This was never about a bikini

ComicGirlIconAll being well I am having surgery on Friday. Seven stone (100lbs) weight loss leaves a legacy and thanks to the generosity of my local Primary Care Trust, they have agreed to fund an abdominoplasty, which is the removal of all the excess skin on my abdomen.

Getting that approval was a long process and, I must stress, was NEVER motivated by a desire to wear a bikini and parade about on a beach.  I have felt deeply saddened every time I have heard that comment – and I’ve heard it many times – because if you knew me at all you would know that I would never do that. Of all the factors that influenced my decision, my appearance in the briefest of clothing was never an issue.

I am having it done because my skin is constantly inflamed and infected as skin rubs against skin.  I coat my abdomen in talcum powder each morning and by the end of the day it is a gunky, smelly mess. It is unpleasant, it makes me feel self-conscious and impacts greatly on my self-esteem.  I’m not doing it to parade about in cropped tops, to show off a washboard stomach or anything whatsoever to do with vanity, this is for my comfort.

In going through this operation there will be extensive scarring both laterally and vertically over most of my abdominal area, creating an upside down cross. Laterally it will go hip to hip and remove all the skin below my navel.  The vertical incision will go much higher and will mean that they will have to relocate my navel.  Possibly in Chelmsford.  🙂

In opting to have this done I am choosing to go through major surgery for something that few people will ever see.  I’m doing it because my skin is causing me problems.  I’m doing it because it’s going to make me feel better not having to cope with constantly irritated skin. I’m doing it because afterwards I can exercise without the sweat and friction making it worse.

There will be a long recovery time.  There will be extensive scarring – the official write up of it is ‘brutal’ and it will hurt- a lot.  In doing this I’ve not made a decision about how I look but what will be of benefit to me long term.  So much good has come out of me having lost weight, it’s just sad that this has been one of the downsides.  Still, thanks to an NHS who are prepared to consider funding for cases such as these, I am thankful to be able to have this done at all.

I’m aware of the arguments against funding for what is, in essence, a self-inflicted condition, but I will save the NHS a great deal of money in the years to come by eliminating my risk of obesity-related health issues.  I have maintained my current weight for over two years and have enjoyed the benefits of being much fitter, healthier and happier as a result.  This will also mark the end of a massive transformational process for me. I hope you will wish me well as I go through this, but please forgive me if I don’t post ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures.

Well… apart from this one. 🙂

RachelJLewisBeforeandAfter

Posted in Dieting, Emotions, Exercise, Health, Self-Esteem, Weight Issues | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Monday: “Today is a good day to die-t”

ComicGirlIconDear Lieutenant Commander Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation, please excuse me from borrowing and modifying your Klingon battle cry; “Today is a good day to die.” But changing ‘die’ to ‘diet’ nicely sums up what I want to talk about.

For many of us, Monday is a mini New Year when we resolve that this is the week we start treating ourselves well and not like a walking version of the Central Bedfordshire food recycling box. I don’t suppose I’m the only one who forgets that left over food can go in here and be taken elsewhere to be composted, rather than being put in my stomach where it composts nicely onto my bum.

Monday in a lot of people’s books is a dreaded day, of hauling your backside off the mattress at some unearthly hour and schlepping into work to embark on yet another week of the same old same old. But even though we dread Mondays and they’re stressful enough already, we’re pretty sold on the idea that a new healthy eating or living regimen needs to start on this day of the week.  Seventeen of my Facebook friends (always a reliable data set), would start such a campaign on a Monday and so would I. It seems the natural day for this to happen because you haven’t had time to louse anything up yet.  You’ve got a fresh new week ahead of you, you’ve spent the weekend eating up the contents of the fridge and there’s a good chance you’ll make it to Friday – 5 whole days – before someone moots the idea of going for a curry.  By Friday you’ll no doubt have lost at least 50 lbs (or it’ll feel like it), so will be entirely justified in having one of everything on the menu with extra poppadoms.  You feel like a whale on Sunday, Monday rolls around and off we go again on the diet rollercoaster.

Some people have a different tack, such as starting midweek, on a special date or even a season.  There’s no doubt about it, it’s a whole lot easier to embark on such things during late spring and summer.  Blue skies and warmth really do have a positive impact on the way you think about yourself. I know there are such things as warm salads, but from about October to March I really don’t want to stray too far from casseroles, stews, curries and pasta.  At this time of year my body is yelling ‘sod the cucumber, just gimme the carbs!’

