Tuesday, 27 December 2016

We Are Better Than 2016

The time of half-hearted resolutions is on its way! The first few weeks of 2017 will be ushered in by people with grandiose ideas of self-improvement, and then will fade into a sense of resignation at our inability to make serious change for the rest of the year. Then, of course, the cycle will start again in the first week of 2018. A vicious cycle that only serves to solidify our own ideas of our capabilities, or lack thereof.

As you have probably guessed, I don't like New Years Resolutions. They rarely ever stick, and they're usually about trivial things, like joining gyms and losing weight, or reading more and watching TV less, or putting more money aside. Of course, those are all nice enough ideas, they're just not anything I really care about with enough conviction to make a resolution. Back when I used to make them, my resolutions would be more about pushing through my anxiety, or rising above bullies, or wishing that my family was happier or wanting to feel better about the fact that I'm not skinny. And they were never useful either. So I'd like to make it official that I am not going to make New Years Resolutions anymore. Which is why I am posting this today - we're still in 2016, with just a few days to go, and I am making a resolution.

Actually, it's more of a commitment to myself, and not just for the year - for the rest of my life.
Saskdraws david bowie quote tribute

So I've had an epiphany, of sorts, in the past few weeks. I can't keep sitting on my arse waiting for life to kick me into gear. Looking at me, you wouldn't think I was that sort of person; I mean, I moved countries at 17 years old, on my own... but I am. It's like I've been a spectator in my own life (which is a cliché, I know, but they do exist for a reason). I used to dream of being on Ellen and Graham Norton and Jimmy Fallon, and it’s like I got the hope beaten out of me. I never wanted to be rich and famous – I just wanted to be good at whatever I chose to do with my life. When I had dreams of being an actor, those talk shows were like a glowing neon sign that you’d made it. But somewhere in the last five years I lost that feeling.

I lost that impulse to do anything remotely out of my comfort zone.

I lost my drive.

I lost hope.

I lost belief in myself.

For three years I’ve been saying that I’m only good at three things – coffee, writing and singing – but the truth is, I didn’t (and still don’t) believe that I’m good enough at those to warrant basing my life choices around them. In fact, since moving to England and seeing how different the coffee scene is over here, I can safely cross being a great barista off the list. So that takes me down to two. But unfortunately, these are things I cannot be objective about; I only know I’m good at these things because people tell me so, and even then, if you’ve seen the auditions episodes of X Factor or Idol, there are loads of people whose close friends and family tell them how wonderful they are, and then…. Well, they aren’t exactly… basically they cause your ears to bleed.

But when I pulled over in my car to write the first draft of this post, I had this feeling in my gut, and it’s a feeling I haven’t had in such a long time. I’ve spent every day with one goal. I just wanted to be OK. In the words of Ingrid Michaelson:

Image result for ingrid michaelson be ok lyrics

That is how I’ve survived – if I focus all my energy on just being OK, on getting to tomorrow, I can manage. But if I continue to do this, I’m never going to do anything more than just be OK. And I so desperately want to be more than OK!

I don’t want to reach the end of my life and look back and say, “Well, it was good enough.”

I don’t want it to be average.

I don’t want it to be FINE, or agreeable or JUST OKAY.

I WANT IT TO BE FUCKING BETTER.

To be clear, my goal isn’t to be the best. Trying to be the best is an unattainable objective that will only stress me out until I give up or kill myself. Trying to be the best will only mean misery and heartache. Trying to be the best is what made me so ready to settle in the first place. I looked back at my early school years and, realising how stressed I had been, decided to just stop caring, but it didn’t quite work because on some level I still cared. Unfortunately, that only made it worse, because then I became a procrastinator with a violent fear of failure: someone who spent weeks pretending I didn’t need to worry, and then panicked about it. So my goal is never to be like that again. MY GOAL IS TO BE BETTER.

Better than I used to be.

Better than my expectations on my worst day and better than my expectations on my best.

Better than who I am today.

Better than my worst panic attack.

Better than my first attempts at a novel.

Better than the first performance I ever gave.

Better than that note I missed singing Over the Rainbow this morning.

Better than that stumble on the pavement.

Better than those bullies ever made me feel I could be.

Better than feeling lost and homesick with no clue where my home is.

Because I do have a home. MY HOME IS ME. I don’t need to keep hiding behind excuses anymore. Because my main obstacle was, is and always will be, myself. The Princess Diaries taught me that “No-one can make you feel inferior without your consent” and that’s the worst part.

Everything those bullies ever said, everything they made me feel… none of that compares, comes close, holds a flickering candle in the depths of hell, to what I did to myself. I ripped myself apart from the inside over and over and over, sometimes without even realising I was doing it; I was training myself to give up. I even thought I was doing myself a favour, because if you don’t try it doesn’t hurt as much when you fail. I was wrong. I tore myself down until I didn’t feel determination or drive or hope anymore – I felt nothing. Because if I let myself feel, it brings the bad with the good, and nothingness is easier than pain. But the nothingness takes so much energy and I take so long to recharge.

Do you have any idea what it feels like to know that YOU are the reason for your own unhappiness, but having no idea how to change it, like someone in a crowd screaming for anyone’s attention despite knowing you’ll never be heard above the raging stream of consciousness?

I CAN’T DO THAT ANYMORE. I HAVE TO BE BETTER.


So that is what I will do. I will strive to be better. 


Always.


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So usually here I have sections talking about recommendations for movies and books and music but as this is my last entry for this year, I'm going to do something a little different. I'm going to post a tribute to the celebrities we've lost this year, because they mean so much to so many, and most of them meant a lot to me. 
Goodbye to the actors and the musicians. Goodbye to the athletes and the artists. Goodbye to the freaks and the oddballs. Goodbye to the magic and the music. Goodbye to the force and the pure imagination. Goodbye to the famous and to the unsung heroes of every tragedy that has struck this year, from Orlando to Aleppo and everything in between. Goodbye to the innocence of children in warzones and the childhoods of adults as their idols faded away. Because Ghostbusters remade with women is not what kills our childhoods. What murders our youth is our childhood heroes being taken from us one by one, as we stand by in shock, unable to stop it. 

Goodbye David Bowie. Thank you for teaching us all to break the mould, and that your uniqueness is important to cultivate, no matter what others may think. Thank you for the music and the movies and the wisdom. You are missed.
Image result for the breakfast club quote david bowie

Goodbye Alan Rickman. Thank you for bringing life to one of the best characters of this century, and for knowing him better than anyone else. Thank you for your films and your wit and your genuine love for everything you did. You are missed so much.
harry potter alan rickman always snape severus snape

Goodbye Prince. You were misunderstood for such a long time, but hopefully your legacy can continue on forever.
dancing hot reactions sex prince

Goodbye Anton Yelchin. You were far, far too young. You were a wonderful actor and beautiful human being, and you deserved so much more.
anton yelchin

Goodbye Kenny Baker. I hope R2-D2 and C3P0 take you on adventures, wherever you are.
c-3p0

Goodbye Gene Wilder. You were such an important part of my childhood, such a defining factor in how I grew up, in films like Willy Wonka, Young Frankenstein, my favourite version of Alice in Wonderland, and Blazing Saddles, and I am forever grateful. You made me believe in magic for so long. You are so missed.
gene wilder willy wonka willy wonka and the chocolate factory

Goodbye Leonard Cohen. You were a musical visionary and wrote one of my favourite songs of all time. You have touched the hearts of millions of people and you have brought light into so many lives.
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Goodbye Ron Glass. I am not religious, but Sheperd Book is, and I bet he is praying for you.
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Goodbye George Michael. You were an incredible man, an inspiration and an outspoken supporter of civil rights and LGBT pride in the face of adversity. Your version of Somebody to Love at the Freddy Mercury tribute concert is one of the best performances of any artist ever, and the best version of that song. Your music, your style and your life were extravagant, excessive and entertaining.
Image result for george michael somebody to love

Goodbye Carrie Fisher. Thank you for being incredible on and off screen, for your writing talents as well as your humanity. Thank you for Princess Leia and The Blues Brothers and Marie in When Harry Met Sally, and Janie in Drop Dead Fred. Thank you for teaching young girls that they can do anything, and that there is also magic and strength within you, even when you can't see it. 
carrie fisher

Goodbye to Ronnie Corbett and Terry Wogan; two shining lights of British entertainment that should never be forgotten for their hilarity and perseverance.
Goodbye Muhammad Ali. Despite my non-existent interest in sport, even I was shocked and saddened to hear of your passing, and I know how much it has affected so many people. You are definitely missed, and your iconic fights and verses will be remembered.
Goodbye to the countless others we have lost in between - to Zsa Zsa Gabor, Paul Daniels, Denise Robertson, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Alexis Arquette, Pete Burns, Florence Henderson, Andrew Sachs, Peter Vaughan, Rick Parfitt and Liz Smith, as well as anyone else I have not mentioned.

And most of all, goodbye to 2016. The only thing on this list that is unlikely to be missed by many. Thanks for nothing, and I can only hope and pray that 2017 will be just ever so slightly improved.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The Psychology of Fandoms

So I already wrote a speech on this, but since I did that long before I created this blog, and because I'm not really done with this topic, I thought I would rewrite it and elaborate. 

Teenagers get a lot of flak for being obsessed with pop culture, addicted to their phones, emotionally stunted… but the big one is antisocial. I've heard a slew of these phrases thrown at my generation and the generation above me, and some of them are true, but honestly, I don't think they're all as negative as we assume they are. Antisocial behaviour covers all of these things and more, but do these things give rise to antisocial behaviour, or is it the other way around? Honestly though, for most of us, I think we are mistakenly labelled anti-social when we are actually introverted, socially anxious, or just having a bad day.

According to evidence collated by Beyond Blue, One in four Australians between the ages of 16 and 24 feel unhappy with their lives. One in six young Australians is currently experiencing an anxiety condition, including panic disorders – equivalent to 440,000 people in this country alone; and that’s just one branch of mental health issue that affects teens such as myself. According to Beyond Blue “evidence suggests half of all lifetime cases of mental health conditions emerge by age 14”.

14 years old. 14 years old and diagnosed with a condition that could affect them for the rest of their lives; hanging over their heads like a permanent raincloud filled with self-loathing. Of course, even if the people around them don’t notice, they’ll always feel different; always believe that no-one could ever understand. So what does a young person do in a situation like this? They latch onto something. In the most extreme cases this becomes Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and in the mildest it becomes an anchor they cling to when it appears as though they’ll be swept away in the tide of their anxiety, depression and panic.

Obsessed. That’s one of the key words I hear most when adults talk about my generation; addicted, consumed, fixated, dependent. And for a lot of them, it’s just the kind of sedentary lifestyle they’ve chosen – but I’m not here to discuss average, run of the mill technology addiction. 


I’m talking about FANDOMS.


The Dictionary defines fandoms as “the fans of a particular person, fictional series, etc. regarded collectively as a community or subculture.” Although as almost every fangirl will tell you – it’s so much more than that. You can admire any fandom and become a part of it, but belonging to a fandom, living and breathing it, is a completely different experience. It’s being part of an entirely new world separate to your own; meeting the characters, getting to know them as you would a friend, or arriving at a deep hatred for them as you would a common enemy. It’s about predictability vs uncontrollable chaos, sanity vs lunacy, the introvert vs the irrepressible. It gives people a sense of belonging; of purpose and value. 
A fandom is an escape.

I mentioned that forms of anxiety are the most common mental health issues in young people; people who spend all of their time worrying about their self-image, what others think of them, how they can meet high expectations, and just generally stressing about their lives. Fandoms are the perfect way to escape because once immersed within that creation, the worry about your own life just fades. Everything you have is being thrown into that world, at least temporarily. This is what persuades people to write fanfictions, visit Comic-Con and dress up as their favourite characters.

An inability to express their feelings to those they love and a distinct lack of sympathetic traits in the people around them makes them feel like they can’t express themselves normally, so they express their feelings through their fandom. They use it as a language to communicate. While a mother may be bored to death with yet another character analysis *cough* sorry Mum *cough*, it might be her daughter trying to explain her own feelings through a TV show. As a father rolls his eyes at his son’s “obsession” with Assassins Creed, some days, playing that video game is the only thing that reminds him he’s okay. Because we can’t always talk about what upsets us. Sometimes it is impossible to even begin to form the words to explain. Every day comes with a new challenge; do we give in to the surge of panic, or bury ourselves in a book? Do we let ourselves be consumed by the niggling little inkling that we’re crazy, that everything’s not okay, or do we marathon watch Doctor Who until our brains won’t function anymore? Do we tell our friends how we feel and risk judgement and pity, or do we instead release those emotions through the fanfictions we write, expressing our innermost thoughts under the guise of a character?

I don't know about you, but I know which method I choose.

People use fandoms as coping mechanisms to help them get through their day and overcome real-world issues. Fandoms are the instant solution for an immediate problem but they could be so much more. While many other fixations have increasingly negative consequences such as alcoholism and drug-taking, and only block out the problem for so long, fandoms can be used as more than just a temporary fix. If you take the positive affirmations from whatever your fandom may be, you can then learn to control and hang on to these optimistic feelings and bring them back in a situation that would usually cause anxiety.

Avoiding worries by channelling them into fanfictions, becomes an exercise in anxiety reduction. By expressing yourself in your writing, you’ve created an outlet for your worries. When people read your stories and then express their encouraging feedback to you about your work, this a) enhances your confidence and self-perception and b) allows you to communicate your feelings without having to talk about them, whereas in other situations that idea would be nerve-wracking, and in my case, enough to spark a panic attack all on its own.

Another example of fandoms as long-term coping mechanisms is the particular connections people feel towards their favourite characters. For example, the character Dean Winchester in Supernatural is excruciatingly bad at expressing his feelings, just like many of us with social anxiety. Watching the show and seeing him express himself even when it makes him uncomfortable, fills us with the confidence to do the same. Even if you’re a part of a fandom that’s complete fantasy, such as Supernatural, you can still take the human element out of it, and feed that into every-day life.

Or, if you're romantically stunted, like myself, you can live vicariously through the characters you ship together and your (in my case many) OTPs. Seriously, there are so many characters I ship that I can't pick just one. And I ship all of them for different reason and love each relationship for their varying dynamics and sub-plots - almost like... real relationships!

This helps you communicate with your loved ones in a way that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. It helps you adapt to society and helps you come to a conclusion about who you are. Unfortunately your loved ones don’t always understand this way of connecting, and thus the person already suffering from their own mentally debilitating condition, is given the label antisocial.

Song of the Week: The Judge - Twenty One Pilots
I know, I can already feel the judgement, but seriously, this band is actually kind of great. This song is my favourite at the moment, but their whole body of work is worth a listen. Judge away. Shout-out to my perfect emo sis for recommending them. #hashtagstoirritatelogan

Movie of the Week: Batman: Under the Red Hood
Okay, this one comes from a discussion I had with my friend Hayley from work. She doesn't know much about DC, and only recently became interested in the universe through Gotham. (I know, but she doesn't know any better, so chill) Anyway,  I was explaining why so much of the DC universe is better in cartoon form - the old Cartoon Network Justice League series, and the original Teen Titans for example, and this film sprang to mind. It's a genuinely well-made film with some seriously good Batman moments. In the words of Cezary Jan Strusiewicz from cracked.com:

"Burton's Batman was definitely creepy and all, but he was ultimately an unhinged psycho. Under the Red Hood, though, makes Batman look human, and then twists that humanity into something truly dark. There's even an earlier scene when the Joker talks about how Batman found him after Jason's murder, and put him in a body cast for six months. I've envisioned this scene many times and still can't decide which version is scarier: Batman going all berserk on the Joker, or calmly and methodically breaking every bone in his body."


Book of the Week: Skulduggery Pleasant
My favourite book series in the world, I am currently pouring over the first one again, for probably the millionth time. It's just SO. DAMN. GOOD. Please give it a try - it's not for everyone but its Whedon-esque and in later books is reminiscent of Tarantino and old school Tim Burton feels, as well as having all the charm, gravity and magic of the Harry Potter books, with a tad more violence and death. Perfect.

Photo of the Week:

Abby and Hayley at work have been friends with each other for ages, and both are so much fun to be around. Thanks for making me feel welcome and being mates - it would have been a lot harder to get used to being here without you guys, I really appreciate it.

Positivity Goal of the Week: Remember that you are loved.
You might be far away from the people you love, or right next to them, but never forget that someone out there loves you, even if it doesn't feel like it. Even Hitler had supporters... and he was pure evil. 



Tuesday, 6 December 2016

I Love Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

So, if you hadn't already noticed - I love movies and TV and books and music. More specifically - I LOVE A WELL EXECUTED STORY WITH BELIEVABLE CHARACTERS AND DEVELOPMENT.

Ah, so glad I got that off my chest. It's so hard just nodding when someone tells you how much they loved Batman V Superman and you practically bite your tongue off trying not to tell them all the reasons that movie made you so damn angry. Badly written stories infuriate me, particularly in instances such as that, where there are so many options, and so much money thrown at them, and I could shit out a better film script in half a day, with more relevance to the comics.

Image result for crazy ex-girlfriend gifs

Movies and books with well written scripts and characters CANNOT get high enough praise from me. Stranger Things is the breakout hit from this year, and for good damn reason. NOT, as people keep assuming, because of nostalgia - if that were true, Ghosterbusters, Fuller House, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Independence Day, Jason Bourne and Ben Hur would have been higher praised. No, this show was great because of the writing, acting and camera work - not just because it reminds people of The Goonies. Every character is a whole person, and the story is compact, but has enough depth to keep you interested: Perfect. It's not without its small flaws (nothing is) but comparing it to similar endeavours, such as The Walking Dead, with its never ending shifts in tone, character inconsistencies and seemingly random commitment/lack thereof to the comics and pacing, Stranger Things is a glowing beacon of what television should be. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy The Walking Dead, but it stresses me out a lot.

*cough* get to the point Talis *cough*

Alright! So I've discovered a show that I put right up there with Stranger Things, despite the subject matter being almost the polar opposite.

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is wonderfully written, acted and sung, and it's damn funny to boot. Co-created by Rachel Bloom, who also plays the main character, Rebecca Bunch (I see what you did there) it tells the story of Rebecca, who moves from a high paying job in New York to West Covina, California because she ran into her summer camp sweetheart, Josh Chan. In her words:

"What happened was, I was in New York and I saw him and he made me feel all warm, like glitter was exploding inside me, and now I’m here. But I didn’t move here FOR him because that would be crazy. And I’m not crazy."

And if she is crazy, I should definitely be worried, because here are all the ways in which Rebecca Bunch is eerily similar to me:
  • She impulse moved somewhere else in order to be happy.
  • She has pretty severe anxiety and depression.
  • She's really unlucky in her relationships, but a lot of that has to do with her own issues.
  • She mentally copes with music (of all kinds).
  • She really hates talking about her feelings, unless its with her best friend.
  • She's a massive dork.
  • She's clever, but never feels clever enough, and constantly puts pressure on herself to be better.
  • She's curvy and knows the *heavy boobs* struggle. 
  • She fairly accurately represents a lot of my fears and hopes in life.
She also does some properly certifiably crazy things, so we're not that similar in that respect, but you can pretty clearly see the resemblance.

Image result for crazy ex-girlfriend gifs

But here's the kicker; she's written well. All the characters are. The show appears to revolve around her insane quest to get to Josh, but once you peel away the initial layer, it's so much more than that. It's about a woman struggling to come to terms with the fact that the last time she can remember truly being happy was when she was sixteen at a summer camp with Josh. It's about a woman struggling with mental illness. It's about the complex relationships between all of the characters, and the subsequent development. It's about how unlikeable someone can be, even when you agree with them, and how likeable someone can be, even when you don't. It's about a clear love of music, in all of its forms. 

It covers bisexuality, feminism, sexism, fat-shaming, modern relationships, abortion, dreams and ambitions, the crushing of dreams and ambitions, alcoholism, familial relationships, romantic relationships, friendships, existential dilemmas, mental illness, and DAMMIT this show is just so good!
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It's filmed beautifully, acted well and has a plot and believable development (for the most part). Season two is at about the halfway point, and some of the stuff that's been happening is getting a bit too real and raw, which is awesome, but also stressful. 

I can also take comfort, at least I hope I can, in the fact that the show has already plotted out seasons one through four. WHICH IS AMAZING. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THIS MEANS? 

THIS TV SHOW HAS A DIRECTION. AN OBJECTIVE. IT'S NOT JUST GOING TO DWINDLE AIMLESSLY UNTIL I HATE IT (HOPEFULLY).

Image result for crazy ex-girlfriend gifs

At the moment, this show is amazing, and I hope it remains that way, because there are so many programs on that I simply cannot watch anymore, or never started to begin with, because of writing that I personally believe not to be good enough for the kinds of praise it gets/got: Big Bang Theory, Gotham, Heroes (after season 1), Lost (after season 2), Fear the Walking Dead, 2 Broke Girls, Castle (after season 4/5 depending on your level of commitment to being a Nathan Fillion fan), New Girl (after season 2), Dexter (after season 1), the ending of season 3 of Sleepy Hollow, because holy shit did it make us furious, the finale of The Good Wife,the finale of True Blood... Actually, everything after season 3 and some of season 4, but especially the ending, various Law & Order, CSI etc. the finales of Quantum Leap, Seinfeld, How I Met Your Mother, Weeds, Chuck, Psych, and oh my god this is starting to get stressful!

Image result for crazy ex-girlfriend gifs

I could go on, but its depressing. The most depressing thing is that there are wonderful shows that get cancelled: Pushing Daisies, Freaks and Geeks, Limitless, Go On, Deadwood, Selfie, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Alphas, Firefly, Mind Games, Mixology, Surviving Jack, Franklin and Bash, Perception, I mean, guys seriously, these shows are all awesome. All of them were cancelled long before their time, or at least cancelled without resolution. I thank the rabid fans every day that we at least have Serenity for some closure for Firefly. 

This doesn't just happen in TV shows, but in book series' too, with series like Inkheart, Eragon, The Hunger Games, Divergent, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, etc. being disappointing messes. Granted, those first few will NEVER reach the mind-numbingly badly written depths of Twilight and Fifty Shades, but they were at the very least disappointing in some way or another, be it ending, needless character deaths or just bad writing. Inkheart, here, being the most notable exception, due to it being actually very well written, with a  let down of an ending that made me so angry it actually ruined my day. I AM NOT EXAGGERATING, but this was a long time ago, so it might not be as bad as I recall.

Image result for crazy ex-girlfriend gifs

Look, I'm not saying all TV nowadays is bad - I still love so many shows, even ones that I probably shouldn't, because even some badly written shows at least have entertainment value. But shows like Lucifer, Suits, Jessica Jones, How to Get Away With Murder, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Scorpion, Bates Motel, American Horror Story, Game Of Thrones, House, Sleepy Hollow (but seriously, do not watch the season 3 finale it will fucking infuriate you), BBC's Being Human, Sense 8, Sherlock, Bob's Burgers and Scrubs JUST TO NAME A FEW, are all incredibly worthwhile and largely well-written. Especially Doctor Who which you should definitely watch, up until Peter Capaldi takes over, but honestly, that is a whole other can of worms that I will rant about later, and it all has to do with bad writing, not so much Capaldi's performance (because he's actually a brilliant actor).


Bad writing is infuriating, and good writing isn't praised enough, and I think I've figured out what I want to do with my life.......... Wow. No seriously, this might have been an epiphany rant.

Um. Yeah, I think I either want to write for TV/Movies or review them. 

Anyone got any tips on how to start a solid career in that?

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Panophobia: Chapter 2

Look, I like this word, panophobia. It rolls nicely off the tongue, it's all-encompassing, and perhaps most importantly, it's not a real thing.

PANOPHOBIA, as a concept, does not exist. So labelling my personal battles as something almost entirely unreal somehow makes it easier for me; it distances me from my issues. You may have already picked up on the fact that I'm good at distancing myself from problems, having moved across the world by myself to work things out.

But the simplest truth I can offer is that, despite my attempts to dress it up in a pretty negligee and make it do a sexy dance for aesthetic effect, I have severe anxiety and at least some form of milder depression. And that is not a fun truth to grapple with. It's hard to admit to yourself that your brain is slightly broken.

Because when someone asks, "Are you okay?"
                                                "How are you?"
                                                "Alright?"

I am forced by societal contractual obligation to lie - we all are. No-one ever wants the actual answer to that question. Here is how we all usually answer:

"How are you?"

"Fine, you?"

OR

"Yeah good, you?"

OR

"Meh, can't complain, how are you?"

Or some other variation upon those. Here is how I would answer in a dystopian future where lying is forbidden on pain of death:

"How are you?"

"Well, there isn't much I can point to as being specifically not good, but I can't shake this overwhelming feeling of dread that sits constantly in my stomach to remind me that I am not 100 percent happy. I may snatch brief, glorious moments of joy and elation, but I am always hyper-aware that at any moment, the panic and somehow simultaneous numbness will return. At the moment, however, it is quite low, so I can assuredly say that I cannot realistically complain. How are you?"

And then they would tell me all of their real world problems, like their money troubles and their family worries and their premature ejaculation, because a world with nothing but honesty would be terrible. 

This is a really difficult topic to address, because I usually don't talk about my feelings, mainly because I can't shake the guilt that accompanies those conversations. Even as the words escape my lips, I know that they probably have real world problems. 

They can't pay their mortgage, or their children are sick or they are a recovering cancer patient, and the world around has taught me that my mental battles aren't as important as their physical ones. Everyone fights their own battles, and we would be foolish to ignore that. That is how people like Trump win elections; he deliberately caters his campaign to the politically disenfraschised because he knows thay their problems are important for his success and that they feel their voices aren't heard until he comes along. It's vile and manipulative but it CLEARLY WORKS.

So that guilt at burdening someone with my invisible to the naked eye problems generally stops me from talking before I've ever opened my mouth. That's why keeping a blog helps; shouting into the void is easier than having a conversation. But that's something we all know.

The other thing that is real and tangible, but that I hate to acknowledge, is my self-rewards system.

Everyone knows what I'm talking about here - when we're children we're taught we can't have that toy unless we're good or we can't have dessert unless we eat all our vegetables, and if we pay attention, we retain that rewards system when we grow up. People channel this most obviously into dieting: you exercise every day and eat healthy so that every Friday you allow yourself a treat - a Mars Bar or a bowl of ice-cream of a night out or McDonalds etc. etc.

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I have a similar system, except mine is fundamentally flawed. I am supposed to reward myself if I make it through a particularly rough patch or overcome some mental hurdle. Unfortunately this happens pretty regularly, and in fact some days I can congratulate myself on just getting out of bed. Nevermind the days when I barely avoid a panic attack or even those days when I just continue to breathe despite every impulse in my body telling me it wouldn't matter if I stopped.

So I buy that McDonalds, because I've earned it.

I splash out on concert tickets because it's been a hellish month. 

I watch one more movie because any time not spent in my own head is a blessing. 

I buy those clothes from Primark because I should at least look good while I break down. 

So by the time my next paycheck arrives, I can justify spending all of that too. But of course I cannot continue to exist like this, I have to save money so I can actually afford to reward myself in the long term, for bigger victories. Victories like getting a job I actually want, or birthdays, and actual real-world achievements. Because we all know those are more important than the problems that only I can see.

Song of the Week: Samson - Regina Spektor
Come on, did you really think it would be anything else?

Movie of the Week: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
I stil haven't see Fantastic Beasts, so in the meantime I've been rewatching the series. It's still just as good as the first 500 times. And it's only after the third one that any major plot points get cut out of the films, so I'm gonna ride this wave of novel inclusiveness all the way until Cho and Harry's romance, Harry and Ginny's weird kiss, not enough Dobby, and Dumbledore shouting:
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Book of the Week: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Movie version)
I have owned the tiny fake text book with the same title since it was released, with all of Hermione, Ron and Hagrid's scribblings in the margins, but I recently bought the book with the story from the film and am thoroughly enjoying it: highly recommend.
Photo of the Week:

Me with Megan and Edmund, the two gorgeous kids I babysit. I wrote a long post on instagram about Trump under this photo, so if you'd like to check it out: https://www.instagram.com/p/BMoo7h5jhpU/?taken-by=talis_bluebox_99&hl=en

Positivity Goal of the Week: Make sure you're taking cqre of yourself properly.
But don't use words like "self-care" because it makes you sound like a twat. Just keep an eye on your habits and make sure you're okay. Love you all. xxx


Thursday, 24 November 2016

May I Propose A Little Toast?

Regina Spektor.

Regina Spektor is my favourite musical artist, bar none. Elbow comes pretty close, and there are a collection of other incredible artists and bands that I absolutely adore, because music is so important to me. But none of these remarkable people have come close to shaping the person I grew up to be like Regina. Her lyrics and musical genius have gotten me through every milestone I can remember, from my parents divorce, to puberty, to graduation. I listen to her music when I'm happy and I wallow in those songs when I'm sad; there isn't a single mood I can be in that at least one of her songs wouldn't match.


Honestly, I was going to write something completely different for this post, but after last week, it's going to have to wait. Because I saw Regina Spektor last Tuesday. And it was a big deal for me.

She made me cry. HARD.

I cry quite a bit, when I'm sad and frustrated and annoyed, but I rarely cry when I'm touched. And god-fucking-damn was I touched last Tuesday. I was bitch-slapped in the feels. It was like being hit with a train-carriage of emotion that I was not ready to handle. I hadn't really let myself think about how much I missed my family and friends, because I had been trying so hard just to assimilate and save money and basically just acclimatize away from all the people I used to rely on so much. But I'm going to be really honest here: I've been struggling. A lot. Mentally, I'm always going to be a bit haywire, but without that support network of people around me, I forget to care about myself enough to live in any sort of healthy, comfortable state, and I didn't notice until that moment. Because just for those few brief hours I forgot my mental illness. I forgot what it felt like to be constantly afraid and numb and tired and I just lived within the music. A huge weight disappeared from my shoulders and I was finally in the frame of mind to breathe in the air without it feeling tight as it struggled into my lungs. My muscles all unconsciously relaxed and I didn't even notice until I stood up to leave. My heartbeat slowed, which is something I don't think it's done since I was on Beta-blockers, and not something its done on its own for god knows how long.


