Monday, 18 January 2016

Too much talk

I've always been a firm believer on changing things you're not happy with, no matter what the time of year.

The test is simple: if there's an issue that comes up in most conversations you have, and you're not getting paid to go on TV and talk about it, then either make it happen, or make your peace.

It's not always easy to do.

Actually, fuck that: sometimes it is easy to do, sometimes change is made out to be this big thing when all you need to do is stop yourself, or put a bit of effort in, or find another topic to talk about.

Otherwise, another year goes by and you realise you've been throwing your wishes and aspirations against a wall like paint - and they look so bright on there, so vivid, and so different to the blandness of day to day life, that it's easy to think you're making things happen just by chucking it up there and saying it's so.

Talking about all the things you'd like to do, and the way you want things to be, feels good as you do it.

But unless you actually act on these things, do what you say you're going to do, follow through, you might as well not say anything at all.

It was an unexpected gift from my best friend at Christmas which reminded me that of all people, I'm as guilty of this as anyone else.

I've spent so long talking about going back, going away, putting pin points in the world. But bar a few European trips, that's all it's been: talk.

A few things have stopped me, mostly it's just being comfortable. Yet all this time my world been shrinking; quietly getting hemmed in by panics and aspirations (own the house, meet the man, have the wedding, make the kid, get bigger house) that have never, really, been mine.

And then a few days before Christmas, there it was: part present, part reminder to do what I keep saying, part peace offering after a year of rocky friendship:

A beautiful leather travel wallet, engraved with my name.


It's nothing, really, just a baby trip. A couple of days extra holiday than the contract says you're allowed to take at once.

But it's a start; a toe dip in significantly warmer water.

Make this year as the year you do the things you always say you want to do, or stop saying it and talk about something else.

I choose to put the travel wallet on my shelf where I can see it, and book the flights.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Storm free

Blonde gave me another prompt (eye of the storm) which I started writing about and then went off course. But the theme's in there somewhere, promise. 

For someone who sends cards all year round for no particular reason, I'm surprised by the amount of effort it takes to buy, write and post them for Christmas.

But this year the effort seems necessary, because this was the year things changed.

It was the year that my friends and I grew up, just a little bit, with a wink: made lifelong commitments, created human beings, chucked it all in and went abroad; broke down, broke up, and realised as a few things crashed that right: so this is how life's going to go now.

So this year, there'll be cards: and it starts with me, in bed on a Saturday morning, making a list of names.

The list surprises me, and so it should: because throughout my childhood and teens, friendships were stormy things. Never calm for long, always a battle to maintain.

They were precarious, and worrying: something that could, and often would, be messed up at any moment (usually, it seemed, by me).

Almost no one on the list comes from my school days, which at one point might have seemed odd.

But now, it seems obvious: if you go to five different schools, you'll be constantly interrupting, re-jigging; trying to squeeze between friendships and groups that were, in that classic, cliquey, school-like way, already formed.

I wish someone had told me back then, in the middle of one of the storms, that I'd make the best of my friends at university, and at parties, and at work, into my late twenties and beyond.

That when people ask how we know each other, there'll be furrowed brows and longwinded explanations, of friends-of-friends and introductions here and there.

That when they arrive, the friendships won't end up fitting a defined shape, or group, or neat number at all.

That one day I'd make friends to get really, stupidly drunk with, who'll drive me home the next morning while I'm being sick into a plastic bag, and laugh when I say "see, this is how I know you're good mates, because I'm not even ashamed".

That I'll have friends that are strong minded and friends who speak up, and friends who I can honestly say "mate, you're being a complete nightmare"; and instead of it causing a storm (and I'll never quite shake the fear that it will) they'll say "I am, I am. And that's why I love you, because you'll always let me know".

That I'll make friends whose priorities will change from nights out to nappies, and whose lives might take a different direction to mine, but one day I'll sit on my bed and write a list with their names on and feel happy.

Because my main worry when it comes to friendships now, is remembering to post their cards.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Starting small

We decide to give each other a little prompt.

Because when life is too big, too much, too overwhelming to write about, but you know you need to write; what you need isn't a pen or a keyboard, or book, or blog, it's somewhere to start.

The subject delivered via text message is "an item that brings you joy", so I sit on the bus and I think about all the things I own, and I try to assign them a value. 

First I think of the ring on my finger. Three different types of gold interlinked, and given to me by my parents on my 16th birthday.

It's not just a ring, of course: it's a comfort when rolled back and forth, a poker-tell that I'm nervous; a heart fluttering novelty when taken and worn by someone else on their little finger (and it has been, twice).

Then the diaries come to mind. Altogether there are twenty, perhaps, although to be fair I've never counted.

Notebooks of different shapes and sizes filled with a script that changes, but retains some element that has been unmistakably mine since the first entry in 1991.

Occasionally, I like picking one and reading through; feeling whatever feeling it is that comes - but is it joy?

And then because I'm on the bus and thinking about diaries, and memories, inevitably I think of the thing I need to write about the most. Would diaries help? If she'd kept them, would things be different?

I begin to open tabs and Google this new idea before stopping myself, and coming back to the task at hand: the prompt. This is why we're starting small. 

Because life gets in the way, because writing means processing what's happening, because sometimes you just need to write something, anything, and start there: do it, write it, no distraction.

And that's when I realise the item that brings the most amount of joy is, and always has been, a pen, a keyboard; whatever I can use to write with. 

Friday, 2 October 2015

Love hurts

Preamble: The other day I listened to this series of podcast episiodes called Love Hurts in full. And then I decided to write to the woman who made it. My email ended up saying a lot of what I've wanted to say for a while, about being single, looking for love, not finding it, and how other people react to singleness - so here is a (heavily edited) part blog post / part email version here. A little disjointed as a result, but there you go. 

I rarely feel compelled enough to write to people whose podcasts I've listened to, but I just stumbled upon the Love Hurts series Lea Thau did on the Strangers podcast, and it sucked me in. 

It was uncomfortable and comfortable listening all at once.

She interviews past dates to find out why it didn't work out, talks to relationship experts, and exes, and discusses the question of dating and sex, and delves into her own past to try and answer to the question of why she's been single for so long, and the big one: Is It Me? 

What struck me most was the relief of hearing someone say out loud how embarrassing being single is, when so much time is spent pretending not to be ashamed about it - to couples, and other singles, to yourself.

It's something I wouldn't ever have admitted, and have never heard voiced by someone else - and yet I found myself thinking "yes, embarrassment. That's exactly how it feels."

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you might know I've been single for four years. You might have read what happened, and the ups and downs that followed; sparse as the posting has become.

Perhaps you've been supportive, perhaps you've longed for me to find The One each time I mentioned a date. Perhaps you've left a helpful comment saying I should be over my last relationship by now, that it's time to move on.

Whichever group you fall into, you'll know that I haven't really spent the last four years looking for love, exactly; more getting over the last one, being alright by myself, and trying to find what fits now. 

And you might have gathered along the way that I'd rather be single than with someone for the sake of it. That I don't think there's much point in settling, or continuing to date someone who you know wants different things, or going on indiscriminate online dates, when there's a bigger world out there to explore.

But none of that changes the fact that I'd love to be in a relationship, and that often, admitting as much is a difficult thing to do.

Aside from anything else, we can all probably admit that the grass isn't greener over there in coupledom; but at 31, it's just a different, more socially acceptable field to be in.

Because yes, it can be brilliant being single, but it's also a mess of contradictions.

It's something your equally single friends want to maintain (at least, until they find someone themselves), and your coupled friends want to change.

It means talking about how you feel, whether you're happy or not, and, of course, replying to the ever persistent questions about the men in your life and whether you're dating.

It means handling the lull in conversation, the flash of a concerned look, the reassuring noises, and the empty feeling that follows if the answer is "there's no one, and I'm not".

Being single means subjecting your life to analysis, and noting in comparison that people in relationships are rarely also asked at the dinner table "so, how are things with you two? Are you really happy?", when they're the ones, we're often told, who are not. 

We are told that no relationship is perfect, yet they don't need to refer to the hard work involved and never have to admit what they would change, or what they perhaps miss - to be point where I assume it's just something that cannot, or should not be said.

The fact remains: in January I will have been single for five years, and I will continue to feel embarrassed when saying the number out loud.

No matter how comfortable you are with being single, it gets harder and harder to reconcile yourself with it when everyone around you is so focused on finding someone, or marrying, or committing in some way. 

And this is in London: a city full of people like me. I live with two of them; we travel, we busy ourselves, we date, we have lots of friends.

But it feels increasingly like we're all treading water, waiting for someone to come along and change this status which isn't quite acceptable - long term, anyway - without that well known aside being whispered behind you.

Every situation has its ups and downs, and I was in the middle of a down period when I listened to this podcast last week. But instead of making me feel low, and more embarrassed, I felt reassured and absolutely ok.

I don't know many other people who've been single for 4+ years, so it just helped to hear someone else who has speak with so much honesty, and frankness, and bravery on the subject, in a way that I have never heard anyone else be.

So with that, I'll say it: I am single. It's been nearly five years since someone last called me their girlfriend. And if I've got to be ok with that, then everyone else should be, too. 

Podcast links: 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Follow up
One year later

Monday, 24 August 2015

Sitting with the news

Well then, let's see.

You know it's not going to be Good News because you've received the Bad News Preparation text; a variation of "ring me when you've got a quiet few minutes" or "we have the results, let me know when you're around".

So you duly find a spare meeting room at work, soundproof, bare; a sheet of frosted glass between you and 70-odd people beginning their day.

You scroll to D, press call, say hello. Alright?

And then the News comes.

It is gentle Bad News. Expected in some ways, not that it makes the reality any easier to hear.

