The New Normal

When this all began, there was so much talk about the strain on all of us. Everyone was talking about how we had to accept that our mental health might take a dip and a dive and that it was okay to feel anxious or down. No-one expected too much and we all filled our lives in any way we could. We took each day as it came.

Some people took to arts and crafts, baking or exercise. Others took up online courses and extra projects. Some just caught up on much needed sleep.

Now, life’s gradually returning to a new kind of normal and if you’re anything like me, you’re suddenly convinced you should somehow feel normal again yourself. Like it’s a switch we can flick on when life gets challenging and off again when things get better.

Here’s the thing – I still feel sad and tired, all the time. I’m missing my life before Covid-19, but I’m struggling to accept how far off a return to that exact way of life really is. I feel like stubborn teenager, sticking my heels in and adamantly waiting until things go precisely my way. I don’t want to settle for half-normal.

I’m looking at pictures of friends filling their diaries up with plans and getting out and about. I’m watching people at work throw themselves into planning for the next few months at home (because this working from home thing seems like it’s here to stay). I’m seeing people embrace the gradual relaxing of the rules and head back to beaches and shops. And I’m doing the most unhealthy thing I could do:

I’m directly comparing how I’m doing to how everyone else seems to be doing. I’m convincing myself that everyone else is fine and that I should be too. I feel like I should be full steam ahead back into work and socialising and my old routine and everything else that comes with it. It’s like I’ve decided Covid-19 isn’t a justifiable reason to feel ‘not quite right’ anymore.

Soon, I’ll probably find I do start making plans and accepting the new normal. I’ll ease into it over the next few weeks and before long, I’m sure I’ll start to feel myself embrace the way things have to be. But there’s no pressure or rush to do so – It’s only me putting that pressure on me. Which is no-doubt just making me more tired than I already am.

So, for anyone else who needs to hear it: It’s okay, to still not be okay. We’re still living through a global pandemic. And if anything, this strange return to a new kind of normal is likely to be the most mentally challenging part of the whole thing. Don’t put any additional pressure on yourself!

Breathe, cut yourself some slack and still feel free to take each day as it comes. You’ve got this.

Is it just me?

Or have things just got that little bit harder?

Honestly? I caught myself thinking really negatively when looking at myself in the mirror this morning and it was that which turned my thoughts to the idea of blogging again. I have seen a few social media posts dedicated to positive body image, but the majority of stuff I’m seeing online suggests that I should be running and doing yoga and that my tummy should look better than ever right now.

In fact, my tummy is growing, because of all the time spent indoors. I don’t think I’m eating particularly unhealthily, but I’m definitely not getting as much exercise as I usually would.  My skin is clearer, because I’m not wearing makeup and I’ve caught a bit of a tan from time spent out in the sunshine, but all I can see when I look in the mirror is my chunkier waist line and the rolls under my, now tighter, jeans.

I refuse to feel sucky about it anymore and I hope if you’re reading this and empathising then you can start being a little less hard on yourself from here on in too. Yes, I really do want to try doing some yoga with Adrienne and some virtual workouts, but the truth of the matter is that, right now just getting to the supermarket feels like a challenge.

(I told myself that I’d get our essential grocery shop done today, but not only do I feel terrified at the thought of facing the outside world, but my car won’t start either.)

As well as working out, there are lots of things I need to do that I know for a fact would make me feel better: The bathroom needs a clean again, we have piles of clean clothes to put away, the whole house needs a good hoover. But I simply can’t seem to kick myself into action.

On top of feeling bad about that, I wake up every morning in a panic about who I need to check in with. I realised this morning that I haven’t spoken to my brother or sister in ages now and that it is one of my best friend’s birthdays today, but that I haven’t spoken to him since this all started. I am so ridiculously grateful for all of my wonderful family and friends, but I’m finding it hard, because I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I’ve checked in with everyone enough.

And then on top of all of that, I feel super guilty for feeling so down and being so lazy when I think of all of the brave key workers out there facing this whole situation head on, many of them separated from family and friends, without time to even consider yoga or hoovering.

Writing ‘I just don’t feel right’ was so rewarding and I’m glad I decided to write again. This post has helped in a different kind of way. Here’s hoping someone in the same boat feels better for reading it too. Somehow writing it all out like that has left me finally feeling like today is doable.

