Tiny Celebration


Today, this blog got its 50th like 🙂 I just want to take a sec out to say that since this blog is almost entirely about myself and my experiences, each and every like, view, comment and follow is like a little affirmation that what I’m saying is worth taking the time to say.

So, thank you, everyone who’s liked, commented and followed this blog over the last couple of years – it means a lot to me and I hope you’re getting as much out of reading this as I get out of writing it 🙂

Cute Bats

Cute bats for every follower 🙂

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Malignant Developments


About three years ago, my Nan Jackie (being my dad’s mother) was diagnosed with lung cancer. Lung cancer is the second most common type of diagnosed cancer in the UK after breast cancer, and its instance increases significantly in smokers and ex-smokers. Nan J was a smoker for most of her life, though she gave up some five or six years back.

My Gran couldn’t tell me herself; it was my mum who made the call to me, and my Nan called an hour or so later to talk about it. I didn’t know how I felt about the whole thing, really. It’s only this year that I’ve ever experienced personal loss, when my Dadcu died, so three years ago I was certain that my family were immortal and would continue being old, curmudgeonly, but unfailingly present in my life.

Infinite, infallible, Immortal.

Infinite, infallible, Immortal.

The detection of the cancer was quite early through the cycle, because Nan J had emphysema and was x-rayed for a check up on that. The likelihood of survival in cases of cancer, especially lung cancer, increases the earlier it’s detected, so for that I am eternally grateful.

After a course of chemotherapy, the tumor was announced to be in remission, and we all stopped holding our breath. Some time went by and I stopped thinking about the cancer. Not having learned enough was my downfall here. I thought that ‘in remission’ meant ‘gone forever.’ Not the case.

I can’t think on the timescale. I’ve always found it hard to keep track of dates in my mind and so things are often not concrete for me.

Regardless of when it was, the tumor became active again. This time, it was harder. The chemotherapy alone wasn’t enough, so they put her on radiotherapy, and she lost her hair. Despite being in her sixties, Nan J still had hair like straw, yellow and wispy. There were bits of grey creeping in here and there around her ears and temples, but for the majority, still blonde. The wig she got was sleeker than her natural hair, darker but with honeyed highlights.

Eventually, the tumor faded into remission again. Presumably, her hair began to return, and the horrible effects of the cancer and the treatments faded away. I have spoken to her plenty but not seen her; the distance from Lancaster to Llanelli is substantial.

Unfortunately, cancer subverts reality and resists true elimination from a person’s body. After a few months of phonecalls which were punctuated by harsh coughing fits, it’s been confirmed again; the cancer is back.

Through the whole ordeal, Nan Jackie has been steadfastly ignoring the fact that lung cancer is the most common cause of lethality in cancer sufferers. Only around 30% of people survive for more than a year after initial diagnosis, and less than 10% survive for five years or more.*

When my Nan started losing her hair, I decided that a show of solidarity would be one of the best ways I could support her, and so I began to grow my hair. Nan Jackie might already have her wig, but there are people out there who can’t get them. The Little Princess Trust is a charity who makes real-hair wigs for children who are dealing with hairloss. At the time, the required minimum length was 10″ and by the time my hair was getting close to that, my gran was back in remission. The idea fell by the wayside.

Now though, the minimum length is 7″ which I’m sure I have. Besides, whether or not my gran is recieving treatment, there will always be a need for donations to worth-while charities.

So the long and short of it is that I’d like people to donate money to my hair-cutting effort so I can give my hair to TLPT and some donation to Cancer Research UK. I’ve made a Just Giving page, Alice’s Page, so it’s safe and secure, and I’ll be writing with more details of the actual haircut soon, but basically, here’s the info – Sponsored Hair Cut.

 

Sorry this post isn’t up to the standard of my usual writing; I was finding it hard to get into writing-mood but wanted to get this up sooner rather than later.

 

*Stats sourced from Cancer Research UK website.

