RIP Online Self

We had a chat over dinner last night about what would happen to all of our online accounts should anything dreadful happen to us. Forgive the apparent morbidity of this post but I wanted to get my thoughts down. We wondered what would happen? Did we care? Would we simply disappear? Would we feel sad if we saw each other’s social media accounts popping up still? Would treasure-map1it upset us if people were writing on walls, tagging us or whatever with no control? Would we like our online friends and communities to know what had happened or be happy to simply fade away? Lots of questions… in the modern world it’s not just about funeral instructions and leaving behind the treasure map.

We decided as a family, all for one and one for all, that we would like our online affairs taken care of, controlled, managed, terminated, demise announced and such and of course the only way we could achieve that is to know each other’s passwords and user names to everything.

So we agreed that we were happy to have this common knowledge at least among the three of us (ma, son and daughter) and so we decided to each produce a document containing all of our online accounts, usernames and passwords which we would print and store in our jointly accessible family safe on top of which is a phone number and email address of a person who knows the code but doesn’t realise it. We thought of putting a copy in our cloud but we decided againstimages (1) it not trusting the security. We decided to include everything from Amazon to Zoopla including shopping accounts, banks, utilities and social media. We had fun (so morbid) discussing our death announcements on Facebook but in spite of the light hearted and at times flippant approach we acknowledged that it is important to have had this discussion. At first I thought I didn’t care what happened but then I thought there were things I would need someone to know and there were things that would obviously distress my children and myself God forbid anything happened to them and so it really did need consideration.

So we began right there and then to compile a list and I can tell you it’s pretty startling the amount of accounts we hold and little wonder that my house phone has been ripped from the wall and thrown into a corner because of the amount of nonsense calls I receive daily. How many things do I subscribe to? All essential to life of course.

We all started with the most important at the top and came up with a proforma design to follow from there so we didn’t miss anything:

Social media – Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, You Tube

Fifootprint-logo4nancial – banks, utilities, paypal, insurance, student finance

Subscriptions – magazines, journals, professional registration bodies, work related privilege schemes

Shopping – Amazon, Ebay etc

Travel – Airmiles, Trip Advisor, hotel and travel loyalty schemes, railcard

Email – we decided to leave this until last to deal with as it might assist in managing or deleting the rest

We leave such a big footprint on the virtual world without realising it and I guess it’s prudent to think of erasing that footprint (or parts of it) when the time comes and knowing what people close to you would wish to have done with their various accounts, it’s almost as important an issue as organ donation or where you want your ashes sprinkling, which is where this subject stemmed from as we’d been discussing our thoughts on organ donation when my son declared that he was happy to leave anyone his YouTube account.

I often see the ‘RIP’ accounts made on Facebook for people who have passed away and I wonder who set them up? Was it close family who needed to offer a place for people to ESP_blue_condshare their thoughts and memories like an online book of condolence to help comfort themselves in their loss or are they more often set up by people who really don’t have a ‘right’ or permission to do so? I know with deaths of youngsters that often their friends set up these accounts and I often think there should be some permission sought from the family.  Just my opinion and I know people mean well.

I would hate, God forbid it happening, to see a page full of poorly spelled condolences (forgive my pedantry) from people who didn’t really know my child and this has been compounded today. I saw a parent of a child who had died comment on their own account that they had asked Facebook to close the ‘RIP’ account created as people were arguing on it, sharing inaccurate information about the death and guessing at the cause of death.

This was obviously very distressing to the family and as much as we would like to ignore that, I can imagine how at a time like that there would be a compulsion to see what was being written about your child or loved one. It’s all way too much out of my control for me, I wouldn’t like it and I don’t comment on these sites or pages, choosing rather to send a a personal message to people I don’t know so well and of course with those I do know well sending an even more personal hand written message or making a visit. I know when my father died how comforting the heart felt messages in the cards were and how lovely it was to read a tribute to him in the local paper acknowledging all he’d done for the local community and also to read some of the letters sent by people in his life who we really didn’t know but who clearly he had touched with his kindness, humour and his great big personality. I’m sure I would have had to read a FB page dedicated to his memory but not sure I would have liked everything I read there if some of these I see are anything to go by. Some trolls are spiteful and heartless and I’m sure seek these pages out for effect and by their very nature they are usually public.

