40 and…?

Author’s Note: To celebrate my 40th birthday and to give this blog an update on my life, I intended to write a brief post to muse over the events of my thirties. It soon became obvious that I have too far much to say for a short post. So this is more of an essay. A long essay. I make no apologies for its length, but consider yourself warned. 

When I was 21, I saw a psychic for the first time. I took a dictaphone and recorded it onto one of those tiny little tapes, and spent hours painstakingly transcribing it into a notebook, back in the days when I still used a fountain pen. In my best handwriting, I’d written, among other things, ‘Everyone has a crisis. Either at 30 or 40. You’ll be a 30 person, but you’ll be sorted by the time you’re 40.’ Not much of what she told me made sense at the time, but gradually her predictions came true. A month after our psychic session, I did meet a guy in an RAF uniform, as she had predicted I would. Soon after we met, he brought me a rescue kitten, and five years later we got married.

At the age of 27, I began to feel an unease. I’d worked for the NHS for eight years, and put the unease down to being bored in my job. I want to go and work in HMV, I complained to my co-workers. I want a job where I can wear jeans to work. I did nothing to change my job or career, and the uneasy feeling increased.

At the age of 28, I was certain that if only I could find that elusive job I could be passionate about, then I would be happy. There were few jobs around back then, and I struggled to find jobs to apply for. I still harboured dreams of working amongst DVDs, but I needed a salary to match my NHS one. I was stuck.

At the age of 29, still working for the NHS, I began to think about what I seriously wanted out of life. The only dreams I’d ever had were to meet a man and get married, which I’d done, and to go and live in America. We’d spent two weeks in Orlando for our honeymoon, but I craved to see the West Coast. I decided that if I wasn’t going to be able to live in America, then I could at least have a decent holiday there. With my 30th birthday approaching, it seemed appropriate to plan a big trip to those big cities I’d only ever seen on TV and films.

I spent hours researching flights, hotels, things to do. I did nothing else. I became obsessed. My husband, who agreed to the trip initially, became reluctant to discuss it. For his 30th birthday, six months before mine, I’d booked a trip to Paris. I wanted to keep it a secret, but he worked weekends and that weekend between Christmas and New Year would definitely be one of the ones he would be asked to work. In November, I told him about the trip. He accused me of keeping secrets from him and stormed out of the house for hours, taking the dog. The vague uneasiness that had plagued me for more than two years was finally taking shape. We made up, and went to Paris, but continued to argue about the America trip. At one point I told him that if he didn’t want to go, I would go on my own. His answer to that was ‘you won’t even go to the Co-op by yourself’, which sadly was true, but I was determined I would go to the States. The realisation that I really would have gone by myself was an eye-opener for us both. The trip was eventually booked for September, two months after my 30th. Six days in LA, three in Vegas, three in San Francisco, and three in Seattle.

Despite his reluctance to the trip, we began to talk about the possibility of living and working in the US, and began to research it. Unfortunately, even in 2008, you couldn’t just board a plane with your belongings and set off to the land of the free. You needed visas, sponsorship. A job. We found that a university degree would help, so I started to look at courses. There was a business degree you could do, four years long which included a year working in the States. I started an application, but something was stopping me. I wanted a fun job, not some boring business job. In the end, I didn’t apply but my husband did. He got straight onto the course, which was due to start in September. We cut our US trip short, binning the San Francisco and Seattle portions. We were forced to still fly home out of Seattle, and spent a few hours there after arriving from sunny Vegas, trudging round my Frasier city in the rain. He hated it. I loved it.

At the age of 30, I was more determined than ever to live the American Dream. For us both to have degrees would still give us the best chance. At an open day, I talked to some lecturers of American Studies, and decided that’s what I wanted to do. It was a three-year course, and included a semester studying in the US. What can I do to prepare? I asked. Read, they said. I only read Agatha Christie back then. So I switched to American crime fiction.

In September, I started my degree. I was still working full-time in the NHS, who allowed me to work the time back that I spent at uni. We’d moved into town just before I started my course, to save money and make things easier for me to get around, since we were down to one car by then. I loved my degree, and set up a group for mature and postgraduate students so I could meet people closer to my own age, and provide support for those students of non-traditional age. I was happy, for the most part.

