10 August, 2014

A Hanmade Goodbye x


I started this blog in 2010, almost exactly 4 years ago to the date, when not much in my life felt right. It was a time when I felt weak, and struggled to see a way forward. After a period of self-destruction, I exclaimed “enough” and picked up the thing God had given me – my writing. That was easily one of the best decisions I ever made. Ultimately and undoubtedly, this blog was and has always been a means to my own strength, nothing more and nothing less.

It’s a funny thing – writing. In order to write with any passion, quality and sincerity, you have to not only have a great awareness of what is in your heart, but be willing to share it. For me the pen (or rather, laptop) has been like a bridge between my soul and the outside world, and ultimately my blog became a window for others to peer into. Fortunately, when I started this blog, I was in a place in my life when I had little responsibility other than myself (and my ever-loved friends and family of course!) and really at times had little to lose. It was easy to tap into my world, to create anecdotes of a 20-something life, to write lightly and at length. Tales of a young, lost girl finding her way are easy – I observed my own life, I added some humour or analysis and voila. That was my blog for a long time, and it worked for me.

I have never had a big audience, and I haven’t wanted or needed one. The main purpose of this blog was for me to scratch my writing itch, stretch my creative muscles, and ultimately find confidence and happiness in something I had complete control over. Something no-one could ever take away from me.

My readers have primarily been friends and family, people who know me and are able to appreciate and understand. Yet my all-time stats tell me this blog has been right around the world, my biggest audience being the USA, and reaching people in Germany, Russia, India, China, Australia, France....the list goes on.

The absolute single highlight of this journey for me has to be my quarter-life crisis post, which I wrote probably when this was at its peak. I had so many messages of empathy and cries of “Yes! Thank you! Me too!” that I was overwhelmed and reassured all at once. Receiving an email from someone who lives on the other side of the world, telling me that my blog had inspired her and lifted her out of a mid-twenties-panic-fuelled depression, was just the most awesome feeling in the world. Yes, my blog has had selfish purposes, but actually I have inspired people at times too. For that reason, I will never, ever regret a single word I have written.

Over the years my blog has evolved with me, the name has changed, the audience to some extent has shifted, and so have the words I have needed. The light-hearted anecdotes have become deeper analysis; the easy-to-relay stories have become more complex, more meaningful, and taken more strength and confidence to expose. At times, particularly in recent months, I have left myself so uncovered that I have not gained strength from my blog, but actually felt weaker for it.

It has taken some serious soul-searching and thought, and I have had to answer a lot of my own questions, yet the time has come for me to admit that this blog is no longer right for me, for my life. I am no longer 23 and alone and scared. I am 28 and fulfilled and strong. My life isn’t about nights out and frivolity anymore. I have infinitely more to consider. I’d love to feel able to expose my thoughts as bare today as I have done in the past, but with a full life comes responsibility – to others and to myself. My stories aren’t small anymore, they are big. They are break-ups and milestones and weddings and life and pain and serious shit.

Aside from the fact my muse has matured beyond comparison to what she was when this blog began, I also have such precious little time. I have always said I never want to write in a rush, or under pressure, because I don’t want to produce anything other than my best. Sadly, and increasingly, this blog has become a chore. A life which once felt empty is now full to the brim, and finding the time to write anything of any quality has become so tough.

I always vowed that upon finding strength and fulfilment I wouldn’t turn my back on the things that got me there, and believe I have remained true to my word where that is concerned. However sometimes the tools we use in life evolve, and old weapons tire out. I know I have many battles ahead of me still, and at times I may want to write about them, but I know in my heart that I have exhausted this blog. I have exhausted it long past I even gain anything from it, because I haven’t wanted to turn my back on something which has been so core to not only my progress but to the happiness of my soul. How do you hang your soul up on a peg and say “that’s done”?

I feel extremely sad to be writing this final flourish, and the nostalgia is overwhelming me as with these words I wrap up the past 4 years of my world in a pretty little bow and store it away somewhere, somewhere for a rainy day. I also feel vulnerable. This blog has been my bow for a long time, and yes I feel extremely vulnerable putting it down. How will I defend myself? How will I express myself? How will I process this life? How will I inspire? I know I will still write but I have no idea in what form. I may even blog again in the future, if the timing is ever right again, but for now...

THANK YOU to everyone who has ever read a single word I have written. Whether you have read my blog because you are my Mum (!), or because you have found it interesting, or maybe even been inspired by it. Even if you have read it with great disdain – THANK YOU! For a writer’s soul, it is the greatest honour to have someone, anyone, read what you’ve woven. It’s like baking a cake and having people eat it. It just feels good to contribute to the world in some, tiny way, and it's been a most unforgettable chapter in my life.

I’ll be seeing you.

x




06 July, 2014

Judgement and understanding



The other day I was having a conversation with someone about something topical which has been in the news a lot lately, something which has split society a little bit, and I dared to brave an opinion which supported the under-dog. Had it been misheard, I could have sounded like an awful person. Thankfully though, this person was open-minded and didn't judge me for seeing things a little differently to the majority. Since then, I have been thinking about all the ways in which we judge each other. ALL THE TIME. It's awful isn't it?

Its is so easy to judge others. If someone is different to us, makes different choices or just point blank disagrees, it is very easy for us to then judge them based on that. We all do it, all the time, and even in this open-minded 2014, birds of a feather most certainly stick together.  The effects of this are huge, and the judgement of others can dictate our lives. As I grow-up I become increasingly aware that my decisions are a constant battle between what I want for me, and what others want to see me say, do or be. And it takes serious confidence to just be yourself anyway, a confidence not many people have.

I am guilty of judging others too, assuming something about them because of their lifestyle, or just putting them in a the "weird" box because it is just easier than confronting the fact that actually unfamiliarity just makes us uneasy, and it takes more effort to relate to someone with whom maybe we don't have much common ground.

At school there was a girl who's family didn't have a TV. So they just didn't watch TV.  EVER. My 10 year old self just thought that was, like, seriously weird, and assumed the entirely family were nuts and raving hippies. Now, I realise they just didn't feel the need to adopt social norms which would otherwise have been forced upon them. Now, I just think "go you, family without a TV, well bloody done!" I bet their evenings were far more productive and varied than mine ever were at that age.

On the flip side, sometimes we live a certain way because that's what is perceived to be "normal", and we don't even realise that it might not be making us happy. Social norms are thrown at us from the day we are born, and sometimes it isn't clear whether we are living the way society wants us to, or the way we really truly would if there had been no-one before us.

I try to be very aware of that these days, and make sure all my decisions are actually making me happy, but this hasn't always been the case. I definitely lived out social norms for a while that were making me quite miserable, I just didn't know it at the time because when something is considered "normal" you don't question whether or not you should do it. I would say my choices and my happiness are more reconciled today than they have ever been, and that's because I eat what makes me feel good, I don't drink if I don't want to drink, I go to bed when I am tired (usually heinously early) and I don't do something if it is solely to please someone else.

I also try to recognise that my normal isn't the same as everybody else's normal, and that doesn't make me any better or worse than them, or more importantly any more right than them. We are learning as a society not  to judge other cultures, but have we learnt not to judge each other full stop? I think for a lot of us, there is still a very long way to go. I definitely still have times when once I get to know someone, I feel pleasantly surprised when they turn out not be how I assumed, and I must have judged them (and wrongly) to begin with.

