Pyjamas and Pearls: Enjoying life with all we have

26815233_10155752474581355_6097017042725250857_nI used to do a Wednesday Morning Breakfast Interview in my blog, with various practitioners or teachers. You may remember Julie Creffield from The Fat Girl’s Guide to Running or Phillipa Wilson from Oakwood Yoga to name a couple (full list at the end).

As I have so many kind enquiries asking how I am, I thought I would do A Day In The Life of Me, this week, I’m hoping that my reflections and writing will help others find balance. Pyjamas and Pearls is about the mundane and the beautiful and how they co-exist. A beautiful life is not a perfect life.

Our expectations of how life ‘should’ be and how we ‘should’ be cause so much sorrow. It feels very important to me to be honest about how life is for me. The people living inspired lives everyday must be few, for most of us it’s the mundane plus moments of beautiful. I want to promote awareness of this truth so that rather than having aspirations about how you want to be, you can realise you’re already there.

Pyjamas and Pearls is a fond joke that I often wear pjs and pearls together, because on a majority of days getting dressed might be a bit too much, but wearing the lustrous moons gathered from the sea in a string around my neck, is possible, and stands as a metaphor for how life with small beautiful possibles rather than big ambitious impossibles is happier and how the incongruous can be worn, or lived, side by side.

I have settled into a gentle recovery programme, which has as its central objective, enjoying my life. I believe that my recovery depends on it. I’ve spent my life working very hard, working long hours and running a household and family and multiple projects and now none of my systems work, and I don’t work anymore. Striving, perfectionism, drive, goals and objectives are useless to me now and I am relearning living. I feel like someone learning to talk again after a stroke, learning to do familiar tasks but through a different part of the brain. It might never be as it was.

Switching off the ‘red alert’

If I enjoy my life, I am reducing my stress hormones, I am putting less strain on my knackered adrenals, and I am reprogramming my brain so that it is not constantly on alert responding to stress signals. I am switching off the ‘red alert’. How lucky I am that I have made such issues my area of study for my whole adult life. Now I have the chance to put all this into practice for myself, to rebuild with laughter and joy and relaxation.

This is not about being positive. Enjoying life is not about only having positive experiences. For me it is fully experiencing, savouring being alive. I don’t ignore my physical pain and my experiences of grief or reactions to loss of control. For me my life at present is about connection and relationship. Sometimes the connection is with people or nature, sometimes with my emotions or my body, and sometimes, as you will see, is with inanimate objects.

A Life in the Day

It must be the pain that has woken me at 5.30am. My cat, Midnight has come and is lying right on top of my tummy in the place where much of the pain is – it’s pretty intense at the moment and I’m just breathing and practicing mindfulness. I visualise the breath, as I learned in yoga, travelling in a triangle coming up my left leg to my eyebrow centre and down the right side of my body and then in reverse, I’m noticing my legs, where the pain is throbbing and noticing awarenesses about flow and energy and breath and reconnecting with part of my body that I often cut off from, the part below all the scar tissue, the part that isn’t working too well.

It’s 6.30am, I can’t concentrate any more, the pain’s too distracting, I give up, I’m going to get some help and wake my partner.

You might think I’m unhappy at this painful start to the day, but I’m not, it’s not unusual or a big deal and I awaken in a good mood and happy place.  Soon the long, 3 foot hot water bottle, (such a treat and which can bring pain relief to my stomach area and legs), has been filled and is lying across me alongside the cat and I’ve taken my codeine and two paracetemol. The blind is open and I fix my attention on the outline of the tree against the sky.

Savouring being alive

My first drink is always hot water and a slice of lemon in my Mackintosh china mug. Mugs and cups are important to me, they must be right so that the drink conveys the maximum amount of pleasure. It feels beautiful, it looks beautiful, it tastes good and it smells lovely. I’m a very mindful drinker and I spend time watching my tree as I enjoy my drink. There are a few leaves left and some of the birds rest on the smaller branches while eyeing up the feeder below. I expect one of those fat squirrels is hogging it at the moment. I know this tree in great detail, it doesn’t just change daily, sometime it changes within hours.

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Having a favourite mug and bowl to start the day matters

A bird flies over the park across a blue sky, patterned with branches of the many trees. The sunlight is good this morning, this flat is very light and airy. The sunshine is inside and bathing the walls and the bedsheets. There is a rainbow beside the cat. I watch all this and then check on my phone. I leave my phone in the lounge overnight as a discipline to help my health. Messages, emails and facebook are all checked, silly animal videos are giggled at and now the codeine has worked and I can manage sit up and have my breakfast. I usually have it in bed, though on a good day I may be up and on the sofa after having put the laundry on and sorted the dishwasher. But I always have my breakfast brought to me, which is a luxury of this phase of my life, and I’m hugely grateful for that. Today it’s strawberries, blueberries, nuts and yoghurt in a small bowl. Small things please me, the little bowl with the blue pattern on makes me smile.

