Phoenix Fights

Fighting the FEAR, depression and BDP on a daily basis AND making my own bread. Bring it on 2016….


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31 DAY MENTAL HEALTH CHALLENGE

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OK folks, as I am struggling with a lot of stuff at the moment, I decided to set myself some aims and ambitions for this month, and it occurred to me that those of you who also have mental health issues, or any other shit that might be impinging on your life, wellbeing and happiness might like to join me, so I’ve compiled one of those monthly challenge thingys.

I loves a monthly challenge I does, but sometimes some of them are too ambitious for me, don’t apply to me and my lifestyle and/or some fill me with fear and guilt lest I miss a day, so whilst there are 31 aims/objectives, you/I don’t have do be doing all of them by November.

It’s more of a tick list for your day if you will with the aim to try as many as possible, and includes the basics, but also tools and activities that I’ve found useful in keeping my head above the murky waters to date.

So, I’ll go through them one by one, even though most seem self explanatory:

1. GET OUT OF BED (and STAY OUT!)

Easy huh? Well no, not for all of us. And although most of us have to leave our pit to, at the very least, use the loo of a morning, it’s sometimes only too tempting to dive back under the duvet, even when it’s not a dark day.  So if you can, it’s best to make a habit of making your bed straight away so that there’s less of a temptation to do so.  Then you can….

2. BATHE & CLEAN TEETH

Again some of you might be thinking ‘WTF?  Are you some kind of animal?’.

But for some of us, especially on dark days, are so full of self loathing and lethargy, we don’t think we are worth the effort of getting clean.  But there’s a reason for the belief that ‘cleanliness is next to Godliness’.  You just feel better after a freshen up.  So even if you’re going to crawl back to bed straight afterwards, have a soothing, fragrant bath and scrub your gnashes first and you’ll feel your spirits lift, if only but a millimetre.

3. GIVE IN (Especially for Dark Days)

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As mentioned above, if it’s a dark day and still all too much even after your soak in the tub, don’t sweat it.

That’s what your hibernate tokens are for!  I’ve put six on the sheet for you to tick off, but don’t worry if you go over that.  Whenever you really need to, just go back to bed, wait for the storm to pass, and don’t beat yourselves up about it, my lovelies.

4. MORNING PAGES

OK so I used to do ‘The Artists Way’ and one of the most useful take aways I got from it was to do what they call Morning Pages.  So, if you are able to resist hibernating, grab a notebook or a couple of sheets of A4, sit down in a quiet place and just scrawl down freeform anything that’s in your head.  Your worries, fears, too do list, there’s too much sugar in your tea, your urge for a big poo, whatever; whack it all down there and keep going until you’ve got nothing left to say.  It’s a great way to get everything out there, especially negative stuff, so your mind is clear for the day ahead.  Then if you still have time and the inclination…

5. 10 MINUTE MORNING MEDITATION

I always thought I was crap at meditating; and in a way, I am.  I twitch, i itch, I scratch, I fidget, my mind monkey’s go crazy and I count the minutes until someone speaks, the alarm goes off, or I yearn for an excuse to stop what I’m going and go do important shit.  Like watch ‘Judge Judy’ or something.

But here’s the thing; I did a class last week and went home afterwards, cussed myself out for wasting yet another hour of my life.  But that night, I slept the best I had for a long time.  So on some level, sitting in that hall with a load of Buddhists, a stiff back and cold butt and trying, definitely did something. So I’m going to persist. And let’s face it, it’s 10 minutes! What do you have to lose?  And if you like it, you can always do more 🙂

6. (LET’S) GO OUTSIDE

I know, a lot of people have to go outside every day in order to go to work, get the kids to school, check up on their mum etc. but some of us don’t, in spite of George Michael’s enthusiastic little ditty.

And when you’re really down, you just can’t see the point of going for a ‘walk’ when you don’t need to.

Middle and upper class Brits have always kind of been down with going for walks, and tend to make you go along with them, just after you’ve had a massive Sunday lunch, which is incredibly uncomfortable and annoying.  Us working class proles are used to the more sensible option of hitting the sofa and watching a movie after a big meal.

That said, we’ll happily go for a walk TO the pub, have a huge lunch then enjoy a beer or two whilst kicking back in the beer garden (Summer) or on a knackered old sofa by a log fire (Winter), because at least theres some motivation there.

BUT the poshos have a point. Walking increases your fitness, fills your lungs with fresh air and speeds up your metabolism. So even if, like me, you don’t always have a reason to leave the house, do it anyway.  You can always come home afterwards.

7. EAT WELL

I have a history of food issues (surprise, surprise), and have done about a million stints of binge eating before the diet that always starts on Monday but in actuality never starts at all, then in come the ghosts of guilt, the demons of disgust and the, erm, satyrs of shame.  Sound familiar?

But maybe you don’t have anything like that, but eat too much because you like it, or live off ready meals, take aways and Pot Noodles, and worry not one jot?

But if you treat your body like you do your car and give it top quality food, it (and you) will perform better, so make an effort to get the good stuff like your five a day, oily fish, wholegrain carbs and seeds and pulses down you as a priory before eating any crap.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to tart labelling some food ‘good’ and other food ‘bad’.

That way madness lies.

If you want a burger, have one.  Ideally make your own or buy one from a street food market rather than Macca D’s, at least then it will be worth the calories. Have some good chocolate or a really great slice of home made cake every now and again, then the next day stick to the low fat/sugar/salt options to balance it out.

List your intake.  Not to beat yourself up about it, but as an exercise and see which days your energy slumps and which days you feel fine and learn what makes you feel good and what doesn’t.  I bet some of you discover that your cat/dog eats better than you do!

8. DRINK WATER

Water is amazing stuff, better and much cheaper than any high end moisturiser, the best antidote to cellulite and the best preventative to headaches and migraines, especially if you are on a shitload of meds like moi.

A lot of the time we mistake thirst for hunger. The next time you meander into the kitchen for a little sumptin’ sumptin’, ask yourself if you are really hungry.  Is your belly rumbling?  If not, it’s highly likely that you are thirsty, so give your body what it’s crying out for and clear the toxins out of your system in the bargain.

9. EXERCISE

I don’t exercise anything like as much as I should, especially as I know how much better it makes me feel (self loathing, self defeating biatch that I am) but if you can, find something you love, like or can just about bear to do, and you’ll reap the dividends in high energy, accelerated metabolism and a calmer disposition.

Weights are great if you are just longing to punch your boss out, walking totally works for the less physical amongst us (maybe get a pedometer and do the 10,000 steps thing) and dancing is totally life affirming for everyone.

Oh and yoga?  How could I forget about that?  Marvellous stuff and you can do it at home!

10. MINDFULNESS

This stuff is great, it’s kind of a way to tame the mind monkey’s by pulling your attention out of the dark clouds, coming back down to earth, being in the present moment and acknowledging what is actually going on with a level of acceptance, whilst not actually judging yourself for that reality.  Mindfulness is a big subject and Ruby Wax’s book ‘Sane New World: Taming the Mind’ is an excellent introduction to the practise and the way it can help you and steer you away from self defeating habits.

Simple example.  If you are at your desk working through lunch, devouring a Pret special, browsing t’internet and checking out your Facebook, whilst answering emails and fretting about your next meeting/argument with your girlfriend/next energy bill, and feel yourself going downhill, STOP.

Log out of your PC and take your lunch to the park. Focus on the trees, sunshine and happy chatter as you walk. Find a spot, sit down and totally focus on your sandwich and coffee and fully immerse yourself into the act of enjoying them.  Feel the warm wood of the park bench beneath your bum, listen to the birds, fucking breathe already and be present.  Then you have more chance of looking at your situation as it really is, and not your worst case scenario.

11. RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

Sometimes, doing something sweet for someone else can completely lift your mood.

Note, I say your mood.  I am not going soft here, it’s a win/win scenario!

Giving the odd quid to a homeless person, helping someone carry a pram down the steps of the rush hour tube, paying someone’s bus fare when their Oyster card has run out can put the other person in a great mood, which hopefully they’ll pass onto someone else, who’ll do something nice for another person, perhaps even your boss, so when you get into the office that day, he might not be quite as big a dick as he normally is.

See how it works?  Like I say win/win. 🙂

12. DO SOMETHING SCARY

God I feel like such a hypocrite writing this!  😦

Essentially I procraste for England, especially when I have to do something scary. So instead of mithering, fretting and having mad dreams about it every night I’m going to try and bite the bullet and just do the scary stuff ASAP, then let the cards fall as they may.  If you’re like me, grasp the nettle and have a go too.

13. DO SOMETHING NURTURING

You feel awful/worthless/ugly/unappreciated/uncared for and you’re struggling to convince yourself that you are worthy of love from anyone.

So love yourself by doing something nice for yourself.

It doesn’t have to be expensive, and it’s better to think about what your treat should be instead of just mindlessly buying yet another pair of black boots.

Have a manicure or a massage.  Get yourself a bar of expensive (not that pricy compared to those boots) artisan chocolate and eat it slowly and mindfully with a mug of good coffee.  Grill some peaches and have them with greek yoghurt and maple syrup for breakfast.  Treat yourself to the latest book by your favourite author.  Bake yourself a loaf of good granary bread to have with home made soup.  Go to a football match with your mates.  Treat yourself to cut price tickets for a concert or exhibition. Little things can lift the spirits as much as big ones.

14. TALK TO SOMEONE

I can go days without talking to anyone if I let myself.

By ‘someone’ I mean someone you actually want to talk to, as opposed to spam callers, your bank manager or that bitch of a bus driver who won’t even give you eye contact of a morning.  A friend, a relative, a loved one, y’know?

For me, this can be one of the hardest challenges, as I’m so afraid of people picking up on my mood of thinking I’m going to be a burden to them.

But I’ll try if you do 🙂

15. MEET WITH SOMEONE

As above but face to face.

EEEKKK!

16. PROTECT YOURSELF

Conversely, we all know that there are people out there who will tap into our shit and give it a bit of a stab with the sharp end of  their letter opener, purely for their own entertainment, because they are wankers and not worthy of the trust it takes for us to share our vulnerabilities and they will not respect your honesty or bravery.

Be sure to guard against such tosspots when you encounter them.  Hide your fears/hurt/doubts/weaknesses behind an impervious confident smile, show them nothing, and remind yourself that such individuals are probably more damaged than you if they can treat another human being with such poor regard.

And whenever possible, avoid them completely.  Who needs that shit in their life?

17. ARM YOURSELF

I do however, know that there are some people like this that you have to see every day, like a boss, family member or cruel spouse, and their shit does not let up.

If you are in this position, do what I was unable to do, and, on the surface, keep your cool.

Stay focussed and do not give them the opportunity of harming you.

If it’s a work colleague, do not trust them, do your share and then some, cover your ass every time so they have nothing to pull you up on.

If it’s a family member, treat them like a child.  Be kind and polite when they’re on form, and when they’re being dickhead, give them your most sympathetic/patronising ‘Oh dear…’ look and excuse yourself, even if it’s just to the next room, and compose yourself.

