Everything I Know About Love – A Review

I’ve had this book sat on my shelf for a good few months; it came onto my radar when I overheard some female colleagues discussing it. I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Dolly Alderton talks us through her teenage years and her first realisation of boys/men. Instantly I found the content relatable when she discussed MSN Messenger and the way you’d sign out and then back in again to get your crushes attention. I was guilty of this, I was also guilty of having the courage of being hidden behind a computer screen to say to a guy “You’re so cute, I really fancy you!” and then having the instant panic a second after hitting send of being rejected or laughed at so covering my back with a “Omg sorry, my cousin wrote that!” which when I think about it, was the worst excuse ever.

As the book goes on we learn about Dolly’s adult life, her early 20’s, nights out where she drank until the early hours of the morning (and still went to work) and the whirlwind relationships with men. There are moments of the book that are laugh out loud funny and some that really struck a chord with me. Especially when talking about her anxiety and relationship with drink. She looks at the power of female friendship and dissects how, as women; a lot of us tend to put what we think a man wants ahead of what we actually want. It’s these moments that I found myself nodding my head in agreement and feeling so happy to see someone being so open and candid about these things.

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It’s not a book that men should avoid either, Dolly hasn’t written this as some feminist manifesto or celebration of sisterhood, but actually takes ownership that there are no bad men or bad women, just some bad timings, decisions and ways of dealing with things. As she says later on in the book, and I’m paraphrasing here, no break up happens because you did nothing wrong, on some level you were responsible for the relationship breaking down, no matter how small. So don’t lay the blame on the man. You have to take responsibility and courage to look at what you did wrong too.  She also talks about dating in your 30’s (something I had some experience with) and once again I found her words to be incredibly true. Everyone has a history, especially if they’re single in their 30’s! One line particularly jumped out at me.

“If you lose respect for someone, you won’t be able to fall back in love with them.”

This made me think of my ex and our marriage breaking down, but it also made me think of myself. For many years I had no respect for myself and consequently found it hard to love myself and see anything worthy in me. It’s taken time for me to get where I am, and I still have days where I long to be that 17 year old girl with no worries or loss or heartbreak and that unshakable confidence I had at such a young age, but I’m getting there. I’m learning to know who I am, faults and all, and respect who I am, even love who I am. This book is more about friendship and the power of the “mundane” aspects of love that often get overlooked for not being particularly awe inspiring. But they’re actually the moments that mean the most (and the ones you should cherish) they’re the moments I know I long to share with my mum since her passing. The moments that seemed insignificant at the time but actually they were perfect moments between me and her. Dolly puts it more beautifully than I ever could.

“…it also happens when you’re lying on blow-up air beds in a childhood bedroom, sitting in A&E or in the queue for a passport or in a traffic jam. Love is a quiet, reassuring, relaxing, pottering, pedantic, harmonious hum of a thing; something you can easily forget is there, even though its palms are outstretched beneath you in case you fall.”

It’s hard not to read and finish this book without taking stock of your life, thanking the world silently for all the good it gives you and enjoying the sun on your skin. It’s more than a book; it’s a hug and an awakening.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Comment below, happy reading beauts.

G.
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Without Her…

It’s been a long time since I put pen to paper or fingers to keys if you’re feeling pedantic.  But my life has changed so much in the time since I last wrote here.

I took my first trip to America in September with a close friend, who is more like my adopted sister, and we went to Riot Fest in Chicago. It was incredible. I fell in love with that place so much. The skyline’s are like nothing I have ever seen before and it helped give me a lot of clarity and space to think about the things that have happened over the past few years. I came back full of confidence, drive and clear about what I wanted to do and how I was going to make it happen.

But then life dealt me the hardest blow I’ve ever had to suffer. It’s hard for me to write about because it’s all still very clear in my head. In the early hours of Wednesday 3rd October I found my mum on the living room floor, she wasn’t breathing or responding to me saying her name. I don’t know how I did it but I rolled her on her back, cleared her airways and started chest compression’s whilst dialing 999. I had to do this for 5 minutes, whilst the woman helped me count and kept me up to date with where the ambulance was, I felt something crack and panicked but the woman on the other end of the phone said that was normal. And then when they arrived, I was told there was nothing they could do. I begged them to use the defibrillator but they told me it wouldn’t do anything.

