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New Year, same me

(Content note: depression, exercise talk)

So, the brain crap didn't kill me. I'm not convinced it made me stronger either. (SUCK IT NIETZSCHE) It did make me go and blog elsewhere for a bit, and then I didn't blog anywhere because I was too busy Doing Stuff.

I managed some of the goals I set this time last year. I didn't manage all of them. I did survive a big eff-off attack of my brain trying to immobilise me at best and kill me at worst, so there's that. I have one more publication than I did then, and another revise and resubmit to address.

I don't really make New Year resolutions these days. So much can change in a year that trying to plan that far ahead is pointless. I don't know where I'll be living or working by this time in 2016, for example. But I do like the idea of January as a time to reboot the good stuff and think of ways to curb the bad stuff.

I know, for example, that I need to be more proactive on the work front. Apply for more jobs, send CVs out, get more of a push on with trying to publish articles. (I can't predict how any specific one will be received, but I can write them more efficiently) When inspiration hits, I need to get something written up. If no inspiration hits, I need to kick my arse to resurrect older projects that may still have potential.

And fitness, well, even in the depths of a brain crap invasion I'm still a bit happier if I am out and exercising, so I need to do as much of that as I have time and spoons for. I have established favourites at this point, but there are so many other things I want to try. I'm signed up for an aerial yoga class next week. There are zumba classes local to me (for the time being) and various things at the university sports centre. (Many of these were members only last year, but there seems to be a payg option now and everything is free during exams) I want to make it to more stretch and flex classes, because lack of bendiness is a major problem for the other things I do. I want to make one class a week the default and two or three something I do when I have more time (as opposed to zero as default and one as something I do when I have time). I'm aiming to go to a few over the next couple of weeks to help me not lose my shit while marking.

On the food front, I have a decent healthy eating plan for the first few weeks of the year. Even if we don't stick to it, at least we'll get the benefits during that time.

Unfuckening is one thing I managed a fair bit of with depression, so there's a limit to how fuckened anywhere has become. Short term, I need to sort out the area by the side of my bed and the food prep surface in the kitchen. Medium term, efforts will need to be (once again) focused on getting ready to move house. It will be less stressful than the Great Move of 2014, and hopefully I can be in a better place mentally than I was when approaching the Phoney Move of 2014.

Mixed news

An article of mine is finally at the stage where it will be published - all I have to do first is fiddle with the bibliography a bit. I'm trying to hold things together to do that. It makes things a bit brighter.

Remember the time I needed a photo for a new work ID card, and knew I had some passport photos knocking around the house, but couldn't find them and had to get some new ones and then go through the rigmarole of buying scissors and glue to attach one to a form in the middle of the shopping centre? Well, now I need a passport photo, and I have four or five around the place, but buggered if I can find them. My staff ID, which lets me into at least one building out of hours, has a self-taken digital photo. But joining a sports club requires the old fashioned method. This is the sort of thing that can get overwhelming.

Hoop classes start semi-locally this week. The process of getting there and back is on the list of things that may overwhelm me, but I'm going to try.

Stepping back from the edge

I seem to have largely contained the worst of the brain crap to the point where life is more 'dismal around the edges' than 'three minute toxic explosion warning'. I can cope with that, mostly, through a lot of practice. That's not to say I don't find it frustrating. The only way to move safely out of the room with the red button of toxic braincrap is horribly slowly with safety checks every step of the way. I have too much to do this vacation for this to be my favoured option.

Return of the brain crap

So, I fear that the invasion of the toxic brain crap may be trying to repeat itself. Somehow I find knowing what might be coming scarier than stumbling into it unawares. Birthdays are always a flashpoint so I'll give things a bit longer to die down before really worrying.

