A Side Saunter

Dare I say it? Things are looking up! I don’t expect things to stay this way, because life doesn’t work like that, but I am trying to make the most of my ‘up’ times while they are here. I’m hoping that I can remember (I’m trying to DRILL IT RIGHT IN ME) that the next down spot won’t last forever and I’ll bounce back again just like always. The downs are a part of life and shouldn’t be a thing to be feared. Am I not strong enough to handle whatever life throws at me? I am. I’m living proof.

I’m in week two of a new food strategy, and it’s working. I’ve been feeling weird about food for the last couple of years, as it happens. Up until recently, I would eat pretty much anything. Fussy eater was not in my vocabulary as a child, so much so that I was that weirdo that would eat the skin on the custard with my school dinner. I’d go so far as to actually request it, while all the other kids were getting supremely grossed out. No one had to force me to eat brocolli – it didn’t matter what was on the plate, the plate was getting cleared and that was that.

Slimming World used to work for me, because you can eat big portions. As long as was full up, I didn’t really care much what I was eating. In recent times I’ve been trying to make it work again, to repeat my past successes, then getting frustrated when I fail over and over.

The problem is, I eat and I eat, but because I don’t really want or even like the food that I’m eating, I’m never truly satisfied. I’m not hungry exactly, but I’m always left feeling like I have an itch I can’t scratch. Then before I know it, I’m giving in to my cravings and ending up right back where I started.

My new plan is to stay in a very small calorie defecit. I was reluctant to even think about calories, because it brings back feelings of hunger and sadness from my younger days. I used to restrict so much, I literally couldn’t function like that if I tried to do it now. I used to aim for about 1,300 calories per day, which is ridiculously low. The last two weeks I have been aiming for a MINIMUM of 2,000 calories a day, which means I haven’t been feeling deprived and I’ve been staying on track. What’s more, I’ve been eating food that I actually want to eat. That’s the main difference as to why I’m doing well. Food should be enjoyed, and as long as I’m edging towards my goals (rather than sprinting in the opposite direction, as I have been) then that’s fine by me.

I’ve also been saving myself a whole load of time (less food prep) and a whole load of money, both because I’ve been buying less food and I’ve been using the cooker less. For instance, most days I would have cooked Slimming World chips from scratch. I would microwave the potatoes beforehand to soften them up, then cook them in the oven using Frylight, that destroyer of kitchenware. They would usually be in the oven for at least 40 minutes, whereas now I will chuck a couple of hash browns in the air fryer for ten minutes and that’s that. Job done. Another thing about keeping an eye on calories is that it’s free, so that’s another saving. No more diet club membership fees for me.

Less time thinking about and preparing food means more time for knitting and other creative pursuits. Since my last post I finished a third frog, this time for my little brother. He has come up with the BEST NAME EVER for it – he has named it ‘Hopscotch’. I’m sorry, but there’s no beating that.

I’m improving my knitting with every frog – I still find the legs tricky but I did the body and the jumper without making a single mistake. I can now knock up a frog jumper in a couple of hours, such as this one which I made for my sister yesterday afternoon:

A stripey one takes a bit longer than a plain one, but not terribly so.

The thing I LOVE about knitting, is that I can be creative but it doesn’t take anything out of me. I love painting too, but it takes an emotional toll. Sometimes after I paint I’m exhausted, my brain feels totally emptied out, but I don’t get that when I’m making frogs. This is why I’d go so far as to say I’d never be able to be a fulltime artist -I would burn myself out in about five minutes flat. I like that I have managed to figure that out, too, rather than to keep trying to make something fit that just doesn’t. I feel like a (self-imposed) weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

I am going to sell some frogs – I’ve started working on a little stash which I’ll put up for sale at the beginning of November. That will leave plenty of time to get them posted out for Christmas. They would make a great present (hint hint!)

I’ve decided once and for all I’m not interested in a side hustle. I am more and more drawn to slow living, so I’ll do what I enjoy and sell what becomes available as a result of that. I have decided to call it a side saunter. It sounds so much more relaxing.

Lately I’ve been enjoying the versatility of digital art. The great thing is that once you’ve paid for the initial tools (in my case an iPad pro, an apple pencil and £10 for a digital painting/drawing app) then you don’t have to spend another penny. You also don’t have to worry about where to store a huge stash of paint or have to clean anything up after. Cleaning brushes is honestly the worst.

