Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Meditation No.1- The Bay

It’s sunrise over the bay. The yellow-white sand stretches out in front of my feet like a blanket to meet the sea. The water is so calm, the waves barely seem to move except for a gentle lapping as each one breaks on the shore. Where the sun is rising on the horizon, its light hits the distant ocean and gleams like heaven: white and gold, then fading through shades of candyfloss pink and swimming pool blue until above my head the last few bright stars twinkle in an indigo sky.
The beach curves away, drawing a sand-coloured moon shape into the blue of the ocean: to the right, reaching out of the water in a naturally formed jetty; to the left, punctured by rocks which eventually cluster together to form a large system of rock pools stretching out into the ocean.
It’s so quiet: the only sound the gentle repetitive lapping of the waves and the glittery rasping breath of the sand as it’s pulled towards the ocean.
Behind me the jungle is yet to wake: palms and giant ferns, rocks, streams, moss; greener than grass; damp and warm.
I sit on the cool sand. I watch. I wait.

Gimmee a break!

I'd like to make some revisions to my last blog based on recent encounters.

I wrote before that 'I see happy people and I see sad people and I see that we don't see it in ourselves... It's so easy to see from an outside perspective, and so difficult from a personal one.' But I've realised just in the last few days, that what I wrote isn't exactly true. I think some people just don't see it at all: in themselves or in others.

Isn't that a damn shame? I suppose I never really analysed compassion in this way before, but it must start with simply understanding that a person is in a certain mood,probably brought on by something going on in their lives. And I guess that a lot of people just don't naturally do that! And that is a shame because things would be a lot easier for people en-mass if we all understood each other's moods!

I came to this conclusion in the last couple of days after a conversation with a friend where they (I expect with the best intention) implied that I have something 'wrong' with me because I have mood swings and because I get down and anxious at times. They commented on one particular incident years back, saying it was proof that my head wasn't quite right.

Now, this person is a good friend and I trust them to look out for me... but hearing these words come from their mouth was a bit of a slap in the face for me and I do not agree with their point of view! What they have failed to take into account is that they are living a happy, successful and fairly stress-free life and I am not! They own their own house, they are in a long-term happy relationship, they have a well paid job that gives them financial security and a daily routine. I don't have any of those things. I am trying to find my way and things are quite difficult. I honestly don't mind admitting that! I'm not happy with where my life is, I am trying to get somewhere I will be happy but I can't just snap my fingers and do that and yes- it does mean that my moods fluctuate and sometimes I am not happy. But that does NOT mean there's something wrong with me.

Also, at the time of the incident my friend spoke of, things in my life were in fact much worse than they are right now: I was in the middle of the breakdown of a relationship with someone I was very much in love with: they were leaving me and not the other way round (anyone who's been through that will know what it does to you!), I was unhappy at work and shortly after I left my job and moved to the other side of the city to escape that life. So to me it seems obvious that it was those upsetting things in my life that were affecting me, NOT a problem with my head!

I use myself as an example here, but I know it is not just me who suffers from this kind of 'misunderstanding' when it comes to mental health. I'm sick of being told to grow a thick skin, to just 'cope' with things, that letting it get to you shows weakness, that you must put it all aside and put on a brave face. Why should we all have to ignore our worries and downplay our sadness for others, particularly our friends? I know we'll never get anywhere if we're constantly melancholly and negative: I know that our moods tend to rub off on others and you can't always be miserable with your friends or they'll start to feel it too. But what I'm saying is it's a shame that people don't always seem to understand that other peoples lives and other people's moods are not the same as their own. If someone seems a little crazy, why can't we all just take a second to see if there's a simple and obvious reason for that rather than branding them as 'unstable' and hoping they'll 'pull themselves together'.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Self help... does it help?

