Sometimes things go wrong and it’s just what you need 


The past three months have been a rollercoaster ride of very grown-up feeling stuff going wrong, getting better and repeating. We started 2017 with plans to move away to an entirely new place. We had the house, had the ideas and had it sort of mapped out. I thought it was right and that it was time and I built it up to be something it never would have been. 

Then it all went wrong, turned into a giant mess and eventually the whole thing got scrapped. 

I can’t explain how delightfully thrilled I am about that. 

It’s amazing how much you realise you didn’t want something until it’s called off and cancelled.

I know now I’m not doing it that my choice to wave goodbye to London and buy a quaint little house by a river big enough for a family I don’t yet have was because it felt like that’s what other people were doing. I felt like I should do it because it was responsible. It was sensible. It was something to grow into and decorate and change and get used to and just to learn to fit in.

When it all fell apart we took serious stock of what was happening with our lives and I realised that I just did not want it. I wanted to live near people I know. I wanted to be in London (well, the outskirts cos y’know, I’m not a billionaire) and I wanted to live somewhere I actually liked. 

All I really want right now is to able to commute quickly, feel comfortable, have space to myself and get a grip on the next big challenge – and there’s nothing wrong with that. 

I don’t know why I felt the need to press fast forward a hundred times like my life depended on it, but it did not do me any favours. 

I had this feeling that I’d be judged or deemed behind the masses or some other strange, unrealistic emotion that I can’t quite explain. I don’t even know who I felt like I had to answer to. There’s no person, no group of people, no conversation that I can blame. I think it was just the curse of seeing so much of other people’s lives online and getting blinded by it all on top of being a bit of a bully to myself. 

The whole situation worked out way better than I could ever have imagined. Something that felt like a disaster turned into a saviour. 

I’m fully excited for the rest of 2017 and what we’ve decided to do. I certainly now appreciate that spending a year working bloody hard and saving harder wasn’t done to feel unsure and anxious, it was to make life better. 

So here’s to not going through with stuff that doesn’t come from the heart and to an exciting next few months. 

The problem with weekends when you’re a mid-20s grandma

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There’s something that doesn’t quite sit right with weekends anymore. What used to be a glorious prospect involving lengthy lay-ins until lunchtime, big nights out and lazy days spent trawling high streets or debriefing with friends about the vodka haze, is now this big internal ‘can I be arsed?’ battle.

Some things haven’t changed. For instance, going out on a Friday night still makes the weekend feel longer, and getting a night out done and dusted with two days stretching out in front of you to do sweet FA is still the best way to go about life. It’s also still true that Sunday hangovers are the worst and that making plans for Sunday afteroon (but nothing that ends later than 8) is good for combating the blues.

These are weekend rules I’ll probably always live by. Rules that became ingrained when I was in my late teens and very early 20s and have just continued to serve me well. Now staring down the barrell of 26 (I know, it’s not old, but I still remember rolling around in Spoons aged 19 drinking jugs of blue alcohol like it was happening a couple of hours ago so forgive me for my horror) all I want from weekends is rest and food that makes me feel satisfied and a bit smug. Smutisfied. I want a meal that makes me feel smutisfied. Think heavy on the cheese, plenty of veg, semi-fancy wine and good helping of carbs. 

These days, plans freak me out. Getting to Friday is still beautiful and amazing and I scroll through Instagram without hating all those ‘FRIYAY’ memes as much as I hate other slogan posts, but there’s this slight fear for what’s coming if I know it’s a busy one.

Not going out on Friday and Saturday used to be a failure. It used to make me feel like I was wasting time or not using my short freedom from employment properly. Now days, realising I have places to be and people to please at various locations and times across Saturday and Sunday makes me feel a bit sad.

That’s the problem with being a mid-20s grandma- plans start to hit you hard. When you wake up tired, you just want to spend your weekend laying, floating around, maybe going food shopping, maybe going to the gym, maybe going to the pub, probably watching half a series of something on Netflix and unashamedly eating in bed with half a can of dry shampoo in your hair. But it’s not all boring. I still really love an impromptu night out because they just sneak up on you so you don’t have time to think about how tired you are or how little money you have. I do get excited for seeing friends, I’m not an unsociable snore entirely, and I definitely like birthday meals, celebrations and long afternoons in the sun (three times a year if we’re lucky), but i also really, massively look forward to REST. Sweet, glorious and unassuming rest.

