Monthly Archives: January 2017

Making myself unpopular (again)

I’ve never tried to be friends with my kids,because I’m not their friend, I’m their parent. I don’t try to make them like me, I hope they just do because I try to be fair and reasonable and treat them with respect, in the hope that they will do the same. I say TRY because I’m not superhuman and I’m far from perfect. I get tired, I get fed up, I get sick of saying the same bloody thing all the bloody time (apparently I say bloody a lot).

I think tonight I am going to make myself very unpopular with the teen and nearly teen in my life. I have got K on board so hopefully we will both get equal dibs in the unpopularity stakes but I suspect that I will be seen as the ringleader, mainly because I’ve got form. K doesn’t shout much: he gets annoyed when strange black marks appear on the staircase wall (he painted it so he feels aggrieved when it gets messed up); he gets a bit cross when he sees the state of their school shoes on a Sunday night when he comes to clean them; he gets a bit annoyed when T starts banging around in his room at 10 pm because he’s suddenly remembered to back his school bag. Generally, I’m the shouter. As I said, I’ve got form. I’m not going to be shouting tonight, at least I don’t plan to, I just want a chat.  I’m not going to broach it as having a chat in inverted commas as that will set alarms ringing. I’m going to just drop it into conversation over dinner.

Sounds ominous doesn’t it? It’s not really. It’s not actually that big a deal. I just want us all to switch off our devices by a certain time and leave them downstairs overnight. It’s not been prompted by any specific incident, and this is where I am wavering slightly. I have ALWAYS told my kids I would give them a reason for my answer or actions. If I say “No” to anything I will always tell them why – it’s got me in some tricky situations over the years, where I’ve had to have conversations that I would much rather not have – so this one is going to be a bit difficult. I suppose I have quite a few reasons for it, but they are all going to be deemed lame and “old-person” concerns and mum having another hissy fit about devices and screen time. And I suppose they are right in some respects. I don’t like the amount of time the kids spend on devices but I also feel that K and I are slightly obsessed too and that we could benefit from this blackout period as much as the kids. It’s too easy to fill five minutes while waiting for the kettle to boil by looking at Twitter or Instagram and we both respond to texts or messages in lightning fast time. I want to be less of a slave to it and less addicted and I want some sort of enforced separation from the culprits (the devices). It’s easy for the kids to say they won’t go on their phones after 8pm but still have them in their rooms. The temptation is too great and although I have never caught either of them online at an ungodly hour, I can’t say with hand on heart that I believe them when they say they won’t. I find it hard to not look at my phone and I’m old – how hard must it be for them?

I know this is going to be very unpopular as we’ve tried various other strategies in the past – I went with T not speaking to me for a whole 24 hours after I installed a curfew app on his phone a while back – but I’m not going to back down on this. I am made of stern stuff and I can deal with being a bit (OK a lot) unpopular if it means we can be a bit more engaged with each other and do other stuff, even if it’s just watching TV together. Maybe, if the devices are downstairs and switched off, the kids will come downstairs a bit more often and actually have a conversation. Maybe. Watch this space.

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Why I’m finally ditching the scales

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I started my first diet at the age of 14. I was feeling unconfident. I was probably getting to the stage that many teenage girls go through and comparing myself to my friends I felt huge. I wasn’t; I was perfectly fine. But, I wanted to lose weight and so I embarked on the Rosemary Conley Hip and Thigh Diet. It was a revolutionary diet at the time and it focused on the areas that I was unhappy with (and if I’m honest, still am) and so that was that. I can’t remember how much weight or inches I lost; probably not a huge amount as I didn’t have a huge amount to lose but it was the start of a lifelong cycle of dieting – Weight Watchers, Slimming World, Rosemary Conley, GI Diet, Slimming World again, – gaining weight, dieting for a special occasion or because it was a new year or summer was looming. I can’t remember a single year in the last 30 when I haven’t embarked on some sort of regime to lose weight and achieve that ever-elusive goal of feeling happy with my body.

I can count on one hand the number of times when I have felt happy with myself: when I went on holiday in 1996 and met K, I was happy and confident and I look back at the time as my golden year; when I was pregnant with A, I remember feeling proud of my body as I didn’t go crazy eating everything I could lay my hands on as I did when I was expecting T and I felt good – I was still huge but in a definitely pregnant way and not in a “is she just fat?” way;  when I got married I felt alright, but I can vividly remember feeling unhappy with my upper arms. The rest was OK as I was in a boned dress which held me in and an a-line skirt covered my legs and bum. It was just my arms that were on show and I was very conscious of them. What an awful thing to have as a resounding memory from a very special day.

