Inflexible enough to qualify as stone

Today I went to another session of mother and daughter yoga. I am easily the least flexible person in every class I attend, and I have attended a few. I sort of take pride in my unofficial status of ‘person most likely made of stone’. But this is of little consequence, as I really enjoy going!

I can’t touch my toes in any known yoga position. Except sitting crosslegged, but think that ‘might’ count as cheating. I don’t fold over very well. I can’t twist. I cant put my hands flat down on the mat and hold any pose (I go with either fists or ‘splayed out fingers raised just enough to give the semblance, if not the actuality, of a flexible wrist joint’. It now occurs to me that I must have super strong fingers – fingers of steel! (But I know this something of a misnomer as I still can’t bar a chord on my guitar) But on a positive, I maintained ‘downward dog’ position for longer than I usually can, so for me, that was a big win.

Me and my daughter are monster funny when doing yoga too. Other mother and daughter ensembles are pictures of grace and elegance and we are sitting on the mat, mostly laughing with somewhat incredulous looks on our faces. My daughter is hypermobile, and as such finds some of the poses painful. I was told by my physio that I likely was too, and now my body compares to an elastic band that has been overstretched, which accounts for my lack of bendy. I don’t know what would make a person more bendy, and am not altogether sure that I would want to find out.

I play guitar, I swim, I dance, I game, I read, I paint. My hobby pursuits are varied and I have varying levels of success (much variance, oh so much, never play shooter type games with me, I will definitely not kill anything, unless it is on my side..). But yoga is different. I am genuinely terrible at it, but I still pursue it. Several thoughts occur to me as to why. Being bendier is a long-term aspiration, I want to be a springy elastic band, not a sad saggy one. But other than this class, I have not prioritised my journey into an undulating twisty twirly thing. I love this class for the glorious time I am there with my daughter. Experiencing the funnies, the violent massages (my young one is not always a gentle little flower, I think that she believes my body to be a piece of wood that has been very bad. And must be punished by a brutal chopping motion) and when I attempt to massage her, it tickles so much she crumples into someone six times as flexible as myself and occasionally we experience the success at mastering a pose.

Reflecting on this session it occurs to me that I show my daughter a woman, who despite failing multiple times, is still prepared to turn up, do her best, and feel immensely proud of her achievements. I show her that I am prepared to take risks (some poses really feel that way!) and whatever the outcome, I leave the studio in an upbeat, relaxed and happy mood. And maybe this is more important.

Map Point. How do I define achievement?

 

Pebble on the beach

Today was an average sort of day. I woke up feeling less tired than I have been this week, but not so fully energised that I woke up before my alarm. I engaged in my usual domesticity and went to work. On my way home I could feel my eyes welling up with tears, and I had no idea why.

They were not ‘almost tears of happy’. These I get quite a lot. A line in a play, a sentence in a book, the way the sun hits the glass and the rainbows and reflections that it makes. Some kind words from a friend. The world can be an awe happy place. But not this afternoon. This afternoon I was tumbling fast, whilst sitting in a cafe, eating cake that likely (definitely) had dairy in it (this sometimes poisons me a little) and drinking a cup of ginger and lemon infused tea.

It is a feeling that I recognise easily, logically I know that it will pass, but whilst it is present, this maelstrom engulfs every smallest piece of me. This would be the time where I could crack my head into a wall until I turn the wall to dust. But I don’t, I just feel terror after terror wash over me. I feel like an errant stone, laying ambiguously on a beach, waiting to be reclaimed by the waves.

I can talk, chat and smile whilst I feel this way, I may laugh and gesture easily, seeming softly at ease in my surroundings which I am. My surroundings are my familiar, reminding me that it is me who is changed and not them. I phone people up and have somewhat inane conversations just to keep holding on, to know that I do have connection. And then this first crash passes, and I slip into non.

From non comes tiredness, and a strong desire to sleep. I know that this too will pass. And then comes hunger, really big, hugely exciting hunger. I eat quickly to start (knowing that my brain will not register how full my stomach is for the first fifteen minutes) and then I pace myself until satiation arrives. And then I return.

Now I have energy, genuine light in my world, and I wonder what triggers these mad hours, these hours where I feel so incredibly distant from myself. I prod possible causes, have I eaten enough, slept well enough, am I putting myself under too much stress, is this an asd meltdown? Many questions all with easy answers, but as a cumulative whole? I don’t think that is so easy for me to understand. When do things get too much that suddenly all things become a problem? It would be incredibly useful to have an app on my body, reminding me that I need to recharge before I need a reboot. But until such technology exists I will continue to be secure in the knowledge, that whatever my mental state, I have many good people in my life. I am loved.

