Another Dead, Another Dollar

Death Blog

So I have been thinking a lot about my “dream job” recently. This happens on a semi-regular basis; the typical adult day dream of what you’d be doing if you could, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the future and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life (spoiler – I ain’t got a clue) and as such it’s been a little more at the forefront of my mind. It’s important to understand that being a grown up is pretty sucky overall, and considering you spend about 75% of your time working, it is really the best course of action to find a job/career that is actually good for you.

Now it’s all very well and good being rational and thinking about saving money and sensible career options, but I think there surely must be more to life that the daily 9-5 grind. I’ve heard horror stories of people who worked every god given day of their lives, saving up for a dream retirement and ended up dying a week after they finished. Can you think of anything more soul destroying? Working so hard for so long and then it all just being a waste? It doesn’t bear even thinking about. Still, I know it’s hard, and that talking about “living in the moment” and Carpe-Diem-ing all over the place is fine for some people, but there are those of us that can’t; because they don’t know how, because they’re scared, because they haven’t got the freedom. For the silently complaining majority, working is literally a means to an end and “living for the weekend” is more than a cheesy saying, it’s a way of life.

There’s a fine line that needs to be navigated for most of us; the perfect balance of submitting to the necessities of the world (earning enough money to live) and actually enjoying the way you do it. I’m pretty sure that there’s only a tiny fraction of people who actually love their jobs, but the rest of us need to at least find something that doesn’t make us cry every night and dread getting out of bed every morning.

My job teeters on this line, sometimes tipping further one way then the other. I really like the people I work with but the role itself can be either here nor there. I sort of accidentally fell into it and whilst it could obviously be worse and it succeeds in keeping the wolves from the door, it’s a long stretch from what I’d hoped for when I was little tot dreaming of my future. Before further education, I’d been lucky enough to never need a job. I’d tried (Somewhat lacksidasically) to find one, but I barely did anything and as such didn’t really need the funds. However, leaving University left me with an acute terror of needing to find a job immediately or face certain death and dishonour on my family. Working part time at a pub whilst studying was fine, but it wasn’t really feasible for a couple looking to set off on their own into the big wide world. TMM managed to find a job at the local mill (which makes us sound like right hillbillies) quite quickly and I was left to spend a few weeks milling about in our cramped little room above the pub feeling sorry for myself and eating left over cold pasta. Not one to be kept down though (read – having encouraging friends and family who guided me in the right direction), I contacted a couple of employment agencies and within a few days was signed up for a temp job working as a recruitment consultant for a healthcare company. Now, not to sugar coat it, but I hated that job quite passionately. I made some lovely friends and had some good times, but the job itself was gash and completely unsuited to me. Still, I spent a year there (what else was I going to do) and got what I could out of it. After that ended though, it was easier to fall into a similar role again and again and today still finds me working in recruitment (though thankfully in a role more back office based than customer facing). It’s not what I would have picked for myself when I was younger though, and I still don’t think it’s really where my passions lie.

To be honest though, the jobs I would class as right for myself are a tad…odd. I’ve been pretty set in my ways and since school, I have only ever really wanted to be one (or more) of three things.

  1. A librarian from the 1950s
  2. A famous author
  3. A mortuary assistant

Specific and somewhat niche, you can see why I have maybe struggled to find myself in these career options yet. The first choice, the librarian, is possibly the most accessible to me (though I have tried on numerous occasions to get a job in a library to little or no response) but I fear that my imagings of what working in a library is like would not be anything like what working in a library actually is, hence the caveat. I want towering wooden bookshelves; leather bound books nestled safely in amongst each other in a soothing smell of must; cabinets labelled in neat hand writing housing thousands of neatly arranged reference cards and women with sensible skirts, smart buns and piznez. Basically I want to work in the Bodleian or the Hogwarts Library. The trouble is, I think the libraries of today are a lot more multimedia based, computerised and sadly nowhere near as prevalent as they once were. That is not to say I would not jump at the chance to get myself in there (a library is a library no matter what, and if I have to bring my own reference cards I will), because no matter how the job evolves or what systems are used to manage it, it is and always will be “a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life” and that is what I am all about.

For those of you who know nothing about Isaac Asimov, I strongly suggest you go out there and educate yourselves.

The second option is I think the aspirations of everyone with a note pad and a head full of imaginations, but the trouble is most of us either don’t have the staying power or the ability to cope well with criticism and rejection. Personally, I find myself with thousands of ideas but just not the ability to flesh them out fully. I become too bogged down in the minutia of finding the perfect simile or conversational exchange and lose interest before the first chapter is out. My notes are filled with countless unfinished stories that I return to now and again, but never at a rate that will end up with the intended J.K.Rowling levels of popularity. Considering this was my dad’s third chance at a fortune (the 1st being his great monetary success and the 2nd being my sister’s – neither of which have come to fruition yet) I think he might need to start buying a lottery ticket.

The final choice has been a firm favourite ever since I fell in love with the imagined funeral director who I used to pass every day on the way to school. (Side note – the man himself was not imaginary, he and his snazzy briefcase were very real. However I have no idea what his chosen profession actually was or if his briefcase housed the secrets of the dead – I imagine it more likely he was just a very smart accountant). I found him fascinating though, and the life I made up for him, dealing with those who were not so alive, was pretty awesome.

I remember telling one of my teachers that I’d be interested in working in a funeral home during one of our short lived “Career Options” meetings at high school and I still remember the look of horrified disbelief on her face. I was quite surprised at the fervent opposition, especially considering it is possibly one of the most viable and sustainable options (never going to run out of work, are you?) and kept my ideas to myself after that. The dream never really went away though.

