On not making plans, impromptu whisky sours and bathroom dining.

Last week I asked my sister what she was most looking forward to doing when she moved into her new house. She answered straight away: “Eating dinner in the bath.”

Her words came back to me today and made me smile, partly because of the absurdity of her answer and partly because of what it represented. Having dinner in the bath is really living life on your own terms: doing something other people think is crazy just because you want to.

This week I had lots of things that I thought I should do. It was supposed to be a quiet one, time to catch up on sleep, do my laundry, clean, tidy, write and reflect. But as soon as I arrived back in Oxford on Sunday night I received a text message: do you want to go for shisha? Which of course turned into shisha and wine and a late night.

On Monday night I ended up having a pub dinner and conversations that lasted until it got dark. On Wednesday night a throwaway remark by a friend – “I haven’t had a whisky sour in ages” – saw us camped out in a cocktail bar for most of the night. I returned home and collapsed on my bed. “Oh shit,” I thought as the room span around me. “I needed to do that laundry.” But it turned out I didn’t, because I wore a running bra under my work clothes today and nothing bad happened.

I have a nasty habit of trying to schedule every moment of my life in advance. I plan, I make lists, and I turn down fun to cross things off them.

This week has shown me that I can relax a little: not plan anything, not set expectations. Wonderful things can happen when you leave space for a little spontaneity. You’ll still do the things that matter (that laundry is in the washing machine as I type) but there’s a lot of things that don’t.

I’ll get more sleep when my friends aren’t in town. I’ll write when I feel inspired, not when I feel I ought to. This might lead to more infrequent blog posts but they will be the ones worth reading. Or it might not, because you don’t know what will happen when you leave space. It is okay to do whatever the hell you want to do in the moment, even it that’s eating dinner in the bath.

Ordinary magic

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You don’t have to do something extraordinary for it to be wonderful. There is magic in everyday things: a story, fresh flowers, a smile.

This week I’m remembering that I don’t have to quit everything and go travelling to have a great life. Happiness is much more about perspective than circumstance.

I’m back! And these are some things I’ve done, and learnt from, in the meantime.

One of my housemates volunteers with a community theatre group. They needed help painting some of the set so I gave up a morning to help. I’d genuinely forgotten how calming I find it when I am absorbed my something creative for a few hours. I drew and painted this board of cogs, and felt so much happier because of it.

I went to Henley Regatta and got to wear a hat (I didn’t actually wear it with that checked shirt). I fitted in much more than I thought I would, which will teach me for being such a reverse snob.

At Cowley Road Carnival we chose mask making in the family craft area rather than daytime drinking in front of the stages. Had much more fun.

I moved rooms in my house. I now have a sofa! And room to spread out all the blankets I crochet.

My bike wheels were stolen. Bastards. But now that it’s my main method of transport, I was toying with the idea of using the money I made my selling my car to invest in a good bike. I guess that decision has now been made for me.

I’m back! And things will be a little different around here.

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One of the things I daydream about is being a lifestyle blogger: with regular posts, more photographs, more writing about my life and so on. The limiting belief that’s been holding me back is “nobody is interested in my life.” But as one of my friend’s pointed out, some people do in fact read lifestyle blogs. More importantly, if this is something I want to do then I should do it regardless of whether people are reading or not. But obviously, it would be great if you did.

I’m going to cease being self-conscious and self-censoring, stop taking myself too seriously, and start sharing more of my life with you. There’s going to be:

1. More crochet! And other crafty stuff.

2. Outfits!

3. More life musings!

4. Food!

5. Plus anything else that gets me excited.

Hold on to your hats folks…

Three things I’ve learnt from the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Programme

I signed up to the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Programme because I felt as though my sugar eating was out of control, and didn’t think I could get it under control on my own. I had tried to quit sugar without any support but always lapsed after a few days, and by lapsed I mean “binge ate a whole box of Thorntons chocolates and then beat myself up about it”. Having the structure of a programme was helpful, as was spending money on it. I was keen for the cash I’d parted to be an investment in my health, which meant that this time I took it much more seriously than those previous half-hearted attempts.

