The Calm After The Storm (Or I Can See Clearly Now The Rain Has Gone)

I’m feeling surprisingly calm, considering how I’ve felt the rest of the day.  Today has been a tornado of a day: I almost booked a flight to LA (departing tomorrow) I sent an email enquiring as to a new place for me and Harry to live and I have cried and cried and cried.

What I realise now, sitting in the garden, doing a word search in the May edition of Puzzler, is that you can try to make new starts all you can, but you must first put an end to all those loose ends.  For me, this includes getting divorced (finally) and…finishing my degree.  Today and yesterday have been a tidal wave of emotion as I have searched and searched for the answer to what I have been looking for.  I think I found the answer, although not the one I was looking for.  After all these years, trying to follow my dream, I have to ask myself, What Is My Dream?  I always thought it was going to America, but now I don’t know.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, if someone handed me a visa on a silver platter, I’d take it (Bradley Cooper, if you’re listening, take the hint!).  But even if I complete my degree, whether I can find work to get me to the States is quite another matter.  The problem is, while I was studying IN the US, I knew that I wanted to be a writer.  But that doesn’t necessarily require me to move there.  I could, in theory, be a writer anywhere, although,  let’s face it, the warmer, the better.

Since you can’t apply for a visa to be a writer in America, I would have to find some other way of getting there.  Obviously, writing does help.  But everyday I search my Twitter feed through the hundreds of other aspiring writers I follow, and I wonder, with all these people who already have books written, who are well on the way to publicizing their books and promoting themselves as authors, how can I ever hope to be a great writer if I struggle to even put pen to paper (metaphorically, of course in this technological age).

That is not to sound down on myself, more just, matter-of-fact.  One thing I do know is that I cannot stay in this city, my hometown of Lincoln.  I have always said I did not want to spend all my life here, but having spent 32.5 out of 34 years living here under the eyes of the great Cathedral on the hill, I realise I am getting nowhere fast.

It’s time to finish my degree.  I realise that.  I have to buckle down, get on with it, scrimp and save every penny I can while dejunking all my crap, so that when next year comes, I am free to take my degree and go…wherever the wind blows.  Harry, my cat, is a dear part of me, and I only hope that wherever I go, he can come too.  I always thought it was ridiculous those people who said they couldn’t ever move abroad because of their pets, but now I find myself in that exact situation.  Having unsuccessfully tried to re-home him during my study abroad, I worry about who will look after him if I am not here.  He’s not a diva, he’s just…high maintenance.  Like his mother.  Anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, and until then, I’ll give him and his gorilla paws all the cuddles we both deserve.

So I had better get on.  I didn’t sleep well last night, the heat didn’t help, although that wasn’t the reason.  Plus I always feel exhausted when I’ve been crying for the best part of two days.  I have a couple of hours until my traditional bedtime, so I shall do some research for my dissertation, maybe stick an episode of The X-Files on at the same time.  Oh, and eat.  All the while knowing that this is the only way to move forward.


Why do I only tidy up when someone is coming round?!

So yesterday I found out that a plumber would be coming to service the gas in my house-share, a legal obligation for tenanted properties.  Due to my being on air last night with The American Dream Team, it was gone 9pm when I left a message for the plumber to call me to arrange to come round, although I was aware it could be today.  At around 8:15am, I received a call from said plumber, saying someone would be round in about an hour or so.  I promptly went back to sleep, for after all, I am a Lady of Leisure and what on earth was I doing up at 8:15am on a lazy day (although every day is a lazy day when you’re a Lady of Leisure).

Cue a quarter past nine: doorbell rings (which plays an extremely annoying song which will get stuck in your head for a million years,.  Next time I’m feeling mischievous I’ll put it on the blog to torture my followers [note to self: but maybe not til I have loads more followers]).  I go to the door, expecting an old guy.  What I get are two young plumbers, well, one is around my age (still young :p) and the other is more fresh-faced, just out of school I imagine.  I invite them in (hoping that they’re not vampires) and show them into the kitchen so they can make a start on the boiler.  After making them cups of tea (everyone knows it’s etiquette when you have workmen in your house, although I forgot to offer them a biscuit), I tell them I “just have to move a few things around in my bedroom so they can get to the fire in there.”

