Boundaries

books, stuff

Last week I listened to The Joy of Being Selfish by Michelle Elman and honestly, it rocked my world. I have always been a textbook people pleaser and would always put other’s needs before my own. I have been called a door mat, someone with no backbone and a push over. I took pride in being the person that others always go to in their hour of need and the more I gave out, the better of a person I felt. Until I didn’t.

I have always let people have a lot of access to me. From my fleeting years of (low-level) Instagram fame where I shared the most intimate details of my experiences with mental health and an eating disorder, to never turning my phone off and always allowing people to get in touch with me whenever they wanted and I would always reply, straight away. From listening to Elman’s book, I realise now that I was showing myself a complete lack of self respect and the only way for me to really practise self love and put energy back into myself is through boundaries. This felt like a scary concept but boundaries will strengthen the relationships that matter because the more respect I show myself and the more respect I demand, the more I will be given.

I initially started the book because I was struggling with someone I know. Conversations we had would replay in my mind when I tried to go to bed and would ruin my weekends because I’d be worrying about seeing them again the following week. They spoke to me rudely, sent me relentless Whatsapps and always called me at bad times. Sure, their conduct was inappropriate but I was allowing them to continue this behaviour by always responding, further confirming that any threats I made such as ‘please stop sending me Whatsapps’ had no roots. The more access I allowed them, the more ‘taken advantage’ of I felt and something needed to shift. This book gave me the tools to have a conversation with them where I laid out my boundaries and then I stuck to them.

Setting boundaries works, you can take ownership of your time and take no bullshit. Another thing that has helped navigating tricky relationships is that I don’t get to control how people react to me – my only power is how I choose to respond. Their response to my words/actions is not my responsibility and thinking about it on a Saturday night when I’m trying to watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday night takeaway, isn’t going to achieve anything positive or change what they are thinking. I do however, have the power to choose how I respond to myself and treating myself with kindness and allowing myself the time to switch off fully is something productive that I can do.

Boundaries with acquaintances is one thing but I also needed to instate boundaries with my friends and family. I have decided that I will do this by:

– Not being accessible to everyone all the time by turning off my phone and not responding to messages right away. Responding to messages quickly means that I rarely process what I am saying and also means I regularly agree to things that I don’t want to do. Responding to messages when with others is also just plain rude (unless it’s an emergency obvs). I also will respect other’s boundaries by not expecting people to reply to me immediately.

– Saying no if I don’t want to do something and not give a reason why. I used to really struggle with saying no to plans but I realise now that a gap in my diary doesn’t mean I always need to say yes. In the past, if I turned down a social invite I would worry that I would have upset someone or that they would be angry at me for not attending. Now, I realise that if I don’t want to do something then I am not going to have fun doing that thing and other’s aren’t going to have fun doing it me. I have the power to choose how I want to spend my time and this means that when I do spend time with others it’s because I really want to. I also will respect other’s boundaries by accepting if they say no to me.

– Being clear when I do not have the capacity to take on someone else’s emotional load. I want to be honest and upfront with friends who need support as to if I am able to give them my time. If I’m not, it is much better for everyone if they reach out to someone else and if I am able to give them my time then it means I am present in that and able to support them fully. I also will respect other’s boundaries by asking before I want to dump my emotions on them.

I’ve realised that I do not need to be liked because I get to define if I am a good person. It is a sure thing that setting boundaries is going to rattle some people because suddenly, they don’t have the unrelenting access to me that they previously had. I have decided that a negative response to my boundary setting will show that they were previously taking advantage of my lack of boundaries and not because I have done anything wrong. Something that really impressed me about Elman’s book is the practical examples of where you need boundaries and how you can set them, as well as how to respond to those who do not respect them. Finishing ‘The Joy of Being Selfish’ left me feeling empowered to take back control of my life. There is so much more I could tell you about boundaries but ultimately they are an extremely personal choice. I would highly recommend reading the book and thinking about where you can set them in your own life because you deserve to reclaim your time, energy and self-belief.


Eating Disorder Awareness Week

Thoughts

TW: Eating disorders (no numbers, specifics or ED behaviours included)

1st-7th March is Eating Disorder Awareness week in the UK. An Eating Disorder is a mental health condition where you use the control of food to cope with feelings and other situations. Unhealthy eating behaviours may include eating too much or too little or worrying about your weight or body shape. Some examples of eating disorders include avoidant/restrictive food intake disorder, bulimia, binge eating disorder, and anorexia. There’s no single cause and people might not have all symptoms for any one eating disorder. It’s also possible for someone’s symptoms, and therefore their diagnosis, to change over time.

I want to start by exploring some common misconceptions when it comes to Eating Disorders.

MYTH #1: Someone must be underweight to have an Eating Disorder
FACT: Often when people think of someone with an Eating Disorder, they think of someone who is significantly underweight. However, although weight loss is typical in anorexia, most people with an eating disorder stay at an apparently “healthy” weight or are “overweight” (as commonly measured by the BMI scale). If the person does need to restore their weight, this is only one aspect of treatment, and being weight restored does not mean that the person is recovered. The thoughts and behaviours that come alongside the eating disorder also need to be addressed.

