Thursday, 25 February 2016

The signs are clear

I know I have to go outside for a run and then write a few pages. I know it. You know why I know it? Because this is how I got ready before my shower:

And I know it even more because it disturbs me that I put the bra first and not the underpants. Because it's a pretty sequence, and the bra is less angular so it aesthetically belongs on the left, but surely pants go on first. And then the bra. And trousers go before socks. No, it's a mess. Another reason why I know I should go outside is the fact that I didn't select a belt or a jumper before my shower, and so I'm now sitting here with my trousers sagging and slightly colder than I'd like to be. But these were the clothes I selected and I am not some messy minger who changes her mind as she pleases so I may have to stay cold and builder-cracked. It's all about sticking with the plan.

Another way I can tell I need that run:

I know I need a run when all my tissues cry out to me to be covered in crochet. I'm not even showing you the two baskets, the other bedsock (one only - I ran out of wool) or the flying testicle (it's a long story - it was meant to be an angel-like cuddle but went disastrously wrong).

All I want to do is stay in and knit a dress for Marie. And laundry - ironing even. I'm dithering constantly between kicking myself up the bum for my lack of action and being kind to myself for needing a break, some silence. Various constellations of children have been home with flu, we've spent hours waiting in the doctor's surgery, I had to battle them to take their medicine. To top it off the school had a staff training day yesterday, just when they were all better.

Ironically, I'm meant to be reading a book I got from my delightful sister An, may her diarrhoea be a mere blip on an otherwise exemplary life. In English, it's called The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion - Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions. I have the Dutch translation sitting next to me. And I cannot bring myself to read it. I don't know why. I have a huge mental block against it. I've flipped through it several times. Yesterday, I sat down with a cup of tea and an hour to spare and I could not take in what I was reading. All of a sudden, I urgently needed to cover another pack of tissues and watch random TV.

Right. I have dirty washing that won't sort itself into colour piles and pillow cases that need to be ironed and cups of tea that need to be drunk and (as a break) a dress that needs to be knitted. Tomorrow I will surely run and write.

Friday, 19 February 2016

My philosophy of life

Babes learned about different personality types at work. They identified four kinds - red, blue, yellow, green - and the idea is that once you see how someone works, you will be able to interact with them more easily. The course was called, amusingly, Win-win. Even though the packaging makes me giggle, I think it sounds like a very good idea, to teach a bunch of engineers and IT'ers about people and how to deal with them. (I admit I was a little jealous - I could do with a course like that.) I don't see it as a way to manipulate people (as some might), I just see an attempt to make life more peaceful.

It's funny, though. The first thing I wanted to do, was find out which type I was. Instinctively, I thought I was blue - methodical, precise, perfectionist. That has been my own story of me. Babes immediately said 'No way anyone whose philosophy of life is "Fuck it" is a blue person.' He put me between yellow and red. To start with, I was insulted. Yellow is okay, but red people sound like a right pain. Arrogant, pushy. (There is another side to them as well - determined, strong-willed.)

I didn't even think that 'Fuck it' was my philosophy of life. But, sure enough, during the week's skiing, I caught myself using that exact phrase several times a day. When we had to go skiing in a snow storm and I wanted to hide in the pub, 'Fuck it' got me out there into the icy wind. When I didn't want to drink from my snotty kid's bottle but I didn't have another one, 'Fuck it' kept me hydrated. When I had decided to be good and have less beer, then someone offered me a half liter glass - you guessed it: 'Fuck it'.

It's not such a bad philosophy, really. Except for the fact that Babes is quite British and doesn't swear and doesn't like me to either. (I'm never going to be a lay-dee. I say 'Fuck it' to that as well. It's obvious from the fact that my children have three options when they fart: 'Excuse me', 'That was a good one', or 'I'm a lay-dee'. It's funny that I get annoyed with them if they say nothing. They have to say one of the three.) I tone myself down for him. I try to behave. But when I'm tired, stressed, upset - I just think 'Fuck it' and let my true nature out.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

An important lesson

In book club last night, we discussed Haruki Murakami's Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. It was one of those fantastic meetings where everyone seemed to have read a different book. They are my favourite. When everyone agrees - the book was good/bad/interesting, the plot was fine, let's have a drink and gossip - I'm happy to spend time with my friends, but when everyone disagrees, that's when I sit there all night being quietly grateful to be alive. To have had the good fortune to meet these people who are all willing to try the most different books, respond to them truthfully, and share their feelings.

This book came at a good time. When I was freaking out in the night in France, I read of Tsukuru Tazaki freaking out in the night. Having sleepless nights. Doubting himself. Thinking about death. Having trouble eating. He became my friend. He kept me company. I cheered him on. He was there for me. It was a shock to hear yesterday that some of the other readers didn't like him at all. They found him pathetic, or creepy, or evil. That came as a complete surprise to me. I can see it, looking back. Reading the book in a different mood, I may have thought the same.

Some people read the book like a murder mystery. Sure, a murder happens in it, but to me that was far removed from the central plot. I thought the book was about teenage friendships and how they must vanish or change, about love, about finding yourself. In the book, Tsukuru Tazaki calls himself colourless, thinks he doesn't amount to much. He doubts himself. Quite a few of our readers took him at his word. I saw him as a quiet man, a solid man, but a lost soul. They saw him as colourless, bland, ineffective. Because of the fears he expressed.

It's a lesson I can't learn often enough: if you put yourself down, a lot of people will take your word for it. Better not give them the chance.

