Wednesday 3 June 2015

Self Preservation Society

So, the plan for today was get up early, write a load of reports, prepare a load of healthy food, go to the gym, go to school for a meeting, stay late at school marking, rush, rush, do, do.

That's on top of a couple of nights of not sleeping well at all, sciatica trying to take hold, period pains (which carry a whole load of other connotations and echoes I'm not going to go into here) and 2 very late nights at school already.

And we're only on day 2 of a nearly 8 week term during the first three weeks of which I have 30 reports to write, 3 observations to prepare for and endure, a new child starting in my class, governors visiting, workshops and various other schedule changes and goodness knows what else.  Oh, and an NQT year to complete.

So it's not a massive surprise that this morning I woke up with an almighty, ouch-I-don't-think-I-can-actually-move headache and the snuffles.

My initial reaction was 'groan', great, thanks, how I am I supposed to get on with my plan now then?

And then I decided perhaps I just needed to make a new plan.

Instead of rushing and racing around like I'm some kind of superwoman (which, clearly I am, just not today), maybe I just need to slow down and sit back a little.  It's going to be pretty impossible to survive the longest term in the world if I'm already pushing myself to breaking point on day 2.

So I snuggled back down to try and get a little more sleep.  Then I took some time just to sit and be.  Then I got ready for the morning in a leisurely sort of way and sat and drank my hot lemon and drank a nice big glass of water.  Next I decided some very gentle restorative yoga would help, so to the mat I went.  I was just about to reach for my usual breakfast of a green smoothie when I realised I needed something much more warming and comforting so I made myself a lovely bowl of my favourite buckwheat porridge with manuka honey, cinnamon and fresh berries.

Finally, about 2 hours after I intended to, I sat down to write some reports, having first lit a candle under my oil burner with some lavender and rosemary oils which I just felt would help my head and snuffles.

Now I've taken a break to write this, and later on I might walk, leisurely to my meeting rather than dash there in the car, and maybe I won't go to the gym tonight after all.  It depends on what feels best for me at the time.

None of this is massively exciting or ground breaking, so why have I felt the need to blog about it?

Because actually, for me it is quite massive and ground breaking.  It's not long ago that a day like today would have signalled disaster, uselessness and failure.  Stupid head for aching, stupid back for hurting, stupid nose for snuffling, stupid NQT year, stupid term, stupid observations, stupid reports... would have been going round my head.  I would have been beating myself up for being useless and lazy, getting up so much later than planned, not getting as much done as intended.  Or I would have swung the opposite way and like a petulant child declared woe is me and vegged on the sofa all morning eating crap and making myself feel worse, all the while feeling guilty for not doing anything useful at all yet continuing to rebel against the guilt by piling ice cream in my face and drivel into my eyes via the medium of TV and social media.

But today I don't feel guilty.  I feel under par, yes, but I'm listening to that rather than fighting against it. I'm being nice and kind to myself and giving myself a chance to pick back up.  I'm not sticking to my (as always overambitious) plan, but I'm not throwing it out in a strop either.  I'm flexing it, dialling it down where it needs it, steering around it.  Other days I dial up my plan.  Other days I achieve more than I thought I would, it'll all balance out in the end.

I'm doing what I can, with what I have, where I am right now.

And, finally, that's good enough for me.

Friday 8 May 2015

Shocked and Saddened

In the wake of the UK General Election I am left deeply shocked and saddened.

But not for the reason you might think.

This is not a post about my political standpoint or my personal opinion of the election result.  In any way.

It is a post about being a human being moved by the behaviour of other human beings.

But not in a good way.

I have truly been sickened to hear and read online the way people are talking about and to each other...ripping each other to shreds.  It is shocking. And it saddens me that people treat each other like that, whatever the reason.

Regardless of our opinions. Regardless of our standpoints. Regardless of our own personal situation or journey, we are all human beings.  We are all people.  We are not who we vote for or what we believe...we are people...human beings not human doings or human votings.

We are supposed to be a compassionate being.  We are supposed to be blessed with empathy and understanding.  We've all learnt about being polite and about treating each other with respect and kindness.

But all of this went out of the window last night and today, not to mention the months long lead up.

I get that people are passionate and I love that (but who cares what I think or love, that's not the point).  Passion is fantastic. It gets things done, it moves and motivates people.  But rudeness? Aggression?  Insults and quite frankly revolting language aimed personally at other individual people (not politicians, every day people who may or may not have crossed a certain box)?  Passion is supposed to inspire, not incite.  I am certainly not inspired by some of the words I have been reading over the last few days.  I am horrified.

It's pretty clear very many people agree that the whole system is totally rubbish...but it's the one we've got and calling each other names probably isn't going to mend it.  If the politicians all want to call each other names and bully each other that's their call but why do we all have to jump on their rude bandwagon we're so vehemently arguing about in the first place?  And the way to convince other people to vote for your party (whichever it is) is not to reduce ourselves to sewer rats.  It's neither clever, nor dignified, nor what many would either aspire to or want to be associated with.

