On hurting (and carrying on regardless)

Dear mind, dear body, dear soul,

Yes it sucks. Yes, it hurts. Yes it’s hard.

Know what though?

We’re carrying on. We’re not going to stop or give up or collapse or breakdown. We can go slower if you like. But we’re not stopping. There’s a long way to go yet.

Sometimes, like when hunting bears, you can’t go round it, over it or under it, you have to go through it. Guess where we’re going?! Yup. “The only way out is through” and all that jazz.

And we will get through it. Eventually.

Apparently the right kind of pain means you’re getting stronger. I have no idea which sort we’re working with, but let’s assume it’s the helpful sort and go from there.

It hurts more than before, but we’re better than before, so we can deal with more than before. We got through everything to get here, we can get through this to get further.

On the way, we’re going to keep smiling, keep cycling, keep rowing, keep walking and plodding and crawling. Keep talking and writing and listening and laughing and reading and building and trying. Especially trying.

Even when it’s hard. Maybe especially when it’s hard. Or raining or windy or snowy or silent or uphill.

We can do this.

Slowly.

With a million setbacks and a million and one restarts.

With tears and bruises and scars.

With stories and memories and pictures.

With late nights and early mornings and cake and hot chocolate and parsnips.

With barely-done-up trousers and worn out shoes and a brand new coat rack.

With good books and sunny days and amazing conversations.

With fish and fluffy slippers and freshly-put-up lights.

We’ve got this.

With lots of love,

Me xx

“And she never gives up…she just changes her mind!”

– Billy Joel

On reaching my full potential and cycling into the wind

Last week, my knees started really hurting. Luckily for me, my brother has had a pretty good variety of sporting injuries and suggested I adjust the height of my saddle.

I did, and noticed the difference instantly. My knees still have a bit of “residual pain” in them, but they don’t exactly hurt while cycling. I can stretch my legs to their fullest extent and nothing curbs them, nothing holds them shorter or smaller they are meant and wanting to be. There’s the resistance from the pedals, but they give in more quickly than my legs do. If they don’t, then I change gear until they do. I need to figure out what to adjust to get the same effect on my wings ;).

Having a decent wheel is fantastic. Having a good seat height is fantastic. Wearing shoes instead of boots is helpful. Wearing a lightweight windproof jacket with a jumper is better than a thick downy coat.

And after all the moaning I’ve been doing, cycling is now fun.

I went out yesterday, on a ride that wasn’t to work. There was a goal, but the whole thing wasn’t a necessity. And it was very enjoyable, even if it did rain partway through.

There’s something very pleasing about putting effort into something and having an immediate effect. If you play with glass long enough, you might get better one day. If you put a load of washing on, it takes an hour or so to wash, and you still have to hang it out and wait for it to dry. If you ever get to the bottom of the basket, you know it’s going to be full again soon. If you start making a website there are always going to be a million things to do to make it better. If you stick to rowing every morning, you begin to notice muscles building about a month later.

Cycling’s different. If you push more energy into the pedals, you go faster. End of story.

Sometimes I need to get rid of a kind of pent-up energy/aggression I didn’t realise I was holding in. You can pour it out through your feet and leave it like a snail trail behind you. I can rant in my head and pound the words into the pedals instead of my keyboard or my people, and no one has any questions or concerns or advice or suggestions. Much as I love and appreciate those things, sometimes it’s nice to have nothing but the wind bashing my ears. 

***
In other, related, news, I cut a good minute off my commute this evening, despite the strong blustery wind, and the horizontal drizzle.

In non-related news, my shelf is finished. We put it up on the wall on Friday and I haven’t stopped admiring it on my way past yet.

On staining

Look! Isn’t it fabulous?!

That’s obviously only a very small piece of the end – I will put up complete pictures (of the shelf ;)) after K’s been. She’s coming to visit soon and she reads what I post and that would spoil the effect.

It still needs sanding and waxing and putting up.. it is a very time intensive shelf.

H can’t really understand my excitement, but I can’t understand how he doesn’t find it as amazing as I do, so I suppose it’s balanced..

Green fingernails and evenings well spent

My neighbour, H, is making me a shelf. It started as an offer to put my coat hooks up. I told him the rack he was holding wasn’t for coats and we came to a strange sort of compromise where he agreed to build me a shelf which I could hang coats on.

Over the weekend he glued and sawed and sanded and planed and did whatever carpenters do when making shelves.