I’ll ask Dave to take me to the shop, but I still want to do it myself because conquering that fear can only be a good thing. And I’ll stop with the negativity. Hey! Maybe I’ll even put some clean clothes away.

I just don’t feel right

This will be my third try at a blog post. I’ve been trying and failing to write over the last few weeks: I had this grand idea that I’d start writing daily throughout this global pandemic. I was going to call the chapter ‘A blog a day to keep the blues at bay‘. But every time I put pen to paper (or started typing, but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as romantic does it?) I was unhappy with what came out.

I guess I wanted to try and write truthfully about how this time is making me feel, to get it off my own chest, but also in the hope that it might help someone somewhere to read that this time’s got us all feeling a bit out of sorts. If you’re feeling odd and mentally vulnerable, you’re not alone, I promise.

But whenever I tried writing I found myself trying too hard to cover all bases: To reiterate that I know there are people who this pandemic is affecting in worse ways than I can even imagine and that I know how lucky I am. And I am lucky. I’m so grateful for this beautiful, safe house and garden and the fact I can work from home and that my work is so fulfilling and that I have amazing family and friends…

I just don’t feel quite myself. My shoulders are constantly tense and my jaw too. I find myself sighing all the time and every day just feels like a bit of an uphill struggle. I’m trying so hard to be positive, but I just feel a bit down in the dumps.

I miss myself. All this time indoors is giving me heaps of thinking time and that’s what I’ve realised. I’m missing old me. I keep thinking that a younger, ‘funner’ Bronwen would have done better in this situation.

But I’m always looking back and always wanting to go back to being the person I was and today the penny has finally dropped: Looking backwards isn’t doing me any good…

When I was at university, I missed the care-free girl I left behind in Chelmsford, who loved her high school boyfriend to pieces and spent all her time singing. Nowadays, I miss University me, who wrote fun blogs and could stay up late and was more up for a good time. I bet some day, I’ll miss this me. Whoever this me is. And I’ll kick myself for all the time I spent dwelling on how a previous version of myself would have handled things. 

Yes, I’m more tired nowadays and a bit more careful, but I don’t worry any less that’s for sure. I can try and tell myself that I used to be care-free all I want, but really I’ve always been a worrier.

And so I guess it’s no wonder Covid-19 has got me feeling a bit iffy. If anything, I’d expect to be less calm than I am. I’m still getting up every day, showering, brushing my teeth and getting dressed. I’m still eating plenty and getting out for walks and staying in touch with family and friends.

Let’s cut ourselves some slack during this time. It’s so hard when we’re constantly exposed to perfect images of how everyone else is handing things, but I for one need to remember that I’m doing okay doing what I’m doing. There is no right way to deal with a worldwide pandemic, we’re all figuring this out one day at a time. AND I’m just Bronwen. Not past Bronwen, not present Bronwen, not future Bronwen, just me. Still me… Just a little older and maybe actually a little wiser too?

Week Fifty-Two

As after most Christmases, the arm of the chair that I am sat in is piled high with books: The new 2020 diary I got for Christmas, Fearne Cotton’s ‘Calm’, Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (I’m on chapter 8 and loving every second), and a very thick pad titled ‘642 things to write about’ (which I cannot wait to start working my way through). The Christmas tree is twinkling away next to me and the TV is on. Three different cooking shows have been on in the time I’ve been curled up here and I am now very hungry for something yummy.

Since starting my new job at the beginning of December, life’s been a little chaotic, very stressful and also all kinds of exciting. (The lead up to Christmas was as magical as ever and although I’m nervous about my new role, I am also very excited to get stuck in.) I am so relieved to have made it into Chrimbo Limbo.

I could spend hours reflecting on 2019. I wish I could have been more prepared for everything the last year would throw my way. I spent a year in which I resolved to try and worry less and remember that these will be the good old days, worrying too much and carrying the weight of the world around with me. At the risk of sounding super gloomy, I was tired a lot and stressed a lot and sad a lot, even at times when I would have expected to feel most happy.

