Tuesday, 27 January 2015

January can do one. I'm all about February anyway.





Photograph from here 

Normally I don't hate January. I've hated this one though. It's been so damn boring. Being in between employment is weird because I essentially have nothing of importance to do but it constantly feels like there's something that I should be doing. It's that feeling of walking into a room and completely forgetting what you came for. There is definitely something that needs to be done, else I wouldn't have moved from my comfy couch, but I just have no idea what it is.

At this point last year I had signed up for about five of the twelve challenges to be spread throughout the year. In contrast my biggest challenges so far this year have been;

1) Convincing myself that I should get out of bed before noon on weekdays.

2) Coming to terms with the fact that I used the words 'basin of sick' in a blog post.

3) Trying to watch less than 12 hours of television every day.

4) Trying to plan adventures costing zero pounds and zero pence. Not happening.

It's dire up in here.

BUT, I am not the only person feeling like this. I know this because becoming a blogger isn't just about writing your own, vaguely pointless, navel gazing posts. Nope. It's about stalking other peoples' lives and finding out what they feel/think too. It's a little creepy but also lots of fun.

Whereas I tend towards writing posts just moaning about my miserable January, other bloggers actually offer some sensible advice to overcoming that listless feeling which is permeating my existence. I like to think that I'm pretty good at the old advice thing - see here, here, here and here for examples. Good at giving it out yeah, but not so good at taking it. Ain't nobody gon' tell me what to do. Except, this advice was kind of sensible so I'm changing my typical aversion to advice taking and jumping all over the stuff.

Charlene's advice was as follows; (I advise that you read her actual words instead of just my terrible paraphrasing of it. There I go again, handing my wisdom out for free!).

Tick off a project - I have so many things that I want to do but my bank account is not on the same page as me in that respect. Until the new job starts, the projects are going to have to be a little bit small and cheapskate.

I realised the other day that I've been trying to hit a twenty minute 5k run for the past two years and I've never made any improvements. Admittedly that's probably because the only effort I make towards achieving it is mentioning it vaguely in passing. Good effort.

With nothing else to focus on, this has become my goal for the next few weeks. Since last week I've gone from 3.12k to 3.37k in twenty minutes. Baby steps but steps anyway. I reckon I can comfortably hit 4km but getting to 5km might not be so easy. I am taking bets on the likelihood of me passing out on the treadmill. 10 - 1. Odds on.

The extra time on my hands also led me to give my wardrobe a bit of an overhaul so now everything has its own hanger as opposed to sharing with two other items of clothing. I'm not really into fashion rather I tend to stick to a uniform of jeans, oversized jumpers and converse. That said, I really have a shit load of clothes and they largely go unworn. Just for something a little bit lighthearted and fun I thought that I'd try out a style challenge for February. I'm going to do this one. Feel free to follow me on Instagram for terribly awkward selfies and join in the 'fun'. Erm, also if someone could explain what gams are that would be really helpful (see no. 3).



Look forward to something. - Despite my bleak mindset at the moment, I've actually got lots of exciting stuff coming up. I mean, apart from an Instagram style challenge of course. A couple of them (going to see Kevin Bridges and an exciting family wedding) are a little bit further away but others, like my trip to London, are right around the corner. Yippee.

Eat a Stroopwafel - Preferably directly before running so that the sugar high aids in achievement of project '5k in 20' (it rhymes! Oh god, I might actually make this a hashtag. What am I becoming?). I actually took this advice and bought myself my first ever Stroopwafel. Twas sound advice on Charlene's part.

Read a book - Recently, I've read Wild by Cheryl Strayed which made me want to climb another mountain and Yes Please by Amy Poehler which made me want to write an autobiography filled with sarcastic wisdom. Just need to actually live a life of note now as opposed to watching Netflix all day, every day.

I particularly liked Charlene's advice but there were other posts which spoke to me too. Rosie and  Hazel Jane's  in particular so I recommend you check those ones out too if you have also succumbed the January blues. I also really liked the sentiment of this one.

