Thursday, 13 April 2017

Life Lately

Once upon a time I was a good little blogger and actually wrote posts on a regular basis.  Looking back now, I thought it hadn't been as long as it clearly has since I last wrote, and also - I was much better at posting last year than I thought I was! Huh - who knew?

But anyhoo - apparently it was January when I last wrote something and I'm not really sure where the time has gone since then.  If it's any comfort, it's seems to have really flown by in real life too!

In just 2 days time, it will already be 4 months since I got the keys to my very first house.  4 MONTHS!!  It's certainly looking homier than when I moved, and yet I've also not got as much done as I dreamily thought I would.  Mostly because I've discovered that a) I hate painting.  I only did one room so far and that was quite enough for me - next time I'm getting a decorator in to do the main slog for me! and b) everything costs a lot more than you think and buying a house is really expensive and basically I ran out of money for now.  Probably not helped by the fact that I slunk off for a 5 star week skiing in Switzerland in January - oops.

What I have managed to do though is completely paint the front bedroom and get new carpet laid and when I finally have time to drive a van to my dad's house and collect my bed from him I can actually think about moving in there - well done me!

I've started hanging my pictures, bought a sofa and a coffee table (the tv stand is still a cardboard box though) and spent endless hours pouring over the internet trying to work out what style my house will be and splodging paint samples in different rooms.  I've planted a few things in the garden which miraculously haven't died yet and I bought some seeds to plant a few vegetables - ambitious I know!

I have a cat! A giant, fluffy, black and white called Otto has come to live with me and we're just about getting to know each other and find a rhythm now.  He throws up hairballs and tries to trip me up when I walk down the hall and I baby-talk him and freak him out with feathery cat toys which he thinks are trying to kill him - it's delightful.  But all is right with the world when he curls up next to me and delicately puts a paw on me to check I'm still there / ask for a scratch behind the ears.

I went skiing at the end of January and got to tick a new country off the list - I loved it but goddamn it, I really miss the mountains.  One week a year is not enough.

I handed in my notice on my job - I have two weeks left to go and I am so ready to be out of there.  It was way past time for me to do it and I'm enormously looking forward to a short break and finding my next opportunity.  Speaking of which I did the foundation course for coaching in February with the Coaches Training Institute in London.  It was an eye-opening 3 days that challenged me more than anything in years and made me realise that I hate getting something wrong, but that it also doesn't kill me.

And finally - because it's sort of the point of the blog - I'm hoping that I'm slowly turning a corner with my eating and my weight.  It's slow, slow progress, but I'm consistently a few lbs down from where I was at the end of last year.  Of course, I'm still up from where I was when I quit dieting but I'm happy if I'm slowly heading in the right direction.  I've not got far on the scales yet, but have noticed it more in how some of my clothes fit and someone actually commented today that they thought I'd lost a little.  I shall take that comment and run with it!

A lot of the work I've been doing recently has been around working out what triggers you to eat in the first place and working to remove it - quitting this job and figuring out a better long term career plan are big parts of that ... of course I also gave up alcohol for Lent, so that could also have something to do with the loss - I don't know but I guess we'll find out in the coming weeks!

In the meantime - I'm super looking forward to the long weekend for Easter, spending time with Otto, good friends and my Dad, sleeping, watching films, reading old favourite books and pottering in the house and garden.

And on that note, I'm about to fire up Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and sit back and watch.

Enjoy the bank holiday!

Monday, 23 January 2017

Joy

One of the books I was reading recently suggested the idea that a common reason for eating more than we physically need is due to not enough joy in other areas of our lives.

It's an interesting idea because, in a weird way, it means I've got kind of lazy.  It means I basically stopped making the effort to find what I actually enjoy doing, and resorted to food for easy-access joy.  

Since making that realisation, I've started questioning a lot of the times I find myself at the cupboard.  The result has been turning away from the kitchen a lot of the time, and on other occasions taking a little bit of something and really savouring; knowing full well that I am eating it for joy, not fuel, and accepting that.

The scales are currently creeping down by tiny increments.  I'm working on not expecting any particular results by a specific time - this is part a work of self-acceptance, and part a realisation that changing my habits and beliefs takes time, and therefore the external symptom of my habits and beliefs will also take time.  It's hard though because we're all conditioned to want the result right now, and I have to put the work in to get the results.