Pools of Blue


Waves, the sea, the water Waves

Sea, every time. I live less than five miles from the coast now, but it’s the furthest away I’ve ever been. For nine years or thereabouts I lived so close to the shore I could sometimes fall asleep to the sound of the water, if it was particularly rough or choppy, or an especially quiet night.

I’ll never stop being calmed by the sea spray and the smell of salt water. The air itself is different around the sea, and I relish it.

The sky might be the most beautiful, but in my heart of hearts I’m sat on the end of the old Ferryside pier, just listening.

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Father Valentine


Firstly, a quick explanation as to my lack of new updates recently – I simply haven’t been able to coagulate my thoughts into postable material. There have been things I’ve wanted to write about but they’ve stuck around for a very short period of time, much less than it takes me to mull something over and decide on what angle to pursue in my writing. I think part of the problem might be my thinking a blog post needs to be a long, in-depth affair, whereas it’s really fine for me to write only a few paragraphs on something. Am going to try harder in the coming weeks to remedy this.

A friend of mine, luvlymish, introduced me to a very interesting tradition a couple of years ago, which she heard about from a different friend of hers. Originating in Norfolk, the annual tradition of Father Valentine is a rather quaint idea that can really spread a lot of happiness and smiles around the place. Also known as the tradition of Jack Valentine, a lucky person would be called upon and St. Valentine’s day by a mysterious visitor, the enigmatic Father, or Jack, Valentine. A knock on the door would signal the arrival of a gift for someone in the house (children and unattached people were just as likely to receive gifts as lovers). Father Valentine himself would be long gone by the time the door was answered but the tradition was to yell “Thank you, Father Valentine!” into the wind in case he was actually just hiding in the wind.

Being a truly sentimental romantic at heart, this idea appeals to me immensely. The opportunity to give and potentially receive anonymous gifts is one that I can’t pass up. The gifts can be anything, from a chocolate bar to jewelry and more. A pair of sunglasses rests amongst my ornaments, Father Valentine’s gift from last year.

In some ways, it’s a shame I feel like I need this kind of sanctioning in order to give tokens of my love and appreciation to my friends. However, I’ve found that random gifts aren’t always a good idea. The last random thing I gave a friend got accidentally left in Manchester without even so much as a thank you. I don’t like sounding whiny and petulant but that stung. So, something a little bit more organised this time.

I am tempted to bake goodies for my valentines, but our kitchen is small and often quite messy (my housemate’s insistence that the recycling goes HERE obviously didn’t apply to him, if the empty pizza boxes are anything to go by). Also I’m not sure how I’d deliver vast quantities of yummy cakes and the like – I’d need to scour the land for small boxes. Aside from that I have scant few ideas, but there’s plenty of time. Mostly, I think, I need to write a list of people. I’m lucky – I have many people in my life whom I love dearly and want to lend a smile to. But that needs lots of ideas, so off I go to come up with some.

Still Alive


I have been having a particularly horrible week. So much has gone wrong in the last seven days that I am tempted to just call this the worst week I’ve had, in memory. Family members are ill, I’ve got no money, and a friend who I thought would always have my back were actually just waiting for the right opportunity for the knife.

As someone with quite severe depression, this has all led to me having some pretty horrible thoughts about self harm and suicide. As you can probably guess, I haven’t killed myself and I think the largest factors towards my not having committed or attempted suicide boil down to a couple of things.

First and foremost, Chris. Even with my incredibly low self-esteem, I know beyond any doubt that if I killed myself, Chris would be devastated. He loves me and cares for me more than I ever thought anyone would. I stop and think about it sometimes and I’m blown away. I really can’t understand it but Chris is not the kind of guy who would ever or could ever fake these kinds of emotions. He’s not particularly open, emotionally, and I think that his love for me is the only extreme or intense emotion I’ve ever seen him display. How could I inflict something like me committing suicide on him? A fine way to repay all of his kindness and generosity.

How To Save A Life – The Frey – this video can speak to anyone who has lost someone and subsequently wished they could have done something to prevent it.

