bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • It’s A Very Muppets Controversy!
    In October, parent company Disney fired Steve Whitmire, the man who has voiced and handled Kermit the Frog since creator Jim Henson’s death in 1990. While Henson was alive, he was the sole voice of the famous frog.
    Men and their egos ruin everything, even the damn Muppets!

  • Why is hyperfemininity expected of fat women?
    When I’m in a group of fellow fat women, I often catch myself mesmerised by the attention to detail they have each put into creating an outfit. It is not unusual for us all to be rocking full faces of make-up.
    Guilty of this. A good read if you have any fat friends.

  • Rugby ref Nigel Owens reveals ongoing bulimia battle
    Rugby union referee Nigel Owens reveals his struggle with eating disorder bulimia nervosa is not over and remains an ongoing battle. There have been a number of “firsts” in my life.
    He denies it, but this is a brave man.

  • Ancient Avocado Toast Recipes Suggest This Generation Didn’t Invent It After All
    Though avocado toast — the complicated culinary concoction in which mashed avocado is placed atop a piece of heated bread — is used as shorthand for everything that’s wrong with the 2010s* boom time bubble.
    NOTHING IS NEW! I bet hipsters think beards are new too… *rolls eyes*

  • Is Surfing More Sport or Religion?
    Even hardcore devotees disagree, though many acknowledge there’s something profoundly spiritual about catching waves—a feeling scientists attribute to the power of being in the water.
    Large stretches of water are so powerful for many reasons, but I can see why surfing elevates things to a spiritual level

  • Hear the 150 Greatest Albums by Women: NPR Creates a New Canon of Albums That Puts Women at the Center of Music History
    What is it with all the trendpieces on great women artists, writers, directors, singers, etc.? What, indeed. To ask the question is to acknowledge the premise of such pieces.
    I’ve been through all of this list yet but there are some fantastic albums but artists I’d never even heard of. (mind you, there is a band headling the largest gig venue in Glasgow soon that I’ve never heard of so I’m maybe not the best barometer!)

  • A new way to love: in praise of polyamory
    Polyamory isn’t monogamy and it isn’t swinging, it’s being open to having loving relationships with different people of different sexes at the same time, and in that way learning to love yourself, too I have never enjoyed typical monogamy.
    One of the better balanced and nuanced pieces on polyamory I’ve read for a while.

  • England’s Mental Health Experiment: No-Cost Talk Therapy
    England is in the midst of a unique national experiment, the world’s most ambitious effort to treat depression, anxiety and other common mental illnesses.
    Granted I live in Scotland but I had NO IDEA this had been happening. Where’s the publicity? Is there something similar in Scotland??

  • Meet the Man Who Has Lived Alone on This Island for 28 Years
    Is this where my stripping back, reduce clutter, simplify my life journey ends? Might not be so bad.

  • How a Lack of Touch is Destroying Men
    In preparing to write about the lack of gentle touch in men’s lives, I right away thought, “I feel confident I can do platonic touch, but I don’t necessarily trust other men to do it. Some guy will do something creepy. They always do”.
    Linked to by a friend and I’m still processing this. A lot of it resonates, some of it seems a little over-reactionary, but… yeah for a lot of this article, it me.

  • Stephen King on The Leftovers
    There’s not some finite amount of pain inside us. Our bodies and minds just keep manufacturing more of it.
    I am a huge fan of his writing style (if not of some of the stories), so here is a book review by Mr. King.

  • The Poisoning
    My first taste of gin made me sick. I was fifteen or sixteen, and, on a night I’d been left alone, and for reasons now lost to me, I drank down a great deal of my parents’ Tanqueray.
    Gin lovers ASSEMBLE!!

  • In defense of puns
    Some guy once besmirched the play on words by calling it the lowest form of wit. Which speaks to a time-honored tradition in the literary community of running smear campaigns against things that whoever runs the campaign can’t do very well.
    Who doesn’t like a pun? (bet you were expecting a pun here, right?)

  • Being Neurotic May Help You Live Longer
    Neuroticism isn’t generally considered a desirable attribute, and many studies have linked the personality trait to poorer health and an increased risk of mental disorders.
    Tomorrow: Being worry-free and upbeat may help you live longer.

