Friday, 29 January 2016

Feeling lost and things that help

Lately I feel like life has taken quite an ugly turn, and no better is this reflected than in this very space – my blog. What used to be a mishmash of recipes, product reviews and adventures has dwindled into either complete silence or a tangled mess of confused thoughts and melancholy reflection. Last year ended badly, and despite the brief wisp of optimism I felt as I embraced the blank canvas of the new year, things feel like they’ve continued to spiral downwards.

Despite having a nasty tendency to dwell on things in my quieter, darker moments, I think in general I’ve been quite good at bouncing back from bouts of disappointment or hurt. Recently though the increasing number of lows and visible lack of highs have taken their toll, and I’m becoming acquainted with a version of myself that is quieter, lonelier, sleepier, more tearful.

I’ve never fully understood or appreciated how I cope with sorrow. I’m a natural brooder, so an unkind word or a sad moment is like a merry-go-round horse that I cling to. Round and round and round it goes, hurling me violently round the corners. I become quiet and clam up, living inside my head. Even in the worst of it though, there’s some sort of rounded edge to the biting corners. Recently I tried to take control, and while I’m not very good at asking for help, I’ve been trying to reach out in my own way. And I suppose that’s where the ugly twist materialised, because no one came, and I felt (and still feel) completely and utterly alone.

Recently I’ve had moments where I’ve viewed myself in a strangely objective way. It’s as if my mind swoops out of my body and lingers on the ceiling, steadily watching myself as I earnestly stretch on my yoga mat, pop on an episode of a comedy show or snuggle up in bed with a book and a cup of tea. As I watch myself trying so diligently to be resilient, all I can think of is how pitiful I look. But then again if I don’t try, I really am opening myself up to the devil’s snare. So I’ve listed below a few things that help.

[yoga] I’ve been following Adriene’s 30-day yoga camp and despite Stanley insisting on licking my feet while I attempt downward dog, it really has been helping.

[banishing the chatter] Part of my ‘clamming up’ routine is that I tend to disappear from social media when I’m feeling really sad. I recently closed down my Facebook account in an attempt to gain some stillness, and actually it’s been a really positive decision.

[retail therapy] It might be short-lived and fickle, but spending money always provides a welcome distraction. I’m trying not to waste money though, so have been turning my attention to Frank, who is in need of a complete wardrobe overhaul. We’ve just bought him lots of new work clothes and next on the list will be skinny jeans and other casual bits.

[meal prepping] Knowing that being hungry makes me extra sad, I’ve been preparing my lunches for the week on Sundays and it really means I’ve saved money, time and stress.

[fresh flowers] I’ve been filling my house with fresh daffodils and tulips. A bit of colour really does help.

[a clean house] It might be a luxury, but having a cleaner is doing wonders to stop me feeling stressed and upset.

[early nights] I don’t know whether it’s just me, but when I’m feeling particularly sad I find myself feeling incredibly tired. I also find sleeping is a good way to escape a bad day. I’ve been in bed by 9pm every evening for the past week and I still feel exhausted. But it helps.

So I guess I’ll continue to keep trying where I can and hope that the fog lifts soon. Because where I am right now is a pretty lonely and miserable place.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016


I've spent the past three days living in my head, churning the same memory round and round and round. I try to distract myself, shaking it off - sometimes physically - until it rushes back across my brain like a car crash. And that's exactly what it was. You see, on Saturday night I was stepping onto the pedestrian crossing outside my house - the road outside my window in the picture above - when a van ploughed straight through two women crossing in the opposite direction.

I've had nightmares every night since. The sound - "WHOMP" - the screech of the wheels as the van sped off. How sinister it felt that someone could be so callous and cold as to leave two people for dead in the middle of the road, not moving, blood everywhere. "Oh God! Oh God! Call an ambulance! Call an ambulance!" How stiff and cold my fingers felt as I tried to unlock my phone. Half listening to the voice on the other end. Unable to concentrate. Trying - not trying - to answer their questions. "Are they breathing?" "I think so." "Are they conscious?" "One isn't, the other is, barely. Oh God. Barely." "Is there a traffic obstruction?" "They're in the road. Please come. Please come quickly. They're... they're dying."

I haven't slept properly since. My mind can't shake it off. "WHOMP". There it is again. "WHOMP". And again. And selfishly "That could have been us. A few more seconds and it could have been us." Oh God. Please don't let them die.

Friday, 1 January 2016

So long, 2015


It's been quite a year.

You'd think after three decades I'd have figured things out by now - noticed my natural response to the ebbs and flows in life; halted my expectations in some cases. Five years since I began this little online journey there have been times when I've considered packing it in (even more so recently). But then I remember why I began it in the first place.

It was 2009. I had a different name and a different life. I had dragged myself through Christmas and the new year, uncovered another betrayal from my (then) husband. And another. And another. I asked him to leave. He came back. Another betrayal. The end.

I thought it would be the loneliness that broke me, but it ended up being the insomnia. I drifted along, a thick fog hanging between me and the world. I saw a counsellor. He said "why not start a blog?" So I did. And it helped. It really did. It still does. Sometimes I look back and cringe at the honesty I project out into the world. But five years on I can flip back and forth and see how much I've grown and changed in that time. And it's nice.

This year was bittersweet in many ways. There was a lot of change. A lot of new friendships and some unhealthy ones that ended too. There was strife and joy in equal measure. And that's good. Because ultimately life is a beautiful thing. The bad things only last a few pages. And anyone can survive that.


