Monday, 23 December 2013


I probably should put a disclaimer or apology at the beginning of this blog.... But as ever, this is my truth. Yours may be different.

Christmas.... The time of year when all the major shopping chains n every form of media in the known universe tells you that if you don't live your life a certain way, you are less of a person.
Well, obviously, they don't say it directly, but the message is there screaming silently in the background, judging.

If you don't have all the brown/beige food that is full of cholesterol, carbs and calories, if you don't have the biggest tree with every new games console, all the trendy clothes, all the toys, the latest gadgets, then don't turn up on the 25th.

It is LAW that each Christmas morning, there should be sparkle, magic n love all over this land. Everyone should get along, all families should be MAHOOSIVE and like each other. There will be no tears, no tantrums and everyone will smile like they mean it.

Even if you are Bob Cratchet and don't have 2 beans to rub together, you will still have the most loving family and life is still good on some level.

All the grumpy teenagers remove their headphones, come out of their caves and develop a sense of empathy.

Shops advertise that you can buy the perfect Christmas from them.

Frankly it is all bullshit and one of the reasons I despise Christmas.

It reinforces everything negative about being a family and emphasises the fact that actually, life is just a bit shit sometimes.

If there are presents, chances are these will be elaborate and expensive in an attempt to cover the lack of emotional goodness that is missing round the dinner table....

Or they will have cost the giver a weeks food money (or rent/mortgage payment)

Or the presents will just be a bit shit.

Or not what you wanted/needed/same as last years.

The buyer will not have listened to a word you have said and will, potentially, have bought for the sake of buying. They will have resented battling through the hoards of desperate people fighting to do the same. Chances are it will prove how little the person actually knows you.

If you are forced to spend Christmas WITH family members, I hope you like them. I hope that there is warmth and affection in abundance. I hope they love the bones of you and have seen some of the best times of your life.

I hope you have people you love that you can spend Christmas with.

I hope that the elderly people in your life, the next street, local nursing home have a friendly someone who can call on them with a happy hello n a how are you.

I hope that the nurses and emergency services know they are appreciated, as are the serving soldiers away from their loved ones.

I hope the homeless get a warm dinner and a warm welcome somewhere friendly and non judgemental.

I hope that those with learning disabilities can finally have the structure and routine they need, put back into their lives, instead of all this disturbing nonsense that builds up for 3 months and lasts a day.

I hope that those who suffer from depression don't get sucked further into the black hole by the media and social hype of a Wednesday at the end of the month, at the end of the year.

I hope that all the separated parents have contact with their kids should they want it.

I hope that those who are religious have a joyous celebration of the reported birth of some dead dude who is forgotten some of the time.

***slight but relevant tangent***
If anyone could bring me some concrete evidence of a God based *being* it would be much appreciated.
I'm sure some guy called Jesus existed. I'm open to believing he was a Dr or scientist n quite a popular, clever chap. His birthday may have been December 25th. His dad may have been Joseph, who may have been a carpenter n his mum may have been Mary. They may have had a massive party when he was born n this mates may have visited.
If he was born in Bethlehem, its most unlikely he was white.
Son of some invisible entity that created everything? Immaculate conception?
Hmmm. Open to convincing.
I'd like to believe. I'm just not sure I can.

So, back to this thing we call Christmas....

If you have children or are a child at heart, I hope Santa makes all your wishes come true.

For all I am bah humbug, I secretly love Christmas. I just don't like the commercialised shape it takes.

I will be working Christmas Day. I always have. I used to do the Christmas Eve sleep-in shift.... Put the kids to bed on Christmas Eve n get them up Christmas morning.
Sleep-ins stopped n I changed my shift to do the early.

I have recently discovered that the late is my favourite shift of the year. This is the point when my shallow teenagers are bored and grumpy, the interest has worn off their presents or they have sold them for drugs (yes really). We have (or try to have) good, clean wholesome fun.
We acknowledge that Christmas is a bit shit. As is being a teenager, as is being in care. We try to make it less shit. We show them they matter, that we're happy to be with them. That we make a choice and they are worth it.

The kids I look after won't be with their families and we can't buy the things they want.

We can't make their families look like those on the telebox.
We can't give them their childhood or make all the past abuse go away.
We can't make their parents acknowledge their existence or cure the metal health issues.

But I absolutely want to spend my Christmas Day with them.

They are awesome people. They really are.

Christmas for me was always invariably an anticlimax. Then I worked out why. N now I kinda love it.... A bit.

I love Christmas Eve.
There is still the hope of magic.
There is the hope that, however briefly, there will be love displayed in some shape or form.

An honest love that sees each individual as being full of goodness and infinite possibility.
A love that sees them just how they are, not how we want them to be. Not seeing their flaws as a bad thing, seeing their flaws as part if their unique beauty.

I am blessed. And I know I am.

Christmas Eve I will see the people I love most in the world.
I will train (or play in the pool with purpose), then approx 15/20 swimmers will descend on our local cafe to have a festive feast of a breakfast. My closest friends will be there and this makes me happy.

Then, I will meet Signe for coffee and cake. (I LOVE the Scandinavian traditions)

Signe - Tak for kaffe og kage og være en fantastisk ven. Jeg elsker dig masser.

If there was snow, we would throw ourselves down the hills in Shibden Park on bin liners, Ikea bags n tea-trays.  Sadly, no snow this year. Instead we will sit in front of a toasty log fire n put the world to rights.

I love this girl.
A lot.

It's her fault I agreed to do an ironman. It is her fault I swim.
I will always be grateful.

Each year we give each other the gift of time and we have been on some amazing adventures.
These adventures mainly involve hills, tents, brown food, bad picnics n bodies of water.
The best birthday ever involved a candle lit dinner, a blowy camping experience, lots of sea swimming n too much wine in Tenby.

