A New Normal

Waking up is becoming less of an ordeal. I remember when I was a kid and everything was up in the air (parents divorcing, moving houses, that kind of stuff) I’d wake up each day with an instant feeling of unease. It takes a while to talk yourself out of it – you tell yourself that you’re safe, get grounded again and carry on.

As I get used to this new version of what normal life is, the unease is slowly dissipating. Still though, nothing remains simple.

My anchor at the moment is still Slimming World. When all this started I lost my appetite, and although it’s coming back in full force I just cannot let myself slip this time. Believe me, I’ve thought about it. I’ve imagined the moment where I eat something purely for comfort, and then I imagine… what next? It only works when there is an unlimited supply of food, and I can’t just jump into the car and pop to the 24 hour Tesco.

There’s only one possible outcome – I’ll end up feeling worse than I did to begin with either through guilt, or because I can’t get enough junk food to keep the high going. Or both, come to think of it.

As it is, food and diet is how I organise my day. Getting up is always nice because there’s the first coffee of the day. If I have them in (luckily I managed to get some with last week’s shopping) I start with a ‘posh’ coffee- a Nescafé coconut milk latte that comes in a sachet and is only 3 Syns.

I have a Syn-free lunch around 3 or 4pm, then dinner is as late as I can manage and whatever’s in the fridge that is going out of date first. Dinner is always big and satisfying, which helps me sleep through the night.

It’s working out pretty well so far. Then on a weekly basis we have the Slimming World virtual online group, which is run through Zoom. I enjoy this so much that I attend one on a Monday night and one on a Tuesday night.

Official weigh in is now Tuesday morning, and this week I’ve stayed the same. I’m not even overly disappointed, because the fact is I’ve barely moved for two weeks and I’ve had really good losses up until now – much better than I imagined I would. It stands to reason that I couldn’t keep that pace going.

Activity however is something that I really must start working into my day, for so many reasons. Aside from the positive impact exercise brings to physical and mental health, I’ve found that if I don’t move my creativity also disappears.

Yesterday I did some hula hooping, some kettlebell workouts and some walking around the kitchen/living room, and as I did I found I had the urge to paint. So I did!

It’s just a little start, but it’s more than I’ve felt like doing for a while. I also feel less inclined to rush. When it comes to arts and crafts I definitely tend to hurry towards the end result. This is because while it’s in process I think it’s crap and I find it hard to sit with that feeling while I’m doing it. So I’m experimenting with just slowing down and letting things develop as they will. It’s harder than it sounds.

I’ve given a lot of thought to exercise, and I’ve realised that I must make the most of being allowed out for one walk a day. After speaking to some Slimming World people yesterday I’ve been given advice as to the best times of day to do things, because I’ve seen through Facebook friends that all my usual haunts have been absolutely rammed with people since lockdown was implemented. I have to keep the risk as low as possible.

Tomorrow, I’m going to get up super early and go out during sunrise. Hopefully not many others will be out and I can see if it’s a feasible way to carry out my daily stroll. I’ve gone through different routes in my head to identify places where it’s impossible to be 2m away from someone passing in the opposite direction and have adjusted the route accordingly. Since I stopped working, I’ve been burning over 1000 calories a day less, and I can feel myself getting lazier and lazier. I really must work on getting a new routine going. After all, I’ve got 11 more weeks of this. Minimum.

I feel like I owe it to the other people who are out there putting themselves at risk to keep the rest of us safe and fed to make the most of my privileged situation. So that’s what I’ll do. I’m not taking a single thing for granted.

Now I’m officially poor I really have to stop spending money, but as one last treat I bought a couple of Kindle books to use for trying to identify wild flowers and trees. I got sidetracked when looking for specific things and ended up just browsing through thousands and thousands of entries, but now I’m desperate to find out what one thing is because it’s driving me NUTS.

