Sunday, 26 April 2015

why it's OK to not be OK

source
When I was at uni, we had one seminar where our teacher told us about this personality test that described you as a shape. She looked at me for several seconds and concluded, 

"You would be a circle. A typical people pleaser."

Bearing in mind I had probably accrued less than 10 minutes face time with this particular teacher, I was a little taken aback. But I also thought, yuh-huh - that's me.

I do try to please people and make them happy. I HATE the idea of someone hating me. I strive to be "well-liked" in pretty much all areas of my life and I'm (finally) realising that it isn't healthy.

Because, as well as striving to make everyone else happy and OK, I sometimes find myself lying to them to do this. Telling them that I am fine. Life is cushty. I am OK. Most of the time, this is true - I have a pretty healthy relationship with myself and with life - and all things considered I really do have it cushty. But I think maybe this week it wasn't true... and I hit my limit.

I realised this when on Friday night I was watching the last episode of The OC (I heart Seth, don't judge) and I cried. Like, a lot. And then I couldn't stop crying. To a point where I had to stop and think - this isn't all about Seth and Summer being the cutest couple ever now is it? Still, I decided to ignore it and drink a giant glass of red instead (smart).

The next day turned out to be sad for a variety of different reason which I won't go into here. Suffice to say, I hit my limit of trying to be all things to all people. I saw my choices - I could either smile and nod, say I was OK and things are great while slowly simmering with sadness under the surface, or I could just stop. So that's what I've done.

Today there has been no smile plastered on my face to make others feel better. I've spent time on my yoga mat, drank tea while watching films and listened to Damien Rice. I've also made a vow to put myself first. A statement that may sound selfish to some, but is actually just something I need to do right now. I'm going to stop tip-toing around people, saying what I think they want to hear so they continue to perceive me as the 'nice one', I'm going to stop pretending I'm OK in the rare moments when I'm not and I'm going to be happier for it.

So the overall message of this post? It really is OK to admit that, sometimes, you're not OK. Stop worrying about what other people think of you and stay true to yourself and what you need. Even if that means a day of solitude, or hell even a week of solitude. Figure out what you need to be OK again, and do it - without worrying about other people or their perceptions of you. If they love you they'll understand and let you get on with it. 

On that note, I'm going to hide in my room for the rest of the evening - laterz. 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

itchy feet

Top L-R: Amsterdam, Thailand, Spain / Bottom L-R: Switzerland, Berlin, Dubai

Travel is something I've been brought up with, thanks to a long line of BA employees in the family. Our family holidays took us around the world, from Barbados, America and Spain to Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi and Dubai (before anyone had ever heard of it).

After family holidays became a thing of the past I didn't think about travelling too much. It wasn't until I saw my parents' holiday snaps from Thailand and thought 'I need to go there' that I realised I wanted to see more of the world. So, I did just that. I booked myself a month-long trip to Thailand and had a fantastic experience.

Since then, being in full-time employment has meant travel has taken a back seat. But I've still managed to get around a bit. I've hung out in cafes in Amsterdam, hiked mountains in Switzerland and, most recently, went back and enjoyed the city life in Dubai. 

I kinda decided on my birthday that this year was going to be one of exploration, and to me that means more travelling. I've already booked flights to Budapest (totally crashing my friend's weekend away) and already have a couple of other things in the pipeline. 

What I thought would be fun however is to write up a list of things/places I want to 'do' travel wise. A travel bucket-list for me to look up when I'm planning adventures - not just this year but in the future too. 

So here goes....

A yoga retreat - somewhere sunny

I've been totally inspired by my friend who spent a month in Brazil getting her yoga teacher training and am desperate to go on a yoga holiday. I think a week-long retreat would be a good start and then perhaps I could work up to a month in Brazil...

A solo adventure - somewhere sunny

I want to do this because it would scare me a little and empower me a lot. I figure once I get the first solo experience under my belt there'll be no stopping me. To ease myself into it I want to find somewhere where I can just chill on a beach for a week and just 'be'.

A foodie holiday - Italy

Italians know their shizz when it comes to cooking, we all know that, and I want to fully appreciate that by eating all the food. Maybe I could take a cooking class too and whizz around town on a Vespa... 

A city break - Barcelona/Paris

I've been to both these cities when I was very young - but I want to go back and experience them as an adult. I've also just downloaded the 'Duolingo' app and am throwing myself back into learning Spanish, so Barcelona may be just the place to practise my skills.