Despite this love of doing nothing, weekends also seem to get filled and booked out weeks in advance and now I have to arrange something stupid like going for a few drinks on a Saturday afternoon weeks before the event. I’m not sure how these things happen. I’m not sure if maybe I’m just lame. But I do know I don’t care.

Walking around the house after a day of total relaxation drinking wine and wearing big socks and loose pyjamas is my grandma dream. 

Invisible illness – the struggle is still real

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I don’t consider my illness to be invisible. To me, it’s blindingly obvious.

When I look at my feet, I see the scattered red dots where my blood vessels have leaked and stained. When I look at my ankles I see the weird red and orange patches that no doctor can explain, just hanging out down there like a little fake tan accident. When I look at my arms I see the strange way they bend and the places where my joints don’t look right.

To other people, I look perfectly normal. Bog standard. Run of the mill. Just another face in the crowd.  I don’t look ill, (unless you get up close and personal with my face on a bad day and see all the lines and purple marks having a tired party) I mostly just look like someone who got up early and could use a sit down, which is basically all of us right?

I get up five days a week and cram myself on the train to go to work. I work all day, go to the gym or running in the evenings, see friends, eat out – I live a good life and I’m lucky, but every day I’m also aware that I could feel awful at any given moment.

The best way I can describe life with an illness like mine is that I’ve spent my (almost) 27 years feeling a bit ropey. For years I thought I was just unlucky. People, family included, would joke that I was a sick note or that I didn’t have an immune system and I just agreed. People can’t get their head around pain for no apparent reason when they’ve never dealt with it, so in many ways I wasn’t taken that seriously and that includes by doctors.

When I finally got diagnosed with having Ehlers Danlos syndrome after a long and arduous battle, the GP I saw as part of my follow up told me she too had an invisible illness and that she felt my frustration. She also said that it was likely to be a lifelong struggle to get people to understand that looking good doesn’t equate to feeling good.

She wasn’t wrong.

I still find myself not bothering to tell people when I feel really bad. If I have to limp for two days because my hip has come out of place, I’ll just get on with it when I could really use more rest. I still get disbelieving looks when I complain about not feeling right. I still get asked “REALLY ill again!?” if I do tell people things aren’t good.

You definitely do build up a resilience to be able to carry on when you’re feeling like crap with chronic pain conditions. Chronic illness in general is certainly a character building experience. It’s really been online, social media particularly, that I’ve found a strong support network. The internet has given people who suffer with rare conditions a forum to come together and it’s been extremely important to me. It’s so reassuring to speak to another person who just gets it and is living it too.

The majority of people I’ve connected with and turned to for help online have struggled at one point or another with trying to communicate to people that you can be seriously unwell but still look totally fine. It really is a thing.

How do you tell a stranger on a train that you need a seat when you look young, well and fit as a fiddle? How do you explain to your employer that despite the fact you were breezing round the office yesterday full of good cheer, today you can’t come in because you can’t move?

It’s a battle and it’s a tiring one and there are many people fighting it, so be kind to your mate who feels ill a lot, because you can never really know what’s happening to a person.

February reads: Four brilliant books


I started this year really well in the reading department after signing up for a Goodreads account, but it’s fallen to the wayside a bit over the past couple of weeks. In an attempt to kickstart things again and boost my total reads for 2017 so far, I downloaded a couple of books this weekend and put about 58 in my amazon basket (and about 58 pairs of shoes in my ASOS basket to match). I intended to read loads on Sunday but life (including a balance of work and sticky toffee pudding) scuppered that plan.

The stuff I have actually gotten around to reading (shoutout to Thameslink for all the delays recently giving me time to read on freezing platforms) has been really bloody good. The best are listed below and I’d highly recommend them all.

Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan 

This is Katie’s first novel, and I ordered it after following her on Twitter for a long time. She heads up digital at Paramount and after always enjoying her work and personal life tweets I felt like I needed to read this. Also the cover is gorgeous and will do your bookshelf a pretty little favour when you’re done.

Behind Closed Doors – B A Paris

This is brilliant. A proper page-turner and if you love Girl on the Train and Gone Girl style books this is a must. I gave it to my mum to read for her holiday last week and ended up reading the start again afterwards and it’s just as good second time around. It’s essentially about a glamorous, happy marriage that is actually far from. Just the right amount of grit.

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Yeah I know, so late to the party there are people asleep on the stairs and the wine ran out three hours ago. I had been meaning to read this for so long and when I found it on my boyfriends kindle I finally did it – in just under two days. If you haven’t gotten round to this, seriously do. It’s pretty short, very sharp and really interesting. I’ve never read something like this and found it so clever and inspiring and actually pretty moving.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

I mentioned this in the pub at work on a Friday and a couple of people whipped round to chime in on how bloody good it is. It took me a while to twig exactly what this was about but that, in my opinion, makes the book. The way the story of Rosemary and Fern is told is like thinking back to childhood with your own sibling, but then you learn it really isn’t like that. I absolutely loved this, probably one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Living with less and wanting less

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For the past year I’ve been living with access to only half of my belongings. For the past couple of months it’s been less than half. Half my clothes, accessories, books, beauty products, shoes, photos and appliances are all in boxes, split across two houses.

When we first left our flat just over a year ago I kept looking for stuff that had been put away. I kept deciding I needed something and hunting through drawers for it, to then realise it was fifty miles away stuffed in a cardboard box.

For a while I found this extremely irritating. For a while I was annoyed probably once a day that so much of my stuff was in storage. I thought that this would carry on and imagined how amazing it would be when the time came to get it all back, but now the time draws very near, I’ve forgotten what most of it is.

Now, I’m actively shoving things into storage. A couple of months ago I put even more of my modest collection of belongings into suitcases and boxes and deposited them into the loft. I now have actual real space in my wardrobe. I can move the clothes along the rail. Jumpers don’t go mysteriously missing between two other jumpers for months on end. I have one bag of toiletries and make up. I have one drawer of pyjamas and gym wear. I have one (very small) drawer with general stuff in- you know like chargers, random stationary, a watermelon camera case and a Harry Potter colouring book. I haven’t lived with this little stuff in a very long time and I really like it this way.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited to have several rooms of space. I’m excited to know where things are. I’m excited to be able to display things. I’m excited to be reunited with my blender. I miss the really nice candle I had next to my bed that smelt like berries. I’d like some of my photo frames back because the photos in them make me feel better on really crap days. But I have no urge to see most of that stuff again. I have very little urge to have drawers full of things I rarely touch or think about or that I can never find the energy to sort through while I choke on the dust they’ve collected.

I used to take comfort in buying things. I still do, but it’s so much less to do with having a lot to show for myself and simply buying because I’m in a shop and something catches my eye. Now I think about pretty much everything I buy. I’m not going around writing essays on my need for material possessions and I haven’t become boring and minimalist, I just don’t just pick up and chuck in a basket in a shop and then pay mindlessly. I actually think about where it will live and when I’ll use it and if I’ll still like it in a month. I save money for expensive things I really, really like rather than splurging constantly on stuff that just fills an impulsive need. I still have lists of purchases I’d love to make, but it’s stuff I have thought about and know that I’ll appreciate.

It’s got to be good to realise to some degree that one person doesn’t need 800 candles.

The alone time project – getting started


For the past four years, I’ve spent barely any time on my own.

For the most part, that’s by choice. I don’t crave time by myself, and I don’t find myself getting sick of being around people. Lately though I have felt like I need to learn to be alone again.

Since I moved in to a shared house with my boyfriend and a couple of uni friends back in 2013, I’ve always had people to spend time with. I could walk from my room to a friend’s room in ten seconds. If one friend wasn’t around, the other probably was. I had my boyfriend to spend time with, I had a large group of friends living three tube stops away and a big, loud sociable office to spend all day in.

I really liked all of this. I liked the feeling of being surrounded by people I loved being with and as time went on, I got used to never really being alone. I don’t live in that house anymore, and I have changed jobs, but mostly my situation is the same. I still live with my boyfriend, work in an office full of people I like and have friends near me or available pretty much constantly.

I equate having lots of people around me to being happy. It’s certainly given me a lot of happiness over the years, but the older I get the more I feel I need to touch base with my own company more. The most amount of cumulative time I’m in my own company is probably while traveling to work, which isn’t a particularly long journey, and I think that needs to change.

I don’t want to start spending hours shutting myself out of socialising and forcing myself into being alone when I don’t want to, but I want to make the effort to spend a bit of me time with just me.

So to get started…

I’m going to start to try and do something alone each weekend, even if it’s just popping into town for an hour to browse shops, or sitting in a café to read and do work. I can’t change what makes me happy and I don’t have any desire to do so, but I would like to get back to enjoying time with moi. 

I’d like to build up to doing some solo travel, so I hope I can stick to trying every week. We’ll see. If anyone has particularly good solo activities tell me about them! 

