Back From the Nearly Living


So earlier in the week, I linked a post from my plinky archive on a whim. I love plinky, the format is ideal for me (small, directed pieces) and the prompt in question (sea or sky and why?) ended up with quite a nice little answer. Putting it into the blog only took a click of a button.

The response I got was pretty surprising; likes, follows and page views sprung from no-where and hopped, all bunny-eyed over my internet. New followers aren’t something I thought such a dusty, rarely updated trifle would get, especially from such a little snippet of a post!

Startled Owl

I was this surprised.

So I want to take a second to thank everyone who came and read what I’d written. I use writing these days as a way to examine and structure my own thoughts on a topic, which makes it all quite internal. I didn’t think it would appeal to people who don’t know me personally.

In the last month I have (to borrow a cliché) risen from the ashes. I spent exactly two years unemployed, to the day, and those two years changed me. Of course, I was consumed with self-loathing for most of that time, to the point where, alongside my love I began to find disgust in how I felt for my boyfriend simply for his insistence that he wasn’t going anywhere.

It’s only recently though, since I started the job I got via an apprenticeship scheme, that I realised how insular, lazy and selfish I’d become. I was resentful of the world for the sheer audacity it displayed in its continuing to exist. Incredulity when people acted as though I was still valid. It was as though I’d regressed to the age of sixteen and dyed my hair black. Maybe my next move would have been carving words into my arm with a compass.

I’m not back to being the person I was before the Big Black Dog joined the team. I doubt I ever will be that person again; how could I be? I feel as though I am beginning to fit in to the life of the adult I have created.

Clinging on to life.

It had been so long since I smiled like this guy.

Even beyond that, there are times when I realise I still have similar logs burning as I did when I felt like my smile could carry the world. At the job interview, a question, or perhaps a statement from the guy interviewing me (now my boss and director of the company) almost seemed to unbind a ribbon, allowing it to fly in the wind again.

We talked about continued learning and the flaws in a traditional boss/employee paradigm (a risky subject for a job interview I know) and I knew the gleam I could see in his eyes; it was the one which had just returned to my own.

Walking along the spine (a partially-covered walkway on Lancaster university campus) in the rain and I’m cold, tired and hungry. A woman around the same age as me stops to put down her shopping bags. One of them is beginning to split and she is flexing her hands in a way that tells me the bags are heavy.

I offer to help and she politely declines but I insist that I’m in no hurry. We walk back to her flat and she says it’s almost like a sign. “I stopped believing in angels,” she said “but maybe I should start again.” When we arrive at her building, she invites me inside for a drink but it’s my turn to politely decline. At that moment there was nothing in the world I could have wanted.

As I made my way down the stairs I called up and behind to her, ” I just hope that one day when you get the chance you pass on the favour.” I hope she does. The gleam in my eyes must have been like a floodlight.

Inspire

Too true.

The world is not perfect. I am not perfect. But I have started trying again.

In essence, what I really want to say is thank you. Thank you to anyone who reads this. Thanks for using some of such a precious resource (time, what else?) to humour me. Thank you, everyone who read and enjoyed my last post, and to those who read but didn’t enjoy.

Most of all, thank you to the people who are still here. Storms are hard to weather, but I think the clouds are dispersing. I think I can see the sun again.

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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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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.

Remember that I’m judging you


From a young age, one of the core values that society attempts to drum into our subconscious minds is the idea of acceptance and not judging people. This non-judgemental quality, coupled with acceptance and open mindedness is supposed to lead to a more tolerant and culturally diverse society.

We’ve all heard the term ‘political correctness gone mad’. The idea of the exaggerated health and safety official running around renaming blackboards as chalkboards and banning Christmas trees to avoid offending some minority or another is probably something we’ve all had a good laugh about over time.

I think, however, that people seem to missing a trick here. Humans, as it’s well-known and documented, evolved from certain species of apes and we’ve taken over the planet. The reason for our continued success as a species isn’t the same reasons lions continue to thrive (nothing can kill them) but it’s more because we’re so damn good at killing other stuff.

There are several reasons why we’re such good death dealers. Mainly, it’s the inventiveness we display as a species – we’ve got the fire. However, one of the other tools at our disposal is our ability to make snap judgements about situations that are a threat to us. If something’s flying through the air towards your nose, you duck. (I, on the other hand, dear reader, merely cower and wait for impact; I would not have been successful as a hunter-gatherer)

That reaction to danger, that instinct to duck out of the way at whatever might be attacking your face is one of the strongest assets we have as a species. They don’t say ‘human in the headlights’ for an expression of fear, because the human has already reacted and thrown themselves out of the path of oncoming danger.

