In which I wobble…

Happy New Year to all my readers!

I hope you had a lovely Christmas, spent time with your loved ones and watched lots of old films!

My husband’s gift to me was a stinking head cold that started on Christmas morning as I was cooking dinner and is just departing now. To be fair, he made up for it by looking after me so well. Cooking and providing coffee, tea, mince pies and other goodies while I lounged about on the sofa feeling a little sorry for myself.

Sounds pretty miserable right? But, although I didn’t realise it at the time, it was exactly what I needed.

Some of you will know that I had quite a bad fall down a couple of stairs in The Corner House at the end of November. My whole lower left leg, from the knee to ankle was badly sprained and so painful. Also got a bit of infection in the leg just before Christmas and needed antibiotics, so the whole festive thing was more of a challenge than a pleasure.

Being me, I carried on, pushing myself to walk, drive, sit at my desk. Anything but rest the leg in the way it needed, even heading South for a few days. Thankfully having an automatic car meant I didn’t have to cancel the trip.

But once I got the cold, I really was not capable of carrying on. Did the universe intervene? Enforcing me to rest and recuperate? Feels like it. And for once, I listened. It gave me time for rest, recuperation and a bit of reflection. And a binge watch of the first 3 series of Nashville, but that’s another story!

2018 was a challenging year. The initial euphoria of our relocation had passed, it was time to settle in and put down roots, establish ourselves in our new home and start to live. It wasn’t always easy, although Nigel found a great job and we had the most glorious summer with friends and family coming to visit and celebrate my 60th and 10 years of marriage with us.

For me, personally and professionally it was time for me to decide where my future lies. There were lots of wobbles, particularly as I was not earning very much. But I ended the year with a clear picture of what I want to do and who I want to do it with. I just need to put it all into action. Watch this space.

But my fall has caused a spectacular wobble. My confidence has taken a huge knock. So much so that I have found myself not wanting to leave the house, dreading Nigel going back to work, and putting off a lot of stuff that I need to do to get 2019 up and running. I have found that I don’t trust my own feet when I am out and about. And I am not just talking about walking.

I feel vulnerable. Its scary. I want to pull the drawbridge up and fill the moat. Everything feels too overwhelming, too terrifying. There is a total lack of confidence about me, not something I have felt for quite a while. A fear of failure paralysing me for the first time in quite a while. I have even got my wig out, considering wearing it to boost myself. I am tearful and emotional.

I feel quite physically frail, something I know that I am going to have to deal with, and soon.

But at the same time, I feel that 2019 has an amazing energy, that good things are coming, that we should all jump on board and make the most of it. Its going to be a very positive year spiritually.

I don’t believe in New Years Resolutions. But I like to set positive intentions. Perhaps writing them here will help me to feel stronger and start that forward momentum.

  • I am going to keep a daily gratitude journal
  • I am going to deal with my physical frailty by starting an exercise class and walking more
  • I am going to lose more weight too
  • I am going to get my business properly off the ground
  • I am going to help more people
  • I am going to live, love and laugh and relish every moment

Yesterday Nigel literally forced me out of the house and we went for a walk along the prom on a frosty sunny day. He instinctively knew it was what I needed. The prom was buzzing, people were smiling, the bay was breath-taking. I felt better. I feel better. And I remembered everything I have learned over the last couple of years.

We all need time out now and then. To take a breath. And then we can get on with it.

Do any of you remember Weebles? No matter how much they wobble they bounce right back up. Well that’s me. Wobbles can be really scary, but like life they are a learning process. I am still wobbling a little, but I will settle. I wish you all the best for this bright shiny new year.

What are your intentions? I would love to know.

Reattaching my wings!

Letter to my daughter…

Dear Zoe,

Yesterday, saying goodbye at Lancaster station was hard, and yes, I blubbed. As we both knew I would. Your mother cries, you know that. I cry when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am tired. My eyes leak. Nothing I can do about it. It has always been that way, and at 60 years old that fact is unlikely to change any time soon. So, no apologies for that!

It was lovely having you here for a couple of days despite the awful weather. Of course, today is a sunny bright day in Morecambe with blue skies and views to die for. As I said, we need a summer visit so you can see the beauty I am looking at outside of my window this morning. But it felt good to go to bed in The Corner House and know you were tucked up in the other bedroom above me. This house will always have room for you.

Several times during your short visit you insisted on reminding me that you have grown up. That you are a grown woman, living your life. Even at the station as we said goodbye. It reminded me of how I feel when I spend time with your nan. I think that it is standard for everyone, spending time with your mum at any age sends you right back to your childhood, difficult when we spend our whole lives trying to prove to everyone that we are successful,self-sufficient, strong human beings who can take care of themselves. Which is exactly how we raise our children to be. Even though it is so hard when those very same children become the people we want them to be. Somehow we don’t expect to be left behind. Remember how Barbara used to snuggle up to her 6ft 3” hulk of a son and call him her baby?

For me, particularly at this time of year, you are still that little girl with blonde curls sneaking into my bed on your birthday or Christmas morning, your beautiful brown eyes dancing at the prospect of presents. Snuggling up and both of us overwhelmed with so much love that nothing else mattered.

Like everyone you have had some crap in your life. A father who left when you were little, the resulting financial chaos, a stressed out working mum, and then the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes. But to compensate you also had a grandmother who shared your care and adored you (and still does) and then an amazing step-father in Nigel. We travelled, we laughed, we shared so much and I treasure every memory.

