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

 

 

 

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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.

What IS it about those Crotchety Old Men?!

Happy Nearly Christmas my festive little Sprouts!

Once again I have to apologise (surprise surprise) for being a week behind on blogging (though it was touch and go whether or not I’d get this one posted). Fighting against Christmas colds, hangovers, present prep and the most ridiculous period of busyness at work (WTF? It’s Christmas? Go away!) has left me with very little time to call my own and even less to call blogging specific. Which is just rude really. Still, I am returned for now and will give you one last chapter before the festive season truly kicks in.

I did struggle a lot to think about what to blog this week. I think being so busy with everything else has just turned my brain to mush, rather than giving me inspiration on what to write about.  It’s been complete madness, but I hasten to add; an acceptable kind of madness. The kind that leaves you constantly achieving and with slight levels of hysteria, rather than the type that overwhelms you and makes you sit and stare at a wall for hours on end terrified of how much there is to do and how much you can’t do it.

Admittedly, I shouldn’t really make it sound so bad when it’s poor TMM who’s been in charge of the wrapping extravaganza that’s currently in progress in our living room. We now have practically every present (there are still one or two either in transit or waiting to be put together) and they are scattered in loose family piles all over the floor. I have mainly ensconced myself safely on the couch with a gold pen and the festive labels and left TMM to fight with the temperamental tape dispenser and countless rolls of seemingly sentient paper. He’s done very well over all (there’s only been one minor injury and two small huffs) but there’s still about 20% to go so who knows how the rest of this week could go down.

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The worrying thing is, this is 3 days in and it actually looks much better than it did…

You’ve got to find coping mechanisms from the Christmas Chaos how you can though, and I’ve mainly found respite by going on a reading bender these last couple of weeks. TMM set me onto Jo Nesbo, a Scandinavian crime/thriller writer who he’s been trying to convince me to read for a while (he’s regretting that now I can tell you). Very much in my typical fashion, I started reading with the intention of just finishing one book and seeing how I felt but ended up desperately bingeing the entire series and am now 9 books in and devastatingly obsessed.  Typically I shy away from particularly graphic scandi noir crime thrillers so I’m actually quite surprised how obsessed I’ve become with these. I nearly had palpitations watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and we’ve had to limit my viewing of The Tunnel to one episode every few days because I get so panicked about the high levels of peril. These books (based on the Harry Hole series – those of you who’ve been paying attention will have seen the recent film “The Snowman” with Michael Fassbender which is based on a book in the middle of the series) are really no different and have started to get particularly violent – The Leopard (the next one to the Snowman) is particularly gruesome and there’s interviews I’ve read with the author in which he’s stated that even he thinks he might have gone slightly too far. Still, I’ve found them so addictive I’ve been unable to stop. Poor TMM has had to put up with my ranting and mild stresses throughout the last few weeks and has done so graciously, even when I made him buy a second copy of one book so we could read them at the same time, overtook him on the series and spoilered him for character deaths.

This, in fact, is one particular bugbear I have with Mr Nesbo. Like JK Rowling and the writers of Spooks, he belongs to that school of writer who aims for “realism” in his books and thinks you can achieve this by killing of main characters. I would like to set the record straight once and for all – this is not on. Mainly, I choose to read because I am looking for a distraction from real life. I want something that takes me away from my own world and submerges me in another, full of adventure and excitement that I want but am too lazy and awkward to actually aim for. What I do not want is sadness and death of characters that I have become attached to. I especially do not want it to happen MORE THAN THREE TIMES! Seriously, it’s a good job Nesbo isn’t on Twitter otherwise he would have had as a severe and unapologetic diatribe as I could have sufficiently written in 218 characters. I’m not reading for the heartache of reality. I’m reading to escape all that, and if you could stop killing off all my favourite characters in cruel and unusual ways, I’d very much appreciate it!

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Just a little light reading

The main attraction for me though, as I once again am slightly embarrassed to admit, is my love of crotchety old men. I don’t know what is about them but every single time they become one of my favourite characters. Harry Hole is, admittedly, a little young for my typical type (at the fair age of only 48) but his sarcastic outlook, inability to not do the right thing (much to his chagrin) and heavy mental and physical scarring pretty much fit the bill. It’s like my inexplicable but uncontrollable love for Lewis (TV show) all over again. Give me an aged, wrinkly, bitter old copper over a youthful heroic type any day of the week. I’d rather Samuel Vimes than Batman, Robbie Lewis over Peter Parker and pretty much any of the old cast members from any of the Star Treks (in real life or as their characters) than the sexy new young’uns. It’s definitely starting to become a bit of a problem though, and it was only compounded last night when we went to see the new Star Wars (which was excellent) and I spent the whole time being shamelessly in love with grumpy old Luke Skywalker. I mean, Oscar Isaacs is beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but why would I fancy his reckless and flippant Poe Dameron when Luke is in the background growling about everything and letting his beard flow magnificently in the wind? It’s not that my fascination is gender specific either. There are some truly excellent female characters in this new addition to the franchise and whilst I love them all, how can I focus on them when you’ve got Leia stomping around slapping people all over the place like a cantankerous little ewok? Those Skywalker siblings are the definition of “great hair, don’t care” and I would happily watch a 3 hour film of them just doing their thing, minus all the dramatic and political plot arcs.