We actually own two copies of this book due to an unfortunate selection of incidents last Christmas involving some cover staining and a gravy disaster. However, it does mean we can take a cool picture so it’s not all bad.

I’m currently reading “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory” by Caitlin Doughty, a lady who works in the industry though, and it has done absolutely nothing to dissuade me. It’s a viscerally real, deceptively funny and surprisingly affectionate view behind the curtain of cremation and has pushed me to think about it in ways I never have before.

People have a very odd relationship with death and reading this book has made me aware of how far society (especially Western civilisation) has come from its rituals and belief systems surrounding the dearly departed. Death is so far removed from us now, and so hidden; we don’t want anything to do with the vessel that housed the person we knew. Indeed there is a commercialisation surrounding it, in our attempts to make it more palatable, death has become just another business. Some of the descriptions in the book; the things that are done to the bodies to make them “acceptable” for family viewings is almost unbelievable. I’ve already told TMM that when I die, he is to either just look upon my remains for what they are or remember me as I was. I’ve spent enough time making myself acceptable for other people, like hell am I gonna do it in death.

But one of my favourite quotes – “Someone must take care of these corpses, who have become useless at caring for themselves” really stuck with me and felt quite timely in this, my time of annual frustrations over my need to care for others but inability to do so. I want desperately to support homeless people, but I still struggle making eye contact with people I know, never mind strangers living on the street. I want to help the legions of abandoned old folk who are living alone and share in their rich histories, but can’t seem to hold a serious conversation to save my life without coming across horribly patronisingly. The thought of children suffering horrifies and shames me, but the idea of working with them terrifies me beyond compare. The dead though, they don’t actually need that much in the grand scheme of things. Someone to prepare them, someone to take care of what remains, someone to stand by as they vanish into the ground or the crematorium. It’s strange because by that point, I’m sure they really don’t care what happens, but I like to think that when I’m gone, there will be someone there to look after me one last time. They won’t know me and they probably won’t remember me, but they’ll make sure I shuffle off this mortal coil with whatever dignity remains and I find that comforting.

It might be morbid but it’s necessary and honestly? I can’t think of a dream job more worthwhile.

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Save the Planet. Period

Planet Blog

I am glad to report things are looking a little rosier this week, dear Readers. I’m still tired and a tad weepy and horribly flued up, but it’s definitely looking a little brighter on the horizon. Part of this, I am overjoyed to say, is due to the in-pouring of supportive messages and kind words I received. These posts are never written with the expectation of response, but it just goes to show the calibre of my friends and family who are able and willing to reach out and provide a spot of sunshine in an otherwise dreary time. (True, I did cry at all of them but they were happy tears, which was a very welcome change to the standard depression crying I’d been doing the rest of the time).

I like to think my self-imposed personal-care regime (which sounds a lot filthier than it should) has played a part in this uplift in mood too. Admittedly, it is early days and one cannot expect to give ones life to change completely because one ate a little more and self-bullied a little less, but it’s rewarding to know I can actually take an element of control over myself when I am feeling so down. Given how I’ve previously dealt with similar dips, this feels like a pretty grown up response.

Now I can’t deny that I have gone from eating barely anything at work to demolishing eleventy billion packets of crisps and twixes a day, but we’ve been cooking super healthy teas so I like to think it’s balancing out. I have also developed a cold and am working on the proviso that I’ll fight off the virus with carbs. My surprisingly robust immune system is doing it’s job though, and the cold that has affected other people for weeks is already showing signs of fading. There was a rather dramatic and unnecessary event at the weekend which found me being so surprised and overwhelmed by a violent cough that I was caused to vomit and meant that, having no other means in which to catch it, I had to sacrifice half a brew before TMM could rush to my aid with a bowl (before leaving swiftly to gag in the hallway). We were all a tad disgusted and upset with that situation, but thankfully there have been no re-occurrences and I fully expect to be mostly recovered by the coming weekend. (You’ll also all be glad to know, I’m sure, that the chunder-brew was immediately and swiftly disposed of and a new chunk free cuppa was made to take it’s place).

I have been thinking a lot about caring recently. Focusing my attentions on things that made me feel better has lead me to realise I thrive on doing things that I know are good for others. I am trying to be a lot more aware of the world around me, and I’m keen on discovering ways of making the best of myself and what I can give. It’s important, especially in the current climate (both political and actual) to be aware of your impact and the differences you can make to your life that will help look after yourself and those you care about long after you’re gone. (I sound well hippy here, don’t I?). Basically what I’m saying is I’m trying to be more ecologically sufficient and I’m now going to talk about all the ways I’m being a greeny goody-two shoes. In the form of a list. Because I love lists. Soz.

Ways in Which Ebear is Single-Handily Saving the World and Being Very Modest About It Too, Amen.

Jumping on the Straw Bandwagon. I am sure you’ve all heard about the MASSIVE DANGERS single use straws (and cotton buds) pose to our very existence and the steps taken by various governmental bodies and big corporations to slow down the inevitable straw uprising and their subsequent world domination. We have had our attitudes to these plastic devils completely altered by the wonderful Sir David Attenborough, beloved by everyone in the entire world except my friend Em who is clearly a spy sent by the straws (and cotton buds), and I for one am glad. It is such a simple change to make, but the effect it could have is almost overwhelming. It has also led to a great in-depth discussion about how companies like MacDonalds should provide reusable and travel friendly cups, like Starbucks, and could provide discounts on meals every time they’re used. (This occurred whilst driving cross country and trying desperately to navigate windy roads with flimsy cups sloshing with ice cubes). Down with straws I say, and hello to a better world.

