This weekend I intentionally made no plans, relishing the prospect of four whole days without a single commitment.
The one exception to this is that I promised Mum and Dad that I would spend the night with them on Saturday. Dad started chemo on Wednesday and we’d been warned that this weekend would be a critical time for him with a significant risk of him developing neutropenic sepsis. Mum wanted to go to some Easter vigil service thing at church on Easter Sunday at hideous o’clock (like seriously, 5.30am or something like that). Anyhow, I promised to stay the night so she could a) get some sleep knowing there was someone else there if Dad got ill and b) go to church in the morning without worrying about Dad.
The weekend started with a gig, I went to see Ruarri Joseph play at The Cavern in Exeter on Thursday night and a few bevvies were consumed – I’d definitely recommend seeing him if you get the chance. My brother rang on Friday morning to say that he was popping in to visit Mum and Dad if I wanted to catch up with him. He lives a couple hours away and a part from a couple weekends ago when Dad was really ill and he came down to visit him in hospital, I’ve not seen him in a while, and hadn’t seen his girlfriend since last year. So Friday started with a lie in, breakfast at Occombe Farm, and then a trip over to the folks house to see the family. I also made an effort to read my latest book and engage with the twittersphere a little. I’m reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, you can see what I shared and my notes here.
When I was at the folks house on Friday my Gran came in with her freshly baked Easter biscuits. She’s 92 and had bothered to make them, which shamed me into action, so I started Saturday by baking. I made two batches of Easter biccies for sharing with friends and family.
I then headed over to Totnes to do some shopping, grab some lunch, read some more of my book and generally chill out. It was the first time in months I’d felt relaxed enough at the weekend to actually do something just for myself, to not spend time being concerned I was ‘wasting’ time that I could otherwise spend working. I seem to have got into a weird loop of late where weekends feel like a good opportunity to catch up on what I hadn’t managed to get done during the week, Sunday’s particularly have their own pressure where the clock is ticking before the week starts. This Saturday felt different, in fact I *loved* the fact that it was already the second day of the weekend but there wasn’t even an inkling of that pressure, I was aware of it, but not in a bad way. Saturday night I headed over to the folks house and really enjoyed spending time with Mum and Dad – especially because Dad wasn’t too poorly at all.
In spite of that I had a rubbish night’s sleep on Saturday and spent Sunday morning just chilling out with Dad, reading my book, painting my nails (green – I knew you wanted to know) and chatting a bit with the twittersphere. Sunday afternoon I spent an hour with my grandfolks (hearing about their experiences of domiciliary care -a post for another time), and visited my best mate on my way home and then the pressure started to build, at this point I’d had two whole days off and done nothing, made no progress, answered no emails, achieved nothing – wasted the weekend. So I embraced that sense and decided to do my ironing! Ultimate procrastination technique for me, in fact the depths of procrastination when I get the iron out. Sunday evening I cooked a roast dinner and watched TV.
So, to the final day of this gloriously long weekend. I had meant to set an alarm for this morning, but didn’t. So I slept for most of Monday. When I eventually got up I went out to buy cat food and that was it, the sole active achievement for the day. I also made a couple of phonecalls, read a few newspaper articles, talked on twitter a bit, while all the time avoiding the by now screaming nagging doubt telling me I was ‘wasting’ the weekend and missing the chance to get some work done before work tomorrow.
So there we have it, a four day weekend and not a single piece of work done. In fact not very much done at all. It’s not exactly been easy though, well it was to start with, but the pressure has been building the last two days. I decided to write this blog post because a few people expressed similar feelings the past few days.
In fact Martin H summed it up in his tweet earlier:
— Martin Howitt (@MartinHowitt) April 9, 2012
— Martin Howitt (@MartinHowitt) April 9, 2012
Martin got me thinking. What is it about so many of us that we judge our worth or achievement by how much we do? Are we becoming obsessed with doing? Does it come from some sort of need to measure progress? Is it about valuing time, or feeling confident that we’ve spent our time in the best way possible? Is it purely a sense of needing to do because most of these interactions happen on twitter and therefore we feel some additional pressure to share what we are doing?
Maybe some of this rings true, maybe indeed none of it does.
I know that I’m acutely aware of the value of time at the moment, and the need to ensure that what time I do have is spent wisely. To that end this weekend I’m glad I didn’t do very much, I’m glad that I had four days with no commitments that enabled me to respond flexibly, to spend so much time with family and not feel like I was passing up other opportunities.