I love to people-watch. I wouldn't call it voyeurism, I don't own a pair of binoculars. But I do constantly observe and note people's behaviour, and I try to make sense of what they do, and then I guess I use my musings to try to make sense of what I do. Or is it the other way round... haven't worked that one out yet...
I see happy people and I see sad people. And I see that they don't see it in themselves.
In general terms, there are people I know who are having it tough right now: overworked, stressed, anxious and lonely. There are other people who are having a whale of a time: in exciting relationships, doing jobs they enjoy, financially comfortable (and I don't mean rolling in it, I just mean they are making more money than they spend on basic living, so that they have a little spare to use on things that make them happy.) And from an outsider's point of view, it isn't exactly rocket science to see why the first group of people are miserable and the second are not.
But do we see it in ourselves? I don't believe we do.
'I'm so hyperactive, I don't know why! It must be that coffee I had 3 days ago!' Exclaims one friend.
'I just don't understand myself. I can't work it out. I don't know what to do.' Another quietly admits.
In simple terms:
a. coffee doesn't give you a three day buzz- you're hyperactive because you're happy, and you're happy because generally speaking, things in your life are great right now
b. it isn't you that's the problem- you don't understand what to do with yourself because you're unhappy, and you're unhappy because your life is stressful and lonely right now.
It's so easy to see from an outside perspective, and so difficult from a personal one. We overcomplicate things. We look for answers and in doing this we miss the obvious.
And time also warps and bends around our moods, and by this I mean that during happy times, it seems to fly by. We are not particularly aware of it passing, except that occasionally we may look over our shoulder and go 'wow, how did I get here... oh please slow down time, I don't want this to end!' During unhappy times, we feel as though we're wading through a metaphorical swamp of time: it slows right down and we are soooo aware of it. Days drag, it seems as though we've been here forever and we cannot imagine an end.
So person b, in the depths of the swamp, looks for a way out. He takes responsibility for his own position. He says 'Only I can get myself out of this mess, what shall I do to make it better?' He analyses his feelings and makes decisions that he believes will improve his mood. He is going to fix himself!
So he goes online, he reads what other people have to say. He speaks to his friends. He comes away with a plethora of tips and lessons in positive thinking and mind-over-matter. He's given a list as long as his arm of books to read, boasting exciting titles like 'Five Steps to Emotional Healing, The Last Self Help Book You Will Ever Need', 'Change Your Life In Seven Days', 'Free Yourself From Anxiety' and 'Fix Your Life'. He puts a posters up that remind him 'whether you think you can't or think you can't, you're right,' 'You may believe that you are responisble for what you do, but not what you think. The truth is that you are responsible for what you think, because it is only at this level that you can excercise choice. What you do comes from what you think' and 'Determination is power' to remind himself that he is in control of his thoughts and his life, and he must work hard every day to get better.
And he does feel better for it. He feels like he's taking steps in the right direction. He feels strong... for a while...
But the question I pose to self helpers and positive thinkers is: can you really change the world around you just by trying to look at it in a positive light? And so many people will say YES a resounding YES YES YES. Good things will only come to you if you believe in them. You must attract positive energy. If you are negative and unhappy, then you will only attract negative energy. You must think positivly, you must make yourself happy.
And to a certain extent, I agree. At least, I agree up to the point where you find yourself frustratedly attempting to be positive whilst blocking out the fact that you've had a horrible day working at something that you're not enjoying but must be done; or that you've got more work to do than is possible in the time available; or that you're still sleeping in an empty bed after years of being single; or that the person you loved simply isn't there any more; or that you've got the best job you've ever had, except your boss treats you like crap; or that you're working your ass off to make not-quite-enough-money-to-live-on; or any number of other things that no amount of positive thinking can change!
I recently read a quote that suggested a person who is unhappy because they've lived their lives according to what they were taught by the people who influenced them as a kid deserves to be unhappy. I suppose the purpose of this quote was to make people realise they must 'do it for themselves'... all very well and good. But there is a flip side of the coin. For a person who (like me) learnt lessons from the people they loved and admired, truly believing it was all for the best, but still found themselves unhappy, the message reads 'you've done it wrong, you shouldn't have listened to them, this is all your fault.'
In the same vein, in reading theories on self help and mind-over-matter, you are giving yourself rules to live by that state 'if you are not happy, it is your own fault.' Maybe it's not your fault! Maybe you are doing nothing wrong. Maybe your life just isn't that great right now!
I'm not saying that it's completely out of your hands. I know there are many situations in which you find yourself unhappy and you will only become happy again by actively doing something to change it. But there are also many situations (usually temporary ones) where you just can't do anything other than ride it out. During these times I think the only 'fix' is to SEE IT and remind yourself of the transitory nature of the situation, and to have hope for the future. Forget 'living in the moment', picture yourself on the other side of it because it is there.
I guess what I'm saying is that we shouldn't be too quick to try and change ourselves, because a lot of the time there's actually nothing wrong with us at all, it's not what's inside our heads but outside them that is unhappy. And if one thing IS certain, it's that things change...

