Difficult day

It’s a big day and if I’m brutally honest I’m struggling.

Today is the third anniversary of my mother’s death and for many reasons (probably not the ones you might expect) this is always a difficult time.

In my head there’s been a quiet countdown leading to this moment for a couple of weeks and as a consequence I’ve noticed my mood dip as well as my appetite quietly increase.

As much as I’d like to proclaim ‘I’m cured – it no longer affects me!’ This would be a total lie.

Even though I don’t miss my mom at all this is a time when I’m reminded of what I could or should have had in my childhood (and my relationship with her) but did not.

So – in an effort to exorcise some demons I decided that today was an appropriate time to get rid of the 30-40 odd framed paintings and photos that had I piled into boxes three years ago before hiding them away in a cupboard.

I’ve been holding onto them partly because I didn’t want to throw things away that she had created and partly because I thought my brother or father may want them even if I couldn’t bear to look at them.

Neither seems to be the case – and honestly I’ve never liked 99% of them so the only course of action that seemed to be left to me was to throw them away.

One or two (including all of the photos) I removed from their frames and kept – but everything else is now in a landfill or furnace somewhere.

I was hoping that this would make me feel good – but for the first time in years I’ve been confronted with my mom’s own unique brand of mental illness.

When I cleared her bungalow with my brother after she died it was exhausting (this is all documented in my blogs back when I first started writing).

This was not just because of the bereavement but because contained within each item there was another item, and within that another one.

Each was sellotaped into progressively smaller bags like little Russian dolls.

It took forever to unpack it all – and nothing could be arbitrarily consigned to the bin. There were tiny little caches of money hidden everywhere and I was acutely aware that there was a funeral to pay for.

Occasionally we also found small (or surprisingly large) bags of hair from different periods of her life that were labelled ‘for DNA testing‘.

Her picture frames it seems were no different – and underneath each taped up and nailed shut frame were more photos, scribblings and random (probably false) facts about family members.

Then I found the gut punch.

Hidden within a school photo of me was a draft letter, yellowed with age and dated October 1977.

This photo was taken a few years earlier – but in my mind this is the woman holding the pen.

The page detailed her feelings about her relationship with my father and contained intimate thoughts about their physical moments together.

Then it unexpectedly pivots into a passage regarding the sacrifice of Jesus and the relationship of this to her infant son.

Referring to me she says to my father:

‘He is our oneness. We dwell in him. He is our future on earth. The survival of our line. God will take him back to himself in time when all is fulfilled.’

I’m reminded immediately of her cadence in letters, her muddled allusion to both biblical scripture and other pseudo scientific thought processes.

I’m suddenly confronted with how her fractured and troubled mind worked and it momentarily takes the breath away from my lungs.

I sit on the edge of the bed in the quiet of my spare room.

At the end of the letter there’s a crossed out passage – which she’s noted did not get included in whatever version of the final letter was sent to my father.

Maybe it was too truthful and gave away far more information regarding her mental state than she was willing to share.

‘I am using too much adrenaline and the body I dwell in is suffering. The head aches and the singing in my ears gets worse. A quiet night is no longer a quiet night for me, my ears have their own noises of singing, ringing and bumps. Tonight the singing is a high pitched continuous note with occasional throbbing ever present. I have suffered this on and off since the age of 12.’

She continues – saying that she’s not good at looking after herself and is not eating. She’s losing weight, her bosom is disappearing and she says that she functions better when she has someone to look after.

The whole letter is like a selection of nails being hammered into me.

I’ve told myself many times (maybe to try and make sense of everything) that my mom wasn’t always the same person, and that time had slowly made things worse.

I like to think that when I was small she was a normal and loving mother – but the truth is she was exactly the same woman I had to deal with before she died.

I just never saw it as a child.

Her peculiar thought processes were my normal back then and because I learned early on to just accept her fragmented default state it took me many years to see her for who she really was.

It consequently took a long time to realise that the problems between us weren’t caused by me.

They were generated by her.

There was something profoundly odd about my mother. Although the words she used were English and seemed to link together, when you stood back (metaphorically speaking) the content of her sentences and paragraphs always left you confused or wondering why she had gone down one particular rabbit hole or another.

Usually the pleading side of her (evident in much of the draft letter I was reading) that begged for love (or more typically demanded it be given) came after she had done everything in her power to destroy any chance of it happening naturally.

More often than not letters like this came after significant rows – where her vitriol was at its worst and you were left scared to say anything in case it made things worse.

I’d be called evil, wicked, sick, ‘just like your father’ or ‘my biggest disappointment’.

The only route I had out as a child was to withdraw, go quiet and take it, hoping that it would stop eventually.

It never did though.

It would go on for hours and hours.

Occasionally she would let me go to sleep – thinking that the verbal beating was over.

Then she would wake me in the small hours of the morning stinking of tobacco, shaking with rage, shouting at me ‘…and ANOTHER thing…’ before she launched into the next part of her character assassination.

The following day when I returned home totally shattered from school after having had no sleep and dreading what was to come it was like nothing had happened.

She never referenced or apologised for anything she’d said – and instead expected full contrition from me.

If I mentioned anything about the night before I’d immediately start the whole sorry saga of ‘what I’d done wrong’ all over again.

Sleep was too precious at that point so I just stayed quiet and smiled or pretended.

Then without a word of apology or acknowledgement of the damage she’d caused, would arrive a demand for love.

When I was older and could get away from her afterwards this typically came in the post by letter until I moved and stopped providing her with my address.

When I did she continued to send letter after letter to my father – asking a man she wanted nothing to do with (but then professed undying love for) to pass her profoundly unbalanced thoughts on.

In the case of the letter I was holding the (very familiar) entreaty came written partly as a poem and partly as prose.

For my mother this was quite normal. I remember this kind of stream of consciousness all too well.

It was often stated in passages dripping with pain and symbolism that it was her ‘right‘ to receive love from her sons – that it should be given by her children ‘unconditionally‘ – just like she had given it to her parents before.

Back then I had always assumed that this was true and that as a child and adult she had been slavishly devoted to them. After all – it was what she continually told me was the case.

However after she died I learned from my uncle that the relationship she had with at least one of her parents was instead very different.

Her mother was scared of her and told her other children that she was frightened by her resentful and mercurial moods.

She didn’t know what would happen if she was left alone with her and in later years my grandmother saw my mother as a burden that was to be feared rather than relied upon for support.

As these thoughts flow through my mind I continued to take apart the yellowed picture frames and remove their contents.

In one photo (showing my uncle’s wedding reception) the picture has been trimmed. The background has been cut away, leaving only a collection of torsos and heads from the foreground.

Sealed and hidden away in another picture frame is the rest of the missing photo, depicting a pub wall without any people in front of it.

There’s nothing but wallpaper with cut out silhouettes.

Why keep it?

More to the point why chop it up in the first place?

Maybe it’s a part of the hoarder in her but I’ll never know because both her life and death remain frustratingly unresolved.

I’ll never understand who she was, why she thought the way she did, and why she manipulated and controlled rather than loved and nurtured.

I’m left with no good memories of her that she didn’t pollute over the years and I’ll never get an apology or an acknowledgement of the damage and heartache that she left in her wake.

Nevertheless I am glad of the final unwitting gifts that she left behind.

Firstly she made me want to be so unlike her that I finally found the power within me to break free of the self destructive behavioural loops that she left me with.

I gave up the drinking that I had consciously started to drown out her insults and I lost the weight I had gained through many years of eating away emotional and physical pain.

Secondly there’s practically the last thing she said to me before she died.

Unsurprisingly it wasn’t ‘I’m sorry’ because my mom never said that – and she never regretted anything.

Until that is she lay in A&E on the last day I saw her alive.

She was struggling to draw breath, in great discomfort and drowning slowly from the fluid collecting in her lungs.

Years of smoking had finally taken its toll – for which she was unrepentant. She smoked until the end and refused to acknowledge its impact.

‘I don’t regret ANYTHING.’ She said, and went quiet.

My brother and I looked at the wall.

Neither of us wanted to hear her voice any more. It was like nails being dragged down a chalk board.

‘Actually I DO regret something.’ She said, looking at me.

I turned my head.

This was new.

She’d never said anything like this before.

‘David.’ She said. ‘I regret…’

I listened to her stilted voice as she struggled to talk through her laboured and painful breathing.

‘…I regret that when you left home…’

The room was silent apart from the sounds of nurses passing outside the curtain.

‘… that you didn’t write to me and visit me more.’

I looked at her and then to my brother.

Honestly in that moment she released me.

Not only did she have no concept of what regret meant – but right up until the end she was incapable of recognising why I’d left home in the first place – and she still didn’t feel that she was in the wrong in any way.

I never had a chance.

I could never have understood her or fixed anything.

Right up until her last moments she was the same woman that it seems she was in October 1977 – and it’s most likely that she was well before I was born.

At least now all her paintings are gone.

Their cigarette smoke infused frames and canvases are no longer quietly lingering in my cupboard and I have the space back again – both in my home and (to an extent) my mind.

It’s taken me many many years but I’m slowly moving on. As well as I can I’ve tried to forgive her and hold no anger about our relationship – because there’s no point.

The only thing anger or hatred does is damage and pollute what’s left behind.

I refuse to let that happen because despite the destruction she caused her legacy is ultimately positive.

I’m now a different man to the one I was while she was alive and I hopefully have many many good years ahead of to make things ‘right’.

I feel like I wasted so much time dealing with the fallout of our relationship – but no more.

Despite her I want to life a good life, free from her legacy and (unlike her) being a positive voice in the world.

More than anything I’m glad that I’m capable of saying sorry or admitting that I’m wrong and that I still make mistakes.

To me internet that’s worth it’s weight in gold.

Davey

Health outcomes and why you should try

It’s that time of year again. Around about now I’m reminded of the past as well as who I used to be – and for a number of reasons this can prove to be a mentally tricky period.

Firstly it’s time for my semi annual diabetes checks and I always get a bit nervous when these roll around.

This morning I headed off to the first of two appointments that I’ve got to attend over the next week with a nice warm urine sample tucked away discreetly in my bag.

It’s always nice to arrive with a present.

In some ways the checks are always a bit amusing – because each time I go there seems to be a new(ish) nurse. Typically this means that I have to plod through broadly the same suite of queries as they look me up and down and then do a double take on my medical history.

Firstly they think they’re looking at the notes for the wrong person – because lately my test results show no evidence of diabetes whatsoever. Secondly they do a double take when they see the history of my weight.

Then they also make me stand on the scales.

Sometimes twice.

Today it wasn’t so bad, and before the nurse started asking me questions I quickly explained how much weight I’d lost, how much exercise I do, and why my resting heart rate is so low (40 bpm).

She seemed surprised – but also very interested and as she took my blood pressure we chatted about how I viewed the whole process of weight loss – and in particular my opinion of Slimming World vs hers.

She wasn’t so keen on the plan because (she said) it ‘promoted large portions’ and ‘had a lot of carbs in it’ – which (to her) meant that people would inevitably regain the weight that they had originally lost.

It’s not the first time I’ve come across this argument.

I told her that I both agreed and disagreed with some of her points – because in my view whether you regain any weight depends firstly on your mindset and secondly on what you eat in terms of processed food.

I told her that the majority of my syns came from unprocessed natural food (olives or avocado etc) as opposed to things like chocolate.

I then said that I feel though (and always have) that it’s folly to have a diet plan that doesn’t allow for processed food like chocolate to be eaten (who these days would embark upon any plan if it completely denied them?) and occasionally I too eat these things – but in serious moderation.

The vast majority of the time I only have one item of processed food per day – and for around three days out of seven there’s often none at all. However (I told her) I’ve always felt that you can lose weight having processed food as part of your daily intake.

But did I think this was the right approach?

No I didn’t – because I personally feel that if you want a healthier life it’s not as simple as just counting ‘syns’.

Although it works for some people you will never catch me with a ‘syn bag’ full of crisps and chocolate in front of the TV in the evening.

Sure this can still see people lose weight – because ultimately it’s (at least partially but not exclusively) about being mindful of calorie intakes.

But what happens if you fall from grace and you still have a taste for these foods?

This is also why I don’t do ‘fakeaways’. I don’t want to crave these tastes any more and it often irritates the hell out of me that I still have a ‘need’ for cereal or hi-fi bars – which I’d much rather was completely replaced by fruit as a regular craving.

In my view you should aim to take as much processed food out of your life as possible.

At the very least you should diminish it to the point where your fridge is almost exclusively full of raw vegetables and (if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan) a small amount of meat and fish (particularly oily ones).

The nattering about the merits (or otherwise) of my approach to SW soon stopped however, because the first of the two appointments is only a short twenty minute one to gather data.

It’s not until next week that I get the HbA1c (average sugar levels fr the last 2/3 months based on my blood sample) results – which I’m most interested in.

They have recently been so low as to not register even as pre-diabetic, and I’m keen to keep them that way. I see diabetes as a beast waiting to pounce rather than something thats been cured. In my mind it’s always chasing me in the rear view mirror – and if I take my foot off the gas then it could come back at any time.

The one result I could get immediately though is my blood pressure – which irritatingly appears to be somewhat elevated since the last time it was checked – although I did arrive at the appointment after a rather brisk walk.

The last time I looked it was 116/68 – but today it was different.

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Since blood pressure isn’t something that’s typically on my radar I always end up having to google what these readings mean – and according to the NHS website I appear (at least today) to be annoyingly on the cusp of pre-hypertension.

blood pressure 17th jan 2019

Their advice states:

Your blood pressure is described as being high-normal and ideally, it should be below 120/80mmHg. Known as the “silent killer”, high blood pressure rarely has obvious symptoms but, left untreated, it increases your risk of heart attack or stroke.

The good news is, it can be brought under control through lifestyle changes such as:

  • Losing weight (if overweight)
  • Reducing the amount of salt in your diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Cutting back on alcohol and caffeine
  • You may also need medication

There’s not really an awful lot left on this list to change other than caffeine which is my one remaining vice.

Truthfully it’s a big one – and I’ve often felt that my willingness to remove other more harmful things from my life has been at the expense of a significant increase in coffee consumption.

It’s my go to drink of choice – and as I type at 11.15 I’m already on my fourth one of the day.

Maybe I’ll have to change this aspect of my lifestyle, because heaven knows I can’t easily lose any more weight, reduce any more salt or do any more exercise (I’m currently burning a total of around 4500-5000 kcal a day).

Sigh.

How annoying.

This brings me to my second reason for remembering the past – because in just over a week’s time I will have been sober for three years.

This (now comfortingly regular) annual milestone is a double edged sword, because whilst it makes me feel no small amount of pride it also carries with it a deep sense of regret.

This is related partially to my inability to control myself in the past – but primarily to the death of my mother, which happened two days after I gave up drinking on the 26th of January 2016.

Although many may view the latter as the more significant of the two anniversaries I only tend remember it because of the former.

This subject came up today when talking to my nurse – because she asked me (as many people do) why it was I suddenly decided to change.

It came up in conversation earlier in the week when I was visiting a friend in Lichfield.

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As we walked around the town and explored the cathedral I chatted about this upcoming event (it’s been on my mind for a while if I’m honest) and how I can never seem to manage to separate my personal triumphs from their associated emotions of guilt and regret.

I feel guilt because (despite the fact that my mother was a continually detrimental influence in my life) I don’t miss my her at all – and I never feel sadness because someone that I loved is gone forever.

Typically I don’t think about my mom at all day to day. The anniversary of her passing (as significant as it should probably be) only provides an overwhelming sense of relief that the abuse I endured at her hands is over.

As well as guilt I also feel regret – because ultimately although she proved to be the catalyst for most of the positive changes that I made I wish I’d been able to do it for more positive reasons.

I ultimately chose to change because I didn’t want to be anything like my mother. I suddenly needed to move away from any possible correlation between me and her at a million miles an hour.

It’s because of that impulse that I am now an infinitely better man than I ever was before.

The annoying thing is though I didn’t do it for love of myself or anyone else.

I did it because I had no love at all for her and I couldn’t stand seeing any element of my mother when I looked in the mirror.

If anything I hated myself way more than I disliked her and it was this personal revulsion that fuelled my actions.

I regret my reasons because I would have been delighted to have suddenly decided without any prompting that I needed to be a better man who deserved a future filled with love and happiness – but I didn’t. Instead it took other (far more negative) emotions to begin the process of becoming the man that I am today.

For some reason I don’t ever seem to let myself escape that fact.

The truth is that it makes it really really hard when people ask me for advice on how to change because I can’t suggest they wait until a parent who has mentally abused them for most of their childhood and adult life passes away before they change.

The truth is I don’t know if I would have ever become a different person without this event – and I might be the one that would have been dead now if she hadn’t beaten me to it.

However – what I do know is that although the even that created the man I am now was predominantly negative, the results were almost exclusively positive – because when the ball started rolling my mindset changed to a fundamentally better one.

I can now see many of the ‘truths’ I subscribed to back then as nothing more than self delusion. My approach to life these days is rooted making choices because they are the right ones – not despite the fact that they are.

choose to be healthier.

choose to be fitter.

choose to invite love and friendships into my life.

I choose to share my failures and successes so that they will help others.

So maybe (just maybe) I will give up caffeine too. Maybe it’s one of the final crutches I’ve been clinging on to, in the mistaken belief that I still need something that’s a ‘vice’ so that I won’t go quietly crazy.

The truth is that I don’t really need any substance to make me feel good any more. All I need is the security of knowing that my choices are the right ones, that I have people in my life that I care deeply about, and that I feel loved.

After all – what other motivation do we really need?

People not motivated by wanting to live longer arguably don’t fully appreciate the life that they have. Maybe this is because it’s never hung in the balance or because nothing has threatened to take it away prematurely.

In my case I nearly threw all of it away on a casual whim because I didn’t care about myself.

Now I do – and I want to do anything and everything that I can to keep feeling the way that I do because I love each and every day of my life. It’s why each morning I get up and start walking, swimming, hiking or making other healthy lifestyle choices.

It’s why YOU should too.

Whatever your reason to do so – choose to be better.

Davey

Growing a little

Unless you were blind when you read my blog entry yesterday you would have sensed a moment of personal crisis has arrived over the weekend – and that I was trying really hard to manage the fallout of feelings that I’d not realised were bubbling under the surface.

This was until all of a sudden they hit me like a tsunami.

I reached target in February 2018, have been changing and turning my life around for the best part of three years now and even now there are still moments when the fallout of years of self abuse and childhood memories of emotional neglect pull the rug right out from under me.

Thankfully I have good friends.

Friends who can hear words coming out of my mouth that don’t seem like things I would normally be saying, watch me melt down and then STILL put an arm around me, watch me cry and spend time talking me through it step by step and building me back up again.

God dammit I have a lot of baggage.

I’ve spent so many years isolating myself from the pain associated with being overweight and deferring the fallout from emotional losses that sometimes I have no words.

The legacy of a childhood with a continuously abusive parent that couldn’t show any real love is a long one, and even now in my mid forties I’m STILL struggling to come to terms with the fallout.

The 16 year old me in this photo was someone I used to think was at a great place in life. He was young, had starved himself thin after leaving school (losing five stone in a period just a little longer than the summer holidays) and was suddenly receiving attention for the first time in his life.

I recognise now that he was profoundly damaged but too naive to understand how badly.

He just lurched out into the world like a directionless man child desperately craving love and acceptance.

I feel like the last couple of days have been necessary ones – because although I’ve gone completely off the emotional reservation for a short while it needed to happen.

If it hadn’t I’d still be denying that the feelings I’ve been packing down for so long existed and trying to hide them or (even worse) resolving my thoughts in complete isolation.

No man is an island – and while I share myself and my vulnerability with the world much more than most there are many things that remain outside my blog.

These relate to people with no voice or events that I can never talk about openly.

It wouldn’t be right if I did.

Their legacy persists however and I’ve hidden behind food and drink to cope with that for so long that even now I do not know how to properly deal with some of them whilst remaining sober or without eating the entire contents of my fridge freezer.

I’m getting there though.

Today my blog’s sub heading feels even more prescient than usual because I’ve been reminded over the last few days that I, just like everyone else am just

learning to live life‘.

Sometimes I get it completely and catastrophically wrong – and thankfully this time that’s OK – because I haven’t damaged anything that can’t be fixed and I haven’t said anything that can’t be taken back – which is a blessed relief.

I will say this though.

My mother did a real number on me.

It’s unwise to speak ill of the dead – but her legacy haunts me even now.

The lack of any kind of childhood emotional support or help with development of coping mechanisms has led to an adult life lived full of best guesses, huge mistakes and a laundry list of regret.

In some ways this has been good as well as bad.

My experience is all the more valuable for my hard won insights.

When I’ve learned a lesson, even though it’s been painful to get there it means something in a way that it might not do if I’d just followed instruction.

As I mentioned to a lovely lady that came to visit me the other day (who really lifted my spirits as we twalked along the Kenilworth Greenway) there is no mileage living in the past.

My mother lived there all her life and her bitterness was all that was left by the time she finally died. When she did it was alone and surrounded by people paid to look after her instead of a loving family.

Her legacy though – for all the heartache it caused is still in many ways a positive one.

She may not have helped me be a good man, and she may not have demonstrated how to love and be loved in return – but she showed me the end game of a life lived like hers was.

Without ever trying to she made me want more for myself.

I’m not fixed. Not by any stretch of the imagination – but I’m learning how to live my life and I’m both asking for and accepting the help of people that care about me.

That’s all we can do I think.

Work through our pain, and wherever possible share it in forums like this so that others might see their own isolation or difficulties aren’t unusual or shameful.

They’re not broken or damaged like we so often tell ourselves we are.

They’re just human beings trying to find their way through life, love, self esteem, friends, family and everything else that fills your day.

It’s all unwritten, and I maintain that we’re exactly as good as we believe we can be. We can only try to have faith in our capacity to change and grow, do our best, help others and learn from our mistakes.

I feel good today.

Another life milestone has been reached and I think I’ve grown a little.

Davey

Something I love.

Occasionally something happens at just the right moment in time – and at precisely the juncture that it’s needed in your life to remind you why it’s worth doing something that you feel passionate about.

Some time ago I was nothing but a consumer – and there was nothing about my life that included an act of creation. I created this blog to understand myself better and in part to document the search for the mythical ‘thing I loved doing’.

It terrified me that not only could I not resolve the question in my mind at the time – but that I didn’t know how to begin the process of finding an answer.

Ironically – whilst searching for this within its posts – I realised that the blog itself was the answer and it’s why I write it so frequently even now.

I love it.

I love writing it with all of my heart and when I click ‘Publish’ it’s like I’ve plucked a little feather from my side and sent it careering out into a strong breeze.

I never know where it will land or what it will do.

I don’t know whether it will come back now, or later – or at all.

It doesn’t matter.

The act of creation is enough.

The world contains just a little more of me trying to be the best version of myself that I can – and I know that printed version of me is trying to be honest, open and human while he does.

I’ve often wondered about the impulse to write though.

Is it borne of the need to explain or the need to be understood?

The difference is subtle – but (at least in my mind) the former is an exercise in eloquently pouring out the why – whereas the latter is a need to be read by others, become relevant and maybe also to be accepted.

I don’t want to write solely because I want other people to read it (the purist in me thinks that is pure vanity) but I’ve come to learn that it has to be part of the process.

After all – if you don’t know whether you provoke feelings in others what’s the point of life?

Touching lives in a positive way is what we should all strive to do. The world is a better place if we try to send good thoughts and actions out into it.

So – the thing I’d found and realised I loved became something I wanted others to love too and then (as I improved my health) morphed into a tool to be a positive force in the world.

It’s only a tiny blog and it hasn’t cracked the atom or discovered a cure for cancer – but occasionally I find that it has changed someone’s life for the better – even just a little bit.

This makes everything worthwhile and actually makes me want to cry a little right now because it’s so far away from who I used to be.

A little while ago I wrote this (slightly angry) post about type two diabetes.

https://daveywankenobie.blog/2018/06/16/the-fast-fix/

In it I talked about a programme I’d been watching and my own struggles (and subsequent success) with reversing the condition in myself.

People occasionally keep coming back to my old posts and leaving comments – and tonight I received this from a wonderful reader.

So – as I lie in bed typing this before I fall asleep I’m reminded that there’s a realpurpose to doing it.

My journey started with trying not to die like my mother.

It began in the midst of pain and loss, and a lack of personal awareness. Now it’s enabled me to make a positive difference in other people’s lives and because of that I’m now crying as I write.

I have tears not of sadness – but absolute joy.

Instead of playing video games whilst drinking myself to death I helped by putting myself out there.

Even if it’s just a little bit.

Maybe that little bit will turn into a lot – maybe others will also make similar changes that will affect their journey through life in a positive way.

Maybe that ripple will become a wave.

I really hope so.

Thanks for reading internet. You’re the absolute best.

Davey

Separated by carpet

Sometimes a bad day is a bad day. There’s absolutely no avoiding one when it really hits and occasionally it might seem like the fates are intent on conspiring to make you feel miserable.

At other times however there’s more going on – and people often fail to see the truth.

They can make and then perpetuate their own misery – becoming trapped by it as the years roll by.

Yesterday was a nice day.

By that I mean it was hot, oppressive and full of thunderstorms or rain but heat doesn’t bother me any more and I like rain.

I love the sound it makes when it’s really heavy.

I started the day getting burned though – and quickly realised that going out in a teeshirt without any sun cream was a bad idea.

It seemed cloudy enough – but clearly cloud is only half of the picture and today my forearms are still itching.

It didn’t matter at the time though because I was wearing red.

For those who are newer readers I’ve always had an uneasy relationship with this colour and avoided it in case it singled me out for bullying. This used to be a common occurrence (link) but one day it seemed to stop (link) and since then I’ve adopted red as my favourite colour (link).

It’s not so much because of what I look like wearing it – but more about how it makes me feel.

I feel strong when I dress in red because of its symbolism.

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Strength was definitely needed at the start of the day too – because I was walking around the Warwick food festival.

Although I could probably eat a lot of the things there and work them off I’d already had my ‘Saturday off plan’ (which is becoming something of a regular thing).

This post weigh in day of weekly culinary relaxation only works if I’m willing to then draw a line shortly afterwards.

If I carry on eating then I doubt it will stop in time for next weekend’s weigh in.

As lovely as all the food looked I don’t think a massive frying pan full of sausages is for Davey any more…

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So I kept walking.

My objective (as always) was to build the miles and keep going until the scales (at least in my mind) were balanced – and around 8 miles later I sat down for a rest.

I was in a good mood. I’d done lots of exercise and I’d smashed my daily goals.

Fortuitously this happened just before the heavens opened – and as I sat in the window of a friendly hostelry drinking a coffee whilst watching the rather Biblical deluge outside I started listening to the couple next to me – who were also looking at the same scene.

The lady and her partner were separated from me only by carpet – but in attitude they couldn’t have been more different.

The woman looked angry.

Her whole body seemed to be coiled and ready to strike the first person to enter her personal space.

The skin on her knuckles was whiter than the rest of her hands and both were being clenched and unclenched.

‘She doesn’t deserve that job. I make her life possible by working for her. She’s a waste of space.’

The man nodded and sipped his wine. He looked tired and drawn and although generally slender had a large beer belly.

‘I hate her.’ Said the lady, also drinking wine, slim and in possession of a rotund middle.

A waitress came over to tidy the table that they were on and the lady whispered something to her – most of which I missed.

‘…and don’t think I’m being funny with you – it’s not your fault. It’s your manager’s.’ She looked behind the waitress, motioning at an unseen space behind her where no-one stood.

‘No-where to be seen. Makes me sick…’ she finished as her words once more returned to audible levels.

The waitress nervously smiled, said sorry for whatever the problem was and shuffled away.

‘It’s the same everywhere.’ The lady hissed to her partner, after the waitress had retreated. He remained silent and continued to look out of the window at the downpour – which by this time had turned the street into a shallow river.

They exist because of us.’ Said the lady under her breath. ‘They wouldn’t have a job without us.’ She concluded – by this time almost growling.

The man stoically looked out of the window – and I turned up my playlist.

I was buying some summery tracks on iTunes and making a happy collection of tracks to walk home with while I waited for the rain to subside.

I had an umbrella but I like to walk without one and feel my arms swing back and forth.

I had my feet on the low windowsill in front of me and was flexing my toes in my trainers to the beat of my music.

People were rushing by outside in soaking wet tee-shirts and many were laughing at how ridiculously drenched they were. Above the volume of my headphones I could still hear peals of thunder as flashes of lightning briefly illuminated the suddenly dark street in front of me.

The heat was ebbing out of the afternoon with each raindrop though and the air was slowly beginning to cool.

I looked across the carpet to my right again – and could see the pursed lips of the woman silently moving as she talked to her companion.

I could no longer hear the words but her body language spoke volumes.

Whatever private hell she’d constructed in her mind was still in full flow. Her obvious feeling that someone else in life had what she deserved was busy consuming her.

The man sat in silence and I wondered how many times he’d heard this speech or a variation of it.

He looked like he knew that the quickest way to bring it to a conclusion was not to react, and instead just to let it flow over him whilst waiting for a change in the wind.

I’ve seen that face before – in my childhood home as my father, my brother and myself waited for the storms surrounding my mother to subside and for blue skies to re-appear.

They rarely did though. The skies mostly remained cloudy and we were always separated by this.

By carpet.

Just carpet and perspective.

That was all that stood between us.

A stretch of worn rug, trodden on by thousand of feet and aged with time – but combined with her outlook on life it might as well have been an ocean for the gulf it presented.

I was pulled back to the present as I re-focused on the scene in front of me, watching this bitterly unhappy woman looking through the same window with a totally different way of viewing the world.

She was bitter and her eyes showed that this emotion was no stranger to her life. The lines on her face bore little evidence of smiles and she seemed to be drinking her wine with anger – to fuel and enable her mood rather than to relax it.

All of a sudden there it was.

The end to the rain.

This event passed her by as she continued in her angry rant – and I doubt she saw the first shafts of sunlight hit the pavement in front of her.

She was still there and still angrily hissing through her teeth when I left half an hour later – and her husband/partner/friend still hadn’t said a word.

She’d not once asked him for his opinion – or sought through him another way of looking at the situation.

The only monologue she could hear was her own and she’d made at least two people unhappy in the process – as well as herself.

I marvelled at the energy it must have taken to remain that angry.

As I walked away and the physical gap widened between us I felt the cool breeze that had replaced the humid heat.

Everything looked fresh, and damp trees slowly dripped themselves dry onto the pavements below their shade.

The world felt renewed somehow – even though it was just the same but a little damper.

I walked home thinking about the gulf between myself and this woman – and how some find the gift of perspective whereas others never do.

I’ve no idea what causes people like my mother or her to remain rigidly unmoving and bitter throughout their lives – or what makes them so inflexible or incapable of change.

I’m glad that it’s not how I feel about the world though.

I’m glad I’m not angry and that I don’t feel continual resentment about what other people have and the things I don’t.

The truth is I have enough – and that’s all anyone needs. I am healthy and I am alive – and EVERYTHING else is a matter of perspective.

The past doesn’t matter – and neither does the future. I can influence it but I can’t control it and to think otherwise is folly.

It’s also better to live with an absence of want. If someone earns more than me then I wish them all the best and hope that it brings them happiness.

Money and possessions have never done this for me though.

I feel happy with a red tee-shirt that cost me £2 in a charity shop not because it’s a material possession – but because of the mental and physical change it represents.

It makes me feel happy because I worked hard to wear it and I chose to not just sit there and feel bitter that I couldn’t.

I got up and made my life better because I didn’t want to be like my mother – sitting at the opposite end of that carpet and separated from her by nothing.

Davey

Alive

Although I’ve been in a positive place this week I’ve also been quite reflective as well.

I’ve found myself (unexpectedly) considering ‘what it all means’ and what my place in the world is – and I’ve also been considering how feelings regarding bereavement change over time.

When my mother passed away a couple of years ago I really didn’t want a funeral. She’d been objectionable enough in life to leave me with a rather blunt and bullish approach to what I should do with her body after death.

I’m quite matter of fact about some things and not overly sentimental where perhaps I should be.

At the time I didn’t want a funeral. I really didn’t see the point.  As far as I was concerned the person I knew (who had been almost universally horrible to me for many years) was dead and gone. Wasting money on a coffin and service seemed like something society expected rather than an event I needed.

It was a racket and I didn’t want to get involved.

The decision wasn’t mine alone though – and it was this fact that led me to modify my original stance and lean toward a more accommodating solution.

The truth of it is that whether you realise it or not when someone dies you’re grieving.

That may sound obvious to many – but I don’t think to me at the time it was – because the emotions that I felt were not the ones I’d typically associate with grief or a sense of loss.

I know now that grief is a very flexible concept. For me (regarding my mother) it had no form that I could quantifiably define – and instead of being the stereotypical sadness that I expected was associated with the loss of a significant other (particularly a parent) it was far more complex.

Grief in my case turned out to be a mixture of many emotions I’d have never normally have linked with death. In no particular order these included:

  • Relief
  • Happiness
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Guilt

The funeral we eventually agreed upon was a cremation. It was to be a simple affair with a eulogy read by an non-denominational speaker and a coffin that disappeared after a few songs and empty words into the embrace of a furnace.

At least that’s how I saw it in my mind before I was part of it.

Sitting there I was struck that we were all in the same place remembering the same person for the different reasons. Most of the feelings in the room I suspect were quite negative – but mixed amongst them were also tears – and unexpectedly some of them were my own.

Once the day had passed I didn’t dwell on it too much (at least I don’t think I did) and instead busied myself with other mountains that I had to climb. I had been (up until two days before her death) a highly functioning alcoholic and I was around 35 stone. Real personal change was needed if the next funeral wasn’t going to be my own.

I focused all of my attention on ‘moving on’ and ‘getting better’.

This was worth it – because I definitely achieved what I set out to do. I smashed my goals and successfully turned my life around.

I’m still sober after almost two and a half years) and I’m over twenty stone lighter

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However, while this has been undeniably beneficial from a health perspective maybe it came with a cost in other respects – because now I’ve achieved my target I’ve been left thinking (not all the time – but in more reflective periods) ‘what does it all mean and who am I now?’

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling like this at such a time – because with any kind of radical life change it’s impossible to not consider who you’ve become in relation to the world around you.

How do I fit in with the people and conventions that surround me now?

Things were one way for so long that they defined me as a person.

For all the insights that I can tangibly and quantifiably say I have gained into myself over the last two and a half years there are still certain areas of my life that are frightening when I consider them and because of that I’ve avoided dealing with them.

To a greater or lesser extent I tend to bypass them completely and maybe because of that from time to time rather more acute feelings surface.

That there are definitely elements of me that I consciously or subconsciously put on hold so that I could focus on what I needed to do.

Through necessity I placed them in hibernation whilst I marshalled other more useful aspects of myself and brought them to the forefront.

Maybe now then it’s natural for thoughts regarding love and loss to come back into my mind – because it’s no longer clouded with an obsessive need to lose weight. This week therefore I find myself (both in my dreams and waking thoughts) back at a graveside – faced yet again with the loss of a parent – and quite out of the blue I feel sad.

The complexity of grief is such that I don’t feel this way because I miss her (that’s probably never something that will come to pass) but because it took so much pain and so much heartache over so much time for so much good to happen in my life.

I’m drawn back to her funeral and I think that I now realise its purpose.

It’s a day that can never be undone. It’s a moment that will never fade and it served as a full stop. It was the ultimate punctuation mark that life provides to enable a carriage return and a new paragraph.

Without it I think I would be a poorer person because I’d be left with a gap where an end point should be and I now know how crucial it was to make sure it took place.

A funeral may not offer closure at that moment in time. It may not even do it in the medium term – but feelings are funny things and many of our emotions are complex tapestries woven from years of ever changing memories.

Now, in the warm light of a sunny morning a couple of years later I feel blessed that I attended that day and happy that I congregated with others to remember her.

It doesn’t matter any more how we felt about each other in life – and it doesn’t matter how anyone else there felt about her either.

It was an end point and it had to occur so that the healing could begin and people could start to move on. The truth of it is that we are all linear beings and we define ourselves based on the passage of time and events along the way to the inevitable.

If we choose to hide from or ignore them it doesn’t mean to say that the feelings associated with the event go away – it just means that you don’t deal with them.

So, yes I’ve felt a bit sad this week – and yes I’m sorry that things ended the way that they did – but that’s a good thing because this signposts growth and moving on. It means that my mind is busy spring cleaning itself and continually re-formatting what it needs to be for the tasks ahead.

It means I’m alive internet.

Davey

Chasing a sunrise

I didn’t have a great night’s sleep last night. I had a lot on my mind and kept turning memories over and over.

However – whilst I think it’s important to take time to feel and process what I was feeling I also think that there’s no mileage in disappearing into a sea of misery for the sake of it.

Dwelling endlessly on things you can’t change isn’t healthy and after a period of introspection you need to get up, dust yourself off and do something positive.

In my case it won’t come as much of a surprise that I chose walking.

