I’ve Been Brainwashed And I Liked It

Some time back in April, Naughty N, Jolls, Serene Sarah, the lovely Nicky and my good self were having a meal at the newly opened Hillside Bistro in Ventnor. We were discussing yoga/meditation retreats and how we all needed a nice calming break.

As everyone paused to sip their wine and muse over distant mountains of Zen solitude, I air jabbed Naughty N and declared, “I’d never go on a Yoga holiday with you. In fact, the only thing I’d ever do with you is one of those military Boot Camp things.”

Naughty N slammed down her champagne glass, coughing on the bubbles and air jabbing back at me, choked, “that’s it! You’re on!”

Fast forward three months and we have just completed our Boot Camp 2012 summer vacation. Hurrah! Our joint issue (besides being utterly unfit and haunted by occasional bouts of smoking far too many cigarettes) was the idea of being Told What To Do.

“It’ll be fine,” Naughty N said for the millionth time as we pulled into the Hare and Hounds car park to meet our brigade.

“Yes. It’ll be marvellous,” I shuddered, grinning/grimacing at the tall army man in camo combats who was ushering us in. I turned off the ignition, and swallowed, then gingerly climbed out of the car.

From that moment forth we tumbled into the capable hands of Staff R, Staff W and Staff P – the three ex-army blokes who run Prestige Boot Camp. They told us exactly what to do and we chimed “yes Staff!” and then DID IT.

I know.

It’s horrifying yet beautiful.

They said, “run up this hill. Do squats. Do this, do that.”

And we did all of that too.

After one particularly gruelling day of circuit training, running, jogging and a vulgar sounding but fitness boosting activity known as fartleking, Naughty N collapsed stiffly onto the bed like a five foot, brown haired peg doll and declared, “I feel quite brainwashed!”

“Me too,” I declared stiffly back. “But … I like it.”

And this is the weird thing. I did like it.

See, as a mum, partner, daughter and business woman, I have become totally exhausted from running the show. And I don’t just run the show. The show also runs me. I think it kind of runs all of us.

It’s like we are utterly drowned in voices telling us what to do. If it isn’t the kids needing loo roll, the school wanting a cake baked, your mother telling suggesting that you do it THIS way, colleagues and clients and funding bodies calling the shots or your business/job demanding every spare waking hour, then the media, the world of advertising and cultural expectations are bombarding our brains to act, do, buy, be NOW instead.

By submitting and complying to one authority (YES Staff!), I realised that I am constantly complying to a million authorities in my outside life. And compared to all of  that, having an ex-soldier yelling in my ear to run faster and do squats, was like a Flake moment in a roll-top bath.

I’ll be honest with you.

After seven days of relaxing at Boot Camp I felt slightly dubious about leaving.

The idea of coming back out into the “real world”, having to once again pick up the reigns of everything I’d put down whilst trying to comply to everyone else’s expectation of me seemed more than a little bit exhausting.

One night I couldn’t sleep. I lay awake, listening to the sheep in the fields as they hollered to each other in a way that only Devonshire sheep seem to do. Thoughts and fears twisted and lolloped around in my head as I tried to work out how I could somehow stay at Boot Camp forever. And ever. And ever.

I lay for a long time.

Then, as the dim morning light began trickling through the blinds, a little thought trickled into my head.

“I could go home and only comply to one voice like I do here,” I thought. “Then it would be simple.”

Options. Take Staff R home with me? Hmm … difficult to explain to Ads and the kids …

And that is when I Got It. Properly Got It.

It fluttered around the room and finally landed on the bedside table. She smiled at me and whispered, “all your life – even when you were a dreadful rebellious teen – you have always been complying with people outside yourself. Admit it, Bethan. You’re easily influenced by the company  you keep.”

For a moment I was about to feel insulted and protest, but in my heart I knew that It was telling the truth.

“You’re also easily influenced by your thinking patterns. One thought pops in and wha-hey, you’re off running down the garden track …”

“Like what?” I frowned, propping myself up on my elbow.

“Like when you are running and you think – maybe I’ll go home and have a nice cup of tea?” suggested It knowingly. “And like when you are halfway through writing a book then think – this isn’t 100% perfect, so I may as well give up.”

I stared at It. How did she know all of this stuff? It was like she was psychic,  you know?

“You’ve spent your life complying to people,” she continued. “You’ve  complied to your fears. Your paranoias. Other’s ideas. But there is a voice in you that isn’t fearful or paranoid, or anything. There’s a voice in you that wants you to live your life to its fullest Gorgeousness.”

“And that’s the voice I need to comply to.” I fell back on my pillow and gazed up at the ceiling. My eyes were all shiny with tears.

