Childish Things

When I was a wee slip of a four year old, I remember visiting a friend and following him upstairs to a room that contained a giant cardboard box. It was long, and lay on its side, and easily took up at least half of all available floorspace in the small, book-lined room. In hindsight I suppose it had originally housed a fridge. My friend walked around to the back of the box and called for me to follow him.

I remember looking at it with all the healthy skepticism a four year old can muster. It didn’t look like anything special. In fact, it looked like it might have fallen victim to some sort of cardboard-consuming moth – it was riddled with tiny holes – but other than that it looked entirely unremarkable. I picked my way warily over stacks of books to find a small door that had been choppily cut out of the back of the box, just large enough for a small child to squeeze through without too much trouble. A flap of cardboard had been clumsily taped to the top, and this makeshift door was suddenly pushed up to reveal my friend’s face emerging from the darkness within.

“Come ON!” He said, in that urgent way children sometimes have of making the unimportant seem entirely time-sensitive. He crawled out and tried to pull me down to the floor. “Go IN!”

Dubiously I crouched and lifted up the cardboard flap. I crawled into the gloom and felt soft blankets give way beneath my palms and my knees.

“Lie down on your back!” I heard my friend’s muffled order from outside the box. “You’re in space now!”

I lay down on the blanket as instructed and looked up to find…

Space.

What had looked like a perforated box from the outside was utterly transformed on the inside. The holes were small, and numerous, and they let in just enough light to look like hundreds of stars. I felt safe in there with my gaze turned upward, my chubby child fingers roaming over the invisible blankets. It was a warm, muffled cocoon of cardboard. It was a magical box that had suddenly and efficiently transported me to deep space.

I love this memory, because for me there is so much childhood wrapped up in that instant; that abrupt suspension of disbelief, that willingness to go with the game, that ability to fully enjoy the moment no matter how small, and to make stars out of holes in a cardboard box.

The imagination of a child is so powerful. It carves adventures out of nothing and crafts stories out of nowhere. Everything makes sense; nothing is too fantastical. How can it be when they are learning so much about the world? They are being asked to learn and understand any number of mad-sounding things, what’s one more? There are giraffes, and aardvarks, and elephants… why not unicorns? Why not dragons?

As we grow, we lose a lot of our imagination. We get worried and stressed and bogged down in never-ending to-do lists. Sometimes it can be really hard to just submerge yourself in a moment and enjoy it for what it is. The word ‘fun’ has so many connotations attached; it’s supposed to be spontaneous and frivolous and silly and it drags with it a sort of blue-skies-and-primary-colours aura reminiscent of beach balls and bouncing castles. What adult has time for that on a daily basis? We’re busy people! We have work to do and people to take care of and events to plan and activities to take part in and coffee to consume!

Over time, for the most part, that aimless, pointless fun gets squeezed out of our day-to-day. It gets relegated to holidays or long weekends. It gets saved for boozy nights with friends. We get too self-conscious for silliness. Once we’ve learned to anticipate outcomes, it can be very hard to relax into the simple act of making a mess without worrying about the clean-up.

I think when you’re an adult, simple fun can get paradoxically difficult.

I also think that imagination and creativity is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, it wastes away.

When we’re small we make jelly, and scones, and chocolate rice-krispie buns topped with smarties. We marble Play-Doh until the many colours come together to form a single uniform shade of murky brown. We finger paint. We make sandcastles. We twist skinny horses out of pipe-cleaners, and make butterfly paintings by lobbing paint on a page and then folding it over and pressing it down. We make daisy chains, and dance in our living rooms and it doesn’t matter that the daisy chain isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t matter that our sandcastle will be washed away by the tide, and it doesn’t matter that our dancing looks ridiculous, and it certainly doesn’t matter that the Play-Doh is brown because that just means we can make a big Play-Doh bear out of it.

I’m not saying we should put aside life and responsibility and live as adult toddlers for a week, but I think there are lessons to be learned from our past selves. Children really understand how to live in the moment in a way that we forget as we grow into adults. They understand that things don’t need to be perfect to be beautiful, and that sometimes a big mess is a small price to pay for half an hour of laughter. When we were children, we didn’t always need reasons to do the things we did. We didn’t run around the playground because it made us healthier. We didn’t make each move carefully strategising five steps ahead.  Our reasons could be as flimsy as “because I feel like it” or “because I want to.”

I know that as adults we are expected to put away our childish things. We have to be responsible, and practical. We have a lot of things cluttering up our heads and it feels like there’s barely time to do the things we have to do, much less the things we want to do.

I’m just not sure we should put away all our childish things. I think it does us good to channel our inner child sometimes.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m about to attend a solo dance party in my living room.

…Because I feel like it!

 

 

Hello

I carried a towering pile of items to the till and placed them on the belt.

“Hi!” said the cashier.

The friendly chirpiness in her voice was probably due to the fact that it was almost closing time, but that’s just a guess. I smiled and returned the greeting, and then focused all of my limited attention on placing the heavy items at the front of the pile so I could bag them the proper way.

