Partner of a Pilot
The Candid Diary of an Airline Pilot’s Girlfriend

Light bulb moments!

Well, I am having a much better week this week. Bf has been home for all of it, bar one day (which was only an office day). I sleep so much better when he’s home.  I have also felt much less emotional, not necessarily a great thing though as I was possibly bordering on somewhat detached until my counselling session yesterday. 

My psychotherapist is quite an amazing woman, and very genuine.  She doesn’t make me feel like I’m just ‘work’ to her; she seems to genuinely care about how my situation resolves, and is very good at her job.  She has made me realise that I allow myself to feel undervalued and that I allow myself to be spread too thinly; where I previously had a tendency to feel the passive victim of those things. I can’t quite exxplain how she has helped me to see these things because she does it in a very non-judgemental and compassionate way.  She seems to listen to the whole story, and then asks me how a particular thing made me feel, and would then put that into context by asking me to consciously think about the resulting feeling next time I was in that situation.  Knowing that I actually make myself too available and have difficulty saying no, is a realisation that I’m actually finding very empowering because rather than feeling like I have no control over my tired, over worked, ‘undervalued’ life. I realise I am in control of things if I want to be, and that it’s well within my reach to take back control

Although I only work part-time, I find that I get Skyped constantly by work when I am on-line about one thing or another.  It’s not always the fault of work, because I haven’t got clearly defined working hours.  Although the only clearly defined day I don’t work is Wednesdays, and this does seem to get consistently forgotten by my co-workers.  I have lost count of the number of times that meetings and conference calls have been arranged for a time when I am supposed to be unavailable. 

I had an email from work on Wednesday querying the invoice I recently sent in, so I rang the office to clarify the issue.  Unfortunately the relevant manager was out at the time; the person I spoke to offered to pass on the message that I’d called, but I was about to head off to see my psychotherapist for an hour.  I said okay, but that I would not be able to receive calls for the next hour as I had an appointment to attend.  The manager I was speaking to suggested that I call back myself later instead, which seemed logical.

As I was busy talking to my psychotherapis, my phone rang. I just knewit would be work, and apologised to the therapist. I cut the call off, since my voice mail isn’t activated at the moment, and it didn’t stop ringing. Rather than guessing that I was unavailable (NB it was Wednesday, and I never take that long to answer my phone if I am in a position to take the call) he rang back again! Aaaaargh. I excused myself answered and explained that I was busy and would call back.  I then spent several minutes griping about how so few people around me seem to respect my personal boundaries…

Bf often crosses them, I have had a good friend recently cross my limits whilst busily expressing her own!? I have had people endlessly unloading their burdens onto me without being there for me in return when I need a moment to vent.  Work is just the tip of the iceberg.  But she made me realise that I  am the only one allowing this to happen. I seem to shy away from saying no, or making myself unavailable.

Not any more.  As the realisation dawned on me, it was a light bulb moment!  I organised some days out for myself with a girlfriend, and despite Bf complaining about how I was choosing to spend some of that time/money. I told him I had earned it and would be enjoying some much needed ‘ME time’ and I would enjoy doing what I wanted regardless of whether he felt it was the best use of my resources in his opinion.

It wasn’t my intention to be disrespectful, but I dont often do things for myself, and we both know I need it-he has even said so himself. Besides, I don’t particularly find myself ‘getting’ or ‘liking’ his hobbies or the way he spends his money either; but I respect that it’s ‘his’ time and his choice; so I felt that I needed to assert myself. 

I also took Baby with Bf to the gym creche for 2 more ‘weaning’ sessions to acquaint her and get her more comfortable at the gym. Bf was a star, he stayed to help bed her in, whilst I had a workout (albeit a very quick one).  He offered to have her at home so I could have a proper workout instead, but I told him, that this is where her little confidence problem has stemmed from, and that we need to ensure she goes regularly; so that when I really need that time out the most (i.e when he’s on a mad roster, and I barely see him for a month) I can rely on the fact that she’ll settle. 

