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Sister Sister

You have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Hardly surprising.  I was just three when mom brought you home.  For 34 years you have been the one constant.  As kids, you were my shadow.  Even though I bemoaned you “breathing on me.”  As we grew up, we fought like cat and dog, but we always made up.  There were times when I screamed that I hated you.  Times when we drove each other to tears.  We certainly haven’t always agreed.  But I always knew you would be in my corner when push came to shove.

For much of the time growing up, it was just us two.  Our mother described us as chalk and cheese.  Totally dissimilar in every way.  However, whether we were jumping on the bed, planning our future business empire or trying to figure out how to get out of trouble, we were always in it together.  I thought of you as an extension of myself.  I figured I knew you inside and out.  How wrong I was.

Eight months ago we went for our routine manicures.  Afterwards, you sat me down in your living room and told me you were going to have a baby.  To be strictly accurate, you gifted me a mug with the word Auntie on it, and watched as I struggled to connect the dots.  I couldn’t process it.  I had always known you would have kids someday and I had no doubt you would be an incredible mother but, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it.  My baby sister was having a baby.

In the weeks and months that followed, I watched you embark on an amazing adventure.  It was an absolute privilege to be allowed to be on the periphery as your life was changing in such a profound way.  At each stage of your pregnancy you were presented with new challenges.  It was a strange dichotomy.  One half of me wanted to be able to do it for you.  To take the pain and uncertainty away, even for a little while.  The other half was blown away by how strong and capable you were.  How unflinching.  To put it simply, I was in awe.

Don’t get me wrong, we still had a few sharp words and disagreements.  It’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime after all.  But it was wonderful to see you so full of passion and purpose as the new life grew inside you.

In time we found out that you would be having a baby girl.  That was the icing on the cake for me.  (At last I would have an outlet for my Hello Kitty obsession.)  Of course, you knew I wouldn’t have minded either way.  I really just wanted you both safe and healthy.  However, I appreciate you thinking pink none the less.

As your due date approached, we were all full of anxiety.  I still couldn’t really believe that you would actually be having a baby soon.  We all eagerly awaited your daughter’s arrival, and if our impatience made you feel pressurised, I am truly sorry.  With everything you were going through, you never flaked on our project and as much as it must have been a giant hassle you kept me in the loop every step of the way.

I made the decision long ago not to have children of my own.  I almost feel like there was an unspoken agreement between us.  You unselfishly allowed me to be as involved as I could be.  Knowing it would be the closest thing to a baby of my own.  I will be forever grateful to you for that.  Even when you went into labour, you went out of your way to keep me in the loop.  I needn’t have worried about being the last to know.

When at last Amelia was born, she changed all our lives forever.  I was given the privilege of being among the very first to meet her.  I would not be surprised if I am being referred to as Arwen the usurper in some circles.  As I held her the first time, I felt such as rush of love for her.  So much love can only be accommodated by growing a new heart.  I can’t begin to imagine what it must have been like for you.

Your daughter is incredible.  Perfect in every way and strong like her mother.  It’s amazing to watch her little personality begin to come through.  No words will ever be able to describe how proud I am of you and of her.  Our little tribe has a new member.  My dearest wish for her is that she always feels as loved as she is.

Be well xxx

Podcast

Fitty & Fatty Ep. 28

This week we had Child Internet Safety Expert, Martin Coughlin in the studio with us, chatting about the ways to keep your kids secure online.  We talked about cyber bullying, revenge porn, identify theft, MOMO and a whole lot more.  Tune in xxx

https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-ep28-safety-online-with-martin-coughlan/

Young Girl In Bedroom Worried By Bullying Text Message

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Don’t Forget to Breathe!

When I was a little girl, maybe 7 or 8, Santa Claus brought me a Sony Walkman.  It was the late 80’s and every kid wanted to emulate Marty McFly.  The portable cassette player was the must have accessory.  To accompany it, my grandmother bought me the “Get in Shape Girl” fitness program.  I have no idea why.  Looking back, I suspect the Book Club might have had something to do with it.  Regardless of her rationale, I loved it.  It made me so happy to play the cassette and jump around my bedroom like an Olivia Newton John wanna be.

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I remember that while I was feeling the burn, the recorded instructor would give me ques.  She would urge me to “keep smiling,” and “don’t forget to breathe.”  I distinctly recall thinking to myself, even at that young age, how utterly ridiculous this was.  As if you could forget to breathe!

