Monday, 18 November 2013

Pen vs Laptop

Happy and creative?
No surely No
Tormented and twisted?
Sure I'll produce.
Destined to play
the tortured artist?
Choosing pain over happiness
to find inspiration?

Did I wish this hell upon myself?
In some twisted way
did my subconscious say
here's some creative drive
to last you the rest of your life?

When life got too much
I used to pull out my pen and paper
Now I tap tap tap
on a laptop
But you can't see the emotion in the words on the screen

My tired journals show tear marked stains
words scribbled out in a downwards spiral down the page
as I try to get the words out in the dark
under the influence, my hand drifts
the lettering is not even
words scribbled out, rewritten and rewritten again
and yet, not considered.
Bled onto the page

These words on the screen seem too perfect
too thought out
lacking the emotion they're meant to portray

You can't see how my pen presses through the page
as I angrily try to work it all out
The lines get heavier, the letters, bigger
Exclamation points and question marks
left right and centre
It just isn't the same

I miss...

I miss
you telling me to come closer on the sofa
nestling me under your arm
pressing me to tell you what's wrong,
no matter how many times I said
'I'm fine'
Hearing you say 'come here'
in that way that made me know you were about to make it
Your kisses
Your laugh
Your smile
Your hugs - how you held me so tight
How you gently wiped away my tears from my cheeks
and let me wipe my snotty nose on your jumper
as we laughed about it together
How safe I felt in your presence
We could go to the ends of the earth together
and I wouldn't be afraid, as long as you were there
How I knew you were always there to catch me if I fell
The way you got on with everyone
You making me laugh
Winding me up
Winding you up
Making breakfast together
Making dinner together
Watching Britain's got Talent
Sharing a bottle of wine
Family dinners
Holding your hand
Afternoon naps
Late night phone calls
Text messages
Making plans

I could keep listing all the things I miss about you but the list would go on

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Time to Make a Change

I've been reading a book recently, lent to me by a friend, called 'Finding Your Element'.   I moaned incessantly that all the book talked about for the first 70 pages was people who had already found their so called 'element' and were highly successful, famous, and wealthy.  I kept screaming 'I KNOW that finding your element leads to success, but how the HELL do you FIND it?!?!?!'

Well....the latest chapters have started to hint at how you might discover the thing that you both enjoy and that you're naturally good at, your niche so to speak.  I always thought it was acting but then I got out there, in the real world, and now I'm not so sure.  Or rather, I don't enjoy it enough to put 110% effort into it like I would with a true passion.  But I of the tips?  Change the way you think.  Change your mindset.

I am a glass half empty kinda gal.  Not when it comes to an actual glass because I like to savour my liquids but in the metaphorical sense.  I have known for a long time that thinking positively yielded more opportunities and a healthier and happier life.  But when P was lying in the hospital, I read The Secret and I subscribed to it's thought process thoroughly, like it was my own personal Bible.  I prayed. I visualised.  I thanked God and the universe for healing P in advance.  I believed.  Even when there was very little hope left to cling on to.  I still believed.  And it didn't work.

I still find it hard to hear anyone even mention The Secret in my presence.  And I still struggle to step through the doors of a church.  But I am starting to realise that P had to die for a reason.  His life journey was over.  And it is up to me to learn lessons, and to grow as a person in the wake of his passing.  So perhaps its time.  Time to start changing my mindset.  It is incredibly hard.  It's crazy when I stop to think about it.  How my negativity pervades my every thought and every action.  Perhaps I should wear a rubber band on my wrist and snap it every time a negative thought enters my mind? Negative reinforcement to stop negativity?  Why the hell not.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

You Hold My Hope

You hold my hope in the palm of your hand
You alone hold my hope
Don't break my heart again

16 months of darkness
broken by glimmers of light
16 months of drifting
Unsure of where to go

4 months of feeling stuck
stuck stuck
4 months?
Is that all?
Feels like forever

And now you come along
here to offer me some hope
A chance to start anew
A chance to plan again

Looking ahead
My heart lifted
my smile shifted
I started to believe again
Don't take it all back
Don't destroy it
You hold my hope in your hand