On the positive side, with the scales dropping slowly I'm experiencing the opposite of what normally happens.  The weight that usually insidiously creeps on, that you don't really notice (or deliberately deny), until suddenly one day your jeans don't fit - well, that is basically going the other way.  If I can keep my impatience in check, and just keep going with the self-acceptance and the mindfulness, I will wake up one day and find my jeans don't fit for all the right reasons.

So I've been working on bringing joy back into my life - recognising what makes me happy, actively monitoring my boredom levels and setting myself activities to occupy myself - not distraction so much as actually filling my time well - sometimes that's practical stuff around the house like decorating, and sometimes that consciously sitting down with a good book or tv show to enjoy, and I have to say, if nothing else comes out of it, my house is slowly getting decorated and I'm feeling generally pretty content!

Saturday, 31 December 2016

That Was The Year ... 2016



2016 sure went quick, and here we are on it's final day already.

If there was one word that stood out for me this year, that summed up how it felt for me, then it would be "progress".  It felt like many strands of my life, things that I've been working on for a while, suddenly took a leap forward, and it's been pretty amazing.

For a start, I sit here writing this from my dining table in my kitchen.  My OWN kitchen in my OWN house because, guys - I finally got a foot on the property ladder!  The house completed mid-way through December and I managed to get in before Christmas, and there is such a sense of accomplishment in that, especially when I look back on the years in the financial desert not that long ago.

In my career, I've continued contracting which has put me on a more positive cash footing for now, but I've also taken the first tentative step into where my career might go next and booked the first part of my coaching certification for early next year.  I don't know yet how my career might unfold, but I've had some enchanting, frightening, exciting ideas on that this year and I have the sense of adventure to go looking, and we'll see what happens next.  I know how I want my life to look, and I'm going to go and find the pieces that make that vision come to life.

My weight loss journey feels like it took a tiny but significant step forward in 2016, and particularly December, too.  Having spent this year exploring my emotional eating and trying to figure out how to resolve and re-normalise my behaviours, something clicked in December.  Despite the month holding the move out from my rented flat, a couple of weeks of long commutes and spare room surfing with friends, and the stress of completing on the new house, plus all the normal socialising around the festive season and Christmas itself, I lost 2lbs.  To anyone else that might seem a non-achievement, but like a lot of people I normally put a few lbs on in December (or, you know, half a stone), and without even really trying I've done the opposite.  If I can do it under the super-pressurised circumstances of December, then I hold a great deal of hope that I might have turned a corner and can do it in other months.

Of course, there's also been some amazing trips and holidays this year - skiing in France in February and March, my amazing trip to Borneo and Brunei in the summer and long weekends in Wales, Cornwall and the Peak District, and the wonderful friends that have accompanied me along the way.

All in all, I feel pretty grateful at the close of this year and throughly excited to see what lies in wait for me in 2017.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Advance and Retreat

I love this time of year!  Christmas is approaching, I’ve just had my birthday so I’m usually still feeling the glow of the love I get from my friends around that time, and it’s a time for being cosy at home and enjoying the brisk chill in the air outside, and all the lovely twinkliness of Christmas lights and decorations.

Of course, this year – just to be different – I’m currently between homes so I’m a little like a long distance traveller in transit at a big airport.  I don’t quite feel settled, and I can’t wait to get to my destination, but I can still enjoy all the festive feel-good spirit around me even if I can’t have my own tree and lights right now.  

I decided to give up the lease on my rented flat at the end of November and, as my house purchase hasn’t quite completed yet, I’m bridging the gap by putting most of my stuff in storage and spending a few weeks staying at Dad’s home in Worcestershire.  It means long drives to work in Bristol (nearly 70 miles each way), and living out of suitcases for a few weeks, but it’s worth it to avoid overlapping the two properties and having to double up on rent and mortgage for a month as well as not having to try and do a handover of a flat at New Year.  With any luck my sale completes on 15th December and I’ll be living in my new house in time for Christmas!

In the meantime, I continue to look for the positive in the situation – saving money, spending some time with my Dad, having the opportunity to see friends at home, getting in the festive spirit with Christmas tunes in the car, taking advantage of the quieter shopping near Dad’s to avoid the Christmas Crazy in Bristol and having a handy parcel-collector at home for when the postman calls with my Christmas shopping.  See: lots of positives!

