Writing a blog is my grown-up project

And it means a lot to me
Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Talent comes from originality which has a special manner of thinking of seeing of understanding and of judging.

Guy de Maupassant, Pierre et Jean

I recently read some blogging tips. The advice was ‘start with a small project’. It made me think.

What is a small project? Does it mean writing a short blog. Or writing a blog and doing some small scale marketing for it. Or maybe something else, like organising all the rubbish that you collect and putting it in some sort of order.

When I was young, I loved projects. We did them at school. I remember doing one on the cocoa bean and how it gets turned into chocolate. I wrote to Cadbury’s and asked for any information they could give me and they sent me loads of interesting stuff.

I collected information about hotels I stayed in with my parents (they were great travellers- we went all over Europe, by car, quite unusual in the 60’s), and when I got home I would write projects on them all. I drew pictures, stuck things in, I was really creative.

I suppose they were small projects. At the time, to me as a child, they seemed like big projects, and I loved them. I enjoyed organising things in a scrapbook or folder. I wrote commentary on all the information I had collected and I wrote about our travels.

When I think back now, as a child I was quite imaginative. I loved reading and at the age of nine, would walk the short distance to our local library. I would browse for ages and would always go home with three or four books.

I would write stories, which my mother would read and would tell me I had a great imagination. When you are a child, it seems you are uninhibited by all the self consciousness that suddenly takes over your life when you become a teenager.

I certainly felt like that. Suddenly, I could no longer write stories, do projects and I had no inclination to do it. My teenage years were not happy ones. I was uncomfortable in my own skin and learned to live inside myself.

I am still fairly introverted. I have never been happy in a crowd. I never really liked parties, preferring one-to-one, or a small group of people I was completely comfortable with. I was probably a bit of a dork!

Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash

Even after I was married I remained uncomfortable in large groups, and preferred the company of my family and close friends. Age has taught me that the number of close friends you have is fairly small. But they are the ones that stay with you through thick and thin.

Becoming disabled has reinforced this. My close friends are still there, supporting me, bringing cake (that’s how well they know me) and humour to my life.

So I’m happy being an introvert.

I started a project – this blog. I suppose it was a small project to begin with, but it now looms large in my life. I don’t claim to have great talent but I always wanted to write, and I always imagined living in a cottage by the sea and writing to my hearts content.

Well, life didn’t quite go that way, but I’m writing. I love it. I couldn’t live without it. It’s given me a purpose in my limited life. I don’t get to publish as often as I would like, life intervenes. But I don’t plan to give up on this anytime soon.

So, please keep reading. This is one project I’m happy to share.

Photo by Muhammad Haikal Sjukri on Unsplash

Can reading a blog tell you how to change your life?

And does it really help?
Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

If I had a pound for every title or tagline that absolutely swears this thing or that will change my life, I wouldn’t need to do anything for money in my life ever again. I could change, transform and make everything better overnight. It has become a sort of epidemic in writing. You are promised every sort of panacea to whatever you think is wrong with your life.

Surely if it was as easy as these articles, blogs, you tubers, podcasters claim, we would all have done it by now and we wouldn’t need them. We would all have transformed ourselves wondrously from whatever we think we are to whatever we think we want to be.

I’m as guilty as everyone else of being caught by these attention grabbing headlines, mostly, in my case, on blogs about improving my writing and transforming my blog into a multi million pound business and achieve my dreams. This is about as unlikely as me getting up out of my wheelchair and walking! And yet every day, despite me being determined not to, I read them. Then I follow links within them and read those too, until I suddenly realise that two hours have gone from my morning.

My days are short and those two hours are precious. Instead of reading about blogging I should be blogging! I have found some of it really useful, especially the Facebook groups I’ve joined. To me it’s more valuable to share a blog post on a group and let other bloggers comment (if they want to!) or to ask a question and let others answer with their experiences.

