Bags to Boot

You know what’s been bothering me the last few days? On Saturday I bought a new pair of brown ankle boots.  No, it’s not that that’s bothering me.  Only two or three years ago I bought a brown bag, Jasper Conran from Debenhams.  Somewhere along the line of dejunking, I’ve given it away to the charity shop.  That’s what’s bothering me.  

Now I have boots and no bag.  What is a girl to do?

Buy another one, would be the sensible solution.  Except I’m not sure I have spare money for a bag this month, especially when I’ve spent money on boots (among other things).

It really chafes me that I had a perfectly good bag and got rid of it. Aha!  Maybe that’s it!  It wasn’t perfectly good, maybe the faux leather had started wearing off and I thought I’d get rid of it as it was starting to look a bit shit.  

Maybe, but I can’t remember.  

Hoarding possessions is linked to depression and anxiety.  People don’t want to get rid of physical stuff because it means they have to part with something inside of them too.  

I have made great progress the last few years.  You would not believe how many bags, boxes and crates have gone to the charity shops of Lincoln and London.  Of those hundreds of books, clothes, bags and other bric-a-brac, only a few have I thought that I wish I’d kept.  But those few eat into me with regret, poisoning my mind against further donations.

Like so much of my mental baggage though, there is only one thing to be done.  Let it go. 

More bags can be bought.  More fish in the sea.  

On this bright, sunny day, letting go seems like such an easy concept.  If I had time right now I’d go into  Debenhams and buy another bag.  Part with my money and not think about the fact that I’m buying something I had but gave away on a whim.  I don’t have time though, so a new bag will have to wait.  

Physical possessions, while important, are not the be all and end all.  I know that I did the right thing getting rid of the Jasper bag.  Because the last few years I have been sinking in stuff, and would have suffocated under the weight of it had I not seriously dejunked. 

I don’t think I’ll ever be in a position to live in a shack with the most minimal of possessions.  But as my room becomes tidier, so does my mind.  As I see a path through the clutter in my house, my mind will visualise the path I am to take.  There is no charity shop in my mind, but perhaps I should build one.  Except it won’t be a shop that sells on; just takes donations and keeps them safe.  So that when I’m ready, I can look back at those memories in a way that doesn’t hurt so much. 

All Frocked Up

Recently I was invited to a black-tie awards ceremony, which at first filled me full of excitement before the realisation hit that I would need a posh dress. I haven’t worn a dress that swept past my toes since my wedding day, and I wondered how much change, if any, I would get out of £100. Of course this is party season, so there were offers and I could probably find a dress for about £60-70. Still not great when my overdraft limit is looming ever closer and we’re only just halfway through the month.

I went to Debenhams and tried a few dresses on, but none that I liked enough to part with my hard-earned cash.

The following weekend, I decided to take a trip to my local charity shops, as I remembered one of them advertising party dresses in stock. I tried four shops but none had long dresses. Then I remembered about one that was further down towards the end of the High Street, tucked away from the rest.

As I walked in and found their selection of dresses, my eyes fell on a long black dress, with a Ralph Lauren label. My heart skipped a beat as I sought out the charity shop’s label, which read “Ralph Lauren Brand NEW £30”. My eyes then looked at the size – it was a size 8. My heart sank. But I had an idea. Ralph Lauren is an American brand. I found the original Ralph Lauren label and it said $119 (around £76). Which meant it was a US Size 8, and therefore a UK size 12! I had the hanger off the rail and into the changing room before anyone else had a chance to steal my beloved find.

The fitting room was poorly lit but even so I could tell it fitted almost perfectly. I recently bought a pair of Bridget Jones’ big pants which I knew would even out any lumps and bumps.

Anyone who knows me knows that I love buying clothes in charity shops. A serious lack of money while at university meant that I relied mostly on them to fill my wardrobe. I love the excitement of finding a branded item at a bargain price. So I was particularly excited to have found my Ralph Lauren dress.

But it was not to be. The person I was supposed to go with decided against going, and didn’t even tell me. I had to hear it from somebody else. The disappointment of missing out on a glamorous night out, with the chance to wear my new frock hit me hard.

While my feelings are hurt, so is my bank balance. £30 may not seem like a lot but to me, at this time of year, it is. I can’t take the dress back (although I probably wouldn’t anyway) and I don’t know when I will get a chance to wear it. I’ve recently discovered an issue with moths in the flat which I believe have caused a few holes in my clothes, and I only hope I’ll get chance to wear it before the moths start to feed on it.

Life’s little (and big) disappointments can be hard to handle sometimes. Disappointments can be more hurtful than anything else, because you are given hope which is then often cruelly snatched away.

Talking to a friend about it, she said when disappointment strikes you just have to dust yourself off and carry on, which I think is a good mantra to have. Basically, don’t let disappointments get the better of you.

As for the dress, it hangs on the front of my wardrobe. Like me, it anxiously awaits the moment it will finally be given its chance to shine.

The Power of 15,000 Views

Today I hit a milestone with my blog: 15,000 views. I have published, since January 2012, 234 blog posts (this one, assuming it makes it into the “published posts section” will be 235). I know that I haven’t written anything for a while. I’m not going to make excuses for myself, other than the fact there’s been a lot going on; mostly in my head, which has resulted in more sleepless nights than I care to admit.

235 blog posts and I still feel lost in life. I feel the frustration of having spent four years at university only to end up doing the same job as I did for 12 years before that. Except now I’m not making sure cancer patients get their diagnostic tests and treatments on time. Now I make sure the relatively wealthy get their Michael Kors handbag or their Jimmy Choos without too much of a delay. Maybe this is the reason I can’t take my job too seriously.

But it’s not all bad. Last Friday I attended a free journalism workshop, a taster session for a journalism Diploma I’m considering doing in the new year.

I feel the sadness at spending another Christmas alone, or rather, without that special person in my life. Christmas adverts, like the latest offering from department store John Lewis, make it clear that love is the ultimate goal at Christmas time. Like Frankie Goes to Hollywood sang in December 1984 and earning its place on all good future Christmas compilation albums, “love is the light scaring darkness away”. I have to admit I could do with some light in my life right now.

But it’s not all bad. This year, I won’t be physically alone. I’m making sure I spend Christmas Day with people who care about me.

I feel the pressure of being overweight, of having a balloon-sized stomach caused by food intolerances, of having bad acne at the age of 36, of stress causing my scalp to flake and scab.

But it’s not all bad. My skin is clearing up, albeit slowly, and I had a hair cut at the weekend which saw three inches of my beloved locks on the salon floor. But I look in the mirror and I see a new me, and I see at least a physical change where I struggle to make those mental ones.

2014 has been a tough year. I’m still struggling to find my place in this city, in this life. Right now I have so many physical afflictions that I can barely look at myself in the mirror. But it’s not all bad. Because tonight I wrote another blog post, and as long as I can write, I know that I’m on the right path. I may not have had much inspiration lately, but tonight I was motivated by the 15,000 views on my blog, because it means that people are out there reading what I have to say. I could lie and tell you I write for myself, which is partly true, but like most bloggers, I write because I want people to read it. I want to inspire, to amuse, to entertain, to sadden. I want people to know they are not alone in what they may be going through. The Thirty-Something Crisis, or The Mid-Life Crisis, or The Quarter-Life Crisis, at whatever age it occurs, is not kind. It treats everyone differently, and knows no mercy. This is my journey through it, and I thank you for keeping me company during these dark nights and not-so-bright days.

The Power of Love – Frankie Goes to Hollywood (1984)

John Lewis Christmas Advert (2014)

What Are Those Marks On Your Face?

That was the question I was asked tonight in Subway, my current fast-food of choice. As he packed my honey oat bread with meat and salad, he obviously pondered this question before asking me: “What are those marks on your face?”

I looked at him for a moment before answering.

“Sadness.” Was my reply. Well, my first reply. I had been crying on the train on the way home, so I figured my mascara had run.

“Mascara.” My second reply, after he failed to look convinced by my first answer.

Before waiting to see if he would be convinced a second time, I grabbed the bag with my six-inch Italian BMT and bottle of water and left. I got across the road and down the street before I could finally locate the mirror in my handbag to check what these mysterious “marks” were.

In the mirror was nothing, except a few bags under my eyes. Not even the remains of any mascara, since I recently replaced my waterproof one for a normal one.

As I put the mirror back in my bag, I considered what my other answers should have been. Disappointment? Acne? I have a pretty severe breakout right now.

Whatever the answer, he should have seen no marks upon my face. What he should have seen was my smile. In fact, he should not have seen my face at all, because I should have been at home hours ago, making food there. I should not have been arriving home at 8:45pm because I chose to sit in a pub alone with a pint rather than going home.

I feel the tears stinging my eyes again. I think of the man in Subway, and wonder if he has ever seen someone look so lost in life.

You Bet Your Life

While I have spent the last month without the company of my male friend, the last week has seen me enjoy some very good times courtesy of other male friends. Now before you get all excited, both were on a strictly platonic basis. But both gave me the opportunity to enjoy life outside my usual haunts without any expectations.

On Thursday, I headed into Central London with one of my male colleagues to another colleague’s leaving do. As we debated the closest tube stop to our destination in the West End, he suggested that we stop by The Savoy hotel for a cheeky cocktail. One of London’s five-star hotels, it is not the type of place I frequent, but I was excited by the prospect of a spontaneous visit. So we headed in, and found a table in their American Bar (the American Studies student in me loved that). I have to admit I was in awe of my surroundings. We stayed for two cocktails each, and made two requests to the piano man, the first being Billy Joel’s Just the Way You Are, and the second being, erm, Billy Joel’s Piano Man. In my defence I had used up all my originality in just being in my new location. I considered asking for something by heavy metal rockers, Megadeath, but I managed to show at least some restraint for the high-society venue I found myself in.

My housemate often tells me I want to switch off from my problems, and I have to say that hour in The Savoy sure did allow me to disappear into another world for a while. But I loved every minute and would do it again given the chance.

Now onto my second jaunt. Yesterday I met another male friend in Central London. After we stopped by Starbucks for a Pumpkin Spice Latte, we discussed what our plan for the rest of the evening would be. He suggested a casino. I countered with the cinema, hoping that we could see Gone Girl before it disappears from the big screen. I had my concerns about a casino, and my purse screamed no. But he said there was no entry fee, and that he would gamble with his money, so I figured why not.

I haven’t been into a casino since an overnight trip to Las Vegas in 2011 with some friends and not spent any real time in one since a four-day trip with my ex-husband in 2008, but the one in Leicester Square immediately took me back there. We found an electronic roulette table (although I don’t remember seeing those six years ago) and he placed his bet. I chipped in with the odd number, usually my birthday or a random pick. While none of my numbers came up, we left the casino £60 up, so I guess he must have done something right.


“What I win, I keep. What you win, I keep. Got that?”

We left the casino to be faced with the huge billboard of Gone Girl on the front of the big Odeon in Leicester Square, the one where they screen all the big premiers. The expensive one. With a screening of Gone Girl starting in twenty minutes, our perfectly-timed winnings paid for our tickets, two portions of sweet and salty popcorn, a bag of chocolate sweets and two bottles of water.

After the movie, our winnings also paid for most of two portions of ribs at Garfunkel’s, which we devoured before getting our respective night buses home.

My unhappiness in my home life has led me to home-avoid a lot lately. But the silver lining in that has allowed me to discover a new social life. As well, I am finally feeling financially free to socialise regularly, a far cry from my days as a temp after I first moved to London, when I had to walk 40 minutes to work because I just didn’t have the tube fare. I have a lot of work to do on my home life, and feeling comfortable in my own home, which at the moment is causing me great problems, but like my other problems in life, I may be the root cause of all those issues.

Spontaneity was key in both of my fun trips out this week. Letting go of inhibitions and enjoying the moment. Not concerning myself with the cost, which in both cases turned out to be minimal anyway.

A lot is said about the work/life balance, but what I really need right now is a home/social life balance. That desire to go out and socialise without the need to feel like I am escaping from my own home. I’m not a betting person but if I was, I’d say I need to strike a balance between the two if I want to hit the jackpot.

It would be rude of me to go and leave you without any Billy Joel, so enjoy this song. So many I could choose, but I’m sticking with Just the Way You Are. For once, the lyrics aren’t directed at anybody other than myself.

Just the Way You Are – Billy Joel (1977)

Where There’s Smoke There’s Ire…

Well my PMT has been raging this week. There’s been lots of tears and anger. Most of all I just feel scared about what the future holds for me.

Yesterday I did something I have never done at work. I smoked a cigarette. I have to admit I do smoke the occasional one when drunk on nights out, but to go and stand outside my office building while stone cold sober is a new one on me. While it calmed me down, I hated smelling like a chimney afterwards, and I could still smell the smoke on my fingers two hours later. So thankfully I won’t be taking up smoking any time soon.

I just feel like I am losing control again. Am I ever going to be able to settle in this place, in this life? A constant nomadic life, with heartache after heartache. Last week I stayed with my brother and his fiancee, and got to spend time with my nephew. This weekend I feel the emptiness of my life. I’m 36, I should have my own family to spend time with. Not be sitting in my room, alone, desperately searching for another flatshare before I become homeless again.

I’m sorry if this sounds pitiful, but this is how I feel today.

In between bagging up books for the charity shop, the sadness comes, and the PMT rages. Luckily I don’t have any cigarettes and I won’t buy any when I go out to take my donations. I do have chocolate though. And my blog. They will get me through.

The Magpies are Flying Again

I always used to say I could live my life by the magpies. You know the well-known magpie-spotting rhyme that goes one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy and so on. I can pretty much guarantee that if I’m having a crappy day I’ll see a single magpie, or if I see one solo magpie it usually signals something not great it about to happen.

In the last week or so, since I parted ways with my male friend, the magpies have been in pairs. I can’t explain it. There was a single magpie that lived in the tree opposite my flat, the one I have a direct view of from my bedroom window. Since I moved in at the end of June, I have only ever seen him on his own. Yesterday I saw him frolicking on our neighbours’ roof with another magpie.

Thus, I see this as a sign that I’ve done the right thing. But have I?

That is as much as it wrote of this blog yesterday before arriving at work. It was my intention to write about how I felt like I had abandoned my friend, who is likely to move back up north in the next few weeks. He is pretty fed up with life too, and his own romantic knocks have only confirmed his decision to leave London. Yesterday I felt bad that he would spend his last few weeks without someone who he’s spent a lot of time with since moving to London, someone who had been a good friend to him as much as he had to me. Especially as now I have friends here, I want to open my social circle to him. So I had planned to call him last night.

Due to our department being short-staffed at work, I worked until gone 7pm last night, and by the time I got home it was close to 8pm. After sitting in my room for a while, I decided that after all my travels this last week – Manchester to help my friends move to London, a two-day business trip to Edinburgh that involved taking minutes at a senior managers’ meeting that lasted six and a half hours, and a six-hour spontaneous round trip to Lincoln where I drove to visit my family at the weekend – on top of working til 8pm the remaining days I was in the office last week meant that all I really wanted was a really early night. I used the bathroom then told my housemate I was going to bed. At 8:30?! Was his reply. He asked if I’d eaten and I hadn’t, deciding to forego dinner for sleep. He then started asking me all sorts of questions about what I had been eating lately, which made me mad because all I wanted to do was sleep, and I told him I didn’t appreciate him interrogating me.

We argued about it for a few minutes then I went into my room. I chatted with one of my friends who allowed me to vent while calming down.

After a while I left my room to let the Bish in, because I wanted to feel contained in my room, and also because I have started shutting him in my room at night so as not to bother my housemate who was complaining about getting woken up at night by my cat. Bish still wakes me up of course, but I tell him it’s not time to go out and he accepts that and goes back to sleep.

As I ventured out into the flat, my housemate asked me if I was ok, and after a long debate about how he feels I’m not looking after my health and not doing anything to better myself, the culmination of that conversation was that I handed my month’s notice in to leave.

To be honest, I have never felt comfortable living there since I moved in at the end of June. My housemate is a life coach, and while I do believe he wants to help, I dread the spontaneous two-hour long conversations where I get overwhelmed by all the personal development he tries to pile on me. After the last relationship with my former life coach didn’t end exactly great, I have been wary of him, and to be honest I find I can’t cope with being in such a tiny flat with someone who is trying to fix all my problems.

So anyway, now I have one month to find a place for me and Bish. Obviously I’m not relishing that thought after the previous trouble I had finding somewhere which left me homeless for three weeks. Although I’ve been told off for using that term “homeless” by my housemate. Whatever.

All I wanted last night was an early night. I don’t usually skip dinner by the way, as I love food. But this last week has been quite unique and while travelling I’ve ended up eating more sandwiches for lunches and dinner than I would like, considering I’m trying to go gluten-free.

I do wonder if I had phoned my male friend last night whether all this would have been avoided; if I’d told my housemate I was going to make a phone call rather than going to bed. But probably that would have been the wrong thing to do too.

Right now the sun is shining but I have a very nervous feeling in my heart. I don’t know where I will be in a month’s time, I only hope it won’t be in another B&B.

As for the magpies? I guess they’ll soon tell me whether it’s gonna be a good or bad few weeks.

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