The way I look at it, you don't know someone's life, you don't know what their world looks or feels like to them, and so you can't judge them or their choices unless they give you good reason to. If someone is rude or mean, then I give myself license to judge a little bit, and bitch a little bit, but even then I try to look past it and understand why they are being that way. Thinking that way allows me to rise above it, and ultimately means their attitude has no bearing on how I feel about myself. It's a good skill to have!

Sometimes I feel inspired to explain my decisions when they are perhaps a little off the beaten track, or tell people my life story out of some need for them to understand. The more judged I feel, the more I feel this deep need to explain myself. Then I catch myself, and I remember I don't have to explain my history to people. If they are choosing to judge me, that's with them, not me.

Unless you wear a periwig, when you judge, the only person who loses is you. It isn't a happy colour on anyone, it makes us look ugly, and ultimately we could be losing out on getting to know someone who'll change our lives for the better, because we have judged them before we know what they could be for us.

The way I see it, if someone is nice, friendly and positive towards me, it doesn't matter what their lifestyle is like, I will always feel inspired to give them a chance and get to know them.  Life is hard, sometimes it is really hard, and it is certainly hard enough to do the right thing without the extra pressure of pleasing those around us. Sometimes we do the wrong thing, and even when we do, it is really bloody nice when we don't have someone judging us for it, but actually understanding.

x









30 June, 2014

Right here, right now


June for me has been filled with special events, brimming with merriment and emotion. Some big fat occasions went down, not least my sister's 30th birthday and my best friend’s wedding. Big occasions like this are things you see in your future for years before they arrive and then when they finally meet you it is difficult to comprehend.

My sister and I used to have (rather dull) conversations that went like this
“In the year 2000 I’ll be 16 and you’ll be 14”
“In the year 2010 I’ll be 24 and you’ll be 26”
“When will we be 30?”
“Oh not for AGES”
"Ages" came around pretty bloody quickly for me, and so did the future.

We saw our futures mapped out by dates and numbers and in that youthful way part of us couldn’t wait to get there. Now though, we’re there. We’re right here. This is life happening TODAY. It’s rare I feel able to really appreciate that reality, but when I do it knocks the wind out of me.

This is the feeling I had in the weeks before my sister's 30th. We’re only 2 years apart and very close, she’s always sort of paved the way for me. Before I open a door, I know she’s been through it before. When something new happens for me, it happened for her a few years back. Although this is wonderfully comforting as I make my way through life, her leading the way like a silent guide, it also means I am very aware of my near future, as I see it painted on her. With everything she does, every milestone she reaches, I know it won’t be long before that’s me.

I had the same feeling when my friend got married last week. I had expected to feel inexplicably proud, emotional, elated – and I did. What I didn’t expect was this overwhelming force, like a drug, a force which was so potent I literally could not contain it. I sniffled the entire way up the aisle, trying to smile and be in the moment but just actually completely floored by what this moment meant. I don’t know quite what shifted when I saw my stunning best friend descend down a fairytale staircase, Eta James in our ears, floating towards her prince, her fairytale, her future. I had pictured this moment for 18 months, but despite all my apprehension, the second I saw her it all felt so real in that moment, so clear. This is it. This is her future, happening now. This is our lives, unfolding. We’re not students thinking about our future anymore. This will be a moment I tell the grandkids about and dear god those grandkids are gonna be here sooner than I think.

It was incredible and it was terrifying, and then I got steadily drunk and then it wasn’t the reality that floored me anymore, it was the wine.

An intense reaction I know, and to be honest not one I fully expected, but I’m so happy that actually there was a realisation moment. It is rare I am able to really see what’s happening right in front of me, and it was a euphoric moment which I have been able to hold on to. Some kind of happiness and gratitude has stayed with me since and I think it’s largely down to that moment of total consciousness. So often we take giant leaps in our lives and we fail to feel it, because it happens so gradually and we’re distracted by the mundane. We’re living out the job we once only imagined, we have the partner we wished for, or we are just living this amazing, unique life and we don’t realise it because we are so bogged down in the detail, perfecting every element in our minds.

For a long time in my early twenties I felt like I was waiting for my life to start. Even now there are times when I realise I am thinking about “when I have my own house, when I have kids”, as though my life isn’t really real until I have the full set. The irony is though there is no full set. Life just happens, every day, and if you aren’t present there to feel it then you will miss it. There is a scene in Sex and the City which always strikes a chord with me, in which Charlotte (the perfectionist of the group) is crying at her own wedding, over some detail, and her best friend tells her to get over it, because “you’re missing it.” “Missing what?” asks Charlotte. “You’re missing your wedding”. That scene could have been written for me, for the times I have agonised over detail when actually some pretty amazing stuff is happening right before me.

As I look ahead to July, it isn’t filled with big occasions, but it is filled with my life. I am looking forward to the respite, but more than that I am excited about just living my life, hopefully with the same consciousness I have felt in recent weeks. It shouldn’t take a big occasion to make you realise that your life is unfolding right in front of you, but sometimes you need those reminders, you need that step out of the norm to gain consciousness. It doesn’t matter what those big things are – you might be graduating from uni or going on holiday or just watching someone close to you make a big change – what actually matters is how you feel in those moments. It’s not how much you have; it’s how you feel it. Too many of us get so distracted by the detail of our lives, looking ahead out of fear, that we look straight past the right now and fail to see it..

June 2014 you have been one of the most memorable, pivotal months of my life so far, and I can’t wait for what’s to come.

29 June, 2014

7 Tips for Learning Patience


I am so impatient. It is easily one of my less cool qualities. I am so impatient that I can’t bear to stand stationary with the shopping trolley in those big supermarkets with the travelators – why don’t they let you PUSH?! My impatience is so palpable that my first boyfriend randomly said “patience is a virtue” to me within about half an hour of knowing me. Awkward.

This kind of impatience is not fun, for anyone. Although there are upsides – my eagerness has made me more productive in the long-term – overall, it is just really annoying. If I could change one thing about myself right now, it would be that. Yep, my impatience would go before my pot belly – that’s how much I apologise for it. 

Ideally, we want to be happy with ourselves and our choices. For me, I have a conscience the size of the 3rd world and feel bad if I even look at someone wrong, so when I see myself being impatient I regret it. Impatience is unattractive and difficult to be around, and when I feel myself getting twitchy I wish I could be more serene. Like one of those people who lets everyone go in front of them at the Post Office, claiming they aren’t in a hurry, WHY AREN’T YOU IN A HURRY? There is LIFE to be had outside!

Being impatient can land you in trouble. If you are too quick off the mark, you either act before you have all the facts, or you end up tripping yourself up in your eagerness to get there. Sometimes literally. Oh the falling over stories I could tell you. I am sure my clumsiness (another flaw! what was the big man thinking?) is largely down to my constantly being in a hurry. It’s hard to style that kind of thing out; ‘Bull in a China Shop Chic’ does not go with a Tea Dress. Sigh.

SO many reasons why patience is a virtue. I wish it was mine! I have always known I am impatient, I am fairly sure my family identified it in me when I was still in nappies (I was 2 weeks early out of the womb) and it wasn’t long before I saw it in myself. I don’t like it in others and I don’t want it in me, so I have been teaching myself to be more patient and have found certain things which can help. A leopard can’t change his spots, but if you are impatient like me and don’t want to be, read on! Just don’t take all day about it.

1. The good old deep breaths
There is a reason why “deep breaths” has been our go-to remedy for hundreds of years. Deep breathing calms the nerves by forcing us to take a step out of our own situation. It has an actual physiological effect on the nervous system which in turns triggers a relaxation response in the body. Over the past year or so I have tried to calm my own head when I feel myself getting impatient, and it really works. I am not suggesting anybody sits there gasping like a gold fish at their desk, but whenever you can take yourself away and breathe deeply for a few seconds; you are likely to feel calmer about everything whence you return.

