The Woman Who Started Walking Up A Mountain Then Couldn’t Be Bothered

I hate to keep banging on about my “time of the month” but it really has caused me some problems this time around.  After the excitement of Friday’s jogging, most of Saturday continued to be uplifting until Saturday night, when the self-doubt started creeping in.  Yesterday I woke up fairly positive, spent the morning working on something for my future, but then decided to take a small break at lunchtime.  BIG MISTAKE.

I spent the rest of the day in my bed.  For the first hour, I just did absolutely nothing, I couldn’t bring myself to do a thing.  Eventually I decided to put a film on, which did spur me on a little to do some tidying up.  Sadly, this didn’t last, and after the film finished, I felt even less inclined to do anything.  But it wasn’t just can’t-be-botheredness.  It was complete-inability-to-do-anythingness, mixed in with a lot of I’m-incapable-of-doing-anything-anywayness.

It was late by the time I went to sleep last night, gone 1pm, when I eventually couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.  But I recognise the true feeling – it was one of those I-don’t-want-to-go-to-sleep-because-it’ll-be-tomorrow-when-I-wake-up-feelings – and I just couldn’t bear the thought of feeling like that another day.

Luckily, this morning I woke up and I didn’t feel helplessness.  I just felt full of cold.  Having been through half a box of tissues this morning, I do feel like crap.  But on the plus side, I’ve been doing lots of things on my To Do list.  It seems like my body is only capable of feeling one way at a time.  But I’d pick a cold any day over the feeling of numbness that attacks when depression takes over.

I can’t help thinking that there is something about this time of year that makes me feel so down.  Seasonal Affective Disorder affects 7% of the population between September and April.  Light therapy, which is exposure to a very bright light for up to 4 hours a day, is known to benefit up to 85% of those with diagnosed cases*, and so I’m going to look into getting one.  Particularly the last few years, the start of November and the middle of February are particularly crucial times for me, when I feel at my most vulnerable.

People look at me like I’m joking when I say I want to move to somewhere the sun shines all the time.  I’m not joking, far from it.  For me the sun is medicinal – the world’s biggest light box, which will never run out of batteries or blow a fuse, as long as you’re in the right area to receive it.

I’m hoping I’ll get over this cold soon enough and I can continue to get on with all the important things I have to get done this week.  But for now, I hear my bed calling.

*Information from www.sada.org.uk – The Seasonal Affective Disorder Association’s website.

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Jogga-Blog No. 2

Some of you may remember that I recently went out jogging, which wasn’t such a great experience for me due to getting lost (yes, it’s true!  Read all about it here http://wp.me/p2ayN0-5j).  Anyway, recently I seem to be eating more chocolate than ever, and with an eye on my weight, I keep thinking about how I need to start a) eating more healthy and b) doing more exercise.

After arrival of The Period on Wednesday night, I finally started to see through the fog that I seem to have suffered the last couple of weeks.  Today I got back from uni, chased up some radio stuff, then put my jogging gear on and a baseball cap, and feeling suitably American, went for a little run.

This time there was no grand running off in directions I didn’t know!  I stuck to the route, and when arriving at my destination, ran around it before returning from whence I came.  When I reached home I checked my watch – I’d been running for 35 minutes – and so got out my brand-new, pink yoga mat, and did, after a few seconds deliberation, 35 sit-ups.

It struck me as I smiled away to myself while posting on Facebook that I’d just had a spontaneous jog, that I will be 35 next birthday.  In five years, I will be 40.  But that’s not what’s really bothering me.  What’s getting to me is that I lost a stone and a half a couple of years ago due to major stress, and while I was very underweight, I felt great for it.  Add a bit of a tan, and I felt even better.

But the last ten months, especially since I suspended my studies last December, have seen me pile on the weight again.  It’s hardly surprising; you can’t expect to eat two Crunchies a day or half a packet of chocolate digestives in one sitting and not put any weight on.  I now weigh two pound more than my ideal weight for my height.  But I feel far from perfect.  My stomach is big and unfortunately does not contain a baby (except, perhaps, a food baby).  And something I always said before I lost all that weight before was that I wanted to lose weight before I had a baby, otherwise I feared I would never be able to.

Now I don’t have any plans to have a baby just now (sorry, parents), and besides it does take two to tango.  But I do know I would like to have a baby at some point before I have to remember to put my false teeth in water as well as sterilise the baby’s bottle.  Just to be on the safe side though, I should make sure I slim down, so that I can enjoy being slim and single, and so that losing baby weight isn’t impossible when it actually happens.

How on earth I started out a blog about jogging and ended up talking babies is beyond me.  But hey, I feel great!

