26. Having a Hobby, or ‘A Thing’

pexels-photo-91460.jpeg

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

Advertisements

24. Always Wear Your Knickers …

trousers-underwear-nostalgia-past-54611.jpeg

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!

 

pexels-photo-772395.jpeg

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!

pexels-photo-339805.jpeg

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

13. The Commitment of Exercise!

pexels-photo-276517.jpeg

Everything I read, everywhere I look, the advice is to exercise …. Not sadly just for the first 3 days in January (which is usually my attempt at a New Year’s resolution of being a new healthy version of me), but as part of the structure and routine of one’s life.

Structure and routine are not, and have not, ever been a part of my life. I’m an all or nothing person. When I drink, it’s to excess. When I exercise, it’s until I pass out with low blood sugar issues. If I’m happy, I’m just a tad too frenetically ecstatic and when I’m feeling down, I start googling the best places to die in Europe. (A slightly extreme example, but that’s my point).

I friend recently, and very kindly, gave me a pot plant. An Amaryllis to be specific. Now, I’m a pretty good gardener with RHS qualifications coming out of every known orifice, and yet, give me an indoor plant and frankly you can give it a fortnight. It’s the routine and commitment of remembering to water it, feed it and generally look after it that I struggle with … quite how my children have survived I’m not entirely sure.

Consistency is not part of my genetic make up or perhaps more likely, not one of my life skills.

So, what exactly is it that is so valuable about taking exercise?

Some of the best information I’ve found comes from HG (Helpguide.org) who have a collaboration with Harvard Medical School and their findings are pretty conclusive. Do go to their website if you have time – it’s brilliant. In short …..

  • It releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.
  • It promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being
  • Exercise can serve as a distraction, allowing you to find some quiet time to break out of the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression.
  • Regular exercise can have a profoundly positive impact on depression, anxiety, ADHD, and more. It also relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts overall mood
  • People who exercise regularly tend to do so because it gives them an enormous sense of well-being. They feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives.
  • Studies show that exercise can treat mild to moderate depression as effectively as antidepressant medication, but without the side-effects, of course. In addition to relieving depression symptoms, research also shows that maintaining an exercise schedule can prevent you from relapsing.
  • Exercise is a natural and effective anti-anxiety treatment. It relieves tension and stress, boosts physical and mental energy, and enhances well-being through the release of endorphins.
  • As well as releasing endorphins in the brain, physical activity helps to relax the muscles and relieve tension in the body.
  • Physical activity immediately boosts the brain’s dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin levels
  • Evidence suggests that by really focusing on your body and how it feels as you exercise, you can actually help your nervous system become “unstuck” and begin to move out of the immobilization stress response that characterizes PTSD or trauma.

Other mental and emotional benefits of exercise

Sharper memory and thinking. The same endorphins that make you feel better also help you concentrate and feel mentally sharp for tasks at hand. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new brain cells and helps prevent age-related decline.

Higher self-esteem. Regular activity is an investment in your mind, body, and soul. When it becomes habit, it can foster your sense of self-worth and make you feel strong and powerful. You’ll feel better about your appearance and, by meeting even small exercise goals, you’ll feel a sense of achievement.

Better sleep. Even short bursts of exercise in the morning or afternoon can help regulate your sleep patterns.

More energy. Increasing your heart rate several times a week will give you more get-up-and-go.

Stronger resilience. When faced with mental or emotional challenges in life, exercise can help you cope in a healthy way, instead of resorting to alcohol, drugs, or other negative behaviors that ultimately only make your symptoms worse. Regular exercise can also help boost your immune system and reduce the impact of stress.

If you’ve managed to read through that lot, then your levels of commitment aren’t too bad …. I think that’s enough information even for me!

I’m feeling inspired …. and now just have to dig out the trainers and do it …..

As for the Amaryllis, it’s looking a little flaccid. The children are alive and kicking however ….

Happy Monday!

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☀️☀️