I am usually a glass half-full kind of gal, but at the start of half term I am in need of a power surge not a circuit break. I only have the capacity for so much surge and the one kind of retreat my body is interested in right now appears to be screaming, ‘reverse, reverse!’

Back in March I felt quite energised by the novelty of the whole Covid situation – I think most of us did – the community spirit and the slowing down gave us some collective vigour. Now I find myself snarky and irritated, even though I felt sure I had been rebooted by that enforced isolation (see previous blog). Now, a week of school behind me and with seven days’ holiday to call my own, all my good intentions about gratitude and enjoying the moment seem to have dwindled. I do not understand why I am finding it so tiring to be a Pollyanna.

I think I may have menopausal negative Covid and I am available for research if any university is interested in engaging in some primary data. You will need to come to me – I rarely leave home these days.

I thought – naively – that the menopause could be useful in my armoury of strategies to inch through these Covid months – after all, if I can forget my own name when I am standing in a room looking for something I can’t remember, then surely I must be able to live in the moment and not dwell in the past or future? Sadly I am learning that even my menopausal surge capacity is wasted in our current context.

Mama J is is fuelled by setting herself little goals and targets – even scaring herself a little sometimes – and yet now it feels like too much hard work to commit. This feels like a U- turn of self doubt and hypocrisy to a person who spends much of her day coaching teenagers to take responsibility for themselves, to celebrate their resilience and to manage their wellbeing. I am a well-being fraud.

Although my battery is flat, this morning I do manage to pour myself out of bed at a ridiculously early hour to run with my usual partner in crime. Perhaps there is some hope for me. It is reassuring to discover that even my lardy-arsed surge outage can still be guilt-tripped and galvanised by the threat of a calendar appointment. One of the best pieces of advice I received some years ago was, ‘honour your commitments; do not let people down.’ To be honest, I think this advice was given in relation to dating, but it has served well in all areas of my life.

Sorry, I forgot my narrative for a moment, bear with me while I power back up.

Ah yes. This morning finds me running down a dark tow path with my running mate (I forgot that it would still be dark and was apathetic in the search for a head torch before leaving home, so I only have myself to blame). I explain to my friend about my loss of mojo and my imposter syndrome on the well-being front. ‘Why is it all such hard work?’ I whine as he listens and prevents an exuberant spaniel – launching from the roof of a canal boat – from tipping my somnambulism into the adjacent water. Reader you should feel grateful, for if it wasn’t for my friend, I would now be summonsing up the energy to stretch a metaphor about treading water to the point of exhaustion.

‘It is fine telling people to eat healthily, get exercise and to breathe slowly,’ I drone on, ‘but if you haven’t got the energy to commit to these things, that just makes you feel even more rubbish. And if one more person tells me to stop overthinking, I will not be responsible for my actions – well a nod in the direction of an action. How would they like it if they had a brain that insists on draining their battery down? If you decide to ‘nurture’ your wellbeing and have a lie-in on a box-set binge, an overactive brain like mine goes onto spin cycle. I am a shadow of an oxymoron these days’.

Friend breathes, turns down my request to U-turn on the tow path and reminds me of all my usual mantras:

  • You never feel worse for a run
  • Chunk things down
  • Commit to a friend/mentor

I now realise how annoying I must usually sound – especially to anyone who loves their sofa. Fortunately I am so busy chomping my way through my energy chews (I didn’t get up early enough to eat breakfast) that I just amble along besides my friend and listen. I have no breath to waste in reply. Even the battery on my running watch has died on me.

‘Think of all those runs we have done over the years,’ he continues, ‘we never think we are going to run a marathon at the start, even though we have foolishly signed up to so so. Then we find ourself chunking a route down, falling into stride with total strangers who for a couple of hours are just sensible enough to plod along beside us without engaging in conversation. We take jelly babies from spectators who seem to miraculously appear just when we need them and we wonder why people are so flipping lovely. Where do those fellow runners disappear to at the end? Who knows? We may never see them again, but they get us through. People constantly surprise us in their support and we constantly surprise ourselves by our inner mettle. Now, that is surge capacity.’

I feel my mentor has just called a curfew on my pity party. You can tell he works in education for our two hour run turns in to a wellbeing and mojo master class of starter, reflection and plenary. He leaves me with a couple of ‘take aways’ but resists the use of coloured pencils or a flip chart – surprising for a geography teacher (#justsaying).

‘We are all responsible for our own well being, but we also all need a mentor, a coach, a friend – someone who will encourage us to ‘turn up’ and someone who promises to put us back together if we have a melt down or outage’. My friends is a rugby fan (and is already probably bored with shoring me up and is looking ahead to the start of the first Six Nations match) so he leaves me with an image of a rugby line out. ‘The team that throws their team mate up in the air to catch the ball, doesn’t then leave them to face plant; they assist them back down again. This is how we will get through these next months. Now let’s get a wiggle on and get back to the start, I have a rugby match to watch’.

As we wend our way back, my menopausal capacity is drained further by a random overthink replay of the spaniel incident earlier on the tow path. I decide not to test our friendship further by asking my running buddy if he would have seen me back onto my feet if that puppy had caused me to face plant – or belly flop into the canal – earlier. I do not really need to ask, I am just feeling pathetically needy. My friend has put me back together many times. I am grateful that my tired body and over active brain remind me of this and I feel my Pollyanna faintly rebooting.

So, plenary time: In times of crisis, we all have reservoirs of emotional energy that we can call into action, to help us cope with the initial challenges. That bad news is that this surge capacity has a limited shelf life, so we will all need to take the responsibility to check in each day to prevent a power outage. The good news, is that we are all surrounded by yummy people if we experience capacity failure.

In the light of this learning (every day’s a school day), I have booked in a few runs over half term as prevention therapy to cope with any threat of a digital Christmas. My capacity to marvel at humanity will undoubtedly be stretched as I read of a panic- buy shortage of Chocolate Oranges and Christmas puddings (I can only empathise with the former, not the latter), but when I next plod along the local tow path I can console myself that I will have been recharged by an additional hour’s sleep tonight and that it will temporarily be light enough to see where that pesky pup is lying in wait for a random maul.

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