Is Being Happy a Choice?

Some would say categorically not. They have a disease, it’s a part of their makeup (genetic or otherwise) and they have no control over it.

Others might argue that yes, how we feel is our choice. We have a mind of our own and we can control it (using various methods).

It is also often debated whether depressive thoughts are addictive, in the same way that substances like alcohol, or behaviours like gambling are addictive. And when we are not using these substances or behaviours we feel out of control largely because in a (self-destructive) way the familiarity gives us an element of comfort. In a similar vein, it is often noted that women (and men for that matter) in unhealthy relationships are mimicking those they had with their parents in childhood. It might not be healthy, but it is familiar.

So, if using by these theories, we fight the urge to believe that we have no control over our minds and we fight the urge to fall back into the dark, warm but comfortable well of depression, ( Read my post on Depression – A Multi-Pronged Attack ) can we overcome it?

My view, for what it’s worth, is yes. But it’s no walk in the park.

It’s curious how whilst I was cycling through France last summer, I had never been so happy or so at peace. Perhaps it was something to do with … the daily exercise (ok it was a brutal 60 – 90 kms a day); being in the sunshine (yup, it hit 41 degrees); a challenge each and every moment (wait til the book comes out, then you’ll understand); social interaction (albeit mostly in a different language apart from on meeting one couple who when I exclaimed how delighted I was that they were English, they replied, “Nah! We’re from Birmingham.” Right; No alcohol, but gallons of water and my weight in croissants; No toxic people to be around and no social media …. And so on and so forth.

Yes, all those things that we’re supposed to do daily to help ourselves (granted, perhaps not in quite such an extreme form), nevertheless, whilst I’m not suggesting that anyone heads off for a 1200 km cycle ride, it’s funny how happy one can be with just a bicycle a tent and the winding road ahead.

So what do you think? Depending of course on the severity of the anxiety or depression, do you believe we actually have a choice to be happy?

Katie xx

Knickers Again (But of the Cycling Variety …)

white clothes line trousers past
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Now I fear I must discuss, or at least give my view on the slightly taboo and decidedly undignified subject of knickers.

Of all the advice that I was given prior to my cycling trip, and there was a lot, the common denominator from everyone was to invest in a good sturdy pair of cycling shorts.  To this day, I’m not entirely sure if mine were shorts or knickers. Whichever they were, they did the job well.  But Mon Dieu, what an unsightly piece of clothing.

Lycra’d within an inch of their life so that they tightly suck in the wobbly bits like a vacuum packed chicken, and let other parts spill out over the top and underneath; the end result is one ends up looking like a rather badly stuffed Christmas stocking; all lumps and bumps but the only surprise with this stocking is whether one is able to take them off without the huge effort making one either puce in the face, or accidentally breaking wind.

As for the padding within, it is simply a large piece of foam which sits like a small yoga roll-mat between ones legs.  However, the result? unattractive, however not a bruised botty in sight.

But, there is one piece of advice that I was NOT given, and that was to wear them from day one of said cycling adventure. If it is left until day three, you will discover that you can’t sit down without wincing, howling and yelping. Sadly this is really rather a case of locking the stable door once the horse has well and truly bolted and frankly is in another county. This was sadly what I did.

And, whilst trying to be delicate here, it’s not just ones ‘back bottom’ that becomes bruised, it’s the ‘front bottom’ area and for want of a better word, ones ‘fou fou’. This entire region becomes so delicate, that should you be travelling on a romantic holiday with your darling loved one, you can wave goodbye to any woo hoo for your fou fou for at least a week. Or if you do, he’ll find that he got more than he bargained for, with more wincing, howling, yelping and yowling than a night in a brothel with Madame Whiplash and her whippy-stick.

I think that just about covers it.

Katie xx

Any experience of cycling knickers? No? Lucky you … 😳

Lethargy, Depression and the Slippery Slope

time lapse photo of man riding on bicycle
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I’ve had to have a wee chat with myself of late. In truth it was more of a stern waggling of the finger involving some rude words and the occasional metaphorical kick in the shins.

And why? Because I was sensing a slight return of the lethargy, the tiredness and the excuses. The desire to light a fire, put on a pair of unattractive fluffy socks, matching pyjamas and woolly hat and vegetate makeup free was fast becoming just a little too appealing. Now fear not, I have come to recognise this. It is my very own slippery slope; my uncontrollable freewheeling downhill on Claude the bicycle when the brakes have failed and the only option, unless I am prepared to hit rock bottom, is to take an almighty leap to get off in the full knowledge that it’s going to hurt.

The problem with my ‘slippery slope’ is that the end point is even more unattractive than me in a pair of fluffy pyjamas. You see, I’m just not that kind of gal. I’m a “where’s my nothingness of a silk nightie … can’t find it … never mind, better do a Marilyn Monroe and wear nothing but Chanel No 5.” You get the gist … I fear that if I didn’t jump off said slippery slope, within a fortnight I’d have eaten my body weight in ginger nut biscuits, would be drinking like a fish and be found, the size of a small whale reading Barbara Cartland, wedged under the bed. As it happens I have always had great admiration for Barbara; frankly anyone who managed to write that many books is a hero in my mind – I can’t even do one (yet).

