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Hanging up my boots – Morton’s Neuroma

I have a high pain threshold but there is always a limit to what can be tolerated day after day and I hit that limit with the devil that is Morton’s Neuroma.  Little bit of a backstory without boring the pants off you.  I first experienced pain in my left foot almost 11 years ago whilst out running.  I can only liken the pain to repeated dislocations and electric shocks in my toes…not all of them.  It was very specific.  Despite visiting the doctor and being sent for an Xray, MN wasn’t mentioned and I never bothered to Google because I accepted that it was something I would have to put up with for the rest of eternity.  It came and went but mostly, it meant that running was kept to a minimum and swearing was increased to unmentionable levels.

It was some years later that the telltale signs appeared in my right foot.  The levels of pain were much greater than in my left foot and once they kicked into action, my life appeared to revolve around my feet and the agonising pain that only seemed to worsen. My thoughts turned to amputation of some of my toes, despite realising that the pain was originating in my foot.  That might give some indication of the level of pain experienced.

I wouldn’t mind if I had worn tight shoes or high heels but they distant memories of a life once upon a time ago when my mind was on other things, apart from my feet.

Fast forward to the end of 2018, I had hung up my hiking boots and running shoes and had arrived at the point where I could no longer bear the pain.  After visiting my GP, I was told of MN although I did not test positive for all the usual tests.  That’s the case with most diseases and injuries though and I was adamant that this would be sorted one way or another.  The waiting times on the NHS were longer than I was prepared to wait and so I decided to fund the investigations and subsequent treatments myself.  Consultations, X-rays, MRI’s, ultrasound guided cortisone injections and a sort hand from writing cheques.  Yes, I still have a cheque book.  It’s not as if I go on holiday or waste money on luxurious items and so I felt justified in spending my emergency fund on something that would hopefully transform my life and rid me of the disability.

I wanted to believe that the cortisone injections would work and they did, for about 3 hours.  Once the local anaesthetic had worn off, the amount of pain in my left foot was so bad that I actually cried whilst rocking back and forth on my hands and knees.  It was as if someone had poured boiling water on the top of my foot and the skin had slowly peeled away to reveal the underlying nerves and fascia.  This lasted around 36 hours and then subsided to a level that was ten times worse than I had originally experienced in that foot.  It did take my mind off the other foot, which had been the one that I had considered to be unbearable.  On returning to see the surgeon for my follow-up appointment, I made it very clear that I would not be repeating the injections any time ever.  I have no doubt that for some, they provide relief from the torturous pain but for me, it was not the case.  Surgery was planned for the 8th March and I set about preparing myself.  I was looking forward to the day because I was pinning all of my hopes on this surgery.  One of my sisters had undergone the surgery a couple of years ago and had experienced complications that required further surgery.  This was not to put me off because I was left with no other option.

 

If you are preparing for this surgery then I might advise the following before the big day.

  1.  Accept that you will be lying or sitting with your foot elevated for the first 10 to 14 days.  This isn’t an option but a necessity.  This will aid the recovery process by reducing the swelling, pain and possible complications.  That’s not to say that you are completely immobile.
  2. Gather your books, sewing, knitting, computer, treats and other luxuries and make sure they are within easy reach and not a trip hazard.
  3. Don’t expect too much of yourself.
  4. Eat and drink well and wisely and don’t fret about weight gain.  There will be plenty of time to deal with that much later when you are up and mobile and in need of a goal.
  5. Meditation helps with the discomfort or pain and if it’s something you haven’t yet tried then give it a go before your surgery.  There are lots of useful videos on you tube.  Being able to focus the breath and the mind can be life altering and enable you to get through some of the more difficult days.
  6. Make sure there’s someone around to help with food, chores and shopping.  Even if you feel like you can walk around in those first few days, do not do more than is advised by your surgeon.  It will prolong your recovery time and increase the risk of complications.
  7. Be patient, sing songs, wear bright lipstick and crazy hats or whatever tickles your fancy but do retain a sense of humour and don’t be too upset by the surgical shoe that should, quite frankly, be sent to Room 101.  It could always be worse.
  8. Ensure there’s a clear path between your sofa, bed, chair and bathroom so that you minimise the risk of trip and toe-stubbing hazards.  I can tell you now that stubbing ones toes post-surgery is bloody painful and so is dropping something on the said foot.
  9. Wear comfortable clothes and try to distinguish between pj’s and day clothes so that day and night do not simply merge into one.  It helps to give some structure to the day.

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The surgery itself was mostly unremarkable.  I got to sleep one of those sleeps where you lose track of time and suddenly it is all over.  I was free from pain apart from the very sore throat.  According to the anaesthetist, I was very tight.  The resulting cough was short lived and made worse by remnants of lubrication used during intubation…apparently.  I’m able to report that my sense of humour remained intact at the thoughts that crossed my mind.

hiking

Beach walking

As a child, I grew up next to the coast and have always found myself drawn to its power, beauty and unforgiving nature.  Every day on the coast is different, not one pebble as it was the day before.  The tides give and take away. One can find solitude, peace, inspiration and much more, all for free.

I’d like to draw your attention to the benefits of fresh air and a stroll/walk/hike or similar, on mental health.  Even 30 minutes by the sea can be enough to help balance the mood, increase the production of ‘feel good hormones’ and to bring about a sense of calm.  I know this from my own experience and even though it’s sometimes difficult to make the move to get out of the door, everything seems so much more bearable once I’m on the beach.

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Balancing pebbles on top of one another is quite the most wonderful way to find stillness in the moment.  It’s something that everyone and anyone can do and it certainly helps to bring your focus on to nothing but that moment.  Don’t underestimate the calming effects of what might appear to be quite a mundane activity/task.  If you look here you will see a multitude of pebbles and stones in some fascinating and precarious poses.  At the end of the day, it can be great fun and you’ll never be short of a pebble or three at the beach.  It truly is an art form.  Happy pebble wotnotting.

Ever since I walked The Suffolk Coast Path back in October, I have been drawn to one place in particular and have returned on numerous occasions, tide and time dependent.  The stretch of coast between Minsmere and Aldeburgh is my new favourite place to walk.  It’s usually a case of marching up towards Aldeburgh, plonking myself down on the shingle for a spot of nut butter and yoga before then hopping back to Minsmere for a hot drink and a spot of bird watching.  Of course, these can all be combined for a most glorious day out with friends, family or simply going it alone to reflect and blow away the cobwebs.

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Even on the cloudiest of days, there is fun to be had.  Break up your walk with some balancing or yoga or pretend to be on the top of a mountain without a care in the world.  Reach up to the sky, smile the smile of all smiles and don’t be worried about what other people might think because they’re probably wanting to do exactly the same thing.

If you can find a like-minded soul to go with you, all the better.  I smile…a lot.  Even when I’m on my own.  Does it lift the mood or make me feel good?  Oh absolutely yes and even more so than eating cake (not that I can eat cake any more but if I could.)  My beautiful friend, Sarah…provider of giggles, love and fun.

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If you are lucky enough, you might just get to see one of these;

It didn’t say that I couldn’t climb up into the trees. A small diversion through Minsmere with a spot of frolicking in the trees.

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In summary, there is a always something to do along the coast, any time of the year, for everyone and anyone.  You might be amazed by what you find or see.  Make new memories, for free.

 

hiking

The Suffolk Coast Path

The Suffolk Coast Path is approximately 50 miles in length, depending on the exact route taken.  You can find comprehensive details, directions, GPS routes, maps and more: here here and here.  You might choose to incorporate parts of this walk on circular routes or tackle it in small sections if the thought of walking long distances on consecutive days is not for you.  You might be surprised by the beauty and history that form a part of our most beautiful coastline.

You might find this book useful.  Not that I am suggesting you purchase it from this website.  I picked it up at my local Waterstones shop in Bury St Edmunds.  It was reassuring to have it in my backpack and it certainly helped with the logistics of my walk.

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I’m not entirely sure if I should thank or blame Simon Armitage for the fact that I’m sitting up in my bed, booking a train ticket to Lowestoft for the following morning.  I have never met Simon but I have read two of his books; Walking Home  and Walking Away both of which, I can highly recommend because they are somewhat infectious.  I also have to thank Griff  for his incredibly inspiring and comprehensive guides, without whom, I may well have been caught out by the tides or lack of a foot ferry.  You will find lots of very useful links on his website and I urge you to read through these if you are planning any of the walks that he has undertaken.

