Taking arms against the nonsense inside my head…

Sigh.

The day may come when I am not an over-the-top, self-sabotaging eejit, but it is not, apparently, this day.

Here’s what happened:

This January, as part of a positive approach to the new year, focused on more, not less, I decided that I would eat more fruit and veg and exercise more.

I already probably eat more veges than a lot of people, but I thought I’d go all out and try to get my two fruit and five veg, every day.  And I can always do with upping my exercise.

So I pulled out all the stops.  I bought more fruit and reminded myself to eat it.  I brushed up on what constituted a serve of veges and even set up a spread sheet to keep track of progress.

Are we getting an inkling that trouble might be around the corner?  Are we feeling the shadow of overdoing it?  Are we?

Well I wasn’t.  Not yet.  I was just keen and keeping myself accountable!  These are good things, right?

And it went well, I thought.  I ate MORE than two pieces of fruit, some days!  I kept track of the veges.  I loaded our dinner plates with salad to the point that the other members of my salad-loving family couldn’t eat it all – but I stoically ploughed through.

But then…

I noticed that my weight, which has been stable or slightly reducing for several years now (which is a good thing, after a lifetime, on and off, of disordered eating) was increasing!

Quelle Horreur!

It couldn’t be the veges, surely?  They’re healthy!  So I must not be doing enough exercise!  I had dropped off a bit over the summer holidays.  No problem.  I was going to the pool anyway.  I’d just up the duration.  I’d go for an hour every day, instead of half an hour and I would prioritise the endurance movement over the stop-start strength work.

But then my knee, which is still recovering from an old injury, recently aggravated, started hurting and I admit, I got a little panicky.  The soundtrack in my head went something like this…

I’m doing all the right things!  I’m eating so many veges I think I’ll master photosynthesis any day now!  I’m exercising for an hour several days a week and pushing for more!  But I’m still gaining weight!  Why does the world hate me?  What can I dooooo?

Can you hear the hyperventilating though the computer?

Every perfectionist, diet-scarred, self-flagellating trigger I had was being stomped on and I was at serious risk of succumbing to The Fear – and that way, madness, bingeing and depression lie.

(‘The Fear’ btw, is my shorthand for the irrational reaction that comes from having your buttons pushed and leads you to freeze up, stop thinking clearly and do things that send you in the opposite direction from your goal.  I am regrettably prone to it)

BUT…

I took a deep breath.  Oh, let’s not kid ourselves.  It was quite a few deep breaths over a couple of weeks.  But they let me think.  Really think, instead of letting the perfectionist panic take over the brain space.

And I realised a few things.

  1. In my enthusiasm to hit my fruit and vege targets, I had been ignoring the mindful eating that I have worked so hard on in recent years and which is largely responsible for the stable weight. After years of dieting, learning to get back in touch with my body’s cues about when I’ve had enough is an ongoing effort and apparently, easily forgotten, when I have another goal.  And guess what?  Even veges can put on weight if you eat your own body-weight in them on a daily basis!
  2. There was a reason why I was doing all that strength work at the pool. It’s because that’s what my POOR KNEE, STILL RECOVING FROM AN INJURY, needs.  HOURS OF REPETITIVE STRAIN IS NOT HELPFUL YOU GIANT NUMPTY.
  3. General health advice is not applicable to every person in every situation, SOMETHING I HAVE KNOWN SINCE I WAS A TEENAGER, but apparently can forget at a moment’s notice.
  4. Knee-jerk (ha!) reactions and my perfectionist tendency to overdo things can still come and bite me in the bottom if I am not vigilant.

So…

I have chilled out on the fruit and veges.  I am still trying to increase the vege content of my meals and still buying more of the fruit I like.  But I have stopped recording it in the spread sheet, since that seems to be setting off my extremist tendencies.

I have reminded myself about the mindful eating and have restarted the hypnosis app I use to support it subliminally.  And guess what?  The weight is going down again.

