Many years ago when I was a teenager (oh ok many, many, many years ago!) my sister read me a poem by Stevie Smith called "Not Waving But Drowning". At the time it didn't make much sense to me and she had to explain that the author was telling the tale of a man who appeared to be the life and soul of a party but was, in reality, trying desperately to let people know that he was struggling. Even after he died, everybody assumed that his death was an accident. That poem stuck with me throughout the years and has often popped into my thoughts. In fact it was that poem that first introduced me to the idea that what a person writes can have a profound effect on someone's life, and in time, from that realisation came my love of writing. So, thank you Stevie Smith and thank you Pauline for sparking my love of writing.
Today I'm sitting on my patio in the sunshine contemplating these strange times that we are living in and I am reminded of that powerful poem. Like many others, lockdown has completely changed my way of living. Under normal circumstances I spend a lot of time at work, surrounded by people, but at home it is largely just me and my dog. Now I am with my husband, daughter and her partner 90% of the time and it has taken some adjustment for us all. At the beginning of lockdown I called a "family meeting" - I know that sounds rather formal but it was really a few bottles of wine and a chat! I was very aware that things were going to change and that we were all going to have to make major adjustments. None of us were used to living with each other and we have some pretty strong characters in the mix! So we had an open and honest chat about what we were all worried about, the potential "hot spots" and what each of our expectations were. At that point I decided that, however long this lockdown lasted, I would do something every week to try and keep people's spirits up. So far I have spent a day wearing a beret and speaking in a French accent; worn a crown and cloak and made everyone call me your majesty; organised a champagne afternoon tea; dressed as an eccentric writer (I know!!) and spoken in prose all day; made a toilet frog; stuck googly eyes on random objects around the house (it took them 3 days before they noticed!) and I have plenty more ideas for the weeks ahead! I have a feeling that I am enjoying it more than my family are. At the end of every day the four of us share a meal (spending lockdown with someone who used to be a chef on super yachts is definitely a bonus!) and I ask about everyone's day and how they are all doing. They then ask me the same. Apparently we are all doing fine.
Like everyone else, I miss my family, particularly my other daughter and her son and I miss working with my partner and our colleagues. I speak to all these people on the phone regularly and ask them how they are doing - they ask me the same. Apparently they are also all doing fine.
I wonder though, how many of them are, like me, not doing fine. How many of us are not waving but drowning?
I have learned some new skills during lockdown, I have had time to do some things that I have wanted to try for years, I get out on my bike more often during the week, but I struggle to write and that gets me down. I am trying to be creative in my business and some days that just feels impossible and that makes me angry at myself. I see social media posts of other women doing workouts and showing off their fabulous figures while I have put weight on and that makes me feel embarrassed and ashamed. I lay awake at night working through scenarios of what I will do if one of my loved ones gets Covid-19 and that leaves me anxious. The condition of my hands has deteriorated considerably over the last month and that fills me with fear. Yet, when anyone asks me "how you doing?" I smile and say "I'm good thanks." and I tell them about the daft things I do to keep the family laughing. Nobody, including my family, has any idea that most of the time I am not waving................
So, please, please, my friends, don't buy into the idea that, just because someone is saying they are fine that they actually are. Take the time to quietly let them know that it's ok to speak up if they aren't ok.
If you are the one that feels as though they are drowning, take a breath and remind yourself that the majority of the people that you see who are shouting about how great life is are, if not drowning, then merely treading water and desperately trying to keep themselves afloat. From my experience it would seem that those of us who wave the loudest are those that are actually in the deepest waters.
As for me, writing is my therapy and now my thoughts are out there, said aloud as it were, then I'm sure I will be ok . After all I'm a mermaid and it's impossible to drown a mermaid.
Reach out if you need to, and please, be kind to others, always.