Short-term goals

The first almost-week back:
This is time where not much is going on. Time to take stock and gear up.
Do something epic for Ducki's birthday
Buy healthy food to get into the habit
Put books on the new shelves
Take worky books to work
Write a lecture
Have a go at writing or typing/editing some fiction
Go to a yoga class if they are running
Start the 30-day ab challenge on Jan 1 if not before
Join the sports centre ready for when their classes start the week after

The first full week back
Teach my classes like the epic classroom goddess I am rather than the knackered grumpyarse I was imitating at the end of term
Make it to aerial hoop one evening if possible
Go to at least one class at the sports centre
Write a lecture, or finish the one started last week

2015 in purview

It's a bit bittersweet really. About a year ago I was sat in the bedroom that was the site of much of Ducki's adolescence being periody, taking stock of my life and coming up with all sorts of things that could do with improving and ways of doing that. I spent a lot of time looking into options for getting fit in my local area. I made detailed plans for decluttering and tidying. And now, around a year later, I'm in pretty much exactly the same position. The bright spot is that I'm talking about a local area and house that I've been in for three months, not over three years, my arse not having taken quite so long to get into gear as it historically has after a move. So here are a few general goals for 2015, in the same spirit as last year's batch.

I have one paper that got rejected last year but has detailed reviewer comments on why - I need to edit the fuck out of it based on those comments and find other possible homes.
I have an older paper that still needs reworking - ideally this will be the year that happens, while the issues are still current.
I have ideas for two or three other papers, it would be great to get first versions together this year.
I have ten lectures to produce, so I should probably get a couple of them out of the way before the start of term and be a bit ahead when marking hits.

The more emphatic I get that things MUST HAPPEN in the coming year, the less seems to actually happen. So I'm just going to chill with this for a while and see how it goes.

I will join the university sports centre, at least for January, and make it to enough classes to be worth the membership fee. (Temporary staff can get monthly or three-monthly membership as well as longer periods, so I get to do this on a trial basis)
I will go to a yoga class at least once. The teacher I've had contact with lets newbies go to their first session for free, so I won't lose anything except time if it doesn't work out.
If the local acro group manages to get started again I'll go along more often.
There is a place in Southampton that does aerial hoop. It is on the other side of town from me, but I'll do my best to make it over there.
I'm tempted to try pole fitness at least once. The worst that happens is I'll get a workout I didn't wind up enjoying. Generally, though, I like forms of exercise that involve being upside-down, so it's worth a try.
I will try doing big weights at least once.

Unfucking and decluttering
I don't need to be as dramatic about the Reduction of Stuff as I did this time last year, but some is needed since my initial success was followed by a move to a smaller house.
There is very little point in arranging things around the storage we have now since the housing arrangement is pretty temporary, but I do need to get it so I can find things when I need them.
I need to mark out and expand the food prep surface in the kitchen, which means finding alternative accommodation for dirty dishes. I also need to make space somewhere to have the steamer out and in use. That will require shifting the recycling into the hallway or utility room. (The former would be nearer but involve moving a chair out of the hallway into the conservatory, which was its intended home until we found it was useful for sitting down to tie shoelaces, and I may end up putting the little foldy stool in its place for that purpose. The latter is further away but I have to go there anyway to get things out of the fridge. NB none of the houses we liked otherwise had a fridge in the kitchen. This was actually the best option on that score.)
I will get down to one drawer full of disposable sanitary towels and tampons rather than two, and not buy more until that is half empty. Even with a conscious effort to go reusable where possible there are plenty of occasions where I need to dip into these drawers (ooer).

I will frontload later work at quieter points so it doesn't get overwhelming at busier ones.
I will keep exercising in ways that do happy (rather than scary) things in my brain.
I will set boundaries with students from the start so they know that if they email me at midnight the response might take a while.
I will take time out for my sanity where necessary. This should be reasonably easy since my classroom time this coming term is pretty low.

2014 in review

Sometime about a year ago I was posting a whole lot of goals I hoped to achieve. Some were ambitious and some would look like no-brainers to most people. Some were location-specific and hence stopped being relevant over the summer. Some were supplanted in time/energy terms by the big fuck-off move we did at the start of September. So, it's been a mixed bag.

I did not get a tattoo (needed to save money for the move), try out for roller derby (by the time my busy phase ended I didn't want to make a new commitment in Stirling), make homebrew, go to a climbing wall or do much of a range of fitness classes. I didn't do very much at all on the fiction front. The more hyperbolic I am about resolving to do that, the less I actually do. I didn't keep to the 3 coffee rule every day. I probably didn't load the dishwasher straight after every meal.

