Self-care and starting again. Again.

Self-care is a big thing in the trade that I’ve been learning over the last few years. If you spend your working life using your own body to assist other people to feel better in their bodies, it can be wearing – on the joints, on the fingers and thumbs, on the muscles, and on the soul.

Tonight, slouched on the sofa in my most disgusting clothes, having scarfed down an entire packet of Jaffa Cakes in a bid to feel good about where I am in life, I realised I’m not being good at self-care. Again.

I haven’t eaten the five-a-day in months (the orange in the Jaffa Cakes sadly does not count). There have been days where it hasn’t even been one-a-day. I’ve let these days slip by and accumulate. Oh, tomorrow will be different.

We’ve all made the resolution that starts right after we jump gleefully off the wagon. Right now I’m watching the wagon leave without me, telling myself I’ll take up running again to catch up with it, while I plan more ways to make myself sick enough that I can’t get out of bed tomorrow.

It’s not the food that’s making my body sick. I can only blame the nation I live in for so many things. The supermarkets in this part of the country are stacked with goodness that I could sink my teeth into, but instead I end up reaching for the boxed mac and cheese, telling myself I won’t really eat it.

It was delicious, by the way, with a good lashing of black pepper.

I could eat the good food. I could tell Cowboy that beef is off the menu, he can just suck it up, it’s steamed fish and vegetables from now on – although I’m not sure how long our relationship would last if I cut him off that abruptly.

I cleaned the stalls in the barn today while he was out, because it was physical activity that would get me warm and breathing a little harder, and it felt lovely. Later, in my Jaffa stupor on the sofa, the thought suddenly hit me in the face like a wet sponge.

You are really quite depressed, Bee. You need to do more exercise, and eat better, and you’ll feel happier again. You always do! It’s ok. You can fix this.

So I did the sensible thing and went to get into my pyjamas and go to bed in a funk. Here I am.

The first step to self-care has been to put on Beyonce in my outrageously loud headphones and blast some empowerment into my eardrums. The second step was to google counselling in this neck of the woods and discover that the gym is so very much cheaper, gracious me. So, my therapist will probably be telling me to squat and push rather than asking me how my week has been. But that’s ok, I get the same end result of being a more normal human being.

Added bonus: revitalised buns, abs and guns of steel.

Here’s the kicker: this whole thing is a cycle. Every few months, I get into this dark, deep place, and I have to haul myself out by my arse again. This blog will become a catalogue of pledges to start again, to change again, because I get happy and I get complacent, and then I get not happy again.

It’s ok to keep starting again. As long as I keep checking in and noticing that it’s bad, it’s ok to have to keep restarting. Ignore all those snappy Pinterest posts about how if you’re sick of starting over, stop giving up. Bullshit. Start over as many times as you need. Good for you!

I’m going to go and eat cereal for dinner. I’ll start over in the morning.

We made it!

Two years, three months and eighteen days after we met in Montana, on a dreary, rainy day here in the Pacific Northwest, Cowboy and I got married.

#Regram from @ellekealy - I had the best day yesterday.
And we are living happily ever after.

Things that happened today

I lay in bed for over an hour after the alarm went off and asked Cowboy if I could stay and hide in bed all day. He said no. He’s cruel sometimes.

The cat managed to lick me right on the eyelid, even though I’ve been trying to make him understand that I don’t like it when he licks my face. The licky little ninja.

I went outside and discovered Sunshine being the perfect horse for a two year old girl. She really is pretty special to let a small child lead her all over the field without batting an eyelid.

We went to the ocean and I collected sea glass for some unknown reason. What will I do with sea glass?

I finally met a number of Cowboy’s family members whose names I know but whose faces were brand new to me. They were full of kind and positive things.

Enough people came to my house at one time that they used all of my mugs. My house is not big enough for this many people, but it happened somehow.

We switched the heating on. Winter is coming.

My brother and sister arrived in town and we embarrassed my brother at a Mexican restaurant. It involved a sombrero and singing Happy Birthday, loudly.

