Job Search Hell

That’s where I’m at right now.  One of Dante’s lesser-known circles.

Possibly the worst bit is that I actually already have a job- one that I love and don’t want to leave.  So why am I looking for something else, you ask?  Good question.  The answer of course, is money.

giphy-1

Turns out that working seven hours a week as a library assistant, and about fifty hours a week as a ‘writer’ pays…well…pretty close to nothing actually.

I’m aware we’re not supposed to talk about money- that in doing so I’m breaking some weird universal taboo, but honestly- who is this secrecy helping?  We all need to eat and somewhere to live, and I’ve yet to find a landlord or supermarket that accepts poems in lieu of payment, (not that I’d do much better even if I did, since I can’t write poetry for shit).

So, with a heavy heart I find myself looking for other options.  I spend about half of my time feeling really MAD about the unfairness of the situation, and the other half telling myself to STFU and stop thinking I’m some special snowflake who isn’t subject to the same economic strain as almost every other working class person on earth right now.

In more dramatic moments I hear Jim Broadbent, as Harold Zidler in Moulin Rouge:

zidler

(just change love to live)

In less dramatic moments, I tell myself that I’m no different to anyone else and that I’m lucky to at least be (vaguely) employable.

One thing that is really pissing me off as I trawl through job search results, is the demand on applicants to not just be willing to do the job for the pay, but the requirement to declare it your life’s ambition.

Seriously, if you’re looking to employ someone as a neurosurgeon, or helicopter pilot perhaps, I can understand you wanting the role to be one of that individual’s defining characteristics, and for them to display a real passion and significant dedication to the field.  But when you’re looking for a cleaner?  Isn’t it enough that they’re capable of doing the work, and that they’ll show up and give a shit, at least within proscribed working hours?  If you want someone to display AMBITION, ENTHUSIASM, FLEXIBILITY AND PASSION about cleaning a toilet, you’re possibly going to need to offer more than £7 an hour, and appreciate that you’re appealing to a very niche audience.

Ehhh…I don’t know, this could just be me having a surly attitude and poor work ethic, but when I stumble across yet another minimum-wage job that not only wants me to spend forty hours a week away from my children, my partner, my home, and my writing but also wants me to demonstrate that I will treat it as my #1 priority and life’s work, I find myself getting a bit ‘Braveheart’, yelling at the screen.

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It’s times like this I wonder if leaving nursing was a terrible terrible mistake.  But, when I (briefly) went back to it last year THAT felt like a terrible mistake, so how can that be true?

Gah.

Regardless, I should probably get back to it.  Incidentally if anyone knows of any kick-ass jobs that would allow me to keep my Saturdays at the library, and pay me enough to feed my children who basically never stop eating, then HIT ME UP.  As you can see, I am totally AMBITIOUS, ENTHUSIASTIC, FLEXIBLE AND PASSIONATE etc etc etc 😉

A Bad Attitude is Really Really Not the Only Disability in Life.

Can we talk about this?

theonlydisabilityisabadattitude

Like, no.  Just, no. No no no.

If you’re short on time today then feel free to stop reading now and get on with your afternoon, because to be honest- that’s a pretty good summary of what I’m about to say.

I thought I’d blogged about this issue before, but a quick trawl through old posts didn’t turn anything up, so possibly I *thought* about blogging about this before, but then bit my tongue.  Hard.  The way I frequently do.

But I’m feeling a bit, umm…sensitive at the minute.  After a week in which the kids went back to school and I went back to my fitness regime (that had given way during December to evenings under duvets and increasing volumes of Baileys), my body is protesting, I guess you’d say.  Not quite dramatic enough for me to bust out the word ‘relapse’ but enough to mean that I am a quivering wreck- literally.  My hands have been shaking near constantly for about three days, which leads to anxiety, which leads to panic attacks, which leads to adrenaline- which REALLY helps*, obviously.

(*sarcasm klaxon)

And the thing is, throughout all this, I can’t get this fucking meme out of my mind.

It’s not the image.  Let me repeat, for the cheap seats in the back: IT’S NOT THE IMAGE! I don’t know why I’m even bothering to emphasize that, knowing full well there’ll still be someone out there who thinks I am bitterly opposed to such a powerful image of a disabled person displaying power and strength and all the things we’re told by society, a disabled person can’t have/be. It’s an incredible image.  My problem is not with the image.  My problem is with the slogan someone has helpfully superimposed onto it.