I left the house this morning two hours before sunrise (5.45am) in the pitch darkness (there and no streetlights at that time and you have to pray no dogs have left unexpected surprises) and started making my way toward the horizon.

Unsurprisingly (thanks to science proving the world is NOT flat) I didn’t reach it and the beautiful sunrise I was hoping for (it was lovely yesterday but I didn’t get a photo) never materialised.

However – it wasn’t of any consequence. Being outdoors is enough today. Doing anything positive is the right thing when you feel low.

You can’t expect a good mood to come to you.

Just like the horizon and the sunset you have to go looking for it.

You never know what you’ll find if you go hunting and whether once you’ve finished you’ll either feel better or worse – but in my experience it’s rarely the latter.

There’s too much benefit to be had from exercise and getting your pulse up to not feel even just a tiny bit more alive.

I’m also reminded when I spontaneously go exploring that there’s a world out there that’s still turning no-matter how I feel.

It’s full of life that’s continually in a process of renewal. To go outside is to be reminded that nothing is final and everything can change. It’s a positive and healthy thing to do.

Whilst it’s been freezing and miserable for weeks and weeks today it’s warmer – both in a very real ‘the temperature has gone up’ sense and in an allegorical ‘I feel better inside’ sense.

It’s difficult to look at little green shoots of life peeping out from under brown leaves and not feel happy – and to see the return of spring is a blessed relief.

The parklands have been alive with little creatures this morning – and for them too life just goes on. They’re busy pulling worms out of the ground or munching on bits and bobs on the woodland floor.

So far this morning I’ve walked just under nine miles and my legs are flagging a little, but I’m not stopping until I get at least 15.

It’s only 10.30 and I’ve still got a metric ton of cheering up left to do.

I’ve stopped for coffee while my feet cool down – and I can feel the pleasant aching warmth of my thighs as they relax from the exercise.

A few years ago my reaction to moments such as the one I went through yesterday would have been very different – but today I see the wages of a better approach to dealing with problems.

I’m hangover free, there are no fast food wrappers littering the kitchen work surface and I’m still in control of my own destiny.

The past may inform who I am and it’s the foundation upon which I’m built – but it doesn’t define me.

I’m not trapped by it. I’m gifted with the perspective it affords me – and for every negative aspect of my childhood there’s also a corresponding sense of satisfaction that if I haven’t already overcome an issue related to it then I’m actively working towards it.

If you’re having a shitty day internet then put your coat and shoes on and get up. Open your front door, walk through it and just stroll.

There doesn’t have to be a purpose. Do it because it’s pleasurable. Do it because it will change your point of view. Do it because the world’s beautiful.

Do it because life’s a gift and it shouldn’t be wasted on regrets.

Davey

Not my usual kind of post…

I can easily be accused of over thinking things at the best of times. Whilst this manifests itself as a benefit when it comes to writing it sometimes comes at a cost to myself, because I often have to get quite low before I come back up again.

There are days like today where I awake with a mind that’s filled with a crippling lack of self worth.

It doesn’t matter that I know logically that this is just a passing moment in time because deep down today I feel overwhelmed by fears and insecurities that have followed me around for years.

As much as I always hope they’re gone – and that they’ve been replaced by positivity or wiped away with my new lease of life they’re not really.

I’m always crestfallen when I find them still hidden in the background and I’m reminded again that my mother really did a number on me.

She left me with so much numbness in the place in my heart where there should be familial love and warmth that sometimes (on days like today) it feels like there’s a physical lump in my mind.

I try whenever I consciously think about her to will love into my heart and re-format everything about her memory.

I don’t want to feel anger or bitterness towards her because it’s unresolvable and it just diminishes me. I can’t open a door and ask her why she treated me like a possession or made me feel so worthless.

I’ll never be able to make her understand how hard it’s been to clamber out from under the weight of guilt that I feel for not missing her and instead feeling relief that she’s no longer alive.

I can’t get her to put her arms around me and hug me like she meant it any more in death than I could in life – and today – at this moment I just feel sad and angry.

I don’t feel any sadness that she’s been dead for two years now – I just feel angry that I was cheated out of the nurturing support that I should have had in life. I feel resentment that I turned to all manner of bad habits to expunge the pain that she directly or indirectly caused and I feel cheated out of the life that I deserved.

I see other people grieving when they lose a parent and although I understand loss (I’ve experienced the pain of someone that’s close to me dying) I can’t relate to what it must feel like to lose someone that shaped your childhood and youth into a positive and productive life.

I can only understand the final, guilty relief associated with a burden that’s been too heavy for too long being lifted from my shoulders.

Maybe I’ll never get over feeling like I don’t measure up to my own expectations or that I’m not good enough.

I hope not.

I hope that one day the memory of her voice (that seems indelibly burned into my brain) as she called me ‘sick, wicked and evil’ and the familiar look of disgust in her eyes will finally be forgotten.

I hope that one day in darker moments I won’t look back and think that she was right and that there’s something wrong with me.

Again – logically I know this is nonsense. She said these things whilst simultaneously telling me that she was being bitten by fleas irradiated by the Chernobyl disaster – which is not the product of a mind on an even keel.

All of this makes rational sense to me – but on an emotional level there are days like today when all I feel is crippling pain inside and when I could (if I chose to) obliterate myself in any number of ways.

I could eat to excess. I have a fridge full of food.

I could drink myself to oblivion. There’s a shop full of cider just over the road.

I could pick up a pouch of tobacco and roll myself a cigarette and keep smoking until all of the wonderfully scented 25g of Golden Virgina was gone along with my health.

Today it’s hard not to do all three – but I refuse.

I refuse not because I don’t want to – but because I do.

I’m thankfully also very very stubborn and I will not under any circumstances be diminished any more by her either in life or death.

Her power to make me less of a man than I should be is something that she’s no longer able to wield and whilst her memory may make me occasionally weak I’ve come further than she ever expected or told me I could.

Furthermore I did it all despite her.

For the time being I’m going to allow myself the luxury of not trying to think fondly of her. I’m also going to try and focus on my continuing gradual weight loss and the newspaper cutting that a kind member of my slimming world group brought in today to show everyone.

There are things to be thankful for – and the kindness of others makes feeling like I do at this exact moment bearable.

I have good friends and that’s a comfort.

Today though I’m just going to open the floodgates and let it all go before getting on with life.

She may have been troubled, she may have been mentally ill. She may have had a hard life and had good reason to have problems. There may be mitigating circumstances that surrounded her childhood that can explain or give cause for her behaviour.

I don’t care though today.

Today I’m remembering her the way she was in life.

She was bitter, resentful, hateful, unforgiving, deceitful, abusive and I should have no reason to feel guilt for not missing her.

Davey.

Bendy lights

I was walking home tonight and thinking how much I like passing one particular shop window. Day after day I’ve found myself gazing at the coloured lamps within like a moth faced with a full moon and I can’t help stopping to admire it.

The display has reminded me of a variety of things each time I’ve passed it and tonight it made me stop and think of Christmas – although I don’t imagine that’s it’s intent.

I think they’re just trying to sell nice lamps. The shop doesn’t seem at all seasonal otherwise.

On other evenings the bendy ones have made me think back to the 90’s and a flat I had at university. Their curves are reminiscent of a similar one that I owned back then and it reminds me of happy times.

When I’ve passed on other days the shop window has simply made me think that there’s something missing in my current house – and that I want to buy something similar so I can add a touch of colour to my living room on dark and gloomy days.

I’m rather glad I passed the shop front in a good frame of mind this evening and thought Christmassy thoughts though – because when I strode by in the morning I was in a completely different mood.

I seem to be having quite a lot of vivid dreams lately – and although many just make me wake up and think ‘what the heck?’ there are one or two that have left me feeling quite disturbed.

This morning I awoke very early in the middle of what can only be described as a severe ‘body modification’ dream. It was about as close to horror as it gets – and I can’t quite figure out whether I was a victim or a powerless observer in it.

The protagonist was female – but at times I was her – yet toward the end I was external to the proceedings and watching what was happening.

This woman (who was initially me) hated herself so profoundly that she’d asked someone to surgically rebuild her as he saw fit. To do this he was adding and removing limbs and flesh as the mood took him – and slowly turning her into some kind of doll.

Instead of using flesh in place of flesh however he was choosing synthetic materials to remake her/me and the consequence of this was that she (or I) could feel nothing any more as the layers built up and covered what was real and encased inside.

By the end of the nightmare I awoke fully expecting to be made of plastic and to have only my innards left.

Needless to say it was extremely unsettling and remained with me for much of the morning. I thought about it all the way on my walk to work – and it wasn’t until lunch time that I managed to move away from it.

I’m not quite sure why all of a sudden my imagination is so rampant at night – or indeed why rather out of the blue I seem to be having nightmares instead of dreams.

In my waking life I think I’m quite content – and just getting on with my day to day business – so I’m not entirely sure what to make of these recent pulse pounding white knuckle rides. So far they’ve been (amongst other things) about my mother and now this decidedly odd topic.

Maybe this one’s about what I’m becoming – how I’ve morphed into something new over time – and made my outward appearance change so much.

However I’m not sure I understand the lack of feeling or the relinquished control aspects of the nightmare – as neither are things I either want or think that I suffer from.

Regardless of this internet I’m hoping for better dreams for the rest of the week. Waking up at the crack of dawn sweating has left me feeling like a total zombie for most of today.

Here’s hoping that tonight is instead one of fluffy teddy bears, (sugar free) lollipops and rolling green hillsides!

Fingers crossed x

Davey

Still my mom

I awoke last night half way through a dream about my mother.

I was angry when I woke up because in the dream (in her characteristically bombastic way) my mother had walked into my room while I was undressed and started telling me how awful it was that I’d neglected her feelings.

She ignored my obvious embarrassment and continued complaining about her own hurt feelings and how awful her lot in life was.

She was lonely she said. It had been years since anyone had talked to her and she felt that this was unfair.

I bundled her out of my room – annoyed that she didn’t even try to leave when she realised I was naked more than anything else. I looked out of my bedroom window when she was gone and thought that I was sick of this behaviour, sick of her and sick of the fact that I felt so trapped by her yet couldn’t leave.

When I opened my eyes suddenly at 3am I was still annoyed. I wanted to get up and give her a piece of my mind. This was yet another example of her selfish behaviour – which often overpowered every conversation and continually drove a wedge between us.

I looked around in the dark and realised that the room was different. I wasn’t in a single bed and everything had changed. Where I was lying was in my own house, in my own bed and in my own room.

The house was empty except for me.

I felt different too. As I replayed the events I suddenly noticed in the dream I’d been a younger man. A teen in fact.

I’d been in my childhood room, and was living under her roof instead of my own – and still subject to her endless mood swings.

I then realised that no matter how annoyed and hurt I was I couldn’t tell her how I felt even if I wanted to.

She was gone.

I was angry with a dead woman.

When realised this and my pulse subsided I started thinking about her words. She had been complaining that no one had spoken to her for years.

I remembered thinking in the dream that this was more of her usual behaviour – which typically involved blowing everything out of proportion and turning every discussion around to something about herself – but it took on a new meaning when I lay there at 3am thinking about it.

In a few months it will be two years since she passed away – almost the same length of time that she said she’d been alone…

As her statement took on a new meaning I wondered whether the dream was about me or her.

Maybe it was both.

Although there are some feelings of sadness surrounding her passing I’d be lying if I said I missed her. If anything in place of that emotion is a quiet guilt that I haven’t been able to feel that way.

This guilt exists because I know the truth.

I’m relieved that she’s gone, that finally everything is over between us and that her death finally brought an end to our continual and exhausting conflicts.

I know that this is a state of thinking that’s been largely brought on by years of emotional abuse at her hands – but there’s still a sense that I should somehow react differently to this watershed event in my life.

In my dreams (and by extension my subconscious) I feel she’s still alone, still isolated from others by her behaviour, and wherever she ended up (if there is anywhere else) my instinct is that little will have changed.

All of this just makes me sad. She could have had a much better life with a family that loved her if only she had been capable of change and contrition.

Instead over years she pushed everyone away until no-one was left.

I wish we’d have loved eachother in the way that a mother and son should have – but we didn’t and that still leaves a permanent gap inside me that I don’t think can ever be filled.

Maybe it can be worked around and papered over – even acknowledged and understood – but I don’t think the sense that I missed out on something important in life will ever leave me.

On the bright side though internet even though there’s a gap life goes on.

The absence I feel where her love should be is maybe why I’m so motivated to care about other people – so whilst I feel poor in one respect I feel infinitely rich in another.