Be gentle with it

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Unemployment Ain't Easy

I have been trying to find the motivation to write again for so long.  The words don't come easily anymore.  Sometimes I think I was only able to write because of all the pain.  And now that it doesn't hurt so much, or rather, that it doesn't hurt ALL THE TIME.....I'm scared I've lost my creativity.  But if I'm honest with myself, it's probably down to the fact that I've allowed myself to be consumed by Facebook, Netflix, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.  The past few days I've found myself in a strange position. With no work on and no real ability to look for work, I have been b.o.r.e.d.  SO I regularly check all my social media sites, troll the internet for new recipes, and generally avoid using my creativity.  How lazy have I become?!  Rather than sitting in front of a site, looking at what all the other people are doing with their lives, why don't I use this down time to write?  To work on future creative projects?

Well...I blame unemployment.

I know what you're thinking.... 'what a cop out!'  Surely if I'm unemployed I should have all the time in the world to be creative and productive.

Truth is, I never knew how hard it was being unemployed until I found myself in it.  Sure I still have promotions work generally once a week.  But mostly, I am not working.  And the fact is I have only been working part time for the past 2 years.  And it is beginning to wear on me.  First there's the financial implications.  Seeing all your money go out of your account every month and very little come back in gets depressing.  And let's be honest, applying to jobs is one of the most tedious and time consuming things ever.  And then there's the ones with the on line forms, which force you to retype your whole CV into their tiny, formatted boxes.  Those are fun.  I once spent 3 hours on one such application because just as I finished it, it froze and deleted everything I'd inputted, twice.  THEN when I finished doing it for the third time, the job was gone.

But what I'm really talking about is the soul destroying, confidence crushing nature of unemployment. It's said that 'the longer a person is unemployed, the harder it is for him/her to find work'.  True.  Employers don't look favourably on these type of people, BUT it's more than that.  The longer you've been unemployed, and the more job rejections you've faced, the less confidence you project.  I KNOW I could do a lot of things out there but deep down I am overwhelmingly scared of failing.  I know I reek of desperation in an interview room.  But sometimes I want to scream at them.  'I NEED this job!  You don't understand, I NEED something to hold on to.  Because everything, and I mean everything, has changed in my life in the last few years, and I need something that is mine.  That will give me a focus and a reason to get up in the morning.'  I need a reason to get up in the morning.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Disappointingly Stuck

Meredith: The very worst part is that the minute you think you’re past it, it starts all over again.
Cristina: And always, every time, it takes your breath away.

Ok, so I haven't written in awhile.  I was working.  Busying myself getting the flat ready to sell.  Playing tour guide to my parents.  Busy.  Living.

And then school holidays started and a job I had set up for the school holidays fell through and then a job interview I thought went well, didn't.  And then I spent all day today applying for a job I really wanted.  Technical difficulties made it take FOREVER and by the time I finished the job was gone.  

And I started sobbing.  Again.

And then, as I watched Grey's Anatomy, I realised I wasn't upset about the job.  This is the grief at work again.
I thought I was 'over it', 'better', 'ready to move on'.  And I am but the world seems to think differently because at every turn that I make I feel like I'm stopped in my tracks.  I am stuck. Still.  Nearly 2 years later and I am stuck in what feels like a holding cell.  A friend told me 'you've got a lot of life still to live.  You can't live like you're going to die tomorrow.'  And I wanted to scream.  Life has taught me differently.  Life is short.  Immensely short.  So every waking moment that I'm not moving forward feels like a waste.  And I begin to panic.  

I'm an active person.  When I spend all day at a computer I begin to feel the energy building up in my body, ready to explode and the only cure is to workout, run, punch a punching bag....And that is how I feel about my life.  But I can't run away from it.  Even though every bone in my body is telling me to pack my bags and take off.  To give up on the idea of making any useful contribution to society and to just live like a vagabond, moving from place to place.  Which is exactly how I felt 18 months ago.  So how am I back here?  How do I fix this?  

People have said I am strong for so long.  I believed them.  But now I'm starting to seriously doubt. 

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Reflections on the West Coast from the Midwest

Wow.  Ten days of driving, exploring the west coast, taking endless photos, chatting about life, going to wine tastings.....and I only blogged once?!  What was I thinking?!

I wasn't!  I was living in the moment!  Correction, I AM living in the moment.

In this blog entry from The Kid in the Front Row, The Kid talks about how he lost the joy he once experienced whilst watching films because he was constantly trying to produce a unique commentary on the film or the industry; his critical/creative mind was running non-stop, I imagine, and it distracted him from purely enjoying the present moment, the simple action of watching a film.  And I was doing the same thing.  I too had started to find myself constantly writing a blog in my head as I walked from place to place, sat in the car, as I started to fall asleep, in the middle of a conversation, and while reading a book or watching a film.  One minute to myself and my mind would start racing, but these creative thoughts weren't free flowing as they once had been.  I was trying to make something of each moment; the thoughts were forced.  And thus, somewhat lazily, I rarely reached for my computer or notebook, and I started to berate myself for not pinning my ideas down, for not utilising my time away from the UK to write, as I'd planned.

And then I told my self-critiquing mind to 'Shut the hell up!!!'

Because instead of burying my head in my laptop, I spent the last week and a half experiencing each moment and soaking in all the beautiful sights and sounds of the long and winding roads from LA to Seattle.  My laptop will always be here, my thoughts may be fleeting but I trust if it's a truly great idea, it will return.  This journey must be lived, for I can feel myself healing, day by day, and that is worth more than a blog entry will ever be able to convey.  So now, with ample time in a quiet cafe, I will try to reflect on what has happened, from then to now.

I had no idea what to expect of Northern California.  For me, north of San Francisco and Napa Valley was a non-entity.  My only 'prior knowledge' of the region was so cleverly derived from the Visit California Ad:

And Napa Valley itself was previously just a dream destination.  The reality could not possibly live up to the elaborate images I had created in my mind over the years.  But even though the olive branches were bare, the beauty of the region shown through, and I could see how incredible the place must look at it's peak.  Having arrived at 3, we only had a few short hours to get in a wine tasting, and we chose Beringer (for the fact that I always enjoyed their wines, and....we had a two for one voucher). No one ever tells you how expensive wine tasting can get!  What an incredible experience.  The woman doing our wine tasting poured us generous samples of 6 wines, and talked with us at length about wine, her life, the region, the life of a server....she became a friend very quickly, and made the experience memorable.  Then we ventured down a quaint street in the town of St Helena, and bought the gourmet ingredients for our fashionable hotel room picnic.  There is nothing I love more than wandering around a gourmet supermarket, trying all sorts of fancy goats cheeses and talking about the various flavours with the cheese guy, debating about wine choice with a friend, and discovering unique gluten free products like locally produced chocolate chip cookies that did NOT taste gluten free!!  Our night was set to be a success.  Until D spilled red wine on the white bed spread and had to run out to get stain remover, while I started having a mini meltdown because I'd failed to keep track of my finances and P is not around to clean up my mess or fix my problems!  I felt horrible snapping at D, and giving him the silent treatment for the remainder of the night.  I was never an easy woman to be around.  My mood swings are erratic like most women, but now.... they shock even me.  I'm not always able to control the angsty teenager that lives within, who's filled with bitterness and rage at what has become of my 28 year old life.

