Sweet Valencian oranges and salty tears

 

I’ve had my heart broken twice in Spain. Once when I was eight, our parents took my brother and I on a ‘last ditch attempt to save their marriage’ trip, otherwise known as a European family holiday. By the time we’d driven three hours to Madrid at my father’s insistence, bought a Mars bar and my parents had had their fifty zillionth screaming match (I counted), it was clear that their love was over. Sitting in the back seat of the hire car I knew with absolute certainty that life as I knew it was going to change forever, and felt the splintering ache in my chest as my heart broke for the first time. But instead of feeling sad and terrified during that horrible divorce, numbness pervaded over me, like armour fortifying my walls. I didn’t cry once and instead threw myself into the chocolate tin like any self-respecting emotional eater in the making would do.

Fast-forward 25 years and I have more feelings than I know what to do with and sometimes wonder if the reason I AM so sensitive is because of that terrible time. Tis no matter now, but how I wish my younger self had the foresight to pack away a few sheaths of metal for the future, to steel my precious heart for the pain to come.

Two mornings ago I sat on a balcony in sunny Valencia bathed in delicious sunlight, my face upturned to greet its warmth, with tears flowing down my cheeks and onto the ancient tiles at my feet. As they splashed into the flower pots I was reminded of a time in my 20s when my friend was going through a particularly shitty breakup and would pace around our flat chanting: sex is not love, I am worthy of love, as her mobile phone shrilled with the sound of her devastating ex making a booty call. I used to giggle at this demonstration of self-help and scoffed at anyone needing to be reminded of their worth. Until my own heart was shattered into a million pieces and I took up arms next to her. It made me smile because I acknowledged the strength I gained from surviving that implosion, and the lessons I learned about love. And yet as I sipped my coffee and gorged on the finest oranges of my life, this most recent experience revealed that there is still work to do and my belief that I am enough to be loved just as I am, is yet to be mastered. For what should have been an enjoyable afternoon with a friend loomed ominously in front of me and tainted the pure joy of those oranges with salty tears.

 

This friend is of course an old lover. A wandering soul who is as sweet, juicy and unique as the fruit of his adopted city. And judging by my reaction to his inevitable rejection, someone who I loved a little bit more than expected. Problem is he’s always been a bit vague about his feelings for me and our relationship has had a choppy fluidity to it. And unfortunately because he has never, until recently, behaved badly or ever waved a placard in my face with the word NO spelled out in thick black marker pen, my needy brain translated that vagueness into hope. And for a long time I did not even realise that I was hoping. But I was.

 

Even when he told me 18 months ago that he was moving to another country (not because of me- I checked). Even when I was having other, lovely relationships and a casual message from him would occupy my mind for just a little too long. Even when my friend warned me about going out to see him and I battered her comments away with a laugh and protests of ‘we’re just friends’. Even on a night out in Spain with his friends, when his perky 24 year-old house mate turned up and I felt his attention move away from me. Even when he danced close to her, showing no hint of sensitivity to my presence and the dull ache of sadness snaked its way through my insides. Even when he walked me home after the club and I was powerless to stop my dignity spilling out onto the streets as the words ‘It doesn’t have to mean anything’ tumbled from my mouth. And he gently reminded me that it does mean something with us, and it always has. Even when my heart slipped further down my sleeve and I confessed that I feel safe and whole with him. And he kissed me and said good night. Only then did my hope fade and hot, angry tears begin to fall.

 

The next day we managed to salvage something of our friendship between hangover food and safe discussions on books and history. And oddly I felt my strength start to rise again and the energy that once existed between us slowly fade, with the realisation that he is just another lesson and the best of my life is yet to come.

 

Back home in Blighty now, I still feel sad and am even more convinced that the ice queen bitches who never show an ounce of emotion to a man have got it right. But that will never be me, and as I sit at my computer looking out on the comforting sheets of rain and cold wind whipping around the hills outside my kitchen, I am reminded of a philosopher who suggests that hearts are meant to break as that is their journey. And I reckon they can be mended again, piece by painful piece.

 

Hold On

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Runner’s High and Progress Report

 

Some time has gone by since I last wrote, mostly because my creativity has been a little meh of late and I’ve been…. excuses, excuses. But I had a rather glorious experience the other day that I had to put down on paper.

I’ve been doing this running (jogging) thing since January, following a couch to 5k plan that promised to have me running for 30 minutes within 9 weeks. Never one to be on time, I’m 12 weeks in and two minutes off the Holy Grail. I’ll never forget that first day when I stepped out in all things Lycra and managed to hurl myself round the park, running for 60 seconds at a time and wondering how I was ever going to run for a full 3 minutes!! Well the other day I ran for 28 minutes non-stop…and ENJOYED IT!!! This may not sound like a lot for some, but considering that my body shape is more bump and grind than hardcore house, and three months ago I had my phone strapped to my breast with 999 on my emergency contact list. This is a major achievement in my life.