  • The Alternative to Thinking All the Time
    One evening last week, I was sitting on my front stoop waiting for a friend to come over. I brought a book out with me, but instead of reading I just sat there and let my senses take in the scene. There was also a scent that I only recently learned has a name: petrichor.
    Not ONLY linking to this so that damn word – petrichor – might stick in my head for once, but because it’s got good advice in there too!

bookmark_borderThanking myself

It feels a bit like I’ve dropped through a trapdoor into a different world.

Or I’m that guy in a movie, standing still in the middle of a busy street, the world moving around me in a fast forward blur.

From detached to detached, pole to pole, I have walked. Finding my way and working towards being able to be here, to be now. Sometimes at least. Most times I hope.

This is not a permanent residency I know but now I’ve been here I know the way, and the more I visit, the more familiar the path will become.

Self-revelation always makes me ‘prose’.

Self-compassion always alluded me.

I had no idea. Literally none. Every day I was failing. Every day I did nothing of note. Even the firsts were passed by without mention or pause. Why would I congratulate myself on THAT when there could be a better version of it tomorrow?

These are the self-learned behaviours, decades of being how I thought I should be and lest anyone think otherwise, it is very clearly how I thought it, I built this world view, I built these habits and practices. I honed them, finessed them, perfected them (pun intended, said the perfectionist). I embraced them as good things, flawed things perhaps I knew that deep down, but not bad things. Unable to see the trees as night descended on the forest. Daytime brought the odd ray of sunshine through the dark clouds above.

I am not the failings of my parents. They did not fuck me up, far far from it. No no, this is all me, which makes it both harder to comprehend and, notionally, easier to change. It’s me. Just me. No-one else.

It’s not been easy, re-tracing my steps, circling inward to the core, the driver, the centre of every interaction, every moment of my day. The one eyed daruma that will never be filled. But maybe, maybe one day it will be. Not now, but soon? I have hope, things are changing. People are noticing. I am noticing.

A glimpse then into how I used to live.

Break every moment of your day into good and bad. Where good is something done on time, something done to illicit a smile, or praise, or compliment. A job well done, a task completed. Except the praises from others never land, they slide off and drift away, meaningless the instant they are uttered. No self-congratulatory moments, do not give yourself a break, do not ever accept ‘well done’ as there is always better to be had, more to be done. Plan to be busy, plan to be quiet, but above all plan. There is no flow or spontaneity, not really. Whims are crushed so often they cease to exist and nothing, NOTHING, you do is every good enough for yourself. Now time all of this. 30 mins are your building blocks. Plan around that. Wonder why you are always early. Cannot be late. If I’m late they won’t love me, will think less of me, I’ll think less of me, why? because I’ve failed at TELLING THE TIME. Ridiculous when written down, achingly painful to discover. Every day. Over and over. EVERY DAY SINCE I WAS 9 YEARS OLD. But you build around it, protect the lie that this is how you should live and soon it’s just how life is, without much thought, it’s automatic. Behaviours driven from the core. Failing is bad. Failing means I am not loved. Failing because I was made redundant, failing because I got divorced, failing because I was late, or didn’t bring biscuits. Same thing regardless of magnitude. FAILURE.

And no, no-one said that to me. Not one person articulated it that way, but there is no need. I built my world around that belief, my own religion. Thoughtless and blinkered. This was my life.

Then the trapdoor opened. Counselling, a focus on me. I pulled the lever last year. Unaware of why I was pulling it, not really, not fully. And odd thing to find yourself unhappy whilst you laugh and joke. Except not really, with a few decades of practice you can fool anyone who is looking on. With that much practice you can fool yourself without even realising it.

And now?

Self-compassion. Pausing. Reflecting and praising. A whole world of strange habits to explore, practices to embrace, to cling to. Rebuild. Challenge. Slip. Catch. Rebuild. It’s an odd thing, realising you are slipping back, grasping the frame of the door, determined to remain here, determined to remain now. Determined to care for yourself, to congratulate yourself, to note your achievements, no matter how small.

There is a core part of me that is built on a lie. It will take time to diminish, to lessen, to shrink away until it isn’t who I am anymore. It will be with me for a while but it is shrinking. I am making that happen. Every day. Relearning how to be me.

