Taking Time Off

The UK has had some much-needed sunshine and we’ve had a lovely Bank Holiday Weekend, which makes me feel more optimistic, especially as the Covid restrictions are lifting. I’m praying that we keep moving in the right direction.

If things had gone to plan, I would have been on holiday in Cornwall. (Things didn’t go to plan – see ‘Dealing with Disappointment’!) Instead, I’m on holiday at home.

I’m not great at relaxing. I have too many thoughts and plans whizzing around my head, which makes it difficult to switch off. My jobs are basically the same as my hobbies! I don’t take that for granted; it’s a wonderful thing and I’m grateful, but makes it hard to separate ‘work’ from ‘leisure’.

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Dealing with Disappointment

I had planned to be in Cornwall on holiday, but last week I decided not to go. My stay would have coincided with the G7 Summit, held in Carbis Bay, where I lived for a year – what are the chances! There will be security restrictions in the village. They’re even closing footpaths for two weeks from the start of June. It doesn’t sound like much fun.

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The Sharpest Words

For this week’s blog post, I decided to sit down, write whatever came to mind, and edit it, all within half an hour! So, here we go…

I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed, with my friend Debz working beside me on video chat (muted) and Heart Radio blasting ‘This is Me’ from The Greatest Showman. This is brave, this is bruised, this is who I’m meant to be: this is me.

I have written first drafts of a few blogs posts but am feeling a bit ‘meh’ about all of them. They’re stilted and incomplete and flawed in at least one way. Self-consciousness has crept in. The whole ‘dance like no one’s watching’ thing has a lot going for it!

It reminds me of when I was a child. I didn’t used to be aware of my reflection when passing mirrors or reflective surfaces, which was probably obvious to anyone who saw the scruffy young girl in her brother’s hand-me-downs, with rattail hair and often a vacant expression! And then teenage-hood hit and I felt hyper-conscious…and inadequate. Adulthood has been easier, but I would love to go back to the complete lack of awareness of how I might appear to others. It seems a happier, simpler place.

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Exam Dreams

I had a dream a few weeks ago that stuck with me.

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Dream Hannah discovered she could retake her A Levels now, at the age of twenty-seven. The exams were to take place in two days: she only had the weekend to revise. That would be enough. Being much older and wiser(!), surely she could achieve higher grades than her underwhelming CDD ten years ago?

She revised all day and all night. Finally, Mum came into her room and asked what she was doing.

After Dream Hannah explained it to her, Mum said, ‘Hannah, you have a First in your bachelor’s degree and a Distinction in your master’s. Why are you doing this?’

‘Oh.’ Dream Hannah thought for a moment. ‘Yeah, that’s true. Why am I doing this?’

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What Do You Want to Do After Lockdown?

One of my friends asked this question on Facebook: ‘What are you most looking forward to being able to do, once it’s safe to do so – hugging/visiting loved ones obviously – but I mean an activity you miss the most?’

I found it difficult to answer. What DO I want to do?

It’s almost as if I’m struggling to remember what life was like pre-Covid. I can remember if I try, of course, but I think I’ve deliberately put out of my mind anything that I can’t currently do so that I don’t feel the lack or loss. I’ve tried to focus on the things I can do, like reading, writing, taking a daily walk, occasionally walking with a friend to catch up, and eating a lot. Those things make me happy and content. As I like to say, for someone who’s hard to please, I’m very easy to please.

It’s hard not being able to see family and friends; that’s a universal struggle. It’s what I think about the most. I want to hug my dad, pop round to my friend’s when one of us is having a bad day, visit my brothers etc. It was also horrible that I couldn’t be with my great aunt when she passed away or go to her funeral this afternoon. These things eclipse everything else.

But anyway, back to the question about ‘activities’…

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A Day in the Life #1: Workday

Monday 22.2.21

I thought it would be fun to record a day-in-the-life for anyone who’s as nosy about people’s routines as I am! I’m a creature of habit, which is useful for self-employment and working from home, although I’m happy to switch things around whenever necessary. I try to work intensively and then switch off completely; drifting between the two makes me tired and anxious. Every day is different and is mainly determined by my energy levels/health – this one’s slightly better than average, as Mondays often are, and writing this post kept me accountable. I wasn’t quite as productive during the rest of the week.

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8:00 Normal morning routine: Bathroom, medication/water, coffee, Italian on Duolingo, breathing exercise on Headspace, Bible reading, and other reading (Fast Focus by Damon Zahariades).

8:40 Dressed, fifty deadlifts with my 16kg kettlebell (daily minimum to get me moving), brushed teeth, washed face, and skincare.

9:00 Admin (AKA getting organised and trying to remember what on earth I’m meant to be doing today!). Answered a few texts. Messaged my friend, which I do every Monday to remind her to be sociable, and vice versa…Covid hasn’t helped, but hey, we’re doing our best.

9:30 Got on video chat with my wonderful writer/editor friend, which we now do most weekdays – will write a blog post about this soon. After a few minutes of lively writerly discussion, we both got to work in our ‘virtual office’. I spent nearly two hours working on a third edit of someone’s short story collection, with occasional pauses to stretch my legs or drink water.

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Add Some Peas

Spaghetti for 20p and bolognese sauce for 60p, topped with grated cheese. I ate that meal for at least three days in a row while I was in Cornwall. I was down and fatigued at the time and couldn’t seem to drag myself out of it. Eventually I chucked some frozen peas in with the pasta. That made me feel better, not just because it gave my body better nutrition, but because it made me feel better about my day, and myself; it was a little thing I could do to improve things, even when I felt low. I hadn’t let go of everything.

I remembered this recently. At the end of a day in which I’d had a bad headache, I craved the comfort of fish fingers and chips, and that’s what I made. But, again, I added peas.

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Changing My Routine of Seven Years

I’ve written a daily journal since 2014. Sometimes I’ve had to catch up later, but there’s a diary entry for every single day, written by hand at a snail’s pace, in beautiful notebooks. I’ve always used a black BIC pen, apart from the day before the final exam of my degree, when the blur of mental exhaustion caused me to accidentally use a blue pen – still not over it.

This routine has been a significant part of my life. I’ve recorded highs and lows, things I’ve done/felt/said, exchanges with other people, philosophical thoughts and rants, and numerous boring sentences that were, in retrospect, a waste of paper. It has been the Hannah Time, the ‘Okay, I need to write my journal now’, which my family and close friends have come to expect.

I’ve always said that if someone read my journal it would be an unforgiveable breach of trust. (I would forgive but with difficulty.) Firstly, the way I phrase things is for my eyes only – I know what I mean, so I don’t write it in a way that would convey the right meaning to someone else. Secondly, I’m an open book and answer questions honestly – why snoop in my journal when you can ask me personally? Thirdly, it is largely (as I’ve already hinted) boring. Don’t read it.* Seriously.

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Do We Have to Have Goals?

Set goals. Dream big. Shoot for the stars.

I like dreaming about the future, creating routines, and making plans for what I’d like to achieve, but do I have to? I don’t think so.

It’s not that we shouldn’t have big goals; it’s that we shouldn’t feel like we must. I don’t think there is anything wrong with you if you don’t set goals, dream big, or shoot for the stars. I don’t believe ‘contentment’ is an inferior goal, or that a ‘simple life’ is inferior to one filled with complex ambition. In fact, it sounds increasingly beautiful to me.

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