 

‘ The only disability is a bad attitude’

Really?

Really?

*raises eyebrow until it lifts off my forehead and floats off into fucking space*

Anybody who thinks that the only thing preventing people from accessing public spaces, education, work opportunities, social events and from taking care of their activities of daily living is their attitude, should refer to the diagram below:

wheretoputyouropinion

Most people reading this will know why this kind of able-ist bullshit bugs the crap out of me, but in case you’re one of those who doesn’t- here’s the deal:

Three years ago I went from being a busy young mum of two small boys, working part-time nights as a nurse on a neonatal unit, running (ok, jogging) 10ks and generally ‘leading a normal life’ to lying in a hospital bed, largely unable to move.

But the only disability in life is a bad attitude, right?! So I got my shit together and got me the fuck outta that bed and GOT ON WITH THINGS.  Because really, it was only my bad attitude holding me back, amirite?!

Umm…no.  You see what was actually holding me back, was my body.  Specifically my immune system, which had decided my nervous system was a foreign invader and begun stripping all my peripheral nerves of their myelin sheaths.  Don’t know what a myelin sheath is? Well, let me tell you- they’re important af.  Without them, your nerves can’t transmit signals .  So, to be clear- my brain was like: LET’S STAND UP

And my legs were like: …………..

*neurological tumbleweed*

 

This kind of message, this idea that anyone can overcome ANYTHING as long as they’re DETERMINED, sounds very aspirational and wonderful, but there’s one teeny tiny problem- it’s not true.  And it’s damaging.  It’s damaging because it makes people- vulnerable, scared people who’s lives might be falling apart, who might be in pain and terrified feel RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR PROBLEMS.

I know, because I literally sat on my toilet, stared at my legs and thought “Maybe I just didn’t try hard enough last time…come on legs, we can fucking do this.”

And guess what happened?

Nothing.

Of course.  Because pure longing doesn’t actually repair biological damage.

I also know because I told myself, in the brief time I spent at home deteriorating rapidly, that I CAN DO THIS.  I SHOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS.

THIS being: EVERYTHING.  Driving (yes, I cringe now but I drove around Manchester unable to feel the soles of my feet, unable to change gear one-handed.  I could have fucking killed someone but hey, got to admire my can-do attitude right?  NO.)  Looking after my kids- even though I couldn’t lift my one year old. Dressing myself- even though my hands shook so badly I couldn’t fasten my bra. Walking down the stairs- even though I fell, multiple times.  Yes one fall down the stairs was not apparently enough to convince me that I could not actually ‘do this’.  And what’s even more terrifying is that I was pregnant.  Pregnant falling down the stairs.  We all know how this ends of course, i.e. not well.  It turned out, to my relief that those falls- particularly the one bad fall I had, hadn’t actually caused my miscarriage, and that the pregnancy was doomed from the start.  But I didn’t find that out until a month later.  A month is a long time to carry that burden of guilt.

Able-bodied people (because to be honest, I’m pretty sure that’s who images like this are for- to make able-bodied people feel GOOD and INSPIRED and MOTIVATED etc) suggesting that anything can be overcome with the right mentality are not only grossly mistaken but also contributing to the societal idea that disabled people come in two categories:

1.Wonderful celebrated specimens of humanity- patient, humble, kind, achieving above and beyond what seems possible even for able-bodied people.

2. Bitter, twisted people who ‘let their disability rule their lives’.

We all love “Doctors told me I would never walk again but I did!” stories.  Not so much “Doctors told me I would never walk again and actually they were right and I still can’t walk but hey guess what I’m still a valid fucking human being and actually not your motivational piece” stories.

Disabled people, sick people, chronically-ill people are told “you don’t look ill/disabled” and on the face of it- yes it’s a compliment.  Who the fuck wants to be told they look like they’re about to dodder off this mortal coil?! But on the other hand, it’s a bit of a backhander isn’t it? “You don’t look disabled” i.e. “Well done hiding your disability.  God it would be awful if us ‘regular’ folk were confronted by the notion that we’re all just one biological failure away from disability.  Thanks for keeping it tucked away there, sport.”

I love an inspirational picture/article as much as the next person.  I love stories where people overcome barriers- regardless of what those barriers may be- to achieve things that are important to them.  I don’t want people to stop pushing themselves, to stop shouting from the rooftops when they achieve things that they, or other people thought impossible- whether that’s pull-ups in a wheelchair or just wiping your own ass when you’ve previously had to rely on others to do it.