“You seem happier” said a colleague. In the past my response would’ve been swift dismissal, but now I look up and agree.

Close your eyes, breathe, stop. Smile. Climb through the trapdoor again. Choose your world, then stand still and let it spin and blur around you, it’s ok to be that person, it’s ok to be this person. It’s ok to be you. It’s ok to fail.

I watch myself and I can see it too.

Yes. I am happier.

bookmark_borderSix by Nico: Route 66

I’ll admit the temptation to start this review with some Americanisms (yeeehaw!) was strong, as this time around, Nico is taking us on a journey along a (fictitious) Route 66, the iconic American highway.

But no, I’ll refrain as I think it’s best to let the food do the talking and whilst it may have been inspired by our American brothers, it’s safe to say that as usual, Six by Nico offers up some interesting twists on some well known dishes.

On to the menu and I should point out that the one that was listed on the website (below) differs slightly from the menu you can see in the image above, same basic idea though and I take it as a good sign that they’ve continued to refine and tweak each dish right up until it launched.

  1. CHICAGO – Crisp Tart / Trapanese Pesto / Goats Cheese / Olive Tapenade
  2. GREAT PLAINS – Buffalo Mozzarella / Tomato Essence / Basil Oil
  3. AMERICAN DINER – Chickpea Pancake / Maple Syrup Mayonnaise / Guanciale
  4. TEXAS – 24 Hour Barbecue Brisket / Chilli Bon Bon / Sweetcorn Puree
  5. NEW MEXICO – Sea Bream Taco / Guacamole / Pickled Chilli / Lime
  6. CALIFORNIA – Lemon Tart / Orange Espuma / Red Wine Sorbet

As ever, we ordered the snacks to start and were treated to a tiny peanut butter milkshake, nachos, and a corndog. The corndog was a wonderful little ball of moist, flavour packed nom (seriously, what even is a corndog?) with a daub of spicy ketchup adding a nice edge, the milkshake was tasty but way too small and the nachos were disappointingly basic. It’s the first time I’ve experience that ‘hey I could make that’ moment at this particular establishment.

The first course arrived briskly and marked the first stop on the tour at the mighty Windy City itself. A take on the eponymous deep pan pepperoni pizza, what arrived was very far from what I had when last in Chicago. A few slivers of pepperoni, some rich goats cheese, a subtle pesto and a smear of olive tapenade was an intriguing combination. The crisp tart added a nice crunch, and the small chunks of candied black olive brought some much needed sweetness to the dish, off-setting the tart goats cheese and spice of the pepperoni. And hey, who doesn’t love pizza, right?

The Great Plains awaited next and I’ll happily concede that this was my least favourite dish purely because it heavily features tomatoes (of which I am not a fan). That said it was a very fresh and vibrant dish, with fennel crumb and a delicious dressing lifting what could’ve been a rather predictable mozzarella and tomato dish. A few drops of balsamic reduction helped cut through sweetness and whilst it wasn’t my favourite it certainly wasn’t a bad plate of food, which my companions confirmed.

It’s a long way from Chicago to the Great Plans so I was glad to see an American Diner loom on the horizon and after the first mouthful of succulent pork and chickpea pancake I was even happier. The accompanying celeriac coleslaw and pickled celeriac slices, coupled with some fresh green apple chunks, really helped cut through the dense richness of the marinated pork, and the chickpea pancake had a nice crisp bite on the outside and was a lot lighter on the palate, and stomach, than expected. A smart take on pork and apple, what a great dish.

Now on every road trip, there are a couple of destinations that you really can’t wait to get too, and whilst the journey is the important thing, knowing that next up we would have a plate that consisted of 24 hour barbecue brisket it was with some excitement that, as the plate hit the table, I tucked in. Hoooo mama!! The star of Texas was that slow cooked barbecue beef which had a wonderful chilli sear but was so soft it fell apart with a gentle prod of my knife. Then there was the sweetcorn salsa which, along with the pureed sweetcorn was absolutely delicious and really complimented the richness and deep flavour of the beef. I had no idea sweetcorn could taste that good, a revelation on the tastebuds. And lets not forget the chilli bon bon sitting to one side, a little deep fried ball of chilli that had a nice kick without being overpowering and helped combat the sweetness of the corn, bring a nice balance of texture and flavour to the plate. But the beef, ohhh the beef! I’m always a fan of well prepared and perfectly cooked beef and this was that and then some…

Editors note: I have removed the next couple of paragraphs as they mostly repeat the above sentiments, just in different ways. Short version is he REALLY REALLY enjoyed this dish.