Little known fact, but that’s actually what adulting is all about; trying not to smoosh the brie beneath tins of tomatoes. True fact.

The cashier made a comment about the weather, and my friend smiled and agreed while I expertly separated the items in order of weight. I dropped the cartons of milk into the bottom of the bag, followed by the tins of tomatoes and the packet of pasta. I eyed the brie and broccoli as the cashier scanned it through. I was determined to absolutely nail this bagging business.

As an unrelated aside – it’s amazing the things you can trick your mind into thinking are little victories when the going gets tough.

Five minutes later, everything was carefully bagged and paid for. The cashier handed me the receipt. She smiled warmly and said, “Have a good evening now!” to which I naturally replied…

“Hello.”

Not an ‘oh hello, didn’t see you there’ type of hello.

Not a nice, friendly, ‘Hello!!’

Just a flat, short, “Hello” in the same tone you would use if you were to automatically mutter, “Thanks” to a cashier who had just handed you a receipt.

…Which is what I was aiming for when my mind panicked and “Hello” popped out instead.

Cue an awkward pause as the cashier narrowed her eyes at me, probably trying to determine if I had some form of short-term amnesia. I grabbed the bag, turned on my heel and walked right out of the shop while screaming internally.

All this to say that today is my one year blogiversary. I know this because WordPress sent me a little notification to remind me. Thanks WordPress! One year on and I am still having awkward interactions with strangers. One year on and I am still embarrassing myself so you don’t have to. One year on and I am still waiting on that damn manual.

But in the meantime, I’ve got you guys to keep me company.

Hello!

 

Questionable Decisions

The delivery man called me a few minutes after ten o’clock.

“I’m on my way to ye now!” He said, his voice bubbling with confidence. “How do I find ye?”

I spun slowly on one foot, chewing my lip as I considered my geographical ignorance.

“It’s just…. through the village?” I said, my voice lilting upward at the end because I sincerely hadn’t a clue.

Frantically I attempted to chart the course in my mind, but it was just a hodgepodge of picture-book images in there; the post office, the church, the water pump. Was the church before or after the post office? Where was the water pump in relation to either of those? I stared blindly out the window at the rain as the delivery driver rattled down the country roads towards me.

“Alright,” he yelled over the sound of the rain. “I’ll stay on the phone. Now, I’m just at a turn that has me facin’ the post office-”

“Oh!” I shouted, like a contestant on a quiz show. If I’d had a buzzer I would have slammed my hand down. I knew this one! “Turn left there!”

I heard the click-click-click of the indicator snap on.

“Okay and now I’m passin’ a school-”

An image flashed in my brain and I cut in again.

“Yep! Just… if you just keep going past the school and past all the houses…”

“I’m passin’… another school it looks like-”

“Yep, keep going, past that…”

“An’ now I’m passin’ a house with a yella door-”

“Yep, yep keep going, you’ll reach a long stretch of nothing and then there’s a gate on the right that’s sort of at the end of the hedgerow…”

“Is it a long driveway? Have ye a blue door?”

“Yes!”

“Ah I’m here now so.”

“Great! Thanks! If you drive around to the back…”

“Okay will do.”

I raced to the back porch and pulled open the door as the white delivery van swung round the corner. I lifted one foot to step outside and saw that the path down the garden was almost flooded. I glanced mournfully down at my unicorn slippers, then up at the driver, hunched over, dragging a box out of the back of the van. Not wanting to get my unicorns wet, but also not wanting the driver to get soaked to the skin waiting for me to find a pair of shoes, I kicked off the slippers and hopped down the flagstones on my tiptoes.

When I reached the man, he was watching me warily.

“Did ye just-” He paused as he handed me the scanner. “Did I just see ye kick yer shoes off to come outside? In the rain? Where it’s wet?”

I made a mangled stab at signing my name with the tip of my finger, then handed him back the device. There was a moment of silence as we both looked down at my feet, now shiny from the rain.

“Yes,” I said, since there didn’t seem any point in denying it.

“Alright so!”

He smiled at me with a slight frown. It was a gentle smile, a kindly-but-concerned smile. The sort of amiable, uncertain smile you give people when you’re not quite sure they’re right in the head. I briefly wondered if there was anything I could say to defend my questionable decision.

Probably not.

He looked down at my feet again, raised his eyebrows in an expression that seemed to say, ‘Well I’ve seen it all now!’, then got back in his van and backed out of the driveway as I skipped back over the flagstones to my warm fluffy unicorn slippers.

 

Life Lessons

 

There are certain people that come into your life at crucial moments and shape a part of you.

They smooth out a rough edge, or they shave off a section of your heart and cut another facet into your soul. They shape you. Some people add parts to you that you never knew you were missing, or cause you to grow a prickly coating to protect yourself from future encounters with nefarious people. People add and subtract from you as you go, making you more than or lesser than you were before coming into contact with them.

