Sunday, 29 November 2009

Answers on a postcard

When you meet the one, the person who can hurt you without touching you, or make your heart skip a beat with a single word. When you only feel whole when that person walks in, and the rest of the time you're unable to feel happy, or anything. When making love fills your heart with 'I love you's until you just have to say it out loud for fear you might suffocate under the weight of them. When the same song plays over and over in your head because the words describe exactly how you're feeling. When they hold you in their arms and you know you're home. When you whisper 'I love you' in the darkness and your heart is a waterfall as they say 'I love you too'. When you see the world in new colours and hear music in the wind just because they're holding your hand. When you catch your breath at the thought of them and weep to the universe in gratitude. When saying their name sets your tongue tingling. When you make a fool of yourself over them but know that it's worth it for how they make you feel. When the person with eyes like a forest after the rain looks into yours and says 'I can't do this anymore'. When you were already at such risk from them and they choose the moment you are most vulnerable to drop your heart into the void. When you still can't bring yourself to hate them, but you don't trust the universe to make them hurt as they've hurt you. What do you do?

Answers on the back of a postcard.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Boiling Frogs

Did you know, that if you put a frog into a pot of hot water, it will jump out? Yes, of course you do. But did you also know that if you put a frog into a pot of cold water and raised the temperature little by little, the frog will sit there quite happily while it is boiled alive. This is because while frogs can sense extreme changes in temperature, they are unable to sense small changes.

So many situations can boil you just like a frog. Jobs, relationships, and even friendships. Unfortunately I speak from experience, and fairly recent experience at that. For so long a friend of mine and I have been 'best friends'. We spent a lot of time together, made plans together, even went on small trips. Then a couple of occassions opened my eyes to the truth of the matter: I was not getting out of the friendship nearly as much as I was putting in. Not coming to my graduation being one, and comments from my family being another. It was like my second boyfriend all over again.

It's funny how one thing, one straw on the donkey's back, can cause an otherwise calm situation into a crumbling mess. But what else can you do? Carry on regardless?

I say call a spade a shovel and move on, for better or for worse. And next time get a really big thermometer to help.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Nothing less than the best

People often say the world is shrinking, and that the rat race is moving faster every day. Such competition to be the fastest, the strongest, the best, brings progress and moves us forward as a race. Doesn't it?

Less than two hundred years ago the world moved at a much slower pace. Horses and carts trundled down roads, people who couldn't afford them walked. Mail was carted, shipped, or couriered to its destination. Documents had to be written and copied by hand, and if you wanted to find information, you would open a book or simply ask someone. Today we have the computers and the internet for that. Fast trains transport us to cities for business meetings, and we're back home the same evening. Emails and text messages are received almost the instant they are sent. What's wrong with that?

My answer: it raises expectations. Not only are we reliant on technology which fails so often, thereby opening ourselves to disappointment when our 200Gb broadband is running 0.5 seconds slower than usual, but we raise our expectations of ourselves. Why haven't you finished that report? Why were you late? The possibilities that modern technologies have opened up no longer seem to be recognised as possibilities, they're now seen as standards which must be met. Where once you might have seemed old fashioned if you didn't have a telephone, now you're seen to be living in the dark ages if your bluetooth WAP mobile phone doesn't have a 500 megapixel digital camera built in that also makes the tea.

Social networking sites have raised the bar for global communications and 'keeping in touch'. Whereas I agree that they are useful for those of us blessed with 300 friends all of whom can't get enough of us, organise tons of parties and other events and post evey single photo we've ever taken to the enjoyment of others, for the rest of us, who have a few close friends and family, and then a number of acquaintances, such sites can be more of a hindrance than a help. Personally, I really don't care what the girl who used to sit three rows behind me in maths lessons had for her breakfast, or which movie my uncle's second cousin's dog groomer would be best in. But if I don't add or accept every person I ever went to school with, all their new friends and family, and their neighbours and postman, then I'm unsociable. There must be something wrong with me, because I don't want to talk to everyone under the sun. I want to talk to the people I care about most and who care about me, rather than pretend as though I give a crap about the fact that someone who's face I know from somewhere but can't quite put my finger on it is hungover from being so terribly drunk the night before.