My good friend from Minneapolis arrived in town and we realised we haven’t really spoken in about two years, and it was so awesome to see each other again.

The cat got in to a tin that I hadn’t washed out yet and now his face smells like food.

I think Cowboy has been abducted.

When the Cowboy is away, mice will… clean.

Cowboy is away for the weekend with the caballos, and I am staying at home with the cat and the dog and my cold medication. I’m attempting to use these three days of relative quiet to reorganise our haphazard little home and try to establish some kind of order to the place.

When Cowboy moved in, without me, he pretty much just camped wherever his stuff landed. When I came to visit, I stashed most things in the cupboard nearest to wherever they had landed. This means I have a whole cupboard dedicated to plastic bags, bookshelves covered in tools, and a closet full of junk.

The first thing I’ve done is to go through the box of small change from our bedroom. I’ve made $80 this weekend! Hooray!

I do love the days when I can find the best part of $80 in change and singles. This is a small haul compared to previous change-sorting missions.I’ve learned how to fold a fitted sheet courtesy of Youtube, and folded all of my fitted sheets. It’s the little victories that make my day worthwhile.

I ate more of my weird soup that I made the other day, and it has only improved with age. The spice has really ramped up. Mmmm…

Blue Dog after a bath

I emptied out our walk-in closet in the bedroom and found all of Cowboy’s guitar picks (he is always complaining he can’t find any). I also found more money. Hooray again!

Then I gave Blue Dog a bath, because he smelled horrific and I couldn’t stand it any longer.

He took it well. His old trick of lying on the ground like a dead weight beside the bathtub didn’t work for him. Since I became Amazonian and strong, I can now lift him. He decided to get in the tub of his own accord after I manhandled him a couple of times, and that made the whole experience more pleasant for both of us.

Once he was sweet-smelling and no longer a menace to society, he was very keen to go outside. He promptly ran to the back field and rolled…

Blue Dog after a bath

… and rolled…

Blue Dog after a bath

… and rolled…

Blue Dog after a bath

I didn’t think he was going to stop…

Blue Dog after a bath

Eventually he was satisfied and we came back inside, where I managed to make more mess than I had tidied up in the closet. I abandoned the project midway through.

I finally put away my suitcases in the shed, and rearranged a few things in there so that it is actually accessible and no longer a minefield. While I was outside, I pulled up a weed or two that I could see, thinking I’d head back inside and finish the closet.

Two hours later, I was still ripping out weeds. I would still be ripping out weeds if my 90 gallon garden waste bin wasn’t completely full, and it wasn’t dark. I have a lot of weeds. I grew them myself.

Tomorrow: I finish the closet project, and the living room project. We might be getting somewhere.

Early days

I moved to a new country on Wednesday. It is now Saturday, and I have spent the last two days cleaning my house, stocking up my cupboards at Costco, befriending the kitten (including believing I had lost the kitten out of a window, crying in the garden thinking I would be dumped for being a negligent girlfriend, finding said kitten inside the house after all – hiding in the recliner), and attempting to get my head around the gargantuan to-do list. It’s early days in the New Life.

I have also succeeded in eating badly, sleeping badly, overreacting, panicking, and my personal favourite: sitting in a stupor.

Cowboy is hiding from me this morning, while I scowl at the computer. Who knew it would be so difficult to find affordable, relatively nice furniture in an actual shop where I could go in and just get the furniture? I didn’t realise how important it would be to me to have furniture. I’ve been living out of a suitcase for weeks now. It was fine while I was waiting to move, but now I’m here, I want to plunge some roots down and feel like I have a home.

It’s becoming an ordeal. If I could hide from myself, I would.

On the flip side, things that I thought would be horrible, terrible, insurmountable issues as part of the move have turned out to be nothings, and the relief is overwhelming.

Yesterday I played with the horses in the rain, and began to see how good life is going to be. If I could only get some furniture…

Last minute

It is rapidly becoming the last minute. I am down to last minute meetings, last minute socialising, last minute packing, last minute shopping, last minute panicking, etc etc.