At the age of 31, in February 2010, I left my husband. It was quite sudden, and I’d told nobody of the unhappiness that had plagued me. Despite being unhappy for four years, I’d known for over a year and a half that my marriage was the problem, but I was in denial. When I eventually decided that I had to leave, it took me almost a year to get up the courage. He picked me up from work and I told him then. He was confused and angry, and after driving us around for a while dropped me at my mum’s house. She was on the phone to her other half for ten minutes before she started to wonder why I was in her kitchen, alone, on a work night. I’ve left him, I told my shocked mum.

As the tears finally fell, I felt nothing but relief.

The next ten months were difficult. My husband pursued a reconciliation, but for me it was too late. Six months after we’d split, a blossoming relationship on my part was ruined by his jealousy, and I began to wonder if he would ever let me go. I worked long hours to make up the time spent at uni, and was walking 7-8 miles a day, from home to work, work to uni and walking our dog. I organised countless social events for the uni group, and pushed hard to gain new members. I worked overtime at the NHS every Saturday to save money for my upcoming semester abroad. I weighed 8 stone 3.

At the age of 32, in January 2011, I had a nervous breakdown. Three days later I left my home city of Lincoln for Pennsylvania, USA.

I threw myself into small town life. I made new friends in fellow international students and teachers of foreign languages. The American students were reluctant to engage, with the exception of those who had studied abroad themselves. I’d had free reign to choose my classes, so I opted for three literature classes and a journalism class. My favourite by far was Women and Literature, and our professor, Judy Katz, wanted three written journals a week, based on the texts we were reading, one of which should be autobiographical. In reading stories of women in troubled times, I found my heroines, and the cathartic nature of the autobiographical journals provided a therapy on top of the counselling I was having from the school psychiatrist.

In March 2011 I returned to the UK to see my Nana, who was dying. She could barely speak now, and I told her ‘I know what I want to do now, Nana, I want to be a writer’. She replied, ‘I always wanted to be a writer.’ She died as my plane touched down in New York.

Back in Pennsylvania, my Nana’s death was a struggle. I was already on various antidepressants, and couldn’t focus on my essays. I had also planned to get a summer job and a work visa, but despite applying for publishing internships, I was offered nothing, and as the term ended, after four weeks of travelling around the US, I reluctantly returned home to the UK. I started back at my NHS job and moved in with my dad. Soon I found a house share with friends, and after two months handed my notice in at work. There was no way I could work full time and do uni, and I didn’t want a repeat of the previous year. Come November, I was well into my final year, but the lack of focus I’d experienced with my US assignments was back, together with my depression.

At the age of 33, I had suspended my studies. I started this blog, 33andlostinlife, a month later, in January 2012, as a way of documenting my life with depression and what I had dubbed ‘The Thirty-Something Crisis’. In March, I got a temp job, which I hated. Suspecting that I may be dyslexic, I had tests at uni. They were negative, but I was told that my depression could be affecting my studies.

At the age of 34, I started back at uni to take my second final year, with a renewed vigour, a study coach and other resources including equipment provided by the uni to help me study alongside my depression. It was still a struggle, and I gave up on my dream of achieving the first class honours that many of my fellow mature students did, but in May I handed in my final essay. Three days later I moved to London with Bish.

I lived in a house in Ealing with two people who had a combined aged of 160. I got a temp admin job a month later, and a month after that, attended the work summer party, a day before my birthday. I got drunk and one of the guys from my office walked me to the tube station. I collapsed in a heap on a quiet road on the way. I don’t want to be 35, I wailed through my tears.

Three months later I got made permanent at work, and left the elderly house-share to rent another flat in Ealing with a friend. The flat was nice, but required lots of work, and the constant need for workmen entering our flat, without consent, liaising with the agency to actually get work done, took its toll on us.  By the following May I had convinced my flatmate that we had to move out of the flat, and while she was moving in with her boyfriend, I was struggling to find somewhere to live with my then 14 year-old cat, Bish.  Moving day came, and a friend helped me pile my stuff (there was lots, including furniture) into a huge Luton van.  By the time we’d finished and cleaned the flat, the storage unit nearby had closed.  I had nowhere to move to, a van full of crap and an elderly cat.  I called my mum in Derbyshire.  I drove Bish and I the 150 miles north where we stayed overnight, offloaded a few smaller items, then drove back to London the following day. The van was unloaded into storage in Hangar Lane, and Bish was left at a cattery in Edgeware.  I booked myself into a B&B in Chiswick, close to work.

