Nerd approval

Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way (no self deprecating pun intended). I lost weight.

Yay!

2.5lbs according to the Slimming World scales.

This means that I’ve lost 8lbs in total – so I’m on my way to my first stone and have passed the half way mark.

Honestly I’m trying not to think about it though – as my negative voices have tried to get hold of this clear victory over gravity a few times today and drag it back down with the usual ‘you could have done better’ nonsense. I’m doing everything I can to see this as a plus – but old habits die hard. The voices are still there.

I did what I promised myself I would though. I stayed after the weigh in to attend group and made the most of the whole experience, asking questions, trying to learn, and sharing where I could. I genuinely felt good at the end – and it really helps to be part of something with other people either on the same path or who have been there before.

The little red chair seems a little less under pressure too which is nice. I can never foresee a day where I come to like the hateful little things, but I refuse to let them be a barrier to participation.

This week’s challenge is planning ahead – and to this end we got a meal planner to make up for the next 7 days and fill with whatever we wanted.

I kind of wish that I hadn’t bought my entire week’s shopping yesterday as this limits the variety I’m capable of – but I’ll see what I can do!

I’m also considering buying a slow cooker, as people keep on and on about how great it is to come home to pulled pork, pulled chicken, pulled beef, pulled this, pulled that etc etc.

People at work have mentioned them too – and while I worry about the idea of leaving something cooking while I’m not around to supervise it the idea of having a piping hot somethingorother waiting for me when I get home really does appeal.

After the meeting it was over to meet Pete and Yuni for coffee.

Maybe it’s too much (twitch), but during group I’d had 2x Nespresso Lungo’s I’d taken in my (twitch) flask. Then, upon arriving at Starbucks (and still wanting more caffeine) I opted for a large filter coffee and then followed it 45 mins later with a medium (twitch) one. All of this within the space of three hours (twitch).

I haven’t got a problem (sniff). I can give up coffee (sniff) any time I want. It doesn’t control me (sniff.)

Starbucks was strangely quiet today considering it was a Bank Holiday weekend and a Saturday. Usually at such a time (12.30) it would be under siege from legions of shoppers and screaming kids, but not so when we arrived, and for the duration of our time there – which was nice, because we got the opportunity to catch up.

My sister in law, who loves taking photos of everything was at pains to take candid shots of both me and my brother while we talked until we retaliated and starting taking photos back. Consequently I have quite a few nice shots of her with some good light. This showed off her new eye catching dip dyed blue and pink hair, which I have to say looks pretty funky 🙂

After catching up we headed off to the cinema to see Captain America – Civil War.

If you’re sitting on the fence about whether to go and see it then I think you better hop right off and buy a ticket, as its pretty freakin awesome, and definitely scratched my twin superhero/action film itches.

Most reviews have it pegged as the best Marvel movie yet. With the possible exception of Guardians of the Galaxy I’d have to say I agree. I imagine even Brumrah can watch this movie without a hint of geek rage. It’s THAT good! It comes with my seal of nerd approval!

Its also go TWO hidden endings – so stay until the credits have rolled. Its definitely worth it!

Anyway – fun and frolics aside, now I’m at home and I’m hungry. I am also sadly undecided what to eat, so I’m writing instead while my tummy rumbles.

I have to go to Cardiff tomorrow and I think its a good idea to take with me something that will keep me on plan and fill me up. Since I already have loads of food in the fridge I’m going to cook with a view to taking some with me – but as yet I have not made up my mind what that’s going to be.

Pasta? Noodles? Curry? Stew? I can’t decide!!!!!

In other news (whilst I procrastinate further) a friend this morning headed off on a voyage of discovery, and I’m genuinely hoping that she finds what she’s looking for while she’s on it.

I think that she’s way braver than I am, and a bit of an inspiration if I’m honest. Who knows – in the near future when I feel more agile I might take time out to do something just like it and challenge myself the same way she has.

I’m hoping that there will be plenty of photos to track what she gets up to and wish her all the very best 🙂

You go girl – have fun!

Anyway – I suppose I must cook (sulky face). See you all later.

All you have to do is decide on who you support. Iron Man or Cap? I know who my money is on…

Davey

Mood share

This morning when I awoke the thinnest sliver of perspective stood between Thursday starting as a good day or a bad day.

On the face of things it was a recipie for a bad mood. I’d had a warning on my car to get my brake discs checked for several days. It only flicked on when I hit potholes or bumps in the road, and there was no noticeable sign of difficulty when I braked. 

I’d reasoned it could be one of two things – either the sensor was broken and there was a REAL problem that I was intermittently being made aware of or there was no problem at all and it was telling me porky pies.

One would cost – one would not. Either way, since I’m going to Cardiff at the weekend it was a good idea to get it checked over just in case.

So – back to perspective.

I woke up really early – 6.30am as it happens. This used to be a worst case scenario when I worked late shifts. Typically I had a hangover and didn’t really need to get out of bed until 9.45. This usually made me grumpy.

Not so today. The sun was shining outside and my room was filled with natural light. I’d only had about 6 hours sleep, but I felt good, and the day had started naturally without any alarms or rushing about.

Yesterday was mom’s birthday – the first since she died, and I was still thinking about it a little. However I did what I intended yesterday and tried to talk and think positively about her. I’d held a memory of her in the garden on a summer evening in my head every time I thought negatively and it made me feel good. I’d also listened to her favourite track – Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’ on the way home from work a few times and it has relaxed me rather than making me want to cry.

The fallout of this conscious effort to be positive appeared to still be in evidence this morning. I’d NEVER spent the day being positive about her or her memory and it was a really nice feeling. I was oddly proud that I had managed to do it.

After my morning routine I headed downstairs for coffee. Kwik Fit opened at 8.30am and I aimed to be at the front of the queue so I wasn’t late for work.

Surprisingly all the traffic was going the opposite way. Absolutely nothing got in my way. I didn’t wait at a single junction and no traffic light impeded my progress.

Moreover I’d burned a CD of uplifting bouncy music, and at full blast I felt like king of the bass pumpin’ road dammit!

When I arrived at Kwik Fit there were already several people in the queue ahead of me. All of them were looking at their watches and seemed stressed and miserable.

When the door finally opened they crammed into the tiny office and around the single manned reception desk, all staring disapprovingly at the back of each others heads. Maybe they had arrived in a different order and someone had jumped the queue? There was definitely an atmosphere, and the guy on the desk with an impressive beard was feeling it.

One by one he took their details and asked for their car registration number. One after another they replied they didn’t know it, and asked if he really needed it.

‘Yes please’ said the man patiently for the third time to the Eastern European woman in front of me as the other two took their seats to wait.

She huffed, walked out to her car, read the number plate and memorised it, before walking back to the door. She stopped. Looked forgetful, walked back to her car, checked again, started repeating the number plate to herself and came back inside.

‘What’s the problem?’ Said the man after noting the registration. 

‘Puncture!’ She said triumphantly.

‘Which tyre?’ He replied.

Silence. This level of required detail was unexpected – and was something she was unprepared for. She closed her eyes, clearly trying to visualise the car, and putting an imaginary hand on an imaginary gearstick.

‘The right one.’ She replied.

‘Which right one?’ He asked.

She thought for a moment and then decided it best to verify this and once again walked out to her car, which looked like it had been driven through a wall, despite being only a year old. 

‘The back’ she stated triumphantly on her return. 

The patient bearded man completed the paperwork, took her number and stared impassively at her as she left. She would pick up the car (amazingly it was a lease hire) after midday. She wanted to do some shopping and would be wandering into Leamington.

I was next in line. I decided to up the ante.

‘Good morning!’ I beamed with a big grin. 

He looked at me grinning at him. So far no-one had smiled at him, said hello, or wished him a good day.

‘How are you doing?’ I asked, and waited for an answer. 

‘Good thanks – how about you?’

‘Pretty good actually! It looks like it’s going to be a nice day out there!

He smiled back and agreed. It did look like a nice day.

The man took my details and keys and apologised for the wait – it may take a little while to look at my brakes, but he’d get it seen to as quick as he could. I told him I was happy to wait in the office – I was going to read and enjoy the morning. He nodded at me and smiled again. 

I watched him walk straight out to the workshop, give a guy my keys and point to my car. 

Within 5 minutes my car was on the ramps and under inspection. Within 15 I was called into the workshop to inspect the issue. The sensor was broken but the pad was absolutely fine. If I could live with the warning light there was nothing to worry about.