I gave my poor knee several days of complete rest and have started using my walking pole again. (It’s not the sort of stick you rest on, more of a bush-walking aid.  It helps me stay balanced and it keeps me from favouring the knee and causing more trouble.)

And today, I am going to the pool to do my strength exercises, in the warm hydro pool, which is why I started going to the pool in the first place and which, clearly, I still need!

It’s chastening, at my age, to realise that I am still prone to the same loony-ness I’ve been battling my entire life.  (If I was talking morals, I guess I could describe perfectionism as my besetting sin. 😉 )

But at the same time, it’s encouraging to discover that at least I can recognise it now, have a laugh at myself and reset, rather than hopping straight on the shame spiral that leads to self-destruction and self-hatred.

So, despite starting this with a sigh, I’m going to count this as a win.  Onward and upward!  Gently!  And I’m going to have some gratuitous Aragorn, to remind myself that, while the day has not yet come that I am over my own craziness, nor have I given up – and that is, after all, what the quote is about.

Do you have any unhelpful behaviours that stalk you, ready to pounce if you let your guard down?  Any that you’ll admit to, to help me feel less of an eejit? 😉

 

A few of my (current) favourite things…

It’s been a bit serious on the old blog of late, so I thought I’d lighten things up with some snippets from youtube that have amused me lately.

First, in honour of Valentines day, the adorable lads of Out Of The Blue are here to sing you a song:

Next, we have the inimitable Miriam Margolyes (who I’m pretty sure was born without any f**ks to give and who I want to be when I grow up):  WARNING FOR THE GENTLY NURTURED: MIRIAM MARGOLYES IS NOT SUITABLE FOR WORK, CHILDREN, OR PROBABLY LIFE.  (Funny, but.)

And then, a very short visual explanation of why I’m a Cumberbitch to my bootstraps.  Phwoar!  (If you’ve seen the season of Sherlock this is from, you’ll know that this might not even have happened and Molly will never have Sherlock to keep, but none of that matters.  It’s still amazing!)

And now I must climb out of the youtube rabbit hole and do some work!  Enjoy your Wednesday!

Ebook or Paper? You Decide!

Every now and again, the ‘battle’ between ebooks and paper books rears its head again, in the columns of media outlets with slow news days on their hands.  I think, as I have always thought, that it’s kind of silly, so I wrote a silly thing in response.  If silly is your jam, I think you’ll enjoy it.  🙂

Ladieeees and Gentledudes!  It’s here!  What you’ve all been waiting for!

The stoush of the century, the showdown to beat all showdowns, the take-no-prisoners death match of all time!

In the red corner, we have the champion, the old faithful, the never-beaten, bastion of taste and quality, the protector of all that is good in storytelling, the… PRINT BOOK!

And in the blue corner, the upstart challenger, the take-on-all-comers, cheap and cheerful bringer of the apocalypse the… E-BOOK!

It’s going to be an epic battle, one for the ages, so settle in and…

“Excuse me…”

The man with the microphone halted abruptly, startled into silence by a tug on his sleeve.  He wouldn’t normally have been put off his stride by a trifle, but this was no normal tug.  The hand on his sleeve was made of words.  Or, more accurately, one word.  The word ‘hand’, swelled in some places and twisted in others to make a workable finger and opposable thumb.  It was supported by the word ‘arm’, elongated to cover the distance between him and the screen of the e-reader in the blue corner.

He rubbed his eyes, but the hand didn’t go away.  Then he heard the voice again.

“I think you might be misrepresenting our relationship.”

There could be no mistake.  The voice was coming from the e-reader.

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The Honesty Ferret

So, this return to the blog has been interesting…

I was under the paw of the black dog of depression for a long time.  Well, a long time for me.  Not compared to those who have struggled always, but it took two years out of my creative life.

Recently, I got help and I’m feeling much better (you can read that story here if you want to) and the words are flowing again.

But what words!  Something interesting has happened.  I don’t know whether it’s the relief – make that the unbridled joy – of feeling normal again, or whether it’s opening up about my malfunctioning brain, but it seems my filter has fallen off.

