Surviving Christmas

I wrote this post for a work blog but unfortunately it wasn’t published. So I thought I’d share it here instead, rather than waste it. I guess the sentiment stands, wherever I place it, right? 


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Oh Christmas. A magical time for all, where everything twinkles and shines just that little bit brighter. Eggnog flows like water, chocolate waits tantalisingly to be devoured (usually for breakfast) and there is no pain anywhere.

If only.

Firstly, the festive season is s-t-r-e-s-s-f-u-l. Financially, socially, mentally – it can do a number on you in so many different ways, sometimes in ways you’ve never considered. I personally feel burnt out already just by the sheer amount of social engagements I’ve had (I know, boo hoo). Don’t get me started on the damage I’ve done with my debit card. So from the offset the magic can come at a price but we do it because it’s Christmas and we love our loved ones. Some of us adore this time of year and that’s cool too.

But Christmas can also be a challenging time for mental health and it’s important to acknowledge this. Every person has the right to take care of themselves during this period, even when they’re at home. If being with family isn’t the right thing for your wellbeing then that is fine, the modern set-up is often an extension of what we’ve always known and friends are the new family to many. As the clock ticks down to Santa’s visit, remember:

You don’t have to spend Christmas with your family

As above if this is a toxic place for you, you don’t have to do it.

If it all gets too much

Take yourself out of the situation. Absolutely nobody can give you grief for going to your room to read a book for an hour or having a hot bath in the middle of the afternoon. You know yourself better than anyone, so listen to your instincts.

Ask for help

I’m the worst when it comes to cooking the Christmas dinner. I do not know how to ask for help and end up sweaty and stressed in the kitchen, snapping at anyone who tries to intervene. Asking for help does not make you a failure; it just takes some of the pressure off. In fact, if you can write a list and make notes about who can do what, you’re laughing. Plus, if you cooked – it is against the law for you to wash up as well. Just saying.

Mind the booze

I’m not going to lecture anyone about their alcoholic intake but it is so tempting to turn to the buck’s fizz (or harder) to deal with Christmas Day. Alcohol is a depressant though and can leave you feeling low. Not to mention the Christmas morning/Boxing Day hangovers so sometimes it’s good to pace yourself.

Get some air

If you need to get out then get out! Nobody has ever regretted leaving the house for a spot of fresh air, let’s face it. Except maybe Dorothy Gale.

If it’s not perfect, tough

This is my new mantra, as I worry about presents, whether I’ve spend enough and that each gift is perfectly wrapped with a tartan bow. If everything is not just so then what’s the worst that can happen? The world will not implode. One year I forgot the stuffing and I’m still here to tell the tale, painful as it still is.

I am the gift and so are you

Your loved ones just want to be with you, I promise. For all the gifts and the going out, what really matters is the being together. And lots and lots of lovely cheese.

So from me to you, have a lovely Christmas and please take care of yourselves. 

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.

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. 

 

 

You Can’t Handle the Tooth

Ugh, you know what’s almost as scary as ghost sharks, home invasion and getting a paper cut between the fingers? Dentists. They’re terrifying in every way and what’s worse is that we need them in order to… have teeth.

I’ve recently had to bite the bullet and find a new dentist. Turns out I need a root canal, which I’ve had before and to be honest, can handle if I have to. It’s just that initial dread of having to visit the man in the white coat who’s just been waiting about to personally hurt me – both physically and financially.

My last dentist was fine (blunt AF but fine) but during our last appointment I had a panic attack in his chair and I just couldn’t bring myself to go back to the scene of the crime. He was sweet enough and it wasn’t his fault but I just suddenly got so overwhelmed that my body lost control.

I thought I was fine but as soon as my chin started to tremble, my body started to shake and tears started to run – I knew it was game over. It’s that foam stuff they fill your mouth with in order to take a mold of your teeth. The worst invention of all time.

My new dentist, however is doing little to keep the fear going. He’s lovely, reassuring and has a little tattoo of a tooth on his leg. How can I be scared of that? Thanks to him my teeth are looking better than ever and even though I have to have the dreaded RC on November 5th (remember, remember), I feel hopeful for the future of my smile for the first time in years.

I kind of need to be a little scared of the dentist though, it seem more natural. We can’t become friends. That would be like accidentally becoming BFFs with Jason Voorhees, it would upset the natural order of the universe. Some things are just meant to make you feel icky.

What is your ‘every day’ fear?

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

Horror F(r)iends

I might not have made it clear enough on this blog: I live for the movies. All movies really but mainly horror. Good horror, bad horror, cheap horror – most of it has a place in this old heart of mine. My absolute favourites of all time include Candyman and Hellraiser – with a whole lot of variety in between – and what better month than this to revisit the classics and discover new and exciting horror gems?

This post isn’t strictly about those movies though (we’ll do a 31 Horrors recap at the end of the month), it’s about the like-minded friends who love the same movies I do (specifically horror). People like this, the ones who really really get you are like gold dust I swear and this post is for them.

Of course anyone who reads this blog will be familiar with my blog wife Jillian already. We originally bonded over our love of odd movies and are now three years deep into our Great Blog Collab. Our specialty, and favourite month just happens to be Halloween so you could say we’re on the same page when it comes to horror films (and shark movies but they get their own month). In fact, Ginger Snaps is the first film we ever reviewed together, FACT FANS. We also appreciate women on murderous rampages, Film Noir and women who look good smoking.

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Katharine Isabelle, werewolves AND smoking? The holy horror trinity (read my review here)

Jill and I have had some real hits and misses over the years but most times seem to more or less agree on the ratings. Sometimes the films we pick are too good and that can be a problem when our original MO is to snark the hell out of the things we watch – but you can’t win them all. I’m so thankful for Jill, one of the best things to come out of blogging for me – a gorgeous friend online and IRL now too.

James, my podcast partner also deserves a shout out for sitting through some of the dreck I’ve made him watch over the years in the name of content. Cat Sick Blues, anyone? (I do NOT recommend). We’ve also explored a lot of anti-horror together. To name but a few: Felt, The Sacrament, Magic Magic, Spring and Digging Up the Marrow – all of which could be categorised outside the genre comfortably but are definitely shining examples of horror done well.

Honestly, the podcast has brought me so much joy and being able to just waffle on about films until the cows come home is the best thing ever. There’s a limit to how much people want to talk to me about these things so to find a like-minded partner is priceless, honestly. I hope we never stop. Even if James doesn’t rate The Exorcist III.

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Felt (2014)

And last but by no means least my lovely friend Matt who unwittingly inspired today’s post. Matt is the most knowledgeable horror fiend I know and even though we’ve only known each other for a year, I feel like he’s my horror twin. This morning we compared notes via messenger on what we’ve watched this month already and those are the conversations I live for.

We’re even planning a really cool project off the back of our interests and it is going to be so ace I can’t even tell you. I’ll share more when we’ve actually got off our bottoms and made solid plans. This week we’re just treading water until Halloween (2018) is released.

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Hai bae ❤

I can’t not shout out my husband as well, who puts up with all my shit and still seems to like me. Who hasn’t wavered (yet) when I’ve forced him to get involved in my 31 Horrors challenge. Who suggested The Company of Wolves for tonight’s viewing – and who’s just super-cute most of the time. How lucky am I?

So today I am feeling extra blessed to have these people in my life so we can share our common interests like the beasts that we are.

Thanks for being as horrible as I am deep down 🎃👻🔪

The Scariest Tale of All

I often think about fear and how it affects me. All my life I think I’ve been afraid to try too hard. Sounds pretty general (and maybe relatable?) but if I’m honest, if I’d pushed myself harder in certain areas, things could have been different. Higher education for instance or my so-called talent for spinning a sentence – I’ve been scared to put myself out there in such a way that I actually get some of the things I want.

I am content with what I have though, and I’m genuinely happy with my life. We could always do more or have more but it’s important to appreciate our lot too – so I’m not lamenting anything really, or wishing I’d done things differently. I was meant to be a underachiever and that’s okay, I’m alright, kid.

The one thing that truly terrifies me though is getting older. On one hand we gain wisdom (supposedly) with every passing year but I’m genuinely afraid to get to a point where I’ve lost all my teeth and my knees don’t work anymore. The world is still so obsessed with youth and beauty – and even though I barely have either now, the complete loss of it is very hard to come to terms with. One day I will be a real and true elderly woman with a blue rinse and there’s nothing I can do to stop the process.

I once read an article by a woman who wrote that being middle-aged was the hardest thing to get used to because nobody sees you anymore. I thought at the time this sounded stupid but turns out to be true. You hit 40 and you’re suddenly invisible, the see-through best friend to all your hot younger pals. I am sort of joking, but only because if I don’t I will cry.

So if right now you asked me what my greatest fear is, after sharks, I would say it’s getting older. I’m scared and it is inevitable: I will age. I’m ageing now – every second of every single day I am getting older and I can’t slow it down – so I have to accept it. I can’t let the fear rule my life – I have to remind myself that with every thing I lose, I gain something new. Experience, wisdom, wrinkles.

Since I can’t beat the passage of time, I’m going to have to own it.