What are you most excited about in your life right now – today?

2013 is shaping up to be the dullest year of my life so far, which is an interesting balance to 2003, which was the most exciting. As each day, week, and month trickles past, I find myself reminiscing about my eighteen year old self, and thinking what she would think about my life right now. Truthfully, she’d probably think my life was a lot more exciting than it is if she viewed it from the outside: I think wedded bliss to a handsome man, a comfortable house, and two dogs to love on would have seemed quite the achievement. As would the living abroad thing – I never did have a lot of perspective about big decisions and their long-term implications.

Anyway, I digress. In terms of right now, there is only one concrete thing that I am looking forward to (other than getting home to my dogs and / or getting more than seven hours of sleep in a row), and that’s my good friend’s wedding in October. 

Gemma and I have been very close since my most exciting year, so it’s only fitting that she is the one injecting fun and excitement into my least. She’s a spitfire, a riot, an absolute joy to be around. We met in college, having dorm rooms across from one another, and shared many of those “first time away from home” moments that are sworn to secrecy. This girl once had a stranger carry two bricks from a construction site five miles home after a night out so that she and I could have “matching doorstops”, and not let a trivial barrier like a fire door stand in the way of our constant communication.

We have had lives that have strangely paralleled each others: falling in love with boys that were close friends, rebuilding relationships with our parents, and battling early onset chronic pain issues that have threatened to alienate our other friendships. In fact, we shared several days under duvets together, both of us hot-water-bottled and NSAID-ed up, watching Sex and The City and talking each other out of googling our symptoms. 

We have only seen each other twice in the last five years, so seeing her face, especially at a time that is so important in her life, is a bright spot on my grey horizon. As she is getting married in Las Vegas, at the Bellagio, her wedding is giving me an incentive to get in shape and get my health back in shape. 

I’m very excited about this.. and will no doubt post more about it over the coming few months…

How do you spend the majority of your free time?

Right now, at this very second in time, I am at the bottom of a dog pile. Batman, my four-year old dachshund and constant companion, is in his spot of choice, which is nestled in the nook of my knee. Starsky, our rescued baby, who has not been with us a full year yet, is on my feet. We are on the couch in our basement. This couch was one of the few pieces of furniture that I picked out myself – everything else my husband purchased prior to our wedding. In fact, we have another sofa that he chose in the same room – a sixties-style orange affair with low, square arms – that was our only sofa for two years. Then our basement flooded, we got an insurance pay-out, and Momma went shopping for something comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I consider myself to have good taste, but I also like something comfortable and easy to live in. This is why I like jeggings, messenger-bags, and those hair tie things that can pass as jewelry if you squint a bit. So when I went shopping, comfort was my primary objectives, after all – I told myself – we spend a lot of time on the sofa.

This is an unfortunate fact of my life: the long evenings on the sofa. And not in some newly-wedded “sofa time” kind of way. I’m a two-blanket, yoga-pants, cup of tea kind of sofa girl. I find the sofa is a place where I can really relax. Partly because of the reassuring coolness of our basement, partly because it’s close to a lot of my reminders of home (artwork, books, the leather club chair my mum bought me), and partly because I feel tucked away here.

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Starksy and I chillaxing on the couch

For the last few years I have spent a lot of time having to work in the evenings, being enslaved to a job that kept expecting more and more hours. I broke that routine (see pretty much all of my blog posts from july to November of last year) finally, but not before I sustained a massive knee injury running a half-marathon and spent the majority of my summer having to elevate one of my legs. If that wasn’t reason enough to claim the sofa as my primary residence, I also have several minor but chronic pain syndromes, and find an unordinary amount of comfort in a hot water bottle on whichever bit of me is in pain.

