K is for Kaiser Bill, Kitchener and Killing (and Conscientious Objection)

quaker alphabet project

Here we are again at the Quaker Alphabet. I have committed to posting 26 entries at least for each letter of the alphabet on my life as a Quaker in 2014. You can read other blogs in this project by going to the tab at the top of the page.

It’s taken me a while to get this post sorted out. I had quite a time thinking of a K. I toyed with Kinship, but bored myself writing it, so be grateful that that particular draft will not be seeing the light of your screen. I feel quite strongly about the Quaker Family but don’t seem to be able to express anything about it in less than mind-numblingly tedious terms. What else could I choose: kaleidoscopes, knitting, knights or knickers? I looked up the index of phrases in Quaker Faith and Practice for inspiration and found the only K was about Keeping the Meeting. I could cover that I suppose but probably rather less successfully than Kinship.

Then I suddenly remembered there is an anniversary of something this year which means that many people are focusing on Killing, although some are instead trying to focus on the alternative to that, by talking about Conscientious Objectors. A number of these people are, of course, Quakers, who have strong words to say about Peace and not fighting each other and finding more grown up ways to sort out differences.

The Quaker Peace testimony dates back to the beginnings of the Society, in the seventeenth century, and its first formal expression is usually associated with a lengthy document addressed to King Charles II following his Restoration. Entitled

“A DECLARATION FROM THE HARMLES & INNOCENT people of GOD, called QUAKERS, Against all Plotters and Fighters in the World”

a snappy title that rolls right off the tongue, it was delivered on 21 November 1660 and was intended to make clear that the king was not going to be at any risk from plots and insurgency against him by this particular group of religious reformers so would he stop banging them up in prison please.

Most memorably it includes the phrase

All bloody Principles & Practices … we do utterly deny, with all outward wars & strife, & fightings with outward Weapons, for any end or under any pretence whatsoever. And this is our Testimony to the whole world.

This phrase is frequently used as the short-hand for the testimony itself, and encapsulates a firm and unequivocal opposition to bearing arms. Life is rarely that straightforward of course.

Let us scroll forward through history to the early 20th century.

20,000 men were conscientious objectors in the 1914-18 war in Britain, following the implementation of conscription in March 1916. They included socialists, religious groups such as Quakers and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others with an ideological opposition to the war and its causes. The story of conscientious objection is told on the Peace Pledge Union website, so for more details please start there.

At the time of the 1660 Peace Testimony it was considered appropriate to wear a sword by default, if you were a gentleman, and so giving up swords was a contentious issue. Famously, William Penn is often quoted as advising his fellows to “wear it as long as thou canst”, meaning “until you feel unable to do so”. In a sense this was the dilemma facing Friends as the war in Europe loomed and then erupted. Friends played an active role in the protests against conscription, but I learned recently this was by no means a unanimous approach. A significant number were willing to serve in the armed forces; the Society was split in its views for and against the war. Some buckled on their metaphorical swords.

Other Friends established the Friends Ambulance Unit, being willing to serve in non-combatant roles. The FAU was a volunteer ambulance service, founded by members of the Society of Friends as a practical expression of the Quaker peace testimony. It operated from 1914 to 1919, 1939 to 1946 and 1946 to 1959 in 25 countries around the world, and its members were chiefly registered conscientious objectors.

Even this was viewed in some circles as tacitly supporting the war effort and so a third group opposed to supporting the war in any form served in prison or were executed.

Conscientious objection is more fully recognised now than in 1916, although not easily and certainly not universally. For myself I have never had to make the choice, and hope I never will, as to whether I accept military service or not. I would like to think I would be brave and stand firm but I don’t know and am now fortunately possessed of sufficient age probably never to have to decide. The Offspringses may yet have to make their choices.

