What if……….

I recently posted this image on Facebook:

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Which prompted the husband to comment, “Well that’s a bit deep, is there something you’re trying to tell me?”

On the one hand it might appear a bit deep but even at a basic level, it is absolutely true. Every single day we all make decisions which have the potential to change our entire lives. For sure, most of those decisions don’t actually seem that momentous at the time, but nonetheless, they happen.

But on the day I posted the image I was actually having a bit of a ‘is this it?’ day. Let me clarify – I was NOT thinking that about my marriage, my kids, my job or anything specific. Just a bit of a daydreamy day I guess.

Now and again I find myself wondering what, if I could do absolutely anything, would I have done with my life that I didn’t/haven’t. And to be honest, there probably isn’t too much. I guess the biggest thing is that, if I could turn back the clock I would probably take a different career path. Not because I haven’t achieved – I have had a variety of jobs and have, happily, been fairly good at them. I’ve managed people, been promoted, led teams to improve performance and service delivery and been respected for my skills and professional knowledge. But it’s almost all happened more through luck than judgement.

I never had a career plan. I was at school when computers weren’t common place and where the academic subjects were still considered more ‘valid’. When I got a D in my maths GCSE I was basically told I’d amount to nothing! Can you even imagine a teacher saying that these days?!!  Anyway, that’s another story.. So, no career plan, I didn’t finish my A Levels and as a result, university was never an option. And THAT is probably my one, single, big regret. University…. or a vocational qualification at least!

(Yes, I could go to uni but that’s actually not the point).

I distinctly recall a burning desire to study hair and beauty. From a young child I’d always had an obsession with make up and ALL my dolls had their make up done and their hair cut. I even gave my brother a hair cut one day…. Mum wasn’t pleased and it needed professional attention to repair it but again – that’s another story!

Unfortunately, my grades were ‘too good’ and I was strongly advised that hair & beauty was not a career choice…. It’s important to remember that this was the 80’s/90’s and the beauty industry was not what it is now. My dream had been to have my own, luxurious salon dedicated to pampering clients and have them walking away feeling amazing!

Thinking back, that has been my only real career dream. The only things that, even now, makes me feel excited to think of the potential. With the beauty industry what it is these days, who knows what I might have achieved if I’d stuck to my guns!

Anyway – back to my original point… every single decision you make, has the potential to totally change the direction of your life.  In my youthful inexperience I allowed others to influence me and, although I’ve ‘done OK’, I do wonder what might have been if only I’d been more stubborn and determined!

Do you have unfulfilled ambitions? What would you do if you had the chance to do it all again?

 

Phase Two – a work in progress

Phew… so, week two of 2017 and week two of Phase Two.

Currently I am on day 3 of abstinence from any form of refined sugar. In case you’re wondering, yes, I have a headache!

I am also in the grip of premature Maranoia. I have heard of this state but never experienced it – clearly 1/2 marathons aren’t sufficiently challenging to bring this on (JOKE!).. Basically, at work I am surrounded by people sniffling, coughing and sneezing. I would work from home to keep away from the germs but they’ve infiltrated there too! However, I figure my risk of infection is lower at work as the adults I am with are (hopefully) more aware of the need for handwashing, covering their mouth when nsneezing & coughing, and general hygiene than at  home where my 3 yr old thinks nothing of wiping her nose on me or presenting me with jumbo bogies mined from her nose!

Otherwise, things are going well. Saturday’s short run (3 miles) was hideous but I am reliably informed this is a good thing and should soon result in a performance spike as my body adapts and improves. Happily, long run Sunday was MUCH more pleasant – thanks in no small part to the company I was running with. Thanks Ladies – you know who you are.

Cross training on Monday was the previously discussed Hydro….. OMFG – seriously! Kick drill intervals formed the main bulk of the session and at halfway I was seriously thinking I might vom…. Happily I didn’t, I finished the set and class strongly (for me) but hope that next week my lane mates will understand that down the rope and up the wall does NOT mean swim down the wall and up the rope!

Having worked my legs pretty hard and for 3 consecutive days I did swap the planned Tuesday intervals for a steady 5 mile trot. As it stands my pace is dropping slightly but I am hoping this is because of the fatigue and that, in due course, my body will adjust.

So there it is… I am currently sleeping like the dead, dodging germs and paying really close attention to my nutrition. Training is on plan and I am in a good place….. Long may it continue!

