be kind

You can explore more of this at John’s website:

http://johnblakey.co.uk/trusted-executive-resources/

 

For me this was self-affirming. Personally and professionally I could describe these 9 habits as what I fundamentally believe in. Such as shame as there was no opportunity to explore this way of working at recent job interview but perhaps a reality check that it is time to move on.

Then late afternoon just as I am preparing to leave this woman gets up and starts talking about selfcare. I am reading my notes on her presentation:

“Life is a work in progress” “What are we doing?  And big style: SELF CARE IS A PRIORITY.  She went onto challenge us about what are restorative practices and indeed how did we cultivate emotional resilience?

I shelved these notes and scribbles from this day to read now. Away from job interviews and deadlines I have time to ponder and reflect. Yes Jackee gave me yet another wakeup call regarding self-care. She also gave me some validation. At meetings and when I am out and about I use notebooks. I write notes, ideas, record information and doodle and draw pictures in my notebook. This is often when others are sitting behind screens and laptops answering emails. Even when listening to Jackee and John’s presentations there are doodles on the page! What Jackee encourages is do more notes more doodling more ideas, use writing and doodling as part of your self-care!

I loved Jackee’s ideas and have started to read her books you can read more about her here:

http://www.jackeeholder.com/

 

Dancing and Collective Soul One weekend

Earlier in the year I signed up for Collective Soul One; a weekend dance course with Deirdre Macdonald. I knew I would be learning and developing Paulette Rees Davis’ Gypsy Caravan dance format and I was interested in trying a new dance style and approach to dance. To be honest I had lost my dance mojo so I had been a bit random signing up to this thinking it may re spark some dance inspiration.

Before the course I read some of Paulette’s books and listened to music and followed some videos. You can find out more from Paulette’s website:

http://gypsycaravantribalbellydance.com/

But interesting about this weekend was that both Paulette and Deirdre are coaches so an immediate connection into a way of thinking that I have passion for, I found this so affirming. I enjoyed the straightforwardness of connecting into dance. I have been overthinking it I just need to dance with lovely women and Gypsy Caravan format is giving me a framework to do this. What I really liked is Paulette’s approach of respectfully learning from women’s dances of past and present and creating a new aesthetic, a new dance for women of the 21st century.

The weekend also quietly called to me about self-care. Where is my moment of stillness? I have taken from this Morning pages and have consistently written in the last month anything and everything. It has quietly woken my creative soul of which I am placing a little hope that it will support me to get out of this mess I find me in.

Deirdre also quietly gave me a wakeup call that weekend. She noted that in the external world I was struggling and was able to give me some pointers to start to walk away from the layers of stress work is causing me and reconnection into the skills and talents I have.

As well as a dancer Deirdre is a talented coach and creative problem solver you can find more about her here:

http://limitsandchoicescoaching.com/

The irony is not lost on me her website is called limits and choices!

The other thing about undertaking the Collective Soul One for me is a reconnection into Jude the creative one, the girl who likes making and creating stuff. I also passed and was so excited to get all my Arabic rhythms correct! This is now taking me on a new dance journey where I can quietly and gently dance to the beat of the drum.

So this week in between the tears I have had my notebook out. I have stuck to my morning pages and done them every day, writing any old ramblings that pour out of my head. I have attempted to sit still at least for ten minutes and tried to still my mind of “Mrs who does she think she is” thoughts.  I have danced alone and with friend and played my drum. I have met up with wise and wonderful women who have listened and shared my sorrow, validated my feelings and importantly not offered any “you should do” advice.

I will keep crying as I am sad. But that is okay. I will sit. I will wait. I will dance drum and dream, creating notes and doodles in my notebook. Then hopefully I may be ready to make my dreams a reality.

 

Finding joy beyond the fog

I have written a blog for months. So long ago I was almost letting it go. I didn’t think I had anything to write anymore. Large boy and really not very small boy are still with their challenges but I didn’t have anything to say. So much has happened in this last month to me  I feel like I am coming out of a huge fog that has encompassed my ability to create think and being anything other than a work horse.