Next year we will do the Yorkshire 3 peaks. We have played in Scotland and Wales n the Lake District on the highest hills an in the deepest, longest coldest bodies of water. We have hunted mythical monsters and magical beings.

For the first year in about 12 years of friendship, we have decided that there will be no exchange of hand-made custom design diary covers.
These have been epic... And a major talking point for many years!!
There have been themes and stickers and glitter and sticking and cutting.

It will be missed this year, but we both agreed neither of us had time.
A testament that life is going quicker and getting fuller.

After coffee and cake, I will call and see Paul to get squishes and squashes and snogs off Ella, then I will call at my old work.
I will get more squishes and snogs from the staff I worked with and squashes from the kids.

After this I will call to see my niece and nephew and deliver the few presets I have bought, before coming home n curling up in front of the fire.

Thereafter, the evening will be quiet and undisturbed. Bear will rock up whenever he lands and will be about for however long. I hope to give the peace and sanctuary he needs right now.

And then normality can be restored.
What ever that is.

Monday, 16 December 2013


Norway in December was everything I expected it to be.
After landing some 22 hours later than planned, Bear met me at the airport with a hotdog in his hand....Luckily for me he opted to let me eat the hotdog rather than him!! What a welcome!! The hotdogs are AMAZING!!

Delays due to the windy conditions (not mine!) I flew out of Leeds Bradford late and I missed my connecting flight out of Amsterdam. Me being a lazy arse and sleeping too long the following morning almost meant I missed my rescheduled flight... Luckily for me, it had already been cancelled and rearranged for later in the day, again due to weather.

Main thing is, I made it.


We exited the airport to snow on the ground, white fairy lights on trees. I almost felt festive. I didn't visit for festive cheer, I went to have a slight escape n support my friend... I also went to have a rustic reindeer dinner cooked n be shown how my lodger lives versus how I live.
It seems we have VERY different standards and live in VERY different worlds.

Let me just go off on a tangent briefly.

I live in a semi-constant state of chaos. Most of my storage is visual and clutter is familiar.  Every now and then when it drives me insane, I will attack it and make it tidy, but it soon falls back into disarray. Bear on the other hand, has a minimalist thing going on.  He is a bit untidy, but doesn’t have ‘stuff’ everywhere. The nature of his work means he could have to move at any time. He has a functional, minimalist wardrobe n his stuff is necessary n functional.

Not so long since, I somehow I found myself saying to Bear, well, there is a spare room if you ever need or want it (sorry Signe I know you baggsed it first) and he took me up on it…. It seems I now have to move all the ‘stuff’ that has been gathering dust in there and make room for his 'stuff' instead.
This is fine… I like Bears company.  But I am sooooo lazy…and when I want to expend energy, being organised n tidy isn’t high on my list of things to do.  Besides, most of the stuff stored visually, doesn’t actually have a home and never has had one, so I cant put it away…. which is why I have so much stuff stored in the way it is.

It will do me good to get rid of some of the stuff.  I have been meaning to do it for years.  Now I have a reason to do it.

Anyway, I digress. Sorry, back to Norway.

Norway is beautiful. Bear tells me he lives in the ugly bit... I hope to visit the pretty part one day. Then I may explode. What a way to die.

There is a strange mix of mountains, glorious country side with the odd fjord thrown in, combined with housing estates, ship yards and oil works. It sounds random... And it is, but somehow it works. The houses are stunning wooden cabins, all unique, all pretty to look at., all how I imagined.

It is glorious and peaceful. It smells of open fires, ski trips and happiness.

I understand why Bear has stayed there as long as he has. It welcomes you n invites you to feel at home. Other than Switzerland, this is the only place I have though ‘I could live here’.  Except for the cost of everything. I don’t like that. But it is relative. The country is rich, its main business is oil, the cost of living is high, but so is the quality of life. Local wages reflect this.

We have had a fab weekend, playing in the snow (I lost), playing on the Xbox (I lost even though I cheated at sprinting), swimming (I lost at sprinting - nothing new there - if I didn't know I wasn't built for speed before this weekend, I do now). We also spent time mooching round Stavanger in the snow. I found a crocodile by the side of the lake. We spent too long watching brilliant films on Youtube and I pulled too many amazed faces.

Things I have learned (in no particular order) are

1) Chocolate milk cures hic-coughs,
2) Reindeer is full of tasty goodness
3) I am a travelling nightmare and liability waiting to happen,
4) Training on Bears bike isn’t the best idea in the world.  I am an umpa lumpa.  He is not.
5) Some Bears have secret fetishes for cross dressing as zebra's and will steal unoccupied onesies where possible.
6) Public swimming in Norway is like the 7th layer of hell.

How interesting can public swimming be? Well, its a tiny pool for a start, prob not 3 full lanes wide. That's fine. but there are no lanes.

It is a free for all.

And the Norwegians don’t have any manners.

None. None at all.

After more pool time with Bear I have decided that brute force and ignorance is gonna be the way forward with his swim for Norseman. Bear has no style and no finesse when in the water…. but somehow he moves. Quite quickly at times. He appears to expend a lot of energy, but that’s about how he is built and the physical limitations of his shoulders and hip. There is work to be done.  

After swimming, we returned to have the nommy lump of Reindeer that Bear had roasted with beetroot, sweet potato and onion. This is now my lump of meat of choice. Specially served with JuleBrus (Christmas flavoured juice)

I learned a lot about Bear on this trip, having Bear move in with me has been interesting to say the least, I have lived on my own too long, but stepping into Bears world has really opened my eyes.
Bear earns in an hour what I earn in a day. What he earns in day, I earn in a couple of weeks.  He is frivolous, I am frugal.  He buys what he wants and thinks little of it. I only dream of doing this. His lifestyle is minimalistic yet abundant.

