Power

“You can’t. You think you can, but you can’t. You need to step back. Stop thinking you can. Things might not just work out. You’re asking for trouble. You can’t do this.”

If the knot of fear I can feel in my chest and the weight of self-doubt in my gut could speak, this is what they would say to me in unison.

With less than a week to go before I start to pay a mortgage on my first ever home, all kinds of self-sabotaging thoughts are waltzing right out of my subconscious and to the forefront of my mind.

Buying my first home is a lifetime dream come true. It is something I have fantasised about for many years. It is a milestone that is incredibly important to me, because autonomy and independence are two things I value greatly. 

In my late twenties, my boyfriend and I agreed to save up and buy a house together. Our goals and values were aligned. Less than two years later, we both realised that our values and goals were not aligned. As my desire for a home had grown stronger, his had weakened and dimmed. Suddenly my gut instinct that something had not been right for a while made perfect sense and I didn’t feel crazy anymore. Unfortunately, feeling sane isn’t quite the release when you also feel heartbroken.

Following the feelings of shock, disappointment, betrayal, anger and despair at everything I had envisioned for our future suddenly evaporating into thin air, I somewhat impulsively made an offer on a two bedroom flat in South Manchester. The offer was accepted, and suddenly I was navigating the whirlwind of property buying on my own.

Now that has all passed and I’m a few days away from completion. There are no more admin hurdles, there is nothing left to do, there are no more chances of anything going wrong. It’s happening.

All my life, I have let fear get the better of me. I have let myself come so close to truly realising my dreams and then retreated back into my shadow at incredible speed. 

When I was 14 years old I wrote a plot synopsis and three full chapters of an action & adventure vampire novel. Both of my brothers read it and excitedly told me they couldn’t wait for more. 

Somehow that positive feedback scared me more than anything and I never touched those drafts ever again. I put them all into a plastic wallet, put that wallet into a box, and shoved the box under my bed, where it stayed for many years. Occasionally I would take it out and look over everything feeling a deep yearning to tell the rest of the story, but I never did.

At 24 years of age, I moved to the other side of the world and made a fantastic life for myself from scratch in Melbourne, Australia. I found a place to live, a job and a huge network of friends all by myself. I built a very happy life there, and nothing went wrong. Everything worked out fine.

Now here I am, in my early thirties and in Manchester, UK, feeling like moving ten minutes up the road is ridiculous, too big a dream and destined to fail.

Why don’t I think I can get what I want? Why do I think me living out my dreams and things being okay cannot co-exist? Why do I find so many things to worry about? How did I become so utterly dominated by fear?

My worries about the flat have ranged from planning in great detail what I would do if armed robbers stormed in through my front door to how I would handle it if the flat turned out to be haunted. 

Why not just let myself be at peace? Why am I so afraid of my own power?

That is what lies at the root of all this really. Power. I am powerful, beyond measure. We all are. 

I have used my power to overcome so many challenges in my life, to forge a way forward for myself, to grow and change and learn. I’ve used it to create too. My power has created the beginnings of a vampire novel, it has created a life from scratch in a faraway country and it has enabled me to walk away from a relationship that is no longer meant for me. It is not possible to do anything of those things if you are powerless. 

Now, I’m using my power to establish myself in my own home. 

And yet, I’m feeling the pull to shