FREEDOM!

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Sitting yesterday outside my coffee shop, I heard a man coming towards me. In actual fact until he came into sight, his gender was questionable due to the extremely high notes that he was singing. Indeed, the word ‘singing’ should be used rather loosely as well …

He was tall, wearing dark sports clothes and carrying a backpack with a couple of racquet handles poking out of the top. Finally, atop his head and covering his ears he wore an oversized pair of headphones. Headphones that clearly were muffling the sounds of the outside world whilst immersing him into his own wonderful bubble of music. And how he sang!

Great, sudden high-pitched screeches with wild arm movements sent fellow pedestrians ducking and fleeing in fright. Long and musically debatable notes were (loosely) held until he began to run out of breath; whereupon he appeared to grapple with deciding whether to continue on the warbling note, or to allow some much required air into his oxygen-depleted body.

His walking pace slowed, his arms raised high as he momentarily paused creating a brief silence as his audience of coffee drinkers and pedestrians alike also held their breaths in anticipation … He then took a deep and long inward gasping of breath and then burst forth with renewed vigour, passion and more animalistic wailing noises and his walking pace quickened once again. His head moved vigorously from side to side and a wide, broad smile beamed across his face.

As he passed us and went on his merry way, we all smiled at each other, brought together for a moment in time, enjoying the happiness of one individual, so deep in his own happy world and so oblivious to ours, that we almost felt a little envious. How carefree! How wonderful!

And it made me wonder, when was the last time that I felt that free and uninhibited? Indeed, when did you last feel and breezy? For me, it was cycling in France. Perhaps time has made me nostalgic, but of late I find myself pondering wistfully of my month away with only myself and Claude my bicycle to consider. The freedom was so utterly welcome, it was bewitching. I had indeed liberated, and seeing the man yesterday, made me yearn for it once again.

Perhaps the man had returned from a tennis or squash session and was high on endorphins; in which case I think I should dig out my own racquet and balls. Or perhaps, just perhaps, he was simply high on life. In which case I shall consider another trip, another adventure to bring back that glorious, glorious feeling of total and blissful freedom.

Katie x

Do you feel free?

Do you yearn to be liberated from your anxieties, marriage, commitments or depression?

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

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For anyone out there who is like me, awake, excited and wanting to wake everyone up in the house, plus all the neighbours, … Happy Christmas!

And for those in different time zones, Happy Almost Christmas and Happy Boxing Day!

Have a wonderful day, and may it be full of love.

Katie xx

NO! NO! NO!

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Snuggling contentedly amongst my other issues, I have two rather deep seated and firmly ingrained problems that I have recently discovered are linked. This actually is rather good, because that means that I now have one rather than two. Please note the positive spin – I am if nothing else, eternally optimistic.

Issue 1

I am a people pleaser and find it incredibly hard to say no.

Issue 2

I am unfamiliar with the notion of ‘moderation’.

And the link is this: I can’t say no to others, or myself. I simply cannot say “No! Stop! That’s enough”.

I suspect I am a people pleaser because of a need to be loved. The problem with this, is that being a fairly needy individual but loathe to be a burden, where one feeling should in theory neutralise the other, it doesn’t; it simply makes me complicated.

So I do things for people that I don’t want to do, consequently get grumpy and do whatever it is with extremely bad grace.

And then my neediness kicks in. Imagine husband dearest trying desperately to leave for work in the morning, briefcase and coat in hand, with me attached to his ankles being dragged across the kitchen floor wailing, “Don’t leave me! Don’t leave me!” Not that he’s quite beating me with his umbrella to detach me but …. Admittedly I am exaggerating somewhat, but you get the gist.

As for moderation, this tends to happen when doing something that I enjoy, for example:

Certain types of exercise (ie cycling until my body starts shutting down)

Nibbling delicately on a biscuit (read: devouring a twin packet whilst locking myself in the larder),

Getting excited about an event (hyperventilating, shaking and nausea)

Again, I hope you get the gist.

There is simply no “Off” button. No bright little button with “Time to stop now Katie!” flashing on it. No sodding great beacon with a man holding a megaphone shouting “No, you stupid woman, just Nooooo!”

I can’t say No!

So the question is twofold:

1). How do I stop this impetuous, people pleasing doormattish behaviour, and

2). How do I dig deep enough in order to find my inner self control? (As in, where do you keep yours? Clearly close to hand, perhaps in a little pocket somewhere …. whereas I think I left mine at a childhood birthday party many decades ago.

All answers, suggestions welcomed ….

Katie xx

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

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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?

Wants Versus Needs

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I could at this point refer to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs which essentially summarises all that I should ramble on about, however I am no intellect and frankly I still don’t understand quite what he means about ‘self-actualisation’… so in my Katie and rather simple way, this is how I translate it.

To need means it is necessary, in order to live safely and healthily, to want however, is about making life even more comfortable and pleasant. Done. Tick. End of post? Not quite …

Last night I had a trial run in my little one-man tent in the garden, (so less than twenty yards from the kettle, a warm, dry bed and a hot bath – therefore not exactly a life or death scenario). But a good exercise in realising that a flimsy nighty and a water bottle with a leaky lid and a propensity for falling over needed some further consideration.

The main problem however was my roll mat which I had bought for my son many moons ago when he was doing a camping expedition on Dartmoor. (Think, bleak, wet and windy). I could pretend that it was so many years ago that therefore material technology was not advanced and back then all mats were three millimetres thick (or thin …). The truth of the matter however is that a) I was utterly clueless as I’d never been camping myself, and b) I was far too mean to buy a decent thick one. He never complained however, and it was returned a little flatter still and somewhat muddier.

Nevertheless, yours truly, still being rather mean, thought that this would be perfectly sufficient for myself and therefore used it last night. I didn’t need a new one despite perhaps wanting one.

Now, our lawn here in London is perfectly level, the grass perhaps a little crunchy from the heatwave but sadly though, through this pretty, pale blue, three millimetre thick length of foam otherwise called a roll mat, I felt every blade of grass, tiny stone and uneven morsel of soil. I felt like the Princess and the Pea if any of you remember reading it … although less of the princess and more of the middle-class, middle-aged woman with clearly rather bony hips.

Eventually of course I managed to get to sleep … inevitably it happens in time and to be honest, there was absolutely not a cats in hells chance I was going to creep into the house and quietly slip into my soft, warm bed with husband dearest … or even onto the sofa and then disappear back outside before anyone awoke (obviously this had been considered).

So no, I endured it, even folded the roll mat it in half so as to make it six millimetres thick, for the top of my body at least, no mean feat doing this when tightly encased in a sleeping bag like a moth pupa and the ceiling of the tent does not enable one to sit upright … yes, a hot, sweaty moth pupa in a flimsy nighty. Nice. The result … foam mattress is now deformed with a small tear along one edge and the flimsy nighty strap has snapped off.

Now of course I could make do and mend, because I don’t need to replace either, but let’s face it, this camping lark is supposed to be enjoyable therefore I want to go and buy myself at least a couple of creature comforts.

I awoke as dawn was just breaking and the birds which normally are muffled by the constant drone of the traffic and aeroplanes were busy and chattering, the air was cool and I was in a complete state of happiness. Fancy waking up with a smile on one’s face! Extraordinary behaviour!

Creeping in to make tea for myself and The Colonel, there was a crashing down the stairs and he appeared in the doorway wearing nothing but a huge grin on his face. “You’re back! Hurray! Come to bed!” he demanded. (Simple sentences for such an early start and he does sometimes forget that I am not a solider to be ordered about, but instead his lovely wife.) I grinned back, and then muttered about the dodgy roll mat. “Oh!” he said, “I’ve got one on order for you. All sorted.” Ahhh my lovely, gorgeous, caring husband.

“Think you might need to rethink the nighty though.” he smiled widely. And with that, he turned and bounded back up the stairs with me trailing behind with two cups of tea, grassy feet, a muddy bottom and a nighty being held up by one thin strap of silk.

Happy? Oh yes!

Katie xx

Do you find that like me you try to persuade yourself that you need something whereas actually you only want it?

What do you want?

