Sunday, 29 January 2017

"Do You Hear The People Sing?"



There is little to be cheerful about, at the moment.

America has elected a fascist, who is already attempting to implement unconstitutional, racist policy, aimed at demonising a whole community of people.  Men, women and children are being detained at airports, threatened with the prospect of being returned to unsafe homelands.  And the despicable irony is that these people are not only refugees, but, in several cases, American citizens, who have peacefully lived and worked in the US for many years.  Oh, and just in case that's not enough to make you realise that this is a dangerous man for whom ethics and respect are just good Scrabble words, he's also blocked federal funding for any global health organisations that provide - or even discuss - abortion, leaving women with far fewer choices when dealing with a pregnancy that - for any number of reasons - they feel unable to continue with.  This could force women in developing countries into searching for unsafe methods to end their pregnancies, but hey, we're supposed to believe that this is apparently all for the best.  Because dear old President Trump cares deeply about the sanctity of human life.  

Unless you're a Syrian refugee...

Trump's government seems to be filled with white supremacists, misogynists and homophobes.  The "Land of The Free" has never seemed less so.




Here in the UK, we have a Prime Minister who seems barely able (perhaps unwilling?!) to criticise Donald Trump's blatant Islamophobia with any real conviction.  She is, instead, making ludicrous statements about their relationship, such as "opposites attract" and being encouraged by her Brexit-supporting ministers to ensure we make a deal with Trump, seeing as 52% of the UK decided we ought to be pulled out of the European Union and damnit, "Brexit means Brexit."

Oh, and over in Russia, they've decided to de-criminalise domestic violence.

We are living in a world in which it's not a good time to be a Muslim.  Or non-white.  Or a woman.  Or anything but heterosexual.

Things don't look good.  They don't feel good.  And it's okay to be upset, worried or scared about that.  In fact, I question you more than a little if you're not at all concerned.

But there is something to take comfort in.




People - not merely in twos or threes, but in their hundreds of thousands - are saying: "No."

Too often, we hear criticism of musicians, actors and other celebrities, for weighing in on political issues, but it is those people with platforms who are often able to shout the loudest.  And shout they have.

Whether in award acceptance speeches, at rallies or just on Twitter, famous people with enough clout to have their views heard have been saying: "No."

And it's not just celebrities.  The day after Trump's inauguration, millions took to the street in cities across the globe, as part of a march for women's rights, and indeed human rights.  In response to Trump's funding cuts for health organisations and the politicisation of women's reproductive rights (amongst other things, including the new President's blatant misogyny and alarming propensity to brag about sexual assault), millions said: "No."

Now, as officials at American airports detain refugees and citizens alike, based on only their countries of birth (or indeed, their religion), many thousands more people have turned up to loudly protest.  They are saying - they are screaming: "NO."


Todd Maisel/New York Daily News


There will be cynics reading this, who will sigh and shake their heads at the idea of finding hope through noisy Twitter accounts, or protesters who will, eventually, have to go back to their normal, everyday lives.  "What can they achieve?" Those cynics will ask.

Well, firstly, never underestimate people-power.  However much his ego may like to think it, Donald Trump is not America.  The people are.  No matter how little the cynics amongst you might think can be achieved by people all over the world raising their voices, history has shown many times that if you shout loud enough, eventually someone has to listen.  Now is not the time to sit silently on the sidelines.  Now is not the time for glib remarks about it not being our problem, or that it might not be as bad as we think, or that we can't really care about X, because we didn't protest Y.  

Where you see injustice, or inequality, it must be called out.  Anywhere and everywhere.

Only by uniting to speak out against fascism do we ever stand a hope of really challenging it.  Individually, some guy on Twitter may not have much power.  But, combined with thousands of others - writers, politicians, people with platforms that allow the message to travel further - that power becomes immeasurable.

It's also vital to remember that, in a world that now feels isolated to many, purely because of their ethnicity, religion, sexuality or gender, the significance of voices raised in solidarity is enormous.  People whose rights are being systematically removed from them should always have support and to see it being given, via protests, petitions and yes, angry tweets, is a ray of light in a steadily darkening world.

Picture taken from Liberation News.


There is not a lot to be cheerful about, currently.

But as long as people continue to raise their voices against the rising threat of fascism, and as long as their words lead to actions, then there is still some hope to be found.  And I will cling to that hope, because, I too believe that, deep down, people are good.

And if we continue to work together and support one another, now and in the future, goodness will prevail.  However long it takes.  I have to believe that, because the alternative is unthinkable.

So, keep marching, keep tweeting, keep refusing to be quiet and accept the status quo.  Keep speaking up and defending those who need it now more than ever.  

However, you choose to speak out or act against the problems you're seeing, just keep going.  You never know whose life you're bringing hope to, when you do.







Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Bedtime Story (25/1/2017)


I know how awful I am, when it comes to changing my mind about what to wear, so I thought it would be funny to write a story about a child with the same problem!

Click here to listen to this story as a podcast.


"Can We PLEASE Just LEAVE?!"

Philip's Mum stood by the door,
Looking rather stressed.
"Can we PLEASE just LEAVE?"
She begged her son, but he was barely dressed!

"I need to wear my jumper, Mum,"
Philip cried out from his room.
"But then again, what if I'm too hot?!"
Downstairs, Mum began to fume...

It took them ages to leave the house,
No matter where they were going.
Philip changed his outfit a hundred times.
"Mum, what if it starts snowing?!"