I was in two minds whether to write about this, because I didn’t want to admit defeat, but if you know what this is PLEASE let me know because it has eluded me so far. I think it’s from a tree or was growing around a tree, but I can’t get back to the spot to investigate further for the time being. I can’t find it online, on any plant/tree ID apps or in any of my books. When I took the photos it was just because it was pretty, I didn’t give a second thought as to what it was. It’s become something of a mission! I bet it’s something really bloody obvious. I literally spent an entire day, A WHOLE 10 HOURS, trying to find it to no avail. Still, it passed the time!

Hopefully you’re all staying safe and adjusting to life as it is now.

Take care,

Hayley x

Unsettled

I didn’t do anything creative with my block of clay after all. When I began my self-isolation last Tuesday, the advice for the time was for everyone in the household to stay home for 14 days. That has now changed. Because I was the first to develop a cough, as of today I can now leave the house. Well, to a certain extent.

Since I found this out, which was on Saturday I think, I just haven’t been able to settle enough to do much at all. On the one hand, I’m really looking forward to going back to work and seeing the faces of some of my bestest friends. But I don’t think there’s any such thing as a straightforward feeling these days. Apart from looking forward to seeing people, I also feel immense guilt because there are others who won’t see another face for who even knows how long.

Above all else though, there’s fear. Fear of what I might pick up at work and bring back home to my family. Just quitting my job of 11 years has seriously crossed my mind, and I feel disgusted with myself that I’m not brave enough to tell work to stick it. Even if we were dealing with food I’d be ok with going in, but it seems like absolute madness to be dealing with curtains and toasters and microwaves at a time like this. Am I risking the lives of others so people can still get their lawnmowers?

Somehow, incredibly, I am classed as a key worker. When it was announced yesterday that the UK is now taking measures to keep people indoors I was relieved. Until I saw the list of exceptions that is, now I am just as scared as ever.

I don’t think these measures are enough. The trains are still packed. I work in just one warehouse of 500 people that’s still allowed to operate. Imagine how many more there must be throughout the UK. How can this be right?

I’m in work tonight, and I will speak to my manager about perhaps doing a reduced work week, which the company are considering. I figure, the less I’m in contact with other people, the less risk I pose to my family. It’s some sort of middle ground I guess. I’ll worry about the loss of earnings some other time.

ANYWAY, I have been able to find little bits of joy in my days. My sister had to bring her car over yesterday as a mobile mechanic needed to do some urgent work to it on our driveway.

I didn’t see her at all (social distancing people!) but Newton was in the garden so I stuck my head out of the window to say hello. He looked at me quizzically for a moment then carried on with some very important sniffing business, but it was lovely to see him all the same.

Then next door’s dog came out, and wanted to get in on the action. I don’t think this doggo was impressed though. I got a few woofs telling me to go back inside.

Then later on there was my first virtual Slimming World group, and do you know what? I loved it. I got my laptop out and got it functioning (I hadn’t even turned it on for over a year) and got to see the faces of my old fellow group members.

It’s not even about the weight loss. For me it’s something solid that I can focus on and look forward to every week, when everything else is going tits up all around me. Some people don’t have home scales, so they are just focusing on non-scale victories. Of course we have reduced control over what food is available right now as well, and we’re just concentrating on making the best of it. I highly recommend it!

Despite barely moving over the last week, I still managed to lose 1.5 pounds. My goal for March was to get back into the 15 stone bracket, and now I’m 15 stone 6 pounds and there’s one more weigh in left this month.

I’m glad I didn’t get any ‘treats’ with our last online shop, because I know I would have found it hard to resist. As it is I find myself in a situation where I’m saving my last tin of beans for a ‘special occasion’. Blimey, life has become so strange!

That’s it for me for today then. Thanks for reading, and in the words of Jerry Springer, take care of yourselves and each other.

Hayley x

Virtual Reality

Day 5 of isolation, and madness is beginning to set in. On Thursday, for a short while I forgot that I don’t speak French. You see, I watched an entire season of a French show on Netflix. When I watch something foreign I always watch with subtitles-I cannot stand it when it’s dubbed. After 10 hours or so of watching, partway into season 2, I looked away from the screen and thought ‘what the bloody hell are they saying?’