Now don’t get me wrong, I can give you a thousand reasons why I should be kind to myself and give in to the lethargy. Well, one or two …. my folate levels are apparently low, and ummm, well it’s winter isn’t it?

So in truth, without a plethora of excuses, I’ve had a ‘wee chat’ with myself, have bounced out of bed, slapped on some face (makeup, to the men out there), have embraced the cold air with gusto and have come to my coffee shop. Much too long a sentence once again and for that I’m sorry, but you see I’m just a bit excited. I took that metaphoric almighty leap off the freewheeling bicycle and not only was it easier this time, but the landing didn’t hurt. Yes, it’s only a meagre trip out of the house, but what I’ve found is that if I start the day with the right attitude, everything follows suit with my jobs done and the house and husband sorted. I then go to bed that night happy, fulfilled and tired enough that whether I’m in my birthday suit, a beautiful little nothingness of a silk number (marriage number two therefore efforts and standards must prevail you understand) or wearing a flannel onesie with a picture of Bart Simpson on it, I’ll sleep like a baby and the slippery slope will be a thing of the past. Or at least until the next day …

Katie xx

Of COURSE I’m not going to ask what you wear in bed … as if … but instead, what do you do to combat lethargy?

Breaking the Ice …

toddler wearing purple sweatshirt
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Yesterday I joined a wonderful class and being the first introductory meeting there were ‘housekeeping’ rules to discuss; where the loos and fire exits were, if a fire alarm was to go off to treat it as genuine as no practices were scheduled, no bad language allowed etc etc.

Two minutes in, the fire alarm goes off, the lady sitting next to me jumps up and exclaims, “Oh Fuck! It’s a fire!” clutches at her knickers, declares an ‘oops’ moment in her excitement and runs, semi crossed-legged out of the room. I’d say it was a pretty good icebreaker.

Katie xx

Ps. To reassure you, it was the toaster in the next door room that set it off! How we laughed! What made you laugh today or yesterday? X

How (And Where) on Earth Do I Write a Book?

photography of book page
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There are a lot bloggers here who are writing, or have been pondering for years on writing a book. Well, I fall into the latter category, have a mass of material and am now just starting to try to put it all together.

The problem (and oh and there are so many), is that all I want to do is to have a month to myself in a small room with no distractions. The likelihood of this? Nil. So I have to improvise.

Yesterday however, I did something completely out of character and perhaps more in line with an activity for the over 70’s; I took the Colonel to visit Ham House and gardens. But before you offer my unfortunate husband any sympathy whatsoever, he has a trip to Rome this week and therefore is in no position to make a fuss or complain, not that I am remotely jealous (she says with a derogatory sniff and twitch of her nose as she beats the green-eyed monster to the ground with a large shovel).

I had cycled past Ham House a couple of months ago and put it on the old bucket list. And well worth it too. Built in the 1600’s it made us stop and gaze and wonder and take a trip back into the life and times of the Fire of London and the Plague, when maps were dubious in their accuracy, baths were a rarity and men and women of a certain class and wealth had their own designated areas in the house.

A couple of particular rooms that both the male and female apartments had within the house were tiny ‘closets’ (not as in dressing room or to be confused with a bathroom), but a tiny room with a fireplace and an area for some sort of a daybed and a desk where he or she could escape to, rest, or write. Can you imagine?! What a joy!

Now understandably these rich souls had to deal with all sorts of other problems that we generally don’t have (such as giving birth to 11 children obviously not all at the same time without the wonders of mind-altering and pain-blocking drugs, infancy death, no clean water and therefore drinking beer instead – were they all drunk? etc etc) I do however rather envy them having their very own ‘closet’. One could escape for hours at a time and write in relative peace and quiet. I could escape for hours at a time and write in relative peace and quiet! Of course, there isn’t really much room here in our military house to create such a room and I suspect our housing officer might raise an eyebrow or two if I started knocking down the occasional wall but you get my gist. A place of my own, with a log burner, armchair, lots of Jane Churchill fabric, a secret stash of ginger nuts and a large no entry sign on the door (in a pretty eau de nil distressed piece of shaped wood). Perfect.

But sadly, unless I compromise, take refuge in either the clothes cupboard or the understairs cupboard and switch the log burner for a hot water bottle, I fear I shall have to continue with my writing in the comparative norm like everyone else of the kitchen, with my iPad attached to the wall by the cable that isn’t quite long enough to reach the little table and chair as I forgot once again to charge it overnight.

So yes, I stand and type, grasping an hour here, an hour there trying to create a book so wonderful that eventually someone, anyone, ideally a desperate agent will give me a flicker of hope and perhaps, just perhaps one day on amazon at 0.001 pence you might be able to find a book written by me, about a woman and her lowly bicycle Claude … who knows?