Nervous energy the night before the run meant I woke up at 6am and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I figured there was no time like the present and hopped out of bed with adrenaline firing in my tummy and conflicting thoughts of ‘can I, can’t I’ clashing around my head. The birds started to chatter as I laced up my trainers and the misty morning fog embraced me with the opening of the back door. I started with my usual five minute warm up walk and then as the sun made an appearance over the hills I slowly jogged toward it.

By the end of the run I was EXHAUSTED and wondered if this was how Davina McCall felt at the end of her epic challenge of 1) leg of the Tour de France 2) marathon 3) swimming in hypothermia inducing lakes for Sport Relief (cause 28 minutes of running is obvs the same thing). But the exhaustion was also mixed in with euphoria that sent tingles all over my body. It was probably the first signs of shock to be honest but as I walked home, my puce face beaming, I remembered what it was like to be proud of myself and felt connected with my body in a way that I haven’t for a long time.

Interestingly, I’m naturally eating better too. I continue to use the eating plan I have since January, but I’m less inclined to binge (although cheese and I have had to part ways for a while) and if I have a run scheduled the next day, I tend to eat well the night before because I know how awful it is to run on a tummy full of crap food. Combine all these elements and I’m 8KG DOWN, have lost 16cm off my frame, am toning up and can see my toes again when I look down! But what I love more is that I feel I have found a sustainable method to keep on this road to health.

It’s not all sunbursts and happiness though, sometimes it’s a two run week when I aimed for three, sometimes I aim for 28 minutes but end up doing 20 because my body is just not that into it. Sometimes it’s a binge night because I’m tired and pre-menstrual. But it’s OK and I am trying not to beat myself up and to be kinder to my inner feeder. Because I know the next day I’m going to lace up those trainers and head out into the world to reconnect with myself, which for me is the bestest thing of all.

 

Love and Light

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The Steam Room

Thick, moist air engulfed the room. Coloured blue from the pinpoint lighting it swirled around like dry ice inciting images of dramatic opening scenes. Hot heat streamed into my lungs, raising my thermos to push out toxins in beads of sweat that ran down my semi-naked body. Watching one  journey down into my cleavage, it grappled its way through the mounds to reappear at the top of my belly where it took a final plunge, lost forever.  This game went on for a while as I lounged happily in the glorious fog, until my solitude was disturbed by a sharp gust of cold brought in from the opened door.

The vision of a figure that can only be described as a prima ballerina wafted through the haze with the grace of Margot Fonteyn circa 1939 Swan lake, and I would not have been the least bit surprised if she had taken up first position or gone into an arabesque. She settled, gently, on the tiled seats without creating the vacuumed squelch the rest of us made when sitting down, for which I had embarrassingly apologised when I had first plopped down. She placed her perfectly formed legs up in front of her with knees bent and rested her head down so that her delicate, elongated neck formed a perfect arc. Like a bloody perfect dying swan. I literally could not take my eyes off her and probably made her far more uncomfortable than she made me (I noticed she smiled at me strangely a couple of times). Her legs were silhouetted in the blue hue and so meticulously shaped I wondered if I was drawing breath with the woman they modelled actual Barbie on.

We constantly compare ourselves as women, sizing up each other’s measurements and wishing for her boobs or that thigh gap. In the right context a little competition spurs us on to our goals but only if it comes from a peaceful place of self-acceptance, which is not usually the case and so the constant lowering of one’s own status next to another is unhealthy and fuels a low self-esteem. I do it too much and wish it were less. But what would it be like to reach the ultimate goal of perfection, like Giselle over there. What do those women do? I’m pretty sure they don’t sit around gloating at us poor mortals dragging our wobbly bits about. I’m sure (hope) she has her own hang ups. Obviously comparing her thighs to mine was tantamount to torture, but weirdly it wasn’t jealousy or unhappiness that had me ogling. It was her beauty, like a piece of art and it made me glory in the perfection of women’s bodies.

After some time I decided to leave for fear I might dehydrate and stepped back into the real world of the Turkish baths I was frequenting. The shock of the bright light and cold air instantly broke through the fog and as I re-joined my party I looked around at the vastly different shapes and dimensions of the female form and felt pretty average amongst them. I was not the biggest, nor the smallest; I have a bootilicious bum and a small waist. I also have wobbly thighs and ever-expanding bingo wings despite 300 zillion tricep dips. I am a woman, we are warriors; we are the miracle makers. We can grow humans inside us and we can bleed and not die.