Map Point. Do I know when I should ask for help?

 

 

 

Yoga is my happy place

Initially, I started going to mother and daughter yoga for the bit pertaining to the mother and daughter. It is nice to know there is a fixed time where we can relax without the usual humdrum interfering. But am beginning to also go for the yoga variable too.

I am not a naturally bendy sort of person. Touching my toes would be something of a miracle, as to date, it has never happened. I sort of kinda hang, and the tippy tips of my fingers come to about the level of my knees. On a good day. I took my daughter to yoga when she was small, as I understand the massive yoga benefits. I just never thought of it as something for me.

Yoga always seems to make me laugh. Tears streaming down my face, don’t look at anyone because it will just make it worse, face aching sort of laughter. I think that this comes from the teacher. She is utterly okay that for around half of the moves, I will have a go, but I mostly just sit on my mat, looking at my daughter, and we laugh together (she is hyper mobile, meaning every so often she needs a little rest!). In the last session, the laughter started when we were attempting a ‘laying down crow’ (even writing about this is making me laugh.. With tears too!). For anyone unfamiliar with this, it involves laying on your back holding your feet together with your hands. In essence, creating an ‘O’ with your legs which you can look through. And I did, locking eyes with my yoga teacher who was doing the same. She then made a comment about it not being very dignified, at which point my face engaged in wetness.

It also really challenges me, and I am amazing myself. When we got to regular crow (hands on floor, attempting to balance knees on elbows, with feet in the air.. much more dignified, and at least a hundred times more difficult than rolling about laughing on the afore mentioned mat), I suddenly felt really motivated. My hands really hurt as they were attempting to take the weight of mind, body and soul. But I kept trying (didn’t succeed this time around… but next time for the win!). This move involves strength, but most importantly, incredibly good balance. I was becoming sort of worried that my hands may never function in their fully working capacity again. But as I left the studio; my hands were fine. This really shocked me, as it turns out, I am stronger than I know.

As we walked back to the car, I felt really light, really clear. I didn’t feel like I could conquer the world, but I was utterly sure of my place in it. I may attempt to find a class just for me at some point, with one definite in mind. The teacher absolutely must make me laugh.

Map Point. When have I surprised myself?

Additional thank you to the teacher of epic’s epic daughter too! Every session she takes photos which are then mailed out. Being a parent of the single variety there are very few photos of me and my daughter together, so these photos are really special to me. Massive amount of gratitude to you both! xx

Little tears of happy

Yesterday I took part in a mother and daughter yoga class. It was run by a woman who taught my young one ‘baby yoga’ when she was small. It felt strange to go back to something that we had not taken part in for such a long time, and also incredibly powerful, for many reasons.

When young one was small we went to lots of classes. We did baby sign language, music classes and we also went to yoga. I loved the stories that Caroline (the yoga teacher) told the children. They were magical and offered the little ones a quiet space, which is something that I think is genuinely overlooked. I think that I find it easy to forget the need for peace sometimes.

And then I think about how that is linked to my body. I know that I have time when I supposedly relax before going to sleep at night, and sometimes this happens. More often I go to bed just before exhaustion kicks in, which does not make for the sleep of angels. Or babies. Or something that is generally perceived to sleep well. Last night I slept really well. And I think that taking the time to actively relax during the day really helped with this. But back to the class. It was in the time at the end of the class after we had all laid on our mats with little lavender bags over our eyes and little blankets on our bodies to make us feel extra snuggly (lets not even go to the block to support our heads and the bolster for under our knees.. yoga folks are seriously into the comfy!), and the meditation started to play. I then had a moment of clarity. I had not felt this relaxed for such a long time, and to have had this time with my daughter, this utterly chilled time felt like a privilege. When I sat up, I was very much aware that my face was getting wet. Not the sort of tears that require contraction of facial muscles, but that sort that spill out unbidden.

In recent times this has happened to me a lot during moments of gratitude. I suddenly feel my eyes producing tears and am taking this as a good thing. I talk a good deal about feeling appreciation for the things that I have in my life and feeling this connected, makes me feel more me. But is it also an overwhelming experience that I need to learn to embrace. It makes me feel beautiful.

Map Point. What makes me beautiful?

 

Inky past times

The photo above is not a tattoo. It was part of a costume that I wore one Halloween when I dressed up as a Deatheater. I painted it with body paint freehand early on in the day. I got some very suspect looks whilst I was walking around my local supermarket wearing my ordinary skirt, top and heels. Clearly, a tattoo of a skull and snake was not in keeping with that particular outfit. It did go much better with my ominous black cloak that I wore later in the evening. But on the inky front, I have two tattoos.

