Monthly Archives: January 2012

The cat that walked by himself

Last weekend I was having a “deep and meaningful” with a buddy. You can’t really put the two of us together without this happening. Though there’s something about both of us that means a D&M rarely gets too heavy (unless copious amounts of red wine are involved and then nothing’s sacred and no-one’s safe.)

At some point I mentioned how confusing I find it to know who my people are … what sort of ‘milieu’ I belong to.

Who cares?

Well, if you’re dating this gets VERY confusing. But if ever I blog about dating please shoot me, so let’s leave it at that.

In reply to my identify confusion, my good friend replied,

“But, it’s obvious! You’re the cat that walked by himself”

“I am?”

“You are.”

At which point I lost her for a bit as she frenetically googled on her iPhone looking for the source of her reference … the story that led her
to say this …while I sat there sipping my latte pleased that there appeared to be a well-documented report on my condition, involving a cat no
less.

The point of her point was to congratulate me on my independence even if it does cost me a sense of belonging. Had she simply used these words
there’s no doubt I’d have felt far less consoled than I did when I learnt that I am a cat. A cat written of in legends!

So if ever you want to cheer someone up that they’re not just a stray or a freak or an outcast, I highly recommend sending them The Cat That Walked By Himself.

Thanks to my friend for giving me this story.
***
“The Cat That Walked By Himself” is from Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. Here are the lines my friend had in mind, a 5 minute video of extracts from the story and the full Kipling text.

… and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone

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Filed under Bibliotherapy, Books etc., Identity, Relationships, States of mind, Words

Stuff I keep forgetting to remember

It’s been five days since my return from my break in Chile and I remain well-rested, mentally de-cluttered and slightly browner than normal (even if I didn’t sunbathe, a hole in the ozone layer makes Chile ideal for roasting yourself.)

Within a week I expect normal levels of pale stressy-ness to resume. 

But on the off-chance that I can keep them in mind, here’s a few personal truths that I remember every time I go on holiday.

Less is Calming
Lighter is Better
Slower is Better
Structure is not only Good, it’s Necessary
Random works when Usual doesn’t

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Filed under Not in London, Random idea, States of mind, Time management

Postcard from Zapallar

Given that it never takes more than 20 minutes, it’s crossed my mind that my daily run over the course of the past week has been more ritual than work-out.

But that’s OK, I’ve got to start somewhere.

For all of 2011 I never got close to reaching any sort of stamina for running — at least not the level I’d mastered only a couple of years prior.

Finding myself, at the start of 2012, in a location of mind-stopping natural beauty for a 10-day break, I decided this was a motivational opportunity too good to ignore. I said to myself that all I had to do each morning was follow the trail from the house along the road to the cemetery, down the cliffs and onto the rocky beach path which leads back up to the house. A perfect loop with unnaturally spectacular views. If I had to walk part of it, or even all of it, that was fine as long as long as I tried to run it. Daily. Without fail.

And as of Day 7, I have.

Two things inspired me to kick-start my running again. Something I read and something around me.

The something I read was an article posted by my fellow blogger, Ruben. It tells the story of a guy who claims he needs help getting motivated to go to the gym. The author replied that motivation wasn’t the issue. The problem was follow-through.

Each attempt to “motivate” himself will only increase his stress and guilt as it widens the gap between his motivation and his follow-through, between how badly he wants to work out and his failure to do so. We have a misconception that if we only cared enough about something, we would do something about it. But that’s not true.

Having become the Queen of exactly this sort of guilt-stress over the course of 2011 regarding my inability to stick with running, I read on…

Motivation is in the mind; follow-through is in the practice. Motivation is conceptual; follow-through is practical. In fact, the solution to a motivation problem is the exact opposite of the solution to a follow through problem. The mind is essential to motivation. But with follow through, it’s the mind that gets in the way.

Here’s the key: if you want to follow through on something, stop thinking.

Thinking about whether I’ll start running again or maybe try something new — that’s fine. But once I make the decision that I’m going to run and that I’m going to run tomorrow when I wake up here on my holidays in Chile — from that moment on any “thinking about it” turns to excuse-making self-sabotage.

It really is as simple as the Nike advert says.

Something around me
While I believe that most in things in life can be solved by the right words at the right moment in time (in books or conversation), words fix the mind whereas nature (wordless as it is) cures the soul.