Yesterday he brought me the raw wooden shelf (it’s beautiful) and a box of different wood dyes which he proceeded to spread on a couple of cut off edge pieces so I could choose one. I didn’t think any fitted quite right. I wanted green. Apparently green isn’t a colour he uses all that often..

Tonight, after work, I stopped to buy fishfood and green wood dye powder. And turkey for a thank-you curry.

I was still frying onions and chopping peppers when H arrived. He stood and watched for a minute or so before pulling out his penknife and adjusting the doors on the kitchen cabinets. It seems carpenters are incapable of ignoring badly hung doors. Never one to stop other people working, I found him a decent screwdriver or two and pointed him in the direction of the sitting room and all my other cupboards. My floorboards are anything but level, and I don’t think any of the cupboard doors hung straight. I also had a cupboard where the door opened the wrong way. No longer 🙂

The cupboards and the curry were both finished/ready around the same time.

At the first lull in the after dinner conversation, H leapt up, announced his intention of clearing up, and started running hot water into the sink, ready to wash up. At this rate I’m going to be cooking thank-you dinners for a while… 😉 I certainly stand no chance of drying faster than he washes.

The wood dye is astonishingly easy to mix and keeps for 6 months or so in a jar. I bought 2 packets, a light and a dark green, just in case the labels were misleading. The first trial pieces were painted in a matter of minutes, leaving us time to talk about different sorts of sealing coats, wax or varnish, matt or shiny, and the best kinds of joints to stop the wood twisting out of shape.

Tomorrow I can paint/dye the shelf.

By the end of the week it should be up on the wall – can’t wait to see it finished 🙂 

On making things harder for myself

Way back when I lived by myself, I used to cycle quite a lot (to work, into town, through the vineyards, etc). I lived in a very hilly place and I could cycle to work and back without getting off and pushing.

I now live (almost) in Berlin. Berlin is flat. The same way Holland is flat. The only hills that exist are man-made, full of rubble from the war. Because that’s obviously the best thing to do with rubble. Pile it up and cover it with grass. Maybe Silbury Hill is an ancient version of the same idea.

Whatever.

I have started cycling to work here. On the way there’s a bridge with a very long, very gentle incline. Just a couple of metres over quite a long stretch of road. 1-in-100 or even 1-in-50 is not steep by anyone’s reckoning. There have been days when I fought so much I actually contemplated getting off and pushing. There’s nothing like failing to cycle up an almost nonexistent hill to make you feel the need to get fitter..

***

I picked my bike up from the workshop on Wednesday.

They’d had to replace the front wheel and realign the back wheel and adjust the brakes and do something technical with the gears.

I asked them to explain what had broken in the dynamo and how I could avoid breaking it again.

My understanding of the ensuing explanation is as follows. It may or may not be an accurate representation of what they actually said.

The axel was slightly off centre which lead to unequal distribution of pressure/weight/something which lead to the metal walls of the dynamo straining and eventually breaking, which lead to everything coming loose.

It appears that these things just kind of happen…

…but that most people notice earlier.

I thought that was odd, and said so, because I’d brought it in the day after it died…

… except apparently it’s been dying for several hundred km.

He was amazed that I’d cycled it so far without realising that there was a problem. He showed me the pieces of the broken dynamo, and the pieces of a new one. The difference was incredible.

Not as incredible as the difference having a new wheel made to my perceived fitness the next morning tho!

I’d struggled to get to work in under 40 minutes and reach an average speed of anything above 11kph.

On Thursday I was there in 30, with an average of more than 14. And it was windy and snowing.

I was amazed.

***

I was also amazed (and a bit confused) to realise that my rowing machine was no longer set to the easiest setting. I have zero recollection of changing it so I have no idea how long I’ve been using it like that.

It reminds me of mistakenly skiing down a black slope and wondering why I was suddenly so prone to falling over..

On holes

There’s a hole in my Alfa, dear Liza, a hole.

Two holes if you want to be more accurate.

A black one if you want to be facetious.

***

There’s a hole in my bathroom, dear Liza, a hole.

There is now anyway. Luckily.

Until this evening it was so blocked up that there wasn’t much hole left at all.

It was quite gross and horrendously smelly.

I cleaned and unblocked it though, so it’s all good, and the vinegar worked its magic on the smell. I can hopefully bath in peace now, without flooding the whole room.

