18 out of 30

I walked eighteen days in the month of June. That’s a win. It’s eighteen more times than before. Yesterday I enjoyed the walk. It was easy to go uphill in some parts. The last part is always a puff. I enjoyed the wind on my face. It felt good. I felt good.

Wind has its own entity now for me. It no longer is linked to depression. I don’t frown or shrink myself smaller when I hear the wind blowing in the trees. The wind is doing what it is meant to do. I open the window a crack to let fresh air in. Who brings the fresh air? The wind. Breathe it in. And out. And again. Feel the calmness.

Walking is helping me look after my mind and body. It might be an effort at times. But I never come back home thinking it was a waste of time. It might take a few steps to get into the mood but otherwise I’m off and away. A mood changer. A game changer. I am getting the hang of this thing called walking.

I have plans to go further and explore different places. I am going to explore my city as if I were a tourist. I will get to know it like the back of my hand. Starting with the neighbourhood and then branching out to include beaches and bush walks. Winter is a good a time as any to start. Now is as good a time as any to start.

Sober as a breath of fresh air.

Wet Wednesday

My woolly hat was firmly over my ears as I walked across the park today. It was a blustery stormy day. The threat of rain was in the air. Nothing came of it. I made it home in time before the rains came down. Today was easier to walk because I had had a decent night of sleep. No more 5am staring at the ceiling wishing for sleep hours . Last night was 1am. A huge improvement. I will take what I can get.

I started intermittent fasting yesterday for the first time. I am fasting for sixteen hours and eating for eight. That’s all that means. So at eight in the evening I stop eating and start eating again at noon the next day. And then repeat the cycle. I may slide the times to earlier but for now eight to noon sounds good. I tend to mindlessly snack or graze in the evenings so I am trying to curb this bad habit. Day 1 was a success. I drank herbal tea instead. So far so good.

Walking is slowly becoming a habit for me. It is growing on me. I need exercise. I need to get out of the house. I need the sun on my face. Walking was my top choice for exercise. I thought I would walk everyday this month. That hasn’t happened. However I have done about fifty percent. I will take that as a win. Some walking is better than none. I am not an Olympic athlete. I am no longer fit. For me today this result so far is all good. I am not berating myself for missing days or not getting more than eighty percent days checked off. I am practicing the art of kindness to myself. I am doing good.

Trying to change too many habits at once does end in disaster. I have mastered the habit of Morning Pages. That habit has been with me for over fifteen years. Some times the pages have been neglected but coming back to it is like riding a bike. Easy. Walking is the next habit to add to my daily routine. It’s coming along. I huff and I puff at times. I sigh. I sit down on the bench on the way when heading home. The steep inclines require extra effort. I am building up stamina. My shape is changing slightly. My body is readjusting the saddlebags. Once I get less puffed and it’s becoming a pleasure then I will treat myself to a forest walk.

I decided not to weigh myself during this journey of well being. I know I said I wanted to become 75kg (165 pounds) but I won’t be weighing myself everyday and feeling the highs and lows of fluctuating weight. I will be working towards better stamina, strength, longer walks, more places to explore and to eventually tackle some indoor rock climbing. I do want to be able to wear the clothes that are too small for me at the moment. No rush. One step at a time.

I gave up drinking. I can surely walk a few miles and then some. I can learn to be kind to myself and reward myself with something other than food. Less mindless eating. More mindful walking. I look forward to throwing out my worn out walking shoes. Won’t you join me?

Sober as a single step.

Morning Pages Ritual

On and off for years now I follow a Morning Pages ritual. I try to do it everyday. That doesn’t always work. I don’t beat myself up if I miss a day, or a week or a month. I just show up again and continue where I left off. They are called Morning Pages yet I tend to write mine in the evenings, sometimes in the wee hours of the morning when I haven’t gone to sleep yet. I rarely write in the morning yet I still choose to call them Morning Pages (MP). My sleep pattern at the moment is late. I sleep late and I get up late. Am I a night owl? Yes, I suppose. Would I like to be an early riser at dawn or 5am? Nah. I do know that’s just not me.

