Happiness, reflection, Well-being

What if there is no plan?

I’ve never had a plan.  

I do understand that you need some element of planning on a day to day level, to make sure that you are fed and clothed and the house gets cleaned.  I do understand planning at that level.  But not long term planning.  I’ve never really understood that kind of plan, and I’ve never had one.  Nor has husband

Not a five year plan, nor a 10 year plan.  Nor a life plan.  No lady plan.

Whenever I get asked that question, an interview classic, ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years time’?  I don’t know.  I have never known.

There have been no plans.  In fact, the only plan I can ever recall following was a half-marathon running plan and even that was loose.  I never planned to run a half-marathon, a friend suggested it and I thought ‘why not’?  By the finish line I had a clearer understanding of why not!

I have also never really had goals.  Apparently you need a plan, in order to successfully achieve goals.  Beyond getting up and seeing where the day takes me.  Generally, that has been my approach to life – see where it takes you.  What adventures might come my way?

I have dreams.  Lots of dreams. Some of which came true.  Some of which didn’t.  

I dreamed of being an astronaut, which was an epic fail.  

I dreamed of having a 3 bed semi-detached house. Which sort of came true, as it turns out all I wanted really was a home that was safe and welcoming.

I dreamed of going to Iceland to see the Northern Lights and it was the best experience, far exceeding anything I’d imagined.

On the beach at Eyrarbakki, Iceland

I still have many dreams:

I dream of going on a yoga retreat, of going on a paddle board on the ocean.

I’d like to watch a grand prix in Abu Dhabi.

I wonder about being some kind of speaker.

Or of writing some poetry and seeing where that takes me.

Of bringing cheer to people’s days and making the world a brighter place.

Everywhere I turn there seems to be apps, diaries, journals all aimed at how to plan. How to be more productive, how to achieve more in a week  Year long planning journals.  90 day planning journals. Each one with a guarantee that their planning method is better than the next one.  How to plan your social media feed so that it’s more effective at generating income, generating followers.  How to plan your time so that you achieve more, waste less, fit more into a day.  How to identify your 3 key targets for the day.  How to measure them against your goals.  How to manifest everything that you want.  How to plan your life in accordance with the moon. What success looks like, what it doesn’t look like.  If I plan I will be more successful than I can possibly imagine

I used to think that my lack of a plan was some kind of failing.

Or that it was some kind of self defence mechanism.  If I didn’t have a plan I couldn’t fail and I would never be disappointed.  But I wonder if it really is a bit more straightforward than that.

Without a plan I was able to take advantages of opportunities that presented themselves to me as I went along.  If I was glued to a plan I might have missed some of those things.

I might have missed the opportunity to go into teaching when I was made redundant for the umpteenth time.

I might have missed the chance to live in America as an Au Pair after finishing university.

I might not even have gone to university in the first place.

I didn’t plan to be childless but even that opened up a whole raft of opportunities I might never have experienced otherwise.

I wouldn’t have moved house twice in the space of 4 years.

I definitely wouldn’t have retired at the age of 44.

I doubt I’d be living in an apartment near the beach in Portugal.

I’d have played the oboe instead of the clarinet.

I never imagined I’d have this beach on my doorstep

Recently, I’ve become embroiled in the idea that I should have a plan.  I should have goals.  I need to be successful.  I need to have achieved measurable success.  But I don’t think my kind of success can be measured.  I don’t know that you can plan to be happy, it’s just what it is. It’s taken a bit of work to get to this point, none of it planned. How can it be? My version of happy is different to everyone else’s so how can I follow someone else’s plan to achieve that.

I can’t really imagine how having a plan would make life all that much better for me.  

I now realise that my unhappiest moments have been when I’ve been planning, when I had goals. When I had plans foisted upon me.  Any teacher will tell you that lessons that haven’t been planned all that well often go better than those that are planned to within an inch of their life.  There’s something freeing about just going along with what may be.

What if there were no plans.  No goals.  What if the only goal of each day were to be happy. Content.  Happy and content with what you have, here and now.  What might that be like?  What if, you don’t need a plan?

The advantage of having no plans is that you can’t really fail. The disadvantage of having no plan, is that you are made to feel like a bit of a failure. Which is both sad, and terrifying in equal measure.    

