and so, this self-care thing is hard

After yesterday’s post about how I’m not looking after myself (I’m starting to sound like that frozen meals ad, yeah?) I got a lot of supportive comments from my friends, both real life and online. I felt very touched that people were concerned about me.

They all said pretty much the same thing. I have to take better care of myself or I’m not going to be any good to anyone.

I know in my heart of hearts that this is true. Or at least Me-two does. Me-first (or perhaps that part of me should be called Everyone-else-first) is somewhat reluctant to accept it, and thinks that I need to keep going until the job is done, without any let up. And then keep going some more.

It’s going to be difficult to overcome Me-first’s drive and determination, especially when she is in the ‘zone’. But I need to find a better balance and I need to give Me-two what she needs as well.

Today I didn’t do very well at this.

But tomorrow is another day and I will try again. Some things I need to really pay attention to first are to have a proper lunch break and regular breaks during the day, to drink more water and less beer, and to get a massage.

One thing I’m quite proud of is that I haven’t resorted to stress eating or going back to cakes and sweet things. That’s an area I think I’ve made a lot of progress in.

So if I can do that, there’s no reason why I can’t take other steps as well. And one step at a time I will get to where I want to be.

And thank you everyone who sent me supportive messages. I appreciate you taking the time for me.

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stuck in a rut

I have a confession to make.
I’ve crashed and burned. 
It isn’t easy to commit this to writing, since last year I was so proud of myself about finally finding the spark I needed to get up and start exercising and having started to do the work I want to do to within myself.
 
When you make a public statement about what you’re doing, it’s supposed to make you more accountable and more likely to follow it through. This clearly hasn’t happened for me.
When I started running in December, I knew there was a risk that I wouldn’t stick with it over the Xmas break. I accepted that, and I told myself that I wasn’t going to beat myself up about slacking off for a couple of weeks. I still knew I wanted to do it and I was starting to feel better, even though I had a long way to go. I thought that would be enough to make the feeling last.
Only it didn’t. And it hasn’t been a couple of weeks any more. It’s been over a month. And now I am starting to feel down on myself about it.
It’s school holidays, so nothing is normal and my routines have been disrputed. Slabs had some time off after Xmas and I’d been going to work in my own time, leaving Slabs and Juniordwarf to do their own thing. Now Slabs and I are both back at work and Juniordwarf is shuffling between home days, grandmother days, daycare and vacation care. It’s starting to get complicated.
On the first day of vacation care I had to pack Juniordwarf’s lunch. It felt just like a school morning and all the stresses and anxieties of last year started to come back.
Up until then, despite falling off the wagon, I’d been feeling fairly relaxed. But that day, I could just feel myself sliding back into my old stressed ways.
I feel like I’m edging back towards the familiar.
Someone once described to me the process of change as being like trying to divert a river from its course. The water has forged its course over many years. The longer it has followed the path, the deeper and wider the course is, and the harder it is to make the water flow a different way.
I imagine it slightly differently. 
I see myself picking my way along a steep, deep, dry river course, where water hasn’t flowed for a long time, with many loose rocks all the way up the embankment. When I try to make my way out of this channel, the challenge is to find a solid hand hold or a foot hold, rather than a loose rock.
And now, having made such great progress starting to scramble up that river bank, I find more loose rocks than firm hand holds. I feel my grip loosening and my footholds failing. 
Sometimes it seems like it would be easier just to let go and slide back down, in a mini-avalanche of rocks.