Leading neatly on from that is the fact that I could never do it to any of my friends or family, either. No parent should have to outlive their child, and no friend should ever be made to feel that they couldn’t intervene, that their friendship wasn’t enough to help convince a person to stay alive. It would be left to someone I love and care about to clear out my bedroom, too, and I can’t think of anything worse for someone who is grieving to have to do, especially with a bedroom as personal as mine. Every thing on every shelf is some outward display of a memory or an emotion or an aspect of my personality. I attach huge amounts of sentimentality to objects that have no real worth, and there will be someone out there who will understand something about each item. I still have a small heart made of tinfoil that Karl made me in the lower sixth. No worth to anyone but him and me, and while it might seem easy for someone to throw it away, what if you knew that it held some kind of memory, some little part of the person who used to own it, even if you don’t know what the memory is? I wouldn’t find it easy.

Thirdly, as much as there are things I hate about myself and my life, there are so many things that aren’t shit. I love music. I love reading. I love video games. I love spending whole evenings with people who I love, watching TV shows and talking. I love my friends, my family and my boyfriend more than anything. I love my cats and my dog. I love nature and all the amazing, breathtaking things she is capable of. I love ingenuity and capabilities of mankind (even if I don’t always approve of the uses they’re put to). I love the way it feels when Chris looks me in the eyes and tells me that he loves me, and the way his hands feel when he holds me.

What I think the most important factor is more of the how than the why. I’ve already expressed concern for whoever gets stuck with the horrible job of emptying my bedroom, but what about the person who would find the body? I can’t imagine much that would be more awful than finding someone like that. If I were to do it in my house, the most likely candidate for finding the body would be someone I care about whichever of my housemates was to find it. Worst case scenario would involve Chris finding me – he’s had to deal with that once in his life already, and if there is anyone who doesn’t deserve something horrible to happen to them, it’s Chris. He is kind, generous, shy, polite and would never do anyone any harm without severe provocation.

I could never do it in a way that impacts another person, either. I just think it so selfish, the people who commit suicide by throwing themselves under trains. I wonder if they’ve ever given a thought to just how really, seriously traumatic that would be for the train driver? I used to fantasize about jumping off the train bridge in Lancaster as a non-stop train sped through, but I just can’t bring myself to subject anyone to that, let alone a random stranger just trying to do their job. On top of that, imagine the chaos – it takes so little to disrupt train service, there would be many people inconvenienced just because of me.

Lastly, no matter how bad it feels when I am usurped by the oppressive certainty that everything is shit, I’m not worth anything to anyone, and nothing will ever be ok again, when I am lucid and rational and only mildly convinced of the world’s hostility to me, I hope.

I hope that one day I will be healthy and whole and happy again, that one day Chris and I will have a place of our own that I can fill with clutter and colourful rugs with blankets and throws over all the chairs and a welcoming front door. I can hope that in the future I’ll start each day with a smile and be the person I’ve promised myself I can be.

I hope that Sam will realise that in the classic “reason/season/lifetime” paradigm, he is supposed to be a lifetime friend. WE are supposed to be lifetime friends. I hope he’ll realise just how horrible this whole situation is, just how much we both lose from this. I hope he’ll realise that no-one will ever care about him like I do. Without him I have almost no doubt I wouldn’t have managed to make it through the last two years in Lancaster. I hope he’ll realise that the trust and loyalty he can get from a best friend is greater than that which he can expect from a girl to whom he is the other guy, the guy she’s cheating on her boyfriend with, the guy she kissed out of mild curiosity and swore blind she didn’t have any interest other than friendship.

I hope that someday I will actually be able to do what I want. I want people to like me. I want to do things that make their lives better and happier and richer, somehow. I want to be the woman who Chris deserves. I want to be the friend that my friends deserve.

I hope that one day, I can be my own person with no shadowy black dog lurking around every corner in my mind. I hope I’ll be free.

