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.

Paranoid Android

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(I’ve been listening to the Radiohead OKNotOK remaster all week. No Surprises as to what keep cropping up as lyric prompts.)

I lay awake at 5am this morning, as has become something of a habit of late. It’s not bad,  looking at the daily sleep cycle: I went to bed at ten because EXHAUSTED and seven and a bit hours has become a ‘normal’ night. However, a return to sleep was possible, safe in the knowledge that everything that needs to be done this month not only is doable, but will be completed. For the first time in many months I think I’m strong enough to produce what is asked everywhere, without collapsing in a massive heap, though there were a few points yesterday where panic physically manifested. They were all dealt with, however, and now comes the nuts and bolts.

The plan going forward is to produce enough quality content in the hope to attract someone to sign for a higher tier of participation, to break the $100 a month threshold. The job I gave up to do this paid approximately $160 a month, so that will be the next metaphorical achievement… and then if I crack $200 I can give up the other part time writing projects still involved in. I’m enough of a realist to grasp this will take time, and a phenomenal amount of effort on my part, but working hard has never been something I’ve had a problem with. As this morning shows, it is dealing with the paranoia that accompanies starting something from the ground up which is a far bigger issue. Today, nothing seems quite good enough.

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Patreon keep sending me emails instructing that content creators should play up positivity and optimism in my work. This is the single biggest thing I struggle with. Knowing work is good enough, that your heart and soul is being poured into every word and post… of course there is a firm belief in everything being produced, or this journey would never have been begun. That’s not the problem: I fucking suck at self promotion. There is nobody else to blow the trumpet except me, and only now is it apparent what a huge place the Internet is and how tiny one feels in comparison. The hope, of course, is that my distinctive approach is niche enough to attract total strangers. When that finally happens, then there will be a belief that yes, there is mileage in this.

Getting people I don’t know to take a chance on me is the next step.

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I have lost count of the number of ‘friends’ who promised earnest support for projects over the years yet conveniently vanished when help was needed the most. In fact, I should thank those individuals for teaching the lesson that, in the end, the only person one can truly rely on is yourself. This next few weeks is about being confident in conviction, and not being swayed by those who just turn up to start a fight: after all, that’s my job anyway. The people who matter most already grasp the significance of this project, and have been kind enough to stand up as support in the vital early months. Everybody else, like it or not, isn’t interested, and if that can be changed? Well, there’s a point to aim for.

Perhaps if I can aim to sway one mind a day, going forward, 365 minds by the end of the year is a massive achievement. Small steps is all I can hope for.

That’s how all good journeys begin.

There There

This week has been tough. Mentally I’ve coped pretty well but physically, my digestive system is a mess. Having to lose what I’ve become reliant on in terms of high fat foods was a wrench my body initially wasn’t at all happy about. However, a week in and I’m beginning to cope. The other major loss is what counted as rewards on Treat Days are effectively out of the window too until I can get the all clear on my scans. I’ve been living on coated nuts in small portions, the occasional flapjack and luck, mostly. I wondered if I was doing this right until I got on the scales: my weight’s dropped consistently this last week, and I’m almost two pounds down. The key here is that there’s been only light exercise, because again I’m on orders not to strain my trunk area too vigorously.

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It is more than a year now since my last period. The night sweats remain, but are slowly tapering off, and I don’t seem to get hot in the daytime nearly as much as was the case before: *gasp* I’ve felt genuinely cold on a few occasions this last week, which is a distinct change. The biggest difference is my skin, which used to be really greasy: now I’m almost permanently dry, but the skincare routine is taking care of that. Oh, and body hair’s stopped growing, which means that I’m brushing my hair less and it is undoubtedly thinning. If genetics isn’t lying I won’t go bald, but even if I did I think that’s a hurdle I could tackle. I love my long hair now and I’ll be making the most of it for as long as I can.

