FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 91

Developmental Milestone: Walking

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Learning to Walk. Again.

I’m learning to walk.  I’ve been learning for about a year but haven’t perfected it yet.  I mean the actual walking I’ve done since forever, but, I’ve never done it properly properly.

Stomping around the corridors of a large secondary school counter-balanced years of marking cross-legged on the floor/ bed/ couch.  I never worked at a desk, other than in school – and when I did, I was often sat cross legged on a chair.  All my marking, planning etc. etc. was done leaning over books, essays, exam papers.  I practised this somewhat unconventional method throughout my own school years, college, university, teacher training.  So actually, forever.  This was fine.  Until, it all stopped.

And everything went still.

We’re re-building our home (renovating really, but feels like a re-build), and after months of being inactive, I decided to shift a bag of plaster (an everyday occurrence when working on a house), when my back decided to betray me.  An electric current shot through my body and demanded I become a statue.  I was in absolute agony and realised my back was my Achilles’ Heel; my weakest point.

Did you know the health of your back is often closely connected to your emotional well-being?  During dark moments, it is often your back (and/or stomach) that become a physical manifestation of your inner darkness. It makes sense really; when your core is strong,  you’re strong.  A building with a strong foundation will last longer than one built on sand.  Fact. A half-hearted idea or belief is easier to dilute and break down, than one that is secure and unwavering.

You’ll be familiar with the phrases ‘chin up,’ ‘hold your head up,’ ‘stand tall,’ etc. etc. often uttered when times are tough?  They’re encouraged to create the impression that you’re well; strong, doing OK.  Slumped shoulders are low mood indicators – your core is not supporting you and that leaves you vulnerable to all the elements.  That means your head isn’t supported physically or indeed, emotionally.

The process of re-building my strength was long and still on-going.  Your trust in a reliable car that breaks down, becomes damaged; you lose your faith in it and begins to almost feel like a betrayal.  That’s how I viewed my back for a long time anticipating that it could go again, unannounced.  There were a number of avenues I went down in order to heal (I’ll cover some of these another day), but the podiatrist was my saviour.  He was my partner’s friend who managed to get to the root of the problem.  Feet, really? Yes – foundations.

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Monster Munch feet

I have rather unglamorous Monster Munch feet and have been blessed with being flat-footed too (I know, some of us have it all). It transpired that as I walked, I didn’t engage my core and walked on the outer arches of my feet.  Years of walking incorrectly, and then months of subsequent back pain, meant that I had altered the way I balanced, my hips, back and the way I held myself.  I compensated by adjusting my walk and posture making for a rather tangled internal knot.

I do yoga now, as one of my healing strategies.  We’re encouraged to spread the weight across the feet; to have firm foundations.  Tadasana, or mountain pose http://bit.ly/2xpu7pt, improves posture and strengthens these foundations: i.e. the power and mobility in your feet; toes.   Like Jenga, if the foundations are wobbly, there’s little choice the top has other than to topple over.  So I’m spreading my weight and engaging my core and achieving that milestone!

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FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 87

The Course of Recovery Never Did Run Smooth

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Tian – Seed One

 

A few seeds were sown for me in the Autumn of 2015.  MyBoy was born on the 1st of September, in a field.  Mum, CC (Company Cat), was a feral and we brought him home on the 3rd of November {Seed One}.  I could never have predicted the impact he would have on my life.  In fact, my younger self would never recognise ‘me’ with a cat, let alone, the owner of a cat-shop!

 

I was initially off work at the beginning of October and had decided, prematurely, that I was ready to go back on the 2nd November following the half term holiday.   On the Saturday just before, my neighbour Ian and his dog Tia, were tragically killed on Princess Parkway by a Selwyns Coach {Seed Two}.

Despite previously thinking I was getting stronger, this was a massive blow to our world.  My partner and I were broken and each time we thought about it and were reduced to tears; inconsolable.  Depression has a ripple effect; it affects you of course, but also those around you.  You can’t see it at the time, but on reflection, I know it strips layers off your nearest and dearest – it weakens them.  With their untimely deaths, came the cruel reminder that life was short, unpredictable, unforgiving {Seed Three}.  As the arrival of our kitten seemed to almost overlap this, after seeking permission, we officially named him Tian, marrying the two names together, in their honour. (Of course, like most cats, he goes by whatever name he decides (which evolve regularly)).