Yes, I know I sound lazy, but the honest truth is that I’m actually not. Naturally, I’m an active person, but I have found I am the type of person that attracts injury and illness. Therefore, right now, in my late twenties, I find myself steadily working towards the sofa each day. Of course, there are days when I don’t have any sofa time at all – days when my knees or back and stomach doesn’t hurt and I can walk the dogs, or days when I don’t find myself reaching for the work laptop (a habit that is no longer necessary, but still hard to break), and those days are good too. But I would say that, at least for the last few years, the sofa has been my sanctuary from stress, from homesickness, and from injury. And because I spend most of my time stressed, homesick, or injured, it’s become a “go-to” place for me.

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Getting loves from my Batman!!

And don’t think I spend all my time watching TV (although I am partial to Netflix): I read books, work on my novels, skype with my family, and read world news from my spot stretched our on the chaise. I know that one day, maybe soon, I am going to have to overcome some of the things that send me sofa-wards, and I’ll tackle those when I need to, but right now I am glad to have my (very large and very green) chenille sectional from Macys, my Wal-Mart heated blanket, and two very snuggly puppies.

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The husband joins in for sofa-fun!!

When you think of ‘home,’ what, specifically, do you think of?

When I think of home I think of waking up in my teenage bedroom, my un-spectacled eyes blurring the sloped yellow ceiling with it’s crudely painted, haphazard stars. Home is remembering how long it took to scrub the spray paint off the carpet. And my hands. And the cat. Home is the low, long window that yawned out to the “front” garden with it’s roses – so different to my sisters view of the back garden with its scrubby bushes, swingset, and sweeping views of the fields.

Those fields – I planted them until the sun set, harvested them until the first hard frost, and ran mile after mile around them until my knees gave in. Those aching fields, flat and monotonous and as endless as a teenager might dare to imagine. They stretched outwards, wrapping themselves behind villages and under schools, until they clattered headlong into the sea. 

Home is the sound of the English rain and knowing that all there is to do is sit in the conservatory and listen. The smell of the dirt. A visitors unidentified shoes in the utility room, and the kettle on. Home is October. Home is July and August. Home is my birthday in April collecting daffodils and filling the house with grass. The house – my house – converted from a school to a hunched, red-brick building held together by iron poles, magic, and necessity. We started wars in those walls – some of them small and inconsequential, resulting only in nostalgic conversations over telephones and emails – and others so heartbreakingly long-lasting that my parents sit in different houses now, aged with pain. 

Home is not twenty-eight. Home is not the air-conditioning failing to work, or the lack of snow removal on our street in winter. Home is not Applebees, or light beer, or Twilight fan fiction. Home is not my knees hurting when I role over at night, or the rapidly diminishing number that qualifies my motherhood potential. Home is not my own voice rattling self-consciously from my voice mail, making words in accents that are placeless.

Home could be the faces of my two four-legged children when I come home from work, the sound of their snores as I fall asleep, their first sleepy tail wag in the morning after breakfast. Home might be the smell of wood-fired steaks on a ninety-five degree day. Home almost certainly is my husband playing guitar downstairs when I sleep in on Sundays.

But home will always be that bedroom – the bookcases filled to capacity, the carpet strewn with clothes. Home will always be the pattern on the carpet, the sound of BBC Radio Four, and the shadow of the cat on the kitchen windowsill after he had come back from a long, strange night.

What three words would you use to describe the last three months of your life?

Pretty fucking depressing**

**This year started with the husband losing his job, and has migrated through multiple stages of misery including a persistent health issue (currently 16 months in and no closer to a diagnosis), and a new job that has required way too much exertion for what I get paid, and has recently ended with losing an uncle and a close family friend in a matter of days. 

I want to make the next three months count more.

PS – these word limits piss me off. I write for a living, and know how to be concise, but limiting myself to three works is an exercise in futility. Ultimately, editing to the point of losing all meaning is pointless and reduces the art of writing to nothing but a gimmick. 

 

What confuses you?

It’s been 4 months. A third of a year. One-hundred-and-twenty-ish days since I last posted on this blog. When I closed the lid on 2012 I thought that I would also sign off of this blog forever. Not because I dislike this blog, or feel disconnected from it, but because it was a reminder to me of a year that I really wish I hadn’t lived. 

