Day 18 – under the weather

Challenges, challenges, challenges. This task I dared myself with is beginning to show its true colours. It asks a lot of me, and I am having a bit of a rough time with it. I am feeling a bit under the weather, if I may say so. For day 18, my last day in the city, I therefore cleared my schedule. No reunions, no challenges, no meetings, no appointments, no to-do lists, nothing. Just a full day for me and my love to enjoy. It will soon be time to say our farewells again after all, and that gets harder and harder. We’ve had a lovely breakfast and my boyfriend nipped my upcoming urge to perform in the bud by suggesting to paint a wall in the flat. You remember my tremendous efforts of the last week , right? I was sceptical at first, the weather was fairly nice, and again, my nagging voices told me to go outside, to do something, to earn and achieve. But then I thought, heck why not. I slept terribly the night before, 5 hours at most, and I felt very tired. I felt too tired, to do anything, let alone, painting a wall. I did what I could and then stepped back, to let my boyfriend do his thing. I even fell asleep once shortly, while sitting on the sofa. Me! Falling asleep whilst sitting somewhere! That never happens. Seriously. It never happens. I am usually the kind of person who’s awake after an 18-hour flight, who’s wide awake on the train, the bus, no matter for how long I’ve been awake before. I am a terrible sleeper. I sleep badly in my own bed. I need it to be dark, quiet and to be absolutely undisturbed, to be able to fall asleep. And even then, I wake up a lot with long periods of being unable to fall asleep again. So, for me to fall asleep in the middle of the day, sitting upright, on the verge of painting a wall, was a very, very clear sign that I needed some rest. This tiredness and the lack of sleep actually slowed me down so much, I didn’t even start to think, I should get my lazy butt up and to do some work. Well, I thought it a bit, specially when I watched the wall getting near completion, but I was too tired to do anything. I am not sure if this shameless display of laziness is actually worth mentioning in the same sentence as the word challenge, but it was challenging-ish to, for the first time, not work to exhaustion or doing something I know would make me feel worse. I comforted the nagging voices by telling them, it was his idea to paint today, after all. I told him, I was tired, right? Right. It didn’t help a lot, but it helped a little. And then I went to bed, to try to sleep for real. Without any luck. Apparently, sitting on a sofa, in the middle of a home improvement, accompanied by chaos, is the way to go, sleep wise. Body, you are silly. Mind, shut up, you also are silly.

We had planned to go for dinner in the evening, to celebrate our three wonderful weeks together and to make the farewell easier. I felt so tired, I was shortly before calling the whole thing off. Hunger prevailed, and off we went. It was a nice evening, even though we never made it to the little wine bar I had spotted close to our flat two weeks ago and wanted to check out before I left. I usually am quite good at telling myself what a sour loser I am, that I had so much more planned to achieve and do. Again, my boyfriend provided a great solution to calm myself down, before I could get lost in my depressing thoughts and self-critique, by reminding me, that I still had a lot of packing to do and that the wine bar will most likely still be there, when I return. He is right, of course. And depression lies. Always. One day I will learn to like myself and to be proud of my achievements. Without the friendly reminders and me half-heartedly agreeing with them.

 

Day 16 – an unexpected treasure

Day 16 – time really flies when you’re having fun, or, in my case, a lot to reflect on and even brave the odd challenges along the way. I got up ok, determined to avoid another binge watching incident. I did, what I (now) always do in a situation like this: write a new blog entry (I am still behind!). What followed afterwards was a matter of hours, I kid you not and I will also spare you the technical details, but I managed to salvage some of my lost data. It’s magic! Not really, I used a software, and thankfully, it almost did, what it was supposed to do. I will have to look at each file and reorganise it (400 gb, no biggie), but not now, this task won’t run away. Relatively proud, I walked away from the pc after salvaging a few files, without spending even more hours to organise and browse through everything. Why bother with a gruesome task, when there is so much more to do.

