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.

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Love in Stranger Times

Stranger

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

 

 

 

The Art of Obsession

 

Obsession Title Box

So I learnt another new word last week (strap in kids, it’s time for some education). It’s rather self explanatory and not really the most exciting of terms, but I stumbled across it whilst blindly surfing (the web, not the sea – that would be silly) and had to do a mental double take at how accurate it was.

Hyperfixation – the act, process or result of fixating or becoming fixated on something; a persistent concentration. A mania, obsession, preoccupation.

I mean, come on. That is literally my entire personality down to a tee. I live to become weirdly obsessed with the most ridiculous things and drive myself into some kind of uncontrollable frenzy just for the hell of it. It’s a very specific definition though, and simply describes itself in a way I don’t think I had really appreciated before. To clarify – hyperfixation is, as the name suggests, a highly compounded version of an interest or hobby. It’s more than simply liking something, it’s taking your positive feeling and concentrating it to the nth degree. It’s a complete and utter submersion into a song, a book, a character, an idea; an almost overwhelming desire to drown yourself in something that is a mere triviality in the grand scheme of the world.

I literally don’t think I’ve ever read anything more legit (stolen from Tumblr)

I gently ricochet from one bizarre mania to another, barely giving myself time to get over the last one before diving in headfirst and with minimal care for my sanity. Poor TMM follows behind, absently picking up the random facts or thoughts that I spew out in my over-excitement and proving soft encouragement and careful distraction where he can.

I often think how strange it must look to an outsider; someone who has a healthy control over their own emotions and understands quite rationally that TV characters aren’t real and don’t need to be cried over, or that books end and that’s okay. They must look at me with their eyebrows raised and feel a gentle level of bemused condescension. There have been so many times that I’ve gotten into the car and rambled wildly on at TMM, telling him about a conversation I had at 10am with someone who happened to briefly mention something that I am currently “in to” and the internal explosion of excitement I had to tamp down in my pretence that I am normal and not a massive weirdo. Typically he smiles serenely and pats me on the knee and his silent acceptance of my complete nuttiness is very much appreciated. Usually though it just results in me harping on about this tiny interaction (which pretty much will have set my mood for the whole day) and I segue way off to chatter about something I saw on Instagram that links in some obscure way to my preoccupation of the hour.

They’re never fleeting things either, these obsessions. It might just be a flash of something, but each time I get sucked into whatever it is I’ve gotten sucked in to, it settles down in my psyche, digging out a comfy little niche for itself. Then, once I have gradually calmed myself down and moved onto something else, it still lurks in the background ready to spring into action when I least expect it. If I’m not prepared, I can stumble upon some kind of trigger and BAM, I’m stuck for days. Living For The City played on the radio the other day, and without even realising it, I was completely hijacked and I’ve not had anything else on what the past three days. Regardless of what I want to listen to, Stevie Wonder is now pretty much the only thing my brain will happily accept.

TMM finds it quite hilarious too, because I get very stressed about crossing the obsessional streams. If I can keep things separate, it makes it a lot easier, and it’s comforting if I can try and draw up a basic mental calendar – seeing potential triggers and preparing for them. For example, if I know another book in a particular series is due out, I can give myself time to read the pre-existing works (getting right into the groove of things) and meet the situation head on, avoiding anything that might try and distract me in the meantime. (The thought of reading a book out of sequence, or god forbid, picking up a book from somewhere completely different right in the middle of a series brings me out in hives. How people can flit between *looks at TMM very pointedly* is beyond me).

Getting caught up in two things at the same time is a horrible state of affairs, and I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying something if I swap before I’m ready to. Case in point for you – TMM wanted to watch some episodes of Lewis the other day. Now I love Lewis with an unhealthy passion, but the new Avengers film was coming out (not sure if I’d mentioned this?) and there was no way on earth I was going to come out of that unaffected. I couldn’t be expected to start Lewis (read, binge watch three seasons in an 14 hour period) become weirdly and uncomfortably obsessed with it and then just move onto Infinity Wars without so much as a howdoyoudo. Instead, I coerced TMM to take me to the cinema and then watch all of the old Captain America and Avengers films (in order) at the weekend. Admittedly he napped through most of them, but for those he didn’t escape, he was forced to listen to my endless commentary and excitable squeezing.