I’ve had brilliant weekends away recently too.  I had 3 night break in Cornwall at the end of October with one of my best friends which was heaven.  Cornwall was full of Autumnal walks by the coast, exploring local towns and shopping for souvenirs in the little boutiques and gift shops, eating clotted cream teas and pasties, and enjoying quiet drinks and card games in the hotel bar each night whilst chatting rubbish and putting the world to rights.  We meandered around Looe, Polperro, Fowey and Polruan, hopped over rivers on ferries and generally relaxed and unwound.  We especially loved relaxing in the spa every evening before dinner.

Then at the end of November, just before my birthday, I went to the deepest, darkest Cotswolds for the Sacred Rascals retreat.  I had been looking forward to it for months, ever since I had an unexpected tax refund and decided that I damn well deserved it, and it definitely lived up to expectations.  The weekend was a mix of hardcore relaxing, being looked after in amazing style in a beautiful country house near Tetbury, and group coaching sessions with some amazing leaders and a fabulous bunch of fellow retreaters.  The group work sessions were enlightening and empowering, and whilst I might not have had any earth-shattering revelations, I came away feeling like there had been a subtle but definite shift in my outlook.

I felt relaxed, more centred and balanced, enthused to follow up on some plans I’ve had brewing for a few months, and I’ve been sleeping better ever since.  Pre-retreat I’ve had generally broken sleep and restless nights for months now, and could probably count on one hand the number of nights where I’ve slept right through and felt well rested in the morning.  That started with shoulder niggle that made it uncomfortable to sleep on my right side last summer, but even after that slowly healed my sleeplessness remained.  Since the retreat, I’ve been sleeping much better – most nights I drop right off and I’m pretty solidly out until the morning.  I’m unsure what changed, but wonder if it’s because I’ve put some plans in action for a part of my life that has been really frustrating me and so my brain just feels calmer?

And what were the plans?  Well, after some conversations with the coaches, I finally made a decision on whether to book on some coach training myself, and I did it!  I had originally been looking at one of the American programmes that you attend long distance on the phone, but I’d had doubts about it which I couldn’t place my finger on.  After some suggestions and research, I’ve found a programme that feels like a much better fit for me, for where I am in my life right now.  And I booked it!  I do my foundation course in February in London, and it’s a bit terrifying, because part of the homework is to do a practice coaching session straight away after the first day – eeeeeeek!  BUT .... whilst that feels outside my comfort zone right now, I have faith that they won’t make me do anything I won’t have been given the tools for, and I have people in my life I can ask to be my guinea pigs.  

I still don’t know what I intend to do with this coaching training in the long run, and I’ve decided not to worry about that yet.  Hell, I might not even want to continue after this foundation part of the course, but it feels good and right to be exploring the options and trying something new out.

On a food front, I’m still exploring my eating demons and trying to find ways to deal with them.  No recent moves on the weight front, up or down, but given I historically always gain most during periods of change and uncertainty, I’m happy that this house move hasn’t caused an upward trend.  Nor has my birthday or my weekends away.  I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with what my triggers are, even if I’m not perfect with dealing with them, and this increased awareness of my emotional state – whether it’s fatigue, boredom, frustration, or anxiety – feels like it should be the underpinning of learning to sit with them or respond more appropriately than just eating them.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Little Yellow House

Writing on here is a bit more sparse these days than it used to be, and I think some of that comes down to the fact that I journal privately now, a habit which I only picked up last year – which is awesome for me but ... not so great for the blog!  I’m not quite ready to give up on here yet though, so you’ll just have to suffer with more infrequent updates (if anyone still reads that is!).

I’m very glad to say that after that the cliff-hanger ending of my last post, the mortgage crisis all sorted itself out, and the house purchase is back on track.  Since then there have been several *exciting* evenings of paperwork in order to support and document my mortgage application, many emails and calls booking various surveys, a thoroughly depressing call around life assurance and critical illness cover (I’m sure he kept going on and on and on intentionally just to wear me down until I screamed “yes, just insure me for everything and let me go!!!”) and today I have a fun appointment with my solicitors to get my shiny new will signed.  

The world of Adulting is overrated.

But hey – at the end of this I’m going to have a house!  And it’s even an actual house not a flat.  A house with stairs and a loft and a garden with a shed.  I considering getting a cat.

So ok, maybe Adulting can be quite awesome.