28. Baking … The Best Therapy?

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When I arrived in Scotland, I started to cook. Not just the run-of-the-mill hearty stews which I now discover are a necessity as the weather is dire, but something more ‘fiddly’ to prove to the Colonel that I have many undiscovered talents simply waiting in the wings to be unleashed …

The other reason for this new activity, is because yet another radiator has decided to pack up, meaning that there’s only one way to keep warm, and that’s to keep active whilst I wait for the teeth-sucking plumber called Trevor.

Trevor is not a happy man.  Trevor has to be plied with two cups of coffee before he can start work.  Trevor is hard work. Trevor also likes to discuss at length how his ex-wife ran off with a tree surgeon called Marc (that’s Marc with a ‘c’ he likes to tell me). If I ever want a drink more, it’s when Trevor arrives. “Think kind thoughts” I repeat to myself.

So whilst I wait for Trevor, I begin to bake.

I started with ‘Miniature Victoria Sponges’ (sound a bit like fairy cakes so not that testing surely?).

Admittedly I forgot the baking power and had to sprinkle a random amount into each individual cake after 7 minutes in the oven hence the somewhat erratic size and shape, but a bit of sawing off of a soggy bottom here and a burnt top, there resulted in a not too bad end result …

Secondly, chocolate ice cream – I thought I was being bit too adventurous with this one, but actually it was nothing short of a doddle (and delicious, if you can cope with the knowledge that a cardiac arrest or at the very least diabetes is only round the corner …)

And strangely, I enjoyed making them. It was calming, soothing even and faintly therapeutic because you have to give it your full attention, no minds wandering into dark places when there’s ice cream at stake. You read the recipe (… properly), you follow the recipe and ker-ching! something sweet and delectable to nibble follows – what’s not to like?

However, on putting the ice cream in the freezer and seeing that we had run out of ice for the Colonel’s gin and tonic, new wife here and wanting to please, I called Trevor to let him know I’d leave the keys for him and drove to find bags of ice.

I collected said ice, registered with the local GP (Nb they don’t hand out pills unless you’ve had the afore-mentioned cardiac arrest – tough bunch up here – begging does not work I also note), but, they do spend over and above the usual allotted time to discuss their family (photos included) and expect the same detail from you – it might be considered rude not to, and one doesn’t want to offend and one does want the drugs … suffice to say, by the time I arrived back at the car, my ice was not ice, but a wobbly, leaking bag of iced water on the heated leather (gulp) seat of the very new car.

I love a heated seat … A warm bottom when you haven’t felt your ears or feet for 3 days is something akin to a ‘heavenly moment’ – when ones nether regions truly believe that they have moved to the equator. So, the new car, the Colonel’s pride and joy and my mini equator, now somewhat soggy.

Visions of angry new husband …. visions of leather no longer stretched beautifully across seat, just a bobbly, wrinkled affair and a shockingly big bill … honeymoon period firmly terminated with no G & T to placate. Stress and anxiety roaring through me now.

Much mopping, swearing and praying … promises to always be kind to everyone for the rest of my life, including the children and even Trevor, if only the leather didn’t shrink, expand or turn into something resembling a prune.

I think God might have been listening, as an hour later the Colonel returned home none the wiser, his pride and joy beautiful, intact and still with taut leather, but his strangely exhausted wife curled up on the floor beside the fire, a socking great G & T at the ready with no ice, but an unusually smiling Trevor eating some rather oddly-shaped Victoria sponges in a very cold kitchen.

I shall try some more therapeutic baking next week when I’ve recovered.

Kx

26. Having a Hobby, or ‘A Thing’

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I’ve never much liked the word hobby. It’s always tended to conjure up images of groups of 80 year olds sitting in a draughty church hall doing crochet, undoubtedly wearing large polyester floral skirts with elasticated waists and discussing the merits of their husbands vegetable patch ……

I’ve had single girlfriends who have secretly joined Salsa evening classes, until a few weeks later they can’t talk about it enough. Worse still, they have tried to coerce me into joining them. Err, no thanks! Raving about the liberating joys of learning something new and meeting different people. Why on earth would I want to do that?