(It is perhaps important to note that I’ve previously had to limit my consumption of Lewis because my mental state wasn’t secure enough to deal with the fact my televisual comfort blanket was coming to a permanent end. I still haven’t quite come to terms with it (I categorically refuse to watch the last episode, because then I can just pretend it never finished).

…Does this sound mental? I’m pretty sure it sounds mental.

Though, after doing a bit of research on the whole notion of Hyperfixation, I did learn that is actually often seen as a coping mechanism for anxiety, which does make perfect sense. The thought process behind it is that hyperfixation allows you to narrow down all focus on one particular thing and block out anything else that may be out of your control. It limits your world to a singular thing and allows you to feel a sense of ownership and groundedness that might otherwise be unavailable to you. It might just be something small or seemingly stupid, but if it gives you a modicum of comfort when you need it, I really can’t bring myself to see it as a problem. Sure, it might be strange and admittedly half the time I think my obsessional leanings tend to exacerbate my issues rather than help them, but what the hey.

It’s very much a kind of madness though (that’s made pretty clear by the kind of words used to define it; “mania”, “obsession”, “fetish”) but I suppose it embodies the notion of fighting fire with fire – overcoming an insecurity or anxiety you can’t deal with by smothering it with one you can. It might sound childish, and there might be those that judge you for being absorbed in something silly like, oh, I don’t know, superheroes (me, it’s me, I’m obsessed with superheroes at the moment), but sometimes the news is horrible and the world is shameful and I just need to imagine Captain America punching Trump in the face in justifiable outrage. If it’s a form of insanity, it’s one I can to some degree control, and I’d much rather be preoccupied with Steven Roger’s star spangled and American flag clad butt than anything my anxiety-ridden brain can come up with. Wouldn’t you?

PS – for those of you unsure about whether or not you’d choose to pick the butt – I advise you to google it.

Do Ebears Dream of Electric Sheep?

Dream Blog Title Box

So I’ve had a little re-vamp with the layout, though I cannot claim true inspiration as I definitely stole this off somebody else. Still, they say mimicry is the sincerest form of flattery, and I can only hope nobody is too distraught at my blatant plagiarism of ideas. The trouble is, as much as I try not to be, I often find myself being a tad more about style over substance and I spent far too much time making new jazzy title boxes and far too little time actually writing my blog.

This week’s topic was actually suggested by Jonbles, and for want of anything new, exciting and specifically noteworthy occurring in my regular day to day, I’ve gone at it as best as I can. Ultimately though I think we can all agree that if it’s crap, it’s all his fault and I’d like to ask you to direct any and all complaints to Mr Jonbles at Jonble’s House, Fake Street, Hecouldntcarelessshire, England. I do actually have a great little prop for this topic, which I was surpised but pleasingly chuffed to remember I own.

I bought this on a whim at a book sale in Buxton, along with a copy of When We Were Very Young by A. A. Milne which is absolutely darling and brings back fond memories of childhood. Apparently, The Royal Imperial Dream Book of Fate and Fortune Telling (published 1870) is the key to helping you to decipher the inner workings of your internal, sleep submerged subconscious. (Side note, it also provides Prognosticators by Dice, Auguries by Dominoes and Signs Heretofore Related to Physiognomy). I’m not 100% convinced on the accuracy of it’s teachings, but I have thoroughly enjoyed accosting people to get examples of the dreams and then deconstructing them and providing extracts of the most hilarious bits in voice notes on Whatsapp.

