Saturday, 8 April 2017

This Is Where I'm At | April

She's so hard to please but she's a forest fire

In early March, I flew home to daffodils and Vitamin D and my first, but hopefully not last, Key Lime pie. I always look forward to these trips so much, this one in particular because I took the time to reach out to people and fill my time at home with catching up. But with returning to a place that changes so slowly, nostalgia arrives. And with it, an inescapable measuring of then versus now, what's changed? I shared with my parents my half-ambition to do a master's degree, unsure if I was convincing them or myself. I was grateful for stolen conversations with Belfast-based friends, and realised that if I haven't fully realised my life's greatest ambitions, I have become more open and trusting, and I do have people who listen.
I think that weekend set the tone for the month. Topsy turvy. Glimpses of spring and then great downpours.

I went to see the ineffably talented Orla Gartland support Declan McKenna, and lost some hours thinking about how teenagehood is an unparalleled time time when you have self-loathing and ego in equal measure. I went to Thorpe Park, a beautiful place, even for someone with vertigo who's terrified of rollercoasters. Yes, really. I enjoyed being on set for a bit of Bry's next music video set, always quietly amazed at the things people can do, the power of collaboration.

I made baby steps towards a better me; as I've said before, spring is a much better time for self-improvement than January could ever be. I joined a fitness class, ran 5k every Saturday, batch-cooked lunches, explored the countryside we live in, did something I've been putting off for months if not years.

I saw Get Out, a masterpiece. I can't stop recommending it to people. Also Beauty and the Beast which was just lovely. My annual obsession with Broadchurch is ongoing, and I'm also almost done with Girls. I bet it's not often those two shows go in the same sentence. Reading slowed a little last month, but I was floored by Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. It pulled me out of my own head in big, important ways.

I don't know what to expect from April. Honestly, I'm more concerned with slowly learning what to expect from myself. 

Yours, yellow,

Sunday, 5 March 2017

This Is Where I'm At | March

I think it's funny that we always consider spring a new beginning. When the evenings show me how much further they can stretch the light, I don't think 'ah, it's lighter, like it was in October'. I think that this is a miraculous and brand new thing.

I'm grateful to February for its four short weeks.

I spent the first half of the month counting down to the day where I could set my out of office email and bask in annual leave and a few days of escapism joining Bry on his UK tour. I got a three and a half hour coach from London to Cardiff, and managed 3 hours and 10 minutes before throwing up in its toilet closet. I got to have lunch with my in-laws and surprise Bry with their presence at his show. I got to watch Danny Gruff and Tessa Violet play their great songs, and I got to dance to British indie rock then eat panda-shaped birthday cake at 3am.

I do worry I'm falling into an old habit. I'm still counting down to a point in the future where I'll have everything I want. And yet, here in the present, I'm doing nothing to make everything I want happen. The advice from a Fulbright scholar in my third-last week of university rings in my ears. 'I always used to say, don't worry: Future Self will take care of it'. She was talking about writing essays. I don't think my future self can cram all my hopes and dreams the night before they're due.

I bookended the month with Hacksaw Ridge and Lion, loving both for different reasons. I got better at making time for stories in February - whether they were mine or someone else's. I kept watching Girls on those evenings spent at home alone, and kept asking myself why I was watching it. Sometimes one of the characters will vocalise an ugly, selfish thought I've played in my head and it makes me want to turn it off forever. I read 'The Hate U Give', a stunning debut novel from Angie Thomas. It was a fitting novel to read during US Black History Month, and I'd highly recommend it.

Okay. A short post for a short month. I look forward to March, filled with even more light.

Yours, full of spaghetti,

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

This Is Where I'm At | February

You were standing in the street 'cause you were trying not to crack up
It wasn't like a rain it was more like a sea

It's a common theme in these monthly musings but really, I don't like wishing time away. When life hands you a month containing five Mondays, though...

Good riddance, January.

I'll pick up where I left off: spooled up in my mum's armchair as the clock struck midnight. I gave Jools Holland and co another half hour, then went to bed with a hot water bottle and thought about how I really wasn't feeling it this year. You know, a New Year. Capital N capital Y. Every year, I have the knowledge that time is a construct and you could get excited about the changing of months or the changing of weeks if you really wanted to. And yet, most years, I still get swept up in the magic of it. A new parting greeting for strangers. Putting everything you consumed over the past twelve months into a competition before academies and guilds get the chance to. [Best movie I saw last year was 'Spotlight'. Book - 'The Girls' by Emma Cline. Album 'Bry' by Bry.] And because I married someone who's always trying to wrestle experiences out of life, our group of friends is often subject to Worst moment of your year? Best new person you met this year? Most memorable trip of the year? questions.

