listening and feeling


hey, y'all.
Its a reasonably slow Friday morning. I've got my coffee and my granola and my tutorial isn't until 9 (despite unintentionally waking up at 6:15) so I've finally got some time.
This term has been dominated by introspective reflection, partly because its been tough and chaotic, so we've been helping each other out a lot.
But also because I tried counselling (was a bit shit (very shit)) and am doing this training 'ting which, through 24 hrs of experiential practice basically helps you to be a good listener, get people to talk about their problems etc.

So i've thought a lot about myself and feelings, and how you can best communicate them. Its been quite exposing but very rewarding and whilst it has revealed a lot of problems, its made me want to (and realise I am able to) find solutions.
Here are some things I've learned.

To listen to myself. I am trying so so so hard to do this, to listen to my needs and my body and act accordingly. Rather than brushing off the anxious feeling, or getting angry at myself for feeling like it, recognising it and thinking about what I could do to ease the feeling in that moment.
That no feelings are inherently good, and no feelings are inherently bad, they are just feelings. All feelings are valid.
That just listening really is the best thing you can do. Sitting and being there and they might tell you and they might not, but allowing the space and the time is fundamental.
And that silence is also important. That sometimes that is where people find the courage to open up.
That 'feeling level' questions are so so so soothing, so much better than why or assumptions. How did it make you feel, tell me more about how you felt then.
That having someone present and attentive but entirely non-judgmental, listening and summarising, is so safe and so calm.
That so much of what I do stems from a lack of self worth. That I'm not good enough to be here, not working hard enough, not funny enough, that my friends don't really like me.
But that these thoughts aren't true and they aren't helpful. That I need to acknowledge them and then distance myself from them. That by feeding them, they will only get worse.
That vulnerability and discomfort is scary, but its also the heart of connection. That only when we embrace the uncertainty and the chaos can we begin to find peace.
That 3 hours a week to calmly check in with yourself, with supporting, caring, open people, is a privilege and it is so grounding to recognise how you feel now, and how you felt then.
To be assertive, for yourself and for others. Don't give over more than you can and say confidently but without accusation how you feel and what you want to change.
To be kind to yourself, in every capacity.
That the strongest friendships are built on heartbreak and sadness, by listening to each other and opening up.

I feel like I've learned a lot more than just this, but here are some questions you can ask yourself and some things I have appreciated.
What would you say to someone else in this situation? What would a friend say?
Are things getting out of proportion in my head (yes, yes always yes)?
What could I do that would help me feel better right now?
Am I focussing on the worst scenario? What would be more realistic?
Am I putting more pressure on myself/setting unachievable expectations?
How do you feel? Always how do you feel? 
And this video about vulnerability.
And this insta account (@werenotreallystrangers), but more specifically this post.

Its now Wednesday and I've done little work and been v ill. Being ill here is horrible and tutors aren't always the most sympathetic, but I'm trying to be kind to myself and not overdo it (when I read the start of this post (that I unintentionally woke up at 6:15 after going to bed at 12) I realise why I am ill)).
And let me tell you, distancing yourself from your emotions is hard. But its a learning curve!
This week has been remarkably unsocial (i.e. I haven't been to the pub since Friday), but I'm teaching myself that life doesn't fall apart if I have 5 consecutive nights in. In fact, it might get better. And today I abandoned the library and went for a walk in the parks, which felt liberating and necessary.

How are you all feeling? Take some time to think about it.

just some thoughts and words

These past few weeks have been a lot, and I mean a lot. I won't bore you but I have had more visitors, done more work, slept less and stopped less than I ever thought possible. Its been good and bad, but mostly good. There's been a lot of difficult but necessary introspection, quite a few nights at the pub, a lot of friends, some tears and some kind of hard conversations. 
Here are some highlights, or just some happenings. And some sun. 






Today was sunny, and it felt like spring. I think its helping to lift my blue mood. I played netball, laughed a lot and took a day off.
Here are some things that have been helping me, through days that can feel challenging and moments that feel overwhelmingly anxious. 

Buying daffodils, for my windowsill.
Talking to people about it.
Being hugged.
Listening to rain sounds as I fall asleep.
Lavender pillow spray.
Taking a day off. 
Cafes to work, because sometimes libraries are too much. 
This working playlist, and this one. 
Taking photos to fill up my empty camera roll.
A post-crying hot shower. 
Remembering it hasn't always been like this. 
Plans, and coffees, and seeing different friends. 
Giving myself some leeway with my work; handing in an essay late, only doing half a reading list, understanding that 3 essays a week is unachievable.

