Hit 50 and get grateful! Who knew!
So if you read my last blog, it was all about my journey from ill health which led me to give up a career in Financial Services that I was very proud of to being unable to work for nearly a decade. In turn this led me to look at self care more carefully and also was the reason that Darling Diva exists in the first place!!
Well, this blog is literally another step along the road for learning that Self Care is not as easy as it sounds and you have to keep working at it! Also it’s about taking your motivation where you can get it and learning to get grateful for the stuff we take for granted!
So firstly on the self care route, I’m the first person to advocate making the time for yourself, after all it’s the very ethos that my whole business is built upon! Light a candle, take a bath, do some meditation, deep breaths with your serum on etc. However, what I’ve come to realise is that if you don’t actively plan this stuff in – other less satisfying stuff creeps in and self care goes out of the window! Just thank the lord for my Luxury face serum routine at night time or I would be a complete wreck.
It’s taken me a while to understand why I’m so grossly over weight. I joke about it and make myself the butt of all my jokes but deep down I’m utterly ashamed I’ve let myself get to this size. The pandemic was the icing on the cake (pun intended). I thought the world was going to end and whilst the world and their dog took to the countryside to turn themselves in to an ultra athlete, I went the other way! I hated the invasion of the all the people on my normally quiet walks and instead I took care of my boys at home, baking cakes, making bread, fresh soup every day...and I ate it along with them. I’m not even sure how I did it but I managed to put a further two stone on my already very over weight frame.
I covered it by laughing more and wearing baggier clothes but I realised this weight was really serious. My hips and knees are killing me and even going up the stairs or bending over to put my shoes on is a struggle! Not fun!
I do still struggle with Chronic fatigue syndrome but I am now functioning and not spending my life sleeping. On the surface I don’t look ill at all and it’s all about pacing. It’s hard as it is invisible and even my own family don’t seem to understand it after all these years and I have to explain why I’m having a couple of days in bed or sleeping in the afternoon. Basically, if I have a busy few days I will then have to have a few days of rest so I don’t end up really poorly.
I’ve always forgiven myself for being over weight due to my illness but in a way I’ve only just realised that isn’t self care, it is the very epitome of self neglect! Even knowing that I still struggled to motivate myself to do anything about it.
During the pandemic my house was a hive of activity. Two teenage boys to homeschool, my husband working from home and three meals a day to be prepped and ready for the same time each day for four people to fit around school!! Oh my it drove me insane!! No one wanting to come outside for some fresh air and if they did come they just moaned about how long it was until they get home again.
My Husband is still working from home and even that massively threw me off for a while. I felt the distinct lack of privacy and alone time like a dagger! With everyone around I felt like I had to be busy all of the time. My health and my mental well being really suffered. I knew that there were people much worse off than me, but with our joint incomes slashed in half and our outgoings still massive I did not feel one bit grateful during the pandemic. I felt bitter! It’s a horrid way to feel and I’m ashamed to admit it, but the saying of we might all be in the same storm but not in the same boat rang true for me. We were not at home with bags of spare time to investigate new hobbies and plenty of money. We were both working flat out to keep a roof above our heads and our boys well fed and entertained. It was exhausting and terrifying! We were bickering and trying hide our fall outs in front of the boys. In the end we somehow pulled together and dug deep. Every month we would chink glasses (probably only water most months) just to celebrate surviving another month. It was no way to live and it felt totally relentless and thankless!
Then the summer arrived and with it the beautiful amazing weather! Along with that, the vaccination programme was well under way and our old freedoms were becoming available again which felt so truly wonderful. I don’t know about you but I’m still not in a rush to be going inside anywhere, but so nice to meet up outside with wonderful friends and feel like we have all survived something massive! Both our works returned to a more normal level of income too which was a massive relief!
It’s always been my plan to work all year to pay for stock, take the summer off to plan Christmas and then work from September – December actually making a profit. This year, the summer felt even sweeter! I had turned 50 in February and hadn’t done anything to celebrate at that point!
