Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Mental Health

Confidence: what is it and how do I get some?

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I daydream about The Sound of Music an unhealthy amount.

I daydream about having a four octave range. I daydream about making clothes from curtains. I daydream about running up stone steps and climbing trees with a gang of siblings. (I’m not currently talking to either of my brothers as one of them bought they other one a ‘make your own felt soup dragon’ from The Clangers and didn’t get me one. And I can’t run up any steps without an inhaler. Also I’m an adult now.) I daydream about fucking over a group of Nazis by fiddling around with their car engine. I daydream about living in the mountains. I daydream about my life being a musical. I daydream about becoming a nun so I don’t have to decide what to wear every day and, also, you know, a place in heaven and an actual life plan.

There are more dreams and aspirations to take away from The Sound of Music than there are Nando’s order combinations, but it’s now, at the ripe old age of 28, as I embark on a new adventure called “freelance writer”, that I’m starting to think about maybe the biggest one of all. Confidence. That moment in the film where Maria has to find it in herself to do what she dreams of, to be brave, to stop doubting herself and to face her fears; to be confident.

Please allow me to pause briefly in my narrative, to contextualise the lyrics of Confidence in light of my new life as a freelance writer, so you get an idea of where I’m at right now, mentally and lyrically.

What will this day be like? I wonder.

(I open my laptop. Some melted chocolate is stuck under the “F7” key. I think about cleaning it but decide against it, for no particular reason.)

What will my future be? I wonder.

(One month into trying to write for a living, I’m googling that job at Edinburgh zoo I read about; the person who has to pick penguins up who keep falling over because of the planes flying in the sky above them.)

It could be so exciting to be out in the world, to be free

(If only I could actually bring myself to write something)

My heart should be wildly rejoicing

(OMG I get to be on SNL, what?)

Oh, what’s the matter with me?

(I genuinely have no idea how that could ever happen)

I’ve always longed for adventure

(By which I mean a Hogwarts letter…)

To do the things I’ve never dared

(By which I mean eat the hottest sauce at Nando’s, or, you know, actually put myself forward for something or say “I’m good. Pick me”)

Now here I’m facing adventure

(Freelancing)

Then why am I so scared?

(Rent to pay… wedding to organise… the fact my vagina went numb for two days, but that’s another story)

A captain with seven children

(By captain I mean biscuit tin, and by children I mean biscuits, and by seven I mean none, because I ate them all before lunchtime)

What’s so fearsome about that?

(Bloating, diabetes…)

Oh, I must stop these doubts, all these worries

(You’re telling me)

If I don’t I just know I’ll turn back

(Honestly, if this doesn’t work out, I’m happy to go back to any job I’ve had previously, except the one temping for an account who dribbled on me.)

I must dream of the things I am seeking

(To…be…a…writer…TO… BE… A… WRITER…)

I am seeking the courage I lack

(Seeking it in the fridge, in a yoghurt pot, because probiotics solve everything… right?)

You still with me? Good.

Confidence. Confidence. It’s a weird one. I think somewhere along the line I used to have it. I must have felt confident when I wrote my first pop song, at the age of eight, and performed it to my dad who, bless him, had to let me know it wasn’t appropriate to sing: “anytime, anywhere, you and I, well, I care lots, because when I’m with you we can make love.” Yes. You read that lack of scansion correctly. Lucky I’m not trying to be a freelance lyricist.

I also think, at times, I have it now. Or one kind at least. The courage to get up on stage and improvise in front of a paying crowd every week (although not enough to come off stage and stop myself from immediately apologising to my team mates for ruining the show). The kind that tells me it’s a good idea to write blogs and post them on the internet, not even anonymously (although not enough to feel crippled with fear and self-doubt the minute I hit publish). I will leave the house without make up, walk around in my underwear (obviously when appropriate, not at the dentist), happily talk to strangers.

But, that proper, deep-down self-belief, in who I am, and what I want to do with my life. That’s… harder for me to come to terms with, I’m realising. I had three back-to-back meetings the day I churned out this blog on a particularly uneventful train journey home, and kept wondering why I apologise in advance for everything I say and do. Why I don’t appear to have any belief in the ideas I’m presenting until someone else tells me they’re okay. Why I resort to jokes, or self-deprecation, when someone says something nice about me. For example:

“I like your hair.” “Thanks. I have a short stump at the back that you can’t see where it accidentally caught fire.”

“Your show was great.” “Thanks. I basically shat myself before I went on stage.”

We all do it. From time to time. Some more than others. I think. Women, especially.

“I like your dress.” “It was on sale, it would look better on you, it’s baggy around my waist/my nipples/my elbows.”

“You’re so good at this or that.” “No I’m not. Don’t be stupid. Why would you say that? No I’m not.

I cried a lot last week, turned into a bit of an anxiety wreck, and went to bed, because I lost track of a play I’m writing. I just couldn’t find a way out of it. And I ended up being so full of self-despair that I couldn’t look at my computer anymore. But when the loathing passed, I got a bit mad at myself. That I always see the worst in myself and the work I do. That I can’t seem to ever argue on my own behalf. That I have so little faith in myself. That I was drafting up an email telling the people who commissioned me that they should approach someone else.

It’s particularly tricky when you’re trying to publicise a show that you’ve written and that you’re also performing, as I was doing a month ago. I needed people to come and see it (like, in a box office guarantee way, you know) and, I guess, somewhere deep down, I did want people to see it too, but I also sort of didn’t, because it made me feel nauseous and vulnerable and exposed. So it’s a strange thing, going on social media and yelling, COME AND SEE MY PLAY, when there’s a giant part of you going, DON’T. DON’T DO IT. GO AND HAVE A DONUT INSTEAD. NOTHING BEATS A DONUT.

This isn’t who I want to be. I’m all for empowering women, lifting my sisters up with me, as someone cooler than me might phrase it, so why am I so bad at empowering myself? Where does it come from? Will I have my ‘Maria walking round the abbey walls’ moment where I suddenly start singing and believing in myself? Where will that epiphany take place? Tesco? The shower? The toilet on a South Eastern train? Should I just go to Austria? Is Austria where dreams are made?

For a little while now, it’s felt like this ‘thing’ I’m trying to do in life is just a game I’m playing. Like a strange version of The Sims with more croissants. I feel frequently that I’m having some kind of out of body experience, I’m watching myself, and laughing. Is it just me? I doubt it somehow.

I don’t have any answers. I’m genuinely curious to hear from people who’ve found it. Found that core, that nut of confidence that keeps them centered, that keeps them moving, that stops them from saying “sorry” or “I can’t” or “I shouldn’t” or questioning constantly, wasting time questioning, instead of spending time sensibly, at a donut shop, where only good decisions are made. It’s in me somewhere, I’m sure. If someone told me, “you’re not funny” I think I’d have a thing or two to say about that, but I probably wouldn’t actually say it, I’d probably just feel a thing or two, and then go home and eat some more yoghurt.

Obviously this is a largely millennial, first-world problem. I’m aware I may be coming across extremely vain and self-involved and I need to get over myself, do what I have to do, and then do something worthwhile, like volunteer in a community allotment, or rescue a dog, or argue against tampon tax more often. But hey, I’m flawed, extremely flawed actually, physically too; that numb vagina could come back at any minute. It’s a constant threat. In that, my friends, I am confident.

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, London, Mental Health

This Valentine’s Day, I choose me.   

As I write this, it’s Sunday and I’m in a strange place. It feels familiar – but like I might not have been there for a long time. It’s warm. I’m under a blanket. I have a mug of Gingerbread Green Tea next to me which makes me a wanker but a happy one because it’s delicious. I’m watching Julie and Julia and wishing with all my heart that Nora Ephron was still alive to write parts for women like this. I’m looking at Airbnbs and one of them has a pet pig and I might have to move in there. It’s cosy. It’s dark outside. I’m alone.

I’m on the sofa.

Guys, seriously. I’m on the actual sofa. Chilling the fuck out. What happened to me?

Is this… is this self-care?

Let’s rewind.

2018 has not got off to the start I was hoping for. Nothing terrible has happened. There are a lot of things to be happy about. I have a job. I have two sharks. I can afford to buy Eat Natural bars. But I’ve not been that happy.

If we can take a moment to remember Anastasia and her famous words, I’m sick and tired, of always being sick and tired. Where are you now girl?

If we want to be specific, lyrically and contextually Anastasia is talking about how sick and tired she is of her boyfriend being a dickhead. Not a great Valentine theme. Eduardo – “my man” – if I dare to claim him, is pretty much my only constant source of inner peace at the moment and that’s not even an innuendo.

Nevertheless, I’ve spent most of this year feeling sick and tired. And I’ve decided enough’s enough. That shit’s gotta change. Which is why it’s pretty monumental that I’m chilling my beans on a corner sofa right now.

There are a lot of great things about working in the arts. You can wear what you like. (Most) people have great personalities. Every now and then you meet Sharon Horgan (yeah I had to bring that up again.) But there’s also a lot of stress. It might be stress about your bank balance. The late nights. The competition. (The sexual harassment and abuses of power.) Or the fact that everyone in the industry seems to have the most perfectly white teeth and by comparison you think your teeth look like you’ve been smoking 40 a day even though the only thing you’ve ever smoked is a sherbet dip dap by accident.

To give you an idea of where I’m at, in the last six days, on top of a job that takes me out the house from 8.30am – 7.30pm, I did a live podcast recording, finished a draft of my new play, rehearsed my current play, started to read a book to report on for a film company because I need the extra £££, sent off a bunch of press and industry emails every day to try and get them to see my show AND had to maintain appearances of sanity and fun and energy and coolness on all social media channels so, you know, people still like me and come to my play. It’s lucky Ed was working away because seeing my boyfriend on top of that, as well as my friends, speaking to my family, cooking meals with vegetables in, not spending too much money and doing the occasional bit of exercise, was IMPOSSIBLE.

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I mean, don’t get me wrong, seeing our faces and names on a wall makes it ALL worth it.

It’s no surprise, really, despite eating a lot of tomatoes and Berocca and walking to work every day and trying to avoid the underground if possible, that this January I got the flu. And I got sad. And I felt guilty. And it took some wise words from my friend, that I don’t live in a war zone and I have all my limbs, to give me some perspective.

Because I’ve been doing it all wrong. I need to stop saying “I’m really busy, or ill, or tired” out loud or I’ll just let it happen and do nothing about it. My life does not have to be this way but I have made a decision to want it all – all by myself like a grown up (although to be honest – I don’t think I’ll ever feel like a grown-up until I can use the word smorgasbord in a sentence). If I just stuck to having a day job and a social life I would have – in many respects – an absolutely banging life. It could be enough. I could buy WAY MORE than just Eat Natural bars. Everything would continue just fine without me.

So I’ve decided it’s time for me to start having fun again. Because if I’m eternally miserable chasing a dream I should just go and get a well-paid job in the city and start spending lots of dollar in Cos, or something, whatever those people do.

Two weeks ago I went down to four days at work. It’s a horizontal step. My bank balance is frowning, but my soul is happier. I have time… time to dedicate to my own projects without it eking into my weekend so much. Time and breathing space. A little bit of risk and a little bit of pressure to keep me inspired.

I’ve changed my commute – I leave five minutes earlier so I can avoid going underground in the mornings, stay sane, look at the sky and get some work done on one train with a seat without having to get off at Victoria station which I have to say I find more traumatic than the end of The Notebook.

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Anyone else think King’s Cross is a total megababe?

And I have a new resolution. FAKE IT UNTIL I MAKE IT: to be positive, to work hard and to chill the feck out in equal measure.

I will no longer be that person who says “I’m busy, or tired, or stressed, or down” when someone asks how I am. From now on I will say “I’m good, I’m working hard, I’m hungry” (because, sadly, that I always am.) So this Valentine’s Day I’m making an online promise to love myself (not that way) that little bit more. To stop comparing myself to others, or beating myself up for not making it yet, or overdoing it. I’m going to drink more tea, sit on the sofa more, get outside for some fresh air, and floss. Because no matter what, we should always floss.

If you’d like to come and see my show SPLIT, co-written and performed with the brilliant comedian Tamar Broadbent, you can do so HERE. Use the code BESTFRIEND for £5 tickets – it runs from 28 Feb – 04 March 6.15pm as part of Vault Festival. 

 

Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health

One year on: feeling sad, finding strength and surprising yourself.

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When I was seven, eight, I can’t remember exactly, my fish Bubbles died. He was my first pet – at least I think he was a he. I shared him with my brothers, but he was mine. He aged well, Bubbles, lived a long time for a fish. I forget how long now. Do I wish I’d given him a more original name? Perhaps.

When he died, we went down to a river at the bottom of my garden, and we dropped him in, so he could float away to… who knows where. Fish heaven? Another fish’s mouth? Hades? He could have been a bad fish for all I know.

I remember weeping. I was devastated. I remember my chest hurt and I wanted to jump in after him, follow him down to where the river ended. We walked along the river and tried to spot him. Again, I can’t remember if we did or not. The emotion has stayed with me (and his unforgettable name) but not a lot else.

He’s the only fish whose name I can remember. There were others. There was the one who, I later found out, accidentally died, maybe fell down the plughole, when my mum and dad were cleaning out the tank on a school day. They ran to a garden centre and bought another one and got away with it. I was half livid when I found out as an adult and half the most impressed I’ve been in my life.

This was all ages ago – probably twenty years ago. Christ. The shock of realising I’ve even been a conscious being for over twenty years has just made me urgently reach for a bottle of red wine . It’s the first time I can remember feeling really sad. Not sad as in crying over the end of Stranger Things (it broke me) or missing a train on a big day or just feeling generally miserable when you remember Hedwig died. Sad like when your body aches and you don’t think you’ll ever get over it. Heavy – like a bag on your back full of packets of sugar and bottles of squash (welcome to Emma’s weekly shop. Jokes.)

But of course you do get over it. And this has happened a lot of times since. There were more pets. And then there were people. My grandad, who got motor neurone disease, a hero forever in my eyes but because I was only a teenager, already harder to trace in my memories. Followed fairly swiftly by my grandma, who drew no luckier a lot in life. Witty, strong, fiery, and so well-dressed I find it hard to believe I’m related to her.

It hurts when people die before their time. A lot. It’s traumatic and strange and scarring. That was over 10 years ago now though and time, as they say, moves on. Life does get that little bit easier. You can’t believe how long it’s been in some ways. Wounds heal over and scars feel softer. It’s easier to think about, talk about, even laugh about.

Today though, it’s only been one year. A lot can happen in a year. So much has happened. So much has changed.

I’ve learned to run.

I’ve not given up.

I’ve changed my mind and I actually quite like red wine now.

I’ve become the proud mother of two cuddly sharks.

I’ve turned vegetarian.

I’ve performed my first play.

I’ve finished my improv training.

I’ve gone off tampons and got back into them again.

I’ve lost my dog.

I’ve experienced week long itchy nipples for the first time.

I’ve realised who my best friends in the world are.

I’ve seen Celine Dion in concert.

I’ve gone to new places, like Dublin, Cyprus and Harry Potter World.

I’ve (not for the first time mind) stopped biting my nails.

A year ago today my uncle Malcolm died. Diagnosed within the month he didn’t have time to begin a battle. And neither did we. The battle started after. For my dad and my family – and double as much for his.

I think of Mal every time I go running. He liked running. He was fit and healthy and only 52. I decided to get into it because why wouldn’t I look after my body more after all that? And every time I think I might give up running up a hill because my forehead is sweating into my eyes and I’ve got a wedgie and I think I hate exercise more than war I think of him.

Yesterday evening I went on a run – even though it was dark and cold and drizzling and I would have rather cracked open the bottle of red earlier and settled in for the night – and as he came to the front of my mind as he often does when I think I might be having a heart attack mid-hill climb I started crying out of nowhere. I stopped myself pretty quickly because it turns out the one thing that makes running up a hill really hard is crying at the same time. But it got me thinking about how far we’ve all come in twelve months.

I used to not be able to run up hills at all. I used to not run more than once every six months and even then it was only to chase a departing ice cream van on Clapham Common. I used to give up more easily and more often. I’ve got stronger.

Losing someone you love sucks and watching your family suffer is all kinds of rubbish. It is never a good thing and there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to change what happened. But good things do come out of it.

Things like having an opportunity to recognise how lucky you are to have loved and be loved (exactly like Moulin Rouge.) To bring you even closer to your family. To have an epiphany about what it means to feel good about your body, to not take it for granted, and to live in the moment. To do something perhaps you never thought you’d do, precisely because they can’t.

Which brings me to my parents. Who’ve had one hell of a year and who take my breath away. Today they have announced a fundraising bike ride in memory of Mal. Over 1000km down the length of France – one of his favourite places – to raise money for BowelCancerUK and the hospice that looked after him in his final days. This is unexpected. They’ve only been cycling just over a year and there’s a big difference between a casual bike ride to the pub and over 80km a day. They are fiercely determined and I’m so proud of them.

A year ago today it felt like part of our world had shattered – and it will still never be the same. But we’ve got work to do. In raising awareness, and fighting causes, and preserving memories, and making new memories, and laughing until we cry, and doing it all over again. We have a long way to go. And the problem with growing up is memories don’t disappear quite as easily so it’s hard, really hard. Bubbles is a blur now – and, let’s face it, as meaningful he was to me as a seven year-old, he was just a goldfish. Malcolm was – and is – a legend.

But the good thing with legends is – they live on.

If you’d like to donate, you can visit the fundraising link here

Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health

One for my dog.

When I was 13 I was awkward. I spent all my evenings after school writing medical drama fan fiction, eating marmite rolls because I was vegetarian but didn’t like any vegetables, envying my friends for their clothes, faces, hair clips, and wondering why some kids ended up in S Club Juniors and I only ended up as the least useful part on the netball team.

And then we got a dog. His name was Mahley, much to my dismay, because everyone’s first reaction was “Oh my god, like the film?” and I had to explain it was not a copy, it was spelled with an H, because my parents gave him a cute version of their favourite composer’s name, Mahler. I didn’t forgive them for approximately seven years until I realised it was cool to have musician parents, forgivable to be a bit middle class, and Mahley looks fun written down, and sounds like a sigh, with a diva twist.

And that was Mahley in a nutshell. Both horizontal as a lazy Sunday, full of love, warmth and endless affection, and a bloody liability.

Mahley grew up with us. Our house has never had a life without him. He came on long car journeys to drama school auditions, athletics tournaments, funerals, weddings, holidays, leaving a trail of white fur wherever he went. What’s the point in life without an unclogged hoover?

Mahley ate everything. My Nokia 3310, a packet of batteries, a box of creme eggs. Several condoms he found on the street. My mum’s engagement ring. He almost choked to death digging one of my very first tampons out the bin so he practically went through puberty with me. And nothing solidifies a relationship between girl and dog more than having to manually pull shoelaces out his bum in the queue for the cash point.

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For understandable reasons, Mahley got his head stuck in the bin lid.

Mahley greeted everyone. From postmen, to paramedics, to people I actively tried to ignore in the school car park. He humped my best friends at every sleepover without ever asking permission – experiencing teenage awakenings with us at every moment. He gatecrashed parties, pub visits, theatre trips, old people’s homes. Life was all about Mahley. The world was his best friend, his curiosity was boundless, his enthusiasm for everyday life was unstoppable. Like Alec Baldwin in Friends, but better.

Mahley was broken from the start, but his flaws made him. He had epilepsy as a puppy, which was a right barrel of laughs. Followed by an allergy to beef (much to his dismay) and chronic bronchitis despite never smoking a day in his life. As an old dog he got severe arthritis, but still somehow managed to escape through the front door to greet someone on the opposite side of the road, get hit by a car and walk away unharmed.

Mahley could swim for days.

Mahley could share.

Mahley once looked after a huddle of lost ducklings who had lost their mum.

Mahley didn’t understand the concept of “fetch.”

Mahley was more scared of guinea pigs than they were of him.

Mahley knew nothing about personal space.

Mahley could fly.

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Mahley could never bark – not until doggy dementia got him at the age of 12 and he howled like Lupin at a full moon.

Mahley was everything.

13-year old me was delighted to not only have an Andrex puppy rolling around the house, but a companion, a reason to invite new friends over, an endless source of funny stories. And it stayed that way forever – until, 13 years later, he finally left us.

I left home when I was 18 and haven’t been home for longer than about two weeks ever since, which means Mahley is my most successful long-distance relationship to date. But it also means I’ve learned to live a life without him already. Which must be why, when he got really ill, and it looked like it might be the end, I was a bit of a robot.

Out of everyone in my family I was the only one who couldn’t be there on the day – because you know, work is a thing – and I felt slightly outside of myself, as I talked to everyone on the phone, pondered from afar how you bury a Labrador successfully, and psyched myself up to go to a three hour improv class that night, because comedy cures everything right?

So I didn’t cry. Not on the day – or the day after. Or when I went home at the weekend. I didn’t cry for another three weeks. To the point where I thought I might be dead inside.

And then on Friday night when I got home from work – out of nowhere I got into bed and cried in the most deranged way. Wailed. Heaved. Sobbed for my dog. For how I miss having to get his fucking fur off my school blazer every single morning and how I miss resting on his giant thigh like a pillow and watching him swim and watching him try to eat an ice cube and telling him stories and comforting him and getting comfort from him and seeing him in the back of the car asleep and seeing him in the front of the car with his paws on the wheel like a human and thinking he looks like a seal and showing him off to people on the high street and watching people love him as much as we do.

So I finally got some of the dog sadness out of my system – and it probably wasn’t a coincidence.

It’s a rubbish time of year for my family. A year ago we lost my treasured uncle very quickly so whilst it’s crisp and sunny outside and Christmas is around the corner and ghost pumpkins seem to be a thing this year it’s also, for my family, definitely now a time of absolute, permanent change, healing, remembrance and grief.

And seeing as I write about pretty much everything else on this blog, I just felt somewhere on here there needed to be a tribute to my dog. Because even though he was “just a dog” of course, without a doubt he made our family who we are today. Of course we exist without him – but he definitely exists in us too. In all our madness and strange illnesses and eccentricities and uniqueness he’s one of us.

mahley dog

So here’s to you Mahley dog. Thanks for the fun, the mess, the moments. You were one of a kind.

Home, Humour, Lifestyle, Secret Diary of a Tall Girl

Secret Diary of a Tall Girl #2

girls

Oh hi there, friends. Welcome back to the second instalment of SDOATG (I know, I’m not supposed to include the O and the A, but I love vowels too much, just shoot me.)

Right now it’s Sunday evening and I’m in bed not watching Game of Thrones. I’m also putting off washing my hair. I don’t know about you but washing my hair is definitely one of my top five most hated activities, beating smear tests (although not colposcopies), getting wax in places I shouldn’t, reading “I’m so pleased to finally be able to announce” social media updates, and trying to swallow big mushrooms.

Once I can no longer get away with dry shampooing the shit out of it so I look like a cross between an old dish sponge and a ginger Severus Snape, I enter the same phase of stress normal people might get before deciding whether to jump out of a plane, or drag themselves into a sexual health clinic. And then proceeds an arduous, painful discussion, sometimes in my own head, and sometimes with Eduardo if he’s unfortunate enough to be in the vicinity, where I have to talk myself into getting in the shower.

Perhaps it’s because my hair is long. Perhaps it’s because it’s thick. Perhaps it’s because it’s naturally curly so it holds onto water like a camel so when I try and blow it dry in my bedroom it’s like being stuck in an aga with a highland cow. Either way, I procrastinate before hair-washing more than I ever did for my dissertation and until I get the balls to get it all chopped off it’s probably going to stay that way.

This has been a bit of a mad week, guys. It took me approximately ten days to get over a summer cold. A summer cold. Obviously I googled why we get colds in summer, just to check it wasn’t meningitis (turns out the reason I had a headache and couldn’t look at the light is because the cure for a summer cold is 2000mg a day of vitamin C, not back to back episodes of Glow). Anyway, apparently one reason can be exercise, so I’ve decided I’m going to try and stay in shape by sneezing as regularly as possible instead.

We’ve just come back from a wedding weekend in Wales (literally just did a mini orgasm from that alliteration – anyone else?) which was fun for so many reasons; being reunited with a million school friends, having a nest of baby birds above our bnb, celebrating love and all that jazz, and the fact the weather was forecast to be so unbelievably poor on Thursday night Eduardo and I had to cancel camping and become extremely basic instead.

beach

We booked a last minute discounted spa hotel in Cardiff like absolute Kardashians and I had my first ever steam room experience. I spent the first five minutes freaking out that this how Chandler feels in that steam room episode of Friends, and then realised I don’t like steam rooms. Seriously, it’s like being in a kettle, but with less dignity. The sauna isn’t any better, in fact, I think it’s worse. There’s an element of novelty to a steam room; the aforementioned Friends nostalgia, and the fact it reminds me of when I take food out of the oven with my glasses on. Whereas a sauna is everything that’s terrible about sunbathing without any prospect of a tan.

Give me a pool and some goggles any day. We also booked in for breakfast, because when in Rome, and they had an unlimited supply of croissants and a vat of porridge. So I got to live out my dream of eating pastry until I have to lie down, at the same time as pretending I’m in Oliver Twist.

It’s fun hanging out with Ed outside of our house, and Tesco. I mean, this summer has officially bankrupted us, and what with holidays, three weddings in a row, and the fact that he has to get physio for his old man joints and I have to buy endless amounts of Sudocrem for my adult acne, I’m not sure how much we’re going to be able to lark about like celebrities in Wales come autumn.

But right now, I’m grateful. For the fact that we somehow managed to escape a nine-hour traffic jam to Swansea. That the sun came out and we got a swim in the sea. That we got a whole weekend with some of our favourite people, on the beach. That I got to listen to Celine Dion and Delta Goodrem the whole way. That I’m finally not coughing my guts up like I smoke a pack a day. This week is another crazy one. Back to work. A trip to the theatre. Another wedding on the horizon, which I’m so excited for I might even get my eyebrows tinted.

mokkly

It’s also my uncle’s birthday this week, and amongst all the sun, and the celebrations, and the inevitable food babies, every single day without fail I think of him. This will be an extra special week, of raising a glass to a phenomenal man who left us way too soon. And although someone wonderful and unforgettable is missing, he has also left me feeling so full, lucky, honoured to have known him. So cheers to a week of spending time with the people we love, good road trip snacks, keeping hydrated, free Prosecco, and singing songs for the ones who might not be with us on the dance floor, in the car, on the end of the phone, but who are definitely, without a doubt, still here.

Happy Sunday. X

Health, Home, Lifestyle, Mental Health, realism

Goodness, grief, and getting back up again.

Heartbreak is a funny thing. For a long time I’ve thought I’ve known what it is. That bit in The Holiday when Cameron Diaz finally learns how to cry. The penguin with a broken flipper in Planet Earth II. The time an ex-boyfriend broke up with me and then asked me to hand wash his boxers. Going to IKEA six months ago to find an enormous plush shark to solve all my problems to find they were out of stock.

Turns out that’s nothing. Or at least it’s only part of it. Recently a new kind of heartbreak has come into my life. I’d forgotten how it takes you by surprise. Flips your stomach. Squeezes your heart. Fogs your brain. Wraps you up under your duvet and tires you out, eats you up.

Before you start worrying that the greatest love story of all time has ended, Eduardo and I have not broken up. As if he’d leave me when I make an excellent jelly, leave too much hair in the shower, and have the world’s smallest teeth. We’re all good.

No, this is a different kind of heartbreak. And as a consequence this is a different kind of blog post. Usually I’m all over the mundane – I love moaning about Tupperware, losing my way in the pasta aisle, getting emotional over hay fever. But every now and then a bigger dilemma comes along, one that grants you a whole lot of perspective, for which I am grateful, but it is rather agonising at the same time.

Until recently my biggest dilemma has always been anxiety, and until recently I’ve been smashing that little devil like a superhero and was thinking about writing a post on the benefits of paying for therapy (because the NHS offerings are about as satisfying and helpful as a pot noodle). Then when I watched Before the Flood I felt like there was no bigger dilemma than the threat of climate change and have been working my way through some blog post ideas surrounding failed veganism, nauseating dairy substitutes, and an irrational emotional attachment to cows.

And then my uncle died. First I found out he was poorly. Two weeks later he was diagnosed. Two weeks later he was gone. And that was that. And for someone who eats a lot of mince pies as soon as they arrive in the shops, I’ve felt hollow ever since. Empty. Because life isn’t the same anymore.

It’s very rare to come across a human being who is innately good. I’m not talking good in the sense of ‘you can have my last chicken nugget’ or ‘I’m giving up everything to work with broken Christmas trees in the last hours of their lives.’ I’m talking selfless, warm, loving, giving. Everything we want to be and often don’t quite reach. Well – my uncle was good as can be. He was also the fittest and healthiest member of my family by a long way. All of which makes me realise I need to worry about a terminal cancer diagnosis a lot less, stop giving a shit about quinoa, and just crack on.

It’s funny dealing with death and grief as an adult. When I was younger I lost one set of grandparents to pretty nasty terminal diseases well before their time so I’m not naïve by any means. But it has been mind-blowingly different dealing with this as a grown-up. You can’t just throw a tantrum and cry into your pillow. There are people who need you. You must be strong. It’s not all about you.

You lose it for the people you care about the most. Your soul will break into pieces and you don’t even get one Horcrux out of it. Of course we’ll be okay – us Pritchards are close-knit, and we have my uncle’s spirited nature, love, sense of humour, and go-get-em attitude that means we can get through anything. I’m not worried about us. We got this.

But I am sad. I’m waking up every morning overwhelmed with it. I’m on the verge of tears all the time. It feels a bit like walking through really thick peanut butter. I’m lacking a lot of energy and appetite. And my anxiety is through the roof. I tell you what – I’ve not missed the daily butterflies and now they’re keeping me awake at night I’ve had enough.

So after weeks of not writing anything – of being a little bit lost for words – I’m back. Because writing has got me back on track in the past. And even this is a little self-indulgent, a little bit whiney, and not nearly enough of an injection of positivity that we all need I’m doing it anyway.

I don’t want to write any more sad things though. We all know cancer’s a bitch and crashes the best parties. Instead I want to write the good stuff I’m learning from this. Because, as Dumbledore tells me, happiness can be found even in the darkest of places, if only we remember to turn on the light. And Dumbledore is my spirit animal right now.

So what have I learned?

Well, I’ve remembered what my body is for and I love it. My body is strong, it’s functioning (minus rubbish sinuses and poor vision), it’s the only one I’ve got. I feel vaguely repulsed by the idea of body image standards now and I’m certainly going to stop feeling bad about my pasty thighs and adult acne. I have hands so I can write, a mouth so I can tell HILARIOUS jokes, legs so I can run to an ice cream van on a sunny day, and hips so I can try and mimic Shakira whenever I want. My body is perfect and all I need (unless I want to be a gymnast in which case dammit) and I want to remember that every day – even when my boobs really hurt.

What else? Family is the bomb. Everyone says it takes a tragedy to bring you close together and it turns out everyone is right (except the people who voted Brexit). I love mine; my mum for her devotion, her work ethic, her creativity; my dad for his sense of humour, his strength, his sweetness; my brothers for their talent, their kindness, their pretending to still be scared of me; my dog for him making me feel better about the amount of hair I shed. Eduardo and my best friends are also well up there in the stars. There are a lot of people I love so much I’d consider eating an oyster for them, who’ve got me through this. I’ve learned never to go a day without sending kisses, without being thankful for the people who make you you.

Sharks. Because it turns out when something bad happens, something good is around the corner. And that good thing is a rumour going round town that the sharks are back in Ikea. And your boyfriend picking you up from the station to go on an emergency sea life hunt in the depths of Croydon. And you finding two in a basket with your name on it. And you beaming. Literally beaming from ear to ear because you feel like a little, tiny bit of the emptiness has been filled with the world’s largest, cuddly fish. And my shark is called Malcolm. In honour of an absolute treasure of a man.

shark-photo

I had a conversation with a very wise friend this morning (actually; she’s my brother’s girlfriend and she’s the COOLEST and if you’re reading this, Daisy, you’re so one of us), who said she had stopped believing that everything happens for a reason, and started believing things happen no matter what, and it’s how you run with it, and how you let them define you. She’s bang on (and beautiful, and a dancer, no fair).

With that in mind, it’s Sunday night and I’m ready to start this week afresh. Ready to get back on the no-dairy train in the hope of saving a few cows, and one big planet. Ready to cry if I wanna cry, and laugh if I wanna laugh. Ready to give a whole lot of love again, say a proper goodbye, and live life with a shark in one arm, and every other person I love and the Harry Potter collection in the other.

Love to you all and muchas gracias for reading. X

Home, Humour, Lifestyle

If teenage me could see me now. 

emma-sand
Actually it’s fashionable to write your name in the sand at a beach party. In case you forget it.

About once a week I get mistaken for a teenager – mostly when I’m buying ibuprofen in a supermarket run by morons and once when two men in a van stopped to ask me to get in their van but on closer inspection thought I was fifteen and left me alone (true story – avoid Holloway Road at all costs). It’s a weird one because I know I look young, and my voice is enthusiastically high-pitched, and I get excited about practically everything, but I’m not a teenager anymore. I stepped out of that skin a long time ago and into a new one. Somewhere along the way I shrugged off all the fear, the shame, the discomfort, the maybelline dream matte mousse and started a fresh version of myself. With hair straighteners and sarcasm.

But the perpetual identity crises that happen when you turn twenty-six and haven’t made it yet have got me thinking – which parts of my teenage self are carved into my identity now, ten years later, still running through my veins, tripping me up or propelling me forward? And if my teenage self – in all her insecurity and hope and hysteria – could see me now, what would she say?