Its not that these things have cured me, or stopped the incessant butterflies in my stomach or the feeling of loneliness, despite being surrounded by friends, but it has eased it a little.
Tonight we're having a dinner party, and tomorrow the grind starts again. 
Peace nd love to u all, stay strong. 

january

Its me, I'm back and what a time I've had.
January has been a lot, but its always a dark and cold month, and there has been a lot of light.


The best bits:
Lying in my friends room, on mattresses pulled onto the floor, laughing in a tangled mess.
Sitting in the sun on the banks of the river in Toulouse, with 2 very dear friends.
Watching Bridget Jones with the same 2 friends, and listening to mindfulness as we fell asleep.
Proving my brain wrong and getting help.
Numerous trips to the pub, and laughs and debates.
A long run, and the gradual realisation that its for the endorphins and the freedom, not the control
Our feminist society's first debating night of term and seeing all my friends.
Sitting in the gladstone link reading Procopius and thinking how much I love my degree
An amazing tutorial at the top of a winding staircase, in a room with slanted eaves and books in every language being pulled out and shown to me in a reference I didn't understand.
A drag night that was every kind of messy.
A walk in uni parks.
Working in cafes.
Daffodils on my windowsill.
A dinner party with my bffs.
Laughing 'till my stomach hurts.
Hearing my best friend sing through the walls.

And there's probably been a lot more, but I broke my phone and lost my photos. Photos are now my only record of events and happenings. I've stopped doing my line a day diary because, after 4 years, it felt depressing to remember what happened when I was 16. No one needs that.

Things I am looking forward to:
Some spring sun in Oxford.
Running in the meadows and not on the dark streets.
A disco night.
My mum visiting on friday.
2 weeks in Jordan at the end of this term, with some of my favourite friends.
More nights dancing, and evenings in the pub, and coffees and walks.

Life is busy, and I am relentlessly trying to make it busier. One day I will learn to stop. But its fulfilling, I am learning to listen better and to support others, I am helping to create a dynamic network of empowered and feminist women* (and men*), I am reading and learning and loving it.

I hope you're all well and January was okay. Today I have a 2 hour class on Procopius' Buildings (luckily I don't have to present so I'll just take notes), my dad is visiting and I've got feminist drinking/debating tonight. I also need to read for my multiple essays, eek!

musings #8





this mood board makes my skin ache to lie in the sun and swim in the sea and laugh with my friends in the open air. Life is rarely as pure and ethereal as these pictures suggest, but spontaneous summer days with good company, books and laughter really can be. I want to drink in the warmth, the orange hues and the light. I want to wear shorts and swan around French cafes with my crocheted bag, taste the salt on my skin, drink coffee and wine with no concern for tomorrow, fuckin' arrange flowers with my cat. Long story short, I don't want to be revising and I don't want it to be January.

Its too late, considering the mountain of work I have to do tomorrow, but I finally feel like I can write, and that is a feeling I have been pining over. I've just got back from seeing Little Women and not to bore you but it is insane and I cried endlessly and I just don't cry at films.  And I went to see it with my mum and my sister and that, understandably, made me cry more.
Lets keep it real, the past few days (?) weeks (?) month (?) have been a bit rough and my anxiety/overthinking-ness has got the better of me. Which I hate, and which feels alien. And it doesn't feel that okay, and let's also be real: I am apprehensive about going back to Oxford feeling like this because its a sensation akin to the claustrophobia of homesickness. I.e. I need to be as close to my mum as possible. And yes, I'm 20 and yes, I still feel like this. But I really am concerned how I will feel in an intense chaotic bubble 300 miles from home, when I just want to cry and have my hair stroked.
But it's okay(ish), we've made moves towards progress and I am trying to speak about things and look after myself a little better. The state of the world is freaking me out, and I wrote an angry and  indignant post about how helpless it felt, but it didn't do much to cure the feelings.

In this messy and chaotic and busy but empty few weeks I have:

Felt: everything and nothing. Like I couldn't leave my bed I was so scared, happiness and comfort at seeing my best friend, a sore stomach from laughter, love, the cold wind on my face, a sense of coming home, restfulness, the power of being alive and active, despondence and fear for our nation, for the world, the ache of anxiety through my shoulders

Read: Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams), The Children Act (Ian McEwan), Let it snow (Sue Moorcroft), Love is Blind (William Boyd), and a lot of 6th century texts about war and prophets. Stay tuned for reviews on the former.

