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Happily Imperfect‽ Posts
At present, I really only have three topics of conversation.
1. The dogs.
2. The baby.
And no, they aren’t in a specific order.
Of course, there is more to life than those three things (apparently?) – those on my Instagram can attest that I’m still treating myself well with delicious foodstuffs if nothing else – and yes I read the news, and yes I watch football and F1, and yes I read books (and yes some of those books are ones about bringing up a child).
I even watched a movie the other day! Tenet if you are interested, an interestingly baffling almost good movie.
Outside of that, with the baby due in 4 weeks, I’m trying to do the rounds of seeing my friends and making sure our home is as ready as it can be for when our child arrives. We’ve sensibly ‘retained’ our dog sitter and the dogs will stay with her for a few days so we can have that time, just me and Becca and the wee smush, to adjust to being home before team chaos return to investigate this small smelly noisy thing that will be turning their lives upside down.
We aren’t worried about the dogs and how they will react. Actually, that’s not entirely true, we do worry that Sasha will use her usual sign of affection and sit ON the baby which, I’m sure you will agree, is less than ideal. Dave we think will either be in protector mode and never leave the baby’s side or will be completely disinterested.
We’ve just finished our wonderful NCT course too and, between that and the amazing hypnobirthing classes, we feel as well prepared as we can be, with the full realisation that we will still be learning a lot as we go.
And there I go again, talking about the baby.
On the other hand, I haven’t mentioned my bikes, one of which has two new tyres and a new chain needing to be sorted, and the other is going to be out and about on Sunday for another FLAB Social Ride. I missed not being out on my bike this last week or so – I managed to hurt my back and was laid up for most of last week – so it’ll be good to be out in the fresh air.
I’m also harbouring ideas, now that the weather is turning, to get back out running with a long-standing ‘do a ParkRun’ goal possibly being realised before the year is out. All part of my secret ‘Fit for Fifty’ plan that is slowly (very slowly at times!) having a positive effect on my physical fitness and my mental health. Hopefully, that means I can take Dave out with me on a run now and then too, which will be good for him as well!
So there you have it, try as I might – I did mention I watched a movie, and I’ve been reading some books too, right? – the topics remain the same.
This makes sense, this is my life, after all, I am the one who made the decisions that brought me here. And I have no complaints, just the realisation that my life is beautifully focused and simple now, there is very little in the way of negativity that can creep in, and I spend the vast. majority of my time on things I love.
I guess my life can be seen to be simple and viewed through the lens of this blog and my other social media channels it certainly appears that way, but that is no bad thing. There are many things you don’t see, things I don’t mention, passions that I retain for myself, and my life feels all the richer for it.
I’ve blogged before about ‘minimalism’ and the like, but perhaps that’s not, or should not, best viewed through the lens of commerce and possessions, perhaps the simpler more minimal life is one where your passions and desires align and bring you riches of happiness every day. Perhaps this is what I’ve been striving for all along and the slow reduction of physical clutter (which needs to happen again soon) has maybe let me pause and breathe and relax into who I am, and what my life has become.
The fact I can boil it down to mostly three things, three things that make me happy every single day, is probably the most telling of all. This simple life.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t conclude this without mentioning the glaring omission, the one constant support these past few years, the one who encourages me, listens to me and is going to be the most amazing mother to our child. Without her, my life would be empty. I am very lucky to be part of her life and so so very grateful we found each other.
I’ve never been very good at praising myself. Achievements don’t land, or sit, for very long. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way, and whilst my tendency to just brush things off once I’ve done them is my default so in an effort combat that I’m just going to say this.
Well done me!
Yesterday I rode in my first ‘sportive’ event – a timed, closed road cycling event, not a race but not a ‘family fun’ ride either as there is a minimum time/speed – and whilst I wasn’t worried about being able to complete it, I did a lot better than I thought!
I rode the route on 1st August on a dry cool early morning, a few weeks later and the roads were slick with overnight rain and it was several degrees cooler, but thankfully it wasn’t pouring from the heavens so I didn’t need full waterproofs to survive. The start was a little chaotic, mostly because it wasn’t clear how to get to the start line.
Because there are a few thousand riders, the organisers used a field to funnel people at the start, with riders allocated to a specific ‘wave’ of start times. This was based on your estimated completion time (I’ll come back to that in bit) and is a perfectly good and oft used way to organise the start at an event like this. Alas not everyone, myself included, got information about how to get to that area and so a couple of hundred of us just headed down the road to where we knew the start line was thinking that there might be directions once we got there.
There wasn’t, so we had to wait around until the organisers sussed it out. It meant that instead of my starting time being around 7:45am, it was a full 30 minutes later. 30 minutes of standing around which wasn’t a great way to start the ride. We all eventually got going though, and with the start line a little way along the road from where we’d been waiting it’s not like we lost any time…
My starting wave, based on my predicted time, was the last one, wave E. However given that this ride was actually the one postponed from 2020, when I hadn’t really been cycling all that much, it’s safe to say that my predicted time when I submitted my entry – 4hrs – was a little off…
That said, it’s hard to compare times between when I cycled the route previously, and how it went yesterday – I started and finished in different places each time – but it was the official timing chips handed out and stuck on your bike that told the true story; for the 40 mile route I finished in a time of 2hrs 16mins and 18 seconds, and came in 97th place out of 589 riders.