I just want you to know that I know you are grown up. And I am so proud of the young woman you have become. Just in the last year you have bravely forged forward with your new career, and I know that the people you look after in the care home are so lucky to have you there with them. Your natural empathy combined with the passion you throw into anything you do will carry you far. You were always meant to be a healer/carer.

You and Kieran are building a home, and a life together. Its cool to watch you learning and growing together.

Our decision to move up here to Morecambe was the realisation of a dream for us. There is always a cost to such a dream. Being so far away from your nan and you is hard. But it was the right thing to do, and in some ways it leaves you free to live your life. I guess it is just odd because usually it is the child who moves away, and the adult who remains. We turned that one on its head, didn’t we?

We do miss you. We miss the stupid things. Being silly. Watching Friends and giggling. Seeing the daft stuff that makes us smile without words. You rolling your eyes when I sing the wrong song lyrics (even when I do it deliberately just to make you laugh) You and I live via text message now. And that’s ok too. 

Do not ever think that I want to hold you back. Telling you that I miss you and love you is not about wanting to hold you in the past. It is just about letting you know how much I love and value you. To remind you that we are always here for you, and that we have your back. I want to share my life here with you, show you the wonderful things that we have discovered in our new life. And I want to show my new friends up here that I have a wonderful daughter too. To show them Penny, the mum.

But none of that means that I think you need to be here. You are where you need to be. I guess in a way I want to reassure you that I am ok. That we made the right decision. I would love you to be closer, but you need to live your life, dream your dreams and be where you need to be. Just be aware that if ever you need a bolt hole for any reason, The Corner House is here for you. Like the song says

“Take every chance you dare
I’ll still be there
When you come back down”

Just remember, having strong roots makes you grow stronger and taller. Be happy they are there and get on with flowering. But come and see us again soon. We miss you.

All my love

Mum xx

Diabetes and me…

Last week I had some good news. I had my annual Type 2 diabetes check and discovered that my blood test showed a significant improvement in my blood sugar control. This annual test is called the HbA1C and it measures your average blood glucose (sugar) levels for the last two to three months. Previously the lowest I have ever been, back in the early days after diagnosis, was 8.1. Two years ago it was 12.2, last year it was 10.8. Last week it was down to 7.2. A great result, although they really want it to be 6.5. I suspect I may actually be there, but my recent bout of bronchitis raised my levels for about six weeks of the three months concerned.

The reason for this vast improvement is about six months of total focus on my diabetes. Following a fairly low-carb way of eating, pricking my poor sore fingers 4-6 times a day to record the effect of every meal, every treat, every bit of exercise to see what effect it has on my blood sugar. Swallowing 11 tablets every day, even experimenting with when I take those tablets. I have thought of little else. And it has paid off.

This is really the first time I have done this since I was first diagnosed in April 2001. At the time I was in a pretty grim place. I was newly separated with a 6 year old daughter. I had huge amounts of debt, I weighed over 23 stone (having lost 2 stone pre-diagnosis) and my work life was so stressful and miserable that I could barely get out of bed in the morning.

The diabetes came as another hammer blow, seeming like a death sentence (which of course it can be). It was discovered by a routine urine test at my annual medical for work. Sugar in my sample. They sent me to the doctors, then there was a blood test. Then the news. The only advice I was given was to go home and empty my cupboards of jam. Not really that helpful.

At that time my diet was dictated by my budget. I ate a lot of beans on toast! Over the next couple of years, I lost another 2 stone. I took a dance class to increase my exercise. But as so often happens I got complacent. My diabetes care from the doctors was non-existent. There was certainly no education. Looking back, I don’t even know if I really understood what diabetes was.

Then in the summer of 2004 my daughter, Zoe, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. Boy did I get some education then. This blog is not about Zoe’s diabetes journey though. Suffice it to say that her struggle as a 9 year old and then a teenager, punctuated with hospital visits, whilst improving my understanding of this cruel disease gave me a reason not to focus on my own problem.

I lost another couple of stone before I got married. A loss of 6 stone from my heaviest. Although I still needed to lose more (another 2 stone gone since then!). But to be honest I didn’t test very often. I got myself into a stew before each annual blood test, and occasional dark nights when I allowed fear of the future to creep into my consciousness, but outside of that I pretty much pushed it to the back of my mind. To be honest my life was so busy that I had very little time for self care. It was easier just to not worry about it. Just keep going.

Then, as you know, last year we changed our lives. We moved to Morecambe. The level of health care up here is so much better than it was in Hertfordshire. For the first time I felt as though I had someone in my corner. It was time to start taking better care of myself. I realised that I have quite bad damage to my feet. I already had numbness when I was diagnosed, but I definitely have neuropathy in both feet and need to take great care of them.

In May I set out to get a grip. I set up a little accountability group on Facebook, people that I trusted to support me without judgement. Kick my butt when needed. Encourage me if things got tough. I went back to low-carb eating. Started walking more. Started testing more often. Micro-managing my diabetes. And it paid off. Great results. Pats on the back all round. My feet hurt all the time, in fact a lot worse since I got my sugars down – probably because they are not so numb. But all my other results are pretty good.

But since getting those results I have felt a kind of despair. I am always going to have diabetes. I will always have to think about what I eat and drink. I will always have to take tablets. I will always have to test my bloods. I am angry about that. So of course I am writing it out. Acknowledging that diabetes stinks. And overwhelmingly sad that my lovely daughter has to live with this too.