Watched: Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (bit meh, no Jane the Virgin thats for sure), Killing Eve (again), Little Women (love!), Sex Explained (on Netflix, rlly interesting!)

Listened to: my top 3 working songs at the moment are: John Tavener: Leroy Kyrie, Thomas Tallis: If Ye Love Me, and Chief: Goodnight (yeh, the last one is a very different vibe, but I'm getting a bit sick of choral)

Used: (couldn't think of a better verb, but I just mean some good new eco tings) a bar of soap that makes my room smell calming, bamboo pants that make me feel breathable (??) nd my new Lucy and Yak trousers that make me look like a carrot but feel like a queen.

Dreamed of: Seeing friends in Toulouse at the weekend, the sun on my face, potential summer travels, a little more time, some calm in my mind

Looking forward to: partying, dancing, beautiful libraries, golden sandstone, planning said summer travels, trains to read on, some TV actually ! (Sex Education, Normal People, Killing Eve)

Loved: my mum unreal amounts, my friends for letting me cry and hide in my room for much of New Year, long walks, Christmas cake, the fire, vodka lime sodas with friends, @charliemackesy for drawing my feelings

Hoped to: feel like myself some time soon

And finally. My queen, @ambivalently yours, allowing me to process and understand, always.

source
I was ready to face it today. And I did, and it was terrifying. But nothing bad happened. And now we can breathe and sleep.

Peace and love to u all, January is a rough month and ur thriving.

the new year

I've decided I actually don't much like yearly round ups, let alone decade roundups.
How could I process a decade I started in primary school in 1000 words. Bullshit. 
But 2019 is also over (didn't u know!) and its been a lot, so happy and exhilarating, but a lot. I'm full and tired, ready for more and ready to sleep. But life goes on. 
I'm writing this at my desk in Oxford, with coffee and a sunny view. I'm avoiding reading Procopius, because I'm here to have fun. Celebrate a new decade (lol), see some of my best friends. Not to work. 


I do want to think about what has happened, and what is to happen. A year of libraries, sunsets, runs, dancing and crying. A year of stimulation and interest and challenge, but in the best ways. A year of happiness and contentment, good friends but also some weird headspaces and thoughts and places. A year of stability and anxiety, control and freedom. 
As we approach a new decade, there are some things I am terrified about. 
I'm scared about getting older, for the responsibility and seriousness it brings. Ending uni, having to face emptiness and lack of direction again, and feel lost and small and not know where I'm going. 
The prospect of not knowing where I'm going.
Not wanting to leave home for good, because its warm and its safe and I can pretend, just for a day, to be a child again. 
The possibility that an empty year can bring, the 'bad stuff' that could happen, that I relentlessly feel I cannot weather.
But there are also some things I am excited for: 
The knowledge of a full year of fulfilment and stimulation, in a place I know I am happy. New things and new people, new places and new opportunities. Spring in the meadows and summer evenings. Long walks and phone calls with my mum. Evenings with friends and evenings alone, collaging and drinking tea. Lying in the sun reading my book, and finding the space I reached in July of pure and utter peace. Perhaps I'm really just excited about summer. 

There are also some lessons I want to learn in the next year, and some things I want to do.
I want to learn resilience, so the irrational potential for hardship doesn't keep me awake at night.
I want to free myself from the sometimes obsessive control that has become a bit too much.
Run a half marathon. 
Spend more time on my own, and be more introspective.
Write, and more than just teary excerpts in my journal.
Continue on the eco trajectory: find a zero-waste shop in Oxford, fly far less, continue to abandon fast fashion and consumerism, even when I'm stressed or sad. 
Learn how to sleep a bit more, and look after myself a bit better.
Learn how to say no to other people's problems, if they're too much or if there's no one supporting me.
Not get so stressed about friendship, understand that everyone does it differently and that's okay.
Give myself empty time, because its terrifying and nauseating but in the emptiness I might find myself 
Try and maintain writing and friendships and connections when things are stressful and busy, but also remember it is a two-way dynamic 
Join an orchestra
Be so much softer on myself because life is hard and you're making it harder
Continue to laugh and feel free and relish in happiness 
Cook in bulk and freeze it because, despite what my brain tells me, it is quicker 


**
So there we have it. 2020 brings stability and opportunity, the known and the unknown. For some reason, I really want to go home and cry, which is an emotion I haven't felt in a very long time. But, rather than overanalyse it I'll just let it be. 
What are you all hoping for for the new year? 

it was the worst of times, it was the worst of times

It was the worst of times, it was the worst of times.



