This week the girls talk about Minimalism and Foods to Aid our Mental Health, Enjoy xxx
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich. – C.P. Cavafy
Do you ever get the feeling that you should be farther along your path than you are? Do you ever get frustrated by set backs? Do you tire of hearing yourself talk about starting over, again? Yeah? So do I.
As I sit writing this, it is “Blue Monday.” I am looking out at a black night. Neither of these however, is the source of my malaise. I feel depressed and down due to the sisyphus condition I find myself in. The near constant roundabout of a little progress followed by a big backslide, has started to wear me down. Just like in the Greek myth, I am beginning to wonder if I am destined to carry the same load up hill for all eternity.
I am not writing this because I want to host my own pity party. Or to elicit sympathy from my readers. Instead, I write because I promised you and myself, almost exactly three years ago, that I would always be authentic. It is extremely tempting to show only the highlights. To invite you in, only when my house is tidy and everything is in order. However to do that, would be to fail to honour the relationship we have built. The trust you show me, each time you turn up to read my words.
Late last year, I was invited to resign from my job. I watched a career that I had spent over a decade building crumble in the space of a single conversation. The words “you’re not right for the job,” have echoed in my mind many times since then. Reverberating and repeating. Their message clear, you are not enough.
I had always known that a lot of my self worth was tied up with my job. I am a natural striver, always obsessed with the next thing. An upward career trajectory was good way for me to channel this. What I had not known, was that when the label of accountant, professional and general good girl was taken away from me, I would struggle to recognise myself.
I wish I could tell you that this was limited to my professional life, but sadly that is not the case. I am routinely plagued by the curse of more. If I am fit, I want to be fitter. If I am thin, I want to lose more weight. When I fail it is all my fault and when I succeed it has nothing to do with me.
Lately I been doing some writing for another blog. A couple of weeks back, I did an interview with an up and coming athlete. My editor messaged me the day after it was published to let me know it had been the most read interview on the site. As a writer this should have thrilled me. Instead I immediately started to catalogue all of the possible explanations for the article’s popularity that didn’t involve its author. Conversely, when we publish an article of mine that doesn’t do so well, I am crushed. My inner demons launch into a chorus of “you’re not good enough, why would you even try?”
I have a small library of personal development literature at home. I have just finished Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Rarely has a book so profoundly affected me. I was literally moved to tears as I listened to her telling her stories. Her struggle to connect with vulnerability seemed to mirror my own almost exactly.
In her book, she asks so many important questions. But the one that struck me the hardest was this; In a world where enough is never enough, how can we cultivate a sense of worthiness? How can we learn to feel loved and lovable in a culture that values exhaustion and burn out over communication and connection?
I remember as a child and even into adulthood challenging both of my parents. I distinctly recall screaming at them “Why can’t you just be proud of me!” They would always assure me that they were. As I look back, I can see that was the truth. The chronic need for achievement came from inside me. Any words of support and encouragement they gave me were at best, a temporary balm.
As I have gone through life, the need for approval, the desire to be seen has remained. However, now it is not just my parents that I seek it from. The need to be relevant, to feel like I am enough, has brought me to some dark and dangerous places. I am caught in the vicious cycle of “I will be happy when… ” When my blog is a success. It won an award and still I wasn’t soothed. When the podcast reaches more listeners. How many will it take? When I am doing well at work. I am now a finance manager, and “successful” by any objective measure, but still nothing.
It is slowly dawning on me, with the help of those supporting me, that the feeling of being enough will never come from outside. It will not come from being athletic. It will not come packaged in skinny jeans. A good hair day, an orgasm, or a promotion will not conjure it. It can only come from within me. A truly terrifying prospect.
As I draft this post, the words of an Alanis Morissette song have been going through my head.
I’d be productive and still it would not come
I’d be celebrated still it would not come
I’d be the hero and still it would not come
I’d renunciate and still it would not come
I take comfort from knowing that if someone as wealthy, talented and accomplished as she can have these same sentiments, perhaps it is merely part of the human condition? Maybe we all have demons to slay. Perhaps the hardest thing is to set down the need for pleasing and perfecting, to just allow ourselves to be.