MYTH #2: Eating Disorders are a choice
FACT: Eating disorders are complex illnesses – there is no single cause. Instead they are thought to be caused by a combination of biological, psychological, and sociocultural factors. Eating disorders are extremely distressing for both the individual and their loved ones, and often are accompanied by feelings of shame. They require specialist treatment, but people can and do get better. Eating disorders are mental health disorders and are never a personal choice.

MYTH #3: Eating Disorders only happen to young girls
FACT: Research shows that eating disorders do not discriminate – they affect people of all genders, ages, ethnicities, sexual orientations, weights, and socioeconomic statuses. Many people think of Eating Disorders as a ‘heterosexual, white, female’ problem and as a result, males, people of colour and those from the LGBTQ community are less likely to be diagnosed and face greater barriers to treatment.

MYTH #4: Eating Disorders are a diet gone wrong
FACT: Although for some people, one trigger for an eating disorder may be that they have been dieting, eating disorders are not “a diet that has gone wrong”. They are serious mental health disorders which can go on to have adverse effects on physical health which can be fatal.

Now we’ve busted some myths, it’s time to get to the scary part. I’m Alice, an Events Manager, book worm, lover of stationary.. and I have an Eating Disorder. I have had an Eating Disorder since my teens and it is something which I will continue to be in recovery from for the rest of my life. I say that because every day I have to make the decision to choose recovery and some days it is easier than others. My Eating Disorder stemmed from control (see Myth #4 – NOT a diet gone wrong) and even now, when I feel overwhelmed, controlling the way I eat or exercise is an easy way for me to feel on top of things. This works, momentarily but then it can lead me to a place which is difficult to climb out of. Accessibility to Eating Disorder treatment has historically been restricted to people who fit a certain appearance (young, thin, white, female – see Myth #3 for why this is wrong), and in my case this meant when I reached out for help, I was seen as not yet thin enough to need help. The message I heard loud and clear was “If you want us to help you then you need to lose more weight” and that’s exactly what I did, at the further detriment of my physical and mental health, personal relationships and general life. After time and further requests for help I was able to access the support I needed and I sit today in a much better place when it comes to my body and food. Thankfully, a shift has started to happen to see Eating Disorders as a mental illness with the possible side effect of losing weight, but, there is still a long way to go especially in understanding the disproportionately unfair in access to services for marginalised people. Eating Disorders do not discriminate, so why do our measurement and treatment systems?

The thin ideal is consistently sold as the key to happiness and health. Interestingly, when I was my thinnest I was the most unhealthy (and certainly the saddest) I have been in my life but no-one said a thing… apart from to praise me for losing weight. With the rise of Social Media filters and Instagram nutritionists selling their latest ‘Wellness plans’ there is no wonder that more and more of us want to change the way that we look. Contributing to this – the representation of fat people in TV and film, often only awarded the storyline of desperately trying to lose weight or to serve as the butt of everyone’s jokes. Judging people for their weight seems to be the last acceptable form of prejudice and I hope within my lifetime that we see a change in this narrative.

There needs to be education around health being a whole spectrum of things and not about making ourselves smaller. This includes considering language we use about bodies and food, especially around those which we have influence. I dream of the day that we all celebrate the food that we eat and the amazing things that our bodies do for us.

To read more about Eating Disorder Awareness week and support available, visit Beat.

A huge thank you to Meg, Clare and Zoe for reading and giving me feedback on this post before publishing.

My Dream Menu (inspired by the Off Menu podcast)

food

I love food and I especially love food from independent businesses who are passionate about the food they make. I co-own a walking food tour business which takes people on a tour of the city whilst stopping to sample lots of delicious eats. Having an eating disorder for many years meant that I didn’t allow myself to eat the things that I wanted to and food came with a side-ordering of fear. Every food choice was decided and calculated and made me miserable. I am so pleased to finally be in the place where food brings me complete joy. I don’t second guess my food related decisions, unless I’m jealous of what you’ve ordered, and I now make the most of all the things that are out there for me to eat. Interestingly, when I began to allow all foods, in time, I naturally wanted to eat a variety of things. Recovery took a lot of time and patience and is a journey which I will continue on for the rest of my life. Perhaps I’ll blog about it more some time but today I want to talk about the really tasty stuff that I want to eat.

As mentioned in my previous post, I am a big fan of the Off Menu podcast. Hosted by James Acaster and Ed Gamble, guests are invited to the dream restaurant where they can have their perfect starter, main (with side) and dessert. Each week there is a secret ingredient and if the guest mentions it they get immediately kicked out of the restaurant. Luckily it is usually something obsure or universally categorised as gross so this rarely happens. When it does, it’s very funny. This podcast has got me thinking about what my dream menu would be, if fullness was out of the question and money was of no object. Hopefully my menu of choice would be approved of by Acaster, Gamble and the many fans of Off menu.