"What if I need my rain coat on,
And should I wear welly boots?!
It took hours to shoo him out of the door, 
With Mum in hot pursuit.

This morning was no different,
Philip's outfit had changed several times.
And each time Mum thought he was finally ready,
She'd hear his young voice whine:

"Mum, I think I'll be too hot in jeans,
Shall I wear my shorts, instead?
Although, I don't know where those have disappeared.
Maybe they're under my bed?!"

No matter how many times Philip dressed himself,
He was never satisfied.
And after seeing ten different outfits - at least
- Mum wanted to run and hide.

"Can we PLEASE just LEAVE?!"
She desperately yelled up the stairs.
Philip emerged on the landing:
"But Mum, I still need to brush my hair!"

"Besides, I'm not 100% sure
That my shoes really match my sweater.
I think if I wear my brown boots instead,
the whole outfit would look much, much better."

"We're only going out to the park!"
Mum tutted, as she turned for the door.
All she wanted to do was get going,
No matter what Philip wore!

But Philip was keen to look at his best,
And he flung t-shirts out of his drawer.
He knew he wanted his dinosaur one,
It must be somewhere on his floor...

Then, of course, as he searched for the shirt,
Philip happened to glance at his vest.
"Oh, I'm not sure I like this one.
I'd better search for the one I like best."

Mum glanced at her watch. It felt she'd been waiting
For almost an hour and a half!
But Philip had yet more choices to make:
Which gloves should he wear, and which scarf?!

Finally, after six pairs of socks,
Three trousers and several t-shirts,
Philip was finally ready to leave,
but then: "WAIT!  My belt buckle hurts!"

He flung off his belt and before he could turn
And hurry back up the stairs,
His mother fixed him with a frustrated gaze;
One of those "I'm getting mad" glares...

So, Philip and Mum left home at last,
And straight to the park they headed.
But just minutes after arriving there,
Came the moment poor Mum had dreaded.

You see, Philip was not just indecisive,
He was also quite clumsy as well.
And as he ran straight for the swings, he slipped,
And into a puddle he fell.

Philip got to his feet, covered in mud,
And tried to wipe himself down.
But poor Mum knew just what was coming,
And her tired face filled with a frown.

"There's only one thing to do," Philip sighed,
And knowing looks he and Mum then exchanged.
"I can't stay out at the park like this,
I'll have to go home and get changed!"


THE END


Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Bedtime Story (18/1/2016)


I can vividly remember having a conversation with my London-based Nan about which was better - the countryside or the city?!  Back then, I was firmly convinced the countryside should win that debate - these days, I have a lot of love for both.  I thought a modern twist on the whole Country Mouse vs Town Mouse story might be in order!

podcast version of this story is also available.


Felicity In The City


Felicity had lived in the same little village her whole life.  All around the village were huge, green fields and Felicity's best friend lived on a farm.  Everything was peaceful and quiet, and there were lots of exciting places to play; trees to climb, dens to build and animals to meet.

Robin was Felicity's cousin, but the two children didn't see one another, much.  Robin lived far away in the city.  So, when Felicity's parents told her that Robin was coming to stay, Felicity was very excited!

Robin and his parents arrived on Friday evening.  Everyone was very happy to see each other, but soon, it seemed that Robin was bored.

"What is there to do around here?"  Robin asked, once all of Felicity's toys had been shown off.  "Is there a cinema?  Or can we go out for dinner somewhere exciting?"

Felicity shook her head.  "We have to drive to the nearest town if we want to go to the cinema.  And there's really only the village pub, if we want dinner out."

Robin's eyes widened.  "Then, what do you do for fun?!  I go to the skate-park with my friends after school and we do tricks.  And then we sometimes go for a milkshake at this really cool place, where they put whatever chocolate bar or sweets you like into a cup and mix it all up with ice cream, right in front of your eyes!  And if it's the weekend, we might go to a museum, or even to play Laser Tag at the arcade."

Felicity gasped.  That sounded really cool.  Her cheeks flushed red, when she realised there wasn't anything like that where she lived.

"Well..."  She began.  "After school, my friends and I go to the fields and run around and make dens in the bushes.  If we get hungry and it's the right time of year, we can pick blackberries.  And sometimes, I go to my best friend's farm and we collect eggs, together."

Robin pulled a face.  None of it sounded as exciting as life in the city, and Felicity knew it.  Still, she was determined to prove to her cousin that he could have fun with her in the countryside.

Over the course of the weekend, Felicity taught Robin to climb the highest tree in the woods, to carefully step over the stones that paved the way across the stream that ran along the edge of one of the fields, and to spot stars in the clear night sky.

And, to Felicity's surprise, Robin seemed to enjoy himself!

"He never runs around this much at home," Felicity heard his mother say.  "He's looking so rosy-cheeked from all this fresh air, it's lovely!"

By the time that Robin and his family went home, Felicity was exhausted, but happy.  She'd loved having fun with her cousin and even better, she felt like she'd persuaded him that life in the countryside wasn't as boring as he'd first thought.

A few weeks later, Felicity's dad announced that they were all taking a trip to the city, to stay with Robin and his parents.  Felicity was overjoyed!

It was a long drive to the city and by the time they arrived, Felicity was expecting it to be quiet and peaceful, ready for bedtime.  But, to her surprise, signs were flashing on tall buildings, noisy cars were trundling along busy roads and all of the shops seemed to still be open, despite it being dark outside!  It was very strange to see so much activity going on, and Felicity felt a little nervous.

It took Felicity a while to get to sleep that night, because of all the strange noises in the city, but she awoke the next morning feeling excited to explore.  Robin's parents took everyone to a big museum, with a real dinosaur skeleton in a huge hall!  Felicity could hardly believe her eyes!

They went to the special milkshake place that Robin had told Felicity all about, then they visited the skate-park that Robin and his friends liked to go to after school.  Everything was so much bigger in the city, that it took Felicity's breath away.  She couldn't get over how much there was to do, all of the time!

As they ate dinner that night, in a funky restaurant, Felicity started to feel a bit sad.  She and her friends didn't have cool places to hang out at, like big museums or skate-parks.  The buildings back in the village seemed ever so small, compared to the shining skyscrapers in the city, too.

"What's up?"  Robin asked, noticing how quiet his cousin was as they left.

Felicity shrugged.  "You were right all along," she sighed.  "The countryside is boring."

Robin chuckled to himself.  "I was wrong," he insisted.  "Think of all the space you have to run around," he said, as they left the restaurant.  "If we were in the countryside right now, we could dart off in any direction, leaping over tree stumps and wading through streams.  But look..."  He pointed across the busy carpark, to the bustling streets beyond.  "If I want to go to a big park, I have to catch a bus to get there, first.  You have it right on your doorstep!"

Felicity pointed back at the restaurant behind them.  "But, if we want to go somewhere cool to eat, or to visit big shops, we have to drive for ages to get there.  You have everything you need, right here!"

Robin shook his head.  "We both have everything we need," he told her.  "You have the space to explore and run around.  You can see the stars in the night sky.  And whenever you need to go to the city, you only have to get in the car, or hop on a bus or train.  I have the big shops and exciting places to visit, but I don't have the peace and quiet that you have, or the freedom of the wide open fields.  But if I need those things, all I have to do is travel to find them.  Home isn't about the most exciting place, or the place with the most space.  It's about where you feel happiest.  And it's about knowing that you can go anywhere else you like, to explore the things you don't have on your doorstep, but you can always go home again, afterwards."

Felicity grinned back at her cousin.  "When did you get so clever?!"  She laughed.

"When I came to visit you," Robin replied.  "You taught me that new places are exciting and that different doesn't have to mean boring.  I'd like to think I can teach you the same."

"You have," Felicity smiled.

By the time Felicity and her family headed back home again, Felicity was tired, but happy.  She had loved every second of her time in the city, but she was excited to get back home to her sleepy little village.  The sky was dark when they pulled into their driveway and climbed out of the car.  Felicity glanced up at the clear, black sky, with its millions of twinkling stars.  It wasn't the same as the bright, shiny lights of the city, but it was home.

And suddenly, Felicity realised that home was anywhere that felt right to you.  The city, the country, and anywhere in between.


THE END

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Be Silly, Be Honest, Be Kind


Sooooo.  Life, eh?  It's been weird, of late. I've lost count of the number of people who've contacted me to say they've had messages from a very much ex-friend asking about me recently, simply because I'm such a hot topic.

I don't watch the news.  I AM THE NEWS.  Albeit against my will.

Aaaanyway.

I made a resolution that in 2017, I would walk away from negativity, rather than stick around and dwell on it.  I told myself that I need more positivity in my life and that is exactly what I endeavour to find.

Now, I am a big believer in inspiration coming from strange places.  I'm a pretty creative person and I know from my own experiences that I've been inspired by somewhat odd things, in the past.  Even so, I was unprepared for just how much inspiration I would be able to draw from a gift I gave to myself, last week...

You see, I like big candles and I cannot lie (Baby Got Wax).  Seriously, if you want to give me a gift (and please feel free; I've been rather down lately and I bloody love presents...), you literally can't go wrong with a scented, ideally decorative candle.  Or several.  Or wax melts.

OKAY, I HAVE AN ADDICTION.

Pictured: MY ROOM.

I recently acquired a set of three scented candles, which came in little glass jars with cute mottos on them.  They are very me and I couldn't resist them.  But the more I look at them, the more I realise that these three scented candles hold the key to my happiness in 2017.  

Okay, not directly.  My life isn't suddenly going to become all kittens and rainbows, just because my room happens to smell like mango, coconut or passionfruit (although damnit, that's a hell of a good start).  It's more about what the little jars have written on them.  I've realised that if I stick to the advice they give, positive changes will happen in my life.  And maybe yours, too, if you decide, like me, to let a scented candle become your senpai...

So, what do these candles say, exactly?!  Good question.  Thanks for asking, because this blog would be really weird if I didn't explain further...


BE SILLY!

YES.

Recently, life has had way too much stress.  Regular readers of this blog will know roughly why, so I'm not going to repeat myself (you know, because of the whole "don't dwell on negativity" vibe I've got going on), but suffice to say that silliness has not played nearly a big enough role as it should.

Life is short, guys.  Way too short to worry about what crap anyone is saying behind your back, or whether you're wearing an outfit that's "in," or what random strangers you'll literally never meet again think of you.

So, you know what?  Dress however you like.  Dance, even if, like me, you have all the style and rhythm of a punctured spacehopper.  Go to conventions and do cosplay.  Stay up all night talking rubbish with your friends.  Sing karaoke and do that dramatic clenched fist of emotion, even if you know you sound like a strangled frog.  JUST STOP WORRYING SO MUCH.

Who cares if you're "cool"or not?  What does it matter if you're 34 and you worship a pair of YouTubers more commonly adored by twelve year olds?!