Musings on a Muddled Time

As you may have noticed from my blog posts recently, I’ve been having a bit of a turbulent time in the two weeks since I returned from the National Achievers’ Congress 2012.  Ironically, while I have achieved some very positive things during this time, such as my first grade of the year, my highest mark yet, I also seem to have received a lot of stress.  So why was I almost relieved last night to receive my period?  No, I hadn’t been worried about becoming pregnant.  Rather, I seemed to have lost a week somewhere; I wasn’t expecting my period until next week.  But to be able to put this primary massive tension down to actual pre-menstrual tension, seemed to make things ok.  Hoorah!  It wasn’t a complete break down, or melt down, or down down, but just one of those things that happen every month.  But since my period arrives every 3.5 weeks, and has done for the last 20 years, shouldn’t I be used to it by now?

Men should consider themselves lucky that they don’t have to put up with this crap every month.  I guess most women are affected by their periods; while I am quite lucky to avoid any physical pain (most of the time), my depression is most certainly exacerbated by the need to get the Tampax out every couple of weeks.

Men complain about having to shave every day.  At least they only have to shave one body part (I’m ignoring the guys who shave their chest…or their backs ewwww).

Anyway, I’m trying not to turn this into a man-bash-fest, because it’s not meant to be.  It’s more of a reflection on why I may have felt the way I’ve felt recently.

A GP once told me asked me whether it was circumstances that were making me feel depressed.  I answered yes, and he refused to give me antidepressants, because he told me that if it’s outside influences, they can be resolved.  Well that’s fine; but why the hell does everything seem to happen at once?  I could put some of what’s happened the last two weeks down to my period, but really, I can’t blame it for everything.

The worst stage I got to this week was knowing that I had to make a phone call – someone important, who I’d already emailed, and who was expecting my call.  But I laid on my bed, and I couldn’t face picking up my phone to call them.  Instead, I anguished over calling, and then the hours ticked away, and instead of doing something, I did nothing, and buried my head in my pillow and curled up into a ball, just like my cat, The Bish does, when he doesn’t want to be disturbed.

Later that night, my period arrived.  The next day, I made the phone call, no problem.

Life is strange.  I am considering this latest trouble, a mere blip, as I was getting along fabulously until recently.  But another thing to consider is that it is just this time of year.  It was this time last year when things started to go wrong for me, and to be honest I’m feeling like they could go similarly hellishly wrong.  But I refuse to let them.  I’ve been given a second chance to get my degree done, and I will finish it.  Then I’ll finally be able to move on from here, and the hell that starts with Halloween and doesn’t finish til after Valentine’s Day may finally be a time to give thanks for, rather than a time to hibernate and not come out until the Spring.

A Nice, Positive Blog (For Once)

After the last few strugglesome blogs, I really do have some excellent news that I need to share with you guys, before you all decide there is no chance of me ever being happy/calm/unstressed.

I recently gave a presentation for my American Dreams, American Nightmares class.  Now this is a module (course for you Americans) which combines US history with its literature of the time; a cocktail of my worst and best (respectively) subjects.  We were all offered the opportunity to do a presentation the first week of seminars, which was the second week of term.  Having left my presentation til later in the semester last year, I decided to get it done and out the way early.  When I realised that the first presentation choice was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, the only piece of literature by a woman on the reading list, I decided to go for it.

Preparing the presentation went ok, and on the day, despite being the first person of the module to give a presentation, I felt it went well.  My lecturer gave me a little feedback at the end of the class and promised that he would email me the feedback form.  After a few days, I received it.  I practically screamed when I read the mark: 73%.  For those of you who do not know the UK grade system, 73% is equivalent to a first class honours, and is the highest mark I have received throughout my degree.  Previously I’d never got higher than 68%, or a 2:1.

To have received 73% on a presentation, partially based on a historical era, is overwhelming.  Not only that, but it confirms for me that I did the right thing suspending my studies.  I may have a tough time putting my finger on the exact time during my nine months out (no, before you ask, I did not secretly have a baby) that things changed for me, but I have come back stronger, and much further along than I was in December last year, when I had five pieces of work due (some overdue) yet nothing had been submitted.

There is an accompanying paper for this module, which is mostly written, and will be completed after a meeting with my lecturer tomorrow.  The paper is not due until 30th November, but in a bid to be more organised and handing work in on time (and let’s face it, just having work handed in would be an improvement) I wanted it ready early.  There’s always the chance I’ll be making some last-minute changes on 30th November, but the bulk of it is done, which leaves me free to work on other pieces of work, such as my 10,000 word dissertation, or one of the other four assignments due this side of Christmas.