Why would I want to risk making a complete fool of myself, standing on the edge of a roomful of Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers, whilst nobody picked me to have as their partner. Oh nooo! Besides, I had friends. Why would I need any more? My own little random group of friends, strangely however from the same middle class background with the same dress sense, likes, dislikes and thoughts as me. Was this a coincidence or had I subconsciously chosen friends because as they were like me, therefore they were deemed safe and I could therefore trust them?

However, that was in the old days, the bad days. Those were in the negative days. To be honest I was not only just a teensy bit narrow-minded but also somewhat uneducated. I knew nothing! Not that I know an awful lot now, but perhaps I am slightly more open to ideas. And of course, this was before I discovered my ‘thing’ (autocorrect just put in ‘thong’ rather than ‘thing’ which has made me smile, childish I know … I’m sure I discovered thongs a long time ago!). I don’t have a hobby, I have a ‘thing’.

And tennis is my thing.

It’s my focus … for several hours a week, I think completely and utterly on one thing. I do something completely alien to me which is to concentrate! I’m pretty sure Roger Federer isn’t serving for the match whilst stressing over what to buy his wife for her birthday or whether Trevor the plumber is going to turn up that day. During those hours I have no negative or anxious thoughts, and that is becoming so regular that it’s becoming a habit. A good habit. Betty the Demon Depressive doesn’t get a word in. She is silent. I am not feeding the beast, so she is wilting. Simples.

It’s my sport …. it’s exercise which means endorphins, dopamine, serotonin start leaping into action, boosting my mood. They are real and they work. The exercise has helped my skin; it makes me drink more water which helps every organ in my body. I can wallop a ball with such force that all my frustrations fragment and disappear. Despite being a skinny bird, age is cruel thing and where bingo wings, muffin tops and love handles once were, muscles are appearing. This makes me more confident and the Colonel’s glasses steam up more … both of which are positives in my book. (The latter perhaps needing to be kept under control from time to time).

And finally, it’s a part of my routine and structure …. It’s one of my daily tasks. It gives me a sense of purpose and control with my life, mind and body. I need routine and structure more than most people. Without it, there’s always the fear that I really might end up doing nothing all day and hiding away in my little home, wrapping my bingo wings around me with nothing to talk about.

And finally, it’s my social interaction with the world. I have new friends. Friends who are different from me. Friends of different ages, backgrounds and cultures. I have no one to hide behind, no children, husband or alcohol. I have learned from them that being yourself is good. We talk nonsense mostly, laughing about nothingness. We laugh, we tease, we tell each other our woes and our joys. We put the world to rights. They don’t judge me and I don’t judge them. They are quite simply, fabulous.

So, if anyone out there is even just starting to think about having a new ‘thing’, then my advice (without being preachy … what right have I?) then don’t overthink it, just do it!

Don your very best floral, elasticated skirt, head down to the church hall and start doing it …. Crochet, tennis, salsa, Ethiopian basket weaving – whatever floats your boat. But you’ll end up with considerably more than just a new hobby. You’ll have a whole new part to your life. A very, very good part.

Kx

24. Always Wear Your Knickers …

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How not to go about getting a dress altered …

It’s pouring with rain. This is Glasgow. Of course it’s pouring with rain. The dress I need to be altered however, is safe and protected within a bag, complete with coat hanger, and stuffed under my coat. As a consequence I look more pregnant than when I was pregnant, with the coat hanger however lending a slightly more lumpy look to my phantom pregnancy.

I arrive at the menders in a muck sweat and feeling somewhat wretched having got lost yet again, but am shuffled nonetheless by a Polish Scot whom I don’t really understand at all, into a tiny changing room in order to apparently take off all my clothes and get into said dress. I take this literally and simply hope there are not going to be any Marilyn Monroe moments with air swooshing up under my dress …. but this is neither a film, nor America I remind myself.

Well she seemed to know what she was doing and within five minutes and having been pinned within an inch of my life, it’s time to return behind the curtain to take off the dress.

Problem…. I am stuck…. Completely stuck. Oh dear God!

Humiliation doesn’t really cover it.

With one arm pinned to my side, the other in the air and an eye peering out of the arm hole, I squeak to the seamstresses from behind the modesty of the curtain for help to be freed … This is then thrust aside and a large unit of a woman squeezes into the tiny space beside me. Now we are both stuck.