I had been contemplating walking the Suffolk Coast Path for several weeks as I was trudging along The Essex Way and The Stour and Orwell Walk.  I knew that I had a small window in which to complete the walk due to the foot ferry that operates between Bawdsey and Felixstowe and also Southwold to Walberswick.  It is important to note at the time of writing that the footbridge between Southwold to Walberswick is currently closed due to erosion of the supporting structure.

It might be appropriate to bring up the most important issues pertaining to the logistics of this walk before you head off to the beach with your sandwiches and sense of humour firmly secured in your backpack. Most importantly, check the Tides and then check them again.  Although much of the walk can be done along sections of the beach, there are pinch points that will not be favourable to anything other than sea-faring creatures at high tide.  There are inland diversions (all of which are listed on Griff’s website) so do take a look. There are many sections along the coast where mobile phone services are non-existent.

I walked this route over the course of 3 days.  A combination of coast, estuary, heaths and meanderings through pig farms and forests; all of which provided me with the opportunity to reflect, meditate and find peace.  It also afforded me the opportunity to test out my new rucksack and to make a wonderful new friend on the train between Norwich and Lowestoft.

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Lowestoft

As with any linear walk, there is the logistical issue of planning appropriate transport to the start and finish of each section.  You may well decide to camp wild at the end of each day or find appropriate accommodation.

Paddling at Dunwich
Soothing the aching feet at the end of day 1

How I broke down the route:

Day 1: Lowestoft to Dunwich 16.7 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 23 minutes.

Day 2; Dunwich to Chillesford 20.4 miles with a moving time of 5 hours 24 minutes.

Day 3: Chillesford to Landguard Fort 18.7 miles with a moving time of 4 hours 51 minutes.

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This pinch point on the beach before Aldeburgh is where you are likely to experience problems at high tide.  Remember to plan according to the tides and follow the diversion if you need to walk inland.IMG_7523

If you’ve never been to Boyton Marshes, I might suggest that you add it to your list of places to visit.  It was here that I found solitude and sanctuary away from the hustle and bustle of life.  You can walk at your own pace, find peace and tranquility or watch the wildlife wading, hopping and swooping before your eyes.  It was here that I stopped to nibble on nut butter and wave to a man who was riding upon what looked like a sit on lawnmower but I realised that my greasy fingers had smudged my glasses and he was in fact, on a jet ski.

If you would like to know more about the archaeology of this area then there is much to read/research and learn.

One is never too old for frolics.

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I have visited Shingle Street many times over the years and it never fails to delight me.  Neither does it fail to make my lower legs surrender to the mercy of marching through what feels like treacle on an empty stomach and with marshmallows for legs.  I’m intrigued as to the very long stretch of shells from the cottages towards the sea.  I imagine this was both fun and beautifully therapeutic.

As an aside…this entire walk was free from the horrors that come from standing in dog shit…until I witnessed a dog dumping it’s load on the path leading to the beach.  The owner appeared to be neither concerned or in a hurry to pick it up or stick it and flick it into a place far away from boots, children and my sanity.  Not once did I come across even the slightest whiff of filth or debris on this stretch of coast…thanks to considerate owners.

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Without a doubt, Landguard Fort was the busiest section of the walk but, given that this was the end of The Suffolk Coast Path, I was not phased by the numbers of people flocking here.  I’ve walked along the estuary from across the water and am always amazed by what looks like giant lego bricks being hauled onto waiting ships.

Although this walk took place in October I was blessed with simply gorgeous weather.  Despite feeling somewhat tired at the end of each day, I was up and back at it the following morning to continue my journey.  Who knows where I might go next.

 

humour

To shave or not to shave

It’s been a long time since I last shaved my legs.  Not long enough that dinosaurs might have been roaming the earth but long enough that I knew it was going to take more than one razor and quite a lot of bending over. I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to even consider tackling anything below waist height last Thursday evening when I could have been reading Ulysses or collecting nail trimmings to make them into a sweet little doll to sell on Ebay.  Whatever the reason, it was on a cold, dark winter’s night that I found myself stood in a bath full of nature’s delightful nectar that is our life source and provider of many fun sports and other things not mentioned because they’re just too rude.