I asked how much the pad would be and quickly decided I didn’t want to waste £120 to get rid of an irritating light on my dashboard. It would instead keep me company while I drove.

The mechanic started to put my wheel back on and I went to settle up with the beardy man at the desk.

‘How much do I owe for the inspection?’ I asked

‘Nothing – free of charge.’ He said. 

‘Lovely! I said ‘Well – have a nice day!’ I said, grinning again as I shook his hand and left the office to pick up my car.

All the people before me still had cars waiting to be seen. They still looked miserable. 

The mechanic from the workshop pulled up in my car and silently handed me my keys, looking at the floor. 

‘Thanks!’ I said. ‘I really appreciate the checks and the explanation – hope you have a good rest of the day!’

He smiled too, temporarily taken aback that I’d taken the time to be nice to him. ‘You too.’ He smiled back. It wasn’t a huge smile but it was a start. Maybe his day would get better.

I left – happy that I’d paid no money, glad that I’d gotten up early, happy I’d made two people smile and realised I had time to pop to Starbucks for a coffee before I went to work.

The sun was still shining, and I turned up the music as I drove off. I was also going to make the barista smile when I bought my coffee. That was my next task. 

It didn’t matter what the rest of the day was like. I felt good and l think for a brief moment I made some other people feel good as well. 

A good mood should be shared like a meal with friends. It should never be kept to yourself, and it spreads like a virus.

Smile at someone today Internet. You know it makes sense!

Davey

AssPasta and the 27th

Today I woke up early and decided to start cooking.

Angie in Slimming World handed out a challenge on Saturday – to eat 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 evening meals in the coming week that I haven’t had before or haven’t had for a while. So far I’ve already had one of the breakfasts – ‘overnight oats’ soaked in milk and fromage frais with fruit.

I wasn’t so keen on this when it exited the fridge the following day. It was a bit ‘clumpy’ – even though I’d anticipated this might happen and added milk to the mix. The banana and apple I chopped up and threw into it tasted quite nice though – and it was rather filling thanks to the oats.

I wish I’d thought of adding cinnamon as this could have made all the difference to the apple. Maybe next time.

Actually I could try baking the apple with cinnamon before adding it… Hmmmm…

I made a variant of it again today but this time used less oats, swapped fromage frais for natural yoghurt, and switched to blueberries and strawberries as the added fruit, with a sprinkling of Stevia for sweetness.


Wow! What a difference! This was literally bursting with flavour and ended up at just the right consistency. I estimate it as 2 syns – which is a bit of a triumph.

This morning before work I also decided to try and make my favourite Lloyd Grossman pasta sauce – ‘Puttanesca’, which a cosmopolitan European colleague gleefully reminded me roughly translated as ‘whore pasta’.

I’ve made this in the past, but since it’s been a few years and as I wasn’t 100% sure I remembered the ingredients I followed an online recipe, just leaving out the 1/3 of a cup of olive oil (WTF!) that it suggested I add.

Otherwise it was pretty much followed precisely.

After eating it for lunch I had decided to re-name it AssPasta on account of it tasting like I was licking something objectionable.

It wasn’t my finest culinary hour, but thankfully it wasn’t COMPLETELY inedible and actually happened to be extremely filling. Thank goodness I thought ahead and made enough for lunch tomorrow as well so that I can endure it again on Wednesday.

Yay.

Today’s third and final ‘new’ meal when I get home (I’m currently typing this on my lunch break at work) will be pork stir fry with noodles – which I’ve been meaning to do all week.

I don’t usually do many stir fry’s and NEVER cook with noodles, so once again this could either turn into an unending symphony of oral pleasure, or AssNoodles. I’ll start cooking it in a few hours, so we’ll see.

So – how is week two of Slimming World progressing?

Yesterday I found a bit tough – and maybe because of lack of sleep or a dip in my mood (it was Monday after all) I was peckish throughout the whole day and constantly thinking about snacking.

In the end I did have a blow out of sorts, but limited myself to ‘free food’. In this case I hit M&S and purchased some cooked turkey & pork with a bag of fresh garden peas which hopefully had a far less damaging impact than crisps or nuts etc.

So far so good. I’m still on track.

I’ve also been trying to plan my week out and arrange things well in advance so I’m not left with too many moments to fill.

It’s not just about filling time though – I’m arranging to meet people and trying to regularly schedule things like this with friends I don’t get to see enough. Sometimes months inexplicably pass and before I know it the seasons have changed and I’m still no closer to popping over for that elusive ‘cup of tea’ that we’ve both promised eachother over and over.

Tonight is ‘online games’ night, Thursday is ‘mate & movie’ night, Friday is ‘pop over to a friend’s for cup of tea’ night, Saturday is my Slimming World group, and Sunday is hopefully ‘go to Cardiff to see my mate’ day.

I’m looking forward to all of them – and haven’t seen the people associated for weeks – months in some cases, so it’s going to be good. Plus I have lots of positive things to talk about for a change, rather than feeling like I’m a negative nelly with nothing good to share.

If I’m honest that’s not the only reason. There might also be a part of me that’s keeping moving so that I don’t stop and think as well.

I had a text from my uncle the other day. He and my aunt have been decorating their house and getting over some recent health issues. They seem to be doing well and since we reconnected they’ve tried to keep in regular contact.

Often (as I don’t know them so well – we didn’t speak for 25 years) they’re better at keeping in contact than me. I’m trying to embrace the rekindled relationship but if I’m truthful I’m not entirely sure how sometimes – or what to talk about.

They’re lovely people and seem genuine and kind – but I don’t know how I feel about suddenly having an extension to the family. It doesn’t come naturally and makes me feel self conscious. It’s been just me, my dad and my brother (and now sister in law) for so long that anything else still feels a bit unusual.

I didn’t open the text immediately – but when I did a line from it lingered in my mind.

‘Try not to think too much about the 27th’

I wasn’t. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. 27th of what?

I thought it must have been a typo and until this afternoon didn’t click what it meant.

Tomorrow would have been my mom’s birthday. She would have been 74. This is the one day that I haven’t organised anything.

Maybe it’s right that I’m alone to contemplate what it all means.

A friend said to me recently about his own mother’s death that there were many things he didn’t deal with and placed ‘walls’ around the feelings that were associated with the event.

My approach has been more public and open (although it wasn’t my original intention – it just happened while I was writing), but I’d be lying if I said that I’d gotten over it all and the 27th didn’t mean anything to me.

Oddly in death the date means more to me than it did during her life, which because of animosity between us saw the day very infrequently marked or celebrated.

I often forgot it entirely.

I’m not sure what I’ll do to mark the occasion, but whatever it is I think I’ll try to remember the best bits of her and focus on the kind things she did in life – things like the plants she liked to grow and how she liked to sit in the garden on a summer evening.

There is a lot of good to be found in forgiveness and trying to think of the best in someone.

There is not so much to be found in AssPasta.

Davey

Watch it

I wasn’t planning to post today as nothing much happened. Sunday has been chilled and mostly for cooking, washing up and the occasional video game. It’s been a day of relaxation.

This would likely have been the only paragraph in my blog if I hadn’t been pointed toward something on television by a friend from work.

‘Are u watching BBC2 now?’ The text said.

‘No.’ I replied ‘Why?’

‘Watch it’ came the quick reply. ‘It will be interesting’.

My colleague has been incredibly supportive of everything I’ve done over the last few months, and over the years has proved time and again that he thinks about my well being as much I as I think of his.

I stopped what I was doing and turned on the TV. The programme in question turned out to be a BBC2 Louis Theroux documentary called ‘Drinking to oblivion’.

(apologies if you’re outside the UK – I doubt the link will work)

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From a personal perspective it’s a pretty disturbing documentary to watch, and I know for most people the title alone will turn them away. However – If (like me) you have used alcohol (or any kind of drug) to manage your moods before it became something that was more than just a passing phase and if (like I did) you want to change this aspect of yourself I would urge you to watch it.

Even if you don’t feel the way I did or do what I did I would suggest its worth a look. I think we all need to understand that labels applied to people in such crisis are incredibly reductive. There is so much more to each and every one of them than just ‘addicts’, and they are as nuanced as any of us.

That’s one of the good things about a Louis Theroux programme. He almost always manages (although maybe not quite with Jimmy Saville) to humanise the very people that we wouldn’t normally consider as ‘like us’.