The constant focus in the news on obesity as a cause of Type 2 diabetes haunts me. It shames me. I go into my diabetes appointments feeling ashamed. Like a small child desperate to please. I am letting my diabetes define me. But it is not who I am.

I have learned a lot over the last six months. I know that if I eat well and walk I keep my sugars down, and an occasional slice of cake, or a couple of slices of my home-made bread will not adversely affect me. I can live my life and hopefully prolong my life by continuing this self-care. Over the last 5 days my sugars have been consistently between 5 and 7. I am proud of that.

This blog marks my decision to stop letting my diabetes define me. To stop feeling that my life is limited by this “chronic condition”. To truly rediscover my lust for life. To embrace my 60’s and ignore my limiting beliefs around my physical abilities. To believe in the things that I tell my clients. To stop being angry. To let it go. To relax a little and live my life. With diabetes. Not fighting it.

We are our own harshest judges aren’t we? I love the sentiment of this song. I’m gonna follow my arrow…

 

This is me…

 

The phone rings and a disembodied voice says to me “We need the weather in 5 minutes”

“Sure” I say, “no problem”. I know that I am supposed to be reading the weather on the radio

I hang up and realise that I have no idea where my weather script is! My anxiety kicks in BIG time and my heart rate increases, my breathing becomes laboured, my body temperature soars, I am in full panic mode. My brain is screaming “What am I going to do????” I can hear the clock ticking…and I wake up, in a cold sweat with an overwhelming sense of terror.

That was me at 1am this morning.

But then, as my breathing slowed, and my bedroom materialised around me I had a rather wonderful experience.

You see, I have a secret ambition. It came to me about 2 years ago while I was working with my coach and friend Ian. I want to do a Ted Talk. I want to stand on that red circle and share something profound, something inspirational. Something that might help even one person feel better. There, I said it out loud again.

Well last night in that moment between the panic of my nightmare and the clarity of wakefulness I received the script. Fully formed. I know what it is that I want to say.

Some of it I have said before, it involves me sharing some of the stuff I have left behind so that I can tell people exactly what I see now. I need to revisit some of the pain that I know I do not need anymore. I need to do that because I need to share that I get it. I get how painful it can be. It is necessary to acknowledge the crap so that I can point the way to something so much better, so much bigger. Something innate in all of us. I lay quietly, running through the script in my head. And smiling.

An hour later I find myself outside in my street with two elderly Labradors who decided that 2am is the perfect time for a toilet break. It was cold, the cars in the road were lightly frosted as we walked along, accompanied by both my cats. Standing waiting for the dogs to do what dogs do,  I looked up at the sky. It was so beautiful it took my breath away. So many stars reminding me of the vastness of the universe. Back in bed I lay quietly, blown away by a glimpse of something so mindblowing, so infinite. But also an incredible sense of who I am. Why I am. A sense of wonder about our existence on this tiny rock spinning through the universe.

I know. Maybe you had to be there! But something has definitely shifted in me. Unfortunately, the new me was still awake at 5:20 am, and the alarm went off just over an hour later. Today is proving a bit of a challenge. But that sense of how awesome we are persists.

I believe that every now and then we are given glimpses of something rather wonderful.  Standing on a beach at sunset, or on top of a mountain. Gazing at our new born baby. Poetry, art, drama. If we are lucky we fall in love, share a friendship, experience a passion, realise a dream. Its about being open to all those experiences whilst knowing that we are part of something greater, something very special. It’s a feeling that transcends some of the more unpleasant things that our experience in this world brings us. It exists in that quiet space before sleep or just after waking when we are close to touching our spirit. The quiet roar.

Last Thursday I happened to catch The One Show on BBC1. It was a humdinger. The lovely Ben Fogle talked about standing on top of Everest in a humble and awe-inspiring way. Noel Fitzpatrick, the supervet, talked about animala, their bond with humans and his desire to make this world a better place for them. And then we met this year’s rickshaw challenge team. Six similarly awe-inspiring youngsters who will brave a long and difficult journey in all kinds of weather to help other youngsters. I cried.

My Ted Talk would appear to be about me. And it is, but only because I am an ordinary person going through an extraordinary experience that is inside all of us. The best talks I have watched have not been by experts with letters after their names. They are by real people, ordinary people who have triumphed over adversity, or discovered something inside themselves that they didn’t know was there. By sharing we can inspire, and we can learn. There is so much to learn.

Coming to a You Tube Channel near you soon…

This song is probably overused in this context, but no apologies as it is glorious and so appropriate for that script I am running. And much of what my talk will be about.

 

 

 

 

Still alive and kicking…

Hi there, remember me? I turned 60 years old 8 weeks ago and dropped off the face of the earth! Well I abandoned my blog for a while. My apologies dear readers.

I have actually been going through some changes which I think I am ready to share.

So just a year ago I was at the end of 7 days training to formally set me on my path to my new role as a life coach. It was 7 magical days where I made new friends, discovered things about myself I didn’t know and saw a future ahead of me filled with possibility. My new understanding of the world and how we create our reality filled me with joy and hope.

Since then I have spent many hours reading, watching and learning. Deepening that understanding, exploring new concepts and learning to live in a beautiful feeling every day.

I have shared some of my insights here over the year. But buckle up, this is a biggie!

My friend Theresa reading a passage from Captain Corellis’s Mandolin at our wedding vow renewal

About two weeks after my birthday, after all the excitement of our party when we renewed our wedding vows in the sunshine on the pavement outside The Corner House and another week out and about with my mum and my aunt, when the dust had settled from six weeks of full on fun I found myself alone in my home with the dogs and cats and time to reflect.

