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January has been a bit of a walking through treacle month so far. But then it is for many people. The post-Christmas slump when the family has departed and the house de-Christmassed, the overly long wait for payday, the winter blahs (even though we’ve turned the corner and the days are getting longer)…all that stuff.

In addition to the usual suspects, January has been a month during which

  • I have been battling the black dog.
  • I have attended the funeral of a man who died far too young (he was 30!).
  • I have grown to despair of the sort of conversations that take place on Twitter. During my years in the field of L&D, Twitter was one of the most important tools in my toolkit. Since I no longer have those conversations to take part in, the balance has changed, and there is just so much vitriol. I have begun the process of extricating myself from that space.
  • Someone I thought I knew has metamorphosed into someone I barely recognise, and it is causing pain to two people I care about.
  • I have been entertaining grave doubts about the future of Karyn’s [re]Kreations.

This combination of factors already had me a bit of a low ebb, so I wasn’t in the greatest of places when the tree surgeon hired by our landlady had an accident and fell through the roof of my workshop. There are so many aspects to this event.

  1. The tree surgeon dude’s wellbeing. When he came to the house to let us know what had happened, the first question Mr Namasi asked him was whether he was okay. He said he was fine. Mr Namasi thought he’d probably feel less fine the next morning. (spoiler: he’s back today, and he is indeed fine – he said he’s had worse falls in the line of his work))
  2. The roof is asbestos. Apparently the risk sets in when it breaks and the fibres are released. Well, it was broken. The broken bits have now been removed. But I don’t know what the associated risks are of fibres on the contents of the workshop (see below).
  3. The structural damage. The hole in the roof is huge. Unfortunately, because it’s asbestos, a specialist replacement is probably on the cards. Because we don’t own the property, this is of course, the landlady’s problem, but she’s a lovely lady and it’s not a nice problem for her to have. And, now that I think about it, I guess there will come a time when there is asbestos-related work going on, on the property. I’m not sure how that will affect us.
  4. The damage to my stock. The part of the workshop that was damaged is where I keep my pending and completed projects. Some pieces of roofing have done damage to the pieces, and lot of dirt and debris has landed all over the place. I have yet to do a proper audit of the true extent of the damage.
  5. The impact on my already wobbly mental health.

On my Karyn’s [re]Kreations Facebook page, I shared a post about the damage to the workshop, focusing on the potential impact on Karyn’s [re]Kreations. Because that’s what the page is about. I reshared it on my personal Facebook page, and on Instagram.

This was when I discovered that I might not always present myself in the best light. A few people urged me to be grateful that the tree surgeon hadn’t been hurt, and reminded me that that was the most important consideration. I was utterly taken aback. Of course it is. And of course I know it. And of course, if the man had been hurt in any way, I’d have made a completely different sort of post. Of course. Well duh. Obvs. All those things.

But apparently it isn’t ‘well duh’. Apparently people didn’t automatically infer from my post that the structural damage to the roof and the damage to my stock was the worst of it. Apparently it isn’t immediately clear to people – even those who know me personally – that I value people more than things. That sat in my belly like a rock. And it reminded me of something.

Years ago, when I was submitting papers towards my Master’s degree, my course supervisor would repeatedly ask why I hadn’t elaborated on this or that point. I would explain that I had only 3000 words, and didn’t want to waste them stating the obvious. She would reply that ‘the obvious’ wasn’t necessarily obvious to the person reading the paper. I still contend that anyone to whom that particular obvious wasn’t obvious had no business marking Master’s degree level papers on the subject, but that’s a tangent we don’t have time for here.

It does seem, however, that I fell back into the same damned trap of assuming.

I clearly need to rethink how I present myself. I need to find a way to make it clear that I care about people. About the planet. About the environment. About animals. That I’m not just about stuff. Belongings. Possessions. Property. Things.

The problem is that I thought I was already doing that. This is a helluva concept to be tackling in a state of blah-ness. I might have to come back to it when my inner Tigger moves back into the front room and my inner Eeyore has dozed off again.

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Reflecting on 2017

This year has been a rollercoaster ride on so many fronts. Let’s start with the setbacks, so that we can end with the good things.

  • Mr Namasi and I were both unable to find employment. John has kept a spreadsheet of all the jobs he has applied for, and what has transpired in each instance. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you how many jobs he has applied for. Perhaps if you’ve spent some time job hunting, you would believe me if I told you that the most common outcome has been no response at all. Over the course of this year, I have lost pretty much all faith in the recruitment industry, and pretty much all respect for it, too. Mr Namasi has been more or less corralled into setting up a limited company of his own. I’m sure you will get to read more about that in the new year, as it takes shape.
  • We really struggled to sell our house and were in pretty serious financial trouble for a while. The sale took almost a year to go through, and there were a few setbacks along the way. It got to the point where we were pretty desperate, because we needed the proceeds from the sale to live on. We introduced an austerity budget, and accepted any and all offers of assistance and support.
  • Both our sons had to move out of their homes at short notice, and had to move back in with us for a while. They had both had the good fortune to find wonderful accommodation. The elder one lived in a shared house in a quiet area beside a canal. From time to time a narrowboat called the Tea Junction would moor almost outside his door, and we would hightail it to share tea and scones with him on board. The younger lived in a lovely shared flat an elegant avenue – a proper, tree-lined avenue, just a few doors down from one of the classiest pubs I’ve ever been in. First, the younger son’s lease came to an end, and the only places he could find within his budget were utterly depressing, so he – and all his furniture – moved back in with us for a while. After a couple of months, he was able to find a house-share nearer to his work. Said house is fully furnished, so most of his furniture is still with us. No sooner had that happened than our elder son was royally stitched up by housemates who had already moved out, and discovered that he had 24 hours to vacate. He – and all his furniture, as well as some left behind by the outgoing tenants – had to move in with us within the day. We borrowed a van and lugged as much as we could to our house. He is still with us at time of writing.
  • We had to have one of our cats put down. In 2015, we had to have a cat put down, due to kidney failure. Her litter-sister lived for another two years, before succumbing to the same condition this year.

