That’s me. A military wife, and probably the most unlikely one.
Compared to the disciplined and structured life that soldiers and officers exist in, I am chaotic, untidy and quite possibly verging on unhinged. Quite how the marriage works, you may well ask, and I can only assume that the more we analyse, the theory of opposites attracting is becoming less theoretical and more factual.
We tease each other relentlessly. And the fact of the matter is, if I was married to someone as slovenly as myself, it would surely only be a matter of time before I started clearing up supper the following morning and leaving my endless reams of paper from the book scattered on every surface, and the screwed up balls of discarded nonsense strewn over the floor for days. God forbid, I might not even get dressed in the mornings …. although I do have wonderful daydreams of floating around the apartment in a silk kimono, scarlet lips sipping on a coupe glass of champagne as I listen to Vivaldi, whilst writing frenzied chapters of the book …
The Colonel (aka my husband) tells me he would loathe be married to a female version of himself. Oddly, I get that. But imagine how tidy their cupboards would be. From time to time he sorts out the kitchen and I swear that when I came back from my cycling jaunt the herbs and spices were lined up in alphabetical order. Although, in his defence, tidying is therapeutic.
So perhaps we all need a little bit of opposites attracting alongside compatibility, love and understanding of each other. And perhaps also we need our friends of the same sex to offload the drivel to. I’ve recently finished the book ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin who says just that. Sometimes women need women and men need men.
So, as the Colonel finishes organising and holding a socially distanced Remembrance Service at the UN, my eyes well up with pride and admiration. I certainly don’t have his qualities of planning but I guess we all bring something to the table … in this instance, it’s a huge chocolate cake, specially for him with maybe a bit of ice cream on the side.
There is something strangely unique about New York; it’s rather like a vacuum packed London, all the good and bad bits squeezed together into a pulsating, squealing, squirming mass. As soon as you step outside your door you are hit with the chaos of the streets with every person rushing from one place to another, the filthy litter blowing into doorways where lost souls have made their homes and shoving, brusque rudeness. It can take its toll on anyone, irrespective of how sturdy a disposition they may have. And yet, there is a different side … ask anyone for help and they’ll do more; they’ll smile, chat and ask questions, and when you take the trouble to instigate a conversation with a stranger, you’ll have a new friend for life. Perhaps New York is a sheep in wolf’s clothing after all and not so frightening underneath the snarling exterior.
We are exactly halfway through our posting here. Eighteen months gone and eighteen to go.
It has been a rollercoaster which sounds so predictably trite and yet … what with the usual frustrations of settling into a new country, we have had however the antidote of parties in Central Park, people of every nationality to meet and learn from, the beauty of the towns we’ve explored, the outrageously glamorous Hamptons, the museums and theatres … it’s been everything and more than we’d hoped for.
Within weeks of arrival we had an electricity blackout that wiped out the entirety of Hell’s Kitchen all the way to the Upper West Side. This hadn’t happened since the early 1970’s. The chaos that ensued was staggering. That’s a lot of people stuck in a lot of elevators.
After 24 hours we decided there were only so many games of Scrabble we could play, so walked down the 49 floors to the nearest bar until a couple of hours later our legs had stopped shaking long enough for us to walk back up again. Had we known that was the start of many, many games of Scrabble in future months we might have invested in a larger scoring pad. As I type, we are exactly 77 games a piece. That’s 154 games in the Coronavirus Challenge. That’s a lot of Scrabble, a lot of checking the dictionary and a lot of expletives.
For a time we were slap bang in the epicentre of America’s coronavirus. So we battened down the hatches, took to Zoom like the rest of the world and watched the Navy hospital ship ‘Comfort’ sail into and then finally out of Pier 90. All faintly surreal, like seeing Florence Nightingale float up the Hudson dressed in white. We watched the news desperately, religiously day after day and as life crumbled around the planet all we really wanted was to be closer to our family.
And then, Trump vs Biden. I shall refrain from any political ramblings, but again, we are witnessing extraordinary times.
Suffice to say it’s been an interesting time with ups and downs like everyone else, but a time for plenty of reflection and thought … And dare I say it, thank God for Scrabble.
So here we are, husband and wife, working from home in our apartment in New York. Well, when I say working, the Colonel is working and I am doing everything else whilst he peers at me over the screen of his laptop, giving suggestions as to how I should fill the dishwasher. Need I say that if this continues, there may be an imminent need for the funeral directors and it won’t be due to Coronavirus…
We can’t complain as we have a little bit of space here so it’s not too claustrophobic an apartment and the view is lovely, looking onto the Hudson with New Jersey beyond and of course the strangely quiet streets below. Not too exciting if plane spotting is your thing, or you like watching the cruise ships coming in, but lovely nonetheless and cabin-fever hasn’t set in yet.
Being cooped up here for too long without much exercise and a penchant for making the perfect chocolate pudding may mean that when we return to freedom I shall need an American version of Weight Watchers; but for now, I shall not worry. I’m eating better as the Colonel is around so I can’t skip lunch, (although he has now discovered how many cups of coffee I really drink), and am taking care of my mental health by cleaning like a demon … (yes, it works – doesn’t matter if it’s a room or just a drawer) … Not that I’ve got the urge to hide under the bed with a twin pack of biscuits, the cat and a bottle of wine, but years ago I had my moments like the best of us … And of course it’s very useful having one’s husband at home to explain slowly and deliberately that yes, my phone will behave badly if I have 124 tabs open at any given time.
So the apartment is beyond clean; it’s been hoovered, mopped, dusted and disinfected and while the smell of Lemon Lysol is lingering heavily in the air, I’m not entirely sure whether I like citrus very much after all. Perhaps buying it wholesale at Costco was not such a good idea; we have six month’s worth at least, but I’m assuming we won’t be here that long … will we?
Where do you go when teased with the lure of the white sands and balmy climes of the Bahamas, Cuba or the British Virgin Islands being only a mere hop, skip and a jump of a plane journey away?
Well, you pack up a tent and go on a road trip instead. Err, of course.
America is big. Vast. However, in a week we covered well over 1000 miles and popped into 7 different states. I say popped because at times it was somewhat unintentional what with the Colonel’s driving and perhaps more relevantly, my map reading. We popped in, and with a little oops, popped out again.
In truth, his driving is irritatingly good; I am simply a poor passenger with a habit of yelping and clutching white-knuckled onto the door handle if I think we’re either going too fast or are going to crash. For me, the two go hand-in-hand. So, this being a regular occurrence led at times to a fairly high stress journey (more so when driving in Manhattan where my fears were completely validated looking at the number of dents in the cars. Did you know, they actually have bumpers over their bumpers for protection here?)
However, and back to the road trip … We wiggled our way along the smaller roads, avoiding the pot holes, cracks, lumps and bumps which in the U.K. we appear to have considerably less of and I consequently shall never complain of again. We googled some road signs, delighted to find that sometimes one can actually turn right on a red light. It does leave a rather large margin for error which is perhaps not entirely sensible, but I didn’t make the rules. And rules they like. Oooh they are strict. But it keeps things in order, mostly; and we like order.
And then we drooled.
Fresh, bright white clapboard houses stood proudly, their slatted shutters painted varying shades of greens and blues framing the huge Georgian-style windows; colonial pillars supported the grey roofs covering verandas which themselves were filled with pots of flowers and plants and tables and chairs, offering a peaceful place to sit and watch the world go by. Wide wooden steps led down to the gardens and with no hedges or fences indicating where one plot started and another ended, they seemingly merged into one another allowing for clear uninterrupted views.
The gardens themselves were simple but perfectly neat. Manicured lawns with flowerbeds planted up close to the houses. Hydrangeas with their huge pom pom flower heads, hibiscus, hostas without a slug to be seen, box balls in abundance and lots and lots of trees. Nothing too taxing for the gardeners, but everything colourful and wonderfully healthy. With a hot climate and plenty of rain, everything flourishes there and yet surprisingly very few grow their own vegetables and fruit. Not an apple espalier or raised bed in sight.
There were no overgrown jungles of front gardens there. No black, brown and blue overstuffed bins spilling out their contents onto the weeds on the driveways. It was perfection and it was beautiful. I suspect I would struggle to keep up with the Jones’.
Towns with names like Great Barrington and Lennox offered shops for the wealthy where a cushion would cost well over a hundred pounds, but always the service was impeccable as if that should take the sting out of the tail. We looked, we touched, but rarely bought.
The campsites were clean and quiet and only once were plagued by mosquitoes, but the local pharmacy offered more anti-mozzie sprays and more importantly, soothing anaesthetic creams than you could shake a stick at (at a cost of course).
The beaches were litter-free and the sun shone. What more could we have asked for? So whilst the glamour and glitz of the Bahamas will no doubt beckon again another time, this time we have saved our pennies and enjoyed the beauty of another little world for a short while.
And, as I type and watch my sunburn begin to peel and scratch madly at the line of bites from some little blighter of a bug which starts at my ankle and heads towards my bottom, I do wonder if there are mozzies in the Caribbean …
Yesterday morning I stood in a queue with dozens of others, waiting to see if I could get any ‘rush’ tickets for that evening’s performance of King Kong.
I did, we went, I cried, it was wonderful.
Many years ago I went to see West Side Story at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. I went ten times, partly because it was utterly magical and partly because I rather fancied the leading man. As it turned out, said leading man sadly preferred men to women, however on a positive note, I did learn all the words to every song. Happy days.
I’m a bit stuffy these days and rather preferred it when in the past we used to dress up to go to the theatre. Yes, I know, times change and bah-blasted-humbug I need to move with them. But still, despite a change in attire and the request for mobile phones to be switched off, nothing has remotely altered the pure magic of the theatre. The red plush velvet seats, the high ceilings, the glittery chandeliers, the excited chatter before the lights dim and the curtain rises … heaven! The applause, the standing ovations, the squeals of terror, the laughter … bliss!