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It seems odd at this stage to be undergoing so much change, but I’m quite sanguine about everything that is happening at once. I’ll be doing a session at the Gym later with weights but only light Cardio, just so I can keep momentum going. I don’t have a PT on Monday as my trainer is away so I think going forward I’ll plan to do *something* daily in order to keep the weight loss moving but not get too stressed if I don’t break goals. I’m certainly not in a mental state of panic or unhappiness over anything related to weight or exercise right now, and long may that continue.

In fact, everything’s looking just fine.

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.

Size of a Cow

This is the story of how I FINALLY lost 10 pounds and moved my exercise journey forwards.

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This week, the scales shifted down for the first time in quite some weeks. Fitbit has only recently started registering and tracking weight loss, it never existed when I first signed up. However now, I can see how much has vanished since the new software kicked in. There’s a sad truth behind this 10 pounds that made me stop in my tracks. I didn’t grasp just how many times it has taken to get this far. The problem with apps is that they rarely lie, and that means that, at least for me, five pounds has been a millstone for quite a while.

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I was shocked at this statistic, and went to look at my weight measurements for confirmation. I’ve been trying to lose the same five pounds for close to a year.

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This belittles the work I’ve done to get this far as well, because it doesn’t show the level of effort or that muscle and fat have been swapped with a quite definite regularity. If all you see are the numbers and not physical change, the potential to go backwards is, I know, a fair deal stronger than it would be if all I had was weight loss as my objective. This journey’s become therefore a lot more about self-education: yes, I can read all the gumph in the world about eating to lose weight and what exercises work the best, but none of that is necessarily going to work for me. That’s the problem with the Internet: everybody is out there trying to sell you the best way to do things like they’re a) the only person doing so and b) their way is the optimal path for you, and that’s a bunch of wobbly dumdums. What is best for ME is when I understand WHY things are happening, and I can grasp the relationship between what I eat, how I exercise and how that affects my progress.

This is the new world I now find myself in, and it is amazing.

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I can tell you the key changes that have been made to improve my ability to lose weight: they include stopping with the Special Fried Rice on takeaway night, removing myself from temptation when hungry and not lying to my PT when she asks me if I did all my exercise promised from the week before. However, I hate to break it to you guys, but the #1 overriding reason why I’ve succeeded in losing weight is that I’ve worked myself into the fucking ground. That meant that yesterday, on the back of five hours sleep, I dragged myself out the door, walked to the Gym, ran for nearly an hour and did 30 minutes of weights, before walking home and promptly falling asleep. Yes, exercise is meant to give you energy and vitality, but in a menopausal 50-summat it was enough to destroy me yesterday almost completely.

That’s normally when you want to give up.

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When I look back at myself in pictures, from when I started the serious part of this journey, there’s now an inescapable difference between then and now. Once upon a time I couldn’t see it, and had I allowed myself to be swayed by the fact that nothing (apparently) was changing in my mind at the time, I’d be no further forward. All those years of trying and failing to lose weight had nothing whatsoever to do with how I did it or with whom. The biggest single issue, ultimately, was myself. That’s easier to write now than it has been at any other point in the past too, that there’s come the final grasping of a truth that underpins everything else that I do. When jokingly I’ll mention that ‘people are stupid’ to someone in conversation, I’m talking about myself. This inability to want to grasp the failings and shortcomings that have hindered progress for decades makes the current revelations all the more bittersweet.

This could easily have happened a long time ago, but never did, because until fear was addressed and faced, everything was impossible. Shame and embarrassment are potent shackles in a mind that believes that what matters more than being free and happy is conforming to norms that were never placed on you to begin with, but end up being applied by everybody else. Once there’s the ability to look beyond the constraints of what the rest of humanity tells you is possible or acceptable? The only thing stopping progress, ultimately, is death. I write this sentence for a friend of mine who, right now, is going through the most difficult of circumstances as a reminder: every day is special, each moment to be appreciated and treasured as if it were the last, because that might well be the case. A life not lived well is not really a life at all.

