If You’re Happy And You Know It

Sometimes I’ve been suspicious of happiness. For awhile now I’ve felt like I was finally at ease with my body, but part of me wouldn’t trust that it was real. Anxiety was my default state for so long that it was hard to believe I wasn’t deluding myself.

The Mothership and I had one of those honest, difficult conversations on the weekend that start with tears and honking into tissues, but end with hanging up all light and peaceful. We talked about The Past which is something I’ve been avoiding. When I moved away from Australia I just convinced myself I was moving away from all sorts of things.

She asked about my earliest memories and I told her about one time when I was five years old and starting a new school. She held my hand as we walked up the front path that was flanked by bottlebrush shrubs. My stomach was in knots and my only thought was, "Everybody is going to hate me because I’m fat."

And that’s how I’ve always thought. It didn’t stop until two years ago when I did that cracking 5K race, when I finally realised I respected my body for what it could do, instead of being consumed by what it looked like. Since then I’ve been moving the ol’ bod around with ever-shrinking amounts of self-consciousness, without feeling like there were neon signs floating above my head screaming, HEY EVERYBODY, LOOK AT THIS LARD ARSE.

But like I said, sometimes I was suspicious. I wondered if I was only happy in certain contexts. Like the safety of a marriage. Or the security of an oft-shitty Scottish climate, where I can hide my wobbly bits.

So I’ve been running through a list of places and situations that used to petrify me, and testing my resolve. How would I feel if I faced them again? Here’s a few –

  • THE BEACH – Swimsuits, ghostly skin, etc etc. I’m cool. I will never don a bikini but as long as I’ve got a big hat and SPF 457 I’d be happy. I don’t feel the urge to compare myself to more slender chicks anymore. That could be inner peace or just surrendering to old age πŸ˜›
  • BAKERIES – I’d now feel free to buy whatever the hell I wanted and not fret that folk in the queue were thinking, "She doesn’t need that scone". If I wanted ten donuts I’d buy ten donuts, instead of buying four here and three at the place down the street and another three in the next town to disguise my gluttony.
  • PUBLIC SPEAKING – If I had to yap in front of a group of people, I would be shitscared about saying something stupid, as opposed to worrying that my gesticulations were making my belly wobble. I think doing that Sky News thing last year sort of kicked the last of that self-consciousness out of me.
  • POSH SHOPS – Actually I have tested this one. There are still about 10 kazillion boutiques with clothes I couldn’t fit a toe into, but I no longer skulk past their windows feeling inferior. I go inside and poke through the racks, just to see what it feels like. I’m also lost my irrational fear of department stores. Sometimes I swan about in Harvey Nicks in Edinburgh. I usually end up in the food hall, buying a can of tuna or something.
  • SPONTANEOUS PHOTOGRAPHY – the lovely Mary posted a photo on Health Nuts of her doing some indoor rockclimbing. She looks totally foxy and dead sporty. I thought, "How would I feel if someone took a snap of me climbing up a wall?". I’d no doubt be red-faced and sweaty and my flab would be dangling at some unflattering angle. But when I see shit pictures of myself these days I groan or LAUGH, instead of destroying the camera with a sledgehammer. I think I look alright. Sometimes the camera catches that, sometimes it suggests the opposite; and that’s okay.
  • AUSTRALIA – If we moved back, how would I handle scorching summers, barbeques, swimming pools? Now that my thighs don’t bleed if I wear a skirt, I think I’d quite enjoy it. I’d be a helluva lot more worried about getting sunburned than the state of my flab, to be honest πŸ™‚

I’m in a reflective mood lately so sorry if this entry is rather random and incoherent. But I am happy to conclude that I am genuinely happy with my body. I would pass all my tests. I spent about 22 years in a constant state of paranoia and anxiety which made all those little everyday scenarios so exhausting. Now I think I could put myself in any situation and I’d still be comfortable being me. Even if I was thundering down a catwalk with size zero supermodels. That’s their look, and I’ve got mine. I just wish I could go back to that five-year-old me and say, "Chin up, ginger! 24 years from now you’ll think you’re great!"

The Tourist

I did my research before we headed off to the log cabin. Sure, it was self-catering but it also happened to be near Callander, which is the home of the Ben Ledi Cafe, one of The Independent’s Top 50 UK cafes. I drooled over the website for weeks in advance. So while Gareth was looking forward to long bike rides, strenuous hikes and blissful serenity, I was dreaming of fried fish and burgers.

I had pretty much memorised the menu, so as we pedaled alongside the loch on the Tuesday afternoon I chanted to myself, "Just keep going. Keeeeep going. Soon you can have the chips. Or the milkshake. Or the banana split."

So imagine my dismay when we rocked up to the Cafe a few hours later and it was CLOSED.

"Oh."

"Are you okay?" asked Gareth.

