Efficient Body

I am trying to lose weight.

I gained about 30kg since both of my pregnancies. In my second pregnancy, rapid weight gain gave me lots of issues. I was mobile, for sure, but so big that it was hard to be active for long. Once I gave birth, the weight did not drop off like it did the first time round.

Sixteen months later, and my body is still clinging on.

Why, body? Why do you need this extra fat? Are you worried you may starve if it slips off?

I joked to my husband that my body is such that if we were in a famine, and everybody became bags of bones, I would probably put on weight.

My body clings to fat in a most efficient manner. If I go into a calorie deficit, I can lose weight consistently for 3 weeks. After that, my body adjusts to this and I plateau or even start going up in weight!

My research tells me that some bodies are more efficient than others, built to last through seasons of no food, built to carry boulders on low energy. I know this to be true. I ate so little for a month, and yet piled on the weights at the gym, leg pressing up to 150kgs, muscles growing stronger, bigger, more defined – and I could be satiated on so little.

But I want to shed these heavy 20kgs. They feel uncomfortable on me. They make my face look unrecognisable, and my legs feel bulky, and I feel like I am dragging my body around. I want to feel free of it, to run fast across a field like before and not worry too much about uncomfortable jiggles and things falling out of place.

I don’t want to lose weight for looks or because I feel insecure. I want to do it for comfort.

Yet when I mention this, the immediate response is wide eyed surprise, and exclamations that I don’t ‘need’ to lose anything and not to ‘buy into’ our appearance-obsessed culture.

I get it.

But since when does wanting to change how your body looks and feels equate to a bad thing?

Why rush to tell someone they don’t need to do something, when they really want to?

Why assume that one wants to change the shape of their body purely due to insecurity or appearance-obsession?

Is it unhealthy to want to lose weight?

If it is unhealthy for some, why make it so everybody feels weird about trying to lose weight, one way or another? Do we apologise for this desire, and assure the ‘Body-Positive’ community that we aren’t mentally ill, and aren’t harming their agenda, but just want to change something for us?

In Retrospect

Sometimes after a big massive fight I go away to Retrospect.

And in Retrospect, my glasses become clean. Images are sharper, crisper. The air is tantalising and if I stick my tongue out, I can taste everything. The breeze, the way the birds fly, the blossom petal on a wind current. Everything.

My regret because I pushed it.

My sadness because I pulled at it. Nitpicked it. Wanted to fight at the beach. Get it off my chest. But in doing so, it was hammering his chest.

Don’t go to bed cross, they say. I never do. Maybe I need to visit Retrospect before I try to get things off my chest in the moment.

Retrospect has a fantastic way of making you make mature decisions with your tongue.

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Childhood Baby

I woke up from a horrific dream in which I was living my childhood life as an adult.

My childhood was amazing. There were cockroach infestations, terrible arguments between my parents, and I had a glass thrown at my head once.

By one of them.

But it was amazing.

How can I say this, after listing some of the most traumatic events? I felt loved, a lot of the time. Especially when I was younger. I loved my baby brothers, who are now ‘the boys’, and both tower over me.

I have a lot of good memories, and maybe it’s nostalgia speaking, but I was a happy child.

I do remember a lot of misery and depression, some of which seeps into my adult life, but I was so happy. I loved going to school, I loved my friends. We had so many gatherings and parties, my parents took us to lots of places and really did spend time with us, and enjoyed doing so when they were not stressed. I loved reading all the time and have such fond memories of being curled up behind sofas or under desks with a book. Books tucked behind my textbooks, and once, intently reading a book hidden inside my wardrobe with a torch.

So why was my dream so horrific, then?

I dreamt I was in my childhood home, around the people of my childhood (family, friends), and my baby had gone missing. But I was for some reason supposed to suppress this information. I didn’t know where she was, but we all knew she was no more, and her little sweet voice went ‘mama, mama, mama’ in my head, just how she does in real life. Eventually as the dream progressed I could no longer contain my pain and began to wail in sorrow. The kind of wail where you just cannot help yourself. You lose all sense of anything and give into the hurt.

At that precise moment, my eyes flew open, and it was 6am.

Staggering out of bed, eyes barely open, still nursing that terrible, searing pain, I stumbled into my babies’ room, and there she was in her cot.