I rarely talk about work and am certainly not going to dwell on my current situation. But to give this blog context I need to explain. The job I do involves me being a fully registered social worker. This means I uphold professional standards, values and principles . My strong professional values and principles have always kept me grounded and in right place right time in my work role. However hard times have been if I can assure myself  that my actions are in the best interests of folk  in our society who need care and support I can keep turning up. I also believe in an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay.

In recent months I have drowned in work taking me in a direction that is so far away from my values and principles that I lost me. Let me be clear , I make no criticism of the organisation or fantastic folk I have happened to work with , it is just that it is no longer a place I want to be or a role I want to undertake. I have totally lost any perspective in this sea of fog I have been in mostly as I could see no way out.

Anyway I tripped over big time in this fog. I have really emotionally injured myself, but and this is a big deal ; I have stopped. I have stopped running around and am slowly waiting for the fog to clear. Some things have happened to me that are worthy of taking note of:

Not so small now girly has come to live with us. Watching her settle in and begin to explore all the new opportunities this move is giving her is exciting to see and be part of. Purple Dr Marten boots, drama of school friendships, tasting of food tech accomplishments and her rather offbeat humour is adding so much to our household . Moving in does not come without it’s challenges but I am privileged to be this lovely young woman’s step Mum and to be able to support her as she heals, grows and becomes the best version of herself.

The lovely man and I got married. It was a wonderful celebration and out of the fog I realise I feel assured by the vows we have made and the lovely unity it has brought to our families. We are good together and we work as team   and our children see this and are replicating adding to and we are all becoming one big blended family. As I write this I am smiling at the sunshine and lovely love and colour our wedding day had. Some highlights of note:

  • Friends who decorate old Ford Focuses with lipstick hearts and sequin rugs and make you and not small girl laugh out loud
  • Friends who create beauty out of cards and leaves
  • Bubbles curls and a beautiful dress of pink and green
  • Flowers in jars kept for the occasion , more inspiration and creativity than any money could buy. Beautiful and lasting long after the celebration
  • A lovely wise old Mum enjoying the day, chatting to so many and even dancing !
  • So many best friends filling the day with love and joy
  • Staring straight into my lovely man’s eyes
  • Readings of wisdom and funny and emotional speeches
  • Shamadam and dance of love
  • Zills and drums and dancing
  • Celebrating all that is good about love

I am digressing but you know last week I was so drowning in fog the tears and sorrow I carried around with me had covered these lovely memories or indeed wonderful events that are happening to me . There is more:

I completed a two day intensive Collective Soul 1 dance course. Right in the middle of a most stressful month I found respite in dance. Just focusing on putting one foot in front of each other with a shoulder shimmy, arms up down , turning around , it reminds me of why I dance. It is about  joy and at the moment it meditative quality. I really connected with being present and in the moment. I also have reflected and realise that I am currently drawn to this type of dance as its focus is not on the ego. There is no “being the star” . No one is more important , it is a collective soul, a circle of dancers. This weekend also brought me back to my coaching, to morning pages and ideas about being creative.   I have discovered I do want to dance but I need to find a place that is about dancing and not about being at the front and in the lime light. It may or may not involve performing but this is not to be the focus, as dancing can be an opportunity to celebrating being “in the moment”.

I went on a coaching and mentoring conference. The message was that for me is that I can and will be able to rebuild my reality including my career  with focus truthfulness. I can support this by upholding and developing my personal and professional integrity and undertaking actions that make compassion and kindness happen.

A wise friend proposed I should approach the fog with intuition and sensitivity.She keeps remindimg of this as I keep saying intuition and kindness. Indicative of my inability  right now to focus on self!

It is pouring down with rain today. Dark wet and cold. I have cried so much but the relief that I can now see a shining light through this fog I have been in is wonderful . Everyone is talking of new beginnings but you know what I am not rushing this. I am going to sit still, let the tears flow and in between breath, dance and be present.

