Monday, May 27, 2013

Time to start talking

I was speaking to a colleague the other day, and suddenly I realised that I can now start talking about Samuel. About his death, about the lessons I've learned since then, and about the improvements that I've made, to myself and to my life.

If you'd asked me three and a half years ago what positive things would have come about from Samuel's death, I reckon I probably would have told you to get stuffed. Probably with the addition of slightly more colourful language! Don't get me wrong, I'll never completely recover from it, and I'll never see it as a positive event, but I now have enough distance that I can reflect on it all.

I've talked before about the personal improvements that I've made, and I probably will some more, but in the end, I don't think they are the kinds of stories or lessons that people are interested in. What I'd like to share are the lessons I've learned. The lessons that I had to learn the hard way. The hardest way.

And the one that I spoke to my colleague about is work-life balance.
Before Sam died, I was pretty happy being a teacher. At least I thought I was! And I was doing that job pretty much the same way that all teachers do: busy days at school with lessons, duties, meetings, marking, extra-curricular activities; as well as extra work done at home, on weekends and in the 'holidays'. And I was one of the less 'organised' of the breed! My classroom was sometimes messy, my planning and marking wasn't always up to date, and my displays were occasionally tatty (or completely created by the kids!). The teachers that did all these things worked even harder than me! But that's another rant.
Before Sam died, I was OK with that. I loved teaching and I loved the impact that I had on the kids every day.

Afterwards, when I finally went back to work, it wasn't the same. Of course, there was the concept of spending a good deal of my time looking after other people's kids, that to this day is one of the reasons that I haven't gone back to a school.  But I also realised just how much of my life I'd missed while I was working so hard. There was so much regret about the things I hadn't done with Samuel because I was exhausted, or busy marking, or on camp/concert/whatever.

About 6 months after I returned to school, I had the opportunity to apply for the job I'm in now. Moving from a school to an office based position was hard in one way, as I was not working with children any more. Plus I was leaving the wonderful community environment that a school is, but it was also a revelation! I could leave when my day was done. And if I didn't get it all done, that was ok, because the work was still there the next day. I didn't have to abandon it because it was time to organise the next day's work. Best of all,  I could go and watch Oliver in an assembly or actually sit down long enough to digest my lunch. I could leave in enough time to get to the gym before dinner, and I could get home with enough energy (and time) left to cook a nice meal and relax for a while (without falling asleep on the couch!).

It was this realisation that helped me make the decision that I won't (at least for the time being) go back and work in a school. It means that I've turned down some great opportunities, and I do miss certain aspects (camp!), but I'm generally pretty happy with that decision (for now).

And I find myself becoming almost evangelical about work-life balance. Because lots of people (especially teachers!) don't have that. They spend too long working and miss out on too much LIFE.

As I said to my colleague (who actually does have a good work-life balance), coming to these realisations shouldn't be the result of a life-changing and traumatic event. Wouldn't it be better if people figured it out before they were forced to?

And that's why I've decided it's time to speak up. I don't want to shock people or dump my issues on them, but I would like people to know that there's more to life than working yourself into the ground. It's cliched, but we only get one shot at life, and it's a shame to waste it. If I can share my experience with others, then maybe I can help them.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

O bed! O bed! delicious bed!
That heaven upon earth to the weary head.
~Thomas Hood, Miss Kilmansegg - Her Dream

One of the goals I set myself a good while back was to sleep better. I love nothing more than a warm bed with clean sheets and a good night's sleep. 
A year or so ago, I wasn't getting that. I had many restless nights and wakeful nights, and quite often I would fall asleep on the couch at night, or nearly fall asleep during meetings. 

So first I made a conscious decision that I would go to bed earlier. I usually get up between 6-7am, so it's not good for me to be going to bed at midnight. Now, with the obvious exception of tonight, I go to be between 9 and 10. Usually closer to 9!

Changing my diet also made a big difference to my sleep (I think). After I cut right back on sugar, I noticed that I started to sleep better. I am also really aware of the times that what I've eaten affects my sleep; like when I've eaten too much and my tummy rumbles all night, or I feel bloated and disgusting.

Sleeping well is one of the things that has made a difference to my mood and my energy levels. It's well worth the effort, though you do have to sacrifice some things, like regular blog posts!

What are your sleep habits? Are you a night owl (unfortunately Anthony is!) or an early bird? Do you nap? I find that if I'm tired, a 20 minute nap does wonders.

And on that note, I'm off to bed! More soon...