I did go to aerial hoop and acrobalance classes and keep going for several months. I did drastically reduce my clothing and book collections. I did give running another go, albeit not a serious one. I did buy and usually remember to take vitamins. I did submit two papers to journals, one more successfully than the other.

And I did things that weren't on the list because I didn't imagine them being likely a year ago. I found out I could write a lecture each week on something that isn't my research topic. I kept my shit together for a cross-country move with all the uncertainties that brings. I adjusted to a new living and working environment, neither of which are without challenges. I did my first large-scale lectures. I planned out a module from scratch for January.

And now it's time to figure out some new challenges!

Witness how anal I am (and why)

We have our housewarming in a few weeks - it was going to be Halloween but I ended up with a late teaching shift that day (my shifts suck every other week, but at least it isn't every week!) so we put it back to a week where I'm off on Fridays instead. It would have been doable on the original date, kind of, but combining 'let's have a party after work' with 'don't show up before 7 because I'll be in my underwear painting myself green' wouldn't work. ('If you show up before 7 I'll be in my underwear painting myself green' isn't an invitation I feel ready to issue to colleagues of two months standing...)

The backstory to my analness runs as follows: we aim to start the party pretty early and invite people to drop in after work. But I suspect things will also go on later than our normal dinnertime. I *hope* things will go on later than our normal dinnertime! So that means having some sort of food around, probably pizza and maybe chilli or corn chowder. Food means ingredients, some of them heavy. So, I have a list. It details the ingredients of the things I want to make, with little symbols for which things are heavy, which need to be bought especially, which can't be got in the shop I normally go to - you get the idea. Anal, and a few weeks premature. But it does enable me to buy the heavy stuff in advance and have it stashed away until I need it, and that's a big thing for me.

Obviously I seem anal. Ducki laughs at me every time because his idea of planning a party is much more last minute. But I like to be relaxed and in a good mood when I'm having people over, and not having to run to the shop for flour at the last minute helps with that. So, I'll stick with the list!


My attempts to be eco-friendly have taken a bit of a battering since we moved. We were spoiled in Stirling - food waste collections that included cooked and non-vegetable food, tetrapaks could go in the normal recycling, everyone got a free compost bin when the council stopped collecting garden waste last winter - I knew it was probably better than most places, certainly it was better than Nottingham when I lived there, but I didn't know how little some places had moved on. The main differences here are no food waste collections, high cost of compost bins and no collection of tetrapaks.

The food waste is the easiest to deal with. I cook smaller portions, especially of 'filler' foods like rice, to minimise the risk of needing to bin any. I tip coffee grounds out in the garden - the epic spider webs on the bushes right now suggest that someone is benefiting from the extra caffeine. I'm experimenting with which peelings and withered vegetables can be made successfully into stock - it should save a bit of money if I don't need to buy cubes or powder.

The tetrapaks, however, are a pain in the arse. I think they annoy me more than anything else that goes in the bin because I'm used to recycling them. Also, the main thing we get in tetrapaks is soy milk - other things, like fruit juice or chopped tomatoes, can be found in other sorts of container if you look around a bit. I wish I was a bit more business-minded, because this strikes me as a massive gap in the market - I can't be the only vegan who wants to cut down on landfill! Of course, my ideal would be reusable glass bottles - hell, if I was setting this up I'd deliver and collect the stuff with a handcart or bike cart, but I know that wouldn't be feasible. But I do need to look into making some sort of plant milk for my own use. (Ducki is more a creature of habit, but I'm sure I can get him to try some - ideally I need it to be cheaper than buying cartons in to convince him it's a good idea)

In the meantime, I'm trying to do a bit of offsetting - getting greener in other parts of my life. More careful not to get in a situation that requires plastic bags. Loose rather than packaged veg where possible, and from local markets or greengrocers if I can get to those. We are at least better off on that front here. Not letting things get dirty enough to need nasty cleaning chemicals. (so far the exception has been limescale, I need to get to treating that with vinegar, but it caught me unawares moving from a soft water area so I bought some of the scary stuff to get started) Not buying stuff, although I've had a couple of wobbles with that lately. Small victories are still victories though.

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