You Only Ride Twice

Finding it hard to sleep? Imagine being back on your bike…

Original image: Rudy and Peter Skitterians/Pixabay

SINCE I TURNED 40, and started getting up at least once a night to visit the bathroom, I’ve found it increasingly tough to get back to sleep in the small hours.

As well as my glitchy personal plumbing, work and life stresses gradually helped me to perfect the art of waking up at about 4am, and then failing to drop off again.

Typically, I’d spend a couple of hours a night lying awake with my worst, most useless, thoughts – about someone horrible at work, for example, or being mean to an ex-girlfriend 20 years before.

And then, when I finally gave up on the prospect of sleep at around 6.30, I’d get up to start another day – gloomy and totally keyed up, as well as just fucking tired.

Lately, however, I’ve stumbled upon an unexpected solution to my insomnia. 

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How To Flip A Heavy Day Like A Judo Throw

Surprisingly, happiness lies in a blast of adverse weather

Original image: giografiche/Pixabay

TODAY WAS THE SORT of January day we all dread – cold and grey, with north winds driving tiny needles of sleety rain hard into your face.

We don’t have the world’s harshest weather here in the north temperate zone but – trust me – today was horrible enough.

When you threw in the post-Christmas comedown, worrying rates of Covid infections, and the Government announcing another six-weeks of lockdown, it added up to the perfect excuse for just sitting around and feeling fed up.

Which is precisely why I went outside…

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They Can Cancel Our Christmas, But They Can’t Stop The Solstice!

It’s the shortest day today, which always means there’s light after the darkness  

Original images: Kira auf der Heide/Unsplash and Mike Peel/Wikimedia Commons

THERE’S BEEN a lorra lorra gnashing and wailing in the UK this week, after the Government did yet another U-turn and cancelled Christmas.

Faced with a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in London and the south east of England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned Christmas travel to and from the capital – and restricted festive visiting nationwide to December 25.

While no-one is arguing much with the need for stricter measures, pretty much everybody thinks the timing of Johnson’s announcement stinks.

Just days earlier, he had said it would be “inhuman” to deny Brits a proper Christmas after nine months of worry, sacrifice and hardship.  

Yet the announcement did precisely that, coming just as millions were putting presents under the tree for relatives who now won’t be able to open them – and buying Christmas treats that now can’t be shared with loved ones.

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All I Want For Christmas Is A Two Mile Run

Please Santa, let me get fit enough to run on Xmas morning!

Original image: Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

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.  

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Give Us Hills, Not Pills

If you’re feeling blue, you could do worse than get on a bike

Original image: Keith Johnson/Pixabay

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.

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Riding It Out

As I approach a dreaded birthday in lockdown, my bike has become my only solace

I’m turning 55 this week, which seems like a terrible birthday.

In marketing terms, I’ll no longer belong in the company of anyone who’s still in their early 50s, and I’m dead to hip young 45-year-olds. 

Also according to the people who sell us things, I’m now likely to think, buy and do the same stuff as someone who’s 64.

By my own reckoning, turning 55 means that I truly am moving from middle age to old age – but without the wisdom and perspective to appreciate getting older.

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Crock Down In Lockdown

I’ve injured my knee, but can a pact with a strange God get me running again?

Original image: Linus Schutz/Pixabay

YEARS AGO, when the alternative medicine Reiki was in vogue, a friend started telling us during dinner what an utter con she thought it was.

Then, suddenly, she began to choke on her food, gasping for breath and flailing her arms for what seemed a terrifyingly long time.

And just as we were getting panicked enough to make with the Heimlich Manoeuvre, she recovered.

“I’ve offended the great god Reiki!” were the first words she spluttered, back in the Land of the Living. “I promise I’ll never say another word against it again!”

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‘It’s just part of you’ – what I’ve learned about living with chronic depression

I’ve felt blue throughout my life, but self-acceptance and good habits can help

Image: Gerd Altmann/Pixabay

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.

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You Want Mindfulness? Go Running!

Running is The Dogs when it comes to Mindfulness, IMHO

Original image: skeeze/Pixabay

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.”

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44 Pages Of Therapy Gold

I’ve only read a quarter of When Things Fall Apart, but it’s changed my life already

It’s a bit of a swizz, this post, because it’s based on a book I’ve only read a quarter of – and probably understood even less.

But I’m so excited by the ideas I’ve found in it already, I couldn’t wait to talk about them.

The book I’m taking about is When Things Fall Apart (Heart Advice For Difficult Times) by the American Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron, which was recommended recently by Matt Haig in The Guardian.

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