But let’s not kid ourselves that pushing ourselves- that Positive Mental Attitude is the only thing that’s required.  For disabled and chronically ill people to achieve their full potential- their personal, individual full potential- not the dreams and goals YOU set for them, but their own, a can-do attitude is only a very small part of what’s needed.  Societal acceptance, and wide-scale change is also pretty essential.  Psychological input, a strong support network, and acceptance that some things might not be possible.  Reassurance that even if it turns out you’re NOT capable of pulling yourself up in your wheelchair, or indeed wiping your own ass. that you’re still- shockingly- a valuable person, who deserves to live and is worthy of time, and space and respect.

Of course, my story falls into the “happy ending” category- so far at least because I did walk out of the hospital.  It took time, but I hobbled out on crutches and now my remaining crutch waits in the hall, for a day in the future when I might need it again.  Because the reality is- it isn’t a “happy ending” until The End.  And I’ll be living with CIDP for the rest of my days, and I’m really hoping I have a lot of those left.  There’s no guarantee I won’t deteriorate, that I will remain ‘inspirational.’ Will I be less worthy as a human if I can’t ‘perform’ physically, if I can’t contribute to society in the only way it knows how to measure- labour and profit?

So when I see able-bodied people sharing the above meme, complete with caption (note, not the stand alone image) you should know that I don’t think “how wonderful that you’re celebrating this man’s achievement” I think “Do you even know what the fuck you’re talking about?!”

And if that makes me over-sensitive, well it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been accused of it.  And perhaps you’ll be better able to understand my ‘sensitivity’ when I tell you that I had a panic attack in my bathroom this morning because as I brushed my teeth I caught sight in the mirror of how badly my hand was shaking, and from there it was only a brief leap for my brain to the memory of when I first bought an electric toothbrush (summer 2013) because I no longer had the strength required to move a regular toothbrush around my mouth.  Yes, I was really that bad.  And it only got worse- the electric toothbrush was a temporary fix, but as my condition deteriorated it became too heavy- I had to use two hands to hold it, and then eventually the concept of brushing my teeth unaided became a pipe dream.  But throughout it all, of course, I maintained my positive mental attitude- which only served to make me an utter bitch to be honest, because I felt I should be able to do all the things I couldn’t and if I couldn’t….well I just wasn’t trying hard enough. That kind of pressure is destructive.  Just ask my boyfriend who bore the brunt of most of my outbursts

“I should be able to do this!”

“Why can’t I do this?!”

“I don’t want to be like this”

“This can’t be my life”

It’s hard enough to accept you’re not in control of your own body, life, future, without being expected to OVERCOME YOUR BARRIERS and FIGHT YOUR DEMONS and ALSO BE INSPIRATIONAL FOR ABLE BODIED FOLK TOO PLEASE.

So please, stop with the able-ist propaganda.  Yes some disabled and chronically ill people might put your complacent asses to shame, but others might be struggling to exist without help, and perpetuating the myth that ANYONE can overcome ANYTHING if they only want it badly enough, is not just insulting, it’s damaging.

 

 

 

 

What Are You Asking?

I will preface this rant blog post by saying, I am the most open person I know.  I am more or less happy to tell anybody anything, if I know the person asking, and the question is appropriate…y’know, sometimes even when it’s not, I’ll give people the benefit of the doubt if it seems to be coming from a genuine place.

You want to know about my bizzaro autoimmune thing and the treatment for it?  Just ask! No problem.  You’re thinking of getting house rabbits and not sure how that will work with kids/a dog/a house full of electrical equipment…I’d be delighted to share what (little) wisdom I have to offer.  Birth?  Breastfeeding?  My opinions on local schools (since we looked round pretty much all of them- some twice).  How to go about applying to become a foster carer?  A little about the reality of life as a foster carer?

I will generally chat to anyone about whatever they want to know about.  Maybe, that in fact is my where I’ve gone wrong.  Maybe in being so open, and not drawing any boundaries, I’ve left myself open to people taking THE COMPLETE AND UTTER PISS.

Guess how many times since we were approved as foster carers in January I have been asked if I will adopt a baby…go on- GUESS.  I bet you won’t get anywhere near the actual figure.  In fact, go ahead and take whatever number you came up with and MULTIPLY IT BY INFINITY.  Now you’re getting warm.