In truth I also enjoy the cinema, but am too easily distracted by crisp packets being incessantly rustled, people getting up and down to go to the loo, the smell of tacos and hot dogs being eaten, the crunching, the slurping, the rustling, and finally having to wade my way through the spilt popcorn and half empty drinks littering the floors. Somehow it’s not quite the same, but, I grant you, a fraction of the price.
So I shall save my pennies and be prepared to stand once again on the steaming hot street corners of New York. Not to earn money for those of the more smutty mind, but in the hope of securing more cheap tickets to the theatre. Yes, a two hour slice of utter heaven without a crisp packet, carton of popcorn or slurpy drink to be seen or heard. Bliss.
P.s. Any recommendations for shows gratefully received, and apologies to any noisy popcorn eaters.
To travel and to explore surely encourages one’s mind to expand and to stretch out the personal boundaries of one’s self. I’d like to think so.
It has been several weeks since I moved to New York and I fear I have neglected any writing both on WordPress but also on the book. So after a metaphorical whipping I am back on the sofa tap, tapping my fingers and urging the grey matter to shake off the cobwebs. Ah, but I sit here and there is such a view, so I simply gaze and gaze.
We are high up in a building where light floods in through floor to ceiling windows giving views to the west and north. The Hudson River is a constant moving body of water with boats and cruise ships travelling up and down. Beyond the river, cars and trucks can be seen in miniature over in New Jersey and below, people rush around doing their daily business; all busy, all with purpose. Fire trucks and ambulances scream their sirens every few minutes; horns are blaring, there is shouting, laughing, arguing. A glimpse of the green trees of Central Park gives a little respite to the hard angular surroundings. The buildings, the glass, the steel, the concrete, the brick; the beautiful, the ugly, the noise, the chaos. And I gaze and gaze ….
I explore daily and osmosis is forcing an absorption of the sights, sounds and smells. It is inescapable and dirty, exhausting and so very noisy. But it is also exhilarating and liberating. Anonymity is freeing and here nobody pays any attention. Anything goes.
So I shall continue to explore and absorb, but will now find a little balance in my day and write and tell you all about it (if you can bear it!). The book also is toddling along but now with renewed vigour and the desire to find the light at the end of the tunnel. But in the meantime, the river is an absolute mill pond today and there are three small sailing boats barely moving across the water and the sun is just catching their sails in the light …
It goes without saying that we all have a book in us; after all, we’ve all experienced something worth writing about or indeed have the imagination to create a story. And so, like many others, I started writing. I wrote with enthusiasm, passion and joy. And when I finally typed the words The End, I had a little cry (more of a dribbling howl in truth).
And then the editing process began.
I now spend more of my time googling grammar, such as when to use a semicolon or a comma than I do on Facebook, cooking and checking my emails combined. This is not normal. Surely I should already know all of this? But now I’m questioning everything. The structure, the grammar, even the actual purpose of the book. I am beginning to doubt myself.
Perhaps that is why there is indeed a book in all of us, but very, very few actually end up on the bookshelves. It’s quite a challenge. It also makes me admire those who have worked endlessly and tirelessly to produce a book. You have succeeded! Bravo!
Now, back to those wretched semicolons (and is that hyphenated or not?) … Give me strength …
What do you struggle with most when writing your blog or book?
Less than five minutes ago I was a respectable and fully dressed woman picking out an assortment of pretty summer dresses to try on. But those dresses are now on the only hook in the changing cubicle and my own clothes have just slid off the plastic stool and are in a heap on the floor.
My husband is enthusiastically thrusting more dresses through the increasingly large gap between curtain and wall, so my semi-naked body is exposed to all and sundry. The shop lady who stands by the door is saying, “Only six items at a time!” in a whiny nasal voice. She is clearly irritated by my husband who bounces in and out clutching more clothes and God forbid he’s now bringing in underwear and getting increasingly overexcited. This is a place for women only and he is happily oblivious to her rules. She tries harder, “No men inside sir, this is a respectable establishment.”
My necklace has become entangled in dress number four and I’m trying, in a muck sweat to free myself.
Another woman comes in with an armful of clothes and her husband, seeing a fellow male in the ladies-only section trots in smartly behind her, ignoring shop lady who is now turning purple. The other woman helps me disentangle myself from my necklace and we bond over dresses and underwear, chatting as though we have known each other for years.
The two men excitedly together run in and out of the changing rooms for smaller sizes, bigger sizes, different colours, all the while, discussing the rugby. They have a role and are apparently loving it, particularly when they find something in the sale section. The other woman and I chatter and giggle as our husbands enthuse about how wonderful we both look. We giggle all the more. A bit of flattery and we’re handing out the credit cards without a care in the world.
Shop lady tries and fails to give our husbands different coloured plastic tickets with the number of items that she thinks we have as yet another floaty, whispy dress flits past her on a clothes hanger. She is now not only purple, but spluttering.
Finally, with our bags of newly purchased items, we happily thank shop lady profusely for her help. She purses her lips and gives a little derogatory sniff in our direction as she turns to her next customer. “Only six items madam! Them is the rules in this establishment.”
It is rather ironic that I write endlessly about moderation. But in truth, I am fascinated by it.
Now, according to that fellow Aristotle, the Golden Middle Way is the desirable middle ground between two extremes; one being that of excess and the other, of deficiency.
As an example, he uses courage as a virtue, being in this case the Golden Middle Way. But if that courage is taken to excess, it would manifest as recklessness and, in deficiency, as cowardice!
Ooooh I love these Ancient Greek philosophers with their faintly dodgy beards … they were a clever bunch of cookies.
So what is it that makes some people so able to maintain the ‘Golden Middle Way’ in their lives, and yet others follow the path of extremes? Is it simply self control, or are we born that way?
Why is it that I absolutely have to eat an entire packet of ginger biscuits in one sitting, whereas my lovely friends would only have one or two? Perhaps I’m overthinking this and I’m simply more hungry.
Ps. Exactly what is it that you have a lack of self control over? (Ahem! Nothing smutty if you please)
Pps. Sorry about the picture, I couldn’t find one of Aristotle, so this will have to suffice.
Ok, minor confession. I made the teensy weensy mistake of setting myself a deadline which I may have inadvertently shared with some of you. The deadline for having the first draft of the book ready was Valentines Day. Yes, I am fully aware that that was yesterday.
And, well, in truth, to be frank, and without putting too much emphasis on my inability to write when I’M SO FLIPPIN’ KNACKERED THAT I CANNOT EVEN SEE STRAIGHT, LET ALONE WRITE, I have to admit that it is therefore, consequently and any other conjunctive adverbs that you can squeeze in, not quite there yet.
I’m sorry if that came across as a little bunny-boiler-ish and overly hormonal. In the simple language which I love and understand the best, I’m just a little ‘pooped’.
Normal service however will be resumed immediately and indeed, I’m only a week away at most. So please forgive me. I’ve had a busy week where life has somewhat overtaken me, rammed, scratched and battered me, but I’m back on the straight, narrow and hardworking path of yet another wannabe author once again.
Right! Socks have been metaphorically pulled up, cap straightened and shoulders pulled back. I am ready to finish the last few chapters. I’m on the home run and raring to go. Just a quick cup of tea and I did spy some ginger nut biscuits hiding in the cupboard …
Have you ever missed a deadline? And the consequences were ….?
It appears to me that there are a plethora of budding authors here on WordPress.
Indeed, some already have beautifully bound books sitting on the shelves. Oh, how we long to be in your shoes! How we dream of being that far along the published line, with our designated writing rooms and a spouse who when visitors appear at the door, whisper that you are not to be disturbed as the genius, the ‘artiste’, is ‘at work’.
Said genius might perhaps be wafting around in a silk negligee and matching robe with a cigarette holder firmly clamped between glossy scarlet lips as she drops ash on the carpet whilst dictating to her loyal and dependable secretary. Of course if the author is of the male variety, one presumes that there would be less of the silk negligee and more of the smoking jacket and cigar, but I’m frightfully broad minded these days, and frankly, anything goes.
Some however have finished writing and are desperately and nervously waiting for the telephone to ring. Waiting in excruciating anticipation for their editors, agents or publishers to gush in delight, gasping with excitement at the marvellously original manuscript that you have sent. Cover to cover they have devoured your novel whilst rubbing their hands in glee at the potential film rights whilst already looking at potential Oscar winners to take the leading role. Oh! Oh! Oh!
And then, there are those of us (and I include myself in this grouping) who are daily, weekly or whenever-we-can-ly tap, tap, tapping away at our computers and iPads.
We live in a never-ending rollercoaster of hopeful optimism and desperate pessimism. We continue with life, with children, families, jobs and dreary mundane problems sucking out the very life within us; whilst in the deepest and dustiest crevices of our grey matter we secretly harbour and nurture a tiny and often fleeting glimmer of hope. A candle light so faint it can barely be seen. And so we continue to write, to throw our vulnerable selves, our mind and souls onto the pages for all to see, just in case, just in case …. we can succeed.
So carry on my friends! And if ever you wish to be seen in a flimsy and quite possibly highly flammable silk negligee whilst holding a cigarette, don’t forget that smoking is terribly bad for you, but frankly I may well come and join you. My tongue is, as ever, firmly lodged in my cheek, however, with all sincerity may I say, let us keep writing, keep working for as well as loving to write, we also love to read each others work. And one day, one day, that little glimmer of hope just might turn into a roaring flame.
Are you writing with a purpose in mind, for pleasure or a combination of the two? I won’t ask if you have a penchant for negligee, but … do tell …
So, according to WordPress, and not my memory, which even I will admit is unreliable (and that is being generous), I have blogged, posted, written and rambled for an entire year; and I can honestly say that I’ve loved every minute of it.
