Thursday, 8 October 2015

seeing beyond fat

Ages ago I wrote a blog post on ideas of craziness, disordered eating, and doctors unwillingness to see the person beyond the fat. You'll find it here.

Recently the blogger, and marvellous illustrator, Kat of Murder of Goths, wrote a really interesting piece which I'm so grateful that she shared, about her disordered eating. You'll find it here.

She makes the point that if you're fat and you lose weight people automatically see it as a good thing - she gets congratulated, when actually she's in a very dark place and needs support. 

Starving yourself isn't good for anybody. Fat might be associated with certain health issues, but not as much as poverty, and we don't hear doctors telling people to get richer do we?

I've been losing weight this year, which I'm happy about. I've been doing it on purpose, because I didn't feel healthy, and losing weight has helped me to feel better. However, people keep telling me I'm doing great; and that I should keep up the good work. They're trying to be supportive. But this translates to me as 'you are not as hideous as you used to be, but you're not there yet.'

As the weather has started to turn my husband has been working away more, and there have been lots of things going on. I've not been doing so well at losing weight, and I've felt guilty. Feeling guilty has made me sabotage myself, eating more than I want in an effort to prove some ridiculous point. Dieting had been going fine, but it felt like it was becoming something horrible.

Queuing up to get weighed last week, I expected a gain. I felt like a failure, and was bemoaning my lack of will-power. I was almost in tears in the slimming club. I know that the lovely woman that runs it wouldn't want me to feel that way, and she makes a point of celebrating what you've achieved. But. It's hard to recall the progress you've made when you're slipping backwards.
This dress if from Simply Be (here). The belt is from
ASOS (there's a leather version here)

I decided to stop focusing on what I wasn't doing, and focus on how things are. I did Margot Meanie's rebellious self love challenge and took lots of selfies. I chatted with my lovely daughter (Miss 8 (they're both lovely, but I trust Miss 8's opinion more than Miss 5's)). She wanted me to stop dieting. She didn't want me to stop being cuddly. I said I should probably join a gym instead. She rolled her eyes and told me that that was far too boring. I yearn for the day when this girl can drink Prosseco.

So I've stopped. I'm still eating healthily, but I am no longer eschewing cake. I am also looking in the mirror with a friendly eye.

I am still classed as obese, but that's alright. The BMI is a blunt instrument anyway. I might go back on the diet when the weather turns again. I might not. The important thing is to be happy and healthy. Other people might just see my fat, but that doesn't mean that I should.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

capturing Autumn colour

I love the colours at this time of year. The reds against the green, with clouds giving us backdrops of grey and white.

Inspired by Kim Leuenberger (check out her Instagram feed here, or her website, here), I've been taking photos to capture the current Autumnal moment, and trying to use the sky as a backdrop. This should have involved lying on the ground, but people it is WET out there. I read somewhere (sorry, I forget where), that Kim likes to use white skies as the backdrop of her pictures because it brings out the colour in the scenery. That has made me feel a whole lot better about white skies, and even leaden ones. If the light is right they can make a great backdrop.

So, here's what I came up with. Do you like Autumnal colours too?

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

people watching: a writing exercise

Today's writing exercise is all about building up your arsenal of stuff to be used in stories.

You'll need to be in a cafe, or other public space (preferably one where people stay for a while). You're going to need a notebook. You can write stuff on your 'phone or some other gadget if you prefer, but personally, for quick jotting, I'm a big fan of a notebook.

Choose a person. You're going to write about this person. What they look like, how they move, the cut of their jib. Unusual people may be more interesting, but anyone becomes unusual if you look long enough (try not to get done for stalking). Describe, describe, describe. Get a really good idea of the person as a character. You might want to move on from doing this to making stuff up about them - a name, the roles they play in their life. Their opinions on various topics. It's all good. If you're like me, you'll make that stuff up as you go along.

Now you've got an idea about your character, think about what they might have in a pocket or a bag - something they would always carry with them. eg Dr Who's sonic screwdriver.

Think about something that person might regret. And something they might rather be doing.

You don't have to do anything with all this just now, but it's useful to have some fully formed players waiting in the wings.