In one week back on the blog, I’ve posted about mental health (mine, as above), music (nothing new there) and religion.  I don’t know what the modern list is for ‘things you shouldn’t talk about at the dinner table’ (or on social media), but I think I’ve hit two of them there!

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Things I learned in 2013: Part One

I long ago gave up on the idea of New Year’s resolutions made on January 1 – mostly because I discovered that, with remarkably little effort, I was capable of breaking them even before the day was out.  What I like to do now instead is use January to take stock, clean house (literally and metaphorically) and work out what I would like to achieve this year (apart from a clean house).

This year, I’m going to get the ball rolling by reflecting on what 2013 taught me.  I think, when I come to write it down, I will find it’s quite a lot and, if that’s the case, I think it behooves me to write down the lessons, so as not to forget them.  (I try never to make the same mistake twice – I much prefer to find new ones.  Sadly, I seem quite good at that.  However.  Moving on…)

So without further ado, working backwards, because that’s what’s freshest in my mind, let’s start with the lessons of this festive season:

1. If you over-cater Christmas with sufficient enthusiasm, you can avoid having to go to the shops until the 2nd of January.  Given that over-catering is my MO at all times, this is not a complete surprise, but this may be a record from a single event.

2. The above will involve you eating cocktail snacks for lunch and/or dinner at least once.  If your family objects to this, they are welcome to go to the shops themselves.  Mine is sufficiently well-trained to limit their comments to Continue reading

Anxiety dreams and other perils of Deadlines

This morning, on the book of faces, one of my author friends shared that she had had a horrifying nightmare: she had arrived at conference with only the clothes she was standing up in. No frock for the dinner, no change of undies and worst of all, no costume for the cocktail party!

I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a writing conference with several hundred other women, but this is definitely nightmare material!  Not so much for me, admittedly. I am a big fan of finding an outfit that works and buying it in several colours and I’m a bit crap at costumes, but some of the girls go all out, especially on the costumes.

But of course, this nightmare was not really about clothes, but about deadlines – and those nightmares I understand all too well.

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Debspoons created this pic for freedigitalphotos.net
(click for link). She’s a bit blonde to be me and I have a dog,
not a cat, but the expression fits!

See, I am one of those people who need deadlines.  I’d love not to be.  I’d love to be the kind of person who works steadily every day, come rain, hail or shine and who is never distracted by the internet, shiny things, books or lunch.

But I’m not.  I am a world-class avoider of that which is hard and scary and writing is both, so the whip-crack of an imminent deadline is a necessary spur to my creative endeavour.

Lately, I’ve had several.  Deadlines, that is (which is also partly why the blog was neglected; mea culpa and sorry!).  I had to rewrite a book (thoroughly, including many thousands of completely new words), edit the same book and I am currently running to try to finish another before I go to the RWA annual conference in… no, sorry, not calculating the number of days.  Too soon, put it that way!  A dread lurgy took two full weeks out of an already tight schedule, so I’m really under the lash now.

With the result that I’m also deep into anxiety dream territory.  Being a deadline-addict, a perfectionist and a closet worry-wort, I have built quite the repertoire of these, over the years and in the interests of sharing (and possibly making you feel less of an idiot, if you have them too), I thought I’d share some of my favourites.

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This little girl (who looks quite startingly similar to me at that age)
is a stock image from the wondrous resource that is FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Click on the pic for a link.

Let’s begin with an old faithful, the ‘I’ve missed my exam’ dream.  This stems from my years of study and is experienced as much in the waking as the sleeping.  This is the one you have when you have a plane to catch, or a call to make that must be done by a particular time.  It is characterised by sudden waking, drenched in sweat, with heart racing and utter, utter conviction that you have overslept, missed your morning exam and therefore failed some desperately important subject.  The horror of this is so deeply ingrained that I sometimes fall back on it, even now, and it has been many, many years since I was in any formal education.  I have, on occasion, been so horrified by this dream that I have needed to get up and go and check my calendar to remind myself that I am NOT ACTUALLY STUDYING ANYTHING to bring my heart rate back to normal.