The trouble is, as much as I dismiss dreaming as the ramblings of a distracted and decompressing mind, I do actually have quite a lot of weird dreams. My family have rather vivid dreams; my dad dreams in black and white, Mother has a recurring stress dream of being on a Penny Farthing that’s hurtling out of control and my sister is the undisputed ruler of weird ass dreams; there was that one time she ate half a pillow because she was dreaming of marshmallows.

Admittedly, I don’t dream quite as vividly as I used to which is quite a shame, but I still have regular forays into the dream landscape. There are a few of my childhood dreams that stick in my head even after all this time, but that’s because they terrified me. Whilst I can’t say that I’ve ever had particularly dramatic nightmares, I’ve had a couple that have dug into my psyche and left their marks. The first dream I can ever remember having involved me being chased around my grandparents beautifully manicured lawn by a man in a giant gorilla suit and the Quaker Oats man on a giant ride on mower. Not too terrifying you might think, but I remember having to rush into my parent’s bed and cowering under the duvet. Even now I still get a twinge when I look at the Quaker Oats porridge box.

The only other dream I can remember with startling clarity involved a huge warehouse full of plastic Pokeballs (the kind of ones you get out of those 20p vending machines on piers) stacked high on shelves and an absolutely MASSIVE pelican with razor sharp teeth eating people. Whilst I know exactly where the pelican came from (there was a pub we used to drive past on my way to Drama class and for a period of about two months they had a sign with a rather hideous cartoon pelican on. Thankfully they didn’t deign to keep it, but the damage to my malleable and delicate child mind was already done), I have no idea what the message behind the dream was. Sadly, both pelicans and quaker oats appear to be a little outside the spectrum of my dream book.

As is universally known though, no matter how exciting your dreams are, they are never as interesting to anyone else. (Please enjoy how I acknowledge this only after I’ve given you a couple of my own personal examples). Anybody who tells you otherwise is either incredibly bored with whatever else they’re doing or fibbing. There’s something about dreams – possibly how personal yet inactive they are, that leaves people with glazed expressions and a sudden urge to be anywhere else. At least when you’re being told something that has really happened to someone, there is an actuality there, and often something to relate to and allow the conversation to grow naturally. Dreams allow for no other response than “huh, weird”.

Still, there is a huge collective of people who study dreams and try to find a logical answer as to why we do it, and possibly uncover the secret messages there within. There is actually a name for the study of dreaming – ‘Oneirology’ (you can be an Oneironaut which is the most pleasing thing ever), but I can’t imagine its particularly satisfying. You can only ever make subjective conclusions, and nobody wants to spend their time doing that for someone else.

I approach the whole act of dream detectivism in a way very similar to that Eddie Izzard sketch from Glorious (1997). “A man comes up to me covered in jam and he sings, ‘Oh, I am a man-hippo’ and he brings me spoons and his buttocks explode and his brother drives a small snail towards me very slowly. ‘What does it mean?’ The interpretation’s always ordinary. ‘You didn’t get on with your father when you were a child.’” To be honest, I think that’s a pretty sound summary of the whole process of investigating and defining them. So, in order to bring some laughter back from the proceedings, I’m going to share with you some of my favourite definitions from the Imperial Royal Dream Book. It starts with a cute little preface (as all good books should), stating “Nothing which is natural is entirely useless. Dreams must be intended to fit some purpose”. I mean, I suppose I can’t fault the logic.

Book of Fate

Doesn’t it look so mystical and delightful?

The first half of the book is dedicated to an alaphebetically structured list of any possible dream content. And believe me when I say, those things are niche. For example, did you know that you could dream of a colliery, yew tree or scullery maid? I’m not too sure what your brain has been paying attention to to make this the case, but there we go. Where you aware that if you dream of a cow, there’s a whole world of meaning that you just weren’t thinking about, and it’s not as cute as you might think!