Bamboo isn’t just for Pandas. Speaking of the devilry of plastic, toothbrushes are also proven to be monstrous harbingers of doom. Videos all over social media have shown the truly shocking amounts of discarded plastic toothbrushes that have built up over time; mountains of brightly coloured and barely rotted stalks greedily filling up landfills. It’s scary to think that the toothbrush you had as a child will outlive you. To this end, I have forsaken the standard implement in favour of a bamboo one; proving myself to not only an angel but also bang on trend. Bio-degradable, healthy and stylish, they really are this season’s must have. Also, they make adorable little plant identification labels once they’re done cleaning your peggies.

Lush Living. I love Lush. I love the overwhelming aroma of hippies that hits you as soon as you cross the threshold, I love the garishly bright packaging and I love the perfectly formed bath bomb triangles on every available surface. I also love their eco-friendly attitude and their commitment to making the world a better place and am more than happy to buy into their philosophies. One change we’ve made (poor TMM had no choice in this one) is to use their shampoo bars and body soaps in place of standard bottled lotions and potions, and let me tell you – it’s pretty great. We bought a smaller than palm sized shampoo bar about 2 months ago (“Honey, I Washed My Hair” – honey, wild orange and bergamot – scientifically proven to be delicious) and we’ve still got about half of it left. It lathers beautifully, smells divine and has meant we’ve saved space (no more bottles cluttering up the bath), money (1 payment of £6 vs countless payments of £1.99 per bottle), and a little bit of the planet. We’ve changed to bar soaps too, typically purchased from the old lady section of the bathroom aisle at your local supermarket, and the “dropped the soap in the shower” jokes alone have been worth it.

It’s a bit bloody better than pads. For those of you with delicate sensibilities, or a complete lack of understanding of the female anatomy, this section might cause a slight widening of the eyes. Period pants are my newest investment and addition to the world-saving handbook, and so far they seem to be going pretty well. I have an intense dislike of all the faffing about that comes with my special monthly gift, especially the truly ridiculous amount of both money and packaging that’s wasted every damn time it comes around. Whilst you might think there is a multitude of options available out there, no matter what you always seems to end up walking a little like John Wayne and feeling immensely uncomfortably at least 1 day out of 5. Enter stage right – the specialised period friendly knicker. After spending yet another afternoon ruing the day I was ever born a woman and having to gingerly sort out my undercarriage when it seemed that once again the devil had tried to escape from my womb in as messy a ways as is possible, I decided to throw caution to the wind and give these bad boys a try. The website gayly declared promises of “moisture wicking!”, “no unshapely bulges!” and “odor-free!”, and whilst I was skeptical, I was also willing. It is with a light heart that I am pleased to announce that the website was fair in all it’s claims. Whilst when they first arrived I did raise an eyebrow at the somewhat padded nature of the butt area, I was pleased to realise they fit perfectly, were just as comfy as my other knickers and allowed for no leakage whatsoever! True, they are possibly not for the faint hearted as some light hand rinsing is required before they go in the laundry, but considering I’d being having to do just as much fannying (pun most definitely intended) about with pads, tampons or mooncups, I have to say these rate top of my chosen lady time companions so far. Saving money and the planet, one menstrual cycle at a time.

Soap Corner, being it’s adorable and eco friendly self

And so, I bring to a close the gospel of world friendliness according to Ebear. In all honesty, I am fully aware that I am not the bee all and end all of being ecologically friendly (I still shop at Primark and take showers that are outrageously long), but I’m trying and that’s got to count for something. I am open to all suggestions though, so if you have any ideas for changes to my general day to day living that will allow me to make the world that tiny bit healthier, you just let me know.

Misery: Seeking Company for Long Walks and Getting Caught in the Rain

Blog Misery

It’s gonna start off as a bit of a shit one this week, folks. For those of you who are feeling resolutely cheerful and would like to remain so, or those who are already feeling fragile and would prefer not to be nudged over the edge, you may be excused.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post focused around my mental state, and to be honest that’s been quite a good thing really. It’s much easier to talk and write and think about other things when you’re healthy and happy. Sadness only seems to breed more sadness; and along with that comes a general lethargy, a general unwillingness to do anything other than spiral downwards and the ability to only talk about how bad you feel with an unhealthily narcissistic intensity. I’ve been Sad (with a capital S) for about 2 weeks on and off now and it’s been a right old muddle of all of the above.

This time of year always heralds a general ennui and underlying feelings of melancholy for me. The change in the weather; the encroaching dark nights, the sharp winds that get in down your coat collar, the rain that seems to find it’s way under your umbrella and through your hood to dribble down the back of your neck – I truly hate it. Now don’t get me wrong,  because I love the Instagram side of Autumn just as much as the next millennial. Long walks in piles of russet coloured leaves and long sleeved thick woollen jumpers wrapped around steaming mugs of hot chocolate; that I some good shit, but it’s hardly an every day occurrence is it? The all over greyness and malaise finds me ebbing lower and lower, hunching further in to myself in a paltry effort to hibernate and hide from it all.

Unfortunately though, this turn in the seasons coincided rather succinctly with a whole miasma of other things; a perfect storm of unique and ultimately bullshit events all coming together to screw me over. Whilst each one might have been okay on their own, having all of them at once has succeeded in just tipping me over the edge.

