Plans not resolutions

I’m gearing myself up to have my annual appraisal done. The form in use has 10 sections – best practice – from the 80s probably. My motivation is low as in the organisation that employs me, expats in my category are eligible neither for promotions nor pay/increment increases. Several colleagues left last year and the common thread of their reflections was that their efforts were not appreciated.

This resonates – as I feel as much of what I do is taken for granted, criticized or ignored. My work life often feels like scenes from ‘The Office’ or a Dilbert cartoon.

The bulk of my job is a series of tasks that ensures a goal is arrived at or a target is met but it is not a matter of life or death.   Many of these tasks will involve encouraging people who I do not manage to return my email/call to give me some vital piece of information of which they are the sole guardian/generator; or to undertake some action(s) which would be temporarily discomforting but ultimately bring greater benefit.

Sometimes this series of tasks is repeated continuously like gathering information for the monthly service newsletter. And every month, I have moments of ‘if only’ which I quickly turn into ‘next time.’

Then there are the longer term projects, which are often the fruit of a vague discussion about an even vaguer description of a desire to have patients or staff have a certain experience or outcome.  I delineate a project scope and draft a plan where based on experience I estimate resources needed and timescales.  Several of these projects may never get further than that and are quickly replaced by the next great idea. A couple of projects may have significant progress or achieve completion. Its like Jesus’ parable of the sower.

I spend at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at work and often ruminate about aspects of work on my commute to and from the office and on weekends and even while doing the dishes or cooking. So, despite my resentment of the appraisal process I do believe I owe it to myself to reflect on and celebrate my achievements.

My former perfectionist self would have wanted to invest hours for it to be the best ever appraisal form. But being in recovery, I now know that good enough is often good enough and where some see imitation, I see inspiration – so I start off by reading the appraisal from 2016 to see if there are any bits I can be inspired by, ergo, reuse. After all its not like my answers are going to be studied like an English Lit text. This is limited as I’ve moved departments and changed roles in the intervening time but there are some turns of phrases that a good thesaurus will help upcycle (and I still like using a paper one and sifting through the variations in shades of meaning of a word).

One page of the form is dedicated to goal setting which led me to consider New Year’s resolutions. At the beginning of this year, like every year, for fear of failure, I don’t admit to myself or others that I have made resolutions but as the year progresses, I make personal plans and execute them with varying concentrations of discipline and success levels. These plans are often rooted in experiences or events of the previous year.

Failure may be an inevitable outcome of the often hastily decided resolution. In a month notorious for its cold and bleakness so much so that some of our less advanced, hmm, mammalian relatives hibernate, maybe we would be much better off reflecting on the past year, celebrating our achievements however modest and deciding our plans not resolutions for the year. This sort of introspection takes time. Astute decision-making also takes time: to research ideas and stories of inspiration. Planning, realistically thinking about the resources we have to harness and how long it will take us to achieve our goals, takes time.

Maybe our new year’s resolutions do not go to plan because we didn’t have a plan. Although this year isn’t quite so new anymore, we still have 348 days of 2018 remaining and that’s quite a lot of time to set some goals and make, execute, assess progress and re-calibrate plans to achieve them.

What are your goals for 2018 and how’s the planning going?

The Children…Our Future

Have you seen today’s Google doodle? It celebrates the Universal Day of the Child.

The United Nations established Universal Children’s Day in 1954 with the aim of improving the welfare of children and November 20 marks the date that the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted by the UN in 1959.

Do you remember being a child? Have any of your dreams as a child come true or maybe luckily not come true?

I wanted to be a priest at one time – not going to happen anytime soon in the Catholic Church…but that’s a post for another time. I decided at 9 or 10 that I wasn’t getting married nor having kids …hmmm…

I know I wanted to travel and though the list is constantly growing I’ve been to Petra (with my husband and kids) and stood in front of the Cristo Redentor statue (with my then boyfriend, now husband).

