Another crossroad.

All through life we come to crossroads where decisions are made working with conditions we are living with at the time. Later retrospective views often look as if other choices should or could have been made to have a better outcome. Oh the joy of hindsight! How many times have we all said and have heard others say too, if only……………….. then everything would have been better.

But that thinking is always skewed because it is how we want to see things and it is a mistake to look back and have regrets. We are never going to be able to go back and have another shot at the way we live our lives.

Recognising mistakes is a different matter. I regret ever having the AP living with the LSO and myself but we made the decision, had five utterly dreadful years but they are past and gone although the AP still sails onwards. She is heading towards one hundred and four years of age and is quite oblivious to anyone or anything much in her life, she really has become the centre of her own universe.

It has taken me over two years to get rid of the angst created by her attitude and adjust to a better life and to realise the importance of pushing all regrets away and to avoid looking too far ahead. There is nothing to be gained by second guessing or wishing for the unattainable. We are luckier than many and although in our mid-seventies we are remarkably fit and well and hope to remain so for many years to come. We have finally made the monumental decision to sell my car and go down to one which was quite an emotional moment. For more than forty years I have had my own transport and been totally independent so I have had to make a shift in my perspective, as has the LSO and be prepared to plan things with thought for the other.

On the subject of nothing gained I am still on a plateau with my weight loss, not going up but neither am I going down. It’s a strange kind of limbo land of dieting but I am not despondent about it, just endeavouring to fool my body to shift its set point.

It will happen, I just must be patient.

Tempus Fugit.

To say time flies is an understatement. As I get older it is speeding up and the more I pack into my day the faster it goes. Just to throw in a useful bit of information; the expression comes from book 3 of Virgil’s Georgics, (a ‘georgic’ for those interested, is a book dealing with agriculture or rural topics) where it appears as ‘fugit inreparabile tempus’ which translated as: ‘it escapes, irretrievable time’.

How immensely true that is, we cannot have back what has gone!

It’s a while since I posted and that is partly due to the disastrous meeting with the AP at the Care Home. It was a gloriously sunny day so we were able to meet outside which we felt was a bonus but we were wrong. She had just eaten her lunch and started moaning from the moment the care assistant wheeled her out. The meal was not good, although she couldn’t remember what it was, the sun was too bright although she was in the shade and there was no proper greeting or interest in anything other than herself and what the AP felt she needed. I was referred to as ‘she’ throughout the 30 minutes and the LSO was greeted with enthusiasm and told it was lovely to see him. The conversation moved swiftly on to how she needed money and why was I handling her affairs anyway when she could do them herself. The LSO gently told her that she was incapable of handling her own affairs and had been for many years. It was all very uncomfortable because she continued to be rude and unpleasant and I felt the old angst rising as a knot inside and knew we needed to depart before something was said that could never be taken back.

So it is a return to the weekly phone call when the AP is positive, almost friendly and reasonably pleasant to talk to, in fact it would appear she herself prefers things this way which is fine by me and far less upsetting.

But back to the speed at which time is passing. I have almost completed my first sunset painting and have decided to do some much smaller images of skies as a project but have sidetracked myself with the complexities of sourdough. Some years ago I attempted to make this wondrous bread but failed miserably producing a large number of doorstops; not for me I decided and went back to normal bread making with yeast. The LSO started making it and had much more success, producing beautiful, well risen and airy boules with the required holes but that all stopped when the AP who was living with us then complained that the bread was too chewy and tough.

Recently I bought Vanessa Kimbell’s ‘Ten Minute Sourdough’ and started from scratch making my own starter and what a joy it has been; success at last. There is something hugely satisfying and zen-like about bread making in general which calms and nurtures the soul.

On the subject of success, my weight loss has continued with a few blips along the way but is much slower than I had hoped. Could that have something to do with the sourdough bread? Indeed I had thought I would have achieved my goal at least by Christmas but I am having to accept that it will be a much longer journey than originally anticipated. I am not letting this get me down but I do need to plan better. I have a tendency to wing it with food; looking in the freezer and fridge in the morning, asking the LSO what he fancies and making snap decisions using what is available. Not perhaps the best way to do things, so now I need to think ahead to get to my first target which will be three stone off and I am a tantalising 5 pounds away from that, then a mere 14 pounds to go afterwards.

Reflections.

Not reflections in a mirror, more about taking a step back and reflecting on the progress I have made in the last five months. This is not just about weight loss which has been slow but steady but it is also looking at the place I find myself in now.

My studio has been de-spidered by the LSO and is ready for action and after much thought I have decided to approach the whole experience as an extension of this new place I have reached. I will go with the flow.

