Holiday

I didn’t post at all for two whole days. Here’s why.

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#365daychallenge Sunday, Tate Modern

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There’s been some quite robust discussion in the house over what should happen at weekends. As a result, on Saturday and Sunday nothing was written as part of a plan. I’ve stated in other places that now writing is my job, there is requirement for alternate means to relax when that doesn’t happen. Saturday was gaming, Sunday was the Tate Modern. Both had their surprises.

I’ll write at length about Olafur Eliasson in the week, as his exhibition caused an unexpected anxiety attack. It’s a measure of my progress that didn’t utterly ruin the day. It also provided a surprising amount of material that I now wish to write about, so in that regard I’m very happy with the entire weekend’s exercise. If there was worry previously over being unable to be creative, this has greatly assuaged it.

I’ll be in a forest in a week, which is the holiday I’ve been looking forward to for a lot longer than was previously believed. There’ll be a lot of writing there, but all the real work will happen when I come back. Many things will be pulled from their spaces on hard drives to be re-written. I’m ready to do that now, and instead of using new stuff as contest entries, it’s going to be old things, re-imagined.

I’m surprisingly determined at what will be achieved.

Eat to the Beat

Day 2 of the Project, and I promise this is the last time I do that. Had to wait for a delivery but after that, it was down to the place which, according to various sources, is the happiest to live in the Country. It’s pretty cool, that I’ll grant you, but parking is an absolute nightmare. As a result, today was a walk there and back (not nearly as far as Tuesday) plus I get to go past a killer sammich shop on the way.

Yes, I have devolved this all back to an opportunity to eat well, what can I say.

Great pictures, poetry progress, and egg salad to die for.

Let’s get sorted on some of my backlog…

Rain is Falling

It is a foul day outside. I have not completed the scheduled early Gym session because after last night’s exercise on the bike, I needed to rest.

After an hour, I was in tears, again. This is a curious combination of knowing what I am capable of doing, not being able to do that and struggling with the mechanics of making everything work. It is the geared bike that is the problem, and in that regard, there’s a measure of gratefulness I am not doing this outside in the rain. However, last night was undoubtedly progress. The numbers do not lie, after all.

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If I can keep this up on a ‘real’ static bike as opposed to an ungeared one, I will shortly back to where I was. The key then is whether I can improve my FTP. If I stick at reasonably flat roads for a few weeks, it should be more than doable. Then I can look to increase (again) the level of my other Gym activities. However, the key last night was that represents 400 calories plus of exercise: once I can guarantee over 500 a day (and a gym day plus bike is closer to 1000) then we can look at weight loss and conditioning. Right now, undoubtedly, is just an awful lot of physical and emotional thrashing about.

The mental stuff is probably most tiring of all.

I do not remember a time for many years, going back to the period both my kids were being breastfed, that I felt as happy as I now do just to lie in bed. That sense of being able to stay put, and not having to worry about anything except just going back to sleep has become the indicator of how hard I’m working. Today I took an hour to look after the surface layer of my body too: exfoliation, feet care, a long (and almost painfully hot) shower and then being able to move around the house without having to worry about being anywhere or doing anything is EXACTLY what both brain and body need.

Tonight, however, I fully intend to do 22 miles plus to knock my 110 miles for the week early… except I got dragged out for a meal and now I’m shattered. So, rest day today and back at it tomorrow.

P.S: I love yoga pants. I should wear these more often.

Think

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I am returning to something I never finished before the start of the Summer.

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I began this course before being diagnosed with the gallbladder issues. Without it, I doubt I’d have coped nearly as well with surgery. It seems like the right time to return to it, especially with the peculiar background of World News. Mindfulness, as I have discovered, is not for everybody. In fact, challenging demons is a tough ask for a great many people. I’ve always avoided drugs, mostly because I am well aware of the addictive nature of my personality. Writing has granted a clarity to vision that I have no desire to either diminish or lose. Mindfulness grants an opportunity to listen to yourself, and cope with what is heard.

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In my case, this was eminently apparent an hour ago, as I sat in a dentist’s chair for a check up. As a kid there was a horrible incident with gas and air, which I still dream about (and not in a good way.) That makes even sitting in the chair an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience, but today I went with the ability to detach myself from what was happening. As tools whirled and sharp metal things poked my gums, I concentrated on the shape of the chair itself, how it felt under my body and ignored the other sensory inputs. It was, if truth be told, a pretty effective exercise.

