Happy Coulson Archives

We are in the ghostly world of post-lockdown. No one quite knows what they are allowed, or not allowed, to do. The threat of a second wave looms. Most people don’t want to ‘go back to normal’. There is a collective desire to go forward to a new normal. But how? In the words of Arundhati Roy, this pandemic is a portal.
Pandemic is a portal

We are out of our depthWow, that would have been the mother of all April Fools…
But alas, it is not. We’re in week two of lockdown, waiting for the crest of the coronavirus tsunami to flood our corner of Europe. We are very lucky here. We have lots of space, inside and out. If we turn right out of our house, we walk straight into the countryside, not a road or a house in sight.

Chris still has some work as he is now allowed to open and maintain pools, as long as he doesn’t come into contact with anyone. I’ve been forced to get to grips with recording videos for my yoga students and, you know what, I’m actually enjoying it. The kids have settled into a homeschool routine and we are all enjoying spending more time together.

So yes, we are lucky. But we are still worried. Worried about our health, worried about our family and friends, worried about work, worried about the kids missing important time in school, worried about small businesses, the list goes on…

And that’s where I feel most lucky. I feel that, for the past 20 years, I have been training for this. My study of yoga, the challenges and breakthroughs, the years of self-practice and my experience as a teacher have been equipping me with an arsenal of weapons to help myself and those around me deal with the weirdness of what we are living through.

If I had to choose one weapon, I would choose awareness: awareness of your breath, awareness of how you are reacting, awareness of when you need to do something, awareness of when you need to do nothing.

President Macron said “Nous sommes en guerre (We are at war)” and he’s right. We are at war with the virus and we all need to do our bit. But I also believe we are fighting for a better way of being for us and for the world. People have been talking about this for years. When John Lennon wrote ‘Imagine’, he envisioned a more equal world where peace and love triumph. Some will call it hippy shit, others will say it will never happen so why bother. But there are positive changes that can happen as a result of this crazy sabbatical from so-called ‘normal’ life, and we should all fight hard to make them happen. Aux armes citoyens!

I don’t always like my 14-year-old son’s choice of music. He tends to prefer low-grade (in my opinion) American and French rap with sometimes questionable lyrics. But every now and then he finds a real belter, and this is one of them.  He played it to me last week, when I was feeling pretty shitty, and it genuinely made me smile, inside and out. Just perfect for a sunny Sunday after a couple of weeks of rain.

Now, I know that a couple of weeks of rain is nothing to complain about when Britain said goodbye to the sun last September, but it has reminded me how the weather can influence how you feel. I’m just back from a dog walk with our two blonde bombshells and I quite literally feel sunny.

Feeling and seeing the sun come out after a while behind grey clouds is joyful. Actually, it’s rather how I feel this weekend as more than two months of Lyme symptoms seem to be lifting. As I walked this morning, I ran through the daily check I use to chart my progress:
Knees? Ok
Headache? Ok
Cape of doom (sore neck and shoulders)? Ok
Brain fog? Ok
Nausea? Ok
Chronic fatigue? Ok

Ok, so one day I’d like all of the above to be better than ok but, trust me, ok is ok for now. In fact, it’s more than ok. When I felt a rush of my normal energy come back on Thursday evening, it felt like I had drunk a huge cup of coffee (and coffee has been very much off the menu due to headaches). I couldn’t help but break into a huge smile and start giggling, which was a little disconcerting for my yoga students…

Since Thursday evening, I have really been able to enjoy life. And after a wonderful day in the mountains yesterday, eating a delicious lunch and lazing in the spa before having supper with dear, dear friends, I feel genuinely ok. No. More than ok. I am greater than the sum of my ok parts and I FEEL GREAT. (Although it is being marred slightly by the two men sawing beams outside my window. Just saying. #sundayworking).

Feeling moved to write another blog just two days after I posted my January update as it left a rather bitter taste in my mouth. I always like to be honest in my blogs, so if I feel like something the cat dragged in, you are going to know about it. (Humorous cat-dragged-in-related aside: I was in the kitchen today, folding washing, when all of a sudden a dead mouse flies up from the floor and lands on the table. Seriously. It was a moment before I realised that Gizzy the cat was under the table…).

Anyhoo, it wasn’t so much the blog that left a bad taste, but the words I used to post it: “So long, January. Goodbye and good riddance”, which rudely overshadowed the wonderful times I had last month. I didn’t even bother to share it to my own Facebook page as I just wasn’t feeling it. But after 10 hours of sleep, I woke up this morning without a headache to the sun streaming in through the windows. I was home alone, so after a barefoot morning dog stroll around our beautiful garden, admiring the snowy mountains in the distance, I decided to do an online yoga session with the gorgeous Charlie Speller.

Charlie started the session with a meditation on gratitude, which I found super easy this morning, filled with appreciation for this incredible place we call home and the warm sunshine. I was also able to remember much more vividly the magical time I had with my mum and sister last week. Thank you, angels. The last part of the meditation, which was to be our theme for the practice, was to choose an aspect of ourselves we were grateful for. I had to pause the session here, to really let this percolate. It wasn’t easy but I eventually realised that, despite the blips, I am grateful that I am NOT going to give up fighting Lyme disease.

