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Back to Black – Lives matter so let’s talk drug dealers and words. Language matters.

So it’s almost 6 months since I didn’t post a Black Square and I didn’t speak up.  I learned a new term ‘Race Adjacent’ thanks to a North American based cousin who read my blog post

We hear a lot about racism in North America – it’s more vocal and more people are aware of its modern and historical context.  In the UK, we still take a stiff upper lip approach to racism and find it hard to talk about – we’re not as vocal. But are we aware of the historical context of the British Empire and its colonies?  Were you taught at school to consider that the great British Empire was once the King of Drug Dealers?!  Yep – think Breaking Bad goes global, replace blue crystal meth with opium and rename it as the ‘Opium Wars’ – these modern cartels are amateurs in comparison!  Ever wondered why Hong Kong was returned to China or how it became part of the British Empire (#landgrab anyone?)       

So there’s education/wokeness needed through conversation but alongside that how do we become more vocal?

This is where North America are ahead of us in the UK – in the language by which they have to talk about race.  And this is important.  Many of us in the UK don’t have the language and therefore the tools to talk about race.  Let alone the confidence and the guts to open up these tricky conversations.  

Do you understand the terms Unconscious Bias, BAME, BIPOC, affinity groups, diaspora, imposter syndrome, privilege, white fragility, etc?

Are you equipped and fluent with the language and also have confidence to talk about race?

Are you aware of using inclusive language?  There’s a huge (albeit subtle) difference between talking about ‘the disabled’ vs ‘disabled people’ – the difference between a descriptor of a group of people vs a collective term.

In the last 6 months I’ve unknowingly been working on he above three questions.  Through watching TV, reading and having open discussions – I have now learned some of the words to talk about experiences I have had over the years.  There’s a common language and now a means by which to talk about and share these things that were so fluffy and intangible before.  Whereas before I had a niggly feeling that something wasn’t right, I didn’t have the right words to talk about it.  Now I feel a bit more equipped to firstly recognise that niggly feeling for what it is and also have the tools of language to express it without being not understood or shut down.

If you’ve read my previous post – you will realise that the death of George Flloyd really affected me.  It made me question my role and impact in changing the conversation and the system.  I’ve also learned that currently we seem to be in a time when we can share our experiences and open up conversations safely. Thank you to all those people who have been willing to engage with me and talk openly over the last 6 months – yes you’ve tended to be females but I guess that’s because of my situation and because you recognise the struggles of being in a minority.

So if you posted a Black Square –  what have you done over the last 6 months since posting that Black Square?  If you didn’t post a Black Square – if you’re reading this – read on and consider what you might read or watch.   Has your vocabulary increased? Do you have the tools to talk about race? Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching.

What have you done and what are you going to do before the 6 month anniversary of George Floyd’s death?

The School that Tried to End Racism on All4 (Channel 4 On Demand)This was filmed a year before George Floyd’s death and in a school with a white, male and progressive headteacher.  I found this hard to watch as a parent of mixed kids – which room would they go in?  
The Talk on All4 (Channel 4 On Demand)Again a hard watch as a parent. Have you considered when and how to bring up and talk about race to your children?  How do you explain systematic racism, its consequences and break that childhood innocent?
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism  by Robin DiAngeloThis is quite a heavy read but the term ‘White Fragility’ has crystallised a ‘niggly feeling’ for me although I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to use it.
Queenie by Candice Carty-WilliamsBoth well received books – these opened my eyes to others experience in seeing their worlds and hearing their voices
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernandine EvaristoIt won a Booker Prize.
Watched Good Trouble Season 1 and 2 on BBC iPlayerLove this – I’m still watching it. It raises so many of the issues I can relate to …

Let me know if you have an tips on what to read or watch next – my ‘What Next’ list includes:

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X KendiSo the concept is that an action racist or antiracist – there’s no in between …
Native: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by AkalaHopefully I’ll learn more about the Empire from this.
Something written by or presented by David OlugosoEnough said.
Crip Tales on BBC 4 iPlayerWatching and hearing about life through the lens of disabled people – eye opening.
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Going into battle to Make Every Poppy Count and support research into ME/CFS and Long-Covid

Make Every Poppy Count AND support research into ME/CFS and Long Covid by buying a Poppy Face Covering

As a generation or two –  a lot of us in the UK haven’t been through the experience of war and the subsequent consequences.  We’re a lucky generation – spoilt perhaps.  Blessed.  