Sure, the individuals in the programme may appear as warped versions of what we would consider normal when they’re drunk, but the segments when they are sober, and in recovery show just how much like us these people are, and what they CAN be. NOT what they currently are.

By the end of tomorrow it will be three months since I last had anything to drink.

On the outside my life hasn’t massively changed. I still go to work, I still sleep, eat, breathe, and want a dog but on the inside I feel immensely different.

Before I stopped I felt that oblivion was preferable to feeling – that there was no other way but to bury uncomfortable thoughts and moods under layers of food and alcohol.

I have my good days and my bad days, but when I look back I realise that the good ones started to equal the bad shortly after I stopped pouring wine into my glass.

Then they slowly began to overtake the bad ones when I sought help and started looking at the underlying issues.

They now vastly outnumber the bad ones and are a conquering force.

Even the ‘bad’ ones aren’t what they used to be, thanks to some of the insights I’ve had from the program I attended and the people I met.

I do sometimes fear a return to old thinking though, and although I do feel strong now I hope that if I ever forget who I was and what I was doing to myself back then that people will gently remind me and not stop doing so until I listen.

Anyway – I’m doing well and I’m happy. Very importantly I go to bed tonight knowing that people care about me, which is a warmer feeling than any duvet can provide.

Love and abstinence internet, I hope you like the documentary.

Davey

Bombed out wasteland

So – the way I see it – Saturday has now become the new focal point for my mood and aspirations.

Previously Saturday was a bombed out wasteland.

It used to be reserved as hangover territory and generally didn’t limp into life until after midday. Now it appears to be waking me up at 8am with butterflies in my stomach wondering how much weight I’ve lost.

It’s a double edged sword though because I know that a bad weigh-in could have an extremely negative impact on my mood.

I genuinely had no idea what to expect when I woke up.

On the one side I had been ‘good’ and followed the plan – but I felt like I hadn’t been ‘dieting’ (on reflection this is probably a good thing).  I’d eaten hearty meals and for the most part hadn’t felt like snacking and had been not been hungry.

Anyone that’s seen my Instagram breakfasts and dinners will know that as well as suddenly becoming hip and cool by taking pictures of food and inflicting them on the internet I am not restricting myself. I’m eating good, hearty meals.

So. Up. Out of bed. Start the day. I’m going to shave my head and smarten myself up before heading out. Back shortly.

(Interlude. Our flawed but inexplicably adorable hero washes, shaves, plucks, trims, dresses, drives, walks, stands on scales, gets his news and then sits down in group. He continues to write whilst waiting for things to start…)

The room is slowly filling up around me. I’m seated at the back on one of the little red miniature chairs that I adore so much. I’m here not because I’m shy but because I can wedge the seat up against the infant climbing frame on the wall of the gym. This way I don’t have to worry that it will slip or the back legs give out.


I’ve just stepped off the scales and the first week’s results are in.

Five and a half pounds 🙂

I’m trying to not think too much about this number. I know that it’s a great start. I also know I should not expect this every week.

Believe it or not I’m ALSO trying to convince myself it’s a success – as my stupid mind instantly said quietly ‘It should have been more.’

As usual the battle for success lies not in my physical limitations, but my head – which even now with all the positive work I’ve done appears intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Around me the group is slowly getting seated and Angie is buzzing about in a chirpy frame of mind talking about pasta. I’ll be back in a bit. I’ll look rude if I continue to type and I need to hear what she has to say.

(Our slightly lighter hero listens intently to advice, accepts the group’s weekly challenge to cook different untried meals during the coming week and then leaves to meet with friends for lunch)

Well I’m glad I stayed. I got my money’s worth. I found out that a couple of the things I’d eaten over the week were actually ‘syns’, although thankfully they weren’t all that bad. It turns out microwave rice in a pouch contains oil, so my healthy brown rice carries with it 2 penalty points. Annoyingly I just purchased ten of them.

However as I’m only having one at a time, and since I can have 30 ‘syns’ a day if I want it’s not a major issue.

Also olives are 1,5 syns for 8 (unstuffed)! Oh the horror!

The meeting was lively, with lots of clapping and energy and I feel good about how it went. I asked about what to do with noodles and got lots of suggestions to try this week, mostly relating to stir fry recipes which all sounded really nice. I don’t usually eat them, but they were on the Slimming World shopping list from last week and I don’t want them just sitting in my cupboard going to waste.

The group is definitely what I need, and people (male and female) were overwhelmingly eager to swap tips and share helpful advice on how they achieved their success and the recipes they used to get there.

However I think it will be a cold day in hell before I try the ‘fanta or diet coke chicken’ they suggested. The idea of pouring a can of coke or fanta into a recipe on the boil doesn’t seem like a good idea – despite them raving about it tasting like sweet and sour…

I excused myself from the meeting & hurried over to the Harvester on the other side of Warwick, a bit late for my lunch appointment with some friends I’d not seen for a while.

I was armed with advice from Angie about what to eat that would keep me on the side of the angels. She suggested that I try the salsa chicken stack with a baked potato instead of the sweet potato fries that normally accompanied it, along with a generous helping of salad from the buffet.

It’s been quite a while since I went to a Harvester, and honestly I was impressed with the food and the service as well as the limitless diet Pepsi, buffet salad and bottomless after dinner coffees. I left feeling heavily caffeinated and satisfied with my dinner – which was unexpected, so kudos to my group leader on the advice. She steered me in the right direction!

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The company during and after the meal however was the true highlight – and considering I hadn’t seen the two people I was meeting for six(ish) years (!) it was like time had effectively stood still.

Both of them seemed happy and in good places in their lives – and had been catching up with what I’d been doing via my blog, so there were plenty of things to chat about. We delved in and out of family, friends, work, hobbies, sport and more besides.

I’m not sure why – but my conversation veered a few times this afternoon toward my mom, and I found myself temporarily reliving some of the thoughts and feelings I’d gone through before she died.

As I talked about the bungalow and the funeral though I realised that time is moving on, and the intensity of how I felt is diminishing.

Sure, I still feel let down by her as a mother, and there are pangs of bitterness that unexpectedly rise up from time to time, but I’m not as raw as I was. Not by a long chalk.

For one thing I can talk about her at length now without fear of breaking down or crying (not through grief but instead because of a sense of lost opportunity, which sometimes is still on my mind). This is a great relief. I don’t mind getting upset in front of people but I really didn’t appreciate the randomness with which it was happening – which was when I least expected it.

So – today is a day of positive progress.

I have lost almost half a stone, I am alcohol free, I am slowly getting over the death of my mom, I am getting out more, I’m re-connecting with people I have stupidly neglected, and more than anything it’s all making me happy.

Saturday is no longer a bombed out wasteland.

Hugs and little red chairs internet!

Davey

 

Gimme some skin

Today I feel good.

I’m not talking emotionally good, although that’s pretty dandy as well.

I mean physically good.

I may be imagining it but there’s a bit of a spring in my step today that can’t be traced back to caffeine and it’s making me feel positive in a variety of ways. I think that even if I’m not loosing weight then I already feel better from a week with a varied diet and cooking everything I’m eating from scratch.

Although it’s not all plain sailing. Chicken skin has been a roadblock to my success. It turns out that I have managed to get to my early forties without ever having skinned any kind of chicken whatsoever.

This wouldn’t normally have been a problem – but a Slimming World suggestion that I pre-cook some skinless drumsticks as a ‘free’ appetite filling snack seemed like a good idea.

I had spices in the cupboard and most importantly an oven. How hard could it be?

Well – it turns out that it’s insanely hard, slippery, messy, frustrating, tiring & potentially dangerous.

Last night I stabbed, scraped and pulled at the skins of ten chicken drumsticks for about 30 mins, shredding the skins beyond repair and leaving a pile of ugly fatty lumps on my chopping board.

This, I decided, was not for me.

Davey wanted to SMASH chicken, not eat chicken after this activity and would not be repeating the debacle any time soon.

Until that was he decided to have a look on YouTube and see whether any other sage like miracle worker had managed to accomplish this seemingly impossible task.

I found this:

Holy crap! How easy was that? She just wrapped and pulled, wrapped and pulled, wrapped and pulled, three times in a row! How had I not known this? How had this knowledge passed me by?!

I resolved to enlighten others,  but when I tried today it seemed like they already knew. Furthermore they had known for years, clubbing together in a secret chicken skin pulling cult and making sure that I was kept in the dark.

