Tag Archives: Gardening

Monday 17th July 2014- People are complicated, but that’s okay.

Volunteering at the botanics today, I helped the outdoor gardener with pulling out brambles in the cafe garden. This is satisfying, but can also be a bit prickly. A man sitting at a patio table talked to us about the Scottish Independance referendum for a long time. Although I agree with some of what he said, I had a feeling that he had an agenda. He congratulated me on points I made, which I hadn’t really made and had an air of educating someone who knows less than him, treating me like someone who has been duped and misinformed. I may be a gardener, not a rocket scientist, but I’m also not stupid.

Over the past few years as my hearing has improved (after Johansen IAS therapy made my Auditory Processing Disorder manageable), I have been able to listen to and understand conversations. Because of this I have learned so much more about people. Mainly that people are complicated. There are tiny little nuances and inflections in every sentence, relating to their mood of that moment or perhaps memories which the conversation is bringing up for them. Sometimes they are trying to lead the conversation a certain way, and they want you to say a certain thing. As in the case with this man, they may be trying to persuade you of something. He was confident, assertive, and a little flattering of us when the conversation went in the direction he hoped. He was a very intelligent speaker.

In the past, before Movement and Learning Centre (MLC Scotland) and Johansen Individualised Auditory Stimulation (Johansen IAS)therapies, I would not have recognized this. I used to be permanently strung out from lack of sleep (anxiety issues relating to a fully-retained Moro Reflex), my brain processing at half-speed. Before I went to MLC Scotland, I was too unbalanced and shy to talk to strangers. Without Johansen IAS, I would still have serious Auditory Processing Disorder. and I would not have heard clearly enough to have a conversation with him if we were sitting side-by-side at the table, let alone while I was a few feet away inside of a shrub, fighting with brambles.

I like talking to other people, even although they seem more complicated than they used to. I always learn something new. Nowadays I understand that it is up to me to decide what I take away from conversations. I don’t have to believe that everything people say is true, just because I like them. That was a big learning curve. Before MLC and Johansen therapies, it was extremely difficult for me to interact with other people and make friends. I had a sort of two-dimensional, children’s picture book idea of people. I assumed that most people were uncomplicated and didn’t have much of a personal agenda. Without Retained Reflexes and serious Auditory Processing Disorder, life has got easier for me. I’ve learned more about myself and my own feelings and I think that this has helped me to understand other people more too. Without Retained Reflexes and serious Auditory Processing Disorder holding me back, I’ve had the opportunity to become more emotionally and mentally more complicated than I used to be. I suppose that this might be what growing up is all about.

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Wednesday 12th July

This morning I was helping my friend with the community garden project. Taking up turf, digging over, removing bulbs, then replacing the turf. On our way out of the garden two men sitting on a bench, drinking started talking to us. One of them said that he also liked to do gardening. The other man, whose bottle was emptier, said that he paid his way in society by walking around. He explained to us that he had a fear of work. “This is called Ergophobia”, he said. “You’ve learned something new today”. I also learned that there is such thing as a litre-capacity plastic bottle of cider. They wanted to take a picture with us, but we were suddenly very busy.

Friday 6th July

It was a hot, sunny day.

“I thought you’d escaped” was what my gardening supervisor said when I turned up at the yard. Although I have officially left the company, I was doing an extra day to help cover someone on leave. I would have preferred a day off, but I was happy to see them.

I like spending time in the van with the kind, funny gardeners with their banter and hilarious stories.  We had a discussion about what if everyone drove hamster balls instead of cars, and got attacked by what my friend described as “super midges” in a garden on the banks of Loch Lomond.

All day I thought about Grandpa. He was asleep since Tuesday and a doctor suggested he may need to go to hospital. His colours were different from normal when I visited on Tuesday. He usually has a little eggshell blue around him. When I got home my mum told me that he seems fully recovered, sitting up this morning in his chair and eating breakfast! Maybe he just needed some extra sleep.

Monday 19th May 2014

Over the past week or so, I have been struggling more with my job as a commercial gardener.
I really like everyone I work with, they’re great people. Friendly, outdoorsy types who have a great sense of humour. I love gardening and working outdoors. That’s not the problem. I’m tired. Really, really tired. I know that’s normal for someone who is new to a very physically demanding job, but I don’t think I can keep this up. I’m not sure that I want to either.

With my energy draining, my hearing has been a problem recently. Some days at work I’ve felt so exhausted, I’ve only heard about half of what my supervisor and colleagues say. In my life before Johansen therapy, a bad hearing day like this would have seemed like a good hearing day. Nowadays I’m used to hearing clearly, and I need consistently good hearing and processing for my work. Not least the social aspect of getting along with the people I spend hours with in the van.
This could be a real problem.