My first I got whilst on a seaside holiday when I was nineteen. I initially wanted a floral design on my hip, but the tattooist advised that having a tattoo on my hip would be very painful, so to go for a more fleshy area. So I went for the base of my back, nowhere close to the bone. And I decided on a new design, a little Chinese character meaning ‘friend’ (and have checked, it really does mean that!). This was before it was super on trend, not that it particularly mattered. When choosing to permanently mark my body, it is important for me to like what I am permanently marking it with! I still like it now, despite what everyone told me at the time.

My Mum was neither shocked nor horrified (though some of her friends were) when I got as she, as she put it ‘knows what I am like’. For many years after I flirted with the idea of a second tattoo, but could never find a design that appealed enough.

Wehn I was around thirty-six I found my design. I had not been looking for anything specific, but I was reading something about Eric Carle who is one of my favourite children’s authors. He wrote a book called ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. He said that he wrote this book because he wanted children to know that there was always the possibility for change. This sentiment resonated with me massively. I had made some fairly major breakthroughs at the time, and suddenly, I knew what my tattoo would be. It would be the beautiful butterfly at the end.

If you have never read the book (and if you have not, I would definitely encourage!) then the butterfly at the end isn’t a traditional pretty symmetrical one, it is a glorious mismatch of colour and pattern. Within around two months from reading the quote, the butterfly now has a residence on my back. It took four hours, it was a lot of ink.

Both pieces of ink still make me gloriously happy. I have had negative comments. One from a lady in a sports changing room, asking me why I have a tattoo in a place that I cannot see. I explained that my back is a big canvas. She was relentless in her questioning (around five minutes, the time it took me to get changed), so much so she was making everyone else feel uncomfortable, but I answered her questions calmly. I guess she needed to vent that day and was disappointed by my lack of energised response. I also had a boyfriend who told me that it was like looking at scars and that I wasn’t to get any more, speak to anyone with or talk about my own, but that is worthy of a whole other blog. However, mostly I have had massively positive responses to my pretty ink, and this does make me happy. My choices for how I decorate my body are utterly my own.

Map Point. When have I felt compelled to change myself because of someone else?

 

New horizon

Last night I made a decision. My sugar intake is much too high and I am going to reduce it, which sounds simple enough. I am too heavy, so I need a reduction too. I am also not exercising which is clearly a problem and I sometimes smoke. I am clearly not someone who is ‘at the top of their game’ when it comes to health.

Exercise is the easy one. I like to exercise, feel much better for it, but have got out of the habit. So as of next week, I will start to re-energise myself. It is obvious, the more you do, the better you feel. Unless of course you do too much and put your knee out requiring a few days laying in bed saying ‘ow, ow’. But exercise is straightforward. Unless it isn’t, in a round about sort of way. It is highly dependent on my motivation being good. Getting started with any new activity, or even re-engaging an old one takes almost as much energy as it does to complete the activity itself. And then, if you as far as the actual activity, you feel doubly spent. So for my first week in my attempt for ‘getting my exercise on’ I will commit to one run. Doesn’t have to be long, uphill or even totally run. I just have to be present.

Smoking. Urg. See the issue with this is that I seem to really enjoy doing it. But it is an incredibly filthy habit, so have rationalised to myself that on the few times that I go out in the space of a year, if I want to smoke, then that is okay. But the rest of the time is now a definite no. I like breathing. I find it entirely life sustaining and anything that hinders that is gone. Goodbye death enhancing friend.

Sugar. If I thought that daring to put my trainers back on and going for a run was hard, I then had the challenge of not becoming fixated on smoky past times. But both of these things times a sizably huge number would describe my relationship with sugar. I like white bread, pancakes, chocolate milk, cake and the holy grail, biscuits. It almost doesn’t matter what the biscuit is and I will consume it. If it dips in tea then that is a win, but I do not judge the biscuits that don’t dip, there is room in my stomach for them all. I can often sit with a full packet of dippable biscuits and after five to ten biscuits I look down at my cup of tea and wonder where it has gone. I am always surprised. And it doesn’t have to be tea, biscuits will dip into almost any hot beverage. Coffee, hot chocolate, herbal teas and paracetamol based hot lemon drinks are all suitable liquids in which a biscuit can be readily dunked. Whilst I was at university I made a website called ‘There’s a Scarab in the Biscuits’ which I only have on a zip drive somewhere. It featured a video clip of how long a person can hold a dipped biscuit out of a hot beverage, before they have to get it to their mouth, prior to catastrophic failure. In short. I love biscuits. But I also love my teeth, not having diet-related diabetes and in truth, I was starting to get concerned about the judgement of the folks in my local supermarket. There was a distinct ‘Oreo’ phase. But knowing that I have such a limited grasp of control when it comes to biscuity goodness, they have to go. At least for the next week.