Oh yeah. They’re speaking French! And I do not… It’s happened before when I was watching the German series, Dark. Tell me it’s not just me?

Now for a disclaimer: I’m no therapist. But I just wanted to give you my thoughts on some things. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. None of us have ever been in anything like this situation before, so don’t for a second feel like you should be finding or even looking for silver linings, if that’s not something that helps you.

I’m someone who has been dipping in and out of things. I have so many projects I could be getting on with, but when I get into something I momentarily forget what’s going on in the outside world. That’s great, until I suddenly remember and I get a jolt of panic surge through my body. Then I lose all interest in what I was doing, I stare into the distance for an indeterminate amount of time, then later on find something else to do.

At least, that’s during the day. Night time is spent trying, and failing, to get a good sleep. I’m not going to stress over this though. Normally it’s a problem because it’s important for me to be on the ball at work, but I’m not working so it doesn’t matter if I’m zoned out during waking hours.

We’re all just finding our ‘new normal’, and I think beating ourselves up over not being ‘positive enough’ is the last thing we need to be doing. Feelings demand to be felt, and if we bury them, they’ll never go away. The only way out is through.

Over the course of this week, I’ve been terrified, but also happy. On Monday Newton did an audible fart in the forest which was quite possibly the funniest thing in the world ever. I laughed more than was probably necessary at my wonky nipples (I have no idea how to explain in words what that was about or why it was so funny) and I had a silent disco in my room.

I was listening to classic 80’s tracks which are oh so danceable. In this instance I was listening to ‘Don’t Leave Me This Way’ by the Communards, which I think we can all agree is a belter.

Other things that have helped me are getting dressed every day and, from time to time, putting make up on. This getting ready time is one of my favourite weekday activities, as I put my AirPods in and bust out some choons while I’m at it. Normally it’s to get me gee’d up for work, but in this instance it was a great mood—booster.

Then I spent several hours de-sequining some things for a craft project I meant to start two years ago, whilst watching an interesting series on Netflix about myths and legends.

Today I made Pea’s healthy food for the next month, which is sweet potato, broccoli, pepper, carrot and kale chopped and frozen into ice cube trays. This supplements her every day organic bird pellets and a couple of sunflower seeds or millet as a treat when she comes out to play.

It’s no big thing, but that was my task for the day and it felt good to be able to say ‘I said I was going to do this thing, and I did it’. I then told Pea that if we run out of food she better figure out how to start laying eggs, but I don’t think she was listening.

How long do you reckon it would take her to lay enough for an omelette?

Since I’m lucky enough to have a garden and the sun came out, I went outside to get some fresh air and take a few snaps.

Then came the news from my old consultant that her group is going to be one of the first in the country to start running virtual Image Therapy. Slimming World are going to charge roughly £2.50 per session, but you can attend as many or as few as you like without having to pay back fees. I told my consultant that if there’s space for me in one of her sessions to count me in, and I’ll also join my regular group in theirs. I’m still not paying any more than I would ordinarily, and I get to support more than one consultant.

Plus it would be REALLY NICE to see some different faces!

I’ve been staying on track with my eating not because of any particular willpower, but mainly through being sensible about using up what food I have. By the time I’m able to go out for supplies myself again, I have no idea what will be available. Another disclaimer: THIS IS NOT AN INVITATION TO PANIC BUY. THERE IS NOOOOOOOO FOOD SHORTAGE. IT IS OUR GREED THAT IS CAUSING THIS SITUATION!

There’s also the fact that I’ve almost completely lost my appetite, and I’m only eating once I feel a bit light-headed, or my tummy rumbles particularly loudly. Then I know it’s time to get some grub.

My only task for the rest of the day is to decide what I’m going to make tomorrow. I have a block of air-drying clay, so I want to decide what I’m doing with it before I open it. I’ll have to work quite quickly to stop it from drying out, so it’s best to be prepared. I’ll update you on that in the next post.

Stay safe, stay home if you can, and don’t buy all the things!