Love to you all
Fat Girl xxx
Not Waving but Drowning
by Stevie Smith
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
I want to start by saying a huge "THANK YOU" to everyone for their support and lovely comments after my last blog. I always try to be honest in my blogs and write from the heart, it does make me feel vulnerable, but that's just who I am. Sometimes I hesitate before I press "publish" and take a while to consider how I would feel if I was "trolled" due to something I had written - then I mostly think "what the hell, I'm not interesting enough to be trolled" and I press that button! However, putting up a pic of me in a swimsuit felt particularly scary so thank you friends for making me feel ok about it!
Ok, so lets talk about coincidences. Those of you who know me well, will be aware that I don't believe in "signs" from beyond the grave, I firmly believe that when loved ones die they are, sadly, lost to us forever. When people say "I was thinking about a loved one and a white feather floated down from the sky" I say "Coincidence!" Or when they say they were feeling sad and a loved one's favourite song came on the radio; comforting for them but to me - just another coincidence. Or, at least, that's what I used to believe. Now I'm not so certain about it. I recently had an odd experience (let's call it a dream) in which I had a conversation with my father. Now, I know that it wasn't a memory as I was a young girl when my father died and so I couldn't have had this particular conversation with him. During the "dream" he said to me "I gave you a voice, now it's time to start using it". I spent some time afterwards wondering what that could possibly mean. What was my "voice"? A short while later I was chatting with someone about my writing and was wondering where I could take it and how I could use my passion for words when I had a sudden flash of insight (a rare occurrence for me!) - my writing was my "voice"! Wow - what a coincidence!!!
I'm not about to start theorising about the possibility of the after-life; let's just say that a few more "coincidences" followed my "dream" (including being given my father's signet ring; the only thing I have that belonged to him) and I have not stopped writing since!
So, going back to vulnerability, I want to use my blog to share with you something I have written since the "dream" and all the coincidences. It's my first poem. I composed it in my head on a long drive from Scotland to my home and when I arrived I went straight to my beautiful journal that I carry everywhere and write everything in (yep, EVERYTHING!!) and I wrote it all down. I don't know if it's "good" or not and it doesn't matter. I wrote this for me and it has echoes of my family and friends within it, you may even read a line and recognise your influence.
I've called it "Using My Voice"
I'm travelling along my highway
I'm building my own path
Always moving forwards
Coz I sure ain't looking back
Too many years spent walking
On the road they told me to
Where everything is monotone
And you're blinkered from the view
I tried so hard to fit their mould
And not take up too much space
To stay quiet and look the same as them
Match my stride to their pace
But their world is grey and dreary
It has no colour and no light
From now on I'm walking MY path
And I'm getting back my sight
I'm mixing my own colours
I'm taking up more room
I won't sit down and shut
I won't stand back in the gloom
I'm shouting loud and clear now
I'm using my previous voice
It was gifted by my father
And how I use it is MY choice
I will be my own hero
I'll be who I'm meant to be
I'll find my fearless voice again
And my words will set me free
l WILL speak out when I want to
I'll wear what the hell I like
I'm not looking for approval
I'm claiming back my fight
Thank you for reading and for letting me share this with you.
Look out for your coincidences!!!
Love Fat Girl xx
Welcome to a new decade everyone! I'm going to kick off this year with a confession (deep breath Gill) - I haven't been in the pool for a swim since February 2019. Yep, it's been 11 months since I slunk away from the pool, a crying, snot-faced, embarrassed mess. I should change the name of this blog to "FatGirl'sAFraud" or "FatGirlDoesn'tSwim".
You're probably wondering why Fat Girl has been in dry dock for so long and why hasn't she told us? Well, when I contemplate it now it seems rather sad and pathetic and I actually feel a little cross with myself, but the truth is that I was fat shamed at the pool and I let it get so deep under my skin that I stopped doing the thing that I love and that helps keep my depression at bay. I know - it's nuts right?! The woman who writes about loving your body and who truly believes that we are all beautiful - she was fat shamed in the changing rooms and went home crying and felt too ashamed to go back for almost a year.