It made total sense. Leaving Boot Camp  I could finally see that there was only one person I needed to comply to and that was me. No one else. Just me. I no longer had to try and keep anyone else happy other than the handful of people that I love most in this world.

Never in a million years did I think that going on a military Boot Camp would be such a life-changing and profound experience. But it has been. And now I’m back. So, hello you beautiful thing!

*My name is Bethan*

* I’ve been brainwashed*

* I liked it*

*And God knows what’s going to happen next*

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51 thoughts on “I’ve Been Brainwashed And I Liked It

      • and you’ve got me thinking too. I could never compete with your gorgeous blogs and why would I want to but I had a middle of the night moment – blog Poppy and her family too! Feel that earth shift Beth xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

      • I think that would be a brilliant idea Poppy. I thought you were already doing that. If I’d known you weren’t I’d have been on your case. If you need a hand, you know where to find me. Massive love. xx

  1. An unusual path to independence, and very entertaining.
    If you listen carefully to yourself, you’ll find there’s lots of different voices in you. And while it’s good to listen to all of them, you don’t need to act on any of them.

    • Thanks Delft and I believe you are very right about there being lots of different voices in each of us. I think that my more problematic voice was that which suggested I needed to overide my own feelings for others. Recognising that this isn’t always the case has had quite a profound impact on all areas of my life since. I guess it’s about being aware and then making informed choices. x

    • Thanks for congrats and comment Legion. I never would have believed it, but Boot Camp has been the most life changing thing I’ve ever experienced. And that’s from someone who has been in personal development for over 14 years, had her first books published at 23, lost her father at 24, had her brother murdered at 27 and then got Freshly Pressed at 31! Seriously … you should go. x

  2. You captured a lot of truth here, Bethany. I hope you are successful in limiting those you attend to to yourself and a small group of significant others, but those other, optional demands are sneaky and wil almost certainly insinuate their way back into your life. On guard! You might have to repeat boot camp, almost like a booster shot in order to reinforce this experience…good luck, and congrats on Freshly Pressed!

    • Hi Wanda, you are so right. The people run weekend sessions in London and I’m keen to get up there for a top up and reminder. As for the optional demands – each time I feel slightly stressed I check in with myself and ask “who am complying to here?” The nicest, most refreshing thing, is realising that only myself and my significant others really count. Thanks so much for your good advise, luck and congrats. Love Bethan x

  3. Wow. You have such a wonderful writing style, just love it. I was engaged the whole time and sad it ended. How great is it that you found the little brass ring?! At 31 you have lived a life but now you can live and breathe. It makes me happy to see others find those moments. I’m glad you found yours. Enjoy. Live. Smile.

    • Thank you so much Mountain Gypsy. I actually feel the happiest I’ve ever felt and so perfect that WordPress decided to help celebrate that with this Freshly Pressed experience. I Will Enjoy, Live and Smile To The Max. x

    • Hi Mark, it’s funny because the original conversation about Boot Camp started when I was talking about a Yoga holiday. Knowing what I’m like I would have spent the whole time thinking, thinking, thinking. Focusing purely on the physical allowed me to 100% stop thinking and that was exactly what I needed. Loved it! Thanks for your insight. x

      • Hiya Mark, yoga is lovely and I’ve been doing Hatha Yoga for many years. I think my issue is always the self disapline. Perhaps now I could approach it with a different mindset and way of being. Am quite interested in doing a Vipassana at some point. Now that would be Boot Camp for the mind! x

  4. Amazing! You really have expertly quantified and given much shape and substance to my very own thoughts! Especially the last part! Not at all boasting, but I am happy I did not really have to go through the gruesomeness of the Boot Camp and yet in some manner having this philosophy underlying in myself. Thanks for enforcing it. 🙂

    • Hi there KunehG, thanks for your comment. I have been teaching personal development and coaching for years and really thought I was walking my talk, yet it was only through the experience of pushing myself to my absolute limit that I broke through all the mental constructs – many of which I was oblivious to. One of the things I love about being a writer – and blogger – is that you’re always on the look-out for rich, diverse experiences and I’ve found that new ideas and personal growth can be found in all sorts of strange and gruesome places. Go on – you know you really wanna try Boot Camp! lol x

      • Hhmm. Valid point you made there. it’s that bit of little personal experience, even if gruesome, which really buries that thought deep into. Thanks to you I’ll be looking out for it now!

  5. Funny how the world works its magic. I just wrote my blog on the nearly the same vision of myself. I wish mine had been at bootcamp!! Wonderful story, keep up the great work!

    • Blogs are amazing aren’t they? I often write something and then readers all over the world say that it was exactly what they had been thinking of themselves. I believe we’re all a bit connected in a magic sort of way. Thanks for your comment Julz x

  6. wow that was a great post.. You have a flair in writing.. You took us through so many things in such little time.. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed : )

  7. Fabulous. Thank you for sharing your insight and–as someone who has often suffers a lack of motivation and has experienced boot camp herself–I couldn’t agree with you more.