I went to the same school from the age of 4 to the age of 18. Junior school was one thing, but when I stepped into senior school I was 70% hormones and 30% terrified child. I wasn’t a particularly bad student, but I wasn’t a particularly good one either. I often said or did things that would get me into trouble… or at least, the sort of tame, mouthy things that get you into trouble in expensive private schools. I was late with my homework. I drew on my tests. I daydreamed, I sent notes in class, I got caught skipping P.E. I put no effort into anything, because I was afraid of trying hard and failing. It was easier and less embarrassing to not even bother; at least then the disappointment was purposeful.

There was one class in which I excelled however, and that was English.

My English teacher was not well liked. She never laughed with us. She didn’t drop by at lunch. She didn’t talk about her personal life. Her sense of humour was incredibly dry. Her comments were blunt and unadorned, and her criticism was often harsh and cutting. She demanded a lot from her students. Sometimes she demanded too much. Her punishments were always slightly more severe than those of the other teachers, and she was rarely lenient. She would give you a grade lower than what you felt you deserved, and then claim it was so that you always had something left to strive for.

And yet.

Of all the teachers at my school, of all the years that I walked in and out those doors, she was the only teacher that I felt ever really saw me.

I suppose the most likely reason for this is that I used my English homework as my emotional safety net. I would funnel myself and my heightened emotions into impassioned railings against the hopeless stupidity of Juliet or the bigoted hatred of Bob Ewell. I suspect that a lot of the time my homework gave more of an insight into my own feelings than those of the characters I was supposed to be critiquing.

Having said that, I never in my life mentioned anything personal. At school I was a happy-go-lucky, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl who never had anything ready or prepared and didn’t care. So I didn’t have my books. So? So I didn’t have my homework done. And? It was fine. I’d be fine. I was always fine!

The truth is I was struggling. I’d been struggling for a long time.

I remember one particular moment that knocked me off balance.

I had been getting in more trouble than usual. In our school, for every infraction you would get a “slip,” and once you reached three slips in a single semester, you were “on report.” Being on report essentially meant that for one week you had to get signed off by every teacher after every class, and at the end of each day your parents had to sign off to say they had seen the teachers’ notes and all the homework was done.

I wasn’t even halfway through the semester and I had accumulated seven slips.

Somehow this had escaped everyone’s notice until one day my English teacher asked if she could speak to me outside. In the middle of classtime, she pulled me out to the landing on the first floor and folded her arms.

“What is going on with you?”

I chewed the inside of my cheek and scuffed the toe of my chunky black shoe against the tile. I wasn’t sure what this was about but I knew it wasn’t good. I stayed silent.

“Quinn, you and I both know that you have seven slips at the moment.”

After a long pause, I nodded. I knew what was coming. I was going on report.

At the thought of this I started to feel a familiar panic course through me. I felt like my veins were on fire. I didn’t care about stupid pieces of paper, or having teachers sign me off. What I cared about – what terrified me – was the idea of my mother knowing. It’s hard to explain in isolation, but suffice to say I started to have a full-blown panic attack right there on the landing. I felt my eyes widen, and even though I shrugged and tucked my chin under so she couldn’t see my face, I couldn’t stop tears from just leaking out onto my cheeks. They streamed down and dripped from my jawline. As if removed from myself, I watched them splash against the tiles. I was numb. There was a ringing in my ears and I just wanted to leave, to hide in a bathroom cubicle and sink through the floor until I disappeared into nothingness.

My English teacher stood watching me for a moment, her arms still crossed.

“Okay.” She said.

I couldn’t speak because I felt as if I had swallowed my tongue. I was shivering so violently I figured she must notice, so I pulled my sleeves over my trembling fingers. I couldn’t think of anything to say because my mind had become a dense fog of fear. A small part of me somehow retained the ability to feel shame, and I did. I felt a red hot trickle of shame at what she must think of me, this overreacting, overly dramatic problem student who was having a nervous breakdown in the middle of the day over a few signatures.

“Okay.” She said again.

There was another pause as she contemplated me, and then she moved to stand right in front of me.  I watched her shoes stop in front of me.

“Look at me, Quinn. Look at me.”

I swiped at my eyes with my sleeve and reluctantly lifted my gaze.

“We both know you have seven slips at the moment-“

I was trying so hard to stem the tears that they pooled, turning her into a blurry collection of colours in front of me.

“Quinn. Listen to me. You have seven slips and you should be have already been on report not once, but twice. I should call your parents myself-“

I lost the battle and another wave of teardrops raced for the floor.

“But I know…” Her voice softened a bit. The most I’d ever heard in her years teaching me.

“I know that you don’t want me to do that. Am I right?”

My gaze dropped back to the floor as I nodded vigorously and gulped for air. Was I going to have to explain? Was she going to ask? Could she tell? What did she know? 

“You don’t want me to tell your parents.”

I took long, juddering breaths and tracked the lines of grout between the tiles.

“Quinn, listen to me. This is what I’m going to do. I’m going to strike five of your slips from your record.”