Saturday, 21 January 2012


Do you know anyone on the run from the tax man? I do. It doesn't look like a fun place to be.

This person didn't make any money to speak of in the years they avoided the dreaded tax return, but because they didn't write in and prove this, they are now in the government's debt.

What do you say to someone who has ignored all the letters, all the requests and all the threats; who has paid no attention to the adverts on TV reminding them to complete their tax return; who knows the law and has chosen to ignore it? What do you say to them when the law finally catches up with them and they find themselves spending a large chunk of their existence in fear of being given a dehabilitating fine, or loosing their meagre property to bailiffs, or possibly even being arrested because of their inaction?

I'm almost ashamed to say that my gut reaction is that they should have just done what they were told in the first place. They should have just played the game. No, I'll rephrase that... we are ALL playing the game, whether we opt in or not. You have to play to the 'pre-arranged' rules or you'll only find yourself in trouble sooner or later. They should have played to those rules instead of carrying on their life as if they WEREN'T playing the game.

And that is my reaction because that's what I do. I never really even contemplated why I did it... I just did it because it's what you do. They say you have to pay tax, I pay tax. They say you have to fill in your tax return or we'll fine you, I fill in my tax return. It never seemed to be much of a bother. I mean, yes it was frustrating to loose a large chunk of my tiny earnings to tax, but then that's just what happens, what's always happened. And in the past when I did think about it, I justified it with words like 'NHS' and 'Roads' and 'Rubbish Collection' and 'Firemen' and then it made sense that I had to pay my fair share.

But when this happens to someone you're close to, you start to see these things from a different light. And of course, global economical circumstances are unstable at the moment: it seems the eyes of the entire western world are opening to financial matters, particularly those concerning unfairness. We are (en-mass it appears) beginning to suspect the rules of the game aren't designed for the benefit of the players.

Now, I am not justifying tax dodgers here. My opinion is that that basic prinicpal of paying tax is this: in a world without tax, everyone must look after themselves. In a perfect system, tax is a way of working together for the benefit of everyone. So you look at what a society needs to run to its full and greatest capacity, and in our society that means a health system, transport and roads, correct disposal of waste, accident response systems, food, water, housing, jobs and finally, a fairly chosen group of people working together to take care of everything. And to have those things, in our society, in our culture, in the system we have built up over thousands of years, we require money. So it makes sense that providing we all RECIEVE those things to the extent required to live comfortably, that we should each pay for our share of them.

But I also believe that in a fair system, if we decide that we don't want any of those things, that we want to live a life outside of the group, we should be able to. In this 'opt out' alternative option, we wouldn't have to pay tax. But then we must look after ourselves as I said before: grow our own food and take care of our own surroundings, be responsible for our own healthcare and our own transport and our own work. I understand that this would be a difficult thing to control and that's probably why there is no 'opt out' option: unfortunately I think people would take advantage and claim to opt out whilst still using systems sustained by the tax paying individuals. Nobody should have to support able people who aren't giving their fair share.

AHA! So this is where the light should flicker into life above our heads. In fact it should be glowing so brightly it could blind a person! See what we have here is certain rules for some people, and then other rules for other people. Or in other words, hypocricy. Because my last phrase there is EXACTLY what is happening. And even more painfully, it is those of us who are struggling the most that feel it the most.

The trouble is, it's all invisible to us. That's what makes it so frightening when we start opening our eyes to it. Who are we paying tax to? How much exactly are we paying? What is it actually being spent on? Who is paying it and who isn't? We are all giving away our own property without knowing the answers to these very basic and very FAIR questions. But if you try and get straight answers, it's pretty much bloody impossible! And that is both UNFAIR and SUSPECT.

When you start looking for answers yourself, you start noticing things that don't make sense. Why am I struggling to make ends meet, working my ass off and constantly worrying if I'll be able to pay the rent next month, whilst paying for the Royal Family's servants and chandeliers and horses and carriages? How is that in any way essential to my own comfortable living, or that of the majority of the country? Sorry but fuck off! I need FOOD and a HOME!