And what about your kids? Mine are enjoying a life so different from my Grandfather’s – a labourer who despite being derided saw the benefit in educating his 4 girl children. Granpa passed on the joy of reading to my Mum who entrusted it to me and I’ve been able to bestow it on my kids. Best feedback from teachers is/was that my kids love to read and have a wide vocabulary.

But what about the other kids? The kids being sexualized early or being bullied or are stressed by the weight of parental expectations? And the kids dropping through the cracks as austerity measures hit harder and deeper? And what about refugee kids?

Last week, I was privileged, heartened and proud to hear the President of Ghana speak about his work with HH Shiekha Moza, Mother of the Emir of Qatar as an advocate of the UN Sustainability Goals.  http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sdgadvocates/

Evidently, there is much cohesion between these goals and the rights of the child. After all children are our future, as George Benson and Whitney Houston reminded us in the ‘Greatest Love of All’.

As many of us figure out what to get our kids for Christmas or their birthdays, let’s reflect on these rights of the child, such as the right to:

  • be alive
  • a good quality education
  • play and rest
  • safe water and nutritious food

https://www.unicef.org/rightsite/files/uncrcchilldfriendlylanguage.pdf

As we ensure these rights for our kids and some may be more challenging than others (as one of their rights is ‘to give their opinion, and for adults to listen and take these opinions seriously’ – I think my boys are doing too well on this), let’s see what we can do to help those children not as fortunate as ours.

Most of us will not be able to do it on a world stage but simply looking out for the neighbours’ kids or donating time or money to a local or international charity is a right step.

Love the photo?  https://www.pexels.com/

How are you celebrating the Universal Day of the Child?

 

How’s your mental health?

October 10 is World Mental Health Day. It’s celebrated every year. This year’s theme is Mental Health in the Workplace and seeing that I work in the Mental Health Service, I’ve been very busy planning events to commemorate this day.

There’s still a lot of stigma and misconceptions about mental ill health but it’s getting better. We’re probably where cancer was in the 80s. When people have a physical ache they often don’t mind saying so but with mental aches they feel less inclined to share.
Like the physical aspect of health, mental health is a spectrum. Headlines about ‘psychotics’ and ‘sociopathic killers’ may ensure more clicks online or sell more gossip mags but the unsexy truth is that only about 1 to 3 per cent of the population experience severe and enduring mental ill health.

So for the majority of us and the people we come into contact with every day like friends, relative and co-workers what we’re really talking about is stress, anxiety and depression. Recovery from these is very possible and though medication can help, talking therapy is increasingly the first line of defense.

Our mental health is at risk just as our physical health which is why we do pap smears, mammograms, fasting blood tests, cholesterol tests, endoscopies, colonoscopies and x-rays; and donate blood.

At work we’re using a framework called the Wheel of Wellbeing which was developed by the South London and the Maudsley which is a Mental Health service within the UK National Health Service.

WoW focuses on 6 domains. It is a common sense tool for prevention of mental ill health and improving wellbeing. https://www.wheelofwellbeing.org

My idea of wellbeing is being on Mayaro Beach – see picture above but I can’t always be there, so this World Mental Health Day, I’m doing the following:
• Using WoW to check my wellbeing
• Asking at least one friend or colleague how they are and going beyond when they say they’re fine
• Challenging any outrageous and often erroneous depiction of mental ill health – it could be a comment on a FB post or a discussion with a relative.

Would you join me? You could save some lives and one of them may be your own.

How’s your mental health?

Irma – some thoughts and a suggestion

Antigua, Barbuda, St Martin, St Maarten, St Barts, Anguilla, St Kitts, Nevis, British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Bahamas, Cuba..

Sounds like the DJ at a soca fete asking revellers to show their national colours or the shortlist for a honeymoon location. Instead these islands were pins in a meteorological game of skittles.

