‘Mint cake’ is the colour of this cashmere sweater, and the growing fondness I feel towards that refreshing description has convinced me to dedicate the title of this blog to it (I’m pretty fond of the jumper itself, too).
The soft, fluffy fabric straight out of the parcel it came in enveloped me a few weekends ago as I snuggled up on the sofa and hid away from Storm Ciara, although the sweet soothingness of it clashed with a pang of internal bitterness that I should have been out completing the Cancer Research Winter Run.
British weather is notoriously unpredictable (and I apologise for confirming grossly patriotic stereotypes by discussing the weather so frequently on this blog) but the coincidence of the worst storm in seven years hitting the UK on the day I had been preparing to run my debut charity race is so bloody typical.
After seeing the damage the storm (and later storm Dennis, which completely submerged areas of South Wales close to where my family live) tormented the country with it’s relieving to know that organisers of the run were well-equipped in making such a tough decision and putting the safety of runners and the public first (and I won’t lie, a Sunday lie-in as opposed to getting to Trafalgar Square for 8:30 in the morning was much appreciated).
While it was a disappointing announcement following the effort put into training and the enthusiasm with which I, and fellow participants, tackled fundraising with, at least it got me motivated to enjoy exercising for a purpose other than to just keep fit or lose weight. The cancellation also paled in comparison to the devastating impact that flooding and extreme winds had on communities so close to home. It’s heartbreaking to see any natural disasters on the news, and I sympathise completely with those that suffer at the hand of climate change and other freak incidents; but to watch the effects cripple local people and areas makes it so much more real. I only hope that this wakes people up to the serious implications of global warming as a result.
I have mentioned my love of running numerous times before, however it was predominately a mechanism to fulfil a health requirement rather than a passionate devotion to the organic notion of it.
I would drag myself to the gym because I felt I should, slug my way through 5k and then force myself to complete toning exercises that I never liked. I’m not trying to kid you that I now jump for joy at the thought of a treadmill, but I have learnt to embrace a sport that works for me as a part of my everyday wellbeing, relishing in the act of release it brings.
Wherever possible I have thrown on an extra layer and conquered outdoor running, which I have found to be so much more invigorating than staring at a bland wall for an hour, albeit more challenging. This simple alteration has encouraged me to squeeze the most out of my weekends by sweating off hangovers and waking myself up with fresh air, rather than slobbing around and pandering to a greedy pool of self-pity as has been the case far too often since I began drinking.
I have noticed how my mental health peaks and troughs with my heart rate; if I am nourishing my body and getting a few workouts in each week, I am more positive, energetic and flexible in dealing with everyday tasks. On top of this, my capacity to tackle unexpected and difficult situations blooms.
I can think rationally to brainstorm practical solutions; contemplate decisions before instantaneously making snap judgements and acting on them; and address my mind gently instead of automatically barking at it with a critical, degrading tone.
We would never treat our friends or family in the same way we subject ourselves to internal abuse (which so many of us have been conditioned to do from a young age through feeling we’re not good enough and therefore don’t fit into society’s moulds) so why do we accept that low level of respect from the one person we should trust and love unconditionally, and who will always be there at the end of the day?
I feel like the band Idles can be used to illustrate this point (their satirical lyrics can be applied to various areas of life) with the song Television: “If someone talked to you, the way you do to you, I’d put their teeth through, love yourself.” It’s a disturbing revelation isn’t it? If a stranger echoed one of the slurs we so carelessly put ourselves down with, we would be left in a state of utter disbelief.
I recently took a serious break from Instagram for over two weeks. As in a deleted the app and programmed my brain to act as if the platform doesn’t exist kind of break. I have voiced thoughts about digital detoxes before, although what pertained was more a loose holiday from blogging while the grid remained fully embedded in my daily life.
It dawned on me in light of some recent personal challenges that I have not once spent a purposeful, unlimited period away from Instagram since signing up approximately 7 years ago. I felt I needed to be as in touch with reality as possible in order to confront the situation facing me with respect and dignity; and to be honest the last thing I wanted to do while dealing with such a deep and painful problem was pretend everything was fine by posting squares to show off my outfits. The entire purpose of the channel suddenly seemed absolutely ridiculous to me.
Uploading to Instagram had become a chore that I dutifully attended to on autopilot. Nothing was fully authentic. Freeing myself from the self-induced pressure to post was liberating and forced me to make space for what is truly important, however uncomfortable or unnatural that path may be in contrast with hiding behind social media.
