All of a sudden, I seem to have an alarmingly small number of days left to work in my current job. Not only is June 7th approaching with haste, but I also had a bunch of annual leave owing that I was going to have to use now or lose, so I've ended up just booking it wherever it could be fitted in. This means I've been off last week and the beginning of this week, I'll be back for Thursday and Friday, then off for five days (Bank Holiday weekend plus my usual Tuesday off plus annual leave on Wednesday), then back for Thursday, Friday, and Monday… and then finito. (Technically, Tuesday 8th will be my last day, but since I don't work on that day it's a bit of a moot point.) It was something of a shock to realise, at the end of the week before last, that although I still had just over three weeks to go in my job by the calendar (which, of course, is an eternity and nothing to get too worked up about) I only had five days of actual work during that time. Gulp.
I can't actually remember the last time I took this much annual leave in one go. My usual practice is to try to spread it out as much as possible, partly through inclination and partly as a response to the practicalities of having two different lots of family in two different distant locations to visit – we can do that more often if I take a lot of long weekends. I have to say, there is something particularly relaxing about knowing that not only do I have the whole week off but I also have an extra few days after that. Instead of spending last week knowing that all this relaxation was all very well but next week it would be back to business as usual with a full working week, I got to spend it knowing that I would still be off for the first three days of the week, and that I'd then only have two days back before being off again for several more days. This is a near-unheard of luxury in my life, and I cherished it.
So, with all this time off, what I've been doing with it has been going back into work. Only on a couple of days, of course. The rest of the time I've been toilet-training Katie (a project that I was putting off until after the wedding and thus now have to actually get on and do), and alternately catching up on other stuff I've been meaning to do and relaxing. But I have the usual enormous stack of things in the general category of Put Aside To Deal With Later, and, now that I'm rapidly running out of later, I need to catch up. Hence, last Friday and this Monday, after dropping Jamie off at school, I went in to work and devoted a few hours to clearing both my virtual and physical inboxes. This is not nearly as bad a way to spend your holiday as it sounds, because it's darned good just to have the chance to sit down in the knowledge that you will remain absolutely uninterrupted by other responsibilities for the next few hours and actually crack on with all that stuff that is, admittedly, hellishly boring to deal with but isn't all that great to have looming over your head as undone work either. Being able to focus on clearing a load of it out of the way was damned good.
This has worked pretty effectively. While there are still a few items that for various reasons didn't get sorted out on those days, not to mention just over two years' worth of clutter on my desk awaiting clearing (I can date the duration with precision, since I last cleared my desk just before going off on maternity leave and hence do at least know that the current clutter has all accumulated since I returned), it is now looking at least somewhat feasible that I will have everything done and dusted by June 7th and be able to walk out at a not-desperately-unreasonable hour that evening with a clear desk, inbox, and conscience. Whereupon, of course, I will start my new job with a new leaf thoroughly turned over and spend the rest of my life being super-organised and getting everything done when I'm supposed to (pausing only to dodge the flying pigs).
So, the goal of getting caught up on work is going fairly successfully. So indeed is the goal of getting Katie toilet-trained (without wishing to burden you with too much detail, I am pleased to say that just over a week into the process we are getting more successes than failures and she clearly has a good general grasp of the whole issue). So is the goal of relaxing. Last Wednesday, Jamie's school were offering parents of children in the Reception classes the chance to come in and join the children for lunch, so I did that and stayed for the rest of the lunch break. Which meant that, after a quick flashback to the school dinner halls of my childhood, I got to spend a glorious half-hour running around with three five-year-olds, practicing handstands,
rolling down a hill, and jumping into a former sandpit. I didn't have nearly this much fun when I was five.
I have also been ordering research articles. And ordering research articles and ordering research articles and ordering research articles. What, you thought all those articles I report back on in my efforts to provide evidence-based posts on parenting controversies were just lying around waiting for me to pick them up? They are obtained for me by the wonderful staff at the library of our local hospital, who have, over the past five years, ordered dozens of articles on breastfeeding and sleep training and cortisol levels in children and all sorts of things of equally limited relevance to general practice, all without batting an eyelid at my requests. I'll technically have the option of doing the same in my new job, but, of course, there's no guarantee that the librarians I'll be dealing with will be quite as happy as the ones at this hospital to order large numbers of articles on whatever I might happen to be arguing about on the Internet with no questions asked as to what all of this actually has to do with my clinical practice. I'm working on the basis that if there are any studies I really want to read, I'd better order them now. Since the number of studies that could potentially fit that description is almost unbelievably vast, I have been spending whatever spare minutes I can get on poring over review papers and meta-analyses and scribbling out request forms by the score. Give it another few years, and I may even get around to reading them all.
The other thing I've done is something I've been meaning to do for the entire almost-five years I've been working in my current job; I finally got round to hanging the sunflower picture in my room at work. I am not kidding about this. Five years of meaning to get a job done, and, with only five days to go, I finally do it. I bring new levels of meaning to the term 'better late than never'. Well, either that or to the term 'completely bloody mental'. I'm not oblivious to the fact that the sensible thing to have done at this stage would have been to leave it and save myself the trouble, and for a while I planned to do just that. But that little room has been my domain for the past five years and, while it may be small and crowded and awkward and a complete nightmare to get a wheelchair or pushchair into, it's still mine, and I've been feeling sad at the realisation of how little I ever did to mark it out as my individual little bit of space. This was my last chance to do so, and, in the end, I didn't want to miss it. So I took down the Edwardian-style picture of children playing blind man's buff that I never ever liked, and hung my giant framed Anne Worthington sunflower print in its place. For the five final days that I work in that room, the patients will have something to look at that's beautiful, eye-catching, and a statement of my individuality. For my five final days in that room, I'll know that it's properly marked as mine.