It’s hard to say how I felt in that moment. I held my dad’s hand as he took his last breath and left, but I never in a million years thought my mum would die. I never thought she’d leave me. It felt like I was falling but nothing was there to catch me. Everything suddenly seemed so far away and unrealistic but what I felt inside made it very clear that it was very much real. Just hours before we had sat and talked whilst eating our tea. We’d laughed and hugged and now she was gone. I couldn’t and still can’t get my head around it. Losing someone you love is never easy, but to lose her just broke me. She was my best friend, my confidante, my cheerleader…She gave me hope on my darkest days.

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The days following blurred into one long day, of beating myself up that I should have checked on her sooner, I should have tried harder with the CPR. I kept checking my phone waiting for her to text or call me. This has probably been the hardest thing to adjust to. In the 33 years of my life there hadn’t been a day where I hadn’t spoken to my mum either in a text, on the phone or in person. I suddenly realised how alone I was. Don’t get me wrong I have a lovely and amazing brother, who took charge of planning the funeral and I have amazing friends and extended family. But the truth is, when my marriage broke down, my mum and I became a family again. And now she’s gone, I feel like a jigsaw piece that doesn’t really fit in anywhere.

It was hard enough having to take each day but what it made it worse was the fact that I now also found myself potentially homeless. I reached out to my ex who I’d overpaid by £2.5k and asked for the money back or a 10month break so that I could help pay for the funeral and wouldn’t be homeless. But was greeted with a response that just hurt and made me feel worse. My brother and I had to start going through the house and selling what we could to pay for the funeral. None of us really had time to grieve.

Because there was no obvious cause of death, it also meant delays to when my mother could be released from the Coroner and consequently meant that we only had one day to visit my mum at the Chapel of rest. All I could think about all that time was how she was alone and cold and I know she would have hated that. I picked out her favourite jumper and jeans because she liked being cosy and warm. I kissed her on the forehead and stroked her hand and we put some sentimental things in the coffin with her. I hated leaving her there, knowing that would be the last time I would physically see her.

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The funeral was the hardest day I’ve ever had to live through. And I don’t think there are any words in the English language that convey how hard that was. My heart broke saying goodbye to her and I still have moments where I feel like I will wake up and it will all have been some terrible nightmare. I feel lost. I lost so much in a short space of time, my mum, my home and my childhood house. Even now it’s hard to wonder why I wake up each day. A couple of weeks after I had my phone stolen, which had voicemail messages from my mum on it. Luckily, I had photos etc. backed up but I’ve lost all the text messages she sent and the voicemail messages. Another of life’s cruel jokes sent to test me I guess.

Some people say things like “I’m sorry.” Ask how you are or say things they intend to make you feel better like “At least they’re at peace.” Or “She’s with your dad now.” I’m not criticising the people who have said this to me. It’s nice they want to offer words of comfort and send their love. But the truth is…It doesn’t make you feel better, you’re really not ok and there’s no need to say sorry for something you didn’t do or had no control over.

It’s getting closer to Christmas, again a time of year I have spent with my mum with the exception of one and I’m finding it so hard. She’s always been an integral and loving part of this time of year and her presence is going to be missed even more. Since my mum passed, two friends have lost parents. And my heart goes out to them. I won’t say sorry etc. but I will let them know to go through the motions, that there’s no right or wrong way to grieve and that I am here if they need someone to talk to or a distraction. Because that’s the truth.

My life changed so much in the space of a few hours, and I feel the loss of my mama every single second of every single day. So it’s nice sometimes to have someone willing to distract you or treat you normal when your life is anything but normal. I struggle each day and weirdly, even though it’s the thing I long to hear the most, I cannot watch a video of her playing with my niece because hearing her voice breaks me. It’s been a weird month or so…And I still have a lot to go through. But I hope I have the courage to face each day just like my mama did. I hope I can make her proud. And to all those people out there, who are facing their futures and Christmas without a loved one, please know you’re not alone in this pain. Please don’t struggle in silence. Please don’t give up.

All my love..

G.
x

Perspective

I wrote this about a month ago…After having some time to distance myself from a situation and think things through.