 

A few weeks into my return in November, I was offered several OH appointments through work.  These spanned over the last few weeks of my time at school as well as some of my time off in February.  The woman I saw was brilliant.  She’d stipulated that as long as I did three things in my day, I had achieved (and I so wanted to achieve).  I was required to do one thing that was essential, one thing that was pleasure and one thing that was routine. Of course, I bought a lot of stuff back then (for me, my home and Tian), and figured as it was part of my (retail) therapy (and pleasure), then I was moving in the right direction(!)  The sessions quickly formed part of my routine (and salvation) every Thursday.

Whilst I was off work, I initially struggled with my dramatically shrinking world. There was quite literally a deafening silence following me around.  In a large comprehensive, I easily spoke to hundreds of people in a day.  Being at home, I was speaking to a handful of people a week.  And not just that, as time passed, a greater wedge was forming between me and work.  Time and distance had pallied up against me; I was pretty helpless.

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In my head, I always seem to title this poem ‘Loss’

Being a teacher had been my identity for such a long time, I was conscious it was fading in front of me.  I didn’t know if I could be anything else; a bit like your parents are just your parents – that’s their identity and we struggle (when we’re younger especially) to see them as anything more.  My staff lanyard was metaphorically slipping and as much as I wanted to hold on to it, it didn’t seem as though I could.  I felt too weak and I knew I was losing.  This quickly formed part of my grief and I was mourning yet another death.

I wanted to reclaim some power and in my ‘up’ moments, felt as though I needed to do everything immediately! I was going to learn to speak Spanish whilst brushing up on my French GCSE (I’d downloaded Duolingo and read rave reviews about it)! I’d impulsively bought a keyboard, but a bit like the character who nicks a guitar and claims he thought he “might learn to play” in Duffy’s ‘Stealing’ poem, it went up on eBay, a year later.  I’d also decided I was going to get involved with a small non-profit organisation called Feed Manchester, (feeding Rough Sleepers in the City Centre) and was looking into yoga as well as signing up to do some meditation at Inner Space, Manchester http://bit.ly/2yDyQIT.  I was feeling excited about taking charge, but as these things happen, it wasn’t as smooth as I was hoping it would be.

Many moons ago, I walked through Manchester City Centre and overheard one woman saying to another, “it never rains Pat, it always fucking pours…”  I don’t know what was happening in her life, but remember thinking how succinctly she’d encapsulated the difficult time she was evidently going through.

The downpour was just beginning.

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 79

Miscellany of Mindfulness

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Stillness of the Trees

I’ve always been a faffer, dawdler, slow-coach, whatever your choice of term might be.  Timed, I can get changed in under a minute, have breakfast in under 3,  shower in 4.  But I don’t.  I end up taking an hour to do these things, sometimes a little bit longer – very rarely less.

I have a Mondaine watch.  It’s a Swiss Railway watch; the face is used on the Apple clock.  It’s simple, with clear lines.  I really like it; in fact it’s actually my second one.  You get free entry to the London Museum of Design with a Mondaine too.  (Although I’ve never actually tested this freebie – but The Watch Lab guy who had a penchant for Mondaines, told me).  Mine stops telling the time properly if I don’t wear it consistently; this is deliberate I’m sure.  An apparent downfall of the Mondaine, is that you have to physically change the date on it – the dates go up to 39 and the days can go all funny too, if you’re not careful.  I quite like the extra bit of work you need to put into it though – think I enjoy the hassle.

I stopped wearing my watch when I was breaking up with Time.  I didn’t find it helpful being reminded of Him constantly – so I blocked Him and refused to have any reminders; think that’s why my watch decided to get back at me.  I needed to clear my head before I could be on friendlier terms with Time again; a cleansing.  So I’ve been walking to work; a kind of mindfulness.  It’s 1.7 miles there (and 1.7 miles back, obviously) and takes under 30 mins to walk, when I’m not faffing and in ‘bossy walk’ mode (as it was once called).  But, because I enjoy faffing, I get a bit lost in my thoughts, so it takes longer for me to get to work and back.  Being ‘on time’ isn’t a priority for me – and yet ironically, I often am!