And then it hit me. I am 60 years old. With the emphasis on the OLD! I can hear you all saying all the right things – 60 is not old, 60 is the the new 40, you are young at heart….and so on. For a couple of weeks I mulled this over, telling myself all those things. Reminding myself that I chose to completely change my life at the age of 58, listing all the amazing things I have done in the last couple of years. But none of it seemed to help.

You see the thing is, I realised that there is probably less time ahead of me than behind me. And all the things that I have dreamed of doing. All the places I want to visit. All the plans do do things that I have carried with me for so long. Well there doesn’t seem to be enough time left. I felt panic. The fear of not being able to do the things I want to do kicked in big time and for a few days I couldn’t catch my breath.

I started to doubt myself. Doubt whether I could do what I have planned to do with the rest of my working life. I even caught myself looking at job sites! I started to worry about not being around for Zoe as she goes through her life. I felt regret for so many things

Alongside these feelings I also revisited work stress for a few weeks. One of my roles involves doing some accounting for my cousin’s company. For reasons that I will not bore you with I needed to do a whole year’s accounting manually and I had a limited time in which to do that. Now I have always loved a deadline, but this was a massive task! And so stressful! Added to my overthinking about my time running out it was inevitable that I was going to crash and burn.

For the first time in a year I got ill. First a bad cold and horrible cough, and then, just as I thought I was better I got bronchitis. I have, quite frankly, been feeling quite sorry for myself. Having a bit of a wallow.

The the universe steppe in. Two things happened that helped me. Firstly, I had a tearful conversation with my best friend, Theresa. We have been through so much together and have known each other for 28 years now. She is 18 months younger than me, but I have forgiven her for that! After we talked I felt calmer and my mind started to settle.

Then on Sunday I went to an event and I met a lady called Val. And she reminded me of who I am and why I do what I do. Her story and our conversation, her kindness, set me back on track. If you want to know more about her, here is a link to my Facebook live video about her

https://www.facebook.com/thecornerhouseUK/videos/559115554545184/

I am not out of the woods yet. I still have moments of panic about how much time I have left. Usually in the wee small hours. Realistically, having been a diabetic for 17 years my life expectancy is reduced. But I am taking as much care with my health as I can. What is most important is making the most of every moment. Grabbing life by the throat. Helping as many people as I can, while I can.

Normal service is slowly being resumed as I recover from my bout of bronchitis. At the moment I am so fatigued that I am struggling to remain vertical, but each day there is a bit of improvement. I believe that things happen for a reason, so perhaps I was meant to take some rest. Some time out to deal with my latest insight. That time is an illusion. That there is still time for me to make a difference. To someone, somewhere who needs me to show up, listen, encourage and support. In the same way that people have shown up for me. Like Theresa. Like Val. Like Nigel.

We all have wings, and we all long to soar. But sometimes we need a little help. It is there, you just need to look for it.

I wish you all someone to be the wind beneath your wings.

60 and counting…

So today is one of those BIG birthdays with a 0 on the end!

They are always momentous as they mark the passing of another decade of our three score years and ten. Just a number? I guess so, but maybe it is good to be reflective of time passing.

At 20 I was quite lonely, bluffing my way through living alone, exploring the world, estranged from my family but full of hope.

At 30 I had just met my future husband, full of hope for different reasons rather than just being young.

At 40 my marriage was miserable and difficult, and would be over in another 2 years. I was a stressed out working full time mum of an amazing 4 year old. Without much hope other than the version I invested in my beautiful, smart and funny daughter.

At 50 I married Nigel and hope was back, I learned to dream again and with his love and support I had started to become the Penny that I always knew was in there.

And today 60 is knocking on my door. Well look at me. Dreams realised, a completely new life that I was probably dreaming of back at 20. Living by the sea, with my best friend, in a beautiful home, and proof that hope is never misplaced.

Yesterday I felt quite sad and there were tears. Regrets surfaced, I thought back about some of the sad or bad things that have happened in my life. This year has seen quite a lot of that. But it has been tempered with kind thoughts and forgiveness. For myself, and for people in my life. 59 has been powerful and a little overwhelming from time to time. No matter how much we tell ourselves that the past is in the past we cannot help but reflect on it from time to time as it got us from there to where we are now. And our stories are important.

When I turned 50 there was a realisation that there was less time left. Less time left for what? I didn’t know, I just felt a bit panicky. But boy did I pack a lot into my 50s! At 60 I still feel as though time is slipping away, but there is one thing that is different from all those other birthdays.

I like Penny.

A simple statement, but one that has been a long time coming. I am proud of the person I have become. I like her with all her flaws. My fat body, my thinning hair, being the emotional one. My talents, cooking, writing, listening. The bad stuff and the good stuff. All of it. Sure, there are still things I wish I had done differently. Things that I let go that I wish I had kept. Things I kept that I should have let go.

I am not sure where the next 10 years will take me. For the first time I have a “job” that I love, that fulfils me and allows me to give back to the community. I have fabulous friends, new and old. People that “get” me. I have my beautiful bay on my doorstep and am minutes away from my beloved Cumbria. I still don’t have lots of money, but I don’t have a mortgage! And I have my best friend beside me, sharing a good life, encouraging me and pushing me forward when necessary, sitting beside me when that is what is needed.

