On Strength

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You don’t know if you’re strong or not until you have to lift something really heavy. Before that, you assume you are, but you don’t really know. You figure you could handle anything because you always have and your mum drilled a mantra into you like, “You’re a strong person. You won’t let this get to you. You’re better than that.” And you believed it. Or the fact that she believed it in every moment you wanted to quit, that was enough.

But one day you’re going to be dealt something the equivalent of the highest setting on one of those machines at the gym, where your legs literally won’t move anymore. And replaying inspirational quotes in your head will only get you so far. Katy Perry songs will work as motivators, then they won’t. And that’s when you’ll figure out if you’re strong, or not.

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What I really hate is this one quote that gets bandied around a lot on FB and Twitter, and regardless of religion, I think it’s bullshit. That god only gives you a level of crap you can deal with (*I don’t think they used the word crap). That “he’ll” never pile more on to you than you can actually handle (whether or not there’s a god is anyone’s guess, but there sure as shit is no gender attached if there is). That everything that happens is a trial, a challenge, a lesson to learn, part of the rich tapestry of life, filled with ups and downs and problems to overcome.

But what if crappy stuff just happens? What if there’s no lesson to learn from it? What if you have too much to handle? Isn’t it better to admit that you’re struggling than pretend it’s a part of some grand quest an invisible being has sent to you for unspoken reasons?

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Strength isn’t pretending everything’s okay when it isn’t. Strength is admitting you might not be able to lift the really heavy thing which seems to have pinned you to floor, like a cartoon tonne falling on Tom, dropped by Jerry from a great height. That maybe your roster is a little much for one person, and not being able to handle everything you’ve been dealt isn’t weakness.

Strength is about seeing your limitations. About asking for help. Knowing that whether you learn a lesson or not, whether there’s an inspirational quote which sums it up or not, you’re strong because even though the shit got to you, you were in the bin and thought you might never get out again, you carried on anyway. You figured out your process and you moved forward in any way you could like you were fighting for your life. Your complicated, ridiculously tricky, unlearnable-from, unswappable, questionable, ache-making, un-sum-up-able life. But yours. All yours.

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Last & Testament

Over Christmas, we wrote a draft of your will. We read the instructions to phrase it exactly, legally, and you divided your possessions up carefully, thinking what everyone wants. We didn’t have witnesses, much, so we never wrote up in best, and you realised you had little left anyone wanted and, though it’s a joke, the list is seriously it: the loose change on the floor of your flat for Amber, the books you’re in, your Woody Allen collection for me. At the top, you named me executor and I asked if that was okay, and you said no-one’s surprised, nobody would be. And this was one on a list of eight things we say we’ll do but don’t, things we think will be funny but, bravado aside, it turns out I don’t love to think of you dead.

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On Other People’s Advice

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Being a human being is, like, super difficult. Sometimes there are no seemingly /right/ moves, and lines you learnt from films, which were meant to be winning, lead-drop and conversation stop. Problem pages are retro and all you post-millennial kids won’t even know what that is but, basically, any answer one person gives claiming expertise, is almost certainly wrong, if it’s on something subjective like love or sex or friends or just how to make a decision. (Although I’d really like to learn how to comprehensively make a decision: why don’t they teach that in school?)

And I’ve read self-help books. I’ve clutched that shit like it’s Bible-accurate (erm…) and stuck to it even if my heart wanted the opposite. I felt misguided pride at listening to advice and not being the dumb bitch the book said I’d be if I’d given a second chance that time I kinda, sorta, wanted to give a second chance. Even though on TV they always, always give the second chance (Hello Jordan Catalano).

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And that’s a problem, isn’t it? If advice implies you’re a thick bitch, fucking stupid, to do the opposite of what’s instructed? Even if it’s seriously what you want.

I read a lot of internet articles and forums and threads, to see what’s said, like maybe I could piece together the perfect instructions from various locations. But I usually end up more confused, or with labels I didn’t know existed, and never with the answer I set out to get. Because I’m pretty sure that, even if it’s deeply buried, we know what we want to find when we seek advice. We hope there’s justification for what it is that we’ve done, or that maybe we’re not alone, and that there’s a way forward, and a template to help us navigate it. Y’know, the way we keep giving Ben Affleck chances to be a human again, against our collective better judgement.

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I guess it’s sort of sadly that this year I’ve learnt even people I thought were close, didn’t always have my best interests at heart. They might not want to fuck me over intentionally, but some people’s advice giving is more to do with justifying decisions they’ve made in their own lives than helping you with yours. By convincing you to make the choices they have, it validates their life and decision-making. And I choose to believe that none of the terrible advice I received this year was vindictive, that is was always the best answer the person had at the time, according to the compass they use to navigate the scattered territory of their own life. But the judgement weighed heavy. Especially when all I wanted was a person to listen.

Morality’s also at play, and it’s like some people never saw an episode of an American TV show (read Felicity, Scandal, Nashville, etc.), and still think there’s such thing as a concrete right and concrete wrongs. Like, for reals. But there isn’t, not in the polarising, religious, youth group, patronising commandments sense, anyway. Life is super fucking complicated. And this needs to be taken into account. 

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If someone asks your advice, tells you something that happened, something they did, something they’re thinking, listen to them. And find out the context, because context is bloody important. If someone’s asking at all, they’re probably not after a lecture, but an opinion, someone to take them seriously without judgement, who won’t tell them they’re going to hell or, to a lesser degree, that their actions are bad and they’re not a good person anymore. I mean, maybe they are a shitty person. Especially if they’re friends with you. But stock advice has to stop. We’ve got to be kinder to the people we like and love, and tailor our responses to that.

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At times, other people’s advice bites. I just really want you to rely on your own head and your own heart and your own gut. Which is totally easier said than done. But if you could even 10% not give a shit what other people think, you’d be so much happier. Immeasurably so. You’re probably not a bad person, anyway. Life is just hard. Do what makes you happy. And fuck anyone who makes you feel anything less than Jennifer Aniston: a total fucking goddess, yo!

On Self-Doubt

This isn’t one of those inspirational articles filled with quotes/memes trying to convince you life’s a totally full glass, overflowing with vaguely expensive Chardonnay (though I might subject you to some quotes/memes, as they’re religion at this point).

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Nothing I can say will change your shitty life anymore than hearing Reese Witherspoon complain about how difficult hers is will make you feel human. Maybe that’s unfair. I did really like that video of her getting a DUI, more than her Oscar-winning material, probably.

Trouble is, if someone that petite, smart, witty and talented is capable of creating insurmountable problems, then what chance do regular people have? And I count myself amongst the regular-ist of the regular; some days my problems are top shelf cereal packets, and the tallest of the tall can’t reach them let alone open and pour the contents into a clean bowl.

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I don’t care how kick-ass you are, even Barney Stinson has bad days, and self-doubt’s bubonic plague-like: quick to kill, yo.

But doubt is not your fault. It’s inherent, interlaced, you’re born with it, pre-disposed to being disappointed by everything, even things you shouldn’t feel that way about. For one, The Game of Life fucking lied: I can’t even drive, let alone collect up family members, and I’m in my thirties, so that makes me a loser by game playing standards, by Kirstie Allsopp standards, according to any number of new campaigns telling me my self-worth is inextricably attached to my child-bearing ability and how brilliantly I sustain relationships (clue: not very).

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I’m not saying every day’s bad. It’s not. Or parts of it are, but I try not to spread negativity like Nutella. My closest people will tell the truth, which is that I moan like a motherfucker. I try to complain productively, but for all the million times I don’t, I’m sorry. I’m a bin dweller, but I know life’s got the potential to be sparkly, occasionally, so I’m not going to self-bury just yet.

One of the best pieces of advice I got this year was that feelings are never ‘silly’ or ‘stupid’ or whatever word you attach to your own if, like me, you’ve total lost trust in yourself and no longer have the ability to tell people to go fuck themselves when they disrespect you (and I love to swear, so). If you feel a certain way, it’s actually okay to own that, embrace it, even if it seems irrational or strange, unlikely or questionable. Spend some time with it. Get to know it and test its legitimacy. But don’t outright downplay or label it as crazy, just because it’s not the way you’re ‘meant to’ feel or something. According to other people or some inbuilt sense of duty you’ve acquired or were instilled with.