Tuesday, 16 February 2016


Ah. Back home and the world is back to normal. For the first time since Christmas Day, I managed to go out for a run. The park was gloriously sunny, the muddy puddles half frozen. The leaves on the hedges were green in the sunshine, but perfectly ringed with frost in the shade. I need to never get injured again. I need my run. Every other day at least. The world is lighter, I can breathe again. Sort of.

I expected to have lost some weight after being so stressed and nauseous for a full week. Not a bit! In fact, I lost minus 500 grams. (Nothing a good post-holiday evacuation couldn't fix.) Turns out that a diet consisting only of Snickers and beer does not a weight loss program make. They were the only two things that didn't make me feel like I would vomit, though, so I'm grateful to both. Still, I plan to avoid them for a while. For lunch today, I had brown bread with mackerel (and a good dollop of mayonnaise) and sweet cherry tomatoes. Possibly better for me than Snickers and beer.

I listened to a fascinating podcast a couple of weeks ago, and I thought I would share it with you. It's BBC Radio 4's Late Night Woman's Hour on Purity. Well worth a listen. It's about the fleshy fleshiness of being a woman and many other things. It struck a chord with me.

Thursday, 11 February 2016


Ok. So I seem to have turned a corner here, but I did rather lose the plot there for a moment. I've had a couple of better nights now and I've been able to eat a bit more. The nausea is still with me. It's a funny kind that gets cured temporarily by beer. 

I'm still not sure what happened exactly but I may wait until I get home to think about it more deeply. Thanks for all of your messages. They helped a lot. My period has come which always changes things for the better but that was no normal PMS let me tell you. I lost something necessary. Something essential. I'm glad it's back but now I'm worried it may go again.

Off for another nap. Life can be so hard on holiday. 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Progress of a kind

Ok. So I'm still not feeling great after three one hour stretches of semi-sleep last night, but I've taken An's suggestion - may she find enlightenment at every turn - and I'm trying to see this week as an opportunity to practise my mindfulness. If my brother's baby wakes me up every time I have just fallen asleep, it's a chance to breathe and see my feelings run riot. If I feel nauseous every time I take a bite of food, it's an opportunity to truly go into my body and feel what is going on. If I panic, I will try to be kind to myself. I'm going to start with another nap. If possible. If I can tune out the noise of seven children. I'm sure I can. I'm so mindful after all.

Monday, 8 February 2016

A busman's holiday

I'm on holiday. It's 5:30 in the morning and I've now been in full anxiety cramp for pretty much 24 hours. I'm writing this on my phone to try and make more sense of it. I'm nauseous, my whole body is tense, my mind is stuck in fear mode. I've been hugging a pillow but it's incredibly lumpy and somehow that causes me to feel more fear. This is ridiculous. I'm trying to breathe normally but even that seems impossible. I self medicated last night and that worked but I can hardly stay drunk for a full week. I feel like if I make it through the next few hours - 'rest', breakfast, half hour van ride through the snow, dropping off the littlest ones at skiing lesson, first run down the mountain, I may survive. Literally. I feel like - shit I can't even write it. I'm afraid.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Two hoody day

So I've stopped hating everyone but I've come to a grinding halt. To illustrate: it's a two hoody day.

You know it's bad when you need two hoodies above your tracksuit bottoms. I've already eaten all of Babes's chocolate ice cream (I sent an apology text in case he wants to go out to get more) and I'm running out of episodes of My Five Wives. I had a brief moment of panic when I misplaced the remote control, but now I'm good again.

I still need to pack. To feel like I've accomplished something today, I thought I would give you my review of Spectre, the new Bond movie. We went to see it for date night last week, and I didn't hate it at all. I expected to be all grossed out and bored the rest of the time - I thought the last one was a tad too gory - but it was back to the more 'fun' movies of old, minus quite so much rampant sexism. Basically, if your significant other wants to see it and wants you to come, it's completely bearable.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

It's not you, it's me

I have a very bad case of 'If everyone you meet is an asshole, you're the asshole' today. I noticed it when two assholes were pushing their old Mercedes to try and start it, blocking the road in front of me. They were pushing it bravely together, in the freezing rain. I did switch to compassion after realising I was the asshole. And I never let them notice that I originally got it wrong.

Of course the fact that everyone is being a pain to me, attacking me personally by being slow and inconsiderate and messy and loud, just means that I will be bleeding into my fabulous new skiing trousers next week. Which I think is mean. Of the universe. The universe is being an asshole.

This afternoon is an asshole as well. I'm meant to be ironing. I'm going to soften it by watching a movie I know by heart. Maybe a comedy. The problem is that my assholes of children are around so it has to be PG. (Hee hee. That makes me laugh. Calling them assholes. They're not.)

To cheer up, later on I will pack my suitcase for our forthcoming skiing holiday. When my asshole of a husband has stopped working at the desk in the bedroom. (That makes me laugh as well. He's not. He's only the poor sod lucky guy who gets to go on a date with me tonight.) I already packed the skiing gear, the KonMari way - on Sunday, would you believe it, almost a week before we go; it's as if I've been abducted by aliens and replaced by a householder robot - and I loved it so much I took a photo of the result to show everyone. (Really everyone. I even got it out during choir rehearsal.)

I have tried to turn that photo to the left about ten times, but my computer is being an asshole. I have marked on the photo the separate areas of my suitcase. In the blue box, we have the skiing trousers, arranged by age of family member. In the yellow boxes, the children's bits and pieces (jumpers, scarves, socks), oldest to youngest. In the orange box is Babes's stuff, and in the pink box mine. Each item was put in vertically and is visible from the top. This pleases me immensely.

Right. Ironing. And perhaps alcohol.