Ho ho ho little Christmas elves…it’s been a while since I’ve put on my crown and written here. A friend told me my blog was missed, which is always nice to hear, so I’ve popped it on briefly to update on my doings and spread some of my Queenly benevolence on the season.
So why the absence? A number of reasons really. Part of it was, that of the subjects I usually write about, there just seemed to be more and more stuff to get incensed about: sexism in all its grisly forms and epitomised by Trump, the madness of Brexit and the social and political turmoil that has followed, deaths of much loved people left, right and centre. Not to mention all the wars, terror and escalating refugee crisis. It’s just been one of those years…we’re all feeling it. By the time we got to autumn, it was all just a bit overwhelming and gloomy.
For me, it felt that writing about all the madness that’s been going on wasn’t going to help me this time. It was escape I was seeking, not more clarity. Or more post-truth. I wanted to stop being in my head too much, analysing everything and thinking about stuff that made me angry. And I was busy: work, parenting, travel, seeing friends, dancing…when I was at home, it was downtime.
On top of that, I had a health worry that culminated in a mammogram. Luckily, all was well; my boobs are a bit 40-something bobbly but not unhealthy, thank fuck. And the doctors did not make me feel bad, on the contrary they encouraged me to always get checked. But thinking about all that caused low level anxiety and for a while I lost my writing mojo.
However, I didn’t get completely down. The things above that kept me busy, kept me sane. When I was at home, I didn’t lie around watching TV so much, rather I read constantly, which is probably the best thing to do if not writing. I devoured novels, poetry and travel writing. There were a few books about tango in there too. And aside from hugs from the wee boy (which is the best medicine in the world), two things deserve special mention in stopping my shoulders collapsing from the weight of things.
Firstly, tango. It’s hard to conceive how much tango has changed my life this year – unless you sit next to me at work and have been subjected to my discussions of shoes, dresses, dances, etiquette and tango men. It’s now been a year of dancing, and I go twice a week when I can. I’ve gone from the stomach clenching fear that no-one will ever dance with me, to having enough confidence to give a polite no thank you to people I don’t enjoy dancing with.
It’s not just the social dancing. I practice walking at home, I listen to the music and even started learning Spanish on a brilliant wee phone app called Duolingo (which I recommend as a great way to pick up a language and keep your brain active) – mainly so I can understand the songs. I still can’t understand them, but they appear to be mainly about doomed love or how they are tormented by life in Buenos Aires. I’ve started learning German too, in anticipation of further trips to Berlin for dancing. Much like a boyfriend of my youth who only wanted to go on holiday to countries where you could smoke weed, I want to go to places where I can slip away for a tango at some point.
Luckily for me, that’s most cities around the world. Which is another way it has changed my life – as I am lucky enough to have free time, I can now pick up a cheap flight and go off alone for a couple of days, knowing that if I want to be sociable, I can walk into a milonga and hear that familiar sound of the swooshing of feet on the floor and find people who have the same love as I do for dancing.
So it’s a mild obsession, but a healthy one I think. You’re moving about and getting sweaty and you don’t really drink alcohol at tango: being drunk does not make for nice dancing. And even if I am obsessed, I don’t really care. There will be more dancing in 2017, including a beginner leader’s class. The women of Glasgow will not be safe…
The other thing that has made an impact is reading an e-book called Mad Diet. It’s written by a woman who has worked extensively in the food industry and who has also spent much of her adult life overweight, and sometimes depressed. The book is not really a diet book as such, it’s about the impact of our Western diet on our physical and mental health, the food and pharma industry, and what to do heal ourselves.
Her knowledge and tales of experiences in the food industry will make you angry. Yes, its stuff you kind of know, if you took the time to read about it, but to see it exposed in the one place in such an easy to read way, makes your blood boil. You can sum up that part of the book succinctly as thus: the big, global food and pharma companies do not give a fuck about us and are quite happy to poison us as long as they make a huge profit. The other important thing is that due to intensive farming, the soil does not provide the same level of nutrients as it once did, even with organic fruit and vegetables.
Her argument is that the body is a complex machine that needs fuelled by the vitamins, minerals etc that we get from food. If we don’t get that, we become sick, fat, and mentally unwell. Serotonin is mainly produced from the gut, yet we take pills to restore it instead of eating better. She recommends that you get tested for deficiencies by your doctor, or you could just chance it and try the four main supplements she says most western adults are deficient in, which is what I decided to do. I figured the worst that would happen would be nothing, so why not?
The four things that we are likely to be lacking in (and which we need for good physical and mental well being and strength) are: magnesium, the vitamin B complex, omega 3 fish oil and probiotics. All of these are inexpensive as tablets or capsules: about £8 for the lot for a month. And the rest of the book is telling us where we get the good stuff in food, and telling us not to eat processed food.
Of course most of us do a bit, especially when we have busy lives and are tired in the evenings. But I’ve been trying to avoid it or scrutinise the labels on food much more closely. I’m now six weeks in with the supplements and I do feel a difference. I had a horrible lurgy a few weeks ago, but it cleared up much faster than it normally would and faster than it did in others. Neither have I felt that sudden flash of low mood that can attack you like a blade. And best of all, it’s keeping me from piling on weight just now.
The weight loss has stalled a bit, due to the festive season beginning sometime in late November. I lost eighteen pounds and have about the same again to go, but I’m going with the seasonal flow and just trying not to put any on until January, when I will be a bit healthier again. Somehow I’m convinced these supplements are responsible for not having put on about half a stone in the last few weeks. Maybe it’s a placebo, but again, I don’t care. Especially as I’ve now allowed myself some Christmas bad behaviour: I had a coffee and some mini stollen for breakfast today.
So there you have it, maybe something to read and try if you feel that way yourself. Especially the tango!
Despite all the cries that of people wanting this year to be over, I don’t expect 2017 to bring any great relief. Things seem likely to get worse before they get better, but they WILL get better. And in the meantime, it makes sense to keep ourselves well and strong and aye ready. Do what we can to change things and keep on finding our joy.
Talking of joy, I’ll leave you with a bit of Abba. I will undoubtedly be indulging in a bit of Abba dancing over the holiday.
Until next year,