Attacking Life, or Running Away

black and white girl whitespace jacket
Photo by Craig Dennis on Pexels.com

Tell me … you have the answers … how do we get past a negative event or series of events?

Do we rely on time to be the healer? Isn’t that what our elders taught us? Or do we need to be thoroughly modern and undertake endless therapy? Or perhaps, is it just a combination of the two?

Either way, we still fail to quieten our over-zealous minds which are ravaged by the repetitive fear that history will repeat itself; and to add insult to injury, we see, hear or smell something daily that re-awakens the memories yet again.

So do we rise to meet the challenge of winning against our own mindset of negativity and fear and take a calculated risk that yes, we may be hurt again, or do we simply run away to protect ourselves?

Do we make ourselves strong again and further develop our life skills in order that should anything happen again we are better able to cope? Or do we hide in fear, creating our own little frightened coping mechanisms; after all, if we don’t take on life and attack it with fiery gusto, then surely it can’t bite back at us and hurt us?

Sometimes I think I have the answers and I am full of strength, optimism and a zest for life, and yet sometimes, just sometimes I want to be rid of the memories, the pain and the fear that my heart and soul will be broken again.

Katie xx

Well? Truthfully, what do you do, and does it change every day depending upon your frame of mind?

Advertisements

De-Cluttering …

pexels-photo-326624.jpeg

I just remembered this and thought for anyone wanting a fresh start, it might help. It certainly helps with depression and anxiety! That’s for sure … just one drawer at a time …

Part 1 – Recognising The Problem

Very early on in my relationship I remember cooking lunch for The Colonel (my then boyfriend, now husband) and it was, as per usual, chaos ….

I recall him quietly observing the scene in front of him, looking at the wonky, dusty pictures with those little black thunder bugs that somehow find their way behind the glass, the piles of ironing that I had tried to hide behind the sofa, the pretty, distressed cream and rusty paperwork tray spilling its guts onto the work surfaces, the sink overflowing with every pot and pan and then, at me. What I had thought of as scatty and endearing was in fact to him, frighteningly chaotic.

“I think we have a problem” he said quietly …. Not exactly “I think we have a problem Houston” in a Tom Hanks sort of way, but in my little world, it was quite frankly as momentous as that. This could be ‘the deal-breaker’.

Now, some may say that he should have accepted me for who (or is it whom?) I was – The problem was, that I didn’t really like the person that I had become. I in fact wanted to change, but I simply didn’t know how or indeed where to start.

“Oh!” I said.

“Wait!” I said.

“I have a plan!” I said, by now rather excitedly. He was looking a little nervous, and annoyingly, somewhat unconvinced.

“You, my darling, gorgeous man are at one end of the organised spectrum, not saying that you’re, you know, anal or anything, God forbid! No, just seriously beyond tidy! And truth be told, that’s where I would like to be ….. not anal, obviously, and let’s face it that’s never going to happen in a month of Sunday’s.” I snorted with laughter at this and then remembered that this was no laughing matter, this was a serious, grown-up conversation, so carried in a more restrained fashion, perhaps even verging on an ‘eating humble pie’ sort of way “And I appear to be at the other end of that, um, particular spectrum.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Ok. Fair enough, I’ve completely fallen off the end of the scale into the big, black pit at the bottom,” I grudgingly admitted but then continued on with renewed gusto, “however, if you could shift just a teensy half a fraction up the spectrum towards me, would you help me get this all in order and start again? I NEED to do it. I WANT to do it. By the way however, nothing, I repeat nothing is to be colour-coded or chronologically ordered.”

I think I could see his lips twitch, but could have imagined it. “Where shall we start?” he asks.

Part 2 – The Process

We started with books. I had literally hundreds of wonderfully trashy romantic paperbacks, some fabulous history books, gardening books galore and the occasional self-help book (which I tried, and failed to hide). Most I’d read and some I hadn’t. They were all fairly battered, the majority being secondhand and of course covered in the habitual layer of dust. A bookshelf, emptied onto the floor, cleaned within an inch of its life and whilst it was empty, hoovered behind and underneath – that hadn’t happened since I’d moved in. Clearly the spiders had been very happy. Then, one at a time a good book would be dusted and put back on the shelf. A rubbish book, a book I’d never read and frankly never would, would go into a cardboard box and finally a pile of ‘I’m not sure books’ would sit beside me for a final decision at the end.