I had a really terrible day and I’m glad it happened

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Last week I had a succession of really bad days. They just kept on coming and even though it was only six days, it felt like months. I was feeling angry for my mum who’s recovering from a big operation and was stuck in a house without heat or a shower thanks to our boiler breaking and the insurance failing to sort it out. I had a headache from feeling stressed, I was living out of hotel rooms due to the boiler fiasco, I was trying to deal with house and mortgage stuff and I also had pain in every joint of my body from sleeping in uncomfortable beds and carrying heavy bags around. Woe. Is. Me.

The really bad day was the Friday. I hadn’t been able to wash my hair in three days so I was strolling round London looking like a greasy, sad alien and feeling VERY sorry for myself. I also dropped some chickpea stew on my brand new jumper, stubbed my toe on a desk and woke up with loads of spots. It was really, really glamourous and I am as shocked as you are that I’m now not an international super model.

I don’t like being in a bad mood, not that anyone does, but I just hate that feeling of being stuck in a grumpy rut when all you’re good for is being alone and going to bed. On this day though, after a really bad week, I revelled in this bad mood. I actually started to enjoy how many things were going wrong, stacking up more and more reasons to feel snappy and annoyed and not talk to people and buy really expensive coffee because I deserved it.

By the time I went to bed that night, having made no progress on all the things that had gone wrong that week (in a hotel, because still no boiler four days on), I had reached such depths of feeling unspeakably hard done by, that I thought I might never feel happy again. The next day though, with freshly washed hair and less lunch on my clothes, I started feeling more human and a billion times more refreshed and with that came an overwhelming sense of relief that the bad mood was over, but actually I needed that day.

I really needed to feel sorry for myself. I really needed to spend a day feeling exactly as I felt and not trying to hide stress and anger. I needed to be moody. I needed to be alone. I needed to not apologise for feeling like crap.

There seems to be a movement among millennials (particularly the social media savvy) to really push positivity, to own opportunities and seize productivity and make good stuff happen, but it can’t be like that all the time. No one feels that way all the time.

Bad days aren’t anything to shout about usually, but sometimes just accepting them and owning the mood is all you can do. Coming round from a crap day and awful mood makes you realise all over again that actually, things aren’t so bad and it could be much worse.

Fika- A Scandinavian lifestyle concept for a 24 hour lifestyle 

 

So you know how throughout the last couple of winters people have been getting all giddy about Hygge and then a load of books came out telling us how to do it? As nice as that is and as much I am 100% down for a cosy life, I found another Scandi lifestyle concept I’m more interested in while researching Finland the other day in bed- for holiday purposes obviously.

It’s a very simple one, and I think we do it to an extent already, some more than others for sure, but I for one would love to do it more- Fika.

Fika is a Swedish and Finnish concept which essentially means to ‘take a  break’ with colleagues, friends, family- whoever you can round-up, and most commonly involves having a hot drink and focussing on each other rather than work, technology or daily stresses. So yeah, it might literally mean, having a hot drink and a little rest, which I and I’m sure most others need little encouragement to do, but the concept is a little bit lovelier than that.

In Sweden and Finland, people usually take two ‘Fikas’ in a day, morning and afternoon, to chat to the people they are with, drink something warm, have a break from work and regroup a little. The world of al-desko lunches and working while you scoop salad into your mouth with a phone wedged between your shoulder and face is the working life that we’re increasingly used to. I like being busy. I like busy days that go fast and having enough stuff to get through to keep my mind occupied for a full days work, but I also spend every waking spare second staring at a phone, on a train, deleting things from said phone etc etc. I’m hardly alone in that kind of lifestyle and if anything it’s getting worse.

We know we should rest our eyes from screens, get up and walk about a bit, step foot outside for a walk and give our brains a break from thinking and buzzing and scrolling, but how good is anyone at that these days? I stare at my phone all the time. I stare at a screen all day at work,  I use my phone while I commute, I use it basically organise my whole life, which is great in many ways but bad in many others. There are messages, emails, social media, 24 hour news cycles, buzzing, bleeping, ringing and then the inability to fall asleep at night because by the time you close you’re eyes there’s just a white light behind them and the urge to check just one more thing.

I don’t think practising ‘Fika’ is going to solve the fact that humans getting more and more addicted technology and our eyes feel weird if we aren’t gaping at a white light with news or WhatsApp beaming out at us, but it’s good to try.

