Vicious Cycle

The only person you can change is yourself

Einstein once said that the definition of madness was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

You can fall into unhealthy patterns with certain people. I always thought if I tried harder, compromised and practiced patience, things would improve.

But people show you what they’re about. Ignore what they say. Mute and watch.

You’re not supposed to call it. You’re not supposed to change. You’re meant to perpetuate the cycle.

My relationship with my parents is a vicious cycle I have often tried to escape from. The stuff that Grimm Fairy tales are made of. I’ve always been quite wary of people and their intentions as a result.

If it was still socially acceptable to dump a daughter in a forest for not agreeing with you, my dad would be all over that, and my mum would blindly second him.

Why it’s like this is a mystery to me. My parents have always seen me as a troublemaker. My mother says it’s because I was a horrible child. Always crying. Having to defend why I cried as a baby was a particular low point.

I talk a lot. I have a fiery temper. I stand up for myself. I sing in the shower.

Not everyone likes that.

I was always pleasantly surprised by people who enjoyed my company. Growing up, being me was something I was told was offensive to others. The friends with ulterior motives, cheating partners, and bullying exes were to be expected, if I believed what my dad had to say.

It was easy to leave home. But cycles aren’t broken by walking away. You find a way to continue them.

If I kept asking people who didn’t value me what I was worth, I would keep on getting the same miserable answer and feeling bad about myself. There were better people to ask.

Saner people too.

I have had nothing but time on my hands in the last few months. Time to sort out my affairs, make plans for the future and readdress relationships I have had that have been one sided, disrespectful and disloyal.

It’s made me happier, albeit a few friends lighter.

There is no winning at home. If I’m not there I’m ungrateful, if I am there I wasn’t welcome in the first place.

You can’t argue with that.

You can put on headphones on and look for jobs abroad, or somewhere else to live.

It’s nice to be supported and liked by your parents. But not necessary.

My sanity and happiness, I can’t live without.

 

Main Image courtesy of Gratis Photography.

Know your role

As I stood there watching the young man writhing on the floor, lip locked with a rubber IKEA oven mitt, I wondered what the hell I was doing here.

My friend Abner has been encouraging me to go to auditions, to network, make contacts with script writers. “You’ve got to get out there and follow your dream!” He was right.

Consequently, I’ve been signing up for auditions and taster classes. It’s been something to get me out of the house at weekends. Plus it’s free, which sums up my criteria for entertainment these days.

It’s definitely been entertaining.

At the writer’s workshop, I felt like a moody teenager. I was sat at the back, all dressed in black, screwing up my face every time someone bleated at the opportunity to read their work out.

I was grateful for the pair work. At least then the other person could strain their arm enthusiastically in the air, while I continued to slouch apathetically in my chair and text.

The activity was a silent dialogue, set at a party. Pradeep and I commenced our silent conversation. Needless to say, in real life Pradeep and I would a) Never be found at the same party b) Would never have commenced to converse because I would have been able to see his conversation coming a mile off and hot-tailed it to the bathroom.

Writing classes and workshops are a great place to meet a writing partner; your lobster.

Pradeep was not my lobster.

There weren’t any lobsters. Just people trying to figure out what their ‘love’ was. But maybe loving something wasn’t enough. Nor was Marcela. She gleefully shared her comedy creation, Paul: an extremely fat man good at his job. “Fat isn’t a character flaw. What’s his flaw?”

“He works too hard? But sometimes it’s difficult because… he’s fat!”

“So it’s funny because he’s fat?”

“Yes!”

This went on for a while before we all just gave up.

This would never happen at TGS

The following weekend I was amidst a group of actors. Some of whom found it hard to mask their disdain at the fact I was a tourist. ‘It seemed like fun’ is not what the competition want to hear at an audition.

They want the part.

They will even use a five minute break to try and get it, as I found when I was faced with the ridiculously energetic Eva. Her heart-rendering performance of the day she fell over in the rain went sadly unnoticed by the director. I think I’d asked her if there was a Tesco nearby.