Hayley x

Hotel Vibes

Yesterday day was a worrisome day. On Monday, whilst walking Newton, I had a really itchy nose and sneezed quite a lot. The blossoms are emerging now so I figured it was a spot of hay fever (something I never used to get that seems to get a little bit worse every spring). Then in the evening a sore throat developed.

I gradually felt worse overnight but didn’t have the telltale temperature or persistent cough of coronavirus, yet I still didn’t feel right about returning to work. Thankfully I already had Tuesday night booked off, so I had an extra day to think about it. I did however exile myself to my room in the meantime, to avoid passing anything on to the family.

I spent most of Tuesday, day and night, anxiously and nonsensically scouring the internet for evidence that I conclusively do or do not have coronavirus, therefore allowing me to decide definitively whether I should or should not go to work.

See the problems here? I have a blocked nose, but a stuffy nose is not usually a symptom of covid-19. Depending on which source you read, between 4-6% of people diagnosed will have a stuffy or runny nose. So while I’m roughly 95% sure I don’t have it, the presence of my stuffy nose doesn’t prove that by any means. There’s only one way to be sure, and that’s to get tested. If our NHS staff can’t even get what anyone with half a brain cell would call a VITAL test, well, there won’t be one for the rest of us.

I eventually got to sleep at 5am, but didn’t stay sleeping long because my newly emerged persistent cough kept bloody waking me up. Oh well, at least the decision has now been taken out of my hands. According to NHS 111 online, I must not go to work. These are always the occasions when I’d much rather be at work than at home, but there’s not much to be done about that!

My biggest worry now (apart from passing whatever I have on to the rest of the household) is that if this is just a cold, I’m still able to contract the virus and will have to do isolation all over again at some point. Work might be funny about it, but what else in all good conscience could I do? I’d rather lose my job than unnecessarily put someone else’s life in my hands.

When I made a list last week of fun stuff to do if I ended up being isolated, I hadn’t counted on actually being ill and feeling rotten, so although it’s certainly been a less anxious day I can’t say I’ve done anything productive.

This is now day two of fourteen of only coming out of my room to get food or use the bathroom, so I’d better buck up my ideas and start making use of my time before I get cabin fever!

I’ve been fairly level-headed in the days leading up to now, but one measure I did take (and I’m extremely glad I did) was to get a kettle to keep in my room. That way I don’t have to keep going into the kitchen every time I want a coffee, which is often. As such it’s much like living in a hotel right now. I wonder if I ring my mum for room service she’ll bring me a cooked meal? Hmm, unlikely…

In other news, I no longer have to feel bad about my decision not to return to Slimming World. That’s because yesterday morning it was announced that no-one is – all groups are suspended until further notice.

It seems that the consultants, who are self-employed, are going to get some sort of remuneration from Slimming World. Plus Head Office seem to be working on solutions to keep groups running remotely. I hope they do, for the sake of everyone involved. I know several people whose sole income comes from Slimming World.

I weighed in at home, for once with the approval of my consultant, and lost 4 lbs. My total loss is now 1 stone 7 lbs, which even I am gobsmacked with.

Now I just have to keep it up!

Thanks for reading, and take extra special care.

Hayley x

Tough Times Ahead

For someone who is normally a great big ball of anxiety, I’m strangely calm. I’ve been worrying about this coronavirus for about a month now, and finally spoke up to my family just before the ‘delay’ phase was introduced. They thought I was overreacting, though even then I wasn’t panicking.

When covid-19 started hitting the news the very thought scared me, so I decided to look into it further to allay my fears. I figured it was just scaremongering, but what I found was the opposite. I found plenty of evidence to suggest this is a very real threat that’s going to hit us hard (not just one of those things that happens in ‘other’ countries) but the thing that caused me the most stress was that no one in the UK seemed to be taking it seriously.

They still don’t. I don’t know what it’s like in other areas, but here in Essex it seems to be complete disbelief. We have the panic-buyers going crazy, but it doesn’t seem to be because they’re scared of the virus, just that they are scared they’re going to be left behind when everyone else has taken all the food.