It was a sad heart that I waved goodbye to Texas (or at least the plate as it was taken away) but New Mexico beckoned which meant it was taco time and at Six by Nico that meant a perfectly pan fried piece of sea bream, on a bed of the BEST guacamole I’ve ever tasted, and some kick ass pickled chilli to cut through it all. A sliver or two of taco added a much needed crunch, but despite some robust flavours, the sea bream was the star of the show and definitely held its own.

By this point in the meal I was starting to feel quite full – are the portions a little bigger this time to reflect the American theme? – but we had a long drive ahead from New Mexico to Calfiornia!

And what a reward awaited us. Lemon tart, orange espuma, and a red wine sorbet (with an extra hidden ingredient that I won’t spoil) sounded ok on the menu but OH MY HEAVENS. A perfect flavour combination, lead off by a ridiculously light lemon tart with a lightly bruleed crust, think whipped up lemon curd and you are getting close, and the orange espuma (and hidden ingredient) brought the tart back to earth only for a ridiculously good red wine sorbet to flood your palate with a wonderful berry richness, that in turn was cut through by the lemon tart which was… well you get the picture. I loved this, a lot more than I thought I would and it’s a perfect example of what Six by Nico does; delivering a dish that exceeds your expectations in delightful and delicious ways.

And that’s not a bad way to finish a meal… sorry, road trip… and overall this menu is up there with the other menus we’ve had the joy to savour. If I was ranking them (which I guess I am about to do) it wasn’t quite up there with The Chippie but I’d say Route 66 is easily in third place, or tied for second? It feels a bit mean to rank the menus against each other though as, on their own, they all have some superlative dishes to offer.

As ever, the menu had something for everyone and the standard of cooking is now as expected, very high and very well presented. This is clever, tasty, imaginative food which is never ever a bad thing, and the joy of the fixed menu continues to delight. The service is friendly, relaxed, as is the atmosphere in the restaurant (ohhh and top tunes on the playlist for this one, all the great driving American rock tunes were there) and, and I know I am repeating myself, this is all for £25 for six courses of high quality food (plus drinks and snacks, but still). £25 for food of this quality is ridiculous, so even if you don’t like every dish, it’s still a BARGAIN!

And so, sated and happy, my compadres and I osied off down the highway, ambling along the final stretch of road with no particular place to go. We definitely got our kicks on this Route 66, and I can’t wait to see where Nico will take us next.

You have 5 weeks left to try this menu, so I suggest you saddle up and head to Finnieston!

bookmark_borderWeekend Reading

  • Eimear McBride: ‘My husband shouts “For God’s sake, come down to dinner”’
    By 9.20 I am back at the house, boiling the kettle and starting to slip down into thinking properly. During a novel, this moment doesn’t exist. The novel insists itself through every single thought and out-manoeuvres the need for almost any kind of human interaction.
    Yes. I am STILL writing a novel. No. It’s not done yet.

  • Where Grace Dent Actually Likes to Eat
    Although my job is to heap fulsome praise on high-end restaurants, you’ll hear me often talk in equally florid terms about Pret a Manger. “As a Londoner with no family close by to care for me,” I heard myself say, in earnest recently, “Pret is a matriarchal figure in my life.
    A lot to be said for chain restaurants/outlets, for many reasons.

  • Creative Leadership
    In 1999 I made these four rules for myself to live by.
    As in business, so in life.

  • 20 Million Mosquitoes to Hit Fresno; That’s a Good Thing, Really
    The bug campaign, which starts Friday, is part of a plan by Alphabet Inc.’s Verily Life Sciences unit.
    Clever. But surely this kind of ‘tampering’ is… somewhere down the line, a bad thing?

