Duvet days are okay too

I’d love to be able to say that I haven’t written for so long, because I’ve been smashing through life, getting out for those daily walks and making the most of every day. Instead, I’ve just been getting by.

I am counting down the days until that first weekend when the rules in England change to allow enough flexibility for Dave and I to drive over and see family and friends in Essex. From a socially acceptable distance, of course. Outside.

We’ll pack the car up with enough stuff to cover us just in case we decide to camp out in someone’s garden and we’ll get our road trip playlist playing at top volume for the first time in ages. I’m imagining it’ll be sunny and we’ll both be wearing sunglasses and will have the windows wound down. It’ll probably rain, in which case we’ll be wearing waterproofs and arming ourselves with umbrellas.

Every day I’m faced with different emotions. Days like today I feel perky and positive and creative and like everything is going to be okay. Some days I feel the total opposite and find myself hiding under my duvet until the last possible minute, before having a quick shower and logging into work.

Honestly? I’m living a lazy lock down life. Like I say, I’m snoozing my alarm about 10 times every morning and logging into work for 10, just. I’m getting the odd virtual pilates or yoga class in here and there and I probably go for a walk about once a week. I’m actually cooking healthy dinners (I’m basically a pro-chef since I started ordering Hello Fresh boxes), but I’m eating rubbish all day (I’ve even started putting sugar on my cereal – I feel like it all goes downhill from here). I’m working 10-6, Monday to Friday, but not doing much else. (Okay, not entirely true – I have been shopping for kittens and cars in my spare time – eeeeee) This morning I actually said the words ‘let’s put the weekend flat clean off until tomorrow’, choosing to ignore the washing up on the side (those of you who know me will find this shocking – Only took me a whole year in lock down to learn to chill.)

The way I see it, I’m chilling now while I’ve got the chance. Time will fly and before long we’ll be filling weekends with plans, setting 6am alarms, running late always, running out of clean clothes most weeks and feeling like we never have enough time for ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait. Until that day, I’ll be here in my comfy clothes, eating mini eggs and watching Heartland. Not long now.

Anyone else?

I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel like I’ve spent my twenties going around in circles. 

Maybe it’s because I’m an over-thinker and a past-dweller, but every now and again self-doubt hits me like a brick. At these times, I consider radically changing things up, travelling the world or finally doing the music therapy masters I’ve always dreamed about. 

When I’m feeling like this, I am particularly vulnerable to the power of throw-backs and can easily get sucked into old libraries of old photos and end up scrolling for ages looking at how happy past me was and how wonderful the world was through those infamous rose-tinted glasses (that it never occurs to me I must be wearing). 

Last night, I went to sleep thinking about how it’s been over 7 years now since I started blogging. 7 years ago I was in my second year of university. I still wanted to be an opera singer. My best friend was a lovely girl who’s not in my life now. I hadn’t even met Dave. And in my sleepy state all I could think was that it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long. Surely in 7 years I should have done more?

At 11:30 pm on a Friday, after a long and tiring week, I found myself wondering what that girl would think if she could see me now and whether she’d be happy for me. Am I doing the right things? Would she be surprised by where I’m at – and not in a good way?

I realised she’d probably be most surprised to find I am living in a random city, away from all of my family and friends. For a split-second I considered insisting we leave this flat right away and move closer to home, before remembering all of the reasons we’re here, how much I love this place that feels increasingly like our own and that when the pandemic is behind us, we’ll be able to have family and friends visit whenever we fancy.  

I fell asleep eventually and as if by magic, this morning I feel grounded and confident again. Now suddenly I know I’m happy with where I am and I think back to university and realise just how far I’ve come. I’m sat here acknowledging that it doesn’t really matter what 20 years old me would think, because I’m a very different person now. And I’m actually proud of who I am. It’s not that I no-longer want to travel the world or do my masters, but I have faith I’ll get there one day and realise I’m content where I am right now, for now. All the decisions I made to get here make sense again. I’m sticking a middle finger up at self-doubt and shouting ‘I am just fine where I am thank you!’ 