To me, these sites are no better than a party you go to just to compare yourself to old friends, where you make promises to meet up, write, or at least send Christmas cards, and then forget as soon as you leave that you ever said such a thing. The trouble is, with the 'instant' world in which we live, things don't seem to last very long. We've become so obsessed with the next big thing, that we're in danger of never being fulfilled because the current big thing is always usurped by the sheer concept of the next. Will anything ever be good enough?

With this dependance on modern technology and the expectations is brings, comes raised expectations from ourselves as people. I feel that the expectation is: if the limit is how many bits per second your computer can process, what is your excuse for functioning any slower? Have we really moved on all that much from the 80s idyll of work hard, play hard, rest never? I am only one person, so if you wanted the report/file/booking 10 minutes ago, you should have asked me ten minutes ago!

It's not just in the work place that we are expected to excell. Through the media, namely popular women's magazines, and even in men's (though they're not expected to care as much), the 'ideal' of having everything is fed into our minds to make us feel bad about ourselves. Beautiful, well dressed, toned, successful people lament how tough their lives are, and how difficult is it sometimes to (buzzword) juggle every thing in their lives. On TV and in films, the happy ending is slowly killing our egos. It works on the same area of the brain targeted by the people who left out the egg from an instant cake mixture. It's the aspect of our personalities that tells us that we are in control of the world around us, that we control ous own destinies.

My deepest aplogies for this self-indulgent rant of a blog. Read what you will into it. The moral, if there is one, I suppose is to have high expectations for yourself, and accept that you don't have to answer to anyone but yourself if those expectations are not met. This can sometimes be the hardest thing, but always remember, you're only human, and it's ok to make mistakes. Only by trying your very best in everything can you truly accept who you are and what you achieve.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Road not Taken

One of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman, wrote a graphic novel in which Destiny walks blindly through his garden, chained to his book where fates are written. He writes that every person walks through Destiny's garden, taking countless turns and changes in direction, yet when one looks back, there is only one path.

At this juncture in my life, as I wait out the long weeks until I go to Spain to learn to teach, I find myself looking back tortuously over my life so far. Twenty two years is nothing but a blip in the history of the world, and yet how many worlds have I inhabited, how many lives have I lived, and how many deaths have I died. It is agonising to think through the years and see highlighted those moments which, by my own doing or another's, shaped the person I am today, and the path I have so far trodden. Questions fill my head, rendering thought impossible, all coming down to the same two enduringly empty words: 'What if?'.

Now, I know what you're thinking: there's no point in dwelling on the past, you must look ahead if you are to move forward. I know well that to stay in one place for too long is to stagnate. A river must find its way to the ocean. And yet while I wait to embark on the next big adventure, to change the course of my life once again, thoughts of the past and what might have been haunt my waking hours. But one mustn't get too hung up on possibilities, especially when the people you've left behind (or who have left you behind) are still a presence in your life, albeit peripheral and slightly irritating. If you spend too much time wondering what might have been, you forget about what might be, what could be just around the corner.

But the truth is, what might be scares the hell out of me. There are certain things I can control, with hard work and a whole lot of faith, I can evolve my own destiny. Then there are things that just have to be dealt with as they come along. These life unknowns are not what worry me; I'm a pretty good person to have around in a crisis. No, it's something quite different that deepens the premature worry line on my forehead. I don't want to have any regrets when I face Death. I want to be able to look back and say: although I didn't know it at the time, I made the right decision. The only thing standing in the way of making the right choices for my own future happiness is myself, second guessing every step, every turn on the path. What scares me is that once a path is chosen, there is no going back, no second chance. Life's a stage and there are no rehearsals. How do I stop the times I went for it, only for things to blow up in my face, from stopping me in future times when I should go for it but fear getting hurt?

The thing is, although it will by no means lessen the line on my brow, I know the answer already, but am loathe to put it into practise by that mostly dormant Stockholm Syndrome in everyone's mind that keeps us in love with our pain. The answer is: do it anyway. I've said it before when talking about my career plans, which at this point involve leaving on a jet plane and being quite uncertain as to when I'll return: feel the fear and do it anyway. Why not the same for love, in all its forms? People hurt each other, but we still make friends, form bonds, fall in love. I suppose the key is not to burden the people you meet tomorrow with the pain caused by the people who hurt you yesterday. It's bad Karma and downright unfair.

And so I live in hope that in the very near future, I will be able, finally, to scrunch my residual fear and self doubt into a tight ball, and throw it over the proverbial cliff. Besides being so very ready to move on, there's no room for it in my suitcase.