Good Night

Something interesting happened to my Fitbit in the week, which I think is worth discussing this morning.

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My Blaze now utilises its own heart rate monitor to show me what kind of sleep I’m getting. There’s been the ability for a while to ‘track’ how long you sleep using the internal accelerometer, but many people challenge the validity of the results, to the point of taking the company to court over claims of exactly what happens to your body in bed. Now, knowing that heart rate varies when asleep it is only logical that someone would put the two separate sides of the wearable equation together. Sadly, this is only available from this week, there is no means to retroactively judge the quality of rest based on what I know were historical factors. However, what I can do is begin to understand what makes a good night based on what has come before.

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This was last night, and the first thing I can tell you from this is when I woke up at just gone 2am I genuinely believed I’d woken up at 5am. That is the longest block of uninterrupted sleep I’ve managed for close to a week, so it makes sense that my body would react in that way. If I understand the science correctly, I can be awake and not aware of it as such (which is the blip past 3am) and then… well, this is the most interesting part of all, at least for me. I woke at 6.15 because I have an issue with a trapped ulnar nerve. Once awake, something happened that I know I’m capable of creating under certain circumstances: I can direct myself into a dream state of my choosing. Amazingly the Fitbit seems to have picked this up, and so in future I’m going to check my sleep records to ascertain whether I can do this when desired.

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This change is, I have to say, welcome if it is proven to be both consistent and accurate: anyone with a tracker will tell you that that is as much to do with the device’s individual quirks as it is those of the wearer. Some days it is impossible for me to get a consistent rate from a wrist sensor and I have to return to a chest strap to have any idea of how well (or otherwise) exercise is performing. When you grasp the restrictive nature of such devices, and the variance between, then you remember that any such ‘research’ has to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, I can attest that looking at last night’s record does correlate with how I feel this morning, and what I remember of the night before. Bearing those factors in mind I can see this as being a useful tool going forward, especially as I can corroborate what feels like a good or bad night with the watch’s recording of data.

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This is an interesting development, but whether it is welcome or not? We will see. It certainly shows that we’re seeing an evolution of the marketplace in terms of features, especially now as my Fitbit Phone app will look at my recorded activity and then offer me tailored videos to promote exercise based on habit. I’m not sure where else there is to go after this either, especially with mounting concerns over who will have access to your personal data in the future.

If nothing else, these will make lovely headers for the Blog.

Don’t Sweat the Technique

I have a very bad short-term memory. It’s always been that way, for as long as I can remember (badum-tish) and what this leads to is a fair amount of repetition in daily life. I’m also a great sufferer of inertia, that my brain can get caught in cycles of ‘I’ll do that in a minute’ and it never happens. It is why, more and more, I am pushing out of those established comfort zones into places where I’m forced to react more and function less. I’ve also come to the important conclusion in the last few weeks that, like it or not, a lot of this stuff has to happen alone, without either reassurance or praise. In fact, as I discovered yesterday, sometimes most of what happens is for my own benefit and nobody else’s.

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My husband is not a regular reader of my posts online. Many of the people I call friends don’t read them either, finding me too prolific to keep up with. I also had to chuckle this morning as it transpires someone whom I enjoy interacting with a lot thought they’d muted me yesterday when instead they’d unfollowed. This was one of those moments where me asking the question out loud bought up the mistake and this morning, all is well. However, as I am well aware why this happened, it gives pause for thought about what makes a solid online relationship work to begin with, and undoubtedly that has a lot to do with give and take. I learnt an important lesson about this person yesterday, completely by accident, and I’m very glad I did. My feed would be less than it is without Simon in it, but the fact I prompted him to mute is a lesson learnt.

Sometimes, you have to stand alone for the things you believe in.

