3 x 3

Today’s witnessed a three by three series of good things:

1. Consumer choices that make me happy…

A. Shopping local.

B. Using the Coop when I thought I might have to use Wal-Mart.

C. Supporting the Post Office. Use it or lose it, as they say. In this case the potential is that we could lose the whole institution, not just individual ones.

2. Clearing three things…

A. Lots of random items that were unexpectedly taken away when my mum kindly offered to drop them at their new home.

B. A fab leather skirt that I’d been meaning to deliver to its new home for a couple of weeks.

C. A large pile of stuff that had surfaced thanks to my huge purge of paperwork and PhD work. Finally shifted most of it.

3. Three satisfying chunks of time…

A. A very productive working day. Lots of ticks on my to-do list.

B. A useful session preparing for a Quaker outreach event that I’m involved in on Saturday.

C. A cathartic bonfire, happily burning confidential papers and poking the fire with a stick.

Letting Go

Today I let go of two things. Both have, in different ways and at different times, played a big part in my life. Both have influenced how I’ve felt about my life and about myself. Both have bought joy as well as anguish. Both have had their moment and now is the right time to say goodbye.

The first of the things is Facebook. As I mentioned in my previous post, this has been brewing for a while. I found myself using it less and less, then getting irked whenever I did go on. I’ve also begun to think more about how we use the web and the way that the big internet firms affect our lives, becoming more uncomfortable with their control over how we see things. I knew it was time to let go when I found myself saying to someone on Friday that if I wasn’t already on then I wouldn’t join now – habit or routine being insufficient reason to stick at anything, let alone something that you question.

The second thing is less tangible than Facebook but feels possibly more significant. I have let go of my longest surviving crush. When I say longest, I genuinely do mean long – as a fraction or percentage of my life, I have harboured this crush for longer than I haven’t had it. Admittedly this has ebbed and flowed in intensity over the years, but at no point would I have doubted that he was my dream man if given the pick of anyone. Recently this idealisation (or perhaps that should be idolisation) has undergone a resurgence as I realised that the qualities that I most admire in this person could actually be a useful benchmark for thinking about any future partner – a sort of “what do I like and why” exercise. And therein lies the key. It’s taken almost seventeen years, but I’ve finally learnt the lessons that this crush had to teach me. All the things he embodies, all the qualities I admire in him, are what is important. This only occurred to me today. And with that moment of truth, while affection and admiration for him remain intact, my school girl crush evaporated.

Another good day, another gratitude list: 1. Especially good Quaker meetings for worship framing my day. 2. Deciding to quit Facebook. It’s an idea that’s been building for a while and even the thought of feels liberating, which says it all. 3. Sorting more stuff for my holiday – airport parking booked, another list made, buses at other end investigated. 4. Fab afternoon with my best friend. Took two of her nephews to watch their dad play cricket, went to the park, sat in the garden on a swing seat with mini milk lollies. 5. Sitting in my own garden with my mum as the sun went down, watching the view change with the shadows and feeling that the shadow over me has lifted.

It’s just after one on Saturday night/Sunday morning and I’ve not long got in. Saturday’s been a good day. It feels like a long time since I had a properly good day, one that hasn’t felt tinged with low mood. I still don’t really know why it’s been that way, as prior to that there’s been long stretches of good feeling. I also don’t know why there’s been a shift today, nor whether this shift will last. It occurs to me that the simplest way to share my good day is through the old self-help favourite, a gratitude list. Normally these are limited to three items but I’m in charge here so I’m allowing five. In no particular order… 1. I had some time to myself, time where I could please myself and do what I wanted. Most excitingly, I used some of that time to get bits for my holiday, which had the added bonus of making me feel more prepared and hence less stressed. 2. I realised that looking back on my week, however tough it’s been at times, there have been moments where I feel really proud of myself. That’s hard to admit, and even harder to actually notice when it happens. 3. Freedom. Getting in my car and driving. The freedom to go 120 miles to a party and not be answerable to anyone about it. 4. Orange juice. Always makes me happy. 5. Going to a thirtieth birthday party for a very old friend and having an absolutely lovely evening with her friends and family. Bunting, babies, cupcakes and a great, relaxed atmosphere too. As with yesterday’s funeral, it reminded me where my priorities lie. And that feels good.

