Tomorrow, I turn 40 years old. By design, my life now is simple, stress free, and fun. I feel loved, and I feel valued. It hasn’t always been this way; I have waded through massive amounts of bullshit to get here. I thought it only appropriate, on the 40th anniversary of my arrival on this planet, to share some key things that I have learned on my way here – alongside some of my favourite things from 1978. Please enjoy.
1. Makeup is not about how you look, it’s about how you feel about how you look. If you feel good about your face, you feel less compelled to spend your time fixing it.
2. There’s no emotional relationship you are not allowed walk away from when it is damaging you.
3. High heeled shoes are genuinely not worth it.
4. You are not responsible for how any other person feels. They may be upset, but that’s their truth, and it’s not down to you to manage that.
5. No one else is responsible for how you feel. Do not expect other people to behave according to what will make you feel good.
6. Tidy does not equal clean.
7. Most situations and stories can be cropped to fit any chosen narrative. Check the true facts before wasting your energy on outrage.
8. We are mostly designed to tolerate a status quo, to achieve stasis and maintain. We’re designed to put up with less than ideal conditions, until the pain of staying still outweighs the discomfort of actual change. Don’t beat yourself up about not immediately Fixing All The Things, but also understand where and when you need a push to achieve what you really want.
9. You do not have to forgive someone to be able to move on and have a happy and fulfilled life. Some actions and choices do not merit forgiveness – and not forgiving someone is not the same as holding a grudge. If you are living with constant anger or grief over someone else’s actions, you need someone to help you… but if a person wants forgiveness for their actions, tell them to go and find Jesus.
10. Some relationships are beyond economical repair, and that’s OK.
11. Every day, aim to be the best You that you can be that day. Might not be as good as yesterday, might be better than tomorrow, but it’s the best you can be today and that is good.
12. Take the time to always be honest with yourself. If you cannot acknowledge your own reality, your own failings, or admit your own wants, then your interaction with the world is not truthful. It’s not fair to yourself primarily, but it’s also not fair to the people in your life.
13. Cheap toilet paper is never, ever worth the cost saving.
14. Judging people is absolutely fine. Just keep your fucking mouth closed about it.
15. Ironing clothes is not worth the effort. Make a life decision not to do it, except in exceptional circumstances, and it will make you free. Well, free-er.
16. We have many evolutionary redundancies – male nipples, the appendix, wrist tendons for tree climbing… Pain is not one of them; physical or emotional, pay attention to it. It’s there for a reason.
17. Spend your time with people that value who you are, not the people that tolerate who you are.
18. If you think everyone around you is being an asshole, take a moment to find the common denominator, and then re-review the circumstances.
19. ‘Smart Casual’ is one of the world’s most subjective terms, and can be merrily abused to whatever extent you have the nuts for.
20. Doing a good thing because it makes you feel good, rather than because you actually care, does not make you bad person. Self care is important, and if everyone wins – happy days.
21. If someone tells you that their experience is different to yours, hear them. They are not lying to you, even if it challenges what you thought to be true.
22. No one can decide for you how you are supposed to feel about something. Your values and experiences may give you an entirely different perspective to even those closest to you. That said, if you are disproportionately apathetic, or massively overreacting, you probably want to have a look at that.
23. You are not entitled to the world giving you easy money. You are not entitled to a fancy house, or a fulfilling career. You are however entitled to the love and care of people who are supposed to love and care for you. If you didn’t get that, then they did a bad fucking job, and it doesn’t just fall under “Life’s not fair, deal with it”.
24. Woodchip wallpaper is the work of the fucking devil.
26. You are wrong about something. Something you think you are right about. You will probably be sensitive or angry when someone points it out. It’s fine to be wrong, it’s fine to be upset about it, and it’s fine to feel like a bit of a dick – what’s not fine is not learning from it.
26. If you are a man, everything you do is – by default – manly. If you are a lady, everything you do is – by default – ladylike. Correct people on their adjectives and don’t let them define your shit.
27. Recycle for fuck’s sake. You made the rubbish, it’s your responsibility, and that doesn’t stop when someone else puts it in the back of a truck and takes it out of sight.