On Saturday we will be holding our first proper party at The Corner House. People are coming from all stages of our lives, many of whom were at our wedding 10 years ago. We will be celebrating my 60 years, our first year in Morecambe and also renewing our wedding vows. There are so many people coming that we may have to have our little ceremony out on the pavement! I am sure the sun will shine.

That little daughter I talked about earlier is making her way. Doing a rewarding job that she loves, full of her own hopes and dreams that I hope will come true. Sadly, she cannot be with us tomorrow, she will be in my thoughts and I hope she knows how much Nigel and I love her. We will miss you so much Zoe.

My lovely friend Nicky just told me that she thinks I am smart and brave. I had a little think about that. I think I have learned to be brave because I am more afraid of what I will miss out on if I am not brave. And smart? One of my favourite phrases from all my learning over the past year is “freeze dried wisdom”. I truly believe that we have everything we need inside of us. We just need to pay attention. That’s the smart bit. So yes, I have learned to be smart. I’m listening.

I spent last Sunday in a wet field in Cheshire at CarFest. And we had the best time. In the moment. Present. Dancing in the rain, high on life, drinking expensive take away cups of tea, riding the wave and enjoying every moment. Life is short, and it keeps getting shorter. The one thing I know is that I am going to make every minute I have left count. I am going to grab opportunities as they present themselves and not worry too much about the consequences. By the time I write my blog for my 70th birthday I will have packed a huge amount into my 60s! I promise.

I gave a lot of thought to which song to share with you on today’s blog. I chose this because she is my favourite, and this is an amazing song. Full of regret when she wrote it at only 24 years old! But this version is sung with the wisdom of age and is heartbreakingly beautiful. I hope you like it.

Thanks as always for your support and friendship.

With love…

 

 

That was the year that was…

 

One year ago, today, at 7:30 am we were on our way. We collected the dogs and cats, packed them in the car and surrounded them with all the bits and bobs that would not fit in the two moving vans that we packed up the day before. We stopped off to say a final goodbye to Zoe and set off up the M11 towards our new life in Morecambe. The sun was shining, the sky was blue. It was almost idyllic, if somewhat traumatic.

Over the last month Facebook has presented me with daily memories of us getting ready for the move. Saying goodbye to people, packing up a house that I had lived in for 20 years. 13 of them with Nigel. Leaving a town that I had lived in since I was 7. It has felt a bit overwhelming because even now there are times when the enormity of what we have done overwhelms me, and I catch my breath at the thought of it.

But here we are, one year later and settled in, happy to live in this northern seaside town, existing beside the permanent watercolour that is Morecambe Bay.

Its not all been plain sailing. There have been hiccups of course. I miss Zoe so so much. But she is doing so well in her new job, living her life where she needs to be.  Nigel and I both agreed this morning, we have no regrets. We feel blessed every single day. Even when it is rainy and windy like today! And without exception, every hiccup has taught us something, lessons that we needed to learn. The difference here is that we are open to learning those lessons. I think in our old lives we were so resistant to change that we fought against it, refusing to learn as we went along. When you embrace change, you open yourself to growth, and your world becomes infinitely richer and more exciting.

Ironically, we have spent the last six days mirroring the activities of last year – only unpacking instead of packing. We have lived most of the year with boxes still sitting in most rooms. But in just over a week my lovely Aunt will be arriving from New Zealand for a few weeks. That has given us the motivation and impetus to get ourselves sorted out at last. It has involved quite a few runs to the tip and the charity shop! If it was still in a box after a year, we didn’t need it – right?

To tie in with Auntie Roseanne’s visit we are finally having a housewarming party to – to mark my 60th birthday and our 10th wedding anniversary. It seemed like a good reason to mark the changes in our lives by re-stating our wedding vows too. So, at the beginning of August, friends from North and South will join us at The Corner House for a celebration. In a strange way I feel that the event will set the seal on our new life. My mum will be here too for the first time.

Nigel has a great job that he loves. My business is starting to grow. The house is slowly taking shape. Who would have thought that at the age of 60 I would be looking forward to a bright future, that I would have realised a very long held dream to live in the Northwest. My message to you all? Never give up on your dreams. It takes a bit of courage. But as I have said before – leap and the net will appear. And the reality may actually be better than you ever imagined!

This picture was taken at Catch The Wind, Morecambe’s kite festival which is happening again this weekend. Last year I was in shock and a bit tearful, but this year I am full of hope and I am home. I wish the same for you all.

I am off to dance round the kitchen with the labradors – I have done a lot of that since I moved here! I cant stop the feeling!

Fat lady singing…

 

This is going to be one of those difficult to write blogs. And be warned, its long! I know I have been missing in action for a few weeks. There has been lots going on, some good, some bad, but as usual there has been forward momentum and I am heading in the right direction again!

But today I want to write about food. About my relationship with food. And my weight. Always a delicate subject of course!

At the end of May I watched a program about crash diets. The one where you substitute meals with milk shakes and soups for a period of time. It showed a group of successful dieters losing weight, improving their health and, in one instance, reversing Type 2 diabetes after 17 years of living with it and taking loads of medication.

As a passionate cook the thought of “dieting” that way fills me with horror. I did lose weight with the Cambridge Diet back in the 80s, but I don’t think I have ever been more miserable. However, the program came along at a very precise moment for me and gave me lots of food for thought – forgive the pun!

Next week we will have been in Morecambe for one whole year. It hardly seems possible. Generally, we are both happier, fitter, calmer, less stressed….and so on and so forth. The last few years we have spent the winters feeling poorly with bad colds and all the usual winter ailments. This year we were much healthier. I put this down to more walking, more cooking from scratch, less stress and the lovely essential oils that I work with.