This was how I’d rationalised moments that could be dealt with back in May whilst ignoring those things that couldn’t be changed. It is how I’ve quietly and systematically taken out of the equation a number of negative factors affecting my daily output, and pretty much just focussed on good. Of course, nothing is 100% foolproof, and I’ve still had some massive fails along the way (Car getting hit again being a case in point) but, in the main, I can thank mindfulness for quite a bit.

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The next stage is to complete the course. The one I’m taking asks for a fee (£30, $38) and then allows you access to all relevant materials online. You can see what that entails by clicking here. It absolutely won’t be for everybody, and if you’d like to do some more general reading about the concept, try starting here. Like most things in life, treatment depends on knowing what the problems are to begin with. For me, there’s a fairly specific list of issues, and each one is being ticked off in a slow and methodical fashion. Patience has never been my strong point, but as I know how long it takes to learn new skills, there’s no point in getting stressed. Things will happen in their own time, but often that’s not good enough.

In this case, slow and sure is absolutely, totally fine.

Happy

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This blog is the equivalent of Internet tumbleweed: extremely localized, and only seen by a handful of people. Every time I hear someone lament that ‘nobody cares about what I do’ there is this sudden and overriding desire to point out that, for coming up for two decades that’s been my life, right there. Seven years of blogging and before that countless fan websites and online hangouts. Instant and stellar fame very rarely just happens, there is a phenomenal amount of work behind it. Only by pushing daily do you achieve any notion of success and then maybe, just maybe the fates will align and you’ll catch a break.

The true and lasting satisfaction gained from writing should be the understanding you were read by other people. Of course, the only way this registers is when that fact is passed on via feedback: good or bad, a hit is still just that. Most of us, like it or not, will not be J.K. Rowling. Getting your name in print is no guarantee of immortality, and many authors have only gained real critical acceptance after death, so what is popular now may well have been forgotten in a century (assuming of course humanity makes it that far.) Everybody, like it or not, is pissing in the Cosmic wind.

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Right now, this moment, what is most important to the majority of the Internet is themselves. Narcissism is that most human of traits: look at me, I’m special, why aren’t you watching my Twitch feed or buying my Redbubble items? Except, if you look closely, the successful people don’t say this stuff out loud. They’re not complaining that nobody subs, or how unfair it is that certain people do well. All those self-help guides which proclaim that the true path to success is self belief are absolutely spot on. The difference between making them work and failure isn’t the guides, its whether you choose to listen and act.

Undoubtedly, some things work for you and others don’t. However, the overriding difference long term between success and failure isn’t about how others mark that progress. Ultimately that will come from within. Age has finally demonstrated that there’s a fine line between listening to criticism and being dictated by it. Finding a balance isn’t just about listening and acting, there has to be thinking and reassessment too. If you insist that you can’t or won’t change, at some point in the journey, you’re going to end up in trouble. The true success stories combine determination with adaptability, and more.

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I love the fact that, in this part of my journey, I pretty much know every follower by name. I have made a promise not to forget the people who matter, but expect in return from them a measure of accountability and interaction. Friendship does not mean doing as you’re told and then expecting nothing in return. These days I’m also quite vocal if I feel people are being selfish or unreasonable, but only if there’s the chance they’re receptive to criticism. Sadly, many people on social media can’t hear you, however much they may claim to be listening.

When internet success is as much about an ability to get AI to consider you important by using the right keywords, organic growth can seem irrelevant. When you refuse to follow robot accounts or bow to other people’s perceptions of popularity, there’s a line drawn which dismisses the need for reassurance. You’ve the potential to gain far more out of life by looking to yourself for the answers: it is why meditation and introspection are now considered far more dangerous by some than beneficial. Often, the last thing some need is to have a mirror held up to their feelings.

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It seems the true reality of success involves hard work, introspection, understanding and luck. The key is that only part of this equation is an individual’s to dictate. That means making sure your part of the deal’s as solid and locked down as it can be. Then, you work hard, every day, and eventually you might, only might get lucky. The moment the process stops granting satisfaction? There’s a choice: reassess, or move on. After 50 years, this is the first time I’ve truly derived pleasure from anything that could be considered employment, and as a result you bet I’m gonna carry on regardless.

I don’t write for an audience. I do it to make me happy.