"Of course I’m okay!" I said brightly. "Why the hell wouldn’t I be okay?"

"Umm. Alright. What do you want to do now?"

"Go back to the cabin and cook something, I suppose."

When we returned I got busy with the pots and pans right away.

"So you’re sure you’re alright?" Gareth asked again.

"Yes! Why do you keep asking?"

"We-llllll," he said carefully, "Sometimes when you have a food-related disappointment it can take you a long time to recover."

"Don’t be ridiculous!"

Half an hour later we were eating our sensible home-cooked meal, something involving spring greens and baby potatoes I think.

"Soooo," I said, trying to sound casual. "Do you think they’ll open later?"

"Who?"

"I mean, WHAT IF THEY DON’T? What if they’re shut ALL WEEK?"

"Ha ha! You are obsessed!"

"I’m not."

We went back on the Thursday and thank-bloody-goodness the lights were on. I was torn between the burger and the fish tea but when Gareth ordered the fish tea, I knew I could steal a bite of his and it would be almost as good as having both meals. Hurrah!

"Just the beef burger thanks!" I said to the waitress.

"Okay."

"OH! Could I get cheese on that too?"

"Sure. Anything else?"

"No. OH! Any chance of some bacon too?"

"Of course." You gluttonous piggy.

"Cheers!"

Oh people. It was so worth all those weeks of anticipation. I would have to say it’s the best burger I’ve had in Britain. The beef was succulent, the relish was homemade and zingy. The bread roll was one of those gorgeous pillowy Scottish ones. And the salad! Not only was there fresh, delicious greenery on the burger, there was EXTRA salad on the side! I had never seen such a radical thing on Scottish shores before.

Burger

Of course I had a major case of Plate Envy when Gareth’s fish tea came out. Check out that fish! The batter was so clean and golden, no bits of old dead chips clinging to it like you get in some less quality establishments. By the way, for the uninitiated, a fish tea is basically fish and chips with bread and butter on the side. Gareth said it was just as good as all the fish and chips he’d scoffed in Australia!

Well, he said that after some prompting.

"Is it as good as Australia? Is it? Is it!?!"

"YES! DAMMIT!"

Fishsupper

I also had an orange juice which was genuine freshly squeezed! "Whoa, tastes like Spain!" was the Gareth verdict. Many places claim freshly squeezed but the only thing they’re squeezin’ is a Tetra pack.

Afterwards I had a banana split but that photo came out blurry as I was trembling in anticipation.

There are few things more pleasurable to me than when you’ve been looking forward to something for ages, building it up in your mind, and it actually turns out to be just as brilliant as you imagined. Particularly when it’s something edible.

Anyway, there’s absolutely no real point to this entry except to say I heart food. And when it comes to being a tourist, I shall always travel with stomach first, eyes and feet second.

Sweet Nothing

Dearly beloveds, I’ve been batshit busy and gallivanting again and the result is 1092 unread entries in my Bloglines. I think I will have to admit defeat and start afresh. So apologies if I have missed any monumental news in the past two weeks! I will be a better nerd from now on! I hope Kek has her house in order. I hope Phil is painting the USA red. I hope YP is all psyched for her Edinburgh marathon. Okay, I am going to have to take a peek at a few. Just a wee handful, you know.

ANYWAY, I ONLY CAME HERE TO TELL YOU THE NEWS. It warrants capital letters. Oh I have discovered about 27 new shades of pure relief today.

How’s The Serenity?

For the first time in eleven years, I’ve just spent an entire week without the internet. Holy nerdypants, Batman! Gareth and I decided to take our sham marriage to the X-TREME and hole up in a log cabin for a week at Strathyre, without internet or digital television to distract us from the empty charade of our lives.

Mwahaha. It was bloody brilliant. Self-catering rules! The cabins are at the foot of Ben Ledi which is in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, to which people in Scotland will say "duh" and the rest of the world will say "que?", so I don’t know why I bombard you with all the details.

Anyway, our digs were approximately twice the size of our flat and looked like this:

Hoose

And here is a nice view of Ben Ledi from the window. "Ben" is Scotch for "Mountain". Hehe πŸ˜› Now everybody marvel at how my bike Valentino and Gareth’s (unnamed) bike sit nicely OUTSIDE and not in the bloody hallway for us to trip over 27 times a day. That was possibly the highlight of the week for me.

Windae

The above was one of the rare moments you could actually see Ben Ledi. Being Scotland and all it was obscured by rain and fog 95% of the time. But the good thing about the rain is eventually the sun comes out and everything is calm and still for lovely reflective moments like this:

Loch

So what did we do all week? Lots of walking, lots of writing, lots of eating. Gareth climbed some hills and we went on some bike rides.

There were moments when I just wanted to bloody cry from the sheer joy of being alive. Until now I’ve only been on the boring cycle path near our flat, but this time there were lochs and birds and tadpoles and waterfalls and twisty paths and mountains. And a big fat slug I accidentally ran over. Sorry mate!