As I wasn’t forcing myself to get dressed up to obtain a picture every day, I didn’t put proper clothes on for about a week. I let my feelings consume me and listened to what my body needed: to have a fucking break. I would shower and put on fresh pyjamas. I drank wine every evening to help me get to sleep. I didn’t leave the house for two days except to go for a cigarette by the back door.
But that’s okay. Because after taking each day as it came and pushing on through to the weekend I was just happy that I had made it in whatever way I needed to. After that it seemed like I could do anything. I started to feel like myself again. I would get up in the morning and dress for my satisfaction by randomly selecting pieces that gelled with my mood, not what might compliment my Instagram feed.
And you know what? I didn’t miss it at all. Even after re-downloading the app I am impartial and ponder how better off I would be without it, but I have a connection to the brands I work with and a humble obligation to my best self to share the highlights of my personal fashion.
In my absence from social media I let emotions ebb and flow over me in waves. I didn’t reach for my phone to quench the swell of hurt by wading through other people’s lives. I registered each feeling, let it dominate me, and then carried on with my day.
Interestingly I was listening to Fearne Cotton’s Happy Place podcast the other day featuring author Elizabeth Gilbert, who shared personal experiences with grief and how she dealt with it. Gilbert explained that fighting unwanted emotions will only increase the risk of sinking into depression and other negative consequences, so we need to actively embrace them – no matter how physically overwhelming – before expecting to make progress.
Essentially, we should honour the truth that our bodies are in control, and let them guide us rather than using our brain to try and fool it into thinking otherwise. To numb these moments is also to anaesthetise states of joy and bottling up creates the ideal environment for an inevitable explosion later down the line. As the saying goes, I’d rather feel pain than nothing at all.
As humans we are constantly adapting to our surroundings. Sometimes things don’t go to plan, and while that can be devastating and confusing, being successful ultimately is based around our ability to do this comprehensively and mould with the unexpected and disorientating flow of life.
It doesn’t matter how on top of our game we are, if we can’t cope when a curveball comes our way then we’re going under. But it’s hard to prepare for every eventuality, so the resilience and elasticity to quickly change direction is an invaluable gift.
Although I didn’t get to complete the official Winter Run I did manage to achieve both a 10k and 11k route during practices, so I am hoping this will serve as a testament to my dedication for those who donated! The unprecedented passion I felt for training is tempting me towards signing up for a half-marathon as my next milestone so I have no excuse to fall back into my old sedentary habits.
Anyway, back to my sweater…
This is my third cashmere piece from Boden and I can attest to the incredible lasting quality of the other two jumpers, which I have owned for around a year and worn to death. Every time I pop them in the machine (who am I kidding, every time my nan does) they come out good as new and save a trip to the dry cleaners! They’re still as fluffy and soft as first sight, the fit has held true and I swap them in and out of different looks and layers seamlessly.
I wanted to opt for something a bit different this time (I own a black version and oatmeal colour – both crew neck), as I am so often inspired to do with Boden, and knew this zesty colour would change it up for spring. I sized up with an XL here, and am so ecstatic about the accentuated v-neck and baggy cosiness as a result. Having that extra room will give me so many more options when styling it up; I can tuck it into trousers for a puffy silhouette, wear it as a cover up on the beach etc.
In terms of the rest of the outfit (sorry, still a little distracted by my love for the cashmere) I have been struggling to find a relatable pair of black jeans for some time. I’ve had enough of the super skinny Topshop style that transform to grey after two washes and don’t think they resonate with my fashion sense anymore. I’m always more drawn to items with an interesting twist or unique attention to detail, so the split leg of this pair stood out to me when browsing the site. They’re a stretchy kind of denim but don’t stray into unflattering transparent territory; the length is dreamy for my legs (I think I ordered them in a long as it was the only option left) and I’m pleased with the unusual, almost grungy seasoning they sprinkle onto an otherwise vanilla look (I used to fear black jeans were a boring / easy option).
My current layering tip is to invest in a chic bum bag (note that this probably won’t work with the Adidas one you take to festivals) and to belt it around your favourite light coat. Something about the cinched waist created in an unconventional way combined with the dull practicality of it enchants me. Throw on a beret for added Parisian effect (and to hide the awful bad fringe day I was experiencing here – my new go-to when it won’t wise up) and you’re good to go!
As much as I love slinking around in coats, here’s hoping these pesky storms are firmly out of the way so we can ditch them in honour of spring!