My imaginary worst-case scenario:
Supervisor (up ladder with chainsaw): “Jenny, my ladder is slipping!”
Me (hearing something completely different): “Ok, Cool!” (Leaves him to go do some lavender clipping)

Apart from the hearing issues, I’m tired and aching all the time. When I’m not at work, I barely do anything, trying to recover my energy.

Perhaps you are reading this thinking, “Welcome to my/adult life!” Fair enough. I really admire people who can work every day doing a manual labor job.
So far, working for the company has been a positive experience. I’ve made friends, gained a lot of experience, and am a faster, more competent gardener. I want to leave on a good note, not after my own injury, or someone else’s from a mistake I could make when I’m tired.
I could do without the heavy lifting and racing around a garden to a timescale. So far, I haven’t done as much of the more demanding machinery tasks as others, the staff have gone fairly easy on me compared to the bigger, stronger gardeners. I’m reasonably strong for a female of my size, but my size isn’t that big.

I thought hard about what to do.

I like earning wages, but I don’t have to keep working to support or pay rent. My only dependants are my stick insects and houseplants. I could leave and find a different way to make money.

In the end, I decided to talk to my boss about it.
When I talk to people in person, I can feel flustered and not have enough time to process and think things through. I make poor decisions to please others because I don’t like to disappoint people. Also, my hearing hasn’t been so good recently, affecting my speech slightly. The other day, on the way home in the van, my supervisor had to ask me to repeat what I said a few times because my voice was slurring slightly, like it used to before Johansen therapy. I struggle to state my case clearly when I’m tired and my APD comes to surface a bit.
So I wrote him an email.
I wrote to him about how I really liked everyone there. I like gardening, and working for him, but I was struggling too much with the physical side of the work, and wanted to leave. I also mentioned my concerns about my Auditory Processing Difficulties. My APD is noted in my employment application, so my boss already knew about it.

Ok, so I asked to quit. Give up. Wimp out. But without the help from MLC Scotland and Johansen IAS, I wouldn’t have been able to get a job in the first place. During my last years at school, my parents were concerned about how I would cope with adult life. I had barely any energy. I had poor health, poor hearing and almost non-existent social skills. Please bear in mind that although having a job and keeping it hasn’t gone as smoothly as I hoped, I have come a long way.

Thursday 15th May 2014- It’s raining fish heads, “Inaudible” cat-scaring devices, and Doctor Death.

We worked in lots of gardens today.
In the first garden, I heard the squawk of seagulls above us. A couple of minutes later, my supervisor called me round to the front, saying Look what fell onto the driveway! I expected a dead bird. What I saw was the entire head of a salmon. It had given my supervisor a surprise, landing beside where he was working. A fish head falling from the sky is a pretty random event.
I was really tired after yesterday, and my hearing was more acute than usual, a little reminder of my bad old Auditory Processing days when it was a full-blown Disorder, not just the few difficulties I experience nowadays. After the first busy day, the rest of my part-time week of gardening feels like a physical test. In the back garden weeding, I had a bit of a headache and a high-pitched noise in my head. I realised after a while that the noise and headache was caused by a little white box near the steps where I was weeding. Rentokil, it said on it. The sound was like a very thin white line piercing into my head. The little box in the border had a motion sensor and every time I passed, there were two tiny clicks and it would fire a line of sound at me. It’s probably supposed to be one of those sounds which “humans can’t hear”. Probably to deter cats. Unfortunately it works on gardeners with hearing issues too. It was very annoying.

I wondered about the head on the driveway, whether the owners would think that we left it while they were out as a kind of dark, fishy, slightly splattered message to be nice to gardeners. A bit like that horse’s head in The Godfather, I suppose. In the end, while we were packing up, a seagull swooped down to reclaim it, and carried its treasure away over the suburban houses in it’s beak. Perhaps it had been flying around for a while, searching for the dinner it dropped earlier. It was quite a big fish head. One determined seagull.
Another garden, then we went to the house of a customer who has been nicknamed “Doctor Death”. Something in the trees creaks, there are dolls in the windows, and a sort of deserted, aged garage which I could easily imagine being haunted. That said, apparently our customer is a very pleasant person. They just have the unfortunate ability to silently appear beside my supervisor and scare the hell out of him.

After that we had one more garden.
Get home, Drum, eat, sleep. Where did my free time go? I’m experiencing the world of work, and feeling a lot more respect for the other people in it.

Tuesday 6th May 2014

I was gardening again today. They dropped me off early at the train station early, wishing me luck for my British Sign Language exam. Sometimes I wonder where all the nice people like them were when I was at school. The answer is that they were there, all the time. I just didn’t have the stability, social skills, confidence and clear hearing to interact with them.