He can come across as being grumpy and depressive, but on some level, he is only happy when he is miserable.
He lives very much in isolation, which can mean weeks without 'intimate' human contact (friends, family etc) so quite often there is no touch or affection in his world.
Bear is very matter of fact, so much so, he can be abrupt to the point of being perceived as being rude/bad mannered. But if it needs saying, he will say it. He can be ridiculously playful, to the point of being child-like in his laughter.
He is feircly protective of those he cares about, yet has as distinct 'lack of emotion' - its not a complete lack, but he uses Bear to keep his feelings well protected and ensure they don't get exposed.

Behind the Bear is Paul, who happens to be quite a nice chap.
It is Bear who competes, Bear who pushes past physical limits, Bear who is determined and feirce. Luckily for me, I quite often get Paul... Yet still call him Bear most of the time although it is interchangeable.

Where Bear is based its a strange place to walk round, I went for a mooch on my own before flying home and obviously went out with Bear when he was at home.  The people don’t speak. On a night the streets are deserted.  There is no noise, very little traffic. Just silence. They are not social creatures, them there Norwegians, hence so much isolation.  But they are very beautiful to look at (most of them). And tall.

I hope to go back at some point – if only to see the pretty bit and have more of a chance to poke about in it and explore.
So much water and so many mountains.

Sunday, 1 December 2013


Time is a very strange phenomenon that I have been thinking about a lot lately.

Sometimes it feels as though it is zooming by.
The older I get, the quicker it goes. Rationally, I know this is simply because each day is a smaller percentage of my life.

Sometimes it is frozen n the hours creep at a snails pace. 

I know when I am giddy-excited for something, time feels like it is a ten tonne weight being pulled through wet sand by a door mouse.
It drags, it is slow and lumbering.
Yet when that giddy-exciting time i have been looing forward to finally arrives, it is over in a blink.

How is that even fair?

Winter distorts time. It distorts me. It seems to be dark constantly.
Suddenly I find myself viewing the John Lewis Christmas advert wondering how it came to be 'that time of year again'. Then I realise it isn't. They are just trying to trick me.

It is still only November.... Or it was when I started writing this blog.... Time didn't allow me to finish when I wanted. Other stuff with other deadlines got in the way. 

People keep telling me that christmas is starting earlier each year.
Nope. No its definitely not. It definitely still begins at start of advent. Or Christmas Eve depending on beliefs. I'd even allow when the kids break up from school or Mad Friday.
But not November.

I am 3 weeks into 30 weeks of Outlaw training.... Or I was when I started writing this blog. I am now 4 weeks. Maybe its even 5, my track of time is so distorted currently. It passes so quickly. 
Does it even matter? 

I have lost 2 months of my life somewhere. 
It has vanished. 
Lost to hospital corridors, traffic jams, information overload n sleep.

I want to paint. No, I NEED to paint. 
I need to create, to take pictures. To be. 
Yet I haven't got time 'spare'. 
I would be rushing and then feel more frustrated than if I hadn't started at all. 

I visited a dear friend last week n opened the visit with 'I cant stay long'. That's so shit. 
A part of me wished I hadn't bothered going. I miss her though.
My fleeting visit made me miss her more. 

I spent this weekend with my other mother, Wilky. I hadn't seen her since January.
We have chatted about life, God, the Universe n David Beckham.
We have chatted about how so many lives can change so drastically in such a short space of time.

Wilky suddenly found herself retired due to ill health n currently living by the seaside. Her daughter, who was single not long since is 6 now months married, 5 months pregnant and has also had a miscarriage since getting married.

Time is playing tricks.

At the start of 2013, my life didn't look like this.
There were fireworks n the freedom from ThatMan, it wasnt meant to be n life simply got in the way. He was, and is, a lovely man. He will remain in my life as a friend. We just changed shape due to circumstance. He played a very important role in the story of my life.

He freed me. 

I suspect he doesn't have the first clue about how important he really was. But I will remain grateful for all time.

Relationships can change literally overnight.
Friends who were dear to us, drift. Often without reason, warning or a goodbye. 
Partners needs change. People grow upwards and away until we no longer recognise who they are. We have lightening bolt moments with strangers.

BOOM!! All change. There is a cartoon shaking of the head and wondering 'when did this become my life?' 

I am struggling to find time to train. Swimming is a thing I used to do at the moment.... I need to change this.  Running and cycling need more time but are terribly unpleasant for me at the moment. I am bak in the depths of SAD n unmotivated. 
The training would help the SAD and the positivity would spiral. 

I will get back on it.
When I have time.... 

Monday, 25 November 2013

Leaving the Comfort Zone

I don't know if you have ever had a near death experience dear reader?  I have.
And its true, your life *does* flash before your eyes.

It happened to me in reallllllllllly slow motion. I genuinely believed I was going to die.

My brain was busy scanning its shelves for a point in history where it could find and steal a coping mechanism that had worked.  It would deploy this successful tactic again.
My clever subconsciousness must have found one. Or invented a new one. I lived.

Coping mechanisms are funny things I have learned.
Not funny ha ha.  Funny peculiar.

They are very individualised, exceptionally personal and based on our past - the things we keep stored on the shelves in our brains.
We are products of our pasts and our perception and resilience is developed as we experience each new challenge life throws at us (or the challenges we step in front of)

The year of #FuckIt is nearly over.
It has been amazing - so much so that I am planning on carrying it on.  I have acheived so so much. Instead of being sweary and a bit potty mouthed (I blame the book of the same name), 2014 will be the year of #DoThat!

It *should* be the year of Austerity, but I just cant see the fun or appeal!! And if i say ~FuckIt this year - I have to honour it next year!!

It has become screamingly obvious that I quite like being out of my comfort zone and pushing myself as hard as I can. 

I am not competitive by any stretch... and I think this is where I have been getting it wrong, believing I should be competitive (on some level, if only with myself)
It doesn't work for me.  It doesn't motivate me.  If anything i think it demotivates me.
The fact that I am lazy doesn't help much either.