I know a lot of people take huge comfort from having social media accounts of loved ones who have passed on remaining open, who see it as a way of letting out thoughts and continuing to communicate with the person who has passed. I have seen people who have clung to social media accounts of deceased loved ones posting often and commenting on other posts consistently. Yet sadly often a year or so down the line the heartimprove-your-writing-resting breaking bitter messages start to appear to all the ‘friends’ who no longer post messages on the wall, from bereaved people who are clearly very upset to feel that the person who they will never forget is slowly fading in the memories of their friends and acquaintances and they find themselves feeling startlingly alone in their grief. This might not be the case of course, we all remember in our own way and some may  have just decided they needed to move away from the social media shrine and remember privately in their own way.

I saw a page set up recently to arrange an annual memorial dinner for a young guy who passed away, the first year saw over 30 people attend and three years on there were 5 people at the dinner and the mother posted how she was closing the group because ‘fairweather friends had forgotten her child and couldn’t be bothered to attend his memorial anymore’. People protested that they remembered her child in their own way and would never forget and pointed out that they had relocated to other parts of the country, had other responsibilities and triempty-table-fied to assure her that they did care but I’m sure she suffered terrible heart ache over this apparent lack of regard for the anniversary of their friend’s passing and perhaps it only added to her never ending grief and sorrow. Perhaps it hurt her afresh to realise that one day there would be nobody at the table for dinner, nobody to remember.

Of course some people never had an online presence and passed before they got to grips with technology, I always say that my dad would have simply LOVED the internet, he loved information and he loved to write. He would have been in his element having all of this at his finger tips and would surely have had a blog and a Facebook account filled with pictures of his adored grandchildren but he passed before it really became a way of life. Some people use the internet to give tumblr_static_profiletheir loved ones an ever lasting presence in an arguably more sophisticated way through blogging, memoires and sharing of their talents which the world was never able to see before and that keeping alive of the person can be a tremendous comfort and passing on of their legacy no matter how small. I guess that kind of virtual footprint is one that they never want to see erased or deleted.

I guess in some respects the closing of social media accounts, clearing out the online virtual presence in the modern technological world somehow parallels the actual wardrobe1copyphysical clearing out of the real person’s belongings and is a very personal thing. Some people have to have a loved one’s belongings removed from the home as fast as possible not able to live with the day to day reminder and others can not live without the day to day reminder and never manage to clear out the belongings and for some it is a matter of time, letting things go when they feel able and ready.

Perhaps having this discussion while it’s possible and knowing what the person who owned that presence would want to happen to it is prudent and will make those decisions we would rather not have to ever make a little easier when or if the time comes. Maybe we weren’t just being morbid to think of these things but doing all we can to make life easier for those who get to carry on living it a while longer.

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Under 20 – if only I was talking about my age

Somehow this post got lost so I’m reposting.

Today I weighed in at 270 pounds which is 19 stone 4 pounds for we Brits out there and 122.5 kgs for the Aussies and continentals . This means:

  • I’m under 20 stones for the first time in a long time
  • I’ve lost 77 pounds (five and a half stones) in total since I started on this rocky road in April 2014
  • I got to wipe out 2 chunks of Tracey today and she is now over half gone! Check out the visual at the top of my blog and see her disappearing
  • I’m no longer morbidly obese on a BMI chart…  just obese which doesn’t make me happy but it makes me a whole world happier than when I was super morbidly obese at the beginning of this. I am told that this means I have reduced my chances of dying early from an obesity related health condition significantly. No numbers, but that will do for me
  • I have lost around 22% of my starting body weight, noticeable health gains are reported to begin at around 10% loss as some of the first fat to go is believed to be that which is stored internally around the organs. It feels good knowing my organs are not being choked so much by the fat I put there and what’s more I can feel it
  • I lost 10lbs while on a holiday (well mostly but definitely in the last 18 days). I know now that I don’t have to put weight on when I’m on holiday, it’s not a prerequisite to stuff unhealthy food and not enjoy any exercise. Also you can dine out and entertain and have birthday cake in the middle of all that too without gaining weight – it is possible