Although I don’t agree philosophically with those who did wear their swords once more, nevertheless it pleases me that the Society of Friends was able to work out its differences around what is a fundamental principle of its belief system. Quakers can be a tricksy lot to get to grips with. As a former Bishop of Durham is quoted as saying “I wish Friends would preach what they practise.” We can be a bit vague at times and too often answer with “it depends…”. That is because we are Seekers of Truth not Purveyors, and, as we all know, the Truth can be complicated.

Namaste.

 

 

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When you know it’s time to go.

My dears, I was pointed to this blog recently and wanted to share it with you. I had to give up as School Governor last year, and my experience was not dissimilar to this writer’s – although obviously I was only involved for a shorter time (9 years in fact), and not as a classroom practitioner.
I cannot say how the current national approach to teaching hurts. I prefer not to get very political usually, beyond my bleeding liberal tendencies, but today I am in the mood.
Namaste.

Love Learning....

I’m leaving my job. Not right away – I’d never leave children half way through an academic year – but I’ll be off in July. I think back to the post I wrote on teaching forever and I blush with the charge of hypocrisy, though, to be fair, after 22 years I think I’ve probably earned the right to say I did my bit. And hopefully I will continue to do more bits, but not again, I don’t think as a full time teacher in a school. So why? Well, it’s complicated.

It’s not because of the kids…

But they’re not easy. Last week one pushed me pretty hard and told me to fuck off. He’s vulnerable and floundering. We used restorative justice to talk through the situation and I got one of the most heartfelt apologies I’ve ever had. He beams at me in the corridor now. I’m not…

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B4Peace: Family

I am continuing to participate in the monthly Bloggers for Peace series which is the brain child of the the lovely Kozo. I say “lovely”, but he’s pushing his luck this month, because Kozo has asked for posts about family. To be precise, making peace with family. You know, the people who messed you up, broke your heart or mind or body, who know the buttons to press or the words to use.

This month, I want you to focus on your family. Is there anyone you don’t fully embrace in your family? Do you feel resentment, shame, or anger towards someone blood-related?

Yep, I went there. Let’s deal with it. This months challenge is to make peace in yourself with someone close to you.

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/02/03/monthly-peace-challenge-we-are-family/

Well now.

I have been thinking about this and struggling to know what to say.

My family is not particularly traumatic. I am blessed. I had a reasonably happy childhood. If anything, my family is in fact more notable by its lacks. It is not large. In general it is not fond or close or very emotional. (To be clear, when I say “family” here in this post I am referring to my ancestry, as it were, and not to Sigoth or the Offspringses.)

I am an only child. My mother was an only child. My father had brothers (living) and a sister (died as a child). I grew up knowing I was loved in general. We didn’t see many relatives except aunt, uncle and cousin (also an only child). Half the family was abroad so we hardly ever saw them at all. I was the only girl and younger than my English cousin by more than 12 years. We had nothing in common.

We never talked about family. I was intrigued to know more about the shadowy relations occasionally mentioned, but then hidden again. Pretty much anything I heard was about family arguments and disagreements. Generally speaking my family has a poor track record at living peacefully. Perhaps it’s not surprising that they didn’t keep in touch with one another. They were too tired and worn and poor.

I remember very clearly, when I complained about having to visit my aunt and uncle, what dad told me: that it didn’t matter if you liked your family or not. You had to do your duty.

My mother’s view was different and more unsettling to my child self. She always said that because her parents had argued so much she would never inflict that on me. If she and dad didn’t get along, she would leave. She didn’t believe in staying together for the sake of the children.

It’s not a loving environment, is it? We didn’t have rows or thrown china or slammed doors. That was too dangerous. We just had duty and the possibility of leaving or being left.

Once I was older I had a chance to start doing family tree research. My own family wouldn’t tell me much about the photos we did have, but the documents have told some tales and sometimes I have teased out more from my mother in years gone by, none of it reliable but sometimes indicative.