 

You came into my life so suddenly
I thought you were a change for the good
But I was so clouded in my view
Reaching for a better tomorrow
Wanting to believe I could feel happiness again

The years passed and I settled
Knowing your actions weren’t right
Knowing I deserved more
I convinced myself it would be ok
That one day you would wake up and want me completely
That I would be enough

But I was foolish
I only saw what I wanted to see
Ignoring all the signs, the feeling in my stomach
Because knowing the reality would hurt me again
You spoke lies to me with a truthful face
And I couldn’t argue back
Choking on your false reassurances

I began to fade at the edges
Like I was not worthy of being seen
Not even by you
No matter how hard I tried

Everything is clearer now
Things shouldn’t have gone on as long as they did
The way you made me feel like I was nothing
It still clings to me like an extra skin

But I’m peeling it away
Exposing myself and my worth bit by bit
Or at least trying to
Ready to let go and take a chance
In the hope of finding a love that may be returned
And not just picked up when it suits

G.
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Passion…It lies in all of us..

During difficult times its basic human nature to seek solace. Our own little thing that gives momentary relief from the pain or distress we may be suffering. For some it’s carnal pleasure, others a large glass of wine or a double whiskey. For me it’s the written word.

It’s always been the way for me. As a child I dealt with being bullied by my peers by escaping and seeking comfort in between the pages of a book. Fictional characters from fictional worlds giving me the strength to believe I could and would be okay, that it was more important to be a good person as opposed to being pretty and popular (though you can find some lucky people who embody all these traits) I have spoken previously on my blog, albeit very briefly, that I lost my way with reading for a couple of years, then when my dad passed away I threw myself back into it, seeking comfort in The Deathly Hallows the evening before the funeral (I spent the whole night reading it as I couldn’t sleep and still feel it’s responsible for giving me the strength for one of the hardest days of my adult life)

I haven’t read much since November when my life took something of a turn and it’s taken me a while to get my head around things. Although I am reading more now than I was, I still have bouts of time where I just feel my head feels too fuzzy for anything to sink in properly. But one thing that helps is passion. This weekend my friend Fiona came to visit and I passed her a few books to try out (Fangasm, Fangirl and The Great Gatsby) and there was a moment where I got so excited gushing about what I loved about each of the books that it made me want to re-read them all right there and then. It gave me that fire, that passion that ignites in me whenever I discuss one of my nerdy loves (Buffy…Supernatural…books…to name but a few) and it made me realise that this is perhaps what I should do when I find myself losing my way. I should talk about the book with someone or re-read a book that set a fire in my soul.

I find comfort in the written word so much, and right now I need it so much. I need that escape to ease my mind and quieten down the chaos going on in there…So perhaps I’ll blog more when I’m feeling lost, about the books that mean a lot to me.

Watch this space and happy reading.

G.

x

 

An Open Letter – To My Dad

I wanted to share this, in the hope that anyone else who has lost someone close to them will know they’re not alone or abnormal. Even now 6 years on its not easy, this is my open letter to my dad.

Dear Dad,

It’s still there, the hole you left. People told me I’d get used to it but it still seems to have a flashing neon sign placed above it saying ‘vital piece missing here’ Sometimes I see you when I’m walking down the street and it takes my breath away, and then the faceless stranger turns round and I realise it’s just someone who has your hair or walks the same way. I catch your scent on suited men during my commute to work and I feel the pit of my stomach drop as I remember how my tears caught into the breast of your jacket before it was pulled away and discarded into a black bin bag.

I remember the way everything amplified the day after we said goodbye, like the whole world had stopped breathing, waiting for the moment when it would realise that your foot would never again leave an imprint in the grains of sand on a beach. It waited for you to open your eyes, to make a strong cup of coffee and refuse to throw away your favourite slippers that had holes in the bottom. The book on the fireplace with yellowed pages and glasses resting on top waiting for the owner to pick it up and thumb through the adventures held within. The world waited, and so did I.

I’m still waiting, even after all this time I hope that I will wake up and it would have all been a long and cruel dream, so vivid it felt real. I hope, I sometimes even pray, but my heart weighs heavy with the pain and realisation that it isn’t a dream. A golf ball builds in my throat and warm tears fall from my eyes. I can ask why and say it wasn’t, isn’t, fair but it does no good. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve fallen to my knees and cried for you. Some people would look and ask if you’re worth it, but those who actually had the pleasure of meeting you, wonderful, precious you, they know that yes, you are. You’re worth all the tears I shed and more. Sometimes I say ‘Dad?’ out loud, and for a moment I expect to hear you respond, but you never do. The word sounds foreign on my tongue now as though the word shouldn’t exist without you here to physically represent it, it feels hollow and empty.