It is contemplative News; it elicits silent inevitable tears, but no immediate action: there's nowhere to rush to, no hospital to attend, no funeral to plan, no shouting to be done.

Nothing tangible from last night to this morning has changed.

It is the sort of News where you are required to be calm, and kind, and patient, even though you feel anything but. You are worried about them, and a little bit (selfishly) worried about you.

It is News where you need very close friends to appear, and so they do, without question.

They let you lie on their floor when you've extracted yourself from the meeting room, past the curious eyes, and into their flat where their baby grips your little finger, and you wonder what to do next.

(Nothing for now, they say, no research. No Googling. Just let it sink in)

Friends appear and sit next to you on the sofa and watch mindless TV. They squeeze your hand. Hug you tightly. Invite you to eat lunch, take you out in the evening, get you extremely drunk and then safely home, checking in the next day.

They walk with you, and listen while you babble thoughts, or laugh, or talk about other stuff as if there's been no News - bad or otherwise - at all. 

In the week that follows you learn that this sort of News makes you angry, and frustrated, and sad, and upset, and raises questions, and skepticism, and an anxiousness that spreads into every corner, but on top of all that, there's something else.

Because aside from all this, News has always brought knowledge, understanding and awareness, and although you don't quite understand yet, you are now aware, softened by it.

And so you just sit with it. Because for now, that is all the News requires.

(As an after thought: I'm not purposely being suspenseful here, I'm just not ready to get opinions and information yet on the specific thing. Hence for now it will just be referred to as the "News")

Monday, 15 June 2015


The strange thing is, I always wanted it to happen.

In the same way that you might wonder why you always get a ferocious hangover while your mates wake up feeling bright, I wondered why this particular nuance of other peoples' relationships never extended to me.

Why did they always get noise, when all I got was silence?

And then as I blinked awake on Saturday morning, too early, there it was.

The familiar double buzz beside me, the name on the screen, the clock stating 06:54am, the sinking thump in my chest, and the first post-break-up-statement-of-regret of my relationship career. 

Long time no speak, how are you? I hope you're good. I miss hanging out with you x

My brain picked up the words I'd been waiting for, and ran with them.

It ran into the future and back into the past, and woke up all the possibilities that had been slowly melting away over the last couple of months.

My thoughts flipped around, got lifted up and carried away which meant it was a good few minutes before something obvious dawned on me: the time.

It was now 7am, which meant that these weren't the realisations of a man who had come to his senses in the bold light of a new day.

No,  no. They were the emotional, needy, drug-fuelled, drink addled words that came at the end of a long night.

And they were words that I shouldn't have replied to, but I did. 

Of course I did.

(You can't wait four relationships for something to happen, and then not act on it when it does.)

So in a gesture that was half clinging onto a thread of hope, and half curiosity: what would happen if I introduced a very un-modern, sober dose of honesty into proceedings? I sent a response.

I can't tell you what the messages that followed said, partly because they happened over a course of weeks, partly because it's done now, finished, and looking back seems something worse than futile. 

But I can tell you about the Saturday night when I went out, hours after receiving what would be his final message, and sat at a bar next to The Lawyer.

Around three or four Surprise Tears had begun their descent, so I pulled my hair in front of me to shield my face from the barman and she said "Will it make it better if I put my arm around you and give you a hug, or worse?" and I said "Worse", and so we sat there, separated, and she said "Well, just so you know, I really want to hug you. And also, it won't feel like you're better off, I know it doesn't, but you are." and I said "I know, I just feel so sad. Again." because sometimes, that's just all it is.

It took two days for the perfect reply to shape itself, and then there it was: everything I wanted to say in a box on the screen.

I am having a lot of fun. And it's a shame you're not going to be a part of it as I'd hoped you might. I wish you all the best anyway.x

And with the realisation that noise is good if it's final and purposeful, but silence is better if it's not, I pressed send. 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Waking up

One day you just wake up and feel a bit better.

Not totally alright, but less like the world's already gone to pot before you've even opened your eyes.

Realising you don't feel as resolutely awful as you have been for the past few weeks - or even months - is like that morning when the sun rises before you do at the end of winter.

That little bit of light making lines on your bedroom wall means you've made it through the bleakest bit of the year.

Instead of shifting awake and having to lie there, trying to guess what time it is, and how long it'll be until your alarm goes off - is it 4am or 7am? - now you know it's daylight outside, and that means it's time to get up.

As the mornings get lighter (in every sense), so does your perspective on the situation.

It begins to feel less like a failure and more like another thing you'll look back on and see more and more holes in, either when the next one comes along, or before.

And more importantly, you know there probably will be a next one - that's something to look forward to now, too.

Either way, after months of your brain working overtime, you've made a decision to stop questioning yourself so much.

Just let stuff happen. Say yes, and see where it takes you.

Stop analysing, comparing, wondering what if this, or what if that - instead, just wake up each day, feel a bit better.

You'll work it out.


Blog Template by - RSS icons by ComingUpForAir