2. Laugh 


Those close to me often laugh at my impatience, and I join in, because if we didn’t do that I would take myself far too seriously and end up even more wound up. Usually I am in a good enough frame of mind these days that if I can laugh at my own ridiculousness. Laughing at yourself and recognising your quirks is healthy, and helps you gain perspective. You can’t laugh and stay uptight. Or is that ‘Dance?’ Also, Laughter Yoga exists.

3. Herbal Tea
Caffeine can be bad for the nervous system. When you’re already tense, step away from the Venti cup! It pains me to say that because tea is my best friend and has been since I was about 8, but when I replace it with herbal tea, I am so much more serene. Herbal teas are known for relaxing us, and in turn that alleviates impatience. If you ever tell me you’re running late and I seem alright with it, the chances are I just got off my face on Dr Stuarts calming blend.

4. Headspace

I have mentioned Headspace many times before, but in short it is quick and easy mediation which leaves you feeling calmer in the short-term and instills more serenity in you over time. Headspace comes as an app and allows you to fit meditation into a busy modern lifestyle. My main issue with Headspace initially was that I was too impatient to sit there with my eyes closed for 10 minutes listening to my breathing. I was in hurry to get on with the rest of my evening, but that’s exactly why I need it. Anyone who can’t take 10 minutes out of their day to invest in a healthy mind, really really needs to. Not convinced? Headspace is a gym for the mind. I invest hours a week keeping a healthy body, but it is just as important to keep a healthy mind. 10 minutes people!

5. A break from social media (yeah, I said it!)

I know, I know, coming from the QUEEN of social herself. I am always checking those pesky apps, always reacting, responding, on Red alert. The truth is, as much I find social media fun , I have long since been aware of its anti-social qualities. Not least the way it makes me twitchy. It means we are switched on all the time. When I feel myself spiralling into a ball of anxious impatience, I have a social media holiday (outside of work of course). I literally remove the apps from my phone for a week or more. It is a holiday for the mind and soul, and it never fails to amaze me how much more relaxed I am when I take a break from uploading my life.

6. Eat.

Ah finally, something everyone can get on board with. My most impatient time of day is around 6pm. This is usually when I have just got in from work and am really hungry after a long day. I am not fun when I’m hungry, and that applies to lots of us. I tend to calm down and feel more patient after dinner, which is no coincidence. That said, we can’t stuff a chocolate bar every time we’re feeling stressed mid-afternoon, as sugar just makes it worse. SO MUCH WORSE. Sugar is the worst thing for your attitude and mood. So, yes eat! But eat well. I find nothing calms my nerves more than a plate of sweet potato mash. Filling, comforting and high in potassium which is great for the old blood pressure.

7. Take inspiration.


I am surrounded by incredibly calm and patient people, and I work hard to take inspiration from those people as it’s a quality I admire. Not least in my Gareth. Living with someone who has the tolerance of a saint has rubbed off on me. At first it just highlighted my own nauseating lack of calm, but over time I have learnt from him and been more than willing to. If you want to ‘be more’ something, whatever it is, learn from the pros. And without making anyone want to gag, when someone is so good to you, it makes you want to be better for them. Being more patient benefits him, my friends and my family, so it’s something I will continue to work on.

24 May, 2014

18 Things Yorkshire Folk Think when they're in London



When all you want to do is sit back with a Yorkshire brew, navigating London is hard bloody work...Don't worry, Yorkshire, you are not alone.

1. “Wayyyy, look at me, I am in London. The big smoke. WHAT A LAD. London Selfie!”  Life is just very exciting in the nation’s capital isn’t it?

2. “Who needs The Peaks when you’ve got SHINY BUILDINGS” *dreams of quitting job to become investment banker on the wharf*

3. On alighting the train at St Pancras:

“I am soooo stylish in my hipster tee and fedora, so edgy, so London.”
  *Takes quick glance around*
 “I am not stylish. I am not edgy. I am very, very bland.”

If you ever want to feel average, take the tube to Oxford Street on a Saturday. Or any day. You WILL be a wallflower.

4. “My mate lives in London. I’ll just check into my hotel in High Barnet and pop round the corner to their place in Wandsworth.”  - Let us know how you get on with that.

5. “Do I need to push the button?” – Oh the hours we have spent looking like fools on the Circle Line. Any transport that is not the tram blows our minds.

6. “Oh no, oh god, that man has a BACKPACK! Who do I report this to?” - We can’t help it, we’re nervous travellers and we’re not used to all this commotion.

7. “I don't want Afternoon Tea thank you. I want Yorkshire Tea.” – God help the city that comes in the way of a Yorkshire man and a quality brew.

8. “Jesus wept I could have travelled to Blackpool and back in that time!” – The realisation that actually London is less city, more hemisphere.

9. “I’ll probably see Johnny Vaughn/the cast of Made in Chelsea/The Queen out on the tiles tonight.” - Naïve or hopeful?

10. “Where are all the decent pubs? Posh twat bar, posh twat bar, Café Nero, macaroon bar, Café Nero, another Diner…?” – Don’t look at me, I actually like posh twat bars.

11. Upon receiving £1.20 change from a tenner:

 “Erm…….?”

Authorities are aware that the cost of a London tipple is full theft and they have confirmed that no, they don’t care.

12. “Well, this is awkward” *stares into empty wallet*

13. “I miss gravy.”

14. “Can’t believe I have been here 3 hours and not seen anyone famous yet.”  - Definitely naive.

15. “Why are you angry. What have I done. You’re pushing me now? Okay, I think we all just need to calm down!” – We consider it OBE worthy if we make it from Holborn to Bank not via death.

16. “Must keep moving must keep moving, walk and swipe walk and swipe walk and swipe.”
 – When it’s taking all our energy not to get trampled under the barriers, the world is very much not our Oyster.

17. 1“What do you mean my travel-card expired yesterday? I thought this was ANNUAL.” – Won’t be so quick to tweet your outrage to Stagecoach now, will you!

 18. “I want to go home”. I know, I know.


05 May, 2014

20 Tips for Surviving your 20s


I am now in my late twenties. I am not 21 or 25, but 28. In some circles this is still deemed relatively young. Those circles are made up of anyone actually a relative and/or older than us. In my heart I know 28 is young, depending on who you ask (I asked the Ready Brek I ate for brunch and it told me I am definitely a child), but that doesn't stop me feeling sheer alarm that I am now careering towards 30 at the speed of light. 

Not just figuratively career-ing either. The milestones of my 20s have almost been primarily dictated by work. Get poorly paid job in preferred sector, enjoy poorly paid job, stop enjoying poorly-paid job, leave job in desperate hunt for cash, get hideous other job which is also poorly paid, get 3rd job which is short lived but pays better, be unemployed for a bit, get 4th job, enjoy 4th job and be paid more than the value of a commonly valued bar snack...hurrah!

As well as reaching professional milestones, there have been other achievements and set-backs which will be the things I remember about my 20s, when I wish to bore the hell out of my future grandkids. Travelling to Sri Lanka. Moving house FIVE TIMES. Learning to run. This blog. Friendships made and broken. Boy story. Boy story 2,3, 4 and so on until I found Grandpa. Baking more cakes than I’ve taken breaths. Drinking myself into oblivion. Ah, 20s, you and I have been through some serious shit together.

