Rambles, rants and raves

A lot of opinions spilling out of my brain


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Lola

Lola arrived in our home as a teeny tiny thing that could fit in the palm of your hand. She is now four months old and no longer tiny but a flying flurry of fur.

I have learnt a lot about myself since Lola entered my life. I have had a lot of animals in my life and each have taught me something different but Lola has done something different. Life changes when something that has never-ending energy and a huge capacity to love and bite simultaneously becomes a part of the family.

Lola at two months old

Lola at two months old

She is a naughty puppy. If something is small enough to go into her mouth then it will. And even if it isn’t she will attempt to dismantle it until it can. This includes everything from pillows, toilet paper, chairs, hands, slippers and anything that resembles some sort of food item. She also enjoys the chase so if you run after her she runs harder. She also enjoys barking at small children and making them cry (this has happened enough times to become a thing). She especially loves to poop and then when you’re picking up said poop, push your hand into said poop. She’s a bundle of fun. No, really.

Lola – despite the fact she likes to do things that aren’t allowed and is probably considered more of a bad dog than a good dog – is amazing. She is a fast learner and is already trained to do a load of tricks that I am extremely proud of teaching her and she has taught me a lot too.

Lola at three months

Lola at three months

A dog expects a certain amount of friendship and as a result that dog promises to be loyal and playful and kind to you. I thought I was patient when Lola arrived and I quickly realised I wasn’t. Puppies like to bite and test things with their mouths much like human babies and when you are trying to relax a puppy in your home will make that feat difficult. I have become more patient since Lola and I met. I have become more considerate as she has taught me to think before I act (even if she doesn’t). Everything I do has a direct effect on her – in a big or small way and she feeds off my attitude and mood. In becoming a more relaxed and patient person I have seen Lola develop to be a better puppy.

She is still stupidly excited about everything – a blade of grass, a sneeze, a tissue – whatever and though I am finding the most trouble with her exuberance during training and obedience, she has reminded me to enjoy the little things. I like to think I remember the moment more now and the fact I should stop consistently fixating on the future. I still do that of course, but I’m working on it and I find myself smiling more and breathing deeper as a result.

A bond has been created that I am not a skilled enough writer to describe. It is a strange thing when something gives you its undying love immediately and continues to give you that even when you probably fall a little below expectations. She has helped me with missing the boy and living apart from him. She has reminded me that the life we continue to talk about is happening right now, it won’t stop just because you have both eyes on the horizon.

Lola drives me crazy at least half the time because if she’s not trying to embarrass me then she’s doing something naughty. But I love her still. I love her with all my heart. She is a good dog and we are both learning from each other. So while I teach her tricks and how to behave in a human world, she teaches me a little more about life – lessons that a human can only learn from an animal like Lola.

The determination in her eyes to come at me and lick my face while I was taking this picture is a little terrifying

The determination in her eyes to come at me and lick my face while I was taking this picture is a little terrifying


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The C word

Everyone knows the C word, some people don’t like to say it. Some people fear it, others despise it, others accept it but I bet everyone has been affected by it in some way or another.

I first came face to face with cancer when I was 14. It seeped into our life through the phone and before I had time to process what it was doing to my grandmother, she was gone. Cancer stole so much from her so quickly. It started off as something small in her lungs that  nobody even noticed and three months later it decided to steal her from us. I had been lucky and had never experienced a death until then. I didn’t have time to figure out cancer before death showed its face.

Cancer is terrifying because it is associated with death and people fear death because it is the unknown. The word cancer is dripping with meaning and terrifying prospects, there are too many worst case scenarios that people forget that not all cancers are terminal. Cancer is scary because it’s part of you – it’s your cells multiplying too fast and creating a tumour. It can go undetected because of this. You can live with a tumour in you for a long time because they’re your cells and your body won’t attack it’s own cells. It’s like a stranger coming into your home, making himself comfortable and pretending to be family.

But I’m not trying to add fear to an already fearful word. The wonderful thing is that many cancers are now treatable and though treatment isn’t always easy, cancer should not continue to be so closely linked to death. More people die of cardiovascular diseases than cancer year on year and though I don’t want to become morbid here, death seems a natural link to cancer and it shouldn’t be.

