What 2021 taught me

stuff

2021 was a funny old year wasn’t? I started it allowing myself to feel a tiny bit hopeful that we would see the end of Covid’s impact on our day to day lives. In reality, it has been so confusing and tiring that I now see 2021 and 2020 as one big blur in my head. I let that tiny bit of hope on the 31st December 2020 encourage me to throw some ideas out into the Universe just incase something sticks. I didn’t end up consistently using Duolingo but I did use Olio a lot more. I gave up on 1 second every day (because I missed a day or two and then the perfectionist in me told me I might as well stop all together) but I did buy a house. So I’m taking that as a win. Even though the past year has been an absolute clusterfuck, it has taught me a lot and I wanted to take a bit of time to appreciate those lessons.

January
January taught me that I could get through hard things. We went into our 3rd lockdown in our one bed flat and we did all we could to keep our spirits up (strictly no Zoom quizzes). I fell off my bike and then made myself ride it home again because I knew if I didn’t, I’d have the wobblies forever. I went for walks and runs with friends, even in the snow. It was a slow start to the year but I leaned into it.

March
March taught me that sometimes smaller Birthdays are better. It was my 30th this month and I always thought that my 30th would be when I would go all out. I am usually pretty extra when it comes to my Birthdays and stretch out the attention as long as I can with numerous different plans with different friendship groups and family members. It’s fun until it isn’t and I end up exhausted and inevitably have a break down. Instead of launching into a week long festival style celebration of another year of me I spent the day with Zoe in our flat. She gave me a spa day, made an amazing charcuterie board lunch, organised an online horror escape room with my best friends and made it v.v.special. I loved every minute of it and it’s encouraged me to keep my Birthday small going forward – it’s much nicer.



June
June taught me that I am a real grown up when Zoe and I got the keys for our new house. The process of buying a house was eXtremely stressful and I could have just summed up January – May by saying ‘These months taught me that buying a house is hard’. It was so worth it in the end. We found our dream house that we could make our own, it has 2 bedrooms, a dining room, a kitchen, a living room, a dining room and a garden! It’s in a lovely pocket of Bristol and I now say every day, without fail ‘I love this house’. It’s the best thing I have ever done, with the best person I have ever met.



July

July taught me that I should take myself on dates often. Growing up, I haaaated spending time by myself and regularly spent the Summer holidays counting down until the start of school but as I have grown up I love being on my own. I love being selfish with my time and doing exactly what I want to do. It fills up my self love cup and makes me a nicer person to be around once I am done being by myself. This month I took myself on solo lunch dates and solo cinema trips to see musicals that no-one else wants to see. I sand along, ate popcorn and cried. It’s better than therapy (not really – *see November).

August

August taught me that holidaying in the UK can be wonderful. We went on a mini road-trip of Cornwall for a week and spent our days swimming in the sea, walking, reading, eating and being together. I highly recommend it. August also taught me that I really wanted guinea pigs for pets (who I am kidding) I’ve known since I was 14 and my last of 4 guinea pigs passed away – RIP Snowy, Sooty, Patch and Fudge, that as soon as I had a house of my own, I wanted piggies back in my life. After some excellent persuading/begging on my part – Zoe agreed and after our holiday, I picked up Rhubarb and Custard who quickly changed my life forever. I completely fell in love with them, my mental health improved and I honestly felt like the luckiest girl in the world to call them mine.

September

September taught me that I didn’t want to drink anymore. There was no final blow out or bad drunken decision which lead to this but more a quiet bubbling under the surface which finally came to a solid plan this month. Zoe sent me this article last week and it absolutely sums up how I feel about alcohol. Because I am rubbish with rules and any thing I commit to I immediately want to rebel against I am not saying I am sober and never drinking again. If I want to drink, I will but so far I haven’t wanted to and I am thoroughly enjoying the benefits of that.

October
October taught me that grieving for a pet is necessary and the pain of this loss is very real. A tragedy meant that Rhubarb and Custard were taken from us far too soon. It is no exaggeration to say that my heart shattered. Just before this loss I was signed off work for 1 month due to declining mental health and the loss of the girls came at the worst possible time. However, October also taught me that processing difficult things has to happen for you to be able to move forward. I spent this month doing a lot of crying but I also spent this month leaning on loved ones and letting myself be held. It was very tough but very necessary.

November

November taught me that I deserve good things. I was able to adopt 2 senior guinea pigs from a local rescue and although they won’t ever replace Rhubarb and Custard, they helped my heart to heal. They are called Cookie and Snoop and I am obsessed with them. I returned to work and felt calmer, more present and confident. However, October and November also taught me that I needed some more therapy. However much I begrudged the cost, the results have been worth it sevenfold. I felt safe to share things I have never shared before and I put in the work. I found someone who helped change my relationship with my body and food forever.