I planned a trip away to Wales with a few of my gorgeous girlfriends and one friend who I am especially close to and I rang each other daily to scream with excitement at the thought of getting 4 glorious days together with just us girls. A massive, indulgent shopping list was compiled, full of alcohol for the drinkers, red bull for us tee totalled but shattered ladies! Lots of smoked salmon, avocado and decadent cheeses! A proper feast! We had books, magazines and one gorgeous, funny girl even went out to get a whole new wardrobe for hiking round Wales as that is not her normal pastime!
The night before arrived and we were at a crescendo of excitement. My phone rang and I saw it was my best friend. I answered it in a giddy fashion. She said “You won’t believe it, the doctor has just rung and there is something wrong with my blood test. He said I have to go straight to hospital and I don’t even have half an hour to spare”. She had no idea what was wrong with her, she hadn’t even got her handbag with her so had no money to pay for parking etc. Whilst we were on the phone together I googled what the doctor had said for her. Hyper Calcemia. It meant way too much calcium in the blood and it needed to be flushed out. It did say 90% of cases were due to Cancer, but I just thought no way! My friend is super healthy and slim and did 3 PT sessions a week! Other causes were too much vitamin D. We talked about supplements and it turned out my friend was taking vitamin D, a menopause supplement, plus protein shakes every day. We both thought that has to be it! It has to be! At nearly midnight that evening she was finally put on a drip to flush out her veins. Her calcium levels were life threateningly high. We were all gutted about our weekend away that had been six months in the planning, and not for one minute did we allow ourselves to think that it could be something serious. Her lovely husband rang to say that as it looked like my friend would be delayed, he would drive her up to Wales and I could bring her back on the Monday as she was really looking forward to getting away! How lovely was that!
So my friend stayed in hospital and we had a few tears on face-time, but she persuaded me to go and that she would join us. Reluctantly the next day the three of us set off without her with no more news of what could be wrong. We stopped at Caenarfon to get provisions as we had cancelled our very over the top shop. Whilst we were there, Mike rang to say “It’s blood cancer!” We didn’t know what type but we knew it was serious. He said his wife still wanted us to go away and she would be cross if we didn’t!
So we set off for a weekend without her which felt so very wrong. To be fair, we made the best of it and although there were a few tears, it was a much needed break for the three of us. We saved the champagne to wait for my friend to be in remission.
So my very best friend had cancer!! And you know what, she is the most amazing, inspirational lady you could ever meet! At the grand old age of 50 I thought I had learned all the life lessons there were to be had but my friend taught me something so valuable! Get grateful! Here I am moaning away for the past year about how hard life has been and here is my wonderful friend who is so very ill, grateful for absolutely everything! Genuinely too, not the fake stuff you see on social media which I am sure is very well meaning from people but is so cheesy sometimes it makes me gag!
My friend who found out she had the very worst case possible of her type of cancer was so very very grateful for everything! It was incredibly humbling! What on earth could I have to moan about! So I tried looking at things a little bit differently and it wasn’t so hard to find the positives!
In a way, I’ve always been a bit like that, enjoy the butterflies in your garden, look at the pretty sunset, listen to the birds singing. I had just lost my way a little and it took the very serious illness of my friend to bring it back!
I feel so very lucky too. I thought my very dear friend was going to be snatched away from me and the rest of the world who all bloody love her! She is so amazing that the whole blooming world is in love with her! Lucky me that she chose me to be one of her closest friends! It turns out that there has been a massive stride forward in recent years with new targeted drugs that can put this awful blood cancer in to remission and 80% of people at the same stage as my friend is at are still in remission and very much alive after five years! Right now that feels incredible and we are all so thankful for those odds after allowing much darker thoughts to come in to our heads in the early hours.
So that in turn made me evaluate my own life. I never made time to put my health first. We have all had a wake up call with my friend’s illness but let’s face it, none of us are getting out alive. None of us have a guarantee we are going to wake up tomorrow. We all know this, but I think I had pushed it to the back of my mind and just gone in to survival mode. Days blurred in to each other if I’m honest and there was very little joy in my life!