“Should a young woman dream of being in danger from a cow, she may rely that she has a powerful rival. For a man to dream of a cow implies that he has an enemy who will do much to injure his character. To dream of milking a cow foretells much sickness, and to a woman about to be confined a bad time (a bit threatening I feel), and thst she will have a dead child”. I mean, it’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? Little did I know, but cows are the true harbingers of doom.

Hats and the arts of Milliny are equally as dark. “Should you dream that you lose your hat, be aware that you have an enemy doing everything in his power to injure you, and that you willgreatly suffer thereby. To dream that another is wearing your hat implies that some one will obtain something you should probably have. To a young man, in love, it shows a rival will supplant him the affections of his mistress. If a Milliner dreams that she has secured the patronage of some ladies of wealth and influence, it is a sign that she will soon be visited with heavy trials, losses in busiess, and eventually come to extreme povetry”. Who expected hats to be such damning objects? Such small, unoffensive objects and yet they apparently lead to abject sadness.

My personal favourite was Tortoise though. It had me in actual hysterics and took me about half an hour to read out to TMM because I had to keep stopping to wheeze and wipe the tears from my eyes.

“Dreaming of a tortoise indicates your business will fail and that you will be obliged to seek your fortune in a foreign country, that you will suffer many hardships and difficultieis, and that you will have a deal to contend with, but that after many years of toil and suffering, you will suddenly become rich and return to your own country, where you will marry a beautiful woman and be happy, and have many children.” It’s an epic story in single sentence! How gutted would you be if, at the tender age of 14, you dream of a seemingly innocent tortoise and the come to the realisation that that your whole life is now laid out and that you are to expect many years of sadness, failure and heartbreak? Though I suppose knowing you’ve got a nice wife and tons of kids to look forward to eventually is a slight balm.

Indeed, this wonderful book has brought such joy to my life and there is still so much of it to enjoy. I think next week I might look a little more into the meanings behind crooked noses and unfortunately located moles. I might even open up a virtual walk-in centre, and allow readers to come to me with queiries and questions regarding their subconscious visions, odd shaped blemishes and the specifically placed dominoes. And that’s not even addressing the last chapter, which has a whole section on love spells…

And so I fall in love just a little bit every day with someone new

Well it’s all been very exciting up this neck of the woods recently. With “The Beast From The East” making it’s way unrestrainedly through the country, there has been snow related chaos nationwide, so much so that I got to go home a whole half an hour early yesterday. I’m not complaining – I love a good snow day as much as the next person, but sometimes it does make you wonder how Great Britain was ever composed and disciplined enough to control an empire when we struggle to sufficiently grit major roads. Admittedly though, I think as a country we’ve been doing much better this time round than we have in previous years. I’ve barely witnessed any winter hysteria and the only person injured so far is TMM (and that was less of a physical concern and more of a personal slight – some young scrote threw a snowball at his testicles). To be honest, the best thing about the whole situation is the highly sarcastic and derisive nature we as a nation approach the snow calamatists with. *

* Sadly, I don’t think “calamatist” is a word, but it definitely should be, so I’m just going to go all Shakespeare on it and see if I can get it into the dictionary. Calamatist – noun – from Calamity – a person drawn to melodrama, overreaction and hyperbole.

It is communally known truth that we are unlikely to get any more than 2 inches of coverage, and that compared to the rest of the world, we get off incredibly lightly, and yet there still appear to be some poor souls who lose all sense or reason and flood to the nearest super market to clear the shelves. It seems not to concern them that most of the things they stock up on are perishable, or unlikely to be of any use in an emergency (I mean, who is stockpiling 0% fat yoghurt for this situation?!). I’ve found that these few idiots bring the rest of us together though, in a beautiful conglomeration of ridicule and mockery, as we all tut, shake our heads despairingly and share passive aggressive social media posts.