So I have been concertedly trying to embrace the sisterhood and not compare myself with others. It’s a journey… and standing at the bar last night with a perfect thigh gap just two feet away had me ordering a large glass, OK a bottle of wine. Nevertheless today I give thanks for what I have and keep working on those wobbly bits. And if I need extra pepping up I talk to my best mate, who although a severe self-critic at times is generally happy in her own skin and if not does something about it. She reminds me of my good traits and challenges me to improve when I need to. She also makes me laugh. A lot. Case in point this text she sent me the other night:

“That moment at the gym when ‘perfect body’ girl starts getting naked next to you and you have that feeling of why can’t I look like that and then you see a tattoo of a spaceship drawn by a small child on her calf and you think, oh no I’m alright just like I am!”

She also has impeccable taste.

Love and light

x

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Birthday

It’s my birthday this week, I’m going to be 33. This means my plans to be  ‘with child’ by the age of 35, after having met the father/got married/had some time together, are disintegrating threads of time slipping through my ageing hands. I’m spending my birthday alone, but does this make me lonely or am I still ok on my own? Do I want children? They stop your life, they bring you joy. Am I too selfish? Is it OK to be a woman and be selfish and not have children? Why is it still that a woman’s greatest aspiration should be to bear children, to have a career (if she must) but really, just to have children? Would I be sad when I hit 50 and didn’t have a child? Probably. I love my relationship with my mum so much it would be sad not to have that experience. I want to give her a grandchild too, cause secretly I know she’d love one even if she doesn’t say. And through all of these meandering thoughts, I cannot escape the ever-increasing boom of my tick tock-ing biological clock.

 

The pressure of it makes me want to flick the V’s and run away. I miss the city and new and exciting people, single people, parties that last three days, making out like teenagers and irresponsible sex, drum and bass nights and discussing the issues of the day in Soho at 4am. Culture and galleries and exhibitions and something to do every night of the week. I am longing for my youth because from where I stand I’m close to ticking the 34-39yrs old box.

 

I read an article by Tracey Emin in the Sunday Times , who has just turned 50 and writes about (among other things) how excited she is for the future, how many possibilities have opened up to her now that she is passed the ‘childbearing’ years and people have stopped asking. How ambitious she has been and how thrilled she is with what she has achieved and wouldn’t have been able to do with a family, which she has never wanted. She talks about society’s attitude to women who are ‘vehemently single’ and especially child-less. She mentions her body, how she used to glare at it in judgement but now gives thanks for taking care of her throughout her years. Fat she is not, but everything is relative and she has embraced the ‘softness of her rolls’, a sentiment I may adopt. Whatever opinions I have about her art, I loved this article and thought it brave and brutally honest.

 

The conclusion I have come to is that I’m over thinking it. That I should make more room for fun in my life, that I should look in the mirror and love my softness, that I should dance more and worry less about ‘finding a man and having babies’. So as I metaphorically blow out the candles on my birthday cake (because I’m on slimming world and have had a shite week but I persevere because health is my gift to myself), I wish for peace of mind that I’m doing OK and self acknowledgement of my ambition and all I have achieved. And that 35 -year old plan has been pushed back a bit, because life isn’t a tick list and I’m gonna try like hell to enjoy the ride.

 

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Goodbye?

Usually when I sit down to write a blog post I have the first sentence in my head, or at least a topic. But today I am swish-swashing my way through so many thoughts and feelings that to pin something down is proving tricky. Mostly I find simple works best so here goes.

I’ve started eating better, in that I’m following an old slimming world programme that worked years ago and it gives me structure. Which is good for me cause I like structure.  I was once asked by an activist friend of mine why I didn’t want to go hang out with anarchists, to which I replied that I although I am a political leftie I do like rules, they make the world go round and keep me safe. So he dubbed me The Pink Liberal, which I rather love.

Anyway a while ago I went to see a clairvoyant (ok so I’ve seen her sporadically over a few years) and she writes all her visions and feelings down for me to take away. Some of it is pretty bang on and she knows things about me that make my spine tingle, but some of it is really random and to this day I’m still not sure who ‘Sonja’ is- but apparently she’s instrumental to my next phase in life..? During one of our sessions she stopped what she was doing and looked directly at me, which was freaky because not only does she usually look behind me whilst conversing with the ancestors, but she has these piercing blue eyes that bore into the soul.

‘Why are you so scared to lose control and why do you always have to be the best?’ She asked. Then went back to chatting with Grandpa.

