Rest and Digest

I had my doctor’s appointment last week, and as suspected, it was a complete waste of time. After reeling off a list of symptoms, the doctor asks me ‘what do you think is causing that then?’ Um, sir, is it not your job to tell me? I didn’t expect anything else though, and although I was determined not to get fobbed off I could see that it wasn’t worth expending the energy. Let’s say I do get him to listen to me. Then what? Best case scenario I get put on a years-long waiting list.

So, I have decided to save up to get some private help, and I’ve started to do my own research. Let’s see how much I can help myself, at least while I’m feeling in the headspace to actually do that. In the times when I’m not, I’m already trying to set myself up to just bloody rest, and trust that things will get better. I feel so different now to how I felt a few weeks ago that I can hardly even remember what it felt like during that time. It seems like it happened to someone else, or that it happened years ago and is a distant memory.

Rest and digest is the opposite of fight or flight (I have been researching how to have a regulated nervous system, don’t you know) and that’s what I’ve been aiming for on my week of annual leave, which is today coming to an end. When I’m off work I usually try to force myself to get into a day pattern, but this time around I was not going to be forcing anything. When I was feeling at my worst I couldn’t read, as much as I love to, because I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Over the last week, however, I’ve been reading from about midnight till four in the morning and I have been LOVING IT. It feels like I’m back, when I genuinely feared I was lost forever. How dramatic am I.

I have also watched three seasons of a series and loved every minute. I’ve been watching The Boys, which is funny, sad, DISGUSTING at times, but a damn good series. It’s one of those things that’s been recommended to me so many times and I just say ‘yeah, yeah, it’s on my watchlist’, now I’m the one telling everyone they need to watch it. If they have a strong stomach, that is.

My favourite activity though has been the knitting. Last night I completed a little frog for a friend and I’m so excited to give it to her.

Isn’t it flipping ADORABLE? I asked her to choose the colour of the jumper from my wool stash and I think she made an excellent choice – very in keeping with the season what with it being official meteorological autumn right now.

I’m getting neater with my knitting, and I’ve found a better material for the arms and legs to make them poseable – florist’s wire.

Now I have started work on a different creature, which should be finished by the end of the week. I am so looking forward to showing him to you! He’s a gift for my sister, which again, I should wait until her birthday to give to her. But I can’t, I just can’t wait to give it to her. Patience? Never heard of her.

Today I am starting my 1,393,200 attempt at getting healthy. It’s not just the weight (although as I explained to a friend recently, I have become rotund) it’s genuinely how I physically feel that’s the problem. My tummy is NOT happy, and I have to do something about that. I also have slightly high cholesterol and the doctor wants me to take blood pressure readings for a week, so I really have to get on top of all of this.

I’m not making any grand declarations though, I’m just saying that I’m going to try. Because every time I try to force myself into a complete life overhaul, I put so much pressure on myself that I just burn out within a week. I do this over and over thinking that the next time will be different.

If I want something to change, then I have to change something. Wise words from whoever came up with that one.

Right, time now to grab my needles and get my knit on. Rock ‘n Roll or what!

Hayley x

If you want to knit your own frog here is the pattern (link) and if you need any help with it don’t hesitate to leave a comment and I’ll get back to you!

For Now

I still haven’t had time to get out into the garden over the last week. I’ve felt like I’ve needed more than the usual amount of sleep just lately, so I’ve been letting it happen. Case in point- I slept for about ten hours last night, left my sister’s in the morning (intending to get cracking with a load of stuff I want to do), but went back to bed for another five hours. I finally emerged at about 5pm, and will definitely still be able to sleep tonight. Sometimes you just need a good old catch up.

Between naps (and rain showers) I’ve been out with my camera. Last year I sowed a wildflower mix, and since I didn’t know what it contained at all I had fun identifying what grew. To be honest ID-ing flowers is one of my favourite passtimes of all. One flower that stood out for me was the California poppy, which has come back this year and has definitely multiplied. They’re really cool – I like them from their initial seed heads all the way to their petals. They are so pretty in all kinds of ways.

In 2020 my friend’s mum moved house. She dug up a variety of unknown bulbs from her new place and donated them to me, which I then haphazardly planted around the garden. None at all flowered last year, but this month I have discovered that some of them are gladioli. I think. It’s not a plant I’m especially familiar with.

At first I wasn’t overly taken with them, but their petals unfurling is actually rather beautiful. I’ve decided they can stay.

The giant allium from last year is in full bloom, despite me wondering whether it might not perform as well this year. For one thing it flowered a lot earlier than its first year, but in addition to that it’s also just as big as it was before. It’s a beaut, for sure.

Unless it’s nighttime, you literally cannot go near it and not see a bee. It’s impossible. Same for the comfrey, which I grew to make feed for the garden. The bees love it, and I love the flowers, so I cannot bear to cut it down. Guess I’m sticking with ordinary tomato feed for now.

After 2.5 years, and one last evening of ‘treats’ (for the time being) my period of eating and drinking all kinds of unhealthy crap is now at an end. It absolutely has to be, because I’m really feeling it now. My fitness is certainly not at an all-time low, not by any means, but it ain’t great either. I have heartburn pretty much all the time and I’ve started to be concerned about other things, such as high blood pressure.

I’m approaching 40 now, and things like that are starting to seem a lot scarier than they used to. I’ve really got to start taking care of myself.

To see me through the next couple of months I had an evening of fun at my sister’s yesterday. I will eventually try to find a good balance of health and fun, but for now I just need to get my s**t together, you know?

We had a nice BBQ then once it got dark got the firepit out. I do love a good fire, and as a photographic subject it’s hard to beat. These are just taken on my phone, but they’re pretty cool all the same.

I do love visiting my sister and her fiancé, but the best bit of all is Newton. It’s all the more fun visiting him at his home because he seems so excited that I have gone to see him instead of the other way round. But then the best of the best is that I was allowed to say over in the spare room (AKA Newton’s room) and he kindly permitted me to sleep in his bed.

He spent most of the night sleeping with me and… I just can’t tell you how happy it makes me. He’s such a sweetie, I will never get over how much I love that dog. How a whippet manages to take up the majority of a double bed is still a mystery, but he manages it somehow, and I’m still happy to take just a corner of the space if it means doggo snuggles.

For now, that’s it with just coating along. From now on I will be making progress.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Compulsions

Do you ever have those things that you never get bored of? For me, it’s the poppies coming out. They arrive every May without fail, and (almost) every year I still rush to get my camera even though I have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of poppy pictures that all basically look the same. I say almost because I don’t have any pictures from 2019. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed because I have at least one from every year since 2014 and to have a gap, well. I’m not best pleased! Looking back, 2019 was a challenging year for me. That was probably why that year is missing.

I don’t like to dwell on those times. Even now, I don’t even know how to refer to what was going on. Am I talking about my ex? Some guy I knew? What was he? What was I to him? No idea. It was all so… weird. It’s nice to sit here and not feel much at all about that time – I really believe I have properly and healthily processed all that crap (besides the occasional wondering – what the hell was that all about?) But I can’t help thinking… Isn’t it WILD how a literal pandemic affected me less than the emotional abuse of one single fellow human?

Even so, to come out the other side of that with my main concern being that I DIDN’T CAPTURE MY 2019 POPPY? I’ll call that a win.

Aaaaanyway. Yesterday was the day the 2022 poppies emerged for the first time. They’re so sneaky. One moment they look like a bunch of thistles, then the next minute you look over and they have big fat buds waiting to burst. Then one morning you look out of the window and BOOM, red everywhere, blooms the size of plates. They have to be a contender for my favourite plant, but if I’m being honest there’s no way I could pick just one.

2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2020
2021
2022

This week I’ve also seen my first fledgling sparrows of the year, just a couple of days after seeing the babies in the nesting box for the first time. One was poking its head out, too impatient to be fed. I’ve recycled a picture from a previous year as I don’t have the lens that can capture that sort of thing anymore. It seemed a waste to keep it when I literally only used it to photograph sparrows once a year.

Both of our bird boxes are in use this year, and I’m sure there will be a few more broods to come from each before the breeding season is out. I do love watching our garden sparrows, they never fail to be entertaining.

The garden is actually a bit of a mess right now because I’ve been indoors all week decorating my room. I’ve had the paint for TWO WHOLE YEARS but as you know from previous posts I really effing hate decorating. I hate it so much that I was considering going with plain old white again just so I didn’t have to worry so much about edges and all that. But that’s cheating, and it would be such a shame to waste the lovely greeny/bluey paint that I’d already bought.