Here's what I got the other day:

Violet - she's the artist. Not me.
She's all in purple: a purple polo neck with a lace purple jacket on top. Sensible purple trousers. Where is her red hat? Which does not go? She's tipping her chair up and spreading her arms to make her point. Ribbons around her neck hold her keys and her glasses.  Diamonds sparkle in white gold rings clustered on her arthritic fingers. Jewellry passed on to her by her dead relatives, which she will pass on in not too long. But not today. Let's hope, not today.
Straight hair, flat upon her head in a practical cut, never tidy, and greying so now she looks in the mirror and is confronted by an ageing Boris Johnson. She moves on. Plants her glasses on her face and smacks down niceties.
Shall we call her Violet? In her shades of purple, and her violent temper. 
She's an artist. She was popular in the 1970s. She knew rock bands, earned lots of money for a crazy period, and had sex with Jimmy Hendrix (he was not good). But spent it all, and ended up working in a boarding school teaching posh girls art. She had no children of her own but some of those girls, the ones that didn't hate her, the ones she didn't hate right back, some of them are still in touch. Sometimes. 
Today, like every Wednesday, she's out with her neighbour. Although last Wednesday her neighbour was in hospital, and this Wednesday she looks a bit peaky, so Violet is entertaining her with tall tales. It doesn't do to dwell.
They always come to this cafe, because this is the cafe they always come to. Violet suspects others are better, but this will do, and it's not worth risking bad coffee. In her pocket she has smuggled out a biscuit. She doesn't like the ones that come with the coffee, so risks dipping her secret hobnob, released from its handkerchief prison. Who would challenge her, an old lady? Who would do it twice?
If someone asked Violet what she regrets, she'd break into song, 'Non, je ne regrette rien.' But. That's not the truth of 3am, when she lies in her lonely bed, wondering if she'd been just a little bit less fond of 'being herself', could she have made a new self? One that was happy? She has had a lot of sex, at one point, but not now, and truly, it wasn't good enough to last a lifetime. 

How did you get on? 


Monday, 5 October 2015

achieving greatly: my lack of great achievements

This week for the gratitude challenge I'm supposed to be talking about my greatest achievement.

There's nothing like someone asking about your greatest achievement to make you feel like an underachiever.

My first thought was my family, but, although there's plenty of hard work that goes into parenting, to call a happy, healthy family an achievement is neglecting the heady dose of sheer dumb luck that's in there. Besides which, if my children are great, then surely that's their achievement, not mine.

My children - I think they're great, even if they do take turns to whine at me.
Marriage can't really be counted as an achievement either. That's work and love and luck, and not taking things for granted. So, not that.

What about paid work?

I used to have an important job with the Government doing research stuff. I tried really hard to have great achievements, within the confines of my work, but I was a civil servant. I put together briefings on various topics. My two favourites were on shared electric vehicles (good idea, but not cost effective at the time), and on the Right to Buy (terrible idea, although it could be useful if there were lots of programmes in place for building new social housing and getting rid of bad housing stock). Both those, and several other things did very little in terms of impact. Although hopefully they'll be glanced at from time to time by people who follow me and update the information. I also did, or managed, lots of research evaluating government policy programmes. Most of that made very little impact too, although I was told I'd done helpful stuff for some people, so that's good.

It's quite right of course that civil servants shouldn't change government policy. Evidence based policy is a good concept to have, but policy should be about values too. Great policy, like the formation of the NHS, cannot be evidence based, but that doesn't mean we can't learn as we go and make things better.

I would like to think that the work I did in Suffolk running a babies and birthing charity made a big impact. We certainly helped more women have home births, and provided some equipment that came in useful, but it's hardly a great achievement. Also it seems to have died down now that I've moved away. No doubt something else has taken its place.

Everything changes and looking to achieve greatness seems to me to be a good way to fail. I am happy to keep on keeping on, and just try to do a little bit every day which is heading in the right direction... wherever that is.

Maybe I've just not achieved my greatness yet. Have you? 

Friday, 2 October 2015

thinking of Wraeththu - five bands that would not be out of place in Immanion.