I couldn’t bring myself to participate in the improv. The group of people on the floor fighting over a toilet brush, while one waggled his tongue in and out his heat protected hand, left me speechless.

I have no problems looking like a fool. I just won’t fight other fools to do it.

They really wanted this. I needed to have that ‘willing to pretend to make it with a glove’ type of desperation. But I couldn’t even make eye contact with anyone. Every line I delivered was aimed at someone’s crotch or my own cleavage.

I was their Pradeep. Their Marcela.

My friend got a part in the play, without having to romance homeware. I signed up for the comedy writing class.

I think my first piece will be a drama about a woman trying to write a play about an overweight man trying to make it as an actor.

Maybe IKEA guy could play him. He seems like he would commit to putting on 20 kilos.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Tea and no sympathy

So it’s coming up to two weeks since I upped sticks and made a definitive move back to the UK. Tears were shed, a fond farewell said to Mexico, my second home,  and I promised myself to remain positive and not have a panic attack at the impending prospect of unemployment, a full on relationship and living in my mum and dad’s spare room: a tribute to all the free crap you can get with a weekly supplement, or if you actually sent away the 100 coupons you’d collected. It’s now 5.30am and I can’t sleep. I can never sleep. Not unless I have exhausted my body to the point where I can’t walk anymore and have no other option other than to lie down and pass out. I got a gym membership because I read online that if your brain doesn’t get enough sleep it basically dies and it’s a sad time in a woman’s life when she has to rely on her brain to get her out of the idealistic hole she has dug for herself. But now I worry. I catch myself thinking, “It’s all up to you now brain, don’t fail me now,” only to be swiftly distracted by a 9GAG article, or some philosophical reflection Tyrese has posted. After an hour has passed and I realise I’ve done nothing but catch up on the world’s Facebook, that’s normally when I realise I’m screwed. My dad must see it on my face. It’s normally when he offers me a cuppa. He doesn’t have to say it, I can see it on his face, “Well, this was what you wanted…”

See I couldn’t just be a teacher. No, no, no. It’s not that I thought I was too good for it, or not good enough at it, nor was it so much to do with my whining about today’s kids, although it was a lot more to do with how the government determined what made a decent education and how to measure it. If I were to be honest, it was mainly because I hate being scared of things. I don’t like to be ruled by fear, and throughout my life I have always taken massive leaps towards the things that scare me with the intention of overcoming that fear. Not necessarily becoming successful or dominating the thing I fear (I still jump when I see a massive spider) but able to move past that initial reaction. With what end in mind? Well, I don’t really know. The spiders was an innocent thing, I had read Charlotte’s Web and it had touched me how Charlotte had been so caring and giving. I thought spiders can’t be that bad, and forced myself to see beyond a prejudice. Thinking about it now, the personification of animals may have educated me incorrectly and could lead to my untimely death at the hands of a lion who just can’t wait to be king. My point being that I don’t like to be held back by my fears. One thing I have always wanted to try to do more of has been to write. I wanted to try and focus and write a book, but on the way towards doing that writing anything, blogging, also seemed to be a good idea.  When the move back home seemed certain, I thought, why not change it all up? Forget another year of teaching and incessant complaining. What’s the worst that could happen? No one reads it, or reads it and thinks it’s shit, or trolls me to the point of stalker like obsession leading me to file a report with the police in fear of my life. Ok, I read something about that in the Standard the other day and it struck a nerve and added to my Reasons Not to Write Today list. There has been a lot of reading taking place, also a lot of reposting and liking, not as much writing seems to be happening, but I seem to effectively justify that through mumbled excuses about jet lag, depression and not being able to sleep for fear that the Britain’s Animals posters may spring to life and I may all at once be surrounded by Britain’s loveable ,yet ugly small mammals, birds and reptiles. So here I am at 6 am, wondering what the hell I was thinking.