I have wittered fairly endlessly, mostly about absolute drivel, and yet, you my friends have tolerated me, humoured me and made me feel welcome in this, our rather special writing club.
I have read your posts, at times in complete reverence at the magical ways in which you have used our glorious language; but surprisingly instead of feeling that green-eyed monster crawl up my inner thigh and reach towards an embittered heart, I have embraced your work, loved it, praised it and attempted to improve my own as a consequence.
Pease forgive my failings and be confident that I, more than anyone, am the most aware of them, and be calmed in the knowledge that I am working hard to be the best person that I can be.
So thank you my friends … You’re completely and utterly fabulous!
As I embark on week two of my adventures travelling through France on a (now rather squeaky) bicycle called Claude, I have come to realise that everything here changes within moments.
The weather, the terrain, the incline of a track and energy levels and of course this all impacts upon ones mood.
One minute all is well and the weather is good, the sun is shining and there’s a light breeze. This can change before I have time to say, “Which pannier is my darn fleece in?” and before I know it, it’s not a fleece that’s needed, it’s an umbrella, Wellington boots and an oilskin waterproof all-in-one, complete with hat. Although I do sometimes smile to myself as I remember the Colonel telling me how many moons ago in training, they were all barked at with a, “Skin’s waterproof Sir!” Very true and sometimes quite a useful reminder.
The track is peaceful, cycling through the pine forests but lose focus and you lose your way. Within moments the track turns to a road with cars racing past and lorries roaring within a couple of feet and the confidence can be knocked within seconds.
As for getting injured, I’ve got more bruises and scrapes on my legs than when I used to muck about with horses!
And yet, it passes, and it passes quickly. Yes I know I harp on rather irritatingly about the old Persian saying This Too Shall Pass but it’s very true. It does pass, one solves the problem and moves on. No harm done and a little more wisdom gained. Character building one could say.
And as for the good times, the happy moments? Well they are held onto, treasured and clutched close to the heart. Nothing can take them away. Anything from a peach being given as un cadeau from a small French boy to three men saying, “Madame, we commend you” and solemnly and sincerely giving me a round of applause. Frankly I found myself ridiculously moved by both of these moments, and there have been many many more. It’s not really a big deal this cycling trip, (I’m no explorer or great adventurer!) unless perhaps you’re like me, slightly unhinged with a point to prove to nobody else but yourself and a desire to dig deep and find that wonderful quality that for me, was lost for a long time, courage.
Have you ever lost your courage, and did you find it again? How?
Only a few more days now until I cycle off into the sunset with husband dearest and two adoring sons waving their handkerchiefs with damp eyes, gazing desolately at my lonely departing figure …
Or perhaps not?
“Pub?” I hear them ask each other, grinning widely.
“Let’s go!” and they march off smartish towards the nearest ale-house without a single look back at yours truly.
I somehow suspect that the latter scenario is infinitely more probable than the former.
Bastards! Ahh but they can now ditch the salad, eat chips, finish all the expensive ice creams and with no one to keep them on the straight and narrow, when I return, will I find an empty larder and only a small green morsel of mouldy cheese staring back at me from the fridge? Will I find that they have all developed rickets and scurvy? .. And will there be three inches of dust on every half-empty pizza box and penicillin-growing mug-covered table? Will I find dirty laundry spilling over onto the floor and not in their colour-coordinated baskets? Quelle horreur! Interesting how I am more concerned about the laundry than the scurvy, but I digress… How will they cope without me?!
Sadly, I flatter myself. My husband as most of you know is a military man. He requires order, precision and tidiness. I believe that his ideal picture of a perfect home is the one in “The Sound of Music” where Captain von Trapp blows a whistle daily and the children rush into line for inspection. I have mentioned this to him in jest, but instead of poo-pooing my theory, quite worryingly he nods and agrees, muttering to himself as he disappears into the quiet of the study. He does however then put his head around the door to remind me that he is of higher rank than a captain. Quite …
So no, rather irritatingly, I suspect that the house will be sparkling, the larder will have been reorganised, my herb and spices cupboard (a very irksome place for him, that he is usually barred from) will have been cleaned and all those tiny pots and jars which are usually out of date will have been mostly disposed of and the remaining ones placed, yes placed not shoved, with their caps on properly in perfect alignment and in alphabetical order. There will be none of my little hair bands, lipsalves or hand creams left on any surfaces (or in the car, dammit) and my bedside table, usually covered with books, clocks, photographs, more hand creams, eye creams, frankly any creams to help keep old age at bay, will have had a major overhaul, aka it will have been tidied within an inch of its unfortunate and usually cluttered life.
Do I mind this? Of course not! He will feel extremely satisfied as he explains to me the benefits of keeping order and how tarragon should be to the left of thyme, and how folding my clothes at the end of the day and placing them on the chair is infinitely preferable to ripping them off, randomly throwing them ‘nilly-willy’ in the vague direction of the chair and bouncing into bed chattering to him happily and trying to convince him that some rose-scented cream would benefit the lines on his forehead. He will mutter something about them being stress-related from living with me, but within a few minutes I shall be fast asleep, curled up close to him and he will have some long-awaited peace and quiet. No wonder he enjoys going to work so much, and quite probably why he is maybe just a teensy bit looking forward to my imminent departure. Can’t understand it myself.
How do you cope when your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend goes away?
Do you throw yourself into a cleaning frenzy, party for 48 hours non-stop or go into a complete decline?
Time management is not my forte. In truth there is no management. I flit from one thought or task to another with extraordinary ease. I start something, bore easily, become distracted and like the proverbial butterfly, flutter away to something else. The end result? An over-filled brain of constant thoughts and ideas, and an awful lot of half-finished jobs.
An ex-boyfriend of mine (the same one who gave me the self-help book with post-it notes in the appropriate pages) told me that I was not a ‘Completer Finisher’. Apparently there is even a term for people like me! I finished with him pretty smartish so not quite sure he was entirely correct.
However, to contradict myself, from time to time I find something that I genuinely enjoy and lo and behold I become addicted. (If you know me well, alcohol may well spring to the forefront of your mind, but I was thinking of something more positive like, cycling perhaps.). I become obsessive about it and am completely driven and focused. This is all well and good if it’s a positive activity, not so much if it’s something like drinking alcohol, over-eating, under-eating, biting ones nails (having typed this, I now realise that I can lay claim to all of those). Once again, this rather reconfirms my out of kilter ability to moderate. Fair enough, my total lack of moderation.
My mother used to say, “A little of what you fancy does you good.” And yes she was right, but then again she wasn’t having to peel the wine bottle from my arms as I lay on the floor wailing. I do think however she wondered, and often despaired no doubt, as to why I hopped from one ghastly secretarial job to another. The answer, they bored me rigid.
People however have never bored me. I love talking (one on one, rather than in large groups … it’s a social anxiety thing). And most of all I love it when I meet someone whom I ‘click’ with. The problem is that I get terribly over-excited, want to scoop them up, take them home with me and force them to tell me their entire life history. Slightly strange I grant you and hardly surprising that I struggled socially in my youth. But I need interaction to other human beings, because otherwise I bore myself. And that is why I must go and get a job as soon as I’m back from my bicycling adventure. It’s when I try to engage the postman in some chatter and I can see his eyes glaze over as he backs nervously down the path, then I know that I have to get out more. I suspect he thinks I’m a complete fruitcake, but living in London I suspect, or rather hope, that I am not alone.
Online dating was enormous fun! Again lots of people to chatter to, but of course they were always utterly confused when after a lovely evening together and I had listened with enthusiasm to their various tales, I said, “Thanks awfully and super lovely to meet you, but we’re simply not a match! Toodle Pip!” And with a breezy smile I’d be gone, and they’d be left scratching their heads looking utterly baffled. You see, as a friend, they’re fabulous, but as a future husband, hopeless. By the time pudding had come along my mind was starting to wander, by coffee I was losing the will to live, so in order to find a lifetime partner (awful word, apologies) I was going to have to meet someone slightly extraordinary who kept me hooked, interested and completely on my toes. Thankfully for the male population of the counties of Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Hampshire, after four long years of searching, I found The Colonel and we are both as nightmarish as each other, so really it’s a match made in heaven.
So you see this butterfly behaviour when I lose interest, and obsessional behaviour when I find my passion, is really rather an extension of my lack of moderation. I do wish that I was normal, but there is a positive here ….
Whilst a lot of things will find me filled with ennui at the tedium of it all – paperwork, political debates, Post Office queues and quinoa (I don’t do ‘bland’ and that’s at the top of my list, along with semolina), I do have passions and they include … you. I adore my WordPress friends, my non-Wordpress friends, blogging, writing, reading, cycling, tennis, quirky people and crumpets with masses of butter and a tiny dot of marmite. You are all my passion, not just for the here and now, but if you can possibly tolerate me and I don’t bore you senseless, then I’m afraid you’re stuck with me. Sorry about that …
Do you have a passion? Do you bore easily or are you disciplined and finish tasks?
I’m a bit of a dreamer, a daydreamer. I fantasise. I obviously need to clarify. Not in a kinky tie-me-up sort of way, no, so stop smirking.
I fantasise about having a pretty little stone house in France with long summers spent with family and friends, eating endless croissants with a table strewn with bowls of salads drizzled with olive oil, baguettes and cheeses. I see a sparkling swimming pool and numerous dogs playing chase with their tongues and tails waving in the dry, warm air, the sounds of a game of tennis interspersed with laughter and squeals of delight. I want it so much that I can almost feel the heat of the sun, touch the lavender in the flower beds, feel it, smell it. Bliss! Ahhhh I’m there!
It’s not completely out of reach. It’s not a “when I win the lottery ….”, it’s a possibility for in a few years time. There are of course problems associated with a big move like that, but the question is always the same. Do the pros outweigh the cons? And a firm and resounding yes can be heard from yours truly.