  • Are you training for a Spring marathon?
  • Are you popping your marathon cherry or are you experienced at that distance?
  • Any top tips?

What if I don’t?…

Back in December I took the decision to return to a counsellor I had seen some time ago when I was going through a rough time.

I’ve had three sessions now and feel that I’m making a little more sense of some of the confusion that buzzes incessantly around in my head. There’s still a long way to go but there is definite progress.

Today, amongst mother things, we considered ‘What if I don’t…….?’

To clarify, this wasn’t focused on anything or anyone in particular. It was more about helping me to see that, I have to allow others to do things. Hell, I might even have to accept that the world won’t fall apart if some things don’t get done for a while until people realise that I’m no longer doing it.

The trigger for the discussion was that I felt really guilty because I forgot to get Lily’s snack bag out of the fridge and take it to school. Some might consider this to not be a very big deal. I don’t. I consider that, as her Mummy, it is my responsibility to make sure she has everything that she needs for the day.

To gain perspective (lack of perspective – me??….) the question I was forced to answer was; What’s the worst that can happen?

Obviously for a child who had a gargantuan bowl of cereal followed by a pain au chocolat before school, and who will get a roast dinner at lunchtime, the worst case scenario is that she might get a bit peckish and grumpy. School will provide water and, having spoken to her teacher, will also provide a piece of fruit. So, all in all, nothing too dissimilar to the usual contents of her snack bag.

Conclusion: Nothing awful will happen.

Lesson: No need to feel guilty, it was an accident. Who knows, it might even prove a useful reminder to Lily that she is able to do this herself.

However, in reality, the crux of the problem isn’t a forgotten snack bag. That’s just one incident amongst an accumulation of things that, in isolation, are insignificant but over time, add pressure. Effectively the types of things that build and build until they become the straws that eventually break the camel’s back.

The suggestion was posed that, in order for me to resolve this, I stop enabling this to happen and allow/force other people in my life to take more responsibility.

Apparently I looked utterly terrified at the prospect. For a self-confessed control freak the thought of ‘allowing’ people to be responsible for themselves it nothing short of nightmare fodder!

Why?

What if nobody notices things aren’t being done anymore; or nobody cares they’re not being done; or someone does them but not to ‘standard’; and what if, those small insignificant things build up to crisis point where I end up losing my shit again!

But actually, it makes sense. If one of the things that makes me unhappy is that I feel an enormous burden of responsibility, then I need to deliver that message loud and clear. And I have to allow consequences to be felt in order for changes to be achieved.

 

Phase Two Starts Here

Holy Batman – for months I’ve been nervously working towards a marathon and telling people, it’s fine, it’s not until next year.

Guess what??? It’s NOW next year and I am onto phase two of the plan.

I can’t lie, if I look at the plan on a week to week basis, it doesn’t look too bad. Sensible increases, cutback weeks, some cross training and a planned reintroduction of interval training which had been absent post Bournemouth to allow my injury to recover.

But… even looking at it week to week, I can’t escape that the whole plan….. WHOLE plan up to and including M-Day, fits on one landscape page of A4. And it’s not because it’s in a miniscule font size, there is simply, really not long to go!

Here begins 14 weeks of intense training which will, hopefully (trust in the plan and it’ll all be fine), see me complete the Brighton Marathon.

I never thought I’d even consider a marathon let alone willingly enter, and pay, for it! Of course, there is an element of fear – 26.2 miles is nothing to be sniffed at after all, but ultimately I am looking forward to getting stuck into the miles and seeing how my body reacts to the demands. I’m certain I will learn a lot about myself throughout the training – and about my training buddies! – and I hope those lessons help me with my other, probably more challenging quest for 2017!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

HELP!

Elton John once sang about Sorry being the hardest word… Sorry Elton, IMO it’s HELP!

Certainly, for me, help is one that sticks in my throat. I HATE having to ask. I was brought up to be self-sufficient and reliant – added to my stubborn nature, I would rather see everything fall apart around me than actually ASK for help! (Don’t be fooled though, whilst that happens I will complain loudly and repetitively about it!)..

Enter some of the best girls I could hope to call friends!

Over time, some of my closest girlfriends have cottoned on to my aversion to asking for help and have recently picked the most amazing times to just do it. By that, I mean they didn’t ask if I wanted help. They recognised a situation that I was really struggling to deal with and took action.