Guess how many times I’ve been asked if I’ll be having any more children “of my own” and/or “why not?!”  Don’t be shy!  Take a WILD STAB IN THE DARK.  Is your number in the hundreds?  IT SHOULD BE.

Now for bonus points, can you tell me, WHY IN GOD’S HOLY NAME WOULD YOU ASK ANYBODY THAT?

image

Do y’all hear yourselves when you speak?  Do you realise what you’re actually asking?

Because when you ask someone about their plans (or not, as the case may be) to expand their family, this is what they’re likely to hear:

  • Questions about their fertility
  • Questions about their general health and ability to carry a pregnancy to term
  • Reminders of previous pregnancies, births and losses
  • Questions about their relationship
  • Questions about their sex life
  • Questions about their contraception
  • Questions about their parenting skills and current family life
  • Memories of their own childhoods and siblings (if they have them)
  • Questions about their age

And that’s just for starters.  If you’re a parent yourself, then think about the colossal multitude of shit you went through in your head the moment you decided to try for a baby, the things you agonised over, the things you wrangled about, the hoops you jumped through to get to that point.  Or if your pregnancy was unplanned consider all the things that whirled through your mind in the days after you found out.  Now imagine verbalising that to a stranger in the school playground as you’re kissing your five year old goodbye and wishing him a good day.

Last week I had another parent at school who I’ve never spoken to before approach me and strike up a conversation.  Now I like to think I’m pretty friendly (contrary to the vibe this post, and in fact my blog in general may give off!) so I answered her questions, asked my own in reply, and had a bit of a chat.  The parent in question put me on the spot twice, asking me why I wasn’t having anymore children of my own and why I “didn’t want” (her words, absolutely not mine!) to adopt our current foster baby and despite feeling uncomfortable, having not prepared myself emotionally or mentally for that line of questioning at 9am on a Monday morning, I answered as honestly as I could.  She offered some information in exchange and then went on her way.  It was slightly odd but I thought perhaps it could be the beginning of a school playground friendship and maybe now we’d broken the barrier and spoken to each other we’d end up chatting more often.

Well…she hasn’t spoken one word to me since.  Which wouldn’t mean anything I guess if it weren’t for the fact that WE SEE EACH OTHER TWICE A DAY EVERY DAY.

So basically, she saw me suddenly have a baby with me one day, her curiosity got the better of her and she mined me for information, at the expense of my time and emotional wellbeing.

This may shock you all to your very core, since I write some pretty personal stuff on this blog, but just because I don’t burst into tears every time I mention my three miscarriages and molar pregnancy and the fact I have a lifelong debilitating neurological condition doesn’t mean that talking about it doesn’t affect me at all.

When I sit down to write, I get to choose what I want to share (or not) and how I want to phrase it, and if it gets too hard then I can press delete or save it for another day when I’m more ready to delve into that topic.  When someone is bombarding me with question after question after question, like a motherfucking interview, at the school gates, one hour after I’ve woken up and with three small children in my care, it’s not the same thing AT ALL.

So today, at 3.15, as I attempted the epic challenge that is EXITING THE SCHOOL GROUNDS WITHOUT RESORTING TO MURDER OR BEING FATALLY INJURED, yet another parent I have never spoken to before in my life called out to me from behind “Excuse me- but is that your baby?!”

“Yes” I lied said

She looked sceptical

“Really?  When was it born?”

“March” I shrugged and then walked off because I will be damned if I am going to be privy to anybody else’s fucking nosiness disguised as friendliness.

And yes I felt pretty guilty for about 30 full minutes afterwards, because I’m the kind of person who will apologise when someone else steps on my toe, and who tries to see the best in everyone.

But- you want to know me?  Then GET TO KNOW ME.  If all you really want to know is the ins and outs of foster care and what kind of situation Squishlet’s birth parents are in and why I’m suddenly parading around with a baby despite not having been pregnant recently then I may as well be filling in a bloody questionnaire.  Because that aint friendly, there’s no give or take, there’s nothing behind that other than sheer nosiness.

Look I’m as nosy as the next person but I would never EVER, in all my merry fucking days ask anybody other than perhaps a handful of my absolute closest friends whose situations I was intimately acquainted with, if they were thinking of having a baby, or if they could see themselves adopting a child at some point in their life.  For the most part I don’t ask people anything, I find that if people have something they want to share then for the most part they will WITHOUT INTERROGATION.  I know, who would have thought it?!

