Pay it forward…

Phew, we made it. January is finally over. It felt like making it February wasn’t guaranteed a few times. If you’ve also been struggling, I hope the new month brings better things. I am by no means back in tip top condition, so I will be taking my return slow; bear with me. I thought I’d start with something that can make us all feel a little better.

Random acts of kindness are small things you do for strangers for no reason other than it’s nice to be nice. I often feel like I’m too small to make any lasting difference in our big messed up world. I think refocusing some of my efforts onto the wee picture can help. I feel less lost & hopefully the person on the receiving end feels good too. Keeping ourselves politically informed, active & compassionate can be exhausting. The feel good kick of helping someone out can go a long way to recharging our philanthropic batteries.

So, here are some simple & cheap tips for putting a smile on a stranger’s (& your own) face. These are all things I have personally tried or know of someone who had positive results. I will endeavour to tick off the whole list & repeat regularly!

Tampon dipped in red glitter

Tackle Period Poverty

Period poverty is a multi layered issue. Domestically it seems that our governments are finally trying to tackle the problem by providing sanitary products in schools, council facilities etc. There are still lots of people who will fall through the gaps and struggle to access the specific products they need. I’ve found a simple way to tackle this directly is just to leave tampons, pads, wet wipes etc in public toilets. Homeless organisations have suggested that train/bus station facilities often used by those sleeping rough are good places to leave supplies. I also leave them in bars, restaurants, fast food places, shopping centres, anywhere I go really. I can think of so many situations in which someone might be unable to buy period products or even just be taken by surprise with a period. If enough of us leave a few pads or tampons on a regular basis, it could make a bad day a little better for lots of people.

Please & Thank you

Manners make a huge difference. Whether it’s a thank you to the stranger who held the door open or please to the person who got your coffee. It costs us nothing to be polite to each other. A smile or acknowledgement when you accidentally catch someone’s eye is much gentler than a scowl. I am not by any means saying we must all wander around being happy 24/7. I know life is hard, but just trying our utmost to be pleasant to those we come across makes the world a much less threatening place.

Black text, please and thank you are still magic words on pink background

Tip

Taking the last suggestion a step further, please tip if you can. Unless someone is outright awful to me I always leave at least a little tip. Food service staff, taxi drivers, juniors in the beauty industry, all of those lovely people who deliver things right to your door! If someone goes the extra mile for you, bump up that tip.

Leave a little extra

If I buy something from a vending machine and don’t need the change for a specific purpose, I’ll just leave it there. I started when I was at hospital with my mum. After hours of waiting I was starving, nowhere was open & I had a long wait for a taxi. I only had £1 coin which didn’t go far in the vending machine. Lucky for me, some lovely soul had left their change. I was able to get a cup of tea & a nut bar, which went a long way that night. It struck me as a simple, but incredibly effective act of kindness.

Clean up

It always saddens me when I visit somewhere beautiful and discover people have discarded litter. A really straightforward act of community spirit can be just to collect any litter you find when visiting beaches/parks and so on. Cleaned up beauty spots are much more enjoyable, plus safer for kids & wildlife.

Spread the love

Compliments can make a person’s day. I always feel great when a stranger gives me specific compliment. ‘I love your nails’ or ‘your shoes are pretty’, gives me such a boost. When it comes to strangers I think it’s safer to praise something in particular. Unknown folk saying you are pretty or similar can come off a little creepy. A smiley ‘great coat’ is much nicer. With people you know well, go for it. It feels good to know that someone genuinely likes your style.

Pin badge with I like you style on confetti background

Fill a stomach

If you want to help someone in need places like Social Bite are amazing. Social bite do lots of work to combat homelessness. They provide free meals, employment & have even built the social bite village to provide housing. When you buy lunch at their cafes you can order & pay for an extra lunch (or lunches) for a homeless person. Those in need can then claim one of those pre paid meals. If you just want to treat anyone you can simply pay for an extra coffee/cake and tell the cashier to give it to the next customer. I saw this happen in a coffee shop and the recipient of the cake was utterly delighted. The smile on their face must have been worth two quid of anyone’s money.

Grant a wish

This one is a little whimsical, but it appeals to my soppy side. Leave a jar of pennies by a wishing well or fountain. Thus ensuring anyone who wants to can make a wish. At least some of have to come true, right?

Coins in a wishing fountain

I hope you find these ideas inspiring. A little kindness goes a long way. We could probably all do with some extra good will.