Ladies – you know who you are – Thank you!

Mind the Gap!

It is instinctive for most people to expect others to live up (or down) to their own standards. At least, I think it is… It’s the old adage of treating others how you would like to be treated yourself. I have no idea if that’s still a common thing to teach children, although I do try and instil it in my girls.

Where that all falls apart though is when there are ‘gaps’. For example, where one person has a perceived expectation of acceptable behaviour which others don’t ‘live up to’. It doesn’t make either person right or wrong. Life is all about balance, give and take and compromise so whilst peoples standards vary, it’s crucial to be flexible. So, when does the gap become an issue?

For me, I have to be honest it is almost totally linked to my state of mind! And let’s be utterly clear here, I don’t restrict it to other people’s behaviours or standards. My failure to live up to my own standards can cause just as many problems for me!

In this post I am going to focus on not living up to my own standards. here’s an example of how my mind will deal with something on a ‘bad day’.

I’m feeling a bit vulnerable because I’m doing something WAY out of my comfort zone (swimming in this example). Then I arrive at the class and it’s a different coach. START TO PANIC.

The people who are usually in the same lane as me aren’t there. I am lane sharing with total strangers and feeling inadequate and worried that I am going to hold the others up and get in their way when I can’t swim fast enough. PANIC INCREASES

Class starts. Due to rising anxiety levels my breathing is all over the place and I can’t get into a comfortable rhythm.

Class progresses and the unfamiliar instructor starts to throw in conditioning exercises to take place poolside. Already anxious, the reality of having to do press ups or sit squats at the side of the pool in my swimsuit takes me back to every school PE lesson I hated.

That section of the class over (thank heavens!) it’s back in the water. And we are split randomly into teams of 4 for a sprint race of 2 lengths each x 2. FML, I’m back in PE – that rounders game where nobody wanted me on their team as I lack any hand-eye coordination and have honestly, NEVER, hit a rounders ball! Crack a joke about being the weakest link and offer to swim first so the other three can make up for my deficiencies. On the upside, two of the others are familiar to me from Tri and Running Clubs.  The downside of that very same fact – they are both incredible athletes. One is a GB Age Grouper and the other swims like a chuffing dolphin!

We come 3rd – not last but it’s close.

Back to my own lane for the cool down. Into the shower. Physically exhausted from the class but worse, mentally and emotionally exhausted by the feelings the class brought to the surface.

Whilst changing my mind takes control. I somehow spin the emotions of the class out into a spiral of being rubbish at all sports, which in turn led to me considering that actually, I don’t excel at anything in my life. I have never excelled at sports, I am (at best) average academically, my ‘career’ has been a series of happy accidents that have somehow all worked out OK in the end but it’s been a case of more luck than judgement. I’m not even a great mummy – I shout too much and have completely unrealistic expectations of parenting. I can’t run a clean and orderly house – it’s a dusty, un-hoovered, chaotic mess that wears me down every time I walk through the door.

Crazy hey? That is me, not living up to my own expectations of what I should be able to achieve during a swim class.

On a good day I would be left thinking:

GO ME! I bloody hate swimming, I find it really hard and I only do it to complement the marathon training. But I got in the pool on a cold Monday evening in December, did the class even though I felt really ill at ease and I swam nearly 2km.

Back in the beginning I mentioned, treating others the way I would want people to me. Funny how I don’t apply that same logic to myself. I would never be as critical of others as I am of myself. In short, I am a bully – hopefully not to others – but to me.

Do you set unrealistic expectations of yourself and/or others? How do manage when those expectations aren’t fulfilled?

Have you changed a self-destructive pattern of behaviour and reaped the benefits? How did you do it?

Running – frees the mind!

Whilst running this morning I suddenly realised, what I really, really need…. Is a  gadget that takes the blog posts I write in my head when I’m out running and converts them into posts.

Honestly, as well as being amazing thinking and processing time, running frees me from the endless collisions of other people’s priorities, to do lists, places to be, things to do and allows my mind to wander. It’s when that happens I find myself ‘drafting’ blogs on all manner of things. The only problem is, once I get home my mind goes blank the second I unlace my trainers. SO frustrating!

So – if any techy masterminds out there are able to create a mind reading wordpress plug in that is compatible with my theme – that’d would be fab!