My maternal grandfather lost his mother when he was a toddler; she died giving birth to a brother who also died. Granddad was sent away to live with his maternal grandfather until he was about five. He wasn’t wanted there. His grandfather wouldn’t speak to him; I’m assuming the reminder of his dead daughter was unwelcome. When he came home there was a stepmother and things didn’t go well. On censuses he is variously with his grandfather, his aunt and then on his own. He left home when he was seventeen and went to London. His own marriage, as my mother explained, was disastrous. My mother not only had to survive the Blitz in the East End but then had her parents break up and live separately until her mother died in her arms a few days before her 15th birthday. She moved back with her father and again a disastrous stepmother was introduced. She left home when she met my father and my grandmother found her a place to live with a neighbour.

My father had a better time of it, but his own father was brought up by aunts because his mother had apparently died in childbirth too and his own father was unable to cope with caring for a child. However, it turns out he was actually illegitimate, and this was just the kind cover story he was told. His mother moved away from the area and later did marry but died in her 40s from cancer. It is not clear whether she kept in touch with her sisters and son, but possibly she was disowned. His father was seemingly unaware of his son and is known to have lived a life regretting that he had no children (he later married but the couple remained childless).

My grandmother had a large family, being one of 12 children, but was scarred by the loss of brothers in Somme trenches and later her little girl.

These are common tragedies to family historians, but it seems to me that they reflect down the generations. The thoughtlessness and hardness of lives lived in poverty and grief affect the fortunes of unborn children. Looking at my grandparents, only one of them had anything like a reasonable family life and that was one of constant struggle, fear of bailiffs and desperate projects to earn enough to feed the children. My grandmother made jam and sold it to earn a little extra money because her husband’s wage was low. She told me when I was little and had to stand on a chair to help stir the fruit as it bubbled on the cooker, that she used to sell her jam. I was very proud to think she made such good jam. Now I am proud that she was so resourceful.

The other day I found some new Poor Law Removal records for a previous generation and it turns out that ancestor Daniel abandoned his wife Charlotte and their surviving children in the 1850s. They were back together for the 1861 census, but under what duress I dread to think. In 1855 when Charlotte was forced to apply for parish relief at the workhouse she was living in Digby Walk, as described below in a report from 1848:

 DIGBY WALK, GLOBE ROAD, 19.- In fit character with the distressing and degrading scene last visited, is this alley, which is in a state of the most beastly dirt. More than half of this horrid alley is covered with a stagnant pool of most offensive and filthy slime, and mud, in some places, to the depth of a foot. Some of the houses, which abut on it, are unfinished, but the yards of the older houses present a character little dissimilar to the stagnant gutter, or ditch itself. The refuse from a pig-stye drains into this gutter, and adds pungency to its offensiveness. This place is private property, and the landlord of the new houses has built a cesspool, into which to drain his houses, but he will not permit the other houses in the alley to drain into this cesspool, unless the parish pay to him 1l., a sum which it will not pay. Verily, one case of typhus would cost much more than the small sum asked to keep this place clean.

http://www.victorianlondon.org/publications/sanitary-1.htm

I don’t know why they ended up in this situation. Daniel had a good trade so perhaps he was going through a rough patch, or else he was a gambler or drunkard or promiscuous or violent. Perhaps she left him or maybe they agreed mutually it was for the best. Maybe they thought they were doing the right thing for their fragile family. Nevertheless, such experiences would have been traumatic for the children, one of whom was my great-great-grandmother. She also married a bit of a waster, and her own daughter, my great-grandmother was orphaned and in a workhouse at the age of 11.

How can families live joyful, loving, peace-fulfilling lives with these scars and tragedies? We are losing the generation that was broken by the trenches of France, and whose silence about those experiences is understandable but also permits the perpetuation of the old lie, as Wilfred Owen calls it, dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

My father was in Germany in 1945 and 1946 but didn’t talk much about it either except for brief glimpses of camaraderie in the face of despair, and the discovery that some Germans at least were good people who were betrayed. This was not a popular opinion to hold at that time but he was a kind man and only judged people by their actions. He fell in love with a German girl but had to leave her because his mother would not accept her (not surprising but a little disappointing, I’ll admit). He did his duty then and continued for the rest of his life to do so.

