So what could have driven me to get off my rear and put finger to key? Well, me. I thought it was time to say something about what it is like to be an advocate. An unpaid e-cig advocate. A volunteer that probably doesn't know when to stop and even if she did, wouldn't! A person perpetually on the brink of an eye-ball gouging, table throwing, running-through-the-streets-dressed-in-coloured-recycling-bags-claiming- to-be-batman-whilst-screaming-incoherently breakdown.
I am by no means alone in this. Although the details might be different, damn near all of us are in the same position.
Last week and this weekend I was asked to do these things;
Attend the new APPG and speak on behalf of NNA and by extension, consumers. (This week)
Attend the launch of and speak at the new BSI industry standard written by ECITA with input and support from myself and a group of others (The Steering group). (This week)
Arrange a trip to an SSS near Manchester in order to support an advisor who wants to turn the SSS E-cig friendly and needs help to get everyone onside.
Support (ongoing) another PH professional who contacted me asking for help to deal with a high level colleague come round to vaping from a position that appears to be in-line with some of our most absolute favouritist Anti-Ecig Activists.
Attend and speak at a vape expo in another country.
Read and respond to more people than I can count who have concerns and questions and worries via email and Twitter. (Always)
Now, do not think for ONE SECOND that of all the advocates you know that I am the only one with a week like this. I am not. I can almost guarantee that virtually every one of them had a similar week, we just rarely talk about it. Partly cos we relish all the different challenges and partly as we do not want anyone to think they can't or shouldn't add any further pressure. I will close on this bit specifically.
So what about my life? That thing that happens 24 hours a day outside of e-cig related matters?
Take youngest son to Dr's to discover he has tonsillitis and a stomach virus to go with the broken arm he got last week. He is off school.
Book train tickets to APPG and BSI launch event. Read confirmation emails and realise I have booked to go to London twice on the same day. All left till last minute as unsure I can leave youngest.
Get on train at 10:03
Get off train at 13:44. Make way to Parliament.
Get on train at 23.45
Get off train at 6:45am
Drive 40 minutes home,
Organise small ppl for school - unknown if youngest well enough to go.
Drive 40 minutes to eldest's school for 13:40 for meeting (unknown what is happening with smallest)
Get back in time to pick up middle-sized at 15:15 in home village.
Feed small ppl to get back to school for 17:00 for school play
Attend school play at 18:00
Take children home around 21:00.
Drive to train station.
Get on train at 23:09
Get off train at 06:30
Make way to Standards Launch.
Speak (give Katherine big hug knowing she knows just how I feel)
Get on train at 14:06
Get off train 18:06
Drive home in time to read bedtime stories
Make birthday cake till early hours
Wake up swearing I am not making birthday cakes anymore
Sing Happy Birthday to my middle-sized who will be 8, give presents.
Sort monkeys for school
Finish birthday cake
Organise food for birthday visitors.
Watch hours of cake-making labour be destroyed.
Enjoy evening with family.
Start putting contingency plans in place for my inevitable breakdown.
So this week IS particularly troublesome, I can't deny that. But to some degree or other this is sort of normal. Add into the mix personal things like school runs, street dance and ballet classes for monkeys 2 and 3, football training and related activities for monkey 1, unfeasible levels of laundry, cooking, cleaning, PICKING STUFF UP!! OMFG I seem to spend my whole damn life picking stuff up! Does nobody else notice it? Is it just me? Does it exist in some alternate reality into which I only can see in order to bring it back to our world and find it a home?
I digress...excuse me whilst I take a calming breath or twenty...
My point is, it is the same for everyone, every advocate in every country. It would be easy to think that I have written this for sympathy or kudos, but you would be mistaken. I think this just needs to be said and it needs to be said because it explains why accusations of astroturf and shillery hurt so much. We are doing our very best and often at the expense of something in our own lives. I gave up waitressing to do freelance writing, which went well at first, but then a whole lot of personal stuff happened and new and interesting e-cig related things arose and as a result, I have not been able to focus on writing and find myself work. This is no-ones fault but my own.
So much like I can object to using women as ornaments at vape expos without being a militant feminist or suffering some crippling jealousy, I can tell you all this about being an advocate without wanting sympathy. I don't HAVE to do this. I could stop anytime I want...
The biggest reason I have held off saying all of this - and this is THE most important bit - is because I was worried about appearing vulnerable. But, Do Not think this is a plea to take the pressure off. Do Not think 'I won't ask Lorien or anyone else cos she wrote that blog'. I doubt any of us realised where this would end up, what it would involve, but I would not change a thing. I am proud of everything we have achieved and all that we have done. It is absolutely bloody amazing!
It is likely to be years before this is over and I suspect most of us will see it through to the end. I am so proud to have met the people I have, work with the ones I do and adore the friends I have made. I have gained so much and learned so much about myself. I have never felt more confident and capable but at the end of the day, we are all ordinary people in an extraordinary situation.
I guess this isn't really for the community, the blog, because I think you all know all of this. It is here for the people who demean and degrade our efforts.
So, now all of that has been said.....