Dolly's blog: When the Chips are Down: A Survival Guide
It’s a year since life as I knew it pretty much fell apart. At first I thought a week would fix it, then perhaps a month, maybe three months tops. Each continuation seemed quite literally unbearable, and yet somehow it has been borne. How? Here’s my survival guide…
I am not the first to extol the mood altering properties of a fur person, but words can’t express his life-saving powers. Yes, I regularly have to extract him from the dishwasher, his bin-raiding would make a Viking blush, and when he hoovered up an entire packet of Strepsils he cost me a night’s sleep. He is also unforgiven for New Year’s Eve, when we stayed with a non-dog-owning friend who (guided by his elderly mother) had proudly cooked everyone his first ever lasagne. As we counted down towards midnight and tucked in to cocktails, a howl of anger exploded from the kitchen. Our dog had eaten the lasagne.
But….! He makes us laugh every single day, even the days when laughing seems impossible, and there’s no better coping mechanism than laughter. Also, although he can’t talk, he’s surprisingly effective at facilitating communication. Don’t know why. Just is.
My children’s worries remind me that mine aren’t the only game in town. Their triumphs remind me that it’s not all bad and there are better times ahead.
Also, I’ve always found overly proud parents hilarious. Humble brags (and the not so humble ones) remind me of a school friend’s mother who, with zero self-awareness, declared to my Mum at a 1980s prize giving that her daughter was “quite simply brilliant”. Can you imagine! I also chuckle reminiscing about parents my age who appealed the school’s decision to award another child the class prize (having undertaken a forensic examination of comparative class marks throughout the year), and others who visibly exploded at speech day when their child wasn’t made school captain. Keep it to yourself, seriously.
But increasingly I do find happiness in a sense of wonder about our children, as I suspect do all parents. How did a generation as over-stretched as ours somehow manage to rear a new generation that’s so bloody smart, funny and generally amazing? Ditch the guilt my friends, we must have got a few things right, even if it was by accident.
And in further reasons to be grateful, two of mine have taken up rowing and thereby provided the opportunity for me to become [drum roll…] Rowing Mom! Nearly every weekend is now spent on the side of a river, eating cream teas and eyeing up other peoples’ infinitely superior picnic equipment. I’m bloody loving it. My life has led to this point. Also, I get to torture my children by banging on about my own rowing exploits last century. I will never tire of this.
Work (and friends)
Work has been a godsend; a distraction, a sense of purpose, and a font of friendship. In the game of life, it’s a source of regret that my friendships generally come bottom of the to do list. I’ve also realised that when the chips are down I have a self-harming tendency to retreat. Perhaps my greatest learning during the year from hell is that reaching out to friends (including work ones) is one of the best survival mechanisms of all. Just be sure to pick friends whose dog doesn’t eat your lasagne.
After 19 years of fee earning, Dolly now works in a management role in a London law firm. Working four days a week she is supported by a wonderful (though often absent) husband as they attempt to bring up three children aged 15, 14, and 11. A lockdown puppy adds to the chaos but keeps her sane.