But I’m weary of the diet treadmill.  I’ve been on it with varying degrees of success since I was 16 and I just want to be off it.  Richard Foster the author of the very wonderful Christian book Celebration of Discipline (no, it’s not any shade of grey), says this which resonates very deeply with me.  “The disciplined person can do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.  The disciplined person can live in the appropriateness of the hour.” In his book he says that the discipline you need to cultivate is not a set of rules. True discipline is being able to respond to things appropriately. Are you being the party-pooper holding the celery stick at the feast or, conversely, the greedy guts at the agape supper?   There are times to celebrate and there are times when it’s just not appropriate to be stuffing your face and you need to be able to respond to that.  Also, he tells me that discipline is something that’s a daily thing that you work on – it’s organic.  It’s not an all-or-nothing event but a choice you make regardless of outside circumstances.

Having made my way through most of Richard Foster’s book now, I’m realising that every day is an opportunity to treat myself well and to care for my body.  It doesn’t just need to happen on a Monday with all guns blazing.  It can happen quietly on a Wednesday, a Friday or Tuesday afternoon.  It doesn’t depend what’s in the fridge it’s just exercising the choice not to eat the contents of it and go into Sunday evening with that bloated, heavy feeling that makes you decide that Monday is another all-or-nothing event to get your head around this stuff.

As we know from the story of the Hare and the Tortoise; ‘slow and steady wins the race.’  OK, so you might not break the land speed record for weight loss, but making a simple choice every day to choose to value yourself and not be a Central Bedfordshire food recycling box is a good discipline to cultivate.

An idea…

Lent starts on Wednesday (13th Feb) and many people choose to give up a food or drink item during that time.  The classic is chocolate and at the end of it many are found in a Cadbury-induced coma on Easter morning.  How about breaking that association with food that’s ‘bad’ for you (I detest that phrase, it’s not ‘bad’), and fast by doing something else?  Give up watching TV, buying a newspaper or listening to music. Walk when you’d usually take the car, or dig out your bike and cycle to work.  I’m going to try and not whinge and whine for the entirety of Lent.  This is going to be extremely tough and will probably mean removing myself from all social media just to be able to cope!  Some of us spend a lot of time criminalising food and that’s not really helpful when it’s our attitudes to it and to ourselves that are the real problem. So this Lent, be nice to your food and give up something else instead. 🙂

Posted in Dieting, Emotions, Food | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Happy Thoughts

ComicGirlIcon You don’t need something depressing on a Monday morning, do you?  You need the energy to explode out of a filing cabinet drawer a la Hong Kong Phooey. You need attack!  You need zip! You need an exceedingly large mug of tea!

Just like the new year, I’m a big fan of Monday mornings.  OK, yes, I’m a freak, but hear me out.  This is mainly because I haven’t had chance to louse up the week yet, not because there’s something inherently brilliant about Monday.  Monday morning, whether it’s raining, bright sunshine or snowing for England, is something that I look at as being fresh and new, rather than it being another go-round of the same old same old.  It may be the same old same old (albeit just with a different date), but that’s not how I look at it.  I’m all about thinking positive!

Well, that’s the plan.

I would be lying to you if that was how I carried on throughout the week. It’s inevitable that as the week goes on and the stuff builds up, my shoulders droop that bit more, my feet don’t pick themselves up as high as they did and I’m feel about 10lbs heavier.  Thinking positive becomes more of an effort, but I try to do it every morning.  It’s become important to me.

I don’t really get annoyed and frustrated with other people anymore. I’ve realised that I’m not responsible for their choices in life and that it’s simply my responsibility to be the best person I can be; to you, to my friends and family and to myself.  I count myself as fortunate, because I really do know some wonderful people.  But I shake my head at some of the things people say to and about one another if what I see scrolling by on the wider social media is anything to go by.  Honestly, if I lived endlessly surrounded by that much unpleasantness and poor attitude, I’d be sticking my house on the market, moving away and getting myself a fresh set of friends.  People are the same everywhere, you say?  Have you considered that it might be you that’s the problem?  Just a thought there.

I’m not stupid, I know that (to borrow a book title from Meera Syal) “Life isn’t all ha ha hee hee”, but neither is it always a miserable episode of East Enders.  If you’re always going to post miserable things and unpleasantness, then that’s all that you’re surrounding yourself with.  Find something nice to say, compliment another person or see the good in the world. Watch David Attenborough, read a good book, or go and stand on the top of your nearest hill and look out at the view (ignore the incinerator).  The media may be trying to convince us that we’re all going to hell in a handcart, but honestly, we’re not.  Not this week anyway.  Some good exists in the world, you just need to get your head out of your backside and find it.

