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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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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Why you should be scheduling

I like to think there are other people like me. People who get ferociously, terribly, horribly angry whenever their time is wasted in any way whatsoever. A minute in the real world is an hour in the world of someone who meticulously plans each and every segment of their day, right down to fifteen-minute increments. At 05:30 I will wake up. At 08:15 I will read, at 17:45 I will change my bed sheets, at 21:00 I will be in bed with a candle flickering and Alexa playing Last Hope by Paramore… and so on, and so forth. Is this normal? I’m not sure.

Some might call it obsessive, some might call it insane. Some might say it’s perfectly normal to want to squeeze as much from your day as possible, considering how fast time is slipping us all by. I am obviously of the latter; planning my days so carefully allows me to feel like I have control over my life. I never, ever go to bed lamenting over having wasted the day or week, and it’s simply because I have done everything with purpose. Even the useless things. Maybe it’s boring or too grown-up, maybe it leaves little room for spontaneity — but I do consider last-minute plans. I am definitely down for an impromptu trip to Franco Manca, I just need to consult Outlook and move my Sims block elsewhere.

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From playful and fun, to politically correct: Censoring Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl books, nationally revered and loved by kids everywhere, are having lots of alterations made to them by woke, politically correct editors who want to appease snowflake adults.  Roald Dahl, nationally revered and loved by kids (lots of whom are also adults now), is also dead and unable to speak out against the censorship being placed on his books.

I am against censorship in books and I am against banning books; sanitising them isn’t too far off. There are books and authors whose writing I despise – but I don’t believe in rewriting or banning them. Even if it is Salman Rushdie.

It seems to me that people would rather pull the wool over their children’s eyes than use ‘offensive’ language as an opportunity to explain the real world to them; the real world which, might I add, is a lot worse than how Dahl portrayed it. And let’s be very honest, the reason we love those books so much is because that language is all around us; it’s playful and it’s descriptive and it’s something we understand. I’m sorry you don’t like the words ‘ugly’ and ‘attractive’, but they are adjectives that exist nonetheless. It makes no sense to censure the use of the word ‘ugly’ when it is being used to describe characters whose entire story is based on the fact that they are ugly (both inside and out). How do you rewrite that? Not to go all Hopkins-Clarkson-Morgan, but I don’t understand why we need gender-neutral terms in the books either. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why ‘Cloud-men’ is more offensive than ‘Cloud-people’. Why is the word ‘man’ offensive? Men and women, boys and girls, exist; this fact shouldn’t offend anyone, regardless of their own beliefs about gender. Are we going to rewrite every character in every book as gender-neutral? Must we rewrite Harry Potter as the person who lived? Read more

I think I’m here, therefore I’m here(?)


Or whatever Descartes said.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I have found myself drawn more to the throwaway simplicity of Substack; my creative (?) thoughts are sporadic and I have a very short attention span, even when it’s for myself. When I lay down at night, I jump from memory, to thought, to scene two in that same thought, to scene three, back to scene one to find out how else it could have played out, to a different thought altogether, to a horrible scenario that I hope will never happen but I’m now prepared for in case it does. Long blog posts don’t really do it for me, and I know they don’t really do it for anyone else, either. I talk about things succinctly (but often), I think about things forever and then write about them succinctly (I hope) (but often). Other times, there is waffle.

This is one of those times.

I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t been writing anything over the past couple of weeks because I’ve had fake nails on. I don’t know how you were expecting that sentence to end, but I know it wasn’t like that – maybe you expected simple writer’s block, being bogged down with work, a crisis in the family. And all of those things are true, but, for a writer, not nearly as debilitating as having long nails that prevent you from typing efficiently on the horrible flat butterfly keys of a 2015 Macbook that just won’t die. Let’s not tempt fate now, though, because, being older and closer to real adult life, I can’t afford my Macbook to die on me the same way I could when I was 19 and didn’t want to think about the future. I used to look into the future and see a black screen because, as far as I was concerned, I should have been dead already and anything that was to happen after that is a miracle in itself. Maybe miracle is the wrong word. Now, I look into the future and I panic because I wasted so much time being dead inside that I now have so much catching up to do; now, I look into the future and it’s not just about me – now, I see the white picket fence. Not really a white picket fence because, living in London, I know a small Tesco lorry will probably back into it and ruin everything. Maybe a big, strong, robust wall. And some barbed wire. And lots of CCTV and gates and deadlocks. Maybe a rottweiler.

I digress. But it’s also a nice illustration of how my thought process works. I get antsy, I can’t sit still. I get anxious, I get frustrated, I don’t know how to be calm. I am, quite simply, all over the place, all the time.

But sometimes, all the chaos must come to a stop and I am nowhere.

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Letter to my daughter


 

 

 

Daughter,

I don’t know if you’re going to exist, but I’ve grown a few maternal bones over the years. Whether you will be born from me or another woman, or even at all, I now often daydream about you. 

There was once a time I didn’t want any children. It was in my later teenage years when I first saw how horrible the world was, when depression grabbed hold of me, when I knew what it was like to be purposely misunderstood. I couldn’t bear the thought of bringing anybody else into these feelings of helplessness. Then I got older and wanted to kill myself. 

Children still weren’t a thought, but this time it was because every day that I lived was a day that wasn’t even meant to come, so I really took it one day at a time. I didn’t look further ahead because there was nothing there; I literally woke up thinking ‘nice, another day. Here we go again’. It’s only now that I can see a future in which I can almost see old-age. I have love to thank for that.

I realised that my mind and heart had sustained way too much for me to not pass on what I’d learnt. I had too much love to give, I had masses in reserve. Some for a lover. Some for his family. Some for friends… and some for those I will call my own. I learnt what love for a child was through learning what it wasn’t, and I suddenly felt that part of my purpose in life was to give it. It may be selfish of me to want you to exist simply so I can give you what I didn’t have. Is it bad to desperately want to give the good to someone else so that they never have to feel like they should just.. jump? Maybe. Everything I once thought I knew about family had been destroyed, and the concept of it no longer exists to me. I want you to love, not because you have to, but because you want to. It is my responsibility to teach you that.

Let me start by telling you the objective truth. Read more