An Iceland-induced calm


I may or may not have just broken my toe tripping over the exercise bike.

Man I was feeling so on it today as well.

I went for a swim STRAIGHT AWAY this morning. Like I went from bed to the leisure centre without stopping anywhere in between (well, cept for the loo). Exercise before 10am in the morning.

What even.

And I had the dreamiest of lunches. Goat’s cheese, avocado and sun-dried tomato pesto on a toasted bagel. Have you ever heard of anything sexier? Nope, didn’t think so. But, yeah, then I tripped on the foot of the exercise bike and had to eat several chocolate digestives to get me through the pain. So that’s that.

Heya pals. I’m back.

I landed back in Britain over a week ago and it feels like it has taken that long to finally adjust to the fact that I am no longer in Iceland. I say adjust. More like I’ve stopped living in denial.

IT WAS SO DAMN GOOD YOU HAVE NO IDEA.

Aaaaand that’s outta my system.

I have a fair few Iceland posts coming your way but in the meantime, I’m about to brain dump on ya.

So our second hotel in Iceland had this quirky, totally adorable little sitting room area. Like your very own cosy living room. With vintage chairs & sofas and a fireplace, and a chess board and a view of the harbour and sea, and calming, quiet music playing in the background.

This is where I sat on my own on the last night in Iceland. At half 10, the sky was blue, pink, purple and a little orange. Totally dreamy.

I was newly showered and in comfy clothes, with slightly aching muscles. But that kind of achy where you just give em a stretch periodically and it feels comforting?

I was writing in my holiday diary and just considering that it was time to stop and go read Harry Potter (illustrated addition) in bed before going to sleep and pretending the alarm wouldn't go off at 5am or that I had a day of flying ahead of me. Cos who needs that?

I felt so, so calm.

I did not want to disrupt this calm. And I knew that I would. The moment that the 5am alarm went off and I was forced bleary eyed to head to the airport and wait to fly which makes me feel ill and bluurgh. And then deal with my holiday washing and work emails and going back to the effing grind.

Getting on a sodding commuter train. WHY.

I kept asking myself ‘why do I never feel this calm? Like ever?!’

I basically got emotional at the lack of pure calmness in my life.

I KNOW everyone feels calmer when they’re away. I mean, duh, you’re away from all your responsibilities.

But, ya know, I wish I could bottle up some of that calm and keep it for when I need it. For times when I haven’t got the luxury of wandering around Iceland being all like HOLY MOTHER OF GOD LOOK AT THAT WATERFALL.

A few weeks back, I had what you might call, a lightbulb moment. I think I was planning on blogging about it but then, lol, decided to randomly go to Budapest. No regrets.

Basically, I suddenly realised that I didn’t know what I was supposed to be aiming for. In life.

I realised that I was doing alright, that I’d got myself into a pretty sweet place in life. But that I was pushing myself to do something because I felt like I should be working towards the next step. Only I didn’t know what the next step was.

Does that make sense or am I just talking utter shite?

It occurred to me that I had spent my entire life aiming for something, working towards something. Even as a kid, when I was running around the playground (lol, remember when I used to run?), I knew that I was working towards the end of year 4, and that year 5 would follow after that and year 6 after that and so on and so on.

You started working towards flipping Year Six SATS at the age of 10 (which, just FYI, is totally unnecessary) and then there’s more SATs, and GCSEs and A Levels and all the other utter crap forced upon you at school (ya know like social pressure and underage drinking). Then, woohoo, you made it to uni and spend three years working towards that shiny degree and then you leave and uh oh now time for full time employment and, um, living with my mum, and like why do I only have 1p in my bank account?

But now, well, I’m good. I have made it through the post-graduation years relatively successfully.

I have a steady salary that pops into my bank account each month.

I have solid friends; the kind that are there for a laugh and the kind who will drop everything to carry you through a crisis.

I’m in a long term relationship. A healthy long term relationship. You know, where you talk and laugh and support each other and where he isn’t a total knob.

I live in a two-bed flat in the city I’ve always wanted to live in. Some nights, I even include vegetables in the dinner I cook for myself.

I’m doing it. I’m adulting.

SO WHY WAS I CONSTANTLY FREAKING THE FUCK OUT?!

And I think it was because we have spent our whole lives up to this point knowing what the next step is and working towards it.

And now… now we gotta figure it out by ourselves.

NOBODY PANIC.