That's Emma-speak for "I am SOPHISTICATED Phan Trash."

Be more silly.  Laugh more.  Have more days out with friends.  Take your shoes off and run along a beach.  And... Do other things that don't resemble tampon commercials.  Look, I'm just saying HAVE FUN.

Or rather, the candle is telling you to do that.  And who are you to turn down life advice from a candle?!



BE HONEST!

This candle was the reason I bought the set in the first place.  Because honesty is my middle name.

Okay, so... It's actually Jane, but... Sshh.

Look, so many problems in life can be solved by just being honest with each other.  You don't have to be tactless, rude or cruel.  I'm not advocating you going around being all "ew, you like that skirt?  It makes your ass look fat and the colour makes me want to dry heave."  Believe it or not, there is a way to be honest without being needlessly brutal.  You just have to be truthful and open, whilst maintaining your tact.  You also don't have to give your negative opinions if you're not asked for them.  It's not dishonest to decide not to say that you hate someone's outfit, or that their new perfume smells like wet dog, for example.

But when honesty is required, you should always give it.  For example, if you don't want to do something that a friend thinks you're excited to do, you should tell that person - without them having to drag the truth out of you.  Because keeping it to yourself and then blurting out at the last moment that you never wanted to do it in the first place?  SUCKS.  It hurts.  And if you can't see that it hurts, even if a person is saying "hey, I wish you'd been honest, because now I'm hurt," might I suggest some kind of empathy eye-test?!  

Be honest with the people around you - with tact and compassion taken into consideration - and they will respect you a whole lot more than they will if you keep everything to yourself, lie to them or purposefully withold select information.    Even if you choose not to be entirely honest in order to protect someone's feelings, when they find out you've not told them the truth, they're quite possibly going to be angry and upset.  And that's because nobody likes to feel as though people aren't being honest with them.  

So, suck it up and just be truthful.

But, you know, feel free to sugar-coat your honesty a little more than this.


BE KIND!

We all have bad days.  We all get frustrated and angry.  We can all be selfish.  We all behave in ways we're not proud of when we're hungry.  Okay, that last one might just be me...

But seriously, would it be so hard to take a little extra time to consider the people we share our lives - and the wider world - with?  

Let's think a little harder about how our words and actions affect others.  

Let's hold doors open for people.

Let's offer up our seats for someone else on a busy bus or train.

Let's genuinely put other people before ourselves, now and then.

I can remember, way back in the mists of time, attending a school assembly on the subject of "Small Acts of Kindness."  I was about fifteen at the time, and my Head of Year was talking about how seemingly insignificant things we do for someone else can really make an impact on that person's day.  As you can imagine, in a school full of teenagers, several of the audience members were more interested in whispering amongst themselves, or messing with their hair, or imagining a future in which they'd have mobile phones that didn't look like bricks and which featured a wider selection of games than just Snake...

But I remember really listening to that assembly and it having a massive impact on me.  Partly because I was a largely friendless nerd who had nothing better to do but listen, but also because, even at that young age, I'd already experienced just how true the message my Head of Year was conveying actually was.

Just a couple of years earlier, when I was being horrifically bullied on the school bus (at a different school), there had been a day when, despite the phlegm-missiles being spat in my direction, or the words that cut like machetes that were whispered into my ears - and by extension, the ears of anyone close by - a boy I didn't know all that well had come and sat next to me on that bus.  And, upon seeing and hearing what was going on, he had turned and snapped: "Why don't you leave her alone?!"

They didn't, of course, and he ended up being bullied as well, as a result.  But that little act of kindness made me feel less alone.  It made me smile, at a time when I had nothing to smile about.  He went on to become a friend and, even though we lost touch many, many years ago (when we were both still in our teens), I've never forgotten him, or the kindness he showed.

The kids in that assembly hall with me all those years ago, laughed when our Head of Year told us that just giving someone a smile, or opening a door for them, could make a difference to their day.  But I knew it was true back then and I know it to be true now.  In the last three months, regular readers of this blog will know that I've struggled with depression.  And truly, just having a stranger smile and hold a door, or a check-out operator make chit-chat with me, has genuinely made the difference between me thinking the world is a dark, nasty, friendless place, and thinking that actually, there is goodness to be found.  Sounds crazy, but it's true.

So, be kind.  Help someone out, without any expectation of reward.  Consider how your actions affect others.  Tell the people that you care about that they are amazing.

I've been binge-watching Crazy Ex Girlfriend a LOT lately and I have zero regrets.

I never expected, as I unwrapped this unassuming box of three scented candles, that the contents would have the power to give me a new perspective on life.  But somehow, they have.  I needed something to make me focus on the positive, instead of the negative.  I needed a new motto to kick-start my 2017.

And now I have one: Be silly.  Be Honest.  Be kind.

I'm going to give it a try.  Feel free to join me.


















Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Bedtime Story (11/1/2017)


Maybe I'm just uber broody at the moment, but I've been thinking a lot about babies, lately.  Hence, this week's story is a funny one about an anticipated arrival!

Click here to listen to this story as a podcast.

"What's In Your Tum, Mum?!"

Shelly's Mum kept being sick.
"Someone fetch a doctor, quick!"
Shelly was worried her Mum wasn't well.
And that was before her stomach started to swell!

"What's in your tum, Mum?"
Shelly asked, day after day.
"If it's a bug, the doctor'll make it go away."