2012, as I have touched on previously, was a terrible year. I am still trying to work out why it was so terrible, but terrible it honestly was. So, 2013 was a new start and a new year and a chance to just go out and be all the things that I wanted to be. I had unburdened myself from a job that was bad for my soul, and I was looking forward to starting a new journey, and putting this blog to bed seemed a part of that.

Well… I couldn’t let it go. I have compulsively checked in on these pages, almost daily checking stats and everything. I feel beholden to it. Probably because it’s unfinished. I have not-so-secret problems with lack of closure, stemming from a teenage relationship that ended abruptly. I have found myself laying awake thinking about all those questions just hanging out there… the good ones, the ones I was saving for a long, rainy afternoon. The ones about my childhood – oh yes, those are going to be epic – and the ones about love. Just thinking of those questions, itching to start writing them down.

And so, here I am, confused about why I’m even still here. This is an endless task. A thankless task. I am laboring under the star of anonymity, having shared too much personal stuff to really show my blog to family and friends (although I know a few of you are out there…). But I’m here. Damnit. I’m going to finish this blog.

Hold me to it, slowly. I am going to start with tiny, coltish steps. Unfortunately writing for a living leaves little brain space for non-work related words. I need to break that habit. It’s a Sunday night and I’ve spent 11 hours of the last 2 days writing, and none of it was for me. That needs to change. Am I being foolish to think, again, that this blog might cure me of that? Who knows. It confuses me. I confuse me. This whole project confuses me.

Lets see where this goes…

How 2012 Tried to Kill Me (And What I Did About It..)

So today I got a reminder that I have been keeping this blog for one whole year. And what a terrible year it has been. Some of the personal stuff from my life has spilled onto these pages, mainly through feelings or sentiments, but most of it has been kept firmly bottled up inside of me. What I find most interesting about this blog is that a year ago I started this project feeling as though I needed to connect with myself more, and I embarked upon a journey of self discovery. Then “life” happened, and I started having to face emotions and fears that I never thought I would be facing in 2012, and for most of the year felt as though my own understanding of myself was diminishing rather than developing.

Let’s speak plainly: nothing really terrible happened inasmuch as nobody that I loved died, my marriage weathered through another year of global disappointment, and we still have our home. But I had challenges to my health (which are still largely unresolved even after 12 months), questions to my sanity at the hands of so called friends, and the threat of financial difficulty. I was made to feel like a true failure in 2012, to the point that I almost gave up faith in myself.

As a result of this terrible year, most of the time I attempted to keep this blog I felt as though I was projecting untruths, because even if my answers were truthful I felt myself becoming more and more a stranger. Most of the questions, I have also learned, are engineered to encourage self-criticism, even melancholy, and those that focus on the positive require a saccharine and sentimental reflection on the past that has been entirely too difficult for me to face. I avoided at all costs questions about home, because home really is unattainable for me right now, and dwelling on it does more harm than good.

So now I am writing this blog post without knowing whether I will try and finish “the questions”. Why? Why would I consider stopping when I have just said this year left me a stranger from myself? Surely I have an ever-more pressing need to continue? Well, not really.

You see, even though 2012 tried to kill me, I persevered. I didn’t do it very gracefully, and there were very few defiant, movie-worthy speeches (except one that I delivered in the pharmacy the other day, but let’s leave that one for the moment), but I really, honestly did find out that I could be true to myself when the moment mattered. I faced a decision that I had to make for my own good, and put all my eggs in that basket when everyone else doubted me, and I prevailed.

Today I sat down with one of my very best friends and told him the story of my year. Firstly he was shocked that he knew so little of it (I’m a marvelous actress, it comes with the territory of being an immigrant); secondly, he was proud that I was able to make the decisions that I had made and be true to myself, despite obvious pressures from people that value money and image above all things. He is facing a crisis of his own, and I told him my story to show him that, even when you are doubting yourself, you still know yourself better than anyone else. And that no-one can act in your best interests better than yourself.