Last week I was chipping away at a frog illustration (yes, frogs have now entirely taken over my life) and falling in love with it more and more with every second that went by. Because it came together so well, I thought I’d put it to use to make a long-time dream of mine come true.

Years and years ago now I bought my first product from an artist on Redbubble – this mug, in fact (which was broken long ago, me being as clumsy as I am).

I love that design, but I also thought it would be sooooooo cool if I could do that, too. If I remember rightly I bought this mug around the time Pea came to live with me, which was in 2016. Six years later and I have made that dream a reality. I now have my own Redbubble shop!

It was one of my goals for this year to start selling my own creations, one way or another. Or rather, the thing that is important to me is making them available to sell. The actual sales are secondary – it’s the putting myself out there that was the first and biggest hurdle for me. I suppose I still had my doubts, at least until I saw that I can have an actual CLOCK made with my own design on it. Which is just so super cool.

For a moment I was considering keeping my shop private for the time being and seeing how I feel later, but then I realised that actually, my design is indeed good enough to see the light of day.

I haven’t ordered myself a clock yet, I’ll wait till payday, but I did order a couple of cheap bits and bobs just to check the print quality. So far only the postcards have arrived from my order (items are printed on demand and dispatched once they are ready) but they are looking good!

I am most excited for my tote bag to arrive, so naturally it’s the last thing to be dispatched. Still, in the meantime I’m working on more designs and the ideas are flowing again. Thank goodness for that.

I also have a couple of fine art prints of the design, but I need to work out how much to charge for them so that I don’t lose money. Once I have that figured out, they will be up for sale. This part is harder than I imagined, because charging what they are actually worth (or at least what they cost me) makes me feel incredibly guilty for some reason. That’s obviously something I need to work on, because there’s not much point to a side saunter if I end up losing a load of money. On the flipside, if I make just £1 I’ll be happy. Of course I’d rather be a millionaire, but I’m good with starting small!

Hayley x

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!

When a Plan Comes Together

I used to say that I didn’t give a damn about what our house looked like- there are more important things in life than having a picture-perfect home. Up until quite recently, as a family, we’ve been dirt poor. Growing up it was normal not to have a carpet or to have hand-me-downs- you get used to these things. Check out one of the sofas we used to have… They don’t make ’em like that anymore (thank GOD). I believe that came from my great-nan, but I could be wrong. I wonder when it was made. The 70’s? Earlier? All I know is that it’s a monstrosity.

As time goes on I get increasingly self-aware, for better or worse, and once you start taking notice of things, you can’t help but spot patterns. One major thing I have learned about myself is that not living in a nice space makes me grumpy as hell. Despite the fact that the house has needed decorating for years (at least ten), it was with some reluctance that I started doing something about it. Once I began to really see the changes, however, I knew it was worth it. I feel so much better in myself.

When the chap came to lay the new flooring in the living room, I realised it was the first time I’d ever done proper adulting in that respect. It is the first time I have ever arranged something like that by myself, which was then followed by another first. I just bought my first ever brand new sofa, at age 39, which is quite something. Unless it came from a family member, the only other sofa I bought was a second-hand one from a charity shop when I briefly lived in an absolute dump of a flat with my then-boyfriend. I’m all for recycling, but that sofa did smell funny. There was no getting away from that.

As these things go, apart from the flooring, which we splashed out on so that the animals wouldn’t destroy it in five minutes flat, we haven’t spent much money and certainly don’t have the finest of anything. We don’t need anything particularly fancy, but it’s nice enough that I feel infinitely happier than I did. I think the pandemic made me realise how important for the soul it is to have a decent sanctuary away from the world. Home is a good place to be.

I’m not finished by any means. The old carpet and furniture is being taken away towards the end of the month, until which time we’ll just have to look like a bunch of hoarders, and there are loads of little odds and ends still to be done. Now I’ve made so much progress it thankfully doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming. Dare I say it, I’m actually having fun now! Most importantly, the animals approve. That’s the main thing.

Be that as it may, I have worked hard over the last few weeks and this weekend I just needed a good old rest. For so long it’s been all too easy for me to consider needing rest as an excuse for eating cake and drinking wine, but told you I was going to do better, and I did.