I can’t remember how much I said about the house before potential disaster struck.  I know I’d written a glowing post of gushing contentment at finally getting to have the stability of a home of my own, that wouldn’t be subject to the whims of flatmates leaving or landlords being a$$hats about stuff, but I’m pretty sure I hadn’t yet posted it when The Mortgage Crisis struck and therefore deleted it in a fit of depressed pique.  So yeah – you can just imagine all of that.  

Instead I shall tell you that my new gaff will be a little 2 bed Victorian terraced house on a quiet cul-de-sac.  That I’ll be moving across the river from lovely, smart regency Clifton where I rent now, to fashionable, in demand, up-and-coming Bedminster / Southville – it might not have the classic graceful architecture and boutique-filled Village of Clifton, but it’s full of families and young professionals and has a buzzing high street full of independent shops – and more importantly I can afford a whole house rather than a poky, converted flat which is all my budget would stretch to in the exorbitant prices of Clifton.  I’m sure they’ll let me back in to visit Clifton once in a while though.

What’s Victorian on the outside is thoroughly 90’s on the inside (probably why I could actually afford to buy in an area that is “middle-classing” faster than you can say “log burner”), but that’s actually good from my point of view.  Pending my structural survey telling me otherwise, the house is in immaculate condition but dated, which means I have a great excuse to completely redecorate but a very easy base to start from – the plaster’s in good condition, there’s no heinous wallpaper to strip, and the bathroom and kitchen are completely clean and usable until I have the money to replace them.  Thanks to some nifty remodelling somewhere in the house’s history, I also have large lounge and a large kitchen diner downstairs instead of the original small lounge / small dining room / tiny kitchen combo that would have originally have been there.  Perfect.

And just because buying and moving house is not enough to deal with, I’m also unexpectedly contemplating a job move.  My current contract runs until December, so I hadn’t really thought about doing anything different until then, but was contacted earlier in the week asking if I wanted to apply for a promotion / payrise on a new contract with people I know from previous jobs.  It’s the kind of unexpected situation where there’s no harm in applying so I have done – no worries if I don’t get it and if I do, then I get some extra money and experience, and it will help pay for the coaching course I want to do in January.

Eating-wise – well, everything is stable.  Which is good and bad I guess, but I’m trying to look on the positive side.  I’m eating a more varied diet and more satisfying food than I used to.  I’m working on my sense of self-worth because that’s pretty much what underpins everything – nothing works if you’re constantly operating from a standpoint of hate and fear for your current situation, it has to be from love for yourself ... which is a lot easier said than done.  I’ve quit the gym (pretty much) but started doing regular yoga at home which I’m enjoying.  I’m still plodding along, but accept that I’ll need to buy myself a new winter coat this year because my others are too small – whilst I’m not putting on weight currently, I haven’t lost the extra little bit I somehow gained after holiday, which means what was tight last winter (because I hadn’t bought anything new after several ski seasons away) is really tight now.  Even though I’m only 7lbs heavier that last winter, everything dates from a couple of stone / years ago when I was at my very lowest.  I won’t punish myself for the variations in this journey and where my body’s at though, so I’ll just buy a new coat and enjoy it!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Oh Calamity (Maybe)

I was in the process of writing a post about how I had some awesome news, and after spending just 6 weeks looking for a home of my own to buy, I had had an offer accepted on a lovely little Victorian house in Bristol.

I had already dubbed it the Little Yellow House, mused on how lucky I was (ha!) in the ferociously competitive market in Bristol to have found somewhere and managed to successfully bid on it in such a short time.  I had even mentally started the renovation project in my mind (and on Pinterest).

I.  Was.  Ecstatic.

And just 3 short days after getting the brilliant(ly unexpected) news about the offer acceptance, I had an equally unexpected and much less welcome call from my mortgage broker on Friday:  there was a major issue with my mortgage application, and when I asked if I should be genuinely concerned I got the very ominous answer of "yes".

At this moment in time, I honestly have no idea whether we can rescue the purchase and I'll have a house all of my own in just a few short weeks time, or if everything is going to come grinding to a halt and I'll not only have to let the vendor down, which I absolutely hate to think about, but I won't be able to even start the process again for another 18 months or more.

Distressed is really not the word.  Although numb and resigned occasionally comes close, as does panic.