I started my new job and it was a baptism of fire.
Now don't get me wrong, I have worked in Children's Homes for over 12 years.
I have worked in lots of homes and know that they are all different, the kids vary immensely, the staff team will vary, but ultimately, they are a team of staff, caring for and about a bunch of kids.
How different can it be?

I have never known anything like it.
EVERYTHING is different. 


The recording systems, the routines, the ethos of the home, the way information is communicated and stored.  EVERYTHING. 
The kids are also have learning disabilities. Some are non verbal. Some have complex medical needs.

What did I think I was doing when I applied for this? What am i doing stood in here?

On my first day i had frequent trips to hide in the loo and give myself a shake (and hide).  I asked myself at least 5 times an hour what I thought I was playing at.  This continued into day 2.

It wasn't and isn't a bad place to be, in fact quite the opposite.  I knew it was exceptional.  It was and is screamingly obvious that the quality of care the home delivers is spectacular.
Day 3 and 4 involved Ofsted rocking up for the annual unannounced inspection. 

Turns out, I was right. 
It is Outstanding. Officially.

I have a chance to be a part of this.  I am now a part of this. After 4 days, I wanted to weep at the pride.  I know how hard it is to reach Outstanding grading - the feedback is also very different to inadequate. I have now received both types.

So that was my first week.  I felt a fraud, questioned myself endlessly and left wondering what the hell I had let myself in for.  I questioned my ability to care for the kids.  I questioned my ability to be a manager.

The children scare(d) me.
They have complex medical needs with shortened life expectancy. 
They will bite and kick and smear their poo up the walls and in my face given half a chance (not all of them!).  I cannot meet their needs if I don't know what they are.
If they cannot tell me I am scared I will fail them.  I am scared I will get it wrong.

So, to week 2 at work.
One of the children has a cluster of seizures, close together - this isn't their 'normal'. 
We survive.
I grow.
I find myself giving staff supervision as I go, I am back 'mananging' and this is familiar - I can do this. I can mange staff who look after children with complex needs - it is just the shape of the needs that has changed. And the building. And the language everyone speaks. And the systems.....

Today I found myself at 12.45 asking what I thought I was doing, then I realised I had been in work since 7am... and this was the first time I had asked myself.

And it was only once. 
Not repeatedly.

N actually, the kids are gorgeous when you take time to look past your own fears.
Properly glorious kids.
They are full of sparkle and shiny.
They glow.

I am getting there.  I will get there.  Wherever there is. 
And so will you dear reader.  Just keep on keeping on.

The unfamiliar will become familiar. 

And sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith, believing that there will be a safety net.... or that you will soar.  Preferably the latter.

It is hard making that initial leap.

What will it feel like?
What if I fail? What if people laugh at me?
What if I lose everything? What if people judge me?
What if I don't like it? What if its too late and I cant get back?

What if its amazing? What if its the best thing ever?
What if I never look back?
What if this takes me on adventures bigger than I dared to dream of?

I ran today.... Running is fairly new and horrid.  We don't like each other very much.  But that's OK, we will learn to tolerate each other eventually. Maybe.

I ran to the point whereby at about an hour in I realised that I had gone light headed and a little bit squiffy.  I hit the point whereby I might have liked to have fallen over given a choice.

I had eaten well, I was tired but not to the point where I shouldn't be training.  Saturday had been a rest day and yesterday had been a turbo session - hard but not too bad - although I had increased the resistance.
There was no reason to be falling over.

I realised that this was possibly at the wooly edge of my comfort zone. If I had just pushed a touch more....
It has been suggested that if I had pushed more I would have rendered myself unconscious and eventually come round to find myself in a pool of my own vomit and wee!!  (Thanks TC for that wonderful imagery!!)

So I stopped before I did any of those things.

I would say, I was about to leave myself. If that makes sense.

I know I discociate.
It is my coping mechanism of choice. When the going gets tough.... I do one and leave my body to it. 

Once I leave, I find it hard to carry on.... after all I am not 'there'.
Sooooo I need to learn how to deal with that so it means I can still 'do one' and keep going simultaneously.

If anyone has any idaes about this, answers on a post card please.

Monday, 4 November 2013

1 down, 29 to go

So i survived week 1 of training towards the Half Outlaw.
I'm not properly training for that, well, I am, obviously, but its just part of a bigger plan. My Ironman plan. 

I don't know which will be my full IM, I don't need to decide that bit just yet.
For now, I need to learn how to run and cycle.... and get back to swimming fast(er)

This week started with getting up at the crack of dawn to do a turbo session - the logic being, start as you mean to go on....Attack it.  No excuses.  Key to success under the alarm clock and all that.

Monday wasn't too bad - I would even go so far as saying, I enjoyed it.  Yay me!!!
Got up, spun my legs a bit, went to work, went to the hospital, came home, fell into bed.

Tuesday came, swim session in the morning, training course, then straight to work.  I left home at 6.15am and got home a little after 10.30pm.

The plan for Wednesday didn't happen - I fully intended on getting up to train before work, but Tuesday's long hours drained me and I started at 7.30am Weds and arrived home at 22.30 again.... God this is gonna be a nightmare. 

Thursday I managed a good session in the gym - it was full of circuit work, nasty jumping about bits/plyometric work and horrid core stuff. I also need to say how much I despise the warm up I have been given.  The dreadmill is OK - I don't mind it, not really. I do mind sprinting on it. A very large lot.   I also had a nice swim session after the gym on Thursday. 

Friday morning I swam with a view to having a meaty monster of a turbo session on Friday night - but I was given grace until Saturday due to my friend cancelling, fatigue and racing about like a headless chicken with work stuff and hospital stuff.

I can't sustain these long hours.  I am tired and I am a grump when I don't do the things I want to/need to do.... like train... and rest.... when I dont do the things I should do. 