If it’s your partner, think about getting the fuck outta there, because no one should take that kind of shit from their husband or wife.  Easier said than done I know, but a bad marriage/relationship is the worst place to be for our kind.

18. TALK TO YOURSELF

I’m serious.  If you find yourself in a stressful or distressing situation, make an excuse, go somewhere quiet and ‘talk yourself down’ like you are on the ledge of a very tall building, preparing to jump.

You don’t have to say it out loud. But try and tap into your higher self and let them take over.

Say things like:

It’s OK, no one noticed you fluffed that slide on your presentation, they were too busy focussing on the good stuff!’

‘You’re safe, there’s no need to panic, we’ll wait here until the crowd disperses, then try and board a quieter train’, or 

‘Take no notice, she’s being a bitch because she’s threatened by you.  She doesn’t know that you’re in the loo freaking out.  Chill. Then we’ll put some fresh lipstick on, repair that eye make up and walk back to the table like a badass, OK?’

You’re essentially being your own in house counsellor.  Have a go.  it’s worked for me in the past.

19. GET SOME PHYSICAL CONTACT

Some of us have more physical contact then we ever really wanted, and then some, in the form of touchy feely men on the tube, snot nosed, screaming toddlers and overly sexually demanding partners, but some of us can go weeks without a cuddle.

And that’s hard.  Because as much as we may mentally dread someone being in our space, the human body needs touch, so try and get your quota somehow.

See family more often, lunch with ‘huggy’ friends and/or get yourself a pet.  I swear you’ll reap the benefits.

20. LIMIT SOCIAL MEDIA/TV

At the moment, much of my life takes place on the computer screen I’m currently staring at, but ‘It’s life Jim, but not as we should know it.’

Actually it’s no life at all.  It’s merely escapism, otherwise why would you feel so lonely?  Limit your internet time to 20 minute stints then turn it off, stop watching ‘Real Housewives’ and go out for lunch with a friend instead, Goddammit!

21. SAY “YES”

Oh Gawd, again, I am not good at this at all.

I bail all the time on social events, and as a result, I’m as lonely and isolated most of the time. Trouble is I’m crap at small talk, and unless I click with someone, I tend to long to go home 30 minutes into a party/dinner/Meet Up event because I get bored.

Naughty Sista!  Take it from me, it’s probably one of the most self defeating thing you can do, so say ‘Yes’ to stuff, even if you think you might regret it, and work through your boredom/anxiety/insecurity if you can. The only regrets I have are for not taking that chance and going out in the first place.

22. SAY “NO”

Are you one of those people who gets pressured into doing stuff because you’re afraid to say ‘No?’.  Usually by people who know they’re imposing but still do it because they know they can get away with it?

Fuck ’em!

Next time they saunter up wearing a shit eating grin with their:

‘Hey can I borrow your brand new car to take my druggy buddies to Glastonbury as we can’t afford trains, don’t have a tend so need it to sleep in?’

‘Hi! Can you just keep an eye on little Igor for say, 8 hours, he’ll be no trouble, he’s nearly over that stomach bug, and is just coming out of his ‘screaming as if he’s being stabbed’ phase?’

Or ‘Sweetie, I’m just off to the rugby, you don’t mind entertaining my sour, humourless, whingy face-like-a-smacked-arse parents till I get back do you?

ZAMMO

Do a Zammo and just say NO!

Don’t get defensive, apologise or justify your decision.  Like Queeny says, ‘Never complain, never explain’ because you’ll just be giving them the opportunity to negotiate.  Just smile sweetly, utter that one syllable word and walk away to the sound of their jaw dropping to the ground.

Sweet!

23. DO NO HARM

Guess what?  I used to be a revenge freak.  If someone hurt, betrayed or shafted me, they’d be punished.  Either by my frosty silence, my cutting excoriating condemnation or even, once, I booked 10 early morning alarm calls in one night (I was young, OK?!) for an ex boyfriend.

🙂

Sorry.  That was not a good thing to do!  Well it was at the time, but us punishers perpetrate our own karma because as bad as we can be to others, it only pales into comparison of how vile we can be to ourselves.

Anger is destructive.  I am the living embodiment of that statement.  I was born angry and whilst it’s lessening all the time, I’ll probably be about 90 by the time all of it is out of my system. But nowadays I choose to try my very best not to lash out either to others or myself.

Be kind and leave the others to their fate and find a way to vent without hurting others.  You’ll definitely keep more friends that way!

24. TAKE YOUR SHIT

Because like it or not, shit is coming to you.

And it’s not because you’re a bad person, have done something wrong or deserve it.  It’s just that shit comes to us all.  We emotionally vulnerable types are just not that great in dealing with or accepting it.

i rather naively believed that the more I was in touch with myself, and the more I prayed and meditated that the shit would, OK, not stop plopping down, but maybe come down the size of rabbit droppings as opposed to huge slabs of elephant dung.

What. A. Fool.

I really didn’t get it.  These things don’t stop it blasting out, they just train us to be more accepting and complacent about it, so that no matter how vile and stinky it is, we have a choice and the opportunity to choose how much it disturbs our equilibrium.

So when you get hit by a massive metaphorical doody (or a real one, some neighbourhoods are like that) shake off the worst and find a way of getting the pain/disappointment/fear out of your system (see Exercise, Mindfulness, Do No Harm, Something Nurturing).

And maybe invest in a robust umbrella. 😉

25. BE TRUE TO YOURSELF

You feel that people don’t like you, so you try and morph into what they want you to be so that you’ll be accepted?

Enough already.  God/Buddha/Allah/that Rabbit from Watership Down made you the marvellous, unique, individual creation that you are, so embrace your quirks and oddities and stay true to yourself and you’ll attract your true kinsmen instead of cringing in a field of boring, bleating sheep, terrified that you’ll be found out.

26. LIMIT/CUT OUT STIMULANTS

My darlings, people like us need drug taking, binge drinking, overeating, or a constant drip feed of black coffee like a frigging hole in the head, especially, as I said earlier, if you are on masses of medication

Plus such mood enhancers come with a price, and the comedown is hard enough for ordinary folk to bear, let alone us loonies.

Anything beyond a few wine gums or a coffee flavoured Walnut Whip should be avoided or used in moderation.  OK?

27. (ACCENTUATE) THE POSITIVES

Sometimes, even if you’ve had a crap day (or especially if you’ve had a crap day) and like me, you are prone to letting bad stuff take over and sully everything, it’s good to make a list of the nice things that happened and stuff that you are grateful for before hitting the sack.  They can be anything from getting a pay rise, to some hot girl smiling at you on the train, or bumping into an old mate, to having a good nights sleep, it not raining that morning or your flatmate leaving you half a pizza in the fridge when you get home. There’s always something to be grateful for if you look hard enough.

It’s also a good way to start the day, but I’d wait until you’ve had your first cup of tea/coffee first.

Just sayin’.

28. PLAN

Try and plan out a schedule for your week, as it will enable you to ensure that you’re not bogged down with just work and drudgery, or it will ensure that you have something to do if you don’t work and tend to hide from the world.  You might not always stick to your plan for that day, but if you’ve got your week mapped out with fun, nurturing, positive arrangements, you’ll be less likely to let it whizz past in a SSRI stupor of nothingness.

29. FORGIVE

Had an encounter with some total tosspot/bitch and you’re still seething about it?  Try not to let it disturb your rest.  Figure out their side, why they might be behaving like a complete twat, and you might actually start to feel sorry for them.  If that doesn’t work, you might want to put pen to paper and rant about them in your….

30. EVENING PAGES

Remember Morning Pages? Well I also do them before going to bed, especially if I have loads on my mind.  Somehow spilling out my troubles on paper before turning out the light somehow makes me feel as if I have shared them with someone and sometimes I even have a solution when I wake up.  Certainly worth a go I reckon. Then have another crack at Forgiving! 😉

31. PRAYER/MEDITATION

You don’t have to be religious to pray you know.  If you don’t believe in a Higher Self, just use your prayer as a form of affirmation or to talk to your subconscious.  Share your troubles, your fears, your wishes for the future and see what happens.  Or, of course, you can meditate instead.

Easy, right? 😉

OK, I know it’s not easy to do anything when you’re at your worst.

But if you print out the attachment, look at it every day and try and do as many as possible, then you’ve achieved something, by the very act of considering your options!

It goes without saying that I’d love for as many of you as possible to join me on this as I’d love your company and to share your stories, so please tag me in if you decide to have a go!

What the hell, in order to get the ball rolling I’m going to tag the first ten fellow sufferers I can find, starting now!

 

http://takingthemaskoff.com/

 

http://phoenixtherebirthofmylife.wordpress.com/

http://lifeinabind.com/

http://thebipolarbum.com/

http://marcimentalhealthmore.com/

http://dysthymiabree.com/

http://mrsbipolarity.com/

http://crazyaboutbipolar.wordpress.com/

http://battybeth108.wordpress.com/

http://momof3isnuts.wordpress.com/

Please have a go and share with others if you’ve a mind to.

I’ll be creating a nice certificate for you to have on your wall (don’t get too excited, OK?) when we’ve finished, and who knows, maybe this list will help you in the way that it’s helped me at times.

That said, no worries if you’d rather pass on this.

Good luck Mistas and Sistas! xx

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Artists-Way-Discovering-Recovering/dp/0330343580/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1412154817&sr=8-1&keywords=the+artists+way 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sane-New-World-Taming-Mind/dp/1444755730

http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/

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A SINNERS PRAYER AKA CHOOSING MY RELIGION

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MAKING-A-ROSARY-d

After decades without owning one, I have recently acquired a rosary.

I had subconsciously been looking for one for about a year, but whilst I wandering through famous cathedrals and churches, checked out websites and eBay, I never really saw anything beautiful that I connected with.

Then last week I did.

And it was lovely.

Not your average, conventional Catholic format though.  Until the other day it didn’t even have a crucifix attached.  I still loved how it looked, but it didn’t seem right without one, so the guy who made it for me sent me a matching cross to add, gratis, bless his heart.

Now it looks perfect.

I pick it up and admire it all the time.  Pinch the cruciforms.  Run the cool, dappled stones through my fingers.  Ball it in my hand and press it close to my heart.

But I don’t know how to pray with it.

For someone who believes in a God, I’m certainly not great at having a dialogue with him/her/it.

It’s the same with meditation.  I own all the paraphernalia but in reality I’m full of shit.

As with many things I talk the talk, but cannot bring myself to walk the walk.

Conventional Christians please look away now, because I don’t want to offend you!

When I was a kid, we were taught to pray as a duty and/or a penance, so it was never a pleasure or a respite from the world let alone a dialogue with the Almighty.   We just babbled words parrot fashion under the steely eye of some embattled, bitter old bag of a nun who you knew was just itching for you to laugh, so that she could give you a smack upside the head.  Not that it stopped us.  I was bored.  An hour or so is a long time for a kid to keep quiet whilst standing up, sitting down, kneeling down intermittently, and I lost count of how many times me and my friend were kicked out of mass for tittering away at some pompous, holier than thou twat or other, posturing in the pews.