But the next day was a new day, and with the sun shining, we started the day by watching a geyser erupt, and giggling over fainting baby goats.  And then we were back on the road and headed for the Redwoods.  We drove through the Avenue of Giants, and pulled over to do a bit of hiking.  Whilst the hiking paths were generally very easy, and thus not as fulfilling as we'd hoped, the views were spectacular.  The size of the Redwoods is impossible to describe.  There is something magical about those forests.  The light patterns cast upon the soft, cushiony floor of pine needles is life affirming, alluding to a world beyond, making me aware of my small presence in this vast world.
Until we reached Fortuna, a small town just outside Eureka.  There is nothing in Fortuna of note, but the hotel room was huge and luxurious, the hot tub was an added treat after hours in a car with the worst designed seats ever, and the local brew pub across the street was a wonderful surprise.  It was 'peanuts on the floor' night at the pub and the place was packed with locals and hotel guests alike.  D was highly impressed by the quality of the beer and I couldn't get over my bowl sized glass of red wine that tasted like heaven.
The next day was our last day in the Redwoods but it involved the most exciting part of the drive since Highway 1.  We drove through a national park to reach Fern Canyon and I truly felt like I was in a jeep in Jurassic Park, taking a tour of the dinosaur park, certain that a brontosaur would come trudging through the dense trees at any moment.  The dirt roads were rough, steep, narrow, and flooded from time to time.  But then!  Oh how we were rewarded!!  Fern Canyon was another site used in the filming of Jurassic Park and it was spectacular.  A rather deep stream ran through it but D and I were determined to hike through it, so over and across logs we carefully made our way, me more hesitantly than him.  But still, I was reminded of how I used to whine and carry on with P, how I had little faith in my abilities previously.  Whilst my confidence has not grown tremendously in adventures such as these,  I am happy to push my comfort boundaries these days.  After all, I've been through much worse than falling into a stream!  Great experiences and unforgettable moments are forged through facing your fears and there is nothing more rewarding than doing something that scares you, even if it's just a little bit.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Bye Bye LA-LA, Let's Hit the Road

Friday night I met D at the airport and after agonising over the choice of cars (colour and size-the most important aspects of a car, obviously), we finally hit the road.  We spent the night in Santa Barbara and had an amazing breakfast in a seaside cafe (Esau's Cafe if you're ever there).  It had a wonderful small town, hippie, surf-loving feel to it.  D even overheard some of the locals chatting about the 'new guy who just rolled into town in his gas-guzzling Volkswagon van - 'what a hypocritical hippie surfer dude' - is what I imagine they were thinking).  Sadly we had a lot of ground to cover, so we jumped back in the car, loaded up on supplies and made our way to the Pacific Coast Highway (Hwy 1) via Highway 101. It was a spectacular, sunny, beautiful day, and foregoing the terrible radio choices, we opted to drive in silence much of the way,  chatting about the scenery, life and our road trip plans.  The first stop was Hearst Castle.  William Randolph Hearst's humungous, towering building that he, rather unbelievably, called a home at one point.  It is a stunning architectural achievement, designed by a woman no less!, built on the top of a high hill within the Santa Lucia mountain range.  The gardens surrounding it are an awe-inspiring achievement as well, given there is no natural top soil available on the grounds.  And the pools!  Oh the swimming pools....  It took an unbelievable about of self restraint not to do a canonball into the brilliant blue waters of the Neptune Pool.

We plodded on, venturing back to Highway 1 and enjoying the most magnificent drive I have every witnessed.  D gripped the wheel with white knuckles and we constantly wove around the dramatic bends in the road, whilst trying to catch glimpses of the sea to our left and the mountains to the right.  We pulled over multiple times to take photos, to gawk, and mutter the words we can't seem to stop saying 'it's sooooo beautiful' and then back to the car.  We were racing against the clock, hoping to be off the road before dark.  There is no way you could safely navigate that road at night!  And we were successful.  Sadly that meant blowing through Big Sur (a fantastically cool looking camping and hiking area).  But in Monteray we were able to sample seafood at a 'British pub'!!  Felt like home. attempt at it at least.  The calamari steak in a mushroom sauce melted in the mouth and was a real find.  And D's clam chowder was tasty as well (or so I was told - curse my bloody lactose intolerance!)

Next up was San Francisco!! A city I'd been longing to visit my whole life.  We spent the first afternoon walking the length of the Golden Gate Bridge and taking countless photos.  And personally, I spent the day struggling.  It suddenly occurred to me that P will never take this trip with me.  He'll never see these sights alive in the flesh.  And it hurt to think how much he would have loved this holiday, the utter joy he would have experienced in scaring the crap out of me on every bend on Highway 1, while I  nagged him to 'slow down!' and shouted 'it's not funny anymore!'  And every time D shot me a look as if to say 'you're so silly', I saw P arch his eyebrow at me, and give me a look that always wounded me just a little bit, giving him the perfect excuse to 'make it all better'.  And I hate every moment that takes me away from the present.  It doesn't feel fair to compare.  But my memory is more powerful than I realised.  And like in the films, when the lead character experiences a death of a loved one, P's face seems to be appearing everywhere I turn these days.  He's in Chinatown with me, peering into the shops, he's nibbling on sushi for the first time (again) and hating the taste of eel while I lap it down, he's in the car, he's always in the car with me, and he's on the top of the mountains, taking in the view.  He's everywhere and nowhere all at once.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

On a Holiday from Life

Wow, I've been sleeping a LOT.  Well, a lot more than normal.  This late night owl who's used to going to bed at 1 or later, has been crashing at 11 or earlier most nights.  Ok, so some of it might be jet lag, but more than anything, I'm relieved to be an ocean away from my day to day life.  They say you can't run from your problems, but I would beg to differ.  I have so successfully run away that in retelling stories I keep finding myself talking about P in the present tense.  And then I correct myself and it's slightly awkward for all involved.

Ok so maybe you can't run away, completely.

But it is nice to have a reprieve.  I know I will crash a hundred times over when I return to my empty flat, but for now, I am enjoying feeling like old me.  Pre-grief me.  Pre-16 months of hell and then some  me.  I still don't have my old energy back.  That 'get up and go' seems to have been lost.  I never thought I would ever define myself as 'lazy'.  From an early age, I couldn't even sit still and watch TV or a film.  I always had to be doing something.  Now, however, the moment I'm left alone (which is rarely on this holiday), I seem to sink into the sofa and zone out, my body feels three times it's weight and my brain goes blank.  I guess I'm using a lot of energy to play the role of the 'old-me'.  I know no one expects this of me.  And it's not a purposeful choice on my part either.  It's just easier.  And frankly, much more fun.  

Loving the La-La Life

I was not expecting to love LA.  Hell, I wasn't even expecting to LIKE it.  I was just hoping for some nice weather and a chance to catch up with a few friends.  I guess I also hoped my assumptions might be wrong.  You see, I originally booked this trip with the intention of scoping out potential cities which might tempt me back to the US.  This was before I realised that the US only offers 2-3 weeks holiday a year to most employees...and before I decided in my heart that the UK was where my future laid.

And yet.  I have found myself tempted by the allure of the LA life.  I keep having to remind myself that this is a holiday.  This is not reality.  Sure it's wonderful when you get to spend your days aimlessly driving about the city, gawking at stunningly beautiful houses, admiring the picturesque mountains, and spending time with friends.  But would I love it just as much if I tried to make it as an actor in this daunting city?  Would I enjoy it as much when struggling navigate the dense traffic in order to make it to work on time?  And making friends in LA seems impossible; if you're an American, adrift in a sea of struggling actors, in a town where few frequent bars due to the inevitable need to drive home.  The Brits here, on the other hand, seem to find a ready-made group of friends in the Brits in LA group.  I was honoured to be welcomed by the attendees at the Brits Breakfast on Tuesday, as I accompanied my British friend.  They were a very kind and friendly bunch.  Although, it appeared to primarily function as a networking event, it was clear they were also a very supportive group of individuals.  And I found myself wishing that I could join the group, as at times, I feel more at ease in a group of Brits than almost my fellow American.

After a light breakfast, we sought out Crumbs Bakery for their vast selection of tantalising cupcakes.  I had a thin mint chocolate cupcake, with mint icing and a chocolate ganache.  It wasn't the best cake I'd ever had, but the flavour was delightfully nostalgic.  (Thin mints were always my favourite Girl Scout cookie growing up.)  Then after a few hours of searching for a rental car for me, we hopped in the car and took a short jaunt to Santa Barbara.  What a beautiful little suburb.  I wish we'd gone down to the water but it was an unseasonably cold evening and none of us were properly dressed for the weather.  So after a healthy dinner at True Food Kitchen (this city is heaven for a wheat-intolerant, lactose-intolerant girl who enjoys vegetarian food), we watched a film at an older cinema.  I miss the days before multiplexes.  When cinemas only housed a few screens, and you could chat at length with the cinema workers about films......Anyways....Life of Pi in 3D was incredible.  Truly beautiful.