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Walking = Mindfulness

I enjoy walking to work.  It’s a straight road, more or less and it’s the Mindfulness that suits me.  When I know I’m walking to work, it’s proving to be a great motivator to get me out of bed!  I focus on my breathing; my constant, as well as the stillness of nature around me (there genuinely are some trees on the way).  I also like to do a daily count of  Mobikes – numbers are definitely dwindling – but I got 8 in 1 day.  Imagined conversations with people I know, don’t know, would like to know, wish I didn’t, are played out.  I enjoy playing with car registration numbers to see what words I can make with the letters (reminiscent of Paul Coia’s Catchword http://bit.ly/2wo4G7S from years gone by).  I’m also coveting dogs at the minute – not in a sinister way – but, I like to think of the walk as part of my imagined dog’s imagined routine.  (I know, you’re sensing I have a lot of fun on the way)!

Before we had external invigilators at school, we used to invigilate exams in the Sports Hall for mocks and GCSE exams.  In the silence, I’d imagine doing cartwheels down the aisles. (I’ve never been able to do a cartwheel, but I enjoyed the rebellion of an imagined one).  I would count the number of headscarves, girls with a tan, similar haircuts, afros, long/ short hair, plaits, kids with nose rings.  I’d then delve into races, languages, parents I’ve met/ not met, names I knew, siblings I’d known etc. etc. etc.

It would go on for the duration of the exam, and if it wasn’t for my left knee choosing to click only ever in the silence of an exam hall, I would have loved the exam to have gone on and on until I tired of the game.  In some ways, this was a kind of mindfulness; compartmentalising, creating lists, a focus on something other than a worry or a fear of time.

Mindfulness was part of my healing-prescription.  I was advised to buy the Mindfulness book and in particular, to listen to the CD enclosed (Amazon http://amzn.to/2fW9iMg ). It definitely helped clear my mind and helped me gain some control of my thoughts and as a result, my feelings.  It’s a bit like having a clear desk at work, a place for everything (rather than everything thrown into a drawer, like mine often was).  It gave my thoughts structure.  A few minutes of stillness and peace helps rejuvenate; a boost that can begin to empower.  My walks to work are beginning to do just that and by the time I arrive, my world has been (ever so slightly) realigned.

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 74

***Written on Sunday 17th September 2017***

Christmas has come early.

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Topping up on Vit D

We’re in September.  It’s autumn outside – although admittedly, its been autumn all year round!  But, the sun’s out at the minute and it feels glorious!

This is what a real summer would have felt like!  It’s a Sunday – a day of rest.  And yet, Chorlton seems busy today and there’s a sunny vibe; t-shirts, caps, (despite some folk with their coats on).  Music blaring out of cars, windows wound down.  There are a few people sporting Ray Bans and dads pushing prams topping up their Vitamin D.  Chorlton is colourful today and it’s feeling good.

Saturday was a busy day and already people seem to be Christmas shopping!  I had a few in last week crossing people off their Christmas gift list!  “Do you think my mum would like this?”  Already?! I know I wrote about fluidity of time a bit ago, but this is happening quicker than I’d expected.  I guess it will just happen.  One of my customers pointed out we’re 15 Mondays away from Christmas.  I had to check. She was right. Gulp!

I never knew the countdown to Christmas would start so early!  Already some of the shopkeepers on my strip are talking about preparing window displays.  One of them has been tszujing up some wooden lettering used for a previous one!  I thought thinking ahead to Halloween was pretty impressive.  Nope – not impressive at all apparently – think I was supposed to have done that a couple of months ago! Double gulp!!

But I’ve still got my other head on – the one who anticipates the next mock, or the next essay, or the next set of books, or the next holiday.  Christmas, at this time of year, is still in the distance, as it were.  It’s not the next event; certainly not round the corner!  It all seems too premature!

I didn’t expect to be thinking so far ahead.  I was never a great planner; I was always in that queue at school, getting some last minute photocopying done, accompanied by a desperate plea.  There was a sign up in the Print Room that read: “A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.” It was on an A6 piece of card, stuck on the left hand side of the room as you went in.  Although (thankfully) no one pointed it out to me, I often ended up reading it.  Whilst I was waiting.  A bit like locking eyes with someone you’re trying to avoid.

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Need to be ready for it!

Whether I embrace it or not, it’s happening!  I need to pull my finger out!  I need to think and feel Christmas before I miss the prep work that goes into it!  I need to think about Christmas opening times and themed gifts and food, as well as Christmas stockings for FurBabies and stocking fillers for ailurophiles.

I’m going to get ready for this one – that sign might have a bit more prominence in this world!