I also have to say that, back in the day, I never ever felt the presence of God in church.  But in all fairness, it’s not like we were properly introduced.  It was all about us being unworthy, lowly sinners, who had to bow and scrape, kneel down on the cold floor and try and keep our bony little arses still on that slippery, artfully cheek numbing bench to make up for JC being nailed to the cross because we were such rubbish human beings.

No one explained the prayers to us, what the words meant let alone assuring us that we were allowed to have a direct relationship with God.  I mean, c’mon, how would a working class, snot nosed little scrap like me know what ‘fruit of thy womb’ meant?  No one would have told us what a womb was, because that was to do with ‘the facts of life’ (said in hushed tones in case a passing penis might overhear), and even if we knew, what had fruit to do with it?!  I don’t even think our parents understood either.  We might as well have been reciting the phone book.

penissunglasses

So when the day came that I was old enough to rebel, I immediately refused to go to mass.  My father had never gone, my brother was let off the hook a few week prior, so there was no way I was going to go back.  As far as I was concerned, my local church was largely populated with nasty, small minded hypocrites that bitched/gossiped about/hit one another 6 days a week, then on the 7th rocked up clutching their plastic beads, faces devoid of make up (unless it was disguising a pending black eye), every trace of the booze they had swigged at the pub the night before ruthlessly erased by toothpaste, beaming with holiness, all sweetness and light, simpering away in front of the priest.  As for him (the priest that is, not God) if he was so frigging holy, how come he didn’t spot them a mile off and pull them up about it?

Religion?  You could keep it.

mean-judge_616

Yes, even at that age, I was a judgemental little mare. 🙂

It took me some years to realise that religion and God were two very separate entities indeed.

Hence here I am, with my rosary and no instructions manual.

And I doubt I can do the old Hail Mary/Our Father routine.  I think both of them know what and where they are so they don’t need me to keep banging on about it.

And am I meant to kneel like I used to?

It’s a mystery.

I think I’m going to have to make up my own words and routine.

The last time I was faced with the prospect of writing my own prayer was when I was doing the Artists Way last year and I found it too cringy to even contemplate, but here we are again, and this time there’s no avoiding it.

So I will do it.

But not now.

As Meatloaf once said, with a sweaty passion, quite inappropriate for this subject matter, ‘Let me sleep on it, Baby, Baby, let me sleep on it’.

I’ll give it a go in the morning.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share this superb version of the ‘Sinners Prayer’ by BB King and Ray Charles, when they cry out to the Lord because they are down on their luck, and apologise for any wrong doing because they want to be in the money again.

Shallow, yes? But hell, unlike some of the mealy mouthed, sycophantic wankers I once shared a pew with, a least they’re being honest.

As will I.  Because now I get to choose how I conduct my spiritual life.

Enjoy!

And pray for me and my prayer.

If you know what I mean.

Namaste x


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WEEK 5 ARTIST’S DATE ‘OH NO LOVE! YOU’RE NOT ALONE’

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I’m not very good at Artist’s Dates.

Well, it’s not that I’m bad at them; it’s just that I don’t always want to do them on my lonesome and from now on I’m giving myself permission to do them my way however that might be.  

Ordinary folk who work full time, have a partner/kids/dog and a very full life with barely a moment to themselves probably claw a little ‘Me Time’ away from the chaos with their inner artist every now and then.

Me?  Time on my own is the norm, so this time, I invited someone else along.

A second date with Mr Goatee was in the offing (the guy I met at Waterloo), and I was dying to see ‘David Bowie is:’ at the V&A, so I suggested he came along too, which was a great idea, especially as he got there first, did all the queuing (something I hate) and had tickets in hand by the time I arrived.

Result!

And it was everything I hoped for.

The exhibition, not the date 😉

Actually, joking aside, it was great to have him there as music is something Mr G and I have in common, and both being huge fans of the Thin White Duke, it made the whole experience so much more enjoyable.

And of course it goes without saying that as far as fulfilling Artist’s Date criteria, it was (or should be) any Creative’s wet dream and then some.

It takes someone pulling together something like this to realise what an extraordinary career this guy has had.  The exhibition takes you from his humble beginnings in Brixton, to his mooching moodily around Soho, on stage at ‘Top of the Pops’, Berlin, Manhattan, the world, and through a plethora of metamorphoses that, if you’re a fan, will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.  

Because it takes courage to be different and as soon as his fans got used to one incarnation, he would snatch it away and come back as someone completely different, and shock/amaze/inspire the world all over again.

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And he did all of this pre-punk when the world was still shockable.

There was so much to see from posters, to album covers, records, lyrics scrawled on exercise book paper, props, film clips, specially created sets and the costumes of course, are glorious.  All of this plus wireless activated dialogue via headphones, and an endless soundtrack of his back catalogue which just makes you want to go home and play all his stuff on shuffle again, again and again.

Suffice to say, his influence on music, fashion, art, popular culture and of course, all of us odd ball, unconventional, never-could-fit-in freaks was and is immeasurable.

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Bowie, with his mismatching eyes and crooked teeth never tried to hide his weirdness; indeed he flexed and worked it like a steroid fuelled muscle man, and in doing so made himself the living icon that he is today.

And if he dared to be different, then why can’t we?  

Whilst Bowie studied and always feared mental illness (his half brother committed suicide in 1985), if it was ever part of his genetic inheritance, he trounced it and turned it around by allowing himself to let loose with his wild imagination, and be entirely, utterly and unapologetically himself.