Starter
My starter would have to be loaded nachos. Specifically the ones from Lorenzo’s restaurant in Plymouth. A lot of my favourite foods are linked to special food memories. Growing up near to Plymouth, independent options were far and in between but Lorenzos was the jewel in Plymouth’s food scene crown. It is still there and well loved but I am talking about it in the past tense as I don’t think the menu has ever been quite as good as when I first went with my pals, so I specifically want the nachos from 12 years ago but made fresh. Obviously. Me and my best friends ate there a lot and even now when I go home we’ll regularly go there for old times sake. As tweens, this was a step up from Pizza Hut and we felt extremely grown up eating there. I still do. Lorenzo’s serves Spanish tapas in English portions and their nachos are genuinely one of my favourite things to eat, ever. Loaded high with melted cheese, flavoursome shredded chicken, guacamole, sour cream, salsa and no jalapenos please and thank you. Unless I’m eating this with my friend Tony and in which case, he can have them. I’ve never seen someone eat a jalapeno with as much glee as Tony.

Main
For my main course, I would like a prawn Pad Thai from Everyday Thai in Fishponds, Bristol. I have only been there once and have only had the Pad Thai from there twice (the second time during lockdown) but it is absolutely exquisite and I am already excited for when I get to eat it again. The flavours, textures and size of prawns are spot on and I could easily eat it every day, quite happily. Thai food has a happy place in my heart – memories of visiting my brother out in Thailand and eating amazing fresh dishes made by the locals. I am a baby when it comes to spice so a Pad Thai for me, is the perfect choice. There has to be lots of lime for squeezing and crumbled salted peanuts on top. To go with my Pad Thai, I would like a bowl of prawn crackers but a mix of Thai ones and the white fluffy ones you get from a Chinese restaurant and I want to eat my Pad Thai by taking forkfuls and using the prawn cracker as an edible spoon.

Side
EDIT: My girlfriend has read this post and said that prawn crackers have to be the side & I don’t get an extra dish according to the ‘rules’ of the podcast. She also said she hates my menu and none of it goes together. Anyway. I would like a portion of fish and chips, from with some homemade tartare sauce, just baked warm white bread with salted butter and a wedge of lemon for squeezing over the cod. You have read this correctly and I am having Fish and Chips as the side to my Pad Thai and you’re going to have to deal with it because this is the dream restaurant and reason goes out the window. Growing up in Cornwall means that I believe (read: know) that Fish and Chips is the perfect meal and it always tastes better eaten on the beach, after a swim in the sea. I want to eat this with my hands and it is also absolutely essential and non negotiable that I can smell the sea whilst I’m eating.

Dessert
Dessert would have to be a warm, salted caramel brownie from Loaf. Loaf’s brownies have the perfect amount of fudgyness inside. Don’t come to be with a cakey, dry brownie – I’m not interested. With my brownie, I would like the option of whipped double cream, vanilla pod ice-cream and a jar of peanut butter (if I have to choose, it’s Manilife original crunchy) I will dip between these as I wish. After I’ve polished off the brownie, cream, ice-cream and peanut butter I’ll move onto my cheese course. My cheese platter will, of course, be prepared by the Bristol cheesemonger and must include Ragstone by Neal’s yard creamery and the one with crunchy salty bits in that I can never remember the name of. Served with artisan crackers (darling), pickles and grapes.

Image result for lorenzos plymouth

And there you have it, my dream menu. I would love to hear what would feature on yours so please let me know in the comments!

The things getting me through this never ending lockdown

stuff

The Great Pottery Throw Down

Sometimes, something happens that makes you 100% sure that you have found the one. The moment Zoe turned to me and said ‘Do you fancy watching The Great Pottery Throw Down?’ was one of those moments. I am an avid Bake off fan. I jumped on the bandwagon late with the Nadiyah series but half way through watching, I began from series 1 and watched them all by the time we saw the Queen crowned. I was hooked and also very confused as to which contestant was on which series because I was watching too many different series at once (Classic me). This is the third series of Throw Down and oh my goodness. It is honestly, wonderful and *whispers* I like it more than Bake off. There was something about the move to Channel 4 that irked me about GBBO and I never found myself as invested since ad breaks were introduced and the history section was scrapped along with the holy trinity of Mez Bez and Mel and Sue. For some reason, this hasn’t been the same with Throw Down. I am 100% invested in the journeys of every single potter and I cry week in week out. There is so much I love about it and if you’re quick, you can get through the 5 episodes that have already aired and watch live with the nation every Sunday night. It’s worth it, promise.