All across the country, there was mystery and rejoicing. 
All across the country, what had happened whipped about by itself as if a live electric wire had snapped of a pylon in a storm and was whipping about in the air above the trees, the roofs, the traffic. 
All across the country, people felt it was the wrong thing. All across the country, people felt it was the right thing. All across the country, people felt they'd really lost. All across the country, people felt they'd really won. All across the country people felt they'd done the right thing and other people had done the wrong thing. 

The above comes from Ali Smith's 'Autumn', not a book I overly like but a passage written after the referendum that aptly describes Friday's election result.
I am angry. And scared, and feel helpless and let down. My voice feels minute and insignificant, as though I am beating against a wall, shouting louder, to no avail. Its almost claustrophobic how helpless I feel.
How did this happen? In my liberal bubble, a bubble that includes almost exclusively Oxford and Newcastle, both labour strong-holds, both young cities, a bubble predominantly composed of the educated, the liberal, the comfortable, the vote should have been a landslide victory to Corbyn.
But that's the problem. The world doesn't exist in that vacuum. It ignores working towns and ex-mining villages and remote communities that feel forgotten or underrepresented or believe that 'getting Brexit done' will be the solution to their problems.
Its not, and it won't be. Not under this government.
I am terrified for the most vulnerable. 'The people's government' does not mean the people's government, no matter what lies and falsities we have been fed. It means a government for the rich and the self-sufficient and the greedy. And people have suffered, are suffering, and will continue to suffer, as long as this continues.

I'm angry at the media, for being fuelled by untouchable billionaires, for feeding lies, at the BBC for its partiality, for scapegoating Corbyn. I'm angry at the electoral system, creaking under the constitutional pressures of too many political changes. I'm angry the rise in homelessness, foodbanks, child poverty and so many other things that will continue to be ignored and obscured.
The past 5 years have been politically exhausting.

But the days rise and fall, life goes on. And in this, we need to find some hope. An opportunity to do something. I am just as lost as anyone else about what can be done. Protesting and marching outside Parliament are effective ways to convey anger, but they can't be accessed by everyone. They also won't reverse the result, won't protect the NHS or ameliorate rates of homelessness.
Instead, these 2 good articles (below) offer a basic message: revitalise community spirit and support. Give back in whatever capacity you can. Pre-election, I went back to the foodbank I volunteer at, and let me tell you, it was a sobering shock to my Oxford-warped vision of the world. But that shock was necessary. These resources will, unfortunately, become more and more important, and so we need to give more. As George Monbiot says, "charity is no substitute for justice", but maybe in this case it will have to be.

'Out of this darkness we must find the will to fight back'
'Don't despair: a practical guide to making a difference'

"So we must step in with a response that starts and ends with ordinary people. None of us need ever wait a moment before choosing to come together, to help others and to build a kinder world.
So we fight. And then we get up and do it all again. Because there's one thing we know – tomorrow can be better"
(this was taken from @chooselove and is reference to refugees, but I think it can be applied to all vulnerable people and social services in the wake of the election)

So, I'm angry and scared. But we shouldn't become complacent and we shouldn't stop.

Create some space in these dark times, look after urselves, and then fight back.

(pic sources: 1) @subliming.jpg 2) here (unfortunately neither an article nor a newspaper I want to endorse) 3) @chooselove 4) @ambivalentlyyours 5) @bettnorris 6) no idea where this is from, perhaps a bit anarchist but in this climate an apt message 7) here 8) here

december

here goes!
I want so desperately to write because I have a lot to say and a lot to think and a lot process, and let me tell you I have tried, but it just hasn't worked.
My friend walked into my room the other day and asked what I'd been doing in the whole hour we'd spent separate, and I replied that I'd stared at my screen trying to write and still nothing would come.
Admittedly, the flaw in this was probably that I was trying so damn hard, but I'd finished my essays and wanted to vent and nothing would materialise.
Maybe its so hard because so much has happened and how can I explain how vivid and intense and overwhelming my life is when I can't even process it. And even when I try to process all these weird thoughts and emotions nothing happens. Fuck, man! I feel like I need to just lie still for a day and feel. 