I’m still not really sure how to process that as I didn’t think I’d even be in the top half of finishers let alone in the top 100. It’s not like I was pushing myself, we had wet and slippery roads to contend with, and I really was just out to enjoy the morning, gaining some experience of riding in a sportive, and just enjoying being out on my bike.
I’m already wondering what the next challenge is of course but, for a change, I’m going to let this sit a while, and be proud of myself because I should be.
As a sidenote, I was also gathering donations for Muscular Dystrophy and set an initial target of £400 (cos 40 miles). Currently I’ve raised £709 which is mind boggling and wonderful. So grateful to everyone that donated.
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Nope. Even writing that title seems weird. I’m not ‘Dad’.
But soon and I guess I’m already starting to feel paternal, I guess this is common for most parents to be with a baby arriving in 2 months, I guess we all go through these same thoughts.
Hopes that the baby will be healthy, that we will be able to keep it safe and loved, and give it all the support and nurturing it needs to be comfortable with whoever they grow up to be.
Fears that something I do will have a negative impact somewhere along the line, and some understanding that that is going to happen to some degree.
As we approach the time when the baby is likely to start thinking about making an appearance, so we are finalising all the little things we need to do and consider. We’ve made most of the decisions we need to make, bought the things we will need (not as many as social media makes out by the way, don’t fall for it!), and the final pieces of prepping are falling into place.
We’ve completed a hypnobirthing course – highly recommended, it was informative, realistic, and definitely has us both thinking calmly about the birthing experience (thanks Katy!) – and have just started antenatal classes which are, thankfully, backing up a lot of what Katy talked us through. We feel as prepared as we can be.
I know life will change.
I know I will cry when I meet our child for the first time.
I know I will change.
And the single word that springs to mind when anyone asks how I’m feeling about becoming a Dad is excited.
I’m not scared or anxious, and whilst there are always the ‘what ifs’ we know we now have enough knowledge to make informed decisions as and when needed, decisions that will hopefully make the birthing process calm and safe for everyone involved.
I’ve learned a LOT these past few months, and will learn more. Not just about birth, or the early days of parenting, but about myself. I’m realising what kind of Dad I will be, as well as the Dad I want to be. I’m understanding where I may fall short and where I need to be mindful of my own actions, as much as where I feel comfortable and secure in what type of parents we want to be. I will make mistakes. I will learn.
As simple as it sounds, as I already know that the world we are bringing this baby into is so full of negative messages, that I will strive to instil a sense of positivity and wonder in our child and, if nothing else, I know I will do every single thing I can to make sure they feel loved, supported and safe.
I/we are also keen to remember who we are during all of this, keen to retain our own sense of identity. I will continue to find time to meditate, to get out on my bike, to go to the gym, to see friends, just as I will support Becca going for a spot of wild swimming, and getting back out on her bike, back to her gym. We work well as a team already.
So I won’t just be ‘Dad’, I will be the ‘me’ I have been learning to be all these years, I just have a little more learning to do, and that will come from our child.
And I can’t wait.
I’m on the mend but last week saw me struggle with some food poisoning/a tummy bug that left me in bed from Friday evening through to this morning. A few slices of toast, some isotonic drinks, were all I could stomach. I slept a lot too, as I am prone to do when ill, but had quite a bit of time just lying in bed contemplating life.
I was too tired for any prolonged or deep analysis but topics included:
- Of my own sensibilities and thoughts on how to behave, how much of it was instilled in me by my parents, and how much have I learned/adopted for myself? And how much of our personal values will our child learn and take forward? I have a sense of growing up ‘knowing’ how to behave when in adult company (not quite sit quietly, but certainly wasn’t running about wild), but how much of that was natural to me and how much was I taught it by my parents?
- The world is on fire, literally, and whilst we do our bit and will continue to do so – we don’t eat meat, we reuse, we recycle, we try and be mindful of purchases/deliveries – should I be doing more?
- I really really miss being out on my bike. I don’t miss the gym as much, I don’t miss running, of all the exercise options I have, cycling is the one I really miss.
- When did I stop watching movies? So many great movies in the last few years and I’ve seen none of them. Need to make time for that, somehow.
- I often wonder if all my acquaintances and friends are just better at keeping in touch with other than I am, is it because I don’t reach out that I can feel cut off from them? I always get the sense that they are in touch with each other way more than they are with me. I can’t help but feel it’s my own doing and that I don’t work hard enough to maintain that, but it’s a two way street, right?
- This cannot happen to me any time after October, not for a good six months or so, not once the baby is here!
- I am lucky to be able to be ill and be cared for and not have to worry about pretty much anything other than taking care of myself and feeling better.
- I wonder how much weight I’ve lost? (answer: 2kg).