Today was a day of exploration.  I managed to get fairly close to the Hollywood sign on my own, manoeuvring the narrow, windy, incredibly hilly roads with...ease?  No, no, whilst holding my breath, and praying I didn't go rolling down the hill into another car (automatic cars are hard to drive on hills!). And then a good friend took me on a fantastic tour of the Hollywood Hills, pointing out great views and telling me all about LA (and frankly selling the city fantastically well).  Then we had lunch at a cafe popular amongst celebrities (Billy Zane was there today!) - M Cafe in Melrose.  OUTSTANDING food.  At a reasonable price as well.  Gluten free vegetarian wrap?  With a kale salad?  Yum.

Today was rounded off perfectly with a stand up gig by Russell Brand at Largo.  He was amazing.  I was never really a Russell Brand fan but for $25 I couldn't pass up the opportunity.  And boy am I glad I went.  He was hilarious and philosophical.  He spoke about spirituality and yet he brought humour to it.  He made me think and he made me laugh.  And then he hugged me afterwards.  I couldn't have asked for more.  Followed by a late late dinner at In n' Out Burger.  It felt like a proper 'LA' night.  And it was good.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Multiple Lives or Multiple Chapters?

Today marked the end of the first week of my USA tour.  The past few days have been a constant reminder of where I came from and how different my life is compared to my high school dreams.

Setting down in NYC allowed me time to recall the magnitude of American cities.  New York is on a completely different energy level to London.  It is hard to explain to anyone who has never lived in London, especially those from the US, but whilst it is one of the largest and most populated cities in the world, I will always love it for it's small city feel.  Perhaps it's the lack of touring skyscrapers, or overly wide streets and sidewalks.  Or maybe the old world charm of the city lends a provincial feeling, the buildings are not as harsh and unforgiving as in New York, and possibly it's the abundance of parks, green spaces, and quiet suburban areas that gives London an all together different type of 'city-living' experience.  I was surprised to find myself homesick for London only a couple days into my stay in the Big Apple.  And I was shocked by the simple, strange observations I have gained thusfar on American living.

It's amazing the little things you forget when you emigrate.  Insignificant, minor things that make you feel like a foreigner in your own country.  Like when I go to turn on a light...I automatically reach to press a dimmer switch in or turn it like a dial to adjust the lighting level, only to be met with a simple light switch that flicks on by lifting the little switch up.  This may be too much information, but even the  means by which you flush a toilet is different.  I keep going to press the button on top (like in the UK) and then having to search for the handle on the side.  Bath tubs are insanely shallow.  It's no wonder I didn't discover the joys of a bath until I moved across the pond.  Tax added at the end of a sale always throws me. Why can't you include the tax in the price like in the UK?!  And driving on the right side of the road is entirely disorientating.  These minor things would seem like normal observations when travelling anywhere else in the world, but for me, as an American who spent most of her life in the US, it feels oddly unsettling.  How could I forget these minute things?

But if NYC made me feel like a foreigner, a visit to my parent's place, and the task of sorting through all my college, high school, and childhood things was an all together different kind of awakening.  Flipping through my old journals, I was reminded of the independent, MASSIVELY driven, dreamer I used to be.  I was going to live a life in the theatre; money was not important.  I didn't care if I never became a success.  All I wanted was to 'see the world' and 'live life to the fullest'.  But then again, aren't we all a bit like that in college?  It's easy to think that money isn't important when your bills are minimal and student loans are your source of 'income'.  Then graduation comes, and the bills start rolling in.  Your friends with 'real jobs' are going out to eat, to concerts, and on holidays and inviting you along and suddenly, money is really a necessity.

I didn't make the transition any easier on myself by choosing to start an acting career in another country, where my 'type' and my accent is just not needed in abundance.  So I started to wonder if I'd never moved abroad how different would my career be?  Would I still be the overly ambitious single girl of my youth?  Would I be a jobbing actress in Chicago or NYC?  Back then I felt stronger, more independent, and sure of what I wanted.  But of course, grief changed me and grief is the price you pay for love.

And finally it hit maybe I didn't follow through with my career ambitions.  In the early days, I confided in a friend that I felt I too had died with P.  His response was simple:  'Many people live multiple lives in one lifetime.'  But while I am prone to feel that I have already lived my share of lives, started over again and again, I want to think of these as chapters instead.  Just because I have moved on to a new chapter, without P, does not mean I cannot flip back to the pages of our relationship and find strength in the love we shared.  And perhaps in time, I will find myself revisiting the pages of my college days, rediscovering my old independence and ambition once again.

Looking back can also offer perspective.  I am prone to jealousy.  I'm not proud of it, but it's true.  Watching my cousin's success over the years has been hard at times.  As she headlined a musical that toured the country, I was still performing in unpaid plays with runs that lasted a meagre two nights.  But she has worked hard for her success, and I know those friends of mine who are forging incredible careers for themselves are forced to make tough sacrifices.  In the end, I chose to spend time with P over auditions and I chose to travel.  In the past 7 years I have seen and done more than I ever dreamed possible.  So why am I moaning that my career is not where I expected it to be?  It was a choice I made.  And a choice I don't regret for one second.  After all, 20 year old me wanted to 'live life to the fullest'.  I'm pretty sure she'd be proud of 28 year old me.  

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Let the Adventure Begin!!

Well the day has finally arrived.  In less than 6 hours I'll be heading to Heathrow, readying myself to board the relatively short flight to NYC.  I couldn't tell you how many times in the preceding weeks I've been asked by friends and strangers alike 'Are you excited?!'

My answer was a quick 'Yes' months ago, but as the time neared, I began to realise that excitement had sneakily morphed into an intense sense of anxiety.  This isn't the first holiday without P.  If you remember, I travelled to Madrid back in May 2011 to stay with a friend.  I spent time in Florida just months after P died for 'un-Christmas' with my parents.  But my body is making this feel like the first.

The other holidays were a blur.  I coasted through them in a kind of haze.  Dealing with the difficulties, and the sudden surges of griping grief pains by retreating into a state of denial or 'shut down mode', as I like to call it.  I felt like a shell of myself.  An empty vessel.  I was on holiday, but not from my grief.  It followed me like a dark shadow, resting heavily on my shoulders.

It's presence is now more distant.  I feel my grief walk alongside me, lurking behind me, always.  But somehow, I feel like I've gained a small amount of control over it.  I'm no longer scared of the Grief Monster.  I may be caught off guard by it, from time to time, feel it threatening to consume me.  But I do not live in fear of it.  If it wants to overwhelm me, it will.  So be it.  Those times when I've ended up on the kitchen floor, in a puddle of tears, screaming to the sky, thinking my tears would never cease....well you know what happened?  The tears stopped.  I got up off the floor, dusted myself off, and started again.  I'm getting used to this process.  And I think my friends are too.

But herein lies my anxiety.  My friends in the UK have witnessed some of this grief journey.  Much has been private, but I know they've seen me change before their eyes.  From the girl who struggled to meet another's gaze, who looked gaunt, pale, and lifeless to a woman who is attempting to move forward, stumbling, struggling, but still trying.  My friends in the US did not know P.  They have not been here to witness the aftermath.  What will they see when they look at me?  Will they see my scars?  I worry they will ask about P and his death, and equally, I worry they will not.  I worry I will appear too OK and I worry I will breakdown.  I am accustomed to putting on my 'happy face' for a few days at a time, but 7 weeks?  I'm not sure my public facade will remain intact.

And then I think - how little credit I seem to be giving to the people I have grown up with?!  I know so many of my friends wished they could have been here for me.  So why worry?  Why stress?  Because that's the Grief Monster talking!  As for me, with 5 1/2 hours to go, I am eagerly, expectantly, enthusiastically EXCITED.  Let the adventure begin!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Launching into Something Great?

The last few months have been tough.  I've kept my head down and plodded on, all the while, keeping my sights set on my holiday in America.  I told myself if I could just get to February, this journey and adventure will surely answer so many of the questions that have been buzzing about my mind for the past 6 months.  Like 'what do I want to do with my life?' 'where do I want to live?' 'what really matters to me now?'  

As the clock struck midnight on New Years Eve, and I started another year without P, I felt like I was at a turning point.  I actually found myself making so many New Years resolutions, and I vowed this would be the year I got back to London, and back to my life.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was buying a very expensive new boiler for the flat, fixing my car, paying countless bills, and realising that moving on from this home and this place won't be as easy as I expected.