A ritual for me is a sequence of minor actions that are repeated to set the mood or scene for the intended major action in a particular place. There is no religious significance for me. Yet this repeated series of actions could be considered a type of meditation. So rituals could be absolutely anything done mindfully or thoughtfully: taking a walk, preparing a meal, gardening, writing, painting,… The preparation of getting the minor actions in motion allow the mind to prepare for the next action and the next until the major action. If you are lucky then ‘flow’ will follow. Taking a walk ritual could actually begin the night before when you select socks and place your shoes by the front door. Preparing a meal could start the night before also defrosting ingredients. Calling what I do a ritual makes it purposeful and more meaningful to me. I take care to get items ready. I enjoy the sequence and the scene. It sparks joy in my day.

My Morning Pages ritual location is well chosen. I made an oasis in a area of my studio. I have a Japanese desk that sits on on a carpet on top of two Japanese tatami mats. There are no legs to the desk. It sits low and right on ground and I love it. I bought the desk in a secondhand shop many years ago. I bought the tatami mats at an online auction. The desk has a fold down front and doesn’t take up much space so I always leave the writing desk open ready to write. There is one drawer inside and many cubby holes, slots and shelves to store paper and other stationery. There are sliding doors under the fold down front for more storage. It is a simple and well designed desk. I only ever wear socks or bare feet in the house so the tatami should last for many years.

I have an eclectic collection of miscellaneous knick-knacks on top of my Japanese desk. Ganesh sits next to a giant Troll doll with purple hair bought for two dollars at a weekend market, two minute origami cranes that were gifts from a best friend’s daughters lounge in front of an old Russian ink blotter that was hand carved during WW2. I have a Bakelite and metal calendar that I picked up while shopping with my uncle and aunt. I have a Russian doll that I painted as a red owl. A barometer stands next to a mini soft toy Totoro and a Gegege no Kitaro’s father plastic figurine. There is a collection of small interestingly shaped stones, there is sand in a tiny glass bottle from a friend who visited the Sahara Desert, a tiny capsule of red ochre collected while following the ghost of Matisee in France, a hand drawn postcard and an essential oil burner made out of rock.

There is a fabric coaster where I place my tea or coffee. There is a wooden stand where my fountain pen rests. The journal leans ready in the cubby hole. I have a green felt mat that I cut to size that I rest on top of the open desk. It is covered in paint splotches and I have no intention of replacing it for something new. This is a place of creativity, or mistakes and ideas. The old felt mat stays. The desk also has paint splotches too. I leave them there for the same reasons. I have ink bottles ready for when the ink runs out. Today I use Pelikan Edelstein’s Smoky Quartz ink. For everyday writing I use a red Lamy Safari fountain pen. I find the colour puts me into a good mood. I own several colours yet I keep going back to red. I write in a Japanese journal. The paper is exceptionally smooth. I like the sound of the ink gliding over the paper. I love stationery and paper. Smooth paper for journaling, And piles of blank and full journals and sketchbooks.

I make a cup of tea or coffee, I light a tealight candle, put a few drops of essential oils into the oil burner, change the old-fashioned Bakelite calendar by flipping the day of the week, scrolling the day of the month, I turn on the lamp, I get out my journal from the shelf, I pick up my fountain pen and I start writing. If I’m really lucky one of our cats will curl up in the basket and be in my eye line. It’s a peaceful view.

I have created a place to write that is comfy. I have the flame of the tea light candle, the smell of the oils, a comfortable cushion on top of a legless swivel leather chair. The location is set, the writing instruments are laid out, the ritual is in motion. Something to drink. The one thing I don’t prepare is what I wear for my MP ritual. I wear what I am wearing at the time. The clothing isn’t important. Sometimes I am still in my pyjamas, other times dressed for lounging, or ready to go out. For the MP ritual the clothing isn’t a part of it. The only thing would be that the clothing be comfortable for sitting cross-legged. Nothing more.

