New toy

I have not written for a few days. Some times life get busy, and even important things can take a back seat. My life has not been any busier than normal, but there has been a new advent in my life. I am now the proud owner of a bass guitar.

I started playing guitar when I was seven years old. This might infer more than it really means. I have never had any aspiration to play in a band or perform (although I have on the latter), I play for me. I started learning chords and remember being able to knock out a pretty decent ‘Daddy’s taking us to the zoo tomorrow’ quite quickly. When I was eight, I started to learn to play classical. I had guitar lessons throughout most of my schooling and did some grading exams. And then around fifteen, I stopped wanting to learn anymore. I still played and loved the songs that I already knew, but I no longer had the motivation to extend my knowledge in this area. I would still sit and cuddle my guitar for many hours allowing my fingers the familiarity. But newness was no longer in my repertoire.

I think that the same thing can apply to so many areas of my life. I learn something, feel that I have achieved all I want to, and then move onto the next thing. This is, on one hand, a truly awesome thing. It allows me to harness many different types of skills. But the expression ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ does readily spring to mind. I then thought about this in a wider context. I was talking to someone about the job market and recruitment recently. It was pointed out to me that the ‘job for life’ has long been extinguished and that now we all supposedly must have a ‘career portfolio’. In essence, this means that having one particular skill set is no longer enough, we all should have several. Apparently.

I have always had the most glorious aptitude of being able to do most things that my work has required of me and have worked in enough places that my skill sets are wide. But they are not focussed. I am good at several things, but am not a master of any of them. I think that this is sad in some ways. If we are encouraging everyone to be good at everything, then some level of specialism is lost. But then I read an interview with Elon Musk. He was suggesting (to massively summarise) that people with only a singular specialism lose the wider view, and thus limit the number of ideas available to them for advancing in their field, whatever that may be. So having lots of skills actually enables a massive amount of cross referencing, what works in one area might be transferable to another.

The most major difference between my six string guitar and my bass is that my bass only has four strings. However, those four strings are pretty much the same (albeit somewhat lower) as the bottom four strings on my other guitar. So now I have started playing bass, I am already equipped with a massive amount of transferable knowledge. Currently, I am playing several times a day, until my hand aches and my fingers feel numb, and it is such an incredible thing, so much love for my new bass guitar! Maybe it isn’t that I ever stopped wanting to learn more, I just needed a way to express it.

Map Point. What do I want to learn next?

 

 

Approval

Last night I watched a film called ‘To the bone’. It was about young people struggling with anorexia. Firstly the film reminded me to go easy on myself, and secondly, I started wondering when food became a contention for me.

Growing up my Mum always cooked our meals. We almost never had anything resembling take out and going out for dinner was a massive treat. My brother had been deemed hyperactive, so my Mum scratch cooked everything to avoid additives. We ate well. My packed lunch for school was pretty much a cheese sandwich and a chocolate bar every day (with the occasional satsuma that I would take for an outing outside the house before bringing it home again, slightly more squidgy than before). I was always a thin child but ate goodly amounts. I rode my bike, swam and danced regularly, so I guess that helped to keep me toned, but then around aged twenty-two, I started to get bigger.

Maybe it was because I left home, or because I became lactose intolerant, or was low, or didn’t exercise as much. There are so many contributing factors that establishing a singular cause is pretty much impossible. I know from going through phases of reduced eating as an adult has been directly linked to my level of stress. Even now I occasionally fantasise about doing this again, as I know that it is utterly the quickest way to lose weight (but it is muscle weight.. and this I am keen to hang on to!), but I also know that it is no longer an option. I want my daughter to have a healthy relationship with food, and watching a parent pick at meals or not eat them at all is the quickest way to encourage problems. If a parent doesn’t think that they are worth feeding, worth being taken care of, then why should the child think any differently? So although I wouldn’t use this route again, I do find it frustrating that I can’t seem to achieve any consistency with my weight.

I have never engaged with any particular dietary plan. I don’t calorie count, portion control or weigh (or shake) anything. To me, this feels laborious and is treating the symptom, never the cause. It also makes food for me, feel boring. I understand what a good diet is, understand how food breaks down (recent revelation, I now view the white and tasty carbs as sugar). I also know that exercise should be consistent and that good health has very little to do with weight. So from here I have two distinct questions, firstly, why am I so transfixed by the idea of being thin and two, why is putting into practice what I know so incredibly hard?

The irony of this, is I am actually entirely good with how I look but feel the social weight of ‘thin’. And with regards to my motivation, for some things (like blogging) I have incredible resilience and grit. So I think that for me, weight is to do more with how I think I should look compared to how I actually want to look, and health is something that I need to aspire to.

Map Point. Where in my life am I looking for the approval of others?