Anyway, I just wanted to share this with you all, just so you know I’m doing ok.  Both academically, and emotionally.  My life coach, Jon, who I blogged about in My Hero http://wp.me/p2ayN0-5u, has just checked in on me having read my previous post, and as I reassured him, I now reassure you that I am ok.  Today has been a difficult day but I know by the time I wake up in the morning I’ll be ready to face the world again and to start on this week’s classes, having already gained my highest mark yet; a step closer to actually graduating this time around.

War and Piece(s of Me)

This last week has been rather an emotional rollercoaster for me, for various reasons.  Right now, my heart is fluttering nervously and I’m breathing deeply.  Tears are forming in my eyes, but not yet falling down my cheeks.  I know it will pass soon; like the heavy rain I encountered on the way back from the train station earlier today.

I had an e-barney with somebody today over text message (for those of you who don’t know, it means to have words with someone over an electronic means, such as text or e-mail). It had been brewing for a while, and I’m not surprised everything that I said came out, merely the length of time it took to come out.  During the period of the ‘debate’, I felt angry, in fact absolutely furious; an hour or so later I just felt sick and tearful, much as I feel now.  It’s taken it out of me; I have never been a fan of conflict and as a result it’s only in recent years when I’ve felt strong enough to duel with somebody about something that we don’t agree on.

I guess I have improved in recent years.  Mainly in the length of time it takes me to cry.  But at least I can storm out of a room with my head held high now, unlike before when I would have been blubbing before you could say “Do you want a Kleenex with that insult?”

Of course, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve actually argued with someone in the flesh.   It’s so much easier nowadays, in the technological age, to argue, to flirt; to tell the truth, to lie.

Some people have said to me that they couldn’t write a blog; they couldn’t tell all their personal thoughts and feelings to the world.  I can appreciate that, I mean I don’t tell you guys everything I think!  That would just be weird.  But I have always been one of those people who can talk to anybody about my problems.  In fact, I always joke that I could be stood at a bus stop and tell someone my life story (so be warned haha).  So when I’m not talking, that’s when you should be worrying.

Maybe today I just had to get off my chest something which had been kicking around inside me for a while.  The problem with holding in negative thoughts and feelings is that they start to eat away at you.  Do I feel better for saying it? Yes.  Do I think I may have been a bit harsh?  Yes.  Will I ever apologise?  Probably never.

This isn’t the only conflict I’ve had this last week.  As you will know, if you read my last blog, Friend or Foe, or Just No-No http://wp.me/p2ayN0-5Q , I spoke frankly about someone I had recently met and whose intentions I had apparently misread.  Less than two hours after publishing the blog, I received a text from this person telling me that to make the matter clear, they had removed me from their Facebook account, and that if I read into every single social interaction something that was not there, it was a bit bunny boilerish.  Finishing with the words ‘no offence’.  Well, firstly, I do take offence to being called a bunny boiler, especially by someone whose ‘compliments’ made me feel uncomfortable, increasingly so that I felt I did not want to be accused of leading him on in any way thus resulting in my rejection text.  The fact that he did not mention his girlfriend until after I had sent my thanks-but-no-thanks text is interesting, if only because had I known he had a girlfriend, I would have felt even more uncomfortable receiving such ‘compliments’ from him.  Plus did he not think the fact that his girlfriend is a writer would have been something I would like to have known, as an aspiring writer?  Anyway, I don’t enjoy conflict, and had no intention of protracting the issue so I deleted his messages and his name, although my techno-failure did not allow me to delete the number completely.  But his text ate away at me the rest of the day, if I’m honest.  Even though I had deleted it, it’s like the words had been branded onto my mind with a red-hot poker.  It’s not the first time I’ve been called a bunny boiler.  Although it hurts less so when I’m the one calling myself it.

So as you can see, this week has been particularly stressful for someone like me, who dislikes conflict so much.  I am lucky that I do not argue with my friends or family; I could not be one of those (such as my neighbours) for whom a slanging match is a part of daily life.  As for the people who I have been sparring with, I don’t expect to hear anything further from Mr “Alluring” and after a remaining issue is resolved, will have nothing further to do with the other one.  Life is too short to be surrounded by people who, quite plainly put, stress you out.  When I have to argue with someone, I get stressed out.

So I stagger from the battlefield, wounded but not dead.  I don’t look back, for to do so would show weakness.  I will treat my wounds, then do my best to forget these particular battle scars, and those who afflicted them upon me.  But maybe it is the wounds I feel forced to inflict on others that hurt me more; and that is the reason why I do not want to feel this way again.