Any sensible person would have washed in the water first and not gone straight for the razor.  If, like me, you suffer with hypotension, you will know that bending over whilst standing in hot water, are a recipe for disaster.  I’d like to know why and how any sane person can do this on a daily basis.  Do you actually do it for yourself or because your partner likes it ‘that way?’

In hindsight, doing it in the bath was not the best decision I’ve ever made.  Picture the scene if you will…what looked like I’d just plucked the hairs from some wild animal and then fired them around the edge of the white bath from a paint gun.  I was not only standing in water floating with monstrous black hairs but I was surrounded by an army of millions of the little devils, all waiting patiently to be removed and to block my very tiny plug hole.

It took what seemed like forever.  The reality was more like 26 minutes with brief intervals to lift my head and recover my falling blood pressure.  It’s worth noting at this point that I was unlikely to be revealing my legs to anyone other than my bed sheets but I’d started so I had to finish.

I was slightly confused as to where the leg hair started and ended and where my lady garden might have bordered the said leg hair and in truth, the only way of finding out was to wait for the inevitable itch/scratch cycle that comes from said preening of hairy wotnots.

I am in a minority of women who likes to keep things wild.  I’ll admit to spending an age being on the other side of the fence when I could actually be bothered to gaze between my thighs with my glasses falling from my nose as I tried to navigate the undulations of my womanhood.  Pubic hair grows back quicker than you might imagine and within hours the ‘inevitable itch/scratch cycle would kick in and I’d resort to ice cubes and airing my snatch in the hope it would abate for long enough to allow me to float gracefully through the aisles of the supermarket without the need to scratch my snatch.

On a positive note, I came through it mostly unscathed and without a single drop of blood.  I was so cocky about this that I immediately set-to with my foot file in the hope of smoothing my ankles and feeling half a stone lighter.  Who in their right mind uses what looks like a miniature cheese grater on their own flesh? I can attest to the fact that when it slips, and it did, that it hurts like buggery and cuts deep.

It wouldn’t have been so bad if I had just been able to hop in the bath to wash away the Merlot coloured seepage but not wanting to step into the hairy shallows, I slapped on some bog roll and set about emptying the bath and releasing the remains of the wild animal.

I’ll definitely not be repeating this process any time soon but for one night, my legs were smooth, my plug hole was hairy and I felt a little less than half a stone lighter.

humour

Soggy tissues, sweary words and stinky fish smells

You know the sort of day I mean…when you get up super early because you are organised and have a list.  A list that has sub-lists and those sub-lists also have their own little clan of tiny tiny lists that are mostly inconsequential in the grander scheme of things.

The washing machine has already produced one soggy pile of laundry, complete with 980 bits of toilet roll of varying sizes…none of which are useful but they do stick to plastered walls if you throw them or spit them from your mouth.  Caution is advised as inhaling with said soggy tissue paper tucked just inside the lips can, if not secured with a vice-like grip, reverse rapidly into the trachea like a frozen pea looking for freedom.  I know this from experience because at almost 49 and three quarters, one partakes in such activities because doing so as a child would have resulted in a slipper on the arse moment.

With laundry hanging precariously from the clothes horse and tools in hand, I made my way to the job at the top of the list and the only job that didn’t have its own sub-list because I’d ordered the part from the supplier and they assured me that it was the correct part because they were the experts.

The water was turned off at the mains.  The valves to the mega flow and accumulator were also turned off.  In essence, this meant that I would be safe and dry and ready to tackle the world with my wrench and wotnots.  What should have been a 30 minute job, turned into a twice x three hour job with swear words of a nature I couldn’t possibly repeat but I was glad that I’d saved some of the soggy tissue because shortly, I would have a whole family of soggy tissues with little babies and bunny rabbits with floppy ears and a budgerigar named, Fred.

I have the patience of a Saint in a sandstorm with only a paper cup and some stockings but even that was tested as I jiggled and wiggled and levered and pulled and made up another 3 sweary type words not yet known to man nor beast and never before the watershed.