It’s not that I am discontented living in England and annoyingly I cannot, during this heatwave, even blame the usual atrocities of the weather here. This desire is perhaps associated with the people, the slightly more predictable climate in summer, it’s the thought of the plants I could grow, the peaches, tomatoes without a greenhouse! The quieter rural roads, it’s the beautiful language (“Kev! Put yur facking shoes on before I belt you one!” sounds so much better and more civilised in French), it’s the long lunches, the siestas, the cafes on the pavements, the black coffee and a Gauloise for breakfast, it’s the thought of tap, tap, tapping on my little computer at a little desk in the shade of a plum tree, listening to the chickens scuffling around in the flowerbeds as I write my book. It’s, yes … it’s just a dream. A very peaceful, happy dream that I’ve had for as long as I can remember.
“Pah!” I hear you snort!
“The fool! She’s seeing it all through rose-tinted spectacles! She’s just found an old copy of A Year in Provence. Doesn’t she know she’ll never integrate, never be quite fluent enough, never even look French.”
And yes, you’re quite probably right, but a girl can dream can’t she?
Do you dream of moving away? Of a different life? A different place? Where? How? What?
I try to be a good person. I try to think positive, happy thoughts and yet when I see some whipper-snapper of a teenager celebrating a little too keenly with the world of bloggers their 80,000 followers I don’t know whether I want to hit them, or myself, with a large shovel … repetitively.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted for them (truly, not said from between clenched teeth) and frankly if I had that many followers I’d probably be thanking my vast audience, my family, my agent, publisher and the lady who sells ice creams down the road with great gusto, but …. but … but … Ok, let’s face it, I’m jealous. My name is Katie and I am a jealous human being. Not an attractive trait I am fully aware, but honest? Yes. (Note to self: Just because you’re honest, it doesn’t make it less unattractive Katie.)
So why do we want followers, how do we actually get them and does it really matter anyway?
As with all social media there is something rather lovely, however ultimately addictive, about other people gushingly adoring us. It makes us feel good. Human nature.
And who are the real biggies of the social media out there? Quite easy really … Now forgive me but I’m not a great lover of the Kardashian’s, the TOWIE bunch, the Made in Chelsea lot or any of the wannabes who are plastered over every magazine. I don’t want or need to see their latest plastic surgery or their most recent tattoo on their perfectly liposucked buttock. And I certainly don’t want to see or hear about their sexual adventures with every other member of the group or their undignified divorce. There’s sharing, and there’s sharing. How about a little decorum, decency and leaving just a tiny bit to the imagination. It’s a lot more attractive. So moving away from that rant as I’m going slightly off piste and just sounding old and stuffy.
It might be that we are trying to get a book published and we therefore need a good following as it will make us more attractive to publishers. Understandable. If we are trying to get a business off the ground, understandable. A new career, understandable. Although if only half of those 80,000 followers commented, quite how one is supposed to read, let alone comment-on-the-comments, I have no idea. I have just shy of 600 followers and it takes me a while to respond even vaguely intelligently (of course including emojis as an intelligent reply), to the comments that I get. So how do they do it?
Perhaps the ‘blogger biggies’ have been doing this for years. Perhaps they started tap tap tapping away on their phones when they were still in nappies and I was, well I was probably too busy changing nappies to notice. They were ahead of the times. I was busy being a mother, wife, un-wife (yes it’s a new word), single parent, single working parent, unhinged single working parent, to even notice that the world had moved on.
In fairness, I have been blogging now for precisely six months. Six rather short months so yes, I will not-so-happily but freely admit that I need a little patience. It may well be a virtue, but I am fairly patiently-challenged without a doubt. So indeed, I need to work on that one.
I obviously need to read more from other bloggers, but I love the ones that I follow, they take a bit of time to read and comment on and once again, it’s a time thing. There’s only so much time in one day. But if the biggie bloggers can manage it, then maybe I need to work on that too.
Maybe I need to rethink my content. Maybe it’s … *hushed whisper* … shite! Oh God! I’m writing shite! Yup, that may well be. However, I’m a simple creature and I don’t think much therefore is going to change in that department.
But in truth, I do love writing my shite and golly it makes me feel good when my lovely, scrumptious followers who I now feel are my friends, comment back and we chatter about random nonsense. Oh yes, you make me happy. So if I had 80,000 would I honestly be able to chatter and natter with that many people. No, of course not!
So should I start posting extremely airbrushed photos of myself. Should I pout, preen and squeeze my elbows together in my best push-up bra whilst wearing my one and only pair of Jimmy Choos? Should I just borrow a couple of baby Chihuahuas and stick them down my front instead. Probably get a lot more likes that way.
But perhaps I have the answer.
I should pause, relax and enjoy the journey of my writing. It’s not a competition, some were in the starting blocks before I even began looking for my trainers. I genuinely like my regular followers, the ones that I know do actually read what I’ve written. There are a few whom I almost love. I love that they have become part of my life. And so yes, thank you, you lovely people. I shall try to be patient, try to write better, try to read more and comment more without letting everything else in my life slip by the wayside; after all, the Colonel does still need feeding and clean underpants daily. But most importantly, I shall breathe, calm myself and continue to enjoy this wonderful, liberating world of blogging.
Do you have 80,000 followers? If so, umm sorry about this post. Love you really, and umm not at all jealous.
Strangely, despite thinking that this is what authors required, I didn’t have to have total silence, a large vat of proper coffee, all in a beautiful summerhouse at the bottom of a perfectly manicured garden complete with Mac computer, mini fridge and the requisite six packets of ginger nuts available to nibble on, or rather, devour. No.
In actual fact, I was on a rather hot and steamy underground train, tapping away on my phone with a gentleman’s less than savoury armpit six inches from my face and a small child with a scooter cracking it into my shins every two minutes.
I think that I’ve had a rather childish dream of writing romantic novels (please note the use the word ‘novels’ rather than ‘books’; I am nothing if not ambitious, also rather deluded), yes, romantic novels in a perfect little setting where the sun always shines and a proud husband occasionally taps tentatively on the door with offerings of pots of tea or lunch on a tray for his hard working and tremendously successful wife, The Novelist. Oooh yes, I’m warming to my theme! Visions of sitting holding court on Graham Norton’s sofa are springing to mind; lunches with Stephen Fry to discuss plot lines and evenings with previous Nobel Prize winners in literature ….. ooooh yes! (Or do you have to be dead to be a winner?? Might have to rethink that one…)
But just momentarily back to reality as The Colonel (aka Husband Dearest) marches up the stairs wearing nothing but a pair of pants and one sock, peers around the bedroom door to see me tapping away in bed, glasses perched on the end of my nose and muttering like a faintly mad thing.
“Do we actually have any clean socks in this house, or shall I wear a pair of the boys Star Wars ones for meeting the General this morning?” A rather withering look from him, a muffled yelp from yours truly from beneath the soft feathery down of the duvet and I bound out of bed in search of clean socks and an ironed shirt and revert guiltily back to wifely duties.
I clearly have ideas substantially above my station, those of grandeur and success. I am also, as most of you know, slightly unhinged. But, if you can’t dream then how does one progress?
So I shall continue to dream about summerhouses, expensive computers and a housekeeper perhaps to ensure that clean and ironed laundry is continually available to every member of the family, and possibly guests as well.
But one thing I don’t need to dream about is writing. I don’t need to dream about the pleasure that writing actually gives me. And if finally, a long way down the road I manage to finish such a thing as a book, then yes, my dreams will have come true. And perhaps meeting Graham Norton and Stephen Fry will have to just wait for another day.
What do you dream of? Do you dream of writing a book … ? What’s stopping you? Xx
I’m used to bringing up little boys. I love the black and white simplicity of how they view the world. I like the straightforward feed, water, love, exercise, boundaries and sleep way of bringing them up. Forget one of those necessities however and World War 3 is on the doorstep, but generally, I stuck to those guidelines with consistent regularity and they appeared to thrive.
It’s a noisy existence however bringing up boys. No such thing as a quiet bath on your own. Honestly whoever writes these ridiculous articles about candles and bubble baths and a good book …. For God’s sakes! I tried that many a time. In fact the boys even once made a bath for me, how sweet they were. It was only when I was lying there admiring my perfect children and wondering how they they had managed to get quite so many bubbles not just in the bath, but exploding out onto the floor and beyond onto the landing outside that they happily told me that they had used Fairy Liquid. Nice.
And as for candles in the bathroom … Pah! Boys appear to have a fascination with fire. Do you know how difficult it is to put out a burning loo roll which your youngest has been playing with whilst yours truly lies in the bath oblivious. Oh yes, you just throw it in the bath with me. Of course.
And in fact more often than not, I’d have ended up with two little boys joining me plus the contents of the Lego basket and their grubby little knees as we’d squeeze in together. But we laughed, oh how we laughed.
Girls however I’m not used to. Less black and white, more grey, mauve and yellow and every shade in between.
I took them (and the Colonel, poor bloke) shopping yesterday to spend some holiday money. I managed to escape briefly as I found a wonderful little shop with mainly men’s socks, ties, and sarongs etc in. The elderly couple who were in charge of it whilst their son was busy in the stock room, were chatting very easily and I mentioned that I’d momentarily escaped.
“Stepchildren?” she asked.
“Girls?” she asked. She sucked through her teeth and then simply said, “They’ll hate you!”
We then both gaffawed loudly together with interestingly her husband nodding rather enthusiastically as well. She explained that in order to be liked by a) the stepchildren and b) the ex-wife, you have to be a minimum of 4 stone overweight, have very deep pockets and the ability to spend 2 hours looking around one shop for a specific type of hair clip that is to go with a certain outfit otherwise the world is going to end.
Well, if I continue eating my ginger nuts at the rate of … well let’s just say the Colonel had to wrestle them off me last night … then I shall indeed manage to enhance the old muffin tops which my delightful boys pointed out a few weeks ago. I don’t have very deep pockets, but am good at improvising and as for looking for hair clips? No, I’d have to compromise there and keep it to within one hour.