I also need to see my friends.  I miss them.

Saturday morning came the FTP test. 

It hurt. 
Lots.  Very lots.

According to the pretty graphs which @TheIron_Bear showed me how to make today, my heart rate reached 201 bpm and my training effect was 5.  I am informed that this is proof that I worked hard.

Of course I worked hard!! I thought at one point I was going to pass out n fall off the bloody bike!!!
I know what effort level 10 feels like now AND IT FRICKING HURTS.  It took me all I had to keep pushing my legs down one more time as the seconds ticked by painfully slowly from 19.40 to 20.00 mins.

I was like Bambi on ice when I'd finished the session and wobbled as I dismounted, I soon recovered and forgot my inability to walk until I ventured towards the stairs, then forgot again until I went to venture back down them.  How I didn't fall over, I will never know.  Anyway, I didn't. I have to repeat the test in 8 weeks. 


Sunday was rounded off with a swim.

It seems, that regardless of what I planned (and it was a LOT more than I actually completed), I am not disciplined enough. 

I am a lazy athlete.  I have always been aware of this.  I want to do it, really I do, just not right now, not yet, and I certainly don't want it to hurt.

I *will* do it - tomorrow.

But it doesn't work like that. It won't do itself and I need to put the miles in the bank. I need to make the effort.  Even when I am tired, even when I'd rather stay in bed in the warm, especially when I would rather stay in bed in the warm.

The key to success *IS* under the alarm clock.  I have lots going on still and lots of unstable still on the horizon.  I need to be disciplined with myself and I need to be honest in my reflection.

Week one wasn't good enough. I didn't try anywhere near hard enough and I tossed it off at every opporchanity I could.

Grade = D -        
Must try harder. Rach allows herself to be distracted. Could be awesome if she made the effort and applied herself to her sport.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Use it or lose it

Use it or lose it is quite a well known saying and phenomenon.  It applies to many things, skills, talents, second language use etc.
Our muscles 'forget' some of what they know and become weaker, our neural paths become diminished.
This is particularly true of swimming - if you dont stay on top of it, the body can lose the feel for the water, the ability to catch the water quickly and efficiently can be lost, as can water specific fitness. 
I know I lose water fitness quickly - currently, I feel like someone has filled me with sand.  I am heavy and slow, my ability to drag myself through the water is less than impressive.
I have had about 3 weeks of hit and miss training - nothing consistent and nothing much of any real value training wise (drills, speed or endurance).
The age group nationals are this weekend.  I have entered 1500m Friday, 800m free and 50m Breaststroke on Saturday. While it was never my focal point for this year and indoor isn't really my 'thing' I do enjoy the nationals and it would be nice to go and perform better than I did last year.
The Universe has conspired against me lately.... and thats ok.  It has been throwing other fabulous (and some not so fabulous) stuff in my direction.
My head is a bit of a shed though currently.  I need to swim regularly.  It is a real need. I am happier when I have been submerged in water.  It is theraputic.  So when I can't or don't swim, I know I become a bit of a grump.
Combine this with the fact I suffer from SAD, which hasn't so much been knocking on my door this week - it has been throwing bricks at my window, leaning on the doorbell, shouting abuse through the letter box and generally following me round like a bad smell. 
Last year, for the first time in a long time, I managed to get a hold on it.  We became aquainted in a nicer, almost friendly way and found space to exist side-by-side without causing each other too much damage.  I beefed up, got myself strong and kicked some ass...... ish.
However, over the summer months, I haven't needed to use these SAD coping muscles and they have vanished.  I am as weak as a kitten.
So Monday rolled round with all the excitement of a job interview and the potential for more growth, more chaos, a new challenge and loveliness in my life (cos I havent got enough going on!).
I also had a visit from @TheIron_Bear, which started life as a chat about training plans over dinner and an airport run and quickly turned into a training session and dinner/discussion followed by abandonment while I (selfishly) raced off to better my career!
Monday was the first time in a while I was able to swim - shifts, hospital visits, falling off the face of the earth for a while all contibuted to this.  I missed it.
I was giddy to get in the water and found myself outside the pool at 6.45 on my day off, waiting for it to open.
Once submerged, there was nothing - no strength, no grip, no power, no speed, no happiness, no confidence, no excitement. 
Fuck. That wasnt meant to happen.  I knew my mojo had gone...... but WTF?
My inner conversation and rest of swim session went something like this.....
Swim another length or 2, warm up, do 200m, it'll come, its been a while.  
Yeah, its not though.
Give it a while.
Dont look at the clock.
I feel like lead
It'll come, keep going.
What if it doesnt?
Shit, look how far behind you are
You should be able to keep up.
You're not even near their toes.
Dave, Louise, Hannah and Andy all discuss the set -
"Count me out guys, I'll just get frustrated, I'll keep out of your way and do some drills. I havent swum in ages"
Ok Rach, c'mon now.  Sort it out.
You're just being stupid.
You're slower than last year.
You're using all this as an excuse. 
You're gonna show your self up at weekend.
I can't do this. I feel like shit.
Stops at end of lane - has positive words with self.
Right, youve been out of water, this bit isn't a race, this is your first session back.
Stop being so negative.
The feel for the water will come.
Just be kind to youself, focus on technique.
You knew this was going to happen
Sets off swimming. I am totally disconnected from myself, I have no feel in the water, my arms and legs are doing their own sweet thing and frankly, I am knackered. A little bit of me doesnt actually care.  I look at the clock and realise I am blowing out of my arse and 50s are taking me about a week to swim.
Remember, be kind to yourself.
Just give in, you can't do this.
Who are you kidding, you have no right to be there at weekend.
I have every right to be there at weekend.
Swimming like this?
No you dont, look at you, you're just gonna show your self up.
Keep going if you think that....
Misses tumble turn and stops dead at end of pool.
See peice of shit.
You wanna race 1500 Friday and then race again Saturday.

