A Perfect Fart Storm

At the weekend I met up with some of my family at our Mum’s house.  Inevitably the conversation turned to losing our brother/son and the mood quickly became quite sombre.  There was only one thing for it, I passed my phone to one of my sisters onto which I’d downloaded an absolutely essential app – “Talking Fart Elephant”.  As my sister burst out laughing the talking fart elephant did what talking fart elephants do best and played back a distorted recording of her laughter, overlaid with copious fart sounds.  The more the elephant farted the more hysterical we all became and on it went to the point of tears and helplessness.

It was low-brow, it was childish, we are all old enough to know better, but bloody hell it relieved the tension.  Thank you, talking fart elephant, all of us really needed that.

General progress & *carefully* asking the Universe

The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last couple of weeks is that attitude is everything.  I’ve really been enjoying the new exercise regime and healthy diet and my head feels so much clearer as a result.  An interesting by-product of my 6 week challenge has been a more positive outlook on life, coupled with the increased ability to see a challenge as an opportunity.

As you know (because I keep banging on about it ALL THE FLIPPING TIME!) this year I’ve been on something of a quest for self-improvement and self-knowledge.  That recently lead me to read about keeping a happiness journal.  It sounded soppy, but I decided to challenge myself to do it anyway.  Each night I simply have to write down 3 things that happened that day which made me happy (and why).  Sounds really simple, but it shocked me just how much I had to wrack my brain to come up with 3 things, even after the days that felt very happy in general.  Should it be this hard?  I’m sure I laugh all day long, but evidently the things that make me happy aren’t very memorable!  Perhaps it gets easier the more you practise it.  I think the point of the exercise is to get you to actively seek out and acknowledge happiness in all its forms, which has to be a good thing.  I think it’s kind of the same principle behind the “Ask the Universe” thing.  Asking the universe for something specific makes you better at spotting ways to get that which you asked for.

Recently the bus company I rely on to get to work made some (unbelievably unhelpful) changes to their timetable (because they’re a bunch of twats) which means I am now almost always late to work and even worse, hanging about in the dark waiting ages for buses back home that often don’t show up.  Since I catch the last available bus home, if it’s a no-show I have to find a taxi at £30 for the journey or multiple trains at £29 (and not get home until 3 hours later!).  Very bloody annoying when I already pay eye-watering prices for a monthly bus ticket.  So I did what any pissed-off public transport user does and swore a lot before asking the Universe to provide me with an answer to my travel problems.  But I have asked the Universe for this once before and know that it has an evil sense of humour:  Many years ago while left high and dry on another disaster commute by another set of travel company bastards, I found myself having to leave my house at 4:30 every morning and wouldn’t get home until nearly 10 at night 6 days a week. I realised that after many months the exhaustion was taking its toll on my health.  So on the early train to work one day, I asked the Universe to come up with a solution to my travel woes.  And the Universe answered.  I got to work and straight away I was ushered into the MD’s office and informed I was being made redundant, effective immediately.  Yeah, thanks for that Universe, that wasn’t quite what I had in mind!

I’ve no intention of being caught out like that again, so this time I put a few caveats in place: “Dear Universe, please help me find a solution to my travel problems that doesn’t include me dying, having a life-altering accident, redundancy or telling my boss to stick his job up his arse.  Thank you.”  And again the Universe answered.  I got home to find a free magazine on my doorstep which had fallen open on a page all about clever ways to save for a car.  I read it, farted about with my budget and realised that actually that is now a pretty viable option.  Hooray for the Universe!  Though I have to confess to being ever-so slightly disappointed that I hadn’t been given a lottery win or won a brand new car in a competition that I’d some how forgotten entering.  Hooray for the Universe anyway  ;)

Ridiculously quick results

For once I did what I said I was going to do, without any backtracking or changing my mind.  I started my 6 week challenge on Monday and I am stunned at how much better I feel already – maybe it’s just psychosomatic, but whatever, it’s working.