During the week I went to pick up a pile of bricks that my sister and her fiancé kindly let me have (giving the garden even more hoarder-vibes than ever), and I called upon my friend and his van to help me out. I was very grateful not to have to make twenty trips in the car, so as a thank you I took him out for lunch.

I’d had work the previous night and I was exhausted. Diets and exhaustion don’t go hand in hand, because once you reach that point of tiredness it becomes all too easy throw caution to the wind. Luckily I’d had the foresight to plan what I was going to do ahead of time, and somehow I managed to stick to said plan.

I find Wagamama a great place to eat out because even their healthy dishes are flipping delicious. I’d forgotten just how much I enjoy a Wagamama as it happens. Do you ever do that thing where you eat something so tasty that you have to nod and say ‘mmm, MMM, MMMMMMM!!!!’ as you’re eating it? Maybe that’s just me, but either way it’s a sure sign I’m eating some fabulous grub.

On my days off I was going to start on the project I had in mind for the bricks, but I decided rest and relaxation were more important. The bricks can wait. My number one priority has been to stick to plan when it comes to food, and I’ve done exactly that. My reward to myself for working hard was to actually lose some weight and start feeling better already. Because I really do, after just one week.

The constant heartburn is now non-existent, there is a huge reduction in tummy bloating, meaning I can sit more comfortably, and I’ve seriously been enjoying my food. Plus a distinct lack of hangover is a bonus. What did I ultimately get for my hard work? A 7lb loss, that’s what. Happy days.

Now I finally feel like I’m moving forward, and absolutely nothing is going to get in my way.

Hayley x

Something of a Mess

This year I inadvertently took part in ‘No Mow May’. It was a complete accident- I was simply too busy to cut the grass. Or at least, when I did have a spare moment, it was of course raining. I’m not knocking the rain- I didn’t have time to water the plants so I owe anything still being alive out there to the odd shower. The weeds are thriving which I guess is good for the pollinators, but it’s not that easy on the eyes.

That’s kind of a lie actually. I am personally rather partial to the ‘wild’ look but my mother isn’t a fan, and it’s also really hard to find dog poops in the long grass.

Since we currently have a jungle instead of a garden, I’m patiently waiting until it gets late enough in the morning to cut the grass. I could do it now, but at 8am on a bank holiday? I don’t think the neighbours would be impressed. It is the Jubilee weekend in the UK, not that it means much to me. I couldn’t give a rat’s behind about the queen and I don’t get any extra days off work. Yay for working in retail. But I guess I should allow the rest of the street their lie-in. Me, bitter? Never.

In between paragraphs I’ve been popping out into the garden to see what’s new, and I’ve noticed that some of the nasturtiums have sneakily flowered. I haven’t even got around to sticking them in the ground yet but they’re doing just fine on their own.

So, I previously wrote that I was going to start being healthy this Monday, and wonder of wonders, I actually did. It’s a miracle! Before COVID I used to walk into town all the time instead of taking the car, but I haven’t done it since before the outbreak. Until yesterday that is. I’ve been putting it off for no other reason than I feel so bloody self-conscious about my appearance at the moment.

Fitness-wise I was fine. Despite being several stones heavier than the last time I walked that route, I did around five miles with not even a blister to show for it. Including doing my shopping, I was on my feet for just over two hours. Ok, I was also quite a bit out of breath and absolutely BAKING, but I’m happy that I don’t have to start right from the beginning when it comes to getting my old life back. In any case, look at that view. That sky! You don’t get that sitting indoors.

As for food, where I have repeatedly fallen down is that I started listening too much to other people. All the times I’ve been the most successful at losing weight so far, I’ve been following the Slimming World plan. The premise is that you can eat as much as you want of ‘Free Foods’, so you never have to worry about going hungry. The plan states that you should eat until you feel full, but that’s something I never paid much attention to at first. I like big portions, I always have. I like to eat.

It’s right that Slimming World should add a caveat with the Free Foods, because if you start eating everything in sight for the sake of it then you’re obviously not going to lose much weight. Having said that, I definitely took it too much to heart. I remember I’d lost quite a bit of weight already when my consultant asked me what I’d eaten recently. I’d made a crustless quiche, and if I remember rightly I’d used six eggs. She said to me, ‘but you didn’t eat it all, right?’ I did. I ate the whole damn lot, and I lost several pounds that week as it happens. I lost several pounds every week back then.