I would like you to pause for a second, reader, and attempt to apply that concept of ‘flight or fight’ instinct to everyday life. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Done? Good. You probably couldn’t think of many situations where this applies. Entirely fair. The human mind and body are two immensely complicated things (it’s been said that if we could understand the human brain, it would have to become so simple that we’d lose the desire and ability to understand it anyway). Due to the vast swathes of intelligence allowed to us, our societies, cultures and lifestyles have evolved faster than poor Mother Nature can keep up with, and we haven’t evolved very much in response to this growth. As such, we still live and operate with the same flight or fight, snap judgement, instinct driven responses as our ancestors. Handy for protecting oneself from predators, not so much for explaining to your boss why you’re reading a blog on work’s time, extra adrenaline, increased breathing and tunnel vision being just a few of the physical responses of the human body to acute stress.

However, as life continues to be fairly slow-paced for the average human, and as these hyperarousal responses become less and less relevent (and in fact, harmful – you’ve heard of so many illnesses caused by stress – meet the real culprit), Mother Nature will eventually catch up and things will change.

Coming back round to my first point, about non-judgementalism, humans are doing what they can to help Mother Nature along in this process. No more flight or fight response, no more snap decisions. Humans will take as much time as Ents to make any choices and far fewer mistakes will be made.

Let me spin you a tale. You’re in an office, when a fire alarm goes off. You know that one of your co-workers is in a wheelchair. You take so long considering whether or not to help them out of the building that you both burn to death. Or, you are so non-judgemental that you didn’t realise that they were disabled, so you flee from the building and they burn to death.  Right now your flight response would give you the adrenaline and the oxygen and the other resources that your body needs to get out of there, and your previous judgement that your co-worker is disabled and therefore can’t get down the stairs in an emergency leads you to help them in getting out of there too. Imagine a world so devoid of judgement, where everyone is so worried about being politically correct, that they don’t help the guy in the wheel chair for fear of offending him with your assessment of his capabilities.

Judgement isn’t the bad guy – judgement is how human beings assess the situation and know how best to react. Acceptance is the more important aspect of life these days. Use your observations to judge the situation, the people, whatever else needs judging. That’s fine. What you then need to do is assess what you’ve judged to be acceptable. You’ve judged that the cashier in the store is asian, but you’ve then assessed that as an acceptable fact.

Everyone judges – it’s human nature. We just need to encourage people to accept the results of their judgements.

Remember, the phrase is ‘deer in the headlights’ and not ‘human in the headlights’ for a good reason.

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.

Gotta’ Catch ‘Em All!


Pokemon is probably one of the most defining aspects of my child hood. As soon as I got a Gameboy and the Pokémon games, I started obsessively trying to collect one of each and every Pokémon. It wasn’t all that difficult to achieve in the first iteration of the games (Pokemon Red and Blue), it just required you to have a friend with a gameboy and the opposite game to you. For me, this slot was filled by zel, my younger brother. Sadly, we never made it to an event to get the elusive and adorable Mew, but still, 150/151 isn’t bad going.

There are now nearly twenty games in the main series, and many spin-offs such as Pokemon Snap (N64), Pokemon Colosseum (N64), and Pokemon Trading Card Game (GBC) to name just a small handful. There are also other areas of the phenomenon – there’s a Trading Card Game, an anime series, and more merchandise than you could shake a stick at. Pokemon fever really did sweep the world and from the young to the young-at-heart, Pokémon became a part of our culture.

I was young (maybe about seven or eight years old) when I first came across the adorable, collectible creatures. Young tends to mean impressionable. The major philosophy behind the games was ‘Gotta’ Catch ‘Em All’ and so this innocuous game involving (something I now consider slightly questionable) catching small creatures in even smaller digital balls, and making them fight until one passes out has had what I consider to be a fairly large impact on my life, or at least my psyche.

In the field of psychology, the question of nature or nurture rages on. I don’t know if I was predisposed towards completing and collecting tendencies, if Pokemon awakened these traits within me, or if the game created them in me from scratch, but what I do know is that since I was a child I have taken pleasure in collecting. From glow in the dark plastic shapes to achievements to Magic: the Gathering cards.

So, before you pick up that DS to play Black or White (the latest installations in the series) ask yourself if you really want to ‘Catch ‘Em All’.

Again and again.


Why do people go back time after time to the same thing? What makes us want to watch the same movie again, even when we know the punchline to every joke? Why do we replay the same game again and again, despite knowing every trick in the book from previous run-throughs? What is it that is so comforting about routine and repetition?

Answers on a postcard (or a comment)