So now I'm back, in front of the fire, with my cat and my choral music, where I wanted to be when the library was cold and I was tired. It doesn't feel as relieving as I thought it might. I miss my friends and carry on seeing, hearing, thinking things I wish I could gossip to them about over a cuppa. I miss the pub and the back streets and the laughter and in some weird ways the library. I'm not yet relaxed and feel caught in a liminal existence, but I know I need to breathe and ease into it and it will soften.
Today, I went back to the foodbank, which was a sobering (necessary) jolt to my Oxford privilege, and something I want to write about. It made me feel angry, then embarrassed and then helpless, and has confirmed how I will vote on Thursday. I then went back to work, which was a total dichotomy of privilege. It's been a lot.
What else? I read Queenie curled up in bed, on the sofa with my friends, on the train. It was a profound contrast of a light-hearted rom com and the realities of systemic racism/sexism inherent in Britain. Funny but sobering in parts. I also fuckin' adored the ways her friends dealt with her mental health issues and have written them down in my journal for future reference. Would very much recommend for a quick christmas read.
I haven't listened to much, because I lost my headphones and refuse to buy new ones. But I have successfully managed 3 carol concerts of varying qualities and theological commitments, and probably need to reign in the amount of choral music I listen to. I'm 20, not 90.
I've done some other sick things, most of which sound mundane when written down. But for reference, a dinner party, a christmas dinner, nights out, 4pm's in pubs, reading in cafes, almond croissants, mulled wine, walks in the park. Good stuff.
But if your panicking that your life isn't living up to this picture of golden euphoria, don't fret. Mine isn't either. Stress, control, big anxiety about the future are all dominating, along with just generally feeling a bit lost and on edge and burdened by unreciprocated friendship dedication. But hey!
I wanna write a lot this Christmas, even if it is narcissistic and vain, mostly because where else am I going to put it?!
(also, don't worry; I too am rlly bored of these update posts listing the 'fun' things I did whilst also crying; more interesting shit is coming i promise)

happy

Hold up! She's back! and in between the coughing and spluttering and complaining about *how ill I am*, I thought I'd throw some updates.
Today has been the first day, in the entirety of my Oxford life, that I've just lain in bed. And watched RuPaul on repeat. Its actually been kind of lonely and dull and I've been feeling really very sorry for myself (but it has meant I could FaceTime some of my no.1 babes), and even more frustrating because I had an essay due at 4pm. Which I obviously have not handed in. But the tutorial is 1-on-1, so I really can't bullshit about Sufi missionaries. I'm not quite sure how I'll tackle that.
In reality, telling myself to stop has been hard. I have tried to work several times, contemplated walking into college to see my friends, working in a cafe. But I've been told by at least 5 people that I need to stay in bed, and 2 have even banned me from the pub tomorrow night.
It's a bizarre mix of punitive/toxic self-expectations to be pushing, driving, working all the time, and just being really so very happy that I want to embody and breathe the happiness and fun all the time. I want to do everything, every second of every day. This place, these people, and the autumn sun as it ignites the sandstone, and the cold river at 6am, and the frantic, relentless, essays, and the lack of tears because nothing could dampen this happiness.


This is not a very november-esque moodboard, that's for sure.

Some fuckin' brilliant things I've done, eaten, seen, read. Life, ah.

a surprise letter from my friend in Jordan
booking flights to see said friend
a cello concert
a night collaging and drinking g&ts
support for doin' the right thing, taking on the wrong
art galleries and museums, with friends, alone, with family
beautiful blue skies
feminist soc and its success; empowering, supporting, intelligent women*
running because it makes me feel free
just rlly fuckin' good people
the meadows
a day off
my best friend living next door
stimulating, challenging tutorials; essays read+written in 3 days
world history, because it's apparently my ting
granola + peanut butter
letters
feeling really very loved
a rlly good meal i made of dahl nd naan
postcards
not rlly thinking about food, and being grateful for it

But I am also dreaming, just a little, of an evening by the fire, with a home made mince pie, my cat and some wool and gang knitting. She is simultaneously 20-never-stopping-party-popping, and 70, with my knitting and cats.

what's been good for you guys?
I just accidentally opened my notes for the essay I haven't done. And felt a bit sick. I just know it means I'll be behind for next weeks, eek!

(pics are from: @woolandthegang, @yinshadowz (captioned 'there is a universe inside of men <3),  @ashmoleanmuseum, @clemence_gouy,  @komo.sis, @charlotte.ager, @analogbynat, @anne.art,  @bmseventh)