But. And it is a big but. I am still struggling with my diabetes. Spending weeks with my readings too high, feeling tired and lethargic. But seemingly unable to do anything positive about it. I have little spurts of extra walking, low carb days etc. But not enough. My feet are numb with neuropathy, on occasion I crawl up the stairs in the house (mainly due to the lack of balance caused by the numb feet) and I confess there are times when I avoid things because I do not feel physically able to do them. There – I said it out loud!

I too was diagnosed 17 years ago. I blame the stress of a broken marriage and a very bad time at work. But I was around 7 stone heavier than I am now, I didn’t exercise, and I was miserable. I lost 3 stone very quickly – that happens when you become diabetic and are undiagnosed. I swallow 11 different tablets. 5 different medications, every day. 3 for my diabetes and 2 for my high blood pressure, which has improved since I moved to Morecambe. I hate taking the pills. But I swallow them religiously because I have to. As you know, last year I had to have my eyes lasered too. Since my diagnosis in 2001 I have lost another 4 stone using various methods.

I am actually 1 stone lighter now, than when I arrived in Morecambe. So things have improved a little. But for the last few months I have been stuck. And my blood sugar readings have been all over the place. I even stopped doing them for a while – like not knowing what they were was going to make a difference!

With Zoe being a Type 1 diabetic there is very little that I do not understand about diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2 are of course very different and are treated in different ways. But the principle is the same. What I am saying is that I know what I need to do. But I seem unable to get a grip.

After watching that program, I decided that it was time. I recruited a little team of supporters – people to hold me accountable as I try to change the way I eat, the way I exercise, trying to get this beast under control. There has also been a flurry of other programs on tv in the last couple of weeks. One about all the medicines that are prescribed. Another about carbohydrates. I have soaked up more information and I am quietly determined to change things, I even tried yoga! And loved it too. I will be building that into my regime.

I had decided not to go public because my previous attempts have a) not been that successful and b) I think you must all be bored stupid. Also because everyone is an expert. There is always someone who knows a better way. But not everyone is me. It is very important to me to find a permanent solution to MY problem. Not a quick fix, or a miracle cure. A sustainable way of living with my diabetes, living a long and healthy life, to the full, doing everything I enjoy. And that includes cooking. And eating.

Eating as a diabetic is not straightforward. Many foods that are considered “healthy” cause my blood sugar to soar. Its a minefield.

I am not making excuses here. I know I need to change things. But do I want to live in a world where I can never again eat a slice of cake or a bowl of chips? No. I don’t. And bread. Sometimes I want bread!

But here is the reason for this blog. To share some of the pain of being overweight. Not looking for sympathy or understanding. Simply to tell it like it is. To get it out there.

I have been overweight for as long as I can remember. I remember people telling me that it was puppy fat – no such thing of course. When I look at my school pictures, although I was bigger than my friends I was not grossly overweight. That came in my late teens. I can analyse it. My parents divorce, my lack of self-esteem…the “reasons” are endless but that is all in the past. I have to deal in the now.

To be honest for many years I told myself that I did not have a problem with my body image. I wore what I wanted, I went topless abroad, I displayed my cleavage and my other curves without thought really. I had moments of horror about how I looked. But I am a bluffer. And like many other big girls I covered my insecurities up with laughter, being the funny one. The fat ugly friend that hung out with the pretty girls, feeding on their popularity, accepting unacceptable behaviour in relationships because I did not value myself enough.

In the late 80s I slimmed down. I was not skinny, but I had a waist, great boobs, and an attitude. That was when I met my first husband. By the time our marriage had played out I was back to being a mass of insecurity, and of course I was a full time working mum in a very stressful job.

I can list endless reasons for the WHY. But what about the WHAT. What do I hate about being a fat bird?

I hate not being able to go shopping for clothes anywhere and being able to buy cheaply

I hate never being able to buy or wear tailored clothes, or get a good fitting bra

I hate seeing judgement in other people’s eyes (and the fact that I judge other people too!)

I hate the physical limitations of being overweight

I hate having to ask for an extension for my seat belt when I fly

The list is endless

But I am doing something about it. I have my “dirty dozen” who have my back and are cheering me on from the sidelines.

I am picking my way through a low-carb lifestyle. Loosely following Michael Moseley’s 5:2 diet which works really well for diabetics and is doable. It allows me to indulge my love of cooking. Picking up the exercise, and yes, taking up yoga. Building it into something sustainable, a different way of eating that will allow me to go off the rails from time to time.

In just a week I have seen for myself the trigger points for me going off-plan. I never thought that I ate for comfort, but I do. And if I am tired or out of sorts? All bets are off. But going off plan will not derail me. I am in this for the long term. My blood sugar has dropped significantly, and although I wobbled at the weekend I am feeling better. My feet feel different. They will not heal completely but they will improve.

Part 2

I left this blog to sit overnight and came back to read it this morning. It says what I wanted to say but I don’t feel that I have really explained the emotional pain of being overweight. I don’t sit about all day feeling miserable because I am fat. But I think being fat has defined my life in many ways. To an extent the fat is part of the Penny that I know and am comfortable with. I think I have a genuine fear that if I lose it I will lose something else, some indeterminate part of me, part of my identity.

A pilot friend of mine once told me that he believed he stayed fat because he was protecting his heart, all due to a difficult upbringing. Sounds feasible don’t you think?