So I have turned the spotlight on my own health. My friends are very kind and never question my weight. Likewise my husband. But I wish he had! I’ve got fatter, and fatter and fatter. And just when I thought I couldn’t get any fatter, I managed to put on another two stone! I don’t even know how! It just arrived! All year I’ve been dieting to no avail! I know why, I’m so very good all week and then the weekend arrives and the diet goes out of the window and all the good work is undone. Also, I do very little exercise and I think it’s a vicious circle as I’m so tired I don’t feel up to it, but then if I did I would probably lose weight and feel less tired!
Then at last my summer sabbatical arrived! I headed off to Wales for three weeks with the largest bikini you have ever seen! My boobs are so enormous, it could probably be used for parasailing in the next new olympic sport! But with my new invigoration for “life is for living” I decided “to hell with what I look like!”. I love swimming in the sea and I didn’t do it at all last year because I felt too fat! This year I can’t even Kayak as my husband and I are over the weight limit and it’s less like kayaking and more like submarining! I just thought, if I don’t swim I will be sad that I didn’t and I will still be fat. If I do swim, I will be happier and actually I will be a bit fitter for doing it and possibly be less fat!
Anyway, I did it! I went down the other end of the beach away from all the people and I went for a glorious swim! The massive heat wave in July helped, it was so amazing to take a dip after a long hot day! I felt well and truly grateful. I stayed in touch with my lovely friend and she encouraged me even with everything she had going on and I felt I owed it to her to do it.
During this time, my lovely son (who is currently suffering with gender dysmorphia, and is so pathologically shy he really struggles with socialising) got a job at the local pub in wales pot washing. A delightful young man decided to set up a group of five people on instagram to troll my son. Now something I didn’t know is that even if you have blocked someone on instagram (which we did over two years ago) if someone sets up a group and adds the blocked person they can still message your child! Oh the joys of social media! So aside from the vile things they all piled in and called my son, they also decided to give me a bit of a battering. “Your mum is a giant elephant, fat hippo, morbidly obese” etc. To be fair they lacked complete finesse and there was a distinct lack of intelligent vocabulary, but I will give them 10/10 for hitting where it hurts! 15 pages of it too so a real effort in hurting other human beings. Their parents would be so proud. Every single one of those children I have had round to my house, fed them at my table and involved them in all the fun things I used to organise for that group of kids when they were younger. In amongst threatening to throw dog poo at me, my house and my dogs (and I’m being polite when I use the word poo!) there was just a lot of profanity and a distinct lack of substance! It’s a shame they have their English GCSE’s next year as I fear it will not go well for them!
So here comes the next lesson I was due to learn! After dusting ourselves down, plotting revenge (my son) and shedding a few tears (me), my husband calmly suggested that we did not report it to the police as I wanted to, or the school or even the parents, but to simply do nothing. Dignity and silence being the best revenge! I took a bit of persuading, but after we had slept on it, it seemed like the path of least possible recourse. It effectively took the oxygen out of the fire! And if the queen’s motto of “never complain, never explain” works for her then it is good enough for me.
In the meantime, the last lesson I learned was motivation! I apologised to my son for being the main ammunition those horrible kids used. I pledged that if I got to be fitter and thinner they couldn’t use that any more! He has enough going on without that!
Also, we have finally installed CCTV for extra security at our home. We have been meaning to do it for ages, and this was the push we needed to get it done. So now if anything happens we will have it on camera.
I’ve always worked well under the reverse psychology methods! The driving instructor who told me he didn’t want me to use his car for my test as he thought I would crash it – ACED it first time! To the English A level teacher who told me he didn’t know why I bothered to turn up as I was going to fail – Passed it! So I think I actually like the challenge of being told I can’t do something. So using this thought process I just thought – right time to get sorted!