And, in the meantime, I think I might just move the Colonel’s uniforms from the cupboard and try and make a little more space … I can almost fit in there if I bend my legs to the left and push the handbags and shoes to the right … oh! So that’s where I hid my jewellery when I was away … golly now I can tell the Colonel it’s back from the menders …

Katie xx

Where do you write? Do you have a perfect hideaway?

Solitude … Necessary or Not?

autumn calm creepy dried leaves
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Without meaning to harp on about it too much, whilst cycling for the best part of a month in France, I had only myself for company.

I talked to myself, sang to myself, told myself funny little stories (and laughed at them – yes I am suitably strange) and cried to myself. I regularly bored myself stupid and craved company. The only people, until almost the end of the trip, that I encountered were of course French, and despite a fairly healthy ‘O Level’ result in the subject over 30 years ago, conversation was understandably a little limited. Of course, over time it improved considerably and particularly when I became less self conscious and more confident.

On one occasion, when lost again, I asked a family for help in the navigation department in my very best french.

“Ooh!” they grinned, realising immediately that I was a foreigner, “Are you English?”

“Oh thank God!” says I with great enthusiasm, “You’re the first Brits I’ve spoken to in fourteen days!” I wanted to hug them, kiss them, sit them down with a cup of tea and listen to their life story.

“Nah! We’re not English, we’re from Birmingham,” came the strong accent in response.

Right… Frankly I couldn’t care where they came from, as long as they could understand me and I could listen and understand them. It was a short lived conversation … I think my overly enthused neediness was perhaps a bit off-putting. Similar to when I try to chatter to the postman when he comes to the door, his eyes start to glaze over as he backs down the path. Perhaps I truly am just a needy individual.

However in the last few days I met someone who had been doing almost a parallel trip to me. A South African by birth, he said what he thought, without any filter, and with gusto. He called a spade a spade and swore like a trooper. A rather high powered physicist with a photographic memory, I did question the swearing, but he merely threw his head back, laughed like a drain and replied, “Frankly Katie, I don’t give a fuck!” I liked him enormously. But he too had been devoid of all conversation and despite being fluent in five languages, French was not one of them, so had even less of an opportunity for chatter. It hadn’t however stopped him from having an absolute ball. We then talked incessantly for three days and marvelled at the delights of having company, giggled over the best way to get in, out, and dressed in 6ft x 2ft x 2ft tent, and spoke endlessly about our ridiculous adventures. Laughter is truly good for the soul.

I am now back in the real world and find myself a slightly different creature. Having craved company, whilst I enjoy it, I enjoy it in moderation. No, that word that has never been a part of my life before and I welcome it and wonder if perhaps it might overflow into other areas of my life. There is always hope. I find that I now need a certain amount of solitude in which to block out the noise, the people, the endless nonsense which I find invades my mind and colours my mood. I can now control my own mood completely by myself which is new to me and very much welcomed, but external influences still can alter it. So partly for self preservation and partly because I simply enjoy it, I now ensure that I have time every day and every evening for a little solitude. Call it self care, call it indulgence, call it selfishness, as my South African friend says, “Frankly, I don’t give a f…k!”

Katie xx

What about you? Do you need solitude or do you loathe it? Do you control your own mood?

It’s Over …

woman stands on mountain over field under cloudy sky at sunrise
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I’ve done it.

I’ve bicycled 1000kms through France, taking the long and winding route of La Velodysee through towns and villages, along canals and rivers, on cycle tracks, roads, through fields, around fields, lost in fields …. I’ve been frightened, I’ve cried, I’ve hurt myself, I’ve hated myself and bored myself. And yet, I’ve also laughed until tears have streamed down my face. I’ve been humbled and I’ve been moved to yet more tears by the kindness of others. That’s quite a lot of tears actually …. odd really for someone who doesn’t tend to cry much.

I’m utterly exhausted, both physically and mentally. I want to speak, I have so much to say and yet the words won’t come. I want to sleep, but my mind is preventing it. And I honestly don’t think anyone really understands at all. I’m not looking for praise so please don’t give it. I’m not wanting congratulations in the least. But I do want to thank each and every one of you for all your encouragement and support throughout this. But at the end of the day, all I have done is very simply to have tested both my mind and body to their absolute limits.

Having never wanted to see another canal, river or pine tree in my life, I am strangely missing them. Having bored myself stupid by my own thoughts for days, weeks, and having longed for conversation (preferably in English), I now crave solitude and peace.

I do however feel that this is normal. This is a normal reaction, behaviour and feelings and as with everything else, my favourite Persian saying comes into play … This too shall pass

But it’s done. This dizzy, ditzy blonde and (slightly) unhinged woman has done what she set out to achieve. And now, in truth all I want is to sleep.

Katie xxx

God bless you all and thank you for your support.