The start was difficult. The colonel was fantastically understanding and patient although from time to time had to pull out the odd Jackie Collins from under my jumper where I’d attempted to hide them. The first box was filled and then more and more as we worked through the house, through all the bookcases that I had inherited in the last forty-odd years. That’s a lot of books. That’s a lot of boxes.

The car was full and a trip to the charity shop ensued, double parked as we carried them in to the wide-eyed surprise of the volunteers there; perhaps they thought we’d robbed a library. Driving away, exhausted, very teary – an end of an era. A change. Scary. Getting back home ….. Dear God – freedom. Total freedom. Half empty shelves. Space. This is bliss. Exhilaration. I want more – I want more of this feeling. Laughter and pure joy. And so it began.

Some things were more difficult than others. It meant making decisions which was not my forte. But I can, in all honesty, say that there is nothing, absolutely nothing that I’m pining for or that I miss and wish I didn’t got rid of. Also, it’s incredible how quickly you forget what was actually there in the first place.

Slowly but surely I cleared up my little cottage. Some days it was just a case of clearing out one drawer. A kitchen drawer or cupboard. Just emptying it, cleaning and chucking out the tin opener that my mother gave me when I was a student but had gone a bit rusty, or the three chipped wine glasses that had gone cloudy, never matched and frankly I could buy a new set of four from Ikea for the cost of a cheap bottle of plonk if I really needed more. It was cathartic. It was therapy on a major scale. It felt so darn good.

I found my wedding list from my previous marriage, all the letters from the guests, everything to do with a marriage that was no more. Why was I hanging onto the past? I didn’t want my house any longer to be a shrine to the past. I wanted to move forward. Those were the more difficult days and once the colonel had seen I was on a roll, he left me to it, so I could spend as long as I wanted dealing with the past, putting it behind me, moving forward.

It was liberating. As the cupboards emptied, the nic-nacs on the tables and every visible surface became clearer too as I realised that it actually wasn’t necessary to cover every windowsill and table with ‘stuff’. More space and less stuff meant easier cleaning. Easier cleaning meant less time doing it, so more free time. More free time meant more time to organise and sort and clean … and, live. The more I did, the easier it became and the more I enjoyed it. It was like the endorphins that one gets from exercise. I was happy, very happy, very organised and had started afresh. I had finally moved away from the past and it was good, seriously good.

I’ll still use every pan in the kitchen when I’m cooking and sometimes the Colonel will ask why I have to have three lipsalves, a handful of hair bands and a tube of Crabtree and Evelyn hand cream in every room in yet another pretty little pot, and I’ll call him anal and he’ll call me an untidy, scruffy bugger and we move on, giggling and chatting as together we cook, and clean up ….

☀️☀️Kx ☀️☀️

P.R.O.M.I.S.E.

pexels-photo-371285.jpeg

Make this promise every single day.

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?

P. Prescriptions

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.

O. Outside

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.

M. Mindfulness

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.

E. Exercise

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 …

Katie x

43. The Good Old Days?

 

pexels-photo-533360.jpeg

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.

Katie 🌼

32. Procrastination!

postit-scrabble-to-do.jpg

Is it just laziness?

According to the experts, apparently not.

I’ve researched, googled, contrasted and compared, and the consensus is, that ‘Procrastination is the habit of delaying an important task, usually by focusing on less urgent, more enjoyable, and easier activities instead. It is different from laziness, which is the unwillingness to act’.

Excellent! I am not unwilling to act. I do a multitude of different tasks, (not the one actually required) therefore I am not lazy. I will do anything, from making (yet another) cup of tea, to organising the cleaning products under the kitchen sink (how sad), to having a little chat with Albert the Amaryllis sitting in its little pot on the table. (Even sadder. However I must tell you, looking more glorious by the day, clearly due to our endless chats.) Whilst in the meantime, the main, and only job that I actually need to do remains festering in my mind whipping up increased anxiety, with its friends, stress and guilt following hot on its heels. But apparently this means that I’m not lazy … Phew! The experts have concluded that I’m not bone idle!