Time to get onto my yoga mat ready for the day ahead. I have a large bedroom with a yoga space at one end. And even on bad days, I lie on my mat and either just lie there (that IS yoga) or do gentle movements or physio exercises, depending on which is wisest and most attuned).

Mornings are slow

Mornings are slow, I need frequent rests and I have to be near the loo for a couple of hours. I’m exhausted already, so now is a good time to write. I currently have three blogs on the go, two chapter proposals and some book outlines I am working on and I don’t know which order to start on them, and really I should organize more of my laptop files for my PhD meeting next month. The indecision (and my daily nausea) have too much say, so I get involved on facebook instead discussing psychological implications of brexit and then I check my messages and send good morning texts to my daughters and discuss clothes, swap several photos of our pets and the news that Malorie Blackman has a new book out.

Eventually after much time wasting, I jot down the idea I had for a blog on why it’s hard to receive praise, from a chat with Imogen yesterday, and then begin this blog though I spend most of the time looking at the changes in light behind the tree and being distracted by the pain in my legs.

IMG_1097My brother texts to say he is driving by and do I want to go to the spirituality centre where he has a short meeting? I’m cross I didn’t pick up the message sooner and dither as I’m not dressed. I decide not to go and then feel frustrated. But at least I’m motivated to get dressed and get out. I’ve not consulted my things to do list and only just remember that I need to order a repeat prescription. This is good, I wasn’t able to manage that this time a year ago as it was too overwhelming. It’s quickly and easily achieved today. After my shower I have to lie down for nearly an hour with my eyes closed but I’m still dressed, with a bit of help, by midday.

Racing a mallard

Today we are trying out the mobility scooter to see if it can cope with some of the Sheffield hills. Most importantly can I get to and from the café by going through the park? More opportunity for pleasure in small things, I wear a blue and white scarf that Sarah sent when I was having chemo and blue and white earrings, a birthday gift from a friend some years ago, bought at the Findern Garden Centre. I can’t stop squealing as the scooter shoots off and down the road, let’s face it, this is FUN! I must’ve missed the snowdrops last year as I was so ill, but I can see them today. It’s a brain workout to go outside, even on a scooter, there are sounds and sights and wonderings, adjustments. The unpredictability of a small outing, stretches and uses my brain and it feels good. And there are DOGS, I can’t help but smile at all the dogs as I meet them. I see a moorhen climbing up a tree, I have not seen that ever before, I exclaim. This is the place I saw the kingfisher last year. By the duck lake, a mallard decides to race me, we are eyeballing each other, he really is quite a fast swimmer but I win this time.

IMG_3715Anna sent me this painting

This is my best time of day and I smile at the bus driver who waves me across the zebra crossing and now I’m on my way to the café. I’m with my partner but I haven’t spoken much, except about the moorhen and how pleased I am that I’m out, it’s not increasing the pain and how good it is I have a scooter. I am so excited to hear the birdsong, it’s completely different to a couple of weeks ago, it has the sound of spring, I can hear and smell the promise of brighter days.

I’m quite zonked from the codeine and the pain. I think my parking of the scooter is quite accomplished and admire it myself! No body here knows the person I was before so I’ve not got upset about not being able to walk today. Deciding to get the scooter was just awful, I hated the idea, I hated accepting it and felt silly and ashamed as if I was giving in and not trying hard enough, but today the rewards are here, I am getting out and I’ve had more exercise than being stuck inside.

Afternoon tea

With all that excitement and exertion I’m tuckered out when we get back to the flat ten minutes later, but I can hang the wet washing before I settle down for the afternoon. I kiss the cat hello and have a chat and then with help I am on the sofa with the necessaries, legs lifted up and warmed. This is a cup of tea time. My second drink of the day is usually green tea – there’s some evidence it helps with cancer prevention but as I was at a café I indulged in a cappuchino and now I’m straight into my afternoon drink of earl grey tea. I don’t mind which mug today, but my favourite thing is when I have a teapot, tea-cosy and my special china harebell cup and saucer.

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The sound of tea being poured, the smell of tea, the taste, the pretty cup, the lightness of a cup to hold: I can relate to the concept of tea meditations and the Japanese Tea Ceremony

So I’m here under The Royal Blanket (this is what I call my heated blanket which is a rich soft red one side and a white teddy bear fleece on the other), propped up with big cushions, with this over my legs I’m keeping my muscles as relaxed and warm as I can. Without moving I can charge my laptop or my phone, heat my blanket and put on my gentle, deco lamp which gives a soft warm light and much pleasure. What absolute luxury! I have the remote controls for the TV but I never watch telly before dark. I have my new Echo, which means I can ask Alexa to play my book or my choice of music. I’m listening to Pema Chodron on audible “The Things That Scare You”, I can’t listen for long as its one of those things I need to hear and then think about and then apply to my life or my writing and then listen to a bit more. I usually listen to female jazz singers, never tiring of Ella Fitzgerald’s Blue Skies – it’s such a mood lift.