It took me the hour they spent doing the boiler and the cooker to move most of the crap out of my room and into my housemate’s room upstairs (thank you housemate).  After an hour I had finally shifted enough stuff out so that the bed could be moved out of the way of the fireplace and the five boxes of books I have stacked next to the bookshelf could be moved…off the air vent in the floor (yes, I know!! I’ll slap my own wrist).

They are busy servicing the fire in there now, the front room which if this house were a normal house and not a house-share, would be the living room.  Me and The Bish are sat in the back room, which is our living room.  The fireplace is blocked up, but it’s light and airy and the sun shines through because it’s south-facing, unlike my room, which gets no sun, the one red wall makes it very dark and has a pub carpet.

I am, of course, embarrassed about having young men in my bedroom and seeing the amount of clutter I have in there.  I tried to make a sheepish apology to them for the mess, although I’m sure it’s nothing they haven’t seen before.

I try to tell myself, you can’t help it.  You moved a whole house into one room!  Which is almost true, although most of the furniture in the common areas of the house is mine too.  But the fact is, I have always been a clutter-bunny, it runs in the family.  The fact is, I just have too much stuff.

To be fair to myself, most of the crap in my room is in boxes/bags, ready to go to the Car Boot Sale, when the weather isn’t a) too rainy b) too hot.  But it’s been that way for many months now.

I do feel that all the clutter is weighing me down.  I have an unimaginable number of second-hand books, most bought within the last few years, which stems from an obsession to surround myself with material things.  I used to buy DVDs by the tens, especially when they started to sell at car boot sales for just £1. Now I have a zillion of them.  I know that if I stacked up all the ones I’ve never watched, next to all the ones I have, then I would probably have equal piles, with a pile in the middle for films I have already seen, but wanted to buy on DVD.  It’s like some kind of status symbol I guess, look how cool I am, I own THIS film!  This year I did decide to sort through my DVD collection and made an outstanding effort to get rid of those that I will never watch, will never watch again, or that I have watched, but feel I can let go of now.  I now have just one bookcase full of DVDs, and another full of TV box sets, which I can’t bring myself to get rid of just yet.

<Interestingly, I just heard someone call my name.  I stood up, called “yes?” only to find the young plumber was calling his plumber friend, also called Jody (I’m guessing that’s how he spells it).>

Hopefully I’ll be able to get a car boot sale done soon, maybe even this weekend.  With a bit of luck I’ll be able to get rid of a fair amount of it, as well as making some money to keep me in the Lady of Leisure lifestyle I’m becoming re-accustomed to.  Whether I will just get rid of what’s left, take it straight to a charity shop/tip afterwards I’m not sure.  The need in me to get money back for things I bought years or even just months ago is strong.  It’s like, I need to get something back.  This is my life, it can’t mean nothing.

What I should do, of course, is just let it go.  Let go of my clutter, which I don’t have to be a psychologist to know represents baggage from the past.  Let go of all the things that weigh me down, tie me down, like an anchor that holds a great ship in port.  I know next year I will leave this place.  It will make it easier on myself to start preparing for that now.

I guess the only thing left to say, is where is Dawna Walter* when you need her?!



*Dawna Walter starred in a British TV Show first broadcast in 2002, called The life laundry.  I have her book, how to de-junk your life, written with her co-presenter Mark Franks.  I think it’s time to re-read it…

A Happy Blog For Once…Really?

I just want to say how grateful I am to my friends and family, especially those out there who have read my recent blog post Fight…or Flight and promptly contacted to check that I’m ok.  Of course, what this implies is that my blogs are a cry for help, which, I guess in a way they are.  But I haven’t suddenly started feeling like this.  I’ve been up and down for months, it’s only now that I’m finding myself ready and able to put my mind to e-paper.  But that doesn’t mean I spend all day weeping into my handkerchief.  No, sometimes, I know, this is a shocker, I actually laugh and smile and have fun. 