I cried when I got weighed. The reason being that in all my fat years I had always thought that going over 20 stones (280 pounds) was something I would never allow myself to do and I also thought that if I ever did go over that weight it would be irrecoverable. I felt it was a bridge too far to bring myself back from that size. Secretly throughout this I have feared that I couldn’t do it, I definitely thought I couldn’t at the beginning and here I am. I didn’t even jump off the scale as I usually do, I stood right on it and cried and kept looking down at it as if it was reading 140 pounds and I’d surpassed my goal. This right here is the first of my real BIG goals, this is my kind of half way marker.

I know the way I’m built and I know that if I can repeat this I’m there, I’m slim and healthy and fit, regardless of what the charts and scales say. I know it’s not going to be so easy to do this next mountain climb, that my body will get used to the food and the exercise and my weight loss will slow as I haul around less and less weight. I know I’ll have to step it up and I know that I’ll have to really work hard for this and continue to make the things I’m beginning to enjoy a real part of my life. I know I’m going to face weeks where I lose nothing and I know the winter is going to present a whole new load of challenges for me, I love winter warming stodgy fatty foods but I’m already working on some recipe ideas so that my winter foods are just as fab as my summer ones are/were. I realised the importance of planning a long time ago and so I’m already thinking of where my danger zones are going to be and how to get around them.

I’m just happy today, I’ve had a tremendous summer, I’ve had a fabulous holiday with a gorgeous wonderful man who will be in my life forever and most of all I have two of the most amazing kids in the world who make me feel complete and who have given my life true purpose for over twenty years and who have made me realise that I really want a future, I want to be here as long as I possibly can be for them and for myself.  Besides being their mum I want life after intensive motherhood, I want lots of years of grown up lady time. There’s so much I still have to do and I am planning on doing as much of it as I can and losing this weight is going to help me achieve it all.

I’m heading into those hills tomorrow at a brisk pace, 5 months ago I could barely walk to the kitchen. I’m going to breathe that country air in deep and I’m going to challenge myself in ways I’ve never done before… no obstacle is getting in my way. I’m going under them and over them and through them if need be.

If you’re reading this thinking you have an impossible task ahead of you, if you think losing nearly 200 pounds to be the person you want to be is a bridge too far, please know that it’s not. When you are prompted to act and you feel now is your time to do this, go for it. Take the journey mentally, emotionally, physically and you will change yourself and change your life. So much awaits you it’s impossible for me to tell you everything that there is but don’t deny yourself anymore. Chocolate and crisps, cake and TV dinners are not worth it, they really are not. Hating yourself is not the way to go, find out why you’re doing this and have a good talk to yourself. The strength is inside you, you just have to unlock it and it trickles out at first but before you know it you are bowled over by the heaps of the stuff that start to flood out and empower you to be who you deserve to be and what you deserve to be… simply happy.  

Which brings me to the video up at the top. If all you can manage today is to grab a tambourine and stand up or even sit down and shake it along to this song, or if you can stand up and shake it and smack it against your booty, if you don’t have a tambourine and can only clap or wave your hands in the air or step from one foot to another you are moving, even if you are in a wheelchair and just roll yourself back and forth an inch you are doing something positive and if anyone doesn’t feel better after listening to this song and moving, they need to come talk to me 😛

Safely returned

Those first snuggles with the kids after an absence are just amazing. My heart is full. I cried and I never do that stuff I’m so emotional just lately. They had a great time and they loved the gifts we brought back. My daughter said that gifts are more than adequate compensation for being neglected and my son agreed. How fickle they are!

I came back to news that my mother’s very seriously ill in hospital and so that opened up a dilemma for me. I spoke to her, the kids had already been to visit her and taken gifts and done their bit. I’m not going to go see her and I know that whatever happens I will not regret my decision, she understands and I understand that is all that matters. Dilemma over.