Things have seemed a littler perkier though, despite the unnecessary weather front, and I’ve decided to reflect such positivity in my blog this week. Over the last few posts, I feel like I’ve delved more deeply into wistful and morose introspection that I intended, and perhaps now is the time to try something a little more uplifting. Visiting my Mother last weekend has lifted my spirits and I think the Welsh country air has given me a boost. I’ve heard birds a’tweeting and seen daffodils spring into bloom and spent more time thinking about the things I love.

Love has indeed been in the air a lot recently. With all these designated celebrations and my numerous anniversaries (I don’t care what anyone says, I’m keeping them all. Why would I bunch them all into one specific date when I can spread the festivities? Since we’re not supposed to be doing presents, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to keep our first date, engagement and soon to be wedding anniversary separate). We’re apparently not the only lovebirds around the place either; Bucky keeps bringing his boyfriend home. It’s more surprising than not at the moment if we come home to find Mr Biggles (some big ass white cat from over the road who likes to help himself to our heating when we’re not in) not sitting at the top of the stairs, giving us his big eyes from behind the bannister. Considering how unhappy Bucky was when the other cat was with us (there was a lot of shade being thrown about and sad singing from under the bed) he seems rather taken with Biggles. For a while, we weren’t even sure Bucky was aware there was another cat in residence, but after we drooped him in front of Biggles and he did his sexy “let me rub myself all over the carpet in a sultry manner” in front of him, we’ve come to the conclusion they’re dating. They do make a rather pretty pair (I can’t stop myself singing “Ebony and Ivory”) and it bodes well for my dreams of becoming a crazy cat lady.

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Bucky, lying supine on my lap and dreaming fondly of his Biggles.

To this end, and in honour of such affirmative emotion, I’ve been thinking a lot about things I love. Specifically, those unexpected little things that you discover throughout your life and that weave themselves into your subconscious. Odd bits and bobs that somehow always seem linked to a happy memory and fill you with a sense of wellbeing without ever being obvious intruders. Little happiness burrs that latch on and have a delightful habit of making you smile without you realising. I’ve been making notes of mine for a while; just scribbling them down so that when I’m flicking through my notes later, they’ll pop up and remind me of something wonderful. A lot of mine focus around the senses and I’ve been a lot better at identifying them since using the sense technique to help with anxiety.

(It’s a cute little 5-4-3-2-1 coping mechanism for helping yourself to remain grounded. You pick a sense and name 5 things you can identify with it. Once you’ve done that, you pick another and name 4, and so on and so on. It’s easier to start with an obvious one, like 5 things you can see and work onto the harder ones. By the time you’re really focusing on the 1 thing you’re smelling, you’ve become a lot calmer.)

1 x Smell – Honeysuckle

The waft of a honeysuckle plant in someone’s garden always makes me pause for a moment and inhale deeply. It’s like an automatic trigger and it makes me stop whatever I’m doing, regardless of what it is, where I am or who I’m with, just in order to get a good lungful. I don’t even think it links to a specific memory or certain time, it just always makes me feel warmer when I spell it. I think it helps that it’s such a beautiful and evocative word, because we know how I feel about those.

2 x Taste – Hot Tea & First Mouthfuls

This one is a little weird, because it’s not actually the flavours but instead the actions involved. Making a cup of tea and taking a moment to just sit, warm cup in your hands, and take a few sips is possibly one of the most calming things I think anyone can ever do. I’m not sure if it’s a British thing (I still categorically believe you cannot call yourself British is tea isn’t your go-to beverage in times of stress), a family thing (if you’re with my Mother or my Neens and you’ve not got a brew on, something’s dreadfully wrong) or just a me thing, but the ritual involved around tea is one of the key pillars in my life.

First mouthfuls is similar in a way; it’s a tradition that was never specifically imposed but has somehow become crucial to me. If I’m eating with someone, I cannot start eating until everyone has food and is tucking in. It can be a family gathering, a cake with chums or even just eating tea with TMM, but I can’t start alone. There’s just something fundamentally social and authentic about enjoying the first bite together.