The *******s.

In other news I met up for coffee with someone from the self build group this morning which was really nice. We didn’t really talk much about the group itself, and instead spent the time just getting to know each other a bit outside of the confines of what had been a pretty intense four weeks for both of us.

It seemed that we both shared quite a few experiences from childhood, and also a mutual love for dogs – both wanting passionately to find a way to somehow bring them into our daily lives.

Just like my work colleague a few nights ago my new acquaintance had some positive things to say about weight loss when I told him about the events of my first visit to Slimming World, and how low it had initially made me.

He suggested we find a park with lots of benches and stroll around it the next time we met up – which seemed like a nice idea, although maybe (I thought to myself) the time after next!

I was quite honest with him about my problems with calf muscles and exactly how far I could walk without serious pain and discomfort (for regular readers thats currently not very far.) He was sympathetic, and shared that he too could be a lot fitter, and was no good with distance – so maybe we had yet another thing in common.

It seems like a positive endeavour though so I think that will be a short term aim. To get around the park in short hops – however long that takes and regardless of how embarrassing it may be.

Although to be honest, embarrassment is beginning to be something that others feel, not myself.

Whereas before I refused to openly admit the difficulties my size and habits presented – making excuses about activities – now I’m explaining it. Again I shared the full horror of my weight from my run in with the scales on Saturday.

After all, who gives a shit. It’s just a number, and like the catharsis I feel when I write and edit this blog the more I say out loud things that bother me, the less impact they have.

Simply put the more people I tell my secret shame to the less I need to hide, and the more I can exist comfortably in the open.

Plus – I have to get used to the idea of it before Saturday, as I have only one day before my weigh in. I desperately want the universe to be kind to me. I feel like I have been virtuous enough to deserve it – and it should damn well cut me a break.

Anyway, due to circumstances beyond my control (namely chicken drumsticks taking approximately one hour to prepare and cook, then box up) I am late for beddybyes.

Not too late however to post a food pic to get your juices running. A completely Syn free pork, rice and vegetable stir fry that was not only delicious this evening, but will be so again tomorrow as leftovers!

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I’m rather liking this Slimming World stuff, and so far it really doesn’t feel like a diet. hopefully that doesn’t mean I’m failing to loose weight…

Only one more day before I know for sure…

Fingers crossed internet!

Davey

Breakfast hipster

Well, from a healthy eating perspective today went well. I’ll admit to feeling a bit peckish at work, but I’m wondering whether that’s because I didn’t stagger my mealtimes enough.

I made Chillizilla yesterday evening, and with some wholegrain basmati rice it’s fed me for both yesterday’s evening meal and today’s lunch and supper.

I also joined the ranks of Instagram hipsters that post images of their meals this morning when I uploaded my delicately plated non-sinful english breakfast for the edification of anyone that wanted to have a look.

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Frankly it was flipping gorgeous and I enjoyed eating it twice as much knowing that I wasn’t going straight to fatty bum bum hell afterwards.

As I mentioned yesterday the consequence of the local Slimming World Facebook group page being so busy is that I’m continually being presented with images of tasty looking food. I’m sure it’s great when you need an idea or two to spice things up but I’m not 100% sure that I need to see a lunch and breakfast ticker tape feed 24×7.

Not for the first couple of weeks anyway.

I will need to see if I can filter the notifications otherwise I’ll probably find myself eating an attractive looking stapler at work when I have nothing else to hand. For a brief period this afternoon I’m sure I imagined my post-it notes bathed in thick steaming gravy…

Not good.

Putting flippancy aside however I managed to draw a little smiley face in my food tracker for the day (theres one next to each line waiting for a mouth to be drawn) when I filled it in and felt like I’d done good. Currently because of this I feel satisfied and chilled out.

I’m also noticing that I’m becoming less insular recently (which is improving my mood every day), and I have a need to see people, spend time with them and get to know them better.

For quite a while (as I’ve admitted in my blog) I withdrew from people a lot, ashamed of what I felt I’d become, and now all my thoughts and feelings are on full view I’ve no reason not to reach out to people and suggest coffee, or react positively if they suggest it to me.

Currently it’s my new favourite thing.

Along with feeling stuff. Thats kind of cool as well.

Saturday was hard, but I’m really really happy that I came out the other side with a smile. I wouldn’t have recovered that quickly in the past, and its due to not drinking, writing stuff down and letting people help me more.

I am also consciously trying to celebrate successes – but still need to slap myself occasionally (and have others slap me) when I apply a negative subtext to a win.

A friend from work who I went for a drink with after we finished today (diet coke if anyone was worried) was keen to hear about my thoughts on healthy eating and exercise.

I talked with him for a while about how in the past I had created problems for myself and buckled under the weight of all my own expectations. If I’d not lost several pounds a week I had labelled myself a failure and removed all the positive perspectives.

‘If you loose half a pound a week then its still going in the right direction’ He said to me.

‘I’ll be f**king pissed off if I only loose half a pound a week.’ I said, not joking.

‘I need to do better than that.’

‘Thats the wrong way to think!’ he said, looking me directly in the eye. ‘Half a pound a week is almost 2 stone a year. One pound a week is four stone. It’s all in the right direction and it quickly adds up.’

He’s completely right. I’m mildly peeved that with my new positive mindset I didn’t do the math myself, but grateful that he was there to re-frame my perspective.

I am hopeful that after a few weeks of Slimming World I’ll naturally feel more active and things will organically begin to move toward a more active lifestyle. At the moment I’m petrified of hurting myself and I’m having difficulty moving past that.

BUT I’m serious when I say I have a plan, and this is just one of the steps. I’m being methodical, and fixing foundations before building another floor on top.

Anyway – I think I’m going to have an early night. Thanks to hefty volumes of caffeine consumed at home, in Starbucks, then in the pub and finally when I was gaming online yesterday evening my sleep was shafted.

Curiously though when I tossed and turned I wasn’t having nightmares, or negative thoughts. I was thinking about my blog and recipes for things I could make with all the ingredients in my fridge I don’t normally have.

It’s a nice change of pace. Long may it continue.

Love and a full English breakfast internet

Davey

Creature of habit

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday was a bad one. Today I already feel markedly different. Maybe it’s sleep, or maybe it’s because I’m not standing on scales, but I feel positive.

My cold knows it’s beaten as too – and its army of evil microbes are in full retreat. Unfortunately it’s still trying to burn as many villages and blow up and many bridges as it can before it vacates the cellular country it invaded. I’m still dependant on cough sweets and tablets. Its days are numbered though and I expect reports detailing its grizzly demise from my teeny tiny immune system generals any day now.

While I type I’m sitting in Starbucks in front of a huge bowl of Earl Grey tea and looking out at a blue, cloudy sky. It’s not too windy, and not too hot. It’s just nice today.

I’m waiting for a friend that I haven’t seen for years and this is one of the reasons I’m in such a good frame of mind.

Ooh ooh! Friend arrival! Back in a bit!

(hours pass)

Well that was lovely.

There are few pleasures in life greater than meeting up with someone that for no good reason you’ve lost contact with, only to happily pick up from where you left off and then spent several hours chatting about everything and nothing.

My friend is smart, funny, self aware, and a great conversationalist who likes to talk just as much as listen. Curiously she’s also been going through her own set of significant life changes and despite the nature of them being very different to mine she appears to be just as keen as I am to explore who she is and what she wants from life.

Once again I’m moved to consider what a positive force honesty and openness can be, as the reason we reconnected was my blog.

This was yet another unexpected benefit of what’s been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in recent memory. It has given me nothing but possibility and positivity when I needed it the most, and allowed me to come to terms with an awful lot in a relatively short space of time.

(author muses for a moment)

I just had a thought…

Maybe the universe has ALWAYS been ‘listening’ – but I’ve just not been ‘speaking’ before…

One of the often repeated mantras in the self build group was that if you do the same thing over and over you shouldn’t be surprised if you get the same result. Change is hard, and painful at times. Even though we may want a different life for ourselves, what are we ACTUALLY willing to do in order to make it happen?

In my case I still struggle with motivation – but I’ve realised that in almost all cases the key to maintaining a willingness to be different is human contact.

In every historical instance where I’ve isolated myself and withdrawn I begin to notice the wheels come off. The group dynamic has it’s place in reminding you that you’re not alone – but there’s no substitute for friendship and sharing your life with other people. They make you stronger and there’s nothing that you feel you can’t do when they’re standing behind you or at your side.