    • Hello Hangry Hippo. It’s only now that I can see just how not-motivated I was. I’ve always been quite a placid, peace loving person however I’ve discovered that something do need an “ATTACK!!!” mentality, eg. my washing basket, the ironing pile, the putting away pile and so on. hehe Thanks for your comment x

  8. Wonderful story though I must admit I’m still baffled at how you seem to have effortlessly gone through the grueling rigor of the bootcamp itself. I am having hell just trying to stay in shape! Maybe one day I’ll have my moment as well!

    • Hello Just Hitched Now What. Yeah, I’m quite baffled too although I’ve got to say that the Boot Camp wasn’t exactly effortless. I stupidly admitted to Staff R (on day 1) that I deliver goal setting, positive thinking and motivational workshops. Big mistake as I then HAD to push myself to the limit, force myself on and do it all with gritty determination. I think it helped in establishing a new habit though as it does seem to have ingrained itself somewhat. They do run monthly weekends in London that I’m going to try and get up to every so often. Maybe if you live in the UK you should book yourself on one and then just try and up your exercise and improve eating habits until then. There’s nothing like a scary-deadline to motivate you. Thanks for popping by and I’ll be over your way as I’m intrigued to know what your “what now” post marriage grows into! x

  9. I love that you learned so much from your bootcamp. It took me years to get the courage to write my blog for fear of others reactions to my funny take on life. I love to write and I love to see the quirky in the mundane. I had some friends that really pushed me. Now I am a month into this blog and I am averaging between several hundred views a day. I have four guest writers that WANT to write for ME. I love that I was pushed into complying with my heart and mind and not everyone else. Great post. Great blog. Good luck. 🙂

    • Hey Rebecca, this blogging thing is quite bizarre isn’t it? I’m compelled to write things in a comedy way, but am constantly torn thinking “what if one of my clients or business partners read this and think I’m an absolute hoon?” It takes guts and courage to click that little publish button. Am so glad you took the leap and it sounds as if it was the perfect leap to take and that you are making a lot of people happy. Massive congrats on your success, Blog Sis! x

  10. I love bootcamps because someone is telling me what to do. I’m a pretty independent persona, so it’s a bit strange for me to thrive in this situation. But, like you, I think it has to do with pleasing myself and doing something *for* myself.
    Good for you for going out and finding yourself in the strangest of places!
    Congrats on the FP!
    Cheers,
    iRuniBreathe

    • Haha, it’s mad isn’t it? I thought I hated being told what to do and exactly like you, class myself as a 100% Independent Persona. For me, I just didn’t realise how many people WERE telling me what to do. Actually, I take that back … I didn’t realise how much I was ALLOWING myself to be dictated to. Am so glad I didn’t do the Yoga retreat … Boot Camp defo gave me the boot up the backside I actually needed to kick start my life. Thanks for your comment iRuniBreathe. PS. I might make your name my mantra next time I’m going up a very steep hill! x

  11. Like some of the others above I have to say this blog resonates strongly with me. This past year I have struggled with a motivation problem. I came to realize it wasn’t motivation, it was me not wanting to do things for the sole purpose of pleasing others around me. I have become a little more “selfish” since, and I like it. I think the ones I love like it too as there is now a happier me. Awesome job on capturing what you were/are feeling. Congrats on the FP too!

    • Thanks so much Kara. Love the fact that you have also found your inner compliance too this year. I’ve always believed that people who are purely selfless are as imbalanced as those who are selfish, yet somehow selflessness implies purity and goodness while selfishness makes someone sound stingey and grasping. The fact is that self-love and self-respect are paramount to living life happily and having clear boundaries that serve our happiness (and those we love) is vital. If this is “selfish”, then bloody bring it on. Hurrah! Thanks for your lovely comment. And where is your beach? x

      • Ahhh yes, the key is finding that balance. That is what my beach is for, it is my escape from responsibilities of everyday life, my way to recharge. Right now it is more figurative unfortunately, although the lake here has been providing us with some nice beach days this summer 🙂

  12. Congratulations. What a wonderful reflection. I like to think radically, yet compliance with one form of rules etc. is a given. I can identify with workplace censorship in your head. I just post or bllog

    • Hello lovely! Thanks for your comment. Love that term – radical thinking. Nice, nice, nice. Re. workplace censorship, yes, it’s a balance isn’t it? I sometimes get the right old heeby-jeebies before I press Publish … then I press it anyway, grit my teeth and press my palms to my cheeks, take some puffs of breath and then feel like laughing hysterically and snap the laptop shut.
      And hey it has always been ok.
      So far. x

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