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I mean, look how perfect that is. what more can you want?

3 x Sound – Cat Purrs, Spanish Seas & Singing

There is not much better in this world that the sound of a cat purring on your lap. It signifies comfort, ease and the satisfaction of knowing that a cat not only chose you, but was happy enough to settle in for the long haul. Bucky has a purr like a motor engine and when he gets going can actually be so loud you can feel it through your skin. Ptolly-mo (my first cat, currently rooming with Mother) is an accidental purr slag – you can tell that he doesn’t really want you near, but once you stroke his head he can’t help but start purring away. Bobby (my Mother’s other cat) is a bit of a tough cookie to crack, but when he scrunches up his disgustingly beautiful eyes and trills away, I feel like I’ve basically won at life.

Music is an obvious contributor to nearly everyone’s happiness burrs I think, and the right song can flood your system with joy. I’ve currently been stuck on Toto’s “Spanish Sea” which has recently been released and it’s been in my head so much it’s actually been the soundtrack to a few dreams, which is a sign it’s a keeper.

My Mother’s singing is possibly one of the most evocative sparks though. It’s a bit ridiculous now because all she has to do is open her mouth in a choir and I’m crying. I mean, they’re good tears obviously, but it’s getting a bit embarrassing now.

4 x Touch – Soft Cotton, Supportive Arms, Knee Pits & Book Ache

Now I know this one is a family thing and I blame my sister and Mother for this. We spent countless hours in shops stroking smooth cotton items (we even had the “tummy test” where you had to rub it on your belly to see if it was soft enough – how we never got kicked out I will never know), but I find myself constantly running well worn blankets or silky sleeve cuffs across my lips. It sounds unaccountably weird when I write it now, but there’s something so comforting about brushing your lips gently with something smooth. I suggest you all try it and stop looking at me so accusingly…

Another weird one is something I specifically link to TMM, and I’m hoping he won’t judge me too much. He runs about 3000 degrees hotter than anyone I’ve ever met and is such a good soul, he always lets me put my cold feet on him in bed. He also provide truly excellent snugs, but there’s a bit when he pushes his hot knees (I mean, who even has noticeably hot knees?! My Man Muffin, that’s who) up into my knee pits and it’s possibly one of the most relaxing things ever. I don’t think I’ve ever had particularly cold knee pits before, but boy let me tell you, when they’re warm it really makes a difference.

Possibly less weird (though probably not) is actually a specific memory more than a continually achievable feeling. I’ve been remembering this one a lot due to the current climate and my completely irrational terror of falling over. It was whilst I was still living partly at Papa’s in Manchester and was coming home one super slippery snowy day. It was getting dark and I had a treacherous walk ahead of me. I was dithering near the exit to the tram stop, trying to find a way of walking as quickly as possible without slipping or looking like a complete tit, when this lovely gentleman walked past, gave me a searching look and offered me his arm. Now, I am horribly socially awkward and usually would have died at this, but I was just so grateful to have a supportive arm. We didn’t talk much (it was windy as shit) but he half carried, half dragged me all the way down the main road before making sure I was able to carry on across the crossing and home alone. I can’t remember what he looked like or if I ever saw him again, but I often remember his kindness whilst I’m slip sliding my way to work.

The last one is, unsurprisingly, a little odd too, but more in a kind of self-destructive kind of way. It’s the kind thing hard-core readers will relate to and wince at sympathetically. It’s the moment when you realise you’ve been holding your book so long that your fingers have gone numb. The moment when you have to make the harsh choice to stop your chapter, mid sentence, to put your book down and massage some life back into your blood drained hand. The moment the pins and needles you’ve be mind over mattering make themselves known rather dramatically and you regret, fleetingly, picking up the pretty hardback copy instead of the easy kindle version. It’s a pain, but it’s also a badge of honour.