People can overcome cancer, they can beat it. It’s done every single day. It’s hard and it’s painful but it can be done.

Research is being done continuously through charities, governments and drug companies to try and find a cure. It’s hard because cancer is a crazily complex disease – the boy studies biochemistry and has tried explaining it to me, it’s a little like a puzzle with missing pieces. Pieces that you have to create yourself to fit even though you’re not sure what the complete picture should look like.

There are hundreds of cancers out there and as terrifying as that sounds – most aren’t deadly if caught early enough. I recently read of a woman who had cancer but it was caught so early that a simple operation was able to remove the tumour and she was given the all-clear. Obviously more regular check-ups will now be necessary but it just proves that cancer does not have to be a scary word.

My friend’s father has just been diagnosed with testicular cancer for the second time and I couldn’t help but cry when I heard. It made me think of my grandmother and the sadness and desolation that I associate with the disease and then I realised that he hasn’t been handed a death sentence. He can fight it, like he has done before, and like he will again.

Cancer is shit and it’s hard for everyone that is touched by it. Everyone suffers, not just the person that gets the diagnosis and the suffering isn’t just what the disease is doing but the mental processes of having to deal with such a thing.

The best way of coping emotionally with the disease though is by talking about it. Many people close up when they hear the word cancer as if to talk about it makes it real. But talking about it, sharing fears will dissipate them and worries may not be settled but you can find comfort in each other. You can lean on each other for support and a network is stronger than an individual.

Emotional support is just as important in defeating a disease like cancer; because though the cancer may be affecting a part of your body, your emotional mentality is getting a beating too. Cancer will mess with your mind if you allow it to do so because the word is so heavy with feeling, history, emotion, fear and death. It’s a scary word.

Talking about something will ease that fear, it may not stop you feeling scared but comfort can be had in knowing others feel the same. Focus can be put on getting better and saying cancer with confidence and without fear is a challenge in itself. But it can be done, the word and the disease can be beaten.

My grandmother died of cancer but I remember not talking about it or even saying the word for a long time. I couldn’t talk about it without choking on tears and that fear that came with the word was suffocating. Talking about it helped. I can say the word cancer now without feeling like I’m sentencing her all over again. Removing the fear of the word is the first step, I think, in dealing with cancer emotionally. It’s something small and it may seem insignificant but you have to learn to walk before you can run.


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Quiet

Sometimes, in a world that is consistently throwing information at you, it is nice to sit alone and in quiet. Or as close as quiet as you can get. In my house, there’s no such thing as quiet and sometimes I miss that.

When I lived with the boy at university and I was in and he was out, sometimes I’d put music on really loud, grab a remote (it’s better than a hairbrush) and perform the songs to my imaginary audience who were always very supportive of my over-exuberant performances. Other times, I would have everything off and just sit and enjoy the quiet, let my thoughts drift and wander into nothing-ness and it was lovely. It felt just as refreshing as a shower after a hot day or a good, long sleep.

For me, in moments of quiet and with a little concentration at just being in the moment (a slight contradiction but it works) I sometimes felt a sense of clarity that only comes in those rare, thrilling moments where you feel like you can take on the world. The reason they’re rare, I realise, is because the world in which we live, the society in which we have created for ourselves has forgotten how to be quiet.

People’s attention spans now leave a lot to be desired. It is why Twitter is so popular, anything more than 140 characters is not worth reading, it’s why apps that sum up news in less than 100 words are so popular and worth millions, it is why people use the word ‘bored’ so often.

Silences are often seen as bad things, as awkward moments made to be filled with noise and babble and nonsense – anything to fill the nothing. But sometimes nothing is good, sometimes it’s what’s needed to get a spark going.

Spending all our time consuming information is exhausting. When we drive we listen to the radio, when we work we play music, when we are on social media we follow small snippets of at least 100 different lives. We google something and get a million hit backs, we are consistently consuming and I think we forget that we’re not that hungry for it all.

Obviously I’m not talking here about filling your days with things you want to learn about and are interested in but the pointless information – the overload – that is unnecessary and more a space filler than anything fulfilling, useful, entertaining or interesting. By silencing the quiet moments, or forgetting they exist, our only respite comes in sleep or staring aimlessly at a television and not taking it in.

It’s why I enjoyed running with no music, I liked those moments of quiet that it gave me when all I could hear was the blood pumping around me. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure why I stopped. Those moments of quiet are important, they let you gather your thoughts and rest a little from the consistent urge to be involved and a part of everything. It’s okay sometimes to not make a comment and to just enjoy the quiet it brings you.


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The art of missing

Last September was the month that the boy and I went from living together in our tiny, cold student flat to me moving back home, around an hours drive away. His degree is a year longer than mine so as I graduated and left to go back home, he had to hang around and finish off that ever-so expensive university education. And so began what our time apart.

We are six months into our time apart. His graduation will not mean us instantly moving in together because I haven’t won the lottery yet and my money tree doesn’t seem to be taking root. Instead ‘crazy saving mode’ has been installed on me and I am a woman on a mission.

Being apart sucks, but I have become an expert at missing. I was already ahead as having family abroad that you are close to means that missing someone is never far away from everyday life. It’s a norm rather than an extraordinary event and so I was better prepared for our time apart.

Well, I thought I was. In fact, the first few months of our time apart were terrible. I couldn’t decided between despair, sadness or anger. At first it was okay, I enjoyed having some time apart after living together and it was wonderful to reconnect with my family after being away for three years at university. But then I settled and the art of missing completely eluded me.

The feeling of missing cannot be ignored because then, a little like bacteria, it grows and festers until it takes over. The only way to truly be able to cope with missing someone is by not ignoring it. Embracing the fact you’re missing someone allows your brain to accept it and move on to work on something else.

Missing someone gets easier, a little like a healing cut. It’s there and you can feel it and if you focus on it, you can still feel that dull ache. Saying goodbye is where you rip that scab off and start again – but it’s worth it, and you get used to it.

Humans are brilliant at adapting and though I would love to be able to see the boy everyday, I am accustomed to missing him. Sometimes I don’t even notice it or realise most of the day has passed without me focusing on us being apart. Then sometimes it hits me really hard so that by the end of the day I’m exhausted from trying to concentrate on other things.

Usually though I just get on with it. Obviously the art of missing is to keep in contact with the person you are missing. A text, an email or a quick phone call can do wonders to keeping the missing at bay. It should be said though that missing isn’t romantic and artistic and beautiful like they make it out in films and in books. It is hard and dull and infuriating.

There is so secret on how to successfully miss someone and the missing that I am talking about with the boy is probably the easiest one – because I get to see him every weekend. It’s not like my family that I only see once a year if I’m lucky or like the missing of someone that isn’t here anymore.

But I think this applies to most missing and it is the only way I have found to successfully cope with it. To cope with missing is to embrace it, accept it and then keep on moving. Like a lot of things in life, diving in is sometimes the only way you can learn how to swim.


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Two years

I have always tried to avoid talking about love. Words don’t seem to do it justice and I am not a skilled enough writer to even come close to writing about those types of emotions. But today is a special day. I wouldn’t have used this blog to put something personal on it, but I’m changing and growing and learning. Call it an experiment. Happy two years, here’s to many more.

Image taken from http://www.pinterest.com

2010: It’s dark outside. The film has finished and the credits are rolling. The curtains aren’t drawn and the orange light from the streetlamp outside is shining in. He asks me to stay, I do. That’s it.

2012: A year living together and now facing a year of weekend visits. Hit a few walls, seen a few bumps, most of it has been sunny. We’ve grown, learnt a lot about ourselves and each other. Happier and stronger than ever. Excited now and excited about the future. Lots of love around. That’s it.

 


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The bookshelf

I have been an avid reader since my mother bought my the Ladybird books in Woolworth’s when I was too young to remember details. When my sister and I were little and shared a room, my mum would read to us every night before we went to bed. As we both got older, we began reading alone and choosing our own books. It was exciting, and it still is.