At the same time, I feel that now it is time for me to let it all go. I am content, happy to be where I am in my life, happy to be living where I live, probably happier than I have been for many years. Spiritually content too. Its time to bless and release.

So, I am resolving to be more mindful when I eat and to focus on my health rather than losing weight. To live well and in the moment. The rest will take care of itself!

10 years ago I bopped down the aisle to marry Nigel with Zoe by my side to this song!

 

Be more Labrador…

My boys on Morecambe beach last night in the sunshine

Its 3:30 am and I am nursing a cup of tea downstairs with my Labradors and both cats. Nigel had already been up and taken the dogs out about an hour and a half ago but Barney was barking again so I came down. He doesn’t seem to want anything other than my presence, but all of them seem restless and unsettled and there does seem to be a bit of a strange feeling in the house. It feels expectant, as though something or someone is due to arrive at any moment. Weird.

I am googling “older dogs who won’t sleep all night” or similar phrases. Of course older dogs do not have quite the same control over their bladders, just like older humans. But Nigel really does need his sleep! I guess I can grab a nap in the day time as I work from home! It used to be easy letting them out into our big garden. I will admit, I miss having a garden! But then we had a beautiful walk on the beach last night in really warm sunshine, so there are compensations!

Barney has always been a little needy. We nicknamed him Eeyore. He frets, and looks worried, as though he is about to, or has, lost his tail. He is partially blind now, so that may be a factor for him needing extra fussing. Ben has always been happy go lucky, a very easy dog, but he is now deaf and suffers a bit with his back legs. They turned 13 in November. A good age for Labradors, as everyone tells me when we tell them how old they are! It is usually accompanied by a bit of a concerned head shake! Sadly it is true, and I am horribly aware that they may not be with us for very much longer. We also have one cat (Cola) that thinks she is a Labrador!

This expectant feeling in the house may emanate from me.

I have had a busy couple of weeks with visits from my friend Claire, our first friend to come and stay since we moved here, and my cousin Aubrey, who comes regularly as he is setting up a business here in the UK (he hails from New Zealand) and I am helping him with some accounts and admin. He is a bit of a workaholic – and is often up at weird times as he deals with calls from the other side of the world!

I have had a lot of networking meetings too, loads of stuff going on, all good stuff, but not much time for reflection.

This afternoon after Aubrey departed I sat with the dogs in the sunshine and listened to The Corner House settle. It was a bit like tuning in a radio which has been churning out static. Suddenly you find the perfect spot on the dial and the voice or the music comes through loud and clear. I had a few moments of clarity, where my mind wandered to all the things I have been learning over the last few months, and I checked in with myself to see if I was still connected, still in tune with all that good stuff. Looking for that beautiful feeling that washes over me with each new experience.

I have not always been someone that enjoys solitude. My busy mind needed noise, movement, occupation and distraction. I could find the beauty in a peaceful moment out in nature, on a beach or in a forest. Or even in a really good book. As I grow older I have grown to appreciate those quiet moments and actively seek them out. At any time of the day. Early on a summer morning, gazing out at Morecambe Bay or late at night when the world is asleep, but the Labradors are awake!

The truth is that the solitude and stillness are now inside me. They are not external. My mind quiets down and in those silent moments there is room for beautiful thoughts and ideas. I find myself smiling and filling up with love. For my family and friends, for places, for kind strangers, for people that are showing me a better way to be.

Creating space in our busy lives is a challenge, I know. But it is so rewarding. Whether it is for meditation, mindfulness or just some quiet breathing, the rewards are amazing.

Today, I felt as though I had stepped off a treadmill. I love having people in the house, cooking for them, spending time in conversation, but I also relish my alone time, or time spent with Nigel in comfortable silence. In those first few quiet moments I could feel something coming. I am not sure what it is,  or when it will arrive. I can just sense that it is hovering on the periphery of my perception. Waiting for its moment. I hope it will be another one of those life-changing insights that I am experiencing as I follow this new path. It might be a small popcorn moment. When I am ready it will appear! I just need to keep tuned in, keep the static to a minimum.

As for the Labradors. Barney is now snoring gently in the hall, the cats have got bored and gone off somewhere else. Ben is lying at my feet gently huffing at me, wagging his tail every now and then.

I have always said that we can learn a lot from a Labrador. They are the most faithful of dogs. Their capacity for joy and love is overwhelming. I have owned many dogs in my life and they have all been amazing. But there is something about a Labradors attitude to life that is unique. They have large hearts and seem to understand exactly what you need when you need it. Its why they make great guide dogs. There is an emotional intelligence in them that you can see in their eyes. And they know about the stillness. Well Ben does. I’m not sure about Barney!

The song for this blog is from my lovely Joni

“Who needs the static
It hurts the head
And you wind up cracking
And the day goes dismal
From “Breakfast Barney”
To the sign-off prayer….”

See…even she knows about Barney!

Butterflies…

 

Last Sunday my lovely daughter Zoe was rushed to hospital after contracting a nasty bacterial throat infection, which had caused 2-3 days of vomiting. Zoe is diabetic, she was diagnosed when she was 9 years old (she is now 23). This means that her immune system is compromised and when she gets really ill and dehydrated the only real solution is an intravenous drip to get her back on track quickly.

This was the first time for 4 or 5 years that this has happened, and of course, the first time it has happened since I made the move to Morecambe.

I was due to drive down for a few days on Thursday, but dropped everything and drove down last Monday, arriving just in time to collect her from the hospital after discharge.

