Trevor Mark Carter

For those who haven’t already heard the awful news, my younger brother, Trevor, died very suddenly today at the young age of just 37.

It seems to have been peaceful, at home, alone – just one of those things.

I’m holding it together at the moment but can feel my heart very slowly breaking as I try to come to terms with the day’s events.

That’s all I can manage for now, I’m afraid.

Visiting

Busy day yesterday (which is why I’ve been slow to respond to some of the interesting and touching comments people have made to my previous post).

We were out for most of the day visiting people with new houses, and we didn’t get home until 10 o’clock.  Our friends Nik and Liz have just moved to a new house in Beckenham. It’s a nice enough house but their huge new garden is amazing!  I confess, I was actually a bit jealous when I thought about our anaemic little plot (following the snow, precious little of the grass I planted last year has survived).

Some of their family were also visiting at the same time, including their nieces, Isobel and Eleanor, which meant that the girls had someone to play with (apart from Uncle Nik, that is, who they love).

By golly it was cold though – not really the weather for properly appreciating an amazing garden.

Fortunately our second house-warming stop was indoors in Lewisham, where we spent a lovely couple of hours with Sharon, Nick and Ben and some of their friends and family.  Ben was born at the same time as Millie and also spent a bit of time in hospital, which is where we met them.

Sharon and Ben have remained friends with the Lovely Melanie and the girls, despite having relatively little in common otherwise.  However, Sharon is such a bubbly personality, so full of enthusiasm, that I’m in awe of her spirit.  They’ve just gotten a very nice new council house after enduring five years in a place that was ridiculously cramped, so we were really pleased to be able to join them in celebrating their long-awaited good fortune.

And today is Sunday.  I’ve got to dig up some of the garden in preparation for the shed that Nik (of Nik and Liz fame) has given us; I’m planning to take some pictures of the girls and, er… Oh, yes!  And enjoy the relentless drilling from next-door, who are having to replace all of the electrics.

Not me

I’ve not been feeling myself for quite some time.  Not ill, just bad-tempered and grouchy, and not all the time by any means; rather, my background levels of happiness seemed to have slipped somehow.  I’ve been impatient, snappy and less inclined to think the best of people.  Probably you haven’t even noticed, but the Lovely Melanie has, and I have to the point of beginning to think about going to the doctor’s about it.

I have no idea what’s been causing it, but with hindsight it’s been going on for at least a couple of years.  When imagining scenarios or encounters with friends or loved ones they have of late tended to turn into worst-case scenarios. I would imagine what I would say to a friend or loved one whose imagined behaviour was “against” me.

When I say “against me” me I don’t want to sound paranoid, because I’m not; rather my imagined simulation of them would never be as nice, generous or warm-hearted as they are in real life.  In my head people would be argumentative, impatient and unsympathetic.  In fact, they were becoming more like I felt I was becoming.

Sorry to spring this on you now. Believe me, I know it’s rather come from nowhere.

Anyway, the main thing is I was worried about becoming less easy-going, less patient, perpetually on edge and harassed; basically less and less like… me.  Which is why I was beginning to wonder about seeing a doctor.

But to say what?  “I’m a bit grumpy?  I imagine the worst in people instead of the best“?  And this week seemed to be worse than ever.

But thinking on the train on the way to work yesterday – which is where I get most of my thinking done – I was reading Slavoj Zizek’s First As Tragedy, Then As Farce, which is about as far from being a self-help manual as you can get (it’s a philosophical critique of modern capitalism and our current economic plight).  And whilst reading it a light bulb almost seemed to come on in my head.

Zizek’s book discusses the need to look at things from a different perspective, to think about your basic assumptions and challenge them.  Which seemed applicable to my current situation.

So I thought about my current situation.  I thought about the way I’ve been living my life the past year or two and the way I’d felt harassed and off-balance, always playing catch-up with no time to reflect.  I’ve felt pressured trying to do all the things I wanted, read all the books, watch all the films, see all the people and spend all the time with my family that I wanted.  I hadn’t thought about this stuff strategically, shall we say, I’d just been struggling to try and keep up and only thinking tactically, i.e., looking only at the short-term.

And I thought about it all the way into work.

Getting weighed down with worries about somehow “keeping up”, being frightened that I wasn’t clever enough for my job, spending too much time tinkering with computers on my own instead of enjoying the company of family and friends.

And I remembered the three guidelines to live by I’d formulated a few years back, and realised I was no longer living by those rules.

Stu’s guidelines for living a happy life

  1. Don’t be petty or small-minded.
  2. Keep your curiosity about everything.
  3. Always assume the best about people unless you have good reason not to.

and I formulated a fourth rule: Don’t be frightened of things that can’t hurt you.

And the things that can’t hurt you include your work.

I realised I was tired of being frightened that maybe I can’t do my job; tired of worrying that I was going to fail at it, tired of being dragged down by worry that I’m not clever enough.  That’s no way to live your life, and even if it turns out I’m not clever enough (and I think I probably am clever enough) then that’s not a catastrophe; it’s not going to kill me; if need be I can just leave that job and get another.