In my case, that was risking another gruesome challenge. I sat down, trying to identify why I didn’t feel as good in the city, as I hoped. It could have been way worse, but also, a bit better. After the excitement of the first few days (home improvement – I definitely need more excitement in my life), I felt like spiraling down, without any means of stopping it. The energy was down, the mood was down, the lust for exploring anything was gone, I went to the great outdoors only three times in three weeks, I didn’t sleep as well, I made myself a smoothie only once (once – in three weeks, when it previously was a daily thing), I felt exhausted once again, desperate, sad and depressed at times. Even though I had my little book full of challenges, things to do, places to visit and so on, I never even picked it up anymore, everything seemed too hard, too much effort and to scary. Time to meditate on that. Without the actual meditating – laying down on the sofa serves me just as well.

Some people may find an epiphany through meditating – I didn’t. But I compared my days on the countryside with my days in the city and realized a few things. The city, my own flat, my friends, my love, my family distracted me a bit. A distraction I don’t have at the countryside as much. That’s not a bad thing, don’t get me wrong, I went to the city as some kind of holiday and trying out new things, to reconnect with my loved ones and that’s what I did, mostly. I meant, that having these many distractions and temptations at once, is still too overwhelming for me. It showed me, that I am not ready yet, to throw myself into the hectic life. I am not yet as well as I can and will be and I am not able yet to look after my own needs in a more hectic surrounding. I still need the quiet and alone time to be able to put myself first. I still lack interests, stuff to do, things that keep me busy. In those moments, when I felt lost, I didn’t know what to do and I looked for comfort in what I knew to have worked in the past, to silence the inner nagging voice: improving the flat, cleaning, organising, watching tv, playing games. Basically doing and thinking about anything else, than me. I didn’t actually watch tv or played a game, but the temptation was there. It could have been so easy to just let it all slide and retreat to a world without challenges, without having to work on myself. There’s a few things I can’t quite put my finger on. I get up more easily at the country side. It’s easier for me to make a smoothie, have a nice breakfast, to ready myself for the day, to go out, do some grocery shopping, to have a walk. That last one is no shocker, there is nature everywhere basically. I have more energy, at least it feels like it. I think in a way, I feel safer. Of course, spontaneously booking that yoga course or talking to people, really talking to people, is still a problem for me, even at the country side. If you, dearest readers, have any input for me on that matter, please, feel free to contact me privately or share here. Many brains think better than just one.

Still some work to do! I am looking forward to what it feels like at the end of the rainbow. I aim to think about my fulfilled desires, how it will feel, not the hard, rocky way to reach them. Feel free to remind me of that, sometimes.

Day 11 – sunshine and roses

For christmas, I got a little voucher for a hot springs spa. I’ve only been to a hot springs spa once before, two years ago, with a friend, shortly before christmas. It was really nice. So when I opened the voucher, I thought, that this is just what I needed. Maybe one or two days, without worries, sorrows and everyday activities. As one dear friend put it so nicely just a few weeks before: a time-out from working on myself and rebuilding my life. I was expecting to go there either alone or again with a friend. I would have been totally fine with that. Regained independence wise, you know. I was really surprised, when my boyfriend started to look at offers for the weekend and out of the blue suggested, that we go, for two days, spontaneously, together. I was astonished. Thunderstruck. Who are you, and what have you done with my love? It was kind of new for him to be the decisive one, something I always wanted, something that my therapist and I determined to be really important for me. The more decisions I have to make, the more I feel in control, the more I am made to take charge, the more overwhelmed, exhausted and overburdened I feel. But important and conclusive at the same time, which made it almost impossible for my old self to just let go. Sometimes, no matter how strong you are, how controlling you may be, how self-contained you think you are, it is nice to hand over the reins, to feel taken care of, to feel spoiled and treated like someone who matters, whose well-being matters. When my boyfriend and I had some sessions together with my therapist, this was one of the topics I brought forward. I was hoping, he’d understand how important it is for me to have someone determined and equal in my life, to have at least one place, where not everything depended on me. Turns out, he did not only understand, but really thought about it and incorporated my wish into his everyday actions. So much more, than I ever expected. He’s the greatest.  And so he decided and booked a room for us. Just like that. I was happy, but I couldn’t really show it the day before. Depression lies. I was shortly before cancelling, but I managed to gather enough positive energy the day before, and so, off we went.