Sadly a few weeks ago I lost something very precious. Although it was completely accidental and there was no blame to attribute, it threw me. It was something rather minor in the grand scheme of things; not expensive or useful, but it was something I’d taken completely for granted and it’s loss rippled outwards in seismic waves of despondency, affecting TMM quite strongly as well. Stupidly it left us struggling to sleep, and as most of us know, the night is dark and full of terrors. Lying in the dark without distraction meant I found myself falling back into old and particularly unhelpful habits. Hurtful, insidious thoughts started slithering in, picking on things that I’d been successfully ignoring or hadn’t realised were even affecting me. All the dark and nasty fears that are normally boxed away start clambering out of the mental woodwork and it becomes so much harder to push them away.

It’s scary how easy it is to slip and it’s incredibly unfair, especially considering how difficult it can be to drag yourself back up.

The problem is once you find yourself in a state like that, other things start piling up and situations that don’t register as problems when you’re happy and healthy suddenly become insurmountable barriers. I’ve found myself struggling at work a lot recently; letting things affect me in ways perhaps they wouldn’t have a month a go. As it’s gotten busier and busier I’ve lost the ability to navigate my way though and instead of just getting on with it, I’ve found myself bursting into tears at my desk (which annoys me more than anything so god knows how everyone else felt about it) and getting unaccountably worked up and frustrated about things. Admittedly, there are parts of it that are just shit, but I would like to believe I am better at coping than this usually. I’ve been mean to TMM as well, struggling to rein in my cruel childlike tendencies that always seem to reveal themselves when I’m depressed. It’s as though because I’m hurting, I’ve got this need to make others hurt too; to appreciate my pain through suffering of their own.

However, as dramatic as this all sounds, it’s not as doom and gloom as it could be. In times gone by I would have sunk down, deeper and deeper into this quagmire of self-pitying despair, not recognising or reacting to the problem in favour of just letting it overwhelm me. I would have ignored any helpful advice, spitefully choosing to wallow in my suffering because I thought I was a victim and deserved to be treated as such. In my older, and hopefully more worldly way though, I can decide not to do this. It sounds almost stupidly simple, but as so readily pointed out by the various mental health professionals I’ve seen over the years, I am able to help myself. Recognising this for what it is; as a symptom of an illness rather than some kind of built in flaw, and understanding that whilst it sucks, it is not forever, is something I am able to do. Sure it’s hard and I can quite resolutely affirm that it will not always be a walk in the park, but at least it’s easier than it used to be.

Weirdly enough, Russel Brand actually kick started this for me, which surprised me just as much as I’m sure it surprises you. He popped up on my Instagram feed and typically I would have just ignored him – I have opposing views on him depending on the time of day, phase of the moon and style of his hair, but something caught my attention. He was very simply talking about 5 points of self care; just 5 little suggestions he had for looking after yourself on a daily basis, and something about them chimed in me. The more I watched him speak; talking in a gentle, unassuming manner offering some simple principles about how to look after yourself, the more I felt it resonate and I felt almost bowled over by how obvious it all was. It lead me to wonder a little about what self-care principles I could put in place for myself; what aspects of general living I found myself eschewing or ignoring when I get like this and it was surprisingly easy to pinpoint.

  1. See People. As much as I moan about people and having to speak with others on a general day to day basis, I cannot deny that I am human. There is an innate requirement in us to seek out physical, mental and emotional relationships with others and we thrive off social support. Whilst I might have introvertive tendencies and very much require time on my own to recharge, I often feel better having spent time in someone’s company other than my own. People always seems to have much better advice than I expect, and are a lot more willing to be forgiving and understanding than I give them credit for.
  2. Eat, Regularly. Whenever I am feeling particularly low; my appetite seems to match my mood and it becomes too easy to skip meals altogether. Any grumbling in my stomach becomes mere background noise and sometimes the need for self-punishment is most easily abated by denying myself anything of substance. Being aware enough to stop myself before this thought solidifies, and get up to make a sandwich or a smoothie is something which is painfully simple, but can possibly have one of the most positive effects.
  3. Letting Go. Anger is something that always seems to come hand in hand with my low periods, be it at myself or others. I am an annoyingly proud person who is dangerously prone to spite and it is a combination which makes for bitter thoughts and unnecessary meanness. I still don’t think I’m quite cured enough to be able to let go of this for good, but at least being aware of my irrationality and trying to separate myself goes a long way on the road to betterment.

I get that this week’s post has been a bit of a drag, and I haven’t even got any pictures this week to break it up, but it’s felt good to get it off my chest. Mental health problems are no longer as taboo as they once were, and being able to talk about them so openly and without fear of judgment is a help in and of itself. So I hope I haven’t bummed you out too much and I promise next week I  will talk of nicer things.

 

 

I Think, Therefore I Am (Useless)

Vest

So considering I had serious blogging plans for the whole “5 Facts” USP (or “unique selling point” for those of you who haven’t had business meetings involving Wilson, a lot of tea and an underlying quiet desperation to escape the humdrum of normal life and run our own sustainable and completely original company) I’ve done a grand total of 3, and most of them focused on fruit and fungi.

However, whilst assisting (though possibly not actually that helpfully) TMM’s sister and her brood move house this bank holiday (more of this later), I had course to ponder a couple of things about myself, and as such was led to the novel idea of doing a couple of facts all about me. Blogging is, by it’s very nature, a bit of a narcissistic exercise, so you can’t really be surprised we’re here again.

Taking part in Monday’s move really drove home a couple of personal truths that, whilst they have always been lurking beneath the stylish surface I cultivate, shoved themselves somewhat rudely to the forefront of my mind. None of them are particularly startling or world shattering, but it’s always nice to discover something about yourself I think. Every new experience gives you a little more data on who you are and what you’re capable of; and whilst it’s clear that typically my experiences prove that I am about as useful as a chocolate teapot, I enjoy the learning curve.