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Now I’ve lost 10 pounds, the next goal is 15. These are hardly real world issues for you or anyone else but for me, this is a journey I am determined to complete. It has become a metaphor for an ability to do what is needed, to allow honestly to underpin everything, and to not be a lie. It is in effect, not clean living but honest living. I don’t need funky foods and stupid fads to be better, just myself and common sense. This then becomes a measure of how the two combine with current circumstances.

I believe I am capable of anything I now want to do.

There’s No Other Way

On Sunday, I went with my Husband to the Gym, and ran whist he did a static bike class. Opposite my Treadmill are a set of upright bikes, and 10 minutes into my session in walks a guy with iPad, iPhone and a padded lunchbox. He’d been cycling less than 5 minutes when his breakfast shake in a carton came out, followed by two Digestive biscuits, and I found myself amazed that this was acceptable behaviour inside the Studio. Speaking to my husband about it, people on the static bikes use gels and protein drinks all the time, and now I’m thinking that maybe I’m the one who needs re-education. My relationship with high energy foods is still a bit tenuous, but that’s because my stomach is quite particular about what I stick in it and reacts quite quickly to stuff it decides it doesn’t like, which in the main includes gels. Protein bars we can manage, but anything else?

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My diet has quite radically altered in the last two months, since Christmas was done. I’d been healthy before that point but now it’s become a bit of an obsession. Don’t panic, there are still favourite things thrown in the mix or else this would be boring beyond belief, but given a choice between the calorie rich and the simple, the latter’s winning more and more. It has a lot to do with tracking how much gets eaten, too, and that with simpler food I can begin to grasp exactly how many calories are in a thing so brain knows when to stop. I’m increasingly taking kids sized treats as well, because a lot of them are less likely to be full of artificial crap. Plus, I’ll be honest, I eat a lot of raw fruit and veg but I don’t own a Spiraliser and no, I won’t do any of that ‘clean’ shit any time soon.

However, I think I’ve probably gone too far the way of minimal and need to bulk up at least one meal a day.

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This .gif has no relevance, I just really like it :D

It was also suggested by my husband yesterday that I work out what I enjoy eating when I’m not on a treadmill and maybe focus on adding that to my daily routine, rather than just shrugging and taking the easy option protein bar. I’d had great plans to learn more cookery stuff and six weeks into 2017 that’s all fallen by the wayside, so as of Friday I’m going to try and get a meal prepped every week for the evening that involves at least one portion of veg as standard. So, not going mad, just one thing a week like I was in January, so I can get that back on the habit forming train. It’s also pushed me to stick a Post It note on my screen with #ThingsiLove on it to help as a physical prompt: there needs to be more affirmation of the positive in my life and not a focus on the acceptable or simply sufficient.

This is a good way to keep me sane, I have concluded, that if I look for the love and don’t give it back, it isn’t productive long term. What I need to do more is GIVE the love, and learn how to appreciate the stuff around me without taking it for granted. Once upon a time I’d think this was a bunch of New Age sappiness but now, I grasp the merit in a World that’s crying out for less stupid and more caring. I started last night with a long, lovely cuddle with the youngest, who made me mini-cupcakes at Nan’s so I could eat one and not stress about the calories. If other people are this thoughtful and caring towards me, it goes without saying that I should be returning the favour.

Time to consider everything that goes into my body going forward.

The Sound of Silence

Occasionally, I’ll end up in a situation with the kids where I’m forced to make a difficult decision. Inevitably, this will boil down to their word against mine in any given scenario: you were asked to do X, why are we at Y? Once upon a time I’d attempt to assert a measure of authority to remind them that at some point, they will need to deal with contention, and how you react to that is often more important than the argument to begin with. However, you reach a point with a young person where it becomes obvious that forcing a point will only make a situation worse. In fact, you could end up causing more damage in the long term than would ever occur even if the issue is dealt with incorrectly. So, as a parent, you learn to step back. You keep thoughts to yourself. Then, with the benefit of distance, you can grasp what will be the best course of action moving forward.