Exercise – Running in the evenings has been better than I thought it would be and although it feels like harder work than running first thing in the morning on a completely empty stomach, it just seems to fit in better with my schedule now.  The big test came on Tuesday when it was blowing a gale and absolutely hammering down with rain.  But out I went and had the streets pretty much to myself – which was just as well since I looked an unholy sight in my waterproof get up.  My only waterproof running jacket is way, WAY too big for me in all directions and because I could not find my usual running hat (due to all that bloody sorting out I’ve been doing lately) I decided to put the ugly waterproof jacket hood up and pull the drawstrings really tight around my face to stop it blowing down in the wind.  I looked reeeeeeaaaaaally . . . special!

Nutrition – I’ve taken my vitamins, instead of just looking at them in their bottles and paid attention to what I’m eating.  So far I’ve also made the effort to really vary my diet.  It’s helped that I come back from my run feeling absolutely ravenous and has provided the opportunity to eat more muscle-repairing fruit and dairy and actually enjoy it.  The only downside to all of this is that I have to plan what I’m going to eat and do far more in the way of kitchen prep (and shopping) than I’ve ever been used to – what a lazy cow I’ve been all these years!  My fridge and food cupboards look like they belong to someone who actually eats at home now, albeit someone who’s a little OCD – everything is neatly displayed in clear containers and carefully measured, labelled, dated and rotated.  What kind of health freak am I turning into?  Before you know it, it will be bowel-cleansing coffee enemas all round <—— NEVER going to happen – coffee is for tasting, not wasting and I regard some parts of my body as exits ONLY ;)

Well-being – The thing I’m struggling with at the moment is the thing that should require absolutely no effort – meditating.  I just cannot settle to it.  My head is so full of mental scribble that it just won’t empty and quieten.  I know it’s early days but patience has never been one of my virtues.  I’ll keep trying and try not to berate myself if I can’t do it.  It does annoy me though, because it’s probably the thing that is going to help me the most.  I am, however, sleeping better at the moment, getting out in the daylight and fresh air at lunch and getting to grips with yoga too, which have all helped me feel less stressy.

Mental Stimulation – I want to keep learning, so I had a long look at doing another online course.  Flippin’ heck – how bloody expensive are the courses now?!  For the moment that route is closed to me so I have to think of something else.  I have started reading on the bus journey again, but since I like reading nice juicy murder mysteries, I’m not sure that’s going to stimulate my mind in a particularly healthy direction:  When my brother first died I honestly found myself looking at the people around me and wondering why someone wonderful like him had died when there were all these useless bags of skin still walking about who could (and perhaps even should) have died instead!  It became my entertainment to imagine I was looking at people through cross-hairs, mentally picking them off one by one (not murdering them as such, just swapping them for my brother, you understand)!  That phase passed, but it’s still funny to look back on – I’d have swapped the lives of my entire home town, just to have my brother back and thought it a fair deal.  But you get the point, I think I need to find another genre for a while.

Well that’s about it for now.  Apologies for yet another pictureless post, but I’m enjoying the easy life where blogging is concerned at the moment.  Sorry!  :)

6 weeks

Don’t worry, this is going to be a very quick and altogether more positive post , I promise!

Feeling bored at work, I caught myself counting the days until the Christmas break and wishing the time away.  But for some reason when I looked at the calendar and saw that there are exactly 6 weeks of work left (from Monday) it struck me that actually 6 weeks looks like a really useful chunk of time.  I wonder what I can achieve in that time?  6 weeks looks like long enough to learn something new or certainly make improvements to something old.  6 weeks looks like a golden opportunity to me.

So my plan for this weekend is to set myself a 6 week challenge.  Fitness?  Art?  New skills?  I’m not sure yet and I have just 3 days to decide (not a lot of time for someone as bloody mixed up, fickle and contrary as I am at the moment).


OK, I couldn’t leave the thought of this challenge alone, so bugger taking 3 days to decide!  I already know what I want to do.  Since the arrival of the dark nights, I’ve begun to feel myself slipping back into my old bad Winter habits:  I’m exercising less and less, because it isn’t very appealing to go outside in the cold, wet and dark mornings; I’m heeding the call of the extra strong coffee again (all day long); I’m not going outside during daylight hours anymore (it takes me so long to get warm at work, I’m not bloody well getting cold again at lunch); I’m just beginning to think about comfort eating again – stodgy carbs are so much more alluring than raw salads.

