27. Normal is Good

pexels-photo-371383.jpeg

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.

Kx

Advertisements

26. Having a Hobby, or ‘A Thing’

pexels-photo-91460.jpeg

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

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

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

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

And tennis is my thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kx

24. Always Wear Your Knickers …

trousers-underwear-nostalgia-past-54611.jpeg

How not to go about getting a dress altered …

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

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

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

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

Humiliation doesn’t really cover it.

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

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

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

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

Kx

22. Happiness!

 

pexels-photo-772395.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Better still, we will all be happy there.

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

Kx

☀️☀️☀️

21. Facing Your Fears!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kx

18. Let the Battle Commence!

pexels-photo-339805.jpeg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And you’re strong, right?  Yes!

Battle on McDuff and attack this week!

Kx

15. Snow Glorious Snow!

pexels-photo-289649.jpeg

Glasgow this morning is covered in a thick blanket of fluffy, white snow. I feel transported back to my childhood and have an overwhelming urge to bounce out of bed and wake up The Colonel to show him the fox’s footprints in the garden.

Instead, as the bedroom, sitting room and kitchen radiators are not working and Carillion Amey who look after the house can’t get out until a week tomorrow to fix them, I stay in bed, warm and cosy but with a jolly cold nose peeking out from over the bedclothes.

So, I turn on the iPad, in the process getting a pretty cold arm too and look at the news, the weather and the latest on American politics. I see that Donald Trump is in excellent health and could possibly live to be 200, and the rest of the news is all pretty bleak with pictures of jackknifed lorries and people stuck in their cars overnight. The weather doesn’t look to be improving all day either.

A few weeks ago, I would be fascinated by disasters. I’d read every story on an avalanche, mudslide or earthquake. I’d read about children kept hostage for years by mad men and women. Frankly anything bad or evil. The good stuff, the happy stories seemed to bypass me. Although in my defence, there often seems to be in the news more horror stories written, than stories of joy.

It would take over my day, my week, my entire thought process. I’d feel hopeless, helpless sympathy for the poor souls who had lost parents, sisters, brothers, children and their homes. Whilst I suppose it shows an element of sympathetic humanity, which is good, my obsession was fairly extreme and therefore not so good. Particularly when you bear in mind that almost every single day, there is a disaster somewhere in the world.

Today for the first time, yes, I read the news. I pondered over it. I felt for the struggles of others and yet, I didn’t dwell on it. I have my own little struggles to deal with, however meagre they may seem to others. I have my routine which is getting stronger every day and helping me enormously.

But I feel guilt. Guilty that I’m not thinking every moment about others. Does that make me a bad person? I don’t know. Isn’t there something in the bible about taking the branch out of your own eye before taking the splinter out of someone else’s? I don’t really remember from my scripture lessons, but either way, I’m not sure that is easing my guilt either.

So I ponder on this as I lie in bed having put away my iPad and snuggle back to the warmth of The Colonel. My freezing arm wraps around him and my nose happily thaws itself on his warm, soft back.

Oh dear, it appears to have woken him up. Shame! Is it still too early to show him the fox’s footprints in the snow?

Kx