 

All day, all you can eat, breakfast buffet

This morning started without breakfast. I was meant to ‘break the fast’ with a friend, but they cancelled. I felt somewhat cross with myself for not having had a ‘pre-breakfast’  first. I am a woman who could definitely eat two breakfasts, maybe even three. Okay, okay, just sit me down next to an all day, all you can eat, breakfast buffet and I will keep going. So my new plan was to get home and have.. (imaginary drumroll)

‘the most incredible breakfast ever conceived in the complete history of all breakfasts.’

Just because I utterly could. I had a bowl of cornflakes followed by some olive oil toasted toast with two eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce. It was a very good breakfast, not sure whether it would live up to ‘best breakfast ever’ but it was pretty decent. I then wondered whether or not I would have bothered with a somewhat fancier breakfast than normal if I had not been let down.

Sometimes I do cook myself some truly amazing meals. I make ravioli from scratch and other such malarkey. I can be an exceptional cook. But a lot of the time I am not exceptional, I am somewhat dull and predictable in my food assemblage. It surprised me that my un-met expectation of a good breakfast spurred me enough to make my own (pressing and drying all those cornflakes from scratch was a task of great monument!). And then I thought about how being let down sometimes seems to provide most excellent motivation.

I go through phases of ‘hell hath no fury’ productivity to outright apathy. Motivation is hard for me to keep constant. But motivation inspired by feeling let down? It feels kind of strange. If I do something kind for myself, the person that benefits is me! It shouldn’t have to go through the conduit of frustration. And then I got to the actual question. Why am I not nurturing myself in this way, to begin with?

It can be a time thing or an effort thing. When friends come over, I do nice things for them, but if I am home just by myself, it can be too easy to forget, too easy to just make do. Over the past few years, my self-nurturing has increased massively, but it can be incredibly useful to be reminded. So I feel gratitude for the cancelled breakfast, it was an amazing reminder to look after me!

Map Point. Where am I actively choosing to delay my happiness?

 

 

Jumping through the trees

This morning I made a big list of things to do. One particular thing has been on my to-do list for many months and this morning I finally started it. Was I especially motivated to start it? Quite possibly. But the truthful reason is that there is now something even scarier on the list. So in order to feel a sense of achievement, I went with the lesser of the scaries!

I remember my friend Maggie told me that if you have two toads to eat in the morning, eat the biggest one first. I like this theory, but am not ever intending to eat an actual toad, in case anyone is wondering. Do the hardest thing you have to do in your day first, then everything after that will seem easier, will seem like less work. But doing the hardest thing first, is well, hard.

I did a tree top challenge type thing a few years ago. It wasn’t a massively high one, maybe only ten meters or so off of the ground, but it was terrifying. I clung to every tree, muscled tensed and a cold sweat working its way down my body. I felt sick but was trying to be brave and smiley for my daughter who was experiencing no such trauma and happily trusting the safety line. I got round the course, the relief I felt when hitting the ground and covering my back and legs in mud was a beautiful thing. I was exhausted and aching, all my energy was spent.  My daughter massively enjoyed the experience, so a few weeks later, we had another go on the same course. This is the sort of parent I am. This time, however, everything felt different, this experience was fun! I knew what to expect, and my confidence soared. I was jumping from post to post with exhilarated joy. And when the course was done this time, I didn’t feel tired. I felt very much alive.

The exhaustion of worry is a massive thing. Some tasks can feel too big to take on. I sometimes think that I have longer to complete a task, then find a deadline looming. Putting things off is often more stressful than the actual thing itself. But am trying to change that, to be brave.

I will make the phone call tomorrow, first thing.

Map Point. What things could I do right now to make my life easier?

 

My sparkle

Today I have been thinking a good deal about energy. Sometimes I feel enriched and enlivened, other times sluggish and apathetic, and although the quality of my diet goes up and down, and my exercise likewise, sometimes all is physically well in my world, and am still missing the vital spark.

I often have to do lists that could take weeks to complete but in reality, if I was properly motivated, usually only a day. So how does putting things off benefit me in the slightest?

Looking for reward upon completion of a task feels very childlike; finishing the task is not enough. As a child, whenever I did something like tidy my room, my Mum would come in and look so happy and give me lots of praise (she knew that I struggled with tidying up) and I would feel happy too. But thinking back, am not sure how much of my ‘happy’ actually stemmed from the completion of the task, it came from the happiness of another.

I guess a fair amount of what we do comes with external validation attached. Obvious things like good exam results and doing nice things for others are direct, then there are the indirect things like buying something new and receiving compliments. But a lot of things, like when I complete a whole bowl of washing up, goes entirely unrecognised. Except by me.

So completing a task does not feel quite as rewarding as perhaps it could. But perhaps I am looking for the unrealistic.

Motivation. Sometimes I have it, sometimes I very much don’t, sometimes I feel surprised by how much I can achieve and other times guilty by how much I just have not done. I don’t know if I have an answer for this, which means it is likely something deeper to address.

Map Point. What problems do I have that don’t have easy answers?