I phoned the supplier to explain my dilemma.  Yes I had removed the grub screws.  No I wasn’t a plumber.  Blah blah blah.  I contemplated sending her some soggy tissues in the post in a paper envelope with some sand.  Then the handle came off in my hand, complete with sheared bolt. There’s always a positive to a negative. The original problem appeared to be fixed.  The shut off valve worked with ease without needing a replacement part, which was just as well as they’d sent me something entirely different and at only 70 odd quid, well…a bargain.  Just think how many toilet rolls I could have purchased. Now I had an entirely different problem and need another 3 parts instead of the original part that was not even the right part.

The day couldn’t really get any worse. Lunch was fleeting and hurried. All was in hand though as I set about descaling the shower tap over the sink.  One must never be too complacent. Always pop the plug in or pull the lever to secure the work area. Ping, pop, drop, whoops and away she goes down the plug hole of no return.   The tiniest of parts disappearing from sight in the dingy darkness of doom and 10 year old mouth spit.  Not wanting to waste any more of my day off doing the dirty work, I picked up a toothbrush and shoved that into the tiny little hole that was hardly big enough to hold a sausage roll.  I have big hands for a woman and I’m clumsy.  These two things combined make for an absolute cluster fuck when faced with tiny holes and damp dark places.  Not only had I lost a tiny whatnot but now the pink toothbrush with no name had joined it in the hole of 10 year old mouth spit and what smelled like, dead fish.

This had turned into an epic all day session in the bathroom of buggery bollocks that had more tools than my local hardware shop.  I’d lost a wotnot and a toothbrush and my family of soggy toilet paper had started to dry out and lose their appeal.

If you’ve ever cleaned out a trap from beneath a sink then you’ll feel my pain, particularly when you find that you have to resort to poking around in thick black gunge for the wotnot and find your pink toothbrush is now brown and green and smells like the excretion oozing from a dog’s anal glands.  I never did like pink.

The moral of the story is to have a back-up plan, plenty of toilet paper, the correct parts and a sense of humour the size of Cornwall with a bag full of wotnots just in case and a spare toothbrush that isn’t pink.

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I am such a clutter-fuck

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There’s little surprise that I am plagued with incessant mind-chatter when my work bench is as cluttered as the Women’s Institute yearly jumble sale.  I used to pride myself on being super organised.  A place for everything and everything in its place, except for when it is not and then it is a clutter-fuck kind of lifestyle but an organised one…at least in my mind or it would be if that wasn’t filled with a list as long as the wooden school ruler I snapped out of anger when it felt like the right thing to do at the time.

I’d like to say that I staged the photograph of my work bench; took time to arrange everything to look as though a small army of little borrowers had rummaged through my boxes looking for thimbles to use as tents or machine headed screws to use for fairground rides.  The cold and stark truth is that this is what it looks like without intervention.

Three days ago it was neat.  Everything was in its place.  Order had been restored and the incessant mind-chatter was at manageable levels and not in need of self medicating with a quick flick through Ulysses whilst sitting on the toilet with a toothbrush tucked between two of my toes as I pretended to be doing something useful instead of putting off Operation Declutter.

I avoided visiting the toolshed today because I knew that even if I searched through the twice-loved screws (some with rounded heads but was keeping because I wasn’t sure what to do with them and didn’t want to deposit them in the bin because that seemed such a waste) I wouldn’t find the 45mm M3’s that I required for the cupboard handles shipped from China because apparently I’m too colourful by far for the UK.  Who knew that this would be the size that even B & Q wouldn’t stock.  I already knew they didn’t have them when I set off on a 25 mile round trip.  I had to satisfy myself and anyway, it was the perfect opportunity fill my trolley with two orange plant pots that would inevitably still be empty come this time next year, 5 pots of rainbow coloured paint, a roll of sandpaper to file the calluses on my hands and some brackets that weren’t white but more vomit-coloured but might take a splash of yellow paint if only I could be bothered.

It’s Thursday tomorrow and if, between constructing a little coloured box for my wotnots, I can find the time (which might be hard because I think it’s wedged between the box of drill bits and some pieces of wood that were once destined to be something but that’s another story altogether) and anyway…time is borrowed and with that in mind, I need to borrow at least 7 hours for some much needed shut eye and to contemplate getting a bigger shed or part with all the items I’ve been saving…just in case I need to repair the shed because it’s full of clutter-fucking objects.

handstands

A girl can never have too many toys.