At first, every time I recalled the young woman who looked me up and down with such disgust on her face, before blurting out "oh my god, look at the state of that" I felt my face burn with humiliation and tears sting my eyes again. So, what did I do next? Well, of course, I replayed the moment over and over and over in my head until I managed to convince myself that every person who ever saw me in a swimsuit thought the same as that woman. Did I talk over what had happened with a trusted confidante? Not likely! Instead I have held it close to me until it has become a part of my perceived reality. I am even finding writing about this a painful experience and I have a lump in my throat. Isn't it astonishing that we give such power to other people - a woman I don't know, whose opinion I didn't solicit and, quite frankly, who I would never wish to see again - and I gave her the power to make me feel bad for months! Now that really is nuts!
After a few months of over thinking the whole scenario I eventually managed to push it to the back of my mind and carry on as normal - albeit with no swimming. Fast forward to a few days ago when somebody asked me why I never talk about swimming any more and I found myself blurting out the whole, sorry episode. My confidante was angered that there are such mean people in the world and was also shocked that I had let it get to me so much. Well once the floodgates had opened I found myself telling my family and thinking about how much I missed my swimming and how good it would be for my mental health, especially at the moment, and I felt angry at myself for letting it affect me so deeply. Then I had my weekly reiki session (look it up - it's incredible!) and during the session I felt an overwhelming love for my body and all that it does for me. After that I just couldn't shake the desire to get back into the water again. That wonderful weightless feeling, the rhythmic breathing and the steady pull of my arms through the water. So, I am delighted to say that I did it - I got back in the pool. I chose 9am in the morning when I knew it would be fairly quiet (gotta stack the odds in your favour eh!), and I went for a swim. Was I nervous? Hell, yes! Was I graceful and mermaid-like? Hell, no!! Was it wonderful to be back where I belong? Yes, yes, yes!!! Will I be going back? Yep, in fact I'll be hitting the water again tomorrow morning!
How do I feel now? I feel proud that I have taken that step and got back in the water, although I know tomorrow will be difficult as it will be busy and I also expect that at some stage in the future I will encounter another opinionated idiot who will think they have the right to body shame me. How will I deal with that when it happens? I think I will throw kindness at that person. I will stop and think (maybe out loud!) about how we usually point the finger at someone else to divert the spotlight away from our own insecurities. I will remind myself that my wonderful body gives me the ability to tap into my inner mermaid whenever I need it to and that, my friends, is what makes me happy!!
I am going to finish off by adding that the photo of me on this post, in my swimsuit, necessitated me digging deep into my courage box and I have hesitated several times before clicking the "publish" button. However I know that this year I am going to need to be brave and strong and so it starts with this post. So much has happened over the last couple of months and I have changed and done a lot of self-reflection. Who knew that being honest with yourself, about yourself, was going to be such an uncomfortable yet worthwhile experience?
I have much to share with you all - some of which I am still getting up the nerve to blog about, but I am writing daily in my beautiful purple book and I am ready to "use my voice" (I'll explain that one in my next FatGirl post!).
Thanks for reading and, as always, your thoughts and comments are very much welcome.
Now there's a bold statement! I think the majority of us experience self-limiting beliefs at some point; I have them multiple times a day. Seriously! In fact, I have self-limiting beliefs about dozens of things - I can't cycle 53 miles because I too fat; I can't learn Polish because I'm rubbish at languages; I can't write a blog about (insert any subject here!) because I don't have anything interesting to say; I can't run a training session at work because the course material I write isn't good enough, I'll go to that festival when I've lost some weight........ The list is boringly long.
Why do we let self-limiting beliefs rule our heads? I recently told a friend that I wish I had a magic mirror that she could look into and see herself the way I see her. Instead of seeing somebody who is shy and boring, she would see a woman who is intelligent, funny, beautiful and loving. When our family and friends tell us how amazing we are, why don't we believe them? Maybe it's because we are brought up to believe that "blowing your own trumpet" simply isn't done - it's not nice, it's bragging and showing off. The problem is, if you tell yourself something often enough, you actually start to believe it! Here's an honesty bomb for you - sometimes I buy into my negative self-talk because it's easier and less confronting than actually doing the thing I'm avoiding! Or the thing I'm worried about failing at - or even (insert drum roll here!) the thing I'm scared of SUCCEEDING at!! Because if I succeed at something big, then I'll have no excuses for doing the smaller (but equally scary) things!