A taste of paradise - Bali/Fiji/Hawaii

I want to go somewhere and live the life of a beach-loving-new-age-hippy for a while. I'll meditate every morning, take surfing lessons, do yoga on the sand and start making jewellery from driftwood.

An American dream - San Fran/New York

  I don't know why but I feel like San Francisco is a city I could live in one day. I like its vibe. I went there with my parents when I was younger for a couple of days and remember thinking - yeah I dig it here (probably after inhaling a huge portion of cheesy chips in a dank alleyway). So I would like to explore that idea. And I've never been to New York, and that makes me sad, so I need to rectify this. 

I could probably go on forever, but I wont - 600 words will suffice. I'll finish with a few uplifting quotes to give you itchy feet too.... 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

ghost


In that moment she felt like a ghost. Like the dearly departed spirit of someone who once had a fantastic life. Now she was transparent. Forgotten by all except her pet who somehow still felt her presence.  

Sat behind a glowing screen she became a sightseer of other people's lives. She watched as they explored new worlds and laughed with old friends. In her head she was right there with them. Floating in the dead sea, kissing their boyfriends and living their lives. 

Except she wasn't. She was glued to the spot. Overlooked and slightly bewildered. Messages she sent to the living got lost. The words she thought she was screaming came out as a whisper. The work she did all day vanished in front of her very eyes. She was a computer that crashed and lost all of its data.

Perhaps, she thought tentatively, it is time to reboot.

**********************************************************

I don't know why, but I always seem to get inspired by slightly odd movies. Last time I wrote a little creative piece on here was after I watched Lost in Translation. This time it was after I watched The Double. 

The film was dark, funny and struck a chord. It's about a mild-mannered man called Simon who meets his double - a man who looks exactly like him but has the confidence to do everything he doesn't. His double proceeds to take over his life while Simon disappears into the background. Simon even describes himself as a ghost at one point, saying he 'doesn't exist'... and I think on some level we can all feel like that. Like we aren't really here.

I think social media can make this feeling even more irksome. Looking at all the exciting things others are doing on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest - all while you're sat at home watching weird films with your cat. Of course, we all know that everyone has evenings/weekends when they do nothing of note, and that most people only post the 'fun' or 'exciting' moments in life on social media. Even so, it can be easy to fall into the FOMO trap - why aren't I doing things like that? What's wrong with me? 

And just like that, you forget all the fun and exciting moments you've had (and shared). You also forget about all the fun and exciting moments you have planned (even if those plans reside in your head for the time being).

Life should be lived to the fullest, obviously, but what's more important is that we don't compare our 'full' with someone elses. Just because your life doesn't look like theirs, it doesn't make yours any less substantial. We all look to different things to make us feel alive. 

Ironically however, despite those differences, if we looked beneath the glossy filters of Instagram and the carefully curated photo albums on Facebook, we would see striking similarities. We all feel lonely sometimes. We all fake smiles for the camera. We all have moments when we feel forgotten. I think it's important to remember that when you start comparing your life to theirs.

Anyways... apologies for the deep post... it's been a weird couple of weeks. On that note - I think I might have a little social media break and 'reboot'. 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

the art of doing nothing



When you realise you have no plans for the upcoming weekend, how do you feel? I know for some people, the thought of spending a day with no plans is like torture. For me (unsurprisingly) it's an excuse to recharge... and I revel in it. Now, of course, there is a time and a place for socialising, getting out there, seeing some sights, being productive and getting shit done.... but there is also a time and a place for doing nothing.

And by nothing, I don't mean literally nothing (obvs) I mean a day of no plans. A day when you have no obligations and have nothing on your to-do list. These days can be a blessing, if you use them right. Over the past couple of months I've probably had more 'nothing' days than 'doing' days at the weekend, so I feel I have honed in on the perfect routine. 

So, for those who dread a day of no plans - give this a whirl and see how you feel. You might be surprised.

1. First of all, don't set an alarm. Let your body clock wake you up and when you do wake up - stay up. Don't fall back to sleep. Your body knows better than you how much sleep you need.

2. Once you are awake, get up - go get a hot drink (I usually grab a hot water and lemon, but coffee is a nice treat) and get back into bed. Now, instead of falling back to sleep, spend some time in bed doing something you love. Maybe it's watching cookery shows or writing in a journal. For me it's either catching up on reading blogs or playing on Pinterest.

3. Next, it's time to get up. Get in the shower, use a zingy smelling shower gel to wake up the senses and linger for longer than normal. Wash your face and brush your teeth - but girls, don't put on any make-up. Let your skin breathe today.