January girl…

January is turning into quite a challenge on both physical & mental health fronts. Mood dips at this time of year are predictable, but this feels like it’s edging towards more than that. Thus, I am doing the sensible thing & taking a rest.

I’ll be still be sharing other people’s cool stuff & perhaps bits from the archives. There’ll be a pause on new content. If you begin to miss me, you can find me here & here.

Black and white cat lying in back with text, paused for inner maintenance

And I can’t help loving myself…

Let’s start the year with my annual reminder, shall we? As we head into peak ‘new year, new you’ territory let me assure you that weight loss is not self care or improvement. Decreasing your size will not decrease your problems. Changing your diet will not change your life. You do not have to atone for any Xmas indulgence. Punishing yourself with a diet that won’t work anyway will achieve nothing. Even if you don’t believe that diet culture is harmful to you, believe me when I say it is damaging to the fat people in your life. Every time you talk in disgusted tones about how fat you are you tell us what you really think of our bodies. Trust me, we’re sick of hearing it. This is my body and it is good enough exactly as it is. I am fat and attractive and happy. Whether you agree with me or not doesn’t matter. I’m so much more than flesh & skin anyway. It’s sad & frustrating that people still need to be reminded of this.

Snapshots of a fat body

And a happy new year…

I think it’s fair to say that 2019 has been a shit show. A political nightmare on a global scale. Environmentally disastrous & frankly a genuinely worrying time to be alive. My faith in humanity has taken a battering this year.

It won’t be like this all the time stencilled onto a pavement

It hasn’t been an especially uplifting 12 months on the personal front either. There’s been loss, illness & a struggle for meaning. It has all felt a little pointless at various stages, but I made it. Here I am living & learning. Carrying on.

Woman in bed with teary eyes

The year got off to a heartbreaking start, but there have been ups. I cemented a crucial relationship & extricated myself from one, which in hindsight, I hadn’t wanted to be in for quite a while. My people have proven once again how marvellous they are. Circling around when needed & letting me be when required.

Txt conversation

There have been a few professional triumphs. I returned to public speaking (terrifying), embarked on a little social media consultation & posed for some excellent photographers. I produced writing I am proud of and my expanded audience significantly.

I applied myself to the task of enjoying life. It’s not always easy when dealing with chronic & mental illness; I’m pleased with my progress. My little ones continue to be of endless interest. I have immersed myself in the joy they bring as often as possible. I’ve allowed myself to enjoy time with someone lovely & undemanding. I even had some successful surgery.

Selection of pictures of children

Most importantly (I think), I have released myself from the need to know where I’m going. I always thought my biggest purpose was motherhood & letting go of that dream has been challenging. I felt bereft of meaning. It has taken time & wise counsel to discover that perhaps I don’t need all the answers right now. It’s ok to take some time to breathe & live. Hopefully other options will present themselves. In the meantime I can work on career goals and hopefully continue to squeeze maximum happiness out of life.

Path continued painted cement ground with foot & walking stick

So, it’s true. Life goes on. I suppose that’s as true on a larger scale as it is personally. We can still strive to be the change. Sadly, it looks like there will be lots of opportunities to test the courage of our convictions. I hope we prove ourselves brave.

Mirror image of fat women smiling

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* Photography Credit – Megi Aben

May all your troubles soon be gone…

All the last minute tidying is complete. The presents are wrapped, the festive bedsheets are on & the fridge is stocked. My final festive manicure is complete & my outfit is all picked out. All that remains to be done is put my feet up for the evening before the madness begins.

Xmas tree with presents

I’m getting very excited about the big day. I’ll be at my sister’s & her little man is so into Xmas this year. I can FaceTime my other wee ones to see them open their pressies. Plus I’m a big kid and I love getting gifts too!

Xmas nail art. Candy cane stripe & holly

As happy as I am to have friends & family to share the season with, there’s always a hole in my Xmas. Being reminded of all the family fun I’ll never have with my own children is hard. Lots of people who have experienced loss struggle over Christmas. That’s why organisations like Sands & Miscarriage Association are so crucial. Sands work towards reducing still birth and neonatal death. They also provide support for those have lost babies. The Miscarriage Association aim to support those who have suffered miscarriage. They also strive to end the taboo nature of baby loss. Both do essential work with vulnerable people. If you can spare a little, a donation will allow them to continue their essential mission.