I am lost for words.

I know I am what's known as a highly sensitive person and therefore I will be absorbing every single insult, jibe, remark and coarse comment I see splashed about the internet much more acutely than others and that perhaps to many people it'll be like water off a ducks back. But I just can't accept that this type of behaviour is ok.

In fact I'm pretty sure it isn't.  Ever.  For anybody.  In any type of situation.

I am seriously knocked for six.  I've not been able to stop thinking about it all day.  Every new comment or article or post I see hurts, but I can't stop's like picking off that scab that keeps growing back just to check if it still hurts (it does).  It makes me feel sick and I don't understand it.

I haven't and am not going to disclose who I voted for nor what I think of the election result.  This isn't about that.

But if there was ever going to have been a result that would have kept us from beating down each others doors, from throwing fiery tongued flames over each others fences, from becoming wild, aggressive and quite frankly revolting animals...then that's what I would have voted for.

I would have voted for a way for people to express themselves without insulting their neighbour.  To be passionate without being personal.  To debate and argue, yes...I love a good argument.  But without the slanging and fisty cuffs.  No thank you. We don't need that.

I seriously cannot express how strongly or how deeply I feel about this, yet I have managed to express all of this without uttering a single profanity, without naming anybody else, without threatening anything or anybody.  And it wasn't that hard to do because of how passionately I felt about it.

Please, please, please let me not be the only one.

Good things happen.  Awful things happen.  Life happens.

We deal with it.

Without turning on each other.

Shame on you, Britain.  Shame.  On.  You.

Thursday 12 February 2015

The point.

A few years ago I worked in London, in media and then in adult learning and development.

I earned a fair few pounds.  I put on a fair few pounds also.  I worked long hours.  I got stressed.  

And one day it hit me.  This is rubbish.  I mean I always knew it was, but one day it properly hit me that the rubbishness of it all was too rubbish to carry on with.

But I didn't do anything about it really.

Until one day it got even more rubbish and I found myself jobless.  That bit has all been well documented on here.

So what did I do next?  I re-trained as a teacher.

I no longer earn very many pounds.  The cakes in the staff room continuously conspire to pile back on the pounds I shed.  I work very very long hours, stupidly longer than before.  And when I'm not at work, I take my work home with me and I'm still working.  Even when I'm not working I'm thinking about work, I don't think the teacher brain ever switches off.  I get stressed. Very stressed. And busy. 

So what, then, on earth was the point?

What was the point of swapping London, well paid, well vino-d stress for local, dismal paid, no jollies, work-at-the-weekend-every-weekend stress?

That's a question I often wonder about asking myself.  I read many articles by people who got into teaching and then leapt straight back out again a year or two later because they couldn't stand it or the workload or the parents or the politics or the stress or or or or.

What is the point?

Here is the point:

The point is, in the middle of a god awful, when will it end, is it nearly half term yet week, the world offers you one of the most beautiful, heart warming, uplifting experiences on a plate, right in the middle of where you work.  Just as you're innocently going about your lastminute breaktime photocopying rush.  Just as a matter of course because that's what this place is all about, there in the middle of the hall are 30 children all dressed up as pirates and sea creatures with that look on their faces that says they don't know whether to be terrified or excited.  And seated all in front of them are another 150 or so children eagerly anticipating what's about to come, shuffling to get the best view, surreptitiously waving to their friend about to perform.  And perform they do. As the music builds, they twirl and whirl, they flap and spin, they climb that rigging like that's all they were born to do.  And the crowd go wild.  There's clapping and bowing and cheering and grinning until our faces ache. Hearts are a fluttering like the flags on the ole pirate ship.

And I think to myself: That.  That is the point.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

What to do when you can't do anything

So, according to my schedule I should have done high intensity intervals on Thursday and Friday evening, a full weights workout on Saturday, a yoga class last night and another load of intervals tonight.  And in between all of that been a teacher and kept my house running.

I haven't done any of those things, because, following a slight altercation with an errant hoover attachment in which I came out far worse than the hoover, I am currently joined by my old friend Si. Attica.

I was only saying the other day how he hadn't popped round for a while.  Never, Tempt. Fate.  Or accidentally try to ice skate down a corridor on a hoover head.

Oh, and I have a giant head cold.

So, I can't actually do anything.


Ok, granted, to begin with I couldn't get out of bed unaided...but what I could do was rest.  Something my body has been trying to tell me to do for ages but I've been ignoring.  So, rest it is.

Then, when I did manage to shuffle out of bed and hobble to the kitchen, what I could do was make sure I eat right.  I may not be able to throw a 20k kettlebell about the place, but I can make sure I eat plenty of green leafy stuff and stay away from the sugar, dairy and caffeine (inflammatory, snot inducing and mood sucking the lot of them).