Watching The Orange Twat settle into the White House has been at times terrifying and laughable, especially as it has become apparent he’s actively responding to Social media’s comments on his actions. Yesterday it became apparent that the full force of that ‘scrutiny’ is beginning to exert some influence:

It’s the equivalent of the entitled teen who can’t understand why, when he’s the best he can possibly be, that he’s not getting either the credit or the changes he demands because, honestly, that’s all that matters here, right? The self is all, because as President (obviously) you are the centre of your Universe. That works, right up to the point where it becomes apparent that maybe, just maybe, you’ve not been elected for your own reward. You do this not to become the leader of millions of people, or just to feel good about yourself and be cool at places and show off how great you are. It doesn’t work unless you start giving shit back, but more importantly nothing changes if you can’t become a useful part of the place you live in. Assuming the world revolves around you is beyond dangerous. Suddenly, everybody becomes a critic overnight. The more you shut down bad press, the more anonymous sources spring up to discredit… and then you realise the only way to shut people up for good… and nobody wants to even think about where that train of thought might end.

Sometimes, the best thing you’ll ever do is walk away and not have the fight.

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As you do, you hear the person whisper under their breath that you’re a fucking idiot, and have no idea what’s being discussed. How can you understand what’s wrong when you refuse to accept that your point of view is flawed? Isn’t it simply easier to pretend the argument never happened to begin with? Well, yes and no, because when you’re fairly confident that you do have a point and perhaps there is more going on in the World than just this one flashpoint… this is a really tough ask, most days. As a parent you know what growing up was like. You can’t get a child to grasp your view of it because, in most cases, it’s a world away from their own perception of reality. So, do you push it or do you walk away? Sometimes, your inability or reticence to engage can be enough to make your child think that perhaps there is something up. It’s not a given, though. However, after I’d seen Executive orders signed in the Oval Office with a posse of grim male bystanders and watched countless women on Social media hate the decisions made over their own reproductive rights by a bunch of guys… lo and behold, women started showing up in the background of shots. This doesn’t make pillaging native lands or shutting down environmental projects any less galling but HEY we got the memo about needing diversity in the room, so come on, cut us a fucking break already.

There’s a piece of video I can’t bring myself to post here from the Inauguration. It’s when The Orange Twat turns away from his beautiful, elegant First Lady wife and the smile she’s saved just for him vanishes in a heartbeat, like a lightbulb being switched off. It is the moment I realise that even being close to someone is no guarantee they will ever listen to sense or reason. It is the reinforcement of the understanding that in the patriarchy that is now running the USA, women don’t stand a fucking chance. This man’s Campaign manager might be female, but she’s never going to be given anything but a notion of control. There is no equality here. There is simply a desire to roll back any good that the previous Administration did, and stamp agendas to the country that further prove how wonderful the President is, and how much money he will make from being in office. This will not be the most successful Presidency in anything except financial gain. I cannot believe, having watched the last year play out, this man cares about anyone or anything except himself.

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I interact every day with people exactly like this. The world will never revolve around anyone except them. It is depressing beyond belief but inevitably it boils down to someone at some stage in their childhood not pointing out that life isn’t just about what you want. Yes, this matters and it is important, but never at the expense of understanding you are part of a whole, a planet full of people who often don’t have a voice, or are suppressed from even expressing an opinion. The bigger picture matters more, ultimately, than anything you might want or need when all is said and done. It is only a game, nobody makes you play it. You don’t need to be either rich or famous to be happy. Popularity is a game you would be best never to play to begin with. On the flip side of course, people I disagree with see me in exactly the same way. I’m the selfish one. I’m the person who doesn’t care about them.

It’s really easy to blame someone else for your failings, far harder to accept you’re less than perfect. I know my flaws, and I’m never going to be a perfect person. I have to work every day, long and hard, sometimes to even keep my head above water. This isn’t about winning, or who’s the best, and most certainly has nothing to do with belittling anyone else. The problem here is self-awareness. I know what’s wrong with me.

Can you say the same about yourself?