So, because I'm a curious soul, I have been wondering what would happen if I challenged my own self-limiting beliefs and stopped buying into them. This is a scary thought for me and entails me re-writing my script. The new script would go something like this: on November 2nd I'm going to cycle 53 miles and I'm going to rock it; I love English and I love writing so learning Polish is going to be fun; I going to write a blog piece about self-limiting beliefs because I have something insightful to say on the subject; the training sessions I run at work are relevant, informative and fun.
Whenever I tell my daughter Katrina that I can't do something she says to me "Mum, you took on Loch Ness, in a storm - and you won! You can do this" and she says it with such matter of fact conviction that it leaves no room for argument. So, I am currently training for a 53 mile cycle, learning Polish, adapting my life to accommodate Dupuytren's Disease (big shout out to the inventor of the left handed tower mouse!), writing another training session for work and writing this blog about self-limiting beliefs.
One by one, day by day I am slowly replacing my self-limiting beliefs and giving myself permission to live my life without any self-imposed limits. You never know, one day I may even let myself pursue that big, fat, impossible dream I have.........................
I'm sorry I have been quiet for a while folks. I've been getting my head around some health issues that I am experiencing and I haven't been in the right head space to blog about it. However I realised yesterday that this is actually the perfect follow on piece to my Body Image blog. So, getting straight to the point, I have a disease which is causing my fingers to contract and, if I'm really unlucky, my toes will follow suit. This has also led to my developing a condition known as Secondary Reynaud's Phenomenon which causes my fingers and toes to be extremely cold and turn blue, along with my lips. Now, aside from the limitations that this disease is placing on my physical ability to use my hands properly, it also means that while on holiday in the South of France recently, I was sat on the beach in the beautiful, hot sunshine with shoes and gloves on because my hands and feet were painfully cold! As I'm sure you can imagine, this drew some enquiring looks from my fellow beach-goers. I became very self-conscious about my hands, to the point that I became determined to not wear the gloves - which in turn meant my hands got worse and I spent the evenings wearing the gloves, socks, a cardigan and a shawl. Pretty silly eh?!
Upon my return from France I went out for dinner with a friend and, as I was getting ready to leave the house, I reached for my lacy gloves (thanks Meg!) to put over my compression gloves to keep my hands warm and protected. Then I hesitated as I imagined the comments "who have you come as - Madonna??" and I took the gloves off, deciding I would rather suffer than expose myself to being laughed at. Afterwards it dawned on me that I had become more worried about my body image than my comfort and health. Quite ironic considering my last blog had been about body image and I had stated how I loved the various parts of my body for what they had achieved! I was so pleased with that blog and received more messages and emails from people saying how much it had helped them, than I had for any other piece I have written.
So I am realising that loving your body is even harder when it is not functioning the way it should. I have felt quite overwhelmed with the physical changes and how I am having to adjust my lifestyle. I fear I will no longer be able to participate in cold water swimming as I found I could only tolerate the relatively warm waters on holiday for very short periods. Because of the riding position and the span of my right hand being dramatically reduced, I can no longer ride my beloved road bike, "Bolt". Admitting that to myself was a sad day and left me really struggling to feel positive about the future.
However, whilst on holiday it was decided that we should hire bikes and go cycling and, when we got to the hire shop, I was encouraged to take an e-bike and give that a go. After a few hundred yards I stopped and asked my other half to have a go and see what he thought. Initially he thought I had a problem with it, but once he tried it he realised how much fun it was! I wrestled it back from him and we cycled into Argeles Sur Mer along the sea front. After stopping for a couple of beers I suggested we go back to the hire shop and swap his bike for an e-bike like mine - he didn't take much persuading! We only used the hire car maybe 4 times during the whole 2 weeks holiday as travelling along the cycle lanes on the e-bikes was much more fun. Fast forward a few weeks back at home and, after admitting that I could no longer ride Bolt safely, I am now the proud owner of a Juicy Bikes E-bike called Simone!!!
