The grief roller coaster

You think you’ve gotten through it.  You think the gut thumping heaving sobs you’ve endured long into the night have all but washed you out of any grief you’ve got left to give.  You think that going back to work and throwing yourself into it has cleared the sinuses of your despair.  You think the exhaustion you feel that wraps your body tightly will surrender you to sleep when you crawl into bed.

You think. You think. You think.

You’re wrong.

Everyone keeps asking if you’re OK.  Being stoically British you’re expected to smile and maintain that stiff upper lip, and say ‘yes’.  The problem is, you’re not OK. Only the befuddled state on their faces when you say you’re not, and their need to cheer you up stops you from being honest.  People don’t want to hear you’re not OK.

The grief has become a roller coaster.  It pulls you down into its cold cave and makes you weep, to the point where you’re doubled over in your kitchen sobbing until it robs you of breath.  Then you have days when you feel a little bit more ‘up’, then there’s a stupid advert for ‘how we do Christmas’ on Sky.  There is little else you can do but ride the roller coaster and hope that the ride comes to an end (like you know it inevitably will).

Being honest? I’m not OK.  When I do sleep my dreams are vivid and spook me when I wake up, my heart pounds and fear about everything washes over me.  I have to claw myself out of the dream only to find that when I fall asleep the dream is just paused and it continues to play like a bad horror movie (note – I don’t like horror movies).

In the last 12 months (because the anniversary is next Tuesday), I have lost the ability to have children (through no fault of my own), saw someone walk out my life I care for immensely, and I’ve lost my dad.

It’s bad enough when you have to grieve for the loss of one thing, because losing the ability to have children forces you to grieve for its loss.  But when you lose 3 things? well as someone said on Saturday he was surprised I wasn’t running naked down Marlborough high street.  I wonder this myself.

I’m nervous.  I’m filled with anxiety.  I’m exhausted.  I’m barely functioning.

I paint on a facade like an adobe render, hiding the cracks and flaws underneath.  Only it’s getting too exhausting to paint it on everyday so I’m hiding away and trying to simply function.  I’m living in PJs and hiding under blankets.

My mantra has become, ‘one foot in front of the other, and remember to breath’.

Life isn’t what it used to be, and I don’t yet know what it’s going to become.

Death and taxes

On Friday 21st of November 2014 I’ll be laying my dad to rest.  It really doesn’t quite feel like it was two and a half week since he died.  It feels like a lifetime has passed.

In the last two weeks I’ve thought so much about all the things that I wanted to say to him – not because he’s gone, but things I’d been saving up to say to him when I was supposed to see him in person.  I know they say that you remember the last conversation you have with the person who died, I do, and I wish it had been a better one.

It’s not that we argued, but because my dad had become so disorientated the conversation was confusing and distorted.  I guess I’ll remember that.

Whatever picture you have of someone dying, because of what you’ve seen in the movies, it’s wrong.  He didn’t just drift off to sleep.  He struggled for every one of his last breaths that he took.  He wasn’t conscious at the end.

The one thing my job and my latent curiosity gives me is a depth of understanding.  I knew his frontal cortex would have been firing even if he wasn’t fully there.  I know he waited for me.  I let him go.

Life has been a blur for the last two weeks.  A dizzying mix of dealing with everything and then, just full stop.  Then the tears that wash over you and the weight that presses down on your chest and you can’t breath properly.

The stupid inevitability of what was coming is lost on me somehow.  I knew it was nearer than I wanted to believe.  I still feel like I’ve somehow been robbed.

I’m also angry at myself.  For not telling my dad months ago that it was OK to admit that he’d just had enough of living.  That his life had become so sad and empty, and that he just wanted to be at peace.  So I told him at the end it was OK to go.

My dad gave me so much of who I am.  He gave me humour, and humility.  He gave me vulnerability and belief in myself.  He taught me so much that I’ll never be able to thank him for properly.  In the end however, it’s nothing without the ability to share it with someone.

Perhaps that’s what’s made me feel the worst.  That in the last year I’ve lost so much.  That I’ve done this all on my own.  On one side is the understanding that I know I can do this all on my own, and on the other? that I don’t want to do this all on my own.

Right now, there’s a big hole in my heart left by two people this year.  I wish there weren’t.

Dad

On Wednesday evening, at about 22:40 GMT my dad moved onto his next great adventure.  I hope wherever he is, he is free of pain, walking so fast that people have to trot to keep up and doing it all with a big smile.

My dad, the person who made me who I am today.  The gentle giant.  Bootface.  Completer of the Telegraph cryptic crossword on a daily basis.  Intelligent, funny and with the biggest heart.  He would do anything for anyone (if he could).