 

 

 

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 62

It Might As Well Rain Until September.  (And Boy, It Totally Did)

 

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Story Time

 

Mrs Wright, my primary school teacher, sat us down on a hard wooden floor and read Aesop’s Fable of the North Wind and the Sun to us.  I think I was about 6 years old and it was Story Time.  It’s the one where the Sun challenges the Wind to make a passing traveller take off his coat.  Of course, the Sun wins. But the fable explores the power of manipulation.  It comes about because the sun is, for want of a better word, a bit jellybags of the power the wind has.  I remember thinking even then, that the wind should have reminded the sun of what he was capable of.

When I realised I had a Summer moving-in date, I was properly excited; like, dead giddy.  I imagined the huge shop window haemorrhaging heat, completing the happy, warm look (and feel) I was going for with my shop.  In my head, it was going to be those childhood summers; long, scorching, eternal.  The streets would be littered with laughter and joy, folk buying stuff for kids and kitties; carefree.

 

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Quick! Quick! The Rain

 

I was wrong…  I don’t mean to exaggerate the length of our summer, but it lasted approximately 4 hours (OK, I’m rounding up).  And when the sun wasn’t shining – which was more often than not – then it was raining.  I have already praised the rain in a previous blog (no, really, well done rain :|fabulous work)!  But I think seeing as this August has been the wettest August we’ve ever had, ever (I’m not sure if that’s meteorologically true, so don’t check…) I thought it warranted another mention.

It’s that first droplet of water that acts like an air raid – warning everyone to run for shelter and run to safety.  Quick! ‘Quick!  An ecstasy of fumbling…’ all desperately trying to get away from the unrelenting rain, waiting for this weather-war to halt, at least temporarily.  That first raindrop is the one everyone dreads, because we all know what’s about to be unleashed.  Miserable, moan-y weather.

I would definitely say the wind was stronger than the sun.  Teamed up with the rain, it is an unshakeable force.  The rain, in fact, I would say is the most powerful. If there was a challenge I would set all three, it would be ‘Who can clear the streets the quickest…?’ The rain would win hands down.

 

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 57

When The Lights Go Out.

Do you know the story of Tantalus?  He was a Greek mythological figure, punished for trying to trick the Gods.  After being killed by Zeus, he had to stand in a pool of water, with a fruit branch hanging over him.  Whenever he was hungry or thirsty, the branch would lift up and the water drained away – each taunting him.  Hence the word ‘tantalise’ – to torment with something desired but out of reach.  For me, depression and trying to clamber my way out of it, felt like Tantalus’ punishment.  It was the inability to touch joy or happiness, despite them being seemingly within reach.

For some time, I’ve struggled with saying the word ‘depression.’  De-pres-sion.  I guess it’s not the word so much as the implication.  I wasn’t able to even tag it on Instagram or Twitter until I tricked myself into doing it recently.

A euphemism I was therefore fond of using was ‘sick.’  I was pretty casual in explaining my somewhat unconventional move leaving a career to open a cat shop (of course it wasn’t quite as simple as that). ‘I was sick’  I would say.  The difficulty arose when every now and then, someone would tentatively ask, ‘if you don’t mind, in what way were you sick…?’  And then I would stutter and stumble and my autistic sentiment would kick in, as I dismissively threw into the air; ‘Oh, I was, you know, depressed…’  My voice would peter out. That’s a much harder phrase to churn out.

When I had weekly meetings with my line manager at school, I would tell the story of how I was the Food Lady for MyBoy.  I’d read somewhere how cats need their feeders, so I certainly wasn’t going to risk my cat loving my partner more.  That was the role I’d carved for myself.  I explained how, when my cat needed to be fed, I’d dutifully wake up to feed him and then, as I was up anyway, I’d come to school.

She said, ‘I think you’re depressed.’

I said, ‘Hmmm, I think you’re wrong…’

I denied it.  I almost felt insulted by it!  Although in hindsight, it was more a case of not articulating it to myself first, more than it was a denial.  I’d figured it was a weakness at work. And then I went home and thought about it.  You know when someone points something out to you and you feel stupid that you didn’t notice yourself?  Like a pun you hadn’t worked out in time, or a joke, or something dead obvious…?  That.

 

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When the Lights Go Out

 

And then as soon as I’d acknowledged it, it somehow became stronger; it fought harder.  Saying something aloud often gives words their power; their life.  You see the words floating in front of you, as clear as Macbeth’s dagger, and no matter how much you claw at them, you can’t quite grab them to draw them back in.