Run to the Hills

It should have happened yesterday, but I wasn’t ready. My first proper, serious workout session without a PT to hold my hand had the potential to be stress incarnate, but I’m lucky enough to have a trainer who understands my fears, and can help me plan to beat them as well as my targets. That meant a well planned session of cardio and weights, that she wrote down for me in detail, noting all the things I’d need to organise beforehand, then told me to transcribe the whole thing to my Phone. That was the first masterstroke, I now grasp, because I had to understand what I was being asked, recall the instructions she’d given on Monday, and then add my own take on what was needed to move forward.

However, that was the easy bit. The genuinely frightening part was arriving this morning post School Run to find the ‘grown up’ part of the Gym where the weights and the bar was full of beautiful, fit and incredibly intimidating people. I’d gone early in the hope there’d be nobody about but nope, totally rammed. I had a choice: did I stay or run? My favourite treadmill (YES I HAVE THAT) was free and I took this as a sign. At some point you have to decide what matters most and just fucking get on with it. So, I did.
 
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If you don’t understand how frightening it is to have to be around people on days you’re unable to cope with yourself, I’ll never convince you otherwise. I decided the way to best deal with panic was to ignore everything and concentrate on my music, and so I did. I ran for 20 minutes, up and down inclines, and could still breathe at the end. I used the scary Watt Bike and remembered all the settings, and I didn’t slack, doing everything that I’d been told to, despite at this point feeling like my lungs were going to explode. Getting to the weights was actually a relief, until I realised I’d be lifting between two blokes built like bungalows. My arms wobbled, I sweated buckets. The fat rolls popped out from my tucked in shirt. I focused on the music and just did the exercises.

Then when I got to the weightlifting bar, I made eye contact with someone and it all went a bit Pete TongI didn’t imagine the other guy staring as I took off weights and I couldn’t work out if he was amused or encouraging, so I just ignored him and did the sets. As I concentrated more on the music and less on the people around me, it started to be enjoyable. I began to stop worrying and by the time I got to the last set of push ups, I was having fun. It is true that a lot of the time your perception of the world is adversely affected when you allow others to dictate your actions: once I locked everything out, the whole journey stopped being about those around me and all about myself. I even did stretches for warm down and was able to do one leg balances with a measure of confidence. I was mentally and physically exhausted, but I’d completed 80 minutes of genuine physical exertion.

The reward isn’t just poached eggs on toast. My PT was training herself this morning, and she saw me working. I don’t have to pretend I’m doing the work or lie to her, I’m able to accomplish all these things alone, whereas a year ago even the thought of such endeavour would have frightened me into inactivity. That’s the biggest benefit from all of this, quite apart from the hope I will lose the weight that is desired. The fear that you’re constantly fighting everything including yourself, that can push you to a complete stop, is what can now be used to drive my needs to fruition. I found myself this morning, as I lifted dumbbells, remembering the awkward girl who used to dream of running and never had the confidence to look past her illness. That time seems a long way away now, and regret at not starting this sooner is as big a pain as the past that fuels me now. All you can do is survive, and move on.

It is all about the journey, and never the destination.

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That was a Push Day. Saturday will be a Pull Day. I have a selection of exercises, and lots of motivation. For the first time in a while, I’m genuinely looking forward to my next session. I may revise that tomorrow if both legs and arms don’t work but for now?

This is the happiest I’ve ever been.
 

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When I started my PT journey back in May of this year, I couldn’t do a single push up. I wasn’t capable of a pull up. This morning, I proved to myself that both of those things aren’t simply possible now but academic. Even if my own mental self image doesn’t really detect the notion of change, the proof is now inescapable. I’m still struggling with breathing, and that might take longer to deal with. However, this morning’s one hour session was a triumph. However, I’ve tweaked a glute (right arse cheek) and tomorrow is already going to be painful. NO MATTER HOWEVER. We will get through it, and there will be more work to improve. This is the first time in a  while I’ve felt the notion of progress and consistency, and even though I may be knackered later, it is so worth it.

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For the record:

Number of push ups now possible without getting exhausted = 36. Technique = GREAT
Number of ‘assisted’ pull ups = 18. Technique = ALSO GREAT

I also beat my PB for 250 metres on the Rowing machine, kept going on the stepper whilst my lungs effectively burst and was able to not embarrass myself in front of the rest of the PT staff.

There will now be a celebratory extra protein bar whilst I make a quick trip around the Conservatory with my shirt over my head :D

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Let’s see if we can make some more progress in the week :D