Well, my positive streak continues, despite my thinking that the bubble was bound to burst last week - after all, I don't normally get a prolonged spell of nice things and good news, do I? Certainly not over the past 12 months!
Last Friday, I went to the Ideal Home Show with my friends Sally and Sue. I hadn't been there for a few years and we decided to make it a bit of a "girls' day out", even though we're no longer girls - ah, well! We had a really lovely, relaxed day - looked round a couple of the show homes, wandered round sampling cheese and sausages, plenty of tea breaks etc and a champagne break, since Sue had found out she's going to be a grandmother so we had a little celebration. Sadly, I was only able to have a couple of mouthfuls and then poured the rest into their glasses - I am a total lightweight when it comes to alcohol nowadays, even my beloved fizzy. It's not a problem, really, since I don't need alcohol to have a good time - and itmakes me a very cheap date!
Neil and I had friends coming round for dinner that evening, so we left the Show about half three and I was home by just after five o'clock. Luckily <taps nose> I had prepared pudding the previous evening and planned a cold starter, so it was a question of assembling the main course (Chicken Basque from the wonderful St Delia) and bunging it into the oven. I love it when you can just throw everything into one bit casserole dish and not have to faff about with vegetables, side dishes, etc, especially when time is a wee bit tight! The friends we had round were from Neil's cycling club, with their wives, and we had a lovely evening - good chat, the food seemed to go down well, lots of laughter. I was a wee bit tired after a day out (although we strolled around the IHS, it was still quite tiring for me because I was doing a lot of chatting, which always wears me out) but once we sat down at the table, Neil did all the fetching and carrying and our friends helped clear the table at the end of the evening, so I was able to sit and take it easy. It's nice to be entertaining people again - some small recompense for all the support I've had from friends over the past year.
Saturday dawned sunny and warm. Neil went out for a bike ride and I went out for a run on the Downs. I managed six miles (six slow miles!), which is the farthest I've run in over a year, so I was really happy with that - just glorious to be out there in the sunshine, running through the trees and enjoying the Spring air. The afternoon was spent doing laundry, cleaning windows (drawback of sunshine is that every smear or speck of dust is really magnified...) while Neil mowed the lawn and then started building the furniture for Amy's bedroom - ah yes! the joys of flatpack IKEA chests of drawers.....we know how to live!
Sunday brought church - I had signed up to do a reading, which I still find a bit challenging, since it involves standing at the front of the church with everyone looking at me, but I reminded myself that I was amongst friends and the important thing was to read. My looks are immaterial to this. It was fine and I had decided to download the text onto my iPad and use that to read from, instead of taking a Bible or printing out the text. This provided a source of interest to people afterwards, when we were having tea, as they wanted to have a look at it and see how it all worked. One of my good and lovely friends in the congregation came up to me afterwards and said that, when I was standing at the front, she could hardly see any difference between the two sides of my face, because there's been some good recovery - as always, I see the difference whereas other people see the similarities!
The rest of Sunday was more flatpack assembly (Neil), more cleaning and tidying (me) and then a relaxing evening, although I did have to review Adam's English essay (just for spelling and grammar, logical structure, etc) before he handed it in today. I also managed to spark a debate on Facebook because I got annoyed about the use of 's to make a plural, instead of just s - while most people seemed to support what I said, there was a certain level of dissent, which made for a lively discussion! I do think it's important to write and spell correctly and I just don't accept that it's somehow less important in informal communications like emails (dyslexia and vision problems excepted). I am also fed up with being told I am somehow a boring, anally-retentive member of the Grammar Gestapo for thinking that grammar and spelling are important. Hey ho, that's the way it goes, I guess - we will end up breeding a generation of people who think that the word "have" is spelt "of" and it becomes the (accepted) norm; meanwhile, people who think like I do just give up.....
And so to today - a little run this morning and then off to the Marsden this afternoon for my Look Good, Feel Better workshop. This is the charity arm of the cosmetic and beauty industry - they run regular workshops for women who are undergoing, or have been through, treatment for cancer. Many, of course, have lost their hair as a result of chemo and there are other side-effects which change the way a lot of women cancer patients feel about themselves and the way they look. For myself, I think you all know how much the facial palsy has affected my confidence in many ways - not just what I look like (I still get a shock when I look in the mirror, because I somehow don't expect to look like that), but my confidence in my ability to cope in social situations, being understood when I speak (especially on the phone), even driving - and as for feeling feminine, forget about it. It's a bit like the feeling you get when you're pregnant, that you stop being a woman (ironically, given that being pregnant is the best visible demonstration of being a woman) but become a "body" instead. I have felt a bit like that - I stopped being a woman but became a person who had this nasty little invader spreading through my body. Losing confidence in your looks (and let's be honest, I was never model material to begin with, but at least I could scrub up reasonably well) means that it's well nigh impossible to feel that you're making the best of yourself in social situations like parties, weddings, even just dinner parties. I haven't bothered with make-up because I've felt there's no point in it. I'd rather just skulk around and not draw attention to my face - admittedly, I have improved from my worst point, when my face was at its worst, but I still don't relish the thought of being the focus of people's attention and being looked at and I still feel uncomfortable having my photo taken. This self-confidence issue is one I do struggle with (I know I'm not alone in this and that it affects many people who haven't got facial palsy).
However, today, although I was the only person at the workshop who had facial palsy, I had a little bit of a breakthrough - yes, dear readers, I put on make-up and was pleased with the result. I can see the improvement, I got lots of advice about how to deal with the difference in the size of my eyes and I feel more able to try and make myself look a bit more presentable. This is not to say that I think I need to wear make-up every day to face the world, but it's nice to know that I can make more of myself when I want to. We are going to a family wedding on Saturday and I can put some slap on and know that it won't make me look worse - there's a reason why make-up is sometimes called "war paint" - it's another weapon I can use to arm myself before I face the public. I can also put my new-found knowledge into practice on Wednesday, when I have a very exciting day planned - a day trip to Bath on the Orient Express, no less! My hairdresser is getting married in Italy in July and for her "hen do", six of us are going to Bath, with a champagne breakfast on the way there and dinner on the return journey. It is going to be amazing - I love trains and especially the opulence and glamour of luxury trains like the Orient Express. My make-up workshop has been very timely!
Back to the Orpheus tomorrow for another day of volunteering - looking forward to it immensely! Amy is back from Marrakech (I went straight from the Marsden to pick her and her friend up from Gatwick) so I shall see her there, although she is going in later than I am as she has a local appointment first. Next time I am there (after the Easter break), I am going to get Amy to drive me there in the morning and then I can run home. It's about five miles cross-country, so it will be a good little bit of exercise.
So, to summarise, even if I don't Look Good (Look Acceptable, I think), I certainly Feel Better. My confidence has had a real boost today and my positive streak continues - let's hope it lasts!