This is how I feel this evening.

Anyway – now I have to decide what delicious and nutritious meal I am going to make for dinner.

When my shopping arrived this morning I think the delivery guy thought he was at the wrong address. He’s been used for almost two years to delivering savoury snacks and ready meals to be washed down with box after box of wine and litre upon litre of cider.

Today was quite different.

Bag after bag of healthy ingredients rather than ready meals changed hands at the doorstep, and my jam packed fridge now has all I need for a week of salads, chillies, stir fries, pasta from scratch and appropriate snacking.

I have to be careful though. I am a creature of habit.

I don’t do variety if left to my own devices, and I tend to cook the same things again and again until I’m absolutely sick to the back teeth of them. In the past this has led to problems.

When I did the Cambridge diet I found one soup that I liked and pretty much drank that and nothing else for almost a year. The lady who sold me the supplies was always really concerned that she would have enough for me when I rocked up wanting more and more. Without it I would probably have starved to death.

Then all of a sudden – boom! I didn’t like it any more. No warning, I was just absolutely sick of it.

Shortly after my problems began and I started to slip back into old habits.

Something that’s encouraging at the moment though is the Slimming World private Facebook group that I’ve joined. They’re a vibrant bunch and they’re very very enthusiastic about posting recipes and pictures of their food.

My sister in law would freaking love them – I doubt they eat anything without recording it for posterity in Instagram. From a group of about 120 people I swear there were at least 10 breakfast pics posted today.

They certainly made me want strawberries and pancakes today, which i’m mildly surprised by. I don’t do pancakes even on Jif lemon day.

I was a little sceptical about this initially, but as the day has worn on I’ve realised the effort that they must have put into presenting it for others. The side effect of it is that they make it interesting for themselves and the variety is maintained.

So the next thing that I cook that doesn’t look like I dropped the plate from the top of my stairs I think I’ll join in. After all, group work isn’t group work unless you participate in it!!!

Who knows – if it doesn’t resemble Pedigree Chum then I may also inflict it on the people who are unfortunate enough to blunder across my blog as well.

Anyway – with all this talk of food I need to get cooking.

I’m playing childish computer games online with a mate later and I can’t be late 🙂

Love and munchies internet!

Davey

Reality

I’ve taken a step in the right direction this morning and ripped off the proverbial band aid.

I woke up hyper aware that now it was Saturday I was officially in the week where I promised myself I would begin to make progress on my weight.

I didn’t have a plan yet – just a goal. Join a group.

But which group to join? Instead of lying under the duvet and stressing I decided to get up and look at where I could go, and who I could go with that was:

  1. Diabetic focused
  2. Fitted in with my predominantly late shifts at work
  3. Was within walking distance as I get fitter

Weight Watchers. Mostly crappy locations but the times seemed ok. Nothing especially interesting. Been there done that.

Cambridge Diet. Had massive success several years ago, but not sure I could get sign off with my doctor for the plan given my health problems, and I’m worried about the possibility of kidney stones associated with rapid weight loss (and saggy skin). Plus meal replacements are great until you have to eat real food again – which is where I went so wrong last time.

Slimming World. The previous time I went it was a good plan, but my mind wasn’t in the right place. But wait a minute – who’s that in the picture taking the group?… That looks like Angie my old next door neighbour! I thought she’d stopped leading groups… They have a session at 10.30am on a Saturday just around the corner…

I looked at the clock on my computer.

10.09 am. My pulse started racing.

Naaaah – I was just doing research right? No need to go overboard and actually attend… It was Saturday after all. A day of pleasure, not pain.

I growled at myself internally. Why didn’t I want to go? What possible reason did I have to say no? I’d already had a shower, had my clothes for the day ready, had enough money to pay for it in my wallet and it was 2 minutes away in the car. With parking. Plus it was being run by my lovely ex-neighbour.

The universe was tugging on the bottom of my shirt and daring me to be different.

‘Grrrraaaarrggghhh! F**k it!’ I shouted out loud to myself and the wall, and started putting my socks on. I would do something positive with the day and this was it. All I had to do was start the ball rolling.

10 minutes later, coffee in hand I walked through the door of the local infants school and into the light and airy gymnasium filled with worryingly small red chairs in a semi circle.

I paused slightly, wondering how sturdy they were. They were built for children. Please please please don’t let one of them break.

As I slowly moved through the door Angie instantly recognised me and called me over by name. It seems I had not been forgotten – even though we hadn’t seen each other for a few years, which was nice. I dismissed thoughts of the chairs and walked over to greet her.

We chatted for a moment and I moved over to the induction table, where other new starters joined me. She began to talk through the new (surprisingly comprehensive) welcome pack. It seemed that things had now moved on. There were now apps, websites, Facebook groups, tablet computers, credit card payments, bulk discounts, extra easy days, and even pre-prepared shopping lists to get you started.

I felt one of the chair legs slip on the polished parquet flooring beneath me and quickly adjusted my weight to minimise stress on them. They didn’t move again and I breathed out slowly.

Angie as always was spunky and full of life. I knew from before that like all group leaders in this area she too had struggled with weight, and I noticed that she had lost some more since I last saw her. She looked happy, and her daughter was buzzing around helping with various tasks – giving the whole affair a family feeling.

She talked through all the steps and told us not to worry about the first week. Our goal was simply to absorb the information and begin to try and move toward the way of thinking that the plan underlined. We would learn more about it as the weeks progressed. The key was not to think of this as a diet, but a healthy eating plan.

If I was hungry while doing it then I was doing it wrong.

With this encouragement we eventually moved to the semi-circle of chairs and I watched as Angie worked the room. She reeled off information and progress reports on each and every one of the people there over the course of the next hour, focusing on positive after positive.

Some people had maintained their weight (she used the word ‘protected‘ which I like), others had seen significant or regular losses.

One man had lost three and a half stone. He was running regularly, and said that the group had been ‘transformative‘. He was particularly happy that he could still have a glass of whisky from time to time, and his wife (who was sitting next to him) also looked enthusiastic. Between them they had lost five stone and it seemed that they had really benefitted from it.

It was all very encouraging, and I clapped for the people in the group a lot. They deserved it. A lady turned and smiled at me, welcoming me to the group. She seemed nice and I smiled back, joking briefly with her.

As this slowly finished and I’d stacked my gallant little red chair with the others in the gym I moved to the payment desk to get my membership card and get a weigh in. I would pay for twelve weeks and get them for the price of ten. I would start as I meant to go on – confident and moving forward.

I paid, got my membership details and moved to the queue for the scales.

I knew roughly what the damage would be. from a previous trip to Boots and one of my very first blogs, so I was ready for the news. Nothing would phase me.

As I’d lost weight since Boots (noticed by clothing becoming looser and belts being tightened) I was hopeful that this was the moment that I would be receiving good news.

Only I didn’t. Boots scales had lied to me. They’d put a number in my head that I’d held onto for 3 months and they had deceived me in a dramatic fashion. The truth was not 31 stone 9lbs.

The reality was 34 stone 8.5lbs.

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I felt my lip tremble. This was heavier than I had ever been in my life.

Angie looked at me and asked me what my goal was. I didn’t know. It all seemed suddenly so far away, so difficult and upsetting.

I felt exposed, vulnerable, shattered, my buoyant confidence suddenly gone. I wanted the world to swallow me and I wanted to be anywhere else but where I was standing at that precise moment in time.

My mouth went dry, and I began to stammer. I didn’t know what to say.

‘Two stone’ I muttered. ‘Interim goal. It’s a start.’

‘Lets make it 32 stone.’ Said Angie quietly, smiling. ‘It’s a nice round number.’

‘You can have 30 ‘sins’ – not 15 like the rest of the people here. You’ll still loose weight. Trust me – it will fall off.’

She wrote it in my book and put a bracket either side to emphasise the number and smiled again. I smiled back but my lower lip was still unsure of itself and struggled to show positivity.

I think she saw my wobble.

I left, got into my car and drove home.

Now I’m sitting here dealing with the fallout, and I need a moment to re-group. I feel like crying and while I know I have done something positive I also feel devastated and overwhelmed by the task at hand.

I’m scared and I feel alone, and angry with myself for what I’ve done to my body. It’s the only one I have and I’ve abused it my entire life.

(…)

I’ve moved on to actually crying right now. I don’t know how to feel differently at the at this moment in time. Maybe I just need to experience these feelings and let them pass.