28. If you cannot complete your work within your contracted hours, you have either been given too much to do, or you are in the wrong job. Do not give a corporation extra hours for free. You won’t be thanked.
29. Spend time with children. They will either allow you access to a world of simplicity you had forgotten about – or they will reinforce why you were right not to have them. Maybe both.
30. Say ‘no’ if you want to. You do not need to justify yourself, nor offer an explanation. It is not a debate, or a negotiation.
31. Be clear about your expectations to your family and friends. No one is able to read your mind, and because you are a different human person, what is obvious to you is not likely to be obvious to them. Failing to explain what you want and need is a straight line to disappointment – and it’s your own fault.
32. Fear will cripple you if you let it. Assess, understand risks, mitigate where possible, but walk forward in awareness with your head up.
33. Do not borrow trouble from tomorrow. Future You can handle that shit when time comes – if there is nothing you can do about it now, leave it the fuck alone.
34. If you are unable to stop worrying or being fearful on your own, you need someone else to help you out of whatever physical, emotional or mental situation you are in. Go and ask.
35. No matter how well-reasoned, balanced, inclusive, well-researched, fair and progressive your opinion is, someone will always fundamentally disagree with you. It may make no logical sense, but people give a shit about different things, and those things are often selfish and destructive. And since everyone is allowed an opinion, you just have to suck it up.
36. If you don’t engage with other people’s drama, it won’t engage with you. Walk away, without remark, be at peace.
37. Spend deliberate time immersed the things that bring you joy. 5 minutes of laughing at a squirrel dicking around can counter a surprising amount of bullshit.
38. Anyone who belittles you or your experience is a bully. They are attempting to create a power discrepancy between you, to either repress you by standing on your head, or make themselves look taller by standing on your shoulders. Fuck them. You do not deserve that.
39. Some people want your advice and opinions to help them fix a problem. Some people just want your complicity while they are angry about something. Understand the difference, and be careful who you gift your time and energy to.
40. You are one person, from one place, with one life. There are 7,600,000,000 other lives out in the world – any time you spend understanding some of them better will make your own experience more rounded and rewarding.
Last night, I went to see Superheaven at The Lexington near Angel tube station in Islington. Superheaven are wonderful, and their last album – Ours Is Chrome – is one of my favourite records of last year. Please feel free to allow some of their good noise into your earholes;
My first visit to any new venue in London normally involves a fight with my piece-of-shit phone to try and get Google maps working properly, whilst simultaneously trying to look like I already know exactly where I am going. The whole tourist bellend bit wasn’t necessary last night however, because the Lexington is a really simple walk round the corner from the tube station.
The pub downstairs was nice but fairly standard, all high ceilings and old wood with areas that looked suspiciously church-like. The thing I enjoyed the most was the collection of old rifles and antlers on the wall – with silver and purple flock wallpaper because London.
I got there a couple of hours early, maybe because I fancied a few beers beforehand, maybe because I had no idea that the first band wasn’t on until 9pm… *cough* Doors opened at 8pm, so I headed upstairs to check out the venue itself, and I was one of the only people up there for the best part of an hour. Good effort, me.
While I was passing the time with my friend Bulmers Original, I noticed this young lad who also got there pretty early on. He attached himself to the front corner of the stage as soon as he got in, and he was all new band shirt and spindly enthusiasm. Don’t misunderstand me, there’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm in itself, but it causes me to be suspicious about people, and generally marks them out as Needing To Be Watched. I am of course including my own insufferable excitement at the Warners Bros Harry Potter studio tour experience; I’d have merrily punted small children across the room, and laughed while I did it.
Anyway, back to the gig. Once the band started, it became apparent that this lad was one of those idiots that insists on stage diving in the face of all contra-indication from the rest of the audience. Everyone else was gently moshing about and then out of nowhere, this whirling mass of elbows and knees launched from stage left. Again. And again. And again.
When he wasn’t crowdsurfing, he was trying to stir up a moshpit, jumping around and punching the air like a deckchair caught in a whirlwind. Put 20lbs and a few years on him and he would totally be that crowd-killing prick at hardcore gigs.