  • The head judge Keith cries when someone does well. This is relatable for me and now when Keith cries, I cry. Rarely do we see an emotionally engaged man on TV. Paul Hollywood is adored for being a meany but I will eat my hat if you watch Throw Down and don’t instantly want Keith to be your Dad. He’s lush.
  • The series is doing well in terms of diversity. There is still a way to go BUT it is so nice to see different body types, sexualities, nationalities, races all together making really nice crockery. My fave is Rose, the pottery assistant and the self-proclaimed ‘trans kiln witch’.
  • I don’t know anything about pottery, I’ve made one pinch pot in my life time and it is fun to watch something completely new and learn about the creative process behind the household objects we take for granted. With Bake Off, I feel like we know the challenges and themes like we know how predictable the Hollywood handshake is but with Throw Down everything is new and exciting and the challenges are really different. One week they’re making dainty ceramic daisies and the next…bricks.
  • There is a real escapism in just watching nice people doing something nice and being nice to each other. I’m all for it.

Puzzle books

A couple of weeks ago, I needed to buy something from the corner shop to get change for the laundrette. As I’m trying to kick my Diet coke habit, I instead reached for a puzzle book. I’m not sure why.. maybe because Philip Schofield was on the cover.. who knows. Whilst my washing tumbled, I was absolutely hooked by cross words, word searches, arrow words and sudoku. My washing finished and I couldn’t leave until I worked out the year Torville and Dean won Gold (1984, you’re welcome). I have decided my favourite are word searches because they don’t require you to know anything and you can’t cheat. I now have a bumper book of 189 word searches to get through. I look like a Nan, wrapped up in my blanket, highlighter in hand and before I know it a good hour has past and my cup of tea has gone cold. I am in the matrix, I eat word searches for breakfast. I also may or may not have applied for a TV game show and whilst there won’t be a round on word searches (if there is, the other contestants can eat my dirt) I’m doing some brain gym and surely that is going to help when asked v.tricky general knowledge questions that I have zero general knowledge about.

Learning stuff

If you are have got this far in the blog post you deserve to know that not only have I applied for a TV game show but I am now through to the final audition to actually be on a TV game show. I am on a quest to learn everything there is to know so I don’t get turned into a meme. Even if I don’t make it onto the programme, I’m going to be the pub quiz assassin and you will all want me on your team. My weakest subjects are Geography and Sport so this last week I have been revising. I have now covered the Continents, Oceans, Space and Capital cities. I might not be the sharpest tool in the box but once I’ve learnt something I am pretty good at remembering it. I did not get on with my Geography teacher one bit and spent the majority of the classes sat outside in the corridor so I have had to do some serious ground work and I’m weirdly..enjoying it?! Take that Mr Clarke and your stupid maps that no-one wants to colour in, you asshole.

Podcasts

Off Menu Podcast
Shagged Married Annoyed
How to Fail
I have limited myself to 3 podcasts because I am a completionist and there are only so many hours of the day and I am busy watching people make pottery, doing quizzes and learning stuff. These three tick my boxes. Download them and thank me later.

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.3)

books

Before I share the books I have been enjoying lately, I wanted to first tell you about 2 amazing resources that I have fallen in love with this week.

I recently found out that Goodreads is owned by Amazon and I was really gutted. I hate Amazon but I love Goodreads so I was v.conflicted about what to do. Then yesterday, a friend told me about StoryGraph which is like Goodreads but a whole lot better. It’s a black owned business, it’s extremely aesthetically pleasing and it can import all of your data from Goodreads onto your shiny new StoryGraph profile. I also like that you can attach trigger warnings to books, that it gives you spot on recommendations based on the books you like to read and you can access loads of data that dissects the kind of things you read the most. It is like Goodreads in the 21st century and a whole lot cooler. If you fancy following me, my account name is runwildalice (quelle surpise, yup still learning French too). The website only launched this months so I expect that lots more functionality will be coming soon.

Another bookish recommendation I want to share is Bookswap. Now that the libraries are closed, this is really scratching the itch of wanting new books without spending lots of dollar. The premise is simple: for every book you offer you can claim a book. When you claim a book, you just pay for postage and packaging. When you offer a book, once it is claimed, you get emailed a pre-paid postage label and drop it off at your nearest Parcel stop (usually in corner shops) to be sent. I thought it would be full of loads of old books but there is all the new stuff on there too! You can set up a wishlist so every time that a book that you want becomes offered, you can claim it. You have to have send a book to get one back and I really like that. I have already sent off 2 books and claimed 2 back which I have been waiting ages to read. I bloody love it. Full disclosure: If you use this link, you get a free book without offering one and I get one too.