    RIP Molly-Mae
  • At the beginning of the year, I was helping a friend with her wedding/event hire business, through which I was able to display and market some of my ‘kreations’. Sadly, she was forced to close the brick and mortar space and follow a different model. Of course, her loss was far greater than mine, but it was a closing door for me, too. At least two other doors have appeared to be opening, only to close again without warning. Fairly recently, I was approached by someone who has (had?) a furniture shop, and was interested in stocking some of my pieces. She has subsequently disappeared off my radar. I can only hope that her own circumstances haven’t forced her hand on that front!
  • I had a cancer scare. I won’t go into too much detail about this one, since it would result in an overshare of monumental proportions. Suffice to say it turned out to be a different condition which is responding to treatment.
  • I made some sobering discoveries about my place in some people’s lives. Once again, I won’t go into detail, because I think it might cause hurt, but I was forced to adjust my understanding of the role I played in the lives of one or two others. That’s always a tough one.
  • My application to renew my ILR (indefinite leave to remain) documentation was declined. Like a passport, the little piece of paper that says that I’m allowed to live in the UK has an expiry date. Initially, I thought that the ILR itself had expired, and wondered why it was called ‘indefinite’. But I was assured it was just the document, and that I could renew it, as one does with a passport. Yay. I filled out the application and mailed it off with the payment. It arrived back several months later, with the news that it had been declined. Apparently, my ILR was contingent upon my marriage to an EU citizen, and I now have to apply for Permanent Residence (which, it transpires, is not the same thing) in my own right. This might have something to do with Brexit, but I’m not sure. Since I’m not earning a great deal of money right now, there is the possibility that my application will be rejected. I’m not sure where that will leave us.

Enough of that – let’s look at the good stuff:

  • Our circumstances have brought me to the point, where I have decided to try to make a real go of Karyn’s Kreations. I rebranded as Karyn’s [re]Kreations, set up this website, bought a van, and started exploring my options with more focus. Initially, Karyn’s Kreations was an attempt to monetise a hobby. 2018 will see Karyn’s [re]Kreations become a proper business. It’s a saturated market, I know, but I will try to find myself a niche within it.
  • I have found a way to make my skill for narrative a part of my life as a maker of things.
  • We have discovered and taken advantage of various opportunities and support resources available to us as we attempt to either find employment or become properly self-employed. We have attended courses, had 1:1 sessions with mentors, etc.
  • I had to opportunity to try new things, and discovered that some of them don’t work. Yes, that’s a positive thing. It means I can draw a line under that and move on. Some avenues are still open, and I might be working with a charity (on a volunteer basis) during 2018, offering therapeutic crafting sessions to people with mental health challenges. I met some of the service users this month, and shared their Christmas dinner with them. I think the fact that I have mental health challenges of my own make for a good starting point.
  • I have explored new and existing skills. Just as learning new things was part of life as usual in my previous role as an L&D professional, the love of learning is part of my life as an artisan.
  • I’m not scared of hard work. I am seldom idle. What I do need to learn to do is to become more sniper rifle, less scattergun. More purposeful, less spur of the moment. More honed. More deliberate. Less….squirrel!
  • We did eventually sell our house, and wound up living in the most beautiful thatched cottage in a rural village (population 900). I love it here. I have genuinely never been happier. My home reflects that: every room contains something that I’ve made or adapted. I have a studio off the kitchen, and a workshop in the garden. We have a year’s lease, and we’re almost halfway through it, but I hope with all my heart that we can find a way to renew and stay here indefinitely.

    The most beautiful thatched cottage in the whole world
  • Village life suits me down to the ground. I have started a local craft-and-coffee group which meets once a month. I started the local chapter of NextDoor (an online community space). I have joined the village Facebook group. We participate in local events.
  • We have had the opportunity to get to know our sons in a new way. Having both lived away from home, and functioned as independent beings, they came into their own as individuals. So the dynamic was very different when they moved back in again. There is a slight remove, and they no longer shelter in the shade of their parents. They have been more completely themselves, as opposed to being our sons. Perhaps I’m not doing a great job of explaining this, and you have no idea what I’m on about. If that is the case, please take my word for it that I am seeing my sons more clearly – as complete, autonomous individuals, and I love it.
  • Both sons started dating women they have known for some years as friends, and who have been wonderful additions to our family. Both girlfriends joined us on Christmas eve for dinner and the exchange of gifts. They have formed relationships with the other members of the family, and with each other. I have always referred to that wonderful sense of peace when all four of us are happily under one roof as ‘having all my beads on the string’. These two young women are like two new jewels added to my metaphorical necklace. I think of them as carnelian and opal. Carnelian is auburn and warm and glowing. Opal is fair and soft with inner glints and sparks.
  • I have learned to value myself. It has been a long time coming. I still have to work on the way I handle it when I am treated with disrespect, but I’ll get there. I have learnt to step back from situations and relationships where I am not valued. That probably sounds quite narcissistic and self-serving, but it’s actually more self-preserving. My resources are finite (it’s taken me a lifetime to learn that that applies as much to the intangible as to the practical), and if the role that I play in a situation isn’t of value to the person or the circumstances, I’d be better off investing my time and energy where I can make a positive difference.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. But I do like to spend the early part of each year setting goals. So, rather than saying that I’ll be looking to make 2018 better than 2017, I will be spending January identifying quantifiable ways to achieve that.