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Everyone has bad days. And that’s totally fine. It’s normal. I don’t know about you, but the last thing I need any day is some fucker telling me to cheer up or smile. Covering up or pretending only does you a disservice, and you don’t need to apologise for making other people uncomfortable. That’s their effing problem. And if you’re a mess, or you make a mess, or you do what you want to do and it doesn’t turn out the perfect way the movies said it would, who cares? All you can do is your best at any one time. So don’t be so hard on yourself, have another Mars bar and block any hater that tells you how to live your life. The only person allowed to fuck with your choices is you. So do it as beautifully and elegantly as possible. We all know what haters gonna do, amirite? (Yeah, hate. In case you missed the memo).

Ending the essay in the only way I know how, like a total cunt, so as Fiona Apple says: “I have only one thing to do and that’s to be the wave that I am and then sink back into the ocean.” Go big or go home. <3 xoxo

Bad Blood

It’s a game. Like in Saw, or Scream, it’s a game. And games are fun so enjoy it. Why aren’t you enjoying?

I’m winning. Except there aren’t exactly winners but if we’re tracking I’m absolutely ahead. I guess.

You should be proud. My attention’s scattered, not been this focused since 1999. Got my first boyfriend. Lasted, like, less than a week. Christian boys get confused by god messages and prick tease bible study best friends who call cry when landscapes change.

You know my game play. I know you’ve seen it. I don’t play to win, not since 2006, the final Christmas I monopoly stole from the bank.

Sabotage is much more fun. Not got the tactical skill to outright beat 8 players. I just want all my turns to end. But you, you’re playing to win, like there’s a prize, an outsmarting skill set.

But there’s an empty box, babe, with a charity sticker stuck to it and a bunch of scattered pieces and comradeship like chivalry is dead and I don’t even miss it.

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Just Tell Me

If you change your mind, tell me. But give me detail.

I even get it. I wasn’t joking; already preempt each end that we’ll have. I’m insulated. Just tell me.

Make the conversation last. Don’t make the cull immediate. Let me learn the amputation as you do it: place my hand on the blade as you sever.

If you change your mind, s’alright. You’re not tied, obligated, entrenched or expected. Nothing runs like that, does it?

This, the situation we’re in, this is just what is. And if it’s not, if feelings shift, epiphanies sift the clutter we’ve created with dictionary, mantle, bone, don’t worry. I’ll unhook you.

Which is not to say go.

Just, if you have to, let’s always be able to talk. There’s never any judgement, censor, uncertainty. You let me say anything and – please – always.

If you have to block me, do it. Just explain it. Use quotes if you have to. And let me know, eventually, we’ll have another re-run. Maybe not reunion, but replay, syndication, or start.

Keep talking. Keep everything. For as long as I can have it. I press you.

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Loser

<3

Cellophane wrap or sealed pack or paper bag: clutch me. Try not to drop me.

It, this, crept like damp from the doorway until there was mould along the skirting.

I consciously partook in phone calls and friendings and 56,000 FB messages.

A lie would be I was absent for it. I was absent very little of it.

And now, history book months later, all I want is that wheezing breath next to me.

Hearts suck. Seriously. I mean.

<3

hate you

Confirmation Bias

Every article I’ve read has hoped to enforce an underlying morality code that isn’t even there.

But I’m still reading them. Even though I’ve digested pagefuls of contrary, I continue to Google questions there aren’t even answers to.

And when someone holds my viewpoint, rarely, I ten second covet it. But my family/friends depend on disabled labels lately, so own mind isn’t a thing but a past relic that even the history of’s erased like a floppy: corrupt before you can do anything.

If I told you I knew what I wanted, know what I want, would you believe me? Or would it confirm your diagnosis, doctor ready?

Prescribe me what you like. It won’t change anything.

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You Are Something

You drew a line with a finger, where the booth cushions met, said, “Don’t cross it, yeah?” I didn’t plan to, then, even as I edged closer. That was a test, a buffering at 68% permanently, no chance of an actual load.

You still sit across from the line, always on that side, to my right, and I’m usually first to move. Destroyed now I know what it’s like. Before, I relegated connections to a section in my head for fiction, religion and make believe. That third day I had to concede some times invisible isn’t absent. And now I’m absolute certain of it.

You’re cotton wool soaking me up. And each time a decry of, “Absence doesn’t fondness make,” is thrown between bottled beers, you raise a hand, and everyone knows what you’ll say without you ever saying.

Proximity. Who knew? Who really fucking did, though?

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