Give me a reason why there shouldn't be an easily accessible list of all the things we pay for? Why can't there be a number of mandatory tax payments, for the things I listed above as essential for the comfortable living of our entire society... and then another list of voluntary contributions that those of us who can afford to support can choose to pay for?

I'm not even going to start on the whole subject of tax exemption by large corporations, bankers, and other parties who clearly have quite disgusting excesses of money in the first place. Frankly it's sickening and I don't want to think about it.

Similarly, I'm not going to argue about the instant crimination of anyone who misses their tax payments, other than to provide this example of it happening to me:

I personally found myself in a position where my eyes were opened to the unfairness of the tax system a number of years back when I moved out of my student house after leaving university. Living with a group of 6 other young people, it was normal for bills to be left unpaid just a little longer than they should, simply because getting 7 of us to pay up at the same time was pretty much impossible- not to mention the fact that post constantly went missing, with 7 people all putting it in different places. But we weren't criminals or tax dodgers, we were just innocent (and financially broke) kids.

And then out of the blue we had the letter from HMRC informing us that we had missed our last council tax payment and now had to pay well over a thousand pounds, along with a fine of a hundred pounds, within 7 days or we would be taken to court. Suddenly all 7 of us were criminals. No warning letters, no phone call, no visit, just instant criminals unless we paid up.

We scrimped, we borrowed, we went without everything but the basics for a while so that we could pay the bill and save ourselves from the criminal records, but we still ended up with large black marks on our credit reports and were subsequently referred to bailiffs as soon as ANY bill was late for the next few years. I felt like a frightened first year high school pupil being bullied by a large sixth-former for my dinner money. Except it's much worse than that because it takes you so close to real-life despondency that it feels like one more push till you fall off the edge of the world. Dramatic maybe, but you don't know how it feels to be in that position until you've been there, and this is EXACTLY why it is perverse that the people who write the rules, write rules like these... none of them have EVER been there, and if their duty truly was to the general public they wouldn't do it.

And so while in my gut, I wish my friend had just filled in their damn tax return so they could live without the threat of capture, I am also very proud of them for standing up to the bullies and fighting for what they believe in. They chose not to pay for what they didn't want, and if we all did it together at the same time, think of the change we could make...

Friday, 13 January 2012

Messages from my past

I've got a book where I write down my most vivid/strange/stressful/happiest dreams. I'm not sure why, I just like to remember them, a bit like re-watching a movie!
The book didn't start out as a dream diary, it started it's life as a blank canvas for my random thoughts and rambling at a point in my life where I really began to comtemplate the world I lived in.
I haven't read back through it in an age, but this morning I just happenned to glance at one of my writings, and I realised that many of the opinions I have now were taking shape during that period of my life.
I felt the need to share, therefore the next 5 or 6 posts are taken directly from passages I wrote when I was around 19-22 years old.

Get your ducks in a row

"It's a piece of advice Dad was given when he was learning to fly, and what he turned to when the plane caught fire and he thought he was going to die.
Deal with one thing at a time. You need to be able to see the big picture, but you also need to deal with the important bits as and when they come.
So now I try to push everything aside in my head and concentrate on one stress at a time. Maybe even write them all down so I can try and completely clear them out of my head until I need to worry about them."

Why I don't believe in a media-driven society

I'll start by simply copying out a passage I wrote when I was 19 and just waking up to the world with adult eyes:

"What Makes the World Go Round?
Sex and money.
Sex and money rule the world and I hate it.
Surely there's more to life. That can't be it. That can't be the meaning of life, surely. The reason for everything- the reason for the universe and water and earth and light and existance- to have sex and make money?
It's a very sad world if that really is it, but I can't help thinking that's about as far as it goes for humans.
I mean, just look at us. Everything in the world leads back to sex or money. Almost all advertising has sex in it somewhere, and the point of advertising is to sell things and make money.
TV: it's all about sex. I was just watching 'Celebrity Love Island.' What a pile of shite, but we watch it in our thousands just to see if some z list celebrity (who is only famous because people would like to sleep with them) gets it on with another z list celebrity.
I don't want to have to bring myself down to this level of existance, where sex and money are all that really count, but how can I avoid it? I've got to make money to survive. And I want to have relationships but it seems that I'm not going to be able to get into anything unless I'm willing to sleep with the bloke before I even know him.
I'm being pressured by a society I don't want to be a part of, but I can't get away from.
I don't want to have to accept that this is all life is about but everything seems to say that it is. Neil was only interested in me when he thought he was going to get sex, and when I didn't give it to him straight away he blanked me. So that's all I've got to offer then? I'm a body to have sex with. And all the talking and touching and getting to know each other, that's just an inconvenience that you have to put up with to get to the sex. 'It would be so much better if you could just skip all that and get straight down to it, but you've got to keep the ladies happy.' I feel like such a toy."

