The designated day of love…

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, and as Valentine days go, yesterdays was a very nice one for me.  Abrar and I had already exchanged gifts.  He received his because I had to make sure it fitted.  And I received mine because I had to order it.  We’ve only been together five years…Abrar hasn’t graduated yet to being trusted to buy me something I like!

When he came home from work he brought with him some flowers.  Not red roses.  His choice though was perfect.  We then exchanged cards.  By nature I am a very tactile, demonstrative person.  And although I consider myself extremely affectionate, I am not someone who likes soppiness.  I wrote a few words in my card.  Abrar wrote several sentences in his!  When I read what he’d written, I was actually very touched.  His words reflected our relationship, and he identified why it works so well.

Earlier in the day flowers were delivered to me.  A really beautiful bouquet.  And not from just one Valentine, but from four… my four boys!  As it’s often a thankless task being a mum, whenever our kids do make us feel special, it feels truly wonderful.

Being with Abrar, every day is Valentine’s day.  There aren’t special gifts, flowers, and cards, but there is constant thoughtfulness.  I think for anyone whose been married or in a relationship where thoughtfulness for the most part was missing, there is an increased appreciation and enjoyment when we truly feel loved.

I haven’t had time to work on my maths book for the last two or three days.  That’s no good.  I really need to try and do a little bit at least five times a week.  I have though been reading my Overcoming Binge Eating book.  I have started to follow the plan the author sets out as a means of overcoming bingeing.  In the first stage all I have to do is eat as I would normally, (binges and all).  But I have to record the time I eat – what I eat – where I am when I’m eating – if I vomit or use laxatives afterwards – and I have to write comments about how I’m feeling every time I eat.  I also have to use asterisks if I consider that I’ve been excessive with the amount of food I’ve eaten.  It sounds simple enough to do, but it is taking time to get used to implementing it every time I eat.

I am becoming increasingly frustrated, and not just because my body seems to be expanding by the day.  But because I am also physically suffering from carrying so much extra weight… my poor spine and joints aren’t functioning as well as they should be.  After I’ve finished my acting classes (I have two more Saturday’s to go), I have a plan to work on another one of my goals for this year.  I think it’s been a long time since I’ve felt this unfit.  Working on my new goal might be the death of me… and I’m only half jesting when I say that!  For anyone who doesn’t have weight issues… keep it that way!  And for anyone who does… think about joining me on my journey.  I could do with some company and moral support!

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One man’s junk is another man’s treasure…

Or in this case, one woman’s unwanted jewellery is something another woman can’t resist!  Over the years I’ve clearly had too much time on my hands.  My collection of jewellery (nearly all of it bought from QVC!) had become rather large.  This pair of earrings is going to make me look fabulous.  Strike that… it’s this ring that’s going to help me be happy.  Sound familiar?  Virtually everything I bought I genuinely liked, and a lot of the pieces did get worn.  But no piece of jewellery that I ever bought changed my life.

About a couple of years ago I decided to have a clear out.  I put a few different collections on eBay… all of which sold.  Then a couple of weeks ago I decided to reduce things again. I can’t be bothered selling individual pieces, not unless it’s something quite special.  So I put pieces into groups – pearl collection, earring collection, rings.  Or maybe a few pieces from a particular designer.  The auction came to an end on Sunday evening and all four collections were sold.  The first thing you have to get your head round when selling on eBay is… your things, no matter how nice, are not going to get you what you think they’re worth!  As soon as you accept that, it’s actually good fun selling things.

Going through my jewellery drawer (funny how a medium size drawer can contain so much!) I found even more things that although I still like, they haven’t been worn for a long time.  So now I have another four collections for sale… and two handbags thrown in for good measure.  I’ve included the ruby tennis bracelet that I bought in India.  I was so excited when I saw it and I just had to buy it.  My mum had a ring with rubies in it, which I believe was made for her while she lived in India.  The guy selling the bracelet said that the rubies were from Burma.  That convinced me that the bracelet had my name on it… because my ancestors on dad’s side were from Burma.  But returning to the U.K, the bracelet stayed on my wrist for no more than a month.

