Chapter 17: A bit of give and take

“Moving on” has not gone as smoothly as I hoped it might.

Whilst I know full well that the “1 planned thing” model is my optimal way of living, most days I still give serious consideration to whether I could perhaps try to extract a bit more from myself – and either being disappointed at the effects when I do, or frustrated at my limitations when I don’t.

Old habits die hard, I guess. Once a bear fighter, always a bear fighter – perhaps? Hopefully, with time I will learn to accept things more fully for what they are.

But every so often, I have a good day where I feel that I have succeeded – either because I have achieved something that matters to me, or because I have surprised myself with what I am able to do.

In between these sporadic events, life remains extremely challenging and at times it is tempting to throw in the towel and just let things slide. But then I would be letting down the people that I care about the most, who – to an extent, at least – depend on me on a daily basis for the contribution that I make to family life and the running of the household.

It is with this mindset that I have finally achieved a long-held ambition. Not the one about riding my bike and walking the dog on the same day. Something far more meaningful – and achievable, for me at least. The one about performing the role of designated driver.

Initially, there was not a great deal of demand for my services – can’t understand why ever not! So, I determined that I would have to earn my stripes by proving myself as as safe driver.

It took many weeks of me inventing reasons to go out for a drive on my own, but by the end of March I had established a solid track record and also gained a better understanding of my own limitations behind the wheel.

As predicted, driving itself was completely fine as long as I was well rested beforehand, but trips involving activities at the end of the journey were more challenging.

By completing practice runs to and from school / college, I was confident that I would be able to manage pick-ups and drop-offs. However, a trip to the local fruit and veg shop to buy a sack of potatoes left me needing to rest for 10 minutes before making the return journey – the effects of an unfamiliar environment, with too many options to choose from and people to interact with.

Finally, in April I made my maiden voyage with a real, live passenger on board – a trip to pick up my eldest son from college. It was unclear to me whether he was the most trusting of my family or simply the most desperate – the alternative was to spend half of his day kicking his heels whilst waiting around for the school bus – but either way, I was grateful to him for taking on the role of crash test dummy and so giving me the opportunity.

By the end of April, I had successfully provided taxi services to every member of my immediate family – including my wife, who had previously vowed never to get in a car with me as the driver. It’s amazing what people will do when they want to get to the pub!

One month later and we have managed to establish a routine that involves me carrying out 3-4 drop-offs / pick-ups each week.

Doing so has involved a bit of give and take from all parties, though I would like to believe that this is mutually beneficial.

The pattern seems to be that I take on all within-day trips to college with my eldest son. This means that my wife doesn’t have to disrupt her working day and / or my son doesn’t have to hang around waiting. In return, on these same days, either my wife or son will walk the dog outside of work / school hours. This benefits me greatly – whilst driving doesn’t come completely for free in cognitive terms, it is far easier for me than walking the dog.

Additionally, one day a week I do the after school pick-up for my youngest son. In return, my wife cooks the evening meal, which she claims to actually enjoy doing – weird! Again, this benefits me cognitively – plus creates a bit more variety for everyone, both gastronomically and with regard to their daily routine. A literal example of variety being the spice of life, perhaps?

In this way – by all of us being willing to demonstrate a bit of flexibility – I would like to believe that we have all got something back in return. By playing to our individual strengths – whether that be driving, walking the dog or cooking dinner – together we have found a way to make best use of our combined resources.

Truth be told, for a long time now my wife has offered to make the evening meal pretty frequently during the working week – partly to help me out and partly because she is not that fond of my cooking! Similarly, my eldest son has been amenable to taking the dog for a walk if I ask him. The main sticking point has been me.

But now that I have something of value to offer in return – namely, the capability to drive – I feel justified in asking for (and accepting) help more often. A fair trade, so to speak. Previously, I was unwilling to do so – seeing these tasks as part of my role, for me to complete. After all, my wife doesn’t ask me to do her job, so why would I ask her to do mine?

In the grand scheme of things, this change in my responsibilities (and behaviour) is a small victory, of course – but still one that felt worthy of mention. Hence why I was willing to break my self-imposed silence.

So is this a permanent return to the blog for me or just a one-off?

Who knows? I certainly don’t. It just depends on where life takes me next. So we will all just have to wait and see …