The word that resonated with me was ‘tenacious’, and suddenly, there I was, Tenacious K. This made me laugh out loud and I carried it with me throughout the whole practice, breathing it into different parts of my body. By the time I finished, I felt like I’d had a complete cellular recharge, my head was still clear and my knees almost normal. There followed a lovely day filled with friends and birthday cake. So thank you, Charlie Speller. Thank you, Jane Tatford and Vicky Holmes. Thank you, Chris. Thank you, friends. And thank YOU, Tenacious D, for the inspiration. May we all rock on 🙂

January, January. Chris always says it’s the most depressing month of the year but I don’t feel that. In the past, I have sometimes felt sad that Christmas was over but this year we had such a perfectly relaxing time that I felt recharged and ready to start the new year. And I only had to work two weeks before having a week in the UK with my mum and sister, which I booked as I wanted to spend some proper time looking after them. But January had different plans for me…

After one day back at work, I couldn’t straighten my left leg and by the following morning, my knee had swollen to twice its normal size. And so, after an amazing two weeks of walking the dogs with no pain, I was right back where I started a year ago which, I have to admit, was tough to get my head around. I did still have my week in the UK to buoy me up, only now it was Mum and Vicky looking after me! And when I came back home, Tana kindly gifted me with the flu, which I still have. So actually, Chris might have a point…

But that’s quite enough whingeing. You can never be low for too long around here as Minty pup is still totes gorgeous and she needs kissing at least 100 times per day. Oh, and the results of the doggy DNA test we bought India for Christmas are in. Drumroll, please…. We now officially know that Minty is part Whippet, part Labrador and part, wait for it, Chinese Crested! Ridiculous but actually completely appropriate. Now five months old, Minty continues to amaze us with her amazingness. As Tana says, she is a drug to which we are all utterly addicted.

So January 2020 whimpers limply out, smeared with sickness and Brexit Shit (which I will dignify with no further mention than that). The big question for February? Can me and my knees go to the mountains for our annual skiing holiday and not ski, snowboard or even go hiking in snowshoes? Of course we can. Can I do it with a genuine smile on my face? Only time will tell…

People who use Facebook are often criticised for only posting their best bits and not a realistic reflection of their lives, making others feel inadequate. Thank goodness, I say.

I brand myself Happy Kate Yoga and we live at Happy Coulson but that doesn’t mean I am never unhappy. What it does mean is that I choose not to dwell on the unhappiness. And if I choose not to dwell on it in my personal life, why on earth would I choose to dwell on it on Facebook?

I’m not saying that everything you post on Facebook has to be positive and happy. I think Facebook is a fantastic way to share news, and that includes bad or difficult news.

2019 has been a tricky year for many people, including me in some ways, and I have used Facebook to share my experience with Lyme Disease with my friends and family. As a result, I have been bombarded with love, as well as positive and helpful comments and actions, from all over the world.

To those who would say that my Facebook world is not a true reflection of the world, I would say that it is a true reflection of the world I choose to live in. Just as I choose to focus on the good in my own life, I also choose to surround myself (in real life and on Facebook) with people who strive to do the same.

So as I look back at 2019, I really and truly remember only the myriad good bits. And I look forward to creating many, many more in 2020 with all those I call Friend. You know who you are 😉

I have always lived with dogs. Farm dogs when I was growing up. My first puppy when I was 12 – a black Labrador cross called Pip, whose ear I marked with a bit of red nail varnish when I chose her from a litter of identical puppies. Pip was a very uncomplicated animal, sweet-natured and eager to please.

My first as an adult was, and still is, Wolfie (right). I got her as a seven-week-old puppy, instead of a third child. Chris knows how to drive a bargain. The Wolfer was, and still is, a dream dog so I was secretly a little nervous about welcoming another pup into our home. How could they ever live up to Wolfie? Would they chew our shoes and bark all night? Happily, we have lucked out yet again.

Araminta Brightingale aka Minty aka The Mintus aka Oodleberry is everything that a puppy should be. Cheeky, mischievous, full of energy, bright and eager to learn. This is India’s puppy so she is taking a lead in training. But I get to dogsit during school-time and everyone in the family is smitten.

What makes Minty even more special is that she was abandoned with her seven brothers and sisters at the local dog refuge so we have no idea what her mum and dad look like. A wonderful foster mum raised them for the first months of their little lives and all eight Blonde Bombshells were adopted immediately. We were incredibly lucky to get this one – the smallest of the litter but only in size.

As Charlie Brown once said, life is definitely better with a dog. And although a dog is for life, not just for Christmas, it’s jolly nice when both happen at the same time. Merry festivities everyone 🙂

After weeks of constant headaches and chronic fatigue that started at the beginning of September, I made an important decision. To say ‘yes’ to any of my friends and students who offered to help me. This was not as easy as it should have been as I find it much easier to give than to receive…

But I am surrounded by people with hearts full of love and hands full of energy, so I decided to let them in. Prior to life with Lyme, I have never felt in need of ‘healing’ so although I have heard a lot about different energy treatments, I have never actually experienced them.