Friend or Foe…or Just No-No?

Recently I have yet again been reminded of how entirely rubbish I am at reading men and their intentions.

While rom-coms would have us believe that men are falling in love with us every day, the reality is, that it is just plain impossible to tell whether a guy a) doesn’t fancy you and just wants to be friends b) does fancy you but just wants to be friends c) doesn’t fancy you and doesn’t really even want to be your friend.  Note there is no option for fancying the pants off you (in the UK, pants are, of course, underwear – just to reinforce the meaning) and wanting to spend the rest of his life being with you in a loving relationship, for having been a great explorer of the world of men for 15 years now, I believe this specimen is something only found within the frame of the greatest (or even most lame) romantic comedy.

My most recent experience was to meet two guys: one, who I quite liked, and presumed who liked me too.  The other was showering me with compliments, but whom I liked only as a friend.  I might need some help with this so guys, or girls, if you’re reading, feel free to post your answers on an e-postcard below.

So, if a guy tells you that you are “alluring” and “beautiful”, how should one read this?  The Oxford online dictionary definition of alluring is

powerfully and mysteriously attractive or fascinating; seductive
Of course, I’m about to say, a-ha!  This does prove my point.  However, the example of the word used within a sentence reads the town offers alluring shops and restaurants.  The town is alluring?!  Seriously?  Maybe this is my problem; in reading the definition of this word, I have read the sexual undertones, rather than just seeing the definition as what it is: an innocent bystander, going red and saying, “erm, actually, no I didn’t mean anything saucy, honest.  I was just trying to, erm, give you the definition.  I didn’t mean to turn you on,” it says, mortified, as your head becomes filled with that great Robert Palmer song of the same name, which was originally written for a girl to sing, but Robert decided it would be fun for himself to sing it (much in the way Bryan Adams wrote Everything I Do (I Do It For You), intending to have Sinead O’Connor singing, only to decide to do it all himself and spend 16 weeks at the top of the UK Singles Chart in 1991.  Give me a gravelly voiced Canadian over the shaven-haired singer of the text-speak 1990 single, Nothing Compares 2 U, any day.
So, dictionary definition has given us, in describing the word alluring, another word: seductive.  Immediately my mind goes to sex, but looking at its own definition, this time in the Cambridge University Press online dictionary (we wouldn’t want those two to fall out, would we?), we are given the dubious
intended to seduce someone
It was a seductive black evening dress; she gave him a seductive look.  Seductive, Cambridge tells me, is an adjective.  Whoopee do for it.  I was part of the generation who wasn’t taught about adjectives, or nouns, or even pronouns (a more positive version of whatever the last one is?).  All we could do, as we took our French classes in high school, upon hearing the word adjective, was to nod and repeat, thinking all the while, I don’t know what the fuck that means in English, let alone bloody French.
Anyway, I digress.  Back to the example.  Cambridge hasn’t really helped us, unless we know the definition of the word seduce, so upon searching for the word seduce
that to persuade someone to have sex with you, often someone younger than you, who has little experience of sex
And what example are we given?  Pete lost his virginity at 15 when he was seduced by his best friend’s mother.  We live in a country where only a few weeks ago, a 15 year-old schoolgirl was being hunted in France after running away with her 30 year-old teacher.  I can’t help wondering if he was just trying to teach her the difference between a verb and a pronoun.  The likelihood is though, that would be a feeble excuse, since as we discussed earlier, nobody in their 30s was ever taught the difference at school.
Once again, however, the word seduce is most definitively aligned with sex.  Maybe a town could seduce you with its farmers’ market’s marrows…ok I give up.
So had I said to this person, who called me “alluring” and “beautiful” (though not in the same sentence), “Whoah!  I need to consult my online Oxford and Cambridge for the true meaning of your speech!” before responding in the manner to which is appropriate, I would have thought, this guy seems to like me!  Better snap him up before someone else runs away with him.  Or, as I did, send him a text making it clear that I liked him but only as a friend.  To which his response was to tell me there had been a major misunderstanding, he and his girlfriend are “solid” and that he didn’t mean anything by it!
Ho hum.  Thus embarrassment ensues on both sides, although the cynic in me wonders if he is a player and is just covering his tracks.  We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, whether he deserves it or not.
You see, perhaps men also find it difficult to read women?  A couple of years ago, I approached someone who I believed I’d been in love with most of my life.  In a bid to gain some closure, we began a text conversation, which became quite lengthy, and soon, after several drunken texts making my feelings clear, I received a text which read “I am married but it’s complicated.”  To which I took to mean, I am married, but not happily, please take me away from all this.
Obviously, I am just a slightly crazy 30-something who doesn’t even know what an adjective is.  How the hell am I supposed to read a man’s response to my open heart, as anything other than “I feel the same way,”?  After my joyous response to his text, “I am married, but it’s complicated” soon became like some bad 90s dance version of Palmer’s hit, “I didn’t mean to lead you on.”  Perhaps he took my declaration of love for pure friendship.  But considering he likely doesn’t know the difference between a verb and noun either, I probably shouldn’t hold it against him.
Back to the situation in hand: two guys.  The complimenting-like-as-a-friend-guy we’ve dealt with.  So what happened to the other one?  Well I took my rose-tinted specs off long enough to see that he wasn’t the one I’ve been searching for.
Perhaps the reason I struggle with reading men, is the same reason I don’t know the difference between a noun and a more positive noun.  I believe I know the answer, which is that nobody ever taught me how to understand words, let alone men.  Maybe I should just suck it up and sign up for a night class, The Beginner’s Guide to the English Language.  Though I doubt I would get into Men: The Definitive Guide.  I hear it’s fully booked for at least the next hundred years.