At the age of 35, I was homeless. Ok, not on the streets, but of no fixed abode, in a huge city where I had few friends, and those I had couldn’t offer me a place to stay.

My sole focus was to find somewhere for Bish & I, but all the places that allowed pets already had a cat, and the tenants wouldn’t take another. I stubbornly refused advice to rehome Bish, or to move back up north. I stayed at the B&B for two and a half weeks before money started to run out.  I spent three nights in different hostels sleeping on bunk beds before a friend I met through a mutual friend offered for me to take over his room in a flat in Twickenham.

It was very sudden and I could move in immediately, for which I was grateful.  My boss at work had commented that big bosses were getting concerned at my state of ‘homelessness’.  Arriving at work with a small suitcase day in, day out, will do that for you.

In the beginning, my new flatmate was ok.  He could see I was broken, and being a life coach, wanted to help me.  Soon, however, it became suffocating.  I would arrive home from work to a two-hour lecture on how different personal development ‘celebrities’ and strategies could help me.  I was shy as a child and grew up being unable to say what I really thought.  I struggled to leave these conversations, not wanting to be rude.  I started spending time in the pub after work, avoiding going home, and when I was at home, I would hide out in my tiny, cluttered room, which annoyed my flatmate even more, and the fact that I was so anti-social became a huge bone of contention with him.  But I just couldn’t cope.  I started social smoking, and buying packets of cigarettes to smoke on nights out. The day I bummed a cig off a guy from the IT helpdesk and found myself smoking it, stone-cold sober outside the office one cold November afternoon, was the day I really got worried, and stopped smoking there and then.

I found myself a new house-share in North London. It would be over an hour’s commute to my office in West London, and they already had one cat living there. I was unsure about the move, and my flatmate convinced me that we could work things out, that I shouldn’t run away from my problems. Paying too much heed to my doubts about the new place, I agreed to stay. Days later I knew I’d made a mistake.  Things got worse.

In December, I found a ground-floor studio with a garden on Gumtree and arranged a viewing. It was dark outside, so I couldn’t see much of the garden, and though the studio was small it had a bedroom and a separate kitchen with washing machine, and shower room. As I left the house to allow another viewer in, I waited around to have another look.  As I had suddenly realised, the back door was solid wood. There was one window, approximately 15cm x 30cm. The following day, I called the agency.  I’ll take it, I told her, if I can replace the door with a half-glazed one and fit a catflap.  The answer came back yes, if you buy it, the landlord will get it fitted.

At the age of 36, yet another moving day arrived. It was New Years’ Eve.  My friend came with her car to help me move. I’d dejunked a lot to the charity shop, but there was still a lot of stuff and it took two trips to get to my new place in Mitcham, on the London/Surrey border, a good 50 minute drive from Twickenham. My housemate and I argued as I moved out, and we screamed at each other in the street. When all my stuff was into the new place, my friend left, and I dived under my duvet, where I stayed for two days. The new door wasn’t to be fitted until after the new year, and I lay in bed, in the dark with barely any natural light, or in lamplight. Another January where I was physically and mentally broken.

I soon got used to my almost three-hour daily commute from the edge of Surrey to West London, using the time to write the occasional blog post.  I also started a dystopian novel, inspired by The Handmaid’s Tale, which I’d studied several times at university. I got to 25 pages of notes and actual words, before the idea faded.

I remained unhappy in the capital, despite having my own self-contained space. I still had few friends, and I began to dread the weekends that I’d often spend alone. Long bank holiday weekends were even worse. I was more lonely than I had ever felt before, and I hated my job. I applied for other things, and even did a few days’ work experience within the editorial team at my company. I enjoyed it, but it was obvious that I did not fit in. My efforts to pursue another chance to work with them failed, and I knew that if I wanted a writing job I was going to have to find it elsewhere.