This stayed with me and I’ve been thinking a lot about it this week. I’m not a fan of the term ‘control freak’ as I feel it is used to describe women and not men, because men can never be controlling, only commanding and focused. So I guess I am a commanding woman who knows her mind and I do like to be the best at what I do. It has been a blessing in my academic career and working life and usually means I move up the ladder pretty quickly and am always looking for new areas to study. But I also use it to mask my shyness in groups, especially when men are around cause I’m just waiting for one of them to make a comment about my weight or, even worse, ignore me all together and talk to one of my thinner mates. Which may be true but also may not and I’m creating problems for myself.

Then there is food. My old buddy. My reward. Because if I can control all other aspects of my life then with food I can lose control. Not a terribly healthy habit but it’s so ingrained in me I’m finding it very difficult to let go. Like I said I’ve been eating well this week and nourishing my body with all good things. The walk slash runs are going well too and I’m just about to start week four of the podcasts, which is terrifying and brilliant in equal measure. But last night and today I’ve been very weepy and it’s taken a run and much reflection to realise that I might just be saying goodbye to a habit that has become a friend. Realistically it’ll probably go away then come back again to break my heart one more time, like a bad boyfriend. But one day it will eventually disappear and then what the hell am I going to do?!

Love and light

x

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P.S.

Just got in from the jog slash walk, covered in mud but feeling great. Got blown over in gale force winds and pelting rain into a puddle. Surely that must be the country equivalent of the Bridget Jones falling off stationary bike scene! Luckily only a dog saw. He didn’t seem that bothered.

The year of the body

 

I’ve always loved a transformation scene. It appeals to my romantic and optimistic thinking and probably stems from watching Pretty Woman 512 times (not far off), feeling her joy as she struts back through the hotel lobby in her new glamour. As a happy, overweight teeny-bopper with hormones pinging around like fireworks causing pimples to pop and undesirable shopping trips for bigger bras, I yearned for what I thought of as my inevitable transformation into sophisticated elegance. Where soft hues would adorn my lanky frame as I whipped up gourmet grub for casual dinner parties in my chandelier dripping dining room, while clinking crystal wine glasses with my amaaazing husband as he nuzzles my neck.

Obvs things turned out a teensy weensy bit different, but twenty years down the line (!) the romantic me battles on and she still believes in transformations, I’m just more realistic about them now and have surmised that persistence outweighs, well, just about everything else. Whilst reading the endless January articles detailing in vogue self-renewal plans, detoxes and ‘how to maintain a long-term relationship’ guide,  a few things struck a chord.

Number One: I am carrying almost five stone of extra weight and asking my medium sized frame to cope with it.

Two: This extra weight is already having a negative impact on my physically demanding career, which I love and want to be able to perform to the best of my ability.

Three: Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes. My Mum is on a kick ass diet plan at the moment and sends me emails that just say  ‘I don’t want to get Diabetes’, when she needs to motivate herself. Love.

And four: ‘If you don’t look after and love your body, how can you expect your partner to?’

This one really hit me hard because it made me take a good hard look in the mirror, figuratively and literally. I looked at the bumps and areas of increased lumps, which I swear were not there a year ago and which move independently of their own free will. I felt a bit ashamed if I’m really honest and angry that my outside does not reflect who I am on the inside. However, I also remembered a time when my body WAS tight and strong and I remembered that I love my body. The shape of it is gorgeous and the strength is still there underneath. Looking at it made me long for a transformation, one that is realistic and within my grasp.

I know my blog is about this very thing and it may seem that there has been little movement, but I believe this is a life long journey and there are many sideways steps before going forward. Also anyone who understands what it is to be a truly emotional eater and use it as an addiction will understand that it is very very very hard to change a pattern of a lifetime. Nevertheless I will soldier on, repeating the adage that slow and steady wins the race.

Speaking of which, although I am not a natural runner a few years ago I used to jog (slash walk) and got my fitness up so I could do a 5km run without stopping…and even with some enjoyment! I remember the joy I felt shimmy through my body as I moved and the feeling of accomplishment that would stay with me for the rest of the day. Harking back to these good times I recently downloaded the Couch to 5K app, dusted off my trainers and have been jogging (slash walking) my way through it for a couple of weeks now. It’s hard going and I have to almost bribe myself out the door with promises of movies and treats. But, I get to run in the park opposite my house, which is surrounded by hills and has trails leading up into woodlands, where the light dapples through the trees creating shapes on the moss covered rocks and children play and laugh. So it could be worse. And even though I look like a cherry tomato afterwards and people continue to peer at me in mild alarm, I feel AWESOME.

So life is good. Will keep you posted

Love and light

x

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