On the train ride there, I felt really excited, like a little kid, which has to do with the fact, that I was very familiar with the train route. My family lived close to the hot springs spa for a few years when I was very little, but we took that train so often, that I remembered almost everything about it. I pressed my face against the window to not miss the road leading to that small village we lived in and I didn’t. Yay! I have almost only good memories of that place, our family was still intact and relatively happy then. I also saw hares, deers and even a pheasant on the train ride, which furthermore lifted my spirits. I love animals. I love nature. So exciting! Enough about that now, let’s start with the actual blog purpose – the challenges. It won’t surprise you, that this trip challenged me in many ways. To go away for a weekend, to leave my own four walls, is something that still takes courage for me, but it wasn’t as bad this time, I had great, protective company. When exiting the train, I realized we weren’t the only guests that day and time making their way to the hotel, but we decided to walk there, as it was sunny and beautiful and we’d be doing a lot of slacking around in the next days anyway. My old fear of being the last to arrive, to be overreached, to get a worse room, because of the others, to arrive at the spa a few minutes later and to, of course, miss something really huge (please, don’t ask me what huge thing one could be missing out on at a spa) overtook me, and I lamented about it a bit on the way there. It did help, that my boyfriend dismissed these worries and we had a little laugh about it even. When we checked in and went to the room, I was relaxed again, as it was very nice and I felt confident, that we had exactly the room, that was supposed to be ours. Next challenge, bathing suit. I am pretty aware, that amongst us, I probably won’t find a single person really confident with his or her looks in a bathing suit, or even naked. We all have our problem areas and low self-esteem concerning our bodies, so I won’t bore you with a long explanation of why this is difficult for me. Moving on.
The silly girl I am at times, at the moment believes I can only go outside, if wearing make-up. I feel more confident with it, like not giving anyone a point of attack, when seeing my face. I didn’t wear a lot, I am not that silly doh. Once in the hot springs, it took me an hour or so, to let go, but then I felt relaxed and more sure of myself. With a devil-may-care attitude, I washed all of the make-up away and even dived underwater, which makes my hair look very weird and leaves me looking like a poodle, who was out in the rain for hours. How some people manage to look elegant, beautiful and really pretty when swimming or diving is beyond me. Sigh.
For a quick afternoon snack, hotel guests can go to the lobby to have a soup and fruit. When I was there the first time, my friend and I were told, that it was totally acceptable to eat while wearing the bathrobe, the hotel gave to us. This time, no one told us, and my insecurity got the better of me and I wanted to go there fully dressed. In between a hive of half-dressed people in bathrobe, we looked like dorks. Moving on.                                   When we went to dinner, after a really nice, relaxing afternoon, sparkling clean, with elegant clothes and make-up on (me, in case you were wondering) I again felt nervous. Entering a room full of people, where usually all eyes are on you, because, you know, people like to stare, being seated maybe very close to another table or even at a table with someone else, being watched as you sit down, get up again, is usually not my comfort zone. I never can be who I am in these situations. I try to adapt the habits of everyone else, I am afraid to laugh, to talk or to, you know, just sit comfortably on my chair, concentrating on my company. I constantly check the room for everyone else, what they do, if they are not looking at me, if I do a good job of being as pleasant, low-key and as invisible as possible. Also, where would our table be located? I like to sit with a wall or window in my back, I guess that’s because our ancestors had to battle all kinds of wild animals and leaning against a cave wall, usually means, that at least you weren’t going to be attacked from behind. I do not like if my table is located in the middle of the room, next to a pillar (I need space, come one!) or very close to another table. The table we were led to was very close to being perfect. The only thing worth mentioning, challenge wise, that evening, was that you had to get up to the buffet to get your appetizers. Silly as we were, we went to the buffet separately. Not very clever. I managed though. More to come in the next blog entry. Hope you are staying with me.

Day 9 – Soft kitty, warm kitty.