Yes, we all have down days. No, we’re not all insane morning people like me.  But it really is important that we’re aware of who and what we’re surrounding ourselves with.  Are you  surrounded by people that are pulling you down, or are they pulling you along and up?  There will always be one misery-guts, there always is.  But by and large, are you in a positive environment?  Is there at least one person who’s going to make you smile? Good!

If you find yourself in a negative environment and it’s starting to come out of your mouth, then that really isn’t going to do you any favours.  If you do one thing in any situation, then change your attitude.  Changing your attitude and thinking positively is not a remedy for everything, but take it from me, it can make all the difference in how you think about yourself, your job, your relationships and the difficulties that you find yourself in.  A good attitude and bit of positivity can mean the difference between staying stuck and getting out of that mire. OK, it may be a long struggle, but you will get there and I bet you’ll get there all the sooner.

Have a great day! 😀

Posted in Emotions, Personal Development, Self-Esteem | 2 Comments

Managing Expectations

ComicGirlIconMany of us start the year with good intentions, and in the first few days we’re genuinely committed to improving those bits of our lives where we feel we’re not reaching our full potential.  We make solemn promises to ourselves and the rest of Facebook that we’re not going to eat as much, we’re not going to drink to excess and from now on, our middle name might as well be ‘gym bunny.’

It’s a story that repeats itself time and again. We recognise that something’s not how we want it to be, but it turns out to be the devil’s own job to change it and carry that change much beyond the end of January.  Before we know it, we’re back to tucking into foods we vowed we wouldn’t, waking up with a hangover every Sunday and that gym membership remains predictably unused.  Why is it so hard to sustain changes?

In the latter part of last year I attempted (and failed) at the No Diet, Diet.  For me, it was a classic example of what happens when you start something with good intentions and two weeks later, find yourself so busy that it’s been three days since you even thought of it, let alone did anything about it.  But from it I learned a salutary lesson: My habits are what keeps me doing the same old thing and as I get older, my life settles ever deeper into ruts as those habit pathways are reinforced.  Sometimes habits are good.  For instance, I find it difficult to break the habit of having a shower first thing in the morning or cleaning my teeth after breakfast.  On the other hand, I have very detrimental habits. I find it hard not to finish a bottle of wine once I’ve opened it or to leave one item in the packet for another occasion. I like things to be finished up and the temptation to eat the last one of anything – or leftovers at mealtimes is immense. I don’t like leftover food and find it hard to bin it.  It seems almost criminal.

Hot on the heels of our New Year’s resolutions, in the way that night follows day, is the self-flagellation that goes on when we ‘fail’ at these changes; perhaps not aware of the enormous habit-web that surrounds our behaviour. You’re almost fighting against gravity to get out of your rut, so is it any wonder you have ‘failed’ in your quest to exercise five times a week? You can’t create one new flimsy habit pathway and expect it to cope against the steel mesh of your other habits, without getting out the pliers and snapping some habit strands first.  If you are ‘failing’ at your desired change, take a look at what’s going on around it.  Are you fighting against some deeply ingrained habits that might also need to change?

Perceived ‘failure’ is good at sapping every motivation to keep going, so starting small and building up is going to be a better way of seeing results than crashing and burning on day 4 because it’s unsustainable.  Far better to have achieved one walk a week, than beating yourself up because the 5-times-a-week gym thing didn’t happen at all. So you can’t achieve all the things, but perhaps you could do one thing. And do it well.

My one thing for this year is a word: Consistency. I’m sick and fed up of starting things and stopping them, so I’ve decided not to do anything new. Instead, I’m going to be more consistent about what I already do. For example, being consistent about when I go to bed.  I’m an early riser, but it’s not unheard of me to only fall into bed at half past twelve expecting to be raring to go at 5.30am. That causes all sorts of problems later in the day – tiredness, shortness of temper, inability to concentrate and usually a desire to overeat. It’s a sure-fire way of wreaking havoc on my day, so tweaking it is a good thing. I’m not changing what I do – I’m still going to bed – but I’m simply being more consistent with the hours I sleep and the importance that I place on it.  I spent the best part of 10 years with self-induced sleep deprivation, so now that I can sleep properly, I need to make the most of it.

But I’m not making any grandiose plans about changing this, that, or the other. I’m just being more consistent in those areas where I have flashes of good stuff going on, but struggle to turn them into successful new habits. At the moment I’m concentrating on sleeping and writing. When I have those things working more like I’d want them to, I’ll turn my attention to some other areas.  But there will be no targets, no ‘you must,’  just the quiet expectation that small changes, if done consistently, will yield something good in time.

Posted in Comment, Dieting, Exercise, Personal Development | 1 Comment

Say it with Pasties

ComicGirlIconInterflora may want you to say it with flowers, but Bolton-based Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery have something far better.  They’ve launched ‘Pasties by Post.’  You can keep your petunias, I’ll say it with a cheese and onion pastie instead, thanks.

