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Energy

Today, I decide to spend the whole day chilling out at home. I have a lie-in, I meditate, I eat breakfast.

I reply to a few text messages. I attempt to get cheap car insurance. I have lunch. I read emails. I watch Whip It for the second time.

By four pm, I’m agitated. What to do next? I could watch another movie. What a privilege to have the time and space to do so. I could read.

But I’m starting to feel uncomfortable. I’d probably feel better if I went for a walk. It’s sunny outside. I’d feel less guilty if it was raining.

I could follow a yoga class on YouTube. But I just don’t want to.

In the past, when I suffered spells of depression, I spent long periods in my room. I stayed in bed. I binged on junk food and mind-numbing box sets.

As a result, I became even more depressed and self-hating. Then, I definitely didn’t want to face the world because I felt so ugly and useless. Now, a part of me is scared that something similar could happen again.

For the past while, I’ve made sure to exercise every day. I get out of the house. I’m sociable. I’m busy. I work. I write blogs.

What I’ve learned from Chinese Medicine is that, when we don’t move enough, our energy becomes stagnant and we experience pain and fatigue. When enough energy doesn’t go to the head, we can feel depressed. That’s why it’s important to move our bodies and to receive energy treatments such as acupuncture.

However, I’d been moving my body to such an extent that I’d injured myself several times and I was exhausted. Following an acupuncturist’s advice, I haven’t exercised in four days.

Last night, I met a friend who’s home from abroad. She told me that I’m looking really well. I wanted to work out immediately. But I didn’t. Instead, I noted this reaction and I was okay with it.

For a change this Saturday, I haven’t arranged any coffee dates. I haven’t driven to the gym. I haven’t walked or yoga’d or even ventured outside the house. Instead, I drink hot beverages in bed, bite my fingers and click on Facebook for something to do.

The energy is rising. I usually shake it off or stuff it down. I’m not used to doing nothing. I don’t think I can do nothing.

I want to pump iron and dance and make love with aggression. I want to race through the countryside and bomb into the ocean. I want to laugh and cry and scream with abandon. I want to explode all this energy into my writing. I want to squeeze all my blackheads and peel off my skin. I even consider rejoining Tinder.

But I don’t do any of these things. I stay in my room, turn my phone on silent and sit on my meditation cushion. I bounce a little and rock back and forth. I start composing this blog post.

Then, I realise that there’s something about this energy that makes me want to burn it off. It doesn’t matter how. It just has to be released.

Suddenly, images of yogis and monks come to mind. People who have trained themselves to sit with this energy and allow it to build.

Humans who have managed to transcend these egoic and bodily urges to sex and spend, do and distract. They harness this energy and use it to connect with something bigger than all of this. To be present to all that is rather than losing themselves in all that they wish they were.

There’s nothing wrong with making the most of this creative energy. Artists splash it across canvasses to form beautiful masterpieces. Musicians and singers unleash it with passion. Champions triumph. New lives enter the planet.

And the rest of us mere mortals make sure to stay just ahead of it so we don’t have to think or feel too much. We move forward, we move forward, we move forward. We don’t want to get caught.

Most of the time, when I write an article, I’ve reached some sort of conclusion. I’ve come up with a positive slant. I’ve learned something. I’ve let go of something else. I’ve made myself feel better.

Today, I don’t transcend body, mind or ego. I sit on that meditation cushion for 10 minutes before moving the cushion in front of the laptop and vomiting all over WordPress. I feel a little bit better. I guess I’m still ahead.

life coach kildare

Images: favim.com

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Table for One

She sits with a large sigh, relieved to set down her Christmas shopping. The waitress asks if she’s waiting for someone. Or is she alone? She nods at the latter.

She eats quickly, a glazed expression in her eyes. When she’s satiated the initial intensity of her hunger, she begins to slow down. Only then does she look around the bar.