I barely heard her I was so deep in my state of panic. She paused long enough for the words to sink in, and I slowly raised my head to look at her in disbelief.

“Yes. Look. You’re not trying. I know you and you can do better. You have to try, Quinn, and not just in my class. In all of your classes. To be clear, I’m not wiping your slate clean; I’m simply giving you a second chance. I am leaving two slips on your record, so if you get another this semester, you will go on report. Is that clear?”

I nodded.

“Alright.” She sighed, her arms still folded. “You’re excused, Quinn.”

I tugged at the sleeves of my jumper, still wordless, completely unable to believe that I had just received a stay of execution. Before she could change her mind, I went to duck past her into the corridor. She grabbed my elbow as I passed.

“I’ll be keeping an eye on you. Don’t let me down.”

I made a beeline for the bathroom where I locked myself in a cubicle, wrapped my hands like a boxer (if boxers used tissue paper) and silently cried my heart out, partly to release all the pent-up energy and partly from relief.

Ten minutes later I had splashed water on my face and managed to get my heart rate down. I returned to class with puffy eyes, and when I walked in my English teacher turned and looked at me as if the past twenty minutes had never happened.

“Back to your seat, Quinn,” She growled.

I somehow managed to avoid another slip that semester. I dodged that bullet. I tried harder, although not always as hard as I might have. I always tried my hardest in her class though, and she always kept an eye on me like she’d promised.

Once, before we reaching the Hamlet years, she stopped at my desk on her way into the classroom. I had my head bowed low over a book, and daisies I had picked at lunchtime were strewn across my desk.

“Sometimes you remind me so much of Ophelia,” she told me.

I asked her who that was, and she told me it was a Shakespearian character. I shrugged and went back to my book, but later I looked it up, and when I did and found a fragile girl who drowns herself in a lake, I was offended.

Now with the benefit of hindsight, I see it differently.

I was pretty fragile. I thought I was tough, but the truth is that I was brittle like porcelain and completely unaware of it.

I think of her often.

In the mathematics of my life, she added a lot. She made me more.

 

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DEPRESSING POSTSCRIPT: A couple of years after finishing school, I went back to tell her all of this. She was out sick, and I was going abroad, so I decided I would write a letter. I thought I might return again after my trip away and if she was still out, I could at least drop it off for her.

 A few weeks later, as I put the pen down on the seventh page of the long-winded novel of gratitude I had found myself writing, I got a message from my best friend to tell me my English teacher had been found dead.

I went to her funeral. I cried like she was my own blood.

She taught me one last painful lesson:

Don’t wait until it’s too late to say the things that matter.

 

 

Hygge-ldy Piggledy Life: The Sequel

One of my first posts on this blog was about the concept of hygge.

As part of being a real live adult with a home, Scrubs and I are in the middle of an attempted renovation. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic – no quilted leather walls or extensions for the craftroom I dream of eventually having – just making the place more home-y, more calming, more hygge.

I am not a tidy person; I am always late for everything and so my last moments in the house are often frantic scrambles to get myself together. Since I never leave myself enough time to go through everything in a relaxed and methodical manner, I instead turn into a human hurricane, flinging items out of the wardrobe with reckless abandon until I’ve found what I’m looking for. Then I dash out the door, only to come home several hours later to a room that looks like a bombsite.

Naturally by that stage I’m already late for something else, so I don’t have time to tidy up…

And so it goes.

The only exception to this rule is if everything looks exactly as it should.

If my place looks staged – as if it’s been set up by Chip and Joanna Gaines before a viewing – with everything exactly where it should be, down to the candles and the plants and the woollen throws, then my Dr. Junkyard Jekyll turns into Ms. Houseproud Hyde. Even one thing out of place will rub me the wrong way. I need things to look right. If they don’t look right to start with then there’s no point in even bothering, but if they look right and then somebody moves something… woe betide them.

I don’t honestly know where this comes from or why this is. Unfortunately, as I said, this strange compulsion only comes over me when things look exactly right, which doesn’t happen very often. At the present moment, the only thing that looks exactly right is the bedroom, and even that could really do with a rug and a coat of paint. I’m almost afraid to get the place done up exactly as I’m imagining it, because I have a not-completely-unfounded fear I’ll turn into some sort of monster of meticulousness*.

Luckily hygge life gives a lot of scope for flexibility, since it’s all about cosy reading nests, and soft textures (very important), and low lighting, and making yourself a relaxing refuge from the world. Hopefully with the aid of candles and white linen and soft blankets and white-stained oak and a lick of paint the place will turn into the most beachy beachhouse that isn’t at all a beachhouse in any way.

So far I have a few questions though:

  • Why all the floral bedsets? What is up with that? I am not a floral fan.
  • What is a thread count and when does it matter and should I even care?
  • How do you choose the right pillow?**
  • a) How difficult is stripping wallpaper?
  • And part b) am I just as well painting over it?
  • How can I create storage space out of thin air?
  • Why is everything home-related about five times as expensive as your estimate?
  • Can it be a bank holiday every week so I can use the Monday to catch up on life?A HYGGE-LDY PIGGLEDY LIFE

I’m off to google all these things and more.

