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.

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.

Week Forty-Five

Wow. 45! It really will not be long at all until it’s the last week of this year and I have to come up with a new way of titling blog posts again. Christmas is just around the corner and I cannot WAIT for the festivities to begin.

I don’t want to wish the rest of the year away, but I am itching to try and sum up this chapter: A jam packed year full of ups and downs, that was nothing I expected. I had a little look back through my diary the other day and could hardly believe that this is still the same year I went to Paris and celebrated my birthday dressed as Belle.

The last few weeks have flown just as fast as the rest, being just as full with long days at work, jam sessions with the band and plans with friends and family.

I slept for the longest I have in a long time last night. I didn’t set an alarm and I didn’t get up when Dave got up or accept his offer of tea. I rolled over and I went back to sleep and I was so unconcerned with looking at the clock that I’m not even sure what time I did get up in the end.

We had a lovely friend stay the night yesterday so when I did get up the house felt super lively, which I loved. Dave, housemate Tom and our lovely friend were all cosied up in the lounge with cups of tea and music playing. They’d had chinese food last night (I was out and about in Stratford with some other lovely ladies… One of which was performing in a K-pop dance show – she SMASHED it), so we had leftovers for breakfast and it was amazing. Is it just me that thinks chinese food tastes even better reheated the next day?

Now, I’m sat on our bed with my nails freshly painted and a face mask on. I feel so happy and content with my favourite music playing. It’s also starting to get dark outside and it feels so cosy in here as a result. I think the heating just came on for the evening too. It really is the little things in life.

I made a terrible decision doing both face mask and nail paint at the same time because I’m now stuck with a red face until this polish decides to dry. I also need to get the laundry out of the machine and my tummy is rumbling… oops. For once, I couldn’t really care less though. I’m quite happy waiting, although I am looking forward to getting some jam on toast once the face mask is off.

When I realised I had no plans today, I told myself it’d be a day to look after myself. It’s done me so much good and it’s been a massive reminder that I should do this more often.

I’ve been in my head a lot recently. My thoughts have felt so loud the last few weeks. And they’ve been pretty negative. But that negativity seems to have done a runner today. Clearly all I needed to scare off the negative thoughts was a sunny Sunday morning, a lie in and some me time. I don’t know why I didn’t devote some time to this sooner.

If you’ve no plans this evening, take some time to pamper yourself. Whether you fancy it or not, you’ll feel so much better for it. And just in time for another working week. Sundays should be made for this. As well as roast dinners… of course!

 

Week Forty-One

This one’s for my Mum and her sisters, my aunties. I love you all so much.

The theme of 2019 has definitely been ups and downs. I’ve had months full of happy memories and positivity and other months that have been huge struggles. Whether it’s been my mental health getting me down or things going on at home. I don’t want to write a super gloomy post, but it’s felt like every time I was picking myself up again, something else has come along and knocked me down.

The above dedication goes out to my Mum and my aunties at a hard time for all of us. My Mum is going to be away from home for a long time and she probably won’t be home for Christmas and for me personally, worries about her and her sister and heart ache over missing her already have me feeling like the uphill climb that’s been 2019 just got steeper. But, this week, I’m reminded that life’s too short and we should be grateful for every little thing we can be.

Is it just me or, in this crazy adult life, isn’t a Saturday with no plans the best thing ever? I’m grateful for this moment right now. Sat with a cuppa, in our cosy living room, typing away to a blog I love to type away to. Dave’s stuck on a record by Greta Van Fleet and I didn’t expect to like it as much as I am. (It’s actually pretty awesome.) I’ve got Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows sat next to me on the coffee table and a hot water bottle to cuddle. I’ve got candles lit and I’m wearing the cutest socks (which a group of my loveliest friends bought for me for one of my birthdays).

It’s been a mad few weeks. Between long days at work, band practice, the stuff going on with my family and the social stuff too, I’ve not done as much nothing as I’m doing today in a while.

It’s not all doom and gloom: To give you some of the highlights, since I last wrote:

Dave and I went to our nearest zoo from the new house. It’s ZSL Whipsnade and I highly recommend a visit. It turns out it’s the biggest zoo in the UK. We walked over 7 miles just wondering around and it’s great because there isn’t really any set route or paths to take. You just kinda get through the entrance and go on your own adventure. With regular pit stops for coffee and food between amazing animals, it makes for a great day. You feel like you’ve properly escaped. The animals’ enclosures are huge too and although this means you don’t necessarily get to see them all, it’s good to see that they’ve got so much space to roam. The zoo is properly focused on conservation and not just on guest satisfaction.

Dave and I also went to see Rodrigo Y Gabriella play at The Hammersmith Apollo. They were AMAZING. Such good performers and musicians and eeek. I’m a big fan!

Damballa Collective had our second gig which was at a lovely pub in Camden called The Golden Lion. I was still so ridiculously nervous and I was full of cold, but it was still great fun and I think we sounded good! We got paid in roast dinner too, which is the best thing ever.

I went along to an Alzheimer’s Society Memory Walk to talk about Gifts in Wills and as ever, the event was beautiful (even on a very rainy Sunday morning) and I met so many inspirational people.

I drove up to Sheffield with my little sister to meet two of the members of one of her favourite metal bands. I’m still not convinced I’ll ever like their music, but they were really great guys and they made such a huge effort for their fans that day and it was actually a lot of fun to road trip up there together. We went to a really cool bar and I had the most amazing street food I’ve ever had.

I also met a lovely friend in Cheltenham for the day a couple of weeks back. We started with breakfast, had a stroll around the shops, saw the famous mechanical clock blow bubbles, wandered down through the parks and the older, prettier part of town and went to Cosy Club for a very yummy dinner. It was the bestest day.

I’m sure there’s other stuff I’ve forgotten too!

In summary, my heart goes out to my family, life is precious and not to be taken for granted no matter how busy and stressful it might feel at times and I’m so grateful for all the happy memories I continue to make and for today: A day of calm among the chaos.

Week Thirty-Six

Oh heyyy!

So, the house move has gone surprisingly smoothly for me. Especially considering my inability to accept change, close attachment to places and things and general emotional-ness.

I was super emotional when we eventually said goodbye to the flat, but in my defence, it had been one of those weeks anyway and I was due a good cry. Also, it was so super strange seeing the flat all naked and empty and knowing it wasn’t ours anymore.

I think what’s made the move so much easier is that our new place literally ticks all the boxes. Life’s so much easier with a washing line and a designated cupboard for bedding and towels and under bed storage and a station nearby. And the house felt so homey so quickly too! The owner has decorated it so brightly and it was funished with a few bits and pieces before we even got all of our stuff in.

And my goodness do we have a lot of stuff! How two people can own so many things and have kept them in a 1 bed flat for so long I do not know. It’s also not until you try and pack your life into boxes you realise how fragile literally everything is! From kitchenware to ornaments and frames, I felt like I was drowning in a sea of bubble wrap!

September 1st came around and the new house was sorted and the next few gigs with the band were confirmed and that autumn chill appeared from nowhere and I got my boots out andddd I saw that Primark have their Disney Christmas tinsel out already and I feel so much brighter.

THIS is hands-down the best time of year. I can’t wait for the first trees to go orange and brown and the first crisp frosty morning and the first time I get all wrapped up in a snug coat and scarf and the first hot chocolate on a chilly evening! I know September might have a few summery days left in it yet, but I live for autumn and I’m so excited!