Please Santa, let me get fit enough to run on Xmas morning!
Now that we’re into December – and sort of out of lockdown – ’tis the season when Christmas preparations crank into overdrive.
Here in London, people have gone for it early – putting up their trees and outdoor decorations last weekend, when of course we were still in November.
Christmas purists like my wife (who believes that no bauble ought to go up before December and every pine needle should be gone by Twelfth Night) might look slightly askance. But no-one seriously wants to stop people from squeezing all the light and joy they can out of this bleak time – except maybe the Government.
If you’re feeling blue, you could do worse than get on a bike
I FELT that I had to cycle yesterday morning: even though I was tired from riding the day before, and my bad knee was sore. Even though it was 9.30am on Monday and I ought to be working.
I was feeling moderately bad, mentally. The excitement of my birthday week and the weekend that followed it had dissipated and left me with a bad case of the Monday blues.
There’s something about the mess of a Monday – Sunday’s unwashed dishes, the pile of washing in the basket, unread emails piling up in my inbox all weekend – that unmans me, and makes me want to run away from my life.
I caught myself ruminating that maybe now that I’d reached 55, I should stop there and end it all because I’d reached the end of my usefulness. I thought about how my brother and I don’t talk and how it was probably my fault…
Then, just after I set off, I saw a pensioner and told myself: “You live like a pensioner. You don’t have the energy or the discipline to live a full life. All you’re fit for is staying at home and pottering around until you die.”
As I said, I wasn’t having a great day. But the longer I cycled, the more forgiving of myself I became.
I spent my birthday cycling across London in the rain, so I could cycle up a hill in the rain
IN THIS CORONAVIRUS year, I’m particularly ticked off with my parents for giving me a November birthday.
Trying to party in November is as daunting as entertaining young children in the dreaded February half term: for starters, the days are short and dark, and everybody’s mildly depressed from lack of Vitamin D.
It’s cold and wet, the leaves are off the trees and slushing up the pavements, and no-one can bear it outside for long. So, unless you want to hunker down for hours in a pricey café, or brave the insane crowds at the free museums and art galleries, you’re fucked.
But at least in February, we have the option of paying through the nose for our fun. This lockdown November – with no pubs or restaurants, cinemas or museums, shops or art galleries to celebrate in – I began to worry that it might be my worst birthday ever.
Back in the day, we would have got by very nicely on smoked salmon, bagels, fizzy wine and a day spent entirely in bed. But I’m 55 now, not 25 and – anyway – the kids are here, working from home.
So I threw my leg over the bike, instead. I spent my birthday riding across London in the rain, so I could ride up a hill in the rain.
I’ve felt blue throughout my life, but self-acceptance and good habits can help
I WOKE UP at four this morning and had trouble getting back to sleep.
I just couldn’t stop my brain from worrying – and all my usual fixes, my equivalents of counting sheep, weren’t helping.
So I tried to settle myself down by thinking about good things – any good thing, like the well-received meal I’d made a few hours before… or about how I was approaching another anniversary of coming off antidepressants.
I don’t go big on the MAMIL look, but autumn runs aren’t perfect without my tights
I reckon that there’s a lot not to like about autumn.
There are lots of little things to loathe, instead: like having to switch from drying clothes ecologically on the line to radiators, or an energy-guzzling, tumble dryer.*
Bath towels and shower mats no longer dry themselves magically; you’re waking up in the dark again and then – one suddenly pitch-black October evening – discovering that all the light bulbs you didn’t use throughout the summer are nevertheless not working.
But there’s one thing I love about autumn: braving the cold and wet, with my running tights on.
Running is The Dogs when it comes to Mindfulness, IMHO
In my day job, I’ve been writing a lot about Mindfulness lately.
Now that we’re all preparing for a second, six-month lockdown – panic-booking Ocado slots, stockpiling the Cushelle before it goes back on the ration – it’s understandable that we’re also after some mental reinforcement to see us sanely through the dark days ahead.
So, having exhausted my usual array of mental sandbags on the first surge, I’ve gone back to Mindfulness after a break of almost three years.
I’ve dusted down the old Guided Meditation CD, sat in the same chair with my eyes closed and assumed the familiar pose, supposedly embodying a sense of strength and curiosity.
I spent 20 minutes noticing my breathing and the noises around me, trying to sit quietly with any troubling thoughts that popped into my head.
And it was all right. In fact, it was much the same as it was when I last gave it up: at least I was doing something to combat stress and getting a bit of restful ‘me’ time’.
But one of the thoughts that did occur to me was: “This isn’t as good as running.”