However we’re a generation that’s going through a pandemic.  Historically others have been through a pandemic.  But this is a pandemic where we have daily updates, global information,  21st Century medical care and big data.  Some consider this pandemic our generation’s version of a war.  Is it? 

We don’t have rations – although we did struggle to get those online supermarket slots and were limited from stockpiling.  We don’t have gas masks and hard hats – although we have Face Shields and Face Coverings and hand sanitiser at hand. 

Speaking to people from the generation who lived through a war – this pandemic experience is different.  The biggest gripe is the loss of personal freedom.  I think we can all empathise with that.

With war the pain was sharp.  The terror as the alarms went, the fear as the planes flew over, the anticipation of bombs exploding.  Then the quiet afterwards.  Emerging from shelter – the experience was physical.  You could see, hear and smell the results.  My childrens’ great-grandmother recounted the morning after a bombing in Sheffield.  She and her best friend walked miles and saw the destruction, the smouldering embers and her Uncle’s haberdashery shop – destroyed.  Everything gone.  The impact of war was in your face – you woke up and saw it day to day.  But – you had your personal freedom.  The alarms warned you, the planes scared you, the bombs shook you – yes they took away your personal freedom.  But the next morning – if you were alive, you could go and see and feel the damage.  If you were lucky to be alive the next morning – you had some personal freedom (until the next raid). 

With this pandemic – things aren’t as sharp or acute.  The physical manifestation of this war with Covid-19 is hidden to many of us. It’s being fought in the hospitals, care homes and laboratories or at home if you’ve got it.  Away from our eyes and our senses.  Without this – we rely on the news, our social media feeds and whatsapp groups to experience this war.  The terror, fear and anticipation  – we can’t hear or see it physically.  For many of us – there’s no morning after where we emerge thankful we’re alive whilst taking in the consequences.  We can’t visualise this enemy who is taking away our personal freedom.  It’s a sustained period constricting our personal freedom.  Much of this war is a mental battle.  Much of this war is virtually experienced rather than physically experienced.  I’m thankful I’ve not had to make life/death decisions like the healthcare and social care workers.  I’ve not had to deal with that in addition to the mental battle we are all facing.  

We’re also starting to see consequences of the pandemic with Long-Covid and research into this area. ME and Long-Covid share a lot of the same symptoms. (Thank goodness NICE is cautioning against GET (Graded Exercise Therapy) for those suffering with Long-Covid / Post-Covid – ironically it’s taken a pandemic for NICE to caution against GET vs. years of campaigning by those suffering with ME/CFS).

With the war we had front-line workers, key workers – fighting the war.  Off they went – some never returned.  Others returned – damaged.  You could see the physical scars (although the mental scars remained hidden). 

With this pandemic we have front-line workers, key workers – fighting the pandemic.  But most of them day in, day out return home.  Life continues – the fear, despair, anticipation.  Less physical scars (but with potential mental scars hidden). 

With the war – afterwards we looked after and paid respect to those front-line workers. Those who went into batlle.

With this pandemic – how will we act to look after and pay respect to those front-line workers who have been at the coal face? 

With the war – we have the Royal British Legion.  The poppies synonymous with remembering and fundraising for the front line workers.

With this pandemic – what will we have?  The rainbows?  Will we remember? 

What will be the legacy for the NHS and the front-line workers?

With this all in mind – I’ve chosen to make and sell Poppy-inspired Face Coverings to raise funds for both the ME Association and the Royal British Legion.  

Yes – Every Poppy Counts. But will you remember to make Every Rainbow Count, the NHS and our Front Line workers in the future when we emerge?

Buy a Poppy Face Covering here!

Poppy Black 1

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The kids busted out of homeschool and I learned that I still boom and bust!

Am I really using a sinusoidal wave to show Boom and Bust? ‘Cos – it’s a bit of a tangent no?

When Coronavirus/Covid-19 hit us in March 2020 – I felt like I had been in training for it as I’d been in a mini lockdown of my own for the last few years.  However my children had a different experience. 

They stopped going to school. 

School was where they learned, they made things, they interacted with others and they played.  It was sudden.  The news had mentioned the possibility of schools shutting.  But when the Government announced it – we had little time to plan and prepare for it.  