Today has mostly been about last minute hair dye, as I realised it must be almost a year since my mother slapped henna (I use Caca Rouge from Lush, and have done so for over ten years) all over my head and I propped myself up for several hours while the mud did its miracle thing on my hair.

With what feels like several tonnes of goop and clingfilm on my head at the moment, my neck is rather sore. That may have something to do with the killer upper body workout that Mark the Magician made me do this morning. His trainers matched the walls of the gym today. I was rather impressed, but I don’t think it was intentional.

“Rather than mess about with more reps,” he said, as I sipped water in a recovery break between push presses, “how about we just build up this weight to about that of a saddle?” This man has paid close attention to my goals, and I love him for it.

If I can now push 60lbs over my head three times, without dying immediately, hopefully I can avoid the shame of flinging Cowboy’s saddle, forcefully and enthusiastically, into the side of my horse instead of over her back.

I’ve also ended up doing some last minute bonding with this little monster, who has spent the last nine months completely ignoring me.

She has finally realised that I will scratch her ears, rub her belly and bump heads with her at her every whim.

I’ll even feed her. I’m that kind of cat person.

Marmite

Marmite

I think she might be a little sad when I leave, if she even notices, of course.

MarmiteI’m not really going to miss her needle sharp claws being dug (with love) into my legs, arms, neck, feet, fingers, etc.

She can be a little over zealous with her affection.

She also likes to dribble on me when she’s really enjoying the bonding session. Then she likes to shake her head and spray the dribble all over me, and whatever it is I’ve been doing whilst petting her. Thanks, Marmite…

You love her or you hate her. Her name really is appropriate.

Progress report

Mark the Magician (the personal trainer) had casually mentioned in my first session with him that a person should really be able to deadlift their own body weight without too much trouble. That was the same day that I squeaked and groaned as I tried to deadlift 25kg, and protested, “That’s really quite heavy!”

He was gallant about it and didn’t laugh at me until a week later.

Today, I was lifting 50kg. It was tough, but up it went, for 6 reps. Then I did pull ups – pull ups! – for 6 reps (I’ll admit, they were assisted rather than my full body weight, but still). This whole process was repeated 5 times. I felt like Xena. Next time we do deadlifts, apparently we’re gunning for the full body weight equivalent. It’s exciting.

Now when I tense my glutes, there’s actually a slight curve to my butt, and there is something firm underneath the winter stores. This is very exciting. It’s been a long time since I had a butt worth mentioning.

The to-do list

Well, gosh…

I always imagine that, at some point, I will be on the winning side of my to-do list. I’ll eventually have fewer things to do than I have already done, and the end will be in sight. Occasionally I dream that I will have nothing left to do, and then I can mess about being creative and frivolous (and play Xbox).

On my brief trip out to Washington last month, I drew up a to-do list in the first day or so, and then spent the entire visit adding to it. A few things were crossed off, such as “buy Xbox”, and generally I’m pleased with what I got done at the new house, but I left behind so many tasks that I felt I should have been able to conquer if I hadn’t been wallowing in illness and misery on the couch.

Being ill in America is very crappy, and I do not recommend it.

I have come back to the UK for what I hope to be the last time before I get permission to be in the US for the foreseeable future. My to-do list here is growing by the day. I grapple most with the strange way that other people’s to-do lists seem to end up being put on to mine, because I have “nothing else to do but wait around”, as I was told this morning.

How glorious it is when your work is tangible, and you can show somebody what you’ve been doing all day, when they can see you physically toiling away on an object or a task with immediately measurable results. What a luxury it must be not to have to explain that you might appear to be freely available, but you are in fact masterminding a global operation. It just happens to involve a lot of sitting down.

All I can do at this point is get my glasses on, get my head down, and get on with what needs doing, and attempt to hold it all together without having a meltdown.

I think Cowboy is expecting a meltdown soon. He usually knows before I do…

The Last Hurrah

The end of my feeble, wasted, lazy existence is nigh.

On Monday morning, I slithered into my running lycras and went to meet Mark. Mark, a personal trainer, owns a little outfit in Oxford called StudioPT, and I have asked him to fix me.