But Mum and Dad smiled and shook their heads.
And they whispered, as they put Shelly to bed:
"Soon you'll have a baby sister or brother,
And you'll be friends and play with each other!"

Shelly frowned, once her parents had gone.
Where was this new baby coming from?
Babies didn't grow on trees and what's more,
You couldn't order them online, Shelly was sure!

As time went on, Mum's belly began growing.
What was inside, Shelly had no way of knowing.
Imagine her shock when Dad gently kissed her
And told Shelly: "In Mum's belly is your brother or sister!"

Shelly was confused - did Mum eat a baby?!
And why was it making her eat trifle with gravy?!
You see, Mum had finally stopped being sick,
But she was eating weird stuff, like cheese with jam - ick!

"Is there really a baby in your tum, Mum?"
Shelly frowned, in a haze.
"And why is it making you so terribly strange?!"

Still, Mum's belly continued to grow.
And there were rides at the park on which Mum couldn't go.
Her tummy got bigger until it surely would pop!
Shelly worried that it might never stop.

And then one night before bed, whilst watching the telly,
Shelly noticed Mum grimace and clutch at her belly.
Before Shelly could say anything, Dad gave a shout:
"Quick, to the hospital!  The baby's coming out!"

Shelly was sent to stay with her Gran,
But there were still many things she didn't understand.
Mum's tummy was so huge, she looked like a glutton;
Would the baby pop out of her big belly button?!

Or maybe Mum would have to be sick,
And the baby would fly out of her mouth in a tick?!
The whole process seemed terribly queer.
How on Earth would this baby get here?!

"Is it still in your tum, Mum?"
Shelly whispered, before sleep.
"Will it go back inside, or is it ours to keep?!"

The next morning, Shelly went with her Gran
And her Grandpa to hospital in Grandpa's old van.
There, in Mum's arms, lay Shelly's new sister.
Shelly smiled, leaned forwards and tenderly kissed her.

Suddenly, all of the questions were gone from her head,
As Shelly watched the baby, tucked up on the bed.
She still wasn't sure how the baby got there,
But Shelly was suddenly too happy to care.

The baby was so cute, Shelly couldn't wait to hold her!
All those questions could wait, until Shelly was older.
They sat around together; a perfect family.
And all that was left in Mum's tum, was a nice cup of tea.



THE END



Sunday, 8 January 2017

Thank You


I need to preface this blog with a trigger warning.  I'm going to talk about suicidal thoughts and severe depression.  If those are subjects liable to upset you, I completely respect your decision to close this page and go and look at something else.  Self-care is hugely important and I don't want to cause anyone any pain.  If you need it, here is a cute puppy to send you on your way:


It hasn't been an easy couple of months for me.  I won't go into the full details as to why, but regular readers will probably have realised by now that my "girls" - my gang of closest friends in the world, my second family, my support network - have all chosen to dissolve our relationship.  And on Friday, it got too much to bear, anymore.  It felt, that day, that I had finally witnessed the cutting of the last thread of hope I'd been clinging to, that this whole stupid situation would somehow, someday be resolved.

I felt like a tiny boat in a harbour, on a stormy night.  My tether had been shredded by the weather and I was drifting out into a rough sea, alone and afraid.  I have never felt so small.  The metaphorical waves that surrounded me were too big for me to cope with.  I was drowning.


When emotional pain is that big, it becomes physical.  You don't just feel sad.  The sadness cloaks you - heavy and smothering - like a coat that is much too big for you.  You can feel it pressing down on you, burying you under its weight.  You cry out, but the feeling crushes you too much for there to be any real relief.  There is lead in your chest.  A hefty, solid mass that seems to swell towards your throat, rendering you unable to breathe.  

I didn't just cry.  I sobbed.  I wept so violently that I swear, I felt like something inside my chest had splintered.  It was as though I had physically felt my own heart break.

There were too many thoughts in my head, all screaming at me in unison.  Questions circling round my mind that I was unable to answer.  Questions I didn't really want the answers, to.

"Are my former best friends all together, now?  Are they talking about me?  Can they really believe I'm such a bad person?  What do I do with the Christmas presents that have been stored for them under my bed for months?!  What do I do with the birthday fund I've been saving?  Why is asking friends to be honest with you such a dreadful request?  Why am I not allowed to be hurt and angry, whilst the person who hurt me originally is protected and allowed to write passive-aggressive crap about me online?!  Why am I the one in the wrong - the one who's supposed to say sorry for being hurt in the first place?  When I stop feeling angry, how do I cope with the pain of their loss?  What do I do without them?  How can I stop thinking about this?  How do I ever let go? What the hell is wrong with me?!"

All the lights in me had gone out.  


And then, all of those thoughts and questions in my mind stopped.  The tears streaming down my face seemed to dry.  The splintering feeling in my chest turned to numbness.  I thought how wonderful it would be if I never had to feel that pain again.

For a brief moment, I wanted to be gone.

I was tired.  Tired of trusting and being hurt.  Tired of trying to explain my feelings to others and to myself.  Tired of blaming myself, purely because everyone else seemed to be.  Just tired.  I wanted to sleep.  But the pain I'd been carrying with me; the blame others had heaped on me (without justification, I still insist) and the loneliness I felt, was weighing so heavily that I wanted to sleep and sleep forever.

I wrote on Twitter: "I wish I was dead."

It may seem random, but this gif basically sums up how I felt in that moment.