I am worried that there won’t be anything left when the greedy people have had their fill, but I’m much more worried of the increased risk being in a packed supermarket would bring. In our house we have an online shop ordered (same as we do every week) and what we get, we get. We aren’t going to starve! I know I’m not setting foot in a supermarket unless I absolutely have to.

There’s so much selfishness. I couldn’t give two hoots whether I catch the virus or not, but I’m painfully aware I could pass it on to other more vulnerable people. Boris has only just suggested we start our social distancing (see this great resource about that) and it’s baffled me that it’s taken this long.

This is a flipping disaster, but we as individuals have the chance to alter the course of this thing. If we slow the spread (see flattening the curve) we can make sure the NHS isn’t too overwhelmed and the mortality rate could be much, much lower.

We aren’t being asked to do much – just wash our damn hands and stay the hell at home! WE CAN LITERALLY SAVE LIVES BY DOING THAT!

Yet, there are some idiots who still go to work with symptoms. I get it – if you’re self-employed it’s an impossible situation, but I know people who get FULL SICK PAY, doing non-essential jobs, who are going to work sick. If you CAN do something to help then please, DAMN WELL DO IT, whether you believe it’s real or not.

Ok, rant over. As I say, I’m surprisingly relaxed about all this. I think it’s because I’m simply doing all I can as a responsible member of society, and also that I’m a total home bod who was made for this very situation.

I took Newton for a walk today, which I figure is practically risk free. We didn’t see many other humans, and those we did encounter were from a distance.

Being in nature was so grounding. Newton was happily sniffing all the things, and got dew drops from sticking his snoot in the long grass.

If it gets to the point where we aren’t recommended to visit the park, then I’ve been gradually getting the garden tidy. Newton absolutely loves it out there, but planting flowers may be problematic.

He loves to run around and rip up chunks of stuff (he’s particularly taken with the primroses right now) so I guess investing time in planting stuff directly into the soil is inadvisable. I have some little seed bullet things I was going to scatter in the garden next month, but since he would probably eat them I figure it’s safer to start them off in doors.

That brings me nicely to the fact I have a load of fun things planned to occupy my time indoors, which I’ll share in the next few posts. Cultivating the plant lady aspect of my personality is one of them, now that I’m emboldened by managing to keep a cactus alive for several months. One is even growing!

This was a round cactus that is gradually getting long. The lighter green at the top is all new growth. This really is an achievement, coming from the girl who managed to kill an air plant.

I’ve decided not to go back to my Slimming World group for the time being. I do feel bad, because I know my consultant’s income will be affected, yet I simply cannot take the risk. Hopefully Slimming World’s head office will help their franchisees through this time, and I’d happily get an online subscription if I knew it was going to help consultants.

The last time I weighed in I lost 5 pounds and I’m still absolutely smashing it! I’ll now weigh in from home every Tuesday morning instead, and I reckon I’ve had a good loss this week too. My clothes feel a lot more comfortable, with 1 stone 3 lbs gone in only three weeks. I thought my ability to do this well was long gone, yet I’ve proven myself wrong.

Now I just need to keep my motivation up without the help of group. It’s going to be difficult, but not impossible, and I’ve resisted the urge to by junk food ‘just in case’. If I’m quarantined at any point, I’d rather not come out of it feeling worse than at the beginning. I’m optimistic for the future, and have no intention of throwing the towel in now.

Hang in there everyone, we’re gonna get through this.

Hayley x

Five Years

It’s been a bit longer than I intended between blog posts. While things have been quite wonderful, I’ve also had a bit of writer’s block. Things have really shifted for me over the last couple of weeks, however on the face of things not much has really happened. It’s hard to put into words.

Last week I really started getting my energy back. Whilst my medication makes me pretty much unconscious as soon as I take it, when I am awake, I’m really awake. I hadn’t realised how much of a monumental effort it was taking me just to exist until things started getting better.