 

It’s January 4th, how’s your New Year diet going? Mine’s not even started and I don’t think it will do either. Not after the tweet today announcing that Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery have launched their Pasties by Post service.

Go on… you know you want one… Or two, have two.

There’s one bad thing (well, actually there are several bad things) about living in the south of Britain, and one is that the nearest branch of Greenhalgh’s is 175 miles away. Southern Britain (with the exception of Cornwall) is a desert when it comes to good bakeries.  Forget the film Ice Cold in Alex, and trekking across the desert to get a beer; there’s one called Scorching Hot in Stockport to be made when it comes to locating decent baked goods around here.  The south can churn out a sausage roll, yes; but not like Greenhalgh’s can.  They can do cake too, but nothing so ludicrously addictive as a piece of vanilla scone (pronounced the same as ‘one’ not ‘own’). When it comes to pies and pasties Greenhalgh’s are so far above the rest that it’s not really a fair fight.  And what would God eat?  Greenhalgh’s.  He would.  I’ve asked him.

Which is why it’s always been a crying shame that the most southerly branch is in Altrincham (pronounced Altringham – no, I have no idea why).  Even having one in Cheshire still means that it’s a 3 hour drive for me just to get a decent lunch. But salvation has come and believe me, I’m trying out this service next week.  Greenhalgh’s will now post out pasties to anywhere in the country.  Hallelujah and the happiest of happy dances! 😀

Of course, this does mean that any attempt to lose some excess Christmas poundage is going to go seriously off the rails.  Just like Krispy Creme with their box of 12 doughnut selection, I can see that the familiar Greenhalgh’s white, green and orange boxes will be a common sight up and down the country, as word spreads of their fame and everybody gets to know the heaven that is a steak pie.

Now, if they can just do the same with their loaves and cakes, I never need eat inferior southern baking ever again. Oh and daughter is requesting your tomato soup Greenhalgh’s.  Can you work on that one next?  Thanks!

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I’m not buying it

Bryony Gordon wrote a fabulous piece in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday about fat still being a feminist issue.  What’s cheering is that she highlights several key women who have stuck two fingers up to ‘society’, the media and done the unthinkable – put on a few pounds. As you’d expect, they look fabulous. What’s not so cheering is the fact that this stupid battle with weight exists at all; but it does, and most of it is fuelled by the media.  Take away the insanity of reading about the latest must-have diet and who looks fabulous in a size 6 tube of clingfilm, and I’m sure there’d be less need for anti-depressants.

Also yesterday, a very enlightening report from several agencies was released; highlighting, over a two week period in September 2012, exactly how women were being portrayed in national newspapers.  Just the Women does not make for happy reading and in places, especially the section where they highlight the reporting of crimes against women, it’s downright sickening.  If you read nothing else this week read this report. Please.

There’s no doubt that the media are obsessed with women’s bodies.  This is unsurprising, given that according to the report cited above, only 22.6% of writers on national publications are women.  It would seem a large proportion of our national print media is written by heterosexual men, finding endless ways to say ‘look at the tits on that.’  And then again only nice tits, belonging to women under twenty, who can be encouraged to look at the camera in a way that gives the impression that they’re ‘up for it.’

Of course, if you’ve been in the UK for longer than 5 minutes you’ll know who the worst offenders are; but yet they’re still allowed to peddle their pornographic and demeaning wares on a daily basis. And it’s all freely accessible, placed at just the right height in the newsagents and on the coffee tables of the land, so that little boys can be groomed on how you treat women and little girls can grow up safe in the knowledge that they’re only of worth to society if they can fill an E cup. Oh, and they can only feel good about their bodies if they strip off and show everyone what that body’s like.  True self worth so the media tell us, can be achieved through getting your kit off in the Daily Star. Well excuse me if I don’t subscribe to that pile of horse manure.

I’m 42 years old and my formative years were spent in the time when we had our first woman Prime Minister.  OK, so, looking back, her legacy isn’t too rosy, but what man would have had the courage to do what she did – take on the might of the unions and stare the buggers down until they realised that she was damned serious; she really wasn’t for turning.  I can’t for a minute imagine David Cameron doing such a thing to the British press, going on at them for so long and so hard until The Sun stopped producing page 3 and the Daily Star just disappeared from existence.  I’m not even convinced he has a spine let alone the balls to do something like that.  But that’s what the lancing of these carbuncles of society is going to take.  Someone right at the top who says no and keeps saying no until the media realise that we’re no longer willing to put up with this rubbish.  We expect and frankly deserve better.  But outrage, no! You mustn’t ‘muzzle’ the press, it’s all about freedom and self regulation.  What’s self-regulation given us? A print media that feeds us its own version of womankind; a distortion, a mercator projection if you will. It looks like a woman, but actually isn’t any woman any one of us would recognise or want to be.