I know that I have a lot more work to do in this area. I have enlisted the help of a therapist as I set about unlearning the habits of a lifetime. Over the past few years I have driven myself to the point of exhaustion several times. The “not enough” feeling is impossible to out run. The only solution is to try to meet it head on.
I am committed to dealing with the shame that losing my job brought. To shining a big, bright light on it. Because shame loves the dark. It delights in festering in unlit corners, gaining strength and power. As I try to shed the pounds I gained when I was eating my feelings and too depressed to exercise, I am determined not to allow my self worth to depend on this.
At various stages of my life I have weighed less than 50kgs and over 80kg. I was not happy with my body at any stage. I am going to turn that narrative on its head. If my weight can’t make me happy, why should I let it make me unhappy? Brene Brown tells us that when we own our story, we get to write the ending. That fills me with great hope.
I am imperfect. I have flaws beyond counting. But yet, I am worthy. I am capable of giving love and receiving it in return. I have gifts to offer this world. I will enter the arena and fight. Overcoming these demons may turn out to be my life’s work. I will learn to be okay with that. I will not hurry the journey at all. Be well xxx
It’s not us, it’s you!
In two weeks time I will be starting a new job. Yes, that’s right folks, another one. In fact, this will be the fourth job I have had this year. When I look back on 2018, I am sure the archives will be full of memories of being interviewed.
The last few weeks have been strange and strained. I have felt unable to get into it here on the blog. Without knowing what was next, it seemed like self-indulgent whining. Since the summer, I have started, and finished, two new roles. For the record, neither of these positions were supposed to be temporary.
I have tried to reassure myself that these things happen. Everyone is allowed to have a run of bad luck sometimes. However, I couldn’t prevent my confidence from being severely dented. The last job ended after only 8 week. My boss told me he didn’t think I was the right person for the job. He wasn’t firing me, as such, but there was a clear invitation to resign.
As I sat across from him at that board room table, I tried to remain composed. All I could think was “he is right.” All these years I have been playing a part. Now, finally, I am being exposed as the fraud I always knew I was. At least that is what I thought on that fateful Wednesday.
In the weeks since then, there has been a lot of soul searching and no small amount of tears. I honestly did not know if I had what it would take to dust off the CV. To try to sell myself again. My shame and my sadness were so raw. I felt sure that it would be obvious to anyone who met me.
Luckily, there’s no better decision making tool than not having a choice. I wasn’t in immediate danger of ending up on the bread line. However, I knew I needed to get back to work in short order. A month or two of unemployment was realistically all I could afford.
Of course, I fantasized about walking away from corporate life. Immersing myself instead in my writing, Zumba and the Podcast. As appealing as that sounds, it isn’t a viable option right now. I am not ruling it out completely. It’s just more of a long term proposition.
Getting back on the horse
I realised that I needed to build myself back up again. Hearing “no” is an inevitable part of job seeking. I needed to restore my resilience and my energy to be able to withstand it. I had given myself the deadline of the New Year to try to get something in place. As many of you who know me will understand, I am not good as sitting still. I am prone to depression. Lounging around in a dressing gown will surely set me on that course. It was important for me to stay busy.
I needed a new project. Something exciting to take my mind off my current situation and keep my brain engaged. Just then, something amazing happened. A Facebook friend (to this day I am still unsure how we are even connected) put up a post looking for someone to help him. He needed a writer for his MMA blog. I answered his call. I admitted knowing very little about MMA or any sport for that matter. In spite of my lack of expertise, he decided to let me try out.
This project turned out to be exactly what I needed. It is a challenge for sure. I am learning a lot, which I always love and getting to meet so many interesting people. Under my editor’s guidance I am producing work that I am incredibly proud of. Doing things like driving 220km to attend MMA fights on my own, which I never would have imagined myself doing.
All of this started to have an affect on me. My confidence began to return. I started to feel less useless. Furthermore, I figured out that as humans, our capability to reinvent ourselves is infinite. If I can step into the role of MMA reporter, what else can I do? We are only limited by our imagination. It made me feel a lot better about having to sell myself in the job market, that’s for sure.
