Imperfections

We all deserve a clean slate.

The new year is a big deal for some reason. Successfully orbiting our sun matters to us.  I can’t say I know how difficult, or dangerous it was, but I’m sure it warranted a drink.

Manchester is currently the shining example of how ham we go on a NYE celebration. I have little recollection of my own NYE, but from the accounts of complete strangers who I ran into at the Guinness factory, I was absolutely destroyed.

For those of you that didn’t go full pagan, here’s what you missed out on:

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My own mayhem was not quite the renaissance masterpiece above, but I did my best to try and drown the old year in alcohol.

Maybe it’s the promise of a clean slate with our hangover that pushes some of us over the edge. The need to obliterate the memory cells of whatever it was that made the last year so horrendous. The joy at being surrounded by the people you love the most.

We go out how we have to: Civilised drinks with family and friends, or pinned to the ground by feds.

Either way, we all deserve a fresh start.

With that fresh start come expectations. I mean it has to go better than the last. There has to be progress. I have to be better than I was.

I think I stopped making resolutions in 2003. There were only so many times I could tell myself I was going to be a teetotaling, non-smoking, gym fanatic who read 40 books a year.

I do alright as I am.

I will still get wasted on occasion. I will still have a drunken fag. I will read, but never as much as I could. I will work out, only as much as I need to in order to be able to eat two whole Nando’s chickens on my own.

Obviously there will be change. But it will come at its own pace.

My New Year is all about acceptance.

My resolutions were always about being a better person. Kinder, more tolerant, more forgiving. Or it was about how I could improve my life to fulfil some imaginary standard others would appreciate.

Showing the same kindness, tolerance and understanding for myself never occurred to me.

Moving past my short comings, be it  getting so drunk I fall off a pier, or ignoring my intuition, is something I find hard. My failings are the sun which I have been stuck in orbit around for years.

Rather than trying to evolve into someone perfect, this year will be the year I embrace my dumb ass self for who I am. An alcohol imbibing, wise cracking loud mouth, with an occasionally impressive rack, and a life that often looks a bit like a Manchester high street on New Year’s morning.

Here’s to happiness  and shenanigans in the New Year.

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The Choice is Yours

Making a decision doesn’t come easily to every one.

The other day I was watching Master of None when Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar came up. It has been years since I read the book. It sticks in my mind because I started it on a comedy improv night. Unsurprisingly, all the suggestions I yelled out were pretty bleak as a result. They had to work for the laughs.

The fig tree has been playing on my mind a lot. For those of you unfamiliar with the book, Esther’s life is compared to a fig tree. Each fig is a choice she could make. She envisions herself sitting below it, unable to make a choice and watching each fig drop, black and dead; no longer an option. Hardly the stuff of which improv is made of. A good metaphor nevertheless.

I was 21 or 22 when I first read the Bell Jar. My attitude to life was to just let it carry me where it may. I made my choices on a whim. I would take a bite of the closest fig. There was no painstaking decision. My life was a series of happy coincidences. Until things started to go wrong.

As I got older and the decisions carried more consequences, it just became increasingly harder. Poor decisions can age you. I repeatedly made the same poor decision with an abusive ex. When I finally made the right choice I felt a hundred years older, and had no faith in my own choices.

From then on my go to move for any choice which carried a real consequence was to survey all my friends, until someone offered up an option that seemed manageable. I would then mentally decide to defer all my future life choices to that person, hoping they would just live my life for me because I was so terrible at it.

This was not a plan.

My  decision making is non-existent in relationships. The people pleaser in me comes out then all of a sudden every decision I make revolves around making someone else happy. I’m always looking after someone else’s tree, or eating the fruit they hand to me. When you are offering that much power over your life to the wrong person it has disastrous results.

Over the years, I have met so many people that would happily micromanage my life for me, and a few that returned the decision to me. Thank you to the latter for withholding judgement, and forcing me to adult. I feel like I am doing it more now than ever.

After my last break up I was bothered that no one had warned me about the immaturity and drama that came with him. As if I could have been better informed in my decision making. Transparency wouldn’t have changed anything. I would have given him the same chance. It had been my choice to make.

It had made me laugh when he informed me that I had no right break up with him without consulting him. He didn’t seem to grasp that I was allowed to make my own decisions. Maybe because I had spent a year letting him sway all of mine.

I still hadn’t understood there was so much power in a choice.