Recently, for the wonderful Margot Meanie's rebellious self love challenge (search #rebelliousselflove on instagram, it's fabulous), we were asked to give a shout out to a role model.

I decided on Storm Constantine, because she writes brilliant books, she looks fabulous, and she gives new writers a leg up. She has long been an inspiration to me, from making me feel that writing would be possible, to just basically trying to look like her.

My Mum got the First Book of Wraeththu out of the library (Storm's breakthrough success). She was impressed, and passed it to me. I was very impressed, and hooked into the world of Calanthe (I wasn't allowed to call my first born that), and Pellaz. 

I loved the detail she went into in the Wraeththu world, creating a religion you could believe in, a cast system that could work wonderfully (or be used horribly), and a new world drawn over the top of the old. 

The difficulty of breaking away from old habits and ideas is one of the key ideas of the Wraeththu books, and I loved the way she worked through them, starting with rebellious, beautiful boys, and turning them into creatures which could move our world beyond capitalism, race, and gender.

Her books are so worth a read (and not just the Wraeththu ones).

Storm has a gothic personal style, and her characters are clearly influenced by gothic beauty ideals in the late 80s / early 90s. Today for Friday's Fabulous Five I'm sharing five videos of bands which seem to me to share the aesthetic (I love four of them, the other one makes me laugh - can you guess which?).

First up, Black Veil Brides, because I love the way that guy keeps on smiling with his gleaming American teeth: "I'm not afraid to die (chuckle)." This was the video that gave me the idea to do this post, because it's SO Wraeththu!

Reaching into the past for the next one, from Gene Loves Jezebel. Not my favourite song, but they don't have many videos. Watching this, I'm wondering if I should have put the Dog's D'Amour on the list, but they can just be a little bonus.

Next up it's The Rasmus. I so love this chap's voice.

I only came across Maryann Cotton quite recently, when I was googling information on a historical British possible serial killer (Mary Ann Cotton). The Alice Cooper thing he's trying to do is really sweet, and he's got a good band (one of those hairy axe men is his Dad). He reminds me of Pellaz (while he's working out what he's doing). Also, despite this allegedly being a shock rock band, I do like that he is the one that gets murdered (spoiler), and in another song he tells a girl that whether she wants him to or not he's going to have a crush on her. Awww. Proper modern rock boy.

Last up, it's another blast from the past, and the face I imagine Calanthe having, the very beautiful David Sylvian of Japan, with a little advice for anyone considering revenge porn.

What would you add to the list of Wraeththuites?

Monday, 28 September 2015

looking at my selfie

A while ago now I did a post on the importance of accepting, and even liking, the person we see in the mirror. You'll find it here.

We're all stuck with ourselves, so we need to love the people we are in order to live the best life we can.

Margot Meanie recently started her rebellious self love challenge - a photo a day, for a month on various topics, all related to ourselves. Lots of selfies are required. Check it out on Instagram.

I noticed it starting, and I shuddered, decided that people would think me too big headed if I did that, and forgot about it.

But, as the days went on and the interesting pictures kept cropping up, I noticed that I didn't think any of the participants were big headed. Nobody was saying nasty things to them either, despite them being open and honest about the things they liked about their, mainly fat, bodies.

I felt inspired.

I wondered if it wasn't a bit of a problem that I felt too scared to do this. I've said before that I don't want to erase myself from the pictoral history of my own life, just because I'm fat, or my hair's not just so.

I figured it's only a month.

So I joined in.

Taking all the very many selfies is a bit of a nightmare, and is making me think more about makeup and clothes and hair than I normally would. However, once I've put a bit more effort into my appearance, I do feel more confident. People are saying nice things (and people have only said nice things). One person said she wished she was as brave as me, and I felt such a fraud.

I'm not brave. But forcing myself to put myself out there has done wonders for my confidence, and I'm really glad that Margo pushed me to do it, and for the support she, and lots of other people, known and unknown, around the world, are giving me. I kind of feel pretty.

Thank you Margo.

Here are some of my pictures so far. Mostly of me, but there's one of Goth Girl (a gift from my brother, you can follow her adventures from time to time in my Instagram feed):

Do you fancy joining me? Or is that a really terrible idea (but you're going to do it anyway)?