Underneath this I know everything is good. I have to keep using the skills I have learned in group and telling myself over and over what a good thing it is I’ve done today.

It’s a victory. It’s a step in the right direction. It’s a move to a positive new me.

But at the moment I just feel stupid and weak.

I’m going to make a cup of tea and do something else to take my mind off this. I’ll read my booklets when this sensation has passed and I feel stronger.

Back in a bit internet.

Davey

Little boat

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Although I can hardly speak this evening I’m generally on the mend from being ill.

I can live with croaking and coughing as long as I can sleep, and because I feel a bit more rested was back in the office today. It was actually a relief to get back into work and start ploughing through my completely wrecked inbox.

There’s a lot to do both in and out of work at the moment – and now I’m feeling better I’m sensing renewed purpose.

This is also due to the passing of ‘graduation day’ on the self build course, which marked the completion of four hard, rewarding, emotional and enlightening weeks. I’m annoyed that I didn’t get to go to all of the classes in the last week due to illness – but I’m glad that I got to share my thoughts, feelings and contact information with those in the group on the last day.

The mood was clearly sombre on this occasion when I arrived and it was obvious that those in attendance were dreading the final session as much as myself. Some had thought long and hard about attending because they didn’t want to see it end, and one unfortunately didn’t come at all.

The group had become a safe haven. It’s been filled with supportive friends and had brought structure, companionship and a sense of family for all that made it to the end.

I don’t think any of us expected this on the first day we sat down together.

I’m glad I kept a note of my feelings on the blog, as its nice to look back on the mindset I had before I walked through the door 4 weeks ago – which was very different to this final day.

As I looked around the room I felt convinced we will stay in touch (I certainly aim to make the effort) and everyone (including the group leaders) were at pains to point out what a nice group we’d been.

I’m sure they say this to other people that take the program but truthfully I think we all came together at the right moment and were meant to be sitting in that room together. We all had different stories, addictions and lives, but we shared one common goal – getting better and wanting a brighter future.

For me its not just that aspect of the group that has been transformative. I’ve also been challenged to face beliefs (maybe prejudices) that I was unaware I held.

If I’m truly honest one of the hardest things about walking through the door at the recovery clinic was that I had stereotyped the people that may use such a place – and I had begun without realising it to place myself in a category that was apart from them.

The unattended lager can outside, the fidgeting and clearly addicted woman in the waiting room, and the occasional group of drunk people nearby had made me feel that this was a place people went because they were forced to and that they didn’t REALLY want help.

These individuals I thought (for the most part) were probably unlike me, and I now realise that before I met the group I felt that some people might actually be beyond help.

The people that I was placed with however took those assumptions, and gently (without realising they were doing so) shredded them in front of me.

I have felt humbled by how they have overcome and continue to endure difficulties in their personal lives, choosing to work through them rather than be buried under their invisible weight.

Whilst they may still look down on what they have achieved and diminish their successes (a trait it seems we all share and regularly do unconsciously) they have inspired me and make me want to remain a better man, and strive to be better still.

After the group finished I had an exit interview with my key worker, who ran me through another 1-20 sliding scale questionnaire, similar to the one I went through upon arrival.

I remarked to her that the scale had initially thrown me – as had the lack of a pen top in our last meeting.

She seemed surprised I had focused on this and considered it for a moment while looking at another lidless pen in her hand. It was an unconscious thing she probably always did, she said.

At home with her children pen tops were an ever present danger. She routinely threw them away and had done for years.

I wondered, was the habit purely because of the pen and children, or because she was naturally someone that tried to mitigate ALL danger, and prevent harm to others.

I like to think so – she seems nice, and her choice of career appropriate.

We talked for a while about the group, how I felt about the time I’d spent there and the bittersweet graduation. She wanted again to know how I felt on a scale of 1-20.

‘Seventeen’ I said – ‘there’s still room for improvement.’

She looked intently at me.

‘Are you ok with us closing your case’ she said ‘or do you think you need further help?’

I was tempted to say yes. I didn’t really want anything to end if I’m honest. I wanted to stay in the supportive and safe atmosphere I’d quickly come to rely on.

‘No’ I said. ‘I’m OK. You can close the case.’

This is partially true, but since I’m no longer in the business of lying to myself and others there’s another reason I don’t want it to end.

I’m also afraid. Really afraid. Next week I start something I’m dreading more than giving up alcohol.

Loosing weight.

It paralyses me with fear, and petrifies me to think about denying myself something I depend on so much. I have to draw in slow breaths as I type as I feel my heart beat noticeably faster, and again I think of escape and alcohol.

I take a moment to centre my thoughts, and consider the next steps.

My head is full of positive mantras, but for some reason the only one that I am saying repeatedly to myself is ‘A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.’

It’s absolutely true and I’m really really trying to believe it.

What I need to remember is I have already successfully taken some of the first steps in this epic journey, and while they have not been easy I have so far succeeded, and I have begun to develop a foundation to build upon.

I will not go back to ‘all or nothing’ thinking, or believing that I know what’s in the future and dwelling on what I think I ‘know’ will happen, because truthfully I know nothing.

I don’t know anything that will happen to me.

I can try my best to guide myself down a certain path, but in reality I’ve zero control over who I meet, what they say, what they will make me think, who I will become friends with, or what I come to believe or not believe.

But this is good.

I am in a small boat on a big ocean. I have oars and the sun is shining. I can see the shore, and it’s a long way away. There are other boats and other people rowing. We can see each other and know that we’re not on our own. We all have common goals. If we capsize then someone will come to our aid, and we might even end up in their boat, helping them row, and sharing the journey together.

If you’re reading this and you’re also rowing, then keep it up.

Land is in sight.

Davey

Happiness is the way

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I feel like there’s a snooker ball in my sinuses.

I dont do ill very well, and I am exasperated that I can’t sleep at the moment. Every time I lie down it feels like my eyeballs are about to explode and its not a pleasant sensation.

Whilst hoovering the other day I found two ‘Vocal Zone‘ throat lozenges that my Dad appeared to have dropped when he was here last. They were still in their blister packs, and had helpfully been cut out with scissors. He loves medicinal sweets like this and used to suck ‘Megazones‘ like they were going out of fashion.

Sadly they actually did go out of fashion and maybe because they made test monkeys grow a third arm the company responsible for their production stopped making them.

After Mom died Dad stayed with me for a few weeks, during which time he came down with a nasty flu. Desperate for a substitute for his favourite remedy we had to go to the chemist to find this (truly horrible) alternative.

Since they make me think of him rather than me having any conviction that they will help or because they taste nice I’m sucking the last of the two at the moment. It doesn’t seem to be getting rid of the tickle in the back of my throat, but it’s helped improve my mood.

One of the plus sides to being sick is catching up on lots of TV and movies that I’ve been stockpiling for a rainy day. As its actually been pissing it down for almost two days straight the pastime seems apt.

Initially I started off watching things that were in tandem with my mood -and finally nailed season six of ‘The Walking Dead’.

I definitely know how the hordes of the title feel. Although my taste for brains never materialised when I caught the zombie virus a few days ago I can empathise with being reduced to a shuffling and groaning mess.

So far though the sweet relief of a bowie knife through the temple has been absent.

Unsurprisingly over the course of sixteen episodes lots of bad shit happened to everyone, endlessly – and it did little to improve my frame of mind. After this I decided upon a change of pace and popped on ‘Hector and the search for happiness‘.

To anyone that’s not seen this and likes Simon Pegg it comes highly recommended – and while I’m not sure I agree with its wording, the message of the closing sentiment is spot on.

We all have an obligation to be happy‘.

To me this seems to structured and demanding – I prefer another approach.

I used to regularly say to anyone that would listen ‘There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way‘ and feel proud of my learned wisdom.

For some reason a few years ago I stopped saying this to people, and I stopped thinking it out loud inside my head.

At times I allowed myself to completely forget, but it’s vital now that I keep coming back to it. For instance I’m writing because I’ve remembered it makes me happy. I’m amazed I forgot this, because I knew that when I was little.

I aim to continue for a long time.

I seem to have been sold a lie somewhere along the line that as we get older our understanding of how we should deal with the world grows, but now I’m not so sure that’s the true. I think in many cases as we get older our capacity for self deception increases, in line with our ability to compromise.

We do lots of things for immediate gratification that ultimately don’t make us happy in the long term, and we learn to make do with ‘average’.