I empathise with Esther’s anxiety about making the wrong choice. I have to remind myself it’s equally bad to randomly choose anything, or to make do with the options people give you. It’s such a fine balance. So dependent on luck.

At 35 trying to get into a writing position is hard. I get told I am brave a lot, which makes me feel like I have some kind of terminal illness. Stupidity perhaps. I am sometimes overwhelmed with panic and shake that tree hard, scrambling to see what options I have managed to shake down. But that isn’t the way I want to live life, and I calm down soon enough.

My choices are simpler these days. I am learning to have more faith in myself.

I have to just trust my tree still has a few good figs left.

Image from Zen Pencils.com Check the site for the full illustrated extract from The Bell Jar.

Day of the Dead

IMG_1060Over the last few few months I have been trying rewire the way I look at life and focus on the positives rather than my relationships and other failures.

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The British Museum Days of the Dead Exhibition

It has been a mourning period for me in many ways. I have spent months putting to rest my expectations. Trying not to be angry about the plans that I had given up so easily, and the life I had chosen to leave behind.

It’s hard to move on. As terrible as you might feel in the place you’re in, you get used to the misery in a way. I’ve been as positive and active as I can, but it sneaks up on me. 

My ‘ex-rages’ were a symptom of the fact I wasn’t over it yet. I could be in the middle of a perfectly nice evening, travelling, or out drinking with friends, and then a wave of anger would sweep over me. It was like Tourette’s. Anyone close enough would get a comprehensive list of grievances against him, and a demand for an answer to where the hell did he get off texting me to call me a ‘waste of his time.’

When I wasn’t raging, I was trying to just get on with life. Being as busy as possible. Remembering my life wasn’t defined by a man. Then I’d find myself in tears because this wasn’t how it was supposed to have worked out.

Between the bitching and crying my observant six year old nephew chipped in his two cents worth.

‘Forget him.’

The infant was right. But how do you move past it?

Our break up had been quite abrupt. We hadn’t seen or really spoken to each other in weeks. The last act had been a death in the family.

The British Museum Days of the Dead exhibition

The British Museum Days of the Dead exhibition

There are certain expectations around death and how we should treat each other, and behave when someone passes away. It’s a time to be sympathetic, to come together to put your differences aside, and offer your support.

I had wanted to do all these things. But after endless fights, unresolved issues and his go-to-move of ignoring me for three days at a time I just couldn’t find it in me. People can kill your sympathy. Especially when they demand it of you constantly. So I left him to it. He had expected me to be there to support him, but after so much drama, I just didn’t have it in me anymore. I ended it the following week.

In true dramatic fashion I was told never to contact him again. ‘Cross the road and pretend I don’t know him’ style break up.

Relationships with people you love can end abruptly. I learned that young. My little brother passed away when I was five years old. From one day to the next someone I loved had disappeared from my life.

My parent’s generation are not great believers of discussing ‘adult’ topics with children. We never spoke about death. It was just something that was innate knowledge.

After my brother died, his pictures were put away. His clothes were given away. I didn’t get to go to a funeral, or a memorial. Three years of my life with another person just disappeared and I wasn’t to ask any questions, and didn’t get to say goodbye. We couldn’t say his name in the house, or speak openly about him for fear of upsetting my parents. It was something we got used to.

My parents were trying to protect us and themselves. They bottled up their feelings and were ‘strong’. But I could see you couldn’t stay strong that way. We suffered silently. The pain seemed to last forever.

Life carried on, but I felt like he was being ignored, despite him clearly being on everyone’s mind. The only remaining signs he had existed were the crying, or the look that clouded faces when his favourite song came on the radio.

Mensajes para los muertos Messages for the dead

Mensajes para los muertos Messages for the dead

I needed Day of the Dead when I was a child.

From October 31st to November 2nd in Mexico and other countries around the world, Dia de los Muertos/Day of the Dead is celebrated. The belief is that the spirits of the dead reunite with their families and loved ones. They honour them with offerings or ofrendas, and put together on an altar for the deceased. The altars are often illuminated with candles, decorated with cempazuhitl (marigold flowers), their favourite food, drinks, photos and memories. The family will celebrate together, often lighting candles, eating, drinking and sharing anecdotes. They reminisce and celebrate the lives of the deceased fondly.