It is a cliché, but I do believe that sometimes when it feels like everything is falling apart, it is actually falling into place. Had I not had such a bad run of employment luck this year, I never would have had these few weeks off to rest and reevaluate. I experienced what was probably my greatest professional fear coming to pass, and I lived to tell the tale. That fear won’t have as great a hold over me in the future.
I also would not have had the opportunity to try something new and the pick up some new skills. I have interviewed some people for the site. This has lead me to consider interviewing people for the Podcast. I don’t know if I would have felt equipped to do before. It has shown me that even at the ripe old age of 37, I can still learn. Adventure is still out there for me. I am still able to surprise myself.
I am proud of myself for walking away from a bad situation. The Arwen of old would have gritted her teeth and tried to make it work. I am no longer prepared to sacrifice my self-worth for a pay cheque. That is huge.
I am going into this new role full of excitement and hopeful that it will be a good fit. If it doesn’t work out I might have to try lion taming! At the risk of sounding ambivalent, if it isn’t a good fit, it won’t be the end of the world. I now know I am capable of dusting myself off and trying again. I will keep you posted. Be well xxx
I love Fitty & Fatty | Fitty and Fatty Ep.8 – Beating Stress and Surviving Halloween, let’s play it!
So folks, here we are, October 15th and half way through Sober October. I wanted to give you all a little update on how the last two weeks of clean living have gone. Full disclosure, I did not really expect to be writing this post, as I felt sure I would cave before the first weekend was out. However, it hasn’t actually been too bad (so far.)
The first weekend of sobriety did feel a little odd. I honestly can’t remember the last time I had gone a full week without any alcohol. Which is probably a sure sign that a detox was long overdue. Even when I am sick, hot whiskey is my go to, so it was definitely alien. We were staying in on the Saturday night, as I had a busy day planned for Sunday, and usually we would be having a few beers or a bottle of wine as we plough through some box set or other. Imbibing on sparkling water instead, left a lot to be desired. I really did feel like I was missing something. However, a late night dash to McDonald’s for ice-cream satisfied my craving.
The second weekend was a little less weird. I was out with a friend Saturday night and I was perfectly happy to drive and for her to have a few drinks. I enjoyed my night just as much as I would have had I been drinking, and it was so nice waking up the next morning/afternoon feeling fresh. Last night I made another trip through the Drive Thru in my pj’s for McFlurries to enjoy while we watched a movie. Normally I could take or leave ice-cream, but I seem to be doing more taking lately!
Like a lot of habits, my alcohol intake has a lot to do with association. I enjoy nothing more at the end of a tough week than a couple of cold beers. I tell myself that I work hard, and so I deserve it. It helps me to relax, I assure myself. The truth is, when I am very tired, alcohol makes me feel even more exhausted. So instead of being able to stay up a little later catching up with my husband, I end up wanting to fall into bed at the same time as I do on a school night. I also find that even one or two drinks affects my sleep quality, and makes me dehydrated the following day. Not an ideal start to the weekend, especially when I am teaching a class on a Saturday morning!
So, what’s the upside to all this?
Firstly, I feel better. Not like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound or anything, but I definitely have more clarity of mind, and more energy. I have been struggling with insomnia the past few months, and I am finding that without the alcohol my sleep seems to be better quality. Even if I am still not getting enough.
Secondly, my health markers are improving. My weight has crept up quite a bit this year, and although it’s not bothering me overly at the moment, it is in the back of my mind that I should think about tackling it at some stage. Obviously enough, drinking thousands of calories every weekend is not helping. Since the beginning of month my scale weight has slowly started to come down. My tummy is looking less bloated and I am generally feeling more positive about myself. As well as this, my resting heart rate has reduced and is back below 60bpm for the first time in a good while.
My recovery has improved. Alcohol is a diuretic and makes you dehydrated, this is absolutely terrible for your body when it is trying to recover from exercise. In the last couple of weeks, even though I am teaching more often, I feel like it is taking less out of me, which can only be good news.
I have more money in purse. It turns out that two ice-creams costs a lot less than a couple of nights of drinking!