I was always good at these mind you – so maybe when I say ‘we’ maybe I really mean ‘me‘.

Actually, there’s no maybe about it. It’s definitely me. I’m describing myself.

I’ve sold myself short in life more times than I can count. The trouble I have is that it’s easy to recognise this but harder to actually do something about it.

BUT – I have my plan for the next few months in the back of my head, and while I may be temporarily part of the undead horde, I will be back to normal soon. Happiness in life is very much on my agenda.

I’ve made some big strides mentally and physically lately and if being in group therapy has taught me nothing else it’s that I must be aware of my successes and not focus on what I’ve done wrong.

With this kind of re-trained thinking in mind I’m also reading ‘Yes Man‘ by Danny Wallace at the moment, which my brother bought for my birthday.

I’ve seen the film, but the book is better – and I hadn’t really thought about the true implications of saying ‘yes’ to absolutely everything regardless of whether you want to or not and just seeing where that takes you in life.

Like the author I’ve said no to a lot of things over the years.

Maybe it’s been safer, and more sensible, but has it been as interesting? Probably not. However, saying ‘no’ is also a big thing for me currently, so I can’t claim to be fully on board with the sentiment of Mr Wallace at this precise moment in time.

One thing that I did notice was that saying yes to things for him initially resulted in many many trips to the pub, and a lot of drinking.

I’ll be honest – when I’ve got ill in the past I’ve also got a bit smashed, with the self deluding rationale that I might as well make the most of a bad time and have some fun while my body is at its worst.

Being sick it seems yet another thing on the long list of stuff that I am no longer allowed to sidestep, and I have found myself unconsciously thinking about drinking in the middle of perfectly normal thoughts for the last three days.

It annoys me that the thoughts are still there, but then again why wouldn’t they be? I have been a drinker for nearly 30 years, so there’s a lot of unlearning to be done. If I’m honest from time to time I still want a cigarette and that stopped nearly 10 years ago. I only stopped drinking 10 weeks ago.

Soon however I’m going to have to consider whether my body is capable of becoming addicted to Earl Grey, because given the frequency I’m currently drinking it to take my mind off other beverages it’s a distinct possibility.

Ugh. There goes another sharp twinge behind my eyeballs. Imagine if you will lots of unhappy emojis following this sentence.

(Space set aside for reader visualisation and contemplation. Condolences may be left in the comments.)

Anyway – I still feel no closer to sleep, so I shall continue to stare blankly at something on the TV and feel sorry for myself until maybe I doze off in my armchair.

Love and hugs internet. I hope your pursuit of happiness is going well.

Davey

Circling the drain

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I woke up this morning after a nice day off yesterday with a thumping headache and a nose crammed full of snot.

I’m not one to over exaggerate but honestly I think this may be the start of the zombie apocalypse. My eyes look vaguely normal in the mirror at the moment, but who knows when I will slip into a coma and awake craving brains?

I’ve listened through the curtains and I still can’t hear the sound of people screaming, so it must just be affecting large cities at the moment. It’s only a matter of time before the panic reaches Warwickshire and cars are on fire in the street.

There’s no point going to hospital, they will already be overwhelmed and trying to understand why so many are ill.

The news doesn’t seem to be mentioning a viral outbreak but I’m sure this is because the government will want to restrict knowledge of civil unrest. It’s unlikely we’ll all know the truth until it’s too late. Men in power created this virus by accident in a lab anyway so they will be reluctant to confess to their crimes.

I’d better fill the bath with water in the meantime so that when the looting starts and the fabric of society breaks down I still have something to drink.

Food is also a concern but hopefully the Sainsburys driver will deliver my weekly shopping before he starts eating people – or one of his customers in a more advanced stage than me eats him.

I hope this doesn’t happen because I have a lot of carrier bags I need to give him for recycling.

In the meantime I think I have a Lemsip sachet that might hold it at bay for the crucial seconds needed to pick up the TV remote and slump into my armchair.

I will need to make it downstairs though and boil the kettle. This could be the end.

Goodbye cruel world!

Davey

 

Not one single person

group hug

I’ve decided to have a ‘me’ day on Friday and booked it off this afternoon.

The last few weeks have been rewarding but long and I really wanted to just stop, take stock and have a coffee with someone disconnected from everything I’m doing.

So I phoned a mate, made arrangements to do not much in particular together – and thats my plan for the day.

But not before I’ve had an epic lie in and continued my embarrassingly deep romantic entanglement with my duck feather pillow.

She’s puuurdy. Quack.

After those important unbreakable commitments I have Saturday and Sunday to fill with fruitful pursuits and if it ever stops torrentially raining I will mow my lawns. I keep putting them off and its beginning to annoy me.

After that (or before if the weather is inclement) I will sort out my dining room. I vaguely remember there being a table in there but all I can see is laundry and files of correspondence at the moment.

Once these tasks are completed I will have achieved a sense of peace where I live, which is very important to me at the moment.

To look around and not be pissed off with things everywhere that you haven’t done or procrastinated about is a very good thing, and every time I make things look nice I feel I’m climbing out of the pit I started digging in earnest about nine months ago.

Today was a good day in group as well – and I had a sense that there were some butterflies unfolding their new wings this morning.

Just like things are different with myself I’ve noticed marked changes in the people who I’ve been working through my issues with. Some looked very different in terms of body language today than they did on day one. When I pointed this out to one of them they smiled from ear to ear and I couldn’t help but do the same.

Unlike the first day we now all know each other by name, and greet each other cordially in the morning outside where people smoke and drink coffee before the group starts.

We also reference things that other people in the room have said regularly and nod to each other knowingly when someone says something that resonates with the collective mind.

I genuinely hope that I keep in touch with these people. Sure we’re not perfect, and we all have lots of hang ups and challenges in life – but we came together because we want to be better than we are.

I also think that we have genuinely begun to care what happens to each other, in a surprisingly short space of time.

I wouldn’t have said this three weeks ago but I’m going to be rather sad when the final day comes. There are only four sessions left, and I feel already that there has been a lot of positive change and reflection.

I started angry, scared and tearful (all within the first two days) and now I get up looking forward to the discussions, and jokingly moaning about filling in another personality questionnaire. People laugh and smile at each other in the group, and there is a pervading sense that although they are still fragile there is a weight that’s lifting, and that’s because it’s now being carried together.

The group leader who presents the relapse prevention segments each week is continually at pains to state that its FACT that people who stay in a groups, and stay in support stay clean longer and relapse less.

If I can help just one of them with that then I think it’s the least I can do after they’ve shared their experiences with me so freely.

I want them all to be well so much it currently occupies all my thoughts.

One of the odd things that I realised yesterday evening was that a particular exercise showed how I have changed since I started (and continued) writing this blog and posting it on my Facebook feed so that anyone who knew me could read it.

A piece of paper was handed out with a drawing of an iceberg on it. Above the water was the small, innocent tip. But under the surface, lurking in the dark and threatening depths hid the rest of it – which was much much larger.

It was capable of sinking the Titanic and its destructive power was immense.

The task at hand was to write in the smaller bit at the top all the obvious things people could see about us, and then in the below section all the things no-one knew that we hid from everyone.

Two months ago the section under water would have been filled, but now I was stumped. I really struggled to put things in there.

Two months ago I hadn’t outed myself as a drinker and told everyone how many units I was consuming a week. I hadn’t admitted how I struggled with all aspects of life. I hadn’t talked openly about the shame and anger surrounding my mother, or the dual feelings of grief and relief that were left behind when she passed away. I hadn’t posted my actual weight online in all its embarrassing glory for EVERYONE to see. I hadn’t admitted to my difficulties with physical movement related to this or my self confidence problems. I’d told almost no-one how I worry about wherever I go because of the seating and how currently I struggle standing for long periods of time.

Now it’s all out there for anyone to read and comment upon. The iceberg is upside down.

I gave all of the power away. I put it in the hands of the world and dared them to use it against me.

And you know what?

Not one person has.

Not. One. Single. Person.

So today if I had to categorise my mood it’s one of optimism for the future. People are inherently good and I am one of them. I have a plan of sorts laid out for myself in the coming months, and I have promised myself that I will execute on it.

I won’t beat myself up if I stumble and I’ll try to remember I will have bad days along with the good. I will reach out to people for a hand if I falter, and I will take theirs if they reach out to me.

I am evidence of evolution. I am man beginning to walk upright.