And that’s it – I’ve come full circle. Now, I’ll go on my merry way until doubt hits and I go through the whole process all over again. Is this just what being in your twenties is like? We’re all just still discovering ourselves and working out what makes us happy and what we value most and eventually we’ll feel settled and calm. We can’t possibly spend our whole lives wondering if we’re doing the right thing and will ever be really truly happy. Right? 

It’s never too late for new resolutions

It’s a beautiful, frosty, sunny morning, I have the day off work and I hadn’t factored writing into the plan for the day, but I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that with some chill time on my hands, writing is what I feel like doing.

I was going to get up early and head out for a walk this morning. I miss chilly, morning walks to the station and I miss being out early enough to pick a super fresh croissant up from a bakery. I never thought I’d say it, but I actually just miss commuting in general. Reading on the train is one of my most favourite things and I will never again take for granted that divide between personal life and work life -That time to mentally prepare for the day and then wind down after it.

I’m not out walking, because we have an IKEA delivery due any moment. I’m so excited! This is our last delivery for the time being and our weekends spent building flat pack furniture may soon be behind us. Then, it’s just a matter of finally unpacking the last of our boxes and getting this flat set up just the way we want it.

Today I’m looking forward to going room by room, cleaning and dusting and hoovering and also hopefully getting organised as I go. What else is there to do with a day off work in lock down?

The last couple of weeks I’ve felt my mental health slipping if I’m honest. I went into the New Year resolving to keep to a strict routine and make the most of my day, by keeping work to work hours and making full use of the me-time either side. I lasted all of a couple of days before I let that slip, in spite of calendar reminders and booked virtual fitness classes (that it seems can be way too easily cancelled or forgotten).

So, now I’m resolving once again to do all of that – But starting by getting up at the same time every work day, getting some breakfast and a cuppa and then heading out for a wander. I’m hoping forcing myself out for a walk will help boost those endorphins people talk about, help me to mentally prepare for the day ahead and leave me feeling energised and determined. Watch this space.

Much ado about nothing

I’ve been feeling melancholy and I can’t really put my finger on why.

This bit between Christmas and New Year is always a funny one. This year it feels weirder than ever.

Over the long weekend I felt like I actually switched off from work for the first time in forever. With the lines having been blurred between work and home for a while now, it’s been hard to relax properly or create proper down time. Especially while stuck at home. It felt really good to forget about everything for a bit.

But now we’ve hit Chrimbo Limbo again and I feel hit by the impending doom of another couple of months in lock down. The news gets gloomier all the time and it seems more likely than not that the new restrictions will be here to stay for the time being. I’m looking ahead to a couple of months of days exactly like today and I’m not excited about the prospect.

I feel re-energised after my switched off weekend and now I want something exciting to look forward to. I want to make New Year’s Resolutions which involve a travel bucket list and saying yes to more stuff, when in reality I probably need to resolve to be grateful for what I have and stay positive and learn to take things as they come. There are resolutions that I actually stand more chance of keeping during a pandemic – get fit, spend less money in bars and restaurants, learn a new language, read all of my books but they’re not resolutions I actually want to make right now.

It’s not just that though, it’s also that I miss my family and I actually kinda feel a little home sick for the old house. Which I can’t deny, no matter how much I love our new home and the cute Christmas tree we put up Christmas Eve and my new book shelves.

I do feel better today already simply because one of my besties shared a voucher with us for free Hello Fresh meals and now I’ve yummy dinners to look forward to all of next week.

Work drew a lot of my focus today and that felt good too. I do enjoy my job and throwing myself into work would probably help. A break is good for the soul, but a return to routine is always good for me too.

All of that said, maybe I just feel blue, because it’s a kinda blue time of year. And maybe I’m totally over-thinking it. And maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself at a time when I should be counting myself lucky to be healthy and employed.

That’s it. I’m done moping. One day at a time from here and I’m going to keep busy, switch my anxious brain off (except when it’s needed for actually important stuff) and focus on the positives. We’ve got free food arriving at the weekend. What could be better than that!?