What I have found is that for every generation where I uncover some sad or disagreeable story, there is inevitably a reason (although rarely an excuse) to explain the behaviour. This is how we perpetrate the errors of our forebears and continue to suffer.

Despite all this I have some hope. Darkness cannot abide with light; truth told leaves nowhere for lies to hide. With honesty comes the possibility of forgiveness and a fresh start.

I wish I had recognised this sooner, and avoided mistakes in my own parenting; but I did recognise some patterns that I did not want to repeat and I hope I managed to avoid them or at least reduce the strength of them. Worrying about money is one feature of my family. The only time my dad lost his temper with me was when I dropped a bottle of milk. “Do you how much milk costs?” he shouted. So although I worry about money and although we had to be frugal when the Offsrpingses were smaller, I don’t think I have ever shouted at them for such childish mistakes. I have shouted. Just not for that.

Let’s sit down with Philip Larkin for a moment, because that’s a very good place to sit. His conclusion is not for me but he sums up the tragedy of inherited scars.

This Be The Verse

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
    They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
    And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
    By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
    And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
    It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
    And don’t have any kids yourself.

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/178055

Very few people are actually evil although they may choose to commit evil acts. Something has shaped them. Be glad, and even humbled, if it has not shaped you too. We can make peace if we want to. Recognising the roots of fear and sadness and pain is the first step to moving past those things to a better place. It is not easy. It is merely possible.

May you rise above your suffering and choose peace and love. I will do my best to keep up with you and we will try to make a better, more peaceful, world, here and now and every day.

The light in me salutes the light in you

Namaste

Other posts this month include:

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/02/03/monthly-peace-challenge-we-are-family/

http://appletonavenue.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/bad-dreams/

http://brainsweets1.wordpress.com/2014/02/04/dearest-daughter/

First World Problems

firstworldproblemI have recently found myself feeling grateful for a number of things, most of which I consider quite basic. I’m not sure what is wrong with me; EBL is not naturally a grateful or sensitive little flower. It must be all this darn meditation I have tried to incorporate into my routines.  When in doubt blame a Buddhist.

The thing is, once I started noticing it, I also started noticing how most of the stress factors in my life were in fact first world problems.

Let’s back up a moment and take it from the beginning.

The gratitude thing began recently when I started thinking how pretty the water was when it sparkled in the shower cubicle’s light. Our shower has a light and extractor fan which we always turn on if it’s too cold to have the window open, to try and prevent condensation. This means on dull, dark, winter mornings the water glitters as it comes out the shower head, and I think it’s shiny, shiny, pretty. Then I think how lucky I am to have access to plenty of good, clean, hot water to use on a daily shower.

So that sets me up for the day noticing things I usually take for granted. As well as clean water for making tea (even more important than showering I would suggest, although colleagues and close personal friends may beg to differ), I have all kinds of miracles at my fingertips. Like fridges – so I get fresh food and keep it fresh. Or safe public transport.

Anyway, you get the idea, I’m sure. Generally I keep thinking how lucky I am to live in a country where I have access to clean water, food and shelter. I admit not all of my fellow countrypersons are as lucky as me, so that just makes me feel even more grateful.

Obviously I don’t spend all day in a self-congratulatory miasma. Rather than feeling smug I decide to take myself down a peg or two by chastising myself for worrying about all my first world problems. In case you haven’t come across the term it refers to those irritations in life which people like to complain about but which actually only reinforce how fortunate they are. For example, worrying about the fact my new mobile phone case clashes with my handbag. Not that it does worry me, in fact, but I imagine some people get upset by such things. I prefer to think of myself as quirky. Plus having a purple phone case and red bag is really sticking it to the Man. Oh yeah!

Here are some of my terrible worries.