So I figure I should probably make an effort to write more blog posts with happy thoughts.  I mean, people don’t want to read about depressive thoughts, behaviour and others’ misfortune.  No, they want to read about sex.  Or at least that’s what I’m hearing with endless people asking me, “Have you read 50 Shades of Grey?” then being uber-surprised when I say no.  Is this because it’s a book, or it’s a book about sex?  Answers on a postcard please.

Anyway, back onto happy thoughts (but thoughts about sex are…never mind).  Today I have actually been working on my dissertation, which has been the Holy Grail of my existence for the last seven months since I suspended my degree in American Studies at the University of Lincoln.  And in case my Dad is reading this, I have been working on my dissertation since I stopped my temp job a week ago, although that has included much reading of women’s novels rather than making notes or reading academic books.

Today, while soaking up the elusive sunshine in the back garden (you never know how long it’s gonna last) I have been making aforementioned notes and reading about women’s literature from an academic point of view.  In a bid to get out of the sunshine, and to see if I have received any mail, I skipped (yes, I’m in that much of a good mood), to the front door where, lo and behold, on the mat there was an envelope with one of my old second year essays in, that had been found during a clear out of the Faculty Office.  I excitedly looked at the mark in the top right hand corner – 68.  Non-students and US students will probably imagine this to be somewhere near rubbish, being a huge 32 points off 100.  Students in the UK will know this is a pretty good grade, only one point off a First grade of 70 (because, let’s face it, no student in the history of the world has ever been given a grade of 69, for reasons the Fifty Shades of Grey readers and anyone in general really, will thoroughly understand).

As well as being an excellent mark, the assignment was my first toe-step into the realms of American Literature, or more specifically, women’s literature.  This being the broad topic of my dissertation, and featuring two of the same texts (books, for all you non-academics) as my dissertation, was a reassuring reminder of my ability to a) write an assignment and b) to actually sound like I know what I’m talking about.  Re-reading my paper, with my tutor’s positive comments scrawled alongside my typed text, had me thinking, this sounds pretty good.  Did I really write this?!

The answer, of course, is yes.  It wasn’t easy; I remember this essay (together with the other one and a half I wrote during Christmas break 2011) was a struggle to write.  But I’m going to forget about that, and instead focus on the fact that I can write an essay and get a great mark to boot!

The other happy thought I’m going to leave you with…I got post today.  And it wasn’t a bill! Hooray 🙂

I Ham What I Ham

So anyway, I’ve just spent some time writing a blog post, and the whole time my iPhone 3GS has been doing this weird switching-on-switching-off-switching-on thing.  Which is bizarre, because all I did was take a picture of some ham.

Yes, you did hear that right.  More specifically, I took a picture of a heart…in the ham.  (Oh my god, I can hear the sirens coming to get me already).

I wear my heart…on my ham

Like those crazy pictures you see in The Sun, of people who’ve seen Jesus Christ in a loaf of bread, or Elvis in a turnip, I am now seeing hearts in ham.  Since my long visit to the States last year, I seem to see hearts everywhere I go. I have to admit this is the first one in a while, and the first one in foodstuff (I don’t think chewing gum counts).

Anyhow, I just thought I’d share this with you.  I mean, it’s 6am.  What else could I possibly be doing?


Fight…or Flight?

So here I am, aged 34 and 4 days and writing another blog post.  Aren’t you impressed?  Of course, it is 4:33am and I should be sleeping but although I’m on the verge of tears, I’m also actually so happy to be writing at all.  So I shall fore-go some sleep and get what’s on my mind onto my blog.

First off, you will note that despite my change of age, my blog title remains the same.  I don’t think I can change it right now, because I cannot deny that I feel more lost in life than ever.

I WANT TO RUN AWAY.  Far, far away.  Perhaps that is the problem – to a land far, far away, a fairy tale place where all is good and I can be happy and not worry and not have any problems.  Unfortunately, I know from the ‘Boston Debacle’ back in February that running away doesn’t solve everything.  Sure, it gets you away for a bit then brings you back to your problems with no money, which then causes a ton of issues in itself.

