One way to lower your self-esteem is to chinese foodhave a list, actual or mental, of things you really should do but you aren’t doing them. One way to raise self-esteem is to produce your list in written form and work through it. Simple enough. You may be one of those relatively rare people whose self-esteem isn’t tied to achievement of some kind but more likely, like me, you are. Generally, getting things done no matter how trivial they are, improves self-esteem. Ask yourself, what am I putting off? And do it.

Hence the importance for me of cooking.  A Chinese meal to be precise from Chinese food in minutes, see photo above  An excellent programme, although I find the timings a little on the optimistic side, but no matter. Several years ago Mrs Summerhouse and I struck a bargain. If she kept to her side of the deal I would cook one meal a week for 6 months. And before you get all chest on about equality let me just say, in my defence, that this does not mean Mrs SH cooks every other night of the week. Some evenings we do not have a meal as such, other nights we have a take away and other nights we go out for a meal, at least we did when we were earning ‘good money’. It’s a bit different now.

As I say, the bargain was struck a few years ago but then we achieved one of my life time goals (the bargain above addressed another of my life time goals but that shall remain a secret) and moved into an apartment in the centre of Leeds for a year. Something I wanted to at least try. So we rented the house – to number one son, partner and, half way through the year, their puppy – and moved into our brand new apartment. Great excitement but all the Chinese ingredients we had bought did not come with us. With a great choice of city centre eating places and one thing and another, the cooking stopped – well before the promised 6 months, but that’s another story.

That was 2010 I think and I haven’t cooked a meal since. Mrs SH, in her own easy-going way, has nudged and nurdled me into starting again – to no effect. When I retire I will definitely start again, was my line and I stuck to it. Well, it’s taken 7 months but last night I got going. This retirement activity has been on my list of things to do and the guilt has been mounting while the impact on my self-esteem has also been mounting – downwards, if you see what I mean. You know, it’s that ‘what a shit you are, you can’t even cook one meal a week’, scenario. When you’re retired you have more time to contemplate your short-comings. In the hurly burly of two working lives, such deficits go by unnoticed and unpunished. In retirement you have more time to contemplate indeed what an absolute numb nuts you are.

As you can tell, I’ve been feeling bad about not doing anything. When you add to the guilt list a complete lack of DIY jobs which I had also thought I would / should do when I retired you will understand that I felt like quite a loser. But wait, in an effort to improve my low ranking in my own head, yesterday I finished off the long-awaited job of putting skirting board in the downstairs bathroom, yes we have two, doesn’t everybody? This bathroom was redone the same year we lived in the apartment so it’s taken a while. Which was OK when we were both working but again when we retired we had the classic – that’s a job I will do when I retire. Well this has taken 7 months as well but it’s done now. And still huge opportunities to raise my self esteem by completing further DIY tasks. I think a large part of the boost is in the completion. Lack of results or not being able to attribute any success clearly to your intervention, is one of the great frustrations of working in the mental health sphere. In the DIY world it doesn’t have to be that way. But I digress. Back to the cooking.

So, Chinese cooking, what a lot of ingredients, I’d quite forgotten how much we spent the last time but of course we had money then so it didn’t matter quite so much. Yes, I know waste is bad, bad, bad. And now we’ve spent money again and we definitely  haven’t got as much. Anyway there will be no excuse for not going on with this self improvement scheme now after the enormity of our outlay. Sooo, supported by the same TV programme now as in 2010, I cooked us a meal. The fact you can chuck it all in the same pan, or wok should I say, except the rice of course which I nearly got Mrs SH to cook but then I thought come on, man up and I cooked the rice as well. What appeals to me is that when you develop a plan and use the NAF rating which I’ve written about elsewhere, the Feasibility factor (the F in the acronym) is definitely addressed. Chinese cooking has a high feasibility rating. Throwing it all into the wok, makes it feel very achievable as a challenge. And all that black bean sauce and soy sauce hides a multitude of errors. Tasty as well.

So for reasons above I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I had taken some control over my life, ticked a couple of things off of my ‘to do’ list. Result? A feeling of well-being. Was I smug? I don’t think so, just satisfied with myself.  A feeling that lasted for just as long as it took me to reach for my glass of (red of course) wine. I didn’t even touch it perhaps it was the air pressure ahead of my hand  (like at the front of trains only less, but enough) that caused it to fall from the arm of the sofa where I had placed it (yes, I know we should have eaten at the table like normal people but we can’t see the TV from there, oh, never mind). It fell slowly to the floor, on to our fairly new, light grey, pattern-less carpet to be precise. It spread for miles. I did not feel so good about this. You total idiot, I said to myself. Self-esteem into the red again. And this is where the title comes in if you were wondering, if you do spill red wine on a light coloured carpet, pour loads and loads of water on to it and mop it up with a towel. A pisshead friend in New Zealand, a woman of some experience in this area, recommended this strategy, forget salt and certainly forget white wine, water, gallons of it, mopped up, that’s the way forward. Then we ate the Chinese meal, it was a little cooler than planned, but the wine incident had not derailed my sense of well-being, so all good then.

What a great retirement blog this is, advice on self-esteem, DIY, Chinese cooking and house-keeping tips all in one blog , You couldn’t write it, but then I just have. Retirement, wonderful time of one’s life.

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