Simone and I have already covered 65 miles in the 2 weeks we have been together and I can safely say we are in a committed relationship! She is very different to any bike I have previously owned as she is a Dutch style "sit up and see the world" and she has a basket on the front!!! Very ladylike!
So, despite this horrible disease, my cycling adventures continue, as will my swimming (albeit in warmer waters). I am still struggling with feeling self-conscious wearing gloves a lot of the time - although my lovely family have bought me every variety of lovely lacy over-glove on the market! I have learned that body image issues are not just related to size but also to health and that adaptability is a skill that I need to work on.
In the meantime I am practicing my assertiveness for when I see my GP in 2 weeks time and try to convince him to refer me for treatment that doesn't involve surgery. Wish me luck................
This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the topic being talked about this year is body image. I have been researching this subject for a blog I write for work and, as coincidence would have it, this week I received a message from a "friend" saying that she is struggling to keep her weight under 62kg (around 9.5 stones for those of us who still use old money). This is making her "feel that her body is gross" and so, she says, she now understands how I feel about my body. I've been thinking about what she said and decided to write an open letter in response - here goes...............
"When I initially read your message I was hurt and angry. You seem to be under the impression that I think my body is "gross" because I am overweight? Girl, you've got me all wrong!! Like a lot of women, I have issues with body image and there are parts of my body that I struggle to love - but I certainly don't view my body as gross! This body is an amazing vessel that has done incredible things!
Take my belly for instance - it's big and it's flabby. But that's not all it is. Inside it has grown two beautiful children, who have grown into talented, kind women that are making the world a better place just by virtue of their existence. That soft, flabby belly makes a great pillow for my little grandson's head to rest on while he sleeps.
Then there's my arms - yes they are typical granny bingo wings! But those arms have allowed me to hold my two daughters, cuddle my grandson, hug countless family and friends and they are strong enough to propel my body for over a mile through water. I bloody love my flabby arms!
My thick legs aren't bad either. They have walked me through some amazing places and taken me into all sorts of fabulous adventures. They are strong enough to pedal my bike for miles and miles at a time and put the biggest smile on my face and lift my heart when I'm sad.
Let's not forget my head - with it's double chin and the beginnings of wrinkles and a saggy neck. This head has made up countless silly songs, rhymes and stories to amuse my girls, their friends and my little grandson over the years. It houses knowledge and has allowed me to be successful in business; it generates kindness and compassion to others and has even been known to come up with some pretty good writing along with a few crazy ideas!!
So no, I don't think my body is gross - whatever size it is - I think it's an awesome powerhouse and I am thankful for it's strength and reliability. As such I try to fuel it with nutritious food and exercise regularly so that it will continue to carry me through many future adventures. I will NOT apologise for who I am and I will no longer wait until I'm thin enough/confident enough/strong enough to do the things I want. I will do those things in the body I have, at the size it is TODAY, with the confidence I currently possess.
I hope that, on reading this, you will take time to reflect on your own body and all the incredible things it has done for you and, just maybe, you will start to love and appreciate your body and stop aspiring to an impossible "ideal body" that the media tells you you should have."
So, friends, I want to send you all the same message. Research tells me that 1 in 3 of you will have body image issues that stop you from living life to the full! Try this for me: wear the sleeveless dress; get your legs out in the sun; go on that activity holiday; climb that hill; go on those nights out that you keep avoiding; LOVE YOUR BODY!!