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I said a lot of stuff yesterday that caused certain people issue, who then left my feed as a result. However, I’m still convinced what I said was fair, and I wouldn’t go back on anything that transpired. I wrote a post for my paid job yesterday on how my favourite MMO isn’t a place to go hide in when things get tough. If you want to do anything properly, in my head, there has to be a notion of effort inserted, and that can often come into direct conflict with other players notion of what is acceptable application and what isn’t. The next two years for the UK and anyone who never asked to exit the EU will be, at certain points pretty difficult to live with but I’m sure as Hell not about to bury my head in the sand or in a game in order to pretend difficult things are happening. For some however, that’s the least of their issues, and although I’m prepared to accommodate all such opinion, that isn’t the place where I live.

Then comes the notion of whether making a noise is worthwhile.

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What bothered me most yesterday, and this doesn’t go away, is how entitlement has become a badge of honour for some when once it was selflessness and application that mattered more. The needs of the one constantly outweigh the many, and more and more people would rather play alone than participate in group activity because, they say, of the toxic nature of the random gaming player. However, playing alone is, especially in group-based content, the very definition of toxic behaviour. Most simply wish to avoid ‘drama’ online but honestly, it is often only through conflict that we discover the true meaning of peace. I really don’t use social media to start fights but honestly, sometimes, the arrogance and narrow mindedness of some people is staggering. It is as if, in effect, they are the only person that matters, and that’s just so wrong on so many levels that it beggars belief.

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I’ve seen a number of personalities of late tweet out messages from fans which ask them to stop talking politics and just go back to being mindless distractions from daily life, and a reassuring number reply that actually, that’s not going to happen. Before the world went to shit and all we had to argue about were cat memes, it was okay to not worry about all this stuff ‘in public’ but now, everything has changed. Those public figures who show me they can think outside of their basic needs are undoubtedly heroes. This is the mindset I feel everyone should aspire to, but then comes the reality check. No, I can’t fix everything and NO you can’t make some people understand, however hard you try. If everybody thought the same, life would not be as rich and varied as it undoubtedly is. Sure, I can teach my kids the value of dedication and application but it matters just as more understanding how to do nothing and to goof off.

Balance is where its at, and maybe yesterday I worried a bit too much about being ‘right’, which in its own way makes me as bad as the people I often belittle. In the end, even when Life the MMO requires you to interact, you do have to learn the value of solo play. Early morning, late night, on a treadmill or at a keyboard, I must be able to be a decent self-arbiter. These are the moments where what matters most is not to be right but open, to other people’s reactions and how that makes you feel, to decide what matters most without blindly sticking to your path. Nobody said this would be easy, either, but the analysis is well worth potential discomfort. Learning to be comfortable alone is one of the hardest things I’ve ever learnt, with being confident in my own judgement a pretty close second.

Both things however have been well worth the effort expended.

Look What They’ve Done To My Song

Dear 48% that voted to stay in the EU with me,

I knew that today was going to be difficult for many of you. Grief is a tough emotion to conquer, and anyone worth their salt will tell you that never happens anyway, it’s just how you live with the loss. When you watch someone you respect on Social media post a GIF of Spongebob Squarepants crying on the day you’re trying to make the most of someone else’s political decision, there’s an understanding that the next two years may be living hell in places where you’d hoped there could be compassion and understanding. Nobody will disagree that making jokes about how terrible anything is when you’ve lost it is isn’t anything other than a coping mechanism, but maybe after nearly a year of knowing this day would come, we could perhaps all get over ourselves and move on. I know this is asking a lot, but at this stage there’s a stark choice for those of us without the money to leave the UK for good, or with those who rely on us having their own issues to deal with first.

My son’s GCSE exams begin after Easter, then A levels: after which if the circumstances allow he could choose to leave for Europe himself. My daughter’s just beginning her journey in secondary education. Yesterday, the Orange Fool effectively put back US Climate change legislation by eight years, possibly further. North Korea are, I’m told by various news agencies, almost capable of sticking a nuclear warhead in flight. I know more than half a dozen people who are themselves or have family members being treated for cancer, one of whom who will not see two years hence. These are the true realities of my life, not the fact that today someone hands a letter to someone else. Whatever long term consequences Article 50 triggering might have, we have to live through the next two years to grasp them. There is far too much unknown at this point for me to even consider looking that far ahead.