5 x Sight – Bright Sunshine, Snow Wind, Wrist Bones, Cat Beans & Full Bookshelves

Now sight is probably the easiest one, and I had trouble narrowing down to just these five. You realise though, that there are just some things that stick with you, year in and year out and will pop up after an age and surprise you into smiling.

Snow wind is one of these for me. It’s that bit when you’re walking; bundled up to the eyeballs, hands shoved deep into pockets and pink nose buried in scarf, when there’s a gust of wind from behind you and the top layer of snow powder shifts and dances across the floor. It’s fleeting, hardly noticeable and completely magical.

Now I know I’ve already mentioned cats once, but they just make me really happy so suck it. I challenge anyone, when faced with a tiny toe bean on a cat paw doesn’t just scrunch up their face with love. I mean, I think some people (weirdos) prefer baby toes (TMM does get rather broody when faced with tiny baby hands) but there’s not much sweeter than a curled up cat cushion that lets you lie alongside them and play with their toe beans.

I also have a similar kind of fascination with wrist bones (though most people definitely DO NOT let you lie alongside them and touch theirs). I just find the intricate play of skin, muscle and bone so delicate and I’m constantly amazed by the strength that can be held in such a fragile form. I’ve always liked hands and fingers; I love watching people play instruments or knitting, just to see the clever way they can manipulate whatever they’re doing so easily.

Bookshelves is rather shelf explanatory (LOLOLOL, see what I did there?) really. I can’t trust someone who doesn’t have that many bookshelves, or who has one with empty spaces. There’s something decidedly natural about a cluttered book shelf, filled with a mishmash of books in various colours, shapes, sizes and positions. I love when you can tell someone has just picked up a book to flick through it and placed it back haphazardly, or when a trinket has been left behind, slightly obscuring the book behind it. The signs of regular and routine use of a what is basically a stationary object shows a lot about the person who owns it.

The very last thing on my list (and kudos if you’ve made it this far) is sunshine. It’s probably a bit obvious, but that moment when a flash of warm sunlight falls across my face, obscuring my vision and leaving little flashes of gold afterwards is one of my most favourite things. I get unaccountably grumpy at work when someone shuts the blind to protect them from the glare; I would happily squint at my computer screen all day if it meant I could keep the sunny strips of light that lie across my hands. I’ve been known to rearrange entire rooms throughout the day to keep my chair in patches of sunlight, or there was that one time at University I spent three hours scrunched up on the windowsill with the laptop balanced precariously on my knee just so I could get the warm splash of light for as long as possible. I remember waking up when I was little and watching the dust motes dancing around in the streams of light and just knowing that for that moment, everything was alright.

Side note – I am equally as fascinated by, but not quite as desperately drawn to, moonshine. The past few days, or should I say nights (a ha ha) have been beautifully silhouetted by the moon doing its best to shine directly through our bedroom sky light and cast everything in ethereal shadows. Note, we do have a sky light in practically every upstairs room (bathroom included) because our landlord is apparently some kind of backwards vampire who designed this house with the fact he couldn’t sleep without constant light firmly in mind. I’m not complaining because it suits my predilections rather well, but I do wish he’d continued the theme through the whole house rather than deciding windows were a wonderful feature of the modern age for upstairs but were basically unrequired for any downstairs rooms. The living room tragically survives with a tiny postcard of a window at the far end of the room – no sunlight to chase there, I can tell you.

So there we have it. I think I may have possibly gone slightly overboard this week, but I’m taking it as a good thing that the one post I’ve dedicated to purely happy things is almost double the size of those which aren’t. I hope some of my happiness burrs inspire you to think about some of your own and bring a little unexpected smile to your face.

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Just look at this beautiful sunny window. I even remember exactly when and were this was taken because I was to pleased with the perfect size and placement of it. Admittedly, I did go and ruin the whole thing by having a nose bleed so forceful and lengthy that my father actually became concerned enough to text his nurse GF for guidance to ensure I wasn’t dying. Still, it was a great window.