I don't know why I wrote it, really.  It's been deleted since.  But I guess in that moment, I just felt so alone, so isolated from my usual support network of friends, that I needed to try to reach out to someone.  For the first few minutes after I sent it, I lay on my bed, my breath coming out in strangled bursts and my heart hammering against my ribcage.  

And then my phone started to beep.

Too often, people assume that those who write cries for help on the Internet are doing it just for attention.  They don't really feel suicidal, or hopeless.  They just want someone to "big them up." 

I'm sure that there are people out there, who write things for attention.  But you know what?  Maybe that's because they need it.  Feeling unloved, or depressed is a very lonely experience.  When someone reaches out to you, it can lighten the weight on your shoulders.  Sharing your problems with someone makes them easier to deal with.

I know that when I wrote that tweet, I wasn't just "looking for attention."  But I also know that it's the "attention" it resulted in, that brought me back to reality and stopped me feeling like my life had lost all hope. 

People cared.  And, after weeks of being painted as the bad guy and going through arguments and frustration, it shocked me that anyone beyond my (amazing, incredibly supportive) family could be even remotely bothered.  

Here were people asking me what was wrong.  People telling me that, even though we don't regularly talk, they noticed me.  They liked me.  They cared.  They were offering me the chance to talk, without any judgement.  They allowed me to simply say what had happened, without me feeling guilty for talking out of turn.  I didn't insult anyone, or rage about the unfairness of it all, but I stated the facts and was listened to, by people who weren't connected to anyone involved and therefore, who had no previous opinions or feelings of friendship that I needed to protect.  And when I'd got stuff off my mind, they were kind and sympathetic.  Their words were like arms, reaching around me and gently nudging me towards a better train of thought.  Their offers of help were like glue, easing my broken pieces back into place.


As I replied to the messages, I felt the cloak around me getting lighter.  I felt the heaviness in my chest starting to reduce in weight.  It made me strong enough to speak to my family about what had happened and, as always, they were incredibly caring and supportive towards me.  I had kept the afternoon's events to myself, thinking I was this terrible person, who deserved the pain I was feeling.  Talking to people online, then to my parents and sister and sister-in-law, then finally to a real-life friend, made me realise that, at least in their eyes, if not in mine, I wasn't.

But more importantly, it made me realise that there was a way forwards.  My dad used to be a Samaritan and he always uses the phrase: "Do you want to die now?  Or do you want to die forever?"  I suddenly realised that I didn't want to die, forever.

All I really wanted was for the pain to stop.  I wanted to stop hurting.  I wanted to feel less alone and scared.  I wanted to be able to think positively of myself again.

I mean, I wasn't quite HERE yet, but I wasn't as bad as I'd felt, before...

I haven't slept well, the last two nights.  I've replayed conversations, imagined scenarios that will never happen and pictured scenarios that probably will happen in my absence.  I've thought about the days out, the birthdays, the weddings I'll miss, because I'm no longer wanted as part of those celebrations.  None of those thoughts have exactly helped me get a restful night's kip.  But what I have done in the last 48 hours or so, is - inspired by those people who reached out to me online - learn to be kind to myself.

I've watched stuff on TV that I know makes me happy.  I've spent time with my parents, who I know love me and support me unconditionally.  I've eaten chocolate.  I've forced myself to be organised and get tonight's video edited and uploaded to my YouTube channel.  I've taken steps - even if they're just baby ones - towards rediscovering me.  The happy Emma I know I am, deep down.  The good friend I know I was and will be again, for whoever wants me in their life.  The person I choose to be.

Because that's the fact of the matter.  In the end, we choose who we want to be in life.  We can't choose all aspects of our personality - I will always be sensitive (verging on oversensitive) and I will always have a feisty side - but we choose how we control those aspects of ourselves and what kind of people we want to be.  I chose to be someone who values honesty and stands up for herself when she feels she it's necessary.  That was my choice and, really, I stand by it, despite what it has led to.  Particularly as I also chose to be the one who tried to end the initial argument and I chose to use the words "I'm sorry," despite not receiving them back.

In time, I will be okay, somehow.  I'll find my "tribe," as a couple of people have put it.  Maybe "my gang" was never meant to be my gang.  There were five of us.  Maybe one of us was always supposed to leave, or be pushed away, so that the others had a better, even number.  And that person, unfortunately, had to be me.

Every friendship we have in life teaches us something and, in time, I will take whatever lessons there are to be learnt from the loss of these people who meant so much to me.  Maybe I will be able to look back at pictures and smile.  Perhaps I'll always wonder what they're up to and whether they're happy, but maybe it won't be so painful to do, in a few months or years' time.  Hopefully, the sting of imagining the four of them having fun together without me will lessen.

For now, it still hurts.  I suspect it will hurt for a very long time.  But I don't want to be gone, anymore.  I want to stick around and see how I come back from this.  Because I've worked my way up from this point before and I know in time, I will bounce back again.


But I wouldn't necessarily be saying any of this, had relative strangers not taken the time out of their day to respond to that tweet.  Just telling me that my life meant something to others - even people I barely knew beyond their social media profiles - had a huge impact on me.  The chance to talk things through to non-judgemental, non-involved ears was exactly what I needed, in order to gain a little clarity.  So, I want to thank those people.  From the bottom of my heart, I want them to know how much they helped and how enormously grateful I am.

And I want to thank my family.  They know how broken up I am over this.  They understand that I need time to grieve and I appreciate their love and support more than they know.

Finally, I want to thank the friends who offered to be there for me.  The ones who suggested nights out, or coffee and cake.  The ones who said they were shocked and sad on my behalf.  Knowing there are people who still want me in their lives is hugely precious.