All I do know is that an unplanned life has worked for me.  There may well be opportunities I have missed.  But there may well be opportunities I’ve enjoyed and might have missed because they weren’t part of any plan.  I’m currently considering which modules to do next for my Open University degree.  I’m torn between Creative Writing and Latin.  There is no plan.  There is no pros or cons list.   But I’m sure it will work out just fine, and if not, then no harm done.  It will all come out in the wash.

I will admit that sometimes things just don’t get done. I’ve wanted to make a dress and a couple of brooches for a while now, but they never seem to quite get completed.  I’m not the least bit consistent with posting blogs. Largely because other things come up – like writing, or reading, or exercising, or crochet, or staring in to space.  I can see where an element of planning could be useful and do wonder if it might be a good idea after all. But I also like to think that it something is important enough or is meant to be, it will happen, with or without a plan.  

So.  For now, I think I’m going to carry on living a life with no plans.  It has served me well, to date.   Who knows where it might just take me?   I do understand that for some people this approach really would not work, but for me it means that everyday is an adventure; it allows for something a little bit more extraordinary and unexpected to come along. 

Food and drink, Healthy living, reflection, Well-being

Lent 2022

So, Easter has arrived and Lent has come to an end.  And I have largely given up cake and chocolate for 47 days.  I say largely because there were some special occasions when I did have cake:

For example:

  • A friend came to visit me in Albufeira and we always celebrate with a visit to the fabulous Riviera cake shop.
  • Another friend came to visit and we also met up for a walking tour around Faro followed with a coffee and a Portuguese tart
  • We went fo a couple of nice meals which came with dessert included
  • My sister came for a visit.  I’ve not seen her in person yet this year and we went for a walk with a cake stop.

What has gone by the wayside is the following:

  • a daily biscuit, chocolate bar or piece of cake at around 11.00 am
  • a nightly bit of chocolate watching TV
  • having a cake every time I go to a coffee shop to meet a friendIt meant that I was usually having chocolate and / or cake at least once a day.  That was what I wanted to stop.  And I have.
  • Sneaking a bit of chocolate out of the fridge

What I am learning about giving things up is it comes with a raft of questions surrounding the behaviour in the first place, which I do find quite fascinating.  Why do I drink wine when I know it will make me feel awful? Why I feel the need to eat chocolate and cake every day?  What need was it fulfilling?  What factors are affecting the choices that I make? Thinking about my childhood I can’t really identify any connection with comfort eating, or chocolate as a reward.  We did always get a finger of fudge and another bar of chocolate on Tuesday and Thursday when our Grandparents came to visit.  But beyond that, I can’t really say that there was ever any emotional attachment to cake or chocolate that I was aware of.  I just liked it.  Better than anything else – or so I thought!

I also can’t really say that anything ever triggered a real desire or need to eat chocolate or cake once I’d left home.  I suspect that more than anything there have just been ‘things’ that came up over time that created habits that then became ingrained.

I do know that there was an association between break time and eating a snack when I was teaching.  I do quite genuinely struggle to get timings of food right sometimes.  This has always been a feature of my life.  I remember sometimes at school as a child I’d ask to go to the toilet during lessons, when in actual fact, I was going to get a biscuit off my mum in the office because I was having the shakes through hunger.  When I went in to teaching I became conscious of the fact I could only eat at specific times of the day and if I didn’t eat then, there was potential for it to go wrong later in the day.  The only problem was I got caught up in a habit of eating something with a cup of tea at 11:00am.  That something was usually a chocolate bar.  Everyone in my last school knew I had a latte and twin during morning break – to the extent that sometimes a kind student would buy them and deliver them just as be bell for break was sounding.  Unfortunately, when I was working in a school where I was unhappy, I did start the habit of a sneaky bag of Haribo Tangfastics in the car on my way home.

Photo by Alena Koval on Pexels.com

Then, I do also know that our nightly habit of eating chocolate in front of the TV was a consequence of lockdown.  We lived very close to an M&S food hall and they had some seriously cheap chocolates during the first lock down.  We had the mother of a chocolate stash!  Unfortunately, once lockdown was over we carried on the habit of eating chocolate every night.