Maybe reading these articles takes our minds off a particular problem or worry. Maybe we look to them in the hope of having a ‘Eureka’ moment, suddenly showing us what we’ve been missing, how we can find the one thing we need, the ability to change our life forever. It rarely happens. It’s not that simple.

I’ve read blogs written by people who truly have changed their lives. The guy working in Silicone Valley who left his job, set up his own website and then travelled the world whilst working, a ‘digital nomad’. Or the couple whose lifestyle website was so successful they gave up their day jobs and cycled round the world, whilst maintaining their blog!

I read blog advice in the hope that I can finally produce the post that goes viral! Maybe this post will (not likely). But I live in hope. Some of these articles strengthens my resolve.

I have gained nuggets of info which have inspired me to try to improve my blog, and I think that’s really the point, Reading them and gaining small bits of information or picking up tips can be really inspirational or just helpful in solving a problem, or moving forwards. That seems more realistic than changing your whole life overnight!

There is, of course, the possibility that I have got this all wrong, that this is all we’re meant to take away, the odd tip or trick.

One blog I read actually set out a checklist to help you achieve your dream life, nothing wrong with that, you may think, but just have a look:

  1. Work only contract jobs – check
  2. Travel as much as possible – check
  3. Start a travel blog, build following
  4. Start an event planning business on line – check
  5. Build client list
  6. Train as a travel agent – check
  7. Get TICO certified – check
  8. Find a travel agency to work with as outside sales rep –Check

(From https://ohwhatajourney.com)

I’m not saying this is in anyway wrong, just a tad unrealistic! I’ve no doubt that this is meant to be a long-term plan, but I think most people who read these advice blogs are looking for something that moves a bit quicker!

To be fair, this is only one blog I found among many I’m sure, but it caught my eye when I looked into the idea of a ‘freedom lifestyle’ (see https://bellesdays.com/can-we-live-a-freedom-lifestyle) because it did seem rather far-fetched.

So, whilst people want to read things writers will want to write these things. But I have realised through my unconstructed reading, that you can get so lost in how many ways there are to achieve what you want, that you forget that the only way is to just bite the bullet and do it!

Photo by Gary Butterfield on Unsplash

How My Life Changed Almost Overnight

And what I’ve learned

Photo by Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

In 2004 fear took over my life. This is when the first symptoms of MS began, and I had no idea what was happening to me. I went from a fit, active person to someone who could only walk a short distance, had difficulty driving, could no longer type with both hands and so many other things. Almost overnight.

The fear was intense, I suffered panic attacks, I cried a lot, lashed out at my husband and he at me. This was completely alien to me, we had been married for a long time and for the most part happily. Neither of us could understand why I kept falling over and had to rest for half an hour after my morning shower before I could get dressed!

I went to my GP. It took six months to get an appointment with a spinal surgeon, who sent me to a Neurologist. He told me I’d had a stroke!

After a hospital stay and every test known to man, waiting another four months to see the Neurologist again, I was then a ‘puzzle’.

Another stay in hospital, a visit to Queens Hospital in London, where some random doctor bashed me on the head several times with what looked like a tennis racket, still no answers!

After another four months waiting to see the neuro again, by which time he’d forgotten who I was. We told him we were going to live in France (see https://bellesdays.com/20/11/2019). He more or less said ‘have a nice life’ or words to that effect!

Whilst in France, I had two further MRI scans and, finally, after six years I was told that I had Primary Progressive MS. It came as a huge relief that I now knew what I was dealing with, and huge sadness because I knew that I would always have it.

I was in a wheelchair by this time anyway and I was getting used to the fact that I could no longer stand up.

Despite everything that has happened in the last 10 years since my diagnosis, here I am. I’m not saying that I’m not anxious, I am a lot of the time. You never come to terms with having everything taken away, but you learn to live with it, and to enjoy the new life you find yourself living.

I maintain my interests, reading, politics, food, I have taken online courses and learned (am still learning) to blog. Having MS in whatever form does not mean not having a meaningful life, just a different one.

