jeudi 29 novembre 2018

The Dust

Sometimes the feeling that all is right with the world comes from the most unexpected places. Sometimes the universe works in strange, marvellous, fucking baffling ways.

I have grown infinitely more as a person in the past four years than in the entire decade before that. At the time, when I was in the midst of it, I didn’t really want to. I resented it. Doing the work was hard and I didn’t want to do it.

Conversely, during the decade before that, I thought I was happy. I thought I was a real human. I thought I had it all figured out. What an idiot I was. What a ridiculous, sweet little idiot.

I had a boyfriend and a job and a flat. I looked like such a grown-up.

I thought we were happy. I thought we were growing together. It didn’t occur to me that we might be holding each other back. We were both artists. We were so supportive of each other… weren’t we?

I was one of those stupid people who always claimed loudly that I knew I'd be fine on my own. That my relationship worked because I didn't actually 'need' the other person. I was with that other person from the age of 22 until 33. Of course I didn't have a fucking clue what 'being on my own' even meant. I didn't have a fucking clue about anything.

After we broke up, in an ugly battle of recriminations, false accusations, and secrets that we’ve never even spoken about, the spectre of our relationship haunted me for a long time. Longer than I ever realised. Until quite recently, in fact. For a long time, I was not remotely fine.

A subtle but insidious whiff of what-ifs, might-have-beens and the sick sort-of feeling that maybe we made a mistake. I wasn’t aware of it all the time, but it never went away.

Until earlier this year.

I saw my ex and I knew it would be the last time we ever crossed paths. I let myself get angry for the first time. I felt the universe shift and I realised it was because a massive, heavy fucking door had slammed. I was on the other side of it.

I cried like I had never cried before. Then I sent him an angry text message in which I told him so, after which I took four Valium and slept the best sleep of my life.

The next day I was fine.

Since then, life has got better in literal leaps and bounds. A month later I went on a holiday that set me on a new course. The day I got back, I sold a book, which is both terrifyingly personal and, by far, the best thing I have ever written.

I’ve got a new phone and changed my number.

I think of my ex today because, since then, everything has got better for him too. My social media feed has been flooded recently with news of how well his new band are doing – he is doing the thing he should always have been doing.

His new single, which incidentally and fucking coolly is currently charting in Japan and Spain, was described thus, in an article I happened to read this morning:
“It’s the sound of broken relationships that linger in the dust once the decision to break up becomes reality. It’s the emptiness of making that tough decision, the upside-down, gut-wrenching feeling of walking away from something that clearly doesn’t work anymore. Those urges that still pull heart strings when you see your ex-partner… and you realise they are still thinking about you even though they broke your heart.”

I don’t need to listen to the song. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with me and I couldn’t care less if it is or not. I won’t be listening to it or reading any more about it.

I couldn’t be happier for him. I feel lately, for the first time in a long time, that everything is as it should be. I wish him everything good in the world, that talented man who I spent a significant chunk of my life with, the first person I ever loved who loved me back, and who I never want to see again.

Thank you, universe.

mardi 27 novembre 2018

In Bruges, and also in my head.

Yesterday I came back from the loveliest long weekend in Bruges. I ate waffles, drank hot wine, walked around all day, slept with a person I really like at night, and generally had a great time.

I’m terrible at taking photographs (I like to be so totally authentic and in the moment and shit, you see) but I like having them to look at when I get back. Fortunately, my boyfriend likes to take a lot of holiday photos.

As I sat at work yesterday, laughing delightedly as I watched the edited highlights come up on my screen as he sent them to me via Whatsapp, it struck me that my younger self would have deleted all of the photos that had me in them. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee I would have cried and also asked him to destroy all evidence.

I don’t look skinny or sexy in a single photo. I’m not doing any poses to make my arms look thinner or to make sure I don’t have a double chin. I look very, very happy in all of them. Especially the one where I am pretending that the guide rope going up the bell tower is a penis. Long story.