Happy Hump Day, everyone.

*Except when I’m crafting, because that inevitably takes up every available surface (hence the need for a separate crafting room/shed/barn/house)

**At this stage I think I need an Ollivander-style shop where the pillow chooses me…

 

The To Do List

supervision-chameleon

There are days when the To Do list actually gets longer rather than shorter.

You add to the list quicker than you can check things off, and it grows and grows until you can practically hear the high-pitched whine of pressure building in your head. On the best of days, adulting seems like an endless To Do list, both in  the small sense (go to the shop, send your mail, etc.) and the big sense (get a job, buy a house, etc.). It can be quite demoralising, because no matter how fast you barrel through your list of weekly tasks, there are always other, bigger items on the list. Existential items. Items that require thought and planning and luck and money and, really, items that may never get ticked off.

And how mildly infuriating is that?

I can’t stand leaving boxes unchecked.

There are, of course, plenty of unchecked boxes in my life, both big and small. The smaller ones are the ones really bothering me at the moment, because while one hand is typing, the other is scooping an errant kitten (Maya) off the dining table and I’m nudging the other (Oscar) with my foot in an effort to stop him from chewing my laptop charger cable. No sooner have I turned my back to put on a load of laundry than Maya is abseiling down the backs of the chairs, and I haven’t even made contact with the chair before Oscar is trying to break into the bedroom.

Supervision is aptly named, because I would indeed need super vision – and ideally eyes that could rotate independently on the side of my skull, like a chameleon – to be able to keep track of these two furry kamikazes.

…And so my list grows longer, and the high-pitched whine gets louder, and I start to feel itchy in my own skin, like there aren’t enough hours in the day and everything is difficult and actually, maybe I should just throw out all of my belongings because at least then there would be no laundry to do and no tidying to finish and I mean, do I even need clothes anyway maybe I can just get by with a single pair of jeans and a white t-shirt? After all, you would never need to match another unpaired sock again if you were just prepared to traipse through life barefoot. Shoe storage would be far more manageable. Our TV has recently gone to join the cars from The Brave Little Toaster, so we’re already (unwittingly) on our way to a more minimal lifestyle.

I mean… I’m just saying.

The only redeeming feature of this slow, relentless, drip, drip, drip of tasks, is that it leaves no time to worry about the unchecked boxes on my more general life list. I fall into bed so exhausted that I sleep through the night and wake up like a wind-up toy, my mind ready to move onto the next task. The items on the Adult To Do List don’t even get a look in these days.

And really, those are the ones that tend to keep your eyes open at 3am, searching the ceiling for answers.

Those are the ones to watch out for.

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What about you? Are you getting through your To Do List? Do you have an Adult & General Life To Do List? How’s that going? Do you have any To-Do-List-tackling secrets? Care to share…?

 

T&E (Tired and Emotional)

kitten biting laptop

Well I have to say…

They’re no Lenny.

They’re better than Lenny, obviously, but Lenny was chill. He minded his own business and kept himself to himself. He fed himself, watered himself, and on the rare occasion that we ran into each other, we would both stop in surprise, as if we’d forgotten the other even lived in the apartment. On the last day, he waved goodbye with a single antenna and I nodded my head in acknowledgement. It was a civil arrangement; a cool but not unfriendly relationship.

Thing 1 and Thing 2  (their names are not yet decided) are small, furry, projectile missiles that enjoy biting hair, toes, curtains, shoelaces, faces, and each other. They frequently attack thin air. They need to be fed four times a day (FOUR!), and Thing 1 tries to eat both bowls at once. They are noiseless ninjas, appearing underfoot without so much as a meow of warning, so that you live in a constant state of shredded nerves from the possibility of standing on one by mistake. They live in a single room for the time being, but have recently become aware that there is a wider world beyond the door and Thing 1 has made about 47385 escape attempts so far. Thing 2, more cautious by nature, hangs back and watches his sister volunteer as tribute with a shocked look on his face. Neither of them speak English, and they have a particularly limited understanding of the word ‘No.’

They are small, and soft, and Thing 2 is more photogenic than I could ever be (Thing 1 doesn’t stay still long enough.

ragdoll kitten

“fvgh).“kiiiiiiiiiii,” says Thing 2, as he pads his way across my keyboard.

Still, last night, after so many months of anticipation and such high expectations of how I would feel once they arrived (LOVE, obviously – the same kind of love I had for my cat that passed away last year)… I found myself feeling strangely low. I didn’t feel the unconditional love I was expecting to feel. I didn’t feel instant, uncomplicated happiness. Instead I felt slightly frightened and a bit overwhelmed. I started to panic on the inside. As I looked at their dark little faces, watching me with wide blue eyes, I felt a crushing sense of responsibility.

kittens ragdoll

“I might have to keep you safe for twenty years,” I told them in a desperate whisper at about 2am. “Can I do that?! I don’t even know if I can do that!”