The worst part about my time in London was my ‘love life’. Note I use the term loosely. I used dating sites to try and find my soulmate, and I kissed a lot of frogs. Some were nice guys, but it wasn’t meant to be. Some were the worst possible kind, and I wondered if I would ever meet someone who would love me.

After a few dates with one of the nicer ones that didn’t work out, I decided if I was serious about meeting someone, then I might have to put my hand in my pocket and pay, rather than using the free sites like Plenty of Fish and Tinder. I signed up for E-Harmony. Months went by, and though I completed a few of the questionnaires they like you to do with potential dates, nothing led to an actual conversation.

In September, my dad and his other half visited me for the day. Dad told me that he was gifting me some money. Enough for a deposit on a house, should I choose to buy one, though not in London, of course. A fellow Northerner in London had been trying to convince me to move back Oop North for almost the whole time I’d lived in London (he was there on the moving day when I became homeless), and suddenly I began to see that I could have a life outside London. I’d owned property years before in Lincoln, when I was married but had seen the money we’d made from our house going up in price go down the drain on debt. I hadn’t ever wanted to own a house again, but suddenly I was tempted. I gave myself six months to find a job in the North. I wanted to live in Sheffield, close to my Mum, but looked at jobs as far away as Leeds and Nottingham. I changed the location on my E-Harmony profile to Sheffield.

Another New Year’s Eve came and went, and I had a quiet one staying at my Mum’s. On New Year’s Day, I checked E-Harmony and found the profile of a guy I liked who lived in Derby. I tried to send the questionnaire to him, but although I was fully connected to the internet, it wouldn’t go. Being a believer in signs, I took it to be a sign that it wasn’t meant to be. The following day, before I returned to London, I took another look at his profile, and deciding to stuff the signs, re-sent the questionnaire. We spent 24 hours sending questions back and forth before having an actual written conversation via their messaging service. We had lots in common, and arranged to meet a few weeks later, in London.

At the age of 37, on our second date in London, Chris became my second proper boyfriend and I, his girlfriend.

I had interviews for two jobs at the University of Nottingham, one in the International Office, and didn’t get either. With the deadline I had given myself for my move approaching and no new job, but my Dad offering Bish and I a place to stay in Lincoln, I suddenly handed in my notice at work and on my flat, and on Sunday 13th March 2016, my brother and his fiancée drove a van to London and helped me move back up north.

I got a temp job through an agency, ironically back in my old department at the NHS, and spent the weekends visiting my boyfriend in Derby. Arriving back in Lincoln one Sunday, I found Bish on my bed, and suddenly became aware of something moving on him. I called for Dad, and we found him riddled with ticks. Bish had missed his litter tray (as he was prone to) and hit the back door mat, and Dad had put him out in the garden. He’d spent all day under the conifers, and the tick invasion had begun.

It took several trips to the vets to cure him of the horrid things. They were everywhere, all over, even in between the toes of his paws. It put a great strain on my relationship with Dad, the stress of a poorly cat confined to my bedroom, me sleeping on the sofa. Inviting my boyfriend to stay without asking Dad was another contentious issue; I was 37 and this was my home, what had been my childhood home. I didn’t understand why I had to ask for permission. Wasn’t Dad happy that I finally had a boyfriend? I’d never had boyfriends when I lived at home before, as I had bought my own house at 21 before I met my first boyfriend, the man who would become my husband. I came to understand that Dad just wanted to be respected, and was struggling with sharing the space he’d had to himself since he and my mum had split over 10 years previously. Instead of asking Chris to visit I took to going to Derby for weekends, with Dad agreeing to look after Bish.

Chris was due to be made redundant in the July, and our plan had been to move to Sheffield together. He was worried about moving to a new city so soon after losing his job, and I was desperate to leave Lincoln, so I suggested we get a place together in Derby first. We found a house which had a smell so bad ten tramps might have lived there, but it had a cat flap, so we took it. The landlord painted and changed carpets, and by the time we moved in it was fresh and just about odourless.