- I’ve not written for my blog for ages, it seems like I just don’t have the inclination any more. I am writing in my journal every day, even if it’s only a few lines, so I’m not worried about it, just curious to see how long this feeling will last.
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It’s fair to say that I’m enjoy cycling way more than I expected and as someone who has the habit of jumping into new hobbies quickly (and deeply) I’m even happier that the simple joy of exploring the local countryside has yet to abate.
I’m also happy to find myself capable of much more than I thought too, both physically and mentally, and oddly I’ve found it’s the latter that is the larger part of what I’ve had to overcome when it was the former that has played on my mind far more in the past.
Having gotten a new bike last year, and having made the most of the COVID lockdown quieted roads, I started cycling more regularly but then I seemed to stall. I got to about the hour mark on my rides, mostly on the same roads, and it was starting to get a little boring.
It took me some time to figure out what the issue was… why couldn’t I ride further?
In the past, I’ve done longer organised rides like Pedal for Scotland – cycling from Glasgow to Edinburgh (bus back) – and whilst they are 40+ miles, they are a day out with a few stops for cake and food along the way, tackled by all abilities, and was more about the day itself than the cycling; it was a great event that unfortunately ended a couple of years ago.
What I realised last year was that the few times I did Pedal for Scotland, it became a goal, a reason to get out on my bike before it to make sure I could actually do it and, whilst I know I enjoy being out on my bike once I’m out, I still occasionally need that push, still need that goal, a reason to sling on my cycling gear, don a waterproof, and start spinning the pedals.
So, in the spirit of challenging myself and setting a goal, I signed up to ride Etape Caledonia last year but thanks to COVID, it’s been moved (twice!) and is now finally running this coming September. It’s a 40 mile route and, while it does include rest stops, it is a bit more serious than Pedal for Scotland with a suggested ‘minimum average speed’ of 13mph, which at the time seemed like a good thing for me to target, and so the training began.
My beautiful fiancee and her family are big cyclists – her brother was a professional cyclist for a few years – so I’ve had no end of encouragement and helpful pointers when needed, and this includes picking routes which can, in my limited experience, make or break things, that and the weather obviously.
Becca is a mobile dog groomer so has spent a lot more time driving around the West of Scotland than I have and she has been wonderful at suggesting routes for me to try, including which direction to go to avoid (or tackle) the steeper hills. Strava is my weapon of choice when it comes to planning routes; it’s maybe not the best but as it syncs easily with my Wahoo Roam bike computer it’ll have to do for now.
Becca’s local knowledge has been a huge boon. With the confidence of her directions, a GPS map in front of me, and even taking the time to drive the route in advance, I’ve pushed past my ‘limit’ of 1hr, blasted through 2hrs, and can now comfortably ride for 3hrs.
At this point the challenges change. Etape Caledonia is 40 miles, and by current average pace estimate, Strava thinks I’ll complete that (non-stop) in about 2hrs 47 mins. To put that in some context, when I first started training for it, the estimated time was 3hrs so I’m pretty happy with that progress with still a couple of months to go.
I’m even going to ride the Etape route in advance just to get my confidence a little higher because, as it turns out, that’s all I was really missing, confidence and self-belief. My legs have hauled me up some long horrible hills and I have to admit I’ve surprised myself at my ability to just keep going; the most recent horror was ‘Tak Ma Doon’ up and over the Campsies which took me 30 minutes of solid (slow) riding uphill (rated 9th hardest hill in the UK I think!)
All of this means that while I know I won’t be the fastest person at the Etape in September, I’m pretty sure I won’t be the slowest, but that’s really not what it is about. All of this, I now understand, is just giving me the confidence to go and ride the event without fear, to go and have fun out on my bike amongst our beautiful Scottish countryside.
Beyond the Etape there are other goals to look towards, 100km, 100 miles, and at that point I’ll likely stop because whilst I enjoy being out on my bike, the current estimated time for me to complete a 100km ride is 4hrs 20mins (100 miles comes in at 6hrs 45mins, so an entire day on the bike!), and that’s before the not inconsiderable event of the arrival of our new born sometime late October. By then who knows what free time I’ll have, maybe that 1hr loop will seem like a luxury!
Yes, it’s fair to say that I’ve got the cycling bug and whilst I’m mostly a fair weather cyclist, the desire to get out for a spin is starting to override the usual Glasgow showers. I’m not questioning all this, not overthinking it, just going with the flow and removing all the pressure from myself. It’s just what I do now, another thing to add to the growing list of what I am.
I talked about this before, but whilst my adoption of meditation into my life was a deliberate choice, cycling seems to have snuck up on me a little. The more times I go out, exchange acknowledging nods with fellow MAPILs*, the more I feel at home. No matter how high the hill I feel confident I will get there eventually, no matter how far from home I venture I feel more and more secure in my abilities on the bike, and in my head.
I won’t ever be fast, but I’ll always be happy!
Image (not of me!) courtesy of Fat Lad at the Back – a wonderful company with great products and a super supportive community of riders too!
* Middle Aged Person In Lycra