Monday, 24 September 2012

A Change in the Weather

I can’t believe it’s September 24th already…where has the year gone? It’s true that the years pass faster as you grow older. Each one goes by more quickly than the last. Soon it will be Halloween, then Bonfire Night, then Christmas…and then the carousel of months begins its spin all over again, the calliope music a little more hectic, the view from the horses a little more blurred. 

It’s cold this morning and raining, the sky a heavy, sulky grey. The rain is persistent – it’s like it’s arguing with the pavement, it wants the last word – and I’m chilled right down to my bones. And yet it’s still my favourite time of year - this cold, wet creep towards Christmas with its fairylights and hot spiced cider, its glittering trees and turkeys, its presents wrapped in paper the colour of stars.  

I know it’s not for another couple of months (ninety-one days if you want to be exact!) but just the thought of Christmas makes me feel warm and giddy. Not least because this is the first time since I was fifteen that I haven’t started panicking weeks in advance about the surfeit of calories – the cakes! The wine! The cream! – and am simply looking forward to the season itself.  

I’ve said this before: sometimes it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. Taking the time to think about where (and how) you were this time last week, last month, last year has a way of putting things into perspective. This time last year, for example, I was in a job I hated, under intense pressure to perform. I was barely eating or sleeping, caught every cold or virus doing the rounds and felt ill and exhausted all the time. Pretty much all I wrote about in my diary was my eating disorder, and how miserable I was, and how I didn’t think I could ever get better. 

I’d have argued otherwise at the time, but looking back…how small my life was then, how dull.

What a difference a year makes.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Blogging for Wellbeing: YOU

I found some wonderful quotes on Monday, all concerning the Self. They talked about what makes you You, and the importance of being true to the person you are. I pasted them all neatly into a Word Document and brimmed with inspiration the whole day. But I couldn’t think of how to fit the quotes I’d found into a blog post. I couldn’t think of - excuse the slightly clinical term – an ‘angle’.

This morning on the train to work, I was reading a book called ‘Risk’ by Dan Gardner. It’s all about the psychology of fear, and the development of the brain, and why we perceive things the way we do. The chapter I was reading went right back to the basics of evolution, and the author made some comment about the probability of human life existing at all. In short, the probability of our existence is infinitesimal. It’s almost laughable.  But we exist despite that.  

 Sometimes you know things in a sort of abstract way – you know they’re true but they haven’t socked you in the face with their sheer force. This morning I felt like I’d been well and truly socked. I got goosebumps. I thought to myself with something like wonder, We ARE miracles.

And if the existence of the human race in itself is a miracle, the existence of you as an individual is even more so.   

For you to exist as YOU is beyond miraculous. A whole host of events had to be exactly right, both in the grand scheme of things and at the microscopic level.

First of all, everything had to happen exactly the way it has. The Universe had to happen. Conditions on Earth had to be exactly as they are to be able to sustain life. Millions of years of evolution had to happen so that humans existed at all.

And then history had to unfold, precisely as it did. Here’s a weird thought: Hitler had to be defeated so that you could live.

Think about it. If World War II had had a different outcome, the structure of the world would be radically altered today. Your parents probably wouldn’t have met, they might not even live in the same country or speak the same language. It’s such a complicated chain – things had to happen exactly as you did so that your great great great grandparents could meet and produce your great great grandparents, so that they could go on and produce your great grandparents so that they could in turn produce your grandparents who could produce your parents who could subsequently produce you. And that’s a chain that goes right the way back to the first humans. If even one link in that chain was broken…you would not exist.

And even then, after all that going your way, you might not have existed. Your parents had to meet, for one. And of all the people in all the world, what are the chances of those two particular people finding each other? And even if the time and the location were right for them to meet, it doesn’t mean that the circumstances  were. What if your mother had been running late, for instance, and had never met that handsome fellow at the bar? What if your father missed the bus and was late for work, and so never saw that pretty young girl waiting in reception? What if they did meet but a chance remark made your mother think that your father was a stuck up fool and politely extricate herself from the situation? What if your father was in a bit of a grump that night because his football team had just lost, and so didn’t acknowledge the girl smiling at him from across the room? What if a different girl had caught his eye the night, the hour, the minute before?

And even if their first meeting went beautifully, and they liked each other enough to carry on a relationship, maybe get married etc - they still had to have sex at the exact moment in time they did to have created You.

(Even more mind-boggling: your parents’ parents had to have met and married and conceived at the exact time they did, too, to produce the exact people they did so that you could exist. Sort of like Cosmic Russian Dolls, isn’t it?)

Biologically speaking, you exist as You because one particular sperm out of about  XXX other sperm met one specific egg, and fertilised it. If another little swimmer had been a fraction of a second quicker, or yours a little slower, You as you are now would not exist. Your parents would still have a child, but that child wouldn’t be You, wouldn’t have that one-off package of singular and unique genes and chromosomes that make you You. This Other Child would not only look different, they’d have an entirely different personality. ‘You’ might have been a he instead of a she (or vice versa). ‘You’ might be short instead of tall, excellent at Science instead of English. ‘You’ might have had freckles, been deaf, a twin or a triplet. ‘You’ might have had a genetic condition which meant you died young, or weren’t born at all.   

The fact that You exist – you, with all your talents and opinions and abilities and hopes, your perceived imperfections and flaws, your likes and dislikes - is an honest-to-goodness MIRACLE. Remember that when you don’t feel special. When you feel inferior or unworthy, hopeless, unpretty, undeserving. YOU ARE A MIRACLE. The fact that I am alive to write these words and you are alive to read them IS A MIRACLE.