I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to get on this bus! All I can say is something has clicked! A fire is lit beneath me and I’m off! So I’ve joined a local swimming pool where I book a week in advance and I’m swimming 3 times a week. Another gorgeous friend who also is struggling with her weight is doing it with me and we are supporting each other which feels wonderful. We have set ourselves a challenge of swimming the channel by Christmas – 22 miles or 1390 lengths to be precise! I’m only half way though my second week and we have 1275 to go! I’ve lost a little bit of weight already, but I’ve already realised it was never about the weight. It was about self care and compassion all along!
So on the terms of self care, I need to make time for things that not only make me happy, but are also good for my well being and health. Only once I’ve done that am I any good to help other people.
In terms of gratitude, I am completely floored by how very grateful my beautiful, kind, funny and truly awesome my friend is, even in the midst of fighting for her life! I don’t want any more days of just getting through them to see another month away! What a stale and pale existence that is! I’ve always had way more fire and passion in me than that! I don’t even know how I got to that stage and I have no one to blame except myself.
No one knows how many more mornings, or birthdays they will see, but I know I want to make everyone I get count! I have a newly invigorated sense of living life! I always love doing things for other people and I get so much joy from Darling Diva and all the lovely ladies I meet. I really did think I practiced what I preached but now I know, we are all only ever a work in progress, never the finished article!
So in summary: aside from genuinely feeling I have been given a new lease of life, and I’m really ready to make the most of it, here is what I have learned recently at the grand old age of 50! Here is what I am going to work on over the next few months.
1) Self Care is a work of art in itself. It can slip, but it can be easily rectified! It’s not a tick list to be completed and forgotten, it is a constant requirement to ensure it is a part of our lives.
Thank the lord I had my face serum routine at bed time! For a while it was the only bit of joy in my life! Thankfully my approach to life has lifted and become more sunny in line with COVID restrictions lifting and the sun coming out. I guess the challenge will be to reassess when the rainy autumn comes which normally I can’t abide! Please remind me if you hear any moany tones coming out of my mouth!
2) Gratitude can sound such a cheesy thing. Especially if you are feeling the most miserable ever a post meant to cheer you up can have the exact opposite effect. I really hope this blog isn’t one of those! I genuinely am laying my self out, trying to be really honest about how low I have been. I do feel so very grateful to my body for getting me this far. I haven’t treated it well over the years, with all the partying and alcohol and an insane amount of working hours and the punishing amount of exercise I put myself through. Then in my latter years, I have been the complete opposite of this due to my illness, a distinct lack of socialising whilst managing to comfort eat my way through my forties! However, genuine gratitude to be thankful for the simple things in life really is the path to happiness.
3) We can’t do anything without motivation. Maybe for some just gentle encouragement works. For me, that vile trolling was exactly what I needed! So thank you foul, illiterate boys I think you have just made my decade!
As for the swimming, it is coming on leaps and bounds! It’s incredible! I have been so scared of putting my head in the water after I caught an ear infection which I think caused my bells palsy, which in turn gave me Chronic Fatigue syndrome for a decade! My energy levels are fine at the moment, but I will be kind to myself and ease up if this changes. For now I’m taking full advantage and getting fitter! When we first went, the 30 lengths we swam were really slow and laboured with resting sometimes in between lengths. In just over a week today I swam 50 lengths in 45 minutes without stopping and half of these were front crawl with my head in the water! I didn’t think I would ever be able to do that again!
So that really does invoke lots of cheesy but oh so true lines!
It ain’t over till it’s over
Wake up and smell the roses
Life begins at 40
Life in the old dog yet
Tomorrow is the first day for the rest of your life
Any more? Please message me and I will add them to my list!
Maybe 50 really is the new 40! I still have a 50th Birthday celebration to plan and I’m heading off for another week in Wales to swim in the beautiful sea in my ginormous bikini!
So be kind to yourself first. Not just with actions, but with how you think about yourself! We wouldn’t tolerate that unkind inner voice from any real friends, and we need to think about the internal chatter too!
Lots of love to you all my fellow darling diva’s. None of us have fully got this thing called life sorted but isn’t it fun trying to work it out!
All my love