Even though I was stood well out of reach by the bar at the back, I found myself getting more and more pissed off by him. Everyone is entitled to have fun at a gig, but he was just being a fucking nuisance. Since he’d been going unchecked for most of the gig, another lad joined in as well because, you know, monkey see monkey do.
I know that I don’t generally like people anyway, and can often hold excessive ideals of social conduct, but it genuinely wasn’t just me getting narked off with it; eventually the singer asked for everyone to please bear in mind that there were a lot of smaller people and girls up the front…
I didn’t stay to the end because the train times home were being changed due to scheduled works (I don’t know why I was surprised) and the fear of getting stuck in London overnight is real. As a result, I don’t know what actually happened after I left… however I have come to the conclusion that I am a mean, spiteful old spoilsport, because I know exactly what I hope happened, and it is perfectly illustrated by this panel that I found recently when re-reading Preacher:
Last night, I had a dream that I was in a forest somewhere. Not a dark, wildernessy type forest, mind. Deciduous trees, vibrant green colours, a leafy glade if you will. The kind of place you go for a walk on a Sunday when you and your partner have guilt-tripped yourselves into doing some exercise, but don’t want to commit to anything you will regret later.
I was on one side of grassy clearing, and on the other side was a medium sized fire pit. In the middle of it was a big stack of wood, arranged into pyramid shape, burning nicely. There was a young man sat on a log by the fire; I was there with him, but I couldn’t say now who he was supposed to be. He was very blond… I think my brain had made him up by splicing together 3 or 4 different people from reality, as it does more frequently with places.
Also there with me were my two cats. That’s worthy of note because a) we were in the middle of a fucking forest and b) they both passed away between 3 and 8 years ago respectively, and I have never dreamed of either of them before.
They were just wandering around in the clearing, doing their own cat stuff. You know; sniffing things in that deeply feline way that that makes their whole upper lip area flex, eating grass which I know damn well was going to get thrown up in the middle of night for me to tread in, trying to catch out the ghosts that were ruffling their fur every time the wind gusted…
Suddenly, they both moved off in that paws-blurred, ears-back, slinky trot that cats do when they really want to get away from something, but don’t want to draw attention to the fact that they are shitting themselves. Upon investigation it turned out that a grizzly bear had appeared a way off down the path and the cats had, quite rightly, cheesed it.
As so often with the world of dreams, things got a little weird after that. I think I ended out squaring up to the bear, with a burning branch in each hand, because there was no way that either Blondie or I could have run away fast enough to get to safety. I don’t remember how it ended, but I am going to assume that it was not triumphantly – for me at any rate.
Wildlife confrontation aside, and regardless of however briefly, it was really nice to be back with my cats again. Just chilling, having a nice time.
I miss them.
I guess I understand now why some people like to believe there is a heaven.
One day I am going to die. My heart will stop beating, and my blood will stop being pushed around my body. This self-sustaining organic system that I walk around wearing will fail. After everything I have forced upon my body over the years, at some point it will no longer be able to keep functioning. It will fail, and it will stop. I will stop.
When that happens, it may come as a surprise. It may be as the result of some massive trauma; I may simply run out of blood because it’s leaked everywhere, or certain key bits of me may be compromised beyond repair.
Or… I may be aware that there is something deeply wrong with me, and my death may be the end of a medical battle. I may have known for some time that somewhere inside me, something was destroying me from within.
Whichever route gets me there, I will eventually stop. I may stop quietly in my sleep… however, knowing myself, I doubt that very much; I wake up if a moth so much as farts on the way past my bedroom window. I am fairly sure that right at the end, I will be awake and aware. Even if it is just in some primal way, I will know when the end of me arrives, and I will be scared.
In the final moments though, I don’t think I will be scared for very long. I don’t know what brain chemistry does to perception at the point of death, mind you – it might stretch time weirdly, like it does in a car accident. Although I reckon if that happens, some kind of “-amine” will be released in conjunction and it will get all trippy and 60’s-music-video on my ass.
All things considered, I’m not actually scared of dying. It’s the life bit right before that which concerns me.
(For context, I’ve just listened to Blackstar, the last David Bowie album. I’ve had it for the best part of 4 months, but have bottled listening to it until now.)