So please, and I’m asking nicely, before you ask somebody a BIG QUESTION like that, stop and think for a second, what is it that you’re really asking?

Do you know how that question might make that person feel, both in that instant and for the rest of the day?  Are you yourself prepared for the answer?

If you jokingly ask someone if they’re pregnant with twins because they’re so ‘big’ are you prepared for the fact that maybe they were and they lost one?  Or maybe they’re not but there are problems with their pregnancy, like excess fluid that maybe they don’t want to discuss with a total stranger in tesco but might now feel like they have to.

If you’re curious why as a foster carer someone wouldn’t put themselves forward to adopt a child living with them, before you verbalise that maybe have a think if there’s anything you don’t know, that they might not be able to share with you about their situation or the child’s situation that might make it not an option.

Or if you can’t put the brakes on your mouth then at least brace yourself for what might be an emotional reaction, or for receiving information that you then can’t process yourself.

I’m not saying DON’T TALK TO PEOPLE.  I’m not saying don’t attempt pleasant chit-chat or attempt to make new friends, I’m just saying that interrogating people you don’t know very well (or at all) is NOT the way forward.

Ok. I’m done.

**prepares self for no one ever speaking to me ever again after reading this**

3

Boarding schools for three year olds: do such a thing exist? And if not: WHY?

I’m not even talking about entry age 3 until they leave school, I’m talking about: drop off the day before their 3rd birthday and collect at 3pm on the Friday after they turn 4.

Seriously.

I don’t know what it is about this age, developmentally, but it pushes aaaaaaaalllllllllll my buttons.

I feel terrible saying it, I mean obviously I love my child, that goes without saying.  And we’re approved foster carers now so perhaps I should have more coping strategies at my disposal other than ranting about my parenting woes here on my blog…but there’s a very good reason we put ourselves forward as baby carers.

Babies.  Babies, I get.  They’re demanding as hell, but in a whole other way.  I’d take a newborn over a three year old any day.  In fact at this point I think I’d take a baby AND a hormonal teenager over a three year old to be honest.  Because having a three year old seems to be a lot like how I imagine it is to live with a moody teenage son, but with the added ‘bonus’ of having to devote every single ounce of energy I have to keeping them alive, and having them in turn hate me for it.

I mean, let’s be honest here, who would given the choice, elect to spend time with someone whose idea of social interaction is to scream in your face at every suggestion, and whose idea of stimulating conversation is to ask 75 times in rapid succession for an ice cream?

When it comes to parenting, I am a firm believer in you get back what you put in.  Maybe not right away, I don’t think it’s always instant- but eventually, things should balance out, right?

Like the fuzzy feeling of a soft newborn head sleeping against your bare chest after cuddling them to sleep, every shallow baby breath seeming to whisper “thank you for loving me, thank you for keeping me safe” or the way your five year old’s eyes light up when they’re chatting about their new favourite topic and you ask them questions about it.  There’s something about 3, that makes the input/output more unequal.  Oh he says he loves me, but it’s usually after I’ve agreed to let him watch Ninjago for the 3,758th time (Coincidence?  I think not) He wants to show me affection but only on his terms, and usually when it’s highly inconvenient, maybe even downright painful for me, like when I’ve just sat down on the toilet, or I’m putting the shopping through the checkout at Aldi, or I’m in the middle of phone call with my bank. Then he’s all over me like a rash, elbowing my boobs, knocking my glasses off, smooching his face into mine, leaving a trail of snot in his wake.

In some ways it’s a bit like being in an abusive relationship: say yes to them and they’ll claim to love you forever, say no and expect violence.  But regardless of whether you’ve just had Buzz Lightyear thrown in your face for suggesting they tidy their toys up, you’re still expected to cook their meals, wash their clothes, and wipe their arse. And you’d better be smiling when you do it to, lest they somehow sense your resentment bubbling under the surface and take it to heart, growing up believing themselves to be unloveable at their core, when really, all you wanted was for them to be nice to you for five fucking minutes out of the day.

3

(Let the fun begin!)

This blog entry was brought to you by THURSDAY MORNING!