Early Days

My first day alone at the flat, I felt poorly all day. Whilst I’d usually be able to suss out whether it was in my head or not, this time I really wasn’t sure. People don’t talk enough about the physical symptoms that come with stress and anxiety. I know my body well enough now that I will go whole days feeling sick and headachy and knowing it’s just my mental health that’s not quite right. I was so physically tired too that, on this occasion, I ended up concluding that it was probably a bit of both – Partly in my head and partly my body saying ‘please, just sit still for one moment’.  

I put too many towels in the washing machine and had to hang them on an airer over the bath to dry, because they came out so wet. I fell asleep after eating lunch on the sofa and nearly missed the door when the clothes rail was delivered. I spent the whole day battling against tiredness and anxiety and whilst I got a lot done in the end, I never felt fully accomplished and the tasks ahead of me felt increasingly daunting as time went on. 

Day three at the new flat and the negative thoughts came raining down. I found myself doubting whether Dave and I were going to be happy after all. I felt like a failure, because there was so much sorting still to be done. I told myself I’d be an even bigger failure if I didn’t get out of bed, in the shower, on a bus and into town to do my Christmas shopping and yet just the thought of doing that made me want to curl up under my duvet and never appear again. It was my final day booked off work and I felt like the pressure was on to get the most out of it.

It took me finally grabbing my journal and writing everything I was feeling down to realise that I’d been doing just fine: At a time when my emotions were all over the place, bit by bit I was making this new home our own and for that I knew I should be proud. And anyway, since when was being super productive the only way to make the most of a day off work!? Sometimes all you need is a proper chill out.

New, unfamiliar environments are big and scary, always. The first few days in a new home are never easy, no-matter what anyone might tell you. Now over one week into living here and (setting aside all that’s going on outside of our little new home bubble) I feel content here. Everything is a bit of a mess. The place is littered with boxes and with furniture still on order, there’s not really a place for anything yet. The kitchen is the closest to organised and even that’s not completely sorted. BUT the new flat feels lived in already and if you ask me, that’s the most important thing of all!

New Home, New Chapter

They say moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do and yet somehow I am never fully prepared for just how much it’s going to take out of me. I feel like I’ve moved a lot since I turned 18. 3 uni-rooms and now 3 different homes with Dave (and we’re not even on the property ladder yet!), but I still don’t feel like I’ve got it mastered. 

My shoulders hurt more than I ever thought they could. My feet hurt like I’ve walked a marathon. My lower back aches and my hands are like sandpaper and that’s just the physical stuff – We were so organised and yet I’ve still felt overwhelmed and mentally exhausted for over a month straight now. The only things getting me through are Dave, tea, chocolate and Disney films. 

The new home is well worth all of the aggravation though. 

Dave and I have been on the hunt for a property to buy since July of this year. We got hunting the minute house viewings were allowed again and we didn’t stop until just over a month ago. I doubt we’re the only people who had to hit pause on the hunt in the end and put our house shopping plans on hold until 2021. 

So, we’re still renting, but we’re in the area we’re looking to buy in and we’re planning on keeping our ears to the ground. I know we’re going to be so happy here and I feel very lucky and extremely grateful. Here’s to Chapter Six!

The New Normal

When this all began, there was so much talk about the strain on all of us. Everyone was talking about how we had to accept that our mental health might take a dip and a dive and that it was okay to feel anxious or down. No-one expected too much and we all filled our lives in any way we could. We took each day as it came.

Some people took to arts and crafts, baking or exercise. Others took up online courses and extra projects. Some just caught up on much needed sleep.

Now, life’s gradually returning to a new kind of normal and if you’re anything like me, you’re suddenly convinced you should somehow feel normal again yourself. Like it’s a switch we can flick on when life gets challenging and off again when things get better.

Here’s the thing – I still feel sad and tired, all the time. I’m missing my life before Covid-19, but I’m struggling to accept how far off a return to that exact way of life really is. I feel like stubborn teenager, sticking my heels in and adamantly waiting until things go precisely my way. I don’t want to settle for half-normal.