2016 has brought death and loss sharply into focus, for me and for a lot of other people around the world. I am aware that people die every day and that they are all important to someone. However this year has heralded the end of many people who had global renown, and whose impact was was felt by many more people than just those who were in their immediate lives. It can’t help but sharpen your thinking about certain things when you lose so many people in such a short period of time.
It’s generous to think that I will keep living an enthusiastic and independent life well into my 80’s or 90’s, but the reality is – that might not be the case. Tonight might be my last night *cue dramatic music*
I do not believe that anything happens to us spiritually once we’re dead. We stop, and we degrade. I do not believe that we have souls that are released from a physical shell, I do not believe that there is a world beyond this one, or a higher plane, or a heaven. When we’re done, we’re done. We may get to leave a legacy behind us that impacts other people (for good or for evil), but most of us will only exist in memory.
So the real question then becomes this; if I stopped living tonight, what’s my legacy, my memory?
Does my sister know that I loved her beyond anything else? Is my houseful of shit simple to sort out when I’m not here? Was I living the life I wanted to live? Did I inspire joy and amusement in those around me? Would the people left alive behind me be able to say in confidence that I had a good fucking time while I was here?
I believe that the answer to all of the above is yes. Don’t get me wrong, I have lived through a load of awful situations in the past – and I haven’t been on the Harry Potter studio tour yet… But! Right now, at this very moment, I am living a life of enjoyment, happiness and balance. It took me a long time to get here, and it was hard-fought, but this is a state that I fully intend on staying in until I stop living.
I would encourage all of you to start cutting out the parts of your lives that cause you pain, anger, or sadness. Find ways to let go of the one-way transactions in your life, where you give and get nothing in return; the thankless jobs, the selfish individuals. The things and people that drag you down to less than you should be. If you need it, get help to be the best version of you that you can be.
Let’s be honest, you never do know when you will come to an end, and life is too short to be doing anything other than that which makes you smile while you are alive – and that which makes YOUR PEOPLE smile after you are gone.
On that note, I can confirm that after much experimentation and deliberation, Kale farts are seriously the worst farts ever.
This past Wednesday, I went on a night out with my work colleagues. We don’t all get to see each other very often, since most people work in different parts of the country, and fairly typically it ended out as a drunken, raucous gathering of 30-odd bloody lovely people having a bloody lovely evening.
However – both in the corporate environment that I work in, and the town centre on a Wednesday night – I don’t really blend in very well.
What happened throughout that evening (and has been happening since I was in charge of picking my own clothes if I’m honest), is that I had series of conversations with different people all about why I don’t dress up more – because I’d look really nice in XYZ outfit, because I have such a nice figure, etc. etc.
And I totally get it; I am a scruffy mess and that is not what the majority of people aim for. Any clothes that I put on immediately look like I have slept in them. You know what? I kinda like that.
I have a gleeful pride in how little time it takes me to get ready to leave the house, how small my wardrobe is, how few pairs of shoes I own, and how long it’s been since I last ironed anything. I think it would be fair to say that a significant part of that is a joyous rejection of gender-based expectations of how I am going to present myself – which in turn has it’s roots in the fact that I really struggle to care.
The last time I was interested in a fashionable item of clothing, it was a layered denim and black lace skirt. It was 1987. I was 9 and I was in love with Jon Bon Jovi, incidentally. On top of not really seeing anything which I am supposed to like that has appealed for the best part of 30 years, my natural inclination in everything is to expend as little energy as possible – which includes my appearance. When I was maybe 14, possibly 13, I had my hair cut short. It used to take me ages to manhandle it into shape in the mornings – because I didn’t understand that my hair was in fact curly. As soon as I realised that was the problem, I just let it run free and do whatever the hell it was inclined to do. That was the last time I made any concerted effort in my appearance, and I have never looked back.
There was a period of time after I left my horrible mistake of a marriage where I rushed back to the loving embrace of my metal roots, to get back in touch with who I was. I adopted a goth uniform of sorts, which was pretty much all I wore for about 3 years; black skirt, stripey socks, black mesh long-sleeved shirt with a slogan t-shirt over the top, black New Rock boots.