So, I am going to start 2013 with a little more faith in myself. In 2012 I really did discover who I was all over again, but it wasn’t through these questions, it was through having to fight for myself. I hope I will never have to tell anyone about the agony of the last 12 months, and I am sincerely hoping to but it behind me tomorrow at mid-night, but if I do ever tell it I will use it as a demonstration that I refuse to lose who I am.

I might be a little chubby, or curse too much, or snap at people that don’t deserve it, but I am also not morally bankrupt, and I believe in the American Dream still, and I think that everyone should be treated equally and fairly and with respect. I will not let the world change me, and I will not start believing that the world is a place where only changed people can prevail.

I’m sorry if this post is a little preachy, or pointless, but I am ready to actually say to the world that I LIKE ME. I know that a lot of people probably don’t like me, but I do, and I believe in myself, and in 2013 I am going to keep moving forwards.

What have you done in the last year that makes you proud? / What did you learn recently that changed the way you live?

It is important for me to reflect back on the last twelve months of my life. It has been almost a whole year since I sat in this same chair, wrapped in this same blanket, and created this blog. I was so full of intention.

Tonight I am actually writing this from my desktop computer, something that I rarely do, because my laptop is broken again (pretty sure Apple sold me a dud MacBook, but I’m like David over here trying to slay the giant). It’s actually very uncomfortable in our home office – my husband selected the decor, and it’s more for looking at than sitting on. However, it was this same computer that I created this blog ten months ago today, and so it takes me back to a certain time.

Last night I spent some time with a very dear friend of mine. She was a my college roommate, the very first person I met in the United States, and has been close to my heart since I stepped off of that plane over seven years ago. Last week she got engaged to a man that has been such a rock to her, and yesterday she asked me to be a part of their wedding party. Of course, I said yes.

Over the course of our evening together we talked at length about our friendship: the high points, the low points, and the things about each other that we weren’t aware we didn’t know. A few years ago my dear friend went through the biggest challenge of her life, and spent a year battling her way out of it. At the end of this year she met the love of her life, and the rest, as they say, is history. We talked about her tough times, and I shared with her my recent struggles, of which she was not yet aware.

The reason I am sharing this tonight is because I learned a lot about myself last night, and a lot about my friend, and a lot about the way that “most people” live their lives. We shelter the world from our emotions, often choosing to take a personal hit over risking exposing how flawed the world is, and how poorly it has treated us. My friend told me about her own dark path, and the steps she had to take to free herself from it: most of it I knew, but some of it I didn’t. At the end of our conversation I was sad that she had been in that position, angry at the world that had put her there, but mostly proud that she had come through.

When I look back on the last year of my life I am coming to a realization: I am going to be proud of the way I handled myself. I have made the active decision to disassociate myself from some people that have been harmful, and it has been a point of contention, and I really have had to question whether I have made the “right” decision. However, through my conversation with my friend last night I realized that there are people in this world that will take you at your lowest point and twist your soul, and once they have a grip on it they are impossible to shake off. I think that I shook myself free from those people in the last four weeks.

Before I sat down to write this blog post this evening I went into the bathroom to get a glass of water and stared myself straight in the eye. I found myself trying to picture my face a year ago, two years ago, ten years ago, but all I could see is the face looking back at me. Probably, I have not changed that much on the outside, but I feel that also the only person that matters in my life right now is who I am at this moment in time. And I might look tired (I really do look tired), and I might be starting to get some frown lines around my eyes (I’ve been frowning a lot recently), and I might be fifteen pounds heavier than I’d like to be, but I feel like a victor tonight.

Yesterday taught me that I have lived my life right recently. Prior to today I have doubted myself, and wondered if I would live to regret the choices I have made, but tonight I know that absolutely not. I have lived my life right recently, and I am proud of myself, and I really believe that only good things will follow.