I have a good life now, with friends I love and that also clearly care about me. In her own backhanded way my mom probably made that happen.

Maybe that’s all the reason I need to think of her memory with love – which I continually try to do.

She wasn’t perfect but she was still my mom.

Davey

Boiling the ocean

After I wrote yesterday’s blog I started thinking about my early posts. As I’ve said a few times before here, although I love that people enjoy reading my blogs I do (maybe somewhat selfishly) write them primarily for myself.

Lately I’ve also realised that I’ve started to use writing like other people use sudoku – to relax and also stimulate my mind. Initially though my posts were primarily deployed solely as a method of creative therapy. They enabled me to gradually unpick and understand my thought processes as I laid them bare on the page day after day.

By the time I post this I’ll have done that 415 times – which I estimate equates to around 500,000 words.

I’m still not sure quite why I felt so compelled to do this in public – or why I suddenly became so prolific. I’ve certainly never craved the limelight in the past – and instead I’ve often actively avoided it. Oddly though, when I began to present myself in print with absolute honesty I felt less vulnerable when I shared my deepest darkest secrets with the whole world than when I took a picture of myself or looked in a mirror.

The thought of not only taking a snap of myself, but then resisting the urge to immediately delete it, and then even uploading it was very far away back then.

I hated the way I looked. 

That final step took a while to do – but I’m glad that relatively early on I began to include photos in my posts in an attempt to ‘normalise’ my mental image of myself through my blog and my Instagram page (link).

I remember suddenly feeling that it was vitally important to show where I had started and where I was going. I’d hidden for so long from cameras that my mental image of myself was insanely warped and this made a gradual but profound difference to my self esteem.

I feel very different about how I look now.

Instagram comes with a cool partner app called ‘layout’ which allows you to easily make comparison photos (such as the full length mirror one below).

I use it a lot lately to look at myself ‘before and after‘ in side by side shots.

Sometimes though (in a less immediate and more personal way) I can also achieve a similar effect with words – and this usually happens when I re-read a contemporary post that’s written when I’m happy and feel like I’m winning at life before flipping back to the beginning of my blog and picking a post at random.

When I went back to February 2016 this morning and read ‘little kettle’ it took me right back to a period before I joined Slimming World where I could barely move and was still wrestling with the reality of how to manage my time without alcohol.

It’s worth reading it before you continue.

(link)

Don’t worry. I can wait.

Done?

Ok – I’ll carry on.

It’s (unbelievably) almost six hundred days since I last had anything to drink and although there are times I think about it in a whistful way I don’t really miss it at all any more.

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Things have moved on. 

Back then thay hadn’t though. The title of the post had come from a conversation with a work colleague. We’d been chatting about the height of the personal (metaphorical) mountains that we felt we both had to climb – and he had said to me by way of encouragement ‘you can’t boil the ocean’.

He’s right. You can’t fix everything in one go. You just have to start wherever you can and persist. 

It also seemed very apt at the time because it hadn’t been all that long since I’d truly felt like I was drowning. My mother had not long died (that’s why I refer to a bungalow being emptied) and I honestly could have followed her any minute immediately afterwards if I hadn’t take decisive action to change.

My exercise bike was agonising to sit on, and I could barely pedal because of the way my 66 inch waist rested and bounced upon my legs. I managed under five minutes freewheeling with no resistance and I remember it absolutely corpsed me.

As I read that old post it’s quite sobering to re-live how I felt both physically and mentally back then. I was trapped (or at least I thought I was) by circumstance, the literal and figurative weight of my past choices – and for longer than I could remember I’d thought there was no way out.

Before the 26th of January 2016 I was just waiting to die. 

But then just like pasting photos into layout and looking at a time lapse of myself I can now wind the clock forward 20 months to what I write in the present and there’s currently a different person constructing this post.

The list of his scale and non-scale victories is lengthy.

(author takes a deep breath)

His type two diabetes is in full retreat, his back is no longer agonisingly painful every moment of every day, his knees don’t continually hurt, he can stand still without physically shaking from the effort, he no longer suffers from cellulitis, his tendons aren’t torn, his ligaments have repaired, his ankles are not continually swollen with fluid, his rest is not continually interrupted by sleep apnoea, his skin adores sunlight, he smells better, he can breathe lying on his back, he’s not continually sweating, he’s no longer wheezing all the time, he can fit in a bath, his blood pressure is normal, his resting heart rate is around 20 bpm lower than it used to be, he can wear seatbelts in any car, he can sit in any chair – including fixed booth seating, he has dropped 109 kg, he has lost 26 inches from his waistline, he buys clothes for a pittance from charity shops and supermarkets instead of highly priced specialist retailers, he doesn’t wear glasses because his eyesight is sharper, he jogs up stairs instead of taking the escalator, he walks an average of seventy miles a week, he can climb mountains, he has cumulatively crossed continents, his mind is continually aliveand his sense of hope actually exists

In fact I’m almost the me I always wanted to be but never knew how to become.

I was ashamed to be the other man – but I’m proud to be the one I am now – regardless of my scars, stretch marks, loose skin and other assorted battle wounds. Despite all of it I’m still standing and I’m putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, after day after day.

You see – the thing is that my friend was right. You can’t boil the ocean. It’s simply not possible.

You can however drown if you don’t try to swim – but every time you paddle a bit more you edge closer to the shore.

You might not get there in a day internet. You probably won’t get there in a week. It even may take months.

If you’re anything like me it will probably take years – but you CAN get there.

Davey

Not a single moment wasted

Despite me originally intending to do a new walk today I changed my plans late last night when I was unexpectedly invited out for a bank holiday lunch at the George in the Tree at Balsall Common.

I’ve been here a few times in the past – but not often for good reasons.

Most recently this perfectly nice pub has somehow become completely associated in my mind with meeting relatives after my mom died in January last year – and a sense of personal failure surrounding this already grim event.

Not only did I have to agree funeral details with relatives that I hardly knew – but also I was hovering around 35 stone and visibly not coping very well at all in life.

This was me around three weeks after those events, having not long given up drinking, but still three months away from joining Slimming World.

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It occurred to me when a friend suggested I join them there today that not only I could start to attach more positive memories to this place but that I could kill two birds with one stone and also get my exercise in for the day.

I could probably now walk all the way there from my house –  but then making my way back would probably have been a step too far.

It’s a round trip of 20 miles.

When I wasn’t working if I overdid things then I could just rest up the day after for a bit. However now I don’t have that luxury. I need to be match fit every day to walk back and forth to my job.

I opted instead for the shorter Kenilworth Greenway (about 11 miles round trip), and leaving my car at Crackley Wood – which means I didn’t have to walk along any busy roads and that I also got some nice views too.

The woods looked great just before 10am today, and a wonderful dappled light was playing on the ground everywhere as the canopy above me gently swayed in the breeze.

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Initially this morning was a little overcast, despite being quite warm – but as I moved through the woods and onto the greenway it was clear that any clouds were not going to last long, and they were swiftly clearing to make way for blue skies.

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I didn’t really know exactly how long it would take me to walk to my destination, so I tried to keep exploration and the impulse to photograph everything to a minimum and just keep moving forward.

Although the Greenway is pretty easy going on the way to Balsall Common it has a continuous incline. When I first did this walk (link) back in April I forgot to set a workout programme – but when I checked Apple watch I remember it showed my heart rate as above 100 bpm. My workout today shows an average of 88 on the outward journey, and on the greenway I didn’t once see it go above 95 – which is really cool progress!

I’m definitely getting a lot fitter!

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One of the things that I really love about this particular walk is the bridges.

This is for two reasons.

Firstly (and quite without warning) I’ve become a huge fan of red brick construction. It really boggles my mind that these days we just set steel rods in hundreds of tons of concrete, bolt it all together, and voila!

A bridge!

Sure – they’re strong, light, flexible, resilient and safe – but boy oh boy is concrete UGLY. In contrast railway bridges pieced together, brick by individual brick – now THOSE are things of beauty.

Secondly this Greenway and its bridges are slowly being eaten by nature – and that too is jaw droppingly lovely at times.

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When I finally arrived at the Beefeater I was a lot earlier than expected. The whole walk (almost exactly five miles) had taken around 90 minutes, so I sat outside in the shade and changed my (slightly sweaty) teeshirt for a long sleeved one I’d brought along to look a little more presentable.

Shortly before midday I went in and was led to the table my friends had booked.

It was a booth.

There’s still a part of me that has a complete meltdown when I see fixed seating.

I can’t seem to get it through to my panic subroutines that I fit into them now – but I guess thats because it’s really only been a few months since that’s been the case. Partially because of this I’m still taking evidential pictures to prove to myself that I can do it – which I’m starting to think may be a little daft.

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However I still find it almost as much of a novelty as seatbelts that actually go around me and click into place in other people’s cars.

I may stop taking these kind of pictures one day… but not today!

I’d already decided waaaaay before arriving that I wasn’t going to get into an ‘I’ve done lots of exercise so I can eat what I like’ mentality, and that I was going to avoid things like mixed grills (what I used to choose when I came here previously) and instead have a salad and a baked potato on the side.

I ordered the chicken Caesar.

What arrived was not Caesar salad (not in my eyes anyway) and was clearly deep fried breaded chicken. Normally I wouldn’t go near anything fried in breadcrumbs – but I reasoned that at the very worst this would just use up my syns for the day and negate some of my exercise I’d already done, so I tucked in.

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Honestly – I’m glad I did, because with the (butter free) baked potato I’d ordered on the side this ended up being quite filling and tasty – which was a complete win.

As it’s been a while since I’d seen my friends we sat chatting over drinks for a while after the meal ended. They’re absolutely loving their National Trust memberships at the moment and are using it regularly to go and explore some of the local National Trust estates.

I’d not considered joining before – but they may well have sold the whole thing to me! However – that’s for another day when I have some spare money. In the meantime I’m strictly a cheap walk kinda guy…

A twalker can dream though!

After we said our goodbyes I headed back (a slightly longer way) toward my car. It was now getting a LOT hotter and I’d changed back into my short sleeved top. In retrospect (as I sit scratching my sunburnt upper arms while I type) this may have been a tactical error – but you live and learn.

The way back was at a slightly slower pace, and it gave me the opportunity to look a little closer at the hedgerows and bushes, which were full of butterflies!

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I also just missed a shot of a bird of prey hanging on the breeze over the fields surrounding the walk. As I readied my camera it swooped towards its target and disappeared from view. I can’t say for sure what it was but I think it was a Kestrel.

Since getting any pictures of things in the sky seemed impossible I busied myself instead with the floor, which I ‘d realised was covered with hidden mushroom colonies!

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By the time I arrived home I felt well exercised, satisfied, and like I’d made full use of my Bank Holiday weekend.

There was a time when I’d have bought myself a new video game and many litres of wine for such an occasion – but I think the way I use my free time now is a far better use of my health and happiness.

I’ve managed 35 miles and around 70,000 steps in the last three days.

I feel content, pleasantly tired and I know that when I get back to work tomorrow internet I’ll have a sense of pride that not a single moment has been wasted.

Davey

 

Snowdon epilogue

There are lots of after effects when you do something negative in life – and over the years I’ve carried around more than my fair share of regret about lots of things I’ve done – or (more often) not done.

Right up until the day she died my mother was trapped inside memories of her past, and consumed by bitterness about people she believed had somehow slighted her or opportunities that she felt had been denied. 

I always viewed her as someone very different to myself – as unlike me she regretted nothing and everything bad that had happened in her life was simply someone else’s fault – until one day, when the universe held a mirror up to my face and I unexpectedly saw a reflection of her looking back at me.

I realise once again as I type that 18 months after she died I’m still coming to terms with what her passing means to me and the ways that she affected me both in life and death. 

Although I blamed no one but myself just like her I’d become trapped by inaction and my own addictions. She smoked – whereas I ate and drank. 

However I had instead become stuck in the present rather than the past. I lived my life a day at a time with no promise of a different future and little hope for change.

Today (I write this on Monday 24th in the early afternoon) I feel invigorated by the after effects of cumulatively positive choices. I’m crackling with energy and a sense of personal renewal. 

Although my muscles ache from my activities over the last few days I barely notice the pain at the moment because I’m looking at a brighter horizon than I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

One of the things that I never mentioned in my Snowdon posts was the different emotional tones of the ascent and descent. On the way up we were surrounded by energetic and predominantly youthful climbers who (mostly) were powering up the slopes and leaving us in their dust. 