It was like being left alone in an unfamiliar room when the lights go out.  I’d scramble around in the darkness – screaming whilst desperately fumbling for the switch.  I was still in there, but to my world, I was long gone.

I was in bed a lot too.  And like quicksand, it seemed as though I was sinking deeper and deeper without noticing or even caring (apathy was pretty high on my agenda).  Occasionally I’d get a glimpse of real life; as if the light had been switched on temporarily. But like Tantalus, it seemed just out of reach.

It was useful knowing at the time that kittens sleep for 20 hours.  So me and MyBoy did just that.  And that’s how I mainly spent the next three or four months.  MyBoy was my companion; my reason to get up.  He was my therapy and unwittingly he became the switch to my new life.

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 48

A Date Shared is a Date Halved

 

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Back-to-School Feeling

It was GCSE results day yesterday.  Bizarrely, I was feeling quite anxious.  A Year 10 group that I had (for 4 months in total) will have got their results.  (They were a bright group, so will no doubt have done well).  Irrespective of how many years go by, certain feelings will float around depending on the time of year.  That ‘back-to-school’ feeling just before the end of the summer holiday (or indeed any holiday) is probably one that I’ll never quite shake off. (Admittedly, that ‘back-to-school’ feeling on Sunday evenings seems to have subsided now, especially as my working week looks so different).

Years ago, the Head of Art retired.  In her leaving speech, she said how the only actual day you enjoy of the summer holiday is the day you break up.  After that, you’re counting down the number of weeks, nay, days you have left, before you go back.  She was right.  I’m not sure if it was because she’d pointed it out – so inevitably I was counting down, or that I was subconsciously doing it anyway.  Either way, that feeling was very pronounced.  (There was, however, comfort in the fact that our first day back after the summer was always an INSET day (we once had two days *cue nostalgic music).  This was associated with gluttonous feelings of naan, daal, spinach and potato curry, chickpea rice and chicken curry for lunch.  This was how we rolled back then)!

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Play Time

My key dates were mostly school-related; half term holidays (=time to play), after school meetings, twilight sessions, parents’ evenings, celebration evenings, etc. etc. etc. These were dates shared by all teachers, if not across the country, then at least in your own school.  A shared experience – one to discuss with friends and pop on the department WhatsApp group beforehand to juggle thoughts and feelings – it always made things feel less daunting.

Of course, that back-to-school feeling remains, but I now have different dates in my calendar encouraging a different kind of feeling. September 1st 2015, is my cat’s birthday. The 29th of January 2016, was (technically) my last day at school.  I didn’t go back in after that – not out of choice, but I just couldn’t.  On the 23rd August 2016, I did my first ever Maker’s Market (interestingly) in Chorlton.  The year before that, was a seminal date.  17th June 2017, I got the keys to the shop.  1st July, I opened up the shop etc. etc. etc.  My dates are now, mostly shop-related

These are my dates and as much as I’m not a good sharer, I think it would have been fun (or helpful) to have been able to share these with others – maybe I will in years to come.  (I’m the youngest of five siblings – and sharing was never my forte.  In fact, I had often believed I should have been an only child)!  Sharing a key date with someone, brings a certain strength, I think; you’re not doing it alone and there’s a certain level of ‘excitement’ (or ‘non-excitement’) generated by the anticipation of it.  A date shared, is a date halved.

My shop is attached to a hairdressers.  There are so many teachers who come in, especially at the minute – new hair cut or style; part of the armour in preparation to go back-to-school.  Seems only yesterday I would have been doing the same.  I’m genuinely so tempted to pounce in on their conversation – as if I’m still one of them.  But I’m not.  Not anymore.  So I pretend not to care, pretend not to share the same back-to-school feelings as I type away on my keys.  No.  Need. To.  Share.  Not.  Bothered. No.  Need. To.  Share.  Not.  Bothered.

 

 

 

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 44

A PopUp Miracle

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Free to do whatever…

You know, it’s amazing when you slowly give your world permission to open again and it begins to filter in things you might need; might want.  Mine kind of did just that.  I think it was something to do with being rather cautious and only allowing good things to fall into the vacuum that had suddenly appeared.  It was as if my previous life had been deleted and I was starting again.  From scratch.  After a difficult time, it looked as though good things (on the whole) might just happen.