The first and possibly most relevant fact that revealed itself during the whole experience was that I am definitely more of an ideas girl than an Action Man. This might seem a tad obvious really – I make no excuses for my inability to see things through, but I caught myself more than once thinking “gosh, what I would do if I were moving – what opportunities!” Now let me tell you, no matter what codswallop I thought to myself then, if I were the one moving, it would have gone nowhere near as smoothly as it did for STMM (Sister of The Man Muffin). Watching her and her partner (and the Muffin parents) navigate moving everything they owned into a new house in one day whilst simultaneously shepherding a strong-willed one year old, two dogs and me was like watching Swan Lake. It was graceful, smooth and completely lacking in the usual amount of tears.


I was about as helpful as Thea but nowhere near as cute, even if I did look spiffy in my dungers.

If that had been me, I can promise you there would have been at least one box thrown down a staircase in anger, two full blown crying fits and numerous enforced time outs. Whatever floaty-light ideas of finding the perfect place for every single thing in my possession or being able to streamline my life I might have had are, to be frank, complete bollocks. Whilst it’s true that everyone likes a new start; a clean sheet, a fresh slate, the chance to do it right this time; I can quite confidently say that it would never live up to the ideals I had for it. I have such wonderous and exotic ideas, but am completely unable to put them into practice, and if I do, they inevitably end up with me in a strop and TMM having to swoop in and finish them. I am that perfect contradiction of being completely unable to finish a project and yet I am driven insane by lack of resolution. I aim to start so many good things and ultimately end up with none of them. They say (whoever they may be) that it takes 28 go’s at something to turn it into a habit. I say they’ve got an unnatural amount of willpower if they’re able to do anything more than 5 times without giving it up as a bad job and retreating back to the safety of the couch.

Still, there is a bubbling undercurrent of belief that if and when it finally does come time for us to up sticks and find a new nest, I will be prepared. Let’s see shall we?

It also became abundantly clear on Monday that I am possible the most awful co pilot. I suspect poor TMM has known this for a while, but tried to keep quiet about it so as to not harm my feelings. It’s not that anything particularly drastically terrible happened whilst we were going about our business, but there were a couple of points when I was reminded of how truly better for the world it is that I can’t drive. For example, it is a universally known fact that I am geographically challenged and would get lost in a paper bag. Knowing where I am at any given time is always about a 20/80 divide in the negative, and it has often been joked about that if TMM were to just drop me off at the side of the road one day, I would wander for about 2 days without seeing anything I recognise before just dying out of ease. I am completely unable to provide any directional guidance, and have on more than one occasion got us lost by saying “go left” “this left?” “that’s right” and watching bemusedly as TMM turns right. It’s been decided that’s it’s just better for everyone if TMM puts the SatNav on and enjoys a good argument with her rather than putting any kind of pressure on me. However, considering my completely lack of situational awareness and the fact I will typically be reading when in the car rather than paying attention to anything else, I have this bizarre habit of keeping my eyes on the road when feeding the driver. For some unknown and unnecessarily built-in reason, I have this fear that whoever is driving/being fed will take all their attention off what they’re doing to eat the food I am proffering to them and as such I must closely scrutinise the road to ensure we are safe from danger. The trouble is this usually results in me shoving French fries wildly into TMM’s check whilst keeping a weather eye out on the cars ahead, causing him to lose concentration, and being positively counter-intuitive for the whole “road safety” thing I’ve got going on. How we’ve survived this long is a testament to TMM’s ability to adapt.

My final fact for this week is one that came to me whilst I was lying in bed on Monday night. Tired from all my dilly-dallying about and collapsed out like a puppet with cut strings, I glanced down at myself and was struck with the mildly concerning thought that I couldn’t actually remember when I’d put my vest on. Not that I couldn’t remember choosing it in the wardrobe, or the physical act of dressing myself, but the actual starting point of my association with the vest.


Just me, living my vest life.

You see, I have an unhealthy relationships with vests. They are one of the best items of clothing anyone can have and I suggest everyone, regardless of age or gender should own at least five (Primark thin strap ones if we’re looking for recommendations – they are the cat’s meow). Whether you want something light and casual for a summers day or a sensible layer for the darkest depths of winter, they can provide what you need. The trouble is, vests have become such an integral part of my life (my parents are firm advocators of vests too – they know the importance of keeping your kidneys warm at ALL TIMES) I sometimes forget that I’m wearing one. It becomes like a second skin; a soft cotton hug at all points in the day or night. Or day and night. Can you see where I’m going with this? It’s just that if you put on a vest to sleep in, sometimes it’s easier to just keep it on when you get up the next day. (Especially now it’s getting a bit chillier, I will 100% sleep in one and then throw a jumper over it in the morning so I don’t have to have that upsetting experience of exposing my busters to the harsh cold of the early morning.) Sometimes, when you’re slobbing about at the weekend, you might put a vest on Friday night and keep it on for Saturday. And then if you’re only going to bed, what’s the point of taking it off to put another pj top on? Suddenly Sunday rolls around and you’re only nipping to the shop so you just throw a hoodie on over it. Before you know it, 3 weeks has passed and there’s a mild concern that the vest might have actually fused into your skin (PLEASE NOTE – I have never worn a vest for 3 weeks. It’s not that I couldn’t because I definitely would, but I’ve not fallen quite that far. Yet.) I know this is mildly horrifying and definitely something I was supposed to grow out of at University but there’s somethings that are just built in, and in this case, it’s the vest.