This went on till I got out.
I got out to make the voice stop.
I needed to cry.  I needed hot salty tears that refused to fall.  They wouldn't fall because I am not unhappy.  I am very happy - I have a lot I am greatful for right now and I have lots to look forward to.  But I am suffering from this fake depression once again.
AND IT ANNOYS ME.  I dont have time for it, I dont like it and I dont want it.
But it refuses to leave me.
So...... I must learn to love it again. And I will.  Eventually.  Hopefully soon. It is part of who I am.
It impacted on my training session with Bear.  I found myself saying 'no more' and hitting stop on the treadmill - that isnt like me.  I am stubborn. Incredibly stubborn. My body could've kept going.  My head was about to explode with all the noise going on in there. I did it to stop the noise.
Right now, I have lost all my muscle memory.  It will come back though - I have faith and I am prepared to work.  The work is easier than the crippling pain that seeps in if the SAD is allowed to take over.
So.... on top of everything else, I am going to war with myself. 
And I will win.
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,
They said.

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.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!!!

Recently I was described as

"bursting into [someone's] life like a rhino, riding an elephant with a bull tied to its tail, screaming silently, demanding to be loved."

Bit extreme, but that is how they experienced me.
My experience of them is slightly different. And hopefully more eloquent.

I have been pondering this phenomenon we call love.
It is, in essence, science. Nothing more than a chemical reaction.

Our senses absorb A. N. Other in every way possible - as we absorb,  if we are blessed, our receptors like what they see, smell, touch, taste and we become more aware, more alive. We become more in-tune,  primitive chemicals awaken which will (hopefully) ensure our mate is a good match. Thus this *thing* called love is experienced as an internal sensation. Its impact on our external world can be huge.

We say 'we are in love' and falsely assume that others know what we are talking about.  It is subjective.  Each chemical reaction is different.

Sometimes, we are attracted, we cannot help it. We can choose to try fight it, but this can be futile. We may be attracted to those we are 'not supposed to be attracted to'

Magical things happen, people cast their own unique spell on us and we become enchanted by them.

This can be a truely wonderous positive experience, or it can become destructive and harmful. The chemical balance can tip too far. It is easy for people to become addicted and greedy.

When we fall in love, we do not own the person, they are not obliged to love us in return. If they do return the love, we are blessed, but it might be a different shape and colour altogether. We cannot make someone love us. It happens.  Or not. 

If they dont return the love, it doesn't mean there is something wrong with us, nor does it mean there is something wrong with them. It means they have different chemicals and different needs. That's all.

A very dear friend spoke to me recently about new roller skates (by way of an analogy). He had seen the twinkle in my eye.
"Don't just keep looking at the skates in the box, Rach, take them out, try them on for size."
If I liked how they fit, I should play out on them for a little while. 

I took his advice. Problem being, once I'd put them on, I didn't want to take them off. I wanted to play on them EVERYDAY.

I felt comfortable and confident on them. My second and third outing on them made me feel alive.

I felt free. My world was fizzing with delight - it was gathering momentum and spinning in giddy, joyous circles.

I refuse to take my roller skates off.  I like them. They were comfy from the outset, if I fall over, I will get back up - it doesn't mean I have to take them off.

The friend who spoke to me about my new roller skates touched my soul and taught me about human goodness.  We sat one day and I offered him a piece of my soul and my past, he accepted it and has tucked it somewhere where I know it will be safe.  He taught me that no matter how big the magnetism, how delicious the chemical reaction may be, sometimes, it is better to not find out. Sometimes, the love contained within a friend is greater than the physical urge can ever be.  He taught me that it is safe to love.

In my ponderings, I have realised that some of the problem with relationships is that we don't communicate well enough.

I have recently done lots of training courses - some involved being blindfolded and drawing what a partner instructed - what I produced, what they said and what they were describing at were all very different things.  Similarly when I described something, it didn't translate to the picture being drawn.

Try it - then realise that actually, you may not communicate as well as you might.

Then consider your needs - what are these? Are they needs or are they wants?  Can you meet them yourself? Do you expect your partner to meet them? Do you expect a family member or friend to meet them?  What will happen if they are not met?

We all bring different things to the table and we all have different needs - these will change over time, often without us realising and certainly without warning.  When this happens, the kindest thing we can do is be honest with ourselves and each other.

I have mixed feelings about commitment.  I believe in marriage.  I believe in saying to the world;

'This is my mate - this is the person I have chosen - this is the place my soul feels at home and can twinkle its brightest.  This is the person who makes it safe for me to be who I truly am - they accept all my parts without wanting to change or fix them.'

What happens when love isn't enough?  What happens when the commitment has been made and needs change?  I think its possible for a relationship and people to evolve, for the love to change shape. Sometimes, this will never be possible.  The chemicals change.

So I have decided to trust again.  I am trusting my own judgement.  I am trusting my ability to stay upright on my roller skates. 

Every now and then, people surprise - this has been happening to me a lot lately.
Lots of people have surprised me in lots of ways.
I have been shown glimpses of human goodness.  I have been invited into a world that has been kept private from others.  Apparently, it wasn't so much invited, more the 'Ta-dah - I'm here' thing I spoke of, and as such, 'they' are helpless.

I blame the chemicals personally.  I didn't mean to burst into anyone's world. But I'm glad I did!!

My world has been infiltrated too.
But in a much more serene way.  Someone put a giant magnet in the foreground of my life and switched it onto full pull.  I am powerless to escape. I don't want to escape.

The feeling created by the magnet, I can only liken to a raisin being placed in a glass of Champagne.   It is, what appears to be endless bubbles n fizz, there is constant movement (which appears to be effortless).  There is more than a hint of sweetness and the celebration of life being good. Yet it is calm and unhurried.