I was rescued by the women on The Women in Business group which was free spanning (initially) four months. We met once a week and not only was it vital in terms of the tools I needed to start my own business, it also gave me structure.  Structure was what I was lacking and having been at school my whole life, I often felt constrained by it.  But now I was living without it, ironically I craved it (a bit of the ol’ Stockholm syndrome).  I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, but rather than feeling free, I felt lost and unable to motivate myself.  Being a creature of habit, structure was what I needed to get me out of bed.

Another brilliant outcome of the WiB, was finding out about other courses and groups that were available.  To add to the magic of this group, there was another fabulous FREE course; PopUp Business School, which ran from 20th-24th June at Z-Arts, Stretford (during Brexit Week).  I was working through some tough personal issues at the time but I was determined to attend as many days as I could.  We had a trio of brilliant and enthusiastic teachers; Simon Paine, Alan Donegan and Henry Nicholson – all male.  I admit to having a bit of a tricky relationship with men; so this formed some of my challenge.  In fact, if the truth be told, my decision to adopt a male kitten was a deliberate attempt at trying to be ‘more comfortable’ with the opposite sex.  Nothing is purely accidental.

The premise of the group was how to start a business for free (how lovely is that word)?!  We explored different marketing methods, different business structures, culminating in 12 PopUp gifts at the end of the week!  It was intense and very rewarding; revising things already touched upon as well as learning new skills such as hardcore techy stuff like building a website!  At this particular point in my life, I seemed to have become more of a kinaesthetic learner so this course was perfect.  (But, despite my intentions, I missed a few hours here and there; whether that was because I was physically not present, or because I was just absent).

Driving home on the Tuesday, It struck me how fortunate the teachers were coordinating such a large group of us at such different stages of our ‘business lives.’  I remember relaying this to Simon at the end of the next day. I started with ‘You’re so lucky teaching… I really miss it…’ and tears escaped before recognising my own grief.  My emotions were so raw at the time and things seemed pretty messy and tangled.  In my head, it played like the Juliette Stevenson moment, mourning the loss of a loved one.

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Standing firm; standing strong

Embarrassed by the betrayal of my emotions, the only appropriate solution was to turn around and Forrest Gump my way out of that world.  Obviously.  But I stayed put and snot dribbling, eyes wet, we all *just persevered until it passed (Thank you Simon for not choosing to FG either).  Despite the internal turmoil, good things did manage to filter through to build on the blocks that were already beginning to materialise. I was going to stand strong so I quickly grabbed and squirrelled away anything that helped!

Thank you Simon, Alan and Henry; just what the doctor ordered.  Check out their site and meet the DreamTeam: http://www.popupbusinessschool.co.uk/ 

 

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 41

 

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Have you come across the new traffic lights in the city centre that count down how long you have left before the lights turn red?  HOW stressful are they?! I know how long 10 seconds last – but when I’m crossing a busy road, I spend those seconds imagining a trip, a fall, dropping bags, tangled shoelaces, banana skins etc. etc. and then I’ve run out of time.

I’ve never been great with time; my relationship with it has always been a bit tricky.  I come from a generation of ‘relaxed’ time-keepers, so when I got a ‘proper’ job, I had to re-train myself.  Mostly though, I seemed to be running out of time; a relentless ‘tick tock’ above my head counting down from ten-to-zero.

My obsession with time means I regularly ask what time it is – a bit autistic like, (inevitably) to work out how late I am for something.  When I was teaching, time was so crucial in school and so therefore, my whole life.  You had a time to wee, time to teach, time to meet, (occasionally) time to eat, time to print resources – but essentially, you had to be in a certain place at a certain time.  Irrespective of what time it was, I couldn’t help but feel I was always running out of time.  I never had enough time to wee, to meet, to eat.  It was never enough.  I would regularly address the room with “Do you think I’ve got enough time to…?” unable to gauge for myself.  As if I hadn’t quite grasped the concept.

But now, time seems more fluid; as if there’s enough of it to go around. As if somehow, it’s slowed right down and embraced each second it has.  When I was initially off, I wondered if it was just that I had slowed down as things took longer for me to do, or if time itself had slowed, enabling me to do the things I needed to get done.  When you’re not measuring time against a clock, there seems to be more of it. I can fit more things into my day now that I’m not worrying about running out of time.  The least obsessed you are with time, the more it seems, it will leave you alone; harass you less.