So.  Back to Lent.  I have managed to break these two habits and can see now that they were primarily habits.  There is no real emotional attachment, just habit.  I make a cup of tea at 11:00 (ish) and reach for a chocolate biscuit or three.  I sit down to watch TV after dinner, and my brain equates that with chocolate time.  During lent husband has also cut down on his chocolate consumption.  Not because I asked him to join me in lent, but because he’s realised he too is bored of chocolate every night.  It’s no longer a treat.  Eating chocolate and cake to this degree cannot be good for you.  

I have, however, discovered that there is a emotional element to my eating habits – even though I hadn’t thought there was one.  At the beginning of lent it was really hard.  At those habitual times I struggled not to eat chocolate or cake.  But the emotional eating was hard too.  I realised just how much I did turn to chocolate, cake and biscuits for every emotion.  If I was happy, sad, irritated, cross, tired, bored, if my hormones were raging – every time my first instinct was to reach for a sweet treat.  But there wasn’t one to be had.  There was no sneaky pieces of chocolate, no sneaky jelly babies.  The options available were few and unappetising!  I found that most often I reverted to:

  • A walk
  • Sitting and meditating for a while
  • Sitting and watching the feelings and letting them subside
  • Having a cup of tea
  • Doing another activity I do enjoy, like writing or knitting.
  • The occasional meltdown!

All of which worked.  All of which made me realise how much of an emotional eater I was.  Never did I eat something else instead.  You see, I wasn’t really hungry, I just wanted the emotion to go away.  I wanted to feel better and I was forced to find alternative ways to achieve that.  I realised that the chocolate and cake was never making things better, it was just putting them off for another day.

Sadly, I have not lost one pound in weight as a consequence of giving up chocolate and cake, on top of the wine I had already given up.  Husband says that I have been eating far more than I usually do at meal time – which I hadn’t realised – and which provided another  opportunity for pondering and reflection.

Photo by PhotoMIX Company on Pexels.com

With each passing thing that I’m giving up, it brings other behaviours and habits into the spotlight that I hadn’t appreciated were there. I realised I don’t enjoy wine and prefer being able to do other activities instead of drinking and that I don’t need the wine to enjoy socialising.  I have also realised that I don’t need cake or chocolate.  When we have been out for dinner during Lent I’ve not actually wanted desserts that have been offered and it’s made me consider why it was I always ordered one.  I’ve registered that I am full.  Previously, I would always have managed three courses.  It turns out I don’t have a pudding stomach after all. This has gone a bit further when I realised that I am never hungry.  I rarely wake up hungry, I rarely eat a meal because I’m hungry. I certainly don’t eat snacks because I’m hungry.  Most of the time I eat because a meal has been placed in front of me.  Because it’s time to eat.  

I realised I no longer recognise hunger signals.  I am so used to just eating that I don’t know what a hunger signal feels like.  Sometimes I skip straight from not hungry to too hungry and so then have to eat something relatively quickly.  Between the two is a point at which I must be hungry and I need to recognise that.  I realise that I rarely stop eating when I am full, I eat the plate of food in front of me – not because I have to – not even because I want to much of the time, but because it’s there.  I went out with my husband for our wedding anniversary earlier this week, and it’s the first time in a long time that I registered that I was too full – and that I wasn’t actually happy with the amount of food I had eaten.  The food was beautiful and we’d go back to the same restaurant again, but the portions were just too big and I really didn’t enjoy the over full feeling I came home with.  In the past I would have carried on regardless and eaten dessert as well, and repented at leisure the following day!  

So.  Over the last 3 months or so I have cut out wine, cut out chocolate and cake – to the extent that I don’t actually want to rush out and eat cake and now I am starting to recognise that I over eat and am starting to be more mindful of portion sizes and when I am actually full. I have become aware of the emotions and habits that lead to me choosing to eat chocolate and cake – it’s habits that have been formed over the years that I hadn’t realised were happening. I can understand more fully how it is that people can turn down cake, or how my sister can just eat a few squares from a chocolate bar.  It’s just chocolate. 

For the foreseeable future I will continue as I am, and pay closer attention to what I’m eating, why and when.  Am I hungry?  What does that feel like? It’s actually quite exciting to learn to understand my habits and find ways to improve them, or in some cases get rid of them completely.  This is a very welcome side effect of Lent that I had really not anticipated and I look forward to finding out more about myself and enjoying food again. 