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Food Thing

I'm pretty active. Yes, I sit at a desk for a good portion of every day, but I do try hard to be active every day. I do my (beloved!😊) Sh'Bam three times a week (and for the past 3 weeks I've been doing weights after each class), Oliver and I swim each Tuesday night, I walk (by myself or with the dog on Thursdays and Fridays, and on the weekends I try and do at least one extra thing that's active: a big walk, a long bike ride with Oliver, some gardening.

And I've been fairly active for a while now, probably since I did my Sh'Bam training about a year ago. But my weight has pretty much stayed the same. Much to my horror.

Because I've got this problem with food. I like it! I enjoy lots if different kinds of food, and probably have some unhealthy associations with it.

As I've documented previously, I've tried lots of 'diets' - recently the 12WBT and Atkins, and I've been relatively successful in both: until they finish. Or something distracts me from that path. And that's happened to me a few times in my life. All 'diet' bring the same result for me: some good weight loss, then it's over and I put it all back on. With interest.

Because tryimg to lose weight has been a significant part of my life (oh god that's sad!), I've done a lot of reading (I know I know, that was my first mistake!). And I've figured out that good eating is pretty simple. Eat when you're hungry, until you're full, and make sure that most of the food you eat is as close to its natural state as possible.

So that's what I'm doing now. I'm not going to starve myself, and I'm not going to deprive myself, but I'm going to be more mindful. These are some of the changes I've been making over the past couple of months;

  • I'm eating very little sugar. Well, fructose to be exact. David Gillespie and Sarah Wilson wrote some pretty compelling stuff that struck a chord with me, and I gave it a go, I'm not quite as militant about it, but I avoid anything with sugar added to it, and don't eat any cakes or biscuits. I've found that I eat little enough that I don't get the cravings, but I do still have the occasional ice cream. And I do drink beer (which actually doesn't contain fructose, so it's ok). Now I know that I said I wasn't going to deprive myself, but I really don't feel that I do. When I initially started with the 'no sugar' thing, I did cut it out completely. And I did get the withdrawals and the headaches and stuff, but once I got through that, I felt really good: my skin was clear, I had more energy, I slept better and I was even all day. No 3pm slump. So it made it worth it. And when I did try something sweet, it didn't have the same appeal, and tasted waaaay to sweet. Like Mars Bars for example. I now find the eye-wateringly sweet. And disgusting. My tastebuds have changed a lot. Raspberries with mascarpone is my sweet treat, and plain sparkling mineral water is my 'soft drink'. 
  • I'm eating less. I'm trying very hard to listen to my body. I try to only eat when I'm hungry, and I don't clean my plate if I'm full. I used to just era it because it was there. I'm definitely noticing that I'm fitting less in.
  • I'm eating more fresh food. I've always done a lot of home cooking, but now I very rarely buy anything pre made. My grocery habits have changed and I spend twice as much on meat, fruit send vegetables than I do on groceries. And most of my groceries are ingredients (except Anthony's chocolate peanuts- the dude's hooked!).
  • I don't drink as many calories. When I was a young, overweight person, I was under the impression that it was food that made you fat, so I couldn't understand why I was so fat when I drank lots of shakes, soft drink or flavoured milks but didn't eat much. Of course now I know better. Now, I stick to water and tea mostly, with the occasional coffee or diet coke (although these aren't as appealing any more), and on the weekends I have a couple of drinks. Usually beer.
I'm careful with what I eat but at the same time I'm not crazed. If I want an ice cream, I have it. If I want some pizza or some really nice cheese, I have it. No deprivation!

And finally, it seems to be working. I'm finally losing a bit of weight. Well, rearranging it anyway; as my measurements change more often than the number on the scales. But it's progress and I'm happy with that.

So my goal, in relation to food, is to keep this up. It should be too hard as its not a 'plan' I'm following, it's just normal life with a little common sense thrown in. I'll keep you posted about my progress.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

So...improvements huh?

Well this year is my big year. The year I've been casually dreading for most of my adult life. The year that I have to grow up...I could go in a melodramatic way but I'm typing this on a tablet, so I should probably be more succinct. Hah!

Anyway, this year I turn 40. And in all seriousness, I can't say I've been looking forward to it. I don't know what it is: a subconscious reluctance to surrender my young years, a fear of growing old maybe. But whatever it is it's scary!

So in addition to the psychological issues that turning 40 has brought forth, my desire to become a better person (inside and out) has intensified. And while I'm (a little) realistic, I've set myself some goals. I might achieve some of them by my birthday (I've got until December), but my main goal is to be on the way there by then.

