Gently Does It.

January seems to have lasted a hundred years already. Despite the strong urge to do the opposite, I’m letting myself ease into the year gently. Veeeeery gently. I’ve just finished a three-day weekend and during that time I did virtually nothing. I could Not. Be. Bothered.

Maybe it’s work culture that makes me feel like this, but there’s always that background pressure to do MORE. All the time, more, more, MORE. I lost five pounds this week. But if I tried HARDER, exercised MORE, I could have lost MORE. I started reading a book, but if I read quicker and didn’t take breaks then I could have read 3 books! Imagine that! Think of the books I could read over the course of a year!

It does my head in.

I finished a painting today, which was fun.

But I could have done it quicker. I could have done three paintings and I could sell them, and make more money, and I could be a BOSS BITCH or some shit and have a side hustle and… knowing me, have a lovely nervous breakdown.

I have to consciously make myself stop those kinds of thoughts. The main reason (apart from that it’s super unhealthy for me) is that I don’t want my life to be like that. I want to live a slow, considered life, a life where I take notice of the small things. That’s not the kind of world we live in, is it? I find myself getting swept up in it all, but I’m throwing out the anchor. I am intentionally making the life I want and ignoring what other people are doing. Unless what they are doing is chilling the heck out.

I was doing quite well with this a few years ago. During my walks in the woods I started noticing all the thousands and thousands of details I’d previously missed. Gradually, as I got fitter and started losing weight more successfully, my focus slipped and my primary goal became BURNING MORE CALORIES. Now with every walk I feel guilty that I haven’t had a ‘proper workout’. I feel that I somehow wasted that time.

Which is nonsense, isn’t it. My walks made me so happy yet I somehow made it something to get stressed about. That is soooooo me.

I am intentionally going back to the Hayley that stops to notice all the things. I have learned so much about myself over the last few years, through trial and more error than I’d like to admit. Now I know enough that going forward I can bring with me the things that make me happy whilst leaving the rest behind. The only other thing of note that’s happened during my weekend is to get a little gardening done, just a little. I’m late (or early, depending on which way you look at it) but the bulbs have finally been planted.

This year I have 30 tulips, 30 ranunculus and a few anemones. I’m very excited to see a bit of colour in the garden again. My little garden helper had come to visit but he spent most of the time staring at me from the bushes. Little weirdo.

I’m definitely getting somewhere, but I’m getting there one little step at a time and enjoying the view on the way. Life is precious, and I intend to make the most of it in the most gentle way possible. In fact, gentle is going to be my word of the year.

Thank for reading,

Hayley x

Friends

This year has already been challenging. I decided that, no matter what happens, I’ll keep working towards my goals. I didn’t expect to be challenged quite so soon, but the first week of January was a tough one.

In October last year, we had to say goodbye to one of our pets, our little Chester. Pet doesn’t cover it, he was our little friend, our family member, and he was with us for eighteen years. He had a good inning, as they say, but no matter how much time we have it’s never enough. I knew I’d be upset, but I honestly had no idea just how hard it would be.

He was such a good cat. And so funny! He had the loudest cat snore I’ve heard in my life but at the same time the most pathetic little squeak of a meow. He liked tummy rubs and he would always dart into the bathroom and keep me company whenever I needed the loo. Yes, he was a bit strange, but that’s why he fit in with our family so well. We’re all a bit odd here.

It was only once he was gone I registered that he greeted me at the door nearly every single morning when I got home from work. Even now I always expect to see him sitting there waiting for a cheek rub.

I guess I’ve been struggling since then. Then on top of that, we have the crappy weather and the usual January blues. I was determined to make a good start to the year in spite of not exactly feeling in the mood, and I have been doing a good job, but then my sister unexpectedly had her parrot, Petrie, pass away.

Petrie and I had a rocky start – the first time I bird-sat she bit me quite a lot and even drew some blood, but as I got to know her and learned her boundaries we became really good friends. I will miss hanging out with her so much, she was the coolest little bird and it was such a privilege when she let me scritch her cheek feathers. I always felt so honoured when she would do a kind of little bow to let me know it was ok to stroke her. So special!

When I sat down and allowed myself to be completely honest with myself, I realised how much I have been using food and alcohol to manage my emotions over the last two years. I’ve always been an emotional eater, even at the best of times, but just lately I realised I simply have to stop. I want to be able to cope with my emotions in a healthy way, and I’ll never learn how if I don’t face up to them instead of pretending it’s not happening and smothering them with wine and pizza.

So that’s been HARD, just letting myself feel sad. I can’t say I’m a fan, but I’ve been really feeling in my body how my lifestyle has been affecting me and I simply couldn’t carry on that way any longer. It was a make or break moment, and so far I’ve made it through without sabotaging my plans for this year. Given my current mood, I’m fairly proud of that.