We came home from France in 2016. It was quite a difficult decision but the right one. Life is too short to miss being around family and friends and watching your grandchildren grow up.

This is my story. It’s taken me 16 years to reach this point. Life is never simple. Everybody’s MS is different. I won’t say the fear has completely gone, I don’t think it ever will. People ask me why I’m always smiling. I say that I have two choices – I either do or I don’t. For me it’s not a difficult choice to make.

Read more

https://www.ms-uk.org

https://ms.newlifeoutlook.com.

https://www.sueryder.org

Photo by Adriel Kloppenburg on Unsplash

How it feels to live with chronic illness

Six things I learned that may help

“Begin at once to live, and count each separate day as a separate life”. –

Seneca – Letters from a Stoic

These are wise words indeed, especially if you are living with a chronic illness or are a disabled person, when everyday can bring different symptoms, different feelings and obstacles. Not so easy though is it?

Photo by Dimitri Schemelev on Unsplash

Yesterday, I gave in. For two days I had been feeling awful, deep down I knew why, but, as usual, I kept going.

For two weeks before Christmas I was busy as we all are. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I get away with not planning and buying presents and food like everybody else. Plus, my mother turned 90 in December and my daughters and I organised a family party for her.

I do find social occasions a bit exhausting even if it’s just family. I had to be in my manual chair because the house has steps up to the front door! This means I usually get put in a convenient corner out of the way of everyone milling, but of course I can’t do any milling of my own!

Because of all the festivities, I didn’t do any writing for two weeks. I took the time to read about improving my writing. That was exhausting because I had to concentrate!

After New Year I managed to get out two or three pieces but then – nothing. I dried up and I could not motivate myself.

I found myself reading articles about optimising my blog, as I had convinced myself that that was my goal for 2020.

I can’t believe some of the things I have read these last few weeks, getting deeper in to marketing strategies that in no way do I want to follow, and am in no way ready for. Don’t get me wrong, the material was very well written by people who know what they are talking about, but the jargon being used was beyond me!

So I stressed about never being able to get people to read my blog or my articles if I didn’t master the jargon. Result: increasing anxiety, till my head hurt and my stomach was churning.

I’m now two weeks into a very unproductive January, and I found myself feeling out of sorts, not being able to eat much with aches and pains. I was suffering extreme anxiety.

What I hadn’t learned

I couldn’t believe that I had fallen for this old MS trick again, when it’s been happening for years. I hadn’t learned that when you live with a chronic illness it’s important to do what you know is right.

All I needed was to take a day in bed to just watch a bit of tv, listen to some music and sleep. So that’s what I did. I was warm comfortable and relaxed.

It’s amazing that just taking one day completely away from e mails, social media etc can make such a difference. What I can’t get my head around is why I didn’t recognise what was happening and allowed myself to get into such a dark place

Today – new person. Like Phoenix rising from the ashes I’m ready to take on the world! Well, not really but I got up this morning desperate to write.

Here are the things I’ve learned from this:

  1. Always listen to what your body is telling you. Whatever type of disability you have your body can always tell you something.
  2. Don’t push yourself beyond your physical and/or mental capabilities.
  3. Learn what your main limitations are, and own them. They are yours and yours alone. That way it’s easier to avoid pushing yourself too far.
  4. If you do beyond the limit take time to recover. Take a walk if you are able to, stay in bed for as long as you need, do what you want.
  5. Don’t think it’s your fault if you have to step away from things for a while. No one knows your condition like you do – do what you have to do.
  6. Self care is the single most important thing you can give yourself when you are a disabled person.

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to learn this. I think it’s because I felt I was giving in, I wanted to fight my MS, not let it beat me and so on.

If you are, perhaps, newly diagnosed you may feel some or all of these things too. These six tips can help you realise that having a chronic illness isn’t going to stop you doing things, but may help you learn from what your body is telling you to make sure you are living your best life.

Tomorrow is another day!

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash