How I’m making 2024 last longer

 

Photo by Daniel Buckle on Unsplash

Happy new year! It’s still appropriate to say that, right?

January is grey and bleak. You’re broke, fat, depressed, and severely conscious of how far away you are from whatever goals you set 365 days ago, and the 365 before that. You can’t fathom where the entire previous year went; it all feels like a blur that passed you by far too quickly, and you’re desperate to go back in time to savour each and every minute you let waste away. But you can’t.

Cue the blues.

This is a feeling that, sadly, escapes almost none of us. No matter how fully you have lived, no matter how happy you are with how you spent the year, you’re always left with that gut-punching feeling of time is slipping from me. It’s painfully obvious that there’s only one solution to this, because unfortunately nobody has come into possession of Bernard’s watch:

Make the decision to live slowly and more consciously.

You can’t go back and relive those precious days, but you can do something with your newfound self-awareness. I like to think I do this already, but, in my desperate attempt, I actually end up doing the opposite.

My mind is always going at a thousand miles an hour and I wring my days dry until I’ve squeezed out every minute. The result is that I don’t feel like I’ve truly been living; I’ve simply ticked a lot of boxes off my to-do lists. In trying to be productive every day, I’ve ultimately made a full time job out of living in which I must fill a quota in order to be satisfied with how my day went. Wake up. Go to the gym. Go to work. Read this many pages. Go to the park on that day. These days don’t add up to a successful period of living: they are confined to what they are, which is a day of robotically doing things I pencilled in just to feel like I am making use of my time. I need to stop clocking in and out of my life and just live.

Photo by Phil Hearing on Unsplash.

I am obsessed with poring over my calendar to make sure every waking minute is filled with useful things — but I don’t want to just have useful days. Those aren’t memorable. Reading and writing and a hundred walks through Richmond Park are not memorable; it is not the act itself that we remember, but the memories we attach to them. It’s the lessons in strength and perseverance that hundreds of characters have displayed in varying ways, it’s learning how to get our thoughts down on paper in creative ways, it’s when we stepped ankle deep in mud to get close to the deer and had to put our shoes into plastic bags before getting into my car. My point is, you should be living life and relishing both the ups and downs rather than letting it pass you by.

The way you do this will be personal to you. You should know how to ground yourself, you will know what makes you feel present and alive. It doesn’t have to be something monumental; it could be as small as sitting outside for ten minutes a day or as big as spending a weekend swimming in the ocean every month.

For me, it is the following:

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A Letter to the Influencer Who Thinks I Can Do Pilates at 1pm

Photo by Patrick Malleret on Unsplash

 

Hi babybotoxlifter,

I hope this letter finds you in the midst of a groundbreaking, spirit-awakening culinary creation involving oats. Just thought I’d take some time out of my day to write to you; I’m exhausted after spending nine hours in front of a computer screen, so apologies if you see any typos.

First, let me start by expressing my deepest admiration for your morning routine, your ability to redefine breakfast entirely. The way you do it is so *chefs kiss*; from the freshest ingredients straight from Waitrose, to the way you ethereally put the dish together. I would never have thought it could improve my mental health to slow right down and take the time to procure a healthy, nutritious bowl; your invention of turmeric oats with lashings of agave syrup, hemp seeds and dragon fruit seems nothing short of a masterpiece that makes for a transcendental experience. And well done for discovering cinnamon sprinkled over apples – ground-breaking! I don’t believe anybody has thought of anything so innovative before, so thank you for showing us all about it in your perfectly posed selfie video.

Unfortunately, as I peel my eyelids apart and stumble out of bed at 5:30am, my morning is less magical. Most days I can only muster a  quick, sad, film-topped coffee before I jolt out of the door to catch a train that smells of sweaty gym socks. Sometimes I manage buttered toast, if I’m feeling fancy.

I also applaud your commitment to dragging yourself away from the comfort of your post-breakfast reading time in your perfectly made cream bed to then reposition your camera in your pilates studio. Your very own pilates studio! I wish I didn’t have to share a gym with sweaty men who grunt during every rep. When the clock strikes 1pm, I am not donned in a cute, matching gym set. Instead, I find myself sat at a hot desk (that I had to book three weeks ago to secure, mind you!) convincing myself this £5 prawn cocktail sandwich from M&S was worth sacrificing a flat white from Caffe Nero for the office beans. In this moment, I am not gracefully extending opposing legs and arms and letting go of all negative thoughts. Instead, I find myself thinking this could have been an email. I could have been spared the torture of being trapped in a conversation about your children if you had just emailed me but saying ‘oh, I can’t believe it’s Monday again already! Honestly, where does the time go.’

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Letters to Santa

 

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a rather good boy this year, I think.

Last week I asked for cake before I had eaten all my food, and, of course, Mummy let me have it. I did have a bit of a meltdown but mummy reassured me I was still a good boy. I screamed and screamed the house down all while aunty Jay and uncle Eddie sat awkwardly in silence, not daring to encroach. Mummy kept saying things to me, though I wasn’t really listening, or rather couldn’t hear her over the sound of my own noise.

You’re just upset, Jimmy, it’s okay. Let it all out. Hush, darling, it’ll be okay. Mummy doesn’t want to give you cake now because you’ll get a tummy ache as you haven’t touched your quinoa yet! Be a good little boy, my prince, and eat some salmon. Then I’ll give you dessert. Just eat half of it. Oh no, Jimmy, we don’t say that word! Okay, a bite. Fine, will you promise to eat it tomorrow, darling? Mummy will be very upset if you don’t. Please don’t hit mummy, that’s not very nice! We don’t hit! Oh, again! Stop hitting mummy, darling. Here, have your dessert because I know you’re very upset right now and you’re going through so many emotions.

Then mummy gave me the cake.

Daddy sat in the corner not doing anything, of course, until he saw mummy ferociously dividing the cake between me and her so that there was only a sliver left for him. By that point I was really cross as my face was hot and swollen, and I couldn’t enjoy the dessert so daddy wolfed it all down. Mummy started shaking a little bit after that but didn’t say anything. She just went into the kitchen and I heard a loud crash! bang! Daddy was hoovering up the crumbs from his plate with his mouth, like a fish, and didn’t go to mummy, so I think it was okay.

Anyway, this year I want an iPad. I’m growing up fast and daddy’s phone screen is just too small for my fingers. All my older cousins have one already; Gemma got one just because she started university and she always says no when I ask to use it. I asked nicely, so that means I should really be allowed. Mummy said so.

From,

Jimmy (8)

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On Making the Most of Winter

Despite the incessant moaning and groaning of English Folk (read: Londoners, mostly) on the odd super cold day, I actually feel like winter has been quite forgiving so far this year. In fact, I admit I’ve woken up some mornings saying ‘Hey. You know what? I could go for a walk today because it’s so crisp and delicious outside!’ And, though my nose feels like an ice cube, I am content. I seem to have foregone the usual bout of SAD this year, though I’m unsure if that’s partly because of my recovery time off work.

Nevertheless, winter, to me, is a time for doing almost nothing outdoors except the bare minimum. Yes, the Christmas markets are up and running, enticing us to leave our cosy homes for promises of a bustling, vibrant atmosphere that includes Mariah Carey playing much too loudly on a speaker nobody can locate and a £7 hot chocolate that we could have made at home without being sardine-packed on the Piccadilly Line. But what else is there to do outside this cute, expensive little activity?

There is many a festive menu across all restaurants, and enough limited martinis that now have a generous sprinkling of icing sugar snow dusted on the side of the glass. We’re being reminded that, actually, there is a lot to leave your house for, guilted into staying indoors instead of venturing into the cold. It’s December and I haven’t even been to any Christmas markets! Or the outdoor ice-rink! I haven’t been to see a single flashing light and I’ve missed Winter Wonderland, a heaving extortionate waste of time that I now have to pay and queue up for!

So anyway, I’ve thought about the winter goals I have that don’t necessarily mean doing festive things because, truly, I very much enjoy the weather that forces me to stay indoors. What a shame, I can’t go outside, it’s raining. Damn it. Actually, I’m blissfully happy laying in bed with the lightbulb red, asking Alexa to play metal while I write, so I can really feel like I’m in a dungeon. Can’t do that when it’s sunny at 8pm.

I would, on a normal day, like to have some mulled wine and chestnuts, but it’s not something I’m going to pen down and venture into the crap weather and ginormous crowds for; don’t get me started on Christmas crowds because I’m exhausted just thinking about them. There are plenty of indoor and introspective goals to be achieved in Winter, especially for an introverted dopamine-chasing hermit who absolutely loves their own company and will look for any excuse to stay indoors.

Here are my five winter goals. Let me know if you have any of your own that I can draw inspiration from!

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Brand new skincare+ line for MEN ONLY!

You’ve seen it plastered all over the internet: skincare is really taking everybody by storm. Yesterday, my 6 year old sister asked me what kind of retinol she should start on and then firmly announced she would no longer be participating in laughter in an effort to prevent smile lines and crows feet from forming on her youthful face.

The abundance of content out there would almost convince you that skincare is for women only, that it is only little girls that should be practicing a 10-step night time routine instead of drinking warm almond milk before bed. Only women care about having soft, supple skin, and any man who purchases a moisturiser at Boots will be immediately stopped by security and asked whether he was actually looking for the gay bar.

Well, fellas, you can sigh a big, manly sigh of relief, because there’s a new brand in town. Rough N Tuff are here to shake up the skincare scene, with a wild new man-scented line of seven new products for only the manliest of men amongst you. This is for the ones who take charge of the barbecue, who watch Scarface and drink beer, who would rather starve to death than set foot in the kitchen. So put down your axe, get your flannels on and tell your wife to head down to the pharmacy to pick up this brand-spanking new set for you (not for your birthday, you don’t care about that).

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November: Ten things on my mind this month

  1. Why do I keep getting almost-ill? I am not wishing the flu on myself. Nor a cold. Nor Covid, which has apparently made a comeback (though it was just last week that I was wondering why I couldn’t taste the ice cream I was eating. I realised it may have been because I was scoffing it down faster than my tastebuds could register the flavour. Then I remembered the time my old workplace furloughed everyone except ME and the bitter taste in my mouth told me I was fine). It’s not any real sickness. It’s that horrible tingly throat that you get a few days before you actually get ill, snotty and pale, the kind that makes you say ‘oh no. I think I’m getting ill’.Part of you groans because you can’t afford to not be working at optimal levels, another part shrugs because you have a reason to stay indoors and in bed, watching reruns of Gossip Girl. But the ill never comes. It just teases you and forces you to cancel plans in the near future because ‘oh no. I think I’m getting ill’. But then Friday night comes around and you’re fit as a fiddle without a table reservation. It’s just you and your cosy bed with a takeaway and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. Oh no.
  2. On the subject of things that pretend they’re about to happen but then don’t, being a woman can be absolute hell. PMS is my worst enemy. I’m one of the unlucky ones who only feel normal for about a week out of the month (though I have all the sympathy for those who only feel normal for a day… or less). Immediately after ovulation, my body gets ready to really cause a scene.“No baby? Fuck you, then! Here is a lot of bloating to simulate the bump you didn’t want. Don’t want a baby in your belly? Here is a massive craving for carbs and sugar so you can store some fat in there instead because why do you need your jeans to fit today? Also, any time you scroll through reels there’s a 98% chance you will cry at something, and if you’ve been in a good mood recently, too bad. Hope you’ve bought extra supplies because you will constantly be on edge about a surprise bleed tomorrow that still won’t come until you’re actually due on. Have some of that for two weeks, you bitch.”
  3. Last week I was walking through the shopping centre and suddenly realised I was really upbeat and happy. I then also realised I was accidentally strutting along to Destiny’s Child’s 8 Days of Christmas, after which I immediately altered my stride so that my steps were no longer accidentally aligning with if he only knew what he does to me. But I did unfortunately smile to myself as I thought about what a good song that is and stopped smiling when I tried to think about good Christmas songs that aren’t from The Before Times; is the era of good Christmas entertainment over? Or am I just old?And what happened to good Christmas films? They just really don’t do ‘em like Elf anymore. I want cringey, corny movies with giant elves. Even, dare I say it, Home Alone. Which, of course, couldn’t happen today. Perhaps there’s room for a wider discussion about how the advancements of the world make it impossible to create any believable but riveting entertainment. Merry Christmas.
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