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Today’s social media and news cycle is, I imagine, what it must feel like for men to be repeatedly punched in the nuts. The discomfort never lets up, and once you’ve recovered from someone whining then somebody else appears to give you a reminder of just how unrelenting pain can be. I get that many people are really pleased we’re leaving, but what’s more upsetting and counter productive now are the smart-arsed 48%-ers saying ‘You’ll regret this.’ Yes, we get that our removal from Europe is as about as organised as it is possible to be with nobody having a clue. Everybody knows there is no plan. There won’t be in two years and if we’re lucky, in a decade, we might make a decent fist of it. However, as large portions of the planet as we know it could effectively vanish underwater in five years if global warming continues to melt the ice caps? Really, your attitude isn’t helping.

Let me tell you what will.

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Do something about it. Stop posting your clever memes and snarky responses to front page headlines on social media, get off your arses and MAKE CHANGE HAPPEN. Increase your subs to aid organisations and domestic charities. Support local business, whilst at the same time making sure you don’t just do this for a few months before it just becomes easier to go back to the multinational chains. Join a political party. If that’s to bitter a pill to swallow, join a Community Help group. Volunteer for stuff. Get out into your Community and do some good for a change, instead of complaining that ‘those people’ who voted for us to leave can now sort everything out because, clearly, this is their problem to solve. If you believe so much in Europe, start acting like a European. We are all in this together now and frankly if you want respect from others and to live with yourself every day? Don’t become the very people you’re now criticising for caring only about their own interests.

Become something better.

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If we live through Wednesday in one piece? I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early to start the job of making things whole again. Maybe now we all know there’s no turning back?

Perhaps you can finally reconcile your grief with moving forward.

Love and Cake,

Sarah

xxx

At Last

In the middle of the second week of Mindfulness meditation this morning, I burst into tears. I have no idea where the emotion came from: I was focussed (I thought) and only worrying about my breathing, when suddenly BANG. I had to stop as my nose immediately started running and I was conscious of dribbling snot all over my legs. I ended up sitting on the kitchen floor, bawling my eyes out, but there was no anger or frustration in any part of what was, at that point, a very relaxed body. I’d just come out of 40 minutes of yoga and it seemed the right moment to continue the Course.

It’s taken a walk and a sports massage to grasp what I was feeling at that point was relief.

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I’ve spent a lot of my life being very, very angry. It has taken many years to realise that I was the one in control of my life, and that if I allowed others to dictate that path, there would only be tears. Once I began to choose my own direction, things slowly began to fall into place and now, on an unsettled Tuesday in March, a fundamental understanding has appeared. It is okay to be me. It’s one of those phrases you see people throw around, that from time to time appears in inspirational quotes from robot Twitter feeds. People say it and they’re just words, because that’s a good thing to tell someone who doesn’t seem comfortable in their own skin. To believe those words, however, is something else entirely.

It has been nearly two decades since I last wore make up. A number of people have suggested I should try it to ‘feel better about myself’ and only now I understand what that actually means. I have nothing but respect and admiration for the women who can apply it to look flawless, who can become all manner of different, beautiful beings just with their own hands and a few items. The process never sat well with me, I felt uncomfortable and wrong. When I couldn’t cope with what I was, the last thing I needed was pretend any more. Now I’ve found comfort in myself, comes the realisation there need not be anything other than what I am becoming to be happy.

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I’ll talk about the Mindfulness course in more detail later in the week, but suffice it to say it’s the best £30 I’ve spent on anything for a very long time. If people are concerned with looks, I can entirely understand the importance of that mindset, but right now what matters more are the feelings, which no longer have to be hidden or disguised as something else. It’s a privileged position to be in too, of that there is no doubt, and as a result I’m not going to make too much more of this than a blog post. I realise just how lucky I am to be able to do this, that the time and space exists to allow my consciousness a chance to finally expand and contract.