I’m so glad I made the effort (eventually) because it’s looking really good in there now. I’m not ready to share a picture yet because we have other things going on in the house so the decorating stuff is yet to be cleared away. Today I have to empty the living room in its entirety because the flooring is being done in there tomorrow. That’s something I both can’t wait for and am dreading. It’ll be nice once it’s done but… everything is in turmoil!

After this week life should return to something resembling normality and I can actually do something fun again. And dare I say it, sort some aspects of my life out that have needed attention for a while.

More on that later, once everything is back to some kind of order. I cannot wait.

Hayley x

Just Like Heaven

It has been a perfect Sunday of simple pleasures. I’m sitting writing in the garden with a cup of tea and the sun is hot (but not too hot) on my back. Earlier I had a little lay down on the picnic blanket, and when I put my head on the pillow I’d bought down with me, the side that had been sitting in the sun was deliciously hot. That’s the only word I can think to describe it. I don’t think I have felt this relaxed since 2017.

I got up nice and early to visit a boot sale I’ve never been to before. The one near me is absolutely enormous but people don’t really seem to sell much in the way of boot sale-type stuff. I like to go for the food, especially when the bakery stall is open, but it’s quite rare to find an actual bargain.

This new one was situated in, shall we say, a more reputable area and it showed. I’m wary of pickpockets at our one but at this one, I spotted someone selling photo frames who had left a note- ‘if I’m not here leave £5 per frame in the box’. You would not get that in my area!

A chap at work was selling at the other boot sale a few weeks ago and had to threaten to call security when a less-than-savoury sort was stuffing all of the contents of his table in bin bags but not, y’know, paying him.

Do you know, today I don’t think they even had security guards at their boot sale? Absolutely wild.

What I enjoyed most about today was that there were unusual things. Even if I didn’t particularly like them, there was plenty of ‘ooh look at that’ rather than ‘why are there so many people selling bongs?’

Although I don’t usually go to boot sales with anything in particular in mind that I want to buy, today I was on the lookout for some lavender plants. I came home with three of them, for a fiver. Perfect.

Then I saw a sewing box. It’s a definite fixer-upper, but it should be easy enough that even I can do it. That was £10. Locally I’d never be able to buy something like that- they’d ask for something extortionate like £40.

My favourite item of the day was another sewing box, this one is more of a sorry state but really unusual. I only had £5, so I was brave and did an actual haggle. I’m normally so uncomfortable doing that, but I wanted that sewing box badly, I really did.

I have a tendency to buy things with the intention of fixing them up, but then I get overwhelmed and end up giving them away. In this case, I’m determined. I’ve already made a start, as it happens.

As I removed the veneer on the top of the box, was I pretending I was on an episode of The Repair Shop? You bet I was.

In the garden, this is what’s left of the sunflower I was most excited about.

The variety is ‘Mongolian Giant’ and out of four healthy plants this one leaf is all that’s left. I’m having a huge slug and snail problem this year, much worse than my first gardening year, which was 2020, and again worse than 2021 which itself was a bitch. In 2020 people on Instagram were asking me, ‘how did you grow that without it being eaten?’ Turns out the answer was sheer dumb luck.

This year I’ve been taking preventative measures but the only foolproof way to protect the plants is basically to not have them in the bloody garden. Or pesticides I guess, but I absolutely will not use them and never ever will. Some seedlings I had in a sealed mini greenhouse but somehow a slug managed to get in the smallest gap. Then I read somewhere that they can stretch to 20x their body length. DAMN THEM TO HELL.

I’m on a rescue mission with my special sunflower, which has been bought into the house until it is strong enough to withstand the pests. If all else fails, I will try again next year, but be much more protective of my seedlings in future.

Apart from that, little seed pods are appearing on the honesty, and when they are backlit by the afternoon sun they are just gorgeous.

So cool.

The poppies always seem to come out of nowhere. One minute they’re not doing much and the next second you look they have big fat buds on them waiting to burst.

And we have ALLIUMS INCOMING.

The only thing that would be good enough to end this perfect day is a good old session of playing Sims 4. Yes I’m 39, and yes I still play Sims. Unapologetically. As adults we don’t make enough time for play. I’m here to tell you that we should!

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

NOPE.

That’s it, my week of annual leave is at an end and I’m back at work tonight. Last night I started feeling familiar feelings of anxiety- not about going to work, but about how much there is still to do around the house. But then I told myself ‘NO’. We aren’t doing this. I have made a huge amount of progress with decorating despite the fact I’ve hated almost every single second of it.

Apart from the glossing. I quite enjoyed that part.

Weird.

Whilst decorating, I made a decision. Over the next couple of weeks, I still have some bits to finish off (including laying a carpet, ugh) but after that, I am vowing to NEVER decorate again. DIY can absolutely do one. I hate it, it’s my own private hell. In future what I’m going to do is pay someone to do it for me, which yes, could be construed as lazy. It’s not that I can’t be bothered though, it’s just that for some reason it’s TORTURE for me. Yes, I hate it that much!

I keep thinking ‘don’t be silly, you can save so much money doing it yourself’ but then I think of all the other things I could have been doing this week. The garden has been calling out to me- although I’ve spent some time out there it’s not been nearly enough. I have only sat down to (properly) paint once. This is an unacceptable use of future annual leave.

It doesn’t help that I was pretty poorly the week before my holiday. I had intended to get a lot of prep done so that I could just crack on with the actual painting and get it out of the way, but I just wasn’t up to it. Still, never again. I am standing by that.

DIY is just NOT my thing.

I have been having thoughts about the garden, those thoughts being that I’m really happy with it right now. I haven’t actually had to do much to it this year, other than a bit of weeding and cutting the grass. When it’s the middle of winter and everything is so bleak, it’s hard to imagine anything looking nice and colourful again.

But the garden has come back to life spectacularly, and even though I don’t have time to do all the things I’d like to out there, I’m glad that it is a welcoming space. I do enjoy just sitting out there and looking at it (when I get the chance, that is).

Probably my favourite place is under the apple tree. Newton likes it there too (he obviously has good taste). To some, it’s probably a mess, but I’m not some, I’m me. I love it, and that’s all that matters. There is so much growing under there. Some stuff I planted myself, some of it mum planted years ago, some stuff has found its way there all by itself. It’s one of those spaces where the more you look the more you see, and I could look at it for hours.

It’s hard to imagine that when we moved here the whole garden was just dirt and rubble. There wasn’t even a single blade of grass. It’s a shame we didn’t get a picture of it, but in those days (damn, I’m sounding old now!) we couldn’t afford film for the camera, (did we even have a camera at that point?) if we did have film we couldn’t have afforded to get it developed, and I was still a few years away from getting my first digital camera. Don’t get me started on that subject- after all this time I’m still in awe that digital photography is a thing. It’s just… magic. There are a few material things in life I’ll never take for granted, and photography is one of them.

Did you know, there are people in the world who don’t like tulips? I was only made aware of this recently through the gardening corner of Instagram. It’s true that they don’t last long (some people online refer to them as ‘divas’) but I don’t care about that.

They come, they slap you in the face with spring then they go. They can be flashy divas all they want, I need that wake-up call to let me know spring is finally here.

I have started to deadhead them now, but they have performed so spectacularly. I have no regrets. Here’s the last tulip picture I took, one for the road I guess.

Until next year, ladies. Everything has its time, right?

Speaking of time, how is it MAY? That one snuck up stealthily on me. I have some plans for this month, but more about that next time. Right now I have the very exciting task of… doing the laundry. Rock n’ roll.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Fool’s Spring

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Fool’s Spring, but it’s quite renowned within the gardening community. Every year, it seems, it looks like spring has arrived and everyone rushes to get their plants outside. Yet it’s a ruse and we get one final week of winter before spring proper arrives. The only plant I shouldn’t have put out but did was a dahlia seedling (I completely forgot it was there) which is now no more, but other than that everything I have outside is hardy enough to take a little frost. Hopefully, that’s it for the minus temperatures (at least until late autumn) and I can really start to get going with the gardening.

Last weekend I attended my first boot sale of the year and bought two ENORMOUS plastic pots for a mere £5 each. The guy selling them only sells pots so I think he’ll be one of those sellers that return every week. You can guarantee he’ll be seeing more of me this year. My pots are second-hand and have weathered in a way that makes them look like real terracotta. I can’t wait to get those babies planted up.

Despite the chilly evenings my tulips have been doing well and varieties I planted last spring yet didn’t make an appearance at the time are starting to make themselves known. I don’t remember buying parrot tulips, but evidently, I did.

I am in love with this pink tulip, but I didn’t make it out with my camera when the light was actually good. Did I cheat with my edits and add a little sunshine? Yep, I certainly did. I figure I needed to do this beauty justice.

The same goes for the anemonies. They’re just too beautiful to not show those creams and pinks off.

Operation sort-out-the-front-garden is also underway. The neighbourhood cats currently use it as a toilet so I’m going to fill the ground up entirely with flowers and vegetables. The vegetables will be in pots (definitely at least one of the HUGE pots) because I read it’s not safe to eat food that has been fertilized by cat poop. Even if it was, it’s somewhat unsavoury. The front garden is a little heat trap so I’m envisaging some tomatoes growing nicely out there.

I myself have been more than ok with the cold snap because during that time I entered a state of semi-hibernation and played the absolute hell out of Sims. The Cottage LIving expansion pack was finally on offer at a reduced price so I treated myself to that and spent most of my spare time milking pretend cows, collecting pretend eggs and growing pretend oversized produce. I won some competitions at the village fair, and one of my prizes included a top hat for a chicken. Does life get any better than that? Not by much.

My simple plans of NOT THINKING TOO MUCH are working out really well. If the thinking isn’t useful, it gets thrown out. On top of that even when I wake up feeling a bit down and anxious, I have been making the conscious decision that actually, no, I intend to have a GOOD DAY and FEEL HAPPY and will MAKE IT HAPPEN. So far so good!

Feeling your feelings is good. If something bad happens then I don’t think you should push it to one side, otherwise it will come back to bite you at a later date. My problem is that if I feel my feelings when nothing in particular is happening, I would just feel sad all the time. In my opinion, some feelings don’t belong and should not be invited to stay.

My art plans are under the category of ADVANCED PLANS and said plans are coming along nicely. One of the most important things right now is for me to start living more frugally, something I’ve been banging on about for the last five years or so without doing a damn thing about it. I have now completed two full weeks at work with no unpaid early finishes (something which never happens) and have stopped buying crap I don’t need. It hasn’t been easy. After Christmas is a very quiet period at work and there has been the opportunity to knock off early every single day of the week.

I think that because my plans are doable and because I have a real passion to see them through, it’s enough to get me through the preparatory stage where not-so-exciting things need to be done. Like getting some savings behind me. And not letting unfounded doubts talk me out of it. Rest assured there will be more about these plans at a later date!

Right now there’s time for one more cup of tea then I’m spending the morning with my little sister, something that doesn’t happen often enough.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

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

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

Mixed Feelings

In theory, I love Christmas. It is, after all, the most wonderful time of the year. As much as I want to enjoy it though, there’s something in me that makes the whole season really hard to handle. I genuinely have no idea why. One minute I’m excited, the next minute I’m struggling to find the willpower to brush my teeth.

In the last few years I’ve become much more self-aware, and knowing that this is a thing that happens to me means that this year I was better at going easy on myself through the roughest patch. I did have the usual grand plans of lots of homemade gifts and surprises for everyone, but when it came down to it I didn’t have the energy. Rather than berate myself for being weak, I ended up spending as much time resting as I needed to. Which turned out to be a lot. As such by the time Christmas Day arrived I felt well enough to enjoy it.

I feel very much that there is ‘something wrong with me’. I seem to have a very limited capacity for doing things, and wonder if this is actually a mental or physical problem. Maybe it’s both? I think there’s very little point in speaking to a doctor about this, especially at the moment, because the NHS is at absolute breaking point. Even in the best of times getting a diagnosis for certain things takes years. Or never, in some cases. I just don’t have the energy to go through that.

My plan for the coming year is to not try to pour from an empty cup. Let’s see how I get on with that.

In order to make time and energy for the things I desperately want to do and are most important to me, I’m going to try to stay as organised as possible (and keep life as simple as I can) so that I don’t feel like I’m endlessly trying to catch up. That’s how I’ve felt for the entirety of this year – like if I could just get everything in order I’ll be fine. But I never make it to that point.