My twin-island place of birth was spared…this time. But the hurricane season is far from finished so it’s worrying if you have connections in any of the aforementioned or the following countries: Jamaica, Montserrat, Guadeloupe, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada andTrinidad and Tobago. As Irma moved on to the USA, the dread continued as thoughts turned to more friends and family.

It seems impossible that many of these tiny islands are autonomous states. Wouldn’t it be better if they were united, a federation of sorts? But that is an ‘f’ word which stirs up unpleasant memories of the past, colonial and early post-independence. Caricom, based on the EU, is a model for how this could work but in light of Brexit, it may be just as well that closer political ties have not been sought. Additionally, others would point to the fluctuating fate of the West Indian cricket team as a reason to not think of more formal ties.

These economic and political drivers cannot ignore the immense pride citizens feel in being independent of the ‘mother country’. A fact supported by the continuous agitations for independence on some of the French islands. Yet the Dutch and French responses have been praised while the UK government has been criticized for its lackadaisical approach to its territories. Though, I wonder if there are leaders or citizens of countries, which have no automatic right to help from former colonial masters, who are wishing that these rights could be reinstated at a time like this.

Solutions to these issues come easy when the discussion occurs among friends from the Caribbean diaspora in a British back garden and lubricated by generous servings of rum. Talking is easy, action is more difficult but is needed in the aftermath of this tragedy that has shattered so many lives.

I feel small, helpless and ineffective in the face of  calamities like Irma. Research has shown that 24 hours news coverage has desensitised many of us to the plights of others. But I know that if such a life-changing event happened to me, I would want people to imagine my pain, feel my incomprehension and be moved beyond inertia and do something. I would want them to help me. Wouldn’t you?

So what are we going to do?

Summer Reading

Still at work but pace is a bit slower, so have had a few daily coffee/book breaks. In the evenings there’s neither ferrying of kids to and from school/activities nor homework and having 7 days off work at the end of June to the beginning of July for Eid-ul-Fitr have helped.

I love my Kindle,yet, there is still nothing like cracking open a paper book –  the smell, the feel, the look of the cover and a personalised inscription by the author. Having heard the author read from the text in your hand and give an insight into their writing alchemy heighten the thrill.

Last March, I attended the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, just as well given the …but that’s another post…maybe.

After every talk I attended, I had to know the fate of these characters, I bought the books and lined up to have the authors sign them. I was on a high for days after. Months later and reading the books, I’m having multiple highs as I lose myself in their words and worlds.

In the last few weeks I’ve read:

  • Coming Home by Annabel Kantaria
  • A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale
  • The Kindness of Enemies by Leila Aboulela
  • Me, You and Tiramisu by Charlotte Butterfield
  • The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange

And though this writer was not at the festival, I got her book because the title and the cover intrigued:

  • A Cupboard full of Coats by Yvette Edwards

They are all strong contenders for my recommended read to our book group when we reconvene in September.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be heading to Blighty and I can’t wait to lose myself in Foyles in Westfield, Stratford and in the charity shops’ book sessions. I’ll treat myself to a few ‘real books’.

Until then it’s back to the Kindle.

What are you reading this summer?

Happy Anniversary

7 years, in which I have:

  • Doubled the number of my sons
  • Realized that as my friend Chris says, ‘a place changes you more, than you change a place’
  • Lived the longest at the same address
  • Reckoned that home is where you make it, preferably with your family
  • Said more hellos than I have ever done in my life
  • Bade farewell more than I have ever done in my life, with the exception of when I left my twin-island birthplace
  • Overcome many preconceptions yet developed a few more prejudices

7 years since I landed in my desert place, I’ve learnt so much and am still learning more each day as this experience constantly amazes, thrills and infuriates me.

7 years today, my husband, son and I started an adventure… to be continued…

What are you celebrating?