My exam went okay. I was last because of the alphabetical ordered list. Damn that second name.
I think I have a chance of passing, which is all I need. I did my best after a time so busy I could hardly revise. My college class and teacher are a great group of people. I’ll miss seeing them every Tuesday night.

Fingers crossed I’ve passed!

Monday 5th May- R.I.P. Kevin

I’ve been very busy recently and my job really takes energy out of me. Today we were working all day in a huge garden by a loch. On the way home my Supervisor asked a few times for me to repeat what I said. I think my speech was slurring a little because I was tired. Sometimes when I don’t have much energy, speaking clearly becomes difficult. I hate it when this happens, but I have to remember how much better this problem is than it used to be. I might complain about the odd difficult day with my hearing, but Johansen IAS therapy has been the difference between me just seeming really tired, or being noticeably different in my behaviour and speech. Since there’s a social side to the job- we all chat in the front of the van between jobs- good communication and being easy to get on with is essential. We work to a timescale and I can’t be going back to my supervisor all the time because I haven’t heard or can’t remember his instructions. Without my hearing being as good as it is nowadays, I couldn’t have taken this job. And I may not have been offered it in the first place. The event where I met my boss was a horticulture quiz with spoken questions.

Tonight I buried Kevin under a flowering shrub. He was a good stick insect. My first pet stick, who was so newly hatched that he still had his egg case attached when I took him home, bless him. I watched many of his skin sheds and saw how well he blended in with his climbing frame. He was a truly excellent twig impersonator. I hope that wherever he is now, there is an eternity of fresh, juicy leaves. Or something equally wonderful from a stick insect’s point of view.

Wednesday Ist May 2014

My boss kindly allowed me a day to think over his offer of a full-time job. I held out for a part-time job, but was willing to go full-time if there was no part-time option. We discussed this with emails, which was easier and much less stressful than if I had talked to him about it. Talking through writing takes my hearing issues out of the equation. It also means that I can take the time to think over and say what I mean in a way that’s clear to understand. My boss offered me a part-time job and sent me some paperwork to fill out. In the section about anything which could affect your work, I wrote a little about my Auditory Processing Difficulties. I said that my hearing is much clearer than it used to be, but there are still some issues, especially when I’m tired. I told him that I go to lip reading classes to reduce any problems as much as possible.
I have a part-time job, which is ideal for me.

That was a few days back.
Today at work, an adorable golden retriever ten-week old puppy stole my glove when I took it off to pet him, and ran away around the garden, chewing it. He thought that it was the best toy ever. Eventually he ran into the house and his owner caught him and gave me my glove back.
After the morning it was really wet and cold. Miserable working in that weather. We did some lawns. In a big garden, having my first shot at a diesel lawnmower, I got funny stares from the builders also working there. My supervisor said that they’d asked him if I was his lass. When they said it must be rubbish working with a girl, he said no it’s really good actually. As well as a cheerful, patient supervisor, he’s a really good person. And a brilliant drummer. By amazing coincidence, it turned out that all the supervisors at the gardening company play drums! Every gardener there seems to play some kind of instrument. My supervisor today played drums in a pretty major band. Earlier this week he gave me some sticks, and he’s always happy to help when I pick his brains for drum advice. I get home from work tired and aching after a long day, but the people I work with make it more fun.

Thursday 25th April 2014

I spent another day working for the gardening company. Over the past few weeks I’ve been working a day or a few days a week for them.
Most of the today was clearing leaves in a community park into big dumping bags, then emptying the bags into the back of the tipper van, keeping track of the number I emptied so that the supervisor knew how much material was in the van. My bags only counted as half bags because I can’t lift a full one. For my size I’m reasonably strong, but a huge sack full of leaves can be surprisingly heavy. We weeded borders, forked over beds and edged the lawns.

At the end of the day, the boss came to check on us and took a minute to talk to me. He offered me a full-time job.

I couldn’t believe it. Last night I joined a band, today I was being offered a job.
What a great opportunity! But here was the dilemma…..How could I keep doing everything I do now, while working full-time?
I just joined a band, I run a small jewellery repair business, I’m writing a book about Auditory Processing Disorder, helping with a community garden project, I go to lip reading classes, a college night class and volunteer at a botanic garden.
A few years back, I could not have imagined myself doing any of this, or having enough energy to do more than one of these things. My life has improved so much since then.
What an amazing opportunity! And yet, I was so tired after the physically demanding work, and working full-time would mean giving up everything else I did during the week.
A few years ago I wouldn’t have had the clear thinking, presence of mind and confidence to thank my boss and then ask if I could have a day to think about it.