It comes upon you when you least expect it. I’ve spent the last few years trying to find peace resulting from family strife. Every day those thoughts are never far from my mind – will these people who used to call themselves ‘family’ pop into my head for any reason?
Well today a funny thing happened. I saw the name ‘Chloe’ – my (ex) sister’s name (yes, unlike me to be open and honest about details – fear of repercussions). She’s my ‘ex’ sister because she decided she no longer wanted to be part of my life, all lovingly explained in a 4-page letter (please note touch of sarcasm here!) And, well, if I’m being honest, this suited me fine (it’s a l-o-n-g and very complicated situation).
Anyway, I saw the name.
It was work related, nothing to do with family but it made me think of her. And for the first time in 3 years, I silently wished her well – genuinely.
I know I’ll never fully understand her side of the story, but I’ve always felt confused by her actions. And being the analytical Virgo that I am (and the fact I’ve carried the feeling of hurt around for some time), I questioned the new feeling I was experiencing. But no, there was nothing other than “I hope she’s well”.
Do I want to try to establish contact? Do I want to have that sister relationship? Do I miss her enough to try again? Well, that’s a firm ‘no’. I know my life is better this way and I’m certain hers is too.
So, I’ve kept items of clothing because a) I’ve spent a lot of money on them and can’t let go because of guilt or b) continue to tell myself that one day I will fit back into it.
Well, no more.
I’ve been reading a lot about decluttering and how living with less can actually make you happier. I am one of those people who spends more of their time analysing life than living it. I’ve started “bullet-planning” (more to come on that later) in order to make sense of my day – to give it structure, to help me find happiness, to seek contentment in my achievements. I spend too much time thinking about how things can be better – how ‘I’ can be better, because I really don’t think I’m doing a good job of that.
Anyway, I’ve read the same thing through various online sources, about ‘documenting’ clothing items rather storing them unnecessarily. And, whilst I thought this was a great idea, I’ve only recently decided to do it. So, here are my first two items.
My Beautiful Green Dress
I have lovely memories of this Monsoon dress! It was bought for a NatWest Summer Ball – the one where we had Derren Brown as our table entertainment (obviously in the days before his now stardom!). I must’ve been about 27 or 28 years old, so it’s now probably a ‘vintage’ dress being nearly 18 years old!
Not only was I young, but I felt wonderful that night. I remember the evening being fun with loads of laughter. I was in great shape and this dress fitted like a glove!
It’s a gorgeous green with a shimmery green/gold flower pattern. Gorgeous. I know I’ve worn it to other events, but this is the one I remember the most.
The dress doesn’t fit me anymore and having hung in my attic for the last 10 years, it probably should belong to someone who will enjoy it as much as I did.
This gorgeous blouse/shirt holds mixed memories for me. I bought it when I was in Paris for my 30th birthday. Gallery Lafayette – with it’s beautiful ceiling, I was determined I was going to bring home a little ‘Parisian Chic’ with me, and I did, with this Anne Fontaine shirt.
Whilst the trip was to celebrate my 30th Birthday, the mixed emotions surround the events that brought me and my husband to Paris in the first place. The date was September 2001. We should’ve been in New York, but my birthday happened after the tragic events that happened in the US earlier that month. Flights were suspended and we couldn’t go, so we changed our plans to Paris.
It was also during this time that we were busily trying for a baby (4 years in, to be precise), and there was an awful lot of stress going on. This was putting a ‘slight’ pressure on our relationship.
Like I say, mixed emotions. Oh, and again, the shirt has lived in my loft space for many years because since having my long-awaited children, my boobs got bigger and it no longer fits me!
So, there are my first two items, documented memories and a little space (very little space!) created in my loft. And possibly, a little cash made when they go on ebay!
So, this isn’t something I’ve written about much, but I’ve been training for a half marathon. The Bath Half Marathon to be precise. It was my first (and if you spoke to me yesterday, I would’ve been telling you it was my last!)
It all started last November, when I completed the Sodbury Slog – a mad 9.5 mile cross-country run/obstacle race literally on my doorstep (I had to run past my house for the last mile – that was tough!) It was my first major competitive race and I did it because someone told me I couldn’t (yeah, I’m a bit like that). I ran through 100m of knee-deep in water and shit trenches, across muddy fields, which by the time I got to them, were churned up and an accident waiting to happen, through sheep dips and pig troughs. It was amazing! I was knackered and exhilirated and so pleased to have made it to the end.
Well, that euphoria stayed with me for several days after and in that time I stupidly signed up to do the Bath Half Marathon. My thought process was simple – I just ran nearly 10 cross country miles so a half marathon should be as straightforward, right? It wasn’t through muddy fields, all nice and flat road surface – easy.
From the moment the transaction was processed, my training began.
Thank goodness for a relatively mild winter here in the UK! I ran three times a week and followed a ‘loose’ training program which involved gradually building up my miles every couple of weeks. I was lucky that I was only ‘out of running’ for about 2 weeks with a cold, but got back into it fairly quickly afterwards.
I had loads of encouragement from friends and family throughout which was great. Especially when I had to book in longer running sessions.
I am not a fast runner. Most runs, I’m lucky if I average 11min miles. I’ve occasionally hit a 9.something minute mile, but they have been very few and far between.
I did achieve a PB during my training program when I completed the Chilly 10K at Castle Combe. My god that was an awful day, with the wind and rain absolutely lashing at you sideways. My goal was 1.10 to complete and I actually did it in 1.07! Of course, this filled me with loads of confidence with the Bath Half looming in a couple of weeks …. Oh, silly me.