Day of the Dead helped me to come to terms with ideas of death and loss and move forward in a healthy way. It gave me a chance to celebrate my brother’s life, and the lives of the people I loved who were no longer with me. I looked forward to the beautiful ofrendas and rites that took places. From scenes of the floating of candles on the Patzcuaro lake, to bringing food, drink and even Mariachis to the graves of loved ones so they could enjoy their favourite songs with family. IMG_1086

This year the British Museum put on an impressive exhibition. They had huge skeleton sculptures towering on either side of the entrance. As you entered there was an authentic Atlanchinolli dance troupe,  performing a pre-hispanic Aztec dance ritual to remember the dead. There were also workshops where children could make their own marigold flowers to hang on a tree sculpture with their messages for their loved ones who had passed away. It was particularly child friendly. Helping them understand this concept and view on death. Something I think all children should be given the chance to do.

This weekend gave me time to reflect. I hadn’t been honest about how I was feeling. I was pushing myself to be over things. I hadn’t given myself the time to get over it, to feel sad about it, be angry or upset about it. Which is why it kept creeping up on me despite all my attempts to be happy and act like things were back to normal. They weren’t.

There is a reason why you have a mourning period. It helps you to come to terms with what happened and make your peace with it. You get to say your goodbyes and move on.

I just need a little more time.

Rewiring my Radar

Even the dickheads teach you something.

“He fucked her.”

The one thing you have to love about London is that if you dare to converse openly in the street every Tom, Dick and Harry will give you their two pence worth. As Galia and I made our way to Rebel Bingo, I started rehashing the whole did he/didn’t he of my ex’s supposed infidelity, and secret friendship with a girl whom I’d never heard of until last Christmas.

This was random man’s opinion on the debate:

“Who describes his bedroom to a girl via a text message? Take a picture, yeah, send it to her, but who describes it?”

He made a very good point.

“It’s easy love, the simplest answer is most probable.”

Was it more probable a psychopath became obsessed with my ex after staring at him too long?  Did she then lie to her husband (yes husband) about an affair? Did they then conspire to ruin an innocent man’s life?

Or was it more likely he just shagged her, got caught and now regretted it?

“Simplest answer love.”

Camden’s answer to Confucius turned to a cash machine and started to get money out, leaving me and Galia nodding our heads. Why we were nodding I don’t know. I’d never know which story was true.

Why do I keep bothering with dating when my instinct on men is so off?

I once had dinner at a Mexican friend’s house and was discussing yet another failed relationship when her Nana came in. She joined in the conversation with the promise of bestowing her years of experience and wisdom. At the end of my tale of unreturned texts, a terminally ill relative that never died, and crucial gym commitments, I looked to her for her wisdom.  She delicately placed a hand on my shoulder, looked at me consolingly, and said “Mija, pero tienes radar de pendejos.”

When I turned to my friend to ask what she had said, she replied “Nana says you have asshole radar.”

Thanks, Nana.

My love life reads like a a serial killer’s scrap book.

I have been on a one woman mission to perfect the art of reverse man alchemy, where I take a guy that looks golden and turn him into a shit. Complete success has been achieved on more than one occasion. That doesn’t bug me as much as the fact my life has become one big dating anecdote.

The things that I have done, places I have seen and people I have met are the backstory to a failed love life. This realisation has lead me to my new plan: rewiring my radar.

As dumb as I may already sound, I am not so stupid that I am going to sit crying into a tub of ice cream about how unlucky I am. Well, not anymore. I don’t really believe in luck, or karma. Up until now I used to think that I believed in myself, but it was clear to see after months of flailing around struggling to come to terms with a whole new life in London, and a lot of disappointment, I didn’t believe I could make any of it work alone. Me. Who moved to a Mexico alone at 24 with no friends and 100 pairs of knickers because a) why not? and  b) you always need clean underwear.

Those of you that know me, know me as a fearless, loveable idiot who won’t shut up. Those that have known me longer know  might think I’m quite tough and cynical. No one knows you better than yourself though, and after the last dating anecdote I’ve decided to take time off life as I’ve known it.

I have a pathetic amount of money saved and will be funding the ‘having-a-life-and- being-happy-project.’ During this time, I will be going out and about in London. Travelling to a city near you, perhaps. Writing about what I see along the way, the people I meet, and setting my radar to ‘no pendejos’.

If you need a partner in crime, call me. If you want to go somewhere you haven’t been to before, I’m your girl.

It’s been two weeks now, and it’s absolutely terrifying. I have only just stopped waking up with the kind of pain in my chest that makes me have to pat myself down to see if I slept with my bra on.

Still totally worth it.

Wish me luck.