  • Logging on to the WiFi in the coffee shop from my phone will subject me to more spam.
  • I need to write a post for my blog or people will think I have died, but I have nothing to write.
  • My nail varnish is chipped. Now I’ll have to spend 10 minutes sorting it out.
  • Tesco appears to have run out of halloumi and have replaced it in the order they have delivered to my door with cheddar.
  • The hotel doesn’t seem to provide BBC4 on its TV. Can’t watch re-run of Borgen.
  • My train was cancelled and I had to run to another platform to get an alternative service, as well as losing my reserved seat.
  • How can I be expected to carry two mobiles about with me; why can’t IT set up bring Your Own device?
  • I have to stream the episode of Borgen I missed instead of downloading it and my broadband is not fast enough.
  • In fact I have to endure rural broadband speeds all the time; Facebook takes actual seconds to load.

It’s all a bit embarrassing when I look at it. Honestly, EBL, get over yourself!

I was just wondering how you all get through your days. Do you ever find yourselves worrying over nothing like this? Or have I just embarrassed myself in front of the whole Interweb? Share your wisdom, people.

Namaste.

 

 

B4peace: The Enemy Within

Every month I try to post an entry on Bloggers for Peace. It is an interesting challenge, and certainly has produced some fantastic reading for me as I consume the outpourings of other contributors. I want to thank Kozo for this idea, because I think it has been a fantastic exercise, and one I hope will continue beyond December. But in November we are ramping up and facing an even tougher gauntlet:

This month, I want you to open your arms to your enemies. Think of a person, a place, a nation, a culture, a religion, a gender, or an ideology that you view as a enemy.

Well, I think any of you who have been with me a while will know that this particular writer has her own challenges and frustrations in this area. Your EBL displays only too human an outburst when provoked. I try to rise above it, I really do, but it just doesn’t happen very often.

But to call these people enemies… To think of the queue jumpers and crazy drivers and tabloid journalists and royal family sychophants and yes, even paedophiles and mass murderers and abusers of the vulnerable as enemies feels like a tall order. It has been to my amazement that actually I really do feel like loving the sinner while hating the sin, albeit in my very own, EBL-esque way.

Don’t get me wrong: most of them need locking up for the good of society. Such as the ones who risk my and Sigoth’s lives as they hurtle past us on a blind bend because they just have to be the car in front, regardless of speed limit, driving conditions or visibility, or the drunken lorry driver who crashed across the central reservation of the M1 and killed my friend, her husband and two small girls.

And don’t get me started on the notable deliberate evil-doers, such as Joseph Kony, Kim Jong-Il, Than Shwe, and so on – I’m not even starting on the list of consensually agreed “bad guys” from the 20th century or earlier. Frankly, their mothers are ashamed of them and they all need to sit in their rooms for a long time to think about what they have done, While they are there the rest of us need to make sure those doors are secured so they do not come out again to do more and worse.

Let’s not forget the inexplicably anonymous folk either. For the terrible things done on a personal level to friends and acquaintances, it is better for them to comment, but I want to be here for you if you need me.

So all in all, I can see a whole shed load of bad, but I just can’t get to the enemy part. I see danger because of their actions, and I believe we need to respond, without sentimentality, to it. Tough love means making people confront the consequences of their actions. If they ever do, it may destroy them; if they do not, then they must remain apart, unfit to join the bulk of humanity, which for all its petty flaws can pretty much agree on what is beyond the pale, when you get right down to it. If these villains really can’t get there, then they are damaged or sick and need to be mended. In my opinion violent criminals are by definition insane and should be placed in Broadmoor until either they are treated successfully for their ailment or until they die; either they can be fixed, in which case we rejoice, or they can’t in which case they are contained. Whichever.

Then we come to politicians who provoke mean-spiritedness and stigmatisation and several –isms. They need a sharp talking to, and I’m the one for it, let me tell you. People who follow their lazy ideology need some bringing up to speed on treating others as they would like to be treated. Journalists of the same water are included in this category, for the sake of completeness. Honestly, the effect of their rabid headline son the likes of my poor old mother is frankly in contravention of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights (in this case to live without fear).