Snoring away.

Little fists curled slightly on the mattress.

Long eyelashes dusting the soft roundness of her cheeks.

She has been so tough this past week. Clingy, moany baby. ‘Mama, mama, mama’ all the time, tugging on my legs to be picked up, not sure what she wants.

But today I feel reminded to be so incredibly grateful for her, and am looking at it in a different light. Oh, let the baby be clingy. She needs you!

I have just finished typing this and can hear her little voice, thick with sleep, saying ‘mama’.

So off I go to squeeze her!

To be blessed.

Ahh. Hello. Little blog of mine.

It’s been a while. Two months, I think.

March promised me so much on her blossom scented breath but you know, April has proved to be more frilly and flowery than my favourite month. No showers, just sunshine. Pink blossom in powder puffs adorning trees and soft sweet apple blossom scattering itself through my window like dainty fairies. Love love love.

I did not write the things I intended to write. I barely treaded water, to be honest.

I caught the coronavirus, I travelled with my kids, I worked until I fell asleep at my keyboard – not once but several times – and I watched things while I folded laundry or tidied toys or folded laundry or washed dishes. Or folded laundry. Bloody hate folding laundry but when I think that I catch myself by the arm. I say, ‘Dear, dear dear dear. Don’t you forget the blessing of clothes to cover your back and a washing machine in which to wash them. So help me God.’

I added the ‘so help me God’ because people in books say that and it sounds like a strict admonishment.

My son started nursery for the first time in both our lives. I cried tears after I left him and there was a hole in my heart and a sad emptiness in my home – he is only gone 5 hours a day but it feels eternal. Two days a week only, and he loves it. He asks to go to school on days we don’t go, and he doesn’t want to leave when I go to pick him up. A great sign, right? I hope so. I do hope so.

I watched Bridgerton, yes I did, and I enjoyed the frivolity of it all. I did indeed. I watched Wild Wild Country and I marvelled at people’s hope and search for the truth, even if it ends in futility. We are so good for hoping, aren’t we. Us humans.

I read a wonderful book called ‘Talking to Strangers’ and it’s all about how we perceive others, and it touches on the wrongs in the systems that run the countries where most violence, crime and racism occur. The author seems to think it boils down to how we approach and talk to strangers. How we cannot decipher each other at all, how the truths we grew up believing about others, were in fact not truths at all. Fascinating stuff.

I read another book called ‘Beauty Sick’, and how the obsession with appearance is a disease in Western society. I really resonated with that. I believe most women would. When I discussed it with my husband he had a different opinion and it infuriated me and turned me into a little spitfire. He told me he didn’t want to talk to me anymore as I was being rude.

I went to think about it for a bit and decided he was correct, and I didn’t need to lash out at him because his opinion was .. INCORRECT. I should have just listened and pointed out the discrepancies in his arguments. Glaringly obvious to me but he is of a different ilk. Cut. Tribe.

He is, as Aunty Caroline would say, he is a ‘Man.’ Capital ‘M’. That’s all there is to say on the matter.

I hate the news.

I hate the news.

I hate the news so much that sometimes I mindlessly scroll through it while my chest tightens. I roll my eyes and tut and my breathing becomes shallower and the sun sets behind me and the breaths I hear from the chests of my children grow slower, deeper.

And it’s dark, pitch black, my screen an illuminated rectangle in the gloom around me, shadows of furniture rising up in silent protest.

What’s wrong with living in the present.

What’s wrong with asking the neighbour if they were the ones who chopped all that offensive ivy in your back garden while you were away for a week.

Like that is the biggest news of the week, and not the bombs dropping on all the countries around the globe, their children starving to death, their big devastated eyes beseeching from behind the screen.

And you like and share and rant away.

Charity groups accept payments and then screech into your email inbox several times a day, several different names, screaming until your ears pop that these children need you and that their tents are filled with snow and water and they’re all sick sick sick and have no homes and are starving to death so please help.

Heartless, you are, if you want to switch off and focus on your life for a bit.

Cold.

Cruel.

Selfish.

What do you do? Wither in pain for all the pain and suffering in the world?

Somebody said you have to take care of yourself and turn off the bad news because you won’t be able to live in the present, dead birds and dead children and soulless eyes and manic leaders. How can you live though, while they don’t?