It’s a sad fact of life that many things that women know about how to be a woman come from the media.  It’s they who tell us what to know, how to be, what to see and believe; as the Just the Women report neatly puts it, newspapers and magazines are our ‘first draft of history,’  I’d go as far as saying they’re giving many women the first draft of themselves.  And that first draft can be in place for a long time, decades even, before we get to a point as we’re doing now where, stopping and thinking about things and inquiries such as Leveson allow us to discover just how long we’ve been kept in the dark and fed this crap.

This isn’t about burning your bra it’s about one crucial thing:  Equality. Men are not written about in the press like this, so why should we be? This is 2012, we should be through all this by now. We should be making great strides into the future, eradicating poverty, cancer, getting Starbucks and Amazon to pay their bills and leading great social crusades to improve the planet we all live on. Instead the media have us still grubbing about in the primordial slime, trying to make us outraged that the likes of Adele and Lady Gaga will not play the game and diet themselves into misery. Bryony Gordon is right, it’s a gleeful affront to them and the more we do it, the more it will drive them berserk.

So let’s do it, let’s drive them berserk ’cause you can bet your bottom dollar that David Cameron won’t. A simple message to you: ‘Don’t buy it.’  Read the Just the Women report, arm yourself with the knowledge of what’s out there, what’s being peddled as ‘womankind’ and take a stand not to buy, or read any publication in print or online that has a reputation for demeaning, spreading lies or distorting the truth about women.  Yes this means you’ll have to stop reading the Daily Mail; but think of it in the same category as stopping smoking – you’ll be cutting your risk of dying from terminal bigotry by 100%.  Yes Mum, I mean the likes of you hardcore Daily Mail readers!  Come on now, how much pain would it actually cause you to read a broadsheet and not a tabloid?  Would it really mess with your head if you didn’t know what fab diet Jennifer Aniston was on, or what sector of society was out to steal your pension this week?

So I’m in, who’s with me?

EDIT: And if you’re wondering why I’m lumping the Daily Mail in with the likes of the Daily Star, it’s because they successfully lure millions of women to their website and then fill their minds with all sorts of seemingly innocent rubbish, as Hadley Freeman of the Guardian has pointed out in her article today.

Posted in Beauty, Comment, Depression, Dieting, Self-Esteem, Weight Issues | 4 Comments

The True Value of a Blogging Woman

Liz Jones may have nothing nice to say about Mummy Bloggers in her article in the FailWhale on Sunday; but I, along with many people, get so much out of blogs that I’d say they’ve been a sanity saver.

I’ve been blogging since 2006.  It all started very inauspiciously in a quiet backwater of Livejournal; when I started to jot down what I was doing, what I was observing and how things were going in my life.  I wasn’t out to set the world on fire, it was simply a way of sharing what was going on with family, friends and anyone else who wanted to read it.  That was six years ago and along the way I’ve written about having emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, struggling with being massively overweight, having depression, struggling with insomnia, low self esteem and being diagnosed and treated for sleep apnoea.

While many people would view such writing as massively self-indulgent – laying your life open so that you can reap sympathy from a sycophantic army of followers – in reality, that never happened.  Yes, of course people are going to say that they’re sorry you’re going through a tough time; but equally there were those voices saying ‘what are you going to do about this issue?’Are you looking at this problem objectively?‘ or even ‘Rachel, just pull yourself together woman, you’re being an arse.‘  I have no problem with any of that and especially the latter, because it would frequently come from a woman who I admire enormously.

Over the last six years I’ve developed as a writer and what I post these days has more to do with being an encouragement and a support to women rather than seeking help for my own issues.  I try to post more objectively and I hope that blogs like mine can be useful, even if it’s only for someone  to read what I write and say ‘I’m going through exactly the same thing.’  If I write about what I’ve been through then maybe I can help someone else to know that they’re not going through it alone or that they’re not the first person to feel like this.

For instance, I am not a ‘gushy’ Mummy.  I did not enjoy being pregnant and after I gave birth I didn’t find myself spewing adjectives to suggest that I was now complete as a woman, simply because I had done this amazing, incredible thing and produced this tiny bundle of gorgeous precious life.  Not that my daughter isn’t precious; but I am not one of those women who took to motherhood like a duck to water.  I think the phrase you’re looking for is brick to water. I struggled and I cried – a lot. I didn’t sleep, it was a slog, it was hard and there were times when I wondered whether I wasn’t deficient in vital DNA, because I simply patched my daughter’s wounds up and sent her back out to play; I didn’t insist on bandages, cotton wool and cuddles with Mummy. It was only through reaching a wider audience through my blogs that I understood that I wasn’t the only one who felt like this.  Phew, I’m not a freak!  Well, not much of one.