My favourite shops are book shops. The huge Waterstones just off Piccadilly Circus in London makes me weep for joy. I could spend the whole day in a bookshop, time stops when you’re there. I was lucky enough to go to The Strand Bookstore in New York when I was there this summer. It was indescribable: 18 miles of books: old and new. It was heaven. A book lover’s dream. I added at least 100 new titles that I want to read to my ever growing reading list.

As a book lover, I am in love with my bookshelf. To me, my books are like children – silent, beautiful, well behaved, continually entertaining children. I have tried to give many up during various clean ups of my ever growing pile of ‘stuff’ and my books are always saved. Each one has a memory, each one reminds me of a moment in time when I was reading that book. Most of my books I’ve read at least twice apart from a couple of handfuls that I read only once and deserve a medal for the feat. I have bookshelves inside my wardrobe and one in my room and a load of books in boxes stored around the house.

I am very proud of my bookshelf. Mainly because I love the books on it. I read on The Guardian website about your bookshelf saying a lot about you. You can read the comment piece here. I agree insofar that your bookshelf says a lot about you, mainly due to the titles on that shelf. After all, it will show your interests and your likes. However I don’t think that my bookshelf is my chance to show off: I would never think to organise my bookshelf, and my books, in a way that would be appealing to somebody else in order to instigate a conversation or brag about having read certain books considered more ‘high brow’ (some of them not as special as many lecturers would have you believe).

My bookshelf and the books that I read are solely for my enjoyment. Much like the clothes I wear and the food I eat. I do it for myself. It seems illogical that I would need to organise it in an aesthetically pleasing way to someone that does not have the emotional connection to my books as I have.

It seems that in society now, we are developing a sentimentality of having to always impress, of needing to brand and improve our outer selves to show people just how great we are. I may sadly conform to some of this (for example I don’t pop my blackheads in public or swear like a sailor around strangers) but things such as reading, fashion and food are things that are scared to the individual. They provide escapism, inspiration and a little individuality in a world where we are unsure as to how unique we should be while still being part of a majority.

The bookshelf is a humble piece of furniture that holds some of the most precious possessions I own. Books that have been brought for me by the boy and have been some of the best reads of my life; books I purchased when I was feeling lonely; books I was given for inspiration; books that encouraged me to keep going; books that took me away from my cold, student housing; books that made me grateful and opened my mind.

When I’m grown up enough to be able to afford my own mortgage; I plan on having a room dedicated to all my books. Ceiling to floor bookshelves filled with books and picture frames. Two big, comfortable chairs, one bright light to read when it’s dark and a super comfortable rug for those days when I like to lie and read. That is perfection, and I could not care less about what my bookshelf says to the outside world about me.

Reading for me is an internal, personal things. It has been ever since my mum began reading to my sister and I before bed. As a result, my bookshelf is a little like my body I guess. I’m very proud of it but I’m not going to show the whole world what it looks like just in the hope they’ll think a little better of me.

Oh, look heaven. Let me live here. Please. Maybe with a few windows for some natural light. But still. Please.


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Sweet Freedom!

I have officially finished my final exams of my final year!

Apologies for my lack of blogging but I refused to let the final push and hurdle defeat me and put my everything into revising. This post is more of  a personal one as I need to let my brain recharge and recover from my final exams to be able to go into debate mode. Yesterday was my last official academic day at university, I felt like I was in a dream most of the day as a result. My last academic day at university ended  with the Big e awards at my university which are a big deal, or so I’m told. They served amazing goat cheese, on some other cheese all on a thin crunchy base canapes – they were delicious. Amazingly I won an award for my work at the vTeam (which is the volunteering branch of my university, I did the media and marketing). I was, and am, incredibly proud to have been a winner and I was incredibly humbled by what was said, it was an epic way to end my ‘official’ time at university.

Today however I’m going to celebrate the end of my university career by doing nothing and enjoying the lack of guilt that comes with it. I’ll be sitting in my underwear and huge Hard Rock cafe t-shirt, watching bad TV, reading good books and playing Sims 3. I will eat cheesecake and I will just feel appreciative and grateful for the opportunities that I have been able to find at university.

My smugness will be too much for even me to endure so I’ll put on Disney films for the remainder of the day so that my singing along will detract from it. Then I might shower.

Have a wonderful Friday and normal blogging will recommence this weekend.