Pea soup and kilner jars

I went to Ikea last week. I have only been to Ikea twice. I get excited about it, then I get there and I get overwhelmed.

I like to think about my house, how I want to live. I browse through Pinterest and Apartment Therapy and imagine – I want a four-poster bed, a reading nook, a grown-up tree house, colourful rugs, dozens of vibrant pot plants spilling out of the corners.

I also want the minimalist look, blank walls, scrubbed wood, a single beautiful bloom in a simple vase. It’s hard to unite these two desires. It’s hard to unite myself into a single person. I spill out over my edges, sometimes. I want everything.

It’s been a hard year, and now I’ve found this domestic happiness. I get excited about organising the kitchen cupboards. I bought kilner jars at Ikea, and then I stuck labels to them all and now my kitchen looks like an instagram post.

Except now I’m trying to make pea soup, to use up the dried split peas I had, and what do you know – they are so old that they are refusing to go smushy, but instead stay hard and slightly crunchy. It’s been cooking for hours. I gave up on it as a dinner option, and instead cooked something beige out of the freezer. I’m almost giving up hope. They feel like they are getting crunchier instead of softer.

I worry, sometimes, that my dreams have become so tiny. I used to dream about travelling the world, visiting Japan, writing a best-seller. Now I would settle for a label on a kilner jar, and some decent pea soup.

Maybe it’s not so bad though. Tiny dreams are achievable.

Productive Days

I didn’t spend the day staring at my smartphone.

Instead I:

  • Did an hour of exercise (Pilates and Yoga)
  • Cleaned out my car, vacuumed it, washed the inside
  • Went to the supermarket and got the car waxed and polished whilst I ate a cream tea and read a magazine about living a simple life
  • Bought myself flowers
  • Cleaned the bedroom, organised my wardrobe, sorted out the bookcase
  • Went to the tip and dumped some old stuff I didn’t want anymore
  • Beat a mission in Starcraft II on hard and got the achievement
  • Made stir-fry
  • Watched a movie with P

So far, so good.

Living in the present moment

I am easily distractible, and I carry a smartphone. P says I am addicted to my smartphone, he is probably right. I use it to fill up empty spaces, in-between moments. I have no quiet moments except the ones I force for myself (yoga, meditating, baths).

I can feel it making me a less coherent person. For example, today I went to look something up, but noticed someone had sent me a message. I went to reply, then – distracted – opened up emails, glanced at the news, followed links.

I am no longer sure I like the form my conversations take when using it. They are broken up, interwoven through everything else I am doing, I am constantly splitting my attention between multiple things, and I don’t work well that way.

The problem will be that I have many relationships that I nurture through my phone. But maybe I can go back to email, and carry my laptop. Laptops are more intentional. You have to open them, turn them on. You can’t slip them out when you are standing in a bus queue or glance at them off-handedly when you’re watching a movie.

I am trying to be more intentional, more thoughtful, more controlled, and my smartphone is not helpful for any of those things.

Rebirth

I did not write any blog posts in the entirety of 2016.

2016 was a strange year. I spent it deep in a depressive episode that stopped me from thinking, from doing, and almost from being.

There are many reasons why, but I have done the work and I am tired of looking back. I want to look forward.

I am applying to do an MA in English Literature. I am maintaining a daily yoga practice. I’m working in a job that is challenging me – sometimes beyond what I am comfortable with.

I’m reading more, after a long break. I’m making friends and staying connected to old friends. At some point I will start writing again.

Life is actually okay.

Sun Ray

other people write of
broken edges, sharp lines
blood soaked linen and
gutters overflown with tears

i want to remind you
of sun-rays through leaves
scattered drops of gold
in the blue edged shadows
of a beautiful world

there’s bloody suicides,
poverty and starvation
murder, war, and rape within
cities of smoke and steel

i just want you to remember
the laughter and the smiles
magic kisses, sweet reminisces
the joy of a good book, and
music running wild

people talk of razor edges
cold faces, icy caves
frozen into endless sorrow
locked into endless tomorrows

but here’s my silver lining
here’s the diamond of my life
an orgasmic, emphatic, fantastic
erratic, dramatic, ecstatic
limitless ray of light

Getting healthy

So, as part of the whole ‘re-starting my life’ deal, I’m going to get back into the healthy habits that I lost somewhere in the past six months.

For me, getting healthy starts with food. Now, to be clear, ‘going on a diet’ is a terrible approach to getting healthy. Diets, particularly those that are restrictive — no carbs, no fats, whatever — are pretty much going to stress you out. They contribute to overall unhealthy eating patterns, and — assuming you take up a diet to ‘lose weight’ — are going to fail.

Food underpins my health, both physical and mental. Food is something to celebrate; good food brings me joy. And food connects me with friends and family. Life would be far less fun if I couldn’t share a meal out with P. or gift a friend some cupcakes.

My focus when it comes to eating well is nutrition (as opposed to weight loss/calorie restriction). I strive to eat lots of vegetables/fruit, whole-grains, and good fats. I try and eat a varied diet, throwing in random different items and trying out new recipes as much as possible.

My food challenges tend to revolve around adding things in rather than taking things away. Drink more water, eat more vegetables and so on. Focusing on adding good foods means you don’t stress about ‘forbidden items’. Drinking more water automatically means you start drinking less soda, eating more veg means you eat less junk food almost by default.

My favourite food tracker is cron-o-meter, because it lets me track nutrition. Most trackers put way too much emphasis on weight loss/calories, but cron-o-meter comes more from the nutrition/optimum health end of the spectrum.

Nutrition is interesting. I am not an expert (more curious amateur) and I have read many many articles and blogs over the years, ranging from vegan-raw-food ‘vegetables are everything’ to the club-swinging, ketogenic loving, paleo offal-is-key.

Again: I’m not prescriptive. There are many routes up the mountain, and many diets that can work to make us happy, healthy and fulfilled.

So, today kicks off day one of me trying to eat more mindfully, and to make more healthy choices. I started the day with roasted tomatoes, asparagus and a poached egg (verdict: delicious) and then made a huge batch of pea-and-vegetable soup (pork stock, dried green peas, onion, garlic, celery, carrot and celeriac) and for dinner I shall be eating some left over chicken and dumpling stew.

I did also eat a cupcake, because cupcakes are good 😉

Re-starting my life

Can anyone believe that it’s actually June?!

I have been rubbish at blogging this year, not least because of the problems alluded to in my previous post. However, I want to start blogging regularly again. I now know that I will be remaining in the UK, for the foreseeable future. I’m currently working on finding a real home, and I’m so excited. I’m going to have an address.

First things first though. And the first thing to do is go on holiday. To Lake Coniston in the Lake District. As usual, I’m trying to read books set in and around the place to which I am traveling… so I picked up a copy of Swallows and Amazons last week. I also picked up a new Clive Barker book, because, hey, I’m on holiday.

I also picked up a copy of the next book on the 100 books challenge, having decided to abandon the Red and the Black on the grounds that it is incredibly boring.

Hopefully I will finish the short story I am working on during the holiday as well, and you can enjoy that when I get back!

Performing a U-Turn (pretend like you knew where you were going all along)

We all have plans.

Those plans, the big ones, become part of our identity. “I’m the science-type who’s going to make a career in bio-tech.” “I’m the self-sufficient sort who is going to build my own eco-friendly house from scratch.” or “I’m the kind of l33t player who is going to be a World Champion in World of Warcraft.”

I have wanted to move to the USA since I went there as part of a University exchange program. It didn’t matter that I went to a podunk town in the middle of rural Ohio. I loved the place. I loved the wide-open vistas, the idea that I could go into a real wilderness, the way everyone was so open and friendly, and even the food — venison, steak, ranch dressing, refried beans (not all on the same plate!).

When I met P, I fell in love and we agreed to get married. Initially, he had to come to the UK as I had a better paying job. We decided he would get his British Citizenship (two-three years) and then we would move to the USA.

For the next seven years that was the plan. We shifted priorities, but that was always the end game. I would move to the USA. We delayed it when I got my breakthrough job as Digital Communications Officer (until that point I had nothing that resembled a ‘career’), as I knew I needed at least two years experience.

But, at long last, I filled out my visa application. I let my employer know I would be leaving in a few months. And… I waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Delays can mean legal immigrants (yes, even those married to an American) sit on a waiting list for months and months. In our case, I had already been separated from P  for most of the previous two years due to ‘life reasons’.

A year of waiting for the visa slipped by.

Our relationship, until that point incredibly strong, began to suffer. Both of us were ‘living in limbo’, waiting for a decision that could come at any point. Both of us were struggling alone, dealing with loneliness, the difficulty of communicating across different time-zones, and (in my case) the impossibility of planning your life when you have no idea if you’re going to be around for a week or another year.

Then I got a new job. A great job, part-time, that would give me time to write and still leave me with enough money to cover our living expenses.

Friendships I had formed in the UK were reaching ten and twenty year anniversaries. The thought of leaving them behind became devastating, especially as I leaned on them more and more in P’s absence.

But this was the plan. We had to stick to the plan. We had invested years of our lives and thousands of dollars into the plan. No matter that we were unhappy, lonely, and that I was less and less sure about the benefits of moving to a place with little work and no public transport.

Until, one day, I couldn’t take it anymore. I had a bad week. I was sick, and then I got food poisoning. As I threw up, alone, I realised I was done waiting and being alone.

The realisation was both terrifying and a relief at the same time.

The realisation that we could just stop.

Of course, it would be difficult. Giving up on anything is hard. We had spent the last couple of years ferrying suitcases of possessions across the Atlantic. P. had put a lot of work into trying to create a home for us in the USA. Our families had to be told. It was emotionally difficult.

It meant giving up on a dream we had held for a long time.

But giving up was less difficult, and less devastating, than trying to hold on.

Sometimes, you have to change direction.

Maybe that is giving up on a long-term relationship.

Maybe that is giving up on a career you’ve invested years into building but that isn’t making you happy any more.

Maybe it’s giving up on the idea of becoming a World Champion WoW player, because, hey, you need to focus on your job.

And maybe it’s giving up on the idea of living in another country.

 

Waiting for the end of the world

The world is alive, changing every second, breathing through me, breathing through you. Someone, somewhere is drumming, stamping out the beat of life. Someone, somewhere is singing – for pleasure, for sorrow. We are united in flesh, in sweat and fear, in love and laughter. We are strong, striding out along these unexplored paths. We are weak, coming to the ends of our lives, but with the paths still branching out ahead of us. Here is my wisdom, here is my reason for being. Carry on. Range far, see the mountains tipped with burnished gold, find the people scattered to the winds.

Find the people scattered to the winds. When you are strong, lend them your strength. When you are weak, let them lend you theirs. We are united in flesh, in sweat and fear, in love and laughter. We are a shared story that unravels over the generations. When you are broken, crushed with night terrors, when you know the face of the monster; find something to cling to. Hold on with everything you have. One day the sun rises again, one day the monsters turn to dust. We are born in fear, pain, blood, and love. We die in fear, pain, blood and love. But in between we range far, we are strong, we see the mountains tipped with burnished gold, we find the people scattered to the winds.

 

Hello 2015

Happy New Year! Etc. Etc.

I already have my 40 before 40 list, so I don’t really feel the need to set myself more goals at this point in time. The only two real resolutions I have for this year are:

  1. Write *something* every single day — even if it’s just a full-stop.
  2. Complete the 100 push-up challenge.

My ability to manage my life generally is good — I eat pretty healthy, without obsessing. I exercise reasonably, without beating myself up when I miss a week or two. I have income and feel reasonably confident about the future.

My main hope for 2015 is to finally get my visa and move to the USA. But as this is somewhat out of my control, I’m not setting it as a resolution.