Here are the books I have been reading and loving lately:

The Mothers & The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett
I read The Mothers after reading The Vanishing Half but The Mothers came first and is all the more astonishing for a debut novel. In lyrical prose, The Mothers asks whether we must always live in servitude to the decisions of our younger selves, to the communities that have parented us, and to the decisions we make that shape our lives forever. The Vanishing Half is about 2 twins who decided to live very different lives – one as white and one as black. The effects of this choice is huge and the novel explores how this will effect future generations of the two families. Both of these novels were exemplary and deserving of all of their many accolades.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This was the first time I have read a novel in prose and it was really effective in the delivery of the story. Clap when you land is a dual narrative book from the viewpoint of 2 sisters. The girls are forced to face a new reality in which their father is dead and their lives are forever altered. When it seems like they’ve lost everything they learn of each other. The book brims with grief, love, loss and the difficulty of forgiveness.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

It has been a long while since I have been really impressed with a crime thriller and Lucy Foley definitely delivers with The Guest List. Set at a wedding on a remote Irish island, all of the characters seem to have motive and the conclusion had me completely shook! This is exactly what I want from a book of this genre, if I’ve worked out whodunnit by chapter 3 I’m not happy. Hats off to the author, this is really clever writing.

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Oh my goodness, have I been hiding under a rock? How has it taken me so long to read this book? I’m annoyed with myself. It’s the kind of novel that makes you wonder how one author can dream up the characters and story line. It’s almost too good and has fast become one of the best books I’ve read. Ever. A Thousand Splendid Suns is a chronicle of three decades of Afghan history and a deeply moving account of family and friendship. You have to read this!

Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones

Set in 1980’s Atlanta, this novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s two families—the public one and the secret one. It is sort of similar to Clap when you land but at the same time, totally different. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. I didn’t love this book quite as much as An American Marriage (also by Tayari Jones) but I think that is because it lacked conclusion. I guess bigamy is quite a hard thing to resolve..

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

This story is written in vibrant Trinidadian prose and questions who and how we love, the obligations of family, and the consequences of choices made in desperation. I didn’t know much of this book before I read it and I absolutely loved it. I was totally invested in the 3 central characters and audibly gasped at certain moments. A totally immersive book and worthy of your bookshelf.

The Girl With The Louding voice by Abi Daré

Another ridiculously impressive debut novel. This book is told in the unforgettable voice of Adunni who is trapped in her life of servitude but determined to fight for her dreams and choose her own future. It’s both a heart breaking and hopeful story. I was rooting for Adunni every step of the way and her character will stay with me for a long time. This book deserves awards!

The Confession by Jessie Burton

I wasn’t too sure on The Miniaturist but I am glad I gave Jessie Burton another chance as this book was much more up my street! This is a powerful and deeply moving novel about secrets and storytelling, motherhood and friendship, and how we lose and find ourselves. I loved how the 2 storylines and timeframes interlinked to reach a satisfying conclusion. I like a story where the reader knows more than the character and you watch them edging ever closer to the truth.

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

This was another hotly anticipated novel and I through Alderton created something really clever with her first work of fiction. The novel is funny, tender and painfully relatable and I thought the portrayal of Dementia was done sensitively and to great effect. I did find that I kept imagining Dolly as the central character, perhaps that is due to reading (and equally loving). Everything I Know About Love, also written by Alderton. This is quite a fluffy read but with important themes. It’s a goodun.

If you have enjoyed this post, check out my other recommended reads here and here.



How to fail

stuff

I recently started listening to Elizabeth Day’s podcast where she invites celebs to share 3 of their failures. It’s really great. If like me, you’ve been living under a rock, here it is and you only have 79 episodes to get through. God speed. Inspired by my new listening & my pal Imi’s post I thought I would share 3 of my own failures. Recognising where you’ve failed gives you the chance to celebrate where you have succeeded and more importantly recognise that failing is ok, that it is all part of being a wonderfully flawed human.

Doing a forward roll

I cannot do a forward roll. I never have and I never will. For the first 16 years of my life this was extremely stressful. Through the primary school ages, I dreaded the lessons when those squishy blue mats would be brought out ready for tumbling. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect teddy bear roll? Sign me up. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect forward roll? I suddenly really need the toilet. I remember once at a church BBQ I got all of the adults to take in turns to coach me how to do a forward roll. I wanted to be able to go into school next week and not feel sick with nerves that I’d be asked to do one and maybe I just needed the right teacher. It felt like everyone in the whole world to could do a forward roll except me and when I still couldn’t do one after 3 hours of coaching and a regular intake of hot dogs I thought my life was officially over. I despairingly asked my sister’s friend what I should do about the dreaded p.e. class coming up next week because I had checked the weather and it was going to rain which meant we’d definitely be on those pissing blue mats. He wisely suggested I forget my p.e. kit. So I did. Crisis averted. For now.

Through the secondary school years, the stakes felt even higher but luckily my forgery skills had come on since the age of 6 and I could get myself excused from any lessons that included the word gymnastics. Weirdly 10 minutes into the lesson I would suddenly realise I had a letter saying I couldn’t participate due to cramps (sorry Mum!). It goes to show that no male p.e. teacher had a good grasp of menstrual cycles because my periods lasted for weeks on end and none of them pulled me in for a chat, concerned about the sheer amount of blood I must be losing.

Luckily, since secondary school I have never been asked to do a forward roll and I have since met other people who can’t do one either (solidarity, my friends). This failure embodies my complete fear of letting other people down but in hindsight I don’t think anyone was particularly bothered by my lack of gym mat skills.. except me.