There were also lots of ‘hello’s’ with people and little chats about which way was the best route to make swift progress.

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On the way down we saw group after group walking with purpose, wearing bright tee shirts proclaiming that they were climbing the mountain because of the loss of a loved one – or for a charity. We overheard snapshots of tale after tale as we passed people during our descent – but almost all were along the lines of ‘if you feel tired then think of (…) he would have loved the view and been so happy today’.

I walked by one woman on her way up as she was describing the tumour in a loved one’s head and how it was growing uncontrollably. One of her companions put a hand briefly on her shoulder as I passed.

Another child shortly after, holding her mom’s hand clambered by me enthusiastically rattling a small pink plastic bucket full of change with a picture of someone sellotaped to the side.

One man was making his way slowly up in silence on crutches.

They were all walking to remember lost loved ones, those still fighting to stay alive or trying to make sense of tragedy by doing something good that might prevent it happening again in the future.

When I got to the bottom of the mountain at the time I could only think about how much my muscles hurt – and the day after I was just overwhelmingly happy about having finally climbed Snowdon after a year of saying I would.

Now I’m home and reflecting on my time away I can’t help but notice how alive I feel – and how precious life is. It’s meant to be lived and I intend to take advantage of it every day that I can until I die.

I think that I partially feel this way so acutely because in many respects I feel like I’ve had my own near death experience.

I don’t mean to be over dramatic or attention grabbing. I’ve not stepped out of the path of a speeding train or fallen from a great height and survived – but when I break my past down those examples are kind of what’s happened to me – but in slow motion.

Not so long ago I was hastening my death – and without realising it I was doing it by becoming just like the last person in the world that I wanted to be compared to.

Then it hits me. 

Just like the little child with the pink bucket I was walking up that mountain because of a loss. Although I didn’t realise it at the time every step was taken in my mother’s memory because the moment of change that made it possible came to me when I was looking into her eyes. 

She never meant to give it – but it was her final parting gift to me. 

I’m not sure why that transformative spark arrived when it did. I’m not even sure that if I was faced with the same circumstances again on a different day that I’d have come to the same conclusion. I don’t know how to fix anyone else and generally I don’t always know how to fix myself – but I’m glad that a random selection of electrical impulses and memories collided in my brain at just the right moment and conspired to give me my life back.

The only thing that I know for sure about myself these days as everything about me changes physically and mentally is that I want to continue to be better.

Today someone contacted me privately and showed me their half a stone slimming world certificate. ‘I just wanted to show you this…’ they said ‘… I finally did it!’

It made me smile from ear to ear. That person had found their own moment in time to move forward and taken the crucial first few steps to begin. 

A week ago another person messaged me to say they’d made a significant change in their life that would dramatically improve their health. On and off we’d been talking about this for some time and a few days ago they found the strength and courage to be who they wanted to be in life – and to cast off their self imposed burdens.

I realise now that I’ve heard a lot of stories like this over the last year and a half – and the greatest gift I’ve received from sharing my progress (or occasional lack of it) hasn’t just been the generous (and often humbling) personal support that people have given me – but the energising and empowering shared tales of personal battles with their own demons.

Each and every single one of us is free to be the absolute best versions of ourselves that it’s possible to be. All it takes is one little moment where enough is enough and you decide to do something different. 

So internet – I can’t tell you how to spark change because I don’t know – but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that you can climb your own personal mountain.

Whatever it is.

However long it takes you to get there.

Regardless of how you feel now.

Life can be better than you can possibly imagine if you want it to be.

Davey

Pegs

When my mother died there were many many things left behind. I hated pretty much all of the time that I spent with my brother sifting through what I viewed at the time as the rubbish and wreckage of a decaying life.

For those who didn’t arrive at the start of my blogging career (which started not coincidentally shortly after her death) there was little love between us towards the end – and even my sense of duty to someone supposedly so close had long since faded. 

My mother was like a magpie – constantly collecting shiny rubbish and nik-naks with little or no value and always seemed supremely adept at burying herself in meaningless trinkets from pound shops. 

From an inheritance perspective (which I didn’t want) she left behind little more than a small sum of money and continual headache that seemed to last for months. 

In some ways it never left me. 

There was no real closure between us except that which I endeavoured to construct in my own mind after the event. However for all the pain it caused the act of emptying her bungalow was in some respects a huge cathartic release. 

My brother and I threw much of its contents away – apart from the dolls, crockery and ornaments that seemed relatively new. They went to charity. 

Most of what I ended up taking home with me I kept because I was too tired to decide what to do with anything any more. It sat filling my spare room for a long time before I eventually gave almost all of it away – in the hope that one day someone else would get some positive use out of it. 

Some small things however I kept. 

Photos for instance are obvious – memories like this are rarely discarded. Those didn’t require much thought. I don’t really want to look at them yet but they’re still in a drawer for a day when I might change my mind. 

The things that meant the least to me at the time – but were silly to throw away were usable items like clothes pegs, washing powder, garden tools, and door hanging tidy pockets. 

It used to endlessly irritate me that she wasted her money on things like this (there were multiples of everything and she didn’t need them) but as I sit in the garden today my clothes are drying on a washing line secured by her pegs. 


On the back of my utility cupboard door there are boot laces, batteries, dusters and light bulbs all neatly arranged in her hanging pockets. 

On the inside handle of my back door is a foam knee pad for weeding. I’ve used that too. It’s useful. 

Below the pad is usually a heavy red pair of suede gardening gloves, which I’ve used over and over again lately to pull nettles and thorny brambles out of my garden. They’ve saved me many an injury. 


I’m struck by the fact (as I watch my washing dry with her pegs in the warm afternoon sunshine) that these items unexpectedly represent something that I loved about her and I feel a little sad. 

She was a practical woman from a working class background who valued tools and items that helped get a job done. When I put my hands into her old gloves I realise that quite unexpectedly they have begun to mean something to me

Her hands used to fit inside them too, and she also used them to weed her garden like I do. All of a sudden we’re connected by such a trivial item and I’m taken aback by the rush of poignancy this brings. 

It’s like I’m somehow holding her hand…

Oddly I’ve realised that this practical side of her – divorced from the emotional closeness that one expects from a mother (but that we never achieved between us in life) is what helps to make my thoughts of her fonder than they otherwise would have been. 


I still can’t understand the complex nature of this troubled lady but I can attempt (every time I fall into the trap of anger about past events) to forgive her and try to remember the good things instead. 

There’s no mileage in bitterness internet. 

All I have to do is put her gloves on to feel some warmth. 

Davey

Spring

I think my mood is being affected by my cold as I’ve no other reason to wake up feeling glum. However for some reason I did.

Oddly today everything seemed grey when I opened my eyes and my enthusiasm for anything and everything was at rock bottom.

Although… now that I think about it – maybe there is something on my mind.

I know I started to deal with my clutter the other day – but I’ve not finished. Doing so has unearthed items I’ve avoided for a quite a while – and some ‘scabs’ are still sitting in drawers and cupboards waiting to be picked.

It’s been over a year since my mother’s death and I’m still seeing things around my house that came from her bungalow or that belonged to her and remind me of times and places I don’t really want to remember.

There was so much of it that it seemed impossible to deal with it at the time. However – now I’m feeling like I want a new start for so many aspects of my life it seems appropriate to try and face up to this.

I’ve not buried any of the feelings I experience about her. It’s quite the opposite actually. I’ve lived them in public as I’ve written them down here – and it’s helped.

There are some things that I ‘inherited’ that are tougher to mentally process and physically deal with though.

I’ve given a lot of the generic stuff away rather than sell it. There were things that could help friends and that I had no need for. Practical stuff – like incontinence pads, cleaning supplies, garden tools, and cans of food.

It made me feel good to see her possessions helping people and re-wrote much of the negative narrative in my mind about the items I was left with. The things she obsessively hoarded could now be used as they were intended to be – in a positive way. 

But then there are her paintings and masses of scribbled (and repetitively duplicated and muddled) notes about the family. All of these are individually wrapped – as if a squirrel inhabited her mind instead of a human being.

It makes pulling the mental puzzles apart that are contained within exhausting.

However the information they hold is useful and relates to the history of my family. I can’t just throw them away – but I also can’t easily order or make sense of them. Up till now it’s been easier to leave them in a cupboard and come back to them at a later date.

‘Later’ is now a year on though and I still haven’t tackled those or the paintings – of which there are a lot – all painted by her.

Although this may sound callous none of them have any emotional attachment for me. With very few exceptions I dislike every single one of them both in style and for what they represent.

The frames and the oil paint she used is discoloured and yellowed by the same cigarettes that killed her and every one of them has lived in the house of a heavy smoker – in some cases for 40+ years.

They smell – and every time I catch a whiff of the odour it brings back a memory of her, attached to oxygen and struggling to breath – but still smoking.

By the same token though they’re paintings and getting rid of them seems almost akin to burning or defacing books in my mind.

On top of that they’re by my mother. She created them. They’re the legacy of her mind and one of the few things she really loved in life.

They’re also one of the few things (now that I reflect upon it) that seemed to make her happy.

It makes me feel nothing but bad that I want to discard them – and I fear that if I do so then later on I’ll regret my decision.

But I don’t want them in my life. 

It’s a conundrum that I don’t have an answer to. Every time I look at them I then immediately look at the loft hatch, which leads to the last totally empty space in my house.

Do I move the problem to yet another location and ‘store’ them there – or is this just avoidance? If I put them in my loft am I deferring the decision or am I sensibly preserving the past? 

I honestly don’t know.

I do know that the only things that make all this go away (at least temporarily) are exercise and going outside.

Doing so gives me a sense of purpose that blows away the cobwebs of the past and reminds me that even if I feel a little low today that tomorrow is a totally new day.

Walking fast and getting out of breath makes me remember that regardless of what’s in my cupboard at home I’m continually moving forward. Even though I’ve yet to deal with this aspect of the past I’m making progress. 

Plus it’s the right time of year to confront the reality of bereavement because the world is suddenly walking up. Nothing truly dies. It’s all just a process of continual rebirth.

As I walked briskly toward my customary coffee shop this morning I noticed that (during the last 48 hours that have passed since I last walked here) spring had arrived.

Hiding in the grass by the path were the first crocus shoots of the year, pushing upwards into the warmth of the Sunday morning sun as it peeked through the cloud cover above.


They look lovely and really cheered me up.

So – after my coffee I’m going to go home and start again.

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong answer. I don’t think that grief (or whatever I was left with when she died) needs to be experienced in any particular way or in any particular timeframe.

I do know one thing though.

It’s important to come out the other side feeling like more than you were and not like you’ve been somehow diminished. A person may be gone but they left a legacy – and I don’t mean in terms of property.

Each and every life that ultimately leaves us lives on in the changes that they prompted or the thoughts they left in our minds – be they good or bad.

Every day is a conscious choice for me about what to do with the memories of her. Each time I think about my mother I consciously choose to be inspired by her failings in life and not buried by the weight of her problems.

Plus she liked crocuses Internet. She’d be happy to see them right about now.

If she was alive she would probably be contentedly watching her own grow from a seat in her back garden. She’d be wearing her well worn and faded slippers and thoughtfully smoking a fag – all the time sipping from a hot, milky, sugary mug of tea with a picture of the queen’s jubilee on it.

Davey

Dream meanings

It was a grey, damp, rainy day yesterday, and the light levels barely rose above ‘early evening’ all day long. It’s slightly brighter today – but not by much.

It’s easy to feel glum on a day like this – especially when you’re faced with a bewildering array of job sites (every time I follow a link to apply for a job I end up signing up to yet another one I’ve never heard of), an inbox full of mails from recruiters with roles that aren’t even vaguely suitable for you, and a bank account that’s reliant on you doing very little that costs money to remain in the black.

However I really don’t feel glum today. I didn’t yesterday either. I feel quite good actually. One might even say liberated.

I woke up the other day having had a rather unsettling dream about staying at a hotel. The plumbing and bathroom in this hotel (one that I was sharing with several friends) was awful. The toilet didn’t work and there was no privacy. By the end of my time in this horrible 70’s decorated environment with green deep polyester carpets the facilities were overflowing and I was desperately trying to clean up an impossible mess of effluence.

It all eventually overflowed in a raging torrent and I was surrounded by a disgusting mess.

I woke up at this point – but realised it wasn’t the first time I’d had this dream and Googled it to see whether there was an explanation that might make sense of why this would recur.