But I’m grateful for all the great memories I have too. Paris in the winter, Soho with one of my best friends, a trip back to the 1920s for a night in Cardiff, a holiday in Kefalonia and an escape to Happy Place Festival. Performances with the band and a move into a new home. A visit to Casino Royale and many a laugh at Tim Minchin live.

And I am looking forward to 2020. It’s strange, but I almost feel like a year full of so much worry has led to me finally feeling like I am capable of worrying less. This year, big stuff came our way and for once in my life, the majority of my anxiety was actually rational; the butterflies made sense.

Now, I feel like I might be more determined than ever before, not to let the small stuff stress me out.

I’m taking 2020 as it comes. I’m expecting a year much like this one, except this time I feel much better prepared. Ups and downs are a way of life and it’s like I’ve learned to surf the waves finally. Or I hope I have. Now, that’s a very Bronwen-esque metaphor if ever there was one and I guess that’s a wrap on Chapter Five. 52 weeks, one year and a whole load more life lessons learned.

Be back soon.

Week Twenty

It’s late in the day for a blog post, I know. As the weekend comes to an end, I’m feeling particularly melancholy and blogging always makes me feel chirpier, so here we are.

It feels like Sunday evening came around very quickly. It feels like only a few minutes ago, I was rolling out of bed (post- eurovision lie in was a necessity) and getting to work spring cleaning with Dave. The flat needed a good tidy and we rewarded ourselves with a lovely lunch out, so it’s been a good day all in all. I just can’t believe it’s nearly over.

I suppose, there’s still time. Time to get a real wriggle on with the studying. Time to chill and have dinner. Time to curl up with a movie and probably fall asleep in the middle of it.

Week twenty was a great week, if only because we were back to routine and that’s always a bit of a relief after a hectic few weeks in a row. That and the fact that the weather has been so beautiful!

This week I felt a little more on top of everything on the work front. Bank holidays are great, but I’d only just really caught up at work after Easter and then May came around and threw me off track again.  I needed this full five day week to get back on track. I had a very productive and equally lovely working from home day: I spent it working out on the balcony and cooked turkey dinosaurs at lunch time.

In other news, I started reading Adam Kay’s ‘This is going to hurt’ this week and I’m flying through it! I’ve a feeling it’s going to be a full 5 stars from me! The book is hilarious, but also eye-opening. Reading it is so enjoyable, but at the same time so frustrating. Basically, the book contains lots of Adam Kay’s diary entries from when he was a junior doctor. He helpfully translates the medical language and he’s brutally honest. It’s terrifying actually, to hear about the challenges our NHS staff face every day and the lengths they are pushed to. When reading it on the tubes, I felt like getting everyone’s attention and reading extracts out loud to the carriage just to raise more awareness.

I saw two of my best friends and caught up with my sister this week too. A good week is a week that contains multiple catch ups over food and drink…

My sister and I went for dinner on Thursday, which was lovely as ever.

Friday night was spent at Las Iguanas with one of the friends, numerous cocktails and tapas. She brought me the loveliest necklace for my birthday (which happens to be on Wednesday… And I’m going to be 25… EEK!) and we had a wonderful time catching up on life.

Yesterday, I drove to Salisbury to see the other friend. Escaping London was the absolute bestest. It took me ages to get past Heathrow and out the other side, but once I was away from the motorways and off onto the A roads in Wiltshire, I immediately felt happier. I whizzed down the roads, fields for miles on either side of me, until I reached her lovely flat. I was so happy to see her: It’d been way too long! We got a really yummy lunch in town and then did some shopping. I’m relieved to say that I successfully purchased my costume for my birthday party next week…

I can’t quite believe I’m going to be 25! I feel like this is it. This is the best age to be. I’d quite happily pause here for a bit. Determined to celebrate this year. For a few years in a row, I’ve not really made a thing of my birthday. I’m a stressy host anyway and getting everyone together always feels like a huge ordeal. A huge ordeal, that I will have undertaken by the time next Sunday comes around! I’m getting all my friends together this year, for a fancy dress party. Everyone’s coming as something beginning with ‘B’ and so far, I’m more excited than nervous. I just hope everyone has a great time and I can get my 26th year off to a strong start. Absolutely no stressing about hosting allowed. See you on the other side!