Ok, so I'm actually doing pretty good here, I can rest and I can eat well.  Boom.

Turns out after a few pain killers I can actually move a smidgeon as well.  So, every hour or so, in between resting (and watching complete turd on the TV), I move.  It may be just to shift position, it maybe to hobble 3 steps across the room and back, but I move.

I also learn I can crawl a lot more comfortably than I can walk.  I probably won't get a week's shopping done that way, but it's a start. And actually crawling is recommended as a fab all body exercise...possibly not the way I was doing it but there we go.

After the first few days I can move a little more so I build in some upper body stretching because all this lying around and bracing myself to protect my lower back plays havoc on the rest of it.  Have I ever mentioned how utterly excruciatingly painful it is to have a coughing fit when you also have sciatica?  Horrible.

Next I try to get some fresh air and actually make it to the doctors to stock up on anti-inflammatories which speed things up nicely.

Next I discover that a few of the yoga poses and stretches I've learnt recently are doable and also feel like they're helping.  Clearly lots more of them are definitely not doable and won't even be attempted, and that's ok.  

But, it turns out that if you're very careful, even a few chaturanga dandasanas are possible.  And anyone who's done a few of them knows that's a workout right there!  

So really, it's not about focusing on what I can't do right now, it's trying to work out what I can do.  It's just about trying to figure out what are the bare minimums I can do here to try and help myself out a bit.  Charging into the gym the minute I can actually move is not going to solve anything, it'll make it a whole load worse.  Lying in a heap of pity feeling sorry for myself and not moving from the sofa for 4 days? Same.  Heroically shuffling into work because I feel like I should? No need and not even possible. Can't drive. Can't sit down.   But I know I would have opted for one of those routes in the past.

I haven't done what I 'was supposed to do' these last five days or so.  I haven't completed a single day's work or a single work out.  My exercise has not been 'perfect'. But it has been better than nothing. And every day I've done a little bit more. Apart from when I've got it wrong and tried something that clearly very much hurts, I've enjoyed experimenting, seeing how I can work around this, which movement patterns and stretches help, what I can do that actually feels like some kind of a challenge without injuring myself further.  

And eating properly throughout  has kept me in a fairly positive mood.  I say fairly because it's been quite miserable, yukky, painful and lonely too to be honest, but it would have been a whole load worse in many ways if I'd tried to treat it with pizza and icecream.

Now, if only this cold would shift...

Sunday 5 October 2014

I am what I am

I am what I am.

And by that I mean, I am not anybody else.

Which is a fairly obvious thing to say, but one that's not that easy to remember.

I have a t-shirt.  Here it is:

It says that happiness comes when we stop comparing ourselves to other people.  Again, simple advice but still a habit that seems so deeply rooted in very many (if not all?) of us.

I think comparing ourselves to others goes beyond a bad habit, it crops up all over the place. From being last to be picked in the school sports teams to being asked to rate yourself versus your peers in performance management reviews.

We're often told not to judge ourselves, but judgement and comparison are all around.  I'm writing this with X-Factor on in the background (it's ok, it's the 'Overs', I'm not missing much. By the way, over what, 25!? dear oh dear), Strictly not long finished on the other side.  Judgement, judgement, judgement. Comparison after comparison.

You're not as good a dancer as him.  She's a better singer than you.

What about comparing yourself, to yourself. About progress.

I say this because it's a lesson I'm having to keep learning and relearning and reminding myself of over and over again as I go through my journey to get fitter, leaner and more body confident.

The 12 month program I signed up to uses past successes as a way to demonstrate how brilliant the program is.  Which had the effect of making me believe that if I did the program I would end up looking like them too.

Which of course, I don't.

I look like me. Only better, smaller, leaner and fitter.

But I do NOT look like the buff amazing gym machines in the photos. AT ALL.  Which meant initially I was massively disappointed and felt like a huge failure.

When I see other girls at the gym with less dimples showing through their leggins, I feel like  massive failure that my legs don't look like theirs.

When I see somebody in yoga take a pose deeper than I can, I feel a massive failure for not being as flexible as they are.

When I see somebody running without knackering their back, I feel like a massive failure for not being able to cope with simple movement.

Because I'm comparing myself to others.  I don't know their story, their journey.  But I do know mine.

me then, not loving that hill
me now, literally jumping for joy!
And if I compare myself now, to the me at the beginning of my journey, happiness doesn't even begin to cover it.

Strong is the new skinny

I can hardly remember a time when I wasn't trying to be skinnier.  Or just less fat actually as in order to be anything-er, you have to be a bit of whatever it is in the first place and (in my mind anyway) skinny is not something I have ever been accused of being.