We moved in at the end of June, and I struggled to get a job. I didn’t want to go back to the NHS, and was quite fussy about the kind of work I would do. In August, I started writing a crime novel, based around a woman at a university in Lincoln investigating her friend’s death. I wrote solidly for three days, but then I found a temp job that I couldn’t turn down, because we needed the money. The writing was abandoned for a while, but towards the end of the year I started taking a notebook to work, and wrote notes on my novel during my lunch breaks. I didn’t do any actual writing, just made notes.

On 2nd March 2017, I attended an author event with a crime writer in Derby. I loved attending book events, finding them inspirational for my own writing. At the end of the talk, I checked my phone. One missed call from my brother. I would call him back after I got my book signed. I waited in line, and when my turn came spoke to the author about my writing as she signed the book. Excited and inspired, and with signed book in hand, Chris and I prepared to leave. I checked my phone. One more missed call from my brother. It’s probably nothing important, I thought, and the one thing that was on my mind was that I’d been to so many book events and regretted not getting a photo with the author. I decided to queue again, handing Chris my phone and asking him to take a pic. I was the last one in the queue, and the author graciously allowed me a photograph. I thanked her, and got ready to leave. You had one more missed call from your brother while you waited, Chris told me. I now had three missed calls, and a sinking feeling in my stomach. I called my brother as we dashed out of the book shop.

My Dad had collapsed and been admitted to hospital, my brother told me. We ran the ten minutes home, pushed a spare key through the letterbox of a friend so they could feed Bish, and I drove at warp speed to Lincoln, usually a good hour and a half’s drive, but at that time of night we made it in an hour and ten. We arrived at Lincoln County Hospital A&E, and ten minutes later the consultant told us that my dad had suffered a brain haemorrhage. Dad could go to Nottingham to have some treatment but this would likely leave him dead or brain damaged, so we made the decision to switch off the machines. He never regained consciousness and two days later, he died.

At the age of 38, I lost my dad.

I took two weeks off my temp job while I stayed in Lincoln to make arrangements for the funeral. Chris and I decided to bring our move to Sheffield forward, and left Derby at the beginning of May instead of July.

On my dad’s birthday, 20th June, I attended another author event in Lincoln, this time with crime writers Mark Billingham and John Connolly. They were funny and inspiring, and though I asked them a question during the talk, at the signing afterwards I took the opportunity to ask them for writing advice. I was buoyed by the fact that John remembered me from when I had interviewed him several years earlier for a radio show I worked on during my time at uni, and so I told them I had started a novel, what now? John’s advice? Finish it. This really struck me.  Mark’s advice? Find an agent (at this point I had no idea about the submission to publishing process so this was also a huge help).

At the age of 39, two months after my chat with John and Mark, I finished the first draft of my first novel. I was elated, mostly because I had finished something, and had written 80k words in two months. Seven years after I started creative writing, I had finished a novel. Of course, as I would discover, it was far from being finished. Chris offered to give me feedback, and while he read it, I made a start on another book, a first-person psychological thriller.  I got 30k words in, then shelved it so I could focus on submitting the first novel. I had previously made the changes Chris had suggested before choosing the agents I wanted to submit to. On 12th December I made my first submissions. Six days earlier, I had found out I was pregnant.

Christmas came and went, and for once January was a happy time, despite the onset of morning sickness. I started to receive rejections for my novel, and found myself struggling to write and edit during the morning sickness, which lasted until the middle of March. Immediately after the morning sickness came the lack of sleep with my increasing bump, and the time of year combined with the pregnancy and the rejections led to a very unproductive time. I worried that I had lost my ability to write, so soon after finding it. I worried that I wouldn’t get it back, and that I wouldn’t ever write another book.

A friend offered to put me in touch with a crime book club who would be happy to read my novel and offer some feedback. I was grateful for the opportunity to have strangers read my work. The first piece of feedback came, and this person was gripped by the story. They offered a few changes but nothing major. The second piece of feedback, however, was not so good. The reviewer wanted to give up after 20 pages but felt obliged to the person that had asked them to read it. Their review was awful, and I was picked up on things that I didn’t even understand, such as split infinitives and gauche scenarios (I needed a dictionary for both). They called my main character a bimbo. That hurt the most. My character was basically me, and while my character herself acknowledged that she wasn’t the cleverest person at her fictional university, I felt she had some smarts. That was inspired by my own thirties, in which I realised I didn’t know as much as I thought I did in my twenties, and I was ok with that. But now I was faced with being told: you don’t know as much about writing as you think you do. That hit me hard and made me doubt whether I knew enough about writing to actually write.

I couldn’t re-read the person’s feedback, but I tried to make changes and even planned to make the sequel, which I’d made a start on, the first novel in the series, bringing the events from the actual first novel into the second book. But my mojo had gone, and I had serious doubts about writing again.

That was until I read a new thriller, Sticks and Stones, by Jo Jakeman, a Derby-based writer who I’d met a few times at book events in Derby. I loved the story, and when I finished it late at night, I desperately wanted to write again. I remembered about my own shelved thriller, and the next day set about writing. I’d been unemployed since October, after a few weeks temping and a bad interview experience for a permanent NHS job had left me in need of more time off. I spent the next month finishing the thriller, and soon I had my another completed first draft. Despite my own doubts, I had finished another first draft, and pulled myself back from the brink of giving up on my dream of writing. As we speak, the novel is undergoing edits following feedback from beta readers, and is being prepared for submission to agents.

My thirties have been a journey. I went into them not sure of where I wanted my life to go. One by one my dreams have disappeared: a failed marriage, the realisation that I’ll probably never get to live in the US (though given current events I’m not sure I’d want to now), the desire to find a job I’m passionate about. My late thirties also gave me a new way to look at life. It’s short, and that may be a cliché but when one of your parents is gone so suddenly, at the age of 65, you realise how very fragile life can be. I don’t want to die, and I certainly don’t want to die before I feel satisfied with my life. I want to make my parents proud, even though one is no longer here.

My thirties have given me new dreams, ones I can actually touch and turn into reality. I’m 37 weeks’ pregnant, living with the man I love, a creative-type, just like me, who knows what depression is and how support is so very important to getting through it. We’ve given a happy home to our ageing Bish, who is now 18.  I’m excited to be a mother, just as Chris is excited to be a father, and we’re determined that we will both show our daughter that it’s possible to follow your dreams. I’ve completed two novels, one of which I’m actively working on getting out there. The other, I hope to go back to someday soon. I’ve had ideas for other books, which I’ll work on once our baby girl is willing to give me some time to write.

At the age of 40,  I am happy. At last.

A year after I first saw her, I tried to find the psychic lady who told me about The Thirty-Something Crisis. Unable to reach her by phone, in a Tom Hanks’ Big-esque trip to her home, I was told she doesn’t live here anymore. No forwarding address. Perhaps it’s for the best I never saw her again. She could see into the future in a way I never could.

It’s our experiences that make us who and what we are. There is so much about the last 13 years I would change, if I could, but there’s also lots that I would keep. Sometimes you have to go through shit to find the good stuff, to recognise the amazing guy, to realise that you don’t want a copywriting job, that you want to write stories. That weekends are meant to be enjoyed, not dreaded. That big cities are not always the place of dreams, that sometimes to be surrounded by a smaller city full of trees with a view of the Peak  District from your back window will do so much more for you.

If you’re unlucky enough to go through a Thirty- or Forty-Something Crisis, take some relief in the hope that it does get better. If you are lost, you will be found, but remember that the best person to find you, is yourself.

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Dazed, Fazed, Hazed

So yesterday was apparently the Most Depressing Day of the Year (yay! They finally named a day after me!).  That day that is far enough into January for Christmas to be forgotten about; but not far enough into the new year for summer holidays to be a reality. Nobody has any money and payday is still the best part of two weeks away (if you’re like me).  

Anyway, I’m not joking when I say they named a day after me.  Sometimes I really do feel like the Most Depressed Person in the World. 

But not yesterday.   Yesterday I felt…good.  I felt positive.  I wasn’t fazed by the whole “Most Depressing Day of the Year” thing.  In fact, it was more like the most depressing day of the year.  I knew it was there, but it wasn’t screaming at me the way it is usually would have done.  And I wasn’t indulging in it the way I would normally have taken great delight to.

But that feeling did not last.  It got me through to about 5pm, which was a most valiant effort on my insides to keep this horror at bay.  But then the MDDY penetrated my armour, and I started to feel its attack.