With Friends Like These…


I’ve never been the most popular person around. For my whole life, I’ve had to get used to being the person from an odd-numbered group who has to sit on their own on the bus, or the one people forget to invite to places. I’m the one who gets edged out when someone new and more interesting comes along. The one who’s only part of the group because they just won’t stop turning up places.

In the few years I’ve been living in Lancaster, there have been a few occasions where I’ve mistakenly assumed that this effect has worn off and that I have settled into a group. With the people at Archery, it became obvious very quickly when I was no longer welcome around, though the only thing I’d done was fallen in love with the president of the society and the captain’s best friend.

Possibly one of the most hostile and difficult situations I’ve ever been in; the overnight stay in Chester will remain vividly etched in my mind as one of the worst weekends of my life. When the aforementioned man and myself ended our relationship, there was no longer any question of me being able to shoot – my bow proved to quickly become a three hundred pound paperweight.

Luckily for me, not all of my forays into pre-established friendship groups proved so harmful to my mental health; my attendance at RocSoc was simply not high enough to become firmly established in that social group. I know the people, and they know me, but aside for a couple of exceptions we’re never going to be bosom-buddies. Less intimacy and attachment; less eventual pain.

The place I really did think I’d stick, however, was LURPS. Lancaster university role-playing society. Full of people who were teased in school and consider themselves to be socially ‘different from the norm’. Even I couldn’t be considered annoying or weird compared to some of these guys, right?

For a while, I was so enamoured by everyone in LURPS that I found it hard to settle into a particular group. Before too long though, I gathered a few people I was particularly interested and amused by, people I thought I could trust and enjoy the company of, and we became a group, a brigade even. A core group of six with some peripheral people, and I felt like I’d found my own version of the Friends cast, people who I’d continue to be friends with through my twenties and beyond.

Despite some hiccups, such as Dan leaving Lancaster (if you’re reading this, Dan, we miss you!), we’re still here three years on. Three years of trying and testing each other, laughing, crying, and loving together, and I thought that I’d finally be able to tick ‘lifetime friends’ off my list of things I need for a satisfactory life.

It seems though, that life thought I needed another false start, another lesson learned. To offset the balance of a social group is a very easy thing, especially when the group contains someone such as me, who is so easily displaced from their comfort zone. I fill a particular role in the group – I am the only girl, the main ear that gets confided in, the funny, cute girl who messes about and kicks butt in Team Fortress 2. I also take a lot of maintenance as a friend, something I know and am trying hard to work on. I am almost obsessively sociable; even when I’m feeling anti-social or ill I want there to be people around me, so I can listen to them talk and know that I’m not alone when I’m feeling at my worst.

For three years, I have been able to have all the support that I need from this group of friends, and from Sam more than most. He and I are ‘best’ friends, and despite several ups and downs between us, I thought that wasn’t going to change, at least not while we continue to house share.

Now though, there’s someone else. A girl I can’t even bring myself to have any hostile feelings towards; she and I have always been towards the ‘friends’ end of the acquaintance scale, and from what I can tell she is a lovely, interesting, funny, pretty, gamer girl.

For almost the whole time he’s known her, Sam has been interested in her, and I can’t blame him. Nothing ever came of it though, because she has had a boyfriend since before Sam ever met her. Nevertheless, his interest never waned; he just supressed it. Until recently. I don’t want to air out exactly what’s happening between them, so what it comes down to is that she has very quickly become a close friend to Sam.

I had no worry when Sam was pursuing her as a romantic interest; in fact I was all for it – Sam is a great guy and deserves to find a girl who’ll make him happy and put up with how stubborn he is. Now that it has emerged that they aren’t going to be entering into a romantic relationship, I am fighting a losing battle for the position of Sam’s best friend. Why would he want to keep me when he could have someone who is just a vastly improved version of me? The signs are already beginning to show; Sam and I have spent very little time together just hanging out recently. He’s been busy, or there have been other more interesting people around. Sam’s always had the time for her though.