I think that resolutions like this are incredibly easy to make from a day where I have done very little to promote future wellness. And it is incredibly easy to justify slip ups with all sorts of incredible reasons. I also don’t want to give myself a situation where failure is inevitable, and my self-worth disappears over the horizon line like boats do for people who believe the earth is flat. So am simply setting myself good health tasks for a week. This is something that I can achieve.

Map Point. What can I change this week?

 

My firey habit

Last night I had a chat with my daughter who is eleven. I recently told her that I sometimes smoked. Most people who know me do not know that I smoke, even close friends are generally somewhat surprised when they find out. I don’t smoke very much, and I was asking my daughter how she felt about it. Her opening line was ‘It’s okay that you smoke, but if you ever have to go to the hospital for it, then you have to stop’. I agreed this was a somewhat savvy plan. I also agreed with her that rather than smoking by myself, I would just smoke when I saw friends who also smoked. She then asked me if I felt that I had to smoke to fit in, which kind of made me smile.

The first time I ever smoked I was eleven, same age as my daughter is now. I had one puff of a cigarette that one of my mum’s friend’s daughter had. I felt mildly curious about the experience, I don’t recall feeling any pressure to participate. It made me feel sick to my stomach, it was utterly disgusting. For years afterwards, I was still the only person in my social circles that had, and I fielded a lot of questions. Smoking brought attention. Around the age of fifteen, I started smoking whole cigarettes, possibly as many as twenty in a whole year, so clearly I was hardening to the habit. I mostly smoked with people that were somewhat cooler than me, and I felt incredibly endorsed. By eighteen, I was one of the few people in my social circles that actually smoked semi-regularly.

When I think as to my reasons why they were largely socially orientated. It gave me something to do, something to keep occupied, and people engaged with me if they wanted a cigarette or a light. It gave me purpose. It also gave me a barrier. Smoke created me a bubble of personal space.

Over the years I have gone through phases of smoking lots (university exams) and not smoking at all, sometimes for years at a time. It always seems to start off social then ebb into solitary smoking. But now I have entered into an agreement with my young one, and this is something that I take very seriously. So despite knowing that I could easily smoke, I will remove this from my routine and find some less destructive things to do with my time instead. Or possibly just become very sociable with those that still do..

Map Point. Why do I choose to engage in things that are bad for my health?

 

 

 

Respiratory infection. More so

The infection of a few weeks back has not left. It has, in fact, shunned the antibiotics that made me feel horrible and has come back new and improved! Leaving me even more tired. So I reasoned that a second doctor’s visit was in order. It was. And I got the bigger and badder antibiotics to mark the infection’s three week anniversary (I didn’t make it a cake or buy it any candles).

So this morning I took the new and exciting tablets and I also drunk the hot lemon and paracetamol concoction that has been keeping me functioning. All was well. I then drove my daughter to school. As I was driving on to work, a sudden wave of not quite nausea, and more a sudden realisation that I was about to be very very sick hit me. I held fast. My friend’s son once vomited in the car and despite some prompt and arduous cleaning, the smell did not leave entirely for about a month. I got to work, my breathing was shallow. I opened the door, took a breath, and vomited all over my shoes. But because I had only consumed the drink of artificial lemon colour, my sick was luminous yellow liquid. Really seriously luminous. And it was all over my feet and sandals. I felt both saddened and horrified. Being covered in my own stomach contents rarely makes it into my ‘top twenty favourite things to do!’ list (am now wondering what number it would make, it was quite visually exciting!). I assessed. My feet were yellow. Not so much in the way of jaundice, it was as if I had taken neon paint and sprayed my feet. I found a tissue and contended as best as I could. Then I vomited again. Over my feet again. But this time it had the added bonus of splashing up my legs too. More tissues. Many more tissues.

Mostly if ever people are sick, I used to find it hard not to join them. Fortunately, years of parenting have improved this. Not that my daughter is a sicky type, but parenting definitely turns you into a person of stronger stuff There was, however, one diabolical incident with child and car seat. All I will share is that I am eternally grateful for the small pink bucket and spade that were in the boot of the car at the time.