We spent some time together, and after a few days of no improvement went back to the docs and got the correct anti-biotics (NOT the ones the hospital provided!) and thankfully she is now on the mend and back at work. Quite a week.

Any of you mums out there will know what an excruciating experience this is. Most of us would take the pain or suffering away from our child in a heartbeat, no matter what it cost us. To see your child in a hospital bed, feeling so ill and miserable. It is heart-breaking, and I have no idea how mums with very sick children, or those that lose children ever cope.

Of course, I wanted to gather Zoe up, pack her in the car and bring her back to Morecambe with me.  I still have a huge amount of “guilt” for leaving her behind. I worry all the time about her coping. She and Kieran live in a tiny house that is not my idea of ideal. They have been cold, have had problems with mould, and have no outdoor space. As a mum I constantly want to make things better for them. For them to live how I want them to live. As my mum said – we always want our children to have more than we have, to be more successful, more comfortable – we want them to fulfil our dreams, achieve things that we thought we might, but didn’t. We forget that the world changes, and our children have their own dreams and aspirations. There is absolutely no reason why they should follow the path we have designed in our heads for them. More of this shortly.

The main reason for me heading south last week, apart from spending time with Zoe and Mum, was for an event with my mentor, David Key, and 60+ members of a on-line coaching program that I am a part of. Some of these people I met on my NLP course back in September, but lots of them I had only met online before Saturday.

After all the emotional ups and downs of the week I was mentally and physically exhausted. Despite my mum taking really good care of me, I was missing Morecambe, my house and Nigel – not necessarily in that order! It was a real effort to get myself down to London for the day. But I am so glad I did.

Since meeting David a year ago and discovering the new understanding that he teaches I have changed in many ways, and that has been well documented on this blog. All through our relocation to a different part of the country and starting a new life I have felt calmer and more at peace, more accepting that what will be, will be. And even when stressful things happen I have been better able to cope, instilled with an inner sense of calm that helps me deal with any situation. Even when Zoe was taken ill, I was calm and organised and sure in my mind that everything would be ok. Even 2 years ago I would have been a complete wreck, crying and ranting, in a very bad place.

This feeling is still strange to me, it still creeps up on me, and then suddenly I think – why am I so calm? It is weird.

Anyone who follows me on Facebook would probably imagine that everything that has happened since we moved has been idyllic. Indeed, a couple of people this week commented on how wonderful everything has been for us. Pictures of the bay, our love for our house, new friendships being formed. All good stuff, the stuff that Facebook lives are composed of.

In reality of course, there have been bad times as well as good. The house needs quite a lot of work, and it is going to take us years, financially it has been very tough, particularly at Christmas time. I have had some health challenges, which I am still dealing with. I miss Zoe and mum horribly. And I have been very lonely. Particularly now that Nigel is working full time every day. Going back to Bishops Stortford tends to highlight that loneliness. I have disconnected from my past there, it is not the town that I grew up in, and I am glad I do not live there any more. But people there know me. I bump into people at the supermarket who are glad to see me. There is history.

I am starting to connect in Morecambe, but it is taking time. Everybody is so friendly, every dog walk, every network meeting I talk to people. But they don’t know Penny yet. And in truth, I am not sure I know this new Penny. She is a little lost, a little disconnected and it will take time for that to correct itself.

On Saturday I stepped off the escalator at Paddington station and two complete “strangers” called my name. They recognised me from the coaching group – mainly because I feature in two of the training videos on the course. We walked to the event together and met with our tribe. And there you have it. We all need a tribe. A place to call home – and it can be anywhere. Online. At home, at work, the book club, the network group….somewhere where “everybody knows your name”.

My move to Morecambe has been much more than a relocation. It has been a complete redirection. It is now 4 years since I was made redundant and started looking for a new path. I cannot quite believe that. Time definitely goes quicker the older you get. What will the next 4 years bring? I will be 64 then – Will you still need me, will you still feed me?

I digress – back to Zoe. The time I spent with her this week was precious. Sitting watching telly with her is something I miss immensely. Being out with her and seeing something that makes me laugh, only to turn to look at her and just know that she is thinking the same thing – that’s priceless!

Despite being immensely proud of her, how she copes on a day-to-day basis, her recent change of career, everything that she is and does, I still keep wondering how I can help, how I can “make things better” for her. What tosh.

On Saturday David used the metaphor of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar to butterfly. The first thing to remember is that when the caterpillar turns into a chrysalis it dissolves, but everything that it needs to become a butterfly is there, every nutrient, every building block, right there, just waiting for the right conditions. Secondly, when the butterfly starts to emerge from the chrysalis, it struggles to fight its way out. If you were to help that butterfly, say by cutting it open, that butterfly would never fly. The very act of struggling to emerge gives the wings the strength to take flight. The struggle is what makes the difference.

On my way home to Mum’s on Saturday I dropped into see Zoe and grab a goodbye hug.  Their little house was lit, cosy and warm. She looked so much better, they were together in their life, in their home. Sure they will have struggles but they will be ok. They will be better than ok. And so will I.

Driving north yesterday in the sunshine I had time to reflect on all this and the other things I learned on Saturday. I am not ashamed to say that when the bay appeared off to the left of the M6 there was a tear in my eye. I was welcomed home by the dogs, cats and Nigel. Again, not necessarily in that order! This is where I belong, and Zoe is where she belongs. We are part of each other’s tribe, but our tribes are huge and growing. Ain’t that great?

Who is in your tribe?

“Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Our troubles are all the same
You wanna be where everybody knows your name”