  • Neiko Primus
    Neiko Primus had been in the gym for close to two hours, his shoelaces scraping the worn wooden floor and his bony arms tired from shooting, before he challenged a taller, stockier kid to a game of one-on-one.
    He certainly has the name to be famous, but yeah… give the kid a break!

  • ataribox
    Just leaving this here…

  • We Are Living in the Coen Brothers’ Darkest Comedy
    The Russians? HAL: Uh-huh. COX: The Russians? HAL: Uh-huh. Russian embassy, yeah. COX: Are you sure? HAL: Hey, the guy was not hard to follow. As you know. COX: Why the fuck would they go to the Russians?! Why the fuck?
    And who doesn’t love the Coen Brothers, right?

  • Apple’s risky balancing act with the next iPhone
    As there always are at this time of year, there are lots of rumors out there about what the next iPhone will be. This year we’re hearing that Apple is going to release a high-priced, next-generation phone in addition to the expected iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models.
    iPhone Pro is the rumour. Part of me thinks YES PLEASE, part of me hopes Apples confounds

  • Creation and consumption
    There’s a pretty common argument in tech that though of course there are billions more smartphones than PCs, and will be many more still, smartphones are not really the next computing platform, just a computing platform.
    Nicely summarise my one irk with most tech reporting. Tech people have the Curse of Knowledge.

  • Here’s an Abbreviated List of Everything Anthony Bourdain Hates
    Over the Fourth of July, instead of thinking about hot dogs, hamburgers or where he’d placed his half-full can of domestic beer, something entirely different was troubling Anthony Bourdain. Fuck BABY DRIVER.
    I don’t agree with all of them, and HATE is a strong word but have to admire the passion!

  • Men Are Apparently Adopting Ambiguous Pen Names to Sell Psychological Thrillers to Women 
    Title says it all. Really not sure what I think about this.

  • The predictable double standards of the tabloids turning on Louise Redknapp
    Once upon a time, Louise Redknapp was a good girl, loved by all, but particularly loved by men for how fetching she looked in a bikini. No mere Sexiest Woman Of The Year award for Louise – in 2004, FHM named her Sexiest Woman Of The Decade.
    FUCK THIS NOISE! Why can’t people just be left to be people?

  • The Rise and Fall of F. Lee Bailey, the Lawyer Who Set O.J. Simpson Free
    Lee Bailey is forever ready to share brutal opinions on the lawyers who have crossed him over the years. Marcia Clark, who in the midst of a row during the O.J. Simpson trial called him a liar? “A harridan,” he growls.
    Revealing but not surprising, given how he came across

  • The Tastiest Medicine
    Until about middle school, I got an annual ear infection, as well as a bout of strep throat about once every two years. For these ailments, I would inevitably be prescribed what was referred to in my home as “the pink stuff”.
    Hands up if you know what this is about without reading the article? *puts hands up*

  • This Rare Medical Condition Makes You Love Everyone
    Not always. People with Williams syndrome, a rare genetic condition, face problems every bit as challenging as those with autism, from learning difficulties to trouble forming friendships.
    Fascinating article on a condition I hadn’t even heard of.

  • Google Glass 2.0 Is a Startling Second Act
    Don’t call Heather Erickson a glasshole. Yes, that’s Google Glass on her frames. But she’s not using it to check her Facebook, dictate messages, or capture a no-hands video while riding a roller coaster. Erickson is a 30-year-old factory worker in rural Jackson, Minnesota.
    No real surprise this, but a few years ‘proving’ in industry and this kind of tech will swing back into public usage at some point in the future.

  • England Unveils New 10-Pound Note Featuring Jane Austen
    The Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, poses at Winchester Cathedral in England on Tuesday, with the new 10-pound note featuring the image of Jane Austen.
    A woman! The outrage! I bet it’s not even vegan…

  • Don’t Call Me the Girl in the Band
    Nandi Rose Plunkett is a vocalist and keyboardist in the indie rock band Pinegrove. She’s also the singer and multi-instrumentalist behind the synth-pop project Half Waif. I have been making music my whole life.
    Pinegrove are a band I’ve seen twice, this is a great piece from one of the members.