Xmas tree, heart decoration with text no foot is too small to leave van imprint in this world

However you spend Christmas I hope it will be safe, warm & filled with as much joy as you can muster. If you are missing someone this year I send you love.

Power to the people…

I’m utterly disgusted at the election results. Beyond that I am saddened & scared. English & Welsh working class voters supporting Tories is incomprehensible. To sell out hungry children, homeless & disabled people for Brexit is vile. The future looks terrifyingly bleak. Our NHS is in real danger & the most vulnerable people in our society are likely to persecuted further. I am grateful for the limited protection being in Scotland offers me. It has never been more clear that we need to be free of this rotten union. My heart goes out to all those who fear what the future brings under another Conservative government. More than ever we have to do what we can for those who will be left in need.

Easy ways to support your spoonie friend at Christmas…

I often share tips to help chronically ill people manage different aspects of their lives. However, sometimes the trickiest part of the spoonie life is dealing with how those around us react to our illness. This time I thought I’d give some hints to those who know & love a spoonie.

Please don’t give us a hard time when we cancel

This applies all the time, but especially during the festive season when there are so many events & parties. We know we disappoint you when we cancel. We aren’t sick on purpose. We can’t control our flares. Trust me, we really want to be there. We are sorry we’re missing your thing, particularly if it’s really important to you. It’s fine to say you’ll miss us or you’d have loved us to be there, but please don’t get angry. Try to consider all the times we do show up for you despite being in pain or dealing with other symptoms. We already feel more guilty that you can imagine & we are incredibly grateful that you stick with us.

White txt on pink background, my brains says let’s do something exciting today. My body says don’t listen to that fool.

Take our restrictions/limitations into account when planning activities

Disabled & chronically ill people can have a whole range of needs. We really don’t have a problem answering questions when they are considerate & relevant. If you take into account accessibility needs (disabled toilets, stairs, seats, dietary restrictions, crowds etc) it is much more likely that your spoonie friends can attend. More than that they’ll actually be able to stay for the whole shebang & enjoy themselves. It is actually much easier that you think these days. Many venues are happy to help you make accommodations or already have them in place. All varieties of specialised food are commonly available. Plus I for one am often happy just to know there will definitely be a seat so I can retreat if I need to.

Take no for an answer

If we say we are too ill, we mean it. It’s not an excuse nor the start of a debate. We’ve always thought out every possible variation before deciding we can’t make it. It doesn’t help when you say we’ll feel better once we’re out. We’ll feel much worse if we push ourselves too far. We know our limits & all our responsibilities; we are the best judge of what we can handle.

No comparisons

Please, I beg you, don’t do comparisons. Getting upset because we went to so & so’s birthday, but can’t come to yours is pointless. It won’t make us any more able to attend & will just make everyone feel worse. Chronic illness is a crap shoot. We never know how we will feel on any given day. We might have been the life & soul at dinner last week, had a ball with the wee ones on Tuesday & unable to move without crying on Thursday. There is no predicting how chronic illness will behave. The things we don’t attend is not linked to how much we wanted to be there.

Siamese cat on blue background with txt, no pain no gain. Chronic illness is not a competitive sport.

Bonus Tip

Don’t tell us we can do anything we put our minds to. We absolutely can’t & this is a shitty reminder. It’s not inspiring, it’s dismissive.

Your spoonie friend loves you. They are delighted that you are on their life and they are doing everything they can to be reliable & fun & supportive. Please cut us a little slack.

My week (ish) in pictures…

It’s been a bit up and down of late. Thankfully the highs are good enough to get me through the dips. Plus Xmas is close & I’m definitely beginning to feel merrier. So, let’s have a we round up of goings on before I get swept up in all the festivities.

Last week I had some Xmassy cocktails with my favourite man. I took a trip to the very rainy seaside to do some giggling with my lovely Lisa & her equally lovely boy. I checked Edinburgh’s pretty lights on the way home. Of course I spread a little #projectpostit wisdom as I went.

I did a whole bunch of rascalling with my middle nephew; including cinema trips & fun in GoMA studio. Hung out with all three boys together & did some excellent FaceTiming with my big muffin. We got started on all things Santa & I even wrapped the first of the presents.

This week involved another Edinburgh visit for an exciting meeting. Followed by a lost bank card, lots of stress & some big glasses of wine with my favourite man to save the day. It was a perfect winter day; freezing cold, but crisp & dry. The light was dreamy.

Back home I lost a battle with some frost & my driveway. Snuggled with my puss cat & put the tree up.