***

There are holes in my walls, dear Liza, there’s holes.

I finally borrowed a hammer and started putting pictures up today. It’s amazing how much more lived in a place looks when there are pictures.

***

Today was a strange day.

On the magic in the middle

It doesn’t appear to make any sense.

None of it.

And yet, afterwards, you can look back and see all the paths and patterns and logical consequences.

And it’s kind of beautiful. And strange. And magical.

***

***

I’m not there yet, not at the patterns and consequences stage, but I am at a place where I can stand and take some breaths without fighting to keep my head above water.

I got a lot done in the last week and a half.

Despite, or possibly because of, all the frustration and rain and aching muscles and late nights and long(ish) journeys and complicated German grammar and broken things.

* I have a new bed (which I carried across town)

* I looked at a new old car and decided it was too broken to buy

* I have a new mattress

* I rearranged my room (to accommodate the bed)

* I’ve got to know a neighbour (a bit)

* I read my water meter and my radiators and handed in the numbers. Before the deadline

* I cycled something like 70km and walked a bit too

* I fought the trains with a bike and won, overall and on balance

* I saw parts of the city I would probably never otherwise have visited

* I met people who made me question my prejudice (sparkly clean floor and still welcoming towards dripping wet and muddy strangers)

* I have new skis

* I talked to the people at the garage about my car. By myself. Without anyone ‘super-knowledgable-about-cars” to talk about the ‘complicated things’ for me

* I spent a couple of hours reading (doesn’t happen nearly regularly enough)

* I sorted out my aquarium (water change, rescued 2 shrimp from the filter and pruned plants), and cleaned xDB’s aquarium filters (my fish..)

* I was contacted by someone who might be the dog’s original owner (yet to find out the exact connection)

* I had some fantastic late night online conversations with a friend I don’t see anywhere near often enough

* I taught myself and my after-school-help kid what adjectival attributes are (and genitive and prepositional ones)

* I started sorting through my enormous postcard-and-magazine-clippings box, ready to start decorating my room

* I rowed every day (on the machine), and got an all time personal best

* I have my old stereo back (almost)

* And the best part: some one really important to me got back in touch after several months – lots of good conversations (had, and hopefully to come)

And all that on top of working and keeping myself alive (washing (myself and my clothes), cooking, eating, washing up, sleeping…all the usual stuff)

***

Later:

I wrote the above yesterday lunchtime. I meant to come home, add the picture and press post.

I didn’t, partly because I got home later than expected – I worked until 6 and walked back with my stereo – and partly because I was so amazed/shocked/speechless about an email I received when I got home that I completely forgot about the post.

I’m not going to say what the email said, yet, except that it has to do with my miniature glass company and it’s very very cool news.

Yesterday was a very good day.

***

I feel like I’m still in the middle, but I can see the vaguest semblance of a path out. And right now, in the middle of all my chaos, I think life is pretty damn great 🙂

Jimmy Eat World – The Middle (screenshot of a YouTube video)

On swapping stereos when the music stops – in practice

This is the new one:

And this is mine:

Both freshly dusted with the airgun:

And wiped down with a damp rag.

This is the beginning of a good day 🙂

(Also of note but not worthy of a separate post: I achieved a personal best on the rowing machine, remembered to put the rubbish out for the dustbin, I’ve been at work 2hours already and it’s not even 9am yet! 🙂 So far, today has been a success..)

On curious cats

Curiosity probably didn’t directly kill the cat. It probably just kept it up so late it was too tired to avoid the things that could kill it.

Finding things out has to be worth a bit of sleep loss though, right?

🙂

Zzzzzzz

On swapping stereos when the music stops

I took the dud stereo to work with me today (by train, after bringing my bike to the bike-workshop ;)) so I could swap it back with the seller for a working replacement after work.

Read that sentence again. What stands out most? Work work work!

And it does! Nothing broken, nothing dropped, nothing lost or soaked or dismantled. In fact nothing to laugh at at all…*

The new stereo is very dull, but it works (!!! Whee!!!) and it was pretty cool that the guy was willing to exchange it, and that he even had a second one for sale at all.

I’m going to take it to work tomorrow and swap it for my original one (because that one’s programmable and has a remote, and is properly mine!).

And when I get home with it, and the world stops making me dizzy, I will sit back and enjoy the music 🙂 ..

…and then clear up the chaos that ignoring my house for a few days has let ensue.

* Albert and the lion