But what do I write? How many pages do I write? I write the date at the top, the day of the week in Spanish, and a simple tiny picture of the weather. The next line down I write where I am, the city. And after that I write whatever comes into my head. I mostly write three pages. I write down my thoughts, my feelings, my emotions, my dreams, my gripes, my questions, my ideas. Anything. I write out an affirmation five times somewhere in those three pages. I also write down three things that I’m grateful for. Some days the words just flow and the end of the third page is a breeze. I end with the words ‘Well done.” I rarely read what I write again. It is really to clear my mind of clutter. Sometimes there are a few good ideas and I might flip back to it to remind myself. Some days I am up and down like a yo-yo and it takes forever to finish. Some days one page is all that happens. What I write, how much I write is not the point of the ritual. The point of the ritual is to show up and open the journal.

Do I notice when the candle flame goes out? Not usually. Do I watch the clock to see if I am writing fast enough? Sometimes. On those days I am writing like a snail pushing a nut uphill. Do I forget to change the month on the desk calendar? Sometimes. The sound of the click as the metal hits the bottom of the date is very satisfying. One more day of writing to do. I am showing up. I am here.

What daily, weekly, monthly or annual rituals have you added to your life?

Sober as a line of Sahara sand.

Consistency isn’t working for me

Consistency is just another form of perfectionism. I have been trying to change my habits and the way I’m doing it is just not working. It’s supposed to be fun, enjoyable. I’m trying too hard. It’s not.

I have forgotten joy and fun and silliness.

Today I ate breakfast at 7pm. I slept all day. My body, mind and soul is having a rest. I am no longer going to try too hard at anything. I am bringing back silliness, fun and joy. Rules are out the door. Purpose, productivity and reason can just fire truck off. I’m done with it. Time for a reset.

I may teach myself to dance to Master KG’s Jerusalema Nomcebo’s voice is so beautiful. Love this song. Check out the dance challenge.

Against the wind

Self reflection and self improvement naturally follow after becoming sober. The thing I need to realise is to stop trying to do it all at once. To stop trying so hard. The process is a lifetime commitment. The mission does not finish on Tuesday next week. There is no endgame. It is not a race for perfection. It is not a race at all. If I try running for the rest of my life I will end up with stitch in my side and collapsed in a heap unable to breathe. I need to walk. I need to rest. I need to reflect. And then repeat in no particular order. It won’t be a straight path so there is no point in rushing ahead quickly. It might be the wrong path. If I were to compare anyone else with me it would only be with my former self and my current self and wonder about my future self. No one else needs to enter into the sphere and that is why it’s called self improvement.

I set myself a task for this month of June: To walk every day. I wasn’t very specific with the terms. I didn’t say how far I needed to walk. I didn’t say that it had to be outside but I implied that. The walk was to be outside, to get myself into fresh air and have a moment in nature. Again the nature part was implied. If I were to write the task now it would read as follows: To walk my Buddy every day outside to a park or a Pokestop. Who is Buddy and what is a Pokestop? Well my motivation to walk is the app PokemonGo and become Level 40. To do that I need to collect Pokemon, battle and evolve Pokemon. The entire game is designed around encouraging introverts to get outside and walk. It’s working. I don’t think the designer had fifty year olds in mind when he made the game. It was for youngsters. I’m still young at heart.

I missed a day walking because I was exhausted. The last day of May I walked a ridiculously long way and completely knackered myself. I didn’t give myself a rest. My body decided for me. I felt guilty for taking a day off after only a few days into the challenge. I felt like I had let myself down. For most of the day I kept wondering if I could go and do it and then deciding no. I wasted a lot of mind time on a decision that I didn’t take lightly. I gave myself a hard time because I had given myself a task and I had already broken my streak so soon. I was disappointed in myself.

Disappointment came because I was striving for the wrong thing. Disappointment came because I focused on the perfection of the perfectly crossed off days in a row. What I should have been focused on was the simple act of getting outside and walking. I missed a day. So what. Big deal. It happens. Get back out there and do it the next day. Keep trying. I am learning not to beat myself up with a gap in my habit tracker. It happened. I keep going.