Three weeks feels like a long time to have a cough for. I have had worse, but not in recent years. I miss running, I miss having enough energy to do the things that I enjoy. I am feeling incredibly frustrated with my lack of energy, but maybe I have taken on too much, maybe I have let my stress levels get too high. And I trust that my body knows what it is doing, and I have been carrying on regardless. Which I guess sometimes everyone has to, but likely listening to my body is a much better plan.

Back to work tomorrow, but will take it easy at the weekend.

And a massive thank you to my mum, daughter, Robert, Maggie, Kate, Will for all your love and support, cereal deliveries, offers of shopping, assistance with recycling, the collection of offspring and generally just listening to me moan about how ill I am. I love you all.xx

Map Point. How can I help myself be more vital?

 

My errant foot

A few years ago I twisted awkwardly on my ankle and made the tendon excruciatingly unhappy. It healed up within a few weeks, but how my body got used to doing certain things I found really interesting.

As I still needed to eat during this time of abject agony I had to go to the supermarket. To allay the pain, I would lean my arms heavy onto the supermarket trolley, to take some of the weight from my foot, making it a good deal easier to walk. This worked really well, and I was able to feed myself (which I always consider a win!). But then my foot got better, and it wasn’t until a couple of weeks after it had, that I noticed that i was still leaning heavy on trollies when I used them. Occasionally, even a couple of years later, I still find myself doing this. For the most part, this feels quite funny.

My body has clearly accepted the familiarity of a particular movement and without me really noticing, it continues to do it. Maybe my body has the memory of that pain so firmly entrenched within my systems, that it accepts this as a default mode. Muscle memory is usually talked about in sports or in playing of musical instruments, but it would make sense that anything that I am doing on a regular basis this could work for.

My friend Kate works for the NHS with their chronic pain team. She speaks to many people who no longer have any reason to be in pain, but they still require high-level pain medication to combat the pain that they are experiencing. After their bodies have gone through high levels of pain, their minds still imagine that it is there, even after the trauma is over, and it continues to manifest.

Maybe the mind works like this too for emotional pain. If something very sad has happened, then sometimes we can get stuck, get looped on a particular set of feelings. Even though an experience has long been over, we still carry the weight, just because we are familiar with always carrying it. Unless I consciously observe my emotional health, it is really easy to hold onto things that no longer serve me. Choosing to put these things down is important. I am allowed to walk unhindered.

Map Point. How am I preventing my happiness?

 

 

I feel pretty

Last night I was sitting in Maggie’s garden, she and her son were cleaning the decking, and I noticed my reflection in the long glass door, and it really surprised me. It wasn’t that my clothes didn’t match (always a possible) or that a bird had sporadically landed on my head (this would be impressive), it was that I looked really relaxed. And also poised which felt unusual to see.

I think it comes down to feeling pretty. It makes me smile as I say that, in a somewhat wry and self-depreciating tone. To me feeling pretty isn’t just about what I look like, it’s about how I feel. When I am confident, feeling self-assured, I feel mighty, I walk taller. And it genuinely doesn’t matter what I am wearing, or if I have makeup on, or whether my hair is scruffed up in a ponytail (although optimistically I don’t have leftover smoothie on my face, this has been a contention and no one ever tells me..and most of my smoothies contain spirulina. Which is green.) . When I feel pretty, I am pretty (irrespective of green cup lines on my face).

I guess we all have our own standard of deciding what it is that we think we should look like. From a myriad of variables, how long or short our hair should be, whether or not our clothes are on trend, or whether we are aiming for a particular physique. And I think it is generally a good thing to aspire to better, but what if that comes at a massive cost, or simply isn’t an achievable goal? I know myself well enough that as much as I might think some hairstyles are utterly beautiful, they are not for me on a daily basis. When my hair is done by somebody else, I love how it looks, but I also know that there is an incredibly slim chance of me waving my arms above my head to attempt the recreation of aforementioned incredible hair. So my hairstyle needs to be low maintenance. This could change at some point, but currently, I would hypothesise, unlikely. Because I understand this, I have much love for hairband (and also my hair!).

Having a realistic understanding of how I function is important to how I perceive myself. If I set goals that are not reachable then that is a world of sad. I don’t want to be in a position where I feel disappointed with myself, where I look at myself and see only things I have failed to do. When I look at myself, I want to see beauty that makes me smile. And that’s what I saw in the reflection last night.

It isn’t that I have changed dramatically, it isn’t because I was wearing new clothes, it’s because I am learning to feel content with myself. And now I feel pretty.

Map point. Where am I judging myself too harshly?