There is a guy to her right. He’s on his own too. She tries not to look directly at him but he lingers in the outskirts of her vision. He could be cute… He plays self-consciously with his phone, taking occasional sips of his latte. She pushes the plate away and opens a book.

If this was a movie, he would spot the title of the novel she was holding and realise that he found this woman intriguing. He would pluck up the courage to approach her and their story would begin…

The potentially attractive man smiles as his date walks towards him. The lone female diner looks up to appraise the pretty new arrival, then bows her head to read about somebody else’s romance.

Image: http://fuckyeahtumblraddict.tumblr.com/page/2

New Look on Life

Sometimes, the simplest and seemingly insignificant moments can change the way you view things. You’d hardly expect an epiphany to strike as you elbow your way to the cheapest sale item in New Look. But that was exactly where it happened.

I had tried on half the sales rack before leaving the exasperated changing room attendant with a mound of unwanted clothes. Having given up on finding anything that suited me, I wandered upstairs to peruse the shoes when a beautifully coloured dress caught my eye. I approached it tentatively because of the massive Maternity sign hovering above. I stole a glance at the floor staff and puffed my belly out a little. I felt like I shouldn’t be there. And that was when it hit me: I could go wherever the hell I wanted to go. I had been obediently walking within the perimeters of the square labels that society had branded me with, questioning nothing and missing everything. Dramatic stuff for someone who shops in New Look!

I began to realise that these strangers did not know who I was. My life was an unopened storybook. For all they knew, I was a happily married schoolteacher, excited about her upcoming arrival. Or an unemployed singer-songwriter torn between travelling to New York to pursue a dazzling career, and staying in Dublin to raise a child who would never know his father. Or a weird single girl pretending to be pregnant.

Twenty minutes later I strolled out of the store, swinging my bag of purchases: an expectant mother’s dress, a man’s hoodie and a teenager’s T-shirt. This small step opened up a whole new world of permission and possibility. Granted, I had only stuck a little toe outside of my comfort zone but, for someone who has always been excessively honest and terrified to bend, let alone break, the rules, it felt liberating.

Images: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Butterflies_UFmuseum.jpg; http://browneyedbellejulie.blogspot.com/; http://sussurrosegritos.tumblr.com/page/110

Poor-ana

Last night’s premiere of Gráinne Seoige’s Modern Life concentrated on anorexia nervosa, a debilitating and life-threatening illness. The show brought tears to my eyes on a number of occasions. Because I’ve seen and experienced how eating disorders can ruin lives. Because the thought of what it’s doing to innocent young girls kills me.

Size zero is on the lips of every celebrity and fashion guru (about the only thing that passes their lips, I hear you say). In last night’s programme, Gráinne holds up a size zero dress and comments accurately, “This looks like something a child, not a woman, would wear.” She also gives the opinion that models resemble something other than human beings and that they definitely don’t look feminine. She adds, “I would never want to look like them.” And why would you, Ms Seoige? You’re beautiful just as you are. However, if she paid too much attention to internet discussion boards, she could easily feel pressurised to slim down (one clown on Boards.ie suggested that the gorgeous presenter needs to lose a few pounds in order to get work).

Women eye up models’ figures and decide that this is the way they should look too. And why shouldn’t they attempt to be like them? After all, the definition of a model is: “A standard or example for imitation or comparison.”* However, we forget that the reason models are skinny is simply because this body shape best allows designers to showcase their collections. But when models turn into role models and make ridiculous statements such as, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” (not even a thick line of the white stuff, Ms Moss?), our younger generation of impressionable young females is doomed to a lifetime of diets and exercise regimes, and constantly striving for, but never attaining, that elusive “perfect” look.

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It’s virtually impossible to acquire the perfect body image. Even famous folk can’t do it. Despite paying fitness trainers, nutritionists, and personal chefs to make them look good, and even though they have looming red carpet events in clingy designer dresses to motivate them, they still have fat days. And that is why magazine photographs are airbrushed in order to make celebrities  look better (which usually means skinnier). When did it become such a bloody crime to be human?