They stared silently. Thing 2 blinked.

“I mean, every house plant I’ve had has died. That’s why they’re all artificial now. Did you notice? They’re all plastic!”

Thing 2 yawned and flopped down on his side. Thing 1 started to climb up the leg of my jeans, a mad look in her eyes. I peeled her from my thigh and sat down on the bed. A tear rolled down my face and I wondered if I was actually losing it completely.

“I had a cat before, you see,” I told them. “He was the best cat – my little man – and last year he was put down. So you have… really big paws to fill. You guys are really cute, and I like you a lot, but you’re baby strangers. I don’t know you yet, and you don’t know me, and there are two of you, and there’s only one of me, and you’re all over the place, and I only have a single set of eyeballs and they both point in one direction, and I’m feeling very overwhelmed and tired and I just… I just need you to work with me and give me a bit of time. Okay?”

As I spoke, Thing 1 and Thing 2 sat up straight, staring at me solemnly. Then Thing 1 approached me and curled up against my side, and Thing 2 padded straight up to my face and reached up to lick my nose.

I petted them and they purred.

I googled it then and found that it’s actually quite a common thing. Apparently, when expectations are (consciously or subconsciously) very high, you can get a sort of post-adoption depression when everything is suddenly REAL LIFE and you really truly internalise the fact that you are now responsible for two kamikaze floofballs for almost as long as it takes to pay off a mortgage, and you will have to get to know each other a bit before you can realistically expect to have the same kind of bond you had with your 16 year old domestic shorthair family pet.

As I write this, they are asleep beside me; two stretched out little snuffleupagii.

20170712_152934

Although they clearly need a few more English lessons, they certainly seemed to understand my rising panic last night. Since our heart-to-heart, they’ve been very affectionate and have stopped biting my hands (as much). The number of attempted escapes has decreased dramatically, and Thing 1 has let me take a photo or two.

IMG_20170712_105535_077

I’m feeling much better today. I have the gruesome twosome booked in for a vet visit tomorrow, I’ve made them an Instagram account so as not to spam my own with pictures of their fuzzy faces, and I am no longer in imminent danger of having a meltdown.

Amazing what a few hours of sleep can do!

Ragdoll kitten

 

 

 

Thoughts On… Adulting Struggles

It is unseasonably warm in Ireland at the moment. In a freak occurence, the sun is actually visible, the clouds are wispy and barely-there, and the temperature has crept up to Irish-sunburn levels (which isn’t very high, but it’s high enough for people to wander the streets in singlets, puffing and red-faced, panting about how it’s “FAR too hot!”).

I am currently sitting at my table, with a cup of tea beside me to wash down my many supplements*, thinking of the many, many things on my To Do List. The thoughts of all these things that need to be done have come together to form a thick, grey, thundercloud of tasks, and every so often it sends forks of lightning formed from pure unadulterated panic down my spine.

This is Not Good.

I know myself well enough to know that I need to get a handle on this situation. I feel overwhelmed, but I know that all the items on my endlessly long To Do List are doable; it’s only when thinking of all of them, together and at the same time, that I start to sweat and wonder whether it might be a good idea to change my name to Carmen Sandiego and move to Raja Ampat to sell beaded bracelets on the side of the road.

I do love making beaded bracelets…

Adulting is hard sometimes. I have yet to master the life skill of organisation. I rarely make lists, and even when I do make lists I inevitably lose them, which usually leaves me worse off than I was before. I often lose track of time because I’m so focused on a single thing that I forget 1.) to eat, 2.) that time is passing and 3.) there are in fact other things that require my attention. The fact that this blog is still alive and updated is a minor miracle considering how abysmal my scheduling skills can be.

And yet…

I love the feeling of being productive. I love the days when I smash through the things on my To Do List with reckless abandon and reach nightfall exhausted but delighted by my progress. I love seeing things look the way I envisioned, or finishing something and knowing I don’t need to worry about it again for a while. I love escaping out from under the crushingly heavy Sisyphean boulder of responsibility that builds up every once in a while after a period of slacking (or, say, a particularly lazy holiday).

Considering that I LOATHE this feeling of having every chore ever invented hanging over my head, feel positively meh about actually doing them, and enjoy the feeling of having done them, you would think the obvious thing would be to get through them as quickly as possible. The adult, rational part of the brain would tell you that it is the only logical course of action. I know this.

So why am I still sitting here?

Wish me luck. If you have anything stronger than luck (bourbon?), send that too. If you have a way of tackling mammoth To Do Lists in a productive manner, let me know your secret. You can whisper it. You can even send it by smoke signal; I’ll keep one eye on the windows just in case.

I’ll be right here, tediously checking my way through a list as long as my arm.

 

*Seriously it’s getting out of control; I’m now taking iron because my iron stores are low, folic acid because a friend told me everyone should be taking it all the time, vitamin D because I rarely see the sun here, vitamin B12 for my skin and vitamin C and zinc to help absorb the iron. I was talking to a friend recently who said I should also be taking magnesium, but I really don’t think I can bring myself to take more than five tablets in a day unless there is a serious and pressing need…

Motivation Hesitation

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I was at a party on Friday.