So I had a little work to do and some calls to make and tomorrow we head off into the wilderness. Nick went straight home from the airport and I finished off the trip to my daughter’s alone which was strange after having spent so much time together. But it’s great to be with them. Our little triangle reformed.

We just went to the outdoor sports clothing store because, according to the kids, I needed rigging out with ‘layers’ and waterproofs and walking boots. My daughter had already established on my behalf that they did a plus size range and now I’m all rigged out which is a good job as it’s pretty chilly for August and drizzly weather is forecast and set to stride out into the green hills. The kids have researched and planned the trip so I’m leaving myself in their hands… I’m once again yielding control and oddly I’m finding this quite empowering. Who would have thought it that giving away control empowers you but it does. Control isn’t about managing or leading it’s about fear and so when the control is relaxed the fear subsides and you become stronger… that’s it in a nut shell. I get this stuff now.

We head off in the morning so tonight we’re going to the cinema and out for dinner and picking up some last minute supplies for our three days in the wilds.

Working on Holiday

2014-05-17 10.41.35Been sitting out in the shade since breakfast working on some ideas for my new venture and also on some notes and reading to help me be better in my job. I’ve had a heap of emails to answer and have finished all my new intake prep and feel more than ready to face the new term and all of the lovely new faces as well as the returning students from last year.

It seems like we get a huge long summer holiday when we are teachers but it’s not really the case. I’ve skimped on lots of boring updates of hours spent doing my prep for next year and the meetings I’ve attended and the phone calls and emails that have been fielded and dealt with and the times I’ve been into the office to do essential in between academic year stuff.

I wasn’t around for results day, I don’t teach GCSE’s personally but I have privately tutored some kids whose parents felt they needed a boost and I have also had some of my own students and even colleagues who have had to retake GCSE’s in English and Maths in order to progress to HE or into positions which require that basic minimum. So it was good to see how everyone had done and where there was no social media to help me find out I had to do some scouting. I’ve also had a few former students who are starting uni in September who have needed some last minute assurance and guidance with one or two things so they’ve contacted me for help there. 

A lot of work that teachers puts in goes unnoticed, the hours spent at home working are lost hours, nobody really counts them and teaching has got to be one of the few jobs in the world where you pinch things from home to take into work instead of the other way around.

I’ve ordered a whole new armoury of flip charts and markers, whiteboard markers, presentation clicker batteries, pens and 1280x1024_summer_ calendarpencils, post it notes and all manner of stationery which budgets do not cover and we often find we have to fund out of our own pockets and I’ve created, designed, constructed and printed off swathes of activity and task resources. It’s great to have the long summer break to catch up on all of this stuff and it’s great to be able to work when you feel like it but we do still work. i don’t think a teacher’s mind is ever quite fully off the job. The nature of the beast is that we are planning forward and reflecting back constantly and that doesn’t stop just because the calendar says it’s summer. I feel so much better organised this year, I really think this healthy approach has filtered through to everything I do and just made me function better as a person and hopefully it will make me even better at my job.

 

Last day: sharks, pirates, boats, planes, control, fear, rebirth and more…

I’m having such a fab time if it wasn’t for the children I would find it difficult to leave but tomorrow that is what we shall be doing, leaving 😦

I’m so looking forward to seeing them again and hearing about their adventures and to heading on our little camping trip together which is going to be a whole world away from this experience in many ways but in others it will be similar, especially in a ‘bringing me closer back to nature’ kind of way. Perhaps more so as we are not camping in any parks but out in the wilds so we’re going right back to basics.

Setting the scene
Setting the scene

But back to where we are now. The past two days we spent on a hired yacht, well 24 hours from lunch time to lunch time yesterday but what a delightful 24 hours they were aboard our borrowed 70 foot floating villa. In some ways challenging as I’m so full of energy right now and being cooped up in a relatively small space is not good when you’re bursting with energy but I found ways to cope.

We swam. I finally laid my fear of shark attacks in open water aside and enjoyed it although tentatively at first.  I did an aerobic workout to some music on the deck and we did some middle of nowhere Tai-Chi twice. Once in the pitch dark and once as the sun was rising. We ate dinner out in the middle of a dark ocean. If you’ve never tried it it’s a bit scary I’ll tell you. You hear things, like splashes and can only wonder what made the noise and you see the odd light but nothing much else. We weren’t too distant from shore but distant enough for it to be a far off strip of light.