So, after a rather unsuccessful shopping trip yesterday, I engaged them in painting. I found an old tin of watercolour paints, some paper and pencils and together we set to. We sat in the shade in the garden, sipping on orange squash and nibbling (a few) ginger nuts whilst they dipped brushes in colour and enjoyed a few hours of complete tranquility. Honestly, it was bliss. I did a pencil drawing of a robin and was completely immersed.
I know that it is often suggested to those who suffer from anxiety to try drawing or painting and now I get it. It’s like complete therapy. I wasn’t even irritated that I had forfeited watching Nadal at Wimbledon! The girls and I were happy. There’s a lot to be said for this simple activity.
So next time you’re trying to have a peaceful little tiddle on the loo without a plastic machine gun peeking round the door of the bathroom and you’re being riddled with open fire of spongy bullets and your nerves are in shreds, panic not! You can get out the paint pots. Of course with boys, you might end up with more paint around the house than you’d bargained for, but it will make wonderful and unforgettable memories. Heaven, complete and utter heaven.
When you’re feeling anxious what do you do? Have you tried this painting lark??
Ps Pls forgive any typos, am typing in haste as Westfield Shopping Centre is beckoning … only a couple of hair clips to search for …
Actually 13 now because I’ve been pondering about a title, but hopefully that will come …
I am dyeing my hair. I’m what a nice, kind person would call a strawberry blonde and my husband calls ginger.
In fact he calls me an Orangutan because I apparently have hairy arms and sleep with them behind my head with my knees up. Marvellous. Some things one can do nothing about, some however, you can.
We were on the tube the other day and I pointed out a rather beautiful girl with the most heavenly deep red hair. My sister’s was like that as a child and I’ve always thought it was gorgeous.
“Isn’t she stunning!” I whispered to him nodding in her direction. He glanced briefly up from his paper, looking over his glasses.
“Nobody can say that a ginga is stunning.” He replied bluntly and carried on with his reading. He does tend to call a spade a spade.
At this point I walloped him with my copy of The Evening Standard. His eyes widened and he looked baffled.
“What?” He yelped. I’m only saying the truth.”
“Pah!” I snort as frankly I could think of absolutely nothing to retort back to my gingerist husband. But it made me think … if he thinks I’m an orangutan and therefore a bit of a ginga, maybe it’s time for a wee change.
The smell of what I imagine is ammonia is hideous … every now and then wafts of it dart up my nostrils making my eyes water and my head jerk back. So now I not only smell pretty grim, but also have tears down my cheeks and am twitching. Rabid dog springs to mind. I’ll let you know if I start foaming at the mouth.
Thin plastic gloves falling off, leaning over the bath, water everywhere, ammonia making my eyes now stream, … I wonder if this gets into my eyebrows then I’ll match …
20 Minutes Later …
I walk into the kitchen where the Colonel is sitting. I think he can smell me before he sees me. Clearly ammonia lingers.
He sees me, sits up rather straight and slowly a long smile fills his face. Oh yes! Result!
It’s now a lopsided grin … Game, set and match to me! I feel fabulous! Claudia Schiffer eat your heart out!
He now looks slightly demented and is getting a tad overexcited. Calm yourself sir! Where’s the damn Evening Standard when you need one? I think he needs a good wallop or … something like that … But golly, there are children in the house and anyway that darn ammonia has given me a headache! It’s not often I hear him say, “Pah!” He scoops me up, ice blonde hair and all, and giggling we fall up the stairs …
Have you ever changed your appearance radically?? How did it make you feel?
When I was young, I used to think gardening was for old people. I also used to think that cricket was dull (No I daren’t mention football). Well, cricket for me is still quite dull, but being undoubtedly in the minority I concede that I just might be wrong. And as for gardening being for old people, well I’m so far off course with that opinion that I’m heading to the Bermuda Triangle, never to be seen again. So please don’t shoot me down just yet. The ignorance of my youth was pretty blissful, but as you know, I am now a new woman and learning every day.
I used to watch my mother pottering around her gardens dead-heading here, staking there, looking as pretty as a picture and so very, very content. At peace with the world. I try to emulate her, starting off with Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, a large floppy hat, flippy floppy skirt and a rather twee trug, until I’ve done my usual and got a little overexcited and started tree pruning or digging in manure with over enthusiastic gusto and before too long the skirt is hitched up into my knickers, I’m pink in the face and all sense of glamour and grace have disappeared into the compost heap most probably along with the hat. Quite how my mother managed it I shall never know.
But a couple of things I do know are this …
Studying for those RHS (Royal Horticultural Society for non-gardeners) exams was the probably the most rewarding thing I have ever done. Perhaps because it was something that I was actually interested in, rather than studying algebra, trigonometry and …. binary (what exactly is the purpose of binary?) at school. Maths and I never got along and indeed still have a fairly tenuous relationship. Learning about something however that lives all around us and keeps us alive is so relevant, so important that even the narcissist in the old me cannot help but be in awe of mother nature.
And finally, gardening is the best cure for anxiety and depression todate that I have come across. It would be inconceivable to find me upended in a herbaceous border crying into the perennial geraniums, I’d be too busy gazing into their cheery little faces of pinks and purples. And how can I possibly be anxious when my entire focus is to pull out weeds and deadhead the roses … it takes complete concentration and as we all now know, I simply cannot multitask.
Also, and as an aside, being in the sunlight … did you know that normal sitting room lighting gives you 100 lux, whereas being outside on a sunny day gives you between 20,000 and 200,000 lux! And we wonder why we feel better after a day outside. Plus there’s the exercise … think endorphins and dopamine, and finally that wonderful feeling of satisfaction. Of a job well done.
So even though we have a postage stamp of a garden in our military quarter, there’s still room for some flowers and pots and whilst I don’t think that Wandsworth Borough Council would appreciate my attempts at tree pruning, I see no reason to do a bit of digging, planting and pruning, if not to look glamorous with our Audrey Hepburn sunglasses, but at least to perhaps find a little peace within the world and most importantly, within ourselves.
Do you have a garden, balcony or a windowsill with pots? What do you grow?
My brain is a simple thing. Like my computer, when there are too many tabs open at one time, it starts having a crisis, slows down and invariably simply stops working at all. Now, in the knowledge that I should probably take it to a computer hospital, I wonder if perhaps my brain needs a bit of a looking at too.
The reason I say this is because I cannot multi-task. Too many things going on up there in that fluffy cotton wool between my ears and it all starts unravelling. Badly. Like a dozen balls of multi-coloured wires being tangled up together, if things start getting too complicated, there is a sudden fizzing, a loud explosion and boom! It’s all over … A crisis is here. It happens very easily, relatively often, but is a bit of a bugger to sort out.
The Colonel however works best when doing a minimum of three things at once, and frankly the more the merrier. Concurrent activity he calls it. I have been known to just stare at him, baffled and bewildered as to how he does it. Perhaps that’s why he is good at his job and I don’t appear to even have a job. Must resolve that too …
However, I am now addressing this, ‘issue’. (Not the staring one, or the jobless one, the inability to multi-task one). So far, without much success.
I’m embarrassed to admit how very simply I tested myself yesterday morning and the outcome, but here goes …
Filling up the watering can in the kitchen sink whilst emptying the dishwasher.
You see, I read somewhere the other day that to help deter that awful habit, ‘procrastination’, the answer is, that if you see a job that will take less than one minute to do, then you must start it within a minute. Well I think that’s what it said. Brilliant! But perhaps only one task at a time. This is fine for most people, but not for the non-multi-taskers. The single-taskers like myself may find it problematic.
So, back to the watering can …. I’m putting things away, the water is filling the can, the cupboard doors are all open, I can feel the stress (yes really) starting to filter into my brain and the balls of wire up there amongst the cotton wool starting to fizzle, but to put away the frying pan means taking out several other pans so that it will not just fit in, but also the door will close. Fizzle, fizzle goes my brain …. The sound of water is suddenly louder and looking over my shoulder with a wok in one hand, the colander in another and the frying pan under my arm I see a steady, heavy fountain of water pouring out of the watering can’s spout, over the edge of the sink and into the open cupboard below, and yup, into the tub where the three-in-one multicoloured clothes washing pods live.
Brain has exploded …. much yelping, dropping of woks and pans and strangely my immediate reaction was not to turn off the tap, but to put the colander under the steady stream of water … we now have a version of the Water Fountains at Versailles.
Presumably I don’t need to describe the bubbly mess that I single-handedly created. Suffice to say however that those cute little squidgy little pods of blue and green designed to keep your clothes super clean, dissolve in cold water very quickly. Nine ruptured immediately, five stuck together and the remaining three are currently still drying on kitchen roll (stuck of course to the paper).
The laundry basket is however empty and all the sheets and towels have been washed too, completely unnecessarily of course, but just so as to use up the washing liquid on the floor, the sink, the side, and my shoes … Yes, everything is sparkly clean.
However, do not fear fellow single-taskers, for I have found there is an upside to all of this … if I am completely focused on just one task, not only do I tend to do it well, although I can become quite obsessed (tennis, now cycling) and take it to the extreme, it does mean that I simply cannot think about anything else whilst I am doing it. As in, I cannot think about anything else negative or otherwise whilst doing this activity. So Betty (the demon depressive) is firmly locked in the shed and shackled to the garden roller with duck-tape on her mouth so to speak.
So for all my single-taskers out there, if indeed I am not alone, there is hope for us all. Whilst we may not be able to fill a watering can and empty the dishwasher, we can do one better … We can get all the washing done and clean the kitchen floor too. Have hope!
Like the rest of us, I sometimes daydream about winning the lottery … Errrr, don’t we all?