It was simple, lightweight, easy to pack, and quick to put on. I wore that until I bought my first pair of Criminal Damage baggy black jeans (or, my goat-smuggling trousers, as dubbed by my best mate) and then that became my new uniform. That tends to be my pattern; find something I like, then wear it for years until it falls apart or I find something of superior awesomeness. Rinse and repeat.
During the last relationship-I-should-never-have-been-in, I was constantly getting disparaged and sneered at for not dressing up nicely like the Eastern European women you see pushing strollers through town, or making a proper effort like the trendy women that you see strutting around Camden and Brick Lane. “Go fuck yourself, I’m outta here.” should have been what I said. I didn’t say that. I ended out wearing different clothes – skinny jeans, branded tops, women’s boots – to try and regain some modicum of respect, regard and interest from my partner. Because THAT always works, huh people? All that happened was that I further lost myself and got even more crushed under his boot heels by trying to conform to someone else’s idea of what I should be like.
I am never, ever doing that again. I don’t like skinny jeans, or having my hair in a bun, or dresses, or painful women’s shoes, or whatever bullshit some nutjob clothes designer has decided is suddenly the thing to wear this season. Sorry pal, I’m not playing.
There are a few things that I have always gravitated towards; black, red, black AND red, black and red STRIPES…
…otherwise muted colours, big shoes, baggy jeans. My ‘style’, if you can call it that, is comfortable, low maintenance, and cheap. I would like to say that it’s practical because of my over-fondness of massive pockets, but if you’d ever seen me hopping about in the rain to avoid absorbing my own body-weight in puddle water into my trousers, you’d understand why I avoid that claim.
One thing my style is NOT, however, is flattering. I have become less and less interested in putting myself on display as the years have gone past. I feel no obligation to wear anything that shows off my lady-parts, or even wear ‘women’s’ clothes at all. Like everything in my life these days, I know how to play the game, I just choose not to. As I go about my business, thousands of people might look at me and turn their nose up, or not even register me at all…
They are not the people that I am interested in. I am interested in the folks that see the scruffy, baggy jeans that haven’t been ‘on trend’ for a decade or two, who see the unkempt hair that I obviously haven’t done anything with since I got out of bed, and don’t care. I am interested in the people who look at my t-shirt and think, “She likes Brand New! Awesome!”
It’s taken me many, many years to properly get on board with the idea that I am fucking brilliant, precisely the way I am. I am aware that it means I will probably spend the rest of my life batting back questions about my choices, but that’s totally cool. Let’s be honest – who doesn’t?
[Brand New really are excellent, by the way.]
…to those who never have to deal with snoring, and get the whole bed to themselves.
…to those who only have their own glorious mess to contend with.
…to those who get to spend their entire disposable income on themselves.
…to those who never have to carry the cold stone of sickening worry in their belly.
…to those who know that the last piece of dessert will always be in the fridge where they left it.
…to those who get to go wherever they want without having to consult with anyone else.
…to those who can leave their washing on the bedroom floor.
…to those who never have to argue about who’s going to take the last beer.
…to those who are never waiting around for someone else to get ready.
…to those who never come home to any unnecessary conflict or petty gripes.
…to those who don’t have to spend a fortune on Christmas presents for someone else’s family.
…to those who never have to sacrifice space in their home to another person’s interests.
…to those who don’t have to apologise for coming home drunk.
…to those who don’t have to negotiate their way through the minefield of someone else’s headfucks.
…to those who can spend the whole weekend at home in their pants without criticism.
…to those who are enjoying a respite from drama.
…to those who never have to clean someone else’s piss off of the toilet.
For everyone who joins me in being actively grateful for being alone, I wish you a marvellous Sunday.
Valentine’s Day has always rankled a little, even when I have been in relationships. I resent the idea that at some point, a group of corporations has dictated a day when we are guilt-tripped into spending money to demonstrate the extent to which we care about someone – and as a society we’ve just gone along with it.
So as a nice, solid, two-fingered salute to a capitalist drive to exploit love, let us celebrate with gleeful joy the vibrancy of this exquisitely sweary ode to pure hatred by Frank Carter & the Rattlesnakes;