I have lost 33lbs to date and a further 25 lbs will put me in a truly healthier zone but it is what I have realised about myself that is most surprising. I have yo-yo dieted for years, lost weight, gained weight, wallowed in self pity as the pounds plus rolled back on but never achieved how I feel now. I am actually at peace with the need to lose weight, less frantic and definitely more in control and more accepting that it will happen but not in the short term. It will take time and during that time I will enjoy life, inevitably taking the occasional step backwards but I now understand it’s all part of the journey.

I have positioned the easel, put a fresh canvas on it and am ready to paint but what? After much deliberation I decided to look through the photographs of skies that the LSO has taken. There are hundreds of them so I was definitely spoilt for choice but I found a sunset in soft purples, pinks and gold which resonated with the way I feel at the moment.

Can this new sense of emotional freedom last?

We have an outdoor visit on Friday to see the AP.

Will I remain calm cool and zen-like?

I’ll let you know.

Mindfulness.

Well, here I am almost four weeks since my last post and the 16lb loss is now 24lbs off but I have reached a bit of a plateau which I refuse to be down about. I do need to move a bit more but I am back to swimming twice a week and I have resorted to doing some stretching exercises only intermittently and have bought some resistance bands. I just need to read the book and then remove them from the wallet they are in, they are way more effective that way!

Lockdown has done me no favours and I am sure many can equate to this feeling. I have definitely become a bit of a couch potato and the very word ‘exercise’ can reduce me to a jabbering wreck, full of endless excuses as to why I should avoid it.

Also whilst battling the little devil that sits on my shoulder I am trying not to look too far ahead because then I might just cave in due to the enormity of the task facing me. I need to lose a further 42 lbs to be in a true health zone and to become non-diabetic as well as fitter and just as importantly very much happier in my skin.

So I am taking small steps and enjoying my new mindful eating and the fact that I can now bend over and pick things off the floor, bonus.

It’s the word ‘mindful’ that intrigues me. Has anyone else noticed how often it creeps into so much literature. It’s obviously a new buzzword, an all encompassing word to take the place of others, such as meditation, stress busting, good old fashioned awareness among but a few. There is even a mindful chef!

But being serious it’s interesting how I have found that mindfulness when applied to eating can actually make a difference. Also I have never, until recently been quite so aware of how the past seven years have impacted on everything to do with our lives. How overwhelmed we have been by it all and how the circumstances that brought about a great deal of unhappiness, distress and in my case, illness could have been avoided if the LSO and myself had been more mindful and more fully present in our own lives. The AP would not have come to live with us and we would both have had fond memories of her. Sometimes it is not right to do what seems to be the right thing, the attempt to offer her warmth and kindness fell on stony ground. At some point we should have put our own needs first.

Now I am struggling to even ring her nevermind go and see her which is so sad; so it’s definitely a time to meditate before making the call. Will it work?

Hopefully.

An Update.

After a rather rickety start to my new weight loss programme I am finally losing pounds, twenty-one to date so I am feeling not only a lot better but more positive about everything.

It’s a calorie counting regime that verges slightly on low carbs but allows me to eat most of what I like within reason and doesn’t put me on a guilt trip. Sounds perfect doesn’t it? No, I’m not getting smug, therein lies disaster and the inevitable ruin of the weight loss and yes, it has it’s restrictions such as logging everything I eat and drink.

That’s another issue of course and I’m not talking about the gallons of water I am drinking, this time it’s the reduction of my alcohol intake. I have ditched the habit of decades which is the evening, pre-dinner G&T and the LSO and I only share a bottle of wine three days of the week. Astonishingly it hasn’t been such a miss and I feel almost saintly about it all but some may say that the wine will have to go eventually and the answer to that is, never. Life is too short, especially at our age to not have some pleasures in the week and a fine bottle of wine shared with a delicious meal is a joy.

I may just have to run up and down the stairs!

All hasn’t been completely fine and dandy though; I had a little blip last week when we went to visit the AP in the care home because she had reached the grand old age of 103 years. We booked the visiting pod but it was all a bit of a disaster because she was particularly vinegary and apparently couldn’t hear us or chose not to and said we had forgotten her birthday even though she was wearing the rather elegant top we had bought her. It’s difficult to really understand but she seems to save her nastiness and spleen to vent only on the LSO and myself which can be hard to take given how much we have done for her over many years and continue to do so despite her attitude. The visit also brought back some of the past and was a reminder of how thoroughly divisive she had been whilst living with us. This really saddened me because I had finally arrived at a good place regarding my mother; needless to say after about half an hour of a non-conversation that was mostly about her we departed, having had more than enough and headed home to sanity and the dogs. Fortunately the angst didn’t last too long but I did indulge in a G&T that evening. I think for the moment we’ll stick to the weekly telephone calls when she is generally nicer, although dotty.