One of my bosses called me out on something I may or may not have done wrong at work.  Despite investigations, I haven’t found out whether it’s my fault or not yet, but it’s looking likely. So I took the blame.  That made me feel pants, and those old feelings of how shit I am at my job reared their ugly heads.

As I headed home, I started looking for jobs, not feeling inspired by anything I saw, and in the back of my mind all I could hear was you haven’t been shortlisted for anything in three months, so what’s the point.  There was no question mark, it was a statement of fact, like that current ad on the tube which should really have a question mark at the end, but they obviously feel so confident in themselves they don’t need question marks.  If only I was like that.

So then I got home, saw I only had 23p of electricity on the meter, and nipped to the Co-op, or the Co-oper-ative as my beloved Nana used to call it. But as I stood in the queue with a marked-down Piri-Piri pizza, I realised I had left my purse at home.  Uuuugggggghhhhhh.  

So back home, grabbed my purse and back to the Co-op.  On the plus side I did get a “fresh” chicken roast – two chicken fillets, cocktail sausages, some stuffing and gravy – for 99p.

So home I went, putting the chicken meal in the freezer and the pizza in the fridge for the following night, when I will get home late from book club. 

I cooked spaghetti bolognese, making the sauce from scratch out of my Usborne First Cookbook, the one I’ve had since I was little.  The one with illustrations of little people showing you how to make the recipe (which never has more than about four ingredients), just in case you’re too little to read the instructions.  

The spag bol was a success in my opinion, though that may have been more to do with the Malbec I added, not as per Usborne, but as per the Beeb website that I’d checked while in Sainsbury’s buying my ingredients. The Zinfandel I was drinking might have helped too. 

By the time I’d cooked, eaten and washed up, it was gone half nine and the last thing I wanted to do was apply for jobs I didn’t have a hope in hell getting.  So I read for a while, in a bid to get my mind to stop whirring, and cease the downward spiral I felt myself on.  

Then I read about the passing of one of my favourite musicians, Glenn Frey, one of the founding members of the Eagles.  And the tears came.  

I did not cry for Rickman – I was too busy laughing at all the wonderful one-liners he gave us in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (“I’ll cut your heart out with a spoon, Locksley!” being my personal favourite). Nor did I cry for Bowie, and all I can hear him say is “Well, laugh” before he continues laughing along with the goblins.  But for Glenn, a man I had seen perform three times with the Eagles, I cried. And could not stop. 

At almost 1am, I went to sleep, waking this morning, still feeling unsettled.  It is no longer the Most Depressing Day of the Year, but I still feel the after-effects.  Maybe I am just particularly hormone right now. If so, that will pass.  As all things come to pass.

RIP Glenn Frey (1948-2016)

Tequila Sunrise – The Eagles (1973)

I Survived the Weekend…and Lived to Blog About It

Some of you may by now have read last night’s post, Weekend in the Wilderness, and probably thought it to be my most negative so far since I started back at 33andlostinlife in August.  You’re not wrong, because I totally agree with you.  But you know why the negative blogs are so important?  Because they allow me to speak about what I’m going through.  

After such a shitty weekend I feel ready to face the week ahead.  Which is surprising since the last few weeks at work have been some of the most stressful for quite a while.  Today I made it to the train with straight hair and a full face of make-up, bar the lipstick which I’ll add once I finish this blog.  This, while it might not sound like much, is a huge achievement for me, having lately favoured the au naturelle leave-the-house-without-make-up-and-wet-hair-in-order-to-spend-longer-in-bed-look.  I get compliments when I leave my hair as it is (wavy, the result of three perms as a teen) but I feel far from happy with this look and cringe every time I have to look in the mirror.  When my hair is straight and sleek is when I feel comfortable.  With regards to make-up, I always apply it by the time I reach work, although I’m sure this isn’t always appreciated by fellow passengers on the 8:41 to London Victoria.  

So how do I actually feel today?  I’m tired, and didn’t sleep well last night.  The sleep I did get was interrupted by bizarre dreams.  But I feel like I made it.  I survived the weekend and lived to tell the tale.  