After that, other things started creeping into the group conversations. I started feeling guilty if my portions were too big or if I ate until I was stuffed, and that made me not only miserable but also, annoyingly, hungry. I see it on social media, too. HOW CAN SLIMMING WORLD WORK IF YOU CAN EAT 10KG OF PASTA AND STILL BE ON PLAN?!?!? Well, you can’t. As in, you can’t eat 10kg of pasta and not explode. That’s how it works.

Previous attempts to ignore the voice telling me to have one less potato or whatever have failed, but I have a whole new supply of determination at the moment. I have been eating very generous meals, and I’ve noticed that I haven’t been getting ridiculous cravings. Long may it continue! Yes, I’m still worried that I won’t lose any weight this week, but I need to see this through. I’m ignoring the doubts, and even if I don’t lose, at least I’m eating some veggies. My heartburn has almost gone, too. It will NOT be missed.

Ok, it’s only been 3 days and I have a long way to go, but I’m three days closer to my goal than I was before.

That’s something.

Hayley x

Soon

I am very much a procrastinator. I intended to start my diet yesterday, but instead, I decided to get a couple of social events out of the way beforehand.

Sunday was a boot sale day, which probably doesn’t automatically mean food for most people. For me and my regular boot sale friend, we will at the very least have ice cream, possibly cake, possibly something hot and tasty for breakfast. Sometimes all of those things. I thought about warning my friend during the car journey that I wouldn’t be partaking of any snacks for the time being, but I changed my mind. This friend does a lot for me, and I thought at the very least I would treat him to breakfast one last time before I get on the wagon for a good while. It really is the least I can do.

We went to the nice boot sale again. It’s a bit out of the way, maybe a twenty-minute car journey, but it’s totally worth it. I’m glad our last trip there was not a fluke. The first stall we came to was selling old plant pots for £1 each, so I bought all of the large ones the chap had.

I don’t mind at all the battered, weathered look, but I happen to be in possession of some Rust-Oleum all surface paint that was begging to be tried out. It’s a primer and paint in one, and first impressions are that it’s damn good stuff. It really does stick to pretty much anything, and it’s suitable for interior and exterior use.

It needs a second coat, but I’m happy with the product so far. The reflection from my little garden table is really cool- I’m tempted to paint that pattern on it permanently.

My other purchase is something I’ve been after for YEARS- an old-fashioned guillotine. I must have said about thirty times as we were walking around the stalls, ‘I can’t believe I finally got one!’ I’ve been keeping an eye on an Instagram account that sells vintage stationery but when one does pop up not only do they get snapped up really quickly, they are also too expensive for my budget.

This was a mere £10. A tenner! I can’t believe it! It looks rough and ready but it cuts like a dream. The chap selling it told me that it was his dad’s, who was a caretaker, and he got it when the school he was working at was demolished to be rebuilt. My dad was also a caretaker, the school was also knocked down, and for a minute I wondered whether this chap might be my half-brother. It’s more than possible because my dad was (is?) a total man whore, and I could well have a variety of siblings out there that I don’t know about, but the ages don’t match up so in this instance it’s just a coincidence.

Next Sunday I’m going to my sister’s for a BBQ where I intend to have a few alcoholic beverages. It’s rare these days that me and the sister get to really chill out and spend quality time together, so it’s an opportunity I’m not willing to pass up. Not to mention that her fiancé can COOK, and to turn down his food would be a sacrilege. I’m really looking forward to it and want to have a fully fun time.

So the diet starts not now, but soon. Very soon.

I’m supposed to be catching up on some gardening today but the weather is poo. Yesterday was gorgeous, and I spent a lot of time in the garden lounging. I’m pleased I didn’t waste the sunshine- and at the end of the day, that’s what the garden is there for. To simply be enjoyed.

This is my first year growing ranunculus, and they are just perfection. They are also one of my least-eaten plants this year.

I’m focusing on the good elements of the garden, and am absolutely not going to dwell on the perhaps 30 healthy heritage carrot seedlings that have been eaten in their ENTIRETY by slugs. Or perhaps a single slug, who knows. I wouldn’t mind but that was my most protected area and those seedlings should have been fine. Damn you, slug. Damn you to hell.