Most of my group of friends already consider her to be a friend, too, so it’s only a matter of time before I’m left at the starting post without them all, because again, who’d keep me around when she’s a prettier, funnier, more interesting and intelligent version of me with less neuroses for them to worry about? From there, it’s only a short step before they stop inviting me along to the race at all.

 

PS. I know that you’re all entitled to freedom of speech and can say whatever you want about it, but before you post about how selfish and whinghy I sound in this post, please have a little bit of sympathy for the girl who’s missing her best friend and scared of being replaced by someone far superior.

 

PPS. The main body of this post (that is, not counting the two post-scripts) totals 1000 words exactly. Random round numbers like that give me a little bit of a thrill.

The thought that counts.


I’ve always thought of myself as a ‘good daughter’ without ever exploring what a good daughter is. However, I realised a couple of weeks ago, around my twenty-first birthday, what it takes to be a good daughter. I’ll tell you that later.

In a lot of ways, despite being considered weird by many of my peers, I was a fairly normal teenage girl. I fought with my younger brother, sneaked out of the house to get drunk with friends, played truant from school and fed table scraps to the dog. The living room was always full of my clutter, I kept secrets from my parents, I hated doing chores and I nagged and whined to get bought sweets, clothes and other things.

Nothing particular there that makes me a good daughter, right? In fact, when I look back on my teen years, I can see that I really wasn’t very helpful at all. There are so many small things I could have done and should have done – the smallest things really would have made a huge difference to my mother. The only way she got through the last eleven years is by being a secret superhero.

About a year (at an estimate – the timeframe is very skewed in my head and I can’t be certain) after we moved to Ferryside as a family of four, we became a family of three when my mum ended her relationship with my dad. I remember walking the dog with mum along the cliff in the summer, and she asked me what I thought of the possibility. I was eleven, but understood one small thing about adult-types. They needed to be happy just as much as us kids did. I told mum that if she wasn’t happy then she needed to make moves towards becoming happy. Nonetheless, when I got home from school on a Wednesday afternoon and my dad was gone, I was shocked – I couldn’t fathom why he’d left so suddenly, without waiting to say ‘bye to my brother and me.

After that, my Mum had to take care of two preteens, a happy-grumpy old dog, a small business that often needed her to be in several places at once, and herself, without any support aside from what her parents could provide (which was a lot, don’t get me wrong, but mum needed more than a lot). Over the next ten years, my mum would face many challenges. The business that she worked so hard to bring back from the ashes started to flutter out, her children hit their teens, she had relationships with men ranging from a bit flakey to full-blown violent alcoholic (the guy in question was eventually removed from our lives when my mum discovered his profiles on some very questionable dating sites). As well as the business, the house started to fall apart, too – holes in the kitchen roof, leaky plumbing, decrepid chimney and all kinds of other things. In the winter, we were always cold and there was never enough money. Eventually, our happy-grumpy dog died – he was fourteen, and too arthritic to get out of the way of the vehicle that hit him.

Despite all those problems – despite everything that could go wrong doing just that, we never went hungry. None of the men that my mum was trying to make a life for herself with ever laid a finger on my brother or me, and I’m sure that if one had tried, they’d have been out the door (or window, I don’t think mum would have been too picky) quicker than blinking. Our clothes were always clean. I doubt either of us triggered any warning signs in the eyes of our teachers as kids coming from anything other than standard home lives.

Things have settled down considerably in the years since I turned sixteen. My mum met and fell for Julian and before long he moved in with us. They’ve been married two years now, and while being far from perfect, Julian does seem to make my mum happy. Both my brother and I have moved away from home now and they live together with little dog and the cats (of which there are three), making the house my mum bought with my dad into their own place. My mum even has a regular 9-5 day job.

The thing that made it all bearable was my mum’s ability to hold it all together. Through every scrap of chaos she has had one eye on me and one eye on my brother. Even now, living hundreds of miles away, I can feel it when I’m at my worst – I want my mum to give me a hug and pick up the pieces I’ve dropped along the way, because she has that look in her eye that tells me that there’s no path I could take so far from the right one that will lead me away from her. Even when I leave the path to walk in the trees, she’s never far away.