To anyone going through a hard time, please know that you aren't alone.  There are people who feel just as lost, just as hopeless and just as frightened as you do.  And there are places you can go and people you can speak to, who can help.  Never go through this by yourself.  Don't be afraid to reach out.  You'll be surprised just how much people care.  

Including me.

Samaritans: Free UK phone number: 116-123
National Suicide Prevention: US phoneline: 1-800-273-8255


















Thursday, 5 January 2017

Achievable 2017 Goals!


So, here we are, in a shiny new year.  And I'm pretty sure that lots of us - just five days in - have already broken at least one of our new year's resolutions...

...Oh, okay, fine.  I have broken at least one of my new year's resolutions.  Don't judge me.

With that in mind, I figured it might be time to set some more achievable goals for 2017.  By this time next year, I might not have a million YouTube subscribers, or have lost half a stone, but I should be able to complete all of the following:


1. I Will Watch Every Episode of Crazy Ex Girlfriend.


It makes me laugh and people randomly burst into song.  I'm sorry, but that just wins.


2. I Will Bite My Lip As Much As Possible In The Face of Preachy Vegetarians or Vegans.


Guys, I applaud you for not eating animals, I really do.  I wish I could give up meat and, knowing that I can't (I'm sorry, but you will prise steak from my cold, dead hands), I can only try to buy free-range products and support ethical farming methods as much as I possibly can.  But I totally respect your life choices.  I just wish you didn't feel the need to rub those life choices in my face, via photos and videos from inside slaughter houses, emotionally manipulative posters and slogans and generally the kind of preachy, judgemental talk that will make me want to eat you, just to shut you up.  But you know what?  I'm going to bite my lip and not rise to even the most preachy non-meat-eater.  Because respecting people's life choices means not trying to change them.  And that works both ways.


3.  I Will Make No Attempt To "Fit In" Whatsoever.


I am finally at a point in my life where I accept that I am a bit weird and I am absolutely 100% fine with it.  I like geeky, nerdy stuff.  I prefer fluffy pyjamas, a big bowl of popcorn and an American Horror Story marathon to a night out in a club.  There are major books, films and TV shows that everyone seems to love, which I am bored to tears by.  I hate Fifty Shades with a burning passion and I would rather watch a classic episode of Red Dwarf than ever bother with Sherlock, for example.  I can quote several musicals, but I can't tell you who's number one in the charts.  For years, I tried to make out like I was really into the same stuff as everyone else.  I felt embarrassed by the weird, nerdy aspects of my personality.  I didn't think I should show that side of myself.  Now?  Suck it up, world; I wear my weirdness like a badge of honour.


4. I Will Love The People In My Life And Make Sure They KNOW It.


Okay, not in a scary way...

But I never want anyone in my life to doubt for a second that I value them and care for them.  If you are a friend, I want to make sure that you will know how much that friendship means to me.  That counts double for family.


5.  I Will Probably Eat Too Much, Now And Then.  


I am a foodie (that's kind of posh-speak for "exceptionally greedy") and I have very little willpower.  That's going to mean that I eat cake, or chips, or a calzone the size of my face (which is totally what I had for dinner last night, in case you're wondering).  And the only person I will tolerate making me feel even remotely guilty about my occasional bursts of gluttony, is me.  Screw the media and their obsession with stick-thin women.  Screw the people who drone on about their raw food diet and the seventeen hours of yoga they do each day.  If I want to eat a damn cake, I will.  And if I feel too full, or I can't fit into my skinny jeans the next day, that's my problem, nobody else's.  

I have the absolute intention of losing half a stone this year (I'm only a size 10, but I reckon I do need to lose about that much), and I'll be walking more, eating smaller portions and trying to be healthier in order to achieve my goal.  But I will slip up.  I will open a bag of popcorn and eat the whole lot to myself.  I will order a burger in a restaurant (probably many, many times during 2017).  And that's okay.

See, Woody has my back.

At the end of the day, whilst it's great to make new year's resolutions, we can be much too hard on ourselves if they're unattainable, or if we slip up within the first few days or weeks of the year.  So, have a think about some definitely achievable goals and add a few to your resolutions!

Oh, and if you want to know what my actual resolutions are this year, I explain them here:








Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Bedtime Story (4/1/2017)

😎

Back in 2014, a survey in the UK showed that children's top choice of "job" when they got older, was simply to be "famous."  I recently stumbled upon an article about this and it seems that it's an ongoing trend, with the steady rise of reality TV making it seem very easy to become famous for... Well, not much.  So, I thought I'd try my hand at writing a story all about a child's desire for fame - and what's really important.

This story is also available as a podcast.


"I Want To Be FAMOUS!"

Lily-Beth Adams was the only girl called Lily-Beth in her whole school.  And she liked it that way.  Her friends told her that Lily-Beth sounded like a celebrity name.  And Lily-Beth liked that, too.

"I want to be famous," Lily-Beth announced over breakfast, one morning.  "I'm famous at school already, because I'm the only girl called Lily-Beth.  But I want to be famous everywhere."

Her mother frowned, turning away from the lunchboxes she was packing for Lily-Beth and her little sister.  "Famous for what?"  She asked.  "You're probably not the only Lily-Beth in the whole world, so if you want to be famous, you'll need to choose a talent to focus on."