Driving

I am 29 years old and I cannot drive. I would much rather walk, run, cycle, get the bus, crawl or skip thank you very much. The thought of driving makes me feel sick and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the place where I actually want to learn to drive. I fleetingly did driving lessons shortly after my 17th Birthday and I think I got to the bit when you start doing manoeuvres and then my driving instructor quit and I convinced myself it was because I had let him down in some way. After that I did a few lessons with a new instructor who was so passive aggressive she made me cry and I vowed I would never try again. I hate being bad at stuff and I thought I must be the worst person who has ever tried to learn to drive. In reality, I had hardly had any lessons and it takes time to be able to safely drive a hunk of mental around the mean streets of the very small town I grew up in which in hindsight would be a much easier place to learn in than the big bad city of Bristol. Sigh.

I still feel frozen with fear at the thought of getting back in the drivers seat. I don’t think it’s too much of a big deal that I can’t drive until I want to do a big food shop or not get on a Megabus which always smells of feet.

Boundaries

Boundaries is such a buzz word at the moment and I use it a lot but I absolutely suck at actually implementing them. The queen of multi-tasking, answering emails at midnight and putting away laundry whilst also on loud speaker chatting to someone I definitely didn’t need to be chatting to. The nature of my anxiety means that I love having a packed diary because the more I do the less I need to think. My favourite days at work are the ones that whizz by because I just have so much to do and it’s only recently that I’ve realised how unhealthy that is. For years I allowed my time to be sucked up by everything and anyone and never carve out time for me just to be. I think I’m getting better at this but I can easily find myself slipping back into it because old habits die hard. I said to my therapist once that I was exhausted because so many people needed stuff from me, I was trying to keep so many spinning plates spinning and it just wasn’t fair. Rather than sympathising with me she told me that maybe I find my worth in needing to be needed and she’d absolutely hit the nail on the head. I am regularly serving from an empty cup & I.am.thirsty.



2021 and Lockdown 3.0

stuff

We glugged the sweet fizz of prosecco as we saw in the New Year with (the rightful King of the Castle) Jordan North. We grabbed panettone by the fistful and danced to 80’s pop and I allowed myself to feel quietly optimistic about 2021. Like a modern day Cinderella I wanted the stroke of midnight to mean something and instead of leaving my shoe on the staircase as I ran outside, I wanted to leave the pandemic and all the other shit we’re carrying and firmly close the door behind me. But no such luck. We opened the door and outside there was a thick frosty fog filling the streets. You couldn’t even see your hand infront of your face and it didn’t feel like a very good omen. But hey, stranger things have happened and maybe 2021 really will be the year that all my dreams come true.

I have a love/hate relationship with new years resolutions. For a long time they would be a reason to berate myself into a new diet or exercise regime to shrink myself as much as possible. In more recent times, they would be an opportunity to say ‘THIS IS THE YEAR I WILL LOVE MY BODY NO MATTER WHAT OK’ and then 3 days later when I am squeezing into some leggings and not feeling so kind with my inner thoughts, I would have officially ruined my resolution and face planted the entire contents of my fridge. Rules don’t work for me, even if they’re positive ones.

So instead of resolutions, this year I’ve put our 3 hopes into the Universe. One is a big one and the other ones are a little bit silly. If I don’t achieve any of them then everything will still be ok and the world will keep on turning. This is the first year I didn’t even consider making any resolutions that revolve around my body which is extremely refreshing. So instead..

A house

I would really really like to buy a house this year. It would be nice to have more space and a garden but if that doesn’t work out, we have a little flat which is home and a place I feel safe in and that is more than enough.

Olio & Duolingo

I would really really like to use these apps a bit more. But if I don’t collect ‘x’ amount of bags for life full of gone off pastries or complete a 300 day streak of learning french.. c’est la vie!

1 second a day

I would really really like to remember to record my 1 second video every day so on the 31st December 2021 I have something nice to look at and if I don’t remember one day that isn’t a call for me to give up completely and instead just to pick it up when I remember again.

The stakes of all of these hopes are low, lower than low, the lowest because none of them actually really matter. If seeing the 1st January as a blank slate works for you then you do you but I am done with the pressure. Besides, I think we all have quite enough to be dealing with right now trying to keep up with if we are allowed to hug our nan, meet up in a pissing cold park, or stay 1 or 2 meter’s apart from the lurker in the corner shop.

God speed into lockdown 3 and again, please don’t invite me to your Zoom quiz.

In review: 2020

stuff

The year filled with so much hope will end in 13 days (how apt). I have 30 hours left of work until I put on that sweet out of office and pour myself an extremely large gin. This year has been fucking awful but I am determined to find some glitter in the grey. So here we go.

