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Real life is looming

Yes, next week I'm going back to work. I like what I do, even if some days are better than others. Sometimes, I love what I do. And alongside the money-making endeavours, I'm also looking forward to getting stuck into the writing again. So, why am I feeling hemmed in all of a sudden?

It happens every year. I look forward to being off for Christmas and promise myself that, the next year, I'll have time off during another holiday, instead of just having two weeks at Christmas. Don't get me wrong there - I'm not worked to the bone like some Victorian housemaid who only has Sundays off and half a day every other Wednesday. I work part-time, self-employed and don't work weekends anymore.

Except, if that was all I did, there wouldn't be any problem. But like so many other adults in the sandwich generation, I am the middle tier of a family with teenage children and an elderly parent. I have my own household to run, the usual problems to sort out, as well as the many and various problems that crop up with an elderly parent.

So, on a normal working day I drag my sorry self out of bed, drag even sorrier teenagers out of bed, get them sorted for college, organise the ranged cats and dogs, do the college run, come home and have a peaceful breakfast. This is usually the time of day I do my blog, in the quiet house with only myself to look after.

During the day there are other things to do, all related to the responsibilities outlined above. From 3 p.m. onwards I'm back on the college run and then I go to work. It varies, so some nights I'll be finished by 7 and when I'm busier, it's after 9.

I'll come home, having had to go to the shop on the way, eat a late supper, watch TV for too long, fall into bed, occasionally sleep and then repeat.

Somewhere along the line I try to write fiction and non-fiction, though I have to say, if I do get any done, it feels like quite an achievement!

The Christmas break is my time for relaxing and doing as little as possible. I've done so much of this that I'm now having to avoid feeling guilty over how many Miss Marple episodes I've watched in the past week. And I don't need to tell you where all the Christmas biscuits went.

It's been so nice, not having to be anywhere or remember to be anywhere.

Now, unfortunately, real life looms and I have to get my semi-working brains out of the bauble box so that I can get back into the swing of things next week. I'm already dreading the teens going back to college as I'm a sucker for having my kids at home, but I know they'll revel in seeing their friends again.

I'm just about, by the skin of my teeth, avoiding the January blues. As a Christmas lover, I do hate January. It's almost a cosmic law that I have to hate it, because it's the furthest point from the next Christmas. It's also full of people with good intentions and new plans, all with lots of enthusiasm for the year to come. I do find other people's boundless enthusiasm hard to stomach.

Let's face it, what I'm really not looking forward to is going back out into the world at times and days to suit my responsibilities. It won't be so bad, I'm not as busy as I've been in other years, but it will be a jolt after doing my own thing for a while.

I'm pretending to myself that it doesn't matter, you see, when it actually does. I'm being bright and jolly (as much as possible) with other people. I'm talking about normal things and seeing what the teens need to do before they go back to college. I'm already talking about work and planning ahead.

All the while, I must confess, the real me is not joining in. The real me is so not pleased, it isn't true. I am really sitting in a corner, sulking, still wearing my party hat. I have my arms folded and a grimly determined expression on my face. I will not be organised! I will not be ready! You can't make me so I won't do it!

Yes, I'm a properly sulky aspie about it. Why should I start being sensible again? Why should I plan ahead before I need to? It'll be fine if I just leave it. I don't want to think about it until I have to and I don't have to, not yet.

Except, I do. This is Saturday night. After tomorrow, it will be Monday. I start work properly on Tuesday but the teens start college on Monday and I have a lot of things I need to do before Tuesday, so really, Monday is the beginning of my back to work phase.

It doesn't matter how much I sulk or pretend to myself, the new year has happened and it's travelling along at its usual speed. I can't ignore it. That's why I act as people expect - ready and glad to be facing working routines again. If I can't change the thing, I may as well behave like it's okay, in the hopes that it will become okay by default.

Really, the problem I have is that the real me isn't just sulking. That's a front. So, behind the front of the cheerful me is the sulky aspie. Behind the sulky aspie is a worried looking woman, staring at her hands as she thinks everything through. And behind her? What lays behind the pretence, the sulking and the worry?

I think what lays at the very heart of it all is Fear. Being at home, watching my beloved Miss Marple and not worrying about the time or the day, that is the opposite of always having to know what time it is, what needs doing, what has been done, where I need to be. I fear that level of organisation and the side of me which must come forward to take charge of it all.

I fear having to be the responsible one. There is no one else to do it and no one should have to do it for me. All these things are my own responsibilities and I take care of them and do them because they're for the people I love. It's right that I should do them.

It's also right that I should feel fear because it's the pressure that looms with the new year. I know it's there, waiting for me to come out and play. Like an unwanted party guest, it never comes in, only stands by the gate and waits until you have to pass by. You can never avoid it for long, it's always going to be there.

Sometimes it doesn't matter what I have to do, and sometimes it really matters a lot and I can't cope. The new year is like opening the door on all of that. I don't know what it will bring but I do know what went before. I need to be here again, do what I must and face what I can.

From Monday, no more relaxing with Miss Marple, no more biscuits and no more ignoring the calendar. The working week starts in just over a day, the working year starts with it.

The best thing I can say is that, as usual in January, I have plans afoot to make it better and more interesting. This year, there are things I can achieve without needing to change my personality first, so I do feel more hopeful this time.

This year will be the first year since I was very much younger that writing will play a greater part in my working life than anything else. That's why, for once, I have some of the excitement within me that usually belongs to people who love new year. I haven't made new year resolutions, I haven't set myself impossible challenges. What I have done is look at what I can do and what I enjoy doing, then worked out how they can be combined.

So, allow me some small excitement, especially as it waylays the fear. Next week, I still need to be the grown up who knows where all the socks are and remembers to buy food for packed lunches. As well, though, there will be a newly-awakened schoolgirl part of me, the one who thought she would spend her whole life writing stories and everything would be okay.

Here's hoping everything will be okay, in the simple way that we used to look at things. One way or another, readers, let it be okay and let us have excitement for the future. In the words of a very great philosopher and friend to the outcast and misunderstood:

"This frog has to go his own way
This frog doesn't care what the other frogs say
This frog wants to be happy, and this frog has to try
This frog is gonna make it or know the reason why
I'm not gonna sit here like some dumb old bump on a log
That isn't me!
I'm gonna be this frog!"


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