Since starting to work from home when Libby was a baby, I have become gradually more isolated. Initially, my career involved meetings and a little bit of travel. As things developed, a lot more of my time was spent working alone.
These days, I work entirely from home. The only time I go out for work is if I attend a press or blogging event, which is infrequent. As a result, I have very little contact with anybody outside of my immediate family.
I don’t have a problem with the isolation per se, but it has made me notice a worrying trend. The vast majority of contact I have with people outside of my immediate family is negative.
From the person who gets annoyed with me when I’m waiting in traffic and they can’t get past, to the well dressed ladies horrified at being plastered in mud by my dog, to the scowls and sarcastic comments when I dare to shop in Waitrose with young children in tow.
Each and every one of them makes me doubt myself, my self-worth. Am I a terrible driver, should I have warned them that the field was muddy, should I have shopped elsewhere?
The self-doubt then manifests itself at home. My husband is annoyed with me or my children are bitterly disappointed. I’ve made them late, dragged everyone across the county to a café that is closed or forgotten the same thing again and again.
How can I get things so wrong? Do I deserve to have my family in my life, am I a good enough mother to my children, how can I do better?
For people that go to work, socialise and integrate with society, the negative experiences are generally outweighed by the positive.
Friends, family members and colleagues are supportive on the whole. You go to work in the morning, chat to a colleague, have lunch with a friend. Perhaps socialise in the evenings or associate with people through sport or a shared common interest.
But without the positive interactions, the negative ones remain. I take the children to their groups, days out, parties and lessons and keep my head down, avoiding speaking to people if I can.
I take the dogs out, running or walking them in the dark, dodging contact with people. But the negative reactions are everywhere, there is no avoiding them.
People insist on making it clear when they feel someone else is in the wrong. Perhaps three or four times in a week, everyone finds themselves in a situation where they are unintentionally blameworthy.
But those situations are soaked up into the, caring, supportive acts of kindness that happen, unnoticed everyday. Holding open a door, making a cup of tea or lending a listening ear.
Without those, the volume of uncomfortable situations is turned up. The self-doubt that they induce is amplified until it becomes almost unbearable.
I want to have a positive impact on those I encounter, not a negative one. Next time I feel I have been wronged, I am going to walk away.
My reaction could be the only experience of humanity that an individual has on that day. I want that experience to be one of compassion, not blame.