And if all that fails, I'll leave you with this Buzzfeed link about Goats which is sure to make you smile a bit. Too cute.


Friday, 23 January 2015

TMI

I'm going to tell you a story about being ill. It is quite possibly a huge over share but it's also possibly quite funny and so I'm happy to embarrass myself in the hope of getting a titter or two. Let's begin.

I'm still having problems with my skin and the antibiotics I was given have made me quite sick. I had plans to visit the new Cat Cafe in Edinburgh on Tuesday but instead I spent the day lying on my floor trying to quell my nausea. This is a little bit more dramatic than it seems because I have a thing called Vasovagal Syncope which is basically when your body overreacts to certain triggers resulting in a rapid drop in blood pressure causing a loss of consciousness. It's the same thing that causes people to pass out when they see blood or do a poo (honestly that's one of the most common triggers!!). My trigger is feeling sick. So what should be a minor case of nausea becomes a little bit more stressful and dramatic as I just keep collapsing every time a wave of sickness hits. It's a little bit serious but it's also (in hindsight) quite tragically funny. Which is why I'm going to tell you about it.

One of the tasks I've been putting off for ages and promised myself that I'd do on Tuesday was taking the car to get the tyres changed. Although I felt nauseous in the morning, it had seemed to disappear by lunchtime so I confidently got dressed and nipped the car round to the garage. Bad move. Whilst I was there waiting on the car, the waves of sickness started to come over me. Crap. I was going to pass out on the cold, dirty, tiled floor of the garage office.

I put my head between my legs and breathed heavily. I could feel the three mechanics looking at me like I might be a little bit mad. None of them asked if I was okay. I feel that it's appropriate to point out for their sake and for anyone else who might be wondering - if someone puts their head between their legs and starts breathing heavily and saying 'it's okay, it's okay' to themselves repeatedly, then they're probably not okay and you should offer help instead of just ignoring them. I was about one second away from telling them 'don't be alarmed but I'm just going to lie down on the floor for a minute' when the feeling passed. The car had its new tyres fitted and I drove back to my house, which in hindsight was a dick move but I couldn't quite bring myself to tell the men who hadn't offered me any help that I was in need of some.

I was supposed to be meeting my friend at 2.20pm to walk to the Cat Cafe. It was 2.19pm. I called her, hoping that she hadn't left the house and I could cancel. She had left. I told her that I wasn't up to going out but she could come up for a cup of tea if she wanted. She agreed. I'm sure she regrets that decision now.

While waiting for her to arrive I had a little lie down on the floor to sort myself out. 'You're okay, you're okay' I told myself confidently (it's my mantra). My friend arrived at my flat and I made her a cup of tea. I don't remember what we talked about or how long she was here. I only remember the fact that during the midst of our conversation I dived onto the floor on two occasions shouting 'Oh shit, I'm going to faint!' I didn't faint though so instead I just looked like a little bit of an idiot. It's a good thing I'm not easily embarrassed.

She had to leave because she had work to finish off (or more likely was terrified by my strange behaviour). 'Is there anything I can do for you before I go?' she asked.

'Ryan.' I whimpered feebly, looking up at her from my spot on the floor.

I'm not entirely sure why she had to call Ryan, given that my phone was right next to me. It seemed more dramatic I think and that's how I like to play things. Within five minutes, Ryan had called my mobile.

'I'll just come home' he suggested.

'No, No don't. Honestly, I'm fine. I just maybe wanted to see if you could get away a wee bit early, like 5 o clock just so I know that I'll see you soon' I said. Meanwhile in my head: please come home, please come home, please come home, please come home, please come home, please, please, please.

'I'm coming home' he said. Me: thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.

I passed out once while Ryan was on his way home so when he arrived I was lying on our living room floor shivering and looking as pathetic and feeble as it is possible for a person to look. I didn't really have much energy to talk so I just pushed the basin of sick towards him. 'Empty please?' I asked, returning my head to the floor. I stayed there for approximately another two hours before I worked up the courage to try to move myself to the settee. The exertion was too much for me and I passed out again.

When I came round I could hear Ryan telling me it was okay while I screamed at the top of my lungs. The unconscious screaming makes the whole process a lot more fun for everyone involved. Ryan thinks that he'll probably have to answer the door to police officers one day and explain that no, I haven't been murdered or beaten. Just had a little faint. I'm not sure they'll believe him.

After that incident, I started to feel a little better and by about 10pm I was sitting up and back to my normal, annoying self. I had to call in sick for work on the one day of that week that I was actually supposed to be working. Not cool. However, probably more sensible than running the risk of collapsing and screaming like a banshee in front of all my work colleagues.

I've also had some sad family news this week, things are still unfinished on the job front and I burned myself while cooking a Quorn burger so it hasn't been a great week to be honest. I'm looking forward to next week which I'm hoping will be slightly less dramatic.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

I swear I'd burn this city down just to show you the lights.

Erm, bit awkward but yes I did use the line of a Fall Out Boy song for the title to this blog post. I'm so Emo. Is that still a thing? I'm old, I don't know what the kids say these days. Anyway, the Fall Out Boy reference is because I listened to them today for a particular reason which I'll get to at some point during this post. Bear with me.

In all the time I've lived in Edinburgh I've never been up to Calton Hill which is one of the most iconic views of Edinburgh. Well, technically I'm lying a little bit because when I did Survival of the Fittest I did actually run up Calton Hill and clamber about on metal contraptions up there but 1) I was running a 10k obstacle course so wasn't really paying much attention to my surroundings but was more concerned with making sure I didn't trip over my own feet or collapse from exhaustion and 2) I only ran round one side of it so didn't get to take in the full spectacle.

I felt like I should do something active today but wasn't really in the mood to hit the gym, nor did I fancy forcing myself to go out for a run. That's when I thought about remedying the fact that I'd never been to Calton Hill and decided to take myself out for a little walk.

I don't walk as often as I should. There's something about wandering about on my own which makes me feel exhilarated. It's probably because I've just finished Cheryl Strayed's Wild but today I was really nostalgic for the feeling that I had when I was travelling alone. I had an MP3 player at the time (no iPod!) which had only a handful of albums on it. I walked for hours around Italian cities, alternating between Fall Out Boy, We Are Scientists, Damien Rice and Paul Weller. Bit repetitive but there you go. So today I listened to From Under the Cork Tree by Fall Out Boy and allowed myself to pretend that I was still a nineteen year old kid, kicking about a foreign country in black cut off shorts, beat up converse and a shiny new rucksack. I ignored the feeling of frostbite in my fingers thanks to the freezing Scottish weather. Totally attempting to ruin my vibe man.

I learned today that Google Maps has a sense of direction which is almost as fatally flawed as mine is. Despite the fact that I've lived in Edinburgh for five years, I know that Calton Hill overlooks Princes Street and of course the minor fact that I have actually been up there before, when I set off I had a completely empty feeling regarding the general direction I needed to walk in to reach it. Just not a single clue. Honestly, it's ridiculous. I could get lost in my own flat.

Not to worry I thought. This is 2015. I have an iPhone. Google Maps exists. Wonderful, wonderful technology will help me in this quest. So I typed in 'Calton Hill' and off I wandered, safe in the knowledge that technology would help a sister out. Except it didn't. It took me the most bizarre, roundabout way through Edinburgh's Royal Mile, up and down stairs, through side streets and eventually spat me out at the bottom of Calton Hill. I discovered on the way home that I actually just had to walk straight along Princes Street which is pretty much a straight line from my flat. A much simpler route but anyway it was sort of fun meandering through parts of the city I don't visit often.

I'm not much of a photographer but here are some photos of today's wander anyway. Also, I think that Edinburgh is one of the few cities that actually looks better in the miserable weather. It was made to be moody and dark I think.