My soul is currently shiny sparkly.  I hope it stays this way.

If for any reason, the chemicals change, I hope that there will be enough love to be honest - I hope that we will remain in love enough, that it will simply change shape, that we will evolve.
I hope I remain secure enough that I never try to contain or cling, that the rhythm we have settled into continues.

For now? Huzzah for chemicals!!!   ;-)

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Chaos, Change and Confusion

I'm not a completely heartless cow, although parts of this may read as if I am. I won't apologise for that. This is my blog.

I don't cope very well with change.
I never have.

Leaving work was never going to be pleasant and there were many tears at bedtime - I very nearly didn't go for my last shift - it would have been the easiest thing in the world.
Instead, i spent the night before wrapping presents for the kids, writing individual cards stuffed full of meaning and love while hot salty tears leaked from my eyes.

That was last Thursday.  The day my mum went to the Dr's.  The Dr sent her to the hospital.  The hospital sent her home.  Come back if you get worse.  Your x-ray results will be back in 10 days.
Friday she is worse, I can hear her shaking in her voice.  I phone for an ambulance as I am unable to take her.  She refuses to go to hospital. 

Saturday comes and I am tired, I am emotionally drained from leaving work, a difficult week of training and courses - domestic violence and restorative justice.

I need to swim, I need to swim in the cold.  I need to giggle with my friends.
So thats what we did. We laughed, we laughed lots.
Hannah must think we are all slightly unhinged.  She blends among us perfectly and I am glad she is there. She has a long way to go, but if anyone will get there, Hannah will.  Her determination is inspiring.  Lisa says she's like me, in that, she is told something, processes it, then repeats until she gets it..... then moves onto next task. She is like a sponge.
I cant wait to help her more with her open water swimming next year.  Her Outlaw performance will be awesome.  But more of that later.

So Saturday, I played - Sunday I did a muddy runny thingy (which was disappointing compared to the last one we did)... and then I got the message saying my mum had been rushed to hospital.

I arrived just as she was being transported to Intensive Care.  She had only just made it in time by the sounds of it.  Her blood pressure was through the floor (it is normally high) and she had pneumonia.
We now know it is legionnaires.  We know her heart isn't working properly due to all the drugs she is on.  We know her lungs are gonna be seriously damaged for a while.
But she is making progress.  Her resting HR is not longer 160.

Monday came and I went to enrol at Uni (was also invited for a job interview), Tuesday came and I was at Uni, Wednesday came and I started back at my old job, Thursday came and I was attending course on Sexual Health training.

I can't do the 'sitting at the end of the bed, waiting needlessly for something to happen while wailing thing' that so many others can do so well.  I can't effect change so I may as well be busy in ways I CAN effect change.

More than that though, I won't be a hypocrite.
We are not close. My relationship with my mother isn't 'all that' 
There are HUGE things we dont agree on regarding events that took place in the past - things that have shaped who we are individually and the shape our relationship takes.

I had a captive audience - I could say anything I needed and wanted to say to her.  She had to lay there and listen to every word.
I was mute.  There were no words.

What was the point?
Will this experience change her if she makes it? Does it matter?
She will still be the same woman who lied to me, let me down and failed me. Repeatedly.
She will still be the woman who gave me life.

I am who I am because of the things I have experienced.

I haven't seen her since Tuesday - I have been full of cold. They wouldnt let me in to ICU. It gave me reason not to go.
I dont need to go.
It took me a long time to break away, to forge a life, to be free from her.
She could have avoided this.  I am angry that she didnt take the ambulance I rang for on the Friday.  I am angry she didnt go on the Saturday.

My days are long, my sister is beside herself, my dad is breaking my heart. For the first time in about 5 years, he is wearing his hearing aid.  This shit is real.  That is my measure, my dad wearing his hearing aid.
I am having information overload.

I may dislike my mother, but she is still mine and there is an attachment, however disfunctional - I love her.  This confuses me..... and I think it always will.... and thats ok.

The support I have had from my friends has taken my breath away.
There are some people who simply rock me to the core with their amazingness. 
They know who they are and they touch my soul and if they dont, I will tell them in person and give them huge snogs and many squishes.

For now, I have a half Iron Distance Triathlon to train for (and a blog to write about my sprint tri), the Nationals are in a few weeks, I have homework to do for Uni and an assignment to set up, a swim coaching course to complete, a job interview to prepare for, new kids to learn about and fall in love with, old staff to protect myself from, a mother to visit and a dad to keep an eye on and teach some life skills to. I need to see my friends and keep some sort of normality (whatever that is) in my life.

I need time to myself, I need to paint, I need to sort my house and keep the SAD at bay for as long as possible (tidy house, tidy mind and all that).

I need to hibernate for a while.
I need another holiday.
I need a hug.  I need a hug from the one person who cant give me one right now.
But I can wait....

Saturday, 21 September 2013

European Masters - Eindhoven

My mother arrived to give me a lift to the airport, half an hour before I asked her to - in typical fashion, she didn't listen and did her own sweet thing.

I felt sick enough without her flapping about being late.
I was excited, I was nervous, I was giddy, I was proud.  I didnt need to win the race - cos lets face it, that was never gonna happen.
I needed to start and I needed to finish.

It would be nice to PB and it would be nice to not come last - but I was under no illusion, there would be some fricking awesome swimmers competing, ex Olympians right through to people like me.

But in that instant while i was at home, I had another challenge.  I was travelling alone and felt a little bit squick about it.
It was always part of the plan though.  Something I had to do for me.  It all added to the giddy kipperish feeling n the butterflies that were doing tumble-turns.
I had travelled alone before,  it was no big deal.  I just needed to be organised. 

I fooloshly verbalised that I was feeling a bit sick as we pulled up to the airport.
"You dont have to do this, you dont have to go" was her response.


She wasnt kidding either - she wanted me to stay at home.