Equally, I’m not the kind of woman who cares a toss how many children someone has, or even if couples choose to have them at all; mainly because I’ve been on the receiving end of the ‘only the one, dear?’ brigade.  Yes, we only had the one; is my lack of fertility / willingness to go through all that again, somehow a crime? I’ll let you suffer with Post-Natal Depression, an ectopic pregnancy and see how you feel about just popping another one out.

Despite Liz Jones’s derision (and let’s face it who gives a stuff what she says, she writes for the Daily FailWhale, the biggest social evil in Britain today); I think bloggers have a vital role in keeping the women of the world on an even keel.  Blogs can inform and they can reassure, they can be a place where you can seek help or give help and they can be an oasis of humour in a really bad day; the reassurance that your life is not as bad as the car crash in this blog post.

In 2001 I started a Yahoo email-based group called the League of Domestic Goddesses.  We were an international bunch of Mums (and Moms), who all found ourselves at roughly the same stage in life.  Using the system of circular emails we used to keep each other updated on how things were going and along the way share a joke or a broken heart.  I’m still in touch with many of them; although these days we all hang out on Facebook and some of our little ones are now taller than us and have finished High School.  When I started it, it was a reaction to feeling lonely and isolated in a part of the country that I’d just moved to.  I didn’t know many people and I didn’t have much confidence to make friends.  I believe that’s one of the beauties of the Internet, your friends are now totally portable.  You can live in Ampthill or Angola and Amy will still be in Minnesota, Peggy will still be in Washington and Jo will have posted another kick-ass blog and brought the house down.  It’s a busy world, we live busy lives and the Internet is just as much our support network as face-to-face friendships; only fools underestimate their importance. I have no idea what sort of person I’d be now if I hadn’t joined an online community; but I know that my life would be all the poorer for not having done it.

Liz Jones may not get us, but that matters not one jot.  The main thing is that we get each other and through the medium of blogging we support  and tow one other along in this great mad parade of life.  The BEST thing about reading blogs as opposed to newspapers, is that you can read them perpetually for free and perhaps that’s what makes the likes of Jones really angry.  There isn’t anyone who is going to stick a paywall down on Mother of Reinventions or demand that you subscribe.  This is me.  I don’t have an axe to grind, a political agenda to kowtow or a fixed number of words to stick to. I’m simply here to say I’ve been there, done that and the kid’s been sick down my t-shirt.

Long Live Women Bloggers!

Posted in Comment | Tagged | 3 Comments

Do Something Different – Day 7

Seven days in and we’ve completed our first week on the ‘No Diet, Diet’, also know as Do Something Different.  Even on a seemingly easy week, it’s been hard at times.  In many cases that’s not been because there hasn’t been time (apart from one day), but it’s shocking to see the hold your habits have over you. There’s been lots of ‘I don’t want to…‘ pouty-lipped nonsense from my particular habitweb but I pushed right through it and mostly the experience has been good.  Apart from one day… Read on.

So we started quite innocuously with a no TV / no music day.  Simon is apt to slump in front of the TV of an evening and I will have music on as background to everything – apart from writing, which is done in monastic silence.  For Simon, it was an easy day.  He never even had a chance to watch TV, because he didn’t get home until 10pm.  I on the other hand, had the unsettling experience of working in a silent church without my music for company.  I’ve been working perfectly happily there for over 5 years with my iPod in the little dock.  Doing my job sans music left me feeling oddly vulnerable.  Still, I didn’t give in, I pressed on through and the rest of the day passed off pretty well.

Day two’s task was to write something for 15 minutes.  Simon wrote a diary entry – not something he’s ever done before and I wrote the world’s worst poem.  You can read it here and the less said about that, the better.  During the week, we each had to pick two things from a list to do in addition to our daily tasks.  Half the battle was deciding what to do. In the end I decided to have another go at Zumba on the Wii.  I’d bought it over a year ago but absolutely couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t keep up and none of what I was doing bore any relation to what was happening on screen.  This time though, I embarked on it from the view of just throwing myself around the living room for the required time, in the vague hope that some of the moves might correspond.  They didn’t, but it was hugely fun and I was seriously out of breath at the end of it – all good!