I get to enjoy a movie without having to get up to pee 37 times!
There are loads of other health benefits associated with reducing your alcohol intake, but these are the ones I am seeing and feeling after a mere 14 days. I have no doubt that when the month is over, I will enjoy a drink or two. It is my birthday and wedding anniversary that weekend, after all. But I am seriously thinking about making it a much less significant part of my life in the future.
Let me know how you have been getting on. Be well xxx
So long Scroll Free September, make way for Sober October! I have been looking for a playful euphemism or a colourful metaphor to dress this up, but the truth of it is, for the last while I have been drinking too much. Not in the “drinking problem” sense but simply in the “this is not good for my overall health” sense. My husband and I have been planning to take a break from alcohol for ages now, but there was always some reason (read excuse) why it wasn’t a good time. There was always a wedding, holiday or other occasion on the horizon, which made the idea of going tee total a daunting prospect. We now find ourselves at the closing of the year. Christmas is fast approaching and party season will be here before we know it, so it was pretty much now or never.
Those of you who are regular readers will know that 2018 has been a bit of a roller coaster for me. Between my full time job, of which I have had three, and my side projects, I can end up feeling like I am working all the time. There have been a lot of changes and often by the time the weekend comes along, I am too exhausted to attempt anything more energetic than binge watching Netflix in my pjs with a glass of wine or a nice cold beer. Alcohol became a way to differentiate weekend nights from week nights! I wouldn’t describe myself as a binge drinker, I rarely, if ever get drunk. However, two or three drinks, a few nights a week quickly adds up to way more than the 11 unit safe drinking limit (17 for men.)
These habits crept in over the space of about a year. What had once been limited to Friday and Saturday started creeping into some of the other evenings too. I was definitely starting to feel the effect on my energy levels. It’s never as easy getting up in the morning after even a couple of drinks. As well as that, I am not getting any younger. I will be turning 37 next month and it’s time to stop taking my health completely for granted. I am well aware of the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption, especially for women, and I am not arrogant enough to think I should be lucky enough to escape them. From this week I will be teaching an extra Zumba class. This brings the total to 4 per week, and with the stress this will put on my body, I need to do all I can to mind it. Alcohol certainly will not help with that!
I am sure there will be lots of other benefits of having a dry month. I am looking forward to having more energy and to waking up refreshed on the weekends. I am also looking forward to having a little more money in my purse. But mostly I am looking forward to the challenge. I am sure the first weekend will be difficult. We Irish are notorious for having our social lives revolving almost entirely around a pint! Like many Irish families, ours has not escaped the effects alcoholism. I am acutely aware of this, and of its tendency towards heredity. This makes it even more important for me to get my drinking under control before it actually does become a problem! Who knows, it might become a permanent change.
As always, feel free to join me in my latest challenge. Wish me luck (and please send cinema recommendations) I will keep you posted on my progress. Be well xxx
So here we are at the end of week 1 of the Social Media Blackout experiment. Honestly it has been so eye opening. I have not missed scrolling a fraction as much as I thought I would. Far from feeling disconnected, I actually feel more in touch with what is going on around me.
At the beginning of this challenge I was extremely nervous. I was afraid I would be bored and I had a serious case of FOMO! It is a pleasant surprise that so far neither of those things have happened. I haven’t had a chance to get bored and I don’t think I have missed out on anything, but if I have, I can catch up on October 1st.
Let me know how you are getting on. Be well xxx
Tomorrow I will be starting what may prove to be my most difficult challenge to date, Scroll Free September. For 30 days I will be staying off Social Media. I will be logging off my personal Facebook and Instagram Accounts (I don’t understand Twitter, so I don’t use it much anyway.)
I sure this is going to be extremely challenging for me, as I spend an inordinate amount of time mindlessly scrolling through these sites. I am excited to see how I feel after the first few days of digital DTs have passed. I am also interested to see if I find myself with more time for things I actually enjoy, like reading!
I will still update my Zumba With Arwen page with class times etc. Luckily I don’t have to log in to my personal page in order to do that. My blog automatically posts to Facebook so that will still be happening too, but other than that I will be going cold turkey.