A girl can never have too many toys.  Oh, I hear the cogs whirring and stirring and conjuring up all manner of perverted thoughts about what this might mean.  If, like me, you are handy with the tools and spend more time with a router and an impact driver than your friends, you’re in good company.

I’m a firm believer that if I see something I like and want, I’ll make it myself and if I can’t make it myself, then I’ll have to go without.  Am I the only girl who spends hours searching the web for flanges?  And why don’t they come in a range of colours so that I can change them depending on my outfit?

I’ve been lusting after some handstand canes for the entire summer.  Life got in the way.  I got distracted with building some p-bars outside and on splitting my difference trying to get the ever elusive middle splits.

Having waited patiently for the flanges to arrive, I spent my lunch hour with my trusted tools and created my very first canes.  They are fit for purpose.  I’ve no doubt I’ll be tweaking them and turning them into candy striped yellow and blue loveliness on a blustery Autumn day when I should be cleaning gutters and tending to the garden but I’m so easily distracted and the best bit of all is that I created something with my own callused hands.  More on that subject later.

It’s not as if these things are step ladder high but size counts when you live in an upside-down world and even a few inches makes all the difference.  If you are sniggering at the back, I know what you’re thinking.  Yes, every inch counts and makes my entry that much more nail biting.

I shall promise to share with you, my trials, tribulations, tips and tears.

instagram

Instagram

 

 

 

It’s how I fell into the world of yoga and my very first attempt at a headstand.  It was not pretty.  I’d never heard of a hollow body, pinchamayurasana or tittibhasana and wasn’t even sure what an asana was or if it might be edible.  How far I’ve come on my journey…complete with bruises, broken toes and an ego very firmly in check.

I have a love hate relationship with IG.  It’s a bit like having a friend hanging onto my belt or stuck to the bottom of my shoe like a piece of chewing gum.  There’s good and bad in every aspect of life and IG is great if used wisely and with the knowledge that it might make you feel the need to check in for rehabilitation or worse, smash your iPhone with a sledge hammer as you cry into your Lulu Lemons.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it wasn’t for IG.  Neither would I have connected with so many amazing souls from across the globe.  Neither would I be pressing into a handstand after only months of starting that crazy journey on my hands.  Yes, there are still things that infuriate me about IG.  It’s my choice.  I wake up in the morning and climb into my big-girl pants and I either tell it as it is or press that unfollow button.  I’ve more important things to worry about…is my compost too soggy and will my cucumbers mature before Autumn?

Spam – it’s my pet hate.  I’m pretty certain that when I started on IG last year that I got carried away and shared all my little successes, every bloody day, without any thought for the poor people having to trawl through thousands of videos and pictures in their feeds.  I at least had the balls to ask someone why they had unfollowed me and was told very politely that I posted too much. This led to some reflection and soul searching on my part and a huge change to what and how much I posted.  I now feel that one or two posts a day is bearable.  I don’t rush to share my own successes but would rather post to help others on their journey.  Someone once said that what we post on IG is just for us and therefore we can post whatever we like and as much as we like.  If that’s the case, why isn’t your account private with zero followers if its just for you?  After all, we are posting into other people’s feeds.  It would be foolish to think that we only post for ourselves.    I love to share in your successes and progress but if you are at post number 19 and it’s only lunchtime…I’m going to hit that button and unfollow you because I somehow feel my feed is now dedicated to you and you alone.  It doesn’t matter how much I like you, I’m going to be true to my word and keep things manageable for my own sanity.

If you tag me and ask me to follow some random person because they only need another 200 followers to reach 5000…think again.  Since when do we buy followers with the promise of a prize? I’ll follow on my own volition because I’m interested in their content and because they don’t spam.  I didn’t reach 49 by being told to be friends with someone because then their world will be balanced by having 5000 people.  All of whom will of course comment and engage in constructive dialogue…or not. It’s best to air these little niggles so they don’t turn into huge boils that need lancing with a rusty needle.

My advice…be thoughtful, be respectful to others, keep your ego in check and use it as a tool and not a lifeline.