So on top of the pep talk brought to me by Ruben, what really inspired me to get moving this week was the call of the wild. Not just the views: savage waves smashing against a shore of rock, a string of 10 pelicans gliding by on their coastal patrol, the sight of the sun creeping down and then falling below the perfect line of a horizon — but the soundtrack accompanying the scene. This is the loudest water I’ve ever faced.

As soon as I arrived the gutsy performance raging just beneath the perch of our house seemed to lay down the gauntlet … ‘come run with ME!” … and how often do I get that chance? in my everyday non-coastal life?

The path from Cementeria de Papudo back to our house at Las Perdices

Even if it is only 20 minutes each day, the sharp descents and rocky paths and collapsed stone walls are a challenge. Though not as heart-stopping as the one-eyed German shepherd that sleeps in the shade of the bushes at the entrance of Cementeria de Papudo.

I’m sure I appear demented as I slow my pace when I come to the part of my run where the dozing canine crosses my path. Each day my aim is to assure him that it’s not fear he smells, I swear. I slow down, get closer, even hold out my hand (oh god …) while telling him I MEAN YOU NO HARM I’M JUST TRYING TO GET FIT. As the days pass, the expression on the dog’s face is becoming increasingly perplexed. I suppose he worries about my mental health. He probably thinks I’m an axe murderer. I used to think this of runners too.

Anyway, once past the cemetery beast …. my obstacle course along this small stretch of the Pacific Ocean is getting easier by the day. I’ve learned to trip faster down this or that path, not stop at the top of the next one and to keep very low as I get to the end and face the steep and tricky climb up to the house.

If I was here for another week I’d have to graduate to some next level – maybe a double loop?

I’m hoping that my 10 days working this circuit has done the trick and that I’ll remember Zapallar the next time I lie in my bed on a wintry London morning and tell myself that it’s raining and too slippery or that more sleep would do more good than a run.

Perhaps I’ll ask the dog to wish me luck before I go.

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Filed under Not in London, Sport, States of mind, Words

The pleasure in doing the wrong thing

Here are some of my favourite wrongful activities:

  • Taking a bubble bath in the middle of the day, and even better, a weekday
  • Taking myself out to dinner while I’m working on a piece of writing, so that I can work alone but amongst people (and get fed)
  • Going to a foreign city, making little to no effort to see the tourist attractions and sitting outside a cafe people watching instead

The way I was raised, my basic personality, the attitudes of people around me — each tell me that all of the above are at least a tiny bit wrong. Eyebrow raising indulgences. Signs of brat-like behaviour.

I mention these guilty pleasures today for a couple of reasons:

  • I’ve just been in Madrid for a couple of days and it reminded me how much I love lounging in foreign cities (especially beautiful ones). I wasn’t a total sloth – I did take the photos above, I did stroll to Plaza Mayor, I did walk down to the Museo Prado (though I didn’t queue to go in.) But mostly I did things I could do anywhere – I wrote, I read, I ate, I got a pedicure (the friend who mentioned the state of my toenails can now relax) and in doing all these things I chose not to work my way through a list of must-do attractions. I can’t tell you how how much I enjoy this particular brand of laziness
  • The 2nd reason why I mention “not doing what I should” is because it’s that time of year again when a lot of people push themselves to “be good” … to lose weight, quit smoking, stop shopping, find a mate, change jobs, give up alcohol … [insert yours here]. In fact, I just read somewhere that the new name for the month we’re in is Janupause … we put our bad habits on pause for a few weeks until we revert back to standard operating procedures. And so, I thought I would share 2 cool things I read this week that suggest we should adopt a different approach to improving/fixing ourselves.

Forget normal self-help, this lady is brilliant.  My biggest complaint against self-help is just how annoying (and tedious and un-funny) the tone of it usually is… not so with Danielle LaPorte — check our her blog post on how she kicked the time management habit

In a similar vein, a former colleague of mine (and active blogger) recommended this HBR article on 5 things to stop doing in the year ahead– the lingo is a tad corporate and work-y, but the ideas are very wise. And for all of you who know me personally, yes I know I am SO guilty of all of 5 things — you don’t need to remind me.

Happy Reading … till next week

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Filed under Not in London, Self-help, States of mind, Time management, Work