I carry you with me everywhere I go, you surround me on a daily basis. You’re the man who opens the door for the lady struggling with bags, the old couple holding hands on the bus, the young child who looks at the world around him in awe. You’re the selflessness I see in my mother and the strength I see in my brother, you’re the love I see in them both. You’re reflected in the safety and contentment I feel in the arms of my husband William, who I know you would have loved. It’s an injustice that you can’t be here to see me, to see us. Or even see the rain fall from the grey sky only to be followed by the sun. People told me I’d learn to live with the pain, that things would get easier but the more distance that grows between now and that night only seems to make the pain grow stronger, more prominent. I no longer remember what your voice sounds like and I wish I could, I used to be able to recall it so vividly but now I find myself in a sea of confusion with furrowed brow as I try to recall the tone, but try as I might I can’t remember and it’s like losing you all over again.

The terrible thing about death is that it’s hard to explain the departed to someone who never met them. I don’t think I do you any justice when I talk to William about you, I get frustrated as I try to recall every detail of just how special you were, and continue to be, to me and those you who knew you. You were a blessing, and even now as I write this I find myself falling into a panic because I can’t just pick up a phone and hear your voice or get on a train and give you a hug. I wonder sometimes if I told you enough when you were alive what you really meant to me, if I let you know how much I loved you and I don’t believe I did, not enough anyway, not as much as you deserved to be told. The truth is, now you’re gone we’re fractured, broken, we all have pieces missing and I continue to try and be the little pot of glue that holds us all together. But sometimes I wake up and you not being here is just so hard to comprehend that getting out of bed seems like the most strenuous of tasks. It’s hard to be the glue when all you want is for someone to fix you too.

We miss you, every second, every minute, hour, day, week, month and year. Time cannot heal us because this is what love is, it’s the pain as well the joy, the lows as well as the highs. We need to take them hand in hand, because that’s the price we must pay for being blessed with someone like you in our life. You were the best dad and I pity the people who never met you, William, Kim, your future grandchildren (who will be told about you every day) and everyone else who has wandered into our lives since you left.

I don’t know what tomorrow has to hold nor do I hold the foresight to see into my future but I do know this, the space you left in my life when you died will never be filled, I will continue to carry you with me every day in my heart and in my mind. The pain won’t get easier because I will never love you any less, only more.

Forever loving you, your little girl.

Pea

x

P.S. I haven’t forgotten your promise, I’ll meet you at the moon.

 

 

 

Reading Challenge 2015 – ‘A Book That Made You Cry’

Book Number One – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce.

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It is just a normal day in Kingsbridge when Harold Fry receives a letter from a long, lost friend. He hasn’t seen or spoken to Queenie Hennessey for almost 20 years so when she writes to thank him and say goodbye, Harold feels that his letter in response just won’t be enough. So without any planning, and unbeknownst to his wife, he decides to walk to Queenie, who is terminally ill with Cancer and on the other side of the country, in the hope that it will keep her alive.

Along the way Harold has time to reflect on his childhood, one that was filled with abandonment and lacked any kind of affection, he also reflects on his own relationship with his son David and wonders why he and his wife have felt like two strangers passing one another for so many years.

During his walk Harold begins to meet many people, each with their own story to tell, some are having secret affairs, some are waiting for a loved one to return and others are hoping the day will come when they build up enough confidence to leave their small hometowns and see the world. With each person he meets Harold begins to realise that everyone looks so normal, but each of us harbours our own secrets, regrets and pain. When people hear of Harold’s unlikely pilgrimage, they open up their hearts to him, and although a fair few think that what he is doing is a little crazy, it inspires them and fills them with hope and in return encourages Harold to continue on his soul searching journey.

Back home in Knightsbridge, Harold’s wife Maureen slowly begins to realise how her life would be without her husband, and uses the time he is walking to reflect on her life, her marriage and her passions and hobbies that seem to have been ignored for a long time.

One thing Rachel Joyce perfectly captured was the disjointed way in which memories, even those particularly difficult or painful, come back when you least want them to, and how they often won’t be ignored. Her manner of writing is filled with so much warmth and description that it almost feels poetic. But the thing I perhaps loved the most about this book was how it really stops and makes you think.

The last five chapters of the book were incredibly touching and as soon as I felt that tell tale lump in my throat, I knew it was only a matter of time before I felt warm tears slide down my face. The subtle way she deals with the chapter that looks at things from Queenie’s perspective, really took my breath away. The tears fell from my eyes with no forced effort. This was a truly wonderful novel and I’d recommend this to everyone. It makes you want to make the most of life; it fills you with hope and reminds you how important it is to tell those that matter that you love them.

