Yesterday, I spent my first day as a volunteer at the Orpheus Centre. The sharp-of-memory among you will remember that this is where our daughter works as a community fundraiser and that it is a charity which encourages young people with disabilities to use their talents in the performing and other arts as a gateway to independent living. Since I am not yet back at work (and won't be working full-time in any case), I wanted to put some structure around my days and also do something in the community, so this seems like a good opportunity to get involved in something new and be more outward-looking.
Reader, I loved it! I was working with a group of students (they are all aged between 18 and 24) in a Futures workshop, where the students are preparing for, doing and then writing up their work experience activities. I worked with a young woman who has Downs, helping her produce a record of her work at a Day Centre, where she lays tables, serves food to elderly people and clears away. We had a lovely day (well, I did, at any rate! you'd have to ask P whether she did as well) and by the end of it, she had produced her worksheet of photos and comments. It is such a lovely environment to work in - so positive and supportive. Everyone was really friendly to me - I got several hugs from students and one young man walked me to the classroom, holding my hand and miming bagpipes because he knew I am Scottish - he has limited speech, so I am going to try to learn some Makaton so that I can communicate a bit with him. I recognised one other volunteer - the chap who led the drumming workshop at my church a few weeks ago ( I blogged about it). I hadn't realised he volunteered there, so we had a quick catch-up and it always helps when you see a face you recognise, doesn't it?
I found the day quite exhilerating, but very tiring. I was there from 9.30 till 2.30, so was home well before three o'clock and was fit for nothing but stretching out on the sofa for a couple of hours (lightweight!). I had Pilates at six o'clock, which I managed to stay awake for, although it was tough at times....
Today, I was at my Institute's South East Spring Conference and AGM. I was fortunate enough to be given a slot on the programme to ask for sponsorship for the London Marathon from the delegates and, although I found it hard to stand up and talk in front of a room full of people (some of whom I knew, many of whom I didn't). I knew there was the potential to get upset, not necessarily because I had to talk about what had happened to me, but because I was thinking that the reason I had missed this Conference last year was because I was just starting down the path of medical examination to find out what was wrong with me - and also because standing up and inviting people to look at my face still makes me squirm a bit inside. As often happens at these potentially emotional times, I used humour as my shield and got a couple of laughs out of them - and about £150, with the promise of more to come! So it was well worth the squirminess to get some more money for Macmillan.
By three o'clock, I was visibly wilting - two days in a row of different activity had taken its toll, so I went home early and have been relaxing on the squishy sofa. I'm glad I've had two busy days, as it helps me gauge my stamina (not quite as good as I thought it was, but then again, I've still got the remnants of this rotten cold) and it keeps me outward-looking, which I need to be.
I have had a positive week so far - I think I am really going to enjoy working at Orpheus and am looking forward to next week's session. Today was a great opportunity to hear some superb speakers and to catch up with old friends (I saw about four people I taught when they were studying for their accountancy qualification!) and to do some networking. I have had a very exciting invitation to an event from a lovely friend (won't give any details till nearer the time, just to keep you all reading this blog!!) and a positive chat about some potential work later in the year, so for once, I feel things are going my way.
I've just been talking to Neil on the phone, telling him about my good day today, and I said that I have had such a brilliant day that I am almost waiting for my bubble to burst. I think this is a reaction to having had such a shocker of a year last year and getting to the stage where I think that I am always going to get bad news (ever the pessimist, eh?) - I should just be happy and enjoy the moment. And I am happy and I am most definitely enjoying the moment - in fact, I am sitting here with a face-splitting grin :-D))).
Life is good and I am enjoying mine.