It’s interesting to note that my taste in jewellery has changed, and my attitude towards it has also changed.  I think I will always have the tendency to be a magpie, but these days I am far more selective and restrained about what I buy.  Towards the end of last year I discovered a range of jewellery by a British designer called Monica Vinader.  Oh my goodness it was love at first sight.  And I think this particular love affair will last the distance!  I now have my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, sorted for the next few years!

Apart from the juvenile excitement of checking eBay every five minutes to see if anyone has bid, or if the bid has increased, it’s also a good feeling for me letting go of all these pieces.  A piece of jewellery can’t make me sad, but a lot of the pieces do remind me of a time when my life was quite empty.  Filling it with jewellery didn’t help.  I’ve just said that jewellery can’t make me sad, but I’m talking specifically about the pieces I’m selling. On my right hand I wear two gold rings.  On my pinky finger I wear the gold signet ring I was given when I was a little girl.  At some point after I got married and left home, my mum started wearing it on her little finger.  I can’t remember if the ring I wear next to it was bought for me?  Or if mum bought it for herself and then gave it to me because I liked it?  If I remember rightly it was made by a Scottish designer.  I lost my mum back in 1994.  It is only in the last couple of years that I started wearing these rings together.  Now I never take them off.  I certainly don’t need rings to remind me of my mum… but I love looking at my hand and feeling that she’s a part of me.

 

I want to scream…

Actually I don’t want to scream… but I am feeling extremely frustrated with myself.  I have got several reasons for wanting to get myself to a healthy weight.  They are good reasons and should be enough to make me actually do something about this problem.  So why then is every day a Groundhog Day?!  I wake up and remind myself that it is a new day.  I am free to choose to do things differently.  But then I don’t.

This morning I got up and felt positive. (I’m nearly always positive when I wake up).  I got ready and went to the Post Office to post some things I’ve just sold on eBay.  I was feeling very happy.  So happy that I decided to celebrate by buying myself some hot chocolate and chocolate cookies to have at home.  I also decided that the hot chocolate had to have double cream as well… no point in being a little naughty, might as well go the whole hog!  Was it the coldness of the day that made me want to drink something hot and sweet?  I don’t think so… I just felt happy.

I think I’m probably rambling, but I’m writing my feelings down because it’s quite a big thing to share something like this with complete strangers. (Providing of course that any stranger is reading these words!)

I feel that there can’t be too much that I don’t know about healthy eating.  It’s easy to say that all anyone has to do to lose weight is eat less.  But the truth is, it’s more complicated than that.  One size does not fit all.  There are many ways to lose weight.  It’s about the individual finding the right way that works for them.  And twice before, using two different methods, I did find a way that worked for me.  I lost significant amounts of weight.  But then what happened… I regained the weight.

If you notice, I am avoiding using the D word.  If I talk about ‘diet’, I mean the process of putting food into our bodies.  Everyone has a diet that they follow.  I am not talking about dieting.  That word to me has a bad connotation.  It makes me think about faddy diets, and people believing that the goal is to eat as few calories as possible.

Losing weight and becoming healthier comes in two parts: losing weight – and then keeping it off forever… and that is the really hard part!  I am currently reading a book about overcoming binge eating.  If I read anything that I think is particularly helpful, I will post it on here.

I think this is going to be a regular topic for my blog!  I will close on a positive note.  Today I didn’t win the battle.  But… the war is not over yet.

IMG-6644This is me taken at Christmas when my boys and I were in Scotland.

Gratitude in abundance

Last Sunday I had the idea of writing to a prison inmate.  I decided I wanted to write to a woman serving her time in a London prison.  But it didn’t matter how I worded the Google search, I couldn’t find prisons that hold women, never mind actually finding a way of communicating with one of them.  So then I changed it to a woman prisoner anywhere in the U.K.  That didn’t yield any results either.

I briefly contemplated trying to find a woman serving time in an American prison.  But whether I was put off by my last experience I don’t know, but I decided against that idea. Instead I thought I would try a woman in a Canadian prison.  I did find a website which had both men and women on it looking to find pen friends.  I went straight to the women and found that there were only two looking for friends.  It was immediately clear that both women were looking for males to correspond with.

So then I reluctantly turned my attention to the male prisoners looking for pen friends.  My hesitation for choosing a man is because I don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about why I’m writing.  The reason I want to try and form a friendship with an inmate is because my life is very full and extremely happy.  I consider myself fortunate in the extreme.  No-one can choose the life they’re born into.  I used to think that God was in control and that nothing was left to chance.  I believed He had an individual plan for all of us and knew what we all needed to experience.  That to me now is a ridiculous notion.  I think it is pure luck as to where we’re born and the circumstances we’re born into.

