Category Archives: Uncategorized

Boo

I have a little cat. Her name is Boo and I inherited her about three years ago from a friend. She has a squashed up face and tiny little paws that look like they belong to a mini lion. Her fur is thick and creamy and streaked with lilac, and her eyes are wide and green, and sometimes look like she’s oh so much above the world and sometimes make your heart melt.

In the mornings, she clambers over me and lies down on my chest, tucking her paws underneath her and purring softly as I stroke her head. Some nights, I will wake up to find her curled above my head on my pillow, snoring gently. She lies, lazily, on the back of the sofa while we’re watching TV or sits, idly curious, on the windowsill so that we can see her, waiting, when we get home from work. Sometimes and often when it’s dark and the world is sleeping, we can hear her running around crazily, chasing something that’s not there and scampering up and down the stairs.

Over the past few years, Boo has come to mean more to me than I could have imagined. She has been an immense comfort when things have been shit. She has taken the edge off my loneliness when I was living in Kent and, then, when I moved back to London, has been my partner in crime. She has been warm and loving and affectionate when the world has felt cold. She has become both her own person, with her own little quirks and noises that I can immediately recognise, and, weirdly, an extension of myself. An anchor, of sorts.

Last week, Boo was diagnosed with cancer. And, overnight, it felt like the world shifted, slightly. Like everything moved off centre.

And, suddenly, there has become a before – and then an after. And I can not quite comprehend this.

Last weekend, Boo came home after a week at the vets. After Boo has a pink bandage around her neck with a feeding tube in it that we have to syringe liquid food into, six times a day, and a fortunately diminishing range of medications. She has a shaved patch on her stomach where they cut her open to see what was going on, and on her little legs where the drip went in the first time, and then the second.

At first, After Boo was also fragile and wobbly, each move an inordinate effort. She has become stronger, slowly, so that now she is sleeping on my pillow again and pushing her head against us when we feed her and bolting to the door, quick as lightening, once it’s all done. She is curious, again, and responsive, and we can hear her purring gently throughout the night, a sound that was loudly absent when she was away.

Yesterday, we started cat chemo which is, we have been assured, much kinder than human chemo. They have said that a positive result will be that she lives for a further 6-9 months –

And I can’t quite wrap my head around this.

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Love

This is what I think about Love.

That it is like two golden threads coming together and twisting themselves around each other. That each thread remains strong and defined as a solitary thing – but, in the act of entwining, they become more solid and form something separate and beautiful in its own right.

That it is like a glittering shower of images and sounds and feelings. The side of a face. The breath of a sigh. The shadow cast over a pillow. The stroke of fingers. The sound of your name.

That it is safe, like an arm wrapped tightly around you – and, at the same time, terrifying because it makes the world paper thin and sharply intense.

That it is precious, like a gleaming stone found in a desert of sand –

And that it is not having the stone that is precious; it’s just having the knowledge that it’s there.

That it is light, like laughter.

That it requires courage – because to love comes with the risk of to lose – and consistency and curiosity, a desire to keep knowing someone and to keep exploring yourself.

That we are oh so incredibly lucky if we, for whatever random reason and by whatever random means, manage to find someone who we love and who loves us equally back.

 

Hard work

I have forgotten how to write. Again. Not for any dramatic reason, I don’t think, but because, like any muscle, when it becomes underused it starts to get thin and wobbly. I have stop-started a post on Half of a Yellow Sun (an excellent book) over on my book (sort of) blog about three times this week which has been an immensely frustrating process that has stuttered to a halt about two paragraphs in. Annoying. So, I thought maybe if I wrote something over here I could get things moving again – plus, I was reminded of the value of writing things out of your head in a blog post by a friend that I read recently.

Anyway.

I have written countless times about why writing is important to me. About how it feels like a way I can explore thoughts and tip them out of my head. About how I enjoy hearing the words as I string them together and, perhaps, recognise comprehension in them over poetry. About how writing has been a transformative process for me – one in which I found a voice and, once, a community.

I have, however, not really written anything properly for months and months and months, nor been particularly inspired to write anything – and the waiting has made me feel stuck. Disempowered. As with so many things in my life, I have been waiting for something to happen to me to make me write. I have seen it as something that is out of my hands, something reactive rather than proactive. And, I have seen barriers before opportunities – a thousand things that I don’t have the authority or skill to write about.

My boyfriend has a very interesting and contrary approach to writing and, life in general. He talks about working on things, a concept that I am embarrassingly unfamiliar with. I have, historically, believed that you either have it or you don’t. That skills are talents, bestowed upon us, should we be lucky enough…but not things that can necessarily be acquired.

He does not, I think, agree. He believes that you can acquire skills, perhaps even talents, through hard work. Through practice. Through trying different things. Through some level of commitment. And that this can be applied to anything – from writing to acting, to learning how to design a website to, I imagine, hitting a tennis ball well.

And of course he is totally right –

And this approach is quite liberating. It means that things that seem impossible now might not be impossible in the future. It provides permission to break things down into steps towards something rather than jumping to the end result, as I have a tendency to. It gives you – me – some of the power back.

I am not scared of hard work – but I do forget that it can take place out of the office and around things that I might not currently excel about or have a natural flair for. And I do forget that I get to choose what I invest my time in, what I want to work for. Currently, writing is at the top of my list but there’s lots of things that I’ve considered doing and written (!) off that perhaps I could now re-consider –

Which, for the first time in ages, makes me feel excited rather than stuck.

 

37

I’ve been meaning to write a post for ages about how fucking terrifying turning 37 is and how the magnitude of it has been hard to comprehend and left me with a slightly sicky feeling…and then life happened and I had a really busy and super fun few weeks and by the time my Birthday actually arrived, my blood-alcohol ratio was so off kilter and I was so excited about seeing lots of the people I love that the moment passed.

Anyway. I am now 37 and one day and very hungover and, to my great surprise, I’m actually ok with it. At the moment. I feel a million miles away from where I was this time last year when I couldn’t really sense a future and it felt like I was sort of watching life pass me by; and, if there’s one thing that my last few months of being 36 taught me, it is that life can change really fast and you never know what’s coming round the corner. Which can sometimes be wonderful.

So, I’d like to take this into my 37th year, even though – and because I still haven’t quite grown out of my various neuroticisms – I am a little unsettled by how positive and hopeful I’m currently feeling. I hope that I keep putting myself into new situations and doing things that surprise me. I hope that I remember that change can be absolutely amazing – once you’ve got over the initial hurdle. And I hope that I remember that this is all independent of age – cos you can change your life whenever you decide that you’re ready to.

Issa 1

 

The importance of kindness

“I think probably kindness is my number one attribute in a human being. I’ll put it before any of the things like courage or bravery or generosity or anything else.”

Roald Dahl

This quote came up on my timeline the other day. I noticed it because it echoed a sentiment that I have heard a lot recently. I think I might have overlooked the importance of kindness previously. Seen it as less important than intelligence or humour or tenacity, for example. Less interesting.

I think I was totally wrong.

As I get older and, unexpectedly, the world seems bigger and, at times, scarier than it did previously, and I’m increasingly reminded of our fragility at the same time as I appreciate how amazing it is that we’re actually here, kindness seems to take on a new significance to me.

Life is hard. It’s unfair sometimes. It can be cruel. Lonely, even, when you realise that, ultimately, we’re here on our own. And, even though it’s wonderful and we’re really pretty fucking lucky to experience it here and now, it can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming and slightly like we’re freewheeling our way through the universe.

And kindness makes such an unbelievable difference. It is like a hand reaching out through space to grab you. It’s warm, like sunshine. It’s a beacon when things around it feel dark.

I’ve had a mixed year. I’ve felt, sometimes, like I’m veering in the wrong direction. I’ve been disconnected, as though I’m standing on the edge of a crowd and watching everyone else rush past and it would be so scarily easy for me to be lost, forgotten, crushed.

And, the thing that has made the most difference during those times is kindness. The friend that brings me a bunch of flowers after a shit day; the colleague who pops out to get me some chocolate mini rolls when I’m hard against it; the text message asking how my day has been; the guy who offers to carry my suitcase when I’m struggling to yank it up the stairs at the station –

It is amazing how transformative such small acts can be.

And as I’ve been thinking about kindness, I’ve realised that it takes lots of things to be kind. It takes an awareness of – and empathy with – other people. It takes, sometimes, a risk when you put yourself out for someone and are not quite sure how they’ll respond. It takes a step out of your own shit, a putting someone else first. It takes a particular kind of attitude – one that is governed by love for someone rather than judgement or expectation or even your own beliefs. It takes patience.

I’m not great at kindness. I’m shit at doing the coffee rounds at work. I often get so caught up in my own crap that I don’t look beyond my world. I’m hesitant about offering a stranger a hand. I am not always forgiving, to either myself or other people –

And I think I would like to be. I think it really matters. And I think I absolutely agree with Roald Dahl.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing

I have not written anything for a while. It has not been good for me. All the thoughts that I might have worked through with words have been chasing each other around my head in ever-decreasing circles until I have found myself tangled up in them. When you are writing, you can pull out each thread in turn and give it some sort of meaning.

I have just finished Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig. It is, amongst many other things, a good reminder of why it’s important to write. Of how the act of writing can unravel things and of how words, once they’re shared and released from the confines of your own head, can act as a bridge to the world, a way of re-connecting.

One of the costs, for me, of not writing, has been to lose that connection. To feel myself retreat further into a lonely space inhabited by only me and my thoughts. The world becomes greyer as this happens. It is hard to tune in fully when your thoughts are shouting at you. Or, it has been for me. Once they’re out you can turn your attention to other things. The world sharpens, again.

The problem with not writing for a long time is it’s hard to work out, when you start again, where to begin. This not knowing where to begin, what to write, has been part of my retreat but I am reminded, time and time again, that with writing, you just need to start. What then comes out leads you to the next thing and, hopefully, to some sort of reconciliation.

A while ago, I wrote a post about how I no longer believed that there was no such thing as never. It was driven by a growing awareness that we don’t always get what we want in this world. That sometimes, the people that we love and the aspirations that we hold and the hopes that we invest in are just out of our grasp. And that’s just how life is. It was also driven by an acute awareness of my own mortality. A dark, formidable cloud that I couldn’t seem to escape from and that I am acutely aware it is never quite  possible to escape from. For some people. this makes life all the more precious. For me, it made me incredibly scared. How could I make the time I had count? How could I live in the midst of such uncertainty.

Words, I think, might help this. As well as reaching out, they allow us to etch our thoughts and feelings onto the world. They give permanence to things that are fleeting – and they also make fleeting things that, at the time, seem permanent. They are a way out of and beyond ourselves. For some, something that lasts after their years. For others, a way of writing a world that may not, at that time, be within their immediate grasp.

So I am not sure what I will end up writing next but I do know that it’s important for me to keep putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboards thoughts to words. I might not do it here and I might not do it publicly but writing has given me oh so much in the past, and I hope that it can become my route back to the world again.

October 1st

It is the first of October and the sky is a pale grey wash. Outside, the umbrellas are up and, underneath them, eyes are cast down to avoid the spiky rain. Inside, the lights are harsh and artificial, the windows spattered with rain.

I do not like saying goodbye to summer.

In summer, the air is soft and everything glows. There is less, it feels, between you and the world. It is easier to look up, harder not to smile.

I have noticed the leaves turning on the trees around our house. The sight has made me pause –

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You can appreciate Autumn but it is an other. Summer feels part of me.

It is strange that this change which is so predictable, so familiar, still makes me stop and think. As the nights start to creep in and the mornings, stretch, I am acutely aware that things are changing. Soon, the short days and layers of jumpers will feel like commonplace and, while I look forward to the crispness – and cosiness – of winter, summer is a difficult season to wish goodbye.