However dangerous it is to have a teenage girl flick through a glossy magazine, imagine the horrors she can find on the world-wide web? Have you ever heard of a pro-ana website? It’s a site that promotes eating disorders, giving detailed tips on how to beat hunger pangs, purge quietly and hide weight loss from friends and family. It offers support and encouragement to its participants, even motivating them to compete against each other to see who can starve themselves the longest. The images are shocking, upsetting and seriously disturbing. It truly is a scary place. The thought of young girls stumbling across a site like this is terrifying.

“You become so accustomed to that empty feeling in your stomach. You almost start to enjoy it. Because if you know you’re getting very sharp hunger pains and you know how lethargic you’re becoming and you can feel your body kind of deadening under its own weight, you know you’re being successful.” Leanne Waters

But it’s not all about striving for skinniness. One woman in the US, in her quest to achieve a curvier figure, paid a fake doctor to inject her with cement, mineral oil and flat tire sealant. Needless to say, she ended up in hospital, suffering from embarrassment, an empty bank account and a hell of a lot of pain. The grass is always greener on the other size, eh?

I’ll finish off with an amusing anecdote. It’s a perfect example of this constant striving for anything other than what we are. Last week, I was in the changing rooms of a large department store. As I tried on nine dresses (I only bought one, promise!), I overheard a conversation in the next cubicle. A woman was trying on a dress for her Christmas party.

She moaned to the sales assistant, “I’m beat into this dress!”

The shop woman reassured her, “If I had your figure, I’d wear that dress.”

“Well, I have been running five miles a day.”

“Why don’t you wear magic knickers to hold you in? Not that you need it… It’s just that the dress is so clingy,” she quickly added before changing the subject: “Once, a woman had to be cut out of her dress here!”

I snorted. The customer persisted, unperturbed: “Don’t you think this dress flattens my boobs?”

“I don’t know about that… You could buy a pair of padded panties though,” she suggested.

“I don’t need one of them, I have a bum.”

“So do I but it’s in the wrong place,” the sales assistant sighed.

I would have wet my pants but then I would have had to buy the dress (and I didn’t want it because it made my arms look big).

“Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than the belief that she is beautiful.” Sophia Loren

*http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/model

Featured Image: http://fc09.deviantart.net/fs71/f/2010/010/5/4/Emo_Magazine_Collage_by_Remea.jpg

Images: http://www.healthkicker.com/730791440/pro-ana-borrows-from-healthy-dieting-practices/; http://francesballard.deviantart.com/art/Anti-pro-ana-186511611; http://amazingdata.com/beauty-or-a-beast/; http://the100.ru/en/actors/sofia-loren.html

Dreaded Drug of Approval

I was out for dinner the other night when I spotted the waitress approaching a family at the next table. She asked one of the children, “Have you made your Santa list yet?” The little girl responded in a giggling baby voice, “I want a supwise.” Her mother patted her on the head approvingly. I had heard the child speak earlier and she hadn’t sounded like that. Already, at such a young age, this girl was changing herself and the way she behaved in order to gain approval.

This simple scenario reminded me of a number of similar moments throughout my life…

At five years of age, talking to the insects in the back garden, then hearing my parents say: “Wow, look at her! She’s so into nature!” I stayed out there for much longer than I wanted to because I was sure my parents would like me more if I did… Pretending to be into a certain genre of music as a teenager just so I’d fit in… Pushing myself in school and college so I could be the perfect student and daughter… Hanging around a guy I liked and hiding parts of myself because I thought it would make me more desirable… Losing weight because that’s how “beautiful” was sold to me… Pretending to know the politician/author/website my co-workers were talking about so they wouldn’t think I was stupid… Feeling I didn’t belong in an expensive boutique because surely the sales assistants would stare at me for not being skinny/fashionable/rich enough… Marrying a Muslim, changing pretty much everything about myself, and still feeling crushed every time he criticised me… Only enjoying the hobbies I was good at because I couldn’t stand being anything less than perfect…