All these things though, they aren't really the milestones. They are the events. They are the big things which I will always remember and which have shaped my life, but the real milestones for me are the little things you learn. They are the resources you acquire, the skills you develop, all those little things which perhaps go widely under-appreciated but are what allow you to leave your 20s well-equipped for your 30s, perhaps with a cocky look back at recent years saying “yeah, I did you, I DID YOU GOOD.”

For me, there are things I do or know or understand now which had I known them 10 years ago would have given me a hellalota confidence and saved me from a canyon of heartbreak. Everyone’s ‘assets’ are different, but some stuff is just universal. A Rite of Passage, an unspoken law. I have another 2 years to go before I can tie a ribbon round my 20s survival kit and send it off to myself for my 30th birthday, but even if I learn nothing more between now and then, I feel pretty well kitted out, thanks to a world of learning these past few years.

Here are my top 20 things for surviving the 20s!

x

1. Find your THING

There is nothing that brings you more independence and confidence than having something of your own. A sport, an art, an interest. Finding something which not only helps you express yourself but gives you a haven away from everything and everyone – that is priceless and you’ll need it. The 20s are a rocky, rocky time, and you need an anchor.

2. Pick a team

Up until recently I expended a lot of energy trying to be all things to all people, and it was exhausting. No-one likes to be disliked and it is human nature to want to please others, but the moment you stop seeking approval is the moment you suddenly realise what you want and have more energy for that. You can’t be loved by everyone, and you can’t do everything. Stick with the people who matter the most, devote yourself to them, be yourself and forget about everyone else. If they aren’t cool with you or your choices, who gives a shrivelled pea?!

3. Learn to say ‘No’
As my 20s have progressed so have my responsibilities. Vastly. More friends + more commitments + more pressure + less time = recipe for disaster, unless you know how to handle it. It is only recently I have learnt to know my own boundaries and stick to them, which sometimes means saying ‘no’. People will always want more from you, but there is only so much of you to go around, and you will break into 1,000 tiny pieces if you spread yourself too thinly. You are the boss of your own life. It’s not about being selfish, it’s about recognising when you need to put yourself first. Say ‘No’ when you need to and don’t feel guilty about it.

4. Manage your own expectations

As much as we put ourselves under pressure to be all things to all people, we also put others under pressure. Remember that everyone has their own extremely complex lives, and not everything is about you. Unless someone is consistently a terrible friend, moody colleague or a selfish relative, cut them some slack. The chances are they do their best, just like you do, but life gets in the way. Remember that, don’t take every non-phone call or forgotten birthday card personally – putting people under pressure to be ‘better’ will only push them away, and it is only you who will feel let down when someone doesn’t live up to the person you want them to be.

5. Don’t fight your own body
The 20s are known for being a challenging time when it comes to self-confidence, when we’re still finding our poise and accepting ourselves. It is at this stage that we can find or lose ourselves very quickly, sink or swim. One thing I do know is that fighting the body you were born to have will never end well, you will always lose, and you will never be happy. Be fit and healthy and strong, but do not try to match a stereotype which only exists in the media, you will lose.

6.Find your chill

I spent my student days believing the only ways to relax were via 1. Watching TV or 2. Drinking. It took me until about 25 to learn that actually watching TV does not relax me that much and we all know the tranquillity of a drink is short-lived. No no no. My relaxation comes in other forms. So when some people spend a lazy bank holiday on the sofa, I might spend it whipping up a storm in the kitchen. Learn what helps you switch off, because you will need that manual switch from time to time.

7. Watch all episodes of Friends

Lets face it, this is going to have happened anyway, and if it hasn’t it needs to. More conversations start with “this reminds me of that episode of friends where...” than I care to think about. You need to swat up to get by.

8. Open your mind to people

Birds of a feather definitely stick together, there is no doubting that. But do we need to? I have found support and happiness from surprising sources over the years, especially in recent times, and will never assume who is or isn’t a potentially great friend. It’s not about people being the same as you, it’s about them seeing who you are, complimenting you (not literally, although a compliment is always nice) and valuing you enough to make room for you in their life. Open your mind.

9. Do personal admin

I used to feel so overwhelmed by all the ways in which we need to take care of ourselves. How does anyone have the time to go to the dentist AND have fun? That was until I learnt I was never going to have that much fun unless my life was in order first. Go to the dentist, make a doctor’s appointment, balance your cheque book (whatever that means), make a packed lunch. All these boring things are boring, but they form the foundations of a happy, organised life. I call it ‘personal admin’ and set aside a few hours a week to catch up on myself, otherwise I quickly feel life spiralling out of control.

10. Pick your work clothes the night before

I only started doing this a few years ago but man does it feel good. Not only does it save you precious time on a morning, but it leaves you feeling so irrationally ready for anything. It’s okay, I can do life and tomorrow at work will be FINE because I’m going to wear those hawt chino trousers with that blouse. Plus, you’re more likely to pick an outfit which works for the weather. We may be getting old but god we’re good at getting dressed.

11. Make a packed lunch

Again, didn’t bother for ages until I learnt that 1. I was poor and 2. I was getting fat. Save money, be healthy, feel organised.

12. Do not compare
If you want what everyone else has all the time you will never, ever be happy. I know we all know this, but do you even know when you’re inadvertently feeling low about your own life because it doens’t match The Jones’? Have 1 or 2 of your own humble goals, work towards them and stop looking at what people next to you are doing. Life is not a race, it is an adventure, and we all experience ups and downs at different times. If you are busy looking at everyone else’s adventure, you will trip up. The same thing will happen if you change route too many times – you can’t get anywhere if your destination keeps changing. Look straight ahead, stay focused, endure and you’ll get there.

13. Subscribe to a magazine


The joy I feel every time my Cosmo and Good Food Magazines flop onto my doormat each month is unbounded. You know it’s coming but it feels unexpected, you paid for it but it feels free, and it is guaranteed post. I LOVE POST. My twenties improved immensely once I filled in that form.

14. Moisturise

I don’t know if moisturising will have prevented my skin from becoming wrinkly or not just yet, but I do know that it makes me feel gorgeous. I love getting out of a hot bath shrivelled as a prune, dousing myself with some kind of buttery, lotiony goodness and climbing into bed feeling allllll smooth. I need nothing else when my calves are silky. It’s a cheap thrill, but a thrill that keeps on giving.

15. Read
Reading isn’t always seen as the coolest thing in the world, at school people who read for fun were accused of being geeks and then we associated it with education and general tediousness. Reading is a skill we take for granted, and we don’t always appreciate the simple bliss which can be found in just sitting with a book, forgetting our own world for a few minutes. A few years ago I became aware of how I’d lost touch with reading, something I used to love as a child, so I joined a book club and taught myself to read again. There is something so humble and pure about reading; it costs nothing, it isn’t bad for us and it can only inspire. If I’d read more in my early 20s I think I would have found more calm, something I desperately needed.

16. Enjoy your own company

My friends say I am crazy when I tell them I’d love to have the confidence to go for dinner or to the cinema alone. I really would though. I haven’t done it yet, but I love my own company and spend a fair bit of time alone in the comfort of my own home – for me, doing something social on my own is that next step. I haven’t done it yet because when the opportunity arises I would always rather stay in and hide on the sofa, but I do think that being happy in your own company is something which gives you a lot of strength, inside or outdoors!