  • Wonder Woman is Great, But There’s a Real-Life Female Warrior You Need to Know About
    As one of the many people who crowded into theaters to watch Wonder Woman this summer, I couldn’t help but notice parallels between the Amazon princess and another, less widely known character: the real-life Chinese Nühanzi woman. Wonder Woman seemed like a breath of cinematic fresh air.
    More proof: women are awesome.

  • Hip-hop is bigger than rock music for the first time, thanks to nobody buying albums
    “Change—shit, I guess change is good for any of us,” Tupac raps at the start of one of his most beloved singles, recorded in 1995 and released the following year after his death.
    Or just a change in consumption, who buys albums of ANY kind these days?

  • Public Service Announcement: You Should Not Force Quit Apps on iOS
    The single biggest misconception about iOS is that it’s good digital hygiene to force quit apps that you aren’t using. The idea is that apps in the background are locking up unnecessary RAM and consuming unnecessary CPU cycles, thus hurting performance and wasting battery life.
    This! Double trouble if you’ve come to iOS from Android. Just SHTAP!

  • The world may have to spend as much as $7 trillion per year to remove carbon dioxide from the air
    The world has been slow to realize the immense financial and human costs of climate change. Would that change if we realized just how much worse it could get?
    The planet is so fucked.

  • Take a trip to Los Angeles’ new internet celebrity summer camp
    Jettzen Shea has a mop of pale blond hair and a voice that rings out like a little bell as he chimes in from the middle rows of Claremont McKenna College’s Pickford Auditorium. “I’m on Twitter,” he says.
    Part me is rolling my eyes HARD. The other part is sitting back and watching the changing of the guard. The internet will still have a lot to answer for in the future.

  • Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington Dead at 41
    Chester Bennington, best known as the lead singer of Linkin Park, has died, TMZ reports and bandmate Mike Shinoda confirms. His death was a suicide by hanging, according to the report. Bennington was 41 years old.
    Awful news. Mental health issues are real, and they don’t give a fuck who you are, rich or poor, famous or unknown. Make sure your loved ones know you are there. As are the Samaritans.

  • Why a Toaster Is a Design Triumph
    The “A Bit More” button doesn’t reinvent the appliance’s form. It finds its soul instead. Last year I fell in love with a toaster.
    It me! Not actually me, but this is totally in keeping with my last post on why I bought a new water bottle. Simple things people. Simple things.

bookmark_borderLess is still less

I’ve recently donated a few books and some clothes to charity, sold a couple of no longer used items on Gumtree, and all because I bought a new water bottle to use at work; a 1 litre Camelbak Chute (yes the type of water bottle is important in this context, or at least, the design of it is).

I drink a lot of water thanks to being on a diuretic and to working in a perpetually warm office, so I drink at least 2 litres of water at work every day. The Camelbak Chute was a deliberate upgrade on my older (smaller) water bottle, which was cheap and would occasionally leak so I plumped for a better designed water bottle and was happy to pay a little extra for it.

The water bottle is one of those things I use everyday and, whilst it is performing a simple function, I like the form factor. It feels robust, the cap clicks in to the lid so you don’t lose it, and I especially like the fact the water pours out of it as opposed to the slow gurgle of the last one. I’m not quite sure it’s bringing me Kondo-esque joy but it’s definitely been a simple, happy, purchase that I appreciate every day.

It’s a small example of focussing on better, nicer, things that I’ve been increasingly conscious of since moving to a smaller flat.

In fact I was so impressed with it I bought a second (smaller) version to use at home and at the gym. Again, this is replacing a cheaper water bottle I picked up in Primark and, again, it feels like a big upgrade for such a simple item. It really is the little things, right?

After making my purchases, the two old water bottles sat forlornly on the kitchen window ledge for a couple of weeks until I realised I was just-in-case-ing them. I do not need four water bottles, hell I don’t really need one, but I can justify two (one stays at work, one stays at home). Yet for some reason I didn’t get rid of the other two for quite a while.

Thankfully the cheaper, now unused, water bottles were recycleable so off they went into the recycle bin and as I looked around I realised that, since moving flat and starting to replace old for ‘new and improved’ I had more things lying around that I no longer needed.