Week Nineteen

I should really be studying.

I’ve just collapsed this weekend. I’ve had no plans at all and usually I’d be hating life. Sitting doing nothing would be giving me way too much time to think on things and I’d be going stir crazy faster than you can say supercalifragilisticexpialidoscious. This weekend I clearly just needed to shut down; I’ve done nothing and for once in my life I’ve actually kinda enjoyed it.

I’m not surprised considering how manic the last few months have been!

The last few weeks have been the good kinda crazy:

Game of Thrones is back and Monday nights are a whole load more exciting as a result (I don’t care what any of you fake fans say about how disappointing it’s been… they have a plan! And come the end of this season, you’ll all be eating your words. The biggest shocks and horrors are yet to come)

A couple of weekends ago, I went around London walking in the footsteps of 21 amazing women, inspired by Jenni Murray’s ‘A History of Britain in 21 Women’ – a book I’d highly recommend. I went with one of my bestest friends and we had to battle wind and pollen to get around, but we made it through. I’m so glad we did it. It made for a really lovely day and in a way, it felt like we paid our own little tribute to each and every one of them.

On the topic of recommendations, last weekend I saw Waitress in the theatre and it was amazing. It’s a comedy, but it deals with some really serious issues. The content is handled very sensitively and cleverly and it’s powerful. The music is incredible. Take tissues. Because you’ll laugh so hard you’ll cry and then you’ll just cry too.

I also recommend ‘Bounce’ in Farringdon. I went there for the first time last weekend with one of my besties and some of her friends and it was so much fun! It’s a ping-pong bar, for those who don’t know. The tables are interactive and allow you to play all kinds of games as well as standard table tennis. We went on a Saturday night and the music was FAB. And the nachos were good too.

Dave and I also had our first bbq of the year with some lovely friends of ours who just moved up to Manchester! I always feel like the first BBQ of the year is of extremely high importance. It signifies the start of all things summery. It was a little chilly out and we didn’t last sat outside for long, but it was SO GOOD to be eating burgers and hot dogs, outside, off of paper plates, all the same.

I can hardly believe where the time is going. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that either. Nearly every person I speak to can’t believe it’s May already. YES IT IS MAY ALREADY. And nearly all of my friends seem to be living lives just as manic, if not more manic than mine is. Since when were there simply not enough hours in any of our days?

I’m not complaining. I’m happy for us. We’re all living our twenties to the max and that’s the way it should be! I’m just relieved that the evenings are lighter for the moment. We need all the daylight time we can get.

Week Fourteen

Hoorayyy. As week fourteen draws to a close I cannot help smiling. I’m off to see my Dad and my sister as soon as I’ve hit publish and I’m so looking forward to a roast dinner.

It’s been a busy few weeks and I’ve made so many amazing memories. In the true spirit of chapter five, I’ve chucked myself head first into everything!

Since I last wrote, I’ve been to see George Ezra at the O2. HE WAS AMAZING. I’ve been to a 1920s themed Speakeasy Festival in a big old house in Cardiff and then literally walked down memory lane, towards the city centre, bare foot, with my heels in my hands. I went along to see one of my best friends perform with her fabulous Technicolor choir and enjoyed a good boogie with her and the choir afterwards. I’ve had numerous pub lunches and dinner dates (my favourite things). I went along to a uni friend’s hen do and partied two nights in a row. TWO NIGHTS IN A ROW I TELL YOU. (And I was exhausted come Sunday… how my 18 year old self ever coped with freshers I will never know.)

Most of these things were in the diary and in the approach to all this craziness I felt apprehensive. I wasn’t certain I was in the right frame of mind. There’s still lots going on that I can’t share with you all and I’m still spending a lot of time feeling the impact of it all. I’m so glad I pushed through though. I could easily have opted for a night in my PJs or a day with my head in a book. But as much as I love nights in and book worm days, sometimes getting out of the house and spending time making brilliant memories with amazing friends is what’s going to get you through.