There are other things I’ve realised about myself this week, whilst pondering possibly blog points; including but not limited to my disproportionately large amounts of knowledge regarding completely useless things and my firm belief that I could be an Olympic curler, but I think perhaps now it’s time to close. I’ve got projects to start, car journeys to derail and vests to wear.

Love in Stranger Times

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Alternative Title: Stranger Binge: Dustin off 2 series in one upside down weekend (TMM is really wasted here. His pun game is strong).

Well, I was planning on writing this blog all about the preparations that are currently underway in readiness for the family trip to Prague next week. Mother has never been abroad via an aeroplane before and consequently there is much hysteria and full capslock messages flying back and forth about size of luggage and how many pairs of emergency knickers to pack (we’re a nervy bunch). However, my intentions have been completely overhauled and this week’s post has been waylaid by telly (for shame).

Now I know I am about 3 years behind the times, but I have finally joined the masses in becoming completely enthralled by Stanger Things (for those of you not in the know, it is a show set in the 80s around children and monsters from other realms – think Stephen King meets a juke box entirely stocked with spooky synth music).

Once again, as I always seem to do with on-trend TV, I’ve come a little late to the party. But worry not, because now I’m here I’m going to overstay my welcome, throw up on the carpet and be found hugging a lamp at 3 in the morning whimpering softly. I am 100% in love and to be honest slightly ashamed that I’ve waited this long to watch. In my defence, we really didn’t realise how much excellence we were missing out on. I do love NowTV and am happy with the service it has provided so far, but little did I know what wonders awaited on the other side. Now that we have jumped on the Netflix bandwagon, I am pretty sure I can say we won’t be getting off any time soon.

In fact, our overall introduction to Netflix has gone rather well and exactly in the way as I promised TMM it wouldn’t. Fully aware of my stalkerish tendencies, we were going to pick a couple of shows to watch and limit our viewing of them to 1 or 2 episodes a week, like the good old days of terrestrial. Guess how much that didn’t work? We’ve barely even scratched the surface and we’re already two full shows down and stayed up way past our bedtime on a number of occasions. Poor TMM is flagging dramatically, poor boy.

Stranger Things started very casually on a Friday night and by the time the weekend was out, we’d finished both seasons and I’d developed an overwhelming urge to perm everything in sight and avoid all suspicious looking cracks in the walls – there be toothy monsters. Seriously though, it has everything I could want in a nice little bundle of thrills. Teenage boys who can be a little dim but have great hair, good hearts and deal well in the face of otherworldly dangers and young children. Tall beardy men with unresolved issues who aren’t afraid to hug people aggressively at every opportunity (you cannot know how rewarding it is to yell at the TV about how someone needs a hug and then for it to actually happen). A whole plethora of lady characters with vast quantities of rage, stunning eyes and varying telekinetic/psionic abilities that may or may not being able to throw vans with their minds. You don’t even want to get me started on the truly excellent soundtrack.

I think TMM actually spent more of the first season watching me watching TV rather than watching it himself and getting increasingly giggly at my hysterical outbursts and constantly muttered commentary. It appears I am incapable (except at the cinema or theatre when NO talking is permitted) of not putting my oar in and telling each character (yes, I know they can’t hear me) exactly what I think of their questionable life choices. It forever enrages me that they don’t listen and still insist on touching things/going into dark rooms/being complete plonkers. Does the dramatic music not clue you in to the terrifying monsters/painful death that awaits?!

I spent a lot of the first few episodes gripping my blankets (yes I have multiple TV blankets – and what) and yelling things like WHY ARE YOU MAKING SUCH BAD LIFE CHOICES and DON’T DO THAT, IT WON’T END WELL (spoiler – it didn’t).

I really missed an opportunity to Tweet this as a live stream. I could be internet famous by now.

Now that it’s over though, my life does feel a little bereft. I’ve found myself obsessively watching cast interview videos and falling in love with adorable young actors. I’ve enjoyed such gems as life coaching techniques from 14 year olds, trust falls (harsh on some points because a 25yr old falling onto a 13yr old is always going to be a bit trickier than the other way round) and bro buddies staring into each other’s eyes for 4 minutes (which is ridiculous because I couldn’t even look into my own eyes for 4 minutes, never mind someone else’s).

I don’t know why I’m so surprised really, because it was always bound to end this way. I thought it might be a little different this time as the seasons were only short, but how wrong I was. Instead, they just compounded the awesomeness into about 16 hours of pure thrill that left me shell shocked and more than a little impatient for the new series (which apparently isn’t until sometime in 2019 – and don’t I feel betrayed by that). I had a sort of underlying belief that Season 3 was supposed to be starting sometime soon (the 02 shop on the way to work has promotional stickers for it in the window), but it seems that I was misinformed and instead I have to wait until next year (which is just criminal).

Still, I have no time to mope about my televisual misfortune with Prague looming on the horizon. There are tiny suitcases to cram full of books, emergency books and a pair of shorts (if it turns out we’ve missed the heat wave and I spent the last week of it sat sulking I the office, I will be miffed, I can tell you). There are liquids to carefully measure into tiny bottles, cats to ensure are fed and supported through this separation and Mother’s to get drunk on Bloody Mary’s before take off to keep her relaxed and calm as we bundle her through the barrier. Hopefully I’ll be able to update you all next week with our holiday adventures; expect pictures galore of nice bricks (TMM loves a good brick) and unsteadily filmed videos of Mother singing whilst I can be heard sobbing emotionally in the background. I can’t promise it will be quite as timely as normal, but I’ll do my best!