I had a little sister time. Got seasonal with my nail art & snapped all sorts of things that took my fancy.

Give the day a chance to start…

It’s been a fairly standard day. I got some writing finished, sorted a little admin & did a food shop. No exciting hijinks. Nothing horrible either. Why then do I find myself feeling so overwhelmingly sad?

An hour ago I was just getting on with the daily grind. I wasn’t jumping for joy, but I was fine. From one moment to the next my equilibrium vanished. For no discernible reason I am flooded with melancholy. It is one of most baffling aspects of my mental illness. It extends beyond feeling miserable. My inability to comprehend what is happening leaves me powerless to combat it.

Control is a big thing for me. I think, because there have been major parts of my life in which I lacked significant sway. That leaves me uneasy with the uncertain components of my mental health. It is very frightening to know that my mood may descend at any moment. It’s even more alarming when I don’t know why. I can’t tackle a problem when I cannot identify the cause.

Moon in cloudy sky

All that’s left is trying to ride out the low. With no clue as how long the trip may last, it is hard not to lose hope. It’s hard to compute how much of a hold these periods take on me. This isn’t deepest, darkest despair. It’s what I think of as everyday depression. More grey than black. A persistent ache rather than unbearable pain. Yet its unpredictability looms large.

So, how do I combat the urge to believe there isn’t any point fighting a battle when I know I’ll lose the war? This is good a starting point. I write about my crazy head in an effort to exert dominion over it. I try to talk about it or at least just label it out loud. Not having to pretend that everything is a ok can help. I remind myself that I can and have exited these dips. There is colour in my life waiting to reappear. Of course I take my meds and then I just hold tight.

Long term mental illness is a slog. It leaves you no option other than to dig in & get dirty. My heart goes out to anyone else who is stuck in the trenches.

Autumn leaves in street lamp

Easy ways to support your fat friends…

I think most people want to be loving & supportive of their friends. Whenever I discuss body positivity (online or in person) most decent straight sized people are mostly in favour of the theory. I’m often congratulated & told it is important to spread the message. I suspect these people would consider themselves supportive of their fat friends.

Whilst I agree that they are well intentioned & aim to be supportive I still hear the same complaints from the fat friends over & over. It can be really hard to address these face to face. So, here is a handy to guide to help thin folk support the fat people in their life. I’m starting with the basics; 5 easy steps that anyone can manage.

Don’t tell me you feel fat.

Fat is not a feeling. When you describe your feelings of inadequacy or unattractiveness as ‘feeling fat’, your opinions on fat are very clear. In addition please don’t complain about how fat you are when you are half my size. What I hear is that you think I am repulsive.

Don’t include me in your diet talk

Diets don’t work. That is scientific fact. Studies show time & again that almost every diet actually results in long term weight gain. I believe that diet talk is toxic. I can’t tell you what to do with your body, but please don’t involve me in it. I don’t want to know how many calories are in my or your meal. Keep your weight goals to yourself. Food has no moral value, you’re not being good when you order a salad. You can follow whatever regime you please without telling me about it.

Don’t expect me to always be ok with trawling around shops that don’t carry my size.

I can’t tell you how many shopping trips I have been on where there was no chance of me buying anything. I’m not even sure that most straight sized people are even aware of this. I’m not saying I’ll never help you pick out a new frock, but please try to be aware that it isn’t all that much fun for me. There are limits to how much time I want to spend sitting in waiting rooms holding your coat.

Don’t laugh at/make fat jokes.

Whether it’s a character in a film or a disparaging comment about that bitch you hate at work when you include their weight it stings. When you find Thor in a fat suit hilarious you’re laughing at my actual body. If you can’t criticise Trump without mentioning his weight you are telling me that him being fat is part of what you dislike about him.

Don’t comment on weight loss/gain

The aim of my body positivity is reach a point where body size is neutral. I would dearly love for my bulk or lack there of to just not matter. With that in mind, please don’t comment on my weight fluctuations. Weight loss is not inherently good. Any changes may be unintentional. They may not even be benign. The size of my person requires no discussion. In the same vein don’t expect me to congratulate or castigate anyone else’s weight change.

I know some readers will be thinking this is all very demanding. No doubt the, we can’t say anything anymore mob, will have lots to say about my suggestions. Remember, though, they are only suggestions. No one can stop you from saying anything you feel you must. I’m simply letting you know that when you do, it hurts. It comes down to respect. The choice is yours.