I don’t feel as comfortable with the whole idea now as I did when faced with piles of exams to mark and a bunch of belligerent teenagers to reprimand. Then I felt the same as I did when I was gathering up spiders in the garden to let live in the house so we could peacefully coexist: filled with confidence and pride at the fact I was facing my fears and thus becoming a better person. Maybe the subsequent screams of my mother and arachnid massacre that followed them should have resonated louder in my mind. Yeah, they did not come out of that well. But my intentions were good. As are my intentions here. I mean, what is the point of life right? Or at least that has been my response to the concerned faces that kept staring back at me when I told them I was going to try writing stuff, you know I can be funny, maybe I can do that, write funny stuff, because you only get one life and what’s the point of life if you’re not trying new things and pushing yourself right? It’s hard not to come across as a douche when you say anything other than, Yes! What is the point of a safe and comfortable existence that you spent two years and ten grand that you don’t have, trying to secure, when you can do something that has no security and could ruin you financially? Reading that back to myself I can detect the underlying sarcasm that I chose to hear as unwavering support. My friends and family have been generally supportive of the change. I was smart enough to get my teaching qualification- that wasn’t going anywhere and was always something that I could fall back on. Not unsupportive, just realistic. Put yourself on the supply teaching list, maybe tutor. The only constant voice of concern has been my mother’s. As I work my way through an interminable pile of ironing, that is pointless, (I have no where to hang the clothes when I am done and end up heaping them on the suitcases I am living out of and ironing everything again) but a respite from the writing I haven’t been doing, my mother keeps giving me job suggestions. Secretary. Civil Servant. Accountant. Cashier at Sainsbury’s. This is when I get on my high horse and tell her I need to focus on my writing, I do not want to be a bloody teller at the Santander. “But what writing?” She’s right. Cue me storming off and eating four mini rolls while I make another cup of tea and stare at a screen for 10 minutes before clicking on a link to the worlds cutest dachshunds.

I don’t like it when I get angry at my mum and dad. I don’t think anyone likes getting into arguments with their parents, but it’s that teenage mentality that you revert to when forced to move back into your parental home. I think the only way to circumvent it is to either never leave or never move back. Nothing they have said is wrong or out of turn, they’re from a different generation, one where being safe, secure and having a steady income trumped the intrinsic values of a job. You didn’t have to love it as long as it put food on the table, kept you clothed and allowed you to start a family. Bloody GCSE Sociology. I wish I never learned the word intrinsic. Fat lot of good it’s done me. I only got a B on the exam and now I yearn for a job that I can feel good about, one that makes me happy. Teaching used to do that, but two years of teaching in the UK killed it. I’d like to think that leaving teaching to write and work in the production of literature isn’t simply a capricious move. That I am getting out of teaching before I become bitter and start taking it out on the kids, because that’s where I could feel it was heading. This change was meant to make me happier, restore some of the value to my work, the pleasure in what I was doing. Now I’m back at home and as moody as I was when I was doing my GCSEs. Great success.