17. Find your tipple
On my GCSE results night I drank so much Malibu (neat) that I instantly fell out of bed when I got in (sorry Mum). On a school trip to Spain (aged 15) I drank sangria, cried in front of everyone and the next day vommed in front of everyone on a coach. At a wedding, I drank 4 shots of Sambuca in a row and got the shock of my life for 48 hours afterwards. As such, what I can drink now has been whittled down to pretty much Rose and the occasional cocktail. I am a Rose girl through and through, and probably always will be, I just wish I’d known this before.

18. You don’t always have to drink

You don’t always have to drink. If I drank on every single social occasion I would be constantly bladdered. I know, so appealing, but not conducive to the life I want to carve out. I value waking up hangover free on a Saturday morning and having a big fat smug stretch far more than I value the taste of Rose. Pick the occasions you think are worth the hangover, but be strong enough to say no on the others.

19. Keep the following items in your desk:

Paracetamol, Berrocca, tissues, tights (spare), chocolate and/or haribo a phone charger (spare), a happy photo, perfume and a savoury snack. Yourself and others will thank you.

20. Try something you never in a million years thought you’d like

I used to assume I did not like action movies or police dramas or anything else distinctly ‘boy-like’ when it came to the TV, that is until my boyfriend showed me the light. The entire Avengers series later and I have discovered my inner Sci-Fi geek. I cannot get enough of Iron Man. If it wasn’t for Gareth I never would have known how much I love this kind of TV. I am so glad I tried it and in return I have introduced him to Tuna from a tin. You are welcome.

21 April, 2014

20 Reasons Being Short is Ace


In days gone by, the media has portrayed height as an attractive quality in a woman. Bond girls are always leggy. In the movies, taller woman are portrayed as powerful and intimidating in a sexy way – Uma Thurman in Kill Bill, Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man, Angelina Jolie in everything – whilst the more petite actresses tend to play cute and silly roles. Natalie Portman was cast as the playful, unstable, needy but a bit adorable waif in Closer, and although she was portrayed as sexy in a cute way, it was the statuesque Julia Roberts who took the opposing dominating, self-sufficient temptress role. In the fashion world, catwalk models are required to be between 5’8 and 6ft, with rare exceptions. This may be because height makes for a better clothes horse, but the message is still the same – tall is attractive.

Apparently Hollywood now digitally stretches actresses, to give them more length (sorry boys, Margot Robbie’s legs in Wolf of Wall Street are not actually that long). So is it any wonder we mini mortals don heels for a night out. We have learnt that height is sexier and although in reality men and women find all sorts of shapes and sizes attractive, the media has taught me and my kind that there is something inherently less sexy about being squat.

I am not that small, so I am not writing from Elfin Camp here, but I am the upper end of ‘short’ – coming in at a fairly spherical 5’3 my perceived shortness tends to be in the eye of the beholder. I definitely do look miniature when stood amongst my 5’8 friends and I was always sat at the front for class photos, but I still qualify for most rides at Disneyland so it can’t be that extreme. 


Although I have been called short-ass at school, I have to bring the chair right up to the steering wheel to drive, and people literally look down on me; being my height has never troubled me. Except so say that I do feel less sexy than most of my taller friends and I do find people somehow take you less seriously when you are little. I look a bit like the cat from Shrek when I wear knee-high boots, which sort of says it all.

This said, in recent years petite icons – Kylie, Eve Longoria, Hayden Panetteier, Kim Kardashian – have made short (and curvy) sexy, so it sort of feels okay to walk around the petite section proudly now, instead of shopping at 8pm for fear of the tall section mocking us and our undersized phalanges, as they lounge about gracefully in maxi dresses. As well as this, I have always looked on the bright side of being short and I think I enjoy it, because it really does have its own compensations and sometimes it’s awesome.

What do you love about your height?

x

20 Reasons Why We Love Being Short

1. People just assume we are cute, and when we put our hair in bunches they are putty in our tiny hands.

2. We tend to look younger. Smallness is associated with youth, so it isn’t uncommon for us to still get given the crayons in Pizza Hut. Score!

3. We can curl up in train seats, aeroplane chairs, boxes . Leg room? Not. A. Problem.

4. Finding a seat. I am a great person to catch a train with because I wangle a seat every time, even in rush hour. We just queue politely, look small, then nip between the gaps like a terrier and be the first to a window, table, plug socket seat FACING FORWARDS.

5. Tall men are easy to find, even if it does strain our necks. For some women, we prefer our partners to be taller than us – it makes us feel feminine, protected and, well, cute. Obviously the shorter a lady you are, the greater the selection of taller-than-you men. Sorry not sorry, tall girls.

6. We get sent to the front of gigs. There is this random short-person etiquette at shows that doesn’t exist anywhere else. “Excuuuuse me, make a gap, short-ass coming through”, and the next thing you know you’re crowd surfing your way towards The Lumineers. Hey-ho!

7. Our limbs are a party trick. Yes we can’t reach the cocktails but look at our teeny hands! And who wants to be the first to pack me into an Ikea bag?

8. Kids clothes. Topshop’s petite section is left sweating in its over-priced knitwear when we head over to New Look and discover that we can buy the same clothes in kid’s sizes. For HALF THE PRICE.

9. CHEAP SHOES. If you are short and your feet are in proportion then you should be able to pick up a kids shoe for equal the style and half the price. They go up to size 5 don’t you know! (If your feet are still large despite your shorter frame, this a great tool for the prevention of falling over).

10. Limbo? Bring it on. We win every time.

11. We also rock at Hide & Seek.

12. Bed space. If like me you need your space to sleep, then sharing a bed is not a problem. Even when we are splayed out like a starfish we are still miles away from our partner.

13. You get to sit in the middle. Why small people are traditionally packed into the middle of a busy car I don’t know, but I have had hours of fun playing milk bottles.

14. We get our own step. This is used for reaching the cupboards and other domestic duties like dusting the top of the TV. It may have been designed for kids to use in the bathroom, but I love my special step.

15. We are exactly eye level with cakes in shop windows – all the better to ogle them.

16. Pick me, pick me! We all love getting picked up, and we get picked up a LOT.

17. Our heads aren’t cut off in mirrors and photos.

18. Every walk is a workout. Most of my friends are taller than me, so a trip to town, a walk round the shops and the stretch between bars gets out heart rate up as we amble to keep up with you. It may be tiring, but calories = burnt.

19. It’s arguably okay to crawl up the stairs, even when you aren’t drunk/hungover. Our legs just find them difficult okay?!

20. We enjoy it when you take our food and make us reach for it, or pretend you can’t see us as you look over our heads. You’ve been doing it for years but we still giggle uncontrollably every time.

20 April, 2014

A Little Chaos is Good for the Soul


It seems to me, a happy life is one which has found the balance between living for the moment and planning for the future. Sounds obvious? Maybe it is in principle, but in reality it’s really bloody hard to put into practice. On the one hand we know that living in the moment is key to living 'fully', but at the same time we live by all these ruddy rules, rules which dictate our future. How do we know when to stop being sensible and start living, or when to take off our party shoes and hoover the oven?

It’s taken me years to find balance. YEARS. Being a bit “all or nothing”, I can usually be found in either total disarray (I am happy to say it is a long while since this was the case) or living a life so pristine you can barely see me without squinting. I’d say round about now the balance is pretty good, if anything I’ve worked so hard to find my equilibrium that sometimes I forget to just drop the ball, stomp of pitch and forget about what comes next. We all need that from time to time, but it is easier said than done.

