Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

When I was much younger and Christmas tree buying time came around in the Martin household, I was always very extra.

I would insist on choosing the ugliest, loneliest looking tree in the lot and we would inevitably end up with two – the pretty one that got to shine bright in the front room and my sad, usually balding tree positioned optimistically in the hallway so it would be the first thing anyone would see when they walked through the front door.

I’d bundle those underdog trees in as much love (and Star Wars figures) as my childish heart could conjure, and that was my own personal festive tradition. My family tolerated this probably because they didn’t have the energy to argue (and they loved me) – and I’m grateful to have had the chance to express myself from such a young age.

When I think about this ritual now, it could be a metaphor for a lot of my human relationships. I always made a bee line for the people I perceived needed something the most, whether it was true or not (invariably it was). I would come home with strays all through childhood (friends from less harmonious homes, actual stray cats and dogs) and as I matured, I did the same with men.

Damaged, needy men were my speciality and my inner rescue radar would pick them up with ease. This as you can imagine led to a lot of heartache on my part as I learned the hard way that you can’t fix people. Especially when they don’t want to be fixed.

I’m not entirely sure what made me think I had the qualifications to mend anyone anyway. All I know is that I’ve spent way too much of my lifetime attracted to broken people and one day – hallelujah! – I was able to stop.

It started when I left a six year relationship, which I now recognise to have been highly psychologically abusive. Then I cut out my first significant and totally toxic friendship. It was like losing a limb for a while and then, it felt INCREDIBLE.

For the first time I came to realise that we don’t have to put up with the things that hurt us. We have choices and ever since I discovered this, every time I get a whiff of another one of my strays, I catch myself.

I’m all for being there for others and I’m not saying all needy people are toxic, many of them are just like my trees. They need water, a comfortable pot and a shit load of tinsel – and they’ll start to thrive again. It’s just that I’m not responsible for anyone but myself and I have no business thinking I am.

I’ll always be attracted to the ugliest dogs in the street and Christmas trees that have seen better days but I don’t have to save anybody anymore.

I never did.

Love is a Gift

It’s still November yet the John Lewis ad has already aired and I’ve been harrassed more than once by Olaf the Snowman from Frozen in the Open Market. I’m no Grinch but I do draw the line personally at embracing the Christmas Spirit before December 1st. If you’re an early Christmas lover then that’s fine, you do you hun.

I have had more than one conversation about the darker side of Christmas though and even though I don’t want to be ‘that guy’, I do think it’s important to acknowledge and understand that not everyone is full of the joys of Rudolph this time of year. The Christmas season is incredibly difficult for many people for many different reasons – and the relentless onslaught of Mariah Carey holiday songs can take its toll (is there more than one actually?). Everywhere you look when you’re not feeling it is a homage to the big man and his pals – it must be unbearable.

This very topic came up at work yesterday as a collection of us gathered around one of our phones to watch an ‘alternative’ Christmas video. You might have seen it yourself on television as its creators have been interviewed a couple of times and lots of viewers are saying it’s even better than the Elton John JL advert this year.

The concept is simple in itself, and features a thirtysomething man listening to cassette tapes on an old Walkman, left to him as a gift by his late mother. Each tape is a touching personal message recorded for him for every year she was able to do it. Its tagline is “Love is a gift that lasts forever. Merry Christmas.”

Most of us were near tears even talking about it but a couple of people pondered why we have to think about sad things at Christmas – which prompted quite an interesting debate. While I get that point, it’s not a choice for a lot of lonely or bereaved people. There are people with nothing in this world, who barely get through their day to day lives, let alone the festive season. Just because everything is sprinkled with a light dusting of glitter does not mean that those troubles go away.

This isn’t a call to arms really. There are a lot of things you can do to give back this Christmas, from volunteering to reaching out to someone who may be struggling. Even just standing up and saying you’re there for your friends and colleagues if they need anyone can be a good thing. I’ve seen a couple of Facebook statuses over 2018 that touch on that same point.

Life is tough at the best of times and Christmas is hard – it’s financially stressful, socially exhausting and there’s a lot of pressure to pull on your favourite ugly sweater and get into the spirit. What if you can’t? I just think we should be conscious of each other and kind wherever we can be.

What are your thoughts?

In the meantime, have a look at Love is a Gift, the short film mentioned above.

Level 41

It’s that time of the year again. Time to gaze into the navel of my birthday and give thanks to the past year. This isn’t quite as epic a milestone as last year obviously but it’s still been a pretty sweet ride. 

40 has been good to me. I’ve done a lot of cool things, including two trips, fallen in love with Margate and spent a lot of time with a lot of good people. I’ve made some great new friends, enjoyed time with old ones – I’ve had fun at work, put myself forward for a new role which didn’t work out (but I’m quite pleased about that). I’ve been creative, I’ve been lazy – I’ve spent a lot of money, faced some fears, cried some tears. It’s been a well-rounded year and I’m grateful for it. 

I love my life and even when I put myself down for being old (every single day of my life), I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a wise woman with a wealth of life experience and better still, I’m still learning every day. I might be who I am but there’s always room to undulate and grow.

Here’s to reaching Level 41 tomorrow. I can only hope that it’s as eventful and as fun as the last. 

 

 

Plan B

Blogging has been sparse since the wonderful #blogtober wrapped up and I don’t really like that, so I’m setting myself some writing goals for the next couple of months.

November is half done of course so I’ve been slack as usual but it’s never too late to pull it together. I’ve got plans for #blogmas too, my own take on bloggers fave #vlogmas. Continue reading “Plan B”

The Monday Feeling

I have a super power. I’m not sure why but wherever I go, people tell me things. Deep and meaningful snippets of detail from their lives that I don’t ask for. I love it though – it makes me feel good to be trusted and it must mean I have an open face.

I think sometimes if you make eye contact with someone you tend to connect with them whether you like it or not. This can backfire in certain social situations, like on holiday when you want to be left alone or on the bus. On the plane to Copenhagen, which was delayed for 2.5 hours, I got talking to the American guy beside me and by the time I’d landed I knew his fiance’s name, how he proposed, their upcoming wedding date, where he worked in Chicago and his favourite film. Not to mention his political views and where he stood on religion.

For the most part I wouldn’t change a thing – I’d much rather be approachable than not. I’m giggling as I think about the handful of friends I have that would seriously disagree with me.

Anyway, I was going to write about my favourite witch films today but have decided to bump that post in favour of this one because I’m kind of buzzing about a conversation I had with the woman in the Co-op last week, and this morning.

Before I start, I should write a disclaimer to say that the Co-op seems to be the scene of a lot of these scenarios for me. Years ago I befriended a guy behind the counter who used to give me leftover flowers most mornings and then went off to have a tummy tuck. My friend Darren found it hilarious how much information I would be bombarded with while handing over money for my cheese & pickle sandwiches. And all while the queue backed up behind me considerably.

Now it’s a woman in town who’s a little bit younger than me. On Friday she was all over the place so I asked her if she was okay. She revealed that she was in a 17 year relationship that had gone off the boil and was now messaging someone else. While I didn’t ask, she was pretty willing to go in on the fact that her long-term boyfriend was taking her for granted and the new one was exciting and super-attentive (they always are at this stage, babe). I had to tell her I’d been there in the same situation because I have – and that she should seriously try to do what’s right for herself.

Well! This morning she greeted me with the biggest smile and told me she’d ended it over the weekend. Nothing about the new guy because it isn’t even about him. It’s about her. She said she was walking on air and that it went so much better than she’d anticipated. Now she has the rest of her life to look forward to – and won’t be turning 40 in a horrible relationship. And man, I FELT HER. I felt it all.

I have been there and I remember the absolute high of finally being free, the greatest feeling of all time. The fear, the anticipation, the realisation that all future decisions were my own, that I had a choice – and that I could change everything if I wanted to. She’s going to feel up and down for a while but over all, she’s going to feel on top of the goddamn world and it makes me so happy for her. You go for it, girl, enjoy every minute!

So people tell me things and I love it but I particularly love it when it’s a good story and one I can personally cheer for. She’s so nice this lady that I imagine we could be friends in IRL. And as for all the other secrets well they stay here with me, not to be blogged about. Ever.

“That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.” ~ Damian, Mean Girls

Gaslighting

Excuse the serious post prefacing all the fun Halloween fodder but I wanted to put this together following a conversation I had this morning with my husband.

He was telling me about a woman who went to prison for murdering her husband with a hammer. She’d been driven to breaking point by his behaviour and maybe then this behaviour didn’t have a name. It does now, a word bandied around a lot in the media at the moment: gaslighting.

It’s taken me a while to get my head around the definition of this word and now I have, it’s brought up a lot. In relation to the news story, a change in law to recognise gaslighting as a legit form of abuse has affected the sentence this poor woman has been serving. Turns out this man had been manipulating her and making her think she was crazy from the start. I hope they release her because she could so easily be me.

Just in case you’re not aware, a definition:

Gaslighting is the systematic attempt by one person to erode another person’s reality, by telling them that what they are experiencing isn’t so – and, the gradual giving up on the part of the other person. ~ Dr. Robin Stern, author of The Gaslight Effect

For me that statement rings so familiar, in particular the latter point. My greatest shame in life is how far down I fell as a result of a very bad relationship. Rock bottom. I woke up eventually on the ground, looking upwards thankfully but it would have been such a relief and so easy just to take that final step and just let go.

Of course my experience is in no way as extreme as the woman in this story but that’s the point. Control and manipulation can be so insidious, so commonplace within a relationship that you don’t even recognise it. It’s like a slow gas leak, pumping poison into your self-worth.

The man I lived with cheated but told me I was paranoid when I found nude photos on his phone. He’d emotionally blackmail me into doing things sexually that I definitely wasn’t comfortable with (pictures, public places). When we went to Barcelona he managed to get me to go topless on the beach by going on and on until I felt I had no choice (I cried secretly because I felt so bad about my body then and he knew it).

Often he’d remind me I was very lucky he didn’t hit women – that I needed psychiatric help, and my own mother agreed with him (my mother despised him and would never have entertained a conversation alone with him, yet still I believed him). He’d project every single one of his insecurities and fears onto me and that’s the crock – I believed him. I questioned myself. I lost the will to live and I stopped fighting.

What’s more I believed that I loved him, that no relationship was worthwhile if it wasn’t difficult. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and the thought of him now sickens me to the core. Much as I wish it wasn’t true I still bear the light scars of that relationship – but more than that: I still have work to do on forgiving myself.

I feel like a different person now and my strength probably comes from this experience but I’m glad there’s a term for it now. Or at least that I understand it. I don’t share this to be all woe is me. Many (too many) women will see themselves in these stories but we need to talk about our experiences when we can, to ensure that none of us feel alone in the things we’ve survived.

So when snobs get all high and mighty about a show like Love Island I tell them to shush because at least it’s educating the next generation on what to look out for. Maybe I’d have got out sooner or not gone in at all, if I’d know more about it then.

Peace out, fuck face.

Nap Queen

I love to sleep. I rarely lie in past 9 on the weekend but I am partial to an afternoon nap and truth be told if I know this is a viable option, I will look forward to it until the moment I can slip my clothes off and climb beneath the duvet. The absolute decadence of adding a hot bath into this mix is next level bliss – and I suppose it’s the so-called naughtiness of sleeping during the day that makes this all seem so thrilling.

My only issue is that I always sleep too long and wake up grumpier than Godzilla and with even less grace. Heaven help my loved ones if they try to talk to me post-nap. I need another 30 minutes of total isolation to get myself together. Varying reports from various sources (e.g. fellow nap queens) state 40 minutes is the perfect length to avoid the beast (hence 40 winks) but another friend swears down that it’s actually 22. I tried that on Saturday but slept through my alarm and clocked in two hours instead. Then had to have an angry bath to pull myself together.

One of the things I find hard in my household is that my loved one wakes extremely early and then shames me if I don’t do the same. In jest obviously but he does say he spends hours in the morning just waiting for me to wake up (which might explain why he’s so irritating when I do). Then when I want to nap in the afternoon he doesn’t get that either – so I have to take naps feeling slightly guilty and it’s not on. I’m very vocal that this isn’t my problem and if I want a nap I’m taking one but why is taking time out to rest a bad thing?

This goes back to the people who get all pissy with you when you tell them you’ve done fuck all all weekend and couldn’t be happier. They’re all shooketh because they’ve climbed a mountain/been to a festival/built a house for underprivileged teenagers – and what have you done? Watched almost two seasons of American Horror Story, written three film reviews and NAPPED thankyouverymuch!

I’m a homebody anyway and I try to listen to my body and my mind when they tell me they want a time out. I’m not sleeping because I’m lazy or I don’t have anything better to do – I’m giving myself a chance to recharge so I can be better when I’m not resting. Whether this actually works is another matter but it makes me feel better and I won’t be ashamed. Other people have always got an opinion but I love the balance I have in my life – I love that I know when I desperately need time to myself and when I want to see people. I love my own company and I love to nest like a kitten.

If I could celebrate right now with a nap, I would! 💤🛌