Wednesday, 30 January 2013


Inevitably everything has started to pile up beyond my own control. I'm a 'yes person'; I like to take things on and flirt with new territories, but it can sometimes fall down on top of me as I try to balance the everything that is my life. I'm busy getting involved with things, spreading myself pretty thinly over the 18 hours or so that I spend awake each day, and I found myself ready to burst at the seams in the latter part of last week.

I was about to sign us up for a cycling sportive on the day before my birthday in August. I thought 'hooray!' at the opportunity to spend the last day of my 25th year cycling gleefully around Yorkshire, followed by a meal in our favourite restaurant with one of their awesomely huge servings of STP and ice cream in lieu of a birthday cake. Then I remembered the other commitments that I've got going on between now and October. Two marathons (I signed up for the Yorkshire Marathon at 7am on the morning it opened, oops), a potential month spent doing research in Stockholm, a whole month away at conferences, putting on a conference at the department in York, taking workshops for the Strange Bedfellows programme, confirmation onto my PhD programme and the viva voce that will follow, doing a PhD, and organising my very own wedding.

I tried to rationalise all of this, the one step at a time sort of pep talk, but anyone who has planned a wedding or done a PhD or trained for a marathon will know that it doesn't work like that; it is all-consuming, almost an obsession (in my case, definitely an obsession), and it requires 100% of yourself to see it through. Forgetting the travelling, the conference, the workshops and the confirmation, that only leaves 33% of me to focus on each of these tasks; I got stuck on how I could possibly be wholehearted in my attempts at these things with only my one heart, and then I started to feel sick and overwhelmed and utterly stressed out, which is never a productive state to be in.

But it only takes a minute really to get out of the downwards spiral that is stress. It builds up in a moment but it can also be tackled in a moment, given the right words or a hug from a good friend or just a bit of happy news. In my case it took a good friend, and not a hug but the right words, and the sun dawned on the horizon and all was right in the world. The key was perspective. I was suddenly ashamed at the way I'd taken my 'problems' to be at the centre of the universe, when in fact I can't think of a situation I'd rather be in. Stressed about the fact that I get to marry someone awesome in September in a day put together just for us, stress about the dream-come-true that is my PhD and all the magic it entails, stress about running around some of the world's loveliest places while I think and breathe and enjoy just being me. Stress is such an ego-centric issue, so undoubtedly caused by too much thinking inwards and not enough looking out at the world and your own place in it.

I don't know how long it will be before I find myself stressed out to breaking point again, but I hope that when it happens a kind friend will take me aside and ever-so-subtly remind me how awesome all of this is. 18 hours a day of doing all the things I love - writing, running, reading, thinking, talking, eating, laughing, cooking. We even got a dishwasher so I don't have to wash up any more - one less thing to stress out about. So now I'm off to stretch, shower and eat my breakfast with a spring in my step for what will be today and all the greatness it could bring. And there's one last buckwheat muffin left for lunch, hurrah!

Sunday, 6 January 2013

So Far in 2013

Only 6 days in to 2013 and already I feel that some great change is taking place. A stillness that I've never noticed before has come over me, and, for the past 6 days at least, I've found myself existing much more soundly internally, rather than externally.

So far in 2013 I've mostly been writing; trying to catch up with thoughts and new knowledge that have been flying around my mind for weeks, when I was at first too busy and then too tired to take stock of them. Yesterday I started work early, managing to write some of my 'best stuff' in that quiet early Saturday morning space that I often sleep through. Saturday mornings are my most productive time, but I always feel more inclined to stay warm in bed - one of the two precious mornings when I get to see Daniel (normally I am asleep or out running when he leaves for his commute, meaning I only see him in the evenings during the week), and so am always reluctant to spend a single moment at work.

Though mentally I've been acrobatic, physically I've adopted a stillness that appears to be much-needed. I'm taking a running hiatus until Valentine's Day (at least, that is my intention), which was a difficult decision to make but I know that I'll be glad of it in time. I haven't stopped running since last February when I began marathon training, and as I'm already signed up to do a marathon again in May, I feel a break will help me prepare for that massive challenge more than any running ever could. Instead, I'm getting back to my yoga practise, which has been much neglected over the past few months of hurrying around. So far in 2013 I've done plenty of yoga, and I'm strangely grateful to find that my body is totally inflexible, sore and reluctant for stillness - it reminds me quite plainly of why I ever did yoga in the first place.

So far in 2013 I haven't eaten any wheat, or drunk any alcohol (bar one final glass of New Year champagne, which doesn't count...). After a highly indulgent Christmas, a fizzing New Year's Eve and a nastily hungover New Year's Day, my body felt tired and overloaded. Cutting out wheat and alcohol feels like a natural thing to be doing right now, and I'm not experiencing any cravings or any sort of wish for either of the two. Once life gets back into full swing again I know I'll want to head to the pub on Friday evenings and enjoy homemade bread and marmalade on Sunday mornings, but until I really fancy bread, pasta or another hangover (!) a hard-line approach is suiting me fine.

So far in 2013 I've drunk a lot of herbal tea, and am loving this sweet blend before bed, and this tea after a morning yoga session. I've bought some fresh flowers to replace the Christmas tree, been indulging in sandalwood and lavender oils on a daily basis, and getting as much non-academic writing done as I can bear (I tend to do this by hand, and my handwriting capabilities are not what they used to be).

2013, so far, so good.