We shouldn’t really even need a name and a concept to follow to take a break and enjoy some proper, human interaction, but I find it easier to adopt an idea like this.

 

Simple, little and achievable aims for 2017


I don’t like making resolutions because I never stick to them. I also can’t face going on Facebook on New Year’s Day to see all the ‘new year new me!’ or ‘leaving all the fake friends behind this year’ style status updates. Thanks for that update hun, but no thanks.

Last year my main goals consisted of telling myself I will get more than two haircuts, to focus on my health more and cut down on drinking coffee. All of which I have achieved (I got three haircuts, high five) although the coffee drinking slowly started to increase as December neared.

I actually think goals help most people to achieve more and I do like ticking things off a list, so I am making one. Health is continuing to be my number one goal. Ehlers Danlos syndrome makes life hard at the best of times, and the bad times seem to get worse the older I get, despite being more infrequent, so I want to be as healthy as possible to combat the symptoms. Aside from making more progress on being well and getting stronger, these are my little aims for 2017:

Learn to knit – Yes, I say this every year, but this time I mean it. I WANT TO KNIT.

Master at least 10 new vegetarian recipes – I’m not a big meat eater at all, so I eat mainly veggie dishes already, but it’s getting repetitive. I would say I had lentil and chickpea curry at least 10 times in December, so I need new food in my life.

Join a club/team/activity of some kind – When I move, I want to find something local to do so I a) meet people in the area and b) spend more time learning new things and being sociable.

Start making packed lunches at least three times a week – I’ve gotten so bad at making healthy lunches at the tail end of 2016 and have started spending more money than I care to think about on Pret soups and salads. I also tend to add more unhealthy snacks by strolling through Tesco and deciding I definitely need a Milky Bar AND crisps AND chocolate raisins AND biscuits to dunk in tea during the 3pm lull. 

Get into gardening – I’m not sure how well I’ll cope with a reasonably big garden because I have zero gardening experience and no idea how to help plants thrive or whatever happens out there so I should probably buy a book or something.

Do life admin when it needs doing, not when a paperwork avalanche happens – I should learn to file.

This is me going pretty easy on me for next year, so here’s hoping I finally buy some knitting needles and learn to do more things with lentils. The excitement never ends. Happy NY!

All the blogging feels and stats from 2016

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Blogging in 2016

The end of this year has come around ridiculously fast. A year that I thought would drag in anticipation of moving and living back at home has flown by. It doesn’t feel possible that January is only a couple of days away.

This has been a weird blog year, particularly towards the end, where I’ve found myself with virtually no time to update, write, plan or do any kind of admin. I’ve also felt out of inspiration and a bit like the extra work isn’t worth it. I did toy with the idea of slowly shutting down and doing something new with the website next year, though I have no ideas for that either. I think this feeling will pass, as it has done by before, and I know this blog will still exist this time next year despite my bad blog mood, I just need some rejuvenation, which I’m hoping 2017 will provide.

Another reason I know I won’t actually pull the plug is because of how much blogging has evolved. It’s gone from strength to strength and while there will always be people who don’t understand the concept of blogging, or put it down as being pointless, flighty lifestyle content, it isn’t. It’s hard work, a lot of work, involves a lot of skill and is a fantastic community, recognised by brands and big companies and it makes a lot of people happy, which counts for more than just something.

Blogging stats in 2016

I didn’t have any goals or major aspirations for my blog this year, which is perhaps where I fell down in the past few months. I’m going to hopefully set some sort of benchmark in 2017, and give myself something to aim for.

It wasn’t a bad year though, far from it.

I reached 471 email subscribers. I got a record number of hits in one month- 12,401 in September. I started averaging at least 200 page views a day from August, which for a little blog like this feels like a solid and steady number.

Aside from numbers, I celebrated two years of blogging and I got a feel for what works best in my writing style, which until earlier this year was still a bit of a mystery to me. I also got to go along to a couple of events, and received invites to several I couldn’t go to, which is a nice feeling even when you can’t attend.

Blogging going forwards

My first aim of 2017 will be to kick this blogging slump aside and sit down and have a proper think about what I want to do next. I want to get on top of planning, stop being such a bad scheduler, start writing more frequently and do more stuff that suits me. I also want to meet more bloggers that I love in real life, go to more events, read more posts and reestablish the feeling of being connected to a community, be it just on Twitter or in real life – hopefully both!

Time to go out and buy another new notebook obviously.