I used to panic if I thought I was going to be late.  Now, I have more of a manana mentality – I think it’s healthier – allowing things to just run their course.  Time-watching makes it behave oddly, cruelly, a bit like a tyrant.  In the shop, time sometimes feels as though there are a few days rolled into each one – and then on other days, it feels as though there just isn’t enough.  Either way, time is less rigid now; less like a straightjacket, more of a pal.  I’m not afraid of it anymore now that I’ve come out of a life where there’s less of a focus on it.  A bit like a crap relationship; as soon as you begin to indulge it, focus on it more, it will take over.  I enjoy taking my time with things now – it’s kinder and lasts longer. 

FurCats – A Shop. For Cats. Day 38

aStrength in Numbers. Strength in Women.

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I would Have Just Smiled

I went to see Gina Yashere in Balham 15+ years ago.  Of Nigerian background, she talked about the stark difference between mourning a pet in England (they cry, can’t get out of bed, too upset to carry on) and in Nigeria (“ahh, your dog dead?  Put it in the bin…”)  I think if someone was telling my younger self about opening a cat shop, I wouldn’t have understood – I would have just smiled.

I attended an opening day for a Women in Business course with my Healing Friend.  Both rather anxious.  My concern on the one hand was maybe I wasn’t ready.  On the other – perhaps this wasn’t right for me, perhaps I was trying too hard to make something happen.  But, we parked our concerns outside and went in.

Funded by One Manchester, Jenny Matthews was our teacher; a tiny yet fabulous woman, who skilfully weaved in and out of our ideas.  She seamlessly enabled a phenomenal group of 20 powerful women.  Many of us were women of colour; the youngest of whom was just over 30.  Most of us had fairly conventional working lives, but for whatever reason were searching for something else.  Sometimes, in the wrong garden, you just don’t bloom.

 

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Searching For Something

 

None of these women were weak or had failed.  I guess that was how I saw myself.  I acknowledge now, that for a short time, I was numb, I was a little bit dead.  They say you have to treat yourself the same way you would a friend when you’re feeling like that; you’re more patient with others.  I wasn’t feeling particularly friendly or patient with myself – but amongst these women, I re-learnt how to do that.

No one would have suspected that in that small room in Gorton, there lay an unbelievable strength.  We didn’t perform magic, but magic happened in there.  Their positivity lifted me, whilst my own slowly began to unravel again.  I’d dared to venture out and it didn’t feel all that scary anymore.  A handful of these women are still in my life – but not all of them.  I guess sometimes people come into your life just to point you in the right direction.  And then they disappear.

That’s not to say that my idea of a cat shop went down well.  No one stood on tables, whooping and cheering the idea.  Far from it.  I was asked to repeat my idea several times in those first few weeks – I think the women were trying to make some sense of my overflowing enthusiasm.

My background: an Asian, Muslim woman – so for me, pets were pets.  Dogs were terrifying – I swear I was programmed to sniff one out circa 2 miles away so I could prepare an almighty run.  Cats were unpredictable, therefore, pretty scary too.  I never grew up with pets.  (Well, that’s not strictly true.  We had a cat when I was titchy, but he was, you know, just a cat.  At the vet’s, dad was asked his name.  Of course, our cat was nameless, but for the sake of the visit, dad named him *Saunaa (translation *Gold).  That was the only time our cat was called Saunaa –  never before and never since.  My general memory of him is rather hazy, but what I do know for certain is that I was pretty terrified of him).

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A Clearer Picture

Conscious of Gina’s words, conscious of the makeup of my audience, conscious of my younger self and how I thought, I admit, it was a tough idea to sell.  But, it didn’t matter what anybody else thought.  I believed in my idea and I was going to clutch on to it; it was all I had.  And the more and more I talked about it, (I talked about it a lot), the more and more they believed in it!  I had a vision and I was going to make it happen.  Not because that’s just what I do, but because at the time, there was comfort in the idea, comfort in that future.  My cat shop gave me a purpose; it gave me hope.  After such a long time, my renaissance was beginning to take place. I could feel it beginning to happen.  The vision was becoming clearer.

Jenny Matthews and the Women in Business Group – thank you.

Want to know more about the Women in Business Enterprise group?  Contact Jenny Matthews at The Place, Fallowfield.  Follow the link: http://www.theplaceonline.co.uk/whats-on/691/