The only reason my mum and dad haven’t kicked me out for being a pain in the arse is the fact I am in what they deem to be, a steady relationship. My moody teenage presence seems to be balanced by the good asian boyfriend I have finally procured after 20 years, a beacon of hope in my parent’s childless vision of my future, where I end up a lesbian, driving them to their graves in shame, or I end up getting fat, acquire a trolly full of cats and living with them forever. There was a point when I was living in Mexico where I did gain some weight and two cats. They had given up all hope of grandchildren, luckily my sister got knocked up and they overlooked the unorthodox method that brought my nephew into their world, and I was able to have another five cat filled years without a concerned phone call. So after steeling themselves for years, imagine their joy when I started dating a lovely man, an Indian man who understands our culture and has been talking about a future together and kids. I thought my dad would pass out. All of a sudden my dad has started ignoring my rants and just smiling at me, as if the only thing he can hear when I open my mouth is Ode to Joy. Any complaint I make is swiftly followed by a question about the well being of my boyfriend, almost as if they are trying to remind themselves of why they are putting up with this. However, the idea that I found someone who would tolerate my big mouth may have been a bit premature. It’s only been two weeks. Give me a proper chance to balls it up. Not to say I haven’t given it the old college try, becoming even more intolerable to my boyfriend now that I have even more time to think about my stupid relationship fears and share them with him drunkenly, than when I was contemplating them over a six hour time difference over Skype. It’s a miracle our relationship survived. I argue that we’re together because of stubbornness. In my opinion, our long distance relationship should have been documented and televised for teens, warning them of the dangers much in the same way we taught them about talking to strangers, unprotected sex and drug use. My boyfriend’s sunny disposition allowed him to forget every little fight we had, much in the way a mother forgets the pain of child birth in order to have more kids. I don’t know how he does it. I get exhausted thinking about the plethora of things we argued about and, to be honest, I find the way with which he can just move on from a fight eerie. Who can just forget it? Are all men like this? It’s been so long since I dated someone I honestly can’t remember. Anyway when things were looking bleak he always found a reason to make it work, to stick it out until the end. The distance was always to blame. The common enemy. Not incompatibility, or differing personalities or irreconcilable differences. Things would be better once we were closer. I made promises to myself. I needed to invest myself more, come back home, try harder and things would be okay. What we weren’t banking on was it being worse, or me being more of a idiot in person. Unemployment, alcohol, the burgeoning weight of my insecurities, over my career, my relationship, moving out and the prospect of moving in with my boyfriend when I’ve maybe got enough money in the bank to maybe last me another month, is terrifying and makes me a complete and utter fucktard. My boyfriend found this out last night when I ruined dinner with my inane list of insecurities and negativity. Well, in all fairness he seems to have been finding this out over the past year, but it culminated at dinner when I decided to keep talking out of my arse, which lead to a very uncomfortable evening at the cinema, where we sat in silence and he fell asleep (he actually has a job and gets a bit tired when I unload all this bullshit on him) before going home without saying goodbye. On the journey back home alone, I did wonder once again, what the hell was I thinking. I seemed to be ruining everything. Nothing was working out the way I wanted it to.  It was so much easier whiling the time away as a teacher abroad. Ignorance was a sun-kissed, beach paradise, where drinks were dirt cheap and renting wasn’t as stupid a long term option as it seemed in the UK. I could have slapped myself when the thought popped into my head. Always running away. Wanting to give up. Expecting too much. Talking myself out of my decisions. Scrutinising them into oblivion. It was clear the fear had not been erased. I had merely spread spiders all over the dining room table again and was looking on in horror, just as I did when my mother annihilated them all with a newspaper. Only it wasn’t her this time, it was me: Fucktard.

There has been a lot of change taking place, maybe I made this more challenging than it needed to be; living with my parents, trying to start a new career at 35, with little to no savings and the prospect of moving in with my relatively new boyfriend, who I spent the last year, and the last two weeks fighting like cat and dog with and expecting myself to be ok with all these changes straight away. Maybe I’ve been expecting too much from it all. I’ve never been patient. I couldn’t gradually get over my fear of spiders, or heights, or water. I had to throw myself into the midst of all of it, gather them up by the bucket full, climb a mountain, throw myself into the ocean. They all worked to give the impression of not being scared, but the fear still resides there. My heartbeat still races when I plunge into the sea, or when I am half way up a mountain face. I still find it hard to breathe every time I becomes us, or we in a conversation, and whenever I think that I have to be able to do this, write, all the time and be interesting, or witty or engaging, my heart stops. So is it really worth it? Taking so many risks, staring into the face of your fears and trying to overcome them? Maybe my parents are right, playing it safe never gave anyone a heart attack, or had you living out of suitcases, or considering sex line work for pub money. I’m too tired right now to know for sure, it’s 9am and the builders have arrived. So I will make another cup of tea and stop feeling sorry for myself. It’s my bed whether I choose to sleep in it or not.