But I’ve worked hard on my improved diet and exercise over the last few weeks and don’t want to ruin it all again.  So here’s the plan so far.

Every weekday for the next 6 weeks I will:

  1. Start the day with meditation and yoga and POSITIVE INTENTIONS (no excuse as I don’t even have to go out into the cold to do those).
  2. Eat a different, healthy packed lunch each day of the week (I’m a bugger for eating the same, albeit healthy thing til I get heartily sick of it and revert to eating rubbish).
  3. Take some spare trainers to work and use my half hour lunch break to go outside in the daylight, no matter what the weather and “enjoy” a brisk walk (I could use the vitamin D and mood-boosting break).
  4. Go for a short run or complete a half hour (aerobic) exercise routine as soon as I get home (before the need to hibernate kicks in).
  5. Improve my resistance routine (I’ve already been doing this as soon as I get to work, as I get to work really early).
  6. Take my bloody vitamins – they’re not a lot of good to me while they’re sitting in an unopened bottle!
  7. Use the time on the bus to actually read something or learn something.
  8. Look after my skin for once (especially on my hands) – dry, blotchy, neglected skin is unnecessarily unattractive!

There will be more…

First Frost

Last night brought the first frost of the season and an undeniable acknowledgement that Winter is just around the corner.  I’m really not sure how I feel about that this year.  Halloween saw the family gather together as usual and it was our toughest family occasion yet.  My brother’s absence was painful.  It caught us all by surprise, but it seems that bereavement likes to lull you into a false sense of acceptance then drop you squarely back into the grief every now and then.  To counter the bad feelings we decided to celebrate my brother’s life over Day Of The Dead and All Souls Day.  Most of us in the family are not religious people but it felt like a sweet, comforting thing to do.  In each home we made a makeshift alter, decorated it with flowers, candles, my brother’s favourite foods, his photos and little trinkets that reminded us of him.  We lit lanterns outside and kept them burning for 2 days and 2 nights.  It was so sweet and a great antidote to the sadness of Halloween.  We’ll definitely get through this.  It’s only been 9 months – long enough to make a new human, but nowhere near long enough to mourn one.

So I have 3 months left until the first anniversary of losing him and I’m determined to restart my life from then.  In the meantime I’m continuing with the life-laundry and already it’s really helping to make me feel more organised at home and at work.  I’m making the effort to look after my emotional and physical health and I’m feeling and seeing the benefits of that now too.  Other people are beginning to notice the improvements.  Little by little I’m re-engaging with the world.  (I wonder if that’s a good thing or a bad thing!).

I know I must come across as a right miserable cow right now, but truly, the strangest thing about this whole process of grief is that I’ve never laughed so much in all my life.  I’ve re-watched so many dark comedy shows that my brother and I loved, reminisced over so many daft family memories, made and heard so many hilariously inappropriate jokes about death and just generally responded to life’s funny little episodes with full on clutch-your-ribs-to-stop-them-aching belly-laughs.  It’s like all the positive emotions have been heightened to stop the sadness winning.  And the funny thing is, I’m making so many happy memories that maybe one day I’ll even be able to reminisce about SOME of this period of mourning.  How mad is that?

Just poking my head round the door

It’s been a while since I wrote anything here.  I just haven’t had anything that I wanted to share.  I’ve just been doing whatever needed to be done in order to get through the last few weeks and trust me when I tell you that it would make very boring, very repetitive reading.

I kind of knew this year would be a bit of a write-off in one sense.  I cannot commit to anything as I’m still in the process of grieving and finding myself again – or rather finding out who I am now – so I haven’t really moved forward much.  But in other ways this has also been one of the most important years of my life, discovering so much about myself and my family.  I guess it’s been more like a foundation year rather than a building year so far.  With that in mind I’ve decided to let go of all the projects I’ve been trying to juggle and go back (yet again) to basics.  I’ve decided to use what is left of 2014 to have a bit of a life laundry.