The Art of Being (Effortlessly) Busy

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Once again, I’m starting a post with an apology for absence. I’ve let you down, I’ve let Jesus down, but most of all, by not blogging weekly like I promised, I’ve let myself down. Oh the shame.

Still, you should all count yourselves lucky, because you almost didn’t get a post this week either and just think how apologetic I’d have had to be with two weeks AWOL…The thing is, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed (social media may have clued you in) but it is warm. Like, delightfully warm. The wonderfully tropical kind of warm that saps all your(my) energy and just leaves you(me) wanting to lie around in the sun like a giant sun slug and do absolutely nothing but gently baste like a festive turkey.

Somewhat conversely though, this is exactly the opposite of how my life has been these last two weeks. Summer has come and so, apparently, has my social life. Who knew? A splash of sunshine and I’m anybody’s for an hour or two.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful though by any means. I’ve had a lovely time seeing people and finally doing tasks I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I’ve caught up with old friends on long and mildly arduous hikes (read – we sweated our literal balls off and walked for miles). I cleaned the kitchen like a real life grown up – scrubbed the oven, cleared all the crumbs under the bread bin and even washed the windows with a vinegar solution (for achieving that perfect sparkle). I went out with some girlies from work for an evening of spectacular burgers, resplendent pancakes and a showing of the new Jurassic Park film, which was much better that I expected. We all got a tad overexcited I think and poor TMM had to drive us home whilst we hysterically prattled on about dinosaurs (it was mostly me – I really want a dinosaur) even though it was far past his bedtime. And personal growth alert – I actively enjoyed every venture (the cleaning in a sort of masochistic way) and didn’t get anxious or worked up about any of them. Boom for counselling and awareness of mental health issues.

Side note – the team also did a little road trip to Hay-on-Wye in the new car within which we managed to sneak in a visit to Neens. This was excellent on numerous levels, including but not limited to, finally introducing Woo to my grandma (they’ve been Facebook friends for ages now) and getting to play with the new kitten (who is actually the cutest and came to sit on my lap all of his own free will and nearly made me combust with joy). Hay itself was as superb as always and we all got slightly emotional at how nice lunch was and all came home with a decent little haul of books. This section gets it’s own little paragraph because it doesn’t actually count as exertion or busy activity – mainly because team are basically me and also Neens and cats and books. But, you know, I like to share these things with you.

 

I mean, a bookshop that makes a brew this perfect can’t be anything but heaven.

It feels like the longest days have come at just the right time though. As I’m sure you can gather by the mild level of hysterical awe in which I describe all these events, I am not a naturally busy person. I don’t thrive on constant activity. In fact, I get a bit panicked at the thought of having more than 2 events a week (god I’m boring). I need to know I’ve got time to sit on the couch and stare aimlessly at instagram for an hour followed by an early night on a regular basis or I get antsy. I am nothing if not a creature of habit. I’m dangerously entitled too (don’t know who I think I am). I am fully of the belief that my social batteries work in a typically introverted fashion – if I’ve been out and about doing things and seeing people, I’m going to need an equal amount of time to sit and do eff all like the potato I naturally am. To be frank, this is possibly one of the largest arguments for me never having children – I am literally just too lazy.

With the sun staying out like a brazen hussy until all hours though, I feel like I’ve got more time to fit everything in. I can be aggressively busy at work and still have time to get home and do something before reverting to slob mode. Please note, this is the complete opposite to the winter months, when I get home from the office, cry about the cold/dark/Christmas and then go to bed at about 8pm. These past few days, I’ve done pretty much everything I can to be outside in the light, despite being one of nature’s cave dwellers. I’ve pushed myself to do more just so I can spend time in the sunshine and soak up the warmth like a cat on a window sill. I’ve taken to sneaking out of the office every lunch break to go and read in the park (I have a dedicated tree to lean against), eating all possible meals in the garden like some kind of Mediterranean (god, you can tell I’ve barely been abroad can’t you), and absolutely blitzing through any inside chores to ensure that the smallest amount of my time is spent away from the beautiful blue skies. It’s also meant that the garden has never been so well weeded- it’s so much easier to convince yourself to do it when you can get a tan at the same time.

There is still a mild undercurrent of worry; something in the corner of my consciousness that tells me I’m running out of time to get everything done, but I think it’s just something that comes hand in hand with being a grown up, like always worrying about bills or how long you can get away without doing the laundry. I hate thinking that I’m leaving something unfinished and being busy only compounds the threat, but boy, sitting in the sunshine does make it all that little bit easier to ignore.

Un-Great Expectations

UnGreat Blog Title Box

Readers, I’m going to apologise now. This post was originally going to be a light hearted and carefree jaunt through my weekly endeavours, but it has most assuredly not ended up that way. Blogging, as with all things, does what it wants with no regard for any predestined plans made by mere mortal authors like myself.

So buckle up, because I’m about to drop some mildly depressing truth bombs on you all.

It may be pretty obvious, but I have come to the gradual realisation over the last couple of years that a) growing up really is hard as balls and b) destined to send even the sanest soul to the brink of collapse. We live in a world geared towards living the perfect life; being “the best you” and generally striving for (key word here folks) unreachable heights. We’ve created a sort of magical mirror world that shows us who the fairest of them all is, and it’s always someone with more money or better hair or prettier instagram filters than ourselves. We set unachievable ideals and scrabble round trying to fill them, but always seem to fall short. Now, for some people, continually pushing themselves to get to the top; to get the better job, better body, better life, is a realistic goal. But guess what? It’s not for me. Some days I literally struggle to get myself dressed, never mind about being the best I can be, and half the time I’m too exhausted with myself to try any harder.

