furlough/ˈfəːləʊ/noun – leave of absence
Most of us had never even heard this word just over a year ago. I’ve been really lucky, working as I do in the travel industry, to have been able to keep working all this time whilst many of my colleagues have been furloughed, and of course many people (not just in my industry) have lost their jobs. It’s been a tough year though, and I don’t mind admitting that I did like the idea of having a break when things were really stressful, but it wasn’t feasible at the time.
I first brushed with furlough a few months ago when I was told I would go from 5 to 4 days a week and be ‘flexi-furloughed’ for one day. It took a little while to get used to this bonus day off, but to be honest I quite like a 4 day week. Then came the big one – a month of furlough. My company is doing the right thing, making the most of the support available, and I guess it was inevitable that I would be furloughed eventually. So, here I am, about to start my stint of furlough. A month off work.
It’s strange, now that everything is starting to open up in the UK and many people are going back to work, to suddenly find myself with time on my hands. At first I freaked out and in my panic started making a mental list of all the things I would have to do during this time to make it worthwhile. Pole, stretch, dance, do Couch to 5k again, walk 12,000 steps a day, tidy everything, read all those books that are piling up… the list went on and my brain hurt. Then I stopped. Literally, in the middle of the street as I was pacing about. I stopped and realised I don’t need to be a superhuman. I don’t have to prove anything
But I know how my brain works, and I know what’s best for my mental health. I need some kind of structure, and I need goals, even little ones. So, here’s my furlough plan:
- Relax and enjoy some downtime. Don’t feel guilty if one day I watch a lot of TV, or another day I take a book to the park and sit and read all day. It’s about time I had a bit of a break and time to recharge.
- Work on my pole, fitness and flexibility goals, but listen to my body as I go. It’s not possible or sensible to train hard every day – I need time to recover too.
- Spend time outside – whether it’s walking, running, or sitting, I want to get out of this flat and see something other than these four walls!
- Cook! It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, but use this time to cook nice things. I’ve found when I’m busy or stressed I still turn to convenience food (and there is so much yummy vegan convenience food!) but I do actually love to cook, so now’s the time to dust off those recipe books.
- Just be. Every day doesn’t have to be full of achievements or Instagram-worthy moments. Some days it’s perfectly fine to just be. See some friends. Go for a walk by myself. Read. Dance in my kitchen. Whatever makes me happy.
None of this is to say that you won’t be seeing a bit more of me on Instagram and maybe even here in this blog over the coming month. I will be learning new pole things, I am doing a running challenge, and I will hopefully cook something worthy of taking a photo of at some point. But I don’t want to obsess over the numbers and the achievements. When the first lockdown happened last year and lots of people found themselves on furlough, there was a huge amount of pressure on everyone to achieve. Is this the time to write that novel I’ve always dreamt of publishing? Maybe, but probably not if I’m honest. Is this the time to enjoy some (hopefully!) nice weather and have a bit of a break? Yes. And is this the time to simply do what feels good? Definitely.
Let’s see where the month takes me…
Black Friday. A day when we are bombarded with special offers and discounts aimed at making us buy, buy, buy. But I choose not to. I choose to buy nothing.
In fact, I’ve made a drastic decision, and I’m telling you about it to make sure I stick to it.
I’m not going to buy any new clothes for a year.
The exception will be essentials – underwear and socks (should I need them) and shoes if they become irreparable (not just when I fancy a new pair). If I feel the need for a new outfit for an occasion, such as my friend’s wedding, I can buy something second-hand from a charity shop, but this must be justified.
I simply don’t need anything new. I have drawers and cupboards bursting full of clothing – I can’t even fit it all in. No one needs the amount of leggings I own! I’ve got into these really bad habits of picking up items of clothing here and there without thinking at all about the financial cost or the environmental impact, and I need to change my mindset.
Fast fashion is a real problem, and whilst it might be very nice and convenient to pick up a new top from Sainsbury’s along with my groceries, it’s only adding to the problem. And I don’t need it.
The one area where this is going to be particularly difficult for me is dance. Whilst I definitely don’t need any new dance shoes, every time I go to a salsa weekender or special event I like to feel like I have something new to wear. But you know what? I have a lot of nice clothes already, and I don’t need a new outfit every time I dance. If there’s a theme party and I don’t have a suitable costume, I’ll hit the charity shops rather than Amazon.
I hope I can succeed in this mission – a year without buying any new clothes. Here’s to a simpler 2020. A year of conscious and minimal purchases.
I decided to start this year with a healthy month of no alcohol, chocolate, cakes or biscuits, and I’m pleased to say I’ve made it to the end successfully! But why stop there?
As soon as January ended everyone around me was asking if my ‘diet was over’ now and if I could go out and get drunk now, and I’ve been trying to explain that it’s just not like that.
I’m not on a diet. I can have any food I want, and I can drink alcohol if I want to. I’m just choosing to limit what I put into my body at the moment.
One of the hardest things about nutrition and eating healthily is making the right decisions and not slipping into old habits. If I’m ‘trying to be good’ I find it hard to have any chocolate around me at all. I’m an all or nothing kind of girl, and if I don’t ban chocolate completely I’ll eat every chocolate in the box.
In the past I’ve been guilty of comfort eating, and that’s a habit I desperately want to break. Food shouldn’t be a reward or something I have for consolation. It should be something I have for nutrition or something I enjoy because I want it, whether alone or with friends.
Alcohol? Well I can take or leave it to be honest. I like a nice cocktail every now and then, but I honestly haven’t missed alcohol at all in the last month. So why fill my body with all of those extra calories and all that sugar? Luckily my evenings are filled with dancing, and alcohol doesn’t help me one bit when I dance – I’m better without it!
So, ‘dry January’ is over and February is here, and I’m going to try to maintain my new healthy habits. I’m not saying I’m never going to have alcohol, chocolate, biscuits and cake, but for now I’m doing just fine without them.
Isn’t it funny how, even as adults, we still have cliques and cool kids just like we did when we were at school?
Back in my school days I was never one of the cool kids. I was overweight, a bit nerdy, quite smart and into alternative music and fashion, so I never fit in with the majority. But I found my own place back then, proud of being an individual along with the other awkward misfits.
I’ve always been proud of my individuality, but still desire to be amongst the popular people. That’s pretty normal really, isn’t it?
In the dance community everyone is accepted for who they are, and you really will find all sorts of people on the social dance floor. I dance with artists, accountants, doctors and lawyers. Tall people, short people, curvy and slim. Shy people, outgoing people, and everyone in between.
But despite this acceptance there’s still a small amount of cliquiness and there are definitely a handful of cool kids who only dance with the other cool kids.
The more I dance, the more I feel I’m slowly being accepted into these elite crowds, but I wouldn’t say I was there yet.
And do the cool kids even know that’s how they’re perceived? Or is it just a handful of us misfits who see them this way anyway?
Ultimately, whether you’re on the dance floor or anywhere else in life, I firmly believe it’s important to stay true to who you are. Don’t change for anyone, don’t try to fit it. If it’s meant to be, you’ll find your place.