A House of Cards

A house of cards

I always promised myself I would never write an “I’ve been away for a while” blog but I’m now into my fourth year of writing so I guess it’s not unreasonable that I might have a fallow period occasionally?

Truth is I’ve been busy. Busy trying to fulfil all my commitments. Busy with Christmas and deadline requirements. Mostly I’ve been busy doubting myself.

As can often be the way, I had built my work and home life into a carefully compartmentalised, structured and supported mechanism that, in November, came crashing down like a house of cards, leaving me floundering.

I’ve only recently regained the ability to take back control and start moving forward and only now feel able to talk about it.

I’ll tell you what happened.

In November my sister asked if I could look after one of her dogs while she and her family took a much needed and deserved break. Of course I agreed, knowing that my two dogs would enjoy the long walks and company of Teddy. How much more difficult is three dogs than two?

My sister dropped him off on Saturday morning and after checking on the routines he was used to, food, walking, lead etiquette, bed etc. We went straight out for a walk.

It was a beautiful day and we had a very long walk. Even my two were beginning to flag. I decided, as a final treat, to go home via a low field to do a bit of ditch running.

As we approached the ditch a man out running with his dog came round the corner and ran towards us. Teddy took off in the opposite direction, clearly terrified. The man very kindly stopped but Teddy didn’t. He disappeared across the fields, completely camouflaged against the ploughed soil and having no intention of returning to us.

We spent the rest of the day, late into the night and from before first light the next morning searching and calling him. There were a few sightings but he didn’t hang around long enough to be captured. Many local people joined in the search for Teddy as we scoured the local countryside, to no avail.

Eventually at about 11am on Sunday morning we received the call I’d been dreading. He’d got onto the main road and been killed by a car.

It is hard to articulate how distraught I felt. I was assured by everyone that it wasn’t my fault, there was nothing I could have done.

But I felt responsible.

Of course it didn’t take my brain long to leap from ‘If I can’t keep one small dog safe – what am I doing trying to keep over a thousand young people safe?’

Had I become complacent and over confident in my ability to juggle and spin all those SBM plates? Had I taken too much on? How could I get over this feeling that I was no longer up to the job? I’d made a mistake that had resulted in catastrophe.

Then the guilt began to set in – this wasn’t about me. It was about what had gone wrong that had led to the loss of a much-loved pet.

I went back to basics.

Work became a routine of doing what was a priority, blocking out nonsense and anything that could wait. Home was the same. I tried to switch off one when I was at the other, not something that I am good at doing, but it helped to try. I knew I wasn’t my usual energetic and enthusiastic self, but I had to find a way of digging myself out of this.

The Christmas break helped. Knitting my lovely bobble hat was a highlight. Barry allowed me to binge watch Star Trek Voyager in the evening which was a good distraction and a way of channelling a strong female role model like Janeway.

Things slowly came back into focus and I began to look forward to going into work again. I started to rebuild and strengthen my support structure by introducing new elements such as scheduled downtime and a healthy routine. It’s true I’m still a little cautious and not yet quite as confident as I was. Maybe that’s a good thing? I love my job and the people I work with. I love the additional commitments I’ve taken on and the friends I have made through them.

My own dogs and I haven’t yet been back to the ditch running field. I can’t yet bring myself to go there. I’m concentrating on sticking a small blob of glue on each of those cards I’m rebuilding and working on regaining the confidence I had lost, so that I feel in control again.

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