Now I know I am a glass half empty kinda gal. Pessimism comes as easy to me as breathing and I live in a kind of envious awe of those who can look at something and only see the positives (or can frame the negatives in a better light). I understand in all too startling clarity that thinking the way I do is a choice (if a somewhat second nature one) and I realise that it is possible to train yourself to think differently, but panicked denial and acceptance of failure is my safety blanket and it’s so much easier to retreat into a quantified negativity than an unknown positivity.

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My Mother knows me too well – whenever I’m struggling I will, without fail, end up weeping happily at a gift she’s posted through with un-erring timing. She understands the fight and encourages me in the best way.

Case in point – my churlish attitude to my accomplishments recently. It’s stupid, but I’ve been such a Debbie Downer about the things I’ve done and it’s not a healthy attitude. There’s no logical reason either really, because this last week, I have achieved. I’ve done a full Enor MOT and done things I’ve been putting off for years.

I went for a hair cut (which is still a task I despise at the ripe old age of 26 and 363 days). Short hair has proven to be a false economy, and whilst I enjoyed a few months of super quick showers and not having to worry about hairdryers, styling or bobby pins, I am now in the tremendously awkward stage of having to commit to growing it and living with a completely shapeless yet frustratingly uncontrollable blob. Still, as scientifically proven, trimming inspires new growth and I bit the proverbial and I booked in. Admittedly, I was a tad miffed not to get my usual chap, who just sits me down, does what he wants to make me look presentable and says a pleasing fuck all to me. Instead I had to survive Erica, who was not at all helpful. She kept trying to carry on awkward conversations and somehow managed to not only maintain, but indeed strengthen the whole early 2000s Leonardo Di Caprio vs. Deidre Barlow vibe I’ve got going on at the moment. However, it’s something to tick off and means I’m free for another 6-8 months (I’ll just rock a lot of hats in public for now).

I went for an eye test (heavily overdue) that I’ve been ignoring texts and letters about for over 6 months now. (TMM supportively came with me and sat next to the Kylie cut-out, which he insisted was definitely taller than the real thing). I was there for a grand total of 25 minutes and a majority of that was spent in the waiting area peering nosily at all the doohickeys. I didn’t awkwardly laugh when I used any of the eye testing machines (nervous habit) and only panic lied a few times about which lens was better (even more of a nervous habit. I don’t mean to fib, I swear. I just literally cannot work out what I can see when they ask. It’s like when someone tells you to breathe and you immediately start to suffocate like a weirdo. To be quite honest I’m surprised I’ve ever had the right glasses).

I even registered at the local dentist (even more heavily overdue – read 5+ years, probably to the mighty shame of my once dentist nurse aunt) which took a good 4 hours of run up; including but not limited to a rousing pep talk to myself hidden under the duvet and far too much unnecessary sweating. Admittedly, I’ve not got my first appointment until next Wednesday and you can bet your bottom dollar that will send me of into gales of hysteria, but at least I’ve trapped myself into it now.

The trouble is, whilst I know each of those things is something I’ve been scared/petrified of doing, and I’ve actually finally done them, all I can think of is how silly I am. I’m an adult now, and I should be able to complete every day tasks like this with graceful aplomb and limited forethought. Instead, I work myself into a frenzy of hysteria and have to cry in a toilet on a semi regular basis.

I want to be able to be proud of myself for completing a task that was hard for me, rather than measure it against this unattainable scale of adulting I’ve decided exists. That is to say, I don’t want to be smug or seek attention, but I want to be able to think positively of myself.  I know deep in my heart that I will never be enough. Never brave enough, never tidy enough, never tanned enough – my singular achievements will only ever be measured against my countless failings (new word), but this in the insidious nature of the beast. It takes time to learn how to be nice to yourself, how to take comfort and pride in succeeding at the things you do rather than seeking to tear them down.

However, there is one thing I have been able to allow myself to be content with, and that is getting my tattoo. As a lot of you will know, I had no intention or plan of getting a tattoo (except a long held sort of tentative desire). I had ideas and Pinterest folders, but I’d kind of come to the sad realisation that I would never work up the guts to get one. Turns out, if you don’t plan and let yourself get swept along with supportive friends, you don’t really need the guts. Who’d have thought it? The lovely artist was delightful and completely relaxed and just swept me along with his genial attitude. By the time he’d drawn up my idea and asked if I just wanted to go for it, I was pretty much ready to throw caution to the wind. Obviously there was still some residual fear, and I think the whole situation was 10% social awkwardness of not wanting to back out, 85% ballsy fuck-itness and 5% sheer white noise.

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Bees – a symbol of industry, hard work, loyalty and my home town of Manchester. A Hexagon – the symbol of structure, balance and unity. My Tattoo – a little of a, a little of b and a lot of just loving a bee.

I’ve looked at it since though and been proud in a sort of second hand sort of a way. I think possibly because it’s not something that anyone else could have any say or judgement over; it’s something that is of no loss or gain to anybody and it’s not social scale of success to measure myself against. It’s something I wanted and something I did and I can’t find many faults with it, which in itself is a victory.

I’ve come to terms with myself a lot more over the last few years though, and whilst I understand that my faults lie in the things I cannot control and my failings in the things I can, I know now that my mental health issues are not something that can be cured but instead something that can be managed. It is not a mountain to be scaled, but a road to be travelled and learning to live with that is the first step in the right direction.

~

“We deserve a soft epilogue, my love. We are good people and we have suffered enough”

–          Nikka Ursula