Somehow, and I don't even know how this happened, I sailed through all the initial questions from the mortgage broker about my financial situation and got a provisional green light from the banks, and it only emerged on Friday when the broker took the actual real-deal mortgage application to the bank, that  there is a HUGE issue with my having been out of the country on my ski seasons.  Yeah - I don't get it either.

It would appear that at some point in the last couple of years, a lot of the banks decided that anyone who had lived abroad in the last 3 years automatically got benched in the mortgage game.  Where this gets super annoying for me is that, although I did technically live and work abroad and so put a French address in my address history, EVERYTHING to do with my credit, financial and work history during that period remained in the UK - my banking, my salary from my UK employer, my tax arrangements, my loans and credit cards and phone plans, my ability to vote, I wasn't even on the lease on the work property I was staying in - so the reason why they won't touch people who've lived abroad (gaps in the credit history so they can't judge the application properly) doesn't apply to me at all.

My broker and I are now desperately trying to work out a way round this, so that someone will give me a mortgage, but I don't know how long I actually have given I'm now in a chain.  It seems ridiculous that someone with my salary and credit score (significantly higher than the national average on the first and about 10 points short of the maximum possible out of 999 on the second) could end up in this position.

Cross all your fingers and toes for me if you will!!

The only good thing in this whole scenario is that I can tell that my tendency to stress eat is well and truly behind me now as there has been zero inclination to binge or snack outside of normal during the whole thing.  In fact, I'm actually on a pretty great eating kick at the moment, but I'll save that update for another day.

The only weird behaviour I caught myself indulging in was mentally finding sneaky ways to try and blame myself for what has happened, when it CLEARLY outside of my zone of influence. I found myself thinking it was my fault for celebrating too early, or of course I didn't deserve to have the house go through, and other weird inner-mean-girl-in-my-ear thoughts.  I told her roundly to shut up and eff off - I deserve this damn house and I'm going to fight for it.

Send all your good mortgage / buying vibes my way if you will!

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Positivity

I feel really positive right now.  Which is weird, but entirely awesome.


Somewhere between mid-July and now, I feel like someone changed my batteries and my lightbulbs and now I’m energised and sparkly again and feeling wholly refreshed and rejuvenated.


Winding back to mid-July and I had, I think, hit full flaming burnout.  I was sluggish, apathetic and constantly tired – I had no energy, couldn’t face the gym, had no interest in anything but curling up in darkened rooms and sleeping.  I even got to the point where I cancelled seeing people because I just didn’t feel like I could put my mask on and act like a proper human any longer.  I recognised it and acknowledged it and set about trimming back my social engagements and trying to rest myself a bit better, but all I could really think about was holiday and getting away for a couple of weeks.






Oh boy, holiday was amazing.  Two and a half weeks in Malaysia (Borneo) with the first few days of that spent unwinding in 5* luxury in neighbouring Brunei.  We climbed 4,000m mountains (never again), saw So.  Much. Wildlife and visited surreally beautiful landscapes like perfect tropical islands where we sat on the beach and watched the sun rise over the islands of the Philippines as the final green turtles finished laying their eggs in the sand and scooted back into the glassy blue sea. 





Somehow the sense of peace of being away in such quiet locations has come home with me, and I feel quietly positive about life.  I’ve still got a bit of jetlag, but instead of getting frustrated with waking up too early, I’ve been using the time to enjoy leisurely breakfasts before work or go to the gym to swim or do yoga.  I’ve set about gently rearranging the flat now that my flatmate has moved out – spreading out slowly from my over-crowded bedroom and making the stark open spaces where all her stuff has now gone homely and warm again.  I’m on the hunt for possible future homes again, and taking my time and being patient with the process.  



I’ve been cooking properly – making fresh soup, eating fruit and pasta with homemade sauce and (a sign of the progress I’ve made) I'm not really fussed by the open packs of crisps, chocolate, biscuits or icecream in the kitchen from before holiday.  




I also decided against weighing myself on the return from holiday.  I was re-reading parts of The Goddess Revolution whilst I was away, and am generally feeling quite a peace with my body right now, so realised that the scales couldn’t really tell me anything useful at this point in time.  My clothes fit, my skin looks healthy and tanned and I feel strong (well, my dodgy back feels good, my ankle still feels a bit tender after rolling it 3 times on the way down the mountain), so the scales can only either tell me what I already know if I tune into myself, or ruin that.  I choose blissful ignorance and trying to trust myself.