I had secured a solicitor to transfer the property into my name; however, he did not inform me of the difficulties I would face with the mortgage provider.  I walked into the branch one day, simply assuming I needed to fill out some paperwork.  I had been told by the bank manager that all that needed to be done was a name change; that I wouldn't need to file for a mortgage myself.  A year later and I was practically laughed out the door, and bluntly told, my only options were to keep paying the mortgage into P's estate, or to sell.

I'm ready to move.  I'm ready to leave.  But to relinquish P's home to highest bidder?  Well that's a step too far.

Then I learned my lodger is moving out.  While I'm away.  Causing further financial distress.

I thought to myself 'Really life?  Really?!  Can ya stop kicking me while I'm down please?!  I'm trying to grieve! I don't have time for these practical, frustrating setbacks!'

But then I woke up today.  I'm alive.  I still have money in the bank and a roof over my head.  Food in my belly and friends who give good hugs.  Life never plays out the way you think it will.  Sometimes it's devastating, hard, and seemingly unbearable.  But it can always change.  Just as the tragedies of life are completely unpredictable, so too can the simply wonderful moments catch you totally off guard.
A smile from a stranger.  A kind word.  A nice night out (or in) with friends.  A great film.  Love.  A career opportunity.  A beautiful sunset.

Anything can happen.  And hopefully, after nearly 16 months of being 'dragged back by life', I'm about to be 'launched towards greatness' sometime soon.

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Photos Worth 1000 Words

Photos worth a thousand words
Captured moments of intangible vivacity
Bring the dead to life
Confusing the living
For if we could only
dive into the photo
Reach out and touch the faces
emblazoned on the page
Live still in that one moment
of pure bliss
Then everything might feel right again
Photos worth a thousand thoughts
If those faces could pop out
like a child's 3D book
Just long enough to quickly stroke
the cheek of the face beneath the image
That might just be....enough
But to look at these photos
still as they are
Breaks the heart
For if time travel was real
possible, conceivable
I'd journey back to the moment
in the photo
In a land far away
Just you and I
Laughing together
as we discovered the world
side by side

As I prepare for my seven week journey across the USA, I have been going through things, trying to de-clutter the flat and downsize my belongings.  In doing so, I have come across P's camera.  I decided to use his on my travels because on our last holiday together, my camera had started to emit a puff of smoke like an old fashioned one every time I used the flash.  Somehow...that doesn't seem right to me....So of course, I needed to back up the photos and clear the memory to make room for a record of my next adventure.  But how could I not browse through the photos as they uploaded?  

I had seen them anyways as I had uploaded our Cambodia photos upon our return nearly 2 years ago but somehow it struck me again......I would do anything to travel back in time to that holiday with P.  

I can't say that every moment was bliss.  But it was just him and I.  In a foreign land, as a team.  And I had never been anywhere like it before.  It's a beautiful country and P and I fell in love with it.  The food, the people, the sights, the weather, the cheap alcohol!  It was fantastic.  Of course, we both tired of the begging, the  obvious socio-economic inequality, the loud croaks of the lizards late at night, the bugs, and the prostitutes.  However,  on the whole, it was a complete adventure, from start to finish, our kind of holiday.  

I find myself yearning to go back there, but struggling with the concept that P would not be by my side.  And yet, I can not stop thinking about their strength and resolve.  The Cambodian people are survivors.  True, STRONG survivors.  Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge destroyed their country not that long ago.  In Siem Reap, the city nearest the famous Angkor Wat temples, the first bar was built in 2001.  Ten years later and they had erected a whole strip of bars and restaurants, catering to tourists of all ages.  Cambodia is steadily working towards becoming a popular tourist destination, much like Thailand.  I find it hard to put into words the admiration I felt towards its people.  What I can say, though, is that I find it laughable when people tell me I am 'a strong woman'.  No.  I am a woman who has been faced with a difficult loss, who is simply trying to pick up the pieces and carry on as best I can.  But I have heat, hot water, a roof over my head, clothes on my back, food in my stomach, friends and family.  I have one big obstacle to overcome.  The women of Cambodia?  They have too many obstacles to count.  I will go back one day.  I have a lot to learn from them.