I was at a party on Friday for fourteen hours.

That’s a lot of hours to spend at a party. It affords you the time to talk to people, to get into conversations you might otherwise not have had. It’s more than enough time to get comfortable with the idea of introducing yourself to everybody there, because after three West Coast Coolers and every red and purple gummy frog from the jar I was hyped up on the kind of sugar high it takes days to come down from.

I’m hardcore, I know.

It was the best kind of party, bringing together a mix of people I’ve known for most of my life and just enough total strangers to make things interesting. Whenever I needed a breather I snuck into the kitchen to play with the dogs. At one point I asked a stranger if I could touch his hair (very soft). There was a gin bar at the back of the room which had transformed Good Friday into A Truly Great Friday, and a number of people were twirling and swaying in front of it to the sound of throwback tunes from the nineties.

At one point in the evening I took too long a break between sugary snacks and experienced an energy slump that led me straight to the couch, where I sat next to the guy who was aggressively controlling the Spotify playlist. He glanced at me out of the corner of his eye.

“Watch this,” he said.

Without warning, he switched the song. The brief pause in the music elicited howls of outrage from the dancers, and they all turned as one to glare accusingly. Then, as if by magic, the frowns of drunken disapproval dissolved as the opening strains of the hit classic Reach For The Stars started up. Hands were flung in the air and the twirling intensified as the group threw themselves into enthusiastic performances of interpretive dance.

The guy next to me chuckled. “I love that.”

Half a minute later he had scrolled down and stopped the music again. Heads swivelled in our direction. I considered moving seat to avoid the censure of the crowd. I settled for mouthing ‘it wasn’t me‘ and leaning away to avoid getting stabbed by a violently flung stiletto. Then Backstreet’s Back started up and the room erupted in a chorus of “EVERYBOOOOODAAAYYYYAYYYY!”

“Isn’t that great?” He muttered under his breath.

I could see the appeal. Each song elicited reactions from different people, and watching the animated responses to the musical cues was extremely gratifying. Some refused to dance to Destiny’s Child, while happily rapping every lyric to Smash Mouth. Others got rabid about Sugababes, while walking out in protest during Steps.

It was a polemic playlist, to say the least.

I sat back and enjoyed watching gin and tonics spill to the beat like miniature versions of the Bellagio fountains. Everyone had different songs they would respond to; everybody moved to a different beat. I guess that’s true in a larger sense, too. People are motivated by different things, and I couldn’t help thinking about this as I curled up on the couch next to this musical manipulator.

The other day, a reader pointed out that although my bio reads that I’m as confused as ever, I haven’t actually written about my confusion at all. I haven’t explained what it is that keeps me up at night, wide-eyed, wondering why I don’t have my manual explaining the fifteen easy steps to a rewarding adulthood.

The truth is, I don’t really know what I’m doing most of the time.

Part of it is work-related. Currently I ghostwrite articles for whoever will buy them, I transcribe interviews and dictations to keep my typing speed up, and I’m doing a postgrad diploma in digital marketing. When I speak to people who have always known what they wanted to do, and have stubbornly and single-mindedly pursued that goal, I feel like I’m missing something. I feel like a defective model that slipped past quality control, like I’ve been skipping past songs my entire life hoping to find the one tune that gets me moving, but so far I haven’t found it.

I need to find my metaphorical Smash Mouth’s All Star.

There are other things that keep me wrong-footed, searching for balance, but that is by far my biggest source of insecurity. I’m passable at a number of things, but don’t feel like I excel in anything in particular. Before it got truncated, the phrase used to be, “Jack of all trades and master of none is oftentimes better than master of one” … but I don’t think that really applies in this day and age, when you need a degree and five years of experience to even get an internship.

I wish I had a manual to tell me what I’m supposed to do. I wish I could buy a five-year plan off a shelf somewhere, or inject myself with a shot of ambition. I wish someone could look at my life and my experiences and my successes and failures and point at whatever it is I’m missing and tell me, “This. This is what you should do. This is what you would be great at. This is what would make you feel successful.”

I wish there was an amateur DJ with a song lined up that would get me going.

Tangled

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Before I get to today’s more light-hearted post, I would just like to say thank you to everyone who read and/or commented on my last post. I was worried about people’s reactions, but everyone was thoughtful and kind. I was really touched by how people took the time and read and comment, even if they didn’t entirely agree. I know it’s a tricky subject. So thanks. Thanks for being great people.

Back to more frivolous, Fridayish thoughts…

I am terrible at maths. TERRIBLE. Numbers make no sense to me. I have an extremely short memory when it comes to maths. If you teach me a formula I will learn it. If you ask me to do it again the next morning though, I will be absolutely incapable of even remembering where to start. It’s like my brain builds bridges to the answers, crosses over, and then immediately sets them on fire.