As Suicide Prevention Awareness Week draws to a close, I feel this is an important statement to make.  Do not misunderstand me, I had no thoughts at all this weekend of ending my life.  But there have been times in the past when I have thought what is the point of going on.  If this is life then I don’t want to live like this.  There have been times when I could not stand with my toes just over the yellow line here at Platform 6 as I’m doing now, because the idea of throwing myself in front of the next train has been too prominent.  But this is not one of those times.  

I have always had a strength within me, and I know this because if it were not true, I say with certainty that I would not be here now.  But I want to live to see my life happy; to see my passion for writing realised, to have a job I enjoy (if that is not to be a writing job), a home that I love, and a soulmate who will be there in both the good and bad times.  So don’t worry, I plan to be here a while yet.  

My family and friends may find this hard reading and for that I ask your forgiveness.  But the purpose of this blog was always to educate people in what it’s like to live with depression, as well as to provide me with a form of therapy.  Living with depression is not always a happy tale.  But if you don’t like to read about it you are free to leave and I will take no offence.  

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.

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.

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“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)

All You Want to Do is Criticize

Don’t criticize my friends.

Don’t criticize my ideas.

Don’t criticize my lifestyle.

I’m fed up ‘cos all you wanna to do is criticise…

Ok, so you didn’t criticise my friends. But you did criticise Jack Bauer. And I like to count him as one of my oldest and wisest friends.

I very rarely watch television any more. Since shortly before I started university and my marriage crumbled, there has been a box-shaped hole in my life. Before that I had many American TV shows that I was a regular and avid viewer, 24 being one of them.

So when I finally get my hands on a copy of the latest, ninth season of 24, forgive me if I would like to put some time into watching it.

There are several reasons for that. One, that I want to follow the journey of one of my favourite American dramas. Two, that I’m a bit partial to Jack Bauer. And three, sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy somebody else’s bad day for once.

I don’t need to be reminded that my problems won’t disappear after an hour of watching 24. I’m not completely stupid you know.

You insinuate I am wasting my time, when all I am doing is relaxing and taking time for myself during this busy period in my life.

I am the navigator of my life. I will make my own decisions. If life turns to shit, so be it. But I want the credit for making my life great.

I’m finally realising what I want in life, and what I don’t. And it feels pretty damn good.

Criticize – Alexander O’Neal (1987)

Gin City

So Wednesday night I had my first taste of that old mother’s ruin, gin. I have to say I’ve avoided it in the past because of the myth that it makes you depressed. And while I do need help with lots of things, I’m quite an expert in being depressed thank you very much.

Watered down with bitter lemon (oh, the irony) it didn’t actually taste too bad. I washed it down with two pints of Peroni and some Thai food.

I have to admit, I started out the morning after being far too depressed. About everything. Work, finding somewhere to live, my love life, or lack of it. I did have a good cry into my pillow.

But I got myself out of bed, and into the shower. Did my make-up (at home – aren’t you impressed?) and ran a brush through my hair. My reward? The beautiful sunshine that covered my commute that morning.

Some of my Facebook friends did tell me off for paying too much attention to the two-tone birds. And with the gin, maybe I am letting myth and legend rule my life too much. But it can be hard to accept that life is just a bitch sometimes, so to find something to blame it on, such as magpies or gin, makes life a lot easier.

Thursday night I met my best friend, Fen, who I helped move to London two weeks ago. It was so amazing to just meet up after work, have food (Chinese of course, since Fen is Chinese and I am half-Chinese by association) and have a girly chat. I have missed that. While we are very similar, we are also quite different. Fen doesn’t get overruled by emotion the way I do. Which means that when I’m losing my head she can be my voice of reason.

I woke up yesterday morning feeling a lot calmer than I have in days, and it is because I know, slowly but surely, that my life is changing. More specifically, changing for the better.

I probably always will listen to old wives’ tales and be superstitious (Although I never walk under ladders, more for the fact I don’t want to risk getting a pot of paint on my head). I will always believe in fairy tales. But fairy tales can be rewritten, and I proved that myself in the writing of The Princess and the Epiphany. Myths and legends have been around since the earth began, and it is these tales that have inspired centuries of human beings to become heroes. But the hero’s path is not an easy one, as I’ll explain in my next blog.

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