Thursday, 15 January 2015

F.E.A.R



I'm currently reading Cheryl Strayed's memoir Wild. It's been highly covered by the blogosphere so I'm not going to tell you how good it is (okay - it is really good) but rather I just want to focus on one particular thing she writes about. As you can imagine from someone who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone, fear is a subject which comes up regularly in the memoir. She writes;

''Being near Tom and Doug at night kept me from having to say to myself I am not afraid whenever I heard a branch snap in the dark or the wind shook so fiercely it seemed something bad was bound to happen. But I wasn't out here to keep myself from having to say I am not afraid. I'd come, I realised, to stare that fear down, to stare everything down really'.

I was already turning over these words in my head, thinking about what they mean to me when I read Hazel Jane's lovely post on fear and then I realised that there was a post brewing.

Let me start by talking about water. I have a pretty big fear of swimming and of water generally. I'm not totally sure why this is. It could be related to the time I almost drowned in my swimming lesson when I plunged into the water without armbands. Maybe it is that, or maybe it's the fact that there is no easily accessible oxygen when you're submerged in the stuff unless you possess gills which I do not. It could be the uncertainty of whether or not my feet will touch the bottom if I get tired and decide to pause or it could be the pressure of the weight of the water on my whole body making me hyper aware that I am not in a safe place. I don't really know, could be any one of those things. Point is - I feel afraid just thinking about it.

Last year, a lot of my challenges involved water. Either swimming in it, plunging into it or kayaking down it. Why would someone so afraid of something force themselves to confront it time and time again?

The worst moment during those challenges was without a doubt the obstacle in Tough Mudder which required me to jump into a muddy body of water, of undefined depth, from quite a significant height. Climbing up to the top, my brain kept telling me that I could do it, that it was safe, that I definitely would not die, that everyone else was doing it, that I could swim so there was nothing to be afraid of. I got to the edge and my logical brain became mute and my body took over the conversation. It said 'Nope. Not happening. Sorry'.

I stood on the edge of that drop with clammy hands and became aware of my racing heart which was drumming so hard against my chest that I could feel the vibrations throughout my whole body. That heart normally goes about its crucial business of keeping me alive so quietly that I rarely notice it and yet at that moment it was the only thing I could focus on. That's what fear is for me. It is the sound of my beating heart. Fear is the realisation that I am indisputably alive but that I am only so through a bizarre mix of circumstance, chance and the beating of a muscle in my chest which cannot be consciously controlled by me. It is a reminder that life is fleeting and completely not within my control.

I jumped.

When I was younger I lived and breathed horse riding. My two horses were my best friends. They were gentle, playful and wonderful. They were also pretty fucking scary at times.

There were days that I would be afraid because the fences I was jumping seemed too high and the distance to the ground if I fell seemed even higher still. There were occasions that my horse was spooked by something and I felt that my control was gone. It frightened me.

I longed not to be afraid, to be one of those horsey people who just oozes confidence from every pore but the first lesson I learned when I started riding was that fear was the appropriate response. If I didn't feel fear then I wasn't respecting the power of that 1200lb animal and was underestimating quite what a wonderful and difficult thing it is to attempt to work in harmony with it. Every time I ride I get a small feeling of fear in the pit of my stomach. It ensures that I never underestimate the task at hand and it heightens the sense of achievement I feel once the session is over.

Since then, I tend to think that the feeling of fear is not there to stop me from doing something but to indicate that what I'm about to do is challenging, that it is not within my comfort zone, but that it is a task worthy of my respect and that when my fear has been faced down, the rewards will be great.

I forced myself to complete so many water based challenges last year because I like to hear my heart beating so loudly that its life force cannot be ignored. I like to feel afraid because it tells me that the rewards will be worth it. Hindsight has taught me that if it scares me, it might be worth a try.

I found the photograph here. It's by Michael Leis and you can look at his other work on his website.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

A year to the day

This post is a little bit cheesy but I'm cracking on anyway. Today is my blog's one year anniversary. Today is also New Years day. The two are not unconnected.

This blog was my 2014 New Years resolution, the aim being for me to undertake a year of things I'd never done before, to raise a sum of money for charity and to start sharing my writing at least semi regularly.