Today will be remembered for quite some time to come.

Running in the Family

I’ve not done Fitbit stats for a while, and there’s a reason I realised last night, looking at the numbers. Once upon a time, I was all about the steps. If I’d not done 12k a day I was somehow a failure. However last week, I only managed that total once in a week which was a triumph of hard work and genuine progression. To show you how well I did, I had to annotate a wee bit, which I hope you will forgive:

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Once upon a time, all I did was walk and use an elliptical trainer. Now, I have two 45 minute sessions of intense, sweat breaking Yoga, two focussed weightlifting sessions a week with a 30 minute brisk walk/run session built in and a day where I do just that on a treadmill and nothing else… and on Monday I have an hour of PT. Basically six days a week there is at least half an hour of exercise somewhere… and I would have exercised yesterday, had it not been Mother’s Day and I decided to take a rest. Even then I didn’t sit back and do nothing, or indeed even have a lie-in. I’m absolutely not the same person I was a year ago, and I really couldn’t be happier at the change.

#365photochallenge #photographer Hard Work Done ✅

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It isn’t just a mindset adjustment either: I’m simply more comfortable when there’s exercise happening. A lot of this is, I know, due to the endorphins that this creates, that I’m naturally happier when being active. However, there’s the confidence factor to build into all this: being able to Chaturanga Dandasana with intent, as I mentioned last week, was a massive step forward. What now needs to happen is for me to start using my Fitbit to better record what I’m doing, so that I can apply this to understanding what can be improved long term in training. I’ve had the thing since Christmas and it remains no more than a glorified pedometer. This morning therefore I’ve been looking at how that changes.

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The Blaze has a function to record activity paired with heart-rate: this is useful when I use it to give an idea of how hard I’m working, and to ensure I’m doing so and burning fat whilst I do, as weight loss is what I’d like above everything else. HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) is the current goal to combine that with building muscle mass, and I’ve got some lovely graphs to demonstrate just that:

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Ideally all my exercise should now be like this: never going back to resting heartbeat, always working body and lungs. It was INCREDIBLY difficult as an asthmatic to do this when I began, but my fitness levels now mean I can maintain the up and down for a while. I don’t do this every day either, and there is now no need to. The balance of exercise types for me is perfect, and the yoga last week is the final piece of a puzzle I’ve been looking for. It means I drop off my daughter, come home and do 45 minutes of physical activity which focusses on mindfulness as well as the physical.

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I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the Mindfulness course has contributed significantly to my ability to push past the ‘I’m too tired, I won’t bother’ aspects of physical exercise that have been holding me back. Being able to imagine my body better and therefore feel how muscles are moving ad stretching has bought a completely new awareness to Yoga that simply did not exist before. The quiet determination therefore to build on these practices and to further develop the skills of stretching muscles is being balanced with learning how to not overstretch when weight training and to maintain good technique.

Really, I could not be happier right now with where I am in terms of progress. I’ll be packing my Gym bag now to walk for my weekly PT, and am looking forward to whatever I have in store.

Making Your Mind Up

Even though I lost an hour this morning, it’s a beautiful day.

I’ve spent some time pouring over Co-Promote, which is turning into an extremely useful component of the experiment for the Writing Site. I have posts worked out for the next few weeks on the Warcraft Site, and there’s NEW CONTENT due on Wednesday. The only problem I foresee in the next week is when I get on the scales tomorrow for PT and it is apparent I’ve been eating far more than I should have been, because it’s taking a while to adjust noshing patterns to the increase in exercise frequency. Everything else is looking great, and there’s now no excuse to put off a lot of stuff I’ve been avoiding. In fact, I’m looking forward to getting things thrown out and cleared away.