If I have to do admin jobs (which I still find very difficult) I make it more amusing by saying, “Alexa, play Star Trek Bridge Sounds” and then it feels epic rather than stressful. “Malfunctioning TARDIS” is also better than the ‘on hold’ music if I’m on the phone. I’ve not looked at my to do list today so I’m living dangerously. Challenging my own rules for living! I listen to a podcast about pain by a surgeon who found that only 22% of surgeries for back pain worked. He gave up operating and looked at a wider picture of what helps with pain. It’s a 40 minute podcast and I have had to pause it after ten minutes. I will listen to it in 4 bursts I guess.

Yoga

I like to write in the afternoon and if I’ve no visitors or admin jobs or urgent demands of life, I may get a bit done. Thursday afternoons is my Restorative Yoga Class which is across the park with Rebecca. I’ve learned a great deal at these classes, about mapping movements on my brain, moving in a way that comes from within, always being comfortable and not doing things that will be perceived as ‘threat’ on a bodily level. It’s ups and downs for me and some weeks I am not well enough to attend even a class that is predominately lying and relaxing on a mat with some experimental, positive movements, but the input and support is great and I have both Rebecca and Phillipa (Oakwood yoga) on CD for yoga nidra (a form of relaxation where the body lies still) at home.

Connection with people has always been central to my joy, but my need for quiet, alone time has increased in recent years, it might not be related to illness and may be more to do with mid life and an increased interest in the inner rather than outer world. Still I love it when a visitor is here and for a couple of hours I engage and live quite like my old self as the stimulation of company gives my brain and voice a good work out! I might fall asleep the moment they walk out the door but it’s very important I have those visits, even though I have to limit them. If there isn’t a real life person, there is post, the lovely things I get sent, paintings, socks, books, flowers there is hardly a week goes by without a surprise and a connection to remind me I’m lucky and loved.

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 Things arrive in the post!

Jenni hand knitted these gorgeous socks for me

My view from the sofa, with my feet up and The Royal Blanket warming me, is of a big picture window on my right and the sky is very different in the afternoon. I find it more achy, though equally beautiful. I can almost feel the time slipping away. It’s funny how differently the afternoon sky feels to the morning sky. My morning optimism and happiness is not my afternoon mood. I’m not sad but I’m more wistful by the time the sun is beginning to leave. Maybe it is reminding me that another day has passed, and it’s taken a lot of effort to achieve very little. Maybe I’m simply tired. Maybe daylight really matters. But it’s sort of a yearning feeling. I’m more likely to be aware of loneliness and isolation, of loss and disappointment as the day closes and the opportunities for the day have passed and are over.

 Accepting the inevitable

After some writing, usually something I wasn’t intending to be working on, I will put my laptop down and close my eyes and just watch the sky listening to music or in silence. I like to let it get dark. It’s practicing accepting the inevitable. Then I listen to a bit of my book. If I’m not in a good place this will be a time when I have a weep. I no longer find it necessary to push my mood into more approved shapes. It seems a perfectly reasonable occupation, and as I’m not stuck in weeping or attached to it, it just arrives and leaves.

I’m pretty much done with the day by this point. I suppose I do spend most of my life at the moment in bed or on the sofa. But the evening will bring dinner, sometimes a bath, I do love salt baths, it’s the closest I can get to being in the sea at the moment and as I consider myself to be a mermaid, it’s utterly soothing for me. I will be helped into pjs. Sometimes we binge watch TV while we scroll through facebook, other evenings it doesn’t get switched on at all and we might read, talk, or do meditations. I am happily partnered with someone tender and kind and with whom I spend a great deal of time laughing. Sometimes we have lovely evening interacting. Other evenings I will be completely out of it, either exhausted, asleep, in pain or drugged up. I’m learning that it’s ok and normal and balanced and I do not expect to live a perfect life.

 

A Day In The Life Of Me:

Is it a wonderful life?

It’s certainly a life with some wonderful moments each day. They might be small, they might be short, but they are abundant and endlessly arriving.

 

 

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Yoga Nidra or a relaxation:

part of my every day, enhanced by a matching bolster and eye pillow!

Recent blogs:

‘A Paradox of Neuroses and Wisdom’: reflections from my yoga mat

To Boldly Want

This year you do not have to be good

Poking death with a stick, being a goddess and related activities

 

Older interview blogs can be found in my blog archives or through google.

Blue Skies Wednesday Breakfast with:

Julie Creffield: The Fat Girl’s Guide to Running

Will Parfitt: Psychosynthesis and Kabbalah Writer and Teacher

Phil Greenfield: Core Alignment Therapy

Phillipa Wilson: Oakwood Yoga

Louise Edington: Astrologer

Imogen Ragone: Body Intelligence / Alexander Teacher

 

 

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