Luckily there is still time to sow more, because I was really excited about growing yellow, white and purple carrots. Looks like I’ll have to take extra measures if anything’s going to make it to harvest though.

Ah well, it’s all experience!

Today has to be a tidying up day. I now have a nicely painted room, we have new flooring in the living room, but there is also stuff EVERYWHERE. I really had better get to it.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Just Pick One Already

The subject I’m going to write about today is something I’ve been over, and over, and over some more. I have been so indecisive about what to do- even now my mind is trying to go in several different ways. I finally realised- I need to choose a course of action and stick with it. Half arsed is not the way.

I am going all in.

I am talking about my weight. A few years ago, I really thought I had it cracked, but then it all went tits up. I can’t put it down to one single thing, there were a whole load of factors and put in the same situation again, I have no doubt I would once more eat allllll the things. In any case, right now I do not feel good about myself.

When I think about dieting, the first thing I feel is guilt. Guilt because I know how harmful diet culture is, and I don’t want to be part of the problem. Buuuuuut, I also really hate being fat. That is just the tip of the iceberg of all the contradictory thoughts that go around my head.

I’m trying to be as honest as possible, and part of that is admitting that this post is reading like all the other times I said I was going to ‘get back on track’ or on the other hand, like all the times I said I was going to learn to be happy being fat. So why is this time different? The answer is, I don’t know. It just is.

I know how rare it is for someone to lose weight and keep it off. I know ‘diets don’t work’. But I’m tired of selling myself short. If I only ever did anything that was 100% likely to succeed, then I’d never do anything at all. None of us would.

Before I started doubting myself over every little thing, I knew I could do this. I was (albeit briefly) really happy, and although life is never perfect, I’m aiming for that sweet spot again. This post isn’t doing the fire I feel in my belly the slightest bit of justice, but it felt wrong, like an omission, not to write about it.

I am drowning out the negative thoughts telling me the success rates are not on my side, that I’m not strong enough, or that I don’t deserve to have the life I want. Screw that.

I’ve been telling myself the same thing about my art for years and when I shut that evil little voice up, that’s when everything changed. That attitude is creeping into other things now. I’ve always wanted to learn how to make my own clothes but there was always something in the back of my mind telling me I wouldn’t be able to do it.

No more of that, thank you very much. I woke up a few days ago with another little flame inside me telling me to learn how to sew, and that actually, yes I CAN. I am CAPABLE. Why wouldn’t I be? I have a new sewing machine because as much as I love my nan’s vintage Singer that I inherited, it’s a bit too temperamental for regular use. I also get the impression it could kill me at any moment- I mean, look at that belt. That can’t be good, right? You should see the switch on it. I doubt it meets any kind of modern safety standards. Electrocution, anyone?

I’m going to start off doing basic adjustments to my existing clothes as my weight drops, and see where I go from there. Far, I reckon. I have a good feeling.

From now on there are no apologies for me following my heart.

Here we go.

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

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

Something Something Fresh Start Blah Blah Blah

I wasn’t back at Slimming World for long. I started going regularly in 2012 and each session just repeats itself, the same thing over and over and over. The same conversations, the same questions- ‘how do you make your spag bol then Hayley?’

I can’t do it, I’ve reached capacity. I just cannot stand it a moment longer.

I was doing quite well on my own until after all this time avoiding it, I went and caught covid. I’m not going to lie, the worst bit about it was the feeling that it was a moral failing above all else. The young ‘uns from work have been going out at the weekends ever since things reopened without a care in the world or a single symptom. I finally agree to go out ONE TIME and I’m the one that bloody gets it. Typical. Mainly I was just really exhausted for about 8 days, then after that I started feeling normal again. I discovered I had it by taking my routine lateral flow test, then the very next day my sense of taste and smell completely disappeared. It stayed like that for four days, which I was EXTREMELY grateful for, because I know there are instances of it lasting for months, or even permanently. Get vaccinated people! That’s the difference between my mild experience and ending up in hospital on a ventilator.

Was it worth taking the risk? Well, knowing what I know now (ie, I survived and did not kill my family) I’d say… kinda. I had a great time and it was so good to let my hair down after staying in for so long. Drunk me met a bunny and was pretty pleased with the fact.