There is no denying that right now my days are pretty disciplined – the gym, work, healthy meals, lists, early nights, meditation, hobbies, chores and a little room for fun and love. Barely a dentist appointment goes missed and it sends me into sheer panic if I ever have to cross something out in my Filofax. It looks so messy and THIS WAS NOT IN THE PLAN. I’m a first class student at being organised and “good”, so much so that I really struggle to let go. Ever. I have spent my mid-twenties doing a full 180. In place of chaos there is order, and with it so much tension in my back.

Obviously I love this lifestyle, otherwise I wouldn’t live it. I am healthier in every way and a better person for it. Gone is the stack of unopened post warning me of my financial troubles, gone is my wine gut and matching headache, gone is the overuse of dry shampoo because I never had time to wash my hair. My bank balance is Black-ish, my house is pretty, my bed is well slept in and my even my toe nails are sparkly. The view is definitely far better from this side – I’m strong, I’m fulfilled and I no longer live a life in fear of debt collectors - but I am tired. 

This has been very apparent to me this week, when I’ve been enjoying a week off work. A week filled with indulgence, celebrations, city breaks, treats and all the things I spend most of my normal life wishing for. It has been a most wonderful week, but I have found it harder than ever to sleep-in, switch-off and just Carpe that Diem. This problem has crept up on me over the past few years – it’s like the tighter I run my ship, the less I have been able to just go where the tide takes me. I’ve been waking up at 6am ON MY DAYS OFF, feeling restless, itching to fill my time with productivity. When you put yourself under so much pressure in your day to day life, it takes time to loosen up again. Yesterday I finally slept in, a full 7 days after breaking up from work; it should not take that long to unclench.

From the outside it looks easy, like when we’re stressed and wound up all we need to do is take the pressure off ourselves, sit down and eat an ice cream. That may be true, but it isn’t that simple when there is a deeper driving force behind all those little choices we make in a day. For me, part of the reason I live as vigilantly as I do now is I'm a tiny bit terrified of going ever going back to stormier seas. I have been there and I didn’t like it. I am all out of buoyancy aids and anyway the calm looks good on me.


The world doesn’t help people like me. The uptight ones, the worriers, the real life Claire Dunphys. Pressure is chasing us all the time, wherever it may come from, and there is so much choice nowadays that if you are even remotely unsure of yourself you can end up in a tizz pretty quickly. I am mainly sure of me and my direction, I know what I want and I don’t ever compare my life to anybody else’s, but I have been known in my most obsessive moments to spend an hour agonising over whether to go for a run, or choosing between walking and the bus. I hear myself deliberating over such small things and I think for the love of god woman it’s a run not a face transplant. Working (and playing) in Social Media doesn’t always help either. As much as I clearly love it, all our tweeting, posting and gramming encourages us to switch on, and on, and on, and on...

I’m happy to have finally switched off for long enough to enjoy Easter, but we can’t always rely on a week of massages and mini-breaks to reach this level of reprieve. Some day to day changes need to be made. I don’t plan on throwing out my whole routine, obviously, because it really works for me and I kinda love (and need) my job, but I do want to start thinking a little bit less about tomorrow. It is good to make choices that tomorrow us will be grateful for, in fact I think that is essential, but I also think sometimes we can just ignore the ‘should’ part of our mind and give in to the wine or sack off the gym (I know, edgy), let some chaos colour our lives. Last week I had a hangover for the first time in 2 months and although I woke up with crisps in the bed, a messy house, and a liver begging me not to start all this nonsense again, I kind of enjoyed the disarray, because I knew this time it was happy disarray, and a scene of chaos I this time could control.

So much of our time has already been dictated for us that sometimes we really need to throw caution to the wind, let our hair down, paint the town Red, kick up our heels, and do all the other footloose and fancy-free clichés that we don’t really understand, because as much as being sensible is good, sometimes you need to feed your inner child or that child will DIE. On that note, which Easter Egg shall I eat first?

x



14 April, 2014

Turning 28: A Decade of Life Lessons




This week I am turning twenty-eight, an age which feels so alien to me. Birthdays naturally cause me to reflect on my life, and the perceived progress I have made with each year that goes by. ‘Progress’ is a word commonly used to consider how we’re doing in life, but this year I wonder if progress is really what it is? As I’ve gotten older I’ve gradually stop seeing life as something linear, a stretch of time plotted with various goals, and instead I view it as a collage of Polaroids, isolated moments which fall together to create one life. Measurements are often linear, but the linearity of time is just a perception; what is real is each moment as we feel it. Instead of thinking about what I have achieved and when, I try to feel the value of my life based on how I live it. 

My 20s have been one huge learning curve for me, as setting up my own life away from the nest has taught me so much more about myself and the world around me than I ever imagined I would need to know - you never learn more than when you are thrown in at the deep end, life asking you to sink or swim. As such, the past 10 years have been a real education for me, and a much more useful education than the one I received at school.

I was lucky to have been academic at school, I was good at things like Maths and spelling, and I knew how to excel in exams. Because of how the schooling system measures and judges us, I grew up believing myself to be “good” at things (apart from anything Musical, sooo bad at Music) and was used to just ‘doing well’. When you grow up being told you are top of the class, seeing As on essays and generally being rewarded, you kind of believe you are just good at life. Don’t get me wrong, I have never been arrogant, but it was definitely a shock to my ego when aged 18 I was catapulted into University life only to discover that knowing the square route of 64 didn’t help me find my rhythm. Life skills are a whole different ball game. Yes, I was equipped enough to cook for myself and do my laundry and bash out essays at the speed of light, but I lacked some things that were even more crucial. I lacked innate confidence, I lacked a sense of myself and I lacked the ability to make the most of what life had given me.

No-one is born knowing everything, ready for anything. No-one. We spend our whole lives learning, and it would be arrogant to assume we know everything now. I’ve always felt it is okay to still be learning, to hold your hand up when you don’t know something and to keep an inquisitive mind. So when life knocked me sideways when I left home, when I spent years struggling to find my swagger, I kept an open-heart and learnt what I could in order to do things better. With this open heart, I discovered what tools I need to get by, and then I picked those tools up and carved out a happier life for myself, as well as a more confident me.

Although I have been learning every day, and although I could not even begin to explain the magnitude of what I have learnt in the 10 years since I left home, there are certain moments, certain snapshots in my memory, which have been hugely pivotal to me - momentous additions to my set of life skills which have ultimately changed the course of my life forever. These snapshots include some snippets of advice from loved ones, an article, a song...I have learnt from everything around me and hope I continue to do so. 

Thank you to everyone who has taught me the things I needed to, and continues to do so every day.  We are all on a journey, we are all learning all the time, and we all need to learn different things. I find that the more open your heart and the more willing you are to learn from people around you – even if those people are very different to you – the happier you can become.  

I am turning 28 feeling so happy and excited for the future, but more than that I feel so so blessed.  I am happy not because life is perfect, of course it is not, but because I spent years learning from some very important lessons, and I've kept my heart and mind open enough to learn them.

Here are some of my most potent lessons from the last decade – what have been your biggest life lessons?

x



 “The Key to Life is Balance”

Just before he died, my Grandad talked to me about his time in India, where he travelled after having his heart broken. During this talk, he said these 6 wise words to me and I can honestly say they have never left my mind. I am naturally reckless and extreme, and didn't ascend into the world with much natural stability, so he knew these words would help me remember to find more balance. I never stop thanking him for that.

“Think of someone you admire, someone who you feel has a life you would be happy in – and ask yourself, would they behave like this? No, they wouldn’t. Start behaving like the person you want to be, and the rest will follow.”