I wished I’d never watched Captain Phillips as I developed a sure and certain conviction that we were going to be boarded by pirates even though the modest crew assured us that was not going to happen.

It’s rather a primitive state of existence out there, it’s like someone switched the responsiveness of your senses around. You suddenly hear things you wouldn’t normally detect and you see things you really don’t notice… like the stars. Oh wow, the stars are something else when it’s pitch black on Earth. Electric lighting has robbed us of a veritable nocturnal spectacular for sure. I’ve not seen a sky like that in so long, maybe back when I plodded my way around bits of Africa.

I think focusing on the night sky finally enabled me to lay my fears and anxieties aside. We’ve done some snuggled down night sky gazing from our accommodation and from the beach but the spectacular really revealed itself out there that night with no light contamination from anywhere. I realised lying there that my irrational anxieties about being boarded by pirates, fear of what was swimming around us in the darkness, my feeling of helplessness on the sea were all born of my need to be in control. If you can’t see, if you don’t know where you’re going, if there’s nothing to listen to, if there’s no point of reference for much, then control is taken away from you. There’s not a lot left for you to actually take charge of, other than yourself.

I kind of had the beginnings of this epiphany while we were flying over to Miami, I hate flying and that is simply because I have no control, I can’t see where I’m going so I feel very much at the mercy of someone else. Realising this helped me to relax and enjoy the flight so much more. It was easier to this as the way we flew meant I did feel closer to the seat of control,  perhaps more influential, although in real terms of course I had no control at all. Just thinking of those things helped me to understand my fear, rationalise it and enjoy it taking a back seat for a change. It wasn’t gone but it wasn’t at the forefront of the flying experience like it normally is.

Back to the boat…I had nothing to do and no part to play in where I was going, I couldn’t see much and couldn’t hear anything familiar and it was beautiful but unnerving to the point where the beauty was in danger of evading me. It was only when I was made to look up, in fact I didn’t need to look up, the sky came down to meet us, but when I was made to look at it, it was only then that I really appreciated my insignificance in terms of time and space and I realised that I’m not really in control of anything anyway. I asked myself what do I control at the end of the day and do I need to be in control of anything at all? Does holding the reins really make me feel any better, does it serve any advantage or is it actually detrimental to my enjoyment of life? I’ve had a good chat with myself if nothing else.

I had a lovely talk with Nick about this too, about how much of what happens to us happens anyway and will happen anyway and so we may as well just yield to it and go with it, not fight it, not try to control it. It’s a place he’s already in and has been for some time and he laughed as I joined him there.  I thought about how I could see the stars but if there had been anyone near one of them they wouldn’t be able to see me, I’d just be lost in the darkness, nothing, invisible, unseen. I wondered if trying to control anything was not only pointless but put us in danger of enjoying the real delights the world has to offer which can only truly be enjoyed when we lay ourselves open, bare and without the shackles of what we think of as essential for life.

I realised eating disorders are all about control, I don’t have control issues because I have an eating disorder, I have an eating disorder because I have control issues. I’ve always felt like the world was against me, like I had to fight something for what I wanted, like I had to prove myself, like there was an invisible or even visible enemy always trying to thwart my attempts to achieve anything. That battle’s been going on since I was a cute little girl, it’s why I’m so feisty and always have been, I’ve been fighting my whole life for acceptance and I finally see that I only have to accept myself, I can’t control what anyone else does or thinks, I don’t have to influence their actions, it’s not my fault if other people are unkind, unhappy, uncaring, unloving, all of those ‘uns’. It’s not my fault and I don’t have to try to change them. All I need do is be myself and concentrate on making me happy. Funny thing is, the less I try the easier being happy gets.

I don’t know it all got very deep out there in more ways than one. I just felt an even more profound sense of relaxation on a whole other level. In short… I’m so insignificant nothing really matters, that could sound pretty morbid but it’s not, it’s far from it.