The thought of spending summers on a boat floating around tropical islands whilst a wonderful lady paints my nails as I stand at the wheel with The Colonel beside me sipping champagne gazing adoringly up at me. (Actually the wonderful lady shouldn’t be overly wonderful or beautiful for that matter, let’s not give the Colonel too much to gaze at … let’s give her facial hair, spots and an unusual dental arrangement for starters) … The winters, spent sitting beside a roaring fire writing best-selling books in a huge chalet in Verbier with yet more champagne, a year’s supply of ginger nuts and enough fit (male) ski instructors to get even me looking vaguely elegant on the slopes. (In retrospect, make that two years’ supply of ginger nuts) … Ahhh, what a glorious life it would be!
They say money isn’t everything (Pah! Ok, it’s true) but they also say it’s easier to cry in the back of a Mercedes than on a bicycle and that I do agree with.
So back to reality with a backbreaking thump …. what do we all wish for that will give us happiness?
Life has a funny old way of throwing things in our paths however, determined to try to floor us, or at least postpone our progress, and often just when things are tootling along on their merry way, something is tossed with force unexpectedly before us.
Sadly, for me, it is rarely a lottery win. In fact, the little ‘presents’ that appear tend to be the bad stuff. Usually related to health and death. And we grieve and we struggle and then when it starts to vaguely diminish, we find that in actual fact, “normal” is good. Normal is ok. Normal, our natural default setting, is actually fine, anything rather than being in the depths of despair and depression, is frankly fine.
But, if we wanted more than just normal, more of the good things from life, how do we go about it? I don’t mean to sound overly greedy and it is inevitable that bad things will happen from time to time, but what about having some good things to help counteract them. To act as a balance. To fall back on when the ‘shit hits the fan’.
How do we persuade “life” to throw us a few good packages? Well, we could spend all our hard earned cash on lottery tickets. We could also just sit and gaze out of the window and dream a lot and hope that Prince Charming himself will appear up the stairs of our top floor one bedroom flat on his gallant steed, but the likelihood of that is slim at best, even in my unhinged, erratic mind. So, what to do?
In my mind, the best way forward is to be a “Yes” person rather than a “No” person (kindly read Are You a “Yes” or a “No” Person? for further details!). By this, what I mean is that I for one, have to resist daily the temptation to sit and gaze out of the window and find excuses not to do something, (oh, believe you me, I can find an excuse for everything!) and be proactive (ghastly word, apologies) and get off my wobbly skinny arse, say “Yes!” and actually do something!
Those two words always remind me of Dick Dastardly shouting at his dog Muttley, (if you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about then you’re too young you lucky thing so you have that advantage over me already!) “MUTTLEY!! DO SOMETHING!!” he would shout, although Muttley usually demanded a medal for doing so … Now chances are, you won’t receive a medal this time, or even next, but it’s odd isn’t it how those people who are successful in life tend to be the ones who it turns out have been trying and practising their craft for years upon years and yet we had never heard of them until ooooh I don’t know, a character called Harry Potter suddenly becomes a worldwide phenomenon. Funny that.
So my point is this, surely if we believe that mathematical formula relating to probability, if we keep trying, keep learning, keep working, keep being a “Yes” person and giving it our all, eventually good will come of it.
In fairness, this may not result in a yacht in the Bahamas or a chalet in Verbier. It may however result in an alcoholic giving up the booze once and for all, a sufferer of depression finding a way of living in peace, a lover of flowers owning his or her own flower shop, a blogger having his book published or an idiot like me simply bicycling from the top to the (not quite) bottom of France on a bike called Claude. It won’t earn me a medal like Muttley, or a chalet in Verbier, but it’s a personal challenge and might improve the old muscles in the thigh and bottom region …
Whatever the goal, whatever the dream, and despite whatever is thrown in our paths, let’s be a “Yes” person, make the dream a reality and attack life with gusto, passion and a smattering of hope. Try, try and try again. After all, with any experience that we undertake, if we succeed, we will gain confidence and go on to even greater things, and if we fail, then we gain that wonderful quality, wisdom.
And in my mind there are worse things in life than being a wise old bird with a wobbly arse and a twin pack of ginger nuts in her bicycle basket.
Are You a “Yes” or a “No” person? What is your dream, your goal in your life?
I know you want to hit me with a shovel, but ummm ….. exercise DOES work. Yup, sorry about that, but unfortunately, it does.
I remember going to the doctor’s surgery many moons ago (Do read The Doctor if you want evidence of my previous mental state) and being apoplectic with rage at his suggestions and yet, months later when the medication had eventually taken the edge off the depression and anxiety and I was able to think just a little clearer, I started the only form of exercise I knew, tennis.
Odd isn’t it how the doctors, therapists, magazines and papers are all telling us to use exercise to beat depression and anxiety and yet still, we are enraged and hate them all for their irritating and pathetic suggestions. “I have a disease, going for a swim won’t change that!” and “How can I go for a run when I can’t even get out of bed?” we shrill. “Don’t you understand how I feel, how can I possibly go for a cycle ride when I feel like this?” we shout.
And yet, and yet, they do keep banging on about the wretched benefits of it, even the celebrities we idolise seem to be talking about it. Bastards the lot of them. They just don’t understand. Don’t they know how darn exhausted we are?
However, when you have those endorphins and dopamine coursing through the body (don’t even question trying to fight those chemicals), the brain is occupied (no possibility of thinking about death, dying and misery, whilst focusing on a small yellow ball flying at eighty miles an hour towards you), the laughter, chatter and screams of hilarity filling the court (and often neighbouring courts) make any downward spirals of negativity stop firmly in their tracks with an almighty screech of rubber on tarmac and a handbrake U-turn. And as for the light, sun and fresh air … well I personally couldn’t find any of those whilst hiding under my bed with only the drooling dog and a family pack of multi-flavoured crisps for company.
The hardest part is the putting on of those trainers. (Read this post next … Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain) After that, it’s a breeze …. one becomes swept up with that extraordinary and distant friend, happiness, and before you can say “Goddamn gym bunnies” your cheeks are rosy, you’re laughing, chatting and organising the next session with newly found friends. If this all sounds a bit too cheesy, the only words of wisdom this old bird can hand out are from that age-old adage, “Don’t knock it til you’ve tried it”. Because, annoyingly, using exercise to combat depression and anxiety and the lethargy that comes as part and parcel of those evil twin sisters, actually does work. It beats it. Game, set and Goddamn match.
WHAT EXERCISE ARE YOU DOING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH TODAY? WELL??
Joining our wonderfully stuffy and rigid royal family comes a woman of substance. A woman with a mission using her status to make the world a better place and yet somehow she manages this with grace, dignity and incredible likability. She says we all have a voice, we just have to use it. And of course, she’s right.
And after it all, after the last people have gone back to their real lives, after the shops, bars and restaurants of Windsor have cleaned their tables and closed their doors to count the weekends takings, and the street cleaners have filled yet more bags and are starting to get everything shipshape once again, what are we left with?
A wonderful piece of history that’s for sure. But what else? For me, I feel inspired. I feel inspired by a woman, a woman who gets on with life, works like a trooper and fights for what she believes in, in a feminine, graceful manner. She ticks every box and frankly Harry has done very, very well.
So it’s time to get on, stop worrying and attack life and the things I want to do and achieve. Dare I say that I think we could all take a leaf out of Meghan’s book. I know that I will. Enough dramas about the minutiae of life, I need to crack on and not let any more anxiety or depression stop me from living the life that I want.
Let’s run that marathon, write that book and cycle to the south of France …. the clock is ticking, and sure as eggs is eggs, I ain’t gonna want to run out of time!
Taking the first steps outside of the aircraft and into the air, the heat and humidity lunged with full force into my body and lungs. A strange feeling of a pressurised osmosis raises my temperature within moments until there is simply clammy skin and a few damp tendrils of hair on my neck and a slightly unpleasant feeling of losing a little control.
For a day we walked around the city of extremes. The poverty was to be expected and yet when it is lying in front of you on the roads there is of course the instinctive want to put the world right, to scoop up the filthy naked babies and their parents from where they lie and give them some of what I, and so many of us, have.
There are families living in the dirt beside the crazy traffic, the men cooking over tiny fires whilst the women scrub at clothes in dirty buckets of water. A baby sleeps, her naked sister squats and urinates a short distance away whilst the boy plays in the dust with one broken toy. And what do I think? I think of my son’s old scooter left outside our house for the dustbin men to take away, just last week, in a sorting out of old toys and clothes. I think of the carelessness, the frivolity of our society, the excessive food, clothes and the throwaway mentality.
I see the stray dogs and cats; old, young, desperately thin and more often than not, injured. I think of the shameful cost of buying the latest most fashionable breed of dog in England. I see filth and chaos, the high rise buildings alongside the shacks, I smell the drains competing with the sweetness of frangipani, and whilst the senses are being attacked from every angle, I see two tiny barefoot women under a makeshift covering talking together.
The older one has her eyes half closed as she lies sprawled on the cracked concrete. The younger one fans her and as I pass, she looks up at me and grins widely, her lined face lighting up. “Welcome to Manila” she beams and waves a bony hand, never pausing from her fanning. I smile back at her, pause beside her, unsure, wanting to help, not wanting to offend, but she waves me on, the moment has passed and she is already chatting again to the woman, fanning away the flies from her face and making her more comfortable by creating the lightest of breezes on her skin.
And what do I wish for? I wish that in the future, in the dark days, I remember her; her smile, her dry, dusty, thin skin stretched taut over her fragile bones and I remember that my life is so very easy and sometimes it’s good just to keep a little perspective.
Make a commitment to yourself, your mind and body. Make a promise to put on those rose-tinted glasses that you once, where the world was a wonderful and happy place.
What have YOU done for your mental health today? Can you make this promise to yourself?
If you need them, take them. If they’re not working, change them. Your doctor is your friend – your job is together to find what works for you. And if the doctor doesn’t work, change them.
