Forever Distracted By Life
Personal Blog Post by DS Coremans
Friday 24 December 2021
A Year in Review – The Year at a Glance
The end of 2021 is beginning to close in fast and before it does I wanted to stop and reflect, something I have been guilty of ignoring for some time. Today is the first time in months that I have had both the time and presence of mind to stop and evaluate my place within the world.
It is often too easy to feel that we have not done enough, or worked hard enough; but when I consider all that I have done in a year that has presented constant challenge and adversity, I realise that I truly have come so much further than I would have ever dreamed at the start of the year.
The beginning of December marked the 22nd consecutive month that my family have spent in lockdown since we chose to close our doors along with the rest of the world in March 2020. In that time my brother (for whom I am a legal guardian and carer) has been blue-lighted to the hospital twice during 2020 and thankfully this year has been in much better help. This is something for which I am eternally grateful. My father who was diagnosed with colon cancer for the second time in five years had his surgery in April 2020 and after a short stay in hospital returned home to recover by the end of the summer. He began an intensive chemotherapy treatment which lasted until February of this year. My year began as it continued on providing a high level of support and care for my family members with no external support, but thankfully my older brother was also at home with us and as a family we have gotten through 2021 intact and ready to flourish in this coming year.
My older brother and I both started our year by returning to the second semester of our second year at our respective universities, both completing our academic years (although not without some difficulty) entirely online and home-based. After a long summer, we both returned to start our third year of our degrees and as of yesterday I have submitted the last of the assignments required for my first semester of third year.
This last semester was relentless, and paired with the provision of ongoing care the pace and process of learning in a home-based environment while the majority of my peers returned to campus was difficult as it often highlighted just how restricted and cut-off from the world our lives have become. I am however very proud of my academic accomplishments this year, to have held my own and produced the standard of work I have so far submitted has been a great personal achievement and further to having completed this work, I have been proud of the kindness I have shown myself, in not being too hard on myself when the grades I have received were not as good as I had hoped for. Where once I would have berated myself and considered walking away from furthering my academic journey for fear that I am not good enough I have strived to work to the highest standard possible under the most challenging conditions. I am proud to have done all that I can, and prouder still to continue on growing as a student, as a writer, and as an individual.
The Importance of Wellbeing
I began this year in a place of distress and anxiety. On top of lockdown, caring for my family and academic work I found myself in a new job that I started the week before Christmas. In many respects it would have been a one time perfect job, being a project coordinator for a local charity that allowed me from the get go to work from home and yet still become very quickly an integral part of the team. The work itself was mostly administrative and was very much in keeping with the work I did for years prior to returning to academia in 2018. Had I attained this position prior to returning to learning i would likely have thrown myself into the position and hopefully I would have thrived; but, in conjunction with everything else in my life I very quickly found myself overworked, overwhelmed and in far over my head.
I did what I could and perhaps even more than that. But where I found myself failing was in my lack of capacity to do everything. Work came first, studying came second and my family traipsed in behind everything else. And I, well, I didn’t even make it onto my own list.
In trying to do little bits of everything I found myself lacking across the board and no amount of financial renumeration was worth the significant decline in my mental health. My first post of the year ‘Busy Being Better’ was a moment of prescience and the first time I openly acknowledged just how stretched I had let myself become; but also, without putting it into words I knew in that moment that I couldn’t sustain the level of work I had committed myself too. What hurt me the most wasn’t the affect that the workload had on me, but watching from behind an ever present laptop screen I saw my families wellbeing begin to decline, and the guilt that that created within me was devastating.
As February began I was made aware that a former client I had worked with years before had passed away months before. It devastated me and became the catalyst for creativity and grief, two things which seem to go together for me in a way I cannot properly explain but my ‘Elegy for Kris’ was the first creative thing I had done since taking part in a Poetry Marathon which took place on New Years Eve. As the creative dam broke so too did my resolve to continue with the taxing workload that continued to weigh down upon me. I had taken on ‘Too Much’ and the longer I tried to do everything the more obvious this became. There was only so long that I could continue to go on by ‘Digging Deep’ and finally I had to accept that I had to give something up.
I had carried my world ‘Like Atlas’ but found myself with important ‘Decisions’ to make, decisions which no matter how I tried, made me feel like a ‘Failure’. As February ended so too did my time with the charity I was working with, and though it hurt me to do it I walked away hurt by the experience and leaving me to pick up the pieces as I began again looking for ways to find balance within my life.