Home Sweet Home

As you may know if you’ve read my previous blog post, I was luckily enough to go down to my nation’s capital earlier this month for the National Achievers’ Congress 2012, held at the Excel Centre in London’s Docklands.  I arrived at Lincoln train station half an hour early, which is fairly unheard of for someone like me, who has missed more trains than I care to remember.  As I boarded the train to Newark North Gate and we set off on our journey out of Lincoln, we rode straight through the middle of my university’s campus, under the bridge you have to cross to get from one side to the other, and past the level crossing where if you’re paying attention, you can hear the bells on the level crossing at the High Street and can make a run for it and get through before the barriers clamp down on Wigford Way.  I’m sure if I added up the number of minutes lost by Lincoln students having to wait for up to three trains at a time, while walking between one building and the next, well, we’d have a hell of a lot more beer drinking time.

Anyway, what struck me about the train ride, was that as we got out of the city, I didn’t recognise the journey.  You see, back in 1997-8, I spent a year living in London, and so I regularly made the journey from Kings Cross to Lincoln via Newark North Gate, and I felt like I knew it like the back of my hand.  I’ve been to London maybe once a year or less since then, more recently on the way to an airport, previously for day trips with my mum to see a show and do some shopping.  Perhaps it felt strange to me, because nowadays when I’m on the train I’m usually heading out of Lincoln in a different direction, north-westerly towards Sheffield, to visit my mum.

But what did strike me, was that when I arrived at Kings Cross, it felt like coming home.  It’s been 14 years since I last lived in London, but arriving on that sunny Thursday evening, it felt like I had never been away.

Despite Lincoln being my home town for 32 and a half of my 34 years, I have never felt like I belonged.  My parents are both Southerners, so usually I put that down as being the reason why I’ve never quite gelled with the place.  So what is it about London that gives me that feeling of homeliness?

I guess maybe because I owe the city so much.  In the year I lived there, I went from being a quiet, shy 19-year-old, to a slightly more worldly, more independent young woman.  I lived in Russell Square, a mere 15 minute walk from Oxford Street, and I loved exploring London on my days off from work (as a hotel receptionist).  As well as making friends from different countries whom I could go out with, I also felt happy doing things myself, such things as I would never have contemplated living in Lincoln: I went to the cinema alone, I went swimming at a university pool nonetheless, on my own and I would wander the streets of London, coming across random bookshops and just generally enjoying my own company.

For the last three months, I lived in Bethnal Green but worked in the City, and I would spend my lunchtimes at the Barbican Centre library.  On Saturdays I would wander through The City on the way to somewhere else, never-failing to be surprised at how hauntingly ghost-like the area was on a weekend, when all the hard-working stock brokers and bankers were at home with their families or playing golf with their friends.

London really was the start of the me I am today, which I believe is why I feel such affinity to it.  I’m now 34, and I hear others my age say they wouldn’t want to bring kids up there, but I would love for my kids to be brought up in a big city.  Full of opportunities, people, culture; the gateway to the big wide world.

And that is the reason why I’m heading back to London again tomorrow.  I’m going to a meeting about postgraduate study in the US.  It’s strange that I can’t remember the last time I went to London, possibly last year on my way back from Heathrow, but now I find myself visiting twice in one month.  It’s a sign of things to come, I believe.  I’m almost done here in Lincoln, and I can feel the big wide world grabbing hold of me, pulling me away, determined to free me from this place that has held me for so long.  I’m ready to let go now, and I’m walking towards the embrace of my future.

 

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