And the fact that it’s not even 10am and already my 3 year old has hit me with an umbrella, screamed that he hates me, and peed his pants in the park as well as crying/shrieking/whining about the following things:

having to take his brother to school, wanting to be under the umbrella with his brother, not wanting to be under the umbrella with his brother, wanting to hold my hand, not wanting to hold my hand, the fact it was raining, the fact that wind exists, the fact he couldn’t go directly to playgroup from school drop-off (because it doesn’t start until 10am), the fact he needed a wee in the park, not wanting to pee against a tree, wanting to pee against a tree, unsuccessfully peeing against a tree, my refusal to buy him a McDonalds at 9.15am, my suggestion that he take his rain-and-pee soaked clothes off when we got in the house, his inability to take his trousers off standing up and so necessitating that he sit down, my offering him dry pyjama bottoms, his inability to put on said pyjama bottoms standing up and so necessitating that he sit down, my not turning the tv on immediately upon arrival back home, me leaving the room without specifying where I was going (the kitchen) and when I would be back (30 seconds later).

And if you found reading that in any way monotonous/confusing/frustrating then please spare a moment to consider HOW I FEEL RIGHT NOW.

Road Rage

I can’t believe I haven’t done a post with that title before, it seems impossible. Maybe I have, but I’m sorry- this stuff is like poison- you’ve got to squeeze it out of the wound as soon as possible.

Basically, having spent over 4.5 hours driving around Greater Manchester today, I can quite honestly say that there is not one of you crazy bastards on the roads, that I would trust my life with.

It’s like you all got behind the wheel today, saw the torrential rain and thought “hmm, what can I do to make these hazardous driving conditions even more treacherous?…”

A bit of middle-lane driving perhaps?

A spot of undertaking on the waterlogged motorway?

Maybe I should just ignore these lane closure signs- yes, all ten of them, as difficult as that may be, and then pull in right in front of you at the very last minute nearly taking out your front passenger side?

I’ve got it! Perhaps I could sit completely stationary on this beautiful yellow grid someone has painted in the middle of this junction. Yay- yellow is my favouritest colour, la la la, I wonder why everyone is braying their horn at me?

I swear, one guy pulled up so close behind me at the traffic lights this evening, that I wasn’t sure if he had spatial awareness issues or was making a move on me. It was that intimate.

Guys. All of you, do me a favour: Go home. Park up your BMW/Landrover/Nissan/Audi (yes, even audi drivers are getting in on the action these days. It’s catching!)

Then very carefully, and very deliberately flush your keys down the toilet BEFORE YOU KILL US ALL.

Zero Tolerance

This blog, both in it’s current incarnation and it’s previous form over on Blogger, has always been something of a “Politics-free zone”.  This is entirely on purpose.  I try to make it my business, both when blogging and in my everyday life, not to talk about shit I don’t understand.  That handily covers pretty much everything that isn’t my own life.  Actually, somedays that includes my own life but shhh.

Now I know, I am over-simplifying massively.  As Skunk Anansie sings “everything is fucking political”, and it’s true.  You can’t really separate life from politics because every area of our lives is influenced and affected, either directly or indirectly by the politics of the places we live in and the people in charge of it.  In fact, by choosing to actively avoid even mentioning politics, I’m actually being political but before I am sucked into a vortex in which I just spin around mumbling “political” over and over to myself I will move swiftly on to my actual point…

Which is, that I don’t like to talk about overtly political issues because I feel ill-equipped for the reactions and debates it could potentially bring.  I haven’t been able to formulate meaningful arguments since I was studying A-level Religious Studies, when I could argue the shit out of anything at a minute’s notice.  I am blessed/cursed with the ability to see things from both/multiple sides, which meant back then I could even argue the case for things I was opposed to and vice/versa.  I recall many a pleasant afternoon in college arguing the toss with my friend Rachel about abortion, the death penalty, theft, the existence of God, the merits of Nik-Naks vs Wheat Crunchies, y’know- all the big stuff.  Seriously, I carried my opinions like the ridiculous menthol cigarettes I smoked, and would happily whip one out and spark it up whenever and wherever.

Something about growing up, and having children has taken that ability away from me.  I have lost the confidence I once had that I could “win” any argument, a chronic lack of sleep has made me slow off the mark, I’m weary of arguing with people whose minds I know I can never change, the cigarettes have long since gone and taken my spark with them.

I also have much fewer opinions than I used to.  It’s amazing really, that the more I learn, the more knowledge and information I get, the less I’m sure of what I believe.  Nothing is black and white anymore.  Except my cat, who is literally black and white:

 

stitch

(proof)

Everything else is just shades of grey (I hate how it’s impossible to type those three words now without immediately feeling the need to declare your feelings about BDSM).