I’m looking at pictures of friends filling their diaries up with plans and getting out and about. I’m watching people at work throw themselves into planning for the next few months at home (because this working from home thing seems like it’s here to stay). I’m seeing people embrace the gradual relaxing of the rules and head back to beaches and shops. And I’m doing the most unhealthy thing I could do:

I’m directly comparing how I’m doing to how everyone else seems to be doing. I’m convincing myself that everyone else is fine and that I should be too. I feel like I should be full steam ahead back into work and socialising and my old routine and everything else that comes with it. It’s like I’ve decided Covid-19 isn’t a justifiable reason to feel ‘not quite right’ anymore.

Soon, I’ll probably find I do start making plans and accepting the new normal. I’ll ease into it over the next few weeks and before long, I’m sure I’ll start to feel myself embrace the way things have to be. But there’s no pressure or rush to do so – It’s only me putting that pressure on me. Which is no-doubt just making me more tired than I already am.

So, for anyone else who needs to hear it: It’s okay, to still not be okay. We’re still living through a global pandemic. And if anything, this strange return to a new kind of normal is likely to be the most mentally challenging part of the whole thing. Don’t put any additional pressure on yourself!

Breathe, cut yourself some slack and still feel free to take each day as it comes. You’ve got this.

Is it just me?

Or have things just got that little bit harder?

Honestly? I caught myself thinking really negatively when looking at myself in the mirror this morning and it was that which turned my thoughts to the idea of blogging again. I have seen a few social media posts dedicated to positive body image, but the majority of stuff I’m seeing online suggests that I should be running and doing yoga and that my tummy should look better than ever right now.

In fact, my tummy is growing, because of all the time spent indoors. I don’t think I’m eating particularly unhealthily, but I’m definitely not getting as much exercise as I usually would.  My skin is clearer, because I’m not wearing makeup and I’ve caught a bit of a tan from time spent out in the sunshine, but all I can see when I look in the mirror is my chunkier waist line and the rolls under my, now tighter, jeans.

I refuse to feel sucky about it anymore and I hope if you’re reading this and empathising then you can start being a little less hard on yourself from here on in too. Yes, I really do want to try doing some yoga with Adrienne and some virtual workouts, but the truth of the matter is that, right now just getting to the supermarket feels like a challenge.

(I told myself that I’d get our essential grocery shop done today, but not only do I feel terrified at the thought of facing the outside world, but my car won’t start either.)

As well as working out, there are lots of things I need to do that I know for a fact would make me feel better: The bathroom needs a clean again, we have piles of clean clothes to put away, the whole house needs a good hoover. But I simply can’t seem to kick myself into action.

On top of feeling bad about that, I wake up every morning in a panic about who I need to check in with. I realised this morning that I haven’t spoken to my brother or sister in ages now and that it is one of my best friend’s birthdays today, but that I haven’t spoken to him since this all started. I am so ridiculously grateful for all of my wonderful family and friends, but I’m finding it hard, because I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve checked in with everyone enough.

And then on top of all of that, I feel super guilty for feeling so down and being so lazy when I think of all of the brave key workers out there facing this whole situation head on, many of them separated from family and friends, without time to even consider yoga or hoovering.

Writing ‘I just don’t feel right’ was so rewarding and I’m glad I decided to write again. This post has helped in a different kind of way. Here’s hoping someone in the same boat feels better for reading it too. Somehow writing it all out like that has left me finally feeling like today is doable.

I’ll ask Dave to take me to the shop, but I still want to do it myself because conquering that fear can only be a good thing. And I’ll stop with the negativity. Hey! Maybe I’ll even put some clean clothes away.

I just don’t feel right

This will be my third try at a blog post. I’ve been trying and failing to write over the last few weeks: I had this grand idea that I’d start writing daily throughout this global pandemic. I was going to call the chapter ‘A blog a day to keep the blues at bay‘. But every time I put pen to paper (or started typing, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as romantic does it?) I was unhappy with what came out.

I guess I wanted to try and write truthfully about how this time is making me feel, to get it off my own chest, but also in the hope that it might help someone somewhere to read that this time’s got us all feeling a bit out of sorts. If you’re feeling odd and mentally vulnerable, you’re not alone, I promise.