It’s not like it’s a general fancy either. I may be odd but I am particularly in my strangeness. It can’t be just any type of cranky crinkle and just nasty old meanies are no good – I want good intentioned but world weary grouches; grizzled with just a hint of sarcastic charm and preferably a bonus young sidekick they can continually gripe at. I’ve tried to reason it away and diagnose it but there’s just no hope. It might be peculiar but it’s just how I am and if nothing else it surely bodes well for TMM. I mean, if I love him now in the flush of youth, I am going to just adore him when he’s 70.

Pine Needles and Christmas Feels

Well, the Christmas season has now well and truly arrived in the Pendle-ing Household. The presents are piled up in the dressing room in respective family bundles, waiting patiently to be wrapped by TMM, who will be doing the wrapping in it’s entirety this year. After the Great Wrapping Disaster of 2016, there is no damn way I’m going to struggle through some of those weirdly shaped parcels when TMM can wrap a hexagonal box perfectly. We had the team around on Sunday night and spent the evening doing beautiful four part harmonies along to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (possibly one of my all time favourite musicals whilst simultaneously being one of the most horrific stories – do not kidnaps your girlfriends kids!) and White Christmas (only a few tears this year – definite personal growth). There’s been mulled beverages and festive nibbles all over the place and we’ve not even started preparing for the main meal yet. This year we’re having Mother come up and spend a few days with us and it feels a little like some kind of rite of passage. This will be the first time we’ve ever hosted Christmas and whilst it is only my mum (and I’m pretty sure she’s not expecting top dollar) it’s still quite exciting.

We purchased and set the trees up on Sunday as well (I say trees as we’ve treated ourselves to two this year). There are absolutely no other decorations anywhere else in the house so I’m safe in the knowledge that double tree-age can’t be classed as overkill. I am a firm advocate of the inherent soullessness of the fake Christmas tree. I understand that they don’t make as much mess/are easier to work with/cost effective, but nothing beats the scent of tree sap and the stab of pine needles in your feet on Christmas morning. Fraser the Norwegian fir is standing proudly in the living room, bedecked with delightfully tasteful and artfully vintage baubles from all over the place (mainly Paperchase and the Bodleian shop in Oxford). Annoyingly the living room is one of the most sneakily frustrating shapes ever, and no matter what we did we couldn’t find a way to fit everything efficiently. So rather than having the tree as a nice corner piece, it’s sitting smack bang right in the middle of the room, blocking the view to the TV from most vantage points and making getting to any of the plug sockets, tables or doors a chore. Still, it looks pretty fabulous and I’m willing to struggle for a few weeks for the festive spirit. Stumpy the Chrimble Sproot is last years offering who’s been weathering out 2017 in the garden. TMM dug him up (root ball and all as he kept telling me) and ensconced in a lovely little cement pot in the Cwtch (or Winter Garden as we’ve taken to calling it). He is the wonkiest and most adorably misshapen little twig but he makes us feel like we’re Tom and Barbara from the Good Life in our ability to recycle and it means that we can have a tree in both our main living spaces at no extra cost.

 

Fraser and Chrimble Sproot in all their festive glory.

Buck continues to remain mostly un-arsed about the whole situation. I’m not sure if it’s because he’s lazy, used to our confusing human ways or just a bit odd. Whatever it is though, it means we don’t have to worry about coming home to a tree massacre (though let’s hope I’ve not just tempted fate there).

This feels like the first time we’ve properly “decked the proverbial halls” in forever. Typically we travel a lot over the festive period so I don’t hesitate to pooh-pooh the decorative side of things. It’s never really been a massive event for us either – previous years have included the time that we bought a real tree, went away for about two weeks and let it horrifically die and then shed it’s needles everywhere in some kind of Whomping Willow-esque dirty protest. Or there was that joyful time I mainly spent the whole holiday crying and refusing to do anything except be hateful and grumpy. Considering how hysterical I used to be when I was younger in regards to getting the decorations up, I appear to have now gone to the complete opposite end of the scale. The perks of growing up I suppose.