 

True Colours

This is a post I planned to write in the spring/summer but for various reasons didn’t.

This year has been a funny one and I feel like it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster in many ways.

Early in the year I started a bit of a wardrobe cull – tired of having loads of clothes that; didn’t fit; didn’t suit; didn’t coordinate with other stuff etc etc it was time to bite the bullet.

A local stylist was recommended to me who specialises in colour. I have always been a huge fan of black. Deep down I know it’s not flattering on me but I like it. I feel safe in it. It’s guaranteed that I can find something to suit my ‘style’ in black. And I don’t stand out in it.

Nicola of My Personal Style came highly recommended and I felt it was time to explore colour a little more.I also decided it was time to explore how it might help me build some self confidence.

Nicola is utterly lovely. I visited her at her beautiful home in Hampshire where she has a lovely studio set up to put you at ease whilst you get out of your comfort zone.

We started with my make up – like most make ups I’ve had done (Bobbi Brown, MAC, Chanel and other John Lewis counters) the end result was somewhat more muted than I would like. But there were elements I loved, one being the foundation Nicola used. I really liked the coverage and could immediately see that the shade was far better suited to my skin tone. I’m a convert to this product after years of being a foundation whore!

Onto the colour assessment… as predicted it quickly became apparent that black is not in my palette! It turns out I am ‘light, cool and clear’. Essentially meaning I should stay away from black and embrace colours with blue undertones. This felt right as soon as we started going through the colour swatches. With me swathed in white we worked our way through a huge pile of colour swatches comparing the effect of different colours against my skin.

I came away with a palette of swatches to work from when shopping. And in fairness, the colours that I would be drawn to if I wasn’t such a black addict, are int here…. Along with some colours I’m not so keen on but I just ignore them.


I’ve really tried to reduce the amount of black I wear.. but old habits die hard and ultimately, I am drawn back to black time and again! It’s more noticeable in the winter, I successfully injected a little more colour over the spring and summer but now……

Well it’s back to my true colours – with hints of my palette colours where I can work them into a seasonal wardrobe that works with my personal style!

Have you ever visited a stylist? Did you enjoy the experience? What did you learn about yourself?

If you haven’t, would you consider it?

Taking action..

Over the time I’ve been blogging I’ve made no secret of my ups and downs with PND and, more recently just plain old depression. In fact, very recently I blogged about the impact of my medication.

Well, after toying with various options for a while, I’ve decided I need to take action. Action to try and work out a way to stop being so bloody miserable!

Taking action includes re-engaging with a counsellor that I saw a few years ago. I’ve thought about it from time to time as, deep down, I know that I need to sort my shit out if I want to move forward. Nonetheless, actually doing it has been a real challenge. 

A challenge made far easier by the use of email…. instead of having to phone for an appointment and explain myself, I was able to just send an email asking for an appointment and the reasons why.. easy peasy! 

And so it begins… what will undoubtably be as painful as it is beneficial. But I have already taken steps to address some of my physical concerns that have lingered on post babies. 

The new year will see me working to unlearn self-destructive behaviour patterns. Because, apparently, if I don’t value myself, then I will never accept others valuing me. 

2017 – it’s going to be an education! 

The drugs don’t work…..

Or do they?

Fear not, I am talking strictly legal, prescription meds that keep me from being a total fruit loop….. or maybe they just reduce my fruit loopiness a bit!

I had resigned myself to just sticking with the meds. A few failed attempts to reduce them had rocked my confidence and I felt that, maybe, it was better just to suck it up and accept that this chemical imbalance is now part of me and if the meds help then so be it…

The trouble is, whilst anti d’s put you (me) on a more even keel (I still have ups and downs), what they also do is stop you (me) truly feeling. They don’t just take the edge off feeling low, they take if off the ups too. And the longer it goes on, the more I realise that the impact of that isn’t particularly great.

If I’m going through a low it’s possible (although not easy) to plaster on a brave face and push through. But, strangely, when things are good, it is SO hard to ‘fake’ the happiness. That genuine joy that so many people I know experience, just isn’t quite there for me. Even when I should be having an amazing time, there is something missing.

And if you’re prone to a bit of overthinking (who, me???!) then it’s easy to start questioning whether it’s the meds preventing me feeling really happy – or is it how I really feel? How do I find out? Would it be better to bite the bullet and gradually come off the meds and just learn to ride the lows out?