Day three was the day we were tasked with not having our favourite drink.  Simon’s pretty much an even split between tea and coffee.  Mine is unequivocally tea, but substituting coffee for tea wouldn’t really be breaking a habit, just swapping one thing for another.  So I drank water and squash.  This was a toughie, especially first thing when you’re having to drag yourself out of bed at what the hell o’clock.  It’s been my habit since at least 1988 not to do this without the aid of tea (fasting blood tests aside), so there was definitely a lot of pouting going on.  Also, a few cases of not knowing what to do with myself. I had a few occasions of ‘I usually make a brew now’ and standing looking wistfully at the kettle. But we survived.

Day four.  Three days in and we were motoring along happily.  Not so today.  I should have known I was in trouble when I woke up with a headache.  Nothing bad just a dull ache.  Now at this point you might think ah… caffeine withdrawal.  But I’ve never been an excessive tea drinker, 3-4 a day and no caffeine after 2pm as I go to decaff coffee. Anyway, I threw down a couple of paracetamol, thought nothing of it and went to work. Two hours later I couldn’t focus on the computer screen and I was in so much pain it was coming out of my ears – literally, my ears were pounding. At that point I went home and spent the rest of the day experiencing the deep joy of my first ever migraine. Disturbed vision, throwing up, the lot.  Lovely!  So much for today’s task which was supposed to be going for a 15 minute walk.  I didn’t get out of bed for the rest of the day. Simon didn’t have time, giving himself indigestion in the Cycle-three-miles-from-the-station-throw-down-some-dinner-rush-out-to-a-Deacons-meeting, pleasantness. Neither of us managed day 4s task.

Day five. Get up one hour earlier.  We already get up at half past five so really that is not going to be practical, so we were flexible and swapped it for day six’s task which was make a list of what we want to achieve by this time next year. Simon’s going to be building stuff.  I am going to be writing stuff.

Day six. Get up one hour earlier. It was Saturday, so instead of lying in bed ’til all hours (8am – when you’re up when we are, that’s a lie in), we got up at mostly the usual time. I am very much a morning person so getting up early never bothers me.  Today we did our other task for the week, together.  We went to watch some local sport, having a wander down to watch Ampthill 2nd and 3rd XV play.  I didn’t even know the ground had a name (Dillingham Park) I just thought it was Ampthill Rugby Club.  Simon’s a former rugby player, I’m a (clueless) spectator, but there is something very primal about the sound of sixteen stones (220lbs) of bloke crashing to the ground at your feet.  They make a rather loud ‘oof’ noise as well. After that, we did our missed 15 minute walk and took in the new information / refreshments / loos Hub in Ampthill Park, which is very smart!

Day seven’s task is to do a random good deed for someone. It’s like being in the Brownies all over again!

Next week, we’ll be working on changing the way we behave. Tomorrow will be interesting as we’ll both be being more assertive! So as the classic Fleetwood Mac track goes; “don’t ask me what I think of you, I might not give the answer that you want me to…” [Insert classic guitar riff]. 😀

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Doing Something Different – Day 1

My husband and I have been together for twenty two years and married for seventeen of those.  In that time a lot of good things have happened, but we’ve also accumulated a lot of baggage.  Yes, in one way I do mean physical baggage, because we have more stuff in our house than is healthy – but that’s a whole other month’s worth of work.  More fundamental to that, we’ve collected a set of behaviours and attitudes along the way that mean we’ve gradually worked ourselves into a rut.  We always do it this way…  We always go here… We always eat this… We always sit here… You know how it is. It’s most unconsciously done, but before you know it, your habits have created two solid walls either side of you and the exit is a six foot-long box at the end.

We don’t want that.

So, for the next 28 days, Simon and I are going to work on something together (not something we usually do) and we’re going to be focussing on doing something different.

We’re not going to be doing this at random, we’re going to be working through a book and through this blog we’re going to keep ourselves accountable to you.  Can we do it?  That, right there will be a major achievement in itself, because we’re not all that good at seeing things through to the end.  We’re good at starting stuff, but not finishing it.  We’re good at identifying what we want to get rid of, but we’re not good at getting it to leave the house. We’re good at daydreaming, but we’re not very good at turning those dreams into reality.  We’ve become slightly fearful, we’ve allowed our shyness to get the better of us and both of us have things we run away from.  Well, it’s time to stop running and to turn and face some of those big scary things and big scary people.  Maybe they will be BIG SCARY THINGS, maybe the people will SHOUT, in which case there may be tears.  But I think it’s highly unlikely that any physical harm will come to us in the next 28 days.  The only thing that’s going to be uncomfortable is the unfamiliar sensation of doing something different.