My head is thrust into her cleavage and she bellows with great authority, as if I am deaf as well as stupid, “Hold on, now SHIMMY LASSIE, SHIMMY!” Now don’t get me wrong, I love a clear instruction, so ooooh how I shimmied! As however, so did she, with my face still between her breasts, pummelling me, whilst pins pricked, stabbed and scraped.

Moments later I reappeared from swathes of fabric and the depths of a large pair of breasts, somewhat dizzy, red-faced, thankfully free, however completely starkers with a total stranger … Turns out, she didn’t work in the menders at all.

Today, I have no signs of depression or anxiety whatsoever! Life in Glasgow continues. 😳😳

Kx

22. Happiness!

 

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In exactly three weeks time, the Colonel, my two boys and I are taking a holiday. Whoop! Whoop!

We are going to a small village in the Alps which is predominantly full of Italians who make skiing look as effortlessly natural as if they had been born in a pair of skis. They have a tanned, healthy glow about them which makes their smiles look even brighter and whiter. Their tiny children race past me on the slopes with the confidence of youth and the knowledge that if they take a tumble, they will simply bounce. Besides, they’re so small, they haven’t got far to fall and anyway papa will appear within moments with an elegant swish of snow, to scoop them up, utter some words of encouragement and send them on their way again …. to rejoin his bronzed wife in her enormous sunglasses, sipping coffee, behind a light cloud of smoke with a cigarette held between two long tapered fingers. I feel as though I am in a film with Sophia Loren … except there’s a bit of twist as Bridget Jones (aka me) has just been added to the cast list.

How do they even make smoking look good? Not quite the same here seeing the masses huddled together outside Tesco’s in the pouring rain whilst you’re trying to get your jammed trolley out of the row. “Kevin!! Go and help that lady with the trolley! No, don’t kick it you pillock!” No, not quite the same at all.

I am a cautious skier who started much too late in life. I do not share the Italians’ attributes. I have less of the tanned healthy look about me and am blessed with more of a pale, insipid look, something akin to skinny-legged hermit crab who has been hibernating for a year or two.

I scuttle from one side of the piste to the other, stop, look nervously around and scuttle back the other side. When things get tricky, I do what I do when driving, I stop. But there are no hazard lights on this vehicle, so this particular habit has been known to cause a pile-up. I am fairly prickly with anyone under the age of six who skis past me and doesn’t give me at least ten metres of wide berth, and when things get very tricky, I sit down. I have been known to cry on occasion, also whilst sitting down.

However, to say I am excited about our upcoming holiday is an understatement.

I am bouncing around, laying clothes out on the bed, counting out pairs of socks …. adding a few for good measure, and what should I wear to go to breakfast? Certainly not my skiing gear – that might look a bit keen, besides I wouldn’t be able to move, would over-heat and can guarantee to spill something on my lovely pink ski trousers … oh the decisions! But such lovely ones.

The Colonel gathers his kit and essentials in roughly five minutes, in part because they were pre-packed in advance, and secondly because he takes the exact numbers of changes of clothes, whereas I can’t decide, so end up taking everything, and a spare just in case. … I see him give a slight shudder when he sees how my side of the bed is getting piled up high … certainly more than a 23kg baggage allowance high, so I remind him haughtily that I am ‘planning for every eventuality’. I also wonder just how high a man’s eyebrows can go up? But sensibly he keeps his thoughts to himself.

So why with my obvious limitations on the piste and otherwise am I so excited?

Why when this is more expensive than three of our camping holidays put together, am I feeling so happy?

Why, when there are times that it can be scary and at other times nothing less than terrifying, do I feel so alive?

Because, I can feel it now. I can see it now. The air is crisp, cold and clear; you breathe in to the very bottom of your lungs and it feels so very, very pure. The beauty of the mountains is nature at its very pinnacle, in all its glory, standing proudly. The sounds of laughter, the crunching of snow underfoot…. the swishing of skis …. After the dirt, grime and sludgy colours, to the purity, the whiteness …. how clean, fresh and sharp the colours are. I’m in my own piece of heaven.