Somehow I managed to stay on top of things as far as work goes (although I have lost a significant amount of money in unpaid leave in order to not lose the plot entirely) and have had a good enough performance to hit my targets and stay out of trouble.

But now… I’m actually smashing it! Last week I was top driver on the department. Everything is just kind of flowing, and it feels good having a spring in my step again as I jump (not quite literally) on and off of the forklift truck a hundred or so times a shift.

When I had to transfer stock over by hand to an empty pallet, I’d inwardly groan if I saw that it was particularly heavy. Now when I see I’ve got to haul a load of 20kg boxes, I’m glad for the opportunity to flex my muscles. It feels good to feel good to move, if that makes sense.

I feel like I’ve spent most of the year so far horizontal, which probably isn’t far from the truth. During February I barely moved at all in fact. Now I’m coming out of hibernation.

On Monday I walked into town for the first time since I don’t even remember when. Apart from to exercise, I had one single other objective- to pick up a free paper from Wilkinson’s. I use them to line Pea’s cage and catch the poops you see. Of course that is the one thing I came home without. Typical.

I did however see some lovely signs of spring, even if it was a grey old day.

The next day Newton came out on a nice long walk with me. It’s the first time we’ve been out walking together, just the two of us, and it was lovely to have a furry companion. He had a great time too, even if he was thoroughly disappointed that I wouldn’t let him eat goose poo. He loves the stuff. He was also not impressed that I wouldn’t let him eat used chewing gum, poop from other dogs and a jelly baby. It’s a hard life, being a dog.

After that my medication got adjusted, so although I’ve maintained my energy levels for work, I’m absolutely zonked as soon as I get in. I’m not worried though- I know there will just be a short adjustment period and I’ll have a good balance going again.

It does feel as if I’m entering a new season of life now. Five years ago, I’d just got my first DSLR and was starting to venture outdoors in search of things to photograph. I made a lot of headway in those five years. I figured out what I really like doing. I started to tackle my weight. I started to get a life.

In recent years I let myself get distracted and wasn’t really thinking about my future. It’s not surprising, it’s not something I’ve ever thought about. Since leaving school, it’s been a case of ‘this will do’ in an absence of knowing what I really wanted my life to look like. All this time I’ve just been getting by.

So, five years later, and I’m finally starting to think about what I’d like my next five years to look like. I’ve always been terrible with money, and over the years I’ve said countless times that this is the moment I get on top of things once and for all. But it’s really happening! Last month I stayed within my means for the first time in living memory, without having to play catch up at all. I tracked all of my outgoings and I spent £500 on food, £200 of which was on takeaways, and nearly £400 on non-essentials. Before you start thinking I’m minted, I’m not. I just had extra money that month from working over the Christmas period.

Since pay day at the end of February however, I have spend zero pounds on takeaways. My non-essential spending currently stands at about 20 quid. I have a couple of really short months coming up, because of the unpaid leave, but even then I can still live within my means. Just about. When I’m back earning my full wage, I can start to pay off all of my credit, put aside some savings for the first time ever, and stop buying things to distract myself when I’m feeling bad.

That’s the key word. Distraction. It’s at the root of all my troubles – my weight, my finances, my relationships. Everything I’ve done in my life so far has been focused on making myself feel better for the next five minutes, without a thought for the effect my choices would have on the next five years.

That changes now though, and do you know what? I’m thoroughly excited. The single spanner in the works is that I’m currently freaking out about coronavirus and envisaging something akin to the Walking Dead in my near future. Hayley’s anxious brain is braced for the entire breakdown of society, or, you know, being dead. But positive Hayley is preparing for the future where everything turns out ok. What will be will be.

So, my spending has improved. I’m not engaged in any destructive relationships. How about food then? As it happens, I’ve been smashing the weight loss too with another 3.5 pounds off this week, plus Slimmer of the Week.

I’ve also been super organised. Everything is clean and tidy, and I have grand yet frugal redecorating plans which will be carried out over the course of the year.

Yep, everything is pretty damn good. It’s nice to be able to say that.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x