4. Get dressed into something comfy. I like my printed yoga pants and a long-sleeved top with bare feet. I don't know why I avoid socks, it just feels right.

5. Go make yourself a tasty breakfast. During the week I scoff down pre-made overnight oats at my desk, so at the weekends I like to spend time making eggs, toast and fruit for breakfast.

6. Do something you always say you never have time to do. For me this inevitably involves listening to music and reading... or cleaning. For you it might be painting, fixing something around the house or clearing out your wardrobe.

7. MOVE (just a little). I know 'exercising' doesn't seem like doing nothing, but if I don't get moving at some point on my nothing days I end up achy, grumpy and unable to sleep that night. Now, I'm not suggesting you do anything too high in intensity (unless of course you want to), but getting yourself moving will make you feel better, promise. If the weather's nice, I go for a walk in the woods - if it's not, I do some yoga.

8. Have a nutritious lunch. After getting my body moving I crave healthy stuff, so usually make myself a chicken and avocado salad - nom. 

9. Be a bit creative. Go take some photographs, write a story or draw something. It feels nice to think creatively for a bit, even if you don't consider yourself a creative person. I usually end up blogging (hello!).

10. Have a cup of tea and do something that makes you happy. What little thing could you do that makes your heart sing? Watch your favourite movie? Listen to your favourite band? Binge watch the OC? (*hand up*). Whatever it is - do it.

11. Treat yourself. In the evening I like to pamper myself a little. I pop on a facemask, paint my nails and have a couple of chocolates after dinner. 

By the time the day is over I feel like a new person, like I've spent the day just soaking in energy. And I know that wouldn't be the case for everyone, but on the off chance that it would feel like that for you, I thought I would share.

What do you do on 'nothing' days?

Saturday, 7 March 2015

29


Last year I wrote a post after my birthday (28) so I thought I would do the same this year. Reading back at last year's post it's crazy to see how much has changed in a year. My birthday this year was a million miles away from last year. OK, not a million miles - 3396.08 to be exact. I was in Dubai.

My friend Paul moved out there a couple of years ago and I was dying to visit, so I figured what better time to go? I had such a great time and felt revitalised when I got home.

My actual birthday was different to any birthday I've had before. For one thing, I spent a lot of the day alone. For the past six years I've been in relationships on my birthday, so always had a significant other to spend it with. So being alone in a foreign country was certainly a first.  

And you know what? I actually kinda loved it. As soon as I woke up I opened my cards I brought along from home and then had a very lazy morning reading blogs. Eventually I got myself ready, slicked on some pink lippy and went for a wander. I headed to Baker and Spice, asked for a table for one and ate some tasty pasta salad. Then I went to the Dubai mall and found my way to Sephora and Cos (AKA Mecca). I grabbed a coffee on my way out and sat in front of the Burj Kalifa to take pictures and watch the world go by. 

When Paul got home from work we both got spruced up and headed out for dinner. Paul took me to a restaurant called Pai Thai which was in a beautiful setting and sold the best Thai food I have ever eaten. We finished the evening off with a couple of cocktails - perfection. All in all, a pretty wonderful day.

Something else that made this birthday different was what I saw for myself in the future. Last year I thought I knew exactly what the future held. I could see it clear as day and was so excited for it. This year is different. For the first time in a long time I have no clue what the future looks like. 

While this is slightly scary, there is a sense of freedom about not knowing. 

For example, being in a different country reminded me how much I love to travel. This combined with a newfound obsession with creating wish lists on the Airbnb app has given me seriously itchy feet. So I think 29 will be a year for exploring. Exploring different cities, exploring other cultures and yeah, exploring myself. 

I don't know where I'll be when I turn 30, but I have a sneaky suspicion that it'll be somewhere new. 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Harlequins



As many of you know by now, music makes my soul happy. My tastes are varied, but I have a soft spot for anything with folk-y, blues-y, rock-y tones. I also have a soft spot for male vocalists who show grit, determination and passion when they sing. 

Enter Russell Joslin.

The first time I heard Russell Joslin was when a friend of mine recommended his album 'Dream Token'. I listened, I loved - I swooned. I reviewed his second offering, 'Jet Black and White' when I volunteered at For Folks Sake and, again, was happy to witness Joslin as he transformed acoustic folk into a genre all his own.

In the years since, I'll admit, he slipped out of my regular music rotation, becoming like a rare treasure I would rediscover every six months or so. So when I got the opportunity to review to his latest offering, Harlequins, I jumped at the chance to rediscover him all over again and see what he's been up to. 