I did my best to put him off working with me. “My fitness is terrible. I am a walking disaster. I am riddled with old injuries.” He was undeterred, and unfortunately I had to show up at his private gym and feign enthusiasm.

The studio is well equipped, bright and airy, and has a banging soundtrack. After a quick sit down to discuss my situation, Mark put me through my paces as an assessment session.

He is tall, lean, and oozes power. He demonstrated each exercise with little to no effort, and corrected my wavering form as I tried not to shake too obviously in the press ups. This was nothing like my usual visits to the gym.

Mark is going to whip my butt into shape, starting tomorrow morning. He says he has a plan. I’m slightly terrified.

I’m preparing the best way I can think of, with one last rebellion – sitting on the sofa watching the Food Network, eating a bacon sandwich, and binging on cake.

On climbing back on.

“Get straight back on!” my instructor would shrill, marching over to wherever I was picking myself up out of the dirt. “Up you get! Get back on!”

That’s the first rule that I remember learning about horses, apart from never using a mane comb on the tail. If you come off, get straight back on.

It’s decent enough advice, and intended to stop setbacks from sticking long enough to become issues and obstacles. See that crappy thing that just happened? You can get over it and move on and still have a great time, and that crappy thing becomes a great big nothing.

It’s been a strange time in life lately, and I fell off this blog. I fell off normal life. I fell into being somebody else for a little while, and realised it was no fun. Worst of all, I climbed off my horse. I climbed off, voluntarily, intentionally. Even though I landed on my feet like a regular dismount, I might as well have thrown myself face first into the dirt. My demons cackled with glee.

See these crappy things that happened? They’re huge and terrible and your life is over and you’ll never be happy again. You are a great big nothing.

It spiralled. I watched myself behave in a way that I hated. I listened to myself say things to Cowboy that were unfathomably horrible. I felt myself sliding like a poisoned body into a murky swamp, completely apathetic to stop it from happening.

It wasn’t quite what I wanted, given that I was making plans for my whole future at the time, and a murky swamp wasn’t what I really had in mind.

Shut up, the demons said. What you want doesn’t matter. You’ll never get it. You’re going to fail at everything you ever do, you’ll lose everything you’ve ever had, and you’ll never have anything again.

And then I finally saw the sunshine. I saw this Sunshine:

We played today. :)

I sat in the saddle in tears, about to climb off again (throw myself metaphorically face first in the metaphorical dirt). I had a violent meltdown. I was on the verge of quitting – quitting everything. I’d just go back to bed and never get up again.

Cowboy gripped my knee as I went to dismount, holding me still. He was unusually forceful. He almost shook me.

“Stay on the horse,” he said. I fought him feebly for a moment. He said it again, slower, more urgently. “Stay. On. The horse.”

“I can’t,” I protested, sobbing. “I’m just not in the right mood.” I’ll never be in the right mood again. Everything is worthless and useless and my life is already over.

“She doesn’t care,” he said. “Go ride.” He let go of us, and chased Sunshine off into the middle of the arena.

I sat there as she walked about, looking for a spot where she might be allowed to stop. I didn’t even pick up the reins. I watched her look back at me first with one brown eye, and then the other. She listened to me as I tried to catch my breath between the tears. She heaved a big sigh, and stepped onwards across the sand.

I finally came out of the haze. I emerged, squinting, from the toxic fog where the demons muttered at me, and I noticed the way she moved beneath me. I noticed her gentle, deliberate footfalls, and her patient breath. When we finally stopped, I felt her big heart pumping.

We had a big breakthrough that day. I say “we” did. I mean me. She has life all figured out already. I needed to hear it from her. She turned her head a little, looked up at me on her back. I like to think she was saying “Hey, human, what’s the big deal? I’ve got this.”

She became a safe place. That’s an amusing notion, given that just a few weeks earlier I had been frightened to be on her back. Now, I will climb on her fresh from the field, and we put the world to rights.

Except now I am back in England, thousands of miles from her, and looking into the fog once more. In searching for another safe place, I’m climbing back on to the blog. Let’s ride.