My entire adult, and pre-adult before that, life I have been trying in some way or other to lose weight. To make that number on the scales and the clothes label, along with my bulk, shrink.  With varying degrees of success.  Most dramatically a few years ago by following the Dukan diet and losing 3 stone.

But I have always struggled with consistency.  I know all the dos and don'ts, I could probably write a book on diet and nutrition, but sometimes cake and ice cream still wins.  Unfortunately, emotional eating doesn't really care what you know, it only responds to how you feel.

And, as this blog will testify, I haven't always felt great.

One thing I definitely haven't always felt great about, not surprisingly, is said bulky body.  I've always scorned statements like "love your body no matter what".  Thought it a load of old pap that appreciating your body as beautiful and loving yourself would naturally lead to it magically morphing into the leaner more lithe body you (were now not allowed to admit) you always wanted. 

It makes sense when considered alongside all the positive psychology I avidly believe in.  It's basically the same premise as Shawn Achor's happiness advantage - success comes from happiness not the other way around (thin people aren't happier, happier people find it easier to get/stay thin); The Law of Attraction (and other similar less new age versions) advocates 'living as if' and working towards what you do want, not trying to escape what you don't.

So, whilst trying to pretend that I love my flobberyjobs I continued to pursue ever new ways to get rid of it.

Most recently by following a year long online coaching program that turned out to be much more about what's on the inside, than the outside and that includes a not-for-the-weak-hearted 6 times a week gym program.

Which has left me in quite a peculiar place.

Right now, I am not the lightest I have ever been.  I am not the skinniest I have ever been.  I am not wearing the smallest sized clothes I have ever owned and I don't have less body fat that I ever have.

But I am the strongest I have ever been.  And the stronger I get, the more I push myself, the leaner I get, the more toned I get and the more my body changes shape.  

Suddenly I understand what it means to love, and to be grateful to and for my body (although I don't think the feeling's mutual after a round of weighted elevated split squats).  Sometimes I can hardly believe what it's just been able to do. The weight I've managed to lift at the gym or the yoga posture I somehow managed to bend myself into, and then hold. Yes, I can now even do the yoga I always wanted to but never managed to, um, manage before.  I am more flexible and more confident, I have more stamina and I love challenging myself to go just a little bit further every time.

I've still got rolls, but I've also got muscles I never even knew existed before and the more I focus on those, the more those rolls get less roly.  I may not ever learn to love the rolls, but I certainly love the rest.

So, it turns out I had it all wrong in the first place. I was entirely chasing the wrong goal.  It is not about trying to get skinnier. It's not about trying to lose weight.  It's about getting stronger.  I can't control what the scales do, but maybe I don't need to care about that anyway.

What I can do is get off my butt, get to the gym, lift those weights a little bit heavier than before and high five myself for being so damn awesome.

Strong is SO the new skinny.

Saturday 4 October 2014

The naggy draggy side of blogging

The problem with writing a blog is that when I'm not writing, I feel guilty about it.

The problem with having two blogs is that guilt doubles.

It's not that I feel bad about not having anything to write about, that doesn't really bother me.  If I don't have anything much to say at any point then so be it, I'll wait until something crops up.

The problem is more about having too much to say - ha, who knew, me having a lot to say!? ;)

The thing is, when I know I've thought of something I'd like to write about, but for whatever reason I haven't yet put finger to keypad, it just sort of hangs over me.  And then it builds up, and up into this really annoying, anxious naggy, draggy feeling that I 'should' be writing.

Which is really not the point at all - I don't NEED to write anything.  There is no SHOULD about it.  I'm not being paid for it, it's not my job, I don't have a huge raft of subscribers baying for more (although I have had one anonymous post demanding an update).  Since the point of this blog in the first place was about exploring the area of happiness and whatnot, feeling a sense of duty, guilt and shoulding all over the place about it kind of ruins the point.

But it happens nonetheless.

And the problem with that is it creates a kind of blockage.  That one post that doesn't make it onto the screen creates a barrier behind which every other post I think of builds up.  For some reason, I get complete blog paralysis.  On my Feeding Happy blog I have about 15 posts stored up ready to write from the last month or so.  Which is ridiculous, because I now actually can't remember the recipes or anything about the food I want to write about. Which means I'm still not writing them until I try to remember/find what it was I did in the first place.

It becomes this huge insurmountable scary mountain of a task.

And I completely forget my own advice.

Like any huge looming massive job, the key is to break it down.  Managing to get through all those backed up posts is pretty daunting, but just writing a quick little post about something new that has cropped up is totally doable.

And the funny thing is, as soon as one post is out, they just keep flowing.  This is the fourth I've written today and I can hardly type fast enough to get it finished so I can get onto the next one.

The dam is down, the floodgates are open, I'm on a roll and am destined not to shut up again for a very long time.

Sorry about that.