That said, if I’m honest I’m not sat here with a proud sense of achievement, I’ve not tackled the mountain of work tasks I was relishing the chance to get on with, I’ve not crossed anything significant off my own to do list, I’ve not been for a run or done any exercise, however, I do feel slightly more ready for the week ahead and for whatever life chooses to throw at me. I’m also more determined than I have been in a long while that I’m going to mark at least one weekend a month out of my calendar and judge its success by how little I get done.
I’m going to work at developing an anti-achievement sentiment, where doing nothing, sleeping lots, maybe not taking my PJs off for a whole day are seen as badges of honour rather than tell-tale signs of slovenly indulgence. Who else is up for this challenge? Would be interested in your thoughts, whether anyone else fancies practising the art of doing nothing, and indeed any strategies you may have for avoiding the nagging doubts about wasting time at the weekend (or indeed to hear if I am the only person on the planet who feels that way). As ever, all comments really welcome. Thanks.
A week ago I wrote a post explaining Dad’s latest situation with #cholangiocarcinoma Don’t give up the ship, fight her till she sinks. At the time we’d just seen his oncologist and heard the news that Dad’s one remaining option was to have chemotherapy in an attempt to stem the tumour in his stomach bleeding, which in turn is causing him to become severely anaemic and requiring regular blood transfusions.
On Monday Dad went to the unit where he receives the chemotherapy to have his prep session and bloods taken. Less than a week since his last transfusion and he’s anaemic again and his haemoglobin level was down to 7. The fantastic staff did all that they could and managed to fit him in on Tuesday for another blood transfusion, in order for him to start chemo today as they’d originally planned. All of this organised at the drop of a hat, with Dad’s specialist nurse doing what he seemingly does best, twisting arms and calling in favours. So today was his second day at the unit, ten hours at a time, so far so good. The chemo is very risky for Dad, but its a game of odds and the balance of probabilities suggests that doing nothing is even riskier.
Possible side effects include all the usual things (anaemia, hair loss, constipation, wind, loss of feeling, impaired immune system), a major bleed (not surprising given the amount of blood he is losing anyway) and neutropenic sepsis.
Dad has had sepsis on a couple of occasions, including the last time he was on chemo, they’ve warned us that the most dangerous time will be this weekend. Anyone who has ever been taken ill on a weekend, never mind a Bank Holiday, never mind Easter…will know that you don’t want to end up in A&E then. That said, I’m really impressed with the fact that they have raised the issue and reassured Mum that we have to be explicit that we need attention, and it’s also good to know that the hospice palliative care team are aware too. Unless you’ve had to do it I don’t think you can necessarily appreciate how hard it is to request attention once you’ve been admitted into hospital, especially in a busy A&E Department where you’re surrounded by other poorly people. This leaflet, and it’s explicit time bound permission statement to go back and insist on action, is really powerful stuff. Very impressive. This flimsy piece of A4 paper could make the difference on whether someone like Dad survives, I know that with this piece of paper in her hand my Mum would go and ask for further attention, without it there’s a slim but outside chance she might speak up but evidence so far suggests she’d rather not make a fuss/appear ungrateful/nag/push in etc etc etc. Never underestimate the power of a piece of paper for a generation who were brought up to respect authority!
The other possible side effect of one of the many drugs Dad is on is that it could alter your mood. I’m staying at my folks house tonight for moral support and I can honestly say that this drug has altered Dad’s mood….he was treating his sick bowl as a fashion accessory. My Dad has always been a little off the wall, in fact his party trick when I was a kid was to drive the car with his knees and no hands, but I’ve not seen him in a playful mood in ages. Obviously having the chemo and taking some step to fight it is a good thing, for now.
I was slightly wired all day today, I was up in London for a meeting, and I felt so far away if anything had gone wrong. That said it was a good meeting and nothing did go wrong and Dad is insistent that I don’t put my life on hold for him. Having been home for most of March, unfortunately I have stacks of travel planned in April. If I’m truly honest I’m absolutely dreading what the next few days and weeks hold. That said everyone who has dealt with Dad over the past few weeks has done so with such kindness, that it makes me feel reassured and humbled, and a little more daunted (because my suspicious mind assumes that this is a sure fire indication that this really is coming to an end now). I’ve also been blown away by the number of you who have left blog comments, sent tweets or DMs and those of you who text me when I was silent to check how things were going. Thank you all so much. I know it’s hard to know what to say or do in this situation, I know that some people would just rather not think about it, and I know that I am a walking, talking, ball of emotion at the moment and I’m not the easiest person to deal with at the best of time. Thank you all for your patience, virtual hugs and moral support, it’s really appreciated. I’ll leave you all with the man himself modelling an NHS sick bowl!