So this is what we’re doing.  We’re following this book.  The No Diet, Diet.  It isn’t to specifically focus on the diet aspect of it, but it’s because these people at the University of Hertfordshire are in the business of helping people to break down the habit webs that form.  From their research they have discovered that the happiest, most productive and slimmest people are those who, by and large, do not have these ingrained patterns of attitude or behaviour, but who retain a high degree of flexibility. Our lives aren’t particularly bad, but we know ourselves that it’s become a case of the same old same old and it’s getting boring.  One thing we don’t want to happen, is to wind up becoming a couple of middle-aged stick-in-the-muds, which is where we’re both heading at the moment.  We used to be spontaneous, back before going out anywhere with a small child required the logistics of the British Army.  Small child is now taller than me, but that negative attitude about going anywhere on the spur of the moment has persisted.  ‘It’s too much effort…’  Not it’s not, it’s just learned behaviour, it’s just a habit I’ve fallen into.  I always go to Milton Keynes because I know Milton Keynes. It’s familiar, I know my way around, I know where I can park.  I never go to Luton, or Stevenage, or Hitchin, or Bedford for that matter; because going there would require me to drive to a town and not know where to park.  How much money will I need for the car parks? Where are the shops? I don’t know where anything is, I don’t know what’s there.  The more I see it written down the more I see how laughable it is, but in my head these fears are very real and they are for Simon too.  He won’t mind me sharing with you that he struggles in social situations.  Well, he might, but… 😛  Why is that?  Why does an intelligent, lovely person such as him struggle to meet new people, or to be in a group of more than six?  It’s a big old habitweb that he’s allowed to form because he’s given in and fallen back time and again.

So this is us, being brave, and turning to face our big old spider’s web of habits and behaviours and having a month of doing something different.

The No Diet, Diet starts small.  It’s not about going in at the top, it’s about making gradual changes to challenge the way we do things and how we think.

Day 1:  For Simon he’s not going to watch TV all day.  For me, I’m not going to listen to music all day.  Simon will come home and slump in a chair and switch the TV on.  I always listen to my iPod, so to go without music for an entire day will be a challenge.

As we go through the next 27 days, I’ll post at intervals and let you know how we’re getting on.  Hopefully by doing this we can remain accountable and finish something once in our lives. 🙂

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Double Standards?

This is just a comment, rather than a fully-fledged blog post; but it’s on the back of something that is currently happening on Twitter.  This morning I read a re-tweet from Caitlin Moran, the Times columnist and author.  Caitlin had re-tweeted a campaign link from a girl trying to get the editor of The Sun newspaper to stop printing pictures of women’s breasts on page 3.  Of course I signed. I find it wearisome that nearly 42 years after it first appeared, it is still going.  Using Moran’s own yardstick of feminism ‘are the men doing it?’ No, they’re not.

Or are they?

What about the low-level insidious objectification of both sexes that goes on without us seemingly batting an eyelid.  To my knowledge, nobody ever went into acting to be a pretty face on a screen.  I’m sure it isn’t in any actor’s career plan, that they stop at 25 because they’re not looking as fresh-faced as they once did. In the same way, it isn’t any music artists’ reason for doing what they do, to pack it all in once the calendar sales dry up and they’re no longer the centre spread in Mizz magazine. Actors don’t go into acting and musicians don’t write and perform songs to be nothing more than a pretty face on a TV screen.

It doesn’t seem that an actor or a musician’s ability to demonstrate their craft is the measure of success these days; but how good they look.  They are hired or marketed on the basis of how sexually appealling they are to teenage girls, to young men, or to the massed-ranks of middle-aged women.  We don’t judge on ability these days, we judge on looks and it’s to our detriment.

I have double standards. I am very happy to sign a petition to end Page 3, but I do not speak out about the pressure that young male actors / musicians are under to ‘look good’ and remain as bankable as they can for as long as possible.  Inevitably, they will lose the fight with gravity and end up pushed aside. Or worse, they buckle under the expectation and end up being treated for an eating disorder, or some other stress-related side-effect of an industry that only values how they look. Never mind that they could be 5 years away from an Oscar-winning performance, or a Grammy-winning album. Why is it that the media are so obsessed with airbrushing everybody to within an inch of their lives, only to turn around and poke them with a sharp stick, if they leave the house without 3 inches of make-up or a six-pack?

I know, quite possibly that Dominic Mohan or News International won’t take a blind bit of notice of mine or anybody else’s wishes.  But just stop yourself the next time you find yourself noticing how attractive someone looks. Is that all they are to you, a pretty face? Or do you know something of the person behind it? Perhaps it’s not just Page 3 that needs to change, but our whole attitude to people, as well.

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