R. Re-setting The Thought Patterns
Go to therapy, talk to a psychiatrist, talk to a psychologist, learn about CBT and practise, practise, practise every day until your brain starts to ‘unlearn’ the bad habits and learn the good. It works.
Get outside, get some fresh air in your lungs and find the light. Just to let you know, bright moonlight gives you 1 lux, normal living room lighting gives you 100 lux, but being outside on a sunny day gives you 20,000 to 100,000 lux … monumental difference and we need it more than most.
Yoga, meditation, deep breathing, whatever you need to practise daily to start to control the anxiety .. Nb Don’t do the audio cds in the car. I nearly crashed I was so relaxed, and they keep telling you to close your eyes … enough said.
I. Instil proper eating habits
Invest in your body. Think you can live on processed food and feel good? Cooking is for everyone, for you and your family. If your own parents have brought you up on Macdonalds, crisps and ice cream, shoot them (Nb Yes that is a joke) or better still, educate them. If your mind and your body is out of sorts, it’s going to be even harder to get back on an even keel. (Ginger nuts don’t count as long as the whole packet isn’t eaten in one sitting.)
S. Social Interaction
Have a proper chatter and a natter with at least one other human being every single day. The dog does not count, neither does talking to yourself.
Whatever floats your boat as long as it raises your heart rate and gets the endorphins and dopamine kicking in. Find something, anything that you’re going to stick at.
Make the promise that you’re going to do this every single day and see through those rose-tinted glasses …
My late mother’s beautiful clock was broken on our previous move, and despite a lengthy stay in the clock hospital, it never recovered. However, as I sit around the boxes stacked up high, I can hear a gentle ticking. And every half hour the beautiful ting, ting, tinging chime of mother’s clock can be heard from the depths of one of those boxes. The fact that it has got the hour completely wrong is immaterial and merely receives a raised eyebrow from the Colonel following a glance at his watch, and a smile from me.
Just the familiar sound of ticking is comforting. I have missed it, and the gentle, regular sound takes me back to my mother’s house and the peace and serenity that prevailed there. The safety and reassurance. The complete quiet, except the ticking of the clock.
So this is mindfulness! …. At last I understand it.
In a troubled world where nothing is certain and the future is a fictional imagining based on what we’ve worked for, what we hope for and a smattering of luck, sometimes the constancy and familiarity of a person or even a silly old clock ticking along in the background is not only soothing, but part of the multifaceted foundations essential for a balanced life.
I’ve been reading through my posts lately and had rather forgotten about this one – I hope you don’t mind me reposting!
Research says that a part of the treatment of depression and anxiety is to indulge in massage. Fabulous! However, I’m a middle class, middle aged woman and I don’t just take my clothes off for anyone. I’m rather British and frankly going to a therapist for the first time was bad enough – stiff upper lip and all that. Talking about one’s feelings? Are you clinically insane? I went to a Victorian boarding school on the southernmost cliffs of England where crying oneself to sleep was the norm, but one never talked about it.
So to be completely starkers, be kneaded and pummelled like a lump of dough was definitely going to take some pluck and courage.
The Technical Paragraph … skip this para if you have a low boredom threshold (I do if it’s any consolation).
The Mayo Clinic claim that a 60 minute massage can lower cortisol (the hormone that’s produced when stressed) by an average of 30 per cent, (although the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine found the therapy lowered levels by 53 per cent … bit of a difference but it’s all going down and that’s what matters in my book). And when cortisol lowers, serotonin and dopamine increase. The combination of all this thereby boosting the body’s ability to fight off pain, anxiety and feelings of sadness. Win, win, win! Definitely worth ripping my clothes off for.
Ok … enough of the dull bit … carry on now.
So off I trundle to visit ‘Michelle’. Michelle is stunning. Michelle has a sing-song voice calming voice and in the warm, whale music of her scented room, I lie on a bed with only a couple of tiny towels covering the important bits. Now, to be clear, prevention.com say that the word massage comes from the Arabic word mass’h which means “press gently“. I since have looked into this further, and there are definitely some discrepancies over this. But as far as I am concerned … “gently” sounds good.
Are you joking? Face down with my head poking through a hole in the bed, I am oiled, squeezed, stretched, pummelled and beaten within an inch of my life. And I feel fan-bloody-tastic! I feel slightly drunk and my legs certainly can’t hold me up. No wonder the Chinese have been doing this for the last 2,500 years …. who needs alcohol when you have Michelle in your life?
I’m beyond relaxed, lying legs akimbo, tiny towels long since disappeared and I suspect that at some point my damp cheek indicates that I might have dribbled, so given the option of sliding my oily body and matted hair (yes, the head got a going over too) into my clothes again, I slurrily asked if she could perform any other beauty miracles on me. “A leg and bikini wax mightn’t go amiss” she said in her sing-song voice just a tad too quickly. But hey, I’m agreeing to anything and with whale music drifting through me she paints me with warm soothing wax until …. ARGHHHH! Holy God …. “Just a bit nippy!” she laughs as every morsel of hair is ripped from my below my waist. The tiny towel which had once covered my modesty is now gripped between my clenched teeth whilst I, unable to utter a word, make Neanderthal moaning noises as she chatters away happily about her camping holiday last summer.
An hour later I return home, with a gait akin to John Wayne, resembling an oil slick from the waist up and a bald, plucked chicken from the waist down. All benefits of my massage long since gone. And when I delicately crawl my fragile body into bed and cuddle up next to the Colonel as his arms wrap around me, he suddenly pauses, then lifts the duvet, peers down and reappears with a grin. “Don’t even think about it!” I mutter with veritable force from between clenched teeth. He looks like a berated puppy but I am practising deep breathing so I think he thinks I’m asleep, and even he wouldn’t risk the wrath of a hostile, woman in recovery from a major ordeal.
So now Robbie is making the headlines about ‘the disease in his head that wants to kill him.’ Well if that doesn’t help break the stigma, I’m not sure what will. There will be those of course, who say that he frazzled his brain himself with all the drugs and frankly with all that money he can afford the top treatments which perhaps are not accessible to the rest of us and therefore sympathy might not be high on their list of priorities. Personally however, I rather like him, not in a groupie sort of way, but in an ‘I’m going to attack life and give it my all’ sort of way.
And that is, when I’m feeling drab and a tad shoddy, what I lack. That ‘va va voom’. That gusto and effervescence that I know is lurking beneath the surface, but is being smothered by a heavy dark and murky fog.
But today is a beautiful day, snow is blanketing Scotland and I’m housebound. So, let’s turn on some Robbie, dance around the kitchen and find some va va voom!
Morrisons …. probably on a par with Aldi, but sells the same as Waitrose at a fraction of the price with even a smattering of the more upmarket scallops and quinoa if you happen to a) like them and b) know how to pronounce them …. Personally, I don’t, to either.
Shopping Trip and lesson no. 1: Sometimes, being a southerner whilst living temporarily in Scotland, it’s better to keep quiet.
Some friendly chatter at the till whilst waiting in the queue, led to my over-excited confession that I had recently got married….
“Och!” says Till Lady 1 in more of a guttural phlegm-inducing noise, than actual word, “Do you hear that Sheila?” she shouts to Till Lady Number 2 across a couple of aisles. Clearly Sheila has hearing issues as my new marital status is now belted out a couple of times, involving not just 2 till ladies, but customers too. Lots of smiles, nods and general looks of approval in my direction. I beam delightedly.
“So, where was the wedding?” shouts Sheila of the dodgy ears. All eyes on me … I shuffle uncomfortably …. “Um, well, down south in fact”. Bit of a mistake. I hear sucking of breath through teeth, and a general sense of disapprovement on a somewhat large scale.
“Och!” the guttural sound again with added sniff to enhance the disapproval. I thought it was only my mother who did that. “Shame” says till lady no. 1. “Of course,” she pauses, “you could have had my brother … Now, he’s a fine figure of a man!” she says proudly her bosom jutting out.
All eyes on till lady no. 1 who is turning somewhat frosty and a tad purple …
“He might be focking fat, but he’s happy and that counts for plenty” she retorts.
All eyes now on Sheila – this is something akin to a Wimbledon final, myself and customers turning from one to the other, but hey, the attention is off me so I’m delighted.
“He’s happy?” squawks Sheila, “He’s a focking drunk, that why!”
Oh dear God. Till lady no. 1 pauses, clearly digesting this information. There is a moment where we, the customers are waiting with baited breath for her reaction. She slowly begins to nod, “Aye, you know you might be right, BUT,” she says wiggling her finger indicating for me to move closer. I do so extremely hesitantly; she has an unusual dental arrangement and frankly scares me. She continues, “He might be a wee bit of a drunk, BUT” she belts out with a scream of laughter, “…. he’s got focking good sheep!”
An explosion of cackles, laughter, nodding and ‘ayes’ from all around …
I grab my Lurpac and organic ham and escape – sharpish.
Perhaps this is how men should be rated … On their ability to keep good sheep or did I miss something??! Think I might try Waitrose next week …
There are some things about myself that I genuinely don’t like. Actually I wouldn’t blame anyone else for not liking these traits much either. Does that mean that I’m not a likeable person? I don’t know. In a similar vein, if someone does one bad thing to another, does that make them a bad person? Likewise, I don’t know the answer to that.
But back to the point – The hated trait is my ‘over awareness’. Particularly of other people. I’ve already spoken I think of my over sensitivity so maybe this is much of the same thing.
The fact of the matter is that there is another family here who is irritating me beyond belief. My children don’t seem to have noticed them, and even if the Colonel has, which I doubt, I suspect it’s simply because the mother of said family is (even in my moment of negativity) quite a good looking woman. Foxy is probably how he’d describe her.