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Star Rating out of 5: 5

‘Nobody is so frightening once you stop and listen, Maureen.’

 

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

x

Robin Williams & Depression.

This blog was, and is, mainly going to be about books. But last night saw the death of one of the finest comic actors of our time. My first memory of Robin Williams came as a child, when I used to watch Mork and Mindy on Channel 4. It used to make me giggle so much and as a child I could often be heard saying ‘Nanu, nanu!’ whilst doing his trademark hand sign. Over the years he provided us with some fine pieces of performance in films like Hook, Mrs Doubtfire, Dead Poet’s Society, Good Morning, Vietnam, Fisher King, Jumanji and Aladdin.

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It’s incredibly sad to know that this great man was lost to depression. It still baffles me how in this day and age we’re still afraid to talk about mental health issues and depression, as though the conversation will cause some kind of social stigma and make you an outcast, but the truth is it won’t. I’ve often thought that silence is a disease, this belief that brushing it under the carpet and pretending it isn’t happening to you or someone you love and just not talking about it will somehow make it all ok and disappear. But really it’s making it worse.

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Depression has touched my life a few of times over the years. I suffered depression quite badly after the death of my father, I just couldn’t cope. It was like being trapped inside a house of repetitive gloom, where I questioned everything. How I could be living and breathing and he was ceasing to do these basic things that gave him life and made him be there and be my dad. It felt like I was walking around in a shell, I felt like a zombie and the basic abilities for survival like sleeping, drinking and eating, lost all appeal to me. I didn’t eat and wash for weeks, I’d have bouts of anxiety and panic attacks. Suicide was a regular thought to me in those days, but if it hadn’t have been for the people around me giving me some outlet for my thoughts and anger, I probably wouldn’t be here today. Sadly, my mother has been severely depressed by the death of my father, and from events in her past, and is currently undergoing therapy. It’s a daily battle for her, and I often don’t know what to say, there’s that curse of silence again. But what I can do is let her know I can listen. And often that’s what I do, I sit and listen and it’s amazing how much that can help. I can visibly see the weight lift off her shoulders and the sun shine on her face, like someone’s pulled back the heavy curtains of doubt and depression that wrap themselves around her and threaten to cut off her view of the world.

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But it’s something I had to learn the hard way, to listen. Some years ago now, I was sat in a lecture at college and received a text from a friend, what I read shocked me. A good friend of ours had been found hanged in his room; he’d left a note behind saying he just couldn’t go on anymore. When I think about the kind of person Tom was, no negative word’s spring to mind. He was an absolute joy to be around, a sweet guy who always had a smile on his face. He’d battled with depression for years, I’d seen him just a week before his death and he seemed somewhat subdued and quiet but I just put this down to being tired from work. I kick myself everyday, for not just taking some extra time to ask him if it was more. It’s something I’ll always live with. Perhaps if someone had taken him to one side, offered to listen he’d still be here. What if I would have offered to listen?

You will get people out there who will see suicide as a weakness and to an outsider it can seem this way. It can seem selfish, ‘stupid’ is a word often bandied around in situations like this, but until you have walked a day in those shoes you can’t for one moment understand how the prospect of no more torment, no more painting on a smile for others and no more pretending to be ‘normal’ seems like such an appealing option. The truth is people like my friend Tom and Robin Williams felt that it was their only answer, their only chance of peace. You cannot pass judgment on them or question their motives, but what you can do is try to understand. If you know someone suffering from depression, help them, listen to them, let them know they are loved, keep your eyes and ears open but don’t pretend that ignorance will help. Depression is blind, it doesn’t care if you’re poor, or rich, smart or dumb, ugly or pretty. It affects people from all walks of life and it’s not going to go away just because we choose to ignore it as a society. It will affect you or someone you know, and if it’s not doing so now, it probably will in the future. If you see someone suffering speak to them, chances are they probably already feel abnormal enough without people walking on eggshells and not wanting to address the elephant in the room. If you’re suffering from depression, speak out, if you know someone who suffers, just listen and don’t judge.

To my dear friend Tom, we still miss you. To Robin Williams, rest in peace and thanks for laughs, my thoughts go to your family and friends. And to all those who have lived or are currently living with depression, don’t suffer in silence – let this act as a catalyst to stop this stigma of shame attached to mental health issues and let’s talk about it.