Most of us are unfortunate enough to care about what others think. Add that on top of a cruel addiction to the drug of approval and you’re guaranteed a hellish existence. How many of you have turned vegetarian just because your boyfriend turned up his nose every time you scoffed a burger? Would you be brave enough to leave your iPod playing in shuffle mode when other people are around even though you have a seriously embarrassing secret penchant for The Backstreet Boys? Do you squeeze yourself into skinny jeans because that’s what all your style crushes/college friends are wearing? Do you observe yourself behaving differently around different sets of people? You don’t curse and you use words like “potentially” and “ostentatious” when you’re around Group A. You laugh uproariously at dirty jokes and innuendo (“In YOUR endo!”) when you’re with Group B. You discuss politics and current affairs/spirituality and health/psychology and literature/celebrity gossip and makeup tips with Group C, D, E and F, while sipping on a skinny latte/shot of wheatgrass/large glass of merlot/Flaming Sambuca.

"Lean too much on the approval of people, and it becomes a bed of thorns." Teysi Hsieh

These days, I kind of hope I’m not good at stuff because maintaining perfection is a lot of pressure. It’s exhausting trying to keep up the facade. I just want to do things because they’re fun and I enjoy them. From now on, I’m going to leave excellence to the experts. I’m delighted that I’m not going to live like that any more. It’s a relief to finally let go and just be. Yes, sometimes my reactions are automatic (it’s hard to break the habits of a lifetime) but when I stop and ask myself, Do you really care what they think?, the answer is a resounding NO!

It’s about time you found out who the real you really is. Get to know yourself and discover what it is that you want and like and need. It is a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding process. However, I’ll bet that most people are too afraid to even ask themselves the question Am I being true to myself? because they’re terrified of the answer. Change is scary and a hell of a lot of hard work.

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to waste my life pretending to be somebody else, putting myself under constant pressure, striving for perfection, caring what others think, and giving my power away to everybody else. This drug of approval has lost its appeal. Yes, it will try to claw its way back in. And I will be sorely tempted to give in, just to avoid the crippling withdrawal symptoms. But I am determined to finally kick the habit.

Featured Image: http://www.graphicshunt.com/search/6/butterflies.htm

Images: http://www.imageblogs.org/fabulous-child-photography-to-remember-childhood/fabulous-child-photography-to-remember-childhood-9; http://trendland.net/julia-fullerton-batten-photography/#; http://www.flickr.com/photos/19722425@N02/3890967883/; http://novacaine-kills.xanga.com/?uni33319937-direction=n

Me-Day: doing it my way

josephinewall.co.uk

Today, I decided to have a Me-Day. This meant doing exactly as I wished for an entire day. I started with some yoga and meditation. Then, a leisurely breakfast. I chuckled as I gave myself some YouTube flute lessons and delighted in the sound of the instrument.

 

I browsed the internet while sipping freshly brewed coffee. I jogged in the sunshine to the beats of Robyn and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, then sauntered around a vegetable shop. I was in no rush. I had nothing to do and no-one to see. Later, I did a bit of reading. I cooked a sweet potato curry for the first time and thoroughly enjoyed it. I ran a bath, lit candles and played relaxing music. I sighed with pleasure as I lowered myself into the hot water. The bubbles came up around my neck like a high-collared cloak of sparkling cloud.

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Pressure, shoulds and musts do not exist on Me-Days. I simply did as I pleased. I had dinner at lunch time and a bath before dark. Ideally, we would all have at least one day like this each week. However, even when we do have a day off, we treat it as a to-do challenge and fill it with chores and appointments.

Here’s the good news: you don’t have to hold out until Mother’s Day or your anniversary or birthday to treat yourself and listen to your needs. Why don’t you rename one day this week Me-Day and do it your way?