I’m going through some kind of awakening. I really feel that I’ve been in a mid life crisis for the past 5 years or so and this is my emergence as an ‘elder’. I feel like I’m shedding my youth skin and growing a new mature layer which is richer, more flexible, more comfortable to live in. I’m feeling very much as if I’m on about my fourth phase of life and that I have more phases yet to experience.

I think that I was unwittingly mourning my youth, mourning the woman I’d lost sight of, floudering in a world where I didn’t fit, I didn’t want to fit and I wasn’t sure of my place or what I could bring with me, but now it’s all clear, I know who I am and what I’m bringing, I know where I’m going and I know what there is for me to do there and I’m relaxed and happy to be on the journey, I’m not fighting anymore, I’m not worried about pirates coming to rob me, I’m not worried about nasty people coming to hurt me, I’m not worried about anyone taking anything from me, I’m not letting a fear of shark attack stop me from enjoying the freedom of swimming in the ocean, I’m opening up my doors and not worrying about who is going to come in, I’m just grateful for the light and air that can make its way through now.

It’s a great feeling. When I started out I saw this as a caterpillar to butterfly like journey and I thought that it was all about my weight and my  health but it has turned out to be about a catharsis so much more deep and meaningful than that, it’s been about my transition through the final part of the middle phase of my existence it’s been like a rebirth, like I was being prepared and this last bit is the squeeze through the canal into my  new life and I feel like I’m about crowning now and on the cusp of something wonderful, something I had feared and fought and didn’t feel I’d earned the right to yet and that is a relaxed, self indulgent, worry free middle age. I don’t need to be a kid to be happy. I don’t need to feel old to be a grown up. I’m a vibrant, beautiful, happy woman who has achieved so much and has so much yet to achieve.

I might not feel like that in the next couple of days out on the cold Welsh hills in a tent with a tin of beans but I’m going with it and whatever happens, happens, it’s a new experience and I get to do it with the people I love the most, my amazing children… something I undoubtedly did well in my life and have not celebrated anywhere near enough.

Mornings

I used to hate mornings they were just another reminder that I had yet another day to drag myself through, at weekends I’d do all I could to avoid them altogether. Now though I love mornings. I enjoy the fact that I woke up to get to live another day and I love filling my lungs with the fresh morning air. I’m mindful that it is not very warm back home at the minute and morning beach Tai chi sessions may be limited and these outdoor morning swims are definitely numbered but I’m thinking that I’m still going to stick to early rising in the autumn and winter and I’m going to wrap up warm if necessary and get out even if only for a brisk walk, energise myself, breathe clear air and start my days off well.

I think I need to live somewhere like this where everyday is condusive to early morning outdoor exercise but as I don’t I’m sitting here thinking that I do have to have a plan to transition my exercise and eating habits from summer to winter back home or else I’m going to hit a rough patch. I’m not a winter person so I know motivation is going to be hard and mentally I will be in a lower mood so this whole joi de vivre could be in jeopardy. I doubt I will suffer from post holiday blues as I am going to be so excited to be back with my kids. I’m not too good at this being without them I constantly feel like I’ve lost something.
Planning is key now and it’s crucial to spot those hurdles and prepare for them. I need to find ways to make as much as possible of any daylight we get in winter and soak up some sun when it shows itself even if that is whilst wearing thermals and a massive coat. I have one amazing thing to look forward to this winter…massive sweaters to snuggle down in. I kept a couple of my old ones and they are going to be so huge and awesomely oversized and I can’t wait to lose myself in them with a good pair of snuggly socks and pj bottoms. That is a luxury I have not had in a while…over sized anything.

But for now I’m enjoying what is left of our holiday, nursing a bit of a hungover man today, he over did it last night but bravely faced morning exercise and breakfast then sloped back off to bed. I need to teach him about moderation. Although it’s given me chance to Skype the kids and to do a bit of blogging and I even braved a few work emails to wear down the pile a bit.  I think I might get myself a huge glass of coconut milk and lie down in the sun and read for a while. Life is pretty sweet at the moment and I’m going to enjoy it but keep an eye on what’s ahead.