At what point of being a little bit giddy/terrified/nervous/proud/tired/hungry am I going to say, oh i feel sick, i'll just stay at home instead.  Yeah..... Do that. 

Somehow despite my mothers lack of faith in my ability, I successfully navigated my way through the airport (both Leeds/Bfd and Schipol) without disaster, found the train station, bought a ticket, caught a train, travelled to the other end of Holland, got off at the right stop and found my hotel. 
Whoda thunk it? I'm brilliant.

I went for an explore and walked the route i would be racing.
God it seemed a long way.  It was only 3k. But point to point made it seem longer somehow.
It was a glorious course starting in lush green surroundings, swimming into the city - the landscape slowly becoming more urban as the finish appraoched.

On the morning of the race, I was filled with calm - well, calm ish. 
I knew the time had come to realise a dream.. It was a big deal for me.  I had met some amazing people already in Eindhoven and I had some fantastic people at home.

The Russians tried to cause mayhem asking everyone to boycott as they couldn't race due to not registering, some of the women were refusing to cut their nails having had them done specially for the occasion.

Somehow it ran like clockwork and before i knew it, it was time.  This was it.

In usual fashion, I established a stroke rate i was 'comfortable with' and settled in.  I spent a long time talking to myself, relaxing myself, stretching out, catching the water, pulling, rotating, smiling, enjoying.

I found myself singing Aerosmith, Amazing.  The lyrics fit the situation perfectly.
Songs tend to choose me rather than me choosing them - they fill my head when I race.  When I reflect on them after an event or situation (or look up the lyrics when i have had one line wedged in my head for hours), I tend to find they are reflections of my emotions at the time.  'Amazing' fit the whole journey perfectly - from non swimmer to Eindhoven.

By this point I am completely relaxed, I am a little sad that some people have coaches, partners, spouses, friends walking the course along the canal - and in that instant I know that I have people walking the course with me.  The only difference being, they were at home cheering, they were in my heart.  They have shaped who I have become. My soul shone and smiled.... and i swam....

No matter how much I relaxed, dug in, stretched, pulled, kicked, I couldnt reach the girl in front.  

It didnt matter - I was winning my own race with myself - and as it turned out, I wasnt last to cross the line in my age group. There were some bloody amazing times.  It was an honour to swim with such a variety of people.  I will meet some of them again at the Nationals, if I make it to the Worlds in Montreal.... who knows.  There are goals to be readjusted. 

Why stop at the Europeans?  I dont have to be the best.  I just have to be the best version of me I can be.

As I crossed the line, I cried.  When i spoke to the ManShape, I cried some more and again when I spoke to my friends.

I might not make it to Canada next year, although it is part of the plan and has been for a while - I will have a defined goal for the Europeans in London in 2016.  It would be VERY rude not to swim in the Olympic pool.....


Friday, 20 September 2013

Next Chapter

I was blessed enough to go on a mini adventure recently and I fully intend on blogging about my awesome experiences in deepest darkest Wales, jelly-fish hunting in wonderful wonderful Copenhagen and of course my little splish in Eindhoven (followed by the extended mooch round Amsterdam).

However, life has other plans for me.  It is in a state of shift at the minute and everything is a little chaotic with no routine just yet. 

My secondment is coming to an end - next week in fact.  I have 2 shifts left to work.

I can't begin to explain how mixed my feeling are about this.
I will miss the kids. A very large lot. There will be a little hole in my life - I know other kids will fill it, but I have loved a couple of these kids for a long time now. 
I was originally seconded for 3 months - that was 2 n half years ago....

I have been on a bumpy journey at the Home I work in currently.  Its been hard.  There have been a million managers (slight exagggeration, there have been 756, 329). There have been battles with kids, other professionals, neighbours and staff alike.  There have been poor Ofsted reports which we have turned around to be good across the board.  There have been tears and fighting and giggles and holibobs.
There are now friendships with people who radiate warmth and loveliness from every pore - they are outstanding at their job.  I truely hope their shiny doesn't get dulled in the years to come by the cynics.

I went in with the intention of infecting some people with my eternal optimism. 
I know I have been successful on some level.  I know I have touched a few lives in a positive way.  I can see it happening and there have been shifts in attitude in staff, calmness in the kids.
I hope it lives on after I have gone - and I think it will. 

I wanted to turn the Ofsted around and that has been accomplished, the kids have left school and started college.  My work here is done.

The next chapter sees me going back to my old place of work as Residential Care Officer.  I get to play out with the kids again. Whoop!!! New lives to infect with magic and mentalness.

The team hasnt changed much since I have been away - so I know what I am going into.  I know who will bitch and bite, who will poke and provoke, who will laugh and love.

However, I am not the person I was.  I have grown so very much, I have grown in every way.
In the years that I have been away, I found the courage to face the skeletons that were living in my cupboard and destroyed the demons.  I have set goals and achieved them... and I am still growing.

Half Outlaw 2014 is entered, I am giving thought to which will be my full Ironman in 2015, I have been saving for the World Masters next year, and I have agreed to one way Windemere next year.  I need to find, no, make, time to train.... and sleep.    

My life is full.  Very full.

I have applied for another secondment as deputy - this time part time, so if I am successful, my role and buildings will be split (God knows how that will work - shifts in 2 locations?!? WT actual F??)
I have just been offered a place at Uni part time to complete a management qualification, I am starting my swimming coaching qualification soon.... and somewhere in that I need time for my friends - who of course have full complicated lives.....   That doesn't even include time for sitting in front of the fire painting, reading and contemplating why my bellybutton fluff is always the same colour.
I am a little bit sad to be leaving - but i know i will be leaving a little bit of myself behind and moving forwards - and in this case, it literally means taking a step back.

If I don't get the secondment post, that will be fine. 

I have enough going on to keep me out of trouble..... for now at least.