And the thought always pushes its way through red raging chaos;

The thought that what if we say too much bad news is not good to avoid helping, to selfishly continue to live our peaceful lives in blissful gluttony.

What is the truth, really.

Now that you’re grown.

You have to be in a kind of mood for writing, and for working out, and for doing anything remotely productive and worthwhile.

That’s what I used to think.

Now I know you have to show up, even when you don’t feel like it.

Show up every single time your child cries in the night, and they will have a healthy attachment with you.

Show up every session at the gym, or move your body every day, even when you don’t feel like it, and your cardiovascular health will excel.

Show up everyday and write, if you want to be a writer.

Show up for yourself, and you will reap the benefits. Nobody else.

One of my favourite quotes is this:

Write a million words, the absolute best you can write – then throw it all away and bravely turn your back on what you have written. At that point, you’re ready to begin.

David Eddings

I have had to show up these past three years. I have had to show up for my kids, at the expense of myself. I have had to show up regardless of how I felt, how ill I was, whether I had brushed my teeth or not.

And because I have had to do that, I have had to take a good long look at any hours I had free, and fill them with things which made me a better person.

A stronger person.

A person I wanted to be.

I don’t know what this means except maybe that I am growing up.

6am thoughts

I look at a mountain and I ask, ‘Am I a people pleaser?’

Only the mountain is not in real life but in my memory. I would never look at a mountain in real life and have such a thought. Can you even control your thoughts? I saw some real life mountains this week and my heart was sucked out of my chest. I could breathe fine, but something strange clouded my mind.

Reading Jane Eyre reminds me of warm sweet tea and hot buttery toast. It reminds me of a square pattern pink carpet, faded by the blistering heat of the desert. It reminds me of hot days, curtains billowing in dusty wind, burning air on my cheeks as a rattly van full of sweaty children speeds along shiny wide roads. Breaking necks, lives hanging on edge.

I saw some mountains this week, and waterfalls cascading down them. Not as impressive as Niagara Falls – small trickles falling over rocks and mossy branches into lakes. Fresh air, cold noses, babies with red cheeks.

I took my babies to the Lake District – well actually my husband took us. He booked everything when I was away with the kids staying with my mother, and when I saw him again he said he’d missed us and he wanted to take us somewhere. My son loved his first ever holiday. He kept telling me he was having so much fun. He slept so well, as did his baby sister. Better than they do at home.

Am I a people pleaser? I ask the mountain in my memory.

What a beautiful mountain it was. Snow-capped, green and brown, sitting in the biting storms for centuries. People coming and going. Fashions changing – what does it care for fashion? – ages and wars and the slow, sweeping turn of the millennial tide.

And it sits there, holding the earth together.

I asked my aunt if I could come visit her and her ‘text tone’ scared me so I called her sister – my mother – and said I was nervous about her answer and my mother rolled her eyes at me.

Well, I didn’t see her do it but I know she did.

‘Why are you nervous?’

‘She sounds so cross, I don’t know what will please her, I asked her if she could do Friday as Saturday would be too hard for me and she strongly hinted that although she was free both days, she’d rather I come on Saturday.’

‘Ok then stay with her Friday night!’

‘I can’t ask her that!!!’

‘Why not!? She is your aunt!’

‘I know but…’

‘If L (my daughter) called you about staying with E (my sister), what would you say?’

‘I’d say you’re crazy, E loves you to pieces, of course she would want you to stay with her!’

‘Your aunt has such a soft spot for you’

‘But she sounded so angry!’

‘Yes CALL her then, nobody sounds how they mean to via text’

‘Ok ok ok’

‘Silly girl’

Sometimes you just need to call people.

move your body

I have started exercising again. Moving my body. I do it a lot, to be fair. But then life gets stressful and movement takes a back seat.

But moving your body brings life to your capillaries.

Life to your fingertips.

Your hips.

Your sadness.

You can be sad, but when you move, your sadness sort of dances. The wobbling self pity fountain stays away. Dry eyes, smile lips.

I cycle down the Great Shilling Way. Sounds grand, doesn’t it? I like to think it is. It’s the path old soldiers during the First World War took. On their way somewhere. There are metal figurines of these men in their oval helmets, carrying rifles. Iron-wrought poppies. Fields to the right (or left, depending which way you’re coming), and the main road on the right.