Look at these fabulous mermaid socks!! They were given to me recently during "Random Acts of Kindness Week" and they are soooo "me". I have been on the receiving end of several random acts of kindness recently and each one brightened my day and made me feel all warm and fuzzy. I think we can sometimes get so wrapped up in day to day living that we forget to celebrate those golden moments in our day. My Counsellor suggested that I make a note of these moments and so I have what I call my "happy folder" where I make a note of nice things that have happened and I put pictures and magazine clippings in the folder to inspire me and remind me, when I feel as though I am losing the battle, that there have been good times in my life and there will be more of them in my future. It's good to be reminded that our lives do have these golden moments in them.
Looking towards my more immediate future, having said several times that I wouldn't do it anymore; I did it again! Sorry folks but I have done it again! I have just signed up for a 53 mile bike ride in November of this year. I felt I needed something to train for to keep me focused on my healthy living lifestyle and propelling your own body weight on a bike for 53 miles is certainly a good incentive to stick to the healthy eating. Add to that the fact that this ride is with Cycling Down Dementia, a cause which is very close to my family, the pull was just too strong for me to walk away from this one. I promise Dondy, Katrina and Zach to try my very hardest NOT to be last over the finish line this time (they waited for hours in the heat, watched everybody else pack up and go home, but stayed and waited for me to finish the Humber Bridge Sportive). So I am back in training and am fervently hoping that the bad weather disappears soon so that I can get out on my bike more regularly. Bolt and I will be hitting the roads, puffing up the hills and screaming on the descents - give us a wave and some words of encouragement if you see us!!
Protein Pancakes with fruit compote - just some of the delicious, healthy food I have learned to cook on the 30 Days to Healthy Living Plan!
......and I made it!!! The last 7 days of the 30 Days to Healthy Living Plan was pretty much the same as all the other days to be honest - filled with great food and me being annoyingly chilled and happy.
Seriously though I cannot believe the switch in my mindset in just 30 days. I have always been an "emotional" eater; I eat when I'm sad to cheer myself up; I eat when I'm happy to celebrate; I eat when I have achieved something to reward myself; I eat when I'm angry.....anyway you get the picture. This last week has been a bit of an emotional one, saying goodbye to an amazing man, making life changes and decisions about the future BUT I have not turned to food to comfort myself. Rather I have been reading Jack Canfield (thank you Meghan and Greg!) and thinking rationally about my habits and default reactions to situations. Taking 100% responsibility for my decisions and reactions to the things that life brings me to deal with. I attribute this change in my mindset to the reduced "brain fog" which, I believe, is down to the reduced sugar and caffeine in my system.
This new lifestyle has also resulted in a drop in my blood sugar levels to well within the normal range, plus a 15 pounds reductions in weight! Today I am wearing a pair of jeans that I couldn't zip up at the start of the 30 days. On Saturday I went cycling and it was soooo much easier without that 15 pounds. I have also noticed a massive reduction in my general anxiety levels. I normally travel through life with a knot in the pit of my stomach and a head full of "what if's". That has disappeared for the most part and I can only attribute that to the healthy eating!
Above everything else though, is the fact that this lifestyle change is sustainable, healthy and enjoyable. So watch this space for further updates as I continue my healthy lifestyle. If you'd like to read more about the 30 Days to Healthy Living Plan take a look at the FaceBook group "Meg & Greg's Journey to Health & Wellness". Makes for some very interesting reading!
Whilst writing this I have been thinking about when my consultants talked to me about the Plan and I remember thinking "it sounds as though this needs a real commitment from me; but it's only 30 days and I'm pretty certain I can do it for that long". I rather like the idea of committing to do something wholeheartedly for 30 days and then deciding whether that "something" will be continued with going forward in my life. So for the next 30 days, I am committing to exercising 3 days a week. I have to confess that life has been rather hectic over the past 6 months and this has lead to me being very lazy with my exercise habits. Between home life and running a business I haven't had the energy left to exercise regularly. However, my new healthy eating habits have given me a fabulous energy boost so for the next 30 days I am making the commitment to exercise 3 times a week.
This is where you guys come in: I could do with some tips on:
Any suggestions would be really welcomed friends!!