  • I got a girlfriend
  • I got a girlfriend who likes sharing out chores and emotional labour
  • My family didn’t abandon me when I told them about aforementioned gf
  • I had therapy that helped untangle my issues around dependency
  • I made real leaps and bounds in my eating disorder recovery
  • I bought more shoes so that I don’t only wear one pair of running shoes all day every day
  • I decided I liked marmite after 29 years of thinking I hated it
  • I started swimming again in rivers, lakes, lidos and swimming pools
  • I got a tattoo!!!!!
  • I bought a bike, had cycling lessons and didn’t fall off…yet
  • I read a shit ton of books. Currently on #60
  • I went in a float tank and it kind of felt like I’d taken mushrooms
  • I made a real effort to ditch fast fashion and have massively reduced my spending habits
  • I gave lots of time to volunteering
  • I learnt how to speak French, 100 day streak on Duolingo baby
  • I stood up for myself more
  • I think I ate peanut butter every day (potentially fake news)
  • I climbed a real actual mountain
  • I got to live in 2 v.different parts of the city that I love
  • I completed an award winning amount of levels on Candy Crush
  • I discovered new nice green spaces to explore
  • I fell in love with new music, tv, poems and podcasts
  • I am the proud owner of a ladder bookshelf
  • I finally found out what is wrong with my feet and how to help them
  • I stopped wearing make-up and feel liberated by my fresh face
  • I did some half arsed calligraphy
  • I got paid to do some writing
  • I got paid to do a focus group about vaginas
  • I proved I’m an adult by buying a sofa on credit
  • I managed to keep my job and business despite having 98541 melt downs
  • I managed to get some decent dollar into my savings account
  • I connected with new and old friends in meaningful ways
  • I kept my sanity during a worldwide pandemic yeaah woooo!

Ok that did actually make me feel a little bit better and I highly suggest you give it a go and tell me in the comments if you want but don’t if it’s going to make me feel bad. Just kidding. Sort of.

24/7

stuff

A few days ago I found out by the power of a judgmental app that in the previous 7 days I had been on my phone for 24 hours, the equivalent of one whole day out of my week. During this time I had – chatted to friends, learnt French, ordered things, did online banking and for the remaining 90% of the time, doom scrolled on Instagram. The app even showed how long I was using my mobile each time I unlocked, ranging from 7 seconds to a full hour.

I have always had a complex relationship with my phone and feel like I am continually trying to work out what works best for me – removing social media completely, letting myself a set amount of time to go on my favourite apps, alarms to tell me I have been on my phone too long or just turning it off completely. When I go cold turkey and put my phone away in a drawer, I feel great but as soon as the time creeps nearer for us to be reunited I literally get a rush of adrenaline, my heart starts beating and I can’t get off it until everything has been seen, responded to and completed which is impossible because as soon as you’re done someone does another bloody Instagram story.

I wrote this blog post where I concluded that a 7 day detox had changed my relationship with my phone for good and I would now be a lot more mindful with how I use this annoyingly intelligent piece of technology but lets be honest, it didn’t stick. I’m not mad at myself for being addicted to my phone because that is literally what they are designed to do. I watched the Social dilemma a few months ago and decided I would never use social media again and then the next day I posted what I was eating for dinner.

I feel my main ties to my phone lie in Whatsapp and Instagram. I have increased the amount of people I follow on Instagram which might sound counterproductive but when I follow less people I feel like I need to be up to date with everyone’s dull antics. Following more people has made it literally impossible to do that so now I can pick and choose the content I engage with. Whatsapp is a bit of a beast, I miss the days of saying ‘ptb’ at the end of a text message and then having to wait 3-5 working days until my mate had saved up their pocket money to get a top-up and then finally got back to me. Messages were long, squeezing in the absolute maximum of characters instead of the constant dialogue that Whatsapp encourages. I tried to use my Whatsapp account like old school sms, spending time before I responded and then sending a full paragraph to engage in more meaningful comms but that isn’t ideal when your gf just wants to know if you want salmon for dinner.

I don’t have the answers but I do know I need to use my phone less. These last 2 days the judgmental app tells me I have used my phone around an hour each day which means my usage has been reduced dramatically since I was presented with the cold hard facts and a graph to rival those on BBC news when a new covid announcement comes (next slide please). I’ve realized that when I have days when I have seen friends in person, I don’t reach for my phone as much. I’ve noticed that I am constantly craving connection and the best way for me to do that is to be present and irl with the people I want to chat to..which isn’t ideal when there is a global pandemic making it illegal to be close enough to have a chat without shouting.

So I’m going to be kind to myself whilst I muddle through this and not put any hard and fast rules about how I use my phone. As soon as I make a rule I want to break it. I can only use my phone for an hour a day? Watch me use it for seven. The thing I want to do is just use it a bit less and that’s something I reckon I can manage. At the end of the day if something is important, they will call you, promise.