December

December taught me about rest which is a lesson I need often. An ongoing issue with my knees saw me finally visiting a physio who has signed me off running for around 3 months and given me daily exercises to do. I am hopeful that I will be back racing soon but for now I am taking things slowly and enjoying swimming, walking and stretching. I also followed a busy Christmas with a lovely few days of resting (my final day before the return going to work being tomorrow) and I feel really refreshed for it. Endless cups of tea, cross stitch and reading have made me very happy – as well as regular guinea pig cuddles.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the year ahead will teach me. 2022, I’m ready for you.

40 things I feel guilty about

stuff

Inspired by the wonderful Elizabeth’s days online list of the 40 things she feels guilty about, I thought I’d share my own.

1. I closed my business

2. Every time I get a missed call from an unknown number

3. Every time I get a letter that looks official

4. The fact I quit a sailing course my grandma paid for (aged 12) after day 1

5. I don’t know how to drive

6. I haven’t recovered from my eating disorder

7. I am rubbish at general knowledge quizzes

8. I didn’t pass my grade 5 music theory test

9. Not seeing my grandparents enough when they were alive

10. I don’t have a skincare routine

11. Every time I don’t answer an email, text or Whatsapp immediately

12. I don’t journal

13. I don’t keep up with current affairs

14. Feeling jealous of other’s successes

15. I’ve never read Lord of the Rings (or seen the films)

16. Not feeling enough gratitude for what I have

17. Not recycling every thing I could recycle

18. Letting my house plants meet their maker

19. I don’t drink enough water

20. I hate yoga

21. I can’t do a burpee

22. I can’t do a forward roll

23. I’ve never watched Friends

24. I spend too long on Instagram

25. I didn’t do well enough in my A-levels

26. Every time that I stand up for myself

27. I don’t know how to play chess

28. I gave up learning French

29. I don’t read enough non-fiction

30. I can’t shuffle a deck of cards

31. I don’t message my brother and sister enough

32. Every time I prioritise my mental health

33. Taking annual leave

34. Whenever I say ‘no’ to a social invite

35. I haven’t travelled enough

36. I don’t like coffee

37. The time I used the wrong key when locking up a pal’s house and I had to call (and pay for) a very expensive locksmith to sort it out whilst relentlessly messaging her when she was already having a stressful day

38. I talk too fast

39. Any time I have to make an important decision

40. I’m both too much and not enough

I’m tired

books, running

I’m tired and so I know I need to rest but my fitness watch makes it hard for me to do that. I got my fancy Garmin watch to help with my running training a couple of years ago. At first, I only wore it when I went out to run. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride. Then I wore it when I went out to run or for a bike ride or for a walk. Then I wore it all the time. There are a few reasons that my smart watch became permanently glued to my wrist.

1) Strava

Runners love Strava. Since joining a running club, Strava became the best the place to hang out. You can give your pals kudos for their running efforts, design routes and get involved with challenges. OR you can become obsessed with what everyone else is doing & desperate to gain digital badges at the detriment of your mental and physical health. I think Strava can be a wonderful and supportive tool for lots of people but it can also be a slippery slope for those who have struggled with a disorded relationship to exercise in the past (or indeed, lead to it). Being a completionist, I loved signing myself up for the monthly fitness challenges but would often force myself to get in the extra mileage even when my body really wasn’t feeling it.

2) Steps

I saw someone jumping on the spot the other day to before heading back into the office after their lunch break and no-one found it odd when they called out ‘Just a few more until I hit my steps’. Everyone knew what she was talking about, a large majority had probably done similar. But guess what the 10,000 steps a day mantra ties back to? Capitalism. Yep, it was actually a marketing ploy from the 1964 Toykyo Olympics – A company began selling a pedometer called the Manpo-kei: “man” meaning 10,000, “po” meaning steps and “kei” meaning meter. It was hugely successful and the number seems to have stuck. You can read more about it here. Needing to walk 10,000 steps a day isn’t true. If I’m tired af and my feet hurt, I don’t need to walk 10,000 steps. I need to lie down.

3) Knowing the time

I like to know the time. I am borderline obsessive about being early for every social occasion (being on time is being late etc) and having a wrist watch made me think I’d use my smart phone less – often when I look at my phone for the time, I end up doing 17 different things and then forgetting what I went on it for the first place but in reality a standard wrist watch would be just FINE rather than one that flashes an angry red and tells me to Move! when I’ve sat down for 5 minutes. Even if I’ve just run a marathon.