These few weeks have been about me remembering that you can allow yourself to get out and enjoy yourself, without feeling guilty for ignoring the stuff you’re feeling sad about. In fact, it’s really important to compartmentalise. We all need to remember that. Being able to go out and enjoy yourself doesn’t mean you don’t care enough: You’re not ignoring things, you’re just putting them to the back of your mind when you need to. Because parts of your life can be fantastic while others fall apart. That’s just how it goes. And if you try to feel everything, all the time, sooner or later you’ll explode.

Another year older

I’M FEELIN’ 24.

And ‘what does 24 feel like?’ you might ask. Well, I guess I actually do feel a little older.

If I really think about it, I realise that even in the last week or so I’ve done many things a younger me would have been too scared to do. Silly things like carrying birthday cake on the tube and sorting my cars MOT out, to important things like representing my team at a work event and going on a hen do weekend without freaking out. And yes, the prospect of having to carry a birthday cake on the tube would have been absolutely terrifying to me a couple of years ago: I would have gone over and over all the ways in which carrying birthday cake could lead to disaster and probably decided I best not take the risk.

WHAT IF I WERE TO DROP IT, FALL FACE FIRST INTO IT AND SPEND THE DAY COVERED IN CHOCOLATE?

WHAT IF I GOT FUNNY LOOKS OFF FELLOW PASSENGERS?

WHAT IF I GOT ATTACKED BY HUNGRY PIGEONS?

Oh, how far I’ve come.

In some ways, I’ve barely grown up at all. I still can’t wear high heels. I’m currently listening to Avril Lavigne’s Goodbye Lullaby on vinyl. I still don’t like gin and tonic. I’m still terrified of spiders. I’ve never used an iron in my life. I still hate cooking chicken. I still hate cooking full stop.

Anyhoo, in case you can’t tell, my birthday has left me feeling reflective and reminiscent (oh my, how time is flying by). It’s also left me feeling very loved and extremely grateful. A massive thank you to everyone who posted on facebook, sent cards, celebrated with me and helped to make it so special.

The celebrations started with some awesome work colleagues and wayyy too much prosecco. I also went out for a lovely lunch with my family. I highly recommend Cote Brasserie in Chelmsford if you’re ever over that way… Superb service, lovely food and a free bottle of champagne to say Happy Birthday! My sister came into London to meet me on my lunch break on the actual day and we spent a really lovely hour up in the Sky Garden. I went for a wonderful dinner with some girl friends later in the week. AND some time soon Dave and I are going to be climbing the O2 in London which is admittedly a little nerve-racking, but VERY exciting too.

We had another bank holiday this week and I’m oh so glad. The hen do was absolutely amazing and if I’d had to go back to work on Monday I’d have been super mopey.

Instead I spent Monday sat in a park with a lovely friend I hadn’t seen in OVER THREE YEARS, in beautiful sunshine, eating ice cream and sipping coke.

When I woke up for work yesterday morning I was super sleepy. However, once I’d sat at my desk and had a cuppa, I must say I felt pretty refreshed and I’m actually quite happy to be getting stuck in again.

This Friday night I think Dave and I might finally go see Avengers: Infinity War. Saturday I’m looking forward to catching up on life admin and giving the bathroom a proper clean (see! That’s something I’d have never said two years ago). Sunday I’ll be seeing the family again, which will be lovely jubbly.

Going into my 25th year thinking, life’s not too shabby. Not too shabby at all. In a way I think I’ll never leave my younger self behind, not really. I’m always going to love Harry Potter and Disney in general. I’m always going to love cocktails and prosecco and a good boogie. And I don’t think I’ll ever really like cooking. I guess that’s where that saying comes from. The one that says you’re as young as you feel. TOO RIGHT.

To infinity and beyond

Drinking tea and hoping that with tea comes much blogspiration because I’ve no idea where to start.

If you’re a close friend of mine I’ve probably had a rant or a grumble at you this week. Its been one of them weeks. I’ve oozed negativity. So much so, when it came to yoga on Wednesday I was excited as ever, but just couldn’t get into it. I spent the whole class feeling awkward and tense. You’ll hopefully be glad to hear, that right now I’m feeling chirpy and wondering what on Earth I’ve had to moan about.

The highlight of this week has to have been my afternoon spent in London’s Sky Garden.