It simply makes me happy. Each year I work on improving and each year I remain the same … but it doesn’t matter. It’s family time in a healthy, stunning environment with masses of exercise, food and drink. I couldn’t ask for more.

I love the feeling of happy exhaustion after a long day of exercise, the looks on the boys’ faces, rosy and laughing. Joking about who is the fastest, more laughter as we all know the truth that the Colonel is far and beyond the best in every respect. He has been known to ski past me, on one ski and no poles whilst bellowing, “A little more angulation my darling!” If I wasn’t panting so much from the exertion I’d tell him exactly where to put his angulation.

So you see, that is why I am excited. Because despite everything, I know that I will be happy there.

Better still, we will all be happy there.

I’ll never look like Sophia Loren, but maybe, just maybe I can work on my skinny-legged hermit crab to look a just a teensy more elegant (or even have a spray tan? Just a thought …).

Kx

☀️☀️☀️

21. Facing Your Fears!

In order to overcome my fears, or perhaps to simply not be seen as a great girls blouse, I have undertaken a few ‘activities’ of late, beginning with being driven around the racetrack circuit at Thruxton for starters.

A nice steady Skoda, or so I thought …. Although this was a while ago, I still recall with horror approaching the bend where the sign very clearly said CORNER, SLOW DOWN, and screaming at the drivers left ear “Dear God, we’re all going to die – didn’t you SEE the sign? There are rules you know, RULES!” before screaming all the more with one arm clinging around his neck, the other hand clutching something solid and handle-like (turns out when I was finally peeled off him, that it was in fact the handbrake).

You see, I don’t do anxiety, stress, high adrenaline levels well. The bewildered look of my 9 year old niece who had sat so calmly during the entire episode in the back of the car spoke volumes. Who was this mad woman and why was her uncle going to marry her?

A trip to the water park, small children running past me shouting with excitement to get to the slide the fastest. This was a family-sized rubber ring, more akin to a small dingy as it held up to six people and children (who have an annoying habit of saying smugly, “I’m only 7 and I can do it”).  Had I not been trying to hold back the nausea, dizziness and complete terror, I’d have kicked them.

My terror was only marginally controlled by the pure glee on my children’s faces that they had got me to do something so totally out of my comfort zone. My fear was causing them such joy! I love them, but …. Bastards!

The fact that there is irritatingly, video footage of me throughout this 20 second period of horror, ending with me lying in the base of said rubber ring in a star-shape, legs akimbo, whimpering, and needing the help of a life-guard to get out, again spoke volumes ….

And finally, how zip-wiring in Cape Town across gorges 150 down whilst clamped to our instructor (rather aptly named ‘Hope’ – did he make that up just for me?) – I am aware that I looked something akin to a monkey clutching onto its mother, except this monkey screamed from one platform to the next, “Dear God, we’re going to die Hope, WE’RE GOING TO DIE!” I sense a bit of a pattern …

There is a scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mrs Bennet refers to her nerves and her long suffering husband calmly says, “Ah yes, they have been my constant companion all these years”, or words to that effect and I do wonder sometimes if the Colonel feels the same ….

Why do I put myself through this and is it time to stop? Have I proven a point and can I now just accept that I feel wobbly and a little tingly-toed when I stand on a chair to change a lightbulb and need a little sit down and a nice cup of tea afterwards?

Or must I continue to face my fears?  At what point is enough, enough?! I do hope that the Colonel has some of the attributes of the long-suffering Mr Bennet, otherwise, we’re in awful trouble…. And no, I will not be sharing the video footage – Darling children, if you dare, you’re out of the will.

I must confess however, that whilst these perhaps extreme tests that I have, with my family’s persuasion, put myself through, have been utterly miserable, I have however discovered that anything marginally less frightening has been an absolute doddle.

I can now do zip-lining and water parks if forced, with slightly less trepidation.  Being driven fast remains tricky but I don’t have white knuckles and can hold a vaguely intelligent conversation whilst driving down the M6 … but perhaps that’s because there are so many roadworks that one is forced to remain at 50mph.

I do know one thing for sure, and that is, that facing one’s enemy, being brave and attacking life with gusto is worth the short-lived pain.  If only to see one’s children laughing happily and even occasionally saying, “Well done Mum! You were awesome!”