Davey

Moment of Zen

Zen stones

Zen stones in water

The people who know me will probably be best placed to decide whether I suffer from stress or not. Previously I would have been 99.9% sure that I did not (outside of parental bereavement and funerals etc), but I’m beginning to question that now.

I’m becoming VERY aware lately that my stress management (usually alcohol) in the past may have papered over many many cracks. It’s stopped me from dealing with problems, and hidden some of the obvious symptoms they caused.

It would be fair to say that my life wasn’t all that harsh though, and I’m not claiming to be someone with the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I am a single man, living on my own, content with that solitude, doing things I want to when I want to do them and before I suddenly decided to change direction and leave my job (since reversed thankfully) had been in stable employment with colleagues and friends going back many many years.

Although I still have my job the alcohol is now gone. Its been Sixty-nine days since it ceased to be a crutch.

Although I made a very conscious decision to stop drinking I am also aware that at the same time events overtook me. The death of my mother, whom I struggled to relate to removed a huge burden that I’d carried for years.

The sensation of weight lifting when she died wasn’t instant, and her death created many other ripples, but it was the beginning of a new chapter, which is still unfolding.

With this newfound perspective and lucid thought comes emotion. Lots of it sometimes. Going to group (now in the 3rd week of four) brings a lot of questions – and not always with answers.

Today we discussed dealing with depression. While I can categorically say in the past I have been seriously caught in the grip of this (about 4 years ago I really hit rock bottom), at the moment I am not. For the most part I’m positive, but I’m also conscious that other events in the back of my mind and elsewhere in life are looming large in my head. Now I have made a step toward a new life I’m not only faced with possibilities, but fears.

They’ve probably always been there, but now they’re vivid and real.

I’ve learned how my drinking trigger feels and have blogged about it before. It’s a warm feeling in my chest that leads to a tingling sensation in my neck and face. Now I can see it for what it is I’m becoming more able to deal with it, and slow down the chain reaction that previously resulted in me immediately buying or consuming alcohol.

At the moment I’m slowly getting into Mindfulness, and I’m genuinely surprised at the difference it makes. This evening I got very tense and stressed. EVERYTHING was in place to either make me eat or drink to excess, and then YouTube came to the rescue.

Before and after every group session over the last few weeks we have had a ten minute session similar to this, and whilst my initial estimation of its power was ‘verging on complete bollocks’ its now moved on to ‘actually very good indeed’.

I decided to try and find a home version tonight (previously I’ve just sat quietly trying to breathe and calm down) and the video above popped up in my search. I’m sure there are many many more like this, but in a moment of panic this really hit the spot.

Like most things Mindfulness seems to get better the more you practice it, and as you begin to become more self aware and able to filter thoughts and external sounds out there are genuine benefits to be had. Within the space of 10 mins tonight I went from worried and tense to calm, centred and existing in the moment.

Who knew that such things were possible? Not me thats for sure.

I’ve also had other related things to think about today. Dopamine triggers.

Although I’ve not been able to find any evidence on the web to substantiate this my group leader today suggested that one of the four natural dopamine triggers was caring about other people. This really resonated with me, as thoughts involving others are always with me and I’m very much a person (at least I think I am) who likes to reach out to others.

Since I read whilst researching this that sex is a recognised dopamine trigger I’m willing to get on board with this concept, and instinctively feel that the warmth coming from human contact, and sharing emotions must be related.

However – I’m only a Google and Wikipedia pseudo scientist so it could also be serotonin or endorphins. Or caffeine – which is also consumed in large quantities with friends.

Or sandwiches.

Mmmmm sandwiches….

But I’m getting off the point. WHATEVER causes the nice sensations – sign me up baby and let the good times roll!

I’m going to practice more of this tonight before bed and see whether I can filter out some of the inane mental chatter thats stopped me sleeping the last two nights in a row.

Oh, and finally, I met a nice woman online tonight who was kind enough to chat with me about my blog, and share her YouTube channel with me. It’s not every day that you meet a lady that can review a cordless drill, bake cookies, race radio controlled cars AND write a blog thats not just varied but well composed.

She too writes thoughtfully about the loss of a parent, and I guess I’m far from alone out here in the blogosphere. The internet is a wonderful place sometimes, and just when you need that shot of dopamine/serotonin/endorphins/sandwiches and human contact, unexpectedly someone comes along 🙂

Be mindful internet. The universe is listening!

Davey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Donut

doughnuts-primary

It’s Sunday. After a late night (I hit the sack at 4am) my eyes are tired and I’m a bit grouchy. I woke up some time after 8am.

My shopping arrived two hours earlier than expected (yes i’m an online shopper and I’m unrepentant.) When the delivery guy started knocking the door I was still bleary eyed, half asleep and looking like a grenade had exploded in my beard.

On the bright side I suddenly had milk for my coffee, which moved caffeine up on my agenda, and replaced any thoughts of breakfast, which I have no appetite for at the moment.

Sadly the Sainsburys guy with a pressing schedule on the doorstep didn’t see the genial side of me this morning because I’m stressing and worrying. I’ve been thinking about the future and have been dwelling on what if’s, which also occupied my dreams.

Totally out of the blue I awoke obsessed with my car insurance. I couldn’t remember who my policy was with or how I paid my premium. I spent a scary 45 minutes searching all my online files to make sure I actually WAS insured.

Thankfully I am.

Then I started thinking about my household budget and where I could save money to divert to my mortgage. I decided to put a current spreadsheet together detailing all my incomings and outgoings. This didn’t help. It just reminded my how much it costs to stand still in life, made me worry about my pension provision, being financially on my own and left me concerned about the future.

Suddenly I’m consumed by ‘what if’s’.

Its completely pointless – I know that. Although I can plan for what may or may not happen years from now I really have no idea really ahead. The best I can do is make sure I’m frugal, pay my debts, look after myself and don’t set myself up for obvious failure.

(Interlude. Our intrepid hero is stopped from writing his blog by events beyond his control. Thankfully Wordpress saves stuff regularly. We find him a day later still musing about his choices in relation to this. He likes to navel gaze. It’s his thing.)

I woke up today (Monday) royally annoyed with myself. Yesterday I did something on impulse that was just plain stupid and defied logic.

As I was saying before for some time now I’ve been focusing on my mortgage and it’s fair to say that at times I’ve been quite obsessed by it. Over and over again I’ve added up how long it will take to pay off and how I can bring the timescale further down by economising in other areas.

Yesterday I made a nice pie chart with incomings and outgoings but that just made things worse. As I thought of areas to cut back and save money I became more and more stressed. I started to write my thoughts down in my blog, but it wasn’t really helping. By the 400 word mark I was no closer to alleviating the feelings, which is unusual.

Then the universe (always listening and paying attention it seems) decided to intervene and killed my computer. Stone dead.

Initially it restarted and the panic was over – but then when the screen image flickered, warped, corrupted and wrapped half-way round the back of itself I realised that the issue wasn’t a software crash. Continued reboots afterwards resulted in lots of vertical stripes and no desktop, just an endless boot loop.

My beloved buddy had just bitten the dust.

After a couple of hours trying to coax it back to life I decided it looked like a graphics card issue. However in this case the cause made little difference as the computer is an ‘all in one’ machine. If one component goes then it’s practically a doorstop.

So – faced with being without it for a few days (and use my laptop instead while it was possibly repaired) I decided to take the only logical course of action.

I immediately went out and bought a replacement. Because f**k you spreadsheet and pie chart. Retail therapy rules.

Now though I am kicking myself. Only a few days ago I was writing about deferring instant gratification, and what did I do? Reacted on impulse, and spent money I could  have put toward far more important things.

Last night, a few hours after my shopping spree I was quietly fuming. Whilst cooking in my kitchen I texted my brother and informed him that I wanted to put my fist through a wall because I was so annoyed with myself.

I wouldn’t of course. It would hurt. Lots. Also I bruise like a peach.

Pete is used to my impulsive behaviour and also thought I had been a complete donut (my words not his) but was glad that I recognised this. It would be a valuable lesson. I could take this event, remember how it made me feel and not do it again.

He’s right.

I was also reminded in group this morning (ironically enough the topic of which was positive thinking) that I should not beat myself up about failures. I need to learn from moments of idiocy and move on.

So the morals of the story for today:

  • Practice what you preach
  • Don’t be an absolute donut
  • If you are donut then deal with it, learn from it, move on and don’t beat yourself up

Davey

(Grrr)