The common perception is that New Years resolutions are made to be broken. When I first posted and started telling people about my plans there were a few raised eyebrows and a couple of snorts of derision. Most people I told thought that the grand plans would whimper away as the year went on. They didn't though. I well and truly smashed my 2014 resolution and had a great time doing it. The only part which could have been done slightly better was the fundraising part as I didn't manage to hit my target. Regardless of that small failure, I'm pretty proud of what I achieved.

With all that said, I think it's only fitting that I start 2015 in a similar vein. I won't be completing a new challenge EVERY month, nor will I be trying to raise money for charity again because I think that people have been pressured into donating more than enough towards my fundraising efforts. I will however continue to attempt some new things and to bring you all along for the ride.

So here goes. My New Years resolutions for 2015 are;

1. Go surfing
2. Go Scuba diving
3. Buy a house
4. Give blood as often as possible.
5. Grow the readership of the blog a little. With this I'm mainly interested in more interaction i.e comments, talking to people on Twitter, attending events etc.
6. Take better care of my body. I really need to sort my nutrition out as I was plagued with illness and infection last year when I was a little bit run down.
7. Bag some more Munros (climb some more hills for anyone not au fait with this Scottish phrase!)
8. Do Tough Mudder again
9. Spend more time with friends
10. Travel some more. In particular I'd like to get to Paris at some point this year.

I'm sure as the year goes on I'll get involved in many more adventures but these are the ones that are really clear in my mind right now.

All that remains to say is Happy New Year everyone and thanks for reading my ramblings for the past year.

One about planes again



I had a conversation this week which was about the things that we regretted doing when we were younger. Both stories traded involved cars, roads we thought we knew well and driving a little too fast for our own good. Neither ended too badly, but the older versions of ourselves know how differently things could have turned out and feel angry at the carelessness that we displayed back then. We both lamented that if it was possible to turn back time then we'd wipe the mistakes from our records and have a nice clean slate. Thinking about it later, I wondered if that was ever a wise thing to wish for.

There are certain other points in my history that inspire a feeling of regret within me when I look back on them. Throughout my teenage years I would tell anyone who listened about my plans to travel the world. The plans were vague but regardless, I applied for deferred entry to my University course meaning that I would start my course in September 2006, allowing me a year before then to travel the world to my heart's content.

My first jaunt was across to Gran Canaria to visit my cousins who were living there. The trip made me reconsider my future. I was lonely, with no travelling companions and I felt far too small for such big adventures. I returned a week before planned. Feeling very dejected, as I sat on the plane making my way home I made a decision to contact the University, bring my deferred entry forward to begin that September (2005) and put the travelling on hold until the summer break. Sometimes I force myself to relive that decision and chide myself for failing to follow through with my original plans as I've never really managed to see them through in the way that I imagined.

*****

On Monday night, I watched The Undateables, which is a show that I'd initially written off as crass and patronising but has actually become a firm favourite of mine. I find it completely unpatronising, sweet and quite kind actually. This week the show followed as Alex and Eloise went on a date and seemed to hit it off, despite a little bit of difficulty with both of their nerves. There was one scene in particular which was on the second date when they both sat in discomfort and the effort of trying to think of something to say was worn obviously on Alex's face. It reminded me of the awkwardness of dating which isn't something I often think about because it has been over nine years since I went on a date. In fact, it's been longer than that since there was any awkwardness involved.

Watching the program always makes me think about the ways in which people meet. I am completely enamoured with trying to understand why certain people fit well together while others don't. It's often difficult to articulate exactly what makes relationships 'work' and that makes it all the more interesting. Is it personality, circumstance or just good old perfect timing?

*****

I met Ryan on the fourth night of my University Fresher's week in 2005. I wasn't supposed to be there according to my original plans.

Almost a decade of my life can be traced back to a single decision made at 30,000 feet. A decision which I thought was about one thing but was actually about something else entirely.

Isn't life a funny thing?



How did you meet someone significant? I'm intrigued to hear your stories. 
Can you trace your path back to one important moment or decision?

** Stole the photograph from here