There is comfort in the familiar. 
I know that river’s course well. It’s safe and unchanging. There are no surprises and there’s nothing to fear there.
I’ll look back up at how far I got this time and wish I hadn’t let go, but part of me will be secretly relieved that I’m not still perilously clinging on in unfamiliar territory.
I’ll know that from lower down there are no more risks of falling, so I’ll be safe.
I’ll keep working my way along the riverbed, picking out the easy course. Sometimes I might stumble on the loose rocks, but that won’t be as bad as falling from a great height.
But where is the riverbed leading me? Nowhere new. To a place I don’t want to go to any more. Not upward and out of there. 
But upward is the way I want to want to go.
So why won’t I start climbing again? Is it that I’ll simply move along the river bed until I find a place that looks like it might be easier to climb up? Is that what the spark that I got last year was – an easier starting point?
Or will I have to tell myself that there isn’t going to be an easier starting point, and that here is as good a place as any to try again, and begin the climb all over again?
But . . . if I don’t let myself fall now, I won’t have to have that conversation. If I hang on to where I am now, and keep reaching out until I find the next hand hold, then maybe I can keep going.
I just need to find whatever it is that got me started to push me that little bit further so I can find the next thing I need; to stretch my arm out just a little more to grab hold of the next hand hold.
I hope I find it soon.

P365 – Day 342 – running (Flashback Friday)

I thought I might try out the Flashback Friday concept and see how it works. I first saw the idea on Nicole’s blog a while ago and I think it fits in quite well with the ‘Past-Present-Future’ theme of my blog.
Ok, so today is actually Thursday, not Friday, but this is my blog and I make the rules around here, and if I say I can do Flashback Friday on Thursday, then I can.
Anyway, to kick off what might become a occasional series, today I’m going back to early December 2005 and reproducing an extract from my journal.
For a bit of background, several years ago I weighed 73.4 kg. For someone who is only 151 cm tall, this was somewhat* overweight. It was caused by a lifetime of unhealthy eating habits and many years of very little exercise. After Slabs and I moved to Tasmania in 2005, I made a decision that it was time to do something about my unhealthy lifestyle.
I improved my eating habits, ate a lot less, drank a lot less, and started to exercise. I started off by walking in my lunch breaks at work. This increased to walking in the mornings and, before I knew it, I’d started running.
This was a surprise to me because I’d always hated running and at school had struggled to run the couple of kilometres around the sports fields that had been required of us for phys ed and sports training. But I started off very slowly – one minute running, two minutes walking – and over about four months I built this up to being able to run for 45 minutes. And what was even more surprising was, I sort of liked it.
I felt great, looked pretty good and, for the first time in my life, felt like I was actually getting fit and healthy.
And this is what I wrote at around this time six years ago:

I’ve let myself go a bit this week, but still exercising, so it should be OK. I think ideally I’d like to lose five more kilos and get down to 51. That would be perfect, but I know that this month it’s going to be difficult with work lunches coming up. 

So I will set a goal of 51 kg by 13 February. 

This morning I did a 30 minute run (including ten sprints the length of the oval – what absolute torture, but at least not as boring as jogging around the streets the whole time.) I had plans to do the long walk tomorrow morning and run the first 30 minutes and see how long it took overall. But it is pissing down with rain (our roof is leaking, that’s how heavy it is) and the forecast is for rain all weekend. I can’t see myself getting up at any time to go out in that. No way.