I found this (edited) explanation:

As in waking life, when in the bathroom in a dream you are often dealing with the unpleasant, intimate aspects of life: relieving yourself, elimination of wastes, cleansing yourself, etc. In dreams, additional obstacles or unfortunate circumstances are usually a factor. These might include: being unable to find the bathroom, a lack of privacy, having no toilet paper available, a dirty bathroom or a clogged or overflowing toilet.

Basically, bathroom dreams may be addressing your need to relieve yourself emotionally and/or psychologically. You may be dealing with a dirty, messy, toxic or crappy situation in waking life or are under a lot of stress. A public bathroom or restroom may suggest the dream is dealing with your social or professional life or relationships while the bathroom in a home suggests the issue may be internal or related to your home life or relationships.

The toilet itself may be dealing with your ability or inability to eliminate problems, relationships, emotions, etc. If the toilet won’t flush or is clogged, you may be unwilling or unable to release your emotions or express yourself. An overflowing toilet may represent an emotional outburst or you may be feeling overwhelmed by your emotions and the stresses in life.

The night before I’d told someone something about my relationship with my mother that I’d never mentioned to anyone before. I hadn’t been purposefully hiding it, and had good reason to keep it to myself – as it was something that was profoundly intimate and embarrassing.

It just came out in conversation.

I realised as my friend and I were talking that for a number of reasons I’d been hiding and pushing the thought to the back of my mind every time it came up. I’d hidden it from myself for years – motivated mostly by a sense of personal shame. Each time I’d wanted to vocalise it I’d stopped and pushed it back down – moving on instead to other topics.

For some reason I chose not to this time and instead relayed the story to my friend and then how it made me feel. I was close to tears after letting it go – and realised (based on the look on my friend’s face) that what I was describing was a form of abuse by my mother that designed to maintain control and manipulate me.

Honestly – this kind of thing isn’t anything new to me with regards to her memory, but this particular thing is something I hadn’t openly admitted to anyone before. Unburdening came with a sense of relief and no small degree of fear, but it was extremely liberating – and as I drove home in the dark rainy night afterwards I felt somehow lighter.

My mind was clearly still turning over the consequences of my tale being told however, and the whole night was characterised by restless sleep – and finally this dream.

Sharing this memory (which happened randomly in a very normal conversation) reminded me of a couple of things however – and they’re the root of why I feel so good at the moment.

Firstly, when you hide your true self the only person that you ultimately hurt is yourself.

Sure, you may temporarily save yourself some embarrassment and shame – but you’re only constructing a prison for that part of you in your own mind. It’s as real as any physical cell in a real jail, and the longer that you leave it closed the less likely you are to be able to easily find the key.

Being open and honest is the best gift we can give to ourselves and others – and although if anyone asks me for my pin numbers they can get stuffed, when they ask me how I feel I’ll always do my very best to tell them.

Secondly, people are inherently good.

Some may see this as a naive attitude – but I’m not a stupid man and I like to think I’m a good judge of character. I’ll have alarm bells if someone looks shifty just as much as the next guy.

Often if someone looks insane and you cant quite figure out why that’s evolution whispering in your ear and reminding you of primal reasons why you avoid certain things and move towards others. It’s a good thing to trust your instincts.

What I mean is that when I meet someone (that seems ok) for the first time I prefer my default position to be trust and openness – and I can only think of a few instances in my life where this has been betrayed. In the vast majority of cases people are worth the time you invest in them and they ALL have something to give.

So – my inbox is overflowing with stuff thats misdirecting me left and right, my bank account looks worse than ever, but I’m continually reminded that the yardsticks that I used to judge my old life are no longer as relevant as they once were.

Eventually something good will happen and when it does I’ll be standing there with a smile on my face waiting to shake its hand and say hello.

Finally internet – my soppy side came out whilst writing this – and I was reminded of the song that most parents must have been battered to death with in recent years – ‘Let it go’ from the Disney film Frozen.

It may be corny but people love it for a reason – you should listen to the lyrics and just let it go.

The cold never bothered me anyway.

Davey

Aren’t you a little short for a stormtrooper?

When I look back on 2016 I’m going to have extremely mixed feelings about it.

Most of my blog posts so far have been about personal change and how I’ve been trying to turn my life around – but tonight it’s not.

I never saw Star Wars at the cinema. When it came out my family was living in Orkney. I read about the exploits of what came to be beloved heroes in the occasional comic that my mom bought me from the local newsagent – or that I inherited from friends.

One had a big hole in the cover where my friend had cut out the Millennium Falcon to stick on his wall – but inside the adventures of Princess Leia were untouched. They were different from the film and were flights of fancy being imagined by a Marvel Comics creative team, where she was being taught how to shoot a blaster as a young girl.

Oddly – this is the first real memory I have of what eventually became my favourite film franchise. It wasn’t until years later I actually read the book and discovered what really happened in the 1977 classic.

When I finally came to see a Star Wars film I was in Rhyl, on holiday at my Aunt and Uncle’s house. It was the Empire Strikes back and at the time was probably (for a very young boy) the absolute pinnacle of my cinema going history.

By that time I was familiar with Princess Leia and was amazed at how different she looked without the side buns in her hair. She was jaw-droppingly beautiful with her french plaits – and also a strong, feisty presence that was unusually independent.

Sure – she was rescued rather stereotypically by the male leads in Star Wars, but by the time of Return of the Jedi rolled around she was returning the favour, and rescuing Han whilst strangling Jabba to death (albeit in an alluring gold bikini) instead.

When I heard this evening that Carrie Fisher had died I genuinely had a lump in my throat.

Admittedly I knew little about her as a person. From what I did see of her personal life she often seemed troubled and struggling. I’m not grieving the loss of a close friend that I knew personally – I’m mourning the loss of a media icon, which (as I reflect upon why I feel the way I do) I think is a little odd.

However, for better or worse thanks to film, music and television we let certain famous people into our hearts and lives. Just as if we were seated next to a friend on the sofa we begin (at least in a small way) to care about what happens to them. Often they sing to us when we’re happy and sad, or take us to places of imaginative fantasy that allow us to escape our day to day lives temporarily.

I think that Carrie Fisher’s departure also represents the end of a significant era in my childhood, and I think it’s that which makes me feel so sad. Maybe I feel all of a sudden a little older without her around.

But it’s also reminding me of all the others that seem to have (mostly without any warning) suddenly passed this year.

As I look at the lists online of people that left us in 2016 I can’t help thinking about the happiness that she and they managed to bring to myself and others for brief moments – often despite their own profound fragility.

Whatever demons they faced in real life, the joy that they brought to others has to be a worthwhile legacy, and hopefully their work will still continue to provide the same flights of fancy for generations to come.

In a sense – despite their passing they’re all ‘immortal’ in a way that most of us will never be.

Whilst Carrie (for me at least) is leaving one of the biggest sudden gaps, there are many others that won’t be filled any time soon, and as I think about her as the year draws to a close I can’t help but pay tribute to some of the many more bright lights left behind in the last twelve months as well.

My thoughts are with her family, and the families of everyone missing someone thats no-longer with us as the year draws to a close.

Look after the ones you love internet. We’re only here for a moment.

Davey

 

Counting the pile

I’m having a day of ‘rest’ today. Well at least from walking – it’s not really a day of chilling – but time to tidy my house. It’s become a bit of a mess in my recent prolonged outdoor absences.

It’s no excuse I know but I have been trying not to sit indoors at all lately, so the house has slowly become a bit of a dumping ground. I’ve been putting a lot of domestic stuff off.

Some of it is also because my dining room still has big boxes of crap from my mom’s bungalow and I’ve done everything I can to avoid going anywhere near them. Things have been placed in front of them and on top of them, probably in an unconscious attempt to avoid the task.

However this morning the band aid was not exactly ripped off but I began a gentle (ow!) peeling (ow!!) process (frick!) that is a bit more in tune with what I feel capable of bearing.

I have today added to my huge pile of washed and folded clothes to go to charity – along with a stack of towels (I have LOADS for some reason) and some handbags and things that belonged to my mom.

In the process I’ve also uncovered items that have been hidden in my ‘lalalalala not listening’ places for some time.

I stopped for lunch to read through some them.

My meal while I did so came courtesy of the slow cooker, which was filled with the ingredients for a beef stew last night. It never ceases to amaze me when I go to bed, and close the lid on raw meat and veg, that I then wake up in the morning to see this.

My lunch has been a somber one though – and if I’m honest it’s made me both angry and sad. Don’t get me wrong – the beef stew was lovely. It was the reading material that left me sitting in silence.

This morning I found my old Slimming World books (there are two) which I thought had been destroyed in a fit of pique some years ago.

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It’s all just numbers until I start to look at the dates and weights, and then I see my own reflection staring back at me in-between the lines – and I don’t like it.

I hate it in fact.

No…

I absolutely loathe it.

I’m stopping short of saying I hate myself because I’m trying hard to focus on the fact that the person in these numbers and dates is not me any more.

Although he is. I was him not so long ago.In many ways I’m STILL the same man and it terrifies me that I may one day completely become him again. It’s happened before.

When I originally met Angie and joined in November 2010 I was 33st 4lbs – a stone and a half lighter than I was when I rejoined for a third time in April 2016.

Although many weeks in my first book are concurrent I can see the gaps further on where I didn’t weigh in. They stand out like sore thumbs. I can also remember just walking out of the group after standing on the scales – not wanting to face up to what I had been eating and drinking during the week and instead going home to get drunk. I remember quite often getting a chicken kebab on the way home too.

I had to drive from Slimming World to the chip shop to pick it up, and drive home to eat it because I couldn’t easily walk the distance under my own steam.

How pathetic is that?

I got a few stickers though. I managed to loose two stone before I ran away the first time.

Then in between the 9th March and 23rd of May 2011 (when I made a half hearted second attempt and re-joined) I put on TWO STONE EIGHT AND A HALF POUNDS. That’s around a stone a month.

I lasted four weeks according to my second, sad looking, sticker-less book and then went right back to stuffing my face.

I keep seeing this figure of a stone a month. It was the same when I stopped Weight Watchers. It happened again after the Cambridge Diet – at exactly the same pace.

It scares me to death when I see evidence of what I’m capable of when I’m drepressed and have alcohol and food in unlimited quantities. I haven’t been able to stop myself with either before.

I have now though – and I HAVE to believe that this is permanent.

I genuinely feel like this is my very last chance, because if I do it again I’m 100% sure it will kill me. Maybe not immediately but it will do eventually.

I need to focus on all the positives and not give into recriminations and regrets – or think about the years I’ve lost.

Sometimes it’s really hard though – and on days like today when it’s raining outside and I’m left surrounded by bad memories it can gnaw away at me and make me forget all of the positives.

At the moment I’m working through it by writing and counting clothes. Huge clothes. Clothes I have been forced to wear by my inactivity. Half of them I never liked, some I hated, but wore because the alternative was public nudity.

I looked at the tag in one newish pair of jeans. 64 waist. Sadly this wasn’t the biggest pair I owned. There were bigger ones. They are stretched and deformed at the waistband, pulled out of their original shape by the strain and pressure of holding my gut in.

Some waistbands couldn’t take the pressure and and the buttons literally popped off, sometimes snapping in half and leaving jagged metal behind. I learned over the years that the best way to deal with this was to just sew the waistband together and cover it up with a thick belt.

The belts often also broke. Mostly because of similar metal fatigue in the buckles. I used to keep some string in the boot of my car just in case. True story.

All of it is intensely shameful. But it needs to be remembered.

In this pile on my living room floor are seven pairs of jeans (there are more waiting in the wings upstairs), twelve shirts (at least three more will join soon), one hoodie and five teeshirts (another four are almost too big).

I know I’m putting off taking these to charity  – and I know the reason. In the back of my mind there’s a ‘what if‘.

This pile of cotton and polyester misery represents at least £500 that I no longer have at my disposal to replace them if I backslide.

Taking all of these to Age Concern is the metaphorical and almost literal embodiment of ‘burning my bridges’. It’s a massive step for me.

I’m going for a walk tomorrow and afterwards I’m going to dispose of the lot. Every last single item. I am never ever ever ever ever going to wear any of these ever again.

And internet – you have my permission if you see me slipping or loosing my way to point me at this post and to rub my nose in the excrement of my past to make sure that I go outside and do my business there instead of sitting trapped in my armchair, sleeping upright because I couldn’t breathe when I lay down.

You have my blessing to boot my bottom.

Davey

Cracked pot

‘I’d forgotten how much I missed you.’

The words almost visibly hung in the air for me as soon as they left my friend’s mouth. It had been too long since we had gotten together – but also paradoxically it didn’t seem like five minutes had elapsed since we last spoke.