So, in 30 years of dieting I can pinpoint around 3 times when I have felt good-ish about myself. I have had mini-moments at other times I’m sure, maybe on a night out in a new top or a pair of jeans that fitted well, but never for any prolonged periods of time, and the times when I have gone out feeling dreadful and wishing I was somewhere else – preferably at home in my pyjamas – far outweigh those mini-moments.

I know that there are exercise regimes that promise to sort out my thighs or my upper arms, that I could lose half a stone or more by following a diet plan, or by starting running. But I have reached the ripe old age of 44 and I have realised that I am probably never going to be happy with my body. So why am I still trying to remedy this? Why am I making myself feel unwell by starting yet another healthy eating regime (when I already eat pretty darn healthily anyway and it only messes up my system and flares up my tummy troubles)? I have had the worst week with my tummy since April last year and I can pinpoint it to a drastic change in my diet. It makes me feel debilitated and stops me wanting to go anywhere or see anyone. It stops me wanting to go for walks and it stops me wanting to make plans. How is that going to make me happy? Simple answer: it’s not. And if I’m still not going to be happy with my body after it all (based on the last 30 years) then why am I doing it?

The answer: I am obsessed with the scales and with being a “good” weight. This for me has always been the holy grail. I can put chunky arms and wobbly thighs to the back of my mind if the scales are saying the right things. And they can kill a good mood like switching off a light: I can wake up feeling pretty good, the sun is shining (not today obvs) and I’ve slept OK (again, not today) but then I go and step on the scales and BOOM I will be almost in tears of despair. All because of some numbers on a small battery operated machine. I have a set of numbers in my head and if the scales don’t show something between those numbers then I feel worthless, useless, hopeless. Even if I had previously been feeling relatively comfortable, relatively healthy. And it’s only those numbers that make me embark on regimes and make me stop eating things that aren’t bad but which are deemed off limits by the people in the know – the people who run diet clubs, the people with a new book to sell or a new DVD to promote.

So, rather than end up with pains and a bloated stomach that can’t be contained, but that was previously not that bad really, just not perfect and never will be (hallelujah – it’s only taken 30 years), I am ditching the scales. I am ditching the diet books. I am going to teach myself to not flinch when I look in the mirror, I am going to be nicer to me. I am going to make myself look at the bits I don’t like and try and see them as just little minor imperfections, little flaws that make up ME. If someone gives me a compliment (here’s hoping) I will thank them graciously and maybe even make a mental note of it so that I can drag it out to cheer myself up with when the new tactics are struggling a little.

But mainly I am going to just stop trying to make myself into something I will never be: stop comparing myself to people who are 3 feet shorter or 2 feet taller or just basically an entirely different person to me. I can only compare me to me and I’m not even going to do that anymore – no more comparing the me of now to the me of my twenties or the me of my thirties. I am me as I am now and I am going to try and be happy with it. Bye bye scales and diet books. From now on it’s me and …….just me.

 

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One of the seven emails from the nice lady talked about social media and how it can completely undermine our positive feelings.

As you will know, if you have been reading my blog for a while, I had a sabbatical from Facebook a while back and only kept in touch with the groups that I am in via a separate app (I need this facility so that I can see when my lovely ladies are meeting up and for selling stuff). I gave it up because it was making me cross. All I saw were people’s dinners, people’s cats/dogs (which I am sure appeal to all the animal lovers out there but that’s not me), adverts and what other people have “liked” – I don’t want to see the photos of a complete stranger even though our mutual friend thinks they are nice.

I started dipping back in again when my friend was doing an event and I wanted to see updates and pictures. I was appalled at how quickly I got sucked back into looking at it every day and how quickly those feelings of annoyance and irritation came back. I’ve tried to ignore it since but do find myself checking in on it every once in a while. I would dearly love to remove it completely, delete my account and forget all about this world that takes over our lives. But, as I deliberated over this all those months ago, the reasons for not removing myself from it remain: I want to stay in touch with some old school friends and family members and most of them only use Facebook and not Instagram (still my favoured social media of choice); I like to keep up to date with my book club ladies; and I like to sell the odd item on the local Parent Network. If it weren’t for these things I would gladly move along.

One of the points that the nice lady made was that we see pictures of people’s lives and assume that their lives are like this ALL THE TIME. I’m not naive enough to believe this and I’ve never been one for sitting looking at the computer and thinking “I wish that were me”. But it did get me thinking about our motives for posting certain photos and/or status updates. Some people (and I’m not talking about people I know) are blatant attention seekers posting cryptic statuses crying out for a “What’s up, hun?” response; others are serial likers and “like” every post known to man; others want the world and his wife to know every minute details of their lives. Some people post pictures of their families out on a walk (er herm, yes I put my hands up to that one); or on holiday. Surely that’s acceptable?