And I was not disappointed. 

The opening track, 'Up with the birds' immediately grabs your attention with strings adding a new layer and jarring you in the best way possible. When the electric guitar kicks in, it turns what could have been a steady ditty to nod your head to into what feels like a beautiful, French tragedy.  

'Our Queen' lulls you back to safety with a more upbeat tempo, laced with rock-inspired riffs before the first single from the album, 'What a waste', changes it up again with a slicker, yet more sombre feel. The saxaphone weaves itself around lines like "you threw your love around in the wrong place", quickly elevating it to stand-out-track status. 

The simplicity of 'Doves may fly' stole my heart (and if I had to pick favourites, this would be it), telling a love story the only way Joslin could, with poetic metaphor and honesty. 

The rest of the album holds steady, 'The chosen few' is a crowd pleaser I envision doing well at festivals, and 'Victory parade' tells a veteran's story and makes me want to learn all the words so I can sing along. The closing track, 'Pale Mary', featured on Joslin's previous album, but I welcomed the re-recording back into my life like an old friend who I always had a crush on.

Listening to Harlequins, what stands out most for me is that Joslin's story telling abilities are well and truly intact. His music has evolved for sure, he's added new dimensions and new moods, but the way he writes lyrics, stories and music is as beautiful as ever. 

Harlequins will be released on 23rd Feb (my birthday!) and you can pick it up here

Who have you been listening to recently?

*********************************************************************************

Edit: I just read through some old entries on here and came across a stream of consciousness I wrote back in 2008 that mentioned Mr. Joslin - clearly I was inspired (and a little sad)...

Thursday 12th June 2008, 01:33 AM

How can music do that? Reach into the bottom of your soul and reveal to you long forgotten emotions. God she loves it. These early hours are the best, when all are asleep but her and her new best friend - Mr Joslin. Oh how you move her, recreate tears that fell years ago. She thought they had died, gone forever - but you found them. You have decorated her sketched face with the artful little shapes. You are reminding her what her calling is, showing her it needn’t all be electrical nonsense - just passion. And her loves, (oh her loves), losses and continuing loneliness, you’ve found them too. Her mind is shooting scenes every second - various men take their turn in the role of leading man. He’s in bed with her and holds onto her naked skin for dear life. And you, good sir, are their soundtrack, and you are infuriating their imaginary passion and her real hurt. She thanks you for it, truly, nothing has moved her this far for years indeed. I think it was the push she needed to finally approach the belly of the beast... and secretly enjoy it.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

why you should throw away your scales...


Between the ages of 14 and 17, one thing and one thing only determined my happiness - my weight. If I had lost some, I was happy. If I hadn't, I was distraught. Those menacing numbers on the scales were my obsession. In my head I "knew" that if I just reached my target weight, I would be OK. Everything in my life would be better.

Of course, thanks to therapy and a good support system, I overcame this obsession and stopped standing on the scales. In the years since I have gone back to them from time to time - like a distant relative I hated but felt obliged to visit. And yes, I would still feel a tinge of unhappiness whenever the number creeped up, but I was much better able to handle those feelings. 

My most recent encounter with the scales was last week when my curiosity got the better of me, and this was my thought process...

"Hmmm, I weigh more than I thought."
"That's weird, I've been eating healthily, exercising and I feel more toned than I have in ages."
"I suppose muscle weighs more than fat."
"Wait a sec.... who the hell cares?!?!?"

Do you know what I know? I know that the clothes I squeezed myself into towards the end of last year now fit me better. I know that my tummy jiggles less than it did. I know that I can now cycle on level three for 30 minutes on an exercise bike without thinking I might die (previously level two for 25 minutes was my limit). I know that I feel fitter, leaner, more confident and more energetic than I have in ages.

That's what I know. And I do not need an inanimate object to tell me otherwise. 

If you're trying to lose weight, instead of having a target weight, why don't you think up a different target? Aim to run a 5K race. Aim to fit in those skinny jeans hidden in the back of your wardrobe. Aim to feel confident in a tank top. And for the sake of your sanity, stop being a slave to your scales. 

Now, of course in some cases scales can be handy to keep track of your progress (especially if your doctor has advised you to lose weight) but try to reign in the habit and don't let your mood be dictated by a number. Muscle does weigh more than fat and yes, your weight will fluctuate a lot depending on all sorts of things. 

I won't be weighing myself any time soon - I'm living a healthy lifestyle now and while I'm happy I seem to be toning up - I'm not doing this to lose weight. I'm doing it to feel better inside. And I do.

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