‘Finding Balance’ became a mantra for the rest of my year. As one journey ended another began in the form of a return to counselling, working with a new counsellor I began to explore my anxiety and depression and over the course of the rest of the year I transcended from that place of being overwhelmed to a much happier and healthier place.
This came with some draw back, already withdrawn from the world by the circumstances of lockdown I began to withdraw even more from the people in my life. So little was changing for me and it hurt me seeing the people I loved going about their lives, talking about their lives and all that they were doing when I felt imprisoned by my circumstances. I hated that all I could do was say the same things over and over while feeling pangs of jealousy as the people I love most talked about the things they had been doing and so I began talking to people less, more to stop these feelings emerging than because I wanted to. I still haven’t found that balance socially, but emotionally I am less affected by others as by withdrawing and focusing on that which I can control, as opposed to obsessing over that which I have not control I am happier with my place in the world and my decision to stay within it.
Through counselling I felt like was coming to terms with my life as a carer, I was finally able to start questioning why I was so unhappy: writing ‘I Care too Much’ was the first time I had ever publicly acknowledged why being a carer was so hard. My greatest fear, that caring for the family that I was born into would mean never having a family of my own, and that eventually I would have no-one, and spend the rest of my life alone. This was a hard concept to explore, but by doing so I was able to pull at the threads and begin addressing the rational and irrational aspects of these thoughts and by doing so I was able to move on from a fear that had grounded me for a life-time, giving this fear a name meant that I could begin to work past the belief that this was a Calvinistic prophecy that I could not escape. My work with my counsellor was hard but I was not longer ‘Shouting into the Void’ and in a relatively short space of time I have come further as an individual than perhaps I ever have before.
Something Old, Something New, With Borrowed Strength, I Beat the Blues
This year though hard was not all doom and gloom, even though it could have been. Instead once I had the time to focus, I used that time to be creative something that I had ‘Forgotten’ was the cleansing clarity that I often get from channelling my most difficult emotions into creative energy. It doesn’t work for everyone, but ‘Each to Their Own’ and in doing what was right for me I found that I became much less ‘Anxious’ as I added more and more ‘Lines on the Page’ allowing me to express and process all of the things I need to say to be ready to say ‘“I’m Fine.”’
I took part in so many creative challenges this year, six poetry marathons, and for the first time I took part in and completed the NaNoWriMo novel writing challenge completing my goal of writing 50,000 words in November of this year. This was my seventh attempt at this challenge and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my friend Amanda who pushed me throughout the month until I had my first official win under my belt.
In September I began sharing regular themed writing prompts on FoDiByLi and this was something I managed to do daily throughout October and November as I shared prompts throughout ‘The Month of Mood’ and ‘The Month of Transition’. I chose not to do so in December as I really needed to focus on my academic work, but have plans to make this a much more regular part of the posting schedule here on FoDiByLi in the New Year. Thank you to everyone who took part in writing to these prompts, shared them on Social Media or just liked the posts here on FoDiByLi, it means the world to me to be able to give back to the creative community in some small way and to see FoDiByLi continue to grow fills me with an immense pride.
There are times where ‘Rest is Required’, where time should be taken to ‘Do Nothing’ and doing so will always lead us ‘Back Where We Belong’. The clouds may sometimes be grey, but the darkest clouds in the sky still have ‘Silver Linings’ it just takes a little time to find them.
The Beautiful Warrior
I can’t end a post in reflection of a year like this without acknowledging my forever muse and inspiration in everything I do, my mother. Approaching Christmas is hard as it is a time where as a family we are faced by her absence, but in everything we do together we are ‘Remembering Her’. For my father especially this year marked ‘Forty-Five Years in Love’ when their anniversary came around in October and not a day goes by that we don’t stop to think about her or talk about her. We love you constantly and eternally mum, and though we are not blessed by your physical presence we are never without you. Thank you for being here with us and know that we love you to the moon and back.
A New Beginning
Like always, time moves on and soon enough we will be together with family and friends. Maybe 2022 will be the year that we finally get to venture outside and reclaim our place in the world beyond our walls. But until that time we will continue to be, happy, healthy, safe and loved.
Whatever you end up doing, do it with love in your heart and kindness for yourself as well as for others. Be well, my friends, be well; and I hope that you remain Forever Distracted By Life.
Darren Syme Coremans