I woke up to a quite unusual sound, like a belling call from a stag during rutting season. That couldn’t be it, so I got up to see what lunacy came off in the bathroom. Unfortunately, no stag party (I am easily amused),  it was my love being quite sick. That can only mean one thing. Get the poor thing back into bed, make tea, check for fever, cancel on work and to nurse him to death, or to healthiness, more accurately. Right? RIGHT? That’s what yours truly would have done a year ago. Forget all about my needs, my plans for the day, my own health; basically putting someone else’s needs before mine – even though they did not ask for it. I am not talking about letting the poor thing rot on the sofa, till the suffering becomes too great. I am very caring, let me assure you. Excellent nursing practise was given, no need to file a human rights complaint. I just paused for a minute, after I made tea, got some pretzel sticks, checked for temperature and made sure, he was as comfortable as he could be, regarding the situation. Was it really so easy for me to jump right back into my old patterns? It is a relatively small thing to care and nurse your love for one day, but for me it was a symbol of everything I did and sometimes still do – putting everything and everyone else before myself. At work, I used to take as much responsibility and assignments as I could, when everyone else’s plate was already full. My own plate included, but hey, how can I be regarded as a valuable employee or colleague, if I don’t work my butt off, if I don’t put in as much effort and passion as I can? After work, I went home to take the lead there, too. I was exhausted, but nevertheless, I cleaned, I organised the place, I bought groceries, executed everyday commodities and prepared dinner. Eventually, after dinner, I allowed myself to relax, and that meant going straight to bed. No one demanded of me to take control over everything and manage my life, others lives, work and household. Of course, someone has to do these things, and I am so much more energetic and efficient, no one else can do, what I do, right? I am tremendously valuable. I made myself tremendously valuable to everyone, my family, friends, colleagues. I only felt valuable, if I worked to exhaustion, sometimes, till I heard a ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’ – and if that wasn’t the case, I worked harder, longer and busy as a beaver.
Your day is already jam-packed? Of course, I will look after your kids or run some errands for you! Can’t make it to the shops or the post office before they close? Why didn’t you say so earlier, I’d love to do that for you! (No sarcasm, I really loved to do these things – only then I felt loved in return, too). That would have been fine, if not my own day would have been jam-packed already as well. Since years. I never stopped for a second, not realizing how deep my exhaustion went over the years and how automatically I jumped into my pattern of helping, doing things before they even were asked of me, working, cleaning, listening – performing ‘normally’. I never even took my holidays at work – I am way too important and happy to go away!
Those memories came back to me on Day 9. I was determined, to be a good girlfriend, valuable nurse but not to let my love’s sickness interfere what I had planned for the day. He made it relatively easy for me, as he was pretty much passed out the whole day, stayed awake for minutes at tops, just to have a sip of tea, to assure me, that he was alright, needed nothing and was feeling much better already. He made it quite clear to be honest, that he wasn’t a child anymore, was well enough to drink enough fluids and to call or ask for help, if he got worse.
Right, so, there I was. Not really needed. Fighting the impulse to think, I was only a good girlfriend, if I stayed home and forgot about everything else. After I washed the dishes, made the bed – pretty much, did what I could without disturbing my love and what was needed to be done, I was a little restless for a while. What to do, what to do? If you remember, I had made plans, the day before – and that’s what I set out to do. I went to a place, I never go alone. Usually, because I felt like ‘ooooh, but we need to share that experience’, often because I can’t carry all of that junk and always, because I just didn’t go there alone, as the independent being, that I now am. Decisions have to be made together, the tiring journey there, is much more fun together and, after all, it wasn’t just for me, that we had to go there, we needed stuff or inspiration. Are you catching up already? Yes, I am in fact talking about a trip to Ikea. When I got worse and worse, these trips usually were as fun as a ride in hell. Everything about it made me tired, exhausted, cranky, aggressive or desperate. I ended up hating to go there, but, you know, we both back then worked a lot and neither of us had the time or nerve to go alone. Us couples need to stay together, in good times and bad.
I am really relieved, I no longer think that way. I went there, knowing what we needed. Not only was the trip there much shorter and pleasant, than usual, I didn’t feel angry, exhausted or aggressive or overwhelmed for the first time in years. I got my stuff, even walked around and browsed a little and carried everything back home. That part wasn’t so great, as I forgot the real huge bag we have at home and was struggling with carrying 10 kilo on each arm. But I managed. Without desperation, tears or anger. When I arrived home, I was tired, I won’t lie, and I felt pretty much deadly exhausted. But instead of following my usual pattern of nursing, cooking and hovering around like a bumblebee, I sat down, and relaxed, gathering strength again. Honesty, I promised you, though, so, ok, I went grocery shopping that evening and made a meal for myself and my love, but come on, the man was sick! Show some heart, you guys. It could have gone way worse. And he was back on his feet the day after – without my constant nursing. I guess the world does keep on spinning for a day, even without me. Hard to accept, but a good lesson.