There are millions and millions and millions of things that say You shouldn’t exist, a trillion coincidences and synchronicities and circumstances that needed to happen so that you could, stretching all the way back to the beginning of time. The odds of you existing are off-the-scale impossible.

And yet here you are. And here am I.

A little help for someone who is Technologically Impaired...?

I am a Luddite when it comes to technology. Once I'm shown how to do something, I can follow the process of clicking a mouse and pressing buttons, but it's a little like a monkey mimicking behaviour, or a parrot repeating learned words - it doesn't actually mean anything in my technology-impervious brain.

My hotmail account was hacked last week, and despite repeated attempts to retrieve it, Microsoft are apparently unable to verify that I am me, so I've had to set up a whole new account. 

It's annoying - I had tons of work saved in my email folders, not all of which I have hard copies of (note to self: make hard copies!) but I've come to terms with the inconvenience.

I've amended all the websites and accounts I have - ebay, Amazon, iTunes etc - with my new email address, but I cannot figure out how to do it for my blog. Currently all my blog emails and comment notifications are being sent to the now-invalid account, so I can't access them, which is something of a pest when it comes to tracking comments and responding to people who have been nice enough to stop by.

In the grand scheme of things, it's a minor inconvenience...but if anyone could tell me how I change the email address my blog is registered to, I would be SUPER grateful.

(And apologies for the boring blog content! I have actually been writing up a storm today, so I will be posting an ACTUAL blog later tonight).

Hope you're all well, and technologically-competent xxx

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Challenges, Upheavals, Growth

There is a sort of wobbling that happens when I don't write for a while. An unbalancing of self. Things begin to feel off-kilter and strange. I start to meander. I worry more and get easily stressed because I'm not taking the time I need to process and connect.

This last fortnight has been hectic and unpleasant, and as a result, I'v barely written a thing, which has only contributed to my stress. But in a way, it's been a good thing: it's highlighted how crucial it is that I make the time to analyse and reflect and explore my feelings, no matter how crazy things might be around me.

We have moved house. It took ten days from finding out there was a house available to actually moving in. Almost two weeks of constant tension. Packing and sorting and shifting. Sweating. Not sleeping. Mum and sister snapping, stressed, curt.I have cycled from upset to acceptance and back again. I have cried, sighed and determined to remain positive. I have moved between the extremes like a pendulum.

I live with my Mum and sister. It was meant to be a temporary arrangement - or at least, that was what I told myself when I moved back home almost two years ago. A chance to pay off my debts, save some money and get healthy.

I think I've mentioned before that my Mum and I don't have the easiest relationship. I will do anything I can to avoid conflict, whereas she thrives on it, and is quick to lose her temper. It makes for a prickly environment. Luckily, she works nights, so the arrangement has worked thus far as we weren't living in each other's pockets and didn't spend a lot of time together. But now my sister has moved back in with us (hence the need for more space and a bigger house). And she is very like my Mum in terms of temperament, meaning that I'm back to treading on eggshells. (Funnily enough, the two of them get along beautifully).

I didn't want to move. The new house is further away from my place of work, my friends, everything familiar. But due to financial constraints, and the sudden snowballing of events, I didn't have much choice.

The silver lining is that I'm atthis particular point in my recovery process. I wouldn't have coped well with the change even a couple of months ago. I think I'd have scuttled right back into my tried and tested coping methods and made myself sick again. I think I'd have been a mess.

As it stands, I'm coping. It's difficult, but as I keep reminding myself, it's not impossible. It's hard being in a potentially harsh and negative environment, feeling like the outsider, the third wheel. It's hard feeling so suddenly uprooted and out of control. And I'll admit that initially, my thoughts did return to their old, practiced groove like a cuckoo obediently following its prescribed circuit, out of the clock and back in again: You know what would make this better? You know what would make you feel stronger? If you lost a couple of pounds. Or twenty. If you stopped eating breakfast. If you walked and walked until your bones showed and your feet bled.

It's a marked sign of progress, I suppose, that I have yet to succumb to the siren-song of that voice. Instead, I swat at it, irritated, impatient. I determinedly look for the brightnesses, the beautifuls, however small they may be. Yesterday, as I stood at the bus-stop, it was the cloud-coloured water rushing over the reservoir, the thousand points of light the rain left in the trees. On Sunday it was the flock of silver-white birds that kept wheeling and returning overhead, the sun flickering off their wingtips so that they looked like a shoal of fish glittering in water.

There is growth here. There is. Even if I feel hesitant and uncertain sometimes. Even if I worry I've regressed.

Things will be better once I'm a little more settled. Once I've painted my bedroom and unpacked my many boxes and returned my books to their shelves, once I feel that I've claimed the space as my own. I need a place of peace and retreat, and that place has always been my bedroom, which I've always made pretty, filled with light and beautiful things, and at the moment it is utter chaos. But I'm making progress. I bought paint for the walls at the weekend, a gentle sort of colour I fell in love with even before I saw the name: 'pearl-grey'.

When I saw the label, it felt like a lovely little synchronicity. A gift.

I love pearls. I love what they represent. They have always held a special meaning for me, so I loved that the paint for my new room had 'pearl' in the title.

Pearl as in something beautiful that results from injury and difficulty. Pearl as in grit and endurance, transformation, treasure. Pearl as in strange; as in little.