So what of smallish boy? Here I am continuing to be his Mum. Yesterday he refuses to do his art homework. Taking a picture of himself he then refuses to complete a self-portrait. He cannot see the point. It shows no artistic meaning . As Mum I propose he just undertakes the task in hand. He seems no reason to undertake this. Without an internal driver or a personal goal smallish boy still refuses to participate in tasks. Currently I am trying to make him connect to exams and where he may wish to go in life.  He no longer hugs me but holds me close with fist bumps, trying to get me to do morning stretches with him and draping his long legs over me on the sofa. Last week in my fog of sorrow he gave me a hug. Nothing said or spoken he came to an art fair with me , just looking after his Mum.

Last week I missed large boy so much it hurt, like huge ache. I just want to hang out with big boy and chat and have some of his time. He texted me at the weekend . telling him some of my fog, he tells me no job  is worth that much distress , practical as ever big boys offers kindness; “ You are the best Mum in the world” oh and “ Can you please help me with my CV? Having completed this task I am going to have to develop my own …. Wonder if I can include the words resilient?

 

Mummy mutterings…

Big boy is 20 today. So no longer a boy and no longer a teen. I can remember being twenty and being still very much a girl as he is still really a boy. I however spent my summer holiday in London. The weather was hot and we hung out at the local open air pool and partied until dawn. When I wasn’t in London I was hitch hiking my way to festivals or friends in different parts of the UK.

My big boy however hangs out in his room. The computer is all. Yesterday called to participate in family supper making the response was hang on I am in the middle of something! In the middle of what? Hiding from the real world and interaction with human beings? I am unclear as to what to do. He is actually really sociable and polite if you can get him out of the bedroom. I have made him hand out CVs, he has several skills and would be fine working in a café or bar as he is polite and hard working. We have tried a Children’s play scheme as he is good with kids. Any of these as an option would do him the world of good as he needs to participate in the real world. However he is  in the catch of having little experience, and yes last year he did do voluntary work and enjoyed it.  As the summer slips by I worry that gradually my boy is losing his confidence and his cheery self by sleeping all day and computers at night.

So today we are going out for a walk and a drink as Mother and son, a gentle pep talk methinks. Or perhaps I am out of touch and placing my expectations on him. He is not asking for money, though we feed him. I am not sure he is as sociable as I am and may well be content with his online mates , many who are Uni mates playing games and hanging out?

Meanwhile smaller boy has survived year ten at school. He doesn’t do school rules, and has little respect for poor teaching  but  goodness how many tears have I shed this year? In spring smallish boy got distressed with the world, a wrong word from a teacher, not enough sleep, teen hormones who knows? He took himself to the top floor mezzanine and threatened to jump. Seconds from falling he was saved only to face little help from services, just process and procedure and form filling. None of really know what was in his head to become so distressed but he has had little help from external services. However his school have been amazing. Small boy has been at school whether for an hour or two from days of it happening with school fighting his corner to access education safely.

And then he gets drunk at school! All those years of fighting his corner, all the effort school have put in to getting him back in class and as little social experiment he pinches a drop of vodka to see what may happen. You see he never thinks of consequences just the good idea at the time.

My small boy is the most charismatic likeable chap you could meet. He smiles and chatters but will not work to order, and struggles with his dyslexic identity and support offered. Out of school he is hanging out in the town centre wearing his latest flash trainers making the world laugh.  Despite their exasperations every teacher I have recently seen is working to get smallish boy to deliver the best side of him. His fabulous art teacher described it best. “Be proud to be different smallish boy, everyone wants to be fantastic at art like you, accept who you and continue to be different”.

Normally I have a theme for my blog but today I am just capturing a parent moment in time about two boys who are lovely human beings but completely exasperating! I love the “Being Brilliant” books and Andy Cope’s approach to teens and life. Smallish boy and I every day have the conversation which focuses on whether he can deliver his “best version of his self”. As a Mum this is what I want from them both a strive for “Best version of self” but in smallish boy’s words:

“Mum not best version today, I am an alright, that will do version of me”.

Off to wake up big boy with presents and love …..

 

 

what are all us not bendy barbies but middle aged and passionate about dancing but want a little more than social dancing supposed to do?