But all in all, life looks brighter even if today is wet and cold.

Just a hint…

….of Spring. Our Snowdrops were a little later than usual this year and at one point were covered in a frosty coating of snow thus living up to their name. I just love it when they finally appear because although it is still a bitterly cold winter this year, these delightful little flowers are definitely a hint of hope and rebirth, of better and warmer days to come. They are such a cheerful, fresh flower and yet so robust, arriving during the dark and cold days of Winter. They always make me smile.

We are all still in the grip of the pandemic and the road ahead is not looking particularly smooth just a great deal more of the same old, same old. In the midst of all this the LSO and I realise we are not getting any younger. We have limited contact with our family who are all flat out coping with it all and we have been unable to see them for months.

News programmes continue to dredge up a continuous stream of inane comments accompanied by equally nonsensical and repetitive questions for politicians. The powers that be never learn to stop making definite predictions that just cannot be upheld. But nevertheless, thanks to one small snow white flower I feel there is hope on the horizon and that better days will arrive eventually.

In the meantime I will make a plan for my weight loss and head to the studio to begin a new project.

The sound of silence.

One of the things I have become acutely aware of during this latest lockdown is how noisy silence can be. It’s not a loud noise, just a background of the electrical and electronic equipment surrounding us, clicking and whirring. Then there are the creaks and groans of the house itself especially when the central heating clicks in . Later in the evening the LSO lights the stove and the sound of wood crackling and flames gently roaring fill the void. If it is windy its the silver whirligig on the chimney that sings to us.

It’s an interesting phenomenon that during the day we have neither the radio nor the television on. The LSO is mostly in his studio during these cold, dank days whilst I footle around the kitchen feeling a bit rudderless at the moment. I do find January and February difficult months to get through and the situation with the Coronavirus isn’t helping. My studio doesn’t beckon at the moment although I have some plans in my head of my next project, at least that’s a start. My knitting lies untouched and unloved and dust is gathering on my cookery books.

A great cloud of lethargy is engulfing me like a thick impenetrable fog which I know I need to shrug off and start making an effort to be more positive. Then I sit down and let my mind drift in the non-silent silence until the beep of something electronic shakes me out of my thoughts and I go to take the towels out of the washing machine.

If I am honest I will admit that in a rather obtuse way I am quite enjoying the peace. All my life has been a tearing rush and even in retirement I have always felt the need to be up and doing with everything planned and mapped out, feeling guilty if I sat down. So perhaps, in a way this whole situation with the lockdown has done me and also the LSO a favour. It’s still good to be up and on the move but also there is nothing to be ashamed of in sitting and letting silence embrace us. I am not a great believer but I was brought up with hymns and during my life as a teacher, assemblies and chapel sevices were of great importance to the school communities I worked in. One of my favourites and I’m sure also a favourite of many is ‘Dear Lord and Father of Mankind’ with the spine-tingling build up at the end of ‘Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire; Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire, to an almost whispered ‘O still small voice of calm’. The biblical nature of what we are all living with is definitely echoed in this poem.

Perhaps when this whole sorry situation has improved we can still enjoy the sound of silence as well as having our lives back.

Moving forward.

It has been a strange couple of weeks, I am still sorting out the AP’s deferred payment scheme with NCC; I have had one injection in my left eye which was a bit traumatic and I keep wondering if what we are living with now is going to be a permanent situation for us.

The LSO and I are at an age when we have far less in front of us in terms of living but we never dreamt, fifteen years ago, that we would be so very limited in how we would be spending that time. I guess we are luckier than most because we are, touch wood, pretty healthy although there are improvements to be made and we both have creative hobbies to occupy us as well as a fine space around us.

I am really enjoying having my studio space back. I had forgotten how peaceful the space is and how good it is to think creatively. It really does help to clear the mind and put other situations into perspective.

There is much to said for having a desire to create and it doesn’t matter what it is, whether it involves creative cooking, knitting, embroidery, sewing, drawing, painting, print making, collage, pottery, photography, gardening, programming, writing or construction using 3 D materials. The list is endless, in fact anything that adds another dimension to your life and thoughts, can add depth in so many ways and produce a sense of achievement and pleasure.

Everyone is capable of being creative and it isn’t anything to do with the ability to draw. Artists just take their special talents in a different direction as does anyone with a specific ability, creativity is the use of imagination and inventiveness and everyone has that ability tucked away inside themselves. It just needs a bit of encouragement to help it to emerge.

Never worry what others think either, this is something that you do for yourself. Its a lesson in life that takes courage to pursue but worth every minute of the effort.

Stagger Onwards Rejoicing.

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