But whenever I tried writing I found myself trying too hard to cover all bases: To reiterate that I know there are people who this pandemic is affecting in worse ways than I can even imagine and that I know how lucky I am. And I am lucky. I’m so grateful for this beautiful, safe house and garden and the fact I can work from home and that my work is so fulfilling and that I have amazing family and friends…

I just don’t feel quite myself. My shoulders are constantly tense and my jaw too. I find myself sighing all the time and every day just feels like a bit of an uphill struggle. I’m trying so hard to be positive, but I just feel a bit down in the dumps.

I miss myself. All this time indoors is giving me heaps of thinking time and that’s what I’ve realised. I’m missing old me. I keep thinking that a younger, ‘funner’ Bronwen would have done better in this situation.

But I’m always looking back and always wanting to go back to being the person I was and today the penny has finally dropped: Looking backwards isn’t doing me any good…

When I was at university, I missed the care-free girl I left behind in Chelmsford, who loved her high school boyfriend to pieces and spent all her time singing. Nowadays, I miss University me, who wrote fun blogs and could stay up late and was more up for a good time. I bet some day, I’ll miss this me. Whoever this me is. And I’ll kick myself for all the time I spent dwelling on how a previous version of myself would have handled things. 

Yes, I’m more tired nowadays and a bit more careful, but I don’t worry any less that’s for sure. I can try and tell myself that I used to be care-free all I want, but really I’ve always been a worrier.

And so I guess it’s no wonder Covid-19 has got me feeling a bit iffy. If anything, I’d expect to be less calm than I am. I’m still getting up every day, showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed. I’m still eating plenty and getting out for walks and staying in touch with family and friends.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack during this time. It’s so hard when we’re constantly exposed to perfect images of how everyone else is handing things, but I for one need to remember that I’m doing okay doing what I’m doing. There is no right way to deal with a worldwide pandemic, we’re all figuring this out one day at a time. AND I’m just Bronwen. Not past Bronwen, not present Bronwen, not future Bronwen, just me. Still me… Just a little older and maybe actually a little wiser too?

Week Fifty-Two

As after most Christmases, the arm of the chair that I am sat in is piled high with books: The new 2020 diary I got for Christmas, Fearne Cotton’s ‘Calm’, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (I’m on chapter 8 and loving every second), and a very thick pad titled ‘642 things to write about’ (which I cannot wait to start working my way through). The Christmas tree is twinkling away next to me and the TV is on. Three different cooking shows have been on in the time I’ve been curled up here and I am now very hungry for something yummy.

Since starting my new job at the beginning of December, life’s been a little chaotic, very stressful and also all kinds of exciting. (The lead up to Christmas was as magical as ever and although I’m nervous about my new role, I am also very excited to get stuck in.) I am so relieved to have made it into Chrimbo Limbo.

I could spend hours reflecting on 2019. I wish I could have been more prepared for everything the last year would throw my way. I spent a year in which I resolved to try and worry less and remember that these will be the good old days, worrying too much and carrying the weight of the world around with me. At the risk of sounding super gloomy, I was tired a lot and stressed a lot and sad a lot, even at times when I would have expected to feel most happy.

But I’m grateful for all the great memories I have too. Paris in the winter, Soho with one of my best friends, a trip back to the 1920s for a night in Cardiff, a holiday in Kefalonia and an escape to Happy Place Festival. Performances with the band and a move into a new home. A visit to Casino Royale and many a laugh at Tim Minchin live.

And I am looking forward to 2020. It’s strange, but I almost feel like a year full of so much worry has led to me finally feeling like I am capable of worrying less. This year, big stuff came our way and for once in my life, the majority of my anxiety was actually rational; the butterflies made sense.

Now, I feel like I might be more determined than ever before, not to let the small stuff stress me out.

I’m taking 2020 as it comes. I’m expecting a year much like this one, except this time I feel much better prepared. Ups and downs are a way of life and it’s like I’ve learned to surf the waves finally. Or I hope I have. Now, that’s a very Bronwen-esque metaphor if ever there was one and I guess that’s a wrap on Chapter Five. 52 weeks, one year and a whole load more life lessons learned.

Be back soon.