But the fact is, I’ve been finished work for a week now, and those feelings of escapism that plagued me in the first few months of this year are back.  If it weren’t for my cat, Harry (aka The Bish), I would have been on a plane by now, in the reckless abandonment of The Pursuit of Happiness.

Well that’s the motto of the USA isn’t it?  Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness.  But the US closed its doors to people like me years ago, after god knows how many millions flocked there in the few hundred years since Mr. Columbus “discovered” the place (any good American Studies student will tell you the Natives were living there squillions of years before the English came and started colonising the place for their own fulfilment.

Perhaps I’m only doing what hordes of English have done before me – run away to try and find a new life.  Undoubtedly for some, it worked.  Others were not so lucky, like the settlers of Jamestown, Virginia who, by the time the ship bringing supplies from England returned, had disappeared off the face of the earth.

Yet the more I fight against the flight, the more I just want to get the hell away.  I’m tired of fighting.  Fighting against not belonging.  Fighting against not knowing my place in life.  Fighting against being me.

Maybe the idea of going away has been exacerbated by the book I’m currently reading, Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Written in 2006 with a film adaptation in 2010 starring Julia Roberts, the tagline says it all: “One woman’s search for everything”.    With the exception of Liz’s pursuit of divine intervention, mainly through getting up at 3am to pray in an Askram in India, that book could have been written by someone else – me.

But I must stress, I don’t want to run away based on the fact that Liz Gilbert ran away and found happiness.  This is something I’ve been wanting to do for more than half my life.

When I was in my mid-teens, my parents talked about moving house.  I begged them to, although they never did, and my dad still lives in that house now.  When I was almost 19, I ran away to London for a year (with my parent’s blessing), but came back when the going got tough.  I guess the truth is, you can run somewhere new, but you have to take yourself with you.  In the words of Matchbox Twenty, “I can’t get myself to go away.”

Throughout my marriage we had a few opportunities to potentially move away from Lincoln, for which I was always for 110%, but alas, we remained in Lincoln.  Last year I managed to run away to America as part of my degree, but had to come back for fear of US immigration not ever letting me back in.  In November 2011 and February 2012, I ran away to the States for shorter trips, with varying degrees of unsuccessfulness.

The only time I have ever properly “run away” was last summer, when I got as far as Sheffield.  Making a spontaneous trip to meet a guy I met on an Internet dating website, I stayed overnight with him then got the train home.  I’d told my housemates I was going to Sheffield, to which they assumed I was visiting my mum, until lack of communication forced them to contact my brother and then my mum, and I returned to the Spanish Inquisition of where I had gone and why I had gone.

So fast-forward almost a year, and here I am again.  I carry my passport with me, so it’s a miracle I haven’t just disappeared off somewhere before (trust me, I’ve thought about it).  And before you ask, that’s not why I carry my passport.  But when you’re a student and you hang out with young people, you will inevitably get asked for ID.  There is nothing worse than reaching a point in your life when you just need a goddamn drink and Wetherspoons refuse to serve you because you look under 30 (at the age of 31 – but don’t get me started on that one).

I have the opportunity to go away for the summer, well, there is potentially somebody who could move into my room almost straight away, and who adores Harry.  The only thing stopping me I guess is money, and not wanting to leave myself in a worse situation on my return (assuming I do return), well, what to do?(It’s times like this I wish I had a rich aunt with a big house somewhere hot I could just go and stay.),

As I sit on the sofa, snuggled under my Sainsbury’s boucle throw, Harry sits on the floor looking up at me.  Then he wanders off, in the direction of my bedroom.  His thoughts on the matter are obvious.  This could take forever.  Let me know when you’ve made a decision, mother.  Until then, I’ll be fast asleep in our bedroom. ❤

Put a face to a name: Jodie Orton at The Reading Room Live!

Jodie Orton at The Reading Room Live!

You’ve read my blogs, you’ve heard me talk about writing.  You may have met me in the flesh, you may not.  You may have met me before but forgotten what the hell I look like.  Well now’s your chance to listen to and watch me reading the first short story I ever wrote.  Feedback, on the story, my vocal capacity, clothing, hairstyle all gratefully received.

I’m no longer 33…so now what do I call my blog?!

It’s been a while, I know.  I’m not going to make any excuses; in my mind I’ve written lots of blogs as things are happening in my life, although they never seem to get transferred onto the screen.  (If there are any crazy scientists/tech-types who can find a way to get my brainwaves onto WordPress without me having to lift a finger, I will love you forever).

So yesterday was my 34th birthday.  A while ago, my mum asked me, as have other people been asking me since, what am I going to call my blog once I turn 34?  On the one hand, I am no longer 33, therefore that has to be addressed.  But am I still lost in life?  My answer to that has to be…yes.  I think so. 

However, I know I am not the same person as I am when I started this blog, six months ago.  The day my blog was most read was on February 14th, Valentines Day.  I think that tells you something about where my writing comes from. 

A lot has changed for me during 2012.  Yet nothing has changed.  I have come on in leaps and bounds while at the same time feeling like I’ve taken three steps back. 

This birthday was particularly poignant for me.  Four years ago, just before my 30th birthday, came the epiphany of what I had always wanted to do with my life.  Like a neon light, the word America lit up, like a beacon calling me from across the Atlantic.  I realised that I had always wanted to live and work in the States.  I’ll be honest, and say most of that comes from watching TV and films. But how else can you get any experience of the great American landscape?  This great country that has skyscrapers and tumbleweed, snowy ski resorts for the rich and homeless people on white sandy beaches, successful executives and just-as-successful housewives.  Well, for starters, you can visit.  I have been lucky enough in the last four years to visit the US twice on holiday, to have lived there for six months and to make two soul-searching pilgrimages, the last one ending in a tearful call to my mum telling her I just wanted to come home.  I wanted to give up.  Not on life, but on the life I was chasing.  Right there and then, as I sat in a New York coffee house on a bright February day, where the sun’s rays leaked through the window of the first floor where I sat, whispering to me that here I was in New York, the place so many people would give so much to visit, crying to my mum, and then my dad, over Skype, telling them I had to come home.  I wanted to come home, and forget about becoming a writer.  Forget crazy ideas about moving to America.  Leave behind the desire to be a radio host, or interviewer of rock bands, of jet-setting traveller.  I would come home, get a proper job (meaning an office job, just like I had the previous 16 years), and wait for my future husband to find me. 

I slept at JFK overnight, being unable to book a flight any earlier than two days after.  But I am thankful to say, at some point before I got on that flight home, something inside me flickered.  Like a phoenix rising from the flames, my hand pushed through the rubble of my life that had collapsed on top of me, crushing my hopes and dreams.  Slowly, I crawled out from under the debris, brushed myself off and spoke out loud, “If this is the life I will lead, then I do not want to live”.

A loud inhale, followed by, “but I do not want to die.  Therefore I must follow my path, no matter how hard or how long it takes.”

Since that day in February, I have been largely quiet on the writing front.  Looking back through my blog, I wrote several in March, largely due to the birth of my nephew, Jamie, on February 29th.  But since March, only one blog post per month.  And this is the first in July. 

In April, I read my very first short story, The Princess and the Epiphany, to a crowd at The Reading Room Live, at Lincoln’s Peforming Arts Centre.  It was an honour to read it to a UK audience, the story having made its debut at Juniata College’s Unlock Your Voice in April 2011, during my study abroad period in the USA.  But immediately afterwards, I was struck by the thought, I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.   

So here I am, 34 years old and the only thing I’m sure of in life is that I want to be a writer.  But as I have been told, you want to be a writer?  Well then, write.  Between my heart and my mind, I have enough imagination and feelings to fill a million scrolls.  Time to put them down on paper, well, the 21st Century version of paper, for the world to see. 

I still don’t know what I can call my blog.  But I have a feeling it’d better be something more positive.  ❤