The irritating thing is that whilst they’re most probably perfectly lovely, they are just so loud, oblivious, and unaware of everyone else around them. Oh it’s all coming out now isn’t it? My faults and foibles, and there you all were thinking what a nice English lady she appeared to be … well, clearly not and I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry, because you see, I don’t like these horrible traits of mine either. But how on earth do I stop them? How do I ignore people?
Why am I so judgemental? Why does it matter if they have loud conversations across an otherwise silent, yet full room, whilst their iPads and phones fight each other for volume, have their feet up on the tables and chairs and wear their pyjamas in the main sitting room? Why does it matter if the squabbles between themselves are audible for all and sundry to hear? Why does it matter if they wander around in bare feet as though they are at home and then pick at their toes in front of me? Why does it matter that the mother has a continual habit of snorting and coughing up enough phlegm to warrant the opening of a handkerchief factory, but then swallows it with a resounding, “Ahhh!” for all to hear?
Why the heck should any of this matter to me? Why am I such a irritable old fun-sponge? Am I really already a classically grumpy old woman? Yes, I believe I am. I am the female equivalent of Victor Meldrew, the fictional character in the BBC sitcom One Foot in the Grave. Yes, I am indeed Victor’s twin sister and therefore as old (he must be approaching 80 …).
Why can I not just switch off and be immune to it and more importantly, why am I like this?
And therein lies the problem … As a child I was taught that children should be seen and not heard, we should be considerate to everyone, never ‘make a scene’ or unnecessarily draw attention to oneself. We must be kind and polite to all and help little old ladies across the road, even if they don’t want to cross. Manners maketh Man and all that.
(Oh God, she’s just snorted again … and, yup, again, followed by another “Ahhh”. I now want to bludgeon her. Noooo, I must think calm, happy thoughts. Think of fluffy bunnies and arghhhhh! She’s done it again! For God’s sake.)
Frankly (and apologies in advance for the language now), but frankly bollocks to it all. Maybe that’s why I’m such a people pleaser, maybe that’s why I was such a doormat to my first husband. I was living a 1950’s perfect little housewife dream who wouldn’t say boo to a goose.
(Yet more snorting … would it be rude to offer her a handkerchief? But she’s having a FaceTime call with her sister now and the children are all joining in, so I daresay it would be impolite of me to interrupt.)
Maybe I’m actually just jealous … maybe I secretly want to drag and slide my feet with every step across the floor, let my children wipe their noses on their sleeves, and pick at their toes in public. Maybe I secretly long for that laissez faire attitude to life.
So maybe I’m not only over aware, over sensitive, intolerant, judgemental, a rotten skier, but I’m also jealous. Flipping marvellous.
The solution … apart from whining to you all (again, I am sorry … although you’ve probably stopped reading by now anyway), I think the best course of action is either to put on my headphones to block out the sound or alternatively to ditch the headphones, turn up the volume, snort, pick my toes, then my nose and take the philosophy that if you can’t beat them, join them. Think I might be a rebel and do the latter. 😧
I once had a garden in Oxfordshire, England. Sincere apologies if I’m sounding like Meryl Streep in Out of Africa … ‘I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills’. Somehow it doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, and I certainly don’t see Robert Redford kicking around here ….
However, in my garden, I discovered that digging up potatoes is like finding buried treasure, rather exciting. Picking beans (before the dog has sniffed them out) is total satisfaction, and the monotony of shelling peas is absolute therapy (mindfulness I think it’s now called).
Now, it strikes me that these are some of the normal everyday tasks that our grandparents used to do … did they suffer from anxiety and depression? Did they have the same levels of diabetes and obesity that our generation suffers? Did they hand their child in the supermarket a packet of crisps and their phone to play on, in order to stop the tantrum? I don’t think so somehow …
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they had it easy in any way, shape or form particularly with the advances in medicine as an example, but surely there’s some form of halfway house to be had?
They did the washing without the help of a washing machine, they cooked without blenders and microwaves, they cleaned without hoovers and spray polish, they wrote, read and enjoyed handwritten letters. Everything took time, and effort and patience was the norm and absolutely necessary.
No online food deliveries or factory-made meals with ingredients defined by letters and numbers and more often than not, ending in ‘phosphate’. What exactly is disodium diphosphate anyway? Some sort of raising agent … what’s wrong with an egg from a happy chicken. I’m on a roll now, warming to my theme .. does anyone actually know what partially inverted refiners syrup is? Apparently it’s in my ginger nuts. And no, I don’t really want to know, I’m just having a rant on my soapbox.
Perhaps I’m simply feeling a little nostalgic for an era of which I only know snippets of, from what has been passed down through the generations. Perhaps I crave some simplicity in my life to help me. Perhaps I crave some digging up of potatoes, weeding the beds, working up a sweat and doing these things that we now call mindfulness, but in those days was just called life. Perhaps I simply crave my garden … not at the foot of the Ngong Hills, just my little simple garden in England.
We know, because we’ve had it rammed down our throats by well-meaning friends, family and professionals what we should be doing every day.
We know we should be exercising, getting outside, eating properly, keeping busy, taking our meds, seeing our therapist, doing yoga and meditation. We know that we should not be drinking too much, not procrastinating, not overthinking, not hiding in our beds waiting to feel better, waiting for the exhaustion, panic and anxiety to fade. Frankly I’m panicking just thinking about it all.
But these are just words, words that are so easy to say and yet with these endless lists of things that we should and shouldn’t be doing it’s no surprise that it all becomes overwhelming, anxiety sets in followed hot on the heels of procrastination and what then happens? Zip, nothing, nada. Back to square one on the Snakes and Ladders board again. See post Snakes and Ladders.
Frankly …… Arghhhhh!
Now apparently, the current worlds strongest man is a British fellow called Eddie Hall. He is the only man able to deadlift 500kg under strongman rules. I have no clue what the rules are, and frankly I don’t give a stuff, because that’s half a bloomin’ ton … That’s lifting up a horse or a cow with two hands.
An incredible feat! This surely shows how strong the body can be, but also how mind-blowingly more powerful the mind actually is. His body was screaming at him, but his mind overruled it. (Until he had a nosebleed and passed out, but that’s beside the point!)My point to this is that when a wee Eddie popped into this world, I daresay his mother had no idea that in 30 years time her son would be picking up the equivalent of an Angus Cow for pleasure. But more importantly, he wouldn’t have been able to have done this the moment he appeared. His physical and mental ability has taken years to grow and perfect. He started out small. He learned what his limits were, he worked, he strived, he increased his limits both mentally and physically.
And that’s absolutely no different to us!
We start with baby steps. Steps so small they’re akin to a little hamster. Yes, I’m warming to my theme …. Hamster steps, a little scuttle here, a little scuttle there. A stop, a twitch the nose (not strictly necessary), a little regroup to evaluate where we’re at, a look around, and then off to do another little scuttle.
And we grow. And our scuttling becomes more confident. We start to walk. We start to walk with our head held high. We stride. And we grow braver, bigger and stronger and able to do more and more, just like Eddie Hall. We practise, we work, sometimes we fail, but we just get back up and try again. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but someone somewhere had to start laying the initial few stones.
So remember when you’re taking those first little baby steps, that once upon a time our mate Eddie Hall, the World’s Strongest Man, was once just like us, a teeny little nose-twitching frightened hamster.
On social media, everyone is seemingly very, very happy. All of them (apparently) enjoying a blissful existence of beautiful, laughing children on sun drenched beaches with parents exclaiming how they are having a ‘Proud Mummy moment’ (urghh!) as their daughter number one, two or three (or perhaps all) have been accepted to Oxford University, meanwhile their gorgeous hubby has just swept them away on an eye-wateringly expensive safari trip as pictures of distant lions are thrust into our inbox. Similarly in the press, flawless models and celebrities pose outside the popular London nightlife haunts, with glowing perfect skin, no cellulite (God forbid), spots or a muffin-top to be seen. Everything looks so darn perfect and so darn predictable.
However, we also know, that this a totally air-brushed version of what the truth is. And yet, when it’s constantly thrust down our throats, we do start to believe it.
It’s human nature and it goes without saying that it makes us look at our lives slightly negatively. Jealously creeps in, slipping and sliding its way into our minds until the green-eyed monster makes us just a teensy bit dissatisfied and disappointed with our own lives. Our ordinary trips to the supermarket, our jobs, our daily mind-numbingly dull and endless chores of housework and whinging children frankly all seem just a little bit … meh!
Is it however to be expected and the norm to be wandering around in a state of euphoria? Of course not. I don’t see the average person going around the supermarket or at work with a constant grin on their faces. In London they would be avoided like the plague. Up here in Glasgow they would probably be sectioned.
How many times do we say, “Everyone else is happy, why can’t I be happy? Why can’t my life be like that? I would be happy if my life was like that? Depression and anxiety suck!”
And yet, these people, these apparent friends of ours are simply wanting us to believe that their life is a constant holiday in the Caribbean.
However ….. What is the truth? The truth is that the husband has been having an affair, they both have a drink problem and child number three has just been expelled for selling weed. The safari holiday was a last ditch attempt to save the marriage, escape the mistress (who has now turned into a bunny-boiler) and in actual fact, those were the only two lions that they saw after seven hours confined in a 4-by-4 with three bellyaching kids, no WiFi and two of the three missed it anyway.
So now we know the truth. Now we can choose to either accept what is being thrust daily in our faces and believe it, or take it all with a little pinch of salt, give a smile, move away and instead, start concentrating on our own lives.
So now, instead of wishing for a perpetual smile and asking myself every day if I am happy, I shall ask myself, “Am I ok?”. If the answer is yes, then that is good. That is normal, and normal is good.
I will ride out the inevitable storms in the knowledge, that they will end.
I will relish and delight in those fleeting moments of total joy and happiness.
And for the rest, for the average day-to-day life of simply living, I will enjoy the feeling of peace and of normality. Because normal, is good.
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.
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. 😳😳
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!