This does bring up enormous feelings of guilt that are almost overwhelming, because there are people who do so much more than me and manage to get through it. This has, however, been the case for most of my adult life and no amount of feeling guilty has changed the fact that I can only do so much. That just happens to be less than some others, so how about I try accepting the situation for what it is? Just a thought.

It’s very hard to shake off the feeling that 2021 has been a complete waste, just a year of treading water, but that’s not true. My love for art most definitely exploded and I found another pastime I really enjoy. It’s one that I can do from bed when I’m feeling my crappiest, which goes a long way to explain the impressive numbers of hours per week I’m dedicating to it.

Years and years ago I downloaded Duolingo, a language-learning app, but never stuck with it. A few months ago I started learning again, and this time I really caught the bug. I mean, I am ADDICTED. I started learning Dutch, primarily because I have a Dutch friend and thought it would be fun to learn more about her native language.

I’m pleased I did because although it’s an impossible language and I find it insanely complicated, I also absolutely love it! At the same time I’ve been learning Spanish, because a guy at work is doing the same thing and I thought it would be cool for us to speak Spanish together as we progress.

You might think that learning two languages at the same time would be counter-productive (I had misgivings myself) but in fact I’d say it’s been easier doing them both simultaneously. It’s like once I activated that part of my brain there was no stopping it.

I find it really interesting that I’ve managed to retain so many new words in my memory, especially since I’d say memory is not my strong point at the best of times. At the moment I’d say I can think of a sentence and probably be able to get my meaning across, but right now each sentence would be in a mixture of Spanish and Dutch. That might have a somewhat limited reach! I’ll keep learning though, because I’m thoroughly enjoying it. As of now I’m on a 61-day streak with no sign of letting up.

As it happens I just completed my most productive week of language learning to date, because I was locked in a bitter battle with another learner who wanted my top spot. Every week you are put in a league with 30 other random users. The top five are promoted to a higher league every week, whereas the bottom 5 are demoted. The top league is Diamond, and that’s where I found myself last week. You unlock a special achievement if you get to number one in the Diamond League, and I just couldn’t, couldn’t let it go.

I’m so sorry Alessandra, I know you wanted that gold medal, I just wanted it more! Sadly you can’t message each other through the app, because if you could I would have thanked this person for seriously motivating me this week. I spent over 30 hours learning!

I even practiced on Christmas Day, although I only spent the bare minimum on it in order to keep my lead and keep my streak. The rest of the day was spent with the family at my sister’s new house, which was an honour because a first Christmas in a new home is always special.

What’s even more special is that we even got to spend it together at all (I’m looking at you Covid) and I didn’t dare hope that it would go ahead until we’d done our lateral flow tests on Christmas morning. But happen it did, and I ate the most poshest Christmas dinner I’ve ever had in my life. My sister’s fiance cooked us a veggie meal, and the main was made of lentils which to be honest concerned me greatly. They are not a food I generally choose to eat.

It tasted incredible though. The highlight for me though was the leek. How does someone make a leek taste that delicious? The carrot almost got the top spot, but the leek just edged it for me. Seriously good grub.

I got so many thoughtful presents, I spent the day feeling very special and very loved. The presents I gifted also went down as well as I hoped they would. For me receiving the presents is secondary (no, really!) because I always forget I’m getting presents too. As an adult I think it’s much more special seeing the people you love open the gifts from you.

The most special gift of all of course was seeing Newton. The first glimpse I got of him was from the kitchen door where he was standing on his hind legs trying to get a look at us as we came up the garden path. It’s so lovely when someone is that excited to see you!

At that point my heart melted, because he was wearing the cutest snuggly jimjams I ever saw in my entire life, along with a Christmas hat. It’s lucky that boy likes my cuddles, otherwise there would have been trouble.

Here’s Newton and his mum with their matching headwear. It’s got to be my favourite picture of the day.

I could (should) end this post right now, but I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t mention how utterly crappy I’m feeling. I knew I wanted a picture of me and Newton, for the memories, but I’m finding it really hard to stand the sight of myself.

I did lose a bit of weight (in fact I’m still lighter than the last time I posted) but I don’t feel at all like me. I feel like me but with extra bits, like I’m me but swollen with bee stings and if the swelling would just go down my actual face would come back. It’s not just that. I feel so unhealthy and although it’s not all to do with weight I’m sure a good diet would go a long way to helping things.