Or left.

The Great Shilling Way.

So I cycle. I also own some weights and I use those at home with a resistance band I bought years ago on Amazon.

I go to the gym. I lift heavy weights. I can squat 40kg now, and can leg press 100kg. I’ve always had super strong legs, probably why I enjoy cycling so much.

Red face. Red capillaries. Strong legs to squat down and pick things up whilst carrying my heavy 12kg baby.

Happy mood, movement, energy levels soaring. Tired muscles, but the kind of tired where you can feel the strength quietly building.

I hope this movement spree lasts longer than the last one.

Moving my body is fantastic for my mood.

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8 Years

Today, after the kids were in bed, I asked my husband to make me a mug of green tea.

He did, and as he brought it to me, I glanced at my watch. 18th of January.

‘Hey,’ I said, taking the tea from him, ‘We’ve been married 8 years today.’

‘No way! Really? That’s today?’

‘Yup,’ I said, taking a sip.

‘Wow.’

‘I know right, feels like we are newly married.’

He snorted as he sat down with his own tea, ‘Yeah, sure.’

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that evasive slumber

Do you ever overeat when you’re tired? I do. Both my children were up all night last night and as a consequence I have eaten my bodyweight’s worth in snacks today without even realising.

When I finally collapsed in bed at 2am last ‘night’, I shut my eyes and succumbed to slumber. It was the most glorious feeling. Then that familiar cry. Only at night it’s twenty thousand times more irritating and has that unique power to make you feel furious.

But you fight it. For that precious sweet face. You scoop the chubby bundle of baby up and bring them into your own bed.

Then the pattering feet, and the croaky child voice, ‘Mama, mama, I’m scared.’

So you haul the other one into your bed too.

And try to succumb again to that glorious sleep. It’s there alright. Tantalising. Close. You feel it.

But your kids have other ideas. One of them is attempting to crawl in the bed because it is her newly found skill and she loves to do it. She is laughing as she tries to get her chubby legs up, chaos in the covers, pitch black room. And then the almost-3-year old is awake. Banging his feet on the headboard. Asking me to open my eyes. Telling me stories. Chatting to his baby sister, who chats right back.

All through the night.

All through till morning.

And they do not tire. No siree. They hanker for breakfast and are little spitfires ready and gearing for their day of action. Playing, fighting, giggling, pulling things out of cupboards, sticking play dough in corners and smushing it into rugs, snotty noses from leftover colds.

I wish today I could say ‘Ahhhh it’s all so precious and worth it.’

Y’all.

I KNOW it is.

But I don’t feel it today.

I feel angry. Tired. Frustrated. Guilty. Bloated from all the sweet chilli thai rice crackers I have been eating to keep my bleary eyes awake. And the countless mugs of coffee I have downed today. That massive hot chocolate I had for lunch. My oh my. I fell asleep trying to put them to bed at 7:30pm BECAUSE HELLO, SHOULDN’T THEY BE TIRED AFTER THEIR NIGHT OF PARTYING?

No.

No they are not.

8:30pm came and went and it crept to 9… still wide and happily awake.

Bloody hell.

Some days parenting is a ride.

Today is that day.

Today I am bedraggled, a mess, and totally lost. I sit here writing this when I am supposed to be working but I am so tired from my sleepless night and my full-on day that I want to go to bed. But I am also terrified to go to bed because I know as soon as I give in to the glorious sleep that is beckoning to me.. I will be rudely yanked away again.

I know it.

News From Sebastapol. Charles West Cope (1811-1896). Oil On Canvas, 1875.

P.S. Look, I only write this to document. Not to complain. I love my babies with every fibre of my being. I would wrestle sleep to the ground if I thought their lives and health were in danger. I know one day I will sleep and sleep and sleep because they will be grown and off living their own lives and I will be sad and miss them. I KNOW this. However, I also know that in the moment, sometimes, it all gets a bit too much. You can feel frustrated and angry. You will also feel guilty for feeling frustrated and angry. Being a mother is so insane. It’s so mad. It’s so crazy. It’s so surreal and unbelievable and unfair and beautiful. You can’t hold it in your hands. You can’t catch the fleeting time, and yet you wish it all away. You can’t get enough, and you have way too much.