Then there are the occasion-specific ones, like in the days leading up to my wedding, when I dreamed that I was in the back of the church, with the guests all seated and I was still in my dressing gown.  Or that I discovered, two days before the wedding, that my husband-to-be was married with four children.  This one is a particular nod to my perfectionism, as what worried me in this dream was not the existence of the wife and kids so much as that, because no-one had told me, I hadn’t been able to organise a way around it.  (Are we scenting some control-freak issues here?)

My most common one in recent years, though, has been the ‘caught naked’ dream.  I don’t think you need a PhD in psychology to work out what this is about.  It’s fear of both deadlines and the work not being good enough.  Both of those are big enough fears to feature in my conscious mind – it’s hardly any wonder that they crop up in my dreams.  But I am sometimes a little concerned by both the number of times and the variety of ways I manage to be naked in public, in my dreams.

Take last night’s: in the middle of an otherwise ordinary dream, I found myself walking down a dark street in a rough neighbourhood wearing nothing but a baby-doll nightie.  The last time I owned a baby-doll nightie I was approximately 8 years old and I’m pretty sure that I have never ventured onto the street at night without shoes, much less without knickers.  Yet there I was, prancing down the street in an outfit that barely covered my naked bottom.  I’m sure there’s something here about covering one’s arse, but I prefer not to think about it too hard.  It may lead to taking a good hard look at my work practices and I’m not sure I’m ready for that. 😉

So, what about you?  Do you go in for anxiety dreams?  What do YOU end up leaving the house without?  Do tell – I need some company out here in bare-arsed land!

The Food Asshole’s Dilemma

My apologies for my absence, I have been up to my cake hole in relatives (in a good way) for the last week or so. There will be a post to come. In the meantime, enjoy this, which I stumbled across today and which made me laugh. (Food and humour is a next-to-perfect combo for me.)

floreakeats

I’ve been thinking lately about writing a book. 

I admire this fella Michael Pollan and notice that he’s been very successful with his books, many of which seem to include rules, lists and whatnot.

So here’s my idea . . .

I study about food and realize that other people are also interested in food, but not all of them have yet learned to be completely obnoxious about it.  I will write a book that teaches people to wield a little food knowledge and a lot of self-righteousness at every meal to become truly insufferable food assholes.

The Food Asshole’s Dilemma.
Here are the rules that every “foodie” must learn.

  1. Eat food, mostly overpriced and hyper local.
  2. Except for food that is very obscure, even more overpriced and imported from very far away indeed.
  3. Eat what your grandmother ate, but only the things that take so long to prepare that…

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While I was making other plans…

I have several posts on the boil, but the ideas in them seem to be taking a while to uncomplicate themselves and come out clearly.  (It’s not helped by the fact that the scene I’m working on in the WIP is proceeding at glacial speed; I’m distracted.)  So in lieu of a real post, I thought I would share this.

Feel free to ignore the bit at the end about the pandas (or not, Graham is always good for a laugh), but the bit at the start with the dude in the box made me laugh out loud.  If you are at all Whovian, watch and giggle:

Or, if your fandoms are otherwise, check out this Cheezburger post.  It includes 10 quotes from favourite movies and TV shows that are all about picking yourself up, dusting yourself off and pushing on, even if times are tough.  It’s cute and includes a couple of my favourites, namely the Dumbledore one and the one from my favourite fish, Dory.  I quite regularly remind myself to ‘just keep swimming’!

(It’s possible that Dory isn’t my only favourite fish.  I am also very, very, taken with Bruce the shark, but he is less cheerily encouraging and more terrifying.  Although his stalwart efforts to treat fish as friends not food, in the face of his addiction, is admirable.)

Exhibit A, demonstrating both the fabulousness and terror of Bruce:

Hope your week is going well.  Wish me luck with this scene and posts o’doom!

Recipe fails

Muffins, which look similar to mine but probably taste better and are much better photographed, by freedigitalphotos.netToday, I sent the girl and the man off to their several labours with Really Ordinary Muffins.