So there’s no waiting for January the first, I am jumping on the wagon RIGHT NOW.

For 2022 I intend to get back to posting regularly. It’s definitely easier to post a lot than to sit down to a blank screen after a long break. After a year of feeling like I’m getting nowhere, with the state the world is in I’m lucky (and grateful) to make it through and I intend to make the most of things.

Starting from now.

Hayley x

This Time Next Year

The weekend just gone I had a rather impressive pity party. I did get some things done – I assembled a new bed, had a rearrange… and left everything else in a bigger state than when I started. I had one of those weekends where I could only bring myself to do the bare minimum. All I really wanted to do was stay in bed, and for the most part, that’s what I did.

On the plus side I read three books. On the downside I am now even heavier than when I decided that this time I was really, really going to get back on my diet. The lies we tell ourselves!

As I was laying awake at 4am (my sleep has also been atrocious) I realised that there’s only one way to get myself out of this funk, and that’s with sheer bloody-minded effort on my part. I’ve got to work my way out of this.

As if he was psychic, a message from a friend popped up while I was reading an ebook on my phone.

‘Is this you?’

It was indeed me. There’s no point showing you the picture, because it was taken in the days before phone cameras were good (although I’m only talking 2012… I feel old!) but I looked hefty. Someone shared it on Facebook and my friend wasn’t entirely sure it was me he was looking at.

Because it was this time in 2012 I really started losing weight properly for the first time, I could say off the top of my head how much I weighed in that picture – 22 stone 4 pounds, my heaviest ever. I remember weighing myself that very morning and looking at the scales in dismay. Although I’m glad to say I never got that heavy ever again, if I don’t take action now I could well end up back there.

I told my friend that right now I weigh a mere two stone less than I did in that picture, and happily he agrees that it looks like there’s a much bigger difference than there actually is. I think it’s because I’m so much more active now than I was back then, I guess I must have more muscle tone. My fitness levels seem to confirm this. The last time I was the weight I am now I was getting seriously out of breath walking in and out of the warehouse at work, but now I can easily hold a conversation as I walk, even when wearing a mask. I suppose things aren’t as bad as I thought they were.

I used my trusty Google photos app to look up other photos of me from that year. I remember I joined Slimming World in the beginning of May that year, and a photo of me from late November shows that I was unrecognisable 6 months later.

That gave me hope that this year is far away from being a write-off. I got my butt out of bed the next day and took Newton for a walk to brush off the cobwebs.

Yesterday another friend messaged me to let me know a band we both like are going to be playing… this time next year. Tickets had just gone on sale and after a moments hesitation, I booked my ticket to Swingamajig 2022.

Swingamajig 2019 (2020 was of course cancelled) was one of the best days I ever had and also the last day I can say I felt truly happy and the world felt vaguely normal. It was also the best I’ve ever felt about myself (I mean, I looked magnificent) and I can’t wait to get back there.

When I was choosing that fabulous dress I couldn’t decide between that one and another one on sale, so I bought both. The other one I still have, and I’m going to slim into it ready for 2022. I had to have a chuckle at how half-cut I look in that picture, but still along way from full-cut (see below!)

365 days to get back into the swing of things (geddit?) then celebrate with an epic evening of shenanigans? I think having this to look forward to is EXACTLY what I need.

After finishing work this morning I got up early, which I try and fail to do every single work day, and went for a 3 mile walk. I intend to go out walking every single day, which is exactly what I used to do. I used to do it and I used to LOVE it. Once home I cut the grass, hung out with Pea then got another few hours sleep. I woke up before my alarm went off AND woke up with more energy than I have done in a good while.

It looks like I chose the right day to get back to it.

The tulips in the garden are now looking absolutely stunning. Since I got the little greenhouse up the garden looks kinda cute and I stopped stressing out about how I hadn’t done enough. Since there’s no guarantee our local climate is suitable enough for the tulips to come back next year, I got my early bird order of more bulbs in, since you get a discount for doing that.

Worst comes to worst, I only have 70 new plants next year. Best case scenario, they all come back and I have HUNDREDS. I’m hoping for the latter!

Hayley x