To be honest, however, given half a chance, I wouldn’t do all those other little, more enjoyable tasks, but something deep within me prevents me from lying on the sofa with yet another cup of tea and a packet of chocolate biscuits whilst watching endless re-runs of The Graham Norton show. That something is my conscience. Double phew! …. I apparently now have a conscience too. A good start. Perhaps I’m not completely flawed after all.

However in ‘Psychology Today’, procrastination reflects our perennial struggle with self-control. Ahhh now that I know, is one of my failings. Self-control, discipline, lack of good habits and abundance of bad habits is something very close to my heart, as I am becoming increasingly aware that this is the basis of so many of my problems.

What I have found is that the feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety that occur while procrastinating are 100% worse than the actual performance of doing the task in question. The anticipation is so very much worse than the actual event. The problem is not in doing the work, it’s simply starting the work. Once I’m doing it, whoop whoop … it’s a doddle! Once it’s done (and more often than not, without any of the pre-conceived problems that have been building in my head) I feel glorious! I’ve achieved! I’m a super hero! I am Wonder Woman, complete with shield and sword, but minus the dodgy shorts.

Studies show that procrastinators are often perfectionists, as in, they feel that if they can’t do something perfectly, then they back off from the task, rather than not being able to do it ‘with perfection’. At the other end of the scale, (more like me) there are those who don’t have any confidence in their abilities, so that then leads to the task being deserted completely.

Another major cause of procrastination is poor decision-making. If you can’t decide what to do, you’ll likely put off taking action in case you do the wrong thing. (Hello, and welcome to my world). Personally, I’m not good at making decisions. In the past I have made bad ones, which simply goes to reinforce and confirm that I shouldn’t make decisions because I make bad, rotten ones. So simple solution, I put off making the decision hoping that some poor soul will do it for me or I’ll be forced into a decision being made for me which usually has a worse outcome.

We also know that ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and depression are associated with procrastination. Bit of the ‘chicken and egg’ scenario there … which came first, the depression and anxiety, or the procrastination? I don’t know and frankly I don’t think it makes much difference. I just need to end this habit. Because that is what it is. Procrastination is a habit – a deeply ingrained pattern of behaviour that I need to fight daily in order to break it.

So, in real terms, how do I resolve this ‘non lazy’ procrastination problem of mine?

Well I’ve rather taken matters into my own hands and have created a short list of my plan! If however, anyone has any other suggestions, fill your boots … I’d love to hear them!

  1. Make a to-do list each evening for the following day. No more than 5 things and in priority order. It will be simple and short thereby not making it too daunting and scary.
  2. Anything that can be done within minutes of the first morning cup of coffee touching my lips, I shall do. This is pre 8am so it’s ambitious but I do know that getting all the bad stuff done before you’ve had time to start overthinking it, takes the pain out of it. A bit like eating the nasty things on your plate first so that then you can relax and slowly enjoy the best bits.
  3. Do not deviate from The List. Only in extreme circumstances may I do other jobs. Extreme, as in husband needing a lift to Accident and Emergency because he’s hurt himself, and there is blood everywhere, thereby creating another job of clearing up to go on The list. It would be counter-productive not to drive him to hospital. More cleaning and he may suggest divorce. Negative outcome.
  4. Do not find easy little tasks (looking at stats, making more coffee, nattering on the phone (with sister, friends, mother-in-law) until The List is done, crossed off and ripped up and thrown in the bin with flourish and gusto.
  5. When The List is in said bin, have a huge pat on the back, followed by a treat. Chocolate in any form, feet up, blog writing, checking stats, reading, whatever floats my boat at the time. Put simply, a reward.

In time I understand, that ‘praising the good behaviour’ (which is slightly akin to dealing with a small child), will become less necessary as the sheer happiness, relief and delight of having got the jobs done will be enough. I still need however to be treated like a child even on good days, and frankly will never say no to chocolate.

