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. 

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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.

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.

Jobs with Benefits: No Strings Attached?

When I moved to London last May following the completion of my degree, I came here with the intention of getting a job related to my studies. My Bachelor’s degree was in American Studies, so, you might ask, what kind of job did I intend to get?

American Studies is one of those degrees that doesn’t really have a particular job attached to it. If you do a degree in accountancy, you know that your future is going to involve Excel spreadsheets and a calculator. In fashion, at least a pair of scissors. American Studies…America? The whole reason I went to university was because I had this epiphany a week before my 30th birthday. I had been searching my soul the previous few years, asking myself what it was that I wanted in life, where I wanted to be. The epiphany answered: living and working in America was all I had ever really wanted. As a teenager I used to wish I had been born on the other side of the pond; I hated being British, and it was really only the influence of my extremely patriotic English ex-husband who persuaded me that it was a good thing to be British. Now I am proud of my nationality, but I still see America as the place I have always wanted to be.

About nine months before my 30th birthday, prior to having this great revelation, I decided that if I wouldn’t ever the get the chance to live in America, then I should at least have a dream trip there. Having got the agreement from my then-husband that we could do it, I spent months researching the places I wanted to visit (conclusively, along the West coast) and more months investigating flights and accommodation. Painstakingly looking at the international flights to and from the States, the domestic flights from place to place, costing up hotels and car hire.

A couple of months before our trip, during my intensive research stage, my ex-husband intimated that this wasn’t really a trip he wanted to go on at all. My reply, to both our surprise, was that I was going, even if I had to do it alone. He laughed and said that I wouldn’t even go to the Co-op on my own.

He had a point. I hated going to supermarkets on my own, going clothes shopping on my own. I even hated nipping to the local shops to pick up milk. I hated going anywhere on my own; what made me think that I would be able to go travelling on my own?

I think it was then that I finally started to admit to myself that my marriage was crumbling.

It was something I had been in denial of for a long time, but the realisation that I was willing to do something as drastic as going travelling on my own, and the fact that my husband didn’t want to do something that was obviously so important to me, and more importantly it was a holiday – he loved holidays and we had two weeks in Orlando for our honeymoon – set the alarm bells ringing.

We did go on the trip, in September 2008. Six nights in Los Angeles, four in Las Vegas, and a day in drizzly Seattle. I had planned four nights in San Francisco and three in Seattle, but we had to cut our trip short, because he was due to start university. On the whole, we had a great time, and this trip cemented my love for the place I had seen on the big and small screen as a teenager, in a way that my honeymoon in Florida hadn’t.

Previous readers will know that I spent six months in the States as part of my degree. I won’t go into that now, as I want to get back to my original reason for this particular blog, other than to say that my study abroad period is where I realised that I could write, and gave me the confidence to know in my heart that writing is what I wanted to do in the future; what I wanted to be paid to do.

So fast forward to May 2013. I take the chance to move to London without a job. Having had no joy in finding a permanent job, I knew that temping would be the way to go initially. A month after moving, I was offered an administrative, data-type job, similar to what I’d been doing for twelve years before my degree. Being desperate for money, I took the job, thinking that it would give me the opportunity to pay the bills while searching for that elusive dream job of being paid to write.

After three months of being a temp, I was offered a six-month contract with the company, a luxury retailer. A further six months later brings us to last week, where I signed on the dotted line to spend another six months with them.

The great thing is that I now have a job with benefits. Never had a job with benefits before. Friends with benefits, sure, but never a job with benefits. The only perk I ever got from the National Health Service is 20% off Nandos. Which is a great perk that I still continue to receive, but sshhh, don’t tell anyone. I now get a subsidised travelcard, which will allow me to travel the whole of London for a quarter of what I currently pay to travel my short commute to work. I also get a staff discount and clothing allowance, although anyone who knows me knows that the only place I buy labels is in charity shops. I certainly can’t afford to buy clothes and accessories through my employer, staff discount or not.

I am now also being given the opportunity to travel on company business. I am currently on my way back to London from Leeds, the first of three overnight stays I will have in the next month.

But what about my America dream? My writing dream? I hear you ask. I ask myself that all the time. I still peruse the job emails I get through, and sometimes I make a note of the ones I want to apply for (although I usually don’t). But right now, I am happy to stay put, while I sort other areas of my life such as moving house.

While I only graduated last September, it does worry me that I seem to have lost my desire to chase the dreams that were realised over the last few years. I know in my heart I have given up on living in the States, because it’s very difficult to get a working visa. I know people with many more qualifications and connections in the US than me, and if they are struggling to get a visa, I ask myself how is a 35-year old with a degree in American Studies going to be given such an elusive opportunity.

A writing job is not so much out of the question, but the last few months has seen me question what kind of writing job I would want. Would I be happy with a copywriting job? Depends on the kind of copy. I’m not so great at flowery descriptive text. I write from the heart, from past experience, from current experience. I write about depression, having a coil fitted, sex, internet dating. I attended a crime writing panel last year, and listened to one of the published authors, with years of experience in the publishing industry, admit that this experience did not encourage her to become an author. Her revelation that authors and their books are described as “units” in the industry, and the focus being on sales, sales, sales, has stuck with me. I want to be a writer, I don’t necessarily want to work for the industry that enables other people to get published. Maybe if it were an easier industry to get into, I might pursue it, but in truth, I have shelved that idea.

So, where does that leave me? I really have no idea. All I know is that I need to keep writing, and have faith that what will be will be. I also know, from past experience, that you can’t just sit and wait for things to happen. So more effort is needed from me in order to make life happen.

The Friends with Benefits relationship has really become quite well known over the last few years. Films such as Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached have drawn audiences of the rom-com crowd, eager to see whether the fairy tale is possible in this modern day commitment-phobic agreement. While Friends with Benefits is synonymous with the term ‘No Strings Attached’, does the same go for a Job with Benefits? If so, then perhaps this is exactly the job I need right now. A mutually beneficial relationship that is not meant to be anything long term.

The Twelve-Week Challenge: Day 11

When I look back on the 70-odd days or so since I started this challenge, I realise that very rarely have I been lost for words.  Some blogs may have been late, some may have been written after a few glasses of wine, but usually once I decide to write the blog and get the title put in, the content flows pretty well.  But not tonight.

I have been snoozing my iPhone Have You Blogged Today?! reminder since 9pm, and regular readers will know that’s nothing unusual.  When I eventually decided to switch off my laptop and go to bed, I remembered that I still hadn’t blogged, and had to switch my laptop back on.  I got as far as writing the title…and that was about an hour ago.  The page has been blank since then.

Maybe it’s representative of my new life ahead.  It’s a blank page, a clean slate.  Like this blog, it is what I make it.

As I’ve been sorting through my shelves of books tonight, I have had to be ruthless in which ones have gone in the ‘To Go’ pile.  These books are the result of hours of shopping in charity shops, where I have often bought four books for £1 (rather than 25 pence each, meaning I come home with four books at one time, or sometimes even eight).  I think they represent something missing in my life, because of the hundreds of books I’ve acquired over the last six years or so, I have probably read less than a quarter.  Like the DVDs I used to buy before the books, it became an obsession that has taken a long time to curb.  Once I move, however, I want to start reading again, although this shouldn’t be a problem, since riding the tube is a good excuse to read.

Despite the masses of storage in my new bedroom, I’m going to try and cut down on the amount of stuff I take with me.  It’s a new chapter and a good excuse for a declutter.  Not just material things; in my mind too.  Like tonight’s blog, it might take a while to get used to the blank page of my new life.  But if I’m patient, I’ll soon know what I need to do.