The first thing you need to bear in mind when you read this is that I was having a bit of a shitter when I wrote it! I'm not always this negative about men, as you'll find if you continue to read this blog!
But, saying this, I think the point I make is totally relevant to a media-driven society. The media is a simplified and dramatised mirror of ourselves. It takes cultural stereotypes, picks out the most entertaining and marketable elements of them, and then projects them back at us in a way it is damn near impossible to escape. 
My Hero!!!
What you're left with is the same handful of characters and storylines repeated over and over and over until it's all you can do not to believe them so fully that you judge everybody you meet by what you've seen on TV /in magazines/ through pop music/ etc. Is he the smooth talking womaniser, or the cheeky blokey bloke, or is he the perfect sensitive yet strong hero? Is she the sexy yet innocent victim, the mother figure or the thick skinned, straight talking heroine?
"And if you look just over there, you'll see your dignity disappearing over the horizon"
My point about sex in the media is that every single character you come accross has a sexual stereotype written into them- expected of them. The womaniser will seduce you, bed you and leave you wanting more. The cheeky bloke will see you as a sex object, call you fit and make a bet with his mates that he can get into your knickers by the end of the night. The hero is the only one who will take you seriously- but you usually only find him in stories written specifically for women! And when he does appear in a story written for men, he's always been done wrong by the one woman he ever loved, and is therefore damaged and unavailable. 
Oi oi! Lets av it!
And as for women in the media, the victim will always have men falling at her feet, the mother will never get a shag because she's only there to look after everyone, and the straight talking heroine is so busy taking care of business, she has no interest in, or time for sex.
And so as part of a media society, we start to believe that this is all humanity has to offer when it comes to sex. I had certainly, as I emerged from my teenage years, begun to believe that every man was either a cheeky bloke or a womaniser, and the media DID NOTHING TO HELP. It amplified my concerns. It helped to destroy my sexual confidence and my confidence in society!
As for a money-driven society. Well, do I even need to comment on this? Just turn the TV on and note how many messages are drilled into your skull about things you really-can't-live-without-because-everyone-else-has-got-one-and-they're-so-god-damn-happy! Take a look at the pile of bills that came through the door in the last couple of months... how much tax you had to pay, not just on what you earned but on what you bought with the money you earned and already paid tax on... Just imagine how difficult it would be to decide you weren't going to have money in your life any more- how you would go about opting out of our money-obsessed world. The trouble with the media is that there is NO portrayal of a western world not driven by money, unless you specifically go out looking for it.
I'm actually a little surprised to look back and realise that my opinions of the media-driven society, though quite uneducated and a little rough round the edges, began to emerge when I was still a child, and they haven't changed much since. My life now is about finding peace in a balanced place where I can live my life happily, aware of the media-driven world but watching it from a distance, joining in when I want/need to but letting myself be affected by it as little as possible.
So as a reaction to this passage: no- it is not true that the world runs on sex and money. The media runs on sex and money. And when you find the exit door and join the world on the outside I believe that's when you really start living.

The Meaningful Clear-Out

Written age 20 but still just as relevant now:

" This isn't just tidying. This isn't just getting rid of clutter. This is a ritualistic elimination of the past you are trying to escape. It is an important part of moving on. It is done with a ruthful confidence that can only be brought on by some life-altering experience or change of situation.
Here I am, doing it right now- mercilessly binning drawings, clothes, cards, heartfelt pieces of writing- things I may well regret getting rid of when the dust has settled.
But it is not a negative thing: on the contrary, it feels good. It feels like the old life I was so unhappy with is finally giving way to something new and more exciting. The more I get rid of, the more I can feel the old me vanishing and the new me emerging like a phoenix from the ashes.
We attach so many memories to material things, so that even the most inanimate object can be overloaded with emotional triggers. These things can be hard to let go of, but holding onto them only prolongs the pain and gives us a constant reference point back to those feelings we need to leave behind."