I know I have been harping on this point for years but it never ceases to floor me, how amazing it is to move your body. When I started exercising it was purely to lose weight, punishment for being a big fat useless freak. But now the loathing is finally gone, being active is a way of life and not a chore.

I am still rubbish at hills, in both directions. At one point I was huffing my way uphill when Gareth shouted for me to check out some fantastic rock formation. I thought rather cockily, "I can totally pedal up and look at something way over there at the same time." Alas, no. I ran off the road and fell into a ditch and very nearly rolled down into the loch.

Now I read all the time about you crazy bloggers riding your bicycles all over town so I am kinda embarrassed to write this… but yesterday I took Valentino for my first solo ride. I’ve had him almost a year now but I’ve only went for a ride when Gareth suggested it, and only when he came too coz I was scared of the bike spontaneously falling apart.

But yesterday Gareth had set off early to climb a big hill and instead of going back to sleep, I was surprised to find I was really craving a bike ride. Maybe I’m finally getting Two Wheeled FEVER!

I worried my way through about 25 scenarios in which the tyres exploded, blood flowed, limbs maimed, etc etc… but somehow I got out there on the bike at 8.30 on a Sunday morning. I was so surprised I stopped and put my camera on a fence post and took a picture to commemorate the moment. And here it is rather small, because despite all the Great Leaps Forward in self-esteem I still retain some thigh paranoia, and cycling tights certainly don’t do me any favours.

Mebike

And here I am on the way back to our cave. You can see why I refuse to get out of bed for less than 10 pence a day. I’m squinty, pasty and still half-asleep… but full of joie de vivre, I tells ya. And amazement that I put my helmet on the right way.

Mebike2_2

That’ll do for now coz I have many blogs and emails to catch up. Looks like it’s been a busy week for everyone, lots of ups and downs amongst us. Hope you’re all well and hanging in there. I missed my daily fix of reading about your lives. Long live the geek πŸ™‚

Freaky Friday

Thanks so much for your rockin’ comments and emails, groovers! You have no bloody idea how much I appreciated every single word. I’ve sent my visa application back with a metric tonne of extra evidence, so now we play the waiting game. Cross your fingers and toes and eyes that they’ll be satisfied this time! πŸ™‚

Okay, life is generally a wee bit batshit crazy right now. I had a slight freakout in the gym this morning, swooshing away on the Arc trainer, "What am I doing here? I don’t have time to be here! There’s too much to do!", rah rah rah. Exercise is not having a soothing effect lately, it just seems to wind me tighter and tighter. So I am going to do more soothing stuff, like yoga and outdoor walks.

It’s interesting to really listen to your body and give in to its demands, instead of trying to bully it into doing what your brain wants it to do. Which has long been my problem. The body is saying, "Dude, be gentle with me" so I am trying to listen. And it’s also saying, "Don’t fill me full of chocolate, dammit. You think you want it but you dinnae need it, hen."

I am so freaking proud of myself for not using food as a coping mechanism. When I got off the train in London last week having just found out about the stinking Visa Situation, my brain was screaming "CHOCCCCOLATE! GIMME CHOOCCCOLATE!". But my sister was there and we got on another train to our Indulgent Spa Hotel. We shared a Berry Cheeky Nakd Bar and I talked about my worries instead of burying them in cocoa.

Remember when Rhi and I went to Lisbon last year? I gained 6.5 pounds due to my pre-holiday, holiday and post-holiday feasting. Last year I had resigned myself that this would always be the case on holiday, there was no way I’d miss out on yummy different foods. But now I see it doesn’t have to be that way. This time I was more choosy about what I ate, often sharing things with my sister so I’d get the idea of a dish without needing to eat the whole thing. I got the thrill of something new without the remorse.

I was pretty damn gobsmacked by how well I handled things, considering I was a total stressmonkey. And this week is going well too. Was gagging for a giant block of Green & Blacks for lunch yesterday but had a mega bowl of stir-fried vegies and tofu instead and it was strangely delicious. I’m not even trying to lose weight at the moment, I really don’t give a shit… I’m just trying to do enough good things to make me feel healthy and happy. But I can tell from mirrors and clothes that I’m holding steady. Exxxcellent.

It’s finally coming together, people, after all these years. I am learning the fine art of moderation. I am dealing with my problems instead of distracting myself with a good old binge. The urge is just not there anymore. I can tell you it really sucks to actually feel shitty feelings instead of masking them with chocolate, and I’m sure I’ve been a total whiny weepy biaaatch to live with. But life sometimes features raw edges and rough spots and crappy days and you just have to embrace it all. I’d much rather a little stress than return to the bad old days of sitting numbly on the couch with half a kilo of cooking chocolate.