Yesterday I tried not wearing my smart watch for a day. I’d had the idea of taking it off for the whole of June but I wanted to give myself a trial day so that I could change my mind if I missed it. It turns out that not wearing a smart watch feels good. We went for a walk and for a swim and I had no idea of the stats which meant I was able to tune into my body. When swimming, I stopped after every couple of laps to float in the water or to chat to someone else also cruising in the slow lane rather than stressing out that my watch wasn’t logging the right meters. At times last year when wild swimming I became agitated that my watch couldn’t connect and therefore the world of Strava wouldn’t know what I was doing yet I was kidding myself that I had the whole intuitive exercise thing down.

Recently, I read Born to run and it really got me thinking about how and why I run. I have come to acknowledge that there is no way for me to be an intuitive exerciser whilst I have a smart watch. If I’m honest, this is something that I have known to be true for a while but have been reluctant to face up to. My relationship with food has become tricky recently too and I think taking the pressure and numbers away from movement whilst taking the pressure and numbers away from food will only be a good thing. Maybe one day I will be able to have a healthy relationship with my smart watch for but now, it has been placed into the drawer of things that don’t have a home and we’ll see how I feel about it in a little while. I have no idea how my relationship with movement will evolve over the next few weeks, maybe I’ll want to run a lot, maybe I won’t want to run at all but I’m going to let my body be my guide, every step of the way.

Becoming a joyful mover and shaker

running

TW: Exercise, eating disorders – no numbers included.

I recently updated my Instagram bio to tell the world that I am a joyful mover and shaker. My girlfriend told me that 1) I never stop changing my Instagram bio (which is true) and 2) I sound like an OAP (which also might be true). My relationship with movement has been rocky. It started as something that made me feel good but quickly became something that made me smaller. I chased numbers in all senses: miles ran, jeans size worn, calories eaten and it was miserable. I pounded the pavements as I became a seasoned runner and had little regard to how my body felt and this selfishness has caused potentially life long damage to my poor lil feet.

Last year when I completed an Ultra marathon along the Cornish coast I was so proud of myself but I was also so exhausted both mentally and physically even after a long period of recovery afterwards. When I tired to start running again I got a searing pain in the bottom of my heels which continued to visit whenever I rested after exercise. I have chronic plantar faciitiis and now need regular acupuncture, orphiotics and an extremely sexy leg splint. Stress manifests in different ways and my v.qualified podiatrist and I believe 2 key factors are to blame: Years of running on feet that aren’t quite in the right position and years of exercising in a way that pressured me mentally. This has meant that this pain is something that I will have to learn to manage and not something that I can cure. Weirdly, instead of feeling sad that my capacity to run has been wildly reduced I feel relieved and the less I run and the less I feel pressure to run the less things hurt. Go figure.

The diagnosis gave me permission to do what I had been craving for years – tuning in to my body and doing what feels good instead of clinging to my identity as someone who runs long distances. This tied in to the time where I feel good around food and accepting of my body. As long as I was striving to be smaller I was never going to have a neutral and intuitive relationship with food and movement. It was time for me to reclaim movement as something I did because I loved myself and not because I wanted to change myself.

Things that do not work for me: HIIT, circuits, burpees, running long distances, (most) yoga and gyms.

Things that work for me:

Pool swimming
I love the feeling of pushing off at the start of the length when you are under water and I feel like an actual mermaid. I love how my body feels in the water and when I’m done I like how the chlorine smells on my skin. I also like when we go for a late night swim and then stop off at McDonalds on the way home for an apple pie.
– Wild swimming
I love the anticipation of getting into the cold depths. I love the feeling when you start to feel a little warmer in the water. I like feeling seaweed under my feet. I love floating on my back and looking up at the sky. I also like getting warm afterwards and drinking lots of hot tea.
– (Sometimes) plodding/jogging/running
I love jogging to see my friend Maureen who compliments my cookie monster leggings. I love giving myself little challenges like getting to the lampost before the chorus of a song ends. I love listening to Florence and Machine when I run through the old railway tunnels and I try to sing along but usually end up giving myself a stitch. I also like stopping for walking breaks and taking lots of deep breaths.
Cycling
I love my ridiculous gold shiny helmet that some people scoff at and some people cheer. I love being able to process things that happened during my working day whilst I pedal home. I love the feeling where you push hard up a hill and then get to go weeeeeeeeeee all the way down on the other side. I like when I (occasionally) overtake men in lycra. I also like when I finally reach the flat and I have a long shower and a lie down.

I am a joyful mover and shaker and it feels so good.