A warning to young romantics

I wrote the following passage shortly after my first major relationship broke down and I ventured out into the world of the singleton with a huge heart, looking for love:

Oh, romance. All that any woman ever wants from a relationship. Do not underestimate its power. It has the power to make a woman melt, or scream, or cry.
But it's a dream that cannot come true. Romance- true romance- is a fairytale. That in itself is a painful thing to come to terms with. I sit here in a perfect romantic setting, with candlelight filling my room and lovely guitar music playing, and I'm realising that all the dreams I had, and still have about 'love' will never come true because life isn't like it is in films and stories and romantic songs.
I so desperately want a man to fall in love with me- to be yearning for me. I want a man to take one look at me and just think I am beautiful.
But that's a pile of shite- blokes minds don't work like that. They just think with their dicks. They don't get 'mesmerised by beauty' so they can't take their eyes off you or get you out of their minds- they just imagine how good it would be to have sex with you."

Oooooh dear.
Bitter pill anyone?
Sorry girls, it's true. Men do think with their dicks. It's physiological: almost every male animal in the entire world does the same. No escaping that. Clearly, at this point in my life I was learning it the hard way. 
Contradictorily however, men do fall head over heels for women. They DO become mesmerised. They DO find that they can't get a woman out of their minds, and it's not just because that woman is a good shag! (Though clearly this does help.) 
But it isn't easy to find a connection with a man that is so strong they will feel this way about you. And this is where my warning message comes in.
At the time I wrote this passage, I wished so hard that someone could have told me about the whole dick-brain thing before I found it out for myself. And so here is my advice to girls new to the dating scene: just be aware of it. Don't be angry about it, don't be afraid of it. If a guy is treating you like shit because you won't let him into your pants after spending a few hours in his company then he is seriously NOT WORTH THE HASSLE. If you've spent a few weeks with him in your pants and he starts treating you like shit then he is NOT WORTH THE HASSLE. And there WILL be guys who do these things. They may even be genuinly nice guys if they weren't being manipulated by the thing in their pants. 
On the flip side- it's best not to use the fantastic power you get as a woman by harnessing the dick-brain-control thing to manipulate men, unless you REALLY know what you're doing and you're OK with pissing men off by saying no, or you're 100% happy to see the thing through. Please dont' be a cock tease.
The thing to remember is that if a guy really likes you for what's inside your head as well as your pants, then (in theory at least) he won't be an absolute shit to you. Or maybe he will but he'll make it right somehow because he actually cares about you.
And if you get it right, there's no need to be bitter about it anyway! When you get it right, you can enjoy the dick-brain thing with your man, maybe even slip in a bit of romance, some guitar music and a few candles. Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more...