I have always had a very caring heart and a desire to help people.  Life though has often been challenging, and sometimes I’ve been so busy fighting my own fires that I only had enough mental and emotional strength to help those I already knew.  I didn’t have what it took to find new people to help.  But now feels a good time in my life to do just that… seek out someone whose life might be benefited from having a friend.

Reading the profiles of all the men looking for friendship, it confirmed what I already knew… they are virtually all looking for romance and not just a pen friend.  I spent a lot of time on Monday and Tuesday trying to find someone that I think might be receptive to forming a friendship with someone that they know from the outset will be totally non-romantic.

I felt a mixture of feelings as I read the men’s profiles.  Along with a little narrative describing themselves and saying what sort of person they’re interested in hearing from, they also included the crime they committed that landed them in prison.  My four sons are aged between 25 and 36.  Most of the profiles I read were written by men of similar ages.  I wish that every child had the benefit of growing up knowing that they were loved.  I know that sometimes even children who have been loved and nurtured, still end up doing things with serious consequences.

The other thing I noticed while I was reading the profiles was the high expectations a lot of the inmates had about the women they wanted to meet.  I’ve used dating sites before, but I don’t remember most of the men giving such a detailed list of the qualities they were looking for!

I read the profile of one man, his name is Josh, and I had a feeling that he could be the one that I choose to write to.  He is thirty-two.  He’s sandwiched between my two son’s Matthew and Fraser.  Matthew is thirty-four and Fraser is thirty-one.  Maybe Josh will choose not to respond to a letter from me.  Let’s see.  One thing is for sure, after a week of reading about prisoners and the world that they live in, it has left me feeling even more grateful for the life I have.

 

Sunday morning and I’m feeling better

Friday is my day for going and cleaning my son Bruce’s flat.  All day I’d felt fine, but then when I got home on Friday evening, almost immediately I felt unwell.  I was shivering with the cold and got straight into bed.  I took medicine and set my alarm for Saturday morning.  I was desperate not to miss my acting class.  But the next morning when I woke up, I knew that it was a really bad idea to try and go.  I’d stopped shivering, but I felt absolutely dreadful.  I took tablets and got back into bed and slept for most of the day.  When Abrar came home in the evening, I ate and watched telly.  Then I took more medicine and had an early night.

This morning I woke up and I am happy to be feeling normal again.  I don’t feel 100%, I’m maybe still a little groggy from the medicine, but compared to yesterday I feel great!  It’s a really nice feeling when something unpleasant passes from us.

I’ve had a thought about one of the things on my list of goals for this year.  I wrote down that I want to ‘help someone in a significant way’.  I had no idea what would constitute a significant way, or indeed where I might find the someone to help.  But this morning I thought about prison pen pals.  This is something I’ve already (unsuccessfully) tried to do.  I think it was about 2009 that I had the idea to write to an inmate.  I looked at the profiles of the women looking for pen pals.  All of them were looking for male pen pals.  Mary was the exception.  She was one year younger than my oldest son.  She was in an American prison.  I had no details of why she was incarcerated, or for how long.  In her profile she said she was looking for intelligent conversation, and a way of escaping the monotony of prison life.

A few weeks into our ‘pen friendship’ I wanted to find the website where I’d found her details.  I wanted to show her picture to my boys.  I couldn’t find the site so Jack suggested that I Google her name.  I did, and it was then that I discovered exactly what she’d done.  She had murdered an eighty-eight year old woman in cold blood.  I was shocked, but it didn’t stop me wanting to continue writing to her.  Prior to me finding this out I hadn’t brought up her crime, and neither had she.  Once I knew this information I told Mary that I knew.  I wanted her to feel comfortable and not be frightened about me finding out.  And more importantly, I wanted her to know that the magnitude of her crime didn’t make me want to stop communicating with her.  I’m someone who hates secrets.  I think things of lasting worth are built on truth.

Mary and I exchanged some more letters, but eventually communication ceased from her side.  I can’t say with certainty why Mary decided to stop writing.  I formed an opinion, but maybe my opinion was wrong.  As Mary will still be in prison now, I hope she’s managed to find a pen friend she feels more suited to.