One of my longest standing friends said this to me when I was at one of my many rock bottoms, aged about 22. I had woken up after yet another hideously messy night out, feeling terrible, with my phone full of calls to bad-for-me boys who didn’t want to know. The rejection, the booze, the shame and the loneliness overwhelmed me – I called my friend at 10am on a Sunday, with no hope in my heart, and she said these words to me. The next day I started my blog and began investing energy in things which would bring me positivity.

“You have all the tools you need, all the resources anyone could need, to be happy.”

This is to quote my wise father, during a conversation with him when I was about 22 and mainly miserable. I didn’t like my life at that time, mainly because I wasn’t happy enough in myself to enjoy it, but also I just didn’t enjoy my day to day life. I was working in HR admin in a role that didn’t stimulate my creativity, I was living in my student house still with people who did not compliment me, I was hugely unfulfilled and wondered what had happened to the confident, creative person I’d had the potential to be. This was my Dad reminding me how blessed I am, and encouraging me to make the most of what I have been given. I started job hunting the next day and found my career.

“Somewhere Out There”

This was an article in Cosmopolitan January 2011, by a talented and funny writer, Rosie Mullender. I read this in December 2010, aged 24, when I was by this point a happier girl than I had been. I had a career I mainly enjoyed, I‘d found running and writing which both fulfilled me and brought me strength. What I didn’t have was a partner. I had been single for 5 years and was horribly lonely. Then I read this eye-opening article by Ms Mullender, in which she reflected on her single status and how she would feel on New Year’s Eve, welcoming another year alone. I could relate to the article, but what inspired me about it was that she did not pity herself, she enjoyed herself. She was excited about the unknown, rather than scared, she knew she was loveable, and she was so excited that she still had all the beauty of Love ahead of her. It was like flicking a switch. I went from feeling like I needed a man to validate me, to realising I had the world at my feet and feeling excited about the future. I was more confident, I felt attractive, I was a light not a shadow – for the first time in a long time I knew that when I did meet someone, I would be more than worthy. From that day on I lived to enjoy myself, I opened my heart up to different people and 6 months later I met my Gareth.

“It’s all about how much you value yourself now. If you let others get to you, that’s exactly what they’ll do. You can’t change the way they behave but you can do something about the way you react."

One day when I was feeling particularly blue, I read this in my stars. Whether or not you believe in Astrology, this comment was undoubtedly true. I read this by chance and realised what a weak, pathetic person I had been being. I had gone through an intense time with a group of so-called friends who treated me terribly. I had in that process lost my little self-worth. I read this horoscope and it was like I saw myself from an outside point of view. I couldn’t believe my own behaviour and I was so mad at myself for letting anyone treat me like less than my worth. I’d like to say I cut them out that day and never looked back, but I didn’t. I did start the process though, and 4 years down the line and I have nothing to do with those people, but I can’t quite believe how consumed I was in their web of malice, or how long I put up with it for. It is safe to say I take very little crap these days, and instead of getting mad at people, I try to just move on when someone scorns me. Life is far, far too short to spend it with anyone who makes you feel anything less than you are. I am kind, I am bright and I am strong, if anyone ever fails to see that in me now then they ain’t worth a dime.

'Every Step' by Charlie Winston

I first heard this song at a gig in Shoreditch in 2009. The song is about a girl who does not value herself with men, who has a history of boys treating her badly, but ultimately it is her own fault for holding herself in such low esteem. The song also recalls how happiness is a mood you choose, based on all the little choices you make in a day. This really hit home to me. For several years I had let myself down with men and had huge voids in my self-respect. Family and friends had tried to help me break this pattern, but sometimes it takes something objective to do the job. I heard this song and it made me cry, but it also was the kick up the backside I needed. Why did I think I was going to find the love I deserved by making such stupid decisions day in and day out? At the time I ran back stage to beg Charlie to release the song and I vowed to try to live by my new understanding that every single step I took, every single choice, every ounce of energy I put into anything would dictate my ultimate destination. It took a few years for me to become well practised at this, but by summer 2010 I was so much better and once I felt like I’d earned it, I had ‘Every Step’ tattooed onto my right foot. My choices haven’t been perfect since then, but whenever I feel myself slipping I have it there as a reminder to invest in positive things and continue to take positive steps.

“You Lack Verve”

Not everything we learn from is inherently positive, and I have learnt from some very negative experiences too. Someone not very nice once said this to me, when we were drunk on yet another blurry night out, and at the time I just took it and assumed it to be true. But over the years I have remembered that comment. Now I know I don’t 'lack verve', I never lacked verve; I have energy and creativity in abundance. What I lacked was a positive direction in which to channel my energy. It wasn’t long after hearing this that I started running, blogging, baking and just generally channelling my sparkly self into positive, creative things. So thank you to the person who said that to me. You have helped me to make so much more of myself, even though at the time you were just being a right royal twat.


xx


21 March, 2014

Happiness Day: Sunshine and Showers

 


Yesterday was the 2nd ever International Day of Happiness – a day which works to promote the need for society to help its residents maintain happiness and which encourages others to think about how they can prioritise happiness over wealth, the economy and other more superficial endeavours. People across the globe spent the day taking note of the need to TRY to be happy, or at least spread a little happiness onto others.

The initiative began in 2012 and I have to ask, how did it get to then before someone asked "do we need to also be thinking about happiness here”? You would have thought this would have been a priority long ago. Happiness is easily the ultimate destination for all human kind – we are taught it is not a destination but in fact a mood, however we still strive to achieve that mood whenever we can, because why would we want to be anything other than happy?

Why did 2012 suddenly call for such a campaign? It seems to me that the need for a happiness awareness movement was born out of a time when it is harder than ever to just be, let alone be happy. Our lives are overloaded with choice and indecision, and bloody hell we are busy. Maybe it has always been like this, and maybe I am just getting older, but if there is one thing my peers and I manage to always have in common these days, it is the fact we are just so busy we can never quite breathe to enjoy our own lives.

We seem to be reaching some sort of crisis point, a point at which people are finding it harder and harder to be content, because there is no time to be anything other than thinking about the next thing. Happiness is said to be about living in the moment, and when your life is made up of so many moments and islands, how do we live just in one?

I have followed the work of Action for Happiness for a while and believe it is a fantastic cause, but for me we should all be inclined to promote happiness every day, not just on March 20th. I saw so many tweets from people yesterday trying to find happiness in small things for the sake of Happiness Day, and that was lovely, but also I wondered how different the world would be if we all thought more like that more often?


It isn’t always easy...
 

We all have shit. We all have days when life feels hard. Ironically, in sharp contrast to Happiness Day, I have had an emotionally trying week.

All my life I have experienced unexplained bouts of “depression”. When I was little I used to go to my Mum and tell her I had a “hole in my tummy”, because I just felt empty and life felt hard. These bouts never last long at all, and have never considered myself to be actually depressed – especially as I have always had so much to be thankful for. As I have grown older, I have usually had something to blame and an external trigger for these episodes. Loneliness, being in an awful job, drinking too much, friendships, whatever. Now, I don't think it is any of these things, it is just who I am. There is a theory that depressive feelings effect the strong, people who have it all but feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, and I think there could be something in that. I am reading up on it as we speak!