Pride and Prejudice

It seems to be a reoccuring theme in my life that after every major relationship break-down, I end up at the cinema with friends. After I broke up with my first love and boyfriend of over four years, I went to see Pride and Prejudice. It stirred up some pretty passionate feelings:
"I think I need to change the record slightly, but I guess at this point in my life I should be allowed to have lots of contemplative thoughts about love.
utterly miserable but still somehow looking perfect...
Yesterday I saw Pride and Prejudice at the cinema. I was falling into the same trap as always when I watched it. I was going 'ahh' and imagining myself in the same position, and thinking about how romantic it was that Mr Darcy loved Lizzie so much, but struggled against it, but in the end was overwhelmed by it.
But then I had to stop myself. I was sitting there in the cinema thinking 'this is ridiculous'
I mean- Lizzie was miserable and in tears. Mr Darcy was miserable and had not only found out that Lizzie didn't love him, but had been shouted at and told in no uncertain tems that she hated him.
In the film it's all romantic, but in real life those sorts of things are fucking horrible. It's not romantic to be in tears all the time. I have been in that situation- so unhappy in love that you can't stop crying almost every day. It is not romantic. And it's not romantic to be head over heels with someone who doesn't like you, because in real life they probably won't change their minds. And also, in real life you wouldn't want somebody you hated to be in love with you. So the person who's doing the unrequited loving has their thoughts and their life consumed by the person they're never going to get, and the person on the other side knows they've got someone in love with them who they really don't want to have anything to do with. It's not romantic, it's a mess.
Anyway, that's one side of it- that in films the unhappy bits are always romantic but in real life they're just horrible.
The other thing I was thinking about was the whole idea of love as it is in films like this one. It's the bee in my bonnet. I hate it that films give you this picture of love that you spend most of your youth in pursute of before realising it's not like that in real life.
The more I think about it, the more I can't believe my naivety and my ideals about love and relationships when I first started to get into it.
How could I have been so blinkered? How could I stumble into it so blindly but so full-throttle? I just pointed myself in the right direction and ran full pelt without stopping to think about what I was doing. I expected to fall in love every time I met a man I liked. I wanted to fall in love so badly, and I didn't understand anything. I didn't get how difficult love actually is to find, or how transitory it can be, or more importantly, that most people aren't actively seeking it like I was. I think I thought everyone entered a relationship hoping it would end in love, whereas actually most relationships seem to be entirely based on a physical attraction and sex to start with, and if there is acutally this wierd human conceptual force called 'love', that kicks in a long way down the line, if the physical attraction holds out but a strong friendship bond (that feeling of clicking) forms as well.
Anyway, getting back to Pride and Prejudice- the reason I believe I rushed off in search of fairytale love is that all I had learnt so far about love, I had learnt from books and films. I had no concept at all of how those stories are manipulated to please their female viewers. I mean- why do men hate romantic films so much?
Because they find them silly and cheesy. Because they don't think about romance in the same way women do. And this is the overriding fact that separates love stories from real love.
In Pride and Prejudice, this cold, hard man who is so in control of his emotions, totally cracks up when he's telling Lizzie he loves her, because he loves her SO much.
Not to mention the fact that if a man did that in real life, you'd think he was a s soppy as a wet blanket!
But for all of my realistic deductions, I still daydream about guys falling head over heels for me, or worshipping me from a distance, or taking me for walks on beaches, or kissing in the pouring rain. I still watch Pride and Prejudice and think 'ahh, if only' and even more stupidly: 'ahhh, one day...'
Then when we got back from watching the film, I was talking to Amy about it and saying how it's never rally like that, and she said she's had love like that before.
Wait a minute...
You're telling me in can be like that?
Now it's got me thinking again. Because as cynical as I am, I want romance so badly, I think I'm willing to believe something like that if someone tells me it's true. But it's so dangerous. I can't get my hopes up because if I have the slightest hope that love is really this tingly, gushy, romantic comfort blanket it's made out to be in films, then as soon as someone comes along who I really like, my sensible side will shut down and the nonsensical, childlike, naive side of me that wants to believe in love and romance will go into overdrive. And I can't let that happen because then I'll just get hurt.
Crazy bloody female brain. It's so contradictory.
I know the reality of life and love, but I want so badly to believe in the fairytale ideal. Because maybe if I believed in it, then it would happen...
But I can't let myself believe. Something deep inside me tells me to stay cynical for my own good. It feels like a sort of self defence mechanism.
What is going on in my head?"