But enemies… not so much.

I admit to being surprised at myself. I can rant for England about people who think wrong thoughts (in my opinion) or do stupid / bad / hurtful things. You will know EBL has Opinions and may venture to enlighten you on occasions.

But enemies…

The shock of it came a couple of days after I started thinking about this challenge, when I finally realised who the True Enemy was, the one person I despise and loathe above all else, whom I never forgive for their mistakes or cut any slack or excuse. It was a painful moment to understand I did have an enemy. It was me.

You see, my dears, I really don’t like me very much. I may not be alone in this, but nevertheless, this week I realised I actually like myself less than those people I have just listed for you. At first I disliked myself more for being so stupid as to think that. I am reasonably certain I have done somewhat less harm in the world than they. But still they evoke less visceral reaction that when I think of my own mistakes. I blame myself for everything. And I wonder why I suffer depression! How stupid of me! (See what I mean?)

Well now, that clever Kozo has made me confront my unreasonable behaviour, and I need to think more about this, in the quiet of my own head. Enemies are exhausting. All that hating helps neither of us. I can’t try to be better if all I get is kicks and sneers. I can’t expect myself to improve if I keep demonising and demeaning me.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

So while I go away and lie down in a darkened room, I suggest you read what others have written more memorably and poignantly in response to Kozo’s challenge. It’s going to be quite a ride!

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/10/31/monthly-peace-challenge-love-thy-enemy/

http://fishofgold.net/2013/11/06/to-my-enemy/

http://grandmalin.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/november-post-for-peace/

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/a-happier-thanksgiving/

http://lauriesnotes.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/b4peace-monthly-challenge-a-quiet-prayer-of-thanks/

Namaste

My Syrian tantrum

I have been struggling since I learned of the chemical attack in Damascus. Struggling with the images and the rhetoric and the desire in myself to do something violent and pain-inducing and retributive to whoever made that attack happen. I wanted to see deadly force used against those responsible.

It’s easy being a pacifist when the biggest challenge is dealing with the supermarket running out of my preferred yoghurt, or a colleague disagreeing about how to resolve a problem or a n able-bodied individual sitting in the disabled seat on the train leaving a wobbly, walking-sticked pensioner to stand. Then I can take a deep breath and try to contain my irritation and think loving thoughts until everything falls into perspective. (I’m not saying I always manage to do it, but I try.)

Chemical weapons, any weapons, are not a source of irritation though. They are far more. They are unforgivable.

No, wait, aren’t I supposed to forgive?

It makes my brain hurt to try and understand why people would use them. And I certainly wanted to go storming over to Syria and send them to their room to think about what they had done.I tworked with our children who have become sensible adults.

Yet these are people who have very clearly thought long and hard about what they planned to do, and then did it. In fact they are dangerous, mad-as-a-bag-of-frogs bullies. Bullies need to be removed from the situation and dealt with, patiently and exhaustingly, but crucially removed until they are safe to be around others.

Then I realised I was being sucked in to all the nonsense about crossing lines and standing up for whatever good word came to mind: freedom, justice, peace.

If before I thought it was wrong to kill people, why was I even giving it time of day now? Because the cold, hard truth is that pacifism is not easy. It means dealing in the long term, not the immediate, knee-jerk present.

In my primitive brain I had a fight or flight response to danger: shall I kill someone or run away and hide? I want to be a more sophisticated life form than that. I want to use thoughtfulness, and compassion. Yet that means not rushing in to save the day as if I know best. It means, with awful certainty, waiting. Waiting for more deaths but working to remove the cause of future deaths, rather than stepping in and introducing new reasons to hate and fight and murder other people. It means being unfashionable and unpopular with those suffering. It means taking the hard path.

Today in meeting for worship at my local Quaker meeting we shared our pain and sense of powerlessness and, indeed, our joint struggle to adhere to our core values. This is what our corporate response to the crisis says; it was published last week just ahead of the Commons vote.