Despite this, I know they work. The whole universe is made of energy. I feel it all the time, especially when I do and teach yoga. And as with any treatment, the most important thing is faith. I have that, in buckets.

The first treatment I had is called Access Bars. I lay down for over an hour while my friend applied gentle pressure to different points on my head. I experienced it as a long meditation journey, seeing vivid images and colours. After the treatment, I felt like I’d been steamrollered.

The second treatment was PBA (Psycho-Bio-Acupressure). I lay down for an hour while my friend made a circuit of five acupressure points to clear energy blocks. I felt curious during the treatment as I didn’t know what was going on. But immediately afterwards, I started feeling better (and still do).

The third treatment was Reiki, with a friend who had already invited me to an energy healing circle in a chapel. In the chapel, I lay down for a guided meditation, with a drop of myrrh on my forehead. I had almost felt too ill to go but during and afterwards I felt wonderfully relaxed and more comfortable. For the reiki session yesterday, I lay down for just 40 minutes while my friend used her hands to move energy through me. It was lovely and very profound. I felt something being pulled out of me, leaving space for light.

Who knows how this stuff works? Who knows if it really works at all? How do I know these treatments didn’t just coincide with the end of an episode and that’s why I feel better? Personally, I don’t need to know. I am happy to admit there are things we don’t know, to plant a mystery flag, to stop thinking with my brain and start feeling with my heart. And you know what, I feel great. Thank you, my lovely friends.

I watched the Jesy Nelson documentary ‘Odd One Out’ the other day. I was lying in bed for the second day in a row, cradling my Chronic Lyme Disease, feeling horrible and utterly sorry for myself. But by the end of the documentary (which is definitely worth watching on iPlayer) something had shifted. I found my mind, which does not function like my normal Happy Kate self when I’m having an episode, suddenly focused on something I needed to do. I had to write a blog about bullying.

Imagine winning the X-Factor as part of a four-teenage-girl group, put together for the show. And the day you win, waking up to find hundreds of horrible comments all over social media, calling you “the ugly one”, “the fat whale”. Cyber bullies almost broke Jesy but this brave girl, despite admitting to changing her appearance to try to please the haters, hung on in there and has found both success and happiness.

I grew up hearing ‘Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ but that is bollocks. That’s just a mantra we teach to kids who are being bullied in the hope that it will protect them from damage. Because words are weapons that can break something much more serious than your body. Words can break your spirit and severely affect your mental health. So instead of teaching kids lame sayings that aren’t even true, we should be teaching them about the devastating power of words and how to use them.

When my children were small, I wanted to be a really good role model for them – my best me, if you like. So I started becoming aware of every word that came out of my mouth. Now, I like a good laugh and found that I would often say unkind things about myself or others to raise a giggle. I may even have made a ‘funny’ comment about Jesy Nelson. So I started a new practice. First, I noticed every time I said something negative. And stopped. Then, I started to notice every time I thought something negative. And stopped.

It didn’t happen overnight – in fact, it probably took around seven years all told – but gradually I trained my brain out of negative thinking. Now, I can see an unkind thought coming from a mile away and automatically send in the peacekeepers before it takes hold. Lyme disease can cause neurological problems and depression and although I did feel really down last weekend, I am absolutely sure that this practice is helping me cope with the constant pain, fatigue and mental instability. So what’s the magic ingredient? Kindness.

For me, kindness is the most important thing in the world and words have a big part to play. I often hear how people don’t like Facebook because of all the negativity. Well, I love Facebook. I do see negative posts pop up every now and then but I have a choice and I choose not to engage, as where attention goes, energy flows. The ridiculous comments about Greta Thunberg are just that and they don’t deserve any attention at all. It’s not that I ignore the difficult shit happening in the world but focusing on it and spreading it around isn’t going to help.

Negativity and criticism often come from feeling helpless but this is something that everyone can do. Start your own kindness practice, first becoming aware of everything you say or write, then what you think. And teach others to do the same. It could be the new pandemic.

Back to school on Monday for the kids, after a blissful ten weeks of summer. It started with a visit to family in the UK  – highlights were a Thai massage from heaven in Twickenham (enabled by Lou), India riding with Vicky for the first time, and woodland assault courses with Mum and Bruce.

The rest of August was intentionally pretty relaxed, my only work teaching pre-wedding yoga to a bride getting married at her new parents-in-law’s French house in the next village. It culminated in me marrying the happy couple before returning home to our annual shindig, a perfect weekend of fun and friends to round off an amazing summer.

The best thing about life here is that instead of feeling sad the summer is over, we are all looking forward to shifting into September. After a hectic few months of parties, pilgrims, campers and visitors galore, it is always a welcome change. And only six weeks until the next school holidays. Happy Rentrée everyone.

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