I constantly write down numbers back to front. If someone calls out their phone number for me to take down, I sigh internally. It’s bad, is what I’m saying. Numbers hate me. I avoid all forms of mathematics if I can possibly help it. The rest of the time I count on my fingers.

This is all a roundabout way of saying that when I say that discomfort > benefits = avoidance forever, even that completely fabricated formula is probably wrong. Yet it’s how I deal with things on a day-to-day basis. So, for example, I haven’t been to the hairdresser since last June.

LAST JUNE.

I got a trim. It was not traumatic in any way. The hairdresser didn’t stab me with scissors or give me a bowl cut that turned me into a monk from the middle ages. She was a chatty, lovely, gorgeous blonde who did exactly what I asked her to. “You should visit the hairdresser every eight weeks,” she said.

Eight months later, I am still dragging my feet.

I really, really hate going to the hairdresser.

I am not actually particularly attached to my hair. I mean, I would miss it if I woke up one day to find it packing a bag and heading for warmer climes… Although I couldn’t blame it (“I’m sorry, I just can’t do this anymore. You never even wear a hat. You don’t consider my wellbeing at all and it’s just not a healthy relationship for me. Bye Felicia“). I’m not someone who really does anything with my hair. It just sort of… chills out. I’m a bit weird about textures and always want things to be pleasantly tactile, so I never put product in my hair because I like my hair to feel soft and silky. I basically want my hair to be run-your-fingers-through-it soft at all times. You know, for any surprise moments when someone might run their fingers through my hair.

…Happens all the time.

Even if that weren’t the case though, I don’t know how to use any products on my hair that aren’t a GHD. I don’t dye my hair. I don’t know how to put my hair in a messy bun. I can’t use mousse properly. I don’t even really know what dry shampoo is or how it works its magic. To be clear, I would like to know how to do these things, I just never learned, and now I feel like it’s a bit late in the game for me to start braiding my hair and using texturising spray.

So it just sits. Which is fine.

Except that it really does need a trim every now and then, and now that we’re over 600 words into this blog post, and some people will have hopefully dropped away in boredom, I can finally, hidden-halfway-down-my-post, explain why I hate going to the hairdresser so much:

It makes my anxiety flare up something fierce.

I know. I even feel shame typing that. Everyone has anxiety these days. It must be social media or society today or maybe there’s something in the water. I could pretend that I don’t feel anxious about interacting with strangers, but then I would be lying and I’m not very good at that.

Some people hate going to the dentist. I actually really enjoy going to the dentist! All I have to do is show up, lie back, and relax for however long it takes to do whatever it is he does with all those spiky instruments. Then he has one-way conversation with me about the importance of flossing, during which I always open my eyes wide to show I’m taking his dental opinion seriously. He makes me spit in a cup, and then he lets me leave. It’s not so bad. I quite like it. I spend the rest of the day running my tongue over my teeth. So smooooooooooth….

But the hairdresser.

The hairdresser is a different kettle of fish. At the hairdresser, I’m expected to make small talk (something I am already terrible at) with someone who I’m reasonably sure could not care less about the holidays I have coming up, or how my week has been. I mean, they probably just want to do their job and cut my hair without hearing information that will be discarded as soon as I’ve left the salon. Still, it’s expected of them to make small talk and ask about my life, and it’s expected of me to tell them about it and ask questions in return, and so we get stuck in an awkward cycle of expectations and reluctant small talk, and basically the entire thing makes my anxiety flare up like crazy to the point where I actually feel bad picking up a magazine and flicking through it. Instead, I hide my hands in the folds of my plastic bib and twist my fingers so hard they feel like they might break, and silently wonder how much longer I’m going to have to talk about my plans for the weekend.

It’s horrible.

[Sidenote: This is one reason* why I have never been to a nail salon. That scene in Legally Blonde where she goes and unburdens herself to her nail technician freaks me out. Like, do you have to make conversation for the entire nail … experience? You’re hardly going to sit in silence avoiding eye contact while someone literally holds your hand. Then again what if there are awkward silences? What if you run out of things to talk about? How long does it go on for? Just thinking about it is making me bounce my leg anxiously.]

It’s now March, and my hair is almost at my waist. It needs a chop. What I really need is for someone to drag me bodily to a hairdresser. Realistically, after typing this, I will avoid thinking about it for another, ooh, three months? Sounds doable.

So that’s my frivolous Friday thought; my first world problem of not having the cojones to go to the hairdresser. Wednesday: long blog post about awful truths. Friday: long blog post about getting your hair done. This blog is a rollercoaster of emotion.

If anybody has any tried-and-true methods for making yourself do things you don’t want to do as a grown adult… please leave it in the comments. Or carry me to the hairdresser, tie me up in one of those black plastic ponchos and dump me in a chair.

Either or.

I’ll see you on Monday! Have a great weekend.

*My other reason is that the sound and feel of nail files completely freaks me out. Just typing that out made me curl my fingernails protectively into my hand.