Here's my list (and some future blog topics!):

Improve My Health

I'm already making some headway with this one (see my next post), but I want to improve my fitness and become stronger. Losing a few kilos wouldn't hurt either!
What I'd really like to do is one of those 'Tough Mudder' events, but maybe that might be next year! Plus I'd need some people to do it with. Any volunteers?


Improve My Look

I don't want to get crazy about my appearance all of a sudden, but I've never really paid much attention to my appearance (well, since my teens anyway); think polo shirts and tracky dacks for most of my 20s and early 30s.I don't know whether it's vanity or that I'm seeing some signs of aging, but I'm paying more attention to my hair and my skin and even my wardrobe. It's involved a lot of reading to catch up on all that knowledge!

Pursue My Interests

Recently I went to the symphony with my parents and Oliver. It was a great night with some lovely music, and it made me yearn for the day when I got to perform with a band. This might take me a bit longer to organise, given my busy lifestyle, but I'm going to start playing music again, and maybe in a year or so join a concert band (provided it fits in with my 'family time' goal!).
I've also gotten excited about drama again, after seeing a great show with Oliver and auditioning for the musical. So I'd like to do more of that too!
And I want to get out in my garden more. And WRITE!


Improve My Skills

I've been doing some different things at work: project management and other public-servanty stuff, which has actually been kind of interesting. So I'd like to keep doing new things and find out what I could be good at.
I'd also like to do some study related to my Sh'Bam passion - like maybe a Certificate 3 in Fitness.
And I'd like to do some more adventurous cooking! Just need to find some people to test my creations on!

On top of all that I'd like to be more organised and better with money. Not too tall an order I hope!

But you know me, I'm sure I'll prattle on about it a bit.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Mother of Re-invention

I've been busy lately. No busier than normal I guess, but a good kind of busy as
I've been concentrating on me. On me doing things differently. There's the health thing - as you know I've been on that road for a while, but there's also the change in my attitude.
When I say lately, I guess I probably mean in the three and a half years since Sam died. Something about that whale experience, while incredibly horrible has also been life-changing in other ways: I've reassessed my priorities, my goals, and even my values.

That's not to say I've suddenly become s different person. If anything I've become I'm almost ashamed to say it but there are parts of me that I've kept hidden for a long time, but I needed to recognise that and make changes. No it's definitely not been an easy transition and I've got a long way to go, but I think I've made some real progress.

Let's take my health for example. As I've mentioned quite a few times, I have always struggled with my weight. And while I'm certainly not where I'd prefer to be, weight-wise, I'm healthier than I've been in a very long time. I willingly exercise at least 6 times a week, my skin is great, I eat pretty healthy most of the time (though I've still got a bit of work to do there, especially around the odd sugar/fat binge), I very rarely get sick - in fact I can't remember the last time I had a bad cold. 2011?

Sh'Bam has had a lot to do with it. More than anything, it gave me reason to enjoy exercising again. Oh it's been hard being a part of a group of fitness instructors that are a lot smaller and fitter than me, but they have all been so supportive and welcoming that I can't help but love it. And the people in the classes give me good feedback too.

All this has led to a real boost in my confidence. I can get up on the stage in a Sh'Bam class and go from vamp to ballet dancer to Jane Fonda hip hop 'homey' and it seems like it's coming naturally. I don't feel nearly as self-conscious as I maybe thought I might.


And the confidence sneaks into other areas of my life too: I'm seeking up more at work, voicing my opinion more and stepping up into more challenging roles (where possible), I'm trying new things and going out more and talking to more people. I'm actively taking myself out of my comfort zone. Last night, I auditioned for  stage production of Footloose. Now, while I am not renowned as a shy and retiring type, this was a big leap for me. I love preforming, and did a lot of it in school, but haven't done anything since then. But I went and I SANG! In front of people! I made a general donkey of myself. I was so nervous that my voice sounded awful and I mucked up the accent (both things that I'm actually not too bad at), but it doesn't matter. I was just happy that I took that risk and did it. It's something that I definitely wouldn't have done 2 years ago. Perhaps not even 2 months ago.

These things have given me the strength and the courage to keep on this path. To keep improving myself. To test myself to see how far I can go. But to also do the things that make me happy, make me feel good.

Of course, one of those things is this blog. For those first couple of years after Sam died, this blog kept me going, gave me a place to get it all down, get it all out of my head. For the last year or so I haven't really known what to do with it. I've tried writing a few things, but there was always the thought 'why would they want to read about that?" But then I realised. That doesn't really matter. Because blogging makes ME fee good. Even if no one's reading it (although I do like it when they do!).

So in the interest of making me happy, I'm coming back to blogging. More soon!