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.
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*