Crappy things will always be happening in life. I can’t let them put me back every single time, because that will get me absolutely nowhere at all. As evidenced by the 39 years of my life so far. Opening yourself up though and letting yourself feel after years of pretending you’re not bothered… oof, that’s painful. But even though it’s almost unbearable, the good stuff that comes along with it is worth it. Every time. Feeling a loss like that means you got to feel the love, too. Cheesy, but oh so true.

So, here’s what I’ve done in terms of ‘self-care’. I’ve made an appointment to have an assessment for counselling. I’ve started to increase my exercise levels and have even been OUTSIDE for a couple of walks. I have been eating VEGETABLES! I have been sleeping when I needed to. I took a couple of sick days from work instead of pushing through.

The outside has been lovely, actually. Bitterly cold, but when the sun has been out (and I’ve had the energy) me and my camera have been out adventuring. Oh, I had missed doing that!

Everything is coming to life again already. Even in my poor neglected garden there is so much to discover, so I’m going to make the effort to get out there this weekend and do some jobs that should have been done weeks ago. A bit of gardening is always good for the soul.

The sadness I’ve been feeling lately, it’s almost like it’s physical pain. Like I’m… bruised, somehow. At the same time I feel like it would be weird to not feel that way, given the circumstances, and in actual fact in the long run feeling like has got to be a good thing. Better out than in.

Whilst it’s important to honour those feelings it’s also important to be grateful for all the good stuff in life. I feel like I appreciate the positives deeply lately, and that is what can come from letting yourself feel all the things.

Friends, thank you for reading. I am glad you’re here.

Hayley x

One of THOSE People

I’ve got to admit, I was not my most productive self ever during my last shift of 2021. I get really excited by any kind of fresh start, so I was going around asking people what their hopes/dreams/plans are for 2022. Hardly anyone had thought about it, and I got a lot of ‘oh, you’re one of THOSE people’ comments. That’s ok though, I absolutely am one of those people.

I love Mondays, the first of the month, and a new year.

I didn’t have the usual fire inside of me for 2021, and I think that showed during the year. Without proper plans, I find myself coasting along, and that does not make me happy. I know I’m an overthinker, and I wondered if (oh, the irony) just letting things take their own course might be a good idea.

It was a useful experiment, but it’s not for me. I’m a planner through and through, so I’m taking all of the good things I liked doing from previous years and smooshing them all together to make this year a good year. I’ve got my plans and they’re being put into ACTION.

For the last two years, what I’ve mostly been is scared. I’ve been scared to go out, even to the woods, because thanks to Covid I have a very strong fear of people, even when I’m outside. Of course to some extent, my fears are completely rational. Covid is a very real threat and should be avoided. But passing a couple of dog walkers out in the open is lower risk than my anxiety would have me believe.

When I was at my happiest I spent a lot of time outdoors. Being active meant that I slept better, my appetite was regulated, I was fitter and just generally felt pretty good. This is a non-negotiable for 2022- I MUST get back outside. I cannot let that fear control my life.

Another fear I have is a fear of failure. The garden got very much neglected in 2021, because I put off doing so much. I’d want to sow some seeds, but this annoying voice in my head kept telling me that I wouldn’t do it right so it was best not to do it all. This voice was also pretty strong in previous years but in 2020 I managed to ignore it. As such the garden thrived, but then the next year I lost a lot of self-belief.

Even if something did grow successfully, I’d remember I needed to water it but then just… not do it. I’d get a weird sinking feeling inside of me, I’d decide to do it another time but in fact end up letting the plant die. Writing this down, I realise how strange I am. I wonder if anyone can relate or if it’s just me with this one.

Most of what I wanted to do over the last 12 months got put to one side because of that stupid feeling, so this year I’m doing my best to quiet it.

I am capable of much more than I give myself credit for, and even if things don’t all work out, it’s worth it to at least try. I’ve said the words, now I have to live by them.

One thing I want to do this year is to take more photos. I’ve always loved photography but my picture-taking has definitely slowed down. Probably because I don’t go out adventuring as much (or at all!) That’s going to change very soon.

I started this year as I mean to go on. I got out into the garden with my camera, and even though it looks all grey and horrible out there, there is always something to be found if you just go and look for it.

Despite my neglect, there is still plenty of life out there and much to be excited about. Some auriculas I grew from seed have somehow made it through, there is kale to be harvested, bulbs are starting to make their way up into the light and the sun even came out. I haven’t seen a blue sky in weeks!

And just like that, anything seems entirely possible once more.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x