These are some things that I learnt:

1. It’s good to be forced out of your routine and try different things. Using the recipes provided in the meal plan expanded the repertoire of meals I feel confident preparing, and introduced me to foods and combinations I would not otherwise have thought of trying. It made me realise that I had been stuck in a food rut: eating the same things each week. I like my habits and routine, and the thought of having something other than my usual cereal and soya milk unnerved me a little bit. Now I have a much more creative approach to breakfast and eat a variety of different options throughout the week.

2. I don’t need sugar. This might seem like stating the obvious, but it can be difficult to remember when you’re in the midst of a craving. I don’t think I’d ever not given it to a craving before, so it was a good discovery that they do go away if you ignore them, and get less frequent if you can get into the habit of ignoring them.

3. But I do want sugar. I must admit that I have had a few lapses. I was tempted into buying a cone of icecream when I was hanging out with a group of friends for my birthday. Usually, I would feel really guilty after eating ice-cream and also not be able to stop. This time, I found that I was satisfied by a couple of scoops. I really really enjoyed the icecream but it wasn’t followed by the usual pang of guilt because I knew that I didn’t need sugar, hadn’t had it for a couple of weeks, and was equally able to not eat it for a few more. I will never give up sugar entirely because I want to have the occasional treat. But making it just an occasional treat has been much better for my headaches, my mental health and my enjoyment of it.

So while the programme hasn’t made me quit sugar, it’s made me feel much more in control of my eating. While I doubt I’ll ever be completely free of disordered eating, I’ve found that staying off the sugar is managing to break the cycle of binge eating and purging. For me, this programme has been much more about improving my mental rather than physical health. Even though I have actually put on weight, cooking healthy things from scratch has made me feel much more in control of my eating which is in turn making me feel much better about how I look. For this reason, I think paying for the 8 week programme has been a pretty wise investment, even if I haven’t used the meal plan much since about week five.

Monday Inspiration

I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything for this week’s Monday Inspiration, because I haven’t had time to read as much as I normally do. But then I came across this blog post and BOOM, there it was. Thanks Katie.

Every minute you spend investing in yourself – every positive choice you make, whether it has an impact in that moment or not – is worthwhile. Every time you decide to look after yourself, and make a choice to put stock in your own well-being, you’re not just generating results for now, or next Tuesday, or even a few months down the line. Nope – those good decisions, and that positive energy really go somewhere, deep down, and they’ll come on back to give you strength in those moments when you least expect it.

- Katie Lowe, Fat Girl PhD

Feeling the fear, and doing it anyway.

Your comfort zone isn't static, it can be stretched as you do more things that scare you.

Your comfort zone isn’t static, it can be stretched as you do more things that scare you.

The other week, I was asked to do something at work that I really didn’t want to do. It isn’t technically part of my job, so I had no obligation to do it, except that there was nobody else and it was a friend asking me, so of course I agreed. This is how I found myself in front of a conference room full of people who were new to the organisation, leading a session about campaigning to bring about change. And you know what? I loved it. Even though I felt ill at the prospect of having to do something like that, I left the room with a big smile on my face.

One of the things that I know to be true is that feeling scared about something is a sign that you need to do it. I believe this because some of the most valuable experiences of my life have happened when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone.

  • When I let somebody at university persuade me to stand as chairperson for the People & Planet group, and I discovered that I wanted a career in a campaigning organisation.
  • When I left my friends and family behind to spend six months working for a charity in India, and grew into the person I am today.
  • When I took a job as a life model and learnt to accept my body as beautiful: cellulite, scars and all.
  • When I applied for a job at an organisation I’d always dreamt of working for, and got it.
  • When I went to Alive in Berlin on my own, and came away having found my tribe of people and made some amazing friends.

This year, this project, is all about stepping out of my comfort zone. I don’t want to be fearless. I want to do at least one thing a week where I feel fear, but I do it anyway.

Over the past week, I’ve done the following things that scare me:

  • I’ve signed up to run the Oxford Half Marathon. I’ve also told a lot of people, so I can’t back out of it now.
  • Wanting to incorporate my writing into my personal brand and body of work, I added this blog to my LinkedIn profile. Scary to think that people who know me professionally might also read this post.
  • I took the lead in finding a new housemate: arranging viewings and showing people round. Meeting new people terrifies me, especially in a context when you’re each judging the other.
  • I overcame the fear that nobody would want to come, and planned a celebration for my birthday. (People did come. It was awesome.)

How about you? When have you stepped out of your comfort zone and been rewarded? What have you done recently that scares you?