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Life editing and conclusions

27 Jan

I moved house this year, an activity that I discovered gets more difficult the older you are, due to the accumulation of personal ‘stuff’. It was also a fantastic time to have a good edit of all the detrious we gather each year.
We had an entire room full of books, which necessitated a disciplined approach and several trips to the charity shop. Saying goodbye to elderly, out of date instruction manuals and London A to Z of an 80’s vintage was surprisingly hard. The things I had around me represented periods of my life. With very few exceptions, I recalled the purchase of each item to be slung out, the cost of it, what it meant to me at that time. Saying goodbye to ill-conceived clothing purchases was tricky, despite them being donated to a slimmer cause than I.

I looked back at tiny outfits with wistful pleasure, recalling the idiocy of putting on size 8 jeans and wondering if they made my bum look big. I can recall the burning necessity of each CD bought from Woolworths or HMV, the music I had to have, played loudly while I readied myself on a Saturday night for the club, curling my hair meticulously with the old heated rollers to show it at it’s voluminous best.

Packing a box of ornaments acquired on various holidays made me smile. Worth nothing, they represent one of my great achievements, namely, my travels. Nowadays, with cheap flights and the so-called laptop lifestyle, travel is nothing, commonplace. When I did it, it was trickier, expensive and exotic. I was one of the first tourists into China in 1988. The passport with that stamp inside is placed reverently into the removals box, to find a space in a drawer in my new house, probably never to be glanced at again. It’s enough that it exists.

Photographs had to be sorted through as they seemed to become an enormous collection of anonymous beach pictures, indistinguishable from each other. Only photos which meant something made the cut. As I sifted through them, smiling at the memories, it hit me without warning that I had no regrets.

I escaped my abusive, toxic birth family-no regrets.

I travelled the world, taking risks-no regrets

I spent vast sums on nice clothes when I had the tight young body to enjoy them-no regrets

I danced on Saturday nights and spent Sundays recovering-absolutely no regrets.

I bought the flash cars, drank the champagne, took the business risks and fell in love, which was my biggest achievement to date. At no time during this editing process did I regret enjoying my own money. 

Nobody else in my birth family went out to work, so they saw my meagre salary as a hairdresser as ‘family income’. For several years I subsidised them until I realised it would never be enough. Anything I tried to do was derided, my choices sneered at until I went what is commonly called ‘no contact’. It was either that or suicide, they drove me to the end of my rope. My mother actually encouraged me to kill myself so that she could inherit from me. Kinda gives you a clue what I was up against…

Anyone who has gone down the no contact route will understand that it unleashes an emotional armageddon. People condemn anyone who cuts off their family without any understanding of why it has been necessary. All that happens is that the no contact widens to include those ill-informed people.

I inherited nothing at all from the birth lot, I was spitefully cut out of the will containing a flat that I pretty much paid for, banned from my mother’s funeral and my brother presumably shredded all my baby photos. My narcissistic mother, having lost control of me, took control of the way other people saw me, feeding them lies about me. Dozy idiots if they believed her.

Anyway, I digress. After breaking free, meeting Allan and ceasing to hear the nagging, whining voice of disapproval, I can look back at a couple of decades well lived and I’m grateful for that.

When I read articles written by people far more sensible than I have ever been, urging people to save vast sums for old age, tied up in a pension to be accessed only when their bones are too tired to dance, their figures too flabby for sleek, wonderful clothes and health too unpredictable for extensive travel, I can only shake my head. 

Buy the shoes, wear the clothes, take the flight. We can all earn money. Experiences are where its at.

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Stuff I learned while stopping smoking

15 Oct

I’m about six weeks into my stop smoking journey now. I’m doing pretty well in that my cravings are fairly well under control and I think about smoking less and less as time goes on.

This week, I saw my hypnotherapist/counsellor to see how it was going. I told him that the only time I really wanted a ciggie was when I was annoyed or a bit stressed. Together we analysed why that was. It was something I’d never really thought about.