Happy Friday everyone out there …. Whatever they may be, let’s all face our fears today!

Kx

18. Let the Battle Commence!

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If you want to beat anxiety and/or depression, you have to be prepared to have a fight. You have to want to fight.

It’s going to be a battle and it’s the hardest of all battles, because what you are battling or rather, who you are battling is actually yourself, or a part of yourself that has secretly grown and grown whilst you’ve unknowingly fed it.  Because every time you have given into it, it’s army has grown in size.

So it’s stronger now than you could possibly have imagined. But you too are strong, aren’t you?  Because you now have the Army, the Navy and the RAF at your disposal.  You have the knowledge and the support which equates to all three forces on your side.

It’s going to be a battle which you will hate. You will hate every moment of it. You will be out of your comfort zone. You will feel exposed and vulnerable. You will hurt and want to give up. You will want to retreat to the warm safety of your home.

You will have to be prepared to put everything on hold and live a slightly different life for a short period of time whilst you starve the beast. You will have to do the things that you don’t want to do and yet these are things that are normal activities. But Betty the Demon Depressive is sitting there wanting you to fail. And if you give up, if you fail, then you have just fed the beast, fed Betty, making her stronger, building her armies.

With anxiety and depression we have to fight. We have to get up, do our jobs, engage with the world. Do our exercise, do our yoga, our mediation, whatever it is that we know helps us. We know it’s hard …. whoever told you life was easy?! It’s not, and it’s doubly difficult if you battle with anxiety and/or depression.

But, if you succeed you will hold the flag up high. You will hold your head up high. You have achieved. You have won! Betty is insane with rage yet withering in her defeat. Just like the witch in the Wizard of Oz when she has the bucket of water thrown over her …. surely we’ve all seen that scene?!

Yes, tomorrow she will try and come back, but just you have that bucket of water at the ready. Just you be prepared for another fight! Of course it’s tiring, but now that you’ve done it once, you know what to expect…… and the best news is that Betty is now weaker. Each and every time you fight her, she becomes weaker.

And you’re strong, right?  Yes!

Battle on McDuff and attack this week!

Kx

11. Finding The Good …

In the book, ‘Managing Depression with CBT’ (Brian Thomson and Matt Broadway-Horner) the authors say that when you’re depressed you usually believe that the world is a harsh, disappointing place, full of selfish people stepping over each other to get to the top, and that you can find a lot of evidence to support this view.

If, however, you believe that the world is a wonderful place full of interesting people and exciting opportunities, you can similarly find plenty of evidence to support this view too.

The fact is that both these views are true. Although it may sound strange, the world you live in is the world you imagine that you live in.

They go on with a story which for me was a bit of a lightbulb moment …. it is, as follows:

The Wisdom of Socrates

The Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates was walking one day when a stranger approached him and asked for advice. The man said that he was a blacksmith from a neighbouring village and was considering relocating to Athens. He asked Socrates whether he thought a move would be a good idea.

Socrates asked the man what it was like in the village he currently lived in. The man responded that he’d been very happy in his village, that everyone was friendly and looked out for each other, and that they lent a hand when necessary.

Socrates then confidently advised the man that he’d find the people in Athens exactly the same and that he’d be happy in Athens.

A few days later, another man approached Socrates as he walked through the marketplace. This man asked the same question, telling Socrates that he was a baker from a neighbouring village and was thinking of relocating to Athens.

Again Socrates asked what it was like in the man’s village. This man replied that he hated the village, that everyone poked their noses into everyone else’s business just looking for things to criticise or moan about.

Socrates confidently advised the man that he’d find the people of Athens exactly the same and there’d be little point in moving.

Socrates was wise enough to realise that, in a very real sense, we see the world that we expect to see.

To me, this truly resonates. In moving to Scotland I made a concerted effort to be open minded and wear my rose-tinted glasses and as a result have made some truly wonderful friends which was so completely unexpected.

I’d love to hear if anyone else has had this experience!

Happy Friday! It’s almost the weekend!