I’m more relaxed about going out now, but I will be avoiding pubs in future. Besides, I only need one night like that out a year to satisfy my party cravings so I’m good at least until 2022.

Whilst I was infectious I stayed in my room and mostly ate crisps, so as not to have to use the kitchen and risk infecting the family. As you can imagine the weight went back on rather quickly, especially since I barely moved the whole time, exacerbated by the fact I also hurt my ankle and even now it’s still not fully healed. After eating crap for ten days I was excited to eat real food, but that didn’t last long. Not long at all.

Soooooooo, I’m right back where I started, and I’ve just enjoyed a birthday week of delicious eateries. On Sunday my friend took me out for dinner and to see Venom 2 (loved it, by the way) which was a nice way to end the week on a high. But now it’s down to business. This is the last year of my 30’s, and I do not intend to start the next decade feeling like this.

Where I’m now so large I am not enjoying going out for my walks, I just feel insanely self-conscious. Also because of work, during the times of the day I actually have energy for exercise, I don’t feel safe going out. I’d love to walk to work, but a woman was attacked on that route in broad daylight not even that long ago. Yeah, I’ll be giving that a miss.

Instead, I started researching treadmills. If I want to buy one that will take my current weight, then the price jumps IMMENSELY and any kind of portability goes out the window. I found an under-desk treadmill for less than half the price of one that would take me now, so I snapped it up immediately to give me motivation. I was SO CLOSE (6 pounds away) from being able to use it before I caught the ‘rona. So now I am on a mission to get my sh*t together and get using it regularly as soon as I possibly can, especially now the crappy weather is setting in. It’s quiet enough that I can use it at 6 am, straight after work. I plan to be using it by the end of November, fingers crossed, and I shall emerge in the spring like a beautiful butterfly. You heard it here first.

I’m now a Slimming World online member, and I have a good reason to believe that I’m going to be successful this time. SW has taken a lot of stick recently over ‘unlimited’ free foods, which I think is quite undeserved. They do tell you, repeatedly, to eat until you are SATISFIED. There are many things I have an issue with when it comes to any weight loss company, but this isn’t one of them. I think people are determined to misunderstand SW for Tiktok views or to promote their own businesses.

When I first started the Slimming World plan, I concentrated on filling myself up. I didn’t pay a single bit of attention to the stopping part, I just ate what I wanted (within the plan) and I lost consistently week after week. I was eating what some would consider A LOT. When I got nearer my target weight, the losses didn’t slow even though I was eating loads. It just kept coming off! Then I started worrying about portion control and being sensible and it all went out of the window. So, quite frankly, eff portion control. Eff being sensible. I’m going back to that time when I didn’t overthink every GODDAMN MORSEL that went into my mouth and I’m going to hopefully repeat my past successes. And if I don’t? THEN I’ll look at portion control. Honestly though, I don’t think I have to.

I got this experiment underway yesterday. I’ll let you know how the week went on Monday. I have high hopes.

Something that has been going enormously well is my art. There have been ebbs and flows, but every time I feel I’m starting to stagnate a little and I”m not getting anywhere, something just clicks into place.

I AM LOVING IT.

Last week after getting some water-mixable oils for my birthday I painted with oils for the first time in my life, and it was like clouds parted and the angels came down from the heavens… I FOUND MY THING!

Since that moment all I’ve thought about (apart from food) is painting, painting and more painting. This is the first layer of my first ever oil painting. I’ll show you what it looks like again when it’s properly finished.

Already, I am in love.

When I’m more experienced I want to paint a nice big portrait of someone. I’ve been practising painting my sister in acrylic, and although I thought I wasn’t getting anywhere this weekend I finally managed to achieve a decent likeness and get all of the main features in the correct place. The next one will be in oils and will be infinitely better.

By the time I’m 40, apart from looking fabulous, I will also be selling my artwork. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but getting into a routine of painting regularly and being vulnerable enough to share my work… this is something very new for me. New but amazing. Working through a painting when it looks crap is also of massive importance. If I’m ever famous enough, one day someone will do an infrared scan of the layers beneath the painting above and see the monstrosities hidden there. It’s no lie-in the first layer it looks like my poor sister’s left eye is falling off of her face.

Pushing through that discomfort was a game changer. In fact, I recommend everyone go do that right now. You won’t regret it.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x