I post regularly on Instagram and like to share snaps of where we have had a nice stroll or of a tasty cake that A has made. I would hate to think that this could be misconstrued as showing off or trying to appear to have a perfect existence. We endeavour to get out and about for a bike ride or walk fairly regularly but this is not my entire life. However, according to the nice lady in her email, there are people who may see this and feel downhearted that their life is not full of walks in the countryside or of nice cakes. I might well post a picture of my kids smiling and laughing on a walk but it doesn’t show them bickering about who is going to eat the last sandwich from the picnic 20 minutes later. It doesn’t show the row we had over who had walked mud into the house when we got home half an hour after the walk through the fields; or me getting cross when A didn’t clean the kitchen after making a lovely cake. Of course we don’t show this stuff. Who wants to see that?

But this is what my children’s generation are growing up with and they are part of a new culture where real life is hidden behind a mask of perfect photos that have been filtered or photo-shopped. They are inundated with this social media stuff and they live in a world where it is much harder to “opt out”. I know that my friends selfie is just a snapshot of her life and that hours later she was despairing over what to cook her kids for dinner. I would like to think that my daughter knows that her friend only looks like a model in her pageant photos because she has a ton of makeup on and had her hair done professionally. She DOES know this. She knows what her friend looks like on a day to day basis but it could so easily be different. And it worries me. I will be having yet another “chat” about the realities of photos on social media and maybe thinking a bit more about how many photos I post. Perhaps you will see the odd one of the dogshit on my shoe or my cry-face when no-one likes the dinner I cooked. Perhaps not.

 

Be nice

It’s not hard at all to be nice to people I like. It’s not hard at all to be nice to someone who is nice to me.

It’s quite hard to be nice to myself.

In the run up to the New Year, and since it has started, I have read the odd article and a couple of blogs about Me Time, Mindfulness and generally Being Nice to Yourself. I’ve “signed up” in a virtual way to a sort of campaign on Instagram called #SavouringJanuary2017 which asks us to post a picture each day that represents, for us, a word from a list. e.g. Day 1 was Quiet: I posted a pic of my newly gifted colouring book and pens; yesterday was Soothe and I had run myself a bath after a long day involving a five mile walk and the rest of the time sat in front of the computer working. All of the words are pretty innocuous but all are aimed at making us stop and think. The same nice lady that created this list and #SavouringJanuary2017 campaign is also sending me (not just me!) a daily email for a week with mindfulness ideas and ways to be nicer to myself.

I’ve always struggled with taking time for myself. I always think of something else I should be doing instead and from time to time find myself feeling resentful. It’s not anyone else’s fault. I don’t ask K if he wants some time to himself so why should I be any different? He just goes off out to tidy the garage (apparently it is a thing men do) or off to the gym or sits and watches telly – he doesn’t ask permission and nor should he! But I just don’t seem to give myself permission to stop doing stuff for everyone else. I do watch TV  or read a book or knit occasionally but quite often I am interrupted with thoughts of “oh crap I haven’t done such and such for so and so”. Or I wonder about things I could have done better or how I could have handled a situation differently. OK I know I think things over way too much. It’s a flaw.

One of the emails from the nice lady suggests monitoring your inner voice. The one that shouts in your head that you did something really badly or that your arse is massive. My inner voice is REALLY loud and quite hard to ignore, and the nice lady says I need to train it to be nicer. I’ve got to make it into a friend and make it speak to me the way a friend would. I have two particularly lovely friends (I have a number of lovely friends but these two are particularly lovely) who are very complimentary (not in an ingratiatingly irritating unnecessary way) and make me feel good about myself. I’m going to try and make my inner voice be more like them.

Does this all sound a bit mental? I’m just trying to start the New Year off in a different way to how I have approached them in years gone by. I normally start off with a mad strict diet or some crazy exercise idea that never happens. I inevitably fail and then my inner voice shouts at me (her again) and it all goes Pete Tong from there. But I think I can definitely try to be nicer to myself. How hard can it be? Another idea which I haven’t quite got on board with is to make an actual appointment in the diary for some Me Time. That sounds like a bridge too far. Is it meant to go in my diary or does the inner voice need a diary of her own? Do I really need to write in the diary an appointment on Wednesday evenings – Have A Soak In The Bath, or, Go For A Walk? Surely I should just be able to fit these things in. Or am I missing the point again?

I know this is a problem for many women (and probably some men; they don’t like to be left out) or it wouldn’t be something that people blog or email about and Mindfulness wouldn’t be a thing. I know lots of women who are constantly chasing their tails and I’m no different from them. Let’s all just be a bit nicer. To us.

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