Something about knowing I wouldn't be able to differentiate between the first week of December and the first week of January unsettled me. It doesn't feel like there's time to adopt some new activity in my routine. I don't feel awake enough to work on self-improvement. I'm giving myself a pass. I'm going to keep on keeping on, and once the days are longer and SAD is behind me, then I'll think about having a fresh start.

Of course, you can refuse to change anything about your life, and then watch the world's life change irrepairably. I'm trying my best to pay attention to politics, not just in the US, but also at home in Northern Ireland where the lives of the people I grew up with are affected by an unravelling government. I want to be better, I want to be more informed, I want to set aside time to helping. Don't call those resolutions.

While women worldwide marched, I conquered my only serious resolution by going home to see my parents. I think a lot of my frustration and low moods over the past five months came from not being able to recharge and check in with my folks and my Shetland pony. I visited a stone quarry and reconnected with my horse dentist - getting a week of back pain in return. I looked at photos of my friends in various cities protesting for their rights. Although being home is the purest way of being myself, I did get that teenage yearning; that if I want to partake and make any sort of change, I have to leave it behind. I have to stick to the city. 

I kicked off the year by seeing The Kite Runner in the West End. I fell in love with the film and the book a few years ago, and it seems like such a timely story given that a lot of the ugly racism we're seeing stems from not understanding one another. In the cinema, I watched and loved La La Land and Hidden Figures. My first book of the year was Stephen King's On Writing. 

February is a short, unassuming kind of month and I like that. You don't expect it to be warmer. You don't expect anything dramatic to happen. We're just spinning around, posing in a mirror, trying 2017 on for size.

Yours, five months in,

Sunday, 29 January 2017

This Is Where I'm At | January

We've wandered mony a weary foot

Note: I have never posted one of these so late. This entire post has been written in drabs for this whole month. I don't know why I've been so reluctant to share. Maybe January scared me, maybe the next twelve (now eleven) months are rolling out ahead of me and from this position, they look ilegible and snarling. Maybe my life seems insignificant compared to what's happening in the world. I'm still sinking my teeth into 2017. I didn't want to break the routine of writing these posts so here I am. Late. 

In December I counted down. I counted down the days until I could fly back home for the first time in the longest time, relax, overindulge. With the 'penultimate Monday!' scribble came an anxiety, however, that since September I've been counting to Christmas and once New Year's Day ended, the year stretched out in front of me with nothing to count down to. When I'm clear-headed and optimistic, I can combat this. I can stick stakes in every other month and between times, climb towards those sweet rest spots.

Though I'm not sure I really like Christmas Day all that much, I was grateful to the season for the marks it put on my calendars. From my work Christmas dinner to a Penguin party to evenings in restaurants with festive menus. Ooh. I saw my tiny family, my tiny horse and my overweight cat, before travelling to Dublin to have a 'second Christmas' with my in-laws.

Then I had four days of sheer escapism as I travelled around Ireland with Bry and his band, on hand to sell merch, take photos and reconnect with friends as he did his thing. I'm sure the novelty would eventually wear off, but right then, living out of a backpack, with one book and a box of gift chocolates to hand, I felt like I could trail Ireland's midlands forevermore.

I returned - a little sniffly and regretting packing one pair of jeans - to my hometown to ring in the new year. Not one for breaking traditions, it felt odd to curl up in an armchair with a hot whisky when I'm usually posing for a photo with Bry and co before a fine meal and a night of board games. But I'm grateful for my parents, for the familiarity of home, the comfort of slipping into a town where everybody knows my name but little else about me.

Usually, I would look ahead to the month to end these posts. That hasn't quite worked out as that month is almost over as well. Maybe I should tell you about my resolutions. They aren't yet on paper, which means they will probably fade out in the same way the morning darkness does. I figure if they're important, I'll remember. It's the usual nonsense, anyway. Write more, feel more, do more.

I saw Rogue One and it reminded me how important stories are to us. I read sporadically, really, putting more energy into buying other people the perfect books than reading any. I listened to the usual Christmas tunes with fresh ears, as we're forced to do every winter. I'll leave 2016 behind with the words of Sufjan Stevens: can you say what you want, can you say what you want to be?

Yours, onward,