Who even am I?

Run

A little dramatic, I’m sure, but as I found myself practically bed-bound this weekend, it brought home to me how much of my identity is wrapped up in movement. I take such delight in running to the top of a flight of stairs, jumping off a low wall, climbing the branch of that tree, just generally weaving and hopping my way through the day. Now that I can’t do such gallivanting, I realise it’s actually a big part of me. I like to get my heart rate pumping, be playful and give two fingers to being a ‘respectable lady’.

On Thursday’s run through the forest I took a badly-judged leap over a puddle and twisted my foot under me. I try not to be a drama queen, honestly I do, but this particular incident did see me on hands and knees, giving a few sharp yelps of pain with tears in my eyes. Tom carried me back to the car (Drama queen? Me?) whilst I inelegantly wielded a stick to encourage the mutt to follow.

Since then, I’ve tried to embrace my inner slob. The couch and I have become close friends, I’ve abandoned all housework and been binge-watching Girls (only a *little* late to the party on that one). Fine for a few days, especially when it’s rainy, but now the sun is shining and I want to be out in it, running around and filling up on fresh air. It makes me feel incredibly fortunate to be able to rely on my body most of the time. It’s easy to take for granted. I’m counting on my foot recovering in a few weeks (hear that Foot?) but for now, I’m just running vicariously and trying not to eat my bodyweight in M&Ms.

Tom and Bryony run

Travelling Solo

Europe Collage

I’ve recently returned from a few days travelling across Europe by myself. It wasn’t until someone asked me that I realised I’ve never actually done so until now. I was surprised to feel a little apprehensive the night before my departure from Lithuania. This was partly due to the fact that my travel plans fell apart the night before departure and I had to quickly hustle an alternative route from Vilnius to Warsaw. Such small details as a train route no longer being in operation are not enough to put me off!

It’s only been in the last year that I realise how haphazard my journey plans can be. I’m simply not the most organised of travellers. The tone was set on my first post-uni adventure with Tom. Armed with bikes, tent and limitless time, there was simply no need to set a schedule. We meandered our way across Europe in perfect harmony, nosing out our route as we went. It’s my favourite way to travel; leaving room for the unexpected.

It’s not so easy to allow for such freedom with only five days to cover over 2000km. I had my route planned and my hostels booked: a day in Warsaw and a day in Berlin, amidst days of travelling in between. Regardless of the odd travel mishap, it was marvellous. I braved my own company, heard unexpected stories from strangers along the way, ate exactly where and what I wanted and generally did as I pleased. I’m trying to overcome my people-pleasing inclinations. Travelling alone is certainly a useful way to exercise one’s selfishness.

Running shoes proved the best thing to pack (thank you to Tom for the encouragement!) Light on my feet, my tourist status hidden behind the universal runner’s lycra uniform, I explored new places in the morning light and constructed my mental map. The food was fantastic, varied and almost entirely vegetarian (bar the obligatory post-hangover bratwurst in Berlin). The hostels were clean and friendly (if not for the quietest of nights’ sleep.)

I became better at sitting at the bar by myself, beer and book in hand, happy to watch the world go by. I discovered that I am strong and not to be messed with, but that I can also make new friends and have wild times in a new place. Perhaps these are things I already knew about myself. Perhaps not. Either way, it was fun to get to know me a little better. I think we could all do with giving ourselves a little more time. Of course, I suspect that my solo travels were made all the sweeter knowing that my best friend and my crazy hound were waiting for me at home. They’re with me in my heart even when we’re miles apart.

Life Lately

Lately Collage

Things have been pretty quiet on these here ramblings, hidden under the rest of this noisy life. We’re coming up to the one year anniversary of my fledgling business (read the first newsletter here). I’m so happy to have been able to fill the year with work and rest. My days involve plenty of tree hugging and morning light, but I’m also cramming them full with rewarding work and a sense of contribution.

The year is speeding up, with ever more blue sky days. I started the month full of regular runs and signed up for the Clarendon Half Marathon. Runs have slowed to walks as the end of term bogged me down, my head full of work (but in a good way!) I spent last weekend in London speaking at a conference and meeting up with friends. We talked adventures by the sea and adventures in business. It feels so affirming to talk to other people whose vision of work success involves balance and enjoyment over expansion or employee numbers.

Now we’ve made it to the end of term and I’m shaking off the busy buzz of work. I’m travelling to Lithuania next week with my choir. The capital Vilnius looks beautiful, not to mention this magical island city that we’ll be singing in. Then I’m taking the slow train home, to enjoy some grand cinema views from a worn upholstered seat, stopping to explore some new cities along the way.

But none of this before a long weekend of rest, fresh air and chocolate. I’m really enjoying the idea of marking this time in the year: celebrating and welcoming in all the new life and potential of spring. I think eggs might even have to be decorated.

It’s a stretch..

Winter stretch Collage

It’s a stretch to get up early in the morning.  To turn up on a yoga mat rather than turn over under the duvet.  I am not made of such stern stuff.  I’ll only get out of bed at 6am if it’s to return five minutes later with coffee in hand.  A very different pace from these mornings.

Whilst I can’t face it in the morning, yoga at the end of the day, in a hot room, is just my kind of winter stretch.  I’d never done any hot yoga before this year.  I’ve always plumped for flow classes, moving quickly from one pose to the next with each breath, stumbling quickly through any that were a little difficult.

I thought holding each pose for ten breaths would be boring, but the focus it requires actually feels fantastic. It demands my full attention, no drifting thoughts. It’s given me time to think about each stretch and have plenty of practice at balancing. I also spend most of the winter feeling vaguely chilly so it’s a treat to spend time letting my muscles really warm up. So, for at least a little while longer, I’m using the ‘too cold’ excuse to keep my head under the duvet in the mornings, but not in the evenings.

Daily Habits

Parkhurst Forest Walking the Dog

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about daily habits.  I wish I’d stuck to my daily yoga, and I kick myself for not spending more time cooking from scratch in the kitchen. Small things I surely should be able to fit in to my day.  But, a few daily habits have managed to stick.  Black coffee for starters (there was that one time I had a nutribullet instead but is was scary green and had no caffeine.)

With Rolo’s reproachful eyes, there’s no skipping the routine of a daily dog walk.  The forest feels different every time.  Even when it starts as a chore, once I’m standing under the sway of those tall trunks, navigating fallen branches and searching for badly thrown balls, it can’t fail to improve my mood.

I’ve also been sticking to a daily diet of at least 25 pages a day.  I’ve taken to the habit easily, steadily consuming some great books. Reading Lolita in Tehran was a surprise find in Oxfam and an unexpectedly compelling read.  Look out for it; seriously good.   The Orenda was equal parts brutal and beautiful, one of those books that leaves you a little wrung out at the end.

Right now I’m reading See You Tomorrow, but cheating on it with the odd chapter of Rebecca (because this weather), The Zombie Survival Guide (essential reading, of course) and Children’s Speech Sound Disorders (for the day job).

In our days of speedy information, eyes flicking over the tl;dr summaries of endless useful articles, it feels an expansive luxury to spend time with a book, to listen to just one story.  This year I’ve challenged my die-hard digital-age brother to read a real book.  He often has to bear me harping on about the beauty of books.  I think there’s something special about holding bound paper in hand, carrying it around with you everyday, spilling coffee on it, breaking its spine or bending a corner to save that thought.

Meanwhile, Brother has inadvertently set me the challenge of knitting with cobweb lace weight yarn, thanks to a beautiful silk bundle of the stuff he gifted at Christmas.  I’ve found a pattern that suits itself to TV-watching attention levels so here’s hoping I can squeeze in another daily habit.