What else was lying there unused? Three recently read books on a shelf, a mirror propped against the wall in the bedroom, shirts I no longer fit in (because they are TOO BIG! HUZZAH!!), and a few other bits and bobs. It felt good to have a wee mini-clear out and that’s before I go back through some of the boxes of stuff I brought from my old flat and left to look at later.

Long-term I’m looking to focus more on replacing larger pieces of furniture but I’m going to try and do a more regular sweep of the things I own and make sure that I don’t end up with a flat full of stuff I don’t need or use.

All of that thanks to a simple purchase of something new.

And yes, this is all very much #firstworldproblems

bookmark_borderDo something new

It’s a slow slow process, changing your behaviours. Especially given that I’ve honed mine with decades of practice, all driven by a set of internal rules that have governed every waking second since I was a child. It takes time, but it is happening. Slowly.

A lot of the focus of my counselling has been on self-compassion. Letting myself fail, not predicting the outcome of things in advance, stepping back when I’m under stress, and learning how to live in the moment. I’ve been able to identify various mechanisms that I have in place which, when flight or fight is triggered, can lead to “not good things”. For me it these “not good things” tend not to be displayed quickly (I can be short tempered and grumpy but that isn’t actually one of the signs) instead I’ll have some epic, private, blow-ups that very few people have had the misfortune to see/deal with.

The counselling isn’t easy, or rather keeping an eye on my emotions and reactions isn’t easy, but the whole experience has been worthwhile. It’s not over yet, this is a journey and all that, and for those who know me well, no, you probably can’t see any real difference in me day to day but trust me, it is working, I can feel the difference.

A small example which may mean nothing to you but is A BIG DEAL for me; I no longer break down my every waking hour into 30 minute segments, nor do I check the clock every 5 mins. Equally I’ve been late for a couple of things by a few minutes (things with fluid start times, like ‘I’ll be at your place at 2ish’ now mean just that, not 2pm on the dot…).

So the short version of the above is that there’s a lot of stuff that has been going on and it’s going well. I’m feeling good, balanced, calm and the hard work is paying off. Go me!

Chatting to my counsellor last week and one thing she pointed out – or rather guided me to realise – was that I’m still operating in my ‘comfort zone’. It’s easier to catch myself before I head into fight/flight mode because I’m at the same place of work, or with the same group of people, so I have a level of comfort and familiarity which makes it easier to process my emotions in those spaces.

Next up I need to get out of my comfort zone and find some new things to try.

Current ideas are:

  • Get a piano and sign up for piano lessons.
  • Go for a weekend spiritual retreat.
  • Attend a creative writing course.

The piano idea is a big one. I had lessons and passed most of the exams when I was a kid. Going back to it would mean confronting the fact I ‘failed’ at it (because I gave it up when I was 14) and let my parents down (which I didn’t at all, but my inner critic will gleefully grab anything it can to throw in my way). But… I remember that I did enjoy it at times, particularly as I got more advanced and started to move away from the purely classical pieces and on to tackling things like The Entertainer by Scott Joplin, and some Billy Joel tracks (yes yes, the Piano Man, I know).

The weekend spiritual retreat is the ‘easiest’ as it is really an extension, or heightening, of my current meditiation habit (which has built to almost every day, even if only for 10 mins or so) but it would be unfamiliar and lead me to confront myself even more which, in itself, would be a challenge. 10 mins of meditation is calming, a full weekend could be very revealing and painful. But that’s kinda the point.

Lastly the creative writing course sounds interesting and fun but I’ll need to watch out I’m not approaching it with the mindset of ‘not failing’ it. Equally, given I have a wonky/shoddy first draft of a short novel written, how is that going to look? Ahhh but that’s my inner critic at work again, who cares about the first draft, it is not something to be judged, instead I WROTE THE FIRST DRAFT OF A NOVEL is where my focus should be (and is, I’m really proud I managed that).

I’ve not decided which (all?) of these to try and I might end up doing something else completely, but given where I am now, compared to where I was when I started the counselling, I’m excited to push things on and see how it goes. After all, what’s the worse that can happen?

I also realise that I’m becoming more and more a walk cliche of ‘live for today’, ‘be in the now’, and more, but the weird thing about cliches is that, a lot of the time, they are actually true.

In other news, all those people who say to eat healthily and be more active are on to something… but that’s a different post for another day.