Today in meeting for worship we shared that statement and also asked ourselves through our Advices and Queries to think about how we respond as individuals. Advices and Queries is a document used by Quakers and Quaker meetings in Britain as guidance, prompts and challenges to the issues we confront in the wider world. They are not a call to increased activity by each individual Friend but a reminder of the insights of the Society. We are all asked to consider how far the advices and queries affect us personally and where our own service lies.

The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. Advices & queries.

The Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Britain. Advices & queries.

I know I have to take the hard path. I hope to have your company along the way.

Namaste.

Addiction with EBL

Humans see pattern everywhere, even when they don’t really exist. Usually there is no pattern, just coincidence. Sometimes the patterns collapse into meaning.

I am not prepared to say whether my experience this week was coincidence or some kind of spooky world consciousness kind of thing. I was feeling frazzled. I was tired and a little worried that by agreeing to take on a project on top of my existing workload (which is already out of control), I was losing the battle with my over-active God-complex.  I was open to a new way of looking at things.

I agreed to take on a project that is in an almost desperate state. One that is likely to fail. One that could be damaging to my mental equilibrium. I agreed to work extra hours instead of reducing the time built up during last year’s marathon effort delivering a major OJEU tender and system migration to unreasonable timescales. Yes, I agreed to take on a Death March Project.

I can’t resist being told that no one else can do it, that no one else has the skills / experience  / capability. How stupid am I? I bet you never knew people fell for that line of nonsense.

“EBL saves the world again!” scream the headlines. “Without her we would all be lost!”

It’s official. I am insane. But there are those words: almost, likely to, could be. I grew up watching too many superhero cartoons.

I got back home after being away for a hectic week at work, and decided to relax by catching up on some blog posts. First of all I found that Rohan7Things was expounding wisely on self-discipline and Internet use.

“That’s good stuff,” I thought, frittering time away by using the Internet. “That’s what I need to do – after all, I have cut back on my blogging, so that’s all good. Hah, this stuff is easy!”

Who am I kidding? How deluded can I be? Pretty deluded it seems.

Next I read Rarasaur, who fell off a wagon. Even the mighty Dino of the Blogosphere, the Blogosaurus herself, has limits. Who knew?

I looked at my life. It snarled at me.

There I was thinking I was doing well because I resigned from Governors. Already I have been told I am about to be asked to pick up some jobs at our local Quaker meeting, and already, without knowing what they are, I know I will say yes.

My reasoning is this: all work and no play makes EBL a dull girl. If all I do is work, then I don’t enjoy my life. I need to be involved in activities outside work for balance. So it’s good to take on those jobs, right?

We-e-e-llllll….

Let’s say a friend has given up some voluntary work because it was too demanding and she had been doing it for nine years and felt stale and tired and wanted a break. This is all hypothetical, you understand. This friend has a fairly busy job and is often away from home. She works quite long hours, although not excessive hours like junior doctors. No more than 50 a week. Quite reasonable really; usually only 45 in fact. Civilised hours.

Now she has been asked to take on a trusteeship and another role in her community, on top of her other voluntary commitments for fundraising.

Did I mention she is also a carer? Well, she is.

Then there is her desire to pursue, in a completely selfish manner, some trivial hobbies for her own amusement. She had a rota for those but it has fallen apart recently.

She has just agreed to take on a Death March Project.

I have to admit that looking at it, it doesn’t sound so clever. Even so, I suspect I will still say yes.

My father died of stress in his sixties. I need to take that seriously.

But I will still say yes.

Only the good die young. What’s the point in living longer if you do nothing with the time?

Perhaps the first step to dealing with addiction is to recognise the problem and admit to being powerless over it. What I need is a Twelve Step Programme for Workaholism, like this one here. I scored 15 / 20 on the test, which is a bit scary.

So that’s another project to do – dealing with it.

How common is this, and is it because of the period of change our societies are going through? Or am I just a hopeless case?

Namaste.