When I started secondary school, there was this girl in year eleven who used to terrorise younger students in the toilets by throwing soap at them. I think she was probably responsible for a lot more threat in the school than toiletry-based aggression, but that is the lasting memory I have of her and it has stayed with me. She had her comeuppance on her final day of school when someone else in the year threw an entire jug of water over her at lunch, years of repression and inferiority surfacing in the most iconic aquatic tirade since Titanic. Meanwhile, in the bathrooms, the unspoiled bars of soap breathed a bubble of relief. It was the last time I ever saw her, an image I hold dearly, because it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in Mean Girls.

In my second year I was so desperate not to make a fool of myself on sports day (despite not even being terrible at sport) that I faked a blackout in the middle of the 400m race so that if there was even the remotest chance of me coming last, I would become a medical hero instead. What actually happened was that during my pretend blackout, an ice cream van arrived on the field and everyone fled to load up on 99s with flakes and those 10p bags of crisps called prawn balls and no one noticed me. God help my mum having to fake-comfort me the whole way home because I couldn’t even bear to admit to myself that it was all a sham.

A bit later, aged fourteen, I got run over on my birthday by a crazy Italian motorcyclist who’d just got out of a coma. I wasn’t seriously injured but I milked it a bit and distinctly remember feeling excited that something big-deal-enough had happened to me that I might feel like I fit in, or get even a sliver of attention from the cooler girls in my form. Instead, one girl laughed and another asked whether I had drawn the tyre marks onto my calves to be edgy.

To be fair that does sound like something I would do. 

macphoto
Apple store webcams, where dreams come true.

I was pretty tame. I still am. Finding out what dry humping is was enough to send me into anaphylactic shock. The only embarrassing things I posted on the internet were Casualty and Holby City fan fiction on pretty hard-to-come-by forums, spilling all my fears, hopes and dreams into fifty minute medical dramas. I once spent an entire term dancing with ribbons for PE and couldn’t sleep at night worrying I wasn’t sexy enough in my gym leotard – despite being at an all-girls school with a teacher who had a mullet and a long string-like plait down her back that looked like the rope you use to turn the hot water on in the shower. 

To be completely honest I’ve only partially moved on from that. Except when I’m lying in bed now I remember I’m 26 and the only thing I need to worry about these days is one day buying a house and spending seven hours detangling my tights after they’ve been in the washing machine. All of which leads me to thinking, what in hell would 15-year old me think of my life now? Of who I am, what I’m doing, even what I look like? What makes me laugh, cry, scared, angry? 

Maybe something like…

I can’t believe you’ve actually bought yourself your own crossword puzzle book AND you’re wearing a pac a mac in public on the train. What if another human sees you? Of all the things I thought you’d grow up to appreciate, linen spray is not one of them. Really? A teapot’s on your Christmas wish list? You drink BEER now. You’re such a dad. Don’t you have any Malibu? Why don’t you like any cool bands? As if you take your make-up off in front of a boy. Have you no shame? What do you mean, you don’t hang out at stage doors anymore?You’re so boring. What even is council tax? I’m so sad you’re not famous. WHAT? THEY DON’T DO PRAWN BALLS ANYMORE? I never thought you’d grow up to be someone who thinks a sign of a good night is Nutella on your pyjamas. I can’t believe you talk about tampons in public. And I’m sad you still can’t shave your legs. Really, you’re considering taking up knitting? Why do you insist on wearing patterns that clash? Why don’t you just go to Jane Norman? Maybe you should fake your own death to see what happens.

dryer
Why don’t you pose underneath hand dryers anymore?

Aside from jesting, and the horror that I am 1000 times less cool now than I was in 2005, actually I think teenage me would be happy with how it’s worked out ten years later. That I found the confidence to be me in the end, that my two best friends then are my two best friends now and one of them works for Lindt. She’d probably be relieved that I ended up in a school where I did fit in, loved university and am working in theatre, which is what I always wanted to do after I stopped wanting to be a vet slash acrobat slash paramedic slash Lara from Casualty slash zookeeper slash Desperate Housewives slash famous.

She’d be fucking mind-boggled and then positively delighted that the boy I fell in love with and told everyone I was marrying and stalked from afar is now my boyfriend and we fart in front of each other and I go to bed with Sudocrem on my spots and he doesn’t care. She’d be sad that I’ve given up singing but happy that I took a ten-year break from writing scripts and am back to it although disappointed there’s not even one scene set in an emergency room. She’d be proud I can talk to strangers and not be ashamed of my hair colour and wee up a mountain and more. 

Being a teenager was super crap but teenager girls have it harder these days – the only confidence crush I got online was someone not thinking my ambulance crash story was realistic enough. Teenagers these days probably think I’m really weird when I listen to their conversations on the bus and smile over my shoulder at them like a knowing grandma. But it’s because all that faking blackouts, trying to be cool, telling stories, caking on the make up, wanting to be loved, that all stops in the end and I want them to know that. That the girls who throw soap will always lose out.The ones who get it thrown at them will learn to brush it off, come out cleaner, stronger, smarter, funnier and smell better on the other side. You will grow out of Malibu and grow into your body and you’ll grow up to be you and only you.

And I bloody can’t wait to learn how to knit.