Right now I can’t really find the words to say how great he was to me.  I just know that one of the brightest lights in my life has flickered and gone.

Good night dad.  Sleep well.  You will be missed.

Light

The other day I tweeted that a year ago I was freaking out at the prospect of major surgery, I was very single and stuck in a job that I really wasn’t enjoying (with people who made me feel miserable).  I was scared and the future didn’t look especially bright.

This year, couldn’t be further from a year ago.  A lot has changed (and some things still stay the same).

So why are things so completely different?  Changing jobs probably has a lot to do with it.  I think it’s safe to say in the last 4 months (it’s only been 4 months! feels like longer) I’ve barely stopped.

Having been asked to talk at a conference (run by the company I work for), I was sort of pushed onto a metaphorical stage with some incredibly respected peers who are known globally for what they do.  For a while I was thinking, ‘there’s all these people, then there’s me…’.

I wouldn’t say I was concerned about talking, a bit nervous as I’d never spoken in front of so many people.  I knew I could do it (any woman that goes through a hysterectomy at 36 on her own can pretty much achieve anything… I’m just sayin’).  Plausibly the problem was going to be – would anyone either understand or like my presentation.

Long story short, they did.  I always overlook any talent I’ve got, possibly because I don’t think it’s that much of a big deal, it’s part of who I am.  So I overlooked that one thing I’m really good at is taking complex ideas and explaining them in a way that others understand.  Which is what I did.  I enjoyed the experience, and I want to do it again.

Well, having attended the conference I’ve made a whole host of new friends, specifically a wonderful woman named Bern, and in an incredibly short space of time we’ve submitted a proposal for a conference in Minneapolis next April.  Which probably isn’t the big bit that excites me (weird I know).  It’s that we’re going to be doing primary research into something that I’ve pondered over for quite some time.

I’m not going to share all the details right now as we’re still planning our research.  When we’re ready to launch I’ll post more on here.

The thing that makes me feel like this is different is that last year my future was very bleak, being 36 and never being able to have children made me think that I’d never have much of a future (even though I didn’t really want children – it’s weird can’t really explain it).  To this year realising that I have a very real opportunity to give something back that may stand the chance of making a difference in people’s lives.

Light equals hope, I’ve gotten hope back.  Hope that the future is not going to bleak that I’m working with great people during the day, doing great things and that’s afforded me the luxury of making friends outside of work and exploring things that I probably would only have dreamed of.

Life takes you in all kinds of directions if you’re open to the possibilities that what is expected doesn’t have to be the path you choose.  As they say, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, and I think I’ve finally started making those steps.

Links: Interact 2014 Storify (NB I’m on day 2 so a bit of a scroll)

Why tech?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m equal parts geek and nerd.  To those who don’t know me, they are often shocked when I start correcting them on technology information.  When you get to know me, you know I just find comfort in tech.  I don’t know why exactly, I guess I just do.

Did I start out my career thinking this is what I wanted to do?  No.  Not at all.  When I was at school, I wanted to be a fashion designer.  People find that even more hilarious – me, having a sense of fashion, again that’s often surprising but it’s a post for another day.

Then I wanted to be an interior designer.  That’s my part time passion, interiors.

I fell into my career in a rather haphazard manner.  Started out selling computers, and blagged my way into an IT support job with ICL.  From there I became a bit of an autodidact.  Only ever had 4 hours of training in 17 years, and that was my first day on the job.  Being taught how to hard code autoexec and config.sys files on windows machines.

So why exactly would I choose technology?  Perhaps I could see the difference that technology could make.  I got excited at the prospects of taking something that you always had to do by hand and using computing technology to make it better.  It’s somewhat grandiose to say it, but I believed (and I still do), that computers have got the power to save lives.

It’s rather sad that we’re still not pushing the boundaries of what they’re capable of.  In this big data revolution we still throw around words easily because they’re fashionable without considering what the meaning of them really are.  Instead of just saying things we should be doing more with them.

So it was the article on Sky News a couple of weeks ago (the link to which I can’t find which is typical), that made me smile.  A pilot scheme run in two hospitals using iPods to monitor patient vitals had saved around 300 lives.  Amazing huh?

Just think… if transforming a paper process into something digital with only a tiny bit of what’s possible, and it can save 300 lives, why on earth are we not doing more?  Technology doesn’t need to be big and expensive, it can be small and plausible.

MVP or MK3?

As mentioned previously, I’m researching for the conference I’m talking at.  This means reading, a lot (nothing new there).  What is new is my reading material.  Normally I’ll surf from one article to another rather than reading whole text books (seriously… snore).  I’ll pull little bits of information from one place or another and glue them together to come up with insights.  My brain has been called wikipedia before (along with a comment about it being a bit freakish).