Obviously I can’t say for sure yet, but I think I learned from my mum that the three most important things to give your kids are love, trust and time. Even though I did plenty of teenaged things to make the first two things hard for mum to provide (did I mention sneaking out the window?), the third thing has always been available, even when it hasn’t. Being in a hurry to get the shopping done never stopped my mum from taking me to lunch when possible. The cost of a phone call from landline to mobile never stopped us talking for hours. The delay between sending and receiving never stopped us writing letter to each other.

The crux of this post is meant to be what being a ‘good daughter’ entails, and the most astute among you might have noticed that I’ve said nothing on the subject at hand. That’s because the day-to-day stuff really matters very little in the end. The important thing in the mother-daughter relationship is that the daughter learns to see and appreciate every inch the mother gives. Every time she carries your jumper, every time she gives you an extra piece of chocolate, every time she drives you to college, every tissue she gives you when you cry.

When I was sixteen, I was selfish and really did focus on myself more than my family (as sixteen year olds often do). Now I’m twenty-one and the thought of spending any prolonged period of time thinking of myself is abhorrent due to my anxiety and depression, I find myself thinking for hours at a time about the other people who play a part in my life. Through this I realised everything that it takes to raise children and really did genuinely puzzle over how my mum managed it all.She is superhuman.

What it all comes down to in the end is that there are no good daughters. There are good mothers, with daughters who will eventually look back and want to apply their own lessons to their daughters.

Then sometimes, there are great mothers.

Absence makes the something something something


So, for some reason my creative muscles have been tired lately and I’ve barely written a thing. This is an attempt to remedy that.

When I was younger, I always thought that my life had one direction. I was going to go to university, fall in love, get a job and a house and have kids. Such vague plans, but I always thought that I was going to go down the ‘normal’ road of life. Over the last few years, it’s become increasingly clear to me that this is not the case. My priorities, views and outlooks have changed and matured since I was 15 and day-dreamed about these things.

Now, my ideals for life are widely spread apart and a fair way from what actaully might be possible in life. There are a million things I want to do, and I thought I’d share a few of them with you today.

Owning and running my own business

Although I no longer am, I used to be quite commited to the online game ‘The World of Warcraft’. As such, any trip to Swansea I made as a teen had to include a visit to the Internet and LAN gaming cafe, Crossfire. After getting bored of the shops, it was the perfect place to go to wait for the frustratingly infrequent train home to Ferryside.

There is a long post on my livejournal about the finer points of the thing, how I want to combine the LAN/internet cafe with a milkshake bar, all the considerations that need to be taken into account. Basically, I achieve most when I have to put in a high amount of effort at the beginning of a project and then can maintain a low level throughout the rest. In theory, I want a job where I can spend a lot of time writing. Running a shop seems like it could offer me that opportunity.

Furthering my education

I have never succesfully completed any form of higher education. For my whole life, getting a degree has been more or less a given, right up until it came to the actual getting it part of the plan. Twice I tried and twice I failed at the normal education pathway. As such, I have been doing other things instead. I’ve been attending courses at the adult college, and am seriously considering taking up a degree with the OU.

Because my mum is a fantastic woman, she has impressed upon my brother and I that academics is not the only place to go for learning. I want to learn life’s lessons. I want to read about subjects that interest me, visit places, meet people, see, watch, feel, do everything. No sir, you don’t have to have a degree to be intelligent.

Experience

I want to travel the world. I want to experience what life has to offer. Love, loss, heat, chill, wind and rain. I want to taste and smell all the world’s food. I want to play all the games. I want to stand on the top of a mountain and greet the sky. I want to tell the people I care about how they make me feel. I want to stand in front of the world and announce my love for someone. I want to cradle a new born baby in my arms. I want to look at my own face in the mirror and be proud of what I see. I want to live life.