So in answer to my fellow blogger who challenged me to put a Just Do It poster on my wall and incorporate it into my blog, I hope I have exceeded your expectations and gone the extra mile by dedicating a whole morning and a bit, to Procrastination! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading up on this and coming up with a plan. Of course I haven’t got much else done today, but then again, apparently my to-do list doesn’t need to be written until tonight, so there’s plenty of time ….

😘

<<<<<<<

30. The Pot Plant

pexels-photo-459609.jpeg

I’m a gardener. That’s what I do. Gardening is how I have earned enough money to keep the children in food, clothes, cinema tickets, Jack Wills and/or Hollister hoodies (usually and), followed later on by the inevitable laptop (“Durr Mother … I need it for school.” “Does this mean your grades will improve?” I ask in response, and am promptly granted a withering look) and of course, mobile phones (“Double Durr Mother… In case we’re abducted by some axe-wielding madman” … Hmmm, best not answer that one). Most eloquent, my children.

Gardening is what I love to do. Transforming bland areas into a places of beauty with a few seeds, cuttings and a whole lot of hard graft. Total therapy …. mindfulness to the nth degree and even better when it’s not accompanied by horizontal rain and gale force winds. There’s nothing worse than cold water seeping in through your collar, working it’s way down your back and finally reaching your knickers. I really do dislike a cold, soggy bottom, but then I am a soft southerner.

However, indoor plants are quite simply not my thing. I may have RHS qualifications and experience coming out of every orifice, but indoor plants … no. Indoor plants require attention … they are needy, demanding. Only room for one individual with those traits in this house (no prizes for guessing who).

I underwater them, I over-compensate and then overwater them. Over, under, over, under. I forget about them on their windowsills. I forget about them in sitting room, the kitchen and they hate my inconsistencies. They become flaccid and droop, yellow from chlorosis, turn up their toes and die, invariably then finding their way, with a helping hand from yours truly, to the compost bins….. Never having flowered, produced seeds and and therefore never even having been allowed an attempt at reproducing. Imagine going to the grave, never having had sex …. A life badly lived.

Now, I mentioned a few weeks ago that a friend of mine had very kindly given me a box containing an Amaryllis, complete with plastic pot and appropriate compost, and yet my heart sank. Oh God, the pressure to keep it alive! To make matters worse, she is a neighbour who often pops in for coffee, a chatter, a natter and a general putting of the world to rights. Would I have to hide the evidence of one flaccid Amaryllis and it’s impending doom? Should I not allow her into the sitting room perhaps? She was bound to ask … And I am supposed to be The Gardener. She who knows all. Clearly not the case after all.

So, I made a decision. I would treat this plant as I am now treating myself. I would nurture it. I would nurture it with love, consistency, routine and structure (and a teensy bit of Baby Bio if things got bad). I would water it as per the instructions and not deviate. I would feed it also, as per the instructions. I would take my orders and do exactly as I was told. For those of you who are beginning to get to know me, you’ll know that this is not my forte, however, this is the new me and I’m really, really trying.

If it died, then the penalty would be to go and purchase a brand spanking, shiny new one, complete with flowers and pot and costing about the same as two packets of cigarettes or two bottles of wine. And finally, I would have to confess all to my friend. Ha! The deal has been struck and hands have been metaphorically shaken. I have a job to do.

Weeks have now passed. And as I sit here in the warmth of the sitting room with the January sunlight streaming though the windows, I glance over to the table where a tiny miracle of nature has taken place. An Amaryllis standing proudly with rich and succulent green leaves is just, just starting to flower. The swollen buds are no longer tightly closed, but instead are unfurling, opening gently and slowly, revealing the luminous purity of the beautiful white petals within.

A sense of peace and pride is washing over me as I realise that everything needs nurturing, but more importantly, nurturing with consistency. We need it, our relationships need it, our children and even, a silly old plant.

Kxx

28. Baking … The Best Therapy?

pexels-photo-533322.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kx