I also wondered why I could never control my smoking. I don’t eat to excess, and can go on a diet easily if I need to shed weight. I don’t drink much alcohol and have no problem controlling my finances, yet I smoked around forty cigarettes a day. My whole life revolved around being able to smoke.

His theory is that the smoking was a symptom of something inside. It wasn’t the cigarettes or the nicotine as such, more what it represented. It was an interesting observation that I’ve been rolling around in my mind. 

I think he’s right. Deep into my Champix course, nicotine no longer has any effect, but faced with any uncomfortable situation, I immediately want a ciggie. I can even force myself to have one, knowing I’ll feel very nauseous afterwards. I literally have to brace myself to have one.

So why would I do that? It comes down to self sabotage. In the same way that any self-injurious activity is incomprehensible to some, smoking is my self-esteem’s bludgeon of choice. Just knowing that, somehow gives me power over it. I may not be able to control the world, but I can control my response to it.

Week 2 of the stop smoking crusade

18 Sep

Its now week 2 and the Champix have kicked in. I also had some hypnotherapy yesterday as I’m struggling with the habit side of things.

I tried an e-cig, but it made me cough. Some people may well find it an acceptable substitute, but I don’t think vaping is really for me. I’m also keen not to simply substitute one addiction for another. It seems to defeat the object for me, however my therapist mentioned the words ‘oral gratification’ to me. I’d heard those words in relation to eating before, but it had never occurred to me that they related to smoking as well.

I’m fighting the cravings with cups of tea. It seems to be the only thing that takes my mind off having a smoke, plus I really don’t want a horrific weight issue to tackle as a non-smoker. Cravings are hitting at strange times, which aren’t terribly related to my normal smoking triggers. I’d assumed that first thing in the morning and after meals would be worst, but have discovered that mid-afternoon seems to be the time I’m almost desperate. It comes out of nowhere and takes over.

What did spur me on was seeing my carbon monoxide reading drop from 47 to just 4 yesterday at the stop smoking clinic. I found it truly astonishing that my body could begin to repel toxins and start to recover quite so quickly.

So I’m giving up smoking…

8 Sep

As the title suggests, I’ve made the decision to stop smoking. I’ve been a smoker since the age of 11. I come from a family of heavy smokers. It was normal to smoke in our household. Non-smokers were regarded as odd.

I promised myself that I’d give up smoking when I got pregnant, alas I never had children, so that decree was never put to the test. I then switched the event to hitting forty. I had a serious attempt at giving up, using both hypnosis, which worked for a few weeks, then at a later date, Champix, which started to work, but was withdrawn after I failed to stop smoking entirely in the second week. Apparently it was the stop smoking clinic policy that if you failed by the second week, they slung you off the program.

The over-riding issue I had during those two attempts was that smoking is my stress response. At that time, I was in business, with a couple of salons, plus tenants. It was a stressful, difficult time in my life. It was also my excuse to keep smoking. I’d be fighting the urge, when something stressful would happen and I’d say ‘bugger it’ and have a ciggie. Before I knew it I’d be back to two packs a day.

I still want to try again, only this time, I want to be better prepared. I’m using a combination of Champix and hypnosis. I have an e-cig on standby, (although I don’t much like the taste) and I have a complete lack of stress in my life. Basically, I’m not giving myself any more excuses.

Cigarettes have robbed me of money, time, my health and have given me gum problems. They have taken the enjoyment out of many events, where I’ve been edgy for a cigarette, itching to get outside to fulfil the craving. Smoking painted a yellow film onto my possessions as I discovered recently when I moved house. I spend around £20 a day on cigs. Thats £7300 a year. Its an amazing holiday somewhere, without worrying about not being able to smoke on the plane ride.

I’m now on day 7 of Champix. The effects are starting to kick in a little. I’m aiming to quit completely on day 13, which is next Monday. I have hypnosis booked too. I’ll let you know how it goes. If I’m being totally truthful, I’m a little nervous. Smoking has been part of me, and my sense of self for a long time. I don’t regard it as an old friend, more a type of leaching frenemy. It does however represent the last link to my mis-spent youth. Maybe it’s time to grow up and move on.

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