Still, I do have to say that this year is the first in a long time that I don’t feel awful about the whole prospect of Christmas. I’ve felt interested and engaged in things and actually enjoyed doing them, rather than trying to put everything off and just spend time staring at a blank wall instead. I’ve been writing and reading so much more again, and my Pinterest is full of craft projects that I feel like I’ll actually be able to try. It’s weird, because sometimes I don’t think anything has changed, and then I remember two years ago when I couldn’t even find the energy to do except than cry and it’s a bit of a shock to the system. Things that would have knocked me back for days now only cause glancing blows and stupid things that pushed me over the edge then are just minor irritations now – the repeated playing of Christmas songs 5 days into the month just make me smile wryly rather than go into a complete meltdown. This whole year has in fact felt a little more like living rather than just surviving and it’s such a surprisingly warming feeling.

Somewhat heartbreakingly, I think I can actually pinpoint one of the factors of change. When Mr B passed away in January, I went down to stay with my mother for a few weeks. It was a strange time; hard for painfully obvious reasons and yet it was a bit like a light switch for my personality. Now I hasten to add that my mother did not need looking after or caring for by any means, but she became my focus and all of a sudden it was so easy to forget about myself and my issues. Simply living day by day; cooking, vacuuming, completing paper work and just sitting and having a cup of tea in silent companionship became everything I needed to worry about. The big overarching fears and panics that constantly loomed moved away for a while. They were still there, but they weren’t the only things on my mind.

Now, I look back and I can’t help but feel a little angry at myself that it took something so huge to help me overcome some of my problems. It’s selfish and narcissistic without complaint, but it is what it is and I hope that Mr B would be happy in knowledge that he still helps me now as much as he did when he was here.

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The more I think on it, the more it seems that perhaps I am one of those people who, very much like Mr B, is suited to being robustly busy more than not (which seems to go against all my natural inclinations). I know I’ve always enjoyed those annoying repetitive tasks that bore others endlessly, but it looks like the constant gentle beavering away at something is what is needed to keep my brain quiet and my mentalness at bay. I mean, there are still plenty of points of personal contention. I continue to have a foul temper and a ridiculously short fuse (but I think that’s a more of a personality fault than anything else). I rely far too heavily on others and I still can’t drive/exercise/understand taxes, but at least I’m self aware. I feel like I’m getting closer to the idea that I’m co-existing with my issues rather than allowing them to over-rule me, and if that’s not a Christmas miracle, I don’t know what is.

Fearlessly Feminist and Fighting the Good Fight

Things are about to get a bit socio-political today people, so be prepared. With what’s going on in the news, I felt it would be a bit lax of me not to address some of the matters at hand. Being as I am a h’actual woman, a lot of what I’ve heard and read has resonated with me, and it’s about time I throw my 2p in.

Now, even in today’s society, “Feminism” is a much maligned and misunderstood word. More often than not, it’s taken to be either something that is indicative of unshaven women hysterically burning bras (though, to be honest, I could get behind that because GOD, they are just the most uncomfortable thing EVER), a specific attack on harmless menfolk, or any other number of negative diatribes. It seems to be almost impossible to be grasped as something that just means the desire to see all people treated equally. I’ve heard women say that they personally don’t identify with feminism, because they believe in equality, which makes me wince every time. I’ve heard guys say that why can’t understand why women keep complaining because they’ve got all the same rights now when all they do is continue to act like girls – as though asking for equality means giving up your womanhood. I’ve heard countless arguments again and again that feminism is causing more harm than it is good.

Once upon a time, I might have had some sympathy for a misunderstanding of the term. There are so many “new waves” and “neo” movements and I get that it can be hard to follow labels. I understand that sometimes you can get lost in the political correctness of what people do and do not like to be associated with. I respect that it can often feel like nameless internet busybodies are shouting loudly and often without any purpose other than to seem outraged.

But guess what? I’m starting to lose patience with excuses. You don’t have to understand a term or blindly follow an ideology not to be a dick. You can ignore titles and labels and internet movements all you want, but you do have to understand that assaulting a woman isn’t right. I don’t give a flying fig what you call yourself, but if you even try to tell me that you think I’m less of a person because of my reproductive organs; that I should just take it and quieten down; that I’ve got everything I should want now, you and me are going to have serious problems.