And why, you might ask, have I chosen this particular flashback?
Well, I recently read about one of my friend’s achievements in completing a 10 km fun run recently. I felt really inspired by how well she had done, and thought to myself that six years ago my goal had been to complete a similar fun run.
(I stopped running when I got pregnant because the things the pregnancy hormones did to my body made it too uncomfortable to continue, so while I kept walking I also ate a lot, and I stacked on a lot of weight that I still haven’t managed to lose.)
I started thinking that if my friend can run 10 km, and I got close to it six years ago, why can’t I do it again? I seemed to have no incentive to get healthy again and was only too willing to remain in my lazygirl rut.
Earlier this week I had a bit of a moan about it on Twitter. How am I supposed to find time to do any serious exercise when I have a child, and I work and I try to keep the house clean, and I have so much gardening to do, and my lunch times are filled with doing errands so I don’t have time to even go for a walk, and, and, and  . . .
As usual, my tweeples were sympathetic and helpful, and I began to think that I might actually be able to do this and that just maybe now was the time to start.
The suggestions were simple (there’s only so much you can say in 140 characters), and were things I already knew. For some reason I just needed someone to say them to me, and this time I was ready to hear them. Simple things like making changes to my daily routine to bring in some exercise – something I’ve read and heard a millions times, but have thought it’s all too hard and I have no time and I’ve never made the effort to think about how I actually could do it.
This week it suddenly became a lot clearer, and now I think I can really do it.
The main reasons I want and need to do this are (1) to increase my energy levels so I’m able to keep up with with Juniordwarf, (2) to try and improve my moods and overcome my anxiety issues, because my bad days are starting to become really bad and I’m not coping well, and (3) to fit into the clothes that I bought six years ago and wore for about a month.
Also, much as I try to convince Juniordwarf that I’m 29, I’m not, and I’m getting to the age where my chance of developing ‘lifestyle’ diseases is going to increase if I don’t make changes to my lifestyle now.
I hope that these reasons will outweigh the excuses I have: (1) I can’t find a sports bra that fits (this is a serious problem if you are endowed like Dolly Parton), (2) I don’t actually like running (I didn’t six years ago either, but I grew to like it), and (3) it is going to hurt (it will, but the good feeling is going to outweigh the hurt, and last a lot longer).
Seriously, I know absolutely that making healthy choices makes me feel so much better, but for some reason, it’s easier to stay in my rut and keep doing what I’ve always done.
It doesn’t make any sense when I know how much better I can feel.
Anyway, it’s time.
I did question whether the ‘silly season’ was the right time to start, because there would be lots of excuses not to continue, but I figured that the best time to start is when I’m motivated.  If I put it off, I might just slide back down into that place I go to on the bad days and it might take several more months before I feel able to get started.
So the time is now.
Also, I have deliberately not weighed myself and I’m not going to. My aim is to get healthy, improve my moods and start feeling good about myself. If I can achieve that over time, then I don’t care what the scales say.
For someone who likes tracking progress to the nth degree (like I did in 2005), this is a big change. But I’m trying to cultivate a new attitude that the numbers on the scales are (like age), just numbers, and my measure of success will be things like more energy, better moods and feeling better about myself.
I have no doubts this will be hard – everything I’m doing has been hard, and there have been major setbacks – but it’s important, so I’m doing it.
(And just so you know I wasn’t joking, after I wrote this post I went out for the first time. I’ve started with the same routine that I had back in 2005. Even that nearly killed me, but I know I have to stick with it. I will get used to it and it will start to feel OK. I’ve done it before, so I know it will.)
 * An understatement. 