Throughout my life, in my attempts to get in shape, I have encounter numerous fitness instructors.  Many of whom have extolled the same advice about breathing.  Every time, I shrugged it off.  Surely it is just something they are trained to say?  Similar to how they like counting to eight all the time.  But lately, my attitude is changing.

A few months ago, I started working with a counsellor.  (I will talk more about that, when I am further along the path.)  In my very first session with her, she said something incredible.  I was talking about my issues and what I am hoping to get out of going to therapy.  She listened intently.  When I was finished speaking, she said “do you know that you hold your breath when you are deep in thought?”  I had no idea.

Since she said that to me, I have noticed myself doing it more and more.  Every time I concentrate on anything.  Whether that is work, or a game of solitaire.  I hold my breath so tightly that when I eventually do let it go, I feel like I have an elephant sitting on my chest.

My therapist also asked me a question that I am only beginning to understand the answer to.  She said “what is going on between your mind and your body, that your brain can override the most basic biological function.”  This has raised so many other questions for me.  I have begun to try to understand how my mind and body have become so utterly disconnected.  What work will need to be done to restore synchronicity?

The main reason I decided to go to therapy in the first place, was because I had been having anxiety attacks with increasing regularity.  I have always been an anxious person.  However, since things started to go wrong with my work life, it had been getting out of control.  Every time I had a quiet moment, thoughts would start racing through my mind.  Before long, I would begin to experience the familiar tightness in my chest.  The feeling of not being able to draw a complete breath.

I am wondering now if I was inducing this state by forgetting to breathe while I was trying to organise my thoughts.  Could I have been doing it to myself?  Since I have become aware that I do this and have caught myself in the act lots of time, I have not had a single attack.  There must be something to it.

Those of you who have been following the blog will know that I have been practicing meditation for a while now.  I use the Headspace app, and honestly, without it I would be an even bigger basket case!  No matter what pack I am working on, whether the focus is on stress or sleep, the narrator Andy always comes back to the breath.  He reminds us that the breath is what anchors us.  Frightening then to think how far we can drift off course, when the breath is not there to guide us.

When we listen to our breath and become tuned in to it, it can tell us a lot about what is going on in the body.  Our blood pressure and heart rate are difficult to monitor on an ongoing basis.  However, the breath is one indicator we do have of our physiological state.  If we can but hear it.

There is great power in the breath.  If you want to see this for yourself, the next time you are in pain, or you are struggling in the gym, try to actively breathe through it.  Imagine yourself breathing in calm and tranquility and breathing out pain.  It really does work.  Whenever my IBS flairs up and my colon goes into spasm, I employ this technique .  It is the ONLY thing that gives me any relief.  There’s a reason why labouring women are coached so much about breathing.

The weird thing about breathing is, your body knows what to do.  It knows how to breathe.  It is only when the brain gets involved that things get screwed up.

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As I continue my journey towards a healthier, happier self, I am beginning to make a realisation.   Unless I can master my breath, it is all for nought.  Until I get to the stage when inhaling and exhaling come as readily as nature intended, I will never be able to harness my true power.

It’s going to take more than a few therapy sessions to unlearn 37 years of behaviour, but I am determined to try.  Even as I write this, I have noticed my breathing stop completely on more than one occasion.

My fitness journey is not unique.  There have been and will continue to be peaks a valleys.  Times of progress and times of frustration.  Breathing, however, is something that apart from conscious awareness, will take little effort and is bound to yield great rewards.  Be well and don’t forget to breathe xxx

 

Articles, Podcast

Fitty and Fatty Ep. 27

In Episode 27 Fitty talks about Time Management and Personal Effectiveness, giving us tips to help us Eat That Frog! Fatty helps us to employ Mind Over Matter. Thanks for listening xxx https://fittyandfatty.podbean.com/e/fitty-and-fatty-ep27-time-management-and-mind-over-matter/ Don’t forget to hit us up on the contact page for your free badges.

via Fitty and Fatty Ep. 27 — Fitty & Fatty

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All The Lonely People

In a time when we are more connected than ever before, it is hard to understand why so many of us are experiencing chronic loneliness.  Through social media, email and messaging apps, barely a waking hour goes by when we don’t reach out and touch someone.  Why is it then, that we feel more isolated and alone than at any other stage in our history?

Recent studies have shown that up to 50% of adults report feeling lonely sometimes or always.  When asked the question “how many people truly know you?” many respond with “no-one.”

Researchers, such as Johann Hari and Brene Brown, to name but two, have clearly shown the link between social isolation and depression, anxiety and even addiction.  In Brene’s words, “we are hard wired for connection.”  What is it then that is stopping us from forming and maintaining the types of connections we so desperately need?