Life, as it stands, is going remarkably well.

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What has now made the difference, undoubtedly, is the Mindfulness course I’m on, which is about to end its first week. It has done nothing more than opened a door in my head that before I did not even realised existed. That has in turn given me entry to a place where my normal life has gained an extra depth and space: nothing dramatic has changed, but my perception has undoubtedly shifted. I’ll write about this more in detail in the week, but suffice it to say there’s a new brightness to every moment that is only now beginning to register. I’m beyond grateful for the lovely lady who suggested I go take this course to begin with. I may never adequately find the means to thank her for simply doing the job she’s paid to do.

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Normally on a Sunday I’d be lost at a PC and gaming, but today (once the blogging is done) I fully intend to put my mind to the first big task I set myself to finish this time last week, and once that is finally done I can move forward and start attacking the front of the house with hoover and dusters. Spring Cleaning will take a couple of weeks at my current rate of attrition, but this year it will be done. I’ve half assed my way through it over the last few years but really, there’s just so much crap now accumulated, and a ton of it is never used any more by either child or us. As a result, it doesn’t need to be here any more, and I can make space in a house that’s already bursting at the seams. That’s the other debt of gratitude I have to acknowledge: I’ve been keeping track of my Minimalism Game goals since the 1st of March, and I’ll have thrown out a ton of stuff come Friday and completed the goal.

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Sometimes I know it can feel as if people blog stuff that’s not real, that it is all just smoke and mirrors to get others to read their work. I couldn’t get away with ever being like that because I know now I’d be lying, and that helps nobody in the end. This month, I suspect, will be looked back as a watershed going forward, that this was the moment when I stopped pretending to be doing all this stuff seriously and moved forward.

The future is making me vibrate with excitement, and that’s never a bad thing.

Turn, Turn, Turn

I have to say, I’ve not looked forward to a weekend for quite some time as much as I have this one. For the last five days, without fail, there’s been at least 30 minutes of continuous exercise in some form. I’ve also taken the biggest and most significant step forward in personal development for probably close to a decade. Both mentally and physically last night I was exhausted, but I stayed up to finish a blog post I’d said would be available on Friday, and it was. It doesn’t help either that I’ve been hot flushing between six to eight times a day and when my head hit the pillow, I had no time to worry or think. I was out cold, and woke up six and a bit hours later.

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That’s the best night’s sleep I can remember for several weeks, right there. This morning I could just turn over and go back to sleep without the worry of missing an alarm or getting kids ready for school, and next week is the last one before the Easter break. If it wasn’t already obvious, everything could do with a rest, and the two weeks we have coming up is going to be very gratefully received. Now, sitting here and writing, there’s lots to consider and this is probably the most exciting time in terms of progress since I swapped over all my blogs to one home. I am genuinely excited for what progress means, and how I can now become effectively the arbiter of this next part of my journey.

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I’d not expected much from my paid adventure into boosting posts, I’ll grant you, but Monday’s Experiment post is going to be a corker. When you grasp what is being paid for isn’t the guarantee that your work will be read, but simply the possibility of an audience, then you’re forced into upping your game in order to try and secure more long-term interest. Right now, that does seem to be happening. It is slow, I’ll grant you, but the take up most definitely is there, and it isn’t from what was traditionally my ‘main’ audience. For more on this, and the other changes I’m seeing as a result of this, watch the other blogs as time goes on.

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On the personal side of things, I need to start doing some more general posts for Vocal next week and boost them, and work out if I can realistically finish the stuff I planned to start in January. However now, as it is such a lovely day outside, it is time to strap on a rucksack and buy some tasty, simple food for the weekend. I have an urge for a mozzarella and cherry tomato salad, and my daughter fancied fresh baked bread. I can do all this, and stick in some elevated heart rate in the process, before I finish chores and go do weights at the Gym. My life is pretty damn awesome right now, and it is important to make the most of every day.