They contain all natural ingredients and many healthful and tasty things, and yet, the combined total is just… ordinary.  Not terrible, but boring.

In itself, this is not a complete disaster.  Not every recipe works.  They’ll be gone soon.  No harm done and my family is way too well house-trained to complain about home-baking that they didn’t make.

The thing that is getting to me is that I HAVE MADE THIS RECIPE BEFORE AND IT WAS BAD THEN TOO.  And I tried it again, with some tweaking, to see if I could fix it.

Why do I do this?

It’s not as though the world is short of recipes.  The internet is awash with recipes for muffins.  In my own recipe stash I have at least five tried and true favourites, at least three of which are at least as healthy as these (and the other two of which are death on a plate).

And yet, I feel the need to tweak a recipe that was boring the first time.  It’s as if I can’t leave any recipe behind.  I am the Marine of muffins.  I must maintain the faith that all recipes are worthy and can be rehabilitated.

But I’m here to say that this one really can be thrown out.  I will waste no more muffin cases on these Really Ordinary Muffins.  I will move on.

But if feels like a failure.

Am I completely insane, or just a little anal?

Enquiring minds want to know…

(Please note the photo above is not of my muffins.  I didn’t have the heart to photograph them.  I found this photo on freedigitalphotos.net and put it here as a mute testimony to what my muffins should have been and yet aren’t.  RIP best intentions.)

Fuel for the Worker

I’ve been writing a lot lately.  This is a good thing for my fiction.  Apart from getting one project finished, it also means that my fiction juices, so to speak, are flowing abundantly.  My brain it truly teems with endless schemes, both good and new.  I’m fired up, I’m excited, I want to write ALL THE THINGS.

Sadly, life will insist on intruding into my writing time.  I managed to ignore life for a bit while I finished the project o’doom, but while I was doing so, my desk became a minefield of bits of paper with jobs-to-do on them (some of which didn’t get done, as evidenced in Monday’s post).  So before I wade into the wondrous seas of NEW! SHINY! PROJECTS! I have to sort through the detritus and try to reclaim the non-writing portion of my life.

Now, clearly, I can’t do this kind of work on my own.  We all know that writers are fueled by caffeine and chocolate and I am no exception (although I would also add potatoes to that list – it’s the Irish heritage).  But when it comes to the tedious-but-necessary non-writing tasks, the writer needs more.  I don’t just need caffeine, I need moral support with my caffeine.  Someone cheerful and encouraging, but quiet and very unlikely to make ‘helpful’ suggestions.  Fortunately, I have just such a friend.

Allow me to introduce Bruce:

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For those of you not familiar with the concept, Bruce is a tea-cosy.  He is made of wool (what else? he’s a sheep) and sits over my adorable small, just-for-me-sized teapot and keeps the tea warm.  He is special for several reasons.

First, and possibly most important, he’s adorable.  He makes me smile and trust me, when I’m sorting out finances and the like, I need all the help I can get with that.  Second, he’s hand-knitted and being in the presence of awesome handcrafts also makes me very happy.  Third, he was a gift, from my Mum and one of my sisters, who found him in a craft shop and had to bring him home.  (There is nothing that shows our kinship more than our inability to leave in a shop a truly fabulous piece of craftiness.)  Fourth, he is the perfect size for my little teapot, which was a gift from another sister, which has a serendipity that pleases me.  And fifth, his name is Bruce and for reasons I can’t explain, it’s a name that makes me smile.  Especially when given to a sheep tea-cosy (The sister who bought him named him, once again demonstrating the kinship.)

Although, now that I think about it, we are not the only people amused by the name Bruce for animals…

Although my Bruce is, I’m sure you’ll agree cuter.  And not as dangerous.

I just hope that he has as much stamina as a shark.  Because I foresee him getting something of a workout over the next few days as I detangle the cat’s-cradle of crud I’m drowning in.  Wish us luck!

What are you up to your eyeballs in?