So my fellow fruitcakes, from now on I’m going to try and be myself without fearing what anyone might think of me, and I’d love it if you did too.

After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

World domination? 😉

Go and see this if you can.

And gimme your hands; ‘cos we’re wonderful x

P.S. Another date is on the cards too!

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/david-bowie-is/

 


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THE ARTIST’S WAY: Week Five Part 2 – ‘Presence, Not Presents’ and the ‘Cupboard of Doom’

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So since the last time I worked on Part 5 with that, erm, shall we say ‘opportunistic’ group in 2012, I do recognise that just because certain people choose to interpret how God’s/Higher Power’s generosity should be accessed to their own ends, that doesn’t mean that the book encourages that kind of behaviour so I was willing to give it another shot.

The reason it’s taken me a while to get back here this year is that I tried the Evening/Morning Q&A pages experiment, and I didn’t feel that I’d been heard at all, in fact I almost felt ignored and was bitterly disappointed.

Anyway it seems that God (sorry, bored of typing Higher Power all the time, so am dropping it now) has stopped playing hard to get and that, as I’ve always professed, he/she clearly has a sense of humour.

So, yesterday morning, I sit down, start re-reading Chapter Five and got to the bit about God’s generosity and thought to myself ‘Huh!’, then saw something poking out from behind a cushion.

I pulled it out.

A carpet sample square.

And somewhere in my little head, I think ‘If you wanna help me Mate, try making one of those bloody cats puke up.’

https://sistasertraline.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/what-spew-pussy-cat/

Minutes later I hear a very familiar sound:

‘Blup, blup, blup, blup….’

Disbelievingly, I run out into the hall just to catch the momentous event in action.

Dexter-cat had just been sick!

To say that I was amazed, would be something of an understatement.

Wh’appen?

I rush to find an old gardening implement then scoop up the warm, steaming vomit <blup>, smear it over the carpet tile like pate on toast <blup, blup…retch> and shove it hastily in the cupboard under the sink, hereby known as the Cupboard of Doom (because it stank) pause for a moment, clinging to the sink and screwing up my eyes in an attempt to stop wanting to heave, then made myself a rejuvenating cup of tea and sat back down to my book in a daze, feeling very much like the victim of a practical joke.

Very funny, Big Man…

Half an hour later, my grocery delivery arrives, and as I unload my stuff from the plastic crate, I notice that they had given me two bags of oranges instead of one.

‘Mate, can you take these back please, I only ordered one?’

The guy rolls his eyes a bit and takes the charge off my bill and leaves.

But, as I take everything out of the plastic carrier bags, it’s apparent that they sent me double the amount of quite a few items.

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Again, I get the distinct impression that someone is taking the piss out of me.

I also have a quandary; the book advises not to send ‘gifts’ back but accept them, but I don’t want to get the poor sap who packed this order into trouble.

My (ex) Catholic guilt wins out.

I ring up the supermarket and explain.  The operator listens patiently then goes away to speak to his supervisor.

‘OK,’ I think to myself, ‘if I’m meant to have this, he’ll come back and thank me for being honest and tell me to keep everything.’

He comes back.

‘Hello again madam,’ he says, ‘this happens quite often with this branch, so I’ll send them a message and they’ll call you to arrange a pick up for the extra items.’

I put the phone down, a little deflated.  That’s what I get for being honest.

BUT….

…I’ve had my phone on me for the last 24 hours and no one has called to arrange a pick up of the extra goods.

So.

What else can I say except ‘Thank You Dude!  Very clever!  Now, if you can rustle up a cottage by the sea for me and the mogs to live in, and a job that I can do from home, that would be brilliant…. ;-)’

So, being serious for a moment, this could be all in my imagination, but in fairness, it isn’t the first time I’ve felt the presence or influence of something/someone, so I have to admit, I’m more than a little chuffed that a teensy weensy connection may have reformed….

After all, you know what they say, ‘It’s not about the presents but the presence….’

P.S.  For those of you sad enough to want to know, the cat sick didn’t stain the carpet sample!  Hurray!!

P.P.S. The Cupboard of Doom still smells awful.  Boo!!


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THE ARTISTS WAY: Week Five Part 1 – 2012 ‘Ex, Eyes and Rinsing Guys’

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So whilst you’re probably thinking this woman is so damn medicated she can’t tell a month from a week, stay with me and have faith for I am back in The Artist’s  Way saddle again, after a bit of a dark night of the soul which I will discuss in Part 2.

So.

To be honest, I struggled a bit with the concept of God’s generosity when I got to Chapter 5 last time in 2012 as I was working through it with a group at the time, and the leader of this group seemed to think, not only was God an ecclesiastic hole-in-the-wall machine, but that we were too.

‘Sometimes we forget how powerful God is,’ she said, beaming, hands clasp together as if in pray, ‘sometimes people even see a gift from God and essentially send it back.  Imagine that!’

We all beam beatifically back at her, fully open to a gift from God.  No ‘return to senders’ around this table.  Oh no.

‘For instances, I offered Janice here a free ticket for the ‘Patchwork Quilt’ Show last week, but I could see that she wasn’t comfortable with taking it…’

Janice starts a little as if someone just put a hand on her thigh.

‘Well’, she mumbled going a bit red, ‘I did have a Christmas party to g….’

‘…but she should have just taken it!  For God wants you to have the things that make you the person you are meant to be.’

Janice, it has to be said, did not look like a Patchwork Quilt kinda gal at all.  She looked more like Wednesday Addams’ older sister, but our host continued.

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‘And sometimes for instance, these gifts will come from friends!’ the beam gets broader, ‘and what you mustn’t do is refuse them because you will be holding yourself back, and offending a friend…’

True, dat.