Time (and my previously ever shrinking world) sometimes overtakes things though – and for reasons I’m sure neither of us could easily pin down over a year has passed since we last saw each other face to face.

In truth though she’s much much more than a friend. I don’t think that this word does my relationship with her over the years any justice.

I’m a big one for hugs – but today I felt like I didn’t want to let go. As we both embraced when we said hello and goodbye I felt myself drawing in just that little bit closer, and holding on for just a little bit longer than I normally would. This lady is special to me and has been for what I now realise is decades.

Today we had a lot to talk about. The last year has seen many changes in both of our lives – some bad and some good. As we chatted I found myself watching her face – the smile lines around her eyes, and how the right side of her hair curled inward slightly as it touched the patterned scarf on her shoulder.

She hasn’t changed much over the years and looks just the same as she always has.

It’s easy to recognise a face. Our brains are wired to find them in everything we look at. They’re there if we see Jesus randomly burned onto a slice of toast, a bearded man floating in the clouds – or eyes and a smile in a camper van’s headlights and grille.

I don’t think though that there are that many people whose faces we truly KNOW. Along with with my brother, my Dad and my closest friends I think she’s one of a select few people that I could close my eyes and visualise perfectly.

Talking to someone that’s known you for years – that knows your history as much as you know theirs can sometimes enable you to open up and explore subjects that with other people might cause you shame or difficulty.

In my case I often feel these emotions and more when people ask about my Mom’s death, which my friend and I hadn’t really discussed at length before.

I always feel the need to explain myself when I discuss the feelings I have about this event as they’re complex. It’s not as simple as feeling a sense of loss about someone I loved deeply. My relationship with her unfortunately was nothing like that.

I feel a lot of guilt when I talk about it because I also feel compelled to use the phrase ‘the best thing that my mother did for me was dying’. I’m fully aware it must be shocking and that it probably sounds callous or as if I’m harbouring resentment towards her, which I’m not.

I often think that people’s immediate reaction will be ‘how can someone not feel unconditional love for their mother?’

I worry what kind of a person they will think this makes me, like I’m somehow malformed or have a cruel heart.

I could maybe put it in more socially acceptable terminology, but then the honesty of how I feel would be lost and I’m not about to do that. Not any more. It only hurts the ones left behind if you don’t face up to the truth and deny how you REALLY feel.

What I mean by this rather blunt statement is that in death she gave me something more significant than she did in life, and because of her actions I experienced a moment of clarity that set me on my current path. As I watched her slowly killing herself with cigarettes, not caring any more whether she lived or died I saw myself in a darkly tinted mirror.

I wasn’t angry with her for smoking again two days after leaving hospital. I didn’t feel disappointed at her continued slow motion attempts to kill herself one cigarette at a time.

I understood.

I was doing the same to myself with food and alcohol. I had told people close to me that I wasn’t expecting to reach retirement and deep down I thought I’d die before the age of 50. I thought it was inevitable and had given into the despair of my situation, feeling like I was just minding the store until closing time.

My relationship with my mother was not a good one, and she was often not a nice lady to me or others. Even when she made attempts to be on her best behaviour it seemed to end in conflict and arguments.

I try not to think of her in this light any more, and only remember the good aspects – but while she was alive I wanted to be as little like her as humanly possible.

As I sat in front of her while she essentially drowned in her armchair behind an oxygen mask I saw myself. I was killing myself with food and alcohol as surely as if I was putting a gun to my temple and pulling the trigger. My death would probably become just as drawn out, painful and degrading as hers was proving to be.

Yet I still had time to change. So on the 26th of Jan, two days before she died, I decided to try.

The first three months of my blog were about me coming to terms with what was left behind after she passed away – and the profoundly positive impact her death ultimately had on me.

I didn’t feel triumphalism – but instead a sense of gratitude.

For all the sadness and sense of lost opportunity I feel when I consider our relationship I’ve contented myself in the months since that some real and profound good came out of her death.

As we talked today my friend said a few times ‘you mother loved you, you know.’

Truthfully I’m not sure she knew how to love – but that’s OK. No-one is perfect and she was still my mom. She did her best to look after me as a child, and in her own way cared for and wanted a good future for me.

So – despite the adversity between us, now she’s gone I don’t think I’d have had her be any other way. I may have taken the scenic route to being in a good place in life – but I feel like that’s actually a good thing.

My dance walking friend in Slimming World was keen to talk to me after the meeting on Saturday. She jauntily wandered over once Angie had finished to tell me something that had been in her mind after reading my blog.

‘Have you ever heard the story of the cracked pot?’ She said as we collected the (hateful) little red chairs in the school hall.

‘No… I don’t think I have.’ I replied, stacking them by the climbing frame.

‘Well there was this cracked pot and every time it was filled with water it would leak on one side. All the liquid would dribble out onto the ground and drain away. The pot was damaged and all of the other pots nearby weren’t – they did their job and held water.’

I nodded. Cracked pot. Got it.

‘But then one day the man who owned the pots looked at the side of the cracked one where all the water leaked out onto the ground and saw all of the green shoots and flowers that were growing around it’s base.’

I stopped stacking the chairs .

‘It just shows that sometimes things that get damaged along the way can bring a lot of good into the world.’

I smiled and thanked her for the comment, mentally filing it away.

Today that comment came back to me as I sat talking to my friend, and even more afterwards as I drove home. In many ways we’ve both been damaged over the years – and in her case flowers have definitely bloomed all around her.

My mother was also a cracked pot.

For many years I felt nothing but resentment toward her – but her final parting gift turned out to be a gift of life. In her passing she gave me so much that I don’t think I can ever thank her enough.

Today internet I’m immensely grateful for the lack of resilience displayed by pottery, and looking back with a smile on my face at all the nice flowers that have grown up around them.

The damaged ones are by far my favourite kind of pot.

Davey

A moment away from change

There’s an advert I used to see on the television all the time for Disneyland in Florida. The children can’t sleep prior to their journey to the resort – and a little boy says ‘I’m SO excited!’ In such a way that it has stuck in my mind for years.

It’s a clever commercial as it hints at the child like wonder that’s also present in the adults, who steadfastly refuse to nod off as well.

It’s 4am and like them I can’t sleep. I don’t think it’s coffee – I only had two flower pots worth yesterday. That’s a minimal amount. It barely registers.

Instead I’m the little boy in the advert, thinking about the future and possibilities.

Part of me hates it when I get like this. Sure – it’s nice to have hope and a positive vision, but I begin to obsess over things sometimes and when I do I have bursts of momentum that can often be followed by trenches of disappointment where I want the future NOW but realise how far away it actually is.

Although I did around 7 miles of walking yesterday I was still wired at 8pm and buzzing with energy.

I have an exercise bike in my spare room that cost me a small fortune. It’s a machine capable of taking my weight and I’ve hardly used it. Honestly my massive stomach made it incredibly uncomfortable when I tried.

It’s been a while since I climbed on and when I last did I could manage little more than about 5 minutes without any programmed resistance. It was not pleasant.

Last night I managed around 34 minutes on it doing a level one hill climb.

I learned three things during that workout.

  1. I can sustain a heart rate of about 110 for over half an hour now.
  2. I can burn almost 300 kcal in about 30 minutes.
  3. My exercise playlists need serious work and Jason Nevins featuring Run DMC ‘it’s like that’ makes me pedal faster.

Ever since I’ve been thinking about what this means. Running is a bad idea for my knees. They can’t take the punishment my weight gives out, but all of a sudden I can do cardio. Furthermore I LIKED it.

Until the end mind you. The last 5 minutes were horrid.

And still I lie here, wide awake at 4.21am, thinking about my weigh in and some things affecting friends.

If I have done well this week I may get my five and a half stone award. I need a 3.5lbs loss to secure that. It would be REALLY nice to hold that in 6 hours or so.

Bums. I really really need to stop typing and nod off. Maybe I’ll listen to a podcast.

(Tries to sleep)

Well sleep was a waste of time. My mind was obsessing relentlessly about things I can’t control, and about people I know.

I instead got up and decided to do some cooking – in this case a tray of mini quiches so I could snack at the meeting.

I’ve ditched my cheap muffin tray (all the non stick was SO non stick it ironically kept falling off the tray) and I bought a Sainsburys cookware heavy duty one along with a square frittata tray – both of which weigh a ton and have a 10 year warranty. It’s so good I don’t need spray oil in the nests at all, and they just slide out into my waiting Tupperware.

Since I have a war on waste and had a flask of Starbucks filter coffee I’d forgotten to drink yesterday I quickly heated it up in a measuring jug and put it back in my container.

I was set for Slimming World. Almost.

I didn’t know how I was going to do when I stepped on the scales today. I genuinely never do.

I was umming and aarring over whether to wear my jogging bottoms (which are now cavernous) and a teeshirt (also way too big) or my smaller jeans and a shirt. I decided (no word of a lie) to weigh my belt and jeans on the kitchen scales to see how much they would set me back if I went with the ‘well dressed’ option.

I know now that my jeans and belt combined weigh 2lbs 11oz. My jogging bottoms weigh 1lb 4oz. Which do you think I picked?

So – as I strolled, flapping and fluttering to Swimming World looking like a hobo in my outsize clothes I reflected on what I’d done in the week.

I’d nailed a lot of exercise – but this hadn’t previously translated into a loss. I’d also had a rocky weekend where I ate a lot – but I’d also had very little appetite toward the end of the week when I was exercising more. According to Apple Watch I’d burned way more calories than I thought I’d consumed – so I SHOULD have a loss.

After saying hello and chatting to the ladies in the line I stepped on the scales – and then this happened.

 

I came within the distance of a gnat’s left nut of getting my six stone award and absolutely nailed my weight loss this week. It must have been the jeans!

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Whatever the cause was this means that in another half a pound I have lost the Mangrove Jack boat trailer from my previous new goals post. Give or take a few ounces I AM NO LONGER WALKING WITH THIS IN MY TROUSERS ALL THE TIME.

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This may go a long way to explaining my sudden bursts of energy this week both during walking (as one of my companions will attest to, given her reported aches and pains afterwards) and on my exercise bike last night.

(thinks for a moment…)

At this point I’d like to step back a little from banging on about how much I’ve lost. I’m happy – but honestly something else is playing on my mind.

Let me say from the outset that I’m pretty uncomfortable with being labelled as someone that people use as an ‘inspiration’. This is not my word, nor are my feelings about it false modesty. It honestly makes me cringe to even type it and it’s not how I would describe myself If I was presented with a sheet of paper – but I do so here for a reason.

I’d be a liar if I said I wasn’t glad that those I like and respect might be beginning to see me in such a light. It reminds me whenever someone says this word (no matter how uncomfortable it makes me feel) in relation to what I write, think and do of how different things are for me now.

It also makes me want to live up to that ideal, although I often feel that I do not. I’m doing well today – but tomorrow I might not be.

In the last week though I’ve seen a couple of people I know hit tough new or established challenges in life head on – and although I know I can’t fix these for them all of me wants to reach out and help.

Maybe some of what I’ve written and achieved so far can do that, even if I can’t wave a magic want and make life better for them. However – if those people sitting at home or elsewhere are reading this, what I can say is that:

  • Your health CAN be turned around.
  • Good CAN come from awful events like serious illness or bereavement.
  • Your habits DON’T have to control you.
  • Your future CAN be different.
  • It IS possible to move from what seems like an inescapable pit of emotional despair to a place where you feel you can begin to rebuild a life – whatever is wrong with it.

The only things that need to change are what you feel about yourself and what you believe you can do.

Every day can be a struggle for me – both physically and emotionally at times, but the incremental steps and slow moves forward keep me going through the bad moments.

Without the effort I put in they wouldn’t happen, and I’d feel much lower for it. Nothing has been delivered to me (or others I look up to in my life) on a plate.

I’m very uncomfortable with making myself out to be someone thats succeeded at anything, and I definitely don’t have all the answers. I’m just as flawed as everyone else and 7 months ago I was drunk every evening, my diabetes was spiralling out of control and I was 6 stone heavier. All this is now different, and I intend to do more. Much more.

I’m beginning to have aspirations that don’t involve me dying young or being trapped in my house.

It’s not rocket science. Change sometimes just means learning to be good to yourself, and choosing to look at the positives in life.

Internet (and to the people I know facing challenges – whom I direct this post toward) whatever you’re doing, however you’re feeling, whatever habits you have, or things you’ve gone through you’re only a moment away from changing everything.

Davey