So this is Christmas

 

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Not this year it isn’t…

John Lewis and shiny stuff would lead most of us to believe that this is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas can be pretty wonderful: friends you haven’t seen in years, time with family, spreading joy, giving and receiving, great food, the list goes on. This year my attitude, normally on a par with Buddy the Elf, is a bit more like the weather: lukewarm.

Christmas comes but once a year. At least that was my mantra in past years when I forced a smile when being nagged by my parents about when I was going to meet a nice boy. Or when I was being nagged about when I was going to move closer to home. Or when I was wincing at drunken shouting and trivial arguments. Or when I was joining in on the shouting. I still managed a smile because a week down the line I would be back on a plane and far away. Future conversations could be tolerated. Or at least muted.

This year Christmas feels like it is building up to be Wrestlemania. All the previously small bouts that have taken place lover the last four months will now culminate in this one off spectacular event.

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All things festive

There is no tapping out.

A chair may be employed as a last minute act of desperation.

My plan to hide in the gym was thwarted. I may no longer have any idea what day of the week it is, but most of the normal working world have been counting the sleeps until they could go out, get battered, safe in the knowledge there was no getting up at 7 am the next morning.

This is my life.

Maybe that’s why my cheer isn’t as cheery. The biggest factor in my love of Christmas was desperate relief. The winter term was the longest one at school. After seven weeks of crowd control, marking, observations and prising kids off windows and walls, I wanted to sleep for two weeks. It’s like the Eddie Murphy joke about the cracker you get offered after weeks in the desert.

Christmas was the best cracker I had ever eaten.

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Christmas Hip Hop Carousel

Every day is like Christmas now. In the sense I get to stay at home watching bad television, balancing my finances and drinking anything mulled. All I’ve been missing over the last four months was a festive hat at a jaunty angle.

The traditional Christmas dinner is also a festive selling point.

Roast potatoes, Turkey, Christmas pudding, even sprouts, there’s something about that Christmas spread. It warms the heart.

As I sit staring at the swede that will be the crowning joy in vegan Christmas, I find it hard to get excited.

My brother is an excellent cook. It will be a Vegetarian/Vegan delight. But it’s not quite Christmas this year.

I nearly went full Scrooge when Facebook asked if I wanted to see what 2015 looked like. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The Ghosts of Facebook Statuses past have helped me to gain some perspective this Christmas Eve.

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Still smiling. Kind of

This hasn’t been my worst Christmas. Not by a long shot.

There was the Christmas Air France lost all my luggage. The Christmas I lost my phone in a taxi on the way to the airport. The Christmas I nearly lost my hand and had to have surgery. Last Christmas, when  I was sent blow by blow details of how my then boyfriend liked to get down in the bedroom, and then had to spend the day comforting him.

This has been quite an uneventful festive season in retrospect.

Christmas has it’s good points. I get to make it magical for my nephew.  I stay up watching cheesy movies and playing board games with my siblings. It’s the only time of the year when I can hit reset with my parents and start afresh. I also get to see friends I love and laugh. Drunkenly.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. If I let it be.

So I’m going to get me some wine and listen to Jingle Bell Rock until the spirit of Christmas, or Christmas spirits restore me to my normally hyperactive Christmas state.
Happy holidays. Get merry. ’tis the season.

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Tinderlude

1655856_10153590962320552_5826856312381107258_n (1)When I first met my ex I told him he should go on Tinder. He’s a good looking guy and was single. I thought he would clean up. I hadn’t thought I’d be dating the guy. I was off to Mexico a month down the road. Plus he had seen another man’s penis on my phone.

Long story short: never show a married friend a dick pic. She will tell her husband. He will make you show it to everyone at breakfast when you are too hungover to quickly sit on your phone.

It’s a miracle our relationship ever got off the ground.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me when he popped up on my Tinder feed after the break up. But I deleted the app off my phone all the same. It was like he could see me.

Dating has always been my go to move when things are going badly in my life. When I say dating I mean Tinder. I have no desire to get to know someone in the hopes of cultivating a relationship. Not when I’m heart broken. Shameless superficial hottie snap, and texts filled with innuendo is all I look for when moving on.
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I had signed up again because I thought I needed to move on swiftly. I needed to remember that other good looking men existed.

The shock of seeing his duck face staring back at me in various poses made me realise I wasn’t ready yet.

Cue Rio: a city where the word Sex is literally everywhere, and everyone is hot and semi-naked. It was a disappointment to find out that Sex- Dom was not a sensual version of the Crystal Maze, but the equivalent of Sat-Sun abbreviation. More of a disappointment was the fact I just wasn’t into anyone and would have had no use for a real sex dome unless I could charge my Kindle there.

My trainer acted like we’d conceded a goal when I told him I had just enjoyed the sights.

“What’s wrong with you?! Get laid woman!”

It had been 4 months. The ‘Get over it’ was coming in thick and heavy.

I decided to give it one last swipe.

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Straight off the bat I gave a cute guy my number. Almost immediately his penis was on my phone, completely unsolicited.

The penis was a shock. But not as much as the fact the guy had been so quick to whip it out that he had forgotten to hide the bald patch he’d disguised in his pics.

He apologised for the penis, but couldn’t explain the hair. I no longer felt compelled to respond to his messages.

That’s when my Tinder game changed. How it happened I don’t know.

Instead of cuing me up some hot sex  I built a small support group for the texting wounded.

Now all my messages seem to be pasta recipes, or stories of dates gone wrong. It’s almost like having a stable of boyfriends, who every now and then suggest a meet up.

I’m finding it hard to say yes though.

I said to one guy it was timing and location. If he wasn’t where I was at the right time then it wasn’t happening.

I may yet go on a date. I leave it to GPS, alcohol and wifi connectivity. But It’s not my priority anymore.

I won’t be deleting the app this time.

How will I know how ‘Strap’ and sex dungeon boy are doing on their quest for love?

Anyway, Dario told me he’d send me a recipe for cannelloni that I want to try this weekend.

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Thanks to #TinderNightmares for this bounty. Mine were too explicit, or too boring to post. 

The choice is yours

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

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

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

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

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

This was not a plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

The Great Escape

In the last month I have been making a more concerted effort to find a job. A friend of mine pointed out to me that if I actually made an effort and a plan, rather than planning to escape as I always did, maybe I would get where I wanted to.

Fair point.

I am not the most patient person when it comes to my goals. If I haven’t made it work in a month it starts feeling like failure. The panic sets in and I start looking at the international teacher posts on TES, or escort work.

I get desperate.

In comparison, I am far more functional in a foreign country alone, with limited funding and only the clothes in my back pack. After 10 years of travel and living abroad I have grown to have more faith in that version of myself.

The woman stuck in her parent’s house isn’t to be trusted and is a proven flight risk.

After the last four months I needed to get away. Recharge. Try again. I needed Brazil.

My days would start with the view of Mount Corcovado and coffee. I visited The Selaron Stairs, Christ the redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain, and relaxed on Ipanema and Copacabana. In the evenings I would have conversations with friends, grab a drink, have a laugh and make the best of my time in town.

I was pretty proud of how well I had managed on my own, a feeling that I’d forgotten after months of rejection emails and depressing bank statements.

In my short time in Rio I visited Paraty and Ilha Grande. My Portañol (Spanish/Portuguese mash up)  was getting me through the day and I was able to have conversations where I would normally be taught how to pronounce things, (that r is a killer) or how to swear.

Add to this the fact everyone in Rio seems to be a walking gym advert, and that they advocate for teeny bikinis and no tan lines, then you’ve got a city I can get on board with.

After talking to a few people, I found out that it might be possible to get a teaching job for the new year. So why not move there?

I’ve never had more reason to leave London. Everyone would understand if I gave up. If I went back to Mexico. If I went back to teaching. But things had changed and an escape plan, though great for the short term, would not get me where I needed to be.

On the way to the airport Nelson, my taxi driver, explained the meaning of the word saudade, a word unique to portuguese. He said it was the feeling of missing something you hadn’t felt or experienced in a long time. Like sadness and nostalgia, a longing for something that you didn’t have anymore. Though bittersweet it didn’t always have to be sad.

He then serenaded me with Girl from Ipanema before telling me all the beautiful girls lived in Rio, and I should come back.

I promised that I would when I had a job.