So at the moment I’m reading The Lean Startup by Eric Reiss (great book, well written).  I won’t go into details about it as I suggest you read it.  However, he obviously talks about the MVP quite a bit (minimal viable product for those of you who don’t know).  My reading has also coincided with the latest Apple launch this week.

Before I go off on one, I’ve mentioned that I read a lot and I retain a hell of a lot of random bits of information in my brain.  Anyway, earlier this year, Nike canned their fuel band.  Which was a little odd, as the market for wearables is picking up a pace, they had also released two versions of their product to the market.  Very odd, as a third would mean (if they had learnt anything from Apple) was the right type of market space holder.

Anyone who knows me, knows I don’t go out and buy first generation Apple products.  Whilst the first release of an Apple product that you’re likely to see is a damn good one, it’s still in their eyes an MVP.  You can tell it from the design and that features are missing (remember the first iPhone, no 3G and no cut / copy / paste?).

So why am I rambling?  Well the speculation was rife when Nike let their team go, that they didn’t let them go very far, they handed off the team into the waiting hands of Apple.

Nike don’t build tech.  Lets be clear on that.  Whilst the fuel band is a great concept it has turned their system into a proprietary product with ‘fuel’ instead of things that we recognise (like calories0.  At the time bloggers were speculating that Apple wanted access to the social network that Nike had built (and maybe that was the case).  Then if you add in the mix of the Beats purchase for cloud music you sort of see where they’re going (although IMHO, those two products would probably be bolted together in some way – can you say cloud music for athletes?).

There are startups out there or smaller tech companies who can do it better and faster.  They can get a product to market that’s better and people will want.  It makes sense that Nike would ditch the fuel band.  The thing is, following the launch of the Watch this week (oh come on, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone), closer inspection of the sport versions look very close to the fuel band but with a bit more oomph.

So now I’m wondering, is Apple really releasing their standard MVP MK1 product, or is it for all intents and purposes Nike Fuel MK3?  If so, the product could well be more stable and better than any other product launch they’ve done to date.

They will only make it work if they can offer something unique to it (and I’m sorry, but wifi music distribution and calls from a watch are just adding things in for the sake of it and not diversifying the product).  Think outside the box Apple, don’t give us a regurgitated iPhone – give us a piece of wearable tech that has strong health benefits built into it – calories, heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration, fluid intake, pedometer – done WELL, would be a good start.

Will I jump on the bandwagon? I haven’t worn a watch in about 10 years, and even when I did, I didn’t really find them comfortable so possibly not.  For me a watch would need to provide me with some value and not be intrusive to wear.  If it can’t get over those stumbling blocks I really won’t care too much what else it can offer to me.

Talking out loud

Next month I’m going to be doing something I’ve never done before.  Well, two things, but the first is likely to be the more scary of the two.

I was asked to talk at a conference my company is running in London (link at the bottom of the page, if you’re interested in what I do, I can recommend it, the line up is amazing).  For some reason my mouth went ‘yeah OK’ before my brain had chance to go ‘are you completely bloody barking mad?’

To be clear, I’ve only worked for my company for about 3 months.  When I was asked I think I’d been there for about three weeks.  It’s not like I had a clear idea of what I was going to talk about, I just thought yeah, what the hell.

You see, I do completely bonkers things like this when my life suddenly starts getting a little bit out of control.  I do it to regain a sense of control.  Also, because I like to operate outside of my comfort zone.  Where’s the fun in being normal?

I now know what I’m talking about, although I keep looking at what my topic is and I’m starting to feel like someone else has written it.  It’s not like I can’t do it.  I know I can do it, I mean getting up and talking is not going to kill me (well, OK, in theory, yes it could but it wouldn’t be directly related to talking, well, unless I suddenly got electrocuted or something… active imagination, I might have mentioned this).

What I guess I’m saying is I’m turning procrastination into an art form and I’m hoping beyond hope that I don’t stand up and make a complete and utter pillock of myself.

http://2014.interactconf.com 

Signs you’re probably losing the plot

You know, you have all these wonderful ideas, and thoughts and think ‘you know, I really should be blogging that’.  So when you finally get around to sitting down and moving your domain to point at standard WordPress hosted blog.  You faff around with the themes thinking ‘ffs woman, keep it simple, you never use anything else anyway’.  You reconfigure all your login details and act like a total nerd.

Then you sit there and think.  What the hell was I going to write in the first place? Yeah, so I’m having one of those days.

Sure I have a ton of things to write.  Predominately from the perspective that with any hope, downloading them out of my head I might actually stop processing them.  Like the actual act of conveying them to paper (yeah, I know, it’s not paper it’s 1s & 0s) will stop them from clogging my head.  I live in perpetual hope (no, seriously I do).