My method up till now in life has been full speed ahead, a snail’s pace or stop. I haven’t managed to figure out that continuous regular pace or effort. Consistency. That’s the word I’m looking for, yes, consistency. To achieve this I must face boredom.

Before long with my walking challenge the walking route that I have chosen will become easy and I will become restless to change it up. If I continue with the route that becomes too easy I will become bored with it and that might cause me to stop walking completely. In order for the walking challenge to work I need to keep changing the route or location to relieve my boredom. For now I happy to continue the same route because i am getting my body used to this new shock of a routine, movement out in the fresh air. It is still a novelty for me. The boredom of the route hasn’t set in yet but I am almost there. After a few more days and I know I need to change it up. I know myself.

I used to make every excuse under the sun not to exercise. It’s too windy. It’s too cold. It’s too hot. It’s too early. I can’t be bothered. I had associated the wind with excuses so much that I began to dislike the wind. Today I can say that I enjoy the wind on my face. I am embracing the wind. The wind doesn’t hold any excuse now for me not to go outside. I put on a hat, cover my ears and close the door behind me. I have a new relationship with the wind, a good one.

Back to boredom. Not every day that I walk will be wonderful. Some days I imagine it will be very ordinary, boring most likely. The role of the walk is as regular exercise to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The long game is my good health. The walk is one part of it. I will find some parts of walking boring. I know I will. I need to be ready for that. I need to make walking more desirable or the reward more desirable. I don’t have all the answers yet but I am working on that. Exploring new places will make walking more desirable. What do I do when the weather turns nasty? What makes for a good reward when the end of June rolls around? No idea yet. I will ponder this on my next walk.

Sober as a double knotted shoelace.

No thanks. I’m not a drinker

I am at the year and a half sober mark today. It crept up on me. I feel amazed that I have been sober for this long and that I feel that it was an excellent decision. I don’t think too much now about whether I should drink or not. I originally thought I would go sober for a year and then see what happens. That decision to remain sober is strong. I like myself better this way. That is enough.

Words are important. How we word something can make a difference. I don’t like the term alcoholic. I believe the word chains alcohol to the person and focuses on the past rather than the future. It is not a positive word. It has so many negative connotations that it is whispered or spoken with shame most of the time. I really don’t like it. It’s not how I look at myself.

I drank. Now I don’t. I’m not a drinker.

Cleaner. Clearer. Simple. Positive.

Sober as a world of difference.

Hope

Thank you to all those you supported me with kind words. It means a lot. I’m coming out of my funk. It has been almost a month since I last posted anything. I see hope. I feel joy again.

I asked for books to read but it turned out I couldn’t read. I would get to the introduction and just not get any further. Yes, I am one of those people who read an introduction. I gave up and went visual and stuck to film, dramas, YouTube and documentaries. Swedish and Polish detective dramas were a hit. I discovered The Last Kingdom. Loved it. Highly recommend. I watched a lot of video. Wild bears in hammocks even. And I slept a lot. I do not exaggerate when I mean a lot. I didn’t worry when I slept. If I got up at seven in the evening that was acceptable too. Anything was acceptable. I am back to reading again. I have the joy of reading back again. Hallelujah.

I couldn’t write either. My morning three pages became three lines to none at all. I didn’t despair. I accepted that it wasn’t to be. Instead I went visual. I was writing five dreams daily. Not dreams as in while sleeping but dreams for the future. I couldn’t write as I mentioned. Writing down dreams was out of the question. Instead I continued with the dreams with five pictures daily of something to dream about. I started off with a photo of a woman climbing a wall. Rock climbing indoors. Literally climbing walls. Another was a cup of tea. Masala chai. A boat. A pool. A book. A woman reading. And so on. I wrote a few words of encouragement to myself and dated it. Five pictures a day. I started on 1 May 2020 and have managed to continue on up till today. I cut and pasted pictures from the internet and placed it on a page in a file. I saved a new page each day and kept adding another page and then another. Copying and pasting new pictures each day. It is enjoyable to look at. Visually beautiful and inspiring. I will continue with it.