Doped on Dopamine:

We have all heard of the hormone dopamine.  Dopamine is often associated with pleasure, however, it is more closely related to the reward center in the brain.  Every time we hear that ping announcing the arrival of a new email, or signifying a “like” has been achieved, our brains receive a little shot of the drug.  It lets us know that something good just happened.  It encourages us to try to do it again.

We chase these little rewards throughout the day.  Often to the extent that we ignore the real, human connections in our lives.  We sacrifice our most sacred relationships to answer the Siren call of our tiny devices.  When we hear the beep, we feel like we have won a prize.  We instantly abandon whatever else is going on to attend to it.  Even though, we know on a rational level that it is most likely spam.  Of all the hundreds of thousands of emails I have received in my life, exactly none of them have been telling me I have won a prize.

A simple way to mitigate this is to simply go through your apps and disable all non critical notifications.  Every single one of them is constantly vying for your attention, so cut them off at the pass.

Set rules for yourself.  No phones in bed is a good place to start.  Some of the most important conversations I have had with my husband have been just before we go to sleep at night.  Sometimes these are about serious topics, but equally important are the silly moments.  The ones when you nearly choke because you are laughing so hard, but can’t remember what was so funny.  These are the moments of real connection.  They seldom take place with a smart phone in hand.

Competitive Disadvantage:

Another unfortunate side effect of living in the digital age is our compulsion to compete.  Anything you can do, I can do better.  As I write this, it is Pancake Tuesday in Ireland.  The day before Lent begins.  Originally it was Shrove Tuesday, the last day of feasting and getting rid of luxuries from the home, before 40 days and nights of fasting.  Now, however, it is national day of showing the world how big and impressive your stacks are.

There are a couple of things that amuse me about this.  (That’s not to say I haven’t done the same myself, I have)  Firstly, pancakes need to be served hot.  Any time you spend faffing around with lighting and filters, will only serve to detract from the overall pancake experience.

Secondly, Pancake Tuesday is such an institution that it can be assumed you have had pancakes, even if you don’t tell me.  I don’t need you to tell me you have brushed your teeth this morning either, I will just give you the benefit of the doubt.

Lastly, does anyone really care?

This is a simple example but I hope it illustrates my point.  We are spending an inordinate amount of time highlighting how amazing our lives are, instead of just living them.  We seem determined to elicit envy from our “friends” at every opportunity.  It’s hardly surprising that in doing so we alienate people and create even more loneliness.

So, the next time you want to show someone how awesome your pancakes are, why don’t you invite them around to try some?

Yes, no and maybe:

I have spoken at length, both on the blog and on the podcast, about how important it is to be able to say no.  We are so overwhelmed with tasks and responsibilities that we barely have time to draw breath.  It’s vital for our well being that we know when to draw the line, or we risk stress, overload and eventual burn out.

However, I fear we are saying no to the wrong things.  We do it automatically without considering the consequences.  Studies have shown that people will only extend an invitation to you seven times.  If you refuse the seventh invitation, they will be unlikely to ask you again.  Let’s face it, nobody is going to keep on putting their hands out to be slapped.

This could be your friends inviting you on a night out, or your colleagues asking you to join them for lunch.  The next time it comes up, before you refuse, ask yourself how you would feel if you weren’t invited.

Most of us have probably experienced the feeling of being left out.  I know I certainly have, and it’s awful.  If this is a situation you want to avoid, try to ensure you don’t unintentionally create it.  Make a habit of at least occasionally saying yes!

The road goes both ways:

I am someone who tries very hard to keep in touch with the people who are important to me.  I make an effort to send a message, suggest an event and generally reach out, especially when I am aware that it has maybe been a while.

Occasionally though, I find myself thinking that perhaps I am not being met half way.  I start feeling like I am doing all the running.  When this happens, I have two choices.  I can either continue to make the effort with that person, or I can disengage and see what happens.

What I decide to do will depend a lot on the person and on the situation.  If they have a lot going on in their life, or if they mean a lot to me, I can usually let it go.   But if I find myself feeling resentful of the un-reciprocated effort, it can be difficult to maintain the relationship.

If you have a person in your life and you are aware that they usually initiate contact, try to buck that trend.  Take action straight away.  When you find yourself thinking about the person, reach out.  If some one is important to you, don’t allow them to drift out of your life from sheer neglect.

I don’t claim to be an expert on avoiding loneliness.  But I am someone who has both experienced and researched it.  As the planet prepares to reach a population of 10 billion, is is astounding to me that we can still feel utterly alone in the world.  Be well, together xxx