The week before the race, I rested. I walked everywhere, but no running. I’m really not sure if this was the best thing to do or not, but it’s what I did.
On the morning of the race the nerves were there (well, they had been all week really). I tried to be prepared with my running kit laid out ready the night before; husband had been briefed as to where he was going to drop me and I felt reasonably good, with an energy inducing breakfast inside me (weetabix and banana).
I was actually running with a friend and the plan was we would run the first couple of miles together and then she would run at her own pace, which is faster than mine. My advice: don’t make plans like this! When you go across that Start line, it’s a bun fight to find a position! Everyone is trying to find their own pace and when you’re mixed in with several thousand people, it’s every runner for themselves!
So, I silently said ‘goodbye’ to S and focused on the run ahead. Without going into detail, mile by mile, this is my general experience of the run:
It was a gorgeous day, hot in comparison to the winter month’s training schedule, so I should’ve grabbed water at the first drinks station. I didn’t.
I swear the miles are longer in a race. Those mile markers couldn’t come up quick enough! Especially 12 and 13!!
Running is definitely psychological war fare. The internal dialogue I had going on in my head the whole way round, was at some points, a killer. I could quite easily have given up at miles 5 and 11 because I’d managed to convince myself that I wasn’t going to complete it. And you know me, with those dreaded ‘mind monkeys‘ – they never stray very far!
It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve been to the toilet pre-race, when the need arises, you gotta go! Unfortunately for me, sports gels are not my friend and having taken one, I was either going to be sick or shit myself. Thank god for the portaloos on the way round! I stuck with water from there on in …
In training, the furthest I’d run was 10miles (which I thought was pretty good). Guess what, mile 11, my knees decided they’d had enough. The impact of the concrete roads reverberated through my whole legs like a form of torture.
I wished I’d put my name on my running top. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) watching, shouts encouragement as you run past them and if they saw a name, their support became personal.
I definitely admire those who rock up to a race dressed as a stormtrooper or head to toe in a furry dog outfit or a mug of coffee. Or even the army soldier in his fatigues carrying a beer fridge on his back. Kudos to him.
If you can draw enough breath to have a conversation, runners around you will respond. A knowing smile or a look of encouragement, it’s within all of us to do so, even if you’re having a hard time. I know I benefited from this on a couple of occasions and I believe I was able to reciprocate to others.
Bath Half is basically 2 laps of a circuit. Mental toughness is required when you get to the end of the first lap and know you’ve got to do it all again. But when you make the turn to run the last few miles, you know you’re nearly (oh so very nearly) there.
Seeing the Finish line ahead makes you run taller and (slightly) faster. To see your husband and kids on the sideline before you cross it, is an emotional moment (tears welling up in my eyes as I write this bit). Best bit of the race!
I’d set myself a target time. As this was my first half marathon this was without a doubt, the wrong thing to do. Just finishing is achievement in itself and I need to remember this (for info, I was 15 mins off my target time)
Never say “never again”! Tomorrow is always a new day which brings with it, fresh perspective. There is a science to running fast and I’m determined to master it! Which of course means, I will have to try this half marathon thing again to try and prove a point!
So, achy limbs aside, I think running is set to stay. It might be another year before I attempt another half marathon, but I want to suss how it’s possible to be faster as well as keep up with the endurance. I saw runners of all shapes and sizes so I know that for me, it is possible.
And when I get those moments of doubt or if I’ve had a crap run one day, I will look at my shiny medal to remind me of what I’ve achieved. Hell, I might even wear it for the day!
‘Mind Monkeys’. Definitely NOT my best friends. But sadly they are a constant in everything I do. I really do wish they would get lost and give me a break.
The “What if ..” mind monkey
The “So-and-so does it like this ..” mind monkey
The “Really? Are you sure?” mind monkey
The “Why?” mind monkey
The “Worry, worry, worry” mind monkey
The “But it will cost you …” mind monkey
The “Is that really quality time” mind monkey
So many of them. GO AWAY!
I can’t seem to do anything without worrying if it’s the right thing or not. Everything from household tasks to decisions for the kids and family. It’s never without a comparison or question. Sometimes it is so debilitating that NOTHING gets done! I can spend the whole day just looking at stuff. Moving it from one room to another without any plan or constructive action.
And if you look at the context of the mind monkeys – not one of them is a “it’s too hard” – so what’s the problem?
This morning I realised that I have to motivate myself to be motivated! How the hell does that work?
Quite often, I would just like to ‘switch off’. Advise everyone around me that I’m not doing anything (and I mean ANYTHING). Switch off from all responsibility and decision making. Let others do it for me and for themselves.
All the jobs and tasks that get taken for granted (Taxi service, meal planner, clothes and washing sorting, social diary organiser, ensuring balance in lives, encourager, listener, advice centre, verbal punch-bag, reminder service plus many more) – let someone else do it for a change. Because when I get involved, those bloody mind-monkeys take over and it’s all a general pain in the ass.
“The most we can do as a parent is provide for our children, love them for who they truly are, and help them to develop into their own capable, unique person. We should always aim to care more about our child’s character than how he or she appears. What kind of person are they? Are they kind? Compassionate? Patient? Resilient? When we lead by example, we can help our children to be independent, and therefore, more confident in facing the world. When we do this, we teach our children that it is even okay to fail, that they are strong enough to persevere, push through challenges and improve to become the kind of person they themselves seek to be.” (Dr. Lisa Firestone)
I must remember this every time I wonder if I’m doing the right thing as a parent.
I must remember this every time I compare my parenting to others around me.
I must remember this every time I feel envy that other parents are creating more opportunities for their children, than I am.