Day 4 – being alone, doesn’t mean being lonely

Today’s challenge seemed easy, was easy, but is quite a fundamental one for me.

“One is the loneliest number.” I really used to agree with that. I would wait with going out, doing things, starting projects, even food shopping, cooking or cleaning, until anyone would go with me, do the errant with me. Sharing is a beautiful thing, no doubt about that. I still prefer being together with my love instead of being alone. I still love doing things as a couple. But I do not depend on it anymore. During my time at the countryside I lived alone, mainly. I consider this as one of the hardest tests I have ever done. I didn’t fail the test. The first weeks were hard. Lots of knitting, staring at DVD’s, not being able to get up to get a glass of water, no drive to cook a nice meal, if it was only for myself, no strength to clean, shower or do anything really. And the gloomy mood, oh boy! I couldn’t stand myself like this. But after a while my I started doing things on my own. For myself. If I loved food shopping together, it surely couldn’t be so bad when doing it alone? It wasn’t. I had a great experience one day, when I asked a friend, if I could join her while food shopping at a quite exclusive shop. I usually would have grieved the whole time, thinking about my love and how bad it is, to be doing it alone now. None of these thoughts occurred. I really, really enjoyed myself alone, with a friend. The best thing was, that she told me afterwards, how much she realized in that hour, how often she is sad, when she doesn’t share things with her sweetheart, and what a pity that was, since she really enjoyed herself too, that day. And slowly, day by day, I enjoyed doing things on my own more and more. Up to one point where I actually thought “its nice to go on a walk together, but hell, I’d rather be outside alone right now”. That was a bit of a shocker. Time to do a little socializing!

Today I was still upset about my lost files and it took me hours to get up and start the day. Nevertheless, I was determined to go outside, to a home improvement center (my idea of a nightmare) to look at wall colours alone. As this is my idea of a nightmare, I naturally wasted a lot of time preparing breakfast, having a shower and making myself ready. When I was ready to leave the flat, it was almost time for my love to arrive back home. One year ago, I would have waited at home. I would have waited grumpy, and already way too exhausted to go through with the plan. Any minute of a delayed arrived would further challenge my mood and energy. And the trip would have been a disaster. I would have wanted to leave the horror place as soon as possible, without looking at things or being constructive in the slightest. I would have gotten angry at the mass of people. I would have hated every single minute of the journey there. It would have been a complete waste of our time.
I was tempted to wait but I saw the challenge through. I had set my mind on being as independent now as I was at the countryside and I didn’t want myself to get in my way. I went there, I browsed, I took some colour suggestions home, I didn’t get angry. I was very exhausted and tired after just 20 minutes though, but one thing at a time, right? It felt good nevertheless. I wanted to think about a new wall colour, so I went to get some inspiration. I didn’t need anyone to be the driving force, I didn’t need a helping hand. I totally count that as a huge success, even if it’s just going out alone, when I could have gone out with my love. I do believe, that this is also a huge relief for the people close to me, to know, they are not responsible to do the things I want, for me or with me. I will do my projects from now on, although I won’t ever say no to a helping hand. Double the fun!