That’s where things started to take a turn for the better. I highly recommend a visit. It’s free of charge for starters! They advise that you book in advance to skip the queues, that’s all. London looks so beautiful from up there. It doesn’t take much to bring out the cheese ball in me and being up there definitely did. Looking out at St Paul’s through the massive glass windows I felt all gooey and happy and grateful. I remember when working in London was something I dreamed about and now, it’s my every day. Eek!

I spent Friday night celebrating a friend’s birthday at Dinerama, Shoreditch. I highly recommend a visit to Dinerama too. It was AWESOME. Converted to suit winter with a ceiling and walls and heaters, this collection of street food stands and pop up bars catered for everyone. Music, food, drink and lots of friends made for a fab atmosphere and a super chilled, very fun evening.

I guess I have to admit that it is probably no coincidence that my new found positivity arrives just after Dave and I spent a whole day together yesterday for the first time in a long time. I’ve sat in enough counselling sessions to know that your happiness should never be dependent on the presence of another human being and I’d like to think I’d have turned things around anyway, but yesterday just helped… A lot. And hey! As I get older I believe more and more that most of time, the best advise any one can give you is that you should just cut yourself some slack. If you need someone else or to be somewhere else just for a little while, to make yourself feel strong again, then sometimes you just gotta embrace it.

Until further notice

I’m the happiest of Bronwens today. Autumn simply is the second most wonderful time of year (Christmas being the most wonderful time of the year, of course) and I’m so happy it is here.

What’s not to love? Good TV. Jumper weather. Beautiful crisp colourful leaves. Monthly reasons to get together with friends and family and have a good time in the form of Halloween and Bonfire night and Christmas (oops I said it again). Yes, it’s too soon to talk about Christmas, I know, but we all know that really that build up starts here. HOW EXCITING!

Time is flying by. I can barely remember what happened two days ago, let alone what happened in the time since I last wrote so bear with me.

Tuesday night just gone, Dave and I went to see Foo Fighters at the O2 and it was unforgettable! My goodness what a night. If I didn’t already think they were an incredible band, I do now. They are mind blowing. They all have such presence! They’re all so talented and they’re innovative too. They’re growing all the time. They’re concert was the perfect mix of old and new and even featured Rick Astley! In the flesh. Singing ‘Never gonna give you up’. No word of a lie.

Work is great. Absolutely love it, but love to hate it too. Love to hate it first thing on a Monday morning and during the 2-3pm daily slump.

In fact, speaking of work, I helped out at a couple of Alzheimer’s Society’s memory walks this month and I’m so glad I did. I was so overwhelmed. I attended the Watford walk first. The event site was at the bottom of a hill and we’d barely finished setting up before people started emerging over the top in blue memory walk t-shirt after t-shirt. They all looked amazing and even more so when they eventually headed off on the walk itself. I had a lump in my throat for the duration of both events. So many people and each one there for the same incredible cause and all with names and pictures on their back. All remembering someone. It was simply amazing.

Today I have no plans and it is glorious. I do not remember the last time I had no plans. I’m making the most of it. I’ve had a lay-in. I had a pinterest binge. I’ve painted my nails. I’ve had a cooked breakfast. I’m blogging. I’m calm and balanced and happy and all things bright and beautiful.

Now, big news. I’ve had an epiphany and I’ve got a kind of a plan for the future, dare I say it.

Leaving my parents’ home and moving out. Moving away from my home town and starting a new job. It did all throw me off balance just a little bit. I’ve been tumbling through. And, hey! I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with tumbling through, but for the first time in my twenties so far, I kind of know where I’m going. Or where I want to go. I think. And it feels FAB.

The wonderful thing is that for now, I think that for starters, I wanna stay exactly where I am. I’ve always been a floater, thrived off change. I get bored quickly, but as much as the change does good things for the part of me that is always seeking the new and exciting, each and every change drives the butterflies in my tummy into flutters.

I feel very lucky to be where I am right now and I know that with enough determination, I can get to where I want to be, starting from right here. I don’t need to jump head first into another deep sea full of unknowns and drag my mental health down again with me.

For a little while I’m just doing more of the same. And I’m so excited for all of the joys staying put will bring.

After that? These lips are sealed I’m afraid. Until further notice.