Possibly the most empowering realisation for me though, as simple and obvious as it will sound, is that it’s acceptable for me to say ‘no’.  I talked to Bf about how much more positive I feel just by setting clear expectations and boundaries for myself.  I discussed work with Bf, and he said that recently, I always seem to be in ‘work mode’ despite the fact that I’m a part-time, home-working mummy, who chose this style of work because it suited my chosen lifestyle.  He said that I seem to have lost sight of this fact and he’s right!  I’ve lost the work/life balance.

…Just the other day, I met up with my old antenatal group, and our toddlers, for a walk and a visit to a nature centre nearby.  I was fine all the time we were walking; but almost as soon as we sat down for our picnic, I started to get twitchy… I felt anxious about the work I ‘needed’ to do, and felt like I wanted to go home and just get it done!  Poor Baby, no wonder she’s all messed up and shy-I haven’t been getting out nearly enough with her lately.

I got home from creche yesterday buzzing from my pro-active decision to re-gain control of my life and was almost immediately prersented with an opportunity to be assertive and pro-active.  I came into the house and booted up my computer, before going to make lunch.  No sooner had my Skype (automatically) signed me in than I hear the familiar instant message tone from who I instinctively knew would be my manager. He was asking about work I had done the previous day. I didn’t have the answer to hand for him, but told him I’d be commencing work from 1pm (within just under an hour), and that I was having lunch first, before putting Baby down for a nap so that I could work without distraction. 

He promptly sent me several more enquiries, apparently ignoring my prior message… The queries would ordinarily have distracted me from relaxing enough to eat, until I’d answered-and so I would actively reorganise my priorities around it; but I responded again, stating that I was having lunch and said I’d let him know the answer to his queries as soon as I commenced work… I had unhooked myself from the anxiety I would usually experience from the need to meet the expectation of others; and had my lunch.

Bf said I should just show my status as ‘unavailable’ when I’m not working, but I’ve always wanted to remain visible, in case I receive a call from a friend or member of my family.  When I think about this, I have no idea why I feel this way. All my close friends have my home phone number-Skype is merely a convenience. It must stem from my desire to be in contact with the world-possibly a side effect of the environment I work in, bleeding into my personal life?!   I am glad that I am re-evaluating my priorities and taking stock of the things I do without being particularly conscious of them. I also realised that the manager didn’t actually expect an immediate response from me after I’d just told him I was just eating my lunch.  I Skype him when he’s on a lunch break-knowing that he cant see those messages because he’s out of the office-I probably read far too much into other peoples needs and requirements in my own desire to strive for perfection?

I have realised that I need to stay ‘unhooked’. I’ve been allowing myself to become far too engaged into dialogue with everyone regardless of whether I have the time for it all (which I don’t). I’ve give myself away too freely, at the expense of there being any of myself left for ME, and in many cases for my children!  Sometimes I’ll have to simply accept that with three children, a career, a house that currently resembles a building site and a partner who is a long-haul pilot; sometimes I can’t be perfect, and I just have to accept that things will need to be ‘good enough’. Either that or I’ll kill myself striving for perfection! 

So it’s now Friday, I’ve just dropped the boys off to my ex for his fortnightly visit…  Bf is tinkering with his boys toys, Baby is napping and I am going to have a nice glass of rose wine and read the book that my Psychotherapist recommended, since it just arrived…

I’m looking forward to it after this recommendation she sent me by email:

I promised to send you through a few book recommendations on Mindfulness.

I have decided to recommend only one which, for me, is the ultimate. It is called:  ‘The Mindful Way through Depression – Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness’ by Mark Williams, John Teasdale, Zindel Segal and Jon Kabat-Zinn. Publisher: The Guildford Press. Can be purchased through Amazon

The authors of this book are the world’s leading cognitive scientists and pioneers of Mindfulness based approaches. The book is very accessible and offers clear and stunning explanations of how our minds work and the mind/body/emotion link. Whilst the title gives the impression that this book is about depression, I invite you to ignore this. It offers a wonderful explanation of how we deal with difficulty and challenge in often most unhelpful ways. It introduces the reader to a Mindfulness approach to living our lives with greater awareness, clarity and choice. What’s more it comes with a CD! Here’s what others say,

“Whether you struggle with depression or simply want to understand your mind and emotions better, you will find this book accessible and useful. Depression is epidemic in our society, and I would love to see this sensible treatment approach gain ground”   Andrew Weil, MD, author of 8 Weeks to Optimum Health

“Revolutionary…A truly useful guide to achieving emotional balance. I recommend this book and companion CD most highly”   Daniel Goleman, PhD author of Emotional Intelligence.