I used to decide what was ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ using the power of my Dr Pepper and menthol-cigarette fuelled mind, and even if I didn’t have a clear stance on something, I could sure as hell fake one.  These days I can’t fake shit, and ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are rumbling feelings in my gut, that could easily be mistaken for the indigestion that comes from being almost-thirty and having to share mealtimes with two small children.

I see and hear things every single day that cause a rumble, but I refuse to ‘involve’ myself, for a variety of reasons:

You can’t change their minds

What difference will it make?

Maybe there are factors here you don’t know about?

Are you prepared to accept the consequences of asserting your opinion on this?

What even IS your opinion on this?

I think that last one is a biggie.  Sometimes I genuinely don’t have strong feelings either way, and I think as I get older I’m appreciating more and more that that’s okay.  It’s okay not to have an opinion on EVERYTHING, and maybe some people on the internet would do well to remember that rather than shoehorning their rage into various cookie-cutter shaped issues.

Also at the end of the day, I’m busy, and I want to feel relaxed and happy and sometimes it’s just easier to ignore stuff that irritates you because otherwise you’d spend all day every day riled up about whatever issue was pissing you off.  And I know some people DO that, particularly online, on places like Twitter and Tumblr, and I admire their ability to keep up that level of reasoning and injustice and rage but me personally?  I can’t do it.

Basically, I am Unikitty.

unikitty

I just want to spend my days in happy fucking rainbow land and be left the hell alone to get on with my life.

Does that make me selfish?  In my refusal to engage with political issues am I perpetuating all that is wrong with society?

Maybe…probably.But see, as much as I don’t discuss my personal viewpoints on BIG ISSUES online or in my everyday life, I do LIVE them.  Everyday I live out what I believe, in front of my children and for now at least, that will have to be my contribution to changing the world- pouring all my energies into living my life in such a way that my children will grow up as decent human beings.

Of course the opposite of Unikitty though is Rage Unikitty.  And a consequence of trying to suppress my annoyance and anger at the world is that when it comes out, it looks a lot like this

“YOU ALL NEED TO BE MORE FRIENDLYYYYYYYYYY!”

And that, right there, is my political stance.

You wanted it, you got it.

I have the ability to be, and actually am, friends with people with various viewpoints opposed to my own.  It’s not a problem (as far as I’m concerned, maybe it is to them, but they’ve never said so).  What allows me to be friends with these people is that we have a mutual respect for each other’s opinions.

I believe in freedom of thought and freedom of speech.  I will defend anybody’s right to hold and peacefully express whatever viewpoint they have (no matter how strongly I might disagree with it) BUT there is a difference between thinking and acting.  Between articulating your feelings and inciting hatred.

I feel like it shouldn’t be necessary for me to type the following, because it should be a fucking given, that as a human being I am accepting of all other human beings, but just for the record since we’re opening this can of worms, we may as well dive right in hey?

To be clear, I do not and will not tolerate hatred in any of the following forms:

Sexism

Racism

Nationalism

Sexual Discrimination

Religious Discrimination

Ageism

Ableism

 

Generally folks, it’s fair to say that if you’d like us to remain friends, it would be helpful if you could avoid the “‘ism’s”, yeah?

To be super clear, I’m saying NO to hatred against any person or group of persons in society based on your personal viewpoint that they are somehow “different” or less of a person than you.

By the way if you find yourself saying “I’m not racist but…” on a semi-regular basis, then heads-up, you’re a fucking racist.

Why I should need to make this shit explicit in THE YEAR 2014, I don’t understand.  But there you go.

I cannot protect my children from the world in which we live, I know that.  As they grow up I’m sure that like me, they’ll see things that make their heads and hearts hurt, and I’ll have some explaining to do.  I’m not sure yet how I’m going to help them understand why some people act the way that they do.  In the meantime though, while I still have a modicum of control over their lives, I will not hesitate to challenge you if you start spouting some hate-filled bullshit in their presence.

Additionally, I need you to know that if you’re in the business of bigotry, and wish to express that through the “sharing” of “Britain First” or similar organisations’s posts on facebook then that is your right, but I don’t want to see that crap first thing in the morning before I take my son to school and I’m either gonna block you or call you on it, depending on which incarnation of UniKitty I happen to be that day.

(I’m just going to leave this right here)

Ok, I’m done.

 

 

 

 

 

A Rant about Tax Credits

I’ve given this post such a self-explanatory title to allow those of you who may be uninterested in my perspective on the tax credits system to skip past it.