My last experience hasn’t put me off trying again.  This time though I will choose a British prison.  I will pick up this thread in my next blog.

A mixed day…

Through a friend I heard today about the death of a 38 year old man.  Apparently he had been suffering from depression.  It seems as though his thoughts became very black and he decided to take his own life.  He’s left behind a wife and two young daughters, and also his mum and two siblings.

Two years ago, just before Christmas, a family friend took his own life.  He too had suffered from depression.  A couple of weeks before his death his mum had lost her battle with cancer.  He was days away from turning forty.  Although there was no suicide note to confirm this, I do believe that his struggle with depression and anxiety became unbearable without the love and support of his mum.

As someone who has suffered herself from hormonal depression, and also depression brought on from an unhappy marriage, I have some understanding of the loneliness and pain that depression causes.  Depression is much more than feeling ‘down’, or having a bad day.  It reaches into every crevice of your body and mind and silently suffocates the life out of you.  I watched a film last year that had a line in it… ‘depression is an inability to construct a future’.  I Googled it and the original quote came from an American psychiatrist called Rollo May.  I think it’s extremely accurate.

I think there are probably many of us who at some point in our lives consider death as an alternative to what we’re feeling.  Maybe not necessarily the act of committing suicide.  But desperate for an escape from the emptiness that feels as though it will never end.  Thankfully it can, and for most of us, it does end.

Funny how one day can be filled with different thoughts and emotions.  I felt sad hearing about this person I’d never met who chose to end his life.  In contrast I spent some of this afternoon laughing in the kind of way that acts as a tonic… the sort of tonic that we would pay good money for if we could buy it from a supermarket shelf.  I finally ran out of reasons not to do my maths.  So out came the book and I started.  It took about ten minutes before I was Skyping Jack for help.  Negative numbers were getting the better of me.  In our ensuing conversation, I’m sure Jack rapidly decided to extinguish any possible future ambition he might have had to become a teacher.  Who would have thought the placing of decimal points could cause such merriment.

Not enough hours in the day

My plan for today was to make sure that I worked on my maths book and also read some more of my OBE book.  But before doing that I decided to do the ironing that I didn’t do yesterday, clean the bathroom, and also do a little cooking.  Now it’s nearly 5pm.  Doing those things has taken up my whole day, and my maths book has remained firmly closed.  The things that I did needed doing.  But the things I wanted to do are also important.  So my question to myself is… how can I be more efficient with my time?

There are six billion of us on this planet, and the one thing we all have in common is time.  Each of us has twenty-four hours in a day.  Regardless of our status or how much wealth we possess, we can’t add minutes or hours to our day.  I think we naturally prioritise what is most important to us.  Some of the things we do are done out of necessity.  Not everyone who has a job wants to go to work, but the pay-cheque is needed.  So setting the alarm and getting out of bed in the morning is something that has to be done.

Instead of going to college or getting a job I got married, and then ten months later I gave birth to my first son.  My ex-husband was a serviceman, and marrying him took me away from my home town.  I can see now that leaving home and having a child very young, and not having a support network left me isolated.  Through the church that my husband and I belonged to, I did get to know people.  But now I can look back and see that my set of circumstances at that time impacted on me maturing and blossoming.  I think I took to motherhood very naturally, and I also took good care of our home.  But my life experiences were very limited.

Now at the age of 56 I feel more ready to explore not just the world, but myself.  What are the things that I really want to do?  Even as a kid or teenager I had no burning ambitions.  For a good number of years now I have consciously lacked confidence.  I think this is something that has plagued me my entire life.  Before I got married I didn’t give it too much thought.  Then I got married and had children and my life became occupied with being a wife and mother.

I am someone who lacks bravado, so I am not going to announce my intention to fling myself out of a plane, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, or undertake to do a law degree.  My acting class is proving challenging enough!  Speaking of which, I had my third class yesterday.  Again I had a small touch of nerves, but less than last week.  I think as a class we are feeling comfortable with each other, and that helps reduce any nervousness some of us may be feeling.

It is my desire to do more with the rest of my life than what I’ve done with it up until now.  So on that positive note, I will endeavour to make sure I fit everything I want to do into tomorrow’s twenty-four hours!