‘…for example my Ex bought me a ticket to a three day Christian pop music festival as a surprise gift, and I took it! And guess what?’

You had a great time?

‘I had a great time!  Sooo, I don’t know whether you know, but it’s my birthday this week, so…’ the beam melts into a soft smile, and the eyes look down bashfully ‘….you might want to club together and buy me another one for ‘One Love’ festival that’s taking place in Hyde Park in January….’

Eh?!

Two thirds of the table look as appalled as I probably do, beams frozen rictus like to their chops, eyes wide with horror, whilst the other third, who were part of the original group beam dazzlingly at us, expectant and encouraging.

OK, I don’t profess to be a saint or to know God’s/Higher Power’s mind any more than the next person, but I’m pretty sure he/she/it doesn’t expect us to go around proactively poncing off our friends, or worse still, complete strangers.

After about ninety seconds complete silence, the leader coughed, lifted her eyes from her empty coffee cup and looked at us reproachfully.

I was nervous and couldn’t bear the silence anymore, so had to say something.

‘Hey, you should do what that ‘model’ does from Celebrity Big Brother!  You know the one that was on ‘Sex, Lies and Rinsing Guys’? As long as you’re willing to mimsy around in a bikini or a pair of shorts for an hour or so every day and you’ll be laughing!’

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/sex-lies-rinsing-guys

The silence, as they say, was deafening, given that I’d just essentially called their leader, a, well, look at the website and you’ll see what I mean…..

The following week, about half of the new people did not return.

This did not deter these opportunistic evangelists; the following week one of them brought a ‘free’ ticket for some kind of trade show (which didn’t cost anything anyway) and offered it to me, beaming again, expectantly, encouragingly.

She may as well as been holding out a begging bowl.  Thankfully I had other plans that day.

Then when it came to the week that you had to arrange a weekend away by yourself, I decided to throw caution to the wind, ignore my depleted financial state and arrange a trip to Sweden.

The guy hosting our table was ecstatic.

‘That’s amaazzzing!’ he gushed, ‘Sweden!  I’ve always wanted to go there…how amazing…Sweden eh….mmm, Sweden…’

His eyes widened, glowed, and rolled like those of a frightened horse, betraying more than just a hint of desperation.

This trip had cost me nearly a grand and this fool was expecting me to say ‘Hey! Why doncha come along?  I’ll pay!  Bring your family, your girlfriend, your dog…..hell, the whole group can come along, just let me check that I can remortgage my flat!’

I smiled back, my eyes hardening.  ‘Yes.  Sweden.’

The following week I did not return.

But this time, things are different, and the Big Man (a) seems to be trying to tell me something, and (b) seems to have quite the sense of humour….

More to follow…..


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MAN OVERBOARD

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I had a catch up with Aunty C (my counsellor) today, and confided in her about my friends, and that despite my New Years resolution to not cut people out of my life, I seem, without too much effort on my part, to be shedding them like dandruff.

‘Maybe CL is right,’ I said glumly, ‘maybe I do push people away.  Maybe I am the common denominator.’

But Aunty C was adamant that this was not so.

‘Stop focussing on the individuals and look at what is going on as a whole,’ she said emphatically, ‘when people start to make fundamental changes to themselves and in their lives, it can be very unnerving for their friends, and sometimes they can’t and won’t stay the course.’

And she’s right.

In the last year, my behavioural patterns have changed drastically.  

  • Instead of constantly engaging in battles I have learned to choose which are worth fighting, and walk away from the others.  
  • Instead of lashing out at someone when angry, I try to wait until I am calm, say my piece with brevity and integrity, then leave it with them.  
  • Instead of incessantly justifying, reasoning, defending, excusing, counter blaming, I am slowly learning that there is nothing to be gained from such behaviour.  If someone does not, will not see so your perspective on things, you cannot make them, no matter how persuasive your argument, so, for the most part, I no longer try.
  • Instead of being afraid when someone has a tantrum, sulks and/or walks away, I now see it as proof that the process is starting to work, bid them a sad farewell and get back on with my life.

When I stop bemoaning the loss of each ‘man overboard’ I realise that my ship is becoming populated with crew that like and accept me for who I am, bring something new to my life and are bloody good fun to be around.

Granted there are a few stowaways and a couple of ‘seasick’ landlubbers that may or may not want to stay on board, but when I think about it, as things stand, we seem to be sailing in the right direction.

Which is better than how it was before, when I was stuck ‘Pi like’ in a stationery boat going nowhere, in the glare of a relentless sun and having to deal with some very dubious passengers indeed.

Like Pi’s Richard Parker, my inner tigress has survived all of this and doesn’t need to bare her teeth that much nowadays, as I am no longer that skinny, scared, raggedy arsed scrap of humanity who was willing to put up with anything from anyone in order to avoid rocking the boat and ending up alone and isolated.

I have to stress that I will try not to make anyone walk the plank again (unless they are very harmful/destructive), and whilst some people have jumped ship of their own volition, I am potentially open to some of them re-boarding at a later date.  

They just need to be aware that I am the Captain of this Ship, it is now a working vessel and run on an ‘all hands on deck’ policy so I only accept crew. 

Anyone expecting to be treated like a first class passenger on a luxury yacht where everything is done for them will be sorely disappointed.  

They will also need to get themselves a good life jacket as if we end up in the drink and they think they can push me under in order to elevate their own head above water, they seriously have another thing coming.

The biggest ask of all? 