Photo by George Dolgikh @ Giftpundits.com on Pexels.com
Happiness, reflection, Walking, Well-being

February 2022

February has been and gone.  Here in Albufeira, there are signs of spring and of the holiday season beginning.  Most bars and restaurants will be open by the end of March and there is spring cleaning going on all around us.  I anticipate that this year will be busier than it has been for many years.  Whilst on the one hand I have enjoyed having the town to ourselves, the Algarve needs the money from tourism.  The businesses desperately want the British tourists to come and spend their money, and I know the British are equally desperate to go on holiday, so it is nice to see people arriving for their holidays and short breaks.  You can spot a British tourist a mile off.  They are the ones in shorts and flip flops whilst the rest of us are still in jeans and sweatshirts!

Anyway, back to February.  I really didn’t make that much progress on my list of 22 things for 2022 during the month.  Primarily to a raging headache, initially caused by two glasses of wine at dinner.  I spent one week getting rid of the headache, and a second week getting rid of the headache caused by the painkillers I’d taken for the first headache.  So it was the sort of month where I just laid low, did what needed to be done and accepted that was the way it was going to be.  This is a new departure for me.  In the past I would have battled on regardless, but it is a sign of progress that I actually did just stop and spend time tackling the headaches and their root cause.  This has also led to my actively avoiding alcohol and I am currently at 16 days without a drink.

There are signs of spring across Albufeira

The only area where I really did make progress was towards my target of walking 1000 miles in the year.  I am now up to 322 miles.  My current aim is to divide the year into quarterly chunks and increase the target for each quarter by a smidgette!  What I love about walking is even on the lowest of days I can still manage something, even if it’s only a gentle walk to the end of the road to look across the beach.  I am still having to remind myself to walk rather than sit at home, particularly when we are in Portugal.  When we are in Bristol I have a Nordic Walking Group that I go along to and that enables me to maintain my distances – that tends to go by the wayside a little in Portugal as I definitely need an incentive to get up and out.  This is really quite frustrating as I do feel so much better for exercising.  During the past week or so I have been very lazy and can feel my body start to seize up – it definitely wants to begin moving more frequently again.  

For one of the list of 22 – listen to a new album each month – I changed the remit slightly. In her book ‘Quit Like a Woman’ which I read in January, Holly Whitaker recommends creating a playlist of music that calms the mind.  So whilst I didn’t listen to a specific album I did spend the month listening to Spa Music, which is a definite departure from my usual choices.  My theory was if it’s good enough to have a massage to, then it must be calming and relaxing to have on in the background.  And I have to say that I have really enjoyed it.  When I’m studying, when I’m showering I have the music playing in the background and it is genuinely calming.  Even husband has commented on how much he enjoys having it playing in the background.  I’m going to go back to listening to a specific album during March, but will definitely keep playing the spa music at certain times of the day.  The album for March is ‘Aladdin Sane’ by David Bowie.  I’ve never really listened to much of Bowie’s music, and know very little about his earlier albums, but when I asked a group of friends for album recommendations they all agreed that this one was a must.

Even a short walk lifts the spirits when the sky is this blue!

I also didn’t make any progress on reading fiction.  I’m not entirely sure I read one complete book in the month.  The first fiction book I opened my kindle at the beginning of the month was ‘The Imposter’ by Damon Galgut.  I think it was an Amazon recommendation that I got for next to nothing.  It’s not really my cup of tea and I probably should have abandoned it and started something else instead.  But I am at the 80% point now, so I really don’t have any excuses not to complete it within the next few days.  I am going to set aside a few minutes each day to sit and read and get it finished.  For part of my Creative Writing module for my latest degree they recommended reading a range of genres and authors to widen my repertoire.  I have done that with this book and won’t be rushing back to read another one!  I’m hopeful that March will see a return to enjoyable reading!

March also coincides with lent and so I am going to embrace the opportunity!  When I completed Sober October, I found a ready made excuse does make giving something up far more easy.  Nobody questions your motives.  So, I am giving up cakes and chocolate for lent.  As much as anything, I’d quite like to see what difference it does make to my weight and general sense of well-being.  A few years ago I was listening to ‘Thought for the Day’ on the Radio 2 Breakfast Show and the guest speaker was saying that lent isn’t just about giving up and doing without.  It’s about making a commitment to something – so that could be a daily walk, reading for 30 minutes a day, anything really.  So as well as giving up sweet treats I am going to commit to the daily writing practice I set for a target at the beginning of the year and see if I can maintain that commitment for the period of lent.  

