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.