In light of the news that Joss Whedon is in fact not the hero of women’s rights and feminism he was always proclaimed to be, that Harvey Weinstein took his power and responsibility and twisted it into something completely repugnant without fear of justice or retribution for years, that Diane Abbott (who, admittedly, is not someone I am particularly fond of, but nonetheless) has to put up with absolutely intolerable torrents of objectionable and unacceptable abuse, and the light shining starkly on the horrific regularity of violence (both mentally and physically) towards woman (specifically in the media) I’ve decided to take a moment to focus on some strong female figures in my life. I’ve been raised by a staunchly feminist father on a diet of science fiction programs with fantastically powerful female role models and male characters that actually interact with them as people, rather than objects. My understanding of how the world works has been coloured by my (possibly misguided) belief that most people are inherently decent and that everyone deserves a fair chance to prove themselves on their own merits and not be hindered by someone else’s opinions or dogmas. That’s not to say that I’ve not dealt with misogyny – I’ve been harassed and groped; I’ve gone on nights out and had strangers try and grab me, rub their hands across my chest and squeeze my arse. I’ve listened to them say horrific things about what they’d do to me and what I deserved, but I’ve tried to never give up on the belief that those scumbags are in the minority. It gets harder every day though, with each new accusation and revelation, and when people who are supposedly in positions of power use their strength to harm and hurt others. These examples though, are the paragons I hold high – that prove to me that women are deserving of all the rights we fight for.

FAMILY

Most people say that their mother’s are the best and I’m sure that they’re right, but I don’t think I could ever be more amazed by anyone as I am by my mum. She is the pinnacle of everything I want to be and aim to emulate. Intelligent, classy, beautiful and heart breakingingly strong, there has never been a point when I’ve ever been let down by her. My Neens stands proud as the matriarch of a particularly mental and rowdy bunch, but I would never even consider doubting that she wouldn’t do anything and everything in her power to protect and nurture us. TMM’s mum reminds me of a Valkyrie and has done a pretty amazing job of raising a man who is everything a person should be and my sister taught me to not be afraid of unashamedly being exactly what I want to be. Every woman who I am proud enough to call family has struggled or suffered in someway and yet not let it warp them. They have thrived and made their way in the world that has not always been kind to them. They have done what they do and I love them endlessly for it.

#MightyMothers

FRIENDS

I actually think that I don’t really have much say in who my friendship groups are – mostly my friends pick me. I’m too nervous and anti-social to make much of an effort, yet somehow I am lucky enough to know women who I love wholeheartedly for what they are.  I met girls at University who amazed me – who had travelled the world when I was scared of getting on the bus on my own; who had personalities so beautiful they shined right through their gorgeous faces and who pushed me out of my comfort zone to find fun and laughter where I didn’t know to look. These days, I hang around with women who are unashamedly brilliant; who struggle with depression, who strive to please others before themselves, who maintain full time jobs, lives and households and yet still make time to invite me out and laugh with them. I adore them and often wish they could see themselves as I do, because if they knew how powerful they were, they’d rule the world. 

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There are so many women through history I look up to with almost obsessional wonder. Writers, scientists, astronauts, film stars – huge powerhouses of influence who changed the world inescapably yet are often overlooked. Ada Lovelace is always recognised as the daughter of Lord “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to know” Bryon, yet at 27 she created an algorithm which is considered to be the first computer system. In 1843! Hedy Lamarr was film actress famed for her beauty who also developed a radio guidance system which is a key factor in the creation of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. JK Rowling created a not only a series of well loved books, but a whole fully formed world as a rebellion against her depression. These women were not afraid of their strengths and fought against male dominated societies to enrich a world that tried to push them down.

We Are All Wonder Women! by SarahSatrunA piece of art work by SarahSatrun off Deviant Art that I absolutely love.(https://sarahsatrun.deviantart.com/art/We-Are-All-Wonder-Women-368307378)

They are so many strong role models out there, yet so often all we hear about are examples again and again of women being victimised. There are women lambasted for not standing up against their attackers or hiding what happened to them, because apparently it’s better to blame someone who is already frightened rather than fight against the monster who committed the act in the first place. There are girls sent home from school for wearing “provocative” clothing, because apparently boys can’t control themselves; sending the message that our girls are asking for abuse and that our boys don’t have the strength of personality to overcome their baser impulses. Stories of abuse break and immediately some guys go on the defensive – shouting about how “it’s not all men!”, because they want to feel less uncomfortable and it’s easier to invalidate women’s claims than accept there is a problem with your own gender that needs to be addressed. Sure, you might not be a rapist, but I’d rather not spend time applauding you for not being a masochistic pig and shine a light on those that think it’s okay to grab and harass instead.

I want to wear short skirts in summer because I like my legs and not because I want someone to try and take a peek at my bits. I want to be in a bad mood because I am angry, and not have some idiot guffaw about how it’s my time of the month. I want to be a woman, who can be proud of how I look and what I like, and still be recognised as an actual person. Now, I’m not saying that I expect women to be perfect goddesses. Every one of those above is flawed because, guess what, they’re people. They will have lied or cheated, cried and raged, but what else can I expect? They are not princesses or damsels; they’re not warriors or crusaders. They are just women – and I am empowered by them every damn day.