Those very first piano keys to make their way to my ears were from her song "On the Radio" which, if you have read my blog before, you will probably recognise as being the song that this blog is named after. Those initial unwavering notes of piano mixed with the accompanying cello brought unabashed tears to my eyes and made my heart skip a beat. If you haven't listened to it, I recommend it to everyone, but then, I can, and will, do that for every one of her songs. There are some that I find more personal than others, however, and"On the Radio" is definitely one of them.

Some songs, when they come on the radio, can bring you back to a single moment in time - good ones and bad, like a nostalgic photo album in your head - a perfect snapshot of your past. There are entire Regina Spektor albums that can do that for me. For example, What We Saw From The Cheap Seats, and in particular, the song "The Party".

That album came out in 2012. 2012 was also the year that I last came to England before I moved here. My Dad, my sister Logan, and I came up here for six weeks to stay with family and travel around the UK. That entire album brings back so many memories of that trip - of driving along icy highways to Scotland, and meandering down hedged lanes to visit friends. I remember the smell of open packets of crisps in the car and I can hear Logan singing in the back seat behind me. I remember Dad's angry yelling at bad drivers and pit stops at innocuous little petrol stations. I remember rain and the sound it makes hitting the roof of the car, and Dad asking me to "play that song again". I recall Logie laughing at some terrible jokes Dad and I keep telling, and jokes that we kept between the two of us because "she's probably too young to hear those". I remember her falling asleep and us both commenting on how cute she is, and Dad's furrowed brow as he tried to work out how we got so lost in Cardiff. I can feel the excitement of the destination and the enjoyment of the journey, but most powerfully I can feel the nostalgia blanketing it all even as I start almost unconsciously singing along to the very first lyrics of the very first song on the album, and it lasts until the final note escapes my lips.




That isn't even my favourite album - but it is INCREDIBLE.

My favourite album is called Far, and it is wonderful. It's quite a bit more ballad-y than the others, and the lyrics are just extraordinary. For example, the very first song on the album starts with this:


"You went into the kitchen cupboard
Got yourself another hour
And you gave half of it to me
We sat there looking at the faces
Of the strangers in the pages
Until we knew them mathematically

They were in our minds
Until forever
But we didn't mind
We didn't know better."

I change my mind about my favourite song on the album with every listen, but at the moment, it is "Eet", which is quite frequently on my Best Songs Ever list. Please go listen to it - it's spectacular:




However, by far the most nostalgically important song to me that night was her fourth encore. All of the string instruments were removed from the stage, and the guitarist and drummer were long gone, so it was just Regina and her piano. And the second she played the first note, the entire hall went deadly silent because this was the song everyone had been so desperate to hear. So desperate, in fact, that it had been shouted out on a number of occasions throughout her set (which I don't really approve of, but it shows some pretty strong enthusiasm).

"Samson".

"Samson" is gut-wrenchingly, spine-chillingly, heartbreakingly beautiful and if you're going to listen to it, you need some headphones or something so you can properly appreciate just how lovely it is:



This was the song that broke my heart. Because the memories that came flooding back were almost too much to bear. They're so much clearer than any others. Logie, Mum and I are standing in the kitchen of our old house, dancing around together - happy. Nearly ten years ago - before high-school, before puberty, and perhaps most notably - before I had anxiety.


I often say I can't remember the last time I was really, truly happy, without a hint of anxiety, but I can safely say without any shadow of a doubt that it was that moment. Mum and Dad were divorced and I was being bullied at school and Mum was so stressed all the time, but with all of our lives tumbling around us we managed to find so much love in this song. I was seven, and Logan was only five, and Mum was working two jobs, but this small moment in the worn-down kitchen of a house I have so many negative memories in is one of pure innocence and joy. I remember Logie's toothy face and her cheeks all red and chubby from smiling so hard. I remember Mum's laugh as we asked to play the album and the song again and again and again and I recall dancing together across the living room and down the hall. I recall taking a deep breath and committing that moment to memory because I wanted to have Deja Vu every time I heard that song (which was something I used to try and do a lot).

Many people don't know this, but when you have a powerful mental illness, it become very difficult to identify truly carefree moments, because even your good memories become marred with time and reflection, but this one didn't.

It's a seemingly insignificant afternoon, but it means so much to me, and I will forever be able to access it in perfect clarity because of Regina Spektor. This song brings back a tiny moment, which in the grand scheme of things is so brief, but it's a moment that makes me remember the person I wanted to be when I grew up.

It makes me remember the child I used to be - so grown up but still with such a long way to go. I was so imaginative and easy-going and intelligent and full of love and hope. I was creative and inspired and unhinged. I was so ALIVE. And I haven't truly felt that way in such a long time. I will cling hold of these moments, all of them, until the day I die.

It's bittersweet, because now the floodgates have been torn down, I miss my family and friends more than ever, and I'm not sure I've ever felt so lonely as I have this last week. But I don't regret any of it. Not one second, because it means I love and I am loved.