Derek And Darcus

 

It saddens me that I learn so much more about some people after they have died

Things I wished I’d known while they were alive

So maybe just maybe I could have met them and had a chat about them

Still reeling from Derek Walcott’s passing, I am confronted by that of Darcus Howe

Two men who through their lives proved that the pen could be mightier than the sword

That discourse, ongoing, changing and cathartic was a human ideal

That poetry and politics, which often people say they don’t do or get, have a firm place in our lives

Rooted in the Caribbean but international in their presence

Blazing trails and inspiring

By no means neither good nor perfect but that was never the intention

As spirits as in body, their legacy echoes

To thine own self be true

Do you dare?

Let the Music Play

The first time ever I heard … Al B Sure’s version of ‘Killing Me Softly’, I swooned over the song…and him… rolled my eyes at my parents’ protestations that the Roberta Flack version was superior. I was young enough in the 90s to appreciate the Fugees take on the same song.

Once, and then several times more, in a lifetime, you may find yourself steupsing (sucking your teeth in disgust/despair/disagreement) at a diluted, less vibrant version of a tune you once rocked/cried/loved to.

There has been many a crime perpetrated against the ear masquerading as music. A single arbiter is inconceivable as we are so wonderfully diverse in our taste.  After all some of the best insults are those pelted by one ‘great’ to another: Ballet composer Tchaikovsky said that the lullaby-writing Brahms was ‘just some chaotic and utterly empty wasteland’ –   proof that this is not a recent phenomenon.

For the most part, I’m tapping my feet, nodding my head and thinking the music is in good hands. I’m especially sweet-eyeing (winking at) Ray Blk and Abra.

This post was inspired by listening to http://music.britishcouncil.org/the-selector.

Who’s got you grooving?

 

 

That 80s feeling

Thanks to a friend’s 30th birthday party, I had the chance to relive my teens. Decked in lace, acid wash, mismatched-more-is-more jewellery, neon green nails, fuschia lipstick and a big gold hoop with a key dangling a la Ms Jackson and I was the ‘illest’. In classic role reversal my older son asked me where I was going dressed like that.

It may be the decade that the Style Police would like to give a life-no-chance-of-parole sentence. But while bopping along with MC Hammer, Madonna a la ‘Like a Virgin’ video, Princess Leia, one of the models from the Robert Palmer videos, Elliot and ET and a Rubik’s cube, I concluded that the 80s gave great grooves.

Wave after nostalgic wave washed over me. When the DJ rocked ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go’ and ‘Thriller’, I couldn’t help but be saddened by the loss of so many amazing artists.

If you haven’t listened for the longest while to Loose Ends’ ‘Hanging on String’ or Soul II Soul’s ‘Back to Life’ or Duran Duran’s ‘Say A Prayer’ or Lisa Lisa’s ‘Lost In Emotion’  or LL Cool J’s ‘I Need Love’,go get your youTube on.  I’m giving you a prescription for your current woes. Side effects may include the sudden desire to wear spandex and leg warmers, flowered jeans and jackets with lots of zips.

You’ll  remember a time when life was a bit more complicated because you were a teenager but with the excellent vantage of hindsight, you know it was a lot simpler as well because you were a teenager.

What songs were you grooving to back then?

 

New Year Resolution II

It’s just about 2 weeks into the new year..

How are you faring with your resolutions?

Maybe…

  • the list is too long
  • you need to prioritize
  • you need to choose 1 or 2 things max
  • if you succeed at this 1 thing you may feel motivated next year to do the other things on your list
  • you need some help and some accountability – talk it through with a friend or a professional
  • you need to represent your resolution with pictures and words (cue cutting up old mags or endless google searches)
  • it’s too cold
  • you’re broke
  • there’s left over cheese and sweets

Give yourself a break. The year is 12 months long.

You could make a new month’s resolution next month as they say it takes 21 days to form a habit and Feb only has 28 days.

Or you can make a 3 months resolution at the end of April and have achieved your goal by the time you go on holiday at the beginning of August.

Or you can wait until September and follow the academic year but do some research and planning in the in meantime.

Could your January resolution  be to take time to reflect on what you truly want to achieve this year?