☀️☀️Kx☀️☀️

9. Have You Tried Yoga?

Today I enrolled in my first yoga session. Dear God. I’ve just become one of the yummy mummies, but by walking into the mirror-clad room, not so yummy I notice. (I’ve read that Yoga is very good at increasing your GABA levels, but more on that later …)

Quite what happens after two children and hitting forty I really don’t know but frankly everything seems to have dropped further south than Antarctica since I last put on my gym kit (actually that was school so perhaps hardly surprising). Soon I’m going to be needing some sort of a bra-like contraption to lift my buttocks off my calves …. particularly in comparison to our yoga teacher.

To age her is nigh on impossible as the lights in the room are low and therefore apparently soothing. She’s all hoopy earrings, long bouncy hair and wears what appears to be a leatherette thong over her leotard. I feel a little over-dressed and overwhelmed. I’m also rather glad that I’ve not brought the husband (aka The Colonel) with me for moral support. He’d be both giggling and drooling simultaneously. I also hope we don’t have to listen to whale music …. ah, yes clearly we do.

Her body bends in ways that bodies frankly shouldn’t and yet somehow watching her grace and elegance as she moves from one position to another in fluid motions is quite mesmerising.

Everyone is concentrating and calm with only the sound of (supposedly) soothing water and whale music. The water is making me need the loo and the more I think about it the more I need it.

“Focus your mind” she says in a soothing way … I’m trying not to think about what I’m going to cook for supper rather than the loo. Concentrate! “Breathe” she says. You try bloody breathing when your legs are behind your ears. “Find your inner wisdom” she purrs. Inner bloody wisdom – it’s all I can do to clench my buttocks to prevent an involuntary escape of air from my bottom.

She’s moving around the room, adjusting everyones legs and arms. She’s coming to me …. oh right … not so gentle and calm now is she, as she pulls my arm higher towards the ceiling and moves my leg further out – my balance is going … I start to wobble, and in the process grab something – it just happens to be her.

Her hoopy earrings have now attached themselves to my hair and it takes a few seconds to restore order. My muttering apologies are snappishly hushed amid the whale music and, red-faced for the remainder of the class, I leave, sharpish. There’s a class later in the week with someone called George. I think I might give his class a go instead.

* * * * * * * * *

Just in case you’re interested, I’ve been doing some research on GABA from The Boston University School of Medicine and University Health News and masses of other articles and they all come up with pretty much the same conclusions ….

GABA

Gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, is the brain’s major inhibitory neurotransmitter to prevent overstimulation and therefore promote calm.

Researchers have found that three sessions of the exercise a week can help fight off depression as it boosts levels of a chemical in the brain which is essential for a sound and relaxed mind.

Scientists found that the levels of the amino acid GABA are much higher in those that carry out yoga than those who do the equivalent of a similarly strenuous exercise such as walking.

The chemical, GABA, is essential to the function of brain and central nervous system and which helps promote a state of calm within the body. Low GABA levels are associated with depression and other widespread anxiety disorders.

The Top 4 GABA Deficiency Symptoms

1. Depression

2. Anxiety, panic and PTSD

3. Insomnia

4. Drug and Alcohol Dependence

8. Getting Some Order!

A new 40 something friend of mine recently confessed that many years ago she had suffered from post natal depression. Her own mother (who is a no-nonsense, tough old bird and one of the kindest and wisest women I know) gave her daughter some very simple advice. She told her that if she could do nothing else that day, then she should simply clean a cupboard.

And whilst this is a very simplistic suggestion, she nailed it. For that is what her daughter then did. She could do very little, but she did clean cupboards. And it was the start of her recovery.

That simply, easy task which involved nobody else, could be done in her own time, in her own space and gave her the tiniest lift of achievement and satisfaction. Her body was active, she listened to the radio, her mind was calm.

Every day was a battle from the off, but that task when completed meant that she had beaten her own “Betty the Demon Depressive” just for that day. She had won a round with Mike Tyson. And that is what it’s about, it’s about fighting Betty every, single day and not giving in to her, for that simply ‘feeds the beast’ and makes Betty stronger.

So, if all else fails …. turn on the radio, empty a kitchen cupboard and get cleaning! It’s therapy!

Happy cleaning!

Kx