2015 began surrounded by boxes, plus a short trip to A&E following my first full blown panic attack. We moved 200 miles north on the 3rd January to begin our new lives in Manchester. Moving is rubbish. But moving to a house with stairs, two spare rooms and a garden is pretty great (Londoners would call it 'living the dream'). We were welcomed with flowers and fizz from an old uni friend, and before we knew it everything had changed: our jobs, our friends, our local haunts. It was very disorienting at first, and we spent most of January organising wi-fi, buying furniture and getting ourselves sorted.


In London I was told that working for a university would be more relaxed. It isn't. If I ever thought I'd be eased gently into my new job I had another thing coming. The moment I joined I was tasked with writing a comms plan for a huge event that was taking place in March. Long nights in the office ensued, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. Late nights at work were tempered by the fact that I had more disposable income to spend on things like Hello Fresh deliveries, which make a massive difference to me when I'm busy and don't have time to plan our meals in advance. We also managed to carve out some weekend time to explore the woods behind our house, and I was pretty chuffed to discover how much wilderness we have nearby.


Spare room

We stepped up our decorating in March. I was in the flow of work, the weather was warmer and i was up to my elbows in paint and white spirits. We painted our bedroom a relaxing sage green, gave the spare room a fresh coat of white paint and opted for a deep teal in the lounge. I got cross with myself for not finishing the hall, box room and kitchen, but I've made my peace with that now. The house is looking pretty good by all accounts.

In April we had a new addition to the family - Stanley the Jack Russell Terrier (of sorts - although I've never seen a Jack Russell like him). It was a big decision that we'd ummed and ahhed about for ages, and finally an impulsive moment saw us bringing this little chap home. The cats were unsure at first, but having all five of us cuddled up on the sofa together made us realise what a perfect decision it was. Who knew that one little cheeky chappy could bring us, our friends and family so many laughs?


I dived headfirst into the gardening in Spring, growing pots and pots of lettuces, cauliflowers, kale, cabbages and courgettes on my window ledges. Some crops were a disaster, but some did pretty well,  and I can't wait to get going this year too.


Wedding invitations

Our wedding completely took over in June. I was stressed. People just had to mention the word 'wedding' and I'd be ranting and raving about how much I hated weddings and wedding planning, and how I'd much rather stow away on a boat to get married in secret. Beautifully orchestrated Pinterest boards descended into a frenzy of chucking things into my shopping basket and exclaiming 'that'll do'. It was hairy there for a while, and I wouldn't want to meet my June self on a dark corner.


Costa Rican breakfast

July is birthday month. I love having a summer birthday. This year was the first year I can remember when I worked on my birthday and my colleagues made an extra special effort feeding me up with delicious treats. Frank got me a Fitbit and I was doing well on Weight Watchers. I'd lost half a stone and was feeling good (I've since put it all back on and lost the charger to my Fitbit). But in my heart I was feeling empty, bland and unproductive. I had no drive and no motivation. I was struggling and felt my life needed some direction.


Capsule wardrobe for winter

After feeling overwhelmed with my lack of direction in July, I started feeling equally stressed about how over cluttered my life was. One area that was particularly angsty for me was my overspilling wardrobe(s) so I decided to try a capsule wardrobe - having 37 items of clothing in my wardrobe that I wear for 3 months at a time. I never looked back. I learnt a lot from my first capsule wardrobe and my second has been so much easier. I can't see myself wanting to change things up at all.


The wedding day arrived and thankfully it all came right. We had a pretty perfect day, even if it did go far too quickly. Faster than I can imagine, and afterwards I came back down to earth with a bit of a bump. The days that followed felt fuzzy and warm. I liked it. I still do. What I didn't like was the perpetual sense of 'what next?' that inevitably followed. Evenings spent cramming invitations into envelopes or balancing figures on a 6-tabbed spreadsheet gave way to aimless wandering around the house wondering what to do. Despite the stresses and strains I wouldn't change things. The wedding gave me the chance to be creative, to flex my poetry-writing skills and give Frank the day he deserved.


The weather in Manchester has been perfect this week. I was also treated to my first glimpse of the University’s Beyer building in all its stunning autumn glory.

I bought myself a swanky new camera in September, which meant I could photograph my first autumn in Manchester. I love the changing colours and the dying light. Yet despite my new creative outlet, I still found myself feeling frustrated at how quickly the year was zooming by, and how little I felt I'd achieved.


Stripes and carnations

I started finding my blogging flow in November. I finished all my Christmas shopping and managed to squeeze in a weekend away to Lincoln for Frank's birthday. Spending some quality time together felt special and it's left me hankering for more. I also managed to turn Frank into a fully fledged tea drinker which was an added bonus.


Your heart on my sleeve

The year ended quite bittersweet. My dad is very poorly and it's taking its toll on both of us. He's not getting better and I've been investing a lot of time and emotion into trying to soften the blow for him. I've cried a lot and agonised even more. I'm finding it hard knowing that while 2016 holds so many promising things, it will also probably mean saying goodbye to him, when all I want is more time.

To be honest, this year really challenged me. While I had some exciting adventures and beautiful moments, there was a feeling of sadness and frustration that ran through the entire year. I felt cross with myself for the lack of creativity, my unhealthiness and general procrastination. I'm hoping to put that right in 2016 and find my joy again.