One moment our children were happy in their normal world but the next moment things had changed.  They were at home all day and homeschooling began. We started homeschool with lots of enthusiasm. Like school, we had a routine – Yoga/PE, schoolwork, lunch, afternoon project work, etc.  And lots of snacks in between. Thank goodness we had a number of devices at home (including a printer) to help.

We were all pretty exhausted and frustrated with each other at the end of day.

Trying to maintain a routine/structure without going to a different environment is hard.   Trying to maintain that routine and meet my self-set expectations quickly took its toll.  Even though I was spending less physical energy – the mental and emotional energy spend exhausted me. Eventually we gave up on homeschooling – mainly because of my ME/CFS. We had tried. I had so wanted to make it work but I crashed.     

I wonder whether I would have given up quite so quickly if I wasn’t ill – the answer is sadly no.  I probably would have kept going (even if it exhausted me) and to the detriment of all of our mental health.  However thankfully my ME/CFS journey enabled me to let go a bit earlier than I would have before.  I still need to let go more – but it’s a start.  I have so much respect for those who are able to recognise the need to change their expectations for the sake of their mental health – if only I was so sage.

In September – my children returned to school. What happened when they returned to “normal”?

Well the kids settled quickly back into the school routine. They were excited. They adapted – albeit they were tired and very emotional. As others say – children are resilient.  

 It made me wonder what would happen if my illness went away and I could return to an old “normal”.  

Would I be commuting again, going from meetings to meetings whilst juggling people management, facilitating workshops, managing stakeholders, doing book bag admin when I got home, doing the online shop on the commute?

Probably not.

I’m starting to accept that there’s no returning to my old “normal” – and maybe it’s a cloud with a silver lining. But I still do need to recognise and accept that I need to change some of my ways as I continue to adapt to my new normal.

If you look at what I did with home schooling – an initial spur of energetic enthusiasm, setting a routine which was unrealistic for my personal energy resources, beating myself up for my self-imposed expectations, organising regular Zoom calls for my children and their friends – and then crashing.  A typical Boom and Bust pattern!  

So it seems I still need to learn about myself and how to manage my illness to stop the Boom and Bust.

  • Don’t be too hard on yourself with those self-set high expectations – lower them!
  • Check those expectations to realise what you may not be consciously aware of – talk with someone to check in
  • Go slow – whatever you’ve planned – cut it by half
  • A new process or routine which you’ve planned and decided will be a good way forwards will not solve everything – it may cover all the bases you can think of but you will not have fully considered your personal resources sensibly
  • Yes – processes and systems do not solve everything (!) 
  • We are resilient and adapt
  • Lowering expectations isn’t giving up or admitting you’re not good enough – it’s adapting to circumstances 
  • Re-read this as your brain will automatically dismiss this as soft mambo jumbo even though you’ve got a case study above to refer to
  • Keep working on Boom and Bust!

And what have I learned from my children during lockdown

  • It’s nice to get out of the house and be in a different environment interacting with different people
  • I need to learn
  • I need to produce things
  • I need to interact with others
  • I need to play

Just like my kids do. 

Even if there’s an illness out there that hinders me.

It’s SOH , CAHallenging and TOA – ough (oh dear!!! remember trignometry?!)
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Kindness on the curriculum

What do you do when life deals you one of those and your whole frame of reference is shaken?

Over the last 3 years it’s been like that for me – it’s been a ride and a half and always changing. But it makes me realise that perhaps this is how our little ones have been feeling. Maybe they are feeling this but can’t express it – and so the tantrums, the screams, the heightened emotions and the hugs too.
How did I cope – I learned more about it, I tried to control it, I learned to accept and today I continue to try to accept. I was emotional. I had days when I didn’t want to do much, days when I wanted to do so much but couldn’t, days when my mood was up and down, days when it felt so bad I didn’t know what I was feeling, days when things looked like they might be getting back to normal (even though I’m not sure what normal is anymore).

So sod home school for a bit – they’re on their change curve. There’s the denial, the trough of despair, the upwards curves as you start to accept – except it’s not a simple curve … it’s more like a rollercoaster at the moment.

So maybe my 3 years have been a dry run for this – equipped me with more patience and tolerance than I used to have. Made me realise that kindness can make such a difference – I kind of knew before but it’s made such a difference. Thank you for kindness – homeschool can wait a bit – let them feel some sort of control, let them wallow and excite as and when.