Lily-Beth blinked back at her.  "I'll just be on TV or something," she said.  "Like those people who have cameras following them around all the time."  She took a final mouthful of her cereal and nodded.  "And then I'll be famous, and nobody will mind that there are other girls called Lily-Beth in the world, because I'll be the most important one."

Her sister, Elsie, wrinkled her nose.  "But how do you get on TV in the first place?"

"Someone will discover me," Lily-Beth replied, swishing her long, golden hair.  "Someone will see me and decide I have what it takes to be famous."

Her mother sighed.  "It's really not that easy, you know.  And it's important to have a back up plan.  What if nobody ever... erm... 'discovers' you?  If you want to be famous, you'll have to think a bit harder about what you want to be famous for."

So, Lily-Beth thought about it all day long.  By the end of the day, she had decided that she would become a famous popstar.  "I'll have a number one smash hit," she told her mother and sister, as they walked back from school that afternoon.  "And then I'll perform it on all the TV shows and I'll be in every magazine."

There was just one small problem.  Lily-Beth was tone-deaf.  When she sang, she sounded like a cat coughing up a fur-ball.  

Her mother tried to be tactful.  "Are you sure singing is what you want to be famous for?"  She asked, gently.  "I'm sure you've got other talents..."

"You can't sing in tune," Elsie said, deciding her sister needed to hear the truth.  "So you can't be a popstar."

"Well, Dad always says there are popstars who can't sing in tune, but they do something in the studio to make them sound better..."  Lily-Beth protested.

"Yeah, but when they sing live, Dad always turns the sound down on the TV," Elsie reminded her.  "You can't be a popstar who never sings live anywhere, surely?"

Lily-Beth went to bed that night, feeling cross and a bit sad.  She loved being the only Lily-Beth at school.  She loved feeling like she was special, because of it.  She sighed.  She'd have to think of something else to be famous for...

The following morning, Lily-Beth made another announcement at the breakfast table.  "I've decided to become an actor.  I'll be in all the biggest movies and I'll win awards and I'll be really, really famous."

Her mother smiled.  "That's  a nice thought, dear," she said.  "And I'm happy to send you to a drama club if you're really interested in acting, but..."

"But you hated being in the school Christmas play," Elsie interrupted.  "You said all those people staring at you made you feel so nervous, you forgot all your words.  Remember how Mum and Dad had to persuade you to do it at all?"

Lily-Beth grumbled under her breath and ignored her sister.  "Mum, I can learn to be amazing at acting, can't I?"

Her mother gave Lily-Beth's shoulder a squeeze as she handed her her breakfast.  "Like I said, if you're really interested in acting, I can speak to Mrs Thornton about you joining the school drama club.  But you should do it because you really want to, not because you want to become famous as a result."

Lily-Beth rolled her eyes.  "But what's the point in just being yet another person doing something?  I don't want to fade into the background.  I want to be famous!"  She pushed her chair away from the table and rose to her feet.  "Fine, if I'm not famous for acting, maybe I'll be famous for dancing, instead."  She spun in a circle and tried to do ballet, like she'd seen on TV.  But Lily-Beth had two left feet and she soon went crashing into the kitchen table with a bump.

Elsie tried to smother a giggle, whilst their mother checked whether Lily-Beth was okay.  "Why is it so important to you to be famous?"  She asked, helping Lily-Beth back into her chair.

"Because I like feeling special," Lily-Beth sighed.  "I love being the only girl with my name in the whole school.  It means everyone knows who I am and I feel like I stand out from the crowd.  I don't want to grow up and lose that feeling."

Her mother smiled.  "Oh, sweetie," she explained.  "You don't have to be famous to have those feelings!"

Lily-Beth frowned back at her.  "What do you mean?"

Her mother turned to Elsie.  "Elsie, tell your sister what you said about her, last night when I was tucking you into bed."

Elsie blushed a little.  "I said I want to be just like you."

Lily-Beth stared at her.  "Why?"

Elsie shrugged.  "Because you're funny and clever and interesting.  People don't all know who you are because you're the only girl called Lily-Beth in the whole school.  They know who you are because you speak to everyone and you're so friendly.  They know who you are because you make everyone smile."

Lily-Beth chewed her lower lip for a moment.  "But next year, when I go to secondary school, it's going to be a much bigger place and there's no way that everyone will know who I am.  I won't feel special, anymore."

"Maybe not everyone will know who you are," her mother replied.  "But you will always be special.  To your sister and to your dad and me, and of course, to all of your friends.  Remember that old saying: 'To the world, you might be just one person, but to one person, you are the whole world.'  Well, you're not just the whole world to one person, you're the whole world to lots of people."

Lily-Beth smiled for a moment.  "But... What about being rich and living in a fancy house and being in magazines?"

Her mother chuckled.  "You know what the most important thing in the world is, Lily-Beth?  That you're happy and healthy and you have a roof over your head.  It doesn't have to be a fancy roof.  It doesn't have to be a posh house that people look at in magazines.  It just has to be a home.  And you'll always have one here."

Lily-Beth gave her mother and sister a hug.  "I suppose just being plain old me isn't so bad," she confessed.  "Maybe I don't need the whole world to know who I am, as long as the people who matter never forget me."  She glanced at the clock on the wall.  "Come on," she said.  "We ought to get ready to leave.  I really don't want to be late for school."

Her mother grinned.  "You've never been late for school," she said.  "In fact, you're never late for anything.  You're always on time!"

Lily-Beth smirked as she grabbed her bag.  "I know," she giggled.  "In fact, you could say I'm famous for it."


THE END