Simple as that.

And I realised I needed to stop worrying about this crazy idea of  “keeping up”.  I need to just do what you can – what makes you happy – and that’s enough.

Writing it down like this it seems embarrassingly simplistic, but remembering those four rules meant that my metaphorical light bulb stayed on at work all day.

24 hours later and it’s still on and I’m feeling more like my old self: more content, more patient…just…better.

It’s a bit spooky, to be honest.  There was no magic wand I waved, no astonishing insight, and most probably this is just a passing thing, but I hope not.

I’m a bit nervous about posting this entry, if I’m honest.  It’s very personal and I haven’t spoken about this with anyone previously…

Hugs and kisses

No entry Saturday because I was out getting very drunk (but having a great time) at Shhh!, a music festival in Camden.

No entry Sunday because I was hideously hungover (and having a horrible time) at bed in home.  Thank goodness I have an understanding wife.

No (proper) entry yesterday because I had a day off work and spent it catching up on some films, specifically Inglourious Basterds and Monsters.

It was a lovely quiet day spent all by myself just…watching films and eating pizza.  I couldn’t help smiling to myself at the glorious decadence of it all.

I also got to pick up the girls from nursery pre-school and school, too, something I don’t normally do (the morning shift is usually mine, as you probably know).  It hadn’t occurred to me to think that mornings or evenings are very different in terms of looking after the girls, but my goodness’ they are.

When I picked them up both girls came rushing up to give me a massive hug and a kiss – something you never get in the mornings.  Millie jumped up, hugged me, smiled, laughed and put her head on my shoulder, which was wonderful.  Then, at nursery, Amber wanted to be picked up and when I did could feel her squeezing me as hard as she possibly could.  I thought she was never going to let go.

And on the bus home she suddenly turned and for no particular reason gave me a great big kiss.

Hopefully the reason was simply “He’s my daddy,

She forgot about it almost as soon as she did it, but there was a little bit of a lump in my throat all the way home. 🙂

*Proper* blogging

Ooh, get me with my professional blog post about, like, recruitment and social media and stuff!

A cautious peek into the future of social media.

Not so sure about the phrase “a collection of continually developing formalised online networks” though…

For my next piece I shall probably be writing about the remarkable things that become possible when large libraries of digitised texts become available – and searchable – online.

Calm down at the back there, please! Calm down! 😛

In which the subject meanders a little…

I often watch the girls on the bus going to nursery in the morning.

Er, that is to say, I often watch my children on the bus going to nursery in the mornings, lest the Lovely Melanie get the wrong idea!

Anyway.  This particular morning Millie was nuffling her scarf as she usually does (“’nuffling”, has been mentioned before, I think has, as a habit fairly unique to Millie which involves gently rubbing any piece of soft fabric across her lips while she sucks her tongue – she started doing it as a baby and it’s an instinctive thing for her now, a bit like me biting my nails).

Then I looked at Amber and realised that she has similar – but subtly different – little habits.  Amber sucks her thumb when she’s tired or upset (or has just been told off).  But Amber also likes to hold onto a bit of fabric although in her case it will be her t-shirt or jumper or dress – whatever happens to be covering her tummy at that particular moment in time.

My apologies, readers – this is less a post for you out there than it is a reminder to a future Stu of what my girls used to be like when they were little…

Speaking of little: I was working on the BLISS telephone helpline last night and had my first proper call in literally about a year.

The calls are supposed to be confidential so I can’t really talk too much about it here.  Suffice to say that I was on the phone to a very nice lady for about 45 minutes talking about our experiences with very poorly babies.

Inasmuch as you can enjoy reminiscing about such stressful times I enjoyed our conversation, and hopefully our chat was useful to her, too, as she was quite upset when she first rang the helpline.

I worry about being able to help people who ring the helpline; I worry whether I’m actually any good at chatting and empathising with the people ringing me for help, that I don’t sound confident or sympathetic or knowledgeable enough.

But then, I worry about that in real life, too, so perhaps I’m better at it than I think.

This post is wandering off course a bit, to be honest, but the thing that always panicked me when I started my current job (Web Editor) was the little voice in my head that would always say of anything unfamiliar or new, “What?? How the hell are you going to manage that?  What are they talking about?  This is going to be a nightmare!  Arrrgh!

What I needed my little inner voice to be doing at those moments was calmly assess what was being said and come up with solutions – or at least a plan to find a solution.

But no, I have this terrible hysterical response when faced with people explaining new things.  I can look at them and nod sagely whilst thinking, nothing but “Aaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhh!”

It goes all the way back to primary school when I used to regularly burst into tears during maths classes simply because I didn’t immediately understand it, and I would panic that I was the only stupid person struggling with it and would probably never be able to understand it and everyone would laugh at me and I’d almost certainly be expelled and end up a homeless derelict on the street who…

Well, you get the idea.

This panic response at work is the same but with the dubious benefit of 30 years experience.  I hate it, but it takes all my years of grown-up experience to fight it, even now.

Therapy sessions ends…