“This powerful book is the best self-help title since David Burn’s seminal Feeling Good…. It offers invaluable practical strategies for banishing depression” (starred review)  

I think you will enjoy reading it

I am feeling calm today, and by letting go of some of my ‘control’ I feel like I am vastly more in control of my life.  I also realise that I like saying ‘no’, especially when it’s not in response to my children asking if I have the time to read them a bed time story!


8 Responses to “Light bulb moments!”

  1. I can totally relate! Especially with the work stuff. I got to the point where I’d just work on weekends if I was bored (since I work from home) and over time my boss started expecting me to work on weekends. I finally had to set my limits and stop checking emails on the day I don’t work. It gets a bit easier with practice. It’s amazing sometimes how hard it can be to say “no.” Sometimes we just want to please everyone and keep everyone happy- and sometimes it’s liberating when we realize “I don’t care what they think.”

    • Thanks Elsja… I know what you mean about that. I’ve also found that what can start out as the desire to ‘go the extra mile’ for someone can end up becoming an expectation. I wouldn’t stop going the extra mile, but I think I will be keeping a tighter grip on peoples expectations in the future, otherwise I’ll only have myself to blame when I don’t get the thanks and appreciation that I deserve.

  2. I am happy that you are going to put some focus on you!!!! It is so important, and i think it is easy to get caught up helping everyone else and easy to forget about yourself…You need to be number one!!!! You are the most important person!!!!

    • Thank you Karen, I’m starting to realise that it’s as important to the people around me as it is for my own wellbeing.

  3. I have just ordered the book on your recommendation!
    Sounds very positive and I hope you start to feel a lot better which I am sure you will! I can relate to how you feel and I think I could take some tips from how you on this post! It is very good that you take some me time to do the things you enjoy and as you say above it will ultimatley benefit those around you too! Take a step back it will do you good but don’t stop being you xx

  4. hi Partner,
    I can empathise with what you are going through.. perhaps since I am in the IT industry, I have problems with “unhooking” myself too. It is a real problem cos I am email, mobile, skpe and I work with people in different time zones!

    When you are used to being online, it is very very difficult to switch off. At one point, I sleep with my notebook next to me in case someone will “ping” me especially during product launches which usually happens at daytime in some other parts of the world and that would be 2 or 3am my time!

    All the odd hours conference calls and continuous “standby ” mode was turning my life upside down. I decided to quit my regional marketing job with a US MNC and work from home.

    Now there’s some normalcy in my life and I take on projects that I can manage. I am very careful not to overload myself. I will do a good job but I will NOT go beyond the hours I allocated for the work. The rest of the time is for my family.

    It is not easy for us women especially when you are trying to juggle a career, a family and a relationship with someone who is not always there.

    In the end, you need to know your own limitations and work within that. I make much much less but I am a much happier woman so I guess it makes up for it : )

    Hang in there. You’d be fine. : )

    • Thanks Hour G;ass, your old life sounds ‘similar’to how mine has felt. I’ve evem woken up from dreaming about doing a full day’s work, and then been really annoyed that I cant bill them for it when I wake up-because although it FEELS like I did it all and was at work all night, of course, it never really happened! Grr.

      You know it’s time to strike a balance when that happens!

      I have definitely reached my limit, and have defined my boundaries and will be sticking to them more rigidly from now on. I have started by sending work expectations of the hours I will work on a day by day basis for the week… If they contact me beyond reason outside of these hours on Skype, I will ‘remind’ them that I am not working if I am not.

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