I think I am missing dancing and may want to dance a bit more. At the moment I social dance attending a lovely friendly local tribal belly dance class where we get to dance together once a fortnight. This class is warm full of joy and very inclusive and pitched at the right level so everyone can feel good about their dancing. In tricky times in last year on days when work has had my last sane thought, and I am so tired it is this class that has lifted my spirits and filled my heart with fun and joy.

I went to  a different dance class yesterday. It was still full, inclusive and full of joy but the shift was on learning specific technique to improve your personal dance. It was lead and facilitated by a very experienced and qualified dance teacher. She very skilfully unpicked a move, described and made us apply technique and then layered this move up so we started to dance. We were watched and gently critiqued so we all went home feeling we had made some progress and had something to work on!

I do dance at home but not as much as I used to. There was a time in my life when I was always striving to improve my dancing both technically and creatively and I would dance every day. I attended as many workshops as possible and had numerous private lessons to improve my dance.
My dance perspective was always to be as best as I could possibly be particularly when out dancing in front of an audience. I think I took the same approach as a teacher always seeking to offer something new to support my class with also striving to be the best dancers they wanted to be.

As I have written before suddenly a couple of years ago I just lost my mojo. Dancing no longer felt full of joy and my first passion. It became a chore and not something I wanted to do so much. So apart from enjoying myself with dancing and drumming I just stopped. So for the past year and half I have taken up in the circle of the lovely local tribal group. Swishing, shimmying about and having fun. It’s been good to apply my dance skills to a different dance form and meeting some fabulous women to dance with.

So the dance session I went to yesterday was the first time I have done any real dance development for a long time. All enthusiastic afterwards coming home in the car a dance friend and I were discussing the view of seeking more dance development. As soon as this discussion started it all my old knowledge and experience surfaced and I was back there wanting to be a dance leader. I then got into how to organise, where and how would we do more dancing and how would it fit into the belly dance world of friends and social groups and sensitivities at wanting to pursue something more than the local dance offer. I started to think about all that I had to offer as a dancer and dance teacher and to review my CV of hard work and dance study and commitment I have put in over the years both as a dancer and teacher. I wanted to be in it all again.
I came home thinking about workshops and events whether I could set up a class. And you know what? I started to get really stressed about it all.
Here are some of my stressed out head thoughts:
– If I taught I would want a local class and there are already a couple of local teachers and classes I wouldn’t want to stand on toes or upset anyone and anyway why would anyone come?
– Perhaps I could go further afield to a teacher for my personal development? How would I manage such a long drive and anyway it’s the same night. Also what would you do with it? Wouldn’t folk think you were just becoming an arrogant know it all dancer with little talent?
– If I organise a workshop it could end up costing lots and anyway could I organise workshops and haflas if I don’t teach?
– Organising events are really stressful
– If I organise anything people will think she’s right up herself and hate me

Super stressed I have become and I do not like this Jude. I remember of old and she’s not good company to be with. She critiques every dance experience and wants to keep striving for more and better and better all the time. This is how I burnt out and lost my mojo before.
I am so upset with myself and poking about and in my head upsetting the constant I have worked hard at of turning up smiling, taking no responsibility, passing no judgements or views based on knowledge experience or otherwise and dancing for fun.

It has reminded me of all the reasons I stepped away from the dance scene. I have to remind myself that there is some reality behind my stressed out thoughts. As a middle aged woman it is unlikely that many people would really want to come to my class. I am not a glam bendy Barbie and most folk are not interested in me sharing the knowledge and experience I have to offer. Also in my area there are already existing classes so setting up any new local class may offend folk I like and there is also probably no need for an Egyptian belly dance class. Unless I am prepared to drive a long way there is no local class for my serious dance development and I have been here frustratingly over and over again.
The trouble is once you have developed your skills and knowledge about a topic it is quite tricky not wanting to pursue development to improve. You know what you know and not using your knowledge can be quite frustrating. So a little bit more of structured dance development wouldn’t go a miss. Perhaps I need to sit back and hope that someone might make an offer or dangle something nearby.
For now I think I will concentrate in my drumming and indeed my dancing drum solo for next performance! I welcome suggestions thoughts or ideas though …… what are all us not bendy barbies but middle aged and passionate about dancing but want a little more than social dancing supposed to do?