When I write it down; the basic details of my life right now, I’m like hey guuuurl, you ain’t doing too bad there. Yet I spend half my life panicking. Not like outwardly so, but a mild panic that continuously bubbles under the surface. Because I don’t know what the plan is now. I don’t have a career plan; should I have a career plan? I don’t even know what I want from my working life (apart from some dolla and flexible working hours so I can write that damn novel). There are people my age with mortgages and babies and fianc├ęs; should I have that?! Am I too settled? Should I have gone travelling for five years before I did any of this? I should be saving more; but what am I saving for? WHAT’S NEXT LIFE?

Where the fuck did this pressure to constantly be moving, be moving up, come from? Like seriously?
Why do you need a new job when you’ve only been at your current one for just over a year? Why do you think you should have more money than you do? Why does it matter if you don’t have a plan? If you don’t know what you want?

So guess what? It suddenly occurred to me that you don’t have to constantly be moving up or planning your life out.

For the first time, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. Who cares what anyone else thinks? Who cares if your friends are, supposedly, achieving more than you are? You realise this is the first time that you don’t need to pass some stupid exam to proceed to the next level of life? That someone isn’t telling you what the next step is?

I realised that, if I wanted, I could just be for a while. I am totally, 100%, in charge of all decisions I make.

So that was my realisation. And, for a while, I can’t tell you how much it changed how I felt. I was calmer, less anxious. I felt like some kind of weight has lifted.

But recently, I felt like that weight seems to have dropped back onto my shoulders again.

The problem is, privately, I am a pretty darn anxious person. I try and keep it locked in my head nice and tight because I don’t want to be that person. I mean, who the F does?!

I am easily overwhelmed. And if I’m too busy to remind myself of various tactics to calm myself down, I get worked up into a state of anxiety faster than Harry Potter speeding around the Quidditch pitch on his Firebolt.

My jaw aches from clenching it. I get headaches. I end up staring into space and doing nothing because I don't know where to start. I set myself a number of things to tick off my to-do list in a day but it’s totally unrealistic and then I feel like a failure for not doing everything.
The thing that frustrates me the most is that I know I am being ridiculous. I know perfectly well that I’m being irrational and need to cut it out. But you can’t stop your body physically reacting to something. I can stop worrying and still be subconsciously worrying. My jaw can be clenching for hours before I even realise it’s doing so.

I realise it sounds like I can’t leave the house due to crippling anxiety which couldn’t be further from the truth. This is just a thing that I do. That many people do, I think. I think I hide it and try to ignore it relatively well but I know others can be so overwhelmed by it that it affects their whole life. Which sucks big time.

My issue at the moment is always feeling that I have so much to do and never, ever enough time to even make a decent dent in it. This is partly because my main focuses and ambitions in life are all outside of work. My ‘career’ as you might call it will never be a focus. It will always be a means to an end. Which is irritating because it takes up 35 hours of my week. Selfish or what? But, for some reason, I don’t seem to accept that work takes up a lot of time and that I’ll feel tired at the end of it. It’s like I punish myself for not being more productive in the evening. For not writing for hours, for not doing more studying for my course, for not experimenting with my camera... and for not doing all the other things I want to pursue. And I sit there and feel anxious about it.

Yes, I know, it’s ridiculous. You don’t need to tell me.

I always want to be the best version of myself and somewhere along the way in the last couple of years, I’ve forgotten that that is NOT a daily occurrence. Hey, sometimes it isn’t even a monthly occurrence. I’ve forgotten that it’s okay to not get shit done. It’s okay to run out of time and to feel tired and meh fuck it, let’s eat biscuits and watch old episodes of Location Location Location cos we can’t even be arsed to put a dvd on.

I don’t know if this is even coherent anymore.

But basically, this is what I vowed in Iceland: to remind myself every day that I am doing okay. Heck, I’m doing pretty flippin grand. Life is grand. And I did remember that when we finally arrived back in Sheffield and scooped up the cats and ordered a take-away and caught up on two weeks of Corrie (soz not soz). I remembered that when I headed home to St Albans and saw G and realised how much I’d bloody missed him.

And I vowed to make space for moments of calm. To remember to breathe.

I don’t want to stop trying to do so much right now cos I have so many opportunities that I don’t want to have to choose between. And that’s so flipping marvellous.

But I can’t always be on top. I can’t always have days full of productivity. And even when I do, taking time out to breathe and slow down is so, so important. It keeps that jaw-clenching feeling at bay.

Life is so full and busy and it’s easy to compare yourself to others, and beat yourself up for not being the best version of you even when you’re knackered and can’t sleep because your brain won’t shut the F up. Life doesn’t stop being any less full just because you cut yourself some slack.

We all gotta remember that.

Remind yourself how lucky you are, and how far you’ve already come. Stay calm; you got this.

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