In review: 10 books that you need on your bookshelf (pt.2)

books

Reading continues to bring me comfort, an escape from my busy every day life and a chance to completely engulf myself in someone’s world. Reading a good book is pure magic. In September, I shared 10 books that you need on your bookshelf and now I am back with the next installment. I am storming through books at the moment and have been lucky to happen upon some right crackers. With libraries closing there doors I have been relying on my bookish pals to provide me with excellent reading material and they have seriously delivered. This may well become a regular feature on my blog. To keep up with what I am currently reading, check out my StoryGraph account.

My brilliant friend & the Neopolitan novels by Elena Ferrante
Oh boy I loved these books and felt genuinely heartbroken when I finished the 4th installment. Ferrante is an incredible writer and no one knows who she is. The characters she creates seem so real and I was completely enthralled by the story. The novels follow two central characters – Elena & Lila from childhood to adulthood. I had to keep referring back to the useful character list at the start of the novel to keep track of who everyone was but by the conclusion, they all felt like old friends. It is almost like an incredibly well written Italian soap opera with so many twists and turns that it pretty much took my breath away. Perfection.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Homegoing is a historical fiction novel which with each chapter follows a different descendant of an Asante woman. The book starts with her two daughters, who are half-sisters, separated by circumstance. Subsequent chapters follow their children and the following generations. The novel beautifully explores the slave trade and imagines life in Ghana at that time, and as we move forward through time we see what slavery becomes in the US, and how it changes Ghana. I couldn’t put this book down.

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
We found this book for 50p in a charity shop just before lockdown, impressed that it had won the Booker prize in 2008. The White Tiger felt different to any book I have read before. I was transported from my sofa to the underbelly of India as I journeyed with the protagonist, Balram. Over the course of seven nights, by the light of a chandelier, Balram tells us the terrible and transfixing story of how he came to be a success in life. I’m really pleased this book is set to become a film as the imagery felt so clear in my mind – I hope it lives up the novel!

The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal
I found this book in a phone box which has been repurposed by the community as a free book shop. I had heard about the novel a while ago but had never got around to reading it. I love books that take me somewhere new and this book captured 1850’s London brilliantly. This is a richly dark and gothic book about art, love and obsession. It is an unsettling immersive read, with its elements of horror, ideal for those who love historical fiction set in Victorian times. Previously, I hadn’t read many novels of this genre but I really enjoyed The Doll Factory. Shoutout to the phone box.

Fried green tomatoes at the whistle stop cafe by Fannie Flagg
Yes that really is the author’s name. This book is full of Southern American charm and made me feel very hungry at the descriptive passages about the food that was being eaten (luckily there is a recipe section at the back for the novel’s signature dishes). It’s a love story, a friendship story and so much more. There’s survival against the odds, murder, and plenty of humour. I did find some of the racist dialogue hard to read but I understand that this is very true of the time that the novel is set. I wish I could visit the Whistle stop cafe.

The Outrun by Amy Liptrot
At the Port Eliot festival a few years ago I heard an interview with Amy Liptrot about her new novel, The Outrun. I fell head over heels for Amy and knew that I needed to read her book immediately. I was v.sad I hadn’t read it before so I couldn’t ask any insightful questions. I digress. The Outrun is a memoir that at times feels like poetry. Amy leads a hectic life in London and recovery from addiction leads her back to her home on Orkney. Through these new surroundings she comes to terms with what has happened to her and finds new hope in the land around her. This book started my love of wild swimming and I could read it again and again.

The Stationery shop of Tehran by Marjan Kamali
I’ll admit it. I haven’t actually finished this book yet but I love it so much that I know that I want to recommend it. This book is a reflection back on a love story that took place in 1953, Tehran. With a country who fought for democracy; for a couple who fought for it within their family. A couple who are destined to be together until torn apart for reasons unbeknownst to Roya, the lead character. Fifty years later, she gets her answer. I am still waiting to find out what that answer actually is but I am completely confident in the author that I won’t be disappointed by the novel’s conclusion. I will edit this if I turn out to be completely disappointed by the novel’s conclusion.

& Now for some of my favourite fluffy books that aren’t too hard on the brain and feel like a hug.

The Flat Share & The Switch by Beth O’Leary
The Flat Share is about two people who share a flat, with one working in the day and sleeping at night and the other sleeping in the day and working at night. It’s a frivolous romanic comedy that I can definitely see being turned into a film. For lots of non-reading friends, this book has got them back into reading. The Switch is about a grandmother and granddaughter who switch lives. The story is slightly predictable but I didn’t mind that because I wasn’t in the mood for surprises to be honest. These books would make excellent holiday books. In a word they are: lovely.

The Summer seaside kitchen by Jenny Colgan

Oh how we laughed when I picked up this book from a charity shop. The cover looked like a classic book for middle aged women to read on a sun lounger and I wasn’t expecting much at all. Then I couldn’t put it down and had to eat my words. The Summer seaside kitchen is the beginning of a series of books set on the fictional island of Mure. The books feel cosy and safe and include delicious food and likeable characters. I have Colgan’s latest Christmas installment which I am very excited to read next month.