It's always interesting to glimse back into your head at an earlier stage of life. For me, it helps to remember what I've learnt. It also reminds me that we make mistakes because we are not born with the knowledge we need to live: we learn it as we go through our lives; we piece it together; we experiment; we play. That is comforting. I didn't always, but these days I try to hold in my consciousness the fact that getting things wrong can be a good thing.
Oh yes, I made mistakes in love. Show me the person who hasn't and I will simply snigger and think 'Wow, that must've been one boring love life.' At 20, I was so ashamed that I had started out with such a throw-yourself-in-headfirst outlook on relationships. But now I just see that I was an excited child, and I'm glad I did it. Especially since the other option seems to be to sit back and wait for it to come to you... and in my experience, it doesn't.
Everything was so black and white for me in those days. Well, I say 'those days'... in fact I have only just recently begun to understand the spectrum of life's options. And I guess I had just emerged from a heartbreaking relationship collapse so it's hardly surprising I was a little on the pessimistic side when it came to love.
But I do find it interesting to look back and see how the opinions I have now began to form from what was happenning to me at previous stages of my life. 
At 20, my daydreams were at such odds with the reality of my lovelife, I didn't know how it was possible that the two things could ever aline. Deep in my heart was the hope of fairytale romance, while my head was full of recent and raw memories of pain and disappointment. It seemed that it couldn't be possible to have both- that it HAD to be one or the other, and since my reality at that time was pain and disappointment, it was only the sensible thing to do to put my trust in that.
The sheer surprise that my friend told me fairytale love was possible! I was so reluctant to believe her. So afraid to believe her!
And now... having lived a further eight years and gone through a handful of relationships in that time... now how do I feel about it?
I still don't know. Will I ever know? All I can say is that I believe in the spectrum of life: that it is possible to have perfect fairytale romance- though I would imagine it happens in bursts and would never expect a happy-ever-after. I also disagree with my 20 year old self on the subject of romantic men. I do now believe that men are fond of a bit of romance with a woman they truly admire (they just hate to admit or even think about it until they're there in that headspace, hence men hating romantic movies!) What I don't know is if everyone gets to experience it. 
There appears to be 3 main types of love: a sexual attraction that eventually leads to friendship; a friendship that eventually leads to a sexual attraction; and finally the little gem (think yourself DAMN lucky if you get to experience this one) 'love at first sight,' when friendship and sexual attraction collide at once upon meeting. There are also relationships where one piece is missing- ie a sexual relationship where one or maybe even both partners feel no frienship bond, or a deeply strong friendship with no sexual attraction. And unfortunately, I personally don't believe either of these relationships can stand the test of time. 
So now I live in hope that at some point in the not too distant future, I will find one of the three previous options, and that there will be some fairytale romance in it: maybe we'll kiss in the rain, maybe he'll write a song for me (not too soppy, mind)... I'm not saying I want Pride and Prejudice style romance, with all it's unrequited love, heartbreak and changing opinions... I stick to what I wrote then about that kind of malarky (ie- that is not romantic that is just painful) but still... 'ahhh, one day...'

Time to Think

Have you ever sat and written down every thought that comes into your head? A friend of mine did it as part of a psycology lesson at 6th form college. I never did find out what the point of it was, but when I was 20, just after leaving university, when my life was still just a jumble of friends, alcohol, drugs and temp-work, I decided to have a go at it. This is what I wrote:
" It's nine o'clock. I've just had a bath, a glass of blackcurrant squash with rum, and a spliff. Now I'm sitting on the unfolded sofa bed, watching football with my housemates, probably smoking a bit more.
These are my thoughts:
My head's a bit funny. I want something but I'm not sure what it is. I never enjoy getting stoned as much as I think I'm going to.
I should be thinking more than I am. Why can you never think of anything when you feel like you should.
Rebecca did this in pyscology or something at sixth form. I wonder if it's the normal thing- to start off thinking about thinking before your mind sort of lets go and you start thinking about more normal things.
It's a bit like when I go to bed at night and try to think of things to go to sleep to. I always start of thinking about thinking- trying really hard to think of things to think about! But then as I drift off I always get really into what I'm thinking about, so that I don't even realise that I'm thinking.
We did about this in the first year with my favourite tutor. God what was his name? Jim maybe? Yeah I think it was Jim.
Anyway- he was telling us about lateral thinking. He loved lateral thinking. I think that was one of the reasons I liked him so much- it was that level of intelligence.
He said what your mind goes through as you fall asleep- the patterns and the amount of your brain you use- and I think the fact was that your brain works most just before you fall asleep. It's amazing to think really.
Susan was talking today about how time goes at different speeds- no sorry- you perceive time going at different speeds, depending on things like adrenaline and your inner clock. I said something about how we think of time as such a set thing and Kim said 'Well according to the laws of physics, it is.' But, god, I don't know- am I being thick? Surely time is just things going by? And things go by at the same rate, however quickly they seem to be going by for us. So if they seem to go by quicker, or slower than they actually are, doesn't that mean that time changes depending on our perception of it?
So time is no more than your perception of it? It can be different for everyone? I'm sure physics would immediately prove that I'm totally wrong. I hate not knowing or understanding the answers.
If time is just things going by- what happens to time if nothing happens? In a vacuum- or more than that- in less than a vacuum (can that be? Black holes? Less than a vacuum? Infinite mass? How can that happen? AAARRRGGG!) What happens to time? If there is nothing there- nothing at all- nothing happenning, nothing going by- then how can there be time?
I should read up about this. I don't know anything about it at all. All these thoughts are just my thoughts.
I'm hungry. At least I think I am. I don't like thinking I'm hungry when I don't think I should be. I feel greedy. I think I'm going to put on weight.
I think I want toast. Mmmm. I think I do. Toast and jam and peanut butter."