Ever since my brother died and we had to deal with all his possessions (a job still way off finished) my own possessions have been weighing heavily on my mind.  I don’t even use, want or need the majority of them.  Not only have I been feeling more and more encumbered by them, but as maudlin as it sounds, I can’t bear the thought of my loved ones having to even pack up my stuff, let alone decide what the hell to do with it all should anything happen to me – there’s just so much of it (and ALL OF IT unimportant to me) it would take them ages.

I’d decided not to tackle the issue earlier, as I’d read that after someone dies you should avoid making drastic decisions and changes as you just can’t trust your emotional responses, but now I’m definitely ready pave the way to beginning again.  I cannot tell you how much stuff I’ve given away and recycled in the last couple of weeks and that’s only from the studio, I still have the rest of my rooms to go through.  I’ve sorted boxes that have never been unpacked in years, they’ve just been moved from house to house unopened and unused.  I don’t know how or why I’ve accumulated so much, as material possessions have never really meant anything to me.

It sounds stupid but as each box has been sent to the charity shop and each bag has gone to the recycling centre I’ve felt a little lighter and felt I have created the room I need to breathe more deeply.  I keep being reminded of that Thoreau quote “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler…”  I long for a simpler life, a simpler relationship with the universe and a much, much quieter mind.  Everything has been so complex, confusing and noisy recently.

I’ve got a way to go but I read (briefly) about the one percent principle, basically breaking any task down into small chunks and nibbling away at it regularly.  As I tackle another boring cupboard, another tedious box, another random drawer I keep in mind what it is I want to get out of this exercise:  I want to wipe the slate clean, I don’t want anything to drag me back to my old life, I want to get some structure back, I want to tie up the loose ends, I want the chance of a better future, I want to start again from scratch… AND (you will love this one) I want to stop bleating on about my life and get on with living it!

Preparing for Autumn

conker

I’ve been dreading Autumn this year.  Usually it’s my favourite season, full of colour and cosiness and fun and family time.  I love the feeling of winding down, preparing for Winter and getting ready to begin another year.  This year, of course, every family occasion will be another chance to keenly feel my brother’s loss.  It’s been seven months.

When he died, towards the end of Winter, I could not bear the dark days and at every chink of sunlight I braved the cold and sat outside exposing my pale skin to its healing rays.  It worked.  It lifted my mood enough to stop me sliding into depression.  We were fortunate enough to have an early Spring and bright Summer and for once I’ve made the most of it (Summmer has always been my least favourite season).  I’ve lived and worked outside as much as possible.  But always at the back of my mind I’ve been waiting for the days to shorten and dull, not knowing how I was going to handle it.  Well now it’s really happening, the studio lights are going on earlier and earlier of an evening and more and more trees are showing their first signs of colour-change.  It’s coming.  

To my complete surprise I’ve been feeling the first magical stirrings of Autumn-Awe,  I’m loving the changes in the foliage, the faint undercurrent of cold in the air, the brightness of the moon and the first sight of my breath in the chilly early mornings (OK, that one wears thin pretty bloody quickly!).  I’m actually looking forward to all the stupid little rituals my sisters and I keep – catching an Autumn leaf mid-flight as it blows through the air (to be kept as a memento and good luck talisman), meeting each other ridiculously early just to watch the sun rise and crunching through frosty country lanes collecting bits and bobs of interesting seed pods and twigs (did I ever tell you my family is completely mad?).

I still need to drink in all the daylight I can though, so yesterday (even though neither of us was feeling particularly well with just a tiny cold) one of my sisters and I pulled on our boots and went for an epic nature walk.  Along the way we collected wind blown foliage for me to sketch and we talked and talked and talked (the very best therapy).  Once home in the late evening, we had a couple of glasses of medicinal wine and made plans for the future and reminisced about our lovely bro.  Good times.

***This is not at all the post I set out to write, but I guess it just needed to be said!