So there we have it.  Another month completed and I look forward to making more progress towards my 22 for 2022 throughout March.

Bristol, Exercise, reflection, Sustainable Living, Well-being

January 2022

Well, it would be fair to say that I have already failed on one of my 22 for 2022.  That of writing a blog post once a week.  January has passed me by in a blur.  Here in Bristol it has been fairly mediocre!  The weather hasn’t really added up to much and there have been some days when leaving the house felt like an effort too far. In a way it was good to have this list of challenges, because it did actually make me do something other than watch the month pass me by.

It felt like a mammoth achievement to make it to Christmas with daily covid testing, husband testing positive for covid over the Christmas period, cancelled Christmas plans and the quietest Christmas for many a year.  Just making it as far as the New Year seemed enough and like many people we have pretty much hunkered down for January.  It was nice not to go out, not to worry about going out, but to spend cosy evenings in front of the TV. Not helped by the weather – which has been particularly gloomy.

In addition to that we have been decorating our home.  It’s only a one bedroom flat which means it has been impossible to empty a room, decorate and then move everything back in.  It became quite wearing in the end, permanently living in some version of chaos.  That too has come to an end as we had the deadline of the last week of January to get as much done as possible prior to having carpets fitted throughout.  

I’ve also had a deadline for the Open University.  Like buses.  Everything came along in the last week of January!  It’s a relief that everything is out of the way.  I have concluded that there will never be a convenient time for an assignment deadline – that’s just the way these things work. I suppose it’s a relief that January is out of the way.  For me February represents hope that spring is just around the corner and the worst of winter is behind me.  

One thing I have really enjoyed about January this year is no resolutions.  No self imposed restrictions that have become unrealistic 10 days into the new year.  I have also continued to enjoy not being on Facebook.  It has made such a difference to how I feel and has meant that I have engaged more fully with real people in real life, completed more crochet projects and generally felt more calm and grounded.  It’s probably the most hopeful January I’ve had in many years.  

I have made progress on some of the items on my list of 22:

#3    I haven’t bought any new clothes.  I have bought a few things from my local charity shop, but they have been things to alter or to use the fabric for other projects.  I’ve never been able to alter clothes and so have been using charity shop finds to practice on, rather than destroy pieces I already have in my wardrobe.  So far, so good!  The bigger achievement for me is not going shopping in the winter sales.  I do love a bargain and so it’s huge for me to pass them by.  It’s also made me realise just how much I do already have in my wardrobe and so shopping isn’t necessary at all.  There is the obvious bonus of saving money too!

#4  Reduce single use plastics.  I am in awe of just how many toiletries I have stashed in my cupboards – particularly shampoo.  I seem to have a never ending supply of shampoo which I am determined to use prior to replacing them with plastic free versions.  Whilst any plastic isn’t great, recycling empty plastic is preferable to throwing away filled plastic containers.  So, as yet all I have replaced is one handwash, and one shower gel – both with a good old fashioned bar of soap.

#7 Walk 1000 miles.  I am currently 202.1 miles having started on 14th December.  I suspect I might have to amend the challenge at some point in the year, in order to make it more of a challenge than it currently is. 

Walking with Bristol Nordic Walking

#8 Eat one piece of fruit a day.  Another fail!  I have been increasing the amount of fruit I have been eating, but haven’t quite managed that one extra piece per day.  But it’s a target to aim for.  I’ve recently been reading ‘Quite Like a Woman’ by Holly Whitaker and taking on more than one thing at once isn’t advisable, better to change things one at a time – so I shall keep this as a target and hopefully by the end of 2022 this will be a daily habit.