Go on, merrily skip on your way.  If you stick around you’ll only be party to my profane ramblings about the ridiculousness of a system that is designed to ‘help’ people but often times does anything but.

No…still not put off?…You sure?!

Right then…allow me to begin.

Our story begins on a cold dark night.

Nah, just kidding.  It begins in the autumn of 2010 when my boyfriend did something truly shocking and horribly selfish…he decided to go back to university to retrain and further his career prospects and opportunities.  I know, disgusting, right?!

So I called up the tax credits helpline and told them that he would no longer be working.

“Well, you won’t get any money then”

“Um…but I’m still working?”

“Yeah but you’ve BOTH got to be working to claim”

“Err…right.  But he’s going to be a full time student”

“That doesn’t count.  Unless he’s in prison, or leaves you…you won’t be getting anything”

I’m sorry, UNLESS HE’S IN PRISON OR LEAVES ME?!

Are you seriously, I mean, seriously telling me that I would be better off, financially if the father of my children was a fucking criminal or irresponsible wanker?  Is that the kind of message we really want to send to people?  Crime doesn’t pay!  Except that…err…it does.  So here, have a few extra quid for having the good sense and foresight to only get knocked up by someone with an irrepressible urge to mug, maim or kill?!

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

Then again, I called them this morning, to update our details now that I finally have both of our P60’s in my possession.

phone

The conversation was basically a lot of sighing (on her end) and stunned silence (on mine)

Apparently we were overpaid last year.

“Why?”

“Because you didn’t tell us about these changes to your employment and income”

“I’m telling you now?!”

“Yeah but you should have told us when you became unemployed in February”

“I didn’t become unemployed in February”

“No, but you’d been off sick for more than 28 weeks”

“Yes.  But I was still employed and being paid sick pay?!”

“That doesn’t matter.  For the purposes of tax credits you’re classed as unemployed once you’ve been off sick for more than 28 weeks”

Oh, right.  I see how it works now.  You make up rules, and we’re all just supposed to magically fucking know what they are!  I totally get it!  Genius.

Here, how about I make up some fucking rules of my own, like: If you’re employed, you’re fucking employed?!  That seems like a good one to start!

“So, you’ll owe us some money back because between February and April you weren’t working enough hours to claim tax credits, but were being paid them”

“Why weren’t we working enough hours?”

“Because you were unemployed (NO I FUCKING WASN’T!  YOU JUST MADE THAT SHIT UP!) and your partner was only working 16 hours a week”

“I was off sick from work, where I’m contracted to work 20 hours a week, and my partner has been working 38 hours a week (or more!) since November last year”

“Well, we didn’t know that.  You should have called us last November”

“I kind of had a lot on my plate at that time, what with being in hospital and all”

“I understand that, but this is a joint claim, so your partner should have called us”

You’re right.  He totally should have.

It’s just that he was being an utterly selfish bastard AGAIN, caring for me, his paralysed girlfriend who had just been diagnosed with a rare neurological condition, and looking after our two small children, you know- the ones you won’t give us any money towards childcare for?  Yeah, those ones.  Also, in November, his Mum who was waiting for a liver transplant, was diagnosed with lung cancer, and she died in the January.

And all the while he was working the increased hours- you know the 38 a week, that we forgot to tell you about but no, you’re right, it was an unacceptable oversight on his part to believe that you could access that information yourself…wait…what’s that you say…you don’t need me to supply you with our income details for last year because you can access that information yourself?…OH MY FUCKING GOD! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!

So, apparently we will owe them some money back, from that (imaginary) period of time when I was magically unemployed without knowing it, and when Chris was working 16 hours a week that for some reason took him 38 hours to do.  But don’t worry- they’re not going to ask us for a cheque or anything, they’ll just “take it off of the coming year’s award”.  I.e. if they WERE going to give us any tax credits for 2014-2015, they will now be giving us less…or none.

Which is fine because I DON’T WANT THEIR FUCKING MONEY ANYWAY!  But sadly I need it.  Hence the extreme frustration at being forced to deal with their inane system and exasperated phone advisers, who always act like your changes in circumstance are a massive inconvenience to them…

“You moved house when?! *sigh* And you took a second job to survive *sigh* So what date did that employment start? *sigh* Oh that changes everything, now I’m going to have to switch screens *sigh*”

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go pour myself a glass of wine that I can’t afford.

Yes it’s 10am on a Tuesday morning, what the fuck is your point?!