Today has been one of the most harrowing experiences that one can imagine, the funeral of a newborn baby. I cannot even begin to articulate the emotions, how surreal it all was, how amazing the family involved were, how special the bond of love felt. Words seem inadequate and hollow and empty. But I couldn’t truthfully write this blog without marking the event in some way. That it has happened needs recognition. It is a day that I shall never forget, nor shall I forget the little baby who has touched so many hearts.

“I’ve just got in from a fashion show, to which I was an invited guest.”

“I’ve just got in from watching the end of year fashion show at the local college, which I got a free ticket for.”

Both statements are equally true, but they conjure up very different images of my evening. The ability to select and distill details to create a more favourable impression (while not lying or simply bragging) is known as the art of self-promotion. I first came across this idea in approximately 1992, when I read an article in Company magazine called “Are the people you admire really that much better than you – or just better at self-promotion?”. Almost twenty years later, I can still recall this title word for word because I pretty much memorised this piece and the rest of the third-hand copy of the magazine too.

This strong memory of a magazine from all those years ago is testament to the profound influence that periodical publishing can have. Although magazines are often dismissed as ephemeral and trivial, they are important cultural products (as I argue in my PhD thesis, lol). My life can be traced in a history of my magazine reading habits: Fast Forward to Bliss to Look (before it became Celebrity Look – grr) to The Clothes Show magazine to Vogue, with Harper’s Bazaar, Psychologies and Grazia thrown in during recent years too. I’ve also had phases of regularly reading Cosmopolitan, Elle and InStyle, along with many others I’ve probably forgotten. Interestingly, I’ve never much liked Marie Claire – don’t know why – and I dislike celebrity gossip magazines.

As this brief history indicates, I like magazines. I especially like fashion magazines. I especially, especially like Vogue. The first copy I bought was the August 1998 issue. I have that one and every issue since, with a few American and French editions thrown in as well. I have kept them and loved them, hoping that they would one day be my own archive for a research project. Recently, though, I’ve felt increasingly burdened by them, as if I’m clinging onto something, grasping at an identity and a past that have slipped away. My decision to drastically purge my possessions was the final incentive to let go of all these back copies. Rather than simply recycling them, I contacted the head of fashion at the local college, who very keenly said yes, they’d happily take them. So tonight I went, getting a ticket to their show as a thank you. Admittedly only four of the thirteen years were taken with me, as the rest are in storage. As soon as I can get them, they’ll go too. It has been a genuine wrench parting with them. It has made me tearful. But knowing that they are going to the college library is a wonderful, heart-warming thought, as I am certain that these handed-on copies of Vogue will inspire the students just as they’ve inspired me over the years.

I’m lying in bed but I can’t sleep because of a horrible tight feeling in my chest. It’s the heavy hearted feeling I get when I feel hurt. Of all the emotions, I find this kind of hurt – when you feel disappointed by someone, or neglected or used – especially difficult to deal with. It’s even harder to do without lashing out with tears or anger. I know that I tend to withdraw in these situations, nursing my wounds and hoping that they recover before I have to see or speak to the person in question again. In some cases this has led to months passing by without contact, by which time things have become so awkward that a whole new set of issues arise. Not good. Less dramatic, and more usual, is that after a short time I simply dismiss the hurt and act as if nothing’s happened. This solution isn’t great either, though. While it’s good to let go of negative emotions, letting go is different to not voicing them at all. I know I need to find the words to articulate how I feel. But expressing vulnerability – admitting that I am hurt – is so hard. It feels like too much of a chink in the armour of self-protection.