And I know she doesn't read my blog, but I would like to send a shout into the void out to this
remarkable woman for everything her music has ever done for me, and ever will do for anyone else. Thank you, Regina Spektor. Without you, I don't know where I would be, or even what my life would feel like. I am so lucky to have found you and your music, without which, I genuinely don't think I would be here.

"This is how it works,
You peer inside yourself.
You take the things you like,
and try to love the things you took.
And then you take that love you made,
and stick it into someone else's heart,
pumping someone else's blood.
And walking arm in arm,
you hope it don't get harmed,

but even if it does, you'll just do it all again."

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Heart Is Where The Home Is



As far back as I can recall, I never had a “home”. I had a house – in fact, after my parents got divorced, I had two – but they were never homes. My birth home is England, but we moved to Australia when I was four, so I suppose that makes Australia my second home. It never felt like one though – with my weird accent, unusual brain and know-it-all attitude, it was no question I was eventually going to be bullied, I just didn’t know it at the time. I quickly learnt to change the only obvious part of myself, and lost most of my English accent in favour of a more neutral Anglo-Aussie hybrid, which seemed to help things, even if only a little. I tried not to cry, and I speedily learnt the fine art of emotional repression *go me!* but there were times I would break down in the bathroom or fake sick days to avoid being in that environment. And when I did break down, there was always one common theme to my tears, something we’ve all heard from a scared child –

“I want to go home.”

My parents separated when I was about six-ish, so that was fun: I had TWO houses! But, still unaware of my place in the world, I didn’t realise two houses would make only poor substitutes for a home. Not that I remember it being much of a home when they were together – most of my memories of their time together are negative so I’ve never lamented my parents’ divorce – it was the best choice for everyone. With my time divided to precisely in half, I never quite settled into either place, and then the bullying started and the place I used to love (school), a place of learning, became yet another place to divide my time. Then once I moved to high school and the bullying stopped, both my parents moved house within weeks of each other. 2 new houses! 2 new families! Zero homes.

It’s almost primal, that compelling urge to go home; it pulls every one of us at some point or other in our lives. When I get panic attacks, I can almost hear that frightened little girl inside me, bullied and alone, crying out for a home she knows she cannot find. It doesn’t matter where I am, whether I was at Mum’s or Dad’s or school or on holiday, that voice cries out for home. I’m sure I’ve offended them both at some time or another when I was younger and I used to say the phrase aloud, but it was neither one nor the other’s house I desired, it was just that feeling of being safe, of being blanketed in love and acceptance and warmth, where no bad thoughts can get in – after all, isn’t that what home is? A sanctuary – a safe place, a space to be at ease.

Perhaps that’s why I prefer winter (aside from my deep hatred of overheating). When it’s cold, you wear more layers, spend more time indoors, sitting in coffee shops and around the kitchen table. Everything about winter inspires a homely atmosphere, at least in my mind – the coffee, the books, the TV, the clothes, the music, the duvets and long socks.

Moving back to England. I thought that would make it easier, clearer, but it hasn’t. I wasn’t expecting sparks, or to arrive at a place and suddenly feel at home, but I thought it would at least provide some clarity. Because Australia never really felt like home to me – I was always the English girl: the nerdy girl: the socially awkward girl: the anxious girl. So I put myself out there more over here; I talk more to people I’ve just met than I ever used to, I make an effort to go into town and spend time with people outside of work, but here…. Here I’m the Australian girl. I’m the talkative girl. I’m the nerdy, anxious girl. I’m too English, then not enough, so WHERE DO I FIT?

WHERE DO I BELONG?

WHO THE FUCK DO I BECOME IF I DON’T EVEN KNOW WHERE TO CALL HOME?

WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO???

Because while I miss my family and friends more than anything, I don’t miss Australia. And I know for a fact if I left England tomorrow. I wouldn’t miss it either.

SO WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?

To my mother’s frustration, I have always loved TV shows and movies. I love the stories, the characters, the locations, the writing… Doctor Who, Firefly, Lucifer, Game of Thrones, American Horror Story, Stranger Things, Crazy ex-Girlfriend, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, X-Men, Avengers, Breakfast Club, Seven Psychopaths, X-Files, Back To The Future, Star Wars, Star Trek, Disney & Pixar, literally anything Joss Whedon writes, etc. etc. I could spend all day writing lists, but I don’t. because I’m too busy finding and watching more TV. I’ve always felt AT HOME in the universes I watch – untainted by anyone else, not misjudged or misunderstood – I can vanish into those worlds and never feel homesick again. But I can’t just watch TV until I die, so

WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?

Once Upon A Time (one of the many shows I lose myself in) has a main character who feels lost, and sometimes more so than others. 
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But she learnt a definition of "home" when she was younger and clings to it, hoping that one day she'll find something. 

"That's when you know you've got a home. When you leave it, there's this feeling that you just can't shake."
 
"Neal was right. You don't have a home... until you just miss it."

I don’t know, maybe I attach home to people? I have always felt most at home in the company of my best friends, and my close family, but honestly, those fleeting moments aren’t enough for me. People are fickle, and many have their own lives and problems, and a home needs to be there for you always: a touchstone or a well you can keep coming back to – the sword in the stone that only YOU can pull free.