Many of you may not need or want to take on this challenge for a whole month, but I would encourage everyone to try to get even a small amount of unplugged time. As well as that, if anyone in your social media feed creates any sort of negative feelings for you (regardless of how rational these feelings may seem) just unfollow them!
I will let you know how I am getting on! Wish me luck and be well xxx
I first discovered the Headspace app back in February of last year. I can’t remember what was going on at the time, but a friend of mine recommended it over coffee one day, so I thought I would give it try. I immediately loved it. It is guided meditation, and Andy’s voice is so soothing, he could probably relieve someone’s stress by reading the phone book to them! I kept it up for a few days and could feel the benefit, however, like with a lot of things, I missed a day or two and before long I had kinda forgotten about it.
Over the next year and a half, whenever life got hectic, as it invariably does, I would dip back into Headspace. I would come away from each short session feeling better and the cumulative effect was brilliant. However, it always ended up the same way. After a few days I would give up, and often not return to it for several months.
At the beginning of the summer, I knew that there were going to be big changes happening. I was about to start a new job and I was well aware of the stress that would cause me. Even if everything was working out perfectly, the upheaval would still create anxiety for someone who struggles with change as much as I do. I decided to revisit Headspace again, but this time I committed to it fully. I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I would complete 100 days in a row. I announced this publicly to help me stay accountable.
Initially, I did find it difficult. I found myself saying things like “I have to go do my meditation now.” I had to make a concerted effort to find the 15 minute window of peace in the day in which to get it done. This alone speaks volumes as to how frenetic I had allowed my life to become, but that’s a post in itself. As the days and weeks went by, I began to get into it. I loved how grounded and peaceful I felt after each session. I found myself hiding in empty offices during the day to sneak in an extra mini session, especially if the day was really crazy. I was amazed that no matter how stressed and even panicked I felt going into that room, I left feeling ready for anything.
During the past 100 days there have been so many times when in the middle of the meditation I have thought to myself “this isn’t working,” or “I’m not doing it right,” or even “I’m not getting anything out of this.” Regardless of how often these negative thoughts popped up during the session, at the end of it, when the guide told me to pause and reflect on how I felt, I always felt better than I had at the start. Magic!
I am not good at homework. The app often recommends little exercises to do throughout the day so that you get more bang for your buck as it were. 90% of the time I completely forget. They always sound like great ideas, but the only way I am going to remember to do it is if I write it down or set a reminder. I might try to be better at that for the next 100 days! In spite of my lack of conscientiousness, I am convinced that this experiment has had a lasting effect on me. I am certain that I would not have been able to survive all the drama in my professional life as well as I have without meditation. In fact, I think I would have become a complete basket case.
The effects seem to be noticeable to others as well. A couple of weeks ago I was out for a meal with some girlfriends I hadn’t seen in forever. I was giving one of them a lift home when, unprompted, she said to me “Arwen, you seem very chill!” What you need to understand is that this is definitely not how people would usually describe me. Uptight, highly strung, control freak, anxious, would all be closer to the mark. The thing is, I feel very chill. For the first time in my life I feel in control. Not in control of my life or anything going on around me, in control of myself.
Being educated in a Catholic school, spirituality was spoken about daily and meditation would often come up as part of that. As such, I have been aware of it and it’s advantages for as long as I can remember. Certainly long before it started being mentioned in the same articles as kale and goji berries. I never really thought of meditation as a way to improve health or increase productivity. When you think about it, these very modern concerns were not around when meditation was first recorded. The Taoists and Buddhists weren’t overly concerned with “personal effectiveness.”
I always thought of meditation as promoting stillness and awareness, and having committed to a daily practice for a mere 100 days, I am beginning to understand what that really means. I feel grounded and centered and like nothing can rock me. I cannot recommend mediation highly enough and with so many apps available bringing it right into the palm of your hand, it has never been more accessible. My advice to anyone, whether you feel stressed or not, is to give it a try. Most apps offer a free trial period, some are free forever. Commit to it for a period of time, even just a week and see how much better you will feel. Be well xxx