#9 Read 12 Fiction books.  I have achieved this.  In fact, during January I have read several books, although only two were fiction books.  The books I have read are:

  • ‘The Couple at Number 9’ by Clare Douglas – a Crime book.  I enjoyed the read and finished it (which is unusual for me) but not outstanding.  I didn’t put it down and think I must go and read her other books.  
  • ‘Mother Loves Me’ – a psychological thriller and for the first half of the book there were times where I was scared to turn the page, but then it sort of fizzled out towards the end, which was disappointing.
  • ‘Spectacles’ by Sue Perkins.  I love Sue Perkins and so when I saw this on the shelf at the local charity shop I had to buy it.  A great, entertaining read.
  • ‘The Wrong Knickers’ by Bryony Gordon.  Again, I love Bryony Gordon and her posts on Instagram showing a real down to earth approach to life.  So this was a delight to read and a real honest insight into the reality of life as a twenty-something in London.
  • ‘Once Upon a Time in The West Country’ by Tony Hawks.  A gentle story chronically Tony’s move to the West Country.  The best part without doubt is when he takes a pig for a cycle ride across Devon.

#11 Make a dress that fits.  The items of clothing I have altered have helped me with this as I am starting to get a better understanding of the shape of clothes and how they fit together.  I usually just follow the pattern, but my body is a bit of a queer shape, so understanding the construction of clothing is probably going to be as helpful as following a pattern.  That way I can work out what to adjust rather than just blindly follow along.  

#16  365 days of writing.  I have tried.  This is another habit that I have found to be a struggle, especially on days when I have been studying.  The thought of spending more time at my laptop blows my mind a bit.  I did try writing by hand, but find that I think more clearly when I am typing.  I also found some of the prompts a little un-inspiring and so ended up writing waffle. There was one day that I wrote a poem, which I did quite enjoy and came as quite a surprise to me. This is another habit that I hope to have incorporated in to my life on a daily basis come the end of 2022.  Especially as I hope to have started a module on Creative Writing by then!

#17  Listen to 12 New Albums.  My album choice for January was ‘Hand Cannot Erase’ by Steven Wilson.  Which I have quite enjoyed and is certainly different to anything that I would normally choose to listen to.  What has been most interesting has been finding out from different people which albums they recommend.  I’m still on the hunt for about 6 months worth of recommendations, so please do feel free to share your favourites.  If there was one album you think I should listen to, what would it be? 

That’s all of the progress for now! I’m hoping that during February I make a start on some of the other items on the list, specifically cycling from Albufeira to Vilamoura and I am going to try again with the daily fruit and creative writing habits.  

Durdham Downs in the Sunshine
Mindfulness, Well-being

A month without FaceBook

Just over one month ago I took the decision to de-activate my Facebook account.  Sadly, I couldn’t totally delete facebook because that means you also lose messenger, and like it or not, it is a great way of keeping in contact with people.  So I did the best I could and de-activated my account.

Why?

Because I’m not really all that sure that it’s all that good for my mental health.  The problem isn’t the pretty pictures of other people who are living fabulous lives that might be more fabulous that mine.  No.  It’s the adverts.  The sneaky adverts.  Especially adverts for things like planners, or based on spirituality, or a quick fix for mental health.  Then I’m off down a rabbit hole, researching, reading, buying another book, trying to work out what this person can do to help me, that the last one couldn’t, when in actual fact none of them can help me because I’m stuck in this rabbit hole and actually just need to come up to the surface and take a breath.  Take a look around.  Take a rest.  Just be myself for a bit.

So.  Facebook went.  And what have I learned?

I learned just how much time I spent on Facebook.  How many times I just reached for my laptop and before you know it a good hour or two had disappeared into oblivion and I had achieved precisely nothing.  There are still some days, especially after lunch when I do still sit and wonder what am I going to do now – how am I actually going to fill this eternity of time that is ahead of me. I no longer have the Facebook drug and I’ve come to realise that I used it in much the same way as you might alcohol, or shopping, or cake, or chocolate. Something that fills the void, something that papers over the cracks. I’m starting to spend more time peering in to the cracks and acknowledging what’s there.

This month has also seen me travel back from Portugal to Bristol for the Christmas holidays.  I wanted to spend them here this year.  So for the first 10 days or so of my Facebook detox I started to take a walk in that post lunch slump. The time when I am most likely to reach for the laptop and peruse Facebook  The weather was still beautiful but cooler and so all activity no longer had to be crammed into the first two hours of the morning. So I walked, not far, but far enough to get out and have a change of scenery. Since we have been back in Bristol, this has taken a bit of a back seat and I do still find myself reaching for my laptop after lunch. Getting out for a daily walk is definitely an activity I need to re-introduce as it keeps me sane and perks me up in the afternoon.