Dreams are what they are. They are big and small. Nothing is too big or too small. Some are based in reality some seem impossible. Nothing can stop you from dreaming. They are yours to indulge in. Dreams come and go. Some remain steadfast. Others go poof and disappear as quickly as they arrived. What are yours?

Walking four times last week helped immeasurably. Not being able to get out of bed to going for a walk. From night to day. The power of movement is not to be taken lightly. All I can do now is to continue. One foot in front of the other. Fresh air. Sunshine. And repeat.

I lay in the park on the grass on a slight incline. Staring up at the sun with my eyes closed, worshiping that big ball of light. It felt good. It felt warm. The underside of my forearms hadn’t seen sunlight in forever. They soaked up Vitamin D hungrily. It was a small moment of joy. We have had a drought for months so the grass is dry and surprisingly still green. It is a wonderful sight looking out over wide open spaces of green grass and trees and big blue skies. I appreciate my local park. I am grateful.

Sober as a single blade of green grass.

No Joy

Wendy writes of JOY on untipsyteacher and I loved her description of joy. Me. I just can’t feel it right now.

I tried writing a post last week. I didn’t post it. It was too dark and depressing. That was my mood. It was the truth. I still feel the same. Depression is here. I cannot move forward or back or over. I try to make an effort and boy is it an effort. Life should be a joy. It is not at the moment.

I am joyless. I am depressed.

Coronavirus is creating a layer on our lives which we never would have imagined.

I went for a walk for the first time in ages. I didn’t like seeing people. I did and I didn’t. Just don’t come near me but acknowledge me. Prickly as a pineapple, is me. Not sure if the walk helped. It was nice to see the water and the sky. So yes. I didn’t prepare well, didn’t wear socks so go blisters on my heels. I tried my best but today my best is bit#hy. I am not pleasant to be around.

So very tired. Exhausted. Anxious. Snappy. Prickly. Don’t say anything kind to me. I don’t deserve it. I will take it the wrong way and that compliment you said will backfire like a turd in a catapult. Walk away. I just want a break from myself. Tired. So so sick of myself.

No desire to drink again. Luckily. But tell me what is the point if all I feel now is constantly depressed? Don’t answer that. Today I lack the concept of hope. There is no hope today.

Sober as a bitten fingernail.

A request though, do you have a book that you would recommend that would be helpful in dealing with depression?

Bra-less days

Carless days were a thing in New Zealand for a year back in 1979. You chose a day and your car had a sticker of that day and on that day you couldn’t drive the car. Why you may ask? There was an oil shock and it was one of the ideas of the ‘Think Big’ of the government.

Did it work? No. The idea was scraped after a year. Thursday was the most popular chosen day. Black market for stickers became a thing. For two car families they just chose the other car for the day. We only had one car. I don’t remember much about it apart from that.

This was my thought today as I dressed. Bra-less in a long sleeved polar neck black top and long comfortable pyjama bottoms and fluffy socks. Do I have a business online conference call planned you might wonder. No. I merely wish to make an attempt at normality. I made an effort. I haven’t brushed my hair in ages. All I do is run my fingers through and it’s done. I’m due for a bath. Life is not normal at the moment as you well know.

I made the decision to make our cats indoor cats for the duration of the lockdown. I decided this one week in after reports of the possibility of the COVID 19 being present in animal fur. It was a tough decision. Some might question whether it is a sensible one. It is done. It is not a popular decision. The cats are not impressed by this decision. I don’t particularly like it either. Our cats are ‘flu cats.’ What do I mean by that. Well, they fell ill with cat flu when they were kittens and that is how I began looking after them. They survived and recovered. However they are left with weak immune systems.