They should be, or want or be willing to try and be happy, as I cannot allow myself to be sucked into the riptide of their misery and drown alongside them as I get swamped by other people’s moods so their unhappiness ends up being my unhappiness too.  I will always do whatever I can to help my friends and strangers when I can, but if that willingness and effort is not there, I cannot save them.  Even if I wanted to.

My favourite crew?  Those who have come to the fore and helped me guide this boat to safer waters, supported me through thick and thin (as I have them), forgiven me my many faults and I am happy and grateful to call them friends.

To all of the people currently gracing my life, I say ‘All aboard! Deck party at 7pm, champagne and seafood on ice as we speak…’ 

To those who choose not to?

‘Safe journey and happy travels. I hope you find the destination you are looking for.’

Namaste x

 


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PICTURE THIS – BLIND DATE 1

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You’ll be pleased to hear that I survived my first blind date for two years!

🙂

I was nearly late as I was chatting with some friends, and as it was pouring with rain and I almost crashed into him in the doorway ‘cos I was trying to run with an umbrella, but he was tall, nice looking, had a lovely smile, looked really pleased to see me and as he gave me an approving once over as he held the door open for me and my soggy brolly, for a moment I thought I’d hit the jackpot with this one.

BUT (and there’s always a ‘but’ isn’t there) as we got into the chat over coffee, it became more and more apparent that that elusive spark of chemistry was sadly lacking.

Let me stress here that I am not going to slag this guy off, because there was and is nothing wrong with him.

Except his voice was a bit monotone.

And he had a high pitched giggle.

And he was into narrow boats.

And our senses of humour weren’t in synch.

And he seemed very, very sensible, reasonable and grown up.

Also a couple of little things niggled me and long term would probably really get on my nerves.

At times like this, I want to take myself outside, bitch slap myself hard upside the head, and give myself a right good telling off.

‘What is wrong with you?’ I’d say ‘This man is attractive, he clearly fancies you, he was on time, he didn’t swear at you, he looks fit and healthy, he has hair, teeth and everything.  So what if he’s a bit, well, normal?’

I don’t know.

God knows I can’t afford to be fussy.

Maybe I should go on a second date with him if he asks?

I doubt if he will though as I didn’t do anything to prolong our time together and headed off as soon as I could, as I couldn’t take anymore boat talk.  Locks and gates, gas versus electricity, camp beds, chemical toilets etc. etc., and my meds makes it really hard for me to look alert and interested when I’m going cross eyed with boredom, so I had to forgo a proposed wander around the shops (in the rain) with him afterwards.

Also it wouldn’t be fair to lead him on after I had already done the Test on him.

I’ve been doing the Test on potential boyfriends since my mid twenties when I used to hang out with a once close friend J and her friend S.

J introduced me to and S to the Test and took great pleasure in exposing our self-delusional desperation if ever she heard or saw us considering dating someone for reasons other than genuinely having the hots for him.

Be it a Loadsamoney city boy, an Armani clad yuppie, a MMM (marriage material man), or just a lovely, kind chap, J would lunge at us if there was the merest inkling of our making a sensible choice of partner, and yell ‘You’re going to date him?  Really?  Right, go on then, do The Test!  Do it!.’

S and I would sigh, roll our eyes and tell J she was being immature or silly, that she was jealous and that the potential object of our affection was a perfectly attractive man, but she would push, taunt and mock us all evening until we did it, which after much cringing, groaning and face pulling on our part resulted in our having to admit to her that we were kidding ourselves, we didn’t fancy him after all, and then we’d have to let the poor bastard down as easily as possible.

I am now a mature woman of fifty, and still to this day, if I am ever thinking of dating anyone who doesn’t make my ovaries go ping with delight, I remember the Test, shudder, automatically do it in my head, curse J and silently admit defeat.

The Test goes like this.

You have to close your eyes, picture the man in a state of undress looming above you mid coitus, ‘shuddering to a climax’.

So in simplistic terms, you have to picture his orgasm face.

This is bad enough but if you also had the term ‘shuddering to a climax’ in your head (usually in J‘s plummy, verging on theatrical, Hampstead tones), it’s even worse, as J, who was a gifted mimic, had usually impersonated said candidate doing the deed, complete with facial distortions, fluttering eyelashes, contorted, dribbly mouth uttering little gibbers of delight and shrill dirty talk, culminating in a eerie, high pitched wail, which was enough to put you off sex with anyone for life.

Just talking about it makes my blood run cold.

So yes, you’ve guessed it, whilst I was looking at GG across the table this afternoon telling myself that he was fit, attractive, solvent and perfect man friend material, all of a sudden a vision of him looming above me, all concave, tufty chest and spotty shoulders, face contorted in pained ecstasy, and mouth glistening with muff juice filled my head and it was then I knew that I needed to bring things to an end before they even got started.

If you’re reading this J, curse you and your Test, it’s one of the reasons I’m still single to this day.  And don’t think we didn’t know the real motivation behind it, as both S and I were painfully aware that we would never be allowed to settle down with anyone before you did.

It was pretty funny at the time though 🙂

So there you have it, a cautionary tale of relationship thwarting friends, an obsession with the superficial and the physical, and the pitfalls of having a very overactive imagination.

I swear I will probably be doing that test when I’m eighty with no teeth, grey pubes and my tits down to my knees and will die all alone except for cats who will probably end up eating me and not even in a good way.

And no one can help me.

This is, however, your opportunity to save yourselves.

Drink yourself insensible, buy some good brain bleach, deleted this article from your blog roll and try and forget that you ever heard of the Test.

That way, you may still have a chance of marital bliss with a good, reliable, normal man.

As for me, I fear that at this rate, I may never have sex again.

Back to the drawing board…..sigh….