Friday, 27 September 2013

Nothing Else But Words

Can you tell I favour a particular brand at all?
I was tidying my desk the other day (I know-shocking!) and as I was doing so I kept finding notebook after notebook. Some of them are full, some of them are nearly empty, and most of them are in varying states somewhere in the middle. And the thing is I can't throw them away, even the full ones, because they're full of wonderfully personal things that were pertinent to my life at some point, even if they are no longer.I just can't bring myself to casually throw out my thoughts, my words, that I've crafted into something with love and emotion and care-it feels a bit wrong to just chuck them in the bin.

Those notebooks are more like diaries to me, I suppose-if you flicked through any one of them you'd see a slice of my life at the time-a blog post, a poem, a half drafted letter, a to do list. I've never really been any good at keeping a proper diary-finding time at the end of every day to write about what I did always seemed tedious and boring to me, and more often than not the entries ended up dull and uninteresting. Between the pages of these notebooks, though, are little slivers of my feelings trapped on a page forever. If a total stranger happened upon them and read through some of them, they'd get a real impression of me, as if they'd just opened up my head and peered inside.

I've fallen into the habit of taking a notebook and pen everywhere I go so that I can write stuff down if inspiration strikes me-because too many times I have either had to buy one afresh or lost the idea completely without one. Another lives next to my bed so that I don't have to go too far to write down those weird-and-yet-completely-amazing flashes of inspiration your brain gives you whilst you are trying to fall asleep. I've always been some sort of 'writer'-whether that be stories that get started and never finished, angsty poems during my teens, letters to people that (more often than not) never got sent, and more recently blog posts which for the most part make their way on here in one form or another. I actually find it's a really good way to collect my thoughts-write things as if I was writing them to be read, even if I have no intention of that ever being the case. I just don't feel like I can throw these pieces of myself away-I've still got (somewhere) a notebook full of heartbroken letters that I wrote to my very first boyfriend almost 8 years ago, which I don't think anyone's ever clapped eyes on but myself. Even now, in this very notebook that I am writing this blog post in, there are things that I've never shared with anyone, pieces that will probably never become actual posts because they expose me rather too much, emotionally, and I'd always rather say too little than too much. It's not necessarily that I don't want people to read them, but I'm not offering them up for public scrutiny, let's put it that way.

I think it's basically that, for me at least, these notebooks are little pieces of myself, memories pressed between the pages as if they were pretty autumn leaves-and when I flick through the older ones I can still feel a sense of those feelings that are trapped there in black and white. I'm quite sure that I will end up with a shelf full of old notebooks when I am older, dusty from under-use and yellowing with age. But I will I throw them out even then? Not a chance. These pages hold my words, my thoughts, my mind and sometimes my heart. How could I get rid of that?


The title is taken from this quote, attributed to John Locke: "So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with."

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

'Cat' is definitely valid in the scrabble dictionary, right?
A couple of weeks back, we had to take my cat to the vets to have him put down because he'd basically got too old to function properly any more. Don't worry, this isn't going to be a letter telling him how much I'll miss him kind-of-post (I've seen a fair few of these in my time), because 1) He was a cat and therefore was pretty unlikely to read a letter anyway and 2) I can't help but feel like these sort of posts can be a little ridiculous-full of emotion and grief and heartache and, to be honest, I don't really understand.

We got Midnight (aforementioned cat) when I was 6 or 7 so he was a pretty grand age for a moggy, and was showing it. He was half blind, probably deaf and for the past year or so had been becoming more and more decrepit looking as he stopped looking after himself properly-I have no doubts that this was the right thing to do for him.
It's slightly weird to think that he'd been around for 2/3 of my life though-he'd met all of my boyfriends and a lot of my friends,  and left lasting impressions (and by impressions I mean scars!) on many of them, as well as all of my family. He'd put up with horrible children poking and prodding and chasing him for the last few years with a remarkable level of tolerance to say that he'd never really had the nicest temperament and was just as likely to gouge chunks out of your arm as he was to curl up on your knee. He was basically the grumpiest cat in the world, but he was well loved 'til the end. But that's it really. I mean he was just a cat. I don't know if I'm just particularly pragmatic about these things or particularly heartless but I'm really not too sad that he's gone. I mean sure, I keep seeing bundles of dark-coloured-somethings and thinking it's him curled up somewhere until I remember that it's not, and yes, that makes me a bit sad but I'm not heartbroken by it, I'm not all emotional, I'm not grieving. My Dad cried at the vets a few times but my eyes were dry-I felt a little choked up as it happened but otherwise I'm fine about it, really. At the end of the day, he was a pet, not a person-I dunno, it just feels strange to me that people can get so tied up in grieving for an animal. We were asked if we wanted to cremate him, which seemed really ridiculous to me. It's a cat.

It did make me think though-this is the first time I have ever really experienced death on a personal level. I've been lucky enough to get to 23 years old and still have three living grandparents-which I know is something that not everyone is able to claim. My other Grandad died when I was 6 or 7, when I was too young to really care too much. I've never been to a funeral, even, and touch wood I won't have to for a little while longer yet. My grandparents are no longer in the greatest of health, and they, like the cat, are starting to look a little run down, but they're still here-for now. That's what I've really learned from this-that I should thank my lucky stars that the I've never known grief, that the only death I've ever experienced was that of my cat. And I know that this won't last forever, that one day I'll know the sadness of someone I love dying, but I will find a way to deal with that when the time comes. For now I'm just appreciating how lucky I am that all the people I care about are still here, for however much longer that will last.

My cat had a good run and was well loved and looked after, and had a painless end, and really, I can only hope that when the time comes I can say the same for me and the people I love.


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Walking On The Edge

[Source-Open Clip Art Library]
I am not, by nature, an especially spontaneous person. I wish I was-I love the idea of just packing up and taking a random holiday to somewhere you've just picked off a map with no forethought, but that's not the way I work. I like to know ahead of time what's going on in my life and fill my diary up with plans. There's just some part of me that doesn't like the idea of not being completely aware and in control of an aspect of my life like that-which is weird because I wouldn't describe myself as a control freak, really. It's like I've always liked the idea of someone arranging a surprise party for me but I know realistically it wouldn't be possible because I'm too much of a planner-there's no way that if there was an important event in my life I wouldn't have already arranged something for it. Much as I love the idea, I don't think it could ever work, sadly.
It's not like I won't happily take part in spontaneous activities if I'm invited to them because that can be exciting and fun but I won't ever be the organiser of one because I like to know what I am doing too far in advance/in too much detail. It's not ever been a problem for me though, most of my friends are contented to let me overplan excessively ahead of time (I planned my July birthday celebrations in May this year, although I knew what I wanted to do from about February, for instance), and just generally rib me a little for being a bit daft because at the same time I'm rather un-organised in every other aspect of my life.

I've only had reason to think about it recently though, now that I'm dating someone who is basically the exact opposite of me-someone who almost lives his life on a whim. This is a person who regularly goes to stay in London for days at a time with nothing specific to do at all, someone who is contented purely with the idea of doing 'something' rather than turning that 'something' into anything specific. It amused me that even at my most "spontaneous" (deciding to go up to the Edinburgh Fringe only 4 days before actually going), I still managed to draft an hour by hour plan of what I was going to see, plus grid references so I could easily find them on my map whereas he woke up in the morning and pretty much went to see whatever shows his feet took him to. I'm not criticising this at all-I'm a little in awe of people who live their lives this way because I don't think my brain would function like that ever.
Trying to put the two styles of thinking together though is interesting sometimes because I can't help but feel a little bossy, a little like I'm making every decision and he's just going along with it for an easy life. Or else that I am being annoying by trying to plan everything so that I can have a fix in my head of our plans whereas he would rather just sit back and let things happen as and when they will. I dunno.

I'd love to be more like him though-to pack lightly when I'm only going away for a couple of days, to try not to foresee/counteract every possibility, to be content to go with the flow a little more often, without needing to pre-schedule my life in advance. To live dangerously sometimes, to do things without thinking, to take what happens to me without worrying about the what-ifs and maybes-but it seems so alien to my brain. Maybe it all comes from him being a laid back, chilled out Australian type, and me being a more neurotic, uptight British type. I'm hoping I can learn though, even if it's only just for the little things-because I'm still in love with the idea of spontaneity, of acting on whims and impulses, of going where your feet take you. And, ironically, it's something I'll have to work at because I will have to quell my natural instincts to plan everything out beforehand, resist the urge to ask 'what do you want to do next week?' and put my diary away for a bit. But it can't be a bad thing to try, really, can it, because everyone needs to let go every once in a while, right?
I'm going to try to try new things unhesitatingly, I'm going to try and say yes instead of no every so often, I'm going to try to plan a little less and live in the moment a little more.
I'm going to try walking on the edge for a bit, without wondering if I'll fall.