For cats to return to an indoor life after coming and going at all hours of the day whenever they felt like it, well it’s a huge adjustment. Every door and window has been checked and rechecked to see if the gap is big enough to escape. None so far. I have left the front door open by mistake when getting a delivery. No one escaped. Luckily. I have cats who dislike or distrust other humans. I hear a growl from one of them when a car passes the window, I hear scampering to the back of the house when a delivery van comes up the driveway. They are better than a watchdog or a goose. Sure they wouldn’t defend me but they’d give me a heads up and a fighting chance.

I cannot imagine my cats smooching with the neighbours begging for food and a belly rub but I just don’t know. What I do know is they sometimes fight with one of the neighbour’s cats and for that reason alone I decided to bring the cats indoors.

Call me ridiculous. Call me over-reacting. I really don’t care about opinions of others who mean me harm or ill will. I care about my cats and the human I live with. I don’t want to wake up and wonder could I have done better. Is it stressful for all involved? Sure. They know something is up. They know this is an unusual situation. I do too. Hell. I made coffee today with masala chai and milk. Just because. It tastes unusual. Not bad really at all. Will it become a trend. Unlikely. There is a milk tea coffee in Asia made with condensed milk. I’ve had it. It’s different. It’s super sweet. This is not like that. Better. So maybe it might become a trend. You read it here first. Remember that. My ridiculous thought might go viral. Ugggh. That word.

Train to Busan. I watched the film for the third time. Great Korean zombie horror by the way. Highly recommend it. Watching it for the first time under lockdown and the film has a weirdly documentary feel to it. Watch it and you’ll know what I mean. Society at it’s best and worst.
Other Korean films to watch:
Parasite
A Taxi Driver
Poetry
Looking forward to the day that Pachinko becomes a film.

I haven’t felt like writing lately. I haven’t felt like reading either. I am here today wishing you all the very best. A virtual hug from a distance of at least 2m using fake fur gorilla extending arms. If I haven’t commented or read your blog. Forgive me. I really thank God that I am sober at this time. The strength that I needed when I decided to become sober is still with me. It was always in me as it is always in you. Be strong when you need to be strong but don’t be afraid to be wimpy too have a good cry too. It’s hard to be brave when you are feeling scared. Stay sober with me.

Today like yesterday I stay home to save lives. Thank you to all the essential workers for our water, power, sanitation, health, medicine, factories, computer systems, internet, infrastructure, transportation, mental health, funeral services, food, deliveries. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Sober as a discarded plastic blue milk bottle top.

Ode to underpants, small u

I grew up with the fear of God in me. The spoken wisdom: Always leave the house with clean underwear. If you have an accident at least you will have clean underpants.

Wearing underpants began out of fear. Venturing outdoors past the gate meant underpants first. Exploring in trees in parks, hanging upside down on jungle gyms and looking for bugs: underpants first, safety second.

Underpants were exchanged daily. They were dropped onto the unclean laundry pile in the wash-house and they were hung on the line outside and brought indoors, folded and returned to the tallboy drawers, ready for another important mission.

From cotton practical basics to so-called attractive uncomfortable micro sized underpants, these were worn throughout my life. Yes, those ones which seem to serve no purpose, the ones which do not cover the back side2w, were tried in the past. The ones that were itchy and rode up the backseat throughout the entire journey. What is the point of them? Seriously. Today I am back in the realm of cotton comfortable underpants again.

Some days I go commando, some days I bother to change my underpants. Some days I don’t. I have even tried turning them inside out, just because I wondered what it would feel like. Not very different. I have even worn them damp because they hadn’t dried properly from washing them in the sink the night before while on holiday. I wouldn’t recommend that by the way. I have 0—-==] peed myself laughing and had to change them twice in one day. Haven’t laughed like that in a while. Today I don’t put on my underpants with the fear of God in me. I put them on when I feel like it. I choose to wear natural fabrics. I choose comfort. I choose whether to put them on and when to change them.

Thank you underpants. I know where you are when I need you.

Today I am sober as a pair of comfortable freshly laundered underpants.

-==[]

This post is a collaboration with my cat. The letter ‘w,’ ‘0—-==]’ and ‘-==[]’ was brought to you by my cat.