P365 – Day 229 – a little bit of self-indulgence

This book was recommended to me by a counsellor I was seeing a couple of years ago. I got a short way into it, then it all got too hard and I didn’t have enough time to devote to it. Eventually everything fell by the wayside, and I forgot all about it.
Recently I went back to a counsellor to talk about some issues I was having a hard time dealing with. We ended up talking about some of the things that I think are holding me back from . . . well I’m not sure what from, but we talked about some beliefs and behaviours that are keeping me stuck in my old habits and that occasionally rise to the surface, making me feel more down on myself than usual, and not a nice person to be around.
She gave me some reading, which seemed very familiar, and after a while I realised it was from the very same book that I had tried to work through before. So I started working through it again. 
This time, I’ve started to feel like I’m making progress and that this might be something that will actually help me, if I stick with it.
One of the problems I have with doing this sort of thing is that I start to work through some exercises that I think will ‘help’ me to deal with my issues, and I tire of it very quickly and give up because I haven’t made any obvious progress.
Another problem is that I tend to think that I can’t do anything differently until I’ve ‘fixed’ the problem. As an example, what I mean is, I think can’t speak up for myself until I’ve done all the exercises on assertiveness and have learned the right way to be assertive. So if I give up on the exercises before I get to the specific ‘assertiveness’ exercises, then whenever I’m in a situation where I have to be assertive I won’t even try because I haven’t done that work.
Quite obviously – and my logical self knows this –both of these ‘problems’ are just excuses for staying exactly where I am.
I know that I’m not going to work through a book and then wake up the day after I’ve finished and instantly be a more confident, outgoing person. It doesn’t work like that. Just like eating healthy for a day is not going to result in a 10 kilo weight loss.
You learn to drive a car by driving a car. You learn a language by speaking it. You learn to take photos by taking photos. Sure there is some theoretical stuff that you might have to learn as well, but if you don’t actually go out and do it – put the theory into practice – all the instructions in the world are useless.
So if I want to learn to handle specific situations, I have to put myself into those situations. Reading about how to handle them (or doing courses, or talking to counsellors) is important to show me what the skills I need are, but if I don’t use the skills in real situations, I’ll never learn them.
It’s pretty obvious really, isn’t it?
I’ve held certain beliefs about myself for most of my life. I’ve allowed those beliefs to affect the way I behave in some situations, which has then reinforced those beliefs in my mind. It’s a vicious circle that I’ve found very hard to break out of.
What I have to do now, as I’ve always had to do, is to challenge those beliefs, to disprove them, and to replace them with thoughts that are a more accurate reflection of the person I am and the person I want to be.  But I mustn’t wait until I’ve done that to start changing my behaviour in particular situations – in fact if I wait, my behaviour won’t change and it will continue to reinforce my ‘limiting beliefs’ and I won’t get anywhere, just like last time. And the time before. And, um, the time before that. And . . .
This is a major shift in thinking for me, because in my world, you just don’t do anything until you have prepared perfectly, have all the information you need, have everything in place, and know that you have a good chance of succeeding.
The result of this is, as you might imagine, that I never do anything – because it’s not possible to prepare perfectly or have all the information I need to proceed. And the fact that I think I need to do this is one of those limiting beliefs that I need to challenge.
It’s all starting to make sense to me now. In fact, writing this post has made it even clearer, and has made it more apparent why I’ve failed in the past.
I seriously don’t expect that if I start to feel better about myself and make some of these changes, that I’ll be a different person. I’m not going to become an outgoing, vivacious life of the party type any more than I’m going to become a hot shot lawyer. By nature I am introverted (which is not the same as shy), with particular personality traits that will always be part of me. Or as my boss put it, while I can try to improve against ‘critical competencies’, it’s not possible to change my inherent thinking style and personality.
But I hope that as I progress through this work, I’ll find it easier to stand up for myself, to explain to people what I want, and to hold onto my position in a discussion instead of getting all wishy-washy and vague. There are a few other things too, but this will do for a start . . .
I also know that I’m not the only person in the world who is terrified by the thought of meeting new people, avoids certain situations because they can’t handle them, freezes up in conversations and beats themselves up when they make a mistake. And I know that a lot of people appear a lot more confident in difficult situations than they actually are. The difference between them and me might not be as great as I think it is.
But part of this work is getting myself to believe that I can do things that I’ve convinced myself that I can’t do.
It’s very much about changing my mindset and my beliefs so that I can change my behaviour.
I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m seeing more positive signs than I ever have before. I think this is a good thing.

P365 – Day 190 – puddles (9/7/2011)

In the depths of a wintery afternoon, feeling like I might never shake this state of melancholy I have recently found myself experiencing,  I had to get out of the house.

Freezing, windy and wet. Not anyone’s idea of a good time to take a leisurely Saturday afternoon stroll. Certainly not mine.

I thought that taking some photos might cheer me up and give me something creative to focus on for the afternoon (groan). But the day was so bleak there wasn’t even anything I could find that I wanted to take a picture of.

I came back with this.

It is supposed to be the reflection of a tree in a puddle. I guess you can vaguely make the tree out. Or you might just see mud.
Never mind. It was worth a try.