Conversely, there are a lot of very old holiday photographs in which I look pretty ‘ideal’. Not that I realised it at the time. I was young and skinny. I was all angles and eyes. I was also fucking miserable. There was the holiday in Spain where I refused to drink even a glass of wine because it was ‘empty calories’. The incredible opportunity of working in Hong Kong for the summer, where I painstakingly wrote my weight in my diary every single morning and it set the tone for my whole day. All the beautiful meals I said ‘no’ to. The days at the beach when I could have been swimming in the sea, drinking a beer and eating crisps, that instead I spent worrying about what I looked like.

I feel so sad for that girl. I felt a bit sad for all the girls I saw over the weekend, standing with one leg cocked and their head poised at an unnatural angle, Instagraming pictures of themselves with waffles on sticks that they looked a bit frightened of. I don’t blame them. I don’t want to be judgemental. I understand the feeling; I have been those girls. I’m not implying that I’m less vain than them and as such somehow morally superior. I’m not. I haven’t had some kind of transcendental spiritual epiphany.

I am also very aware that I am a pretty average-sized white woman and that posting ‘normal’ photos of myself on Instagram is hardly the most fucking radical move.

However, I do think that ‘normal’ is something we don’t see enough of any more. It does feel just a tiny bit radical. I believe that only seeing images in which we all do the same ‘flattering’ poses and fake faces and filter the shit out of everything is damaging. It does us all a disservice. Not only that, but it’s fucking boring. I am bored of it.

I don’t want to look like a model in my holiday photographs. Thankfully, that’s not my job. When I look at photos of myself now, I am delighted when I look a bit like myself as a tiny child – same face, same fringe, same joy, before all the bullshit. I am funny and nice, and I have a face that suits me.

I’d like to say my younger self would be impressed with how cool I am now. Sadly, she was so fucked up and so conditioned to care about things that don’t matter, I think she’d just be appalled by how old and fat I am. In the past year, I have gained weight. I have also written a book, had another published, started a relationship I could never previously have imagined, given up smoking, spent time with people I love, worked on myself in therapy, let go of some shit, been on some great holidays and had a fuck-ton of fun. I think I’m the happiest I have ever been. I genuinely give very few fucks at this point in my life.

However, I’m aware I might be adding to the pressure. I worry I’m neurotic about not being neurotic. Sometimes trying so hard not to care all the time is fucking exhausting. We are constantly told to be mutually exclusive things: to embrace ‘body positivity’ while also looking flawless. As so often, still – fucking still – the ‘cool girl’ monologue from Gone Girl springs to mind.

So I guess all I can say is, just do the things that make you as happy as me when I’m in a beautiful, historic landmark on a romantic weekend away with my hot boyfriend, slightly drunk and pretending that a rope is a giant penis.

vendredi 9 novembre 2018

This week.

  • I went to Harrogate.
  • I went to see wrestling. Really. I had a great time.
  • I also saw some fireworks.
  • I fell over and ripped the knee of my jeans. It's annoying as they were the perfect black jeans and I can't even buy a new pair as I am currently boycotting Topshop. I usually fall over once a year. I'm a moron.
  • The wonderful Nina LaCour has started a writing podcast and you should definitely listen to it.
  • I've booked a trip to Paris and a holiday to Italy. I very much like having things to look forward to.
  • I'm planning to buy firewood and make soup this weekend.
  • I like winter. I like boots and tights and boys in coats.
  • I got so tired I ordered a Thai takeaway and didn't even have the energy to eat it.
  • I'm a bit emotional.
  • A scary lady in Pret made me want to cry this morning.
  • I remembered that time when I met Boy George and he sang 'Lady Eleanor' to me. Twice.
  • I once watched all of Match of the Day and did not fall asleep.
  • I need some good books to read.
  • I was reminded of how much I truly love Bright Eyes.