Walking in Albufeira

As ever, I’ve read a book ‘Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends on It’ by Kamal Ravikant. He recommends using a mantra that you repeat to yourself over and over, during meditation, while you’re out and about, when you’re in a sticky situation. I chose ‘I trust and love myself’. I’m not sold on this, but happy to give it a try! Besides that he recommends:

(a) simplifying everything (and boy do I need to simplify) and stop overcomplicating life.  Life doesn’t need to be anything like as complicated as I can make it.

(b) being consistent (not a strength of mine). Pick one or two things to do each day, but do them, every day, consistently. Stop hopping from one thing to another in the hope that it will magically resolve everything in an instant.

(c) Focusing on the self as a means to heal, I suppose.  Not in a selfish ‘all about me’ way, but from the point of view of if I feel good then I feel well enough to get out there and take on the world, without being dragged down into the rabbit hole of doom. So for me that means getting out for a daily walk, going to Nordic Walking classes, turning up for online HIIT sessions, listening to music, eating as well as I can, not going onto facebook.

(d) Ask yourself in the moment, or before saying ‘yes’ to a request, ‘Is this something I really want to do?’ ‘Is this something that will build me up and make me feel fulfilled?’ ‘If I really do trust and love myself, would I choose to do this?’ If the answer is no – then don’t do it! I am a nightmare for saying yes, then thinking ‘nope, bad idea’. An example of this is I recently applied for a temporary Christmas job at Next. I knew by the end of the first shift that it was a really, really bad idea – but I’d been swept away by the excitement of it all. If I’d just taken time to think things through and really considered ‘if I trust and love myself would I choose to do this?’ then the answer would have been no.

Throughout the month I have found myself in the moment thinking ‘why am I doing this’, whatever this was.  If I really do trust and love myself, would I actually do this?  Would I eat this cake? Would I drink this wine? Is sitting on my laptop achieving nothing for an hour a good use of my time? Facebook would have gone into the no bracket.  So, there have been some things that I have thought, no, not really and others that I’ve thought, actually, yes.

And what were those things?

– I like to listen to or watch something whilst ironing and had taken to listening to podcasts based on fixing myself (still down in the rabbit hole of doom).  Instead I watched Dirty Dancing, Chesapeake Shores, Modern Love.  I have a thing (much to husbands chagrin), whenever we hear ‘that’ song from the end of the Dirty Dancing playing in the bars in Albufeira (and we hear it a lot) I have a bit of a dance up the street!  So I had a bit of a dance whilst I ironed.

– I’ve started to eat a bit of fruit every day.  I’m not a fan of fruit, but do appreciate it is good for me, so I’ve started to make the effort to eat an extra bit everyday.  

– I’ve been doing some crochet.  I’ve actually designed, made and published patterns for two winter cowels, using wool I found in Poundland of all places. If you’d like to try making the patterns they can be found here.

– I’ve read a fiction book.  I can’t tell you the last time I read any fiction.  

– I’ve started listening to music more, and I’ve ordered some sheet music to practice with my clarinet. Music always makes me feel better.

Two cosy cowls

There are elements of Facebook that I do miss.  I miss seeing what certain friends who live a distance a way from me are up to and it does have value in finding out what is going on in and around Albufeira.  It is the way that many ex-pat groups promote themselves and share valuable information.  One aspect of Facebook I thought I would miss is groups that I was a member of.  There were two in particular that I loved being a part of.  But as the month has gone on, I can see how they were also feeding my need to be fixed and were also a part of the obsessive behaviours around health. Only this morning I was wondering again, would it hurt, really? Would it hurt if I just reactivated my account and had a sneaky peak? In that moment, I had to remind myself of the reasons I had deactivated it in the first place and did some crochet instead!

I do think that at the end of this first month I have started to regain some balance in my life.  I’ve had time to focus on things that I do enjoy, without constantly thinking I should be doing more.  I realise just how much I was using Facebook to avoid doing other things and using it as an excuse to explain why I wasn’t doing them. I’ve started to notice a little more those moments where I am slipping down the rabbit hole of doom and been able to understand a little more what’s causing them and how best to resolve them.

I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel and I have two fabulous new cowls to show for the month. It’s a long time since I had something concrete to show for a month of my time.