At the moment I am the “happiest” I have ever been, in that I have everything I could ever need. When you have all this, you don’t expect to wake up feeling empty and teary for no reason, but the past few weeks that has happened every day, and I don’t know why.   Although in my head I am SO happy,  sometimes my mood needs to catch up. I have still put my smile on to the outside world – that’s not me being fake, that’s me making the best of my days despite struggling inside. I put my smile on, I go through the paces, and I've had a few meltdowns behind closed doors...oops. I know I will have a much needed weekend of down time, and will start next week feeling stronger. No doubt I will wonder (like I always do) what all the fuss was about!

I do work to make the best of my days and radiate optimism even when I feel low, because I try to always remember that everyone has their own battles and I know spreading positivity can only do me and those around me good. Even when someone is outwardly ‘happy’, our private lives are complex and our apparent persona doesn’t mean we don’t have challenges. Sunshine usually comes with it's share of showers.

I do think Happiness Day is a great cause, how could something so positive not be? But it isn’t about just recognising it for one day; it’s about doing your best to create a positive environment, day in and day out, even when you don’t feel like it. We all have a responsibility to contribute to the world we live in, and although I do have my moments (!), one thing I am proud of is that I will usually bring a smile to a situation and look for a silver lining. Life will always throw up difficulties and some people face bigger challenges than others, but if we can learn to look for the positives every day, then we can collectively create a more positive world for ourselves and those around us, especially when we feel Blue. People who do the opposite should be ashamed.

Every day I try to remember this and do small things to work towards a happy world. My boyfriend and my family get to deal with the downs (lucky them!) but once they are dealt with I dust myself off and go back out there and find happiness in tiny things and soon enough I feel good again.

Do you contribute positively to your world?

x

12 March, 2014

The Wine of Friendship



This is a rushed post to say the least, for it is mid-week and I have a to-do list as long as my non-drinking challenge. Oh, and while we're on the subject, here's my report from the weekend, as promised.

This weekend just gone was always going to be my most challenging weekend of my booze-free March. My 3 longest standing best friends came to town - also known as "The Girls". I have various groups of 'girls', but THE girls are the girls I went to school with, the girls I grew up with, the girls I learnt to party with. To abstain from the standard partying behaviour that is drinking, whilst in the company of THE GIRLS, is borderline a sin. It is at the very least, a weird plan.

That said, if you can't stay soba and still have a blast with your longest standing homies, then what chance do you really have? These are the friends you have know since before you had boobs, who you have partied with in Ibiza, Tenerife, Malia, and your hometown nightclub EVERY week for several years. The friends who saw you pass A Levels and run off to uni, the friends you ran back to every Christmas, Birthday and Easter in between. The girls who saw you get dumped, then watched you fall in love again. The friends who despite having grown in very different directions to you, remain at the heart of your friendship circle. Like barnacles clinging to a rock in the storm that is life... Okay, I can't do analogies very well after 9pm. These girls are just THE GIRLS. They always will be.

As it turns out, the wine of friendship never does run dry. I didn't need the real deal, because I was high on friendship and laughter. As I discovered at 3am on Saturday night; while my feet buzzed from dancing for 5 hours straight and my face was alight from having not stopped laughing for the entire night and my head spun with fun, I observed that not only had I not needed to drink to have a good time, I actually had a much better time without it.

I have always been the liability friend, the one who falls asleep mid-slurp, gets turned away from bars, misses the best bits because she went home in a cab with chips at 10pm, lost her phone, was sick everywhere, who just could...not...deal... I have always been her. So for my friends, despite perhaps the initial disappointment that they had more Prosecco between them than normal (whilst I stoically sipped my Scholer) it was probably a bit of a relief for them to see me not only last the night, but do it well.

My best mate told me at the end of the night that she'd had so much fun with me, she'd totally forgotten I wasn't drinking. I can't really imagine a better end result than that. Fun was had by all, and my liver stayed shiny. This alongside the fact I spent £4 all night, had a hangover free (if a little tired) Sunday and remember every precious moment of the night...I could about get used to this not drinking thing.

Halfway there.

x


08 March, 2014

"She is Clothed in Strength and Dignity" - Women's Day 2014


Today is International Women’s Day. I have spent the past few days considering the meaning of the day, which has been ‘observed’ since the early 1900’s. Since my early 20’s I have recognised its meaning and increasingly appreciated the concept. Now, the day marks for me how my own attitude evolves year on year.

Over the past couple of years I have definitely been discovering my ‘feminist’ attitude – it’s an outlook I didn't know I had, but just kind of fell into after years of looking the other way. I use the term feminist a bit vaguely, because my perception isn't really one I have defined. What I do know for certain is I feel passionately that I want women to be strong and equal. That is all. I feel passionately when we are not treated equally by our male peers and I do want us to stand up for one another ALWAYS.

The past 12 months have seen yet more big shifts in the landscape for Women’s Rights and have also been an eye opener for me personally. In 2014 more men are willing to adopt more of the ‘Beta’ role in relationships, more men are recognising where their own attitudes could change, and more women are standing up for themselves and for each other. There are so many brilliant acts taking place around the world, which all contribute to taking steps in the right direction. No More Page 3, Everyday Sexism, the campaign which got Disney to retract T-Shirts which suggested women can’t be heroes...


On the flip side, in 2013 the gender pay gap widened for the first time 5 years. This is inexplicable to me. We also saw the huge explosion that was  Caroline Criado-Perez Twitter row – she received numerous rape threats on Twitter, after campaigning to have a female icon stamped on British bank notes. I remember being there on Twitter the day that story broke, nervously watching it escalate, and thinking; is this really 2013?

The other day I read how in 1907 Annette Kellerman campaigned to bring in tight fitting bathing suits for women. This image (left) had her arrested for indecency. I read about this in such disgust and thought thank god I didn't live in that time. I mean Jesus wept! That said, are modern day instances like the Caroline Criado Perez case really much different? No, in short.

On a personal level, my understanding of gender inequality has deepened. In 2013 I went from working in an an all-female team to a majority-male one. The stark contrast between those 2 different backdrops has shown me day to day, the many, many ways in which women are still lagging behind in the professional arena, fight as we may. I am happier now than I have been in any other workplace and the men I work with are great, but it can occasionally be difficult being the only girl. Sometimes it works in your favour, but you also have to be tough a lot of the time too.

Is it realistic to ever expect a day to come when being in the minority gender at work should even be a thing? Would I actually like it if a day came when my gender wasn’t recognised at work? I don’t actually think I would. To a large extent I like the fact our femininity is observed, and for it not to be would be to pretend we are the same as men. And that would be weird because we aren’t. It’s not sameness we want though is it? It is equality, and that's very different.

What have you done today, ladies?

I do and will continue to contribute in my own way to the fight for women's rights, equality and respect. I pull my male peers up on their sexist attitudes every single time, and I challenge them. I also challenge other women when they let extremely sexist behaviours go by. I work to show people they have a responsibility to chime for change too. I work to be treated with the same respect and consideration as my male colleagues. I reprimand men who are clearly treating women badly, and I reprimand women who are letting them. Perhaps annoying to be on the receiving end of, sometimes, but I’ll be damned if I ever need approval more than I need to stand up for my own, celebrate the fabulousness of woman-kind, support the women around me and stay true to what I really believe in.

I've been told many times over the past few years what it means to be feminist, and certain criteria have been outlined to me which people should meet in order to qualify. I don’t really know about that to be honest. To me it feels like different people can be feminist in different ways. I might not campaign on a big scale, and maybe I am a bit sexist when I sometimes laugh at jokes which are derogatory to women (I don’t have a penis, but I do have a sense of humour), but really I don’t think that undermines the steps I do take towards a more equal world for women. Every little helps, doesn't it?

How do you recognise International Women’s Day?

x