Kicks for free?

When’s the last time you did anything for free? Probably just yesterday I hear you say when you washed up or hoovered or worked in the garden. Things we usually do like this for free are still usually for some reward.. we get to live in a clean house, a pretty garden etc.

When I studied psychology I came across the word altruism as a young woman in her early 20s. I hadn’t heard of it before and I still find the idea of whether we actually ever do anything completely altruistically or not an interesting concept. Do we ever do something for free and for no reward?

I thought I was doing so last Sunday. I volunteered to be a marshall for a 10k race. When I realised it was going to be a Sunday morning at 8.30am on bank holiday weekend after a night out in Manchester I was re thinking my offer to volunteer!! However up I got and at 8.40am found myself directing cars on a field wearing a green fluorescent jacket (these jackets have powers.. they make people think you know what you’re doing!) and shortly after this I was in a field next to a pole that said marshall and I waited in the sunny silence for the runners to reach their half way point.

An incredibly short time later the first runner appeared along the canal parallel to my standing point. He had a kilometre or so to get to me.. I watched him enter the field and make his way around the orange markers finally heading towards me where I nervously clapped my hands and muttered well done pointing him on his way to the next marker! As the elite runners made headway the next batch came through ….my marshalling confidence grew as I made some ‘jokes” about beer being available at the next stop and even conducted a mexican wave all by myself. The runners seemed amused thankfully.

So was this me being altruistic?! Was this me giving my time up for nothing in return. As it turns out. Absolutely not.

From the moment I stepped on the field the buzz from the runners was infectious. The excitement oozed into my brain. I met new people and I haven’t been in a situation where so much gratitude was shown for a long time. Certainly not in any paid work! How so many runners managed to say thank you as they ran past in that heat, already tired, I don’t know. But it made me feel good.

So there’s my little story from this week. The best I’ve felt in a long time is volunteering on a sunny hill in North Wales. Working without pay isn’t on the top of most people’s list but the pay on this occasion far outweighed pounds and pence!

Happy Sunday everyone x x x

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Something new?

When’s the last time you tried something new? 

It’s fair to say I’m on the constant look out for anything that brings even a miniscule of serenity into my life and I’ve found recently that new things have brought a feeling of temporary calmness.

 Either that or I’m getting old, it could just be the latter.

 Some of this has been hobbies. Running being one. I’m no Zola Budd (Google it if you are younger than 30) although we have remarkably similar out of control hair and when I was a teen my mum also made me wear those elasticated tight fitting shorts that made me feel naked. Mine were red with a big white stripe on the side. No wonder I went through school single.

 I’ve also discovered gardening. I’m a bit hopeless. We’re talking lavender, chives, parsley, basil, some strawberries but my most proudest bit of gardening are my tomatoes!!! I actually have a cherry red tomato growing in my plastic greenhouse. It is true that I could have bought said cherry tomatoes from Tescos for 69p a punnet as I normally do but where’s the fun in that! The fun is in planting 30 tomato plants, watching at least ten grow from seed, thinking some were tomato plantS for a long time before a surprise sunflower popped out, going back to the real tomatoes, and shrieking when one appears in delight. I’m not briliant at watering or taking leaves off and feeding and things like that. However I still do have tomatoes so something is going right!

 Another new interest has been cooking. I’ve never had a huge interest in food, food was to be eaten when I was hungry and that was it. I don’t really enjoy eating out in fine restaurants, much rather a cheese board and (another) glass of sauvignon to the pomposity of poshness. However I’ve discovered basic cooking and baking. 

 This week I apparently made the nicest dish I’ve ever made according to my partner and my son also actually ate it!!! My guess is that it was up there with ‘best ever’ because mainly… it was chicken. I’m vegetarian so I guess real chicken pieces were always going to beat soya that has been battered to look like chicken pieces that taste absolute nothing like chicken pieces. Still, I was so pleased with myself as they happily ate the vegetable and chicken pie topped with golden filo pastry.

 And it’s not just hobbies, today we took a drive off to somewhere we’ve walked many a time and I said what about going up that mountain! We were totally unprepared but took a sharp left and risked the oppressive dark threatening clouds. For some reason just going somewhere different lifted my spirits and even better the rain just started to trickle as we got back in the car after the 2 hour hike.

 One last ‘new thing’ ……this morning I stepped outside my front door as I do many times a day and I just stopped and looked, just for 30 seconds and took in the view from my heavy red front door. I looked over at the pink and purple hanging baskets on the pub wall opposite, the iron fence leading towards the red telephone kiosk, the tip of the bench sitting on the glistening grass overlooking the lazy river. No car passed. I didn’t see one person. How many times do you look around for just 30 seconds and really take in your surroundings?

 I’m off now to eat my lemon cheesecake, another new recipe for me, but it’s really not very nice at all, honestly you’d hate it, you would, you just would not want a piece!!! 😉

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Running on empty?

What motivates you? I find the busier I am the better I feel generally.

The problem is when you’re feeling sluggish or down and fed up sometimes getting to work and back along with looking after your immediate responsibilities stretches your already limited fuel tank.

The last few weeks I’ve felt healthier and emotionally happier. I was thinking about what motivates me?

Emotionally I’m motivated by laughter and conversation. Proper conversation. My friend invited me for lunch and cooked the most wonderful blush red tomato, chilli and pepper soup this week. ‘Proper’ coffee bubbled on the side , the smell of freshly toasted bread hung in the air and blueberries waited for dessert. We only had an hour and sat by her wooden table and we talked and talked. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Stephen Fry, parenting, work, feminism and religion just some of the subjects squashed into that sixty minutes. I drove back to work happily feeling the heat of the chilli and the warmth of the friendship.

Outside of emotional health I’ve discovered running (again). I tried once last year but the dark nights eventually allowed me to excuse myself from trying. I’m back up to week 4 now, and feeling determined. It’s different this time.

The grey roads worn from the winters frost lay heavy under feet. The bitter wind strikes my hands and face while the rest of me hides under layers. I’m lucky as the countryside where I live is just amazing, The mountains dance under the light mist and grey blue skies. The towering trees stand still and the sun pushes through warming my bones, slightly.

I run a lot without music. I like to hear all around me. The beauty is there’s not a lot to hear. Rabbits dart in the fields, sheep look up at me without particular interest, I pass and say hello to one or two people and the occasional car slows down to wave as they pass my chugging steps.

I’m not fast, I’m not that fit yet, I’m not elegant. But importantly to me….I am motivated.

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