Sunday 16 January 2011

Shouldering the burden

My friend John, the one I went with to look at iPads, has broken his shoulder.  Apparently he fell in his bedroom.  It happened on Friday and he's in hospital in Norwich.  They intend to pin it, but haven't yet.  He has rheumatoid arthritis and, because of the steroids he takes for that, has a compromised immune system, so any operation gives cause for concern.

On the other hand, Andy has moved to the local hospital where there's a brilliant physiotherapy department and much more one-to-one care, and he's managing to walk across the room on a walking frame and with help.  Gill says it's starting to hit her, the long-term implications of all this and how much of the burden will be on her shoulders for the next few years.  And yet, I am sure she will cope.  She and Andy love each other dearly and there will be no sense in which he's a burden on her.  They will both give up their stressful jobs, she's looking for a new one, part-time and unstressful (she's brilliant, if I wanted a PA/bookkeeper/administrator I'd not advertise, I'd ask her) and I think that, once there is real progress in Andy's condition, she will focus on looking after him.  He will need her time, and she needs to slow down and get off the treadmill.

As I typed that, I thought, I could do with some music and opened up Spotify and looked up 'What's New'.  On a whim, I clicked on 'The Essential Tony Bennett'.  Blimey, that's soothing.  Gosh, one track and I'm so relaxed that my muscles aren't working and I've started to drool.  In a good way, honestly I'm so mellow now, and I'm sure that the wine glass in front of me hasn't a thing to do with it.  Anyway, relaxing is good, as long as you're in a position to accept it.  I can see that something so easy-listening might drive me nuts on a brisker day - and usually does.  In fact, I'm not sure that this mellowness indicates the real me.  Wouldn't it be worrying if people liked Zzzz better than Zizz?

I thought of Gill, and the one-time me, when I was reading yesterday's Times.  Sorry, can't link as The Times online is now subscription-only, but The University of Queensland has done studies that indicate that the more stress you're under, the more you crave.  When we're under stress, the body releases painkilling opiates to compensate, apparently, and you can get hooked on that.  I don't know about that, I think that it depends on whether you have power with the responsibility.  I think that the stress connected with being in control is - I don't like to use the word 'addictive' unless it's literally so - irresistible and feeds on itself.

The next bit of the article, quoting, from British psychologist Guy Claxton, came home to me much more.  When we're under pressure, we do 'fast thinking'.  It is rational, analytical, linear and logical.  But for strategic, creative ideas, only relaxed 'slow thinking' will be really effective.  I absolutely go along with that.  When really pushed, I feel myself in a different gear.  I whip around, twice as fast as everyone else, knowing exactly what needs to be done and automatically slotting everything into its most efficient place.  No danger of realising that something should have been started an hour ago or it won't be ready in time - I'll have done it.  I know what takes longer, what relies on someone else getting back to me, what to hold in reserve as 'desirable but not essential', that can be dropped if necessary.  But I can't do that all the time.

What Gill is and I was in thrall to is an inability to let go.  When barely in control, you can't bear to let anything go.  You know that you can cope, but if you pass on something to another person and they don't do it, or don't do it well, you know you'll have to pick up the pieces.  If you do it from the start, you know you can rely on yourself.  This feeling escalates, and the more you do, the more 'fast thinking' you do and other people are intimidated out of offering, and you start to feel indispensable.  Which you're not.  No one is, and thankfully Andy's body has put him out of action in a manner that he can recover from, more or less (no one's sure of the extent of his recovery yet, but there's a lot of hope).

I learned that lesson by the sudden death of a dear friend.  It was nine years ago,- that is, it will  be in June.  This friend had a heart attack and, in seconds, he was no more.  That was how I became chairman of governors at the village school, because I had been his Vice (ahem).  He'd been chairman or treasurer of everything in the village, and a most beloved friend, husband, father and grandfather too.  He is still greatly missed.  But, in practical terms, he who had looked after everything was gone, and the rest of us had to pick up the pieces - at the school, it was the worst possible time, and I genuinely was the only one who knew enough to take over.  So, I will always have a team.  If in charge, I'll not keep it to myself and I will prepare my exit strategy, almost from the start.  If not, I'll support the person who is, so that they aren't driven to the brink and don't feel isolated.

I didn't know I was going to write all that when I sat down.  Gosh.  Sorry.  I'll tell you more about school finances later, or maybe tomorrow.  The Sage has just got home, he's been to visit Big Pinkie.


Dave said...

New readers will be left wondering if that last sentence is a euphemism. It *so* should be.

Z said...

It should. Although it isn't, of course.

Anonymous said...

I have to confess that I only know The Big Pink, but no Big Pinkie.

Z said...

I've put in a link, Mago.

Z said...

BTW, Pinkie isn't living with us, as it was decided in the end that she was quite healthy enough to calve again. But now she really has finished calving, so she'll probably be back here in the spring.

I've been speaking to John's wife, and he's had a plate put in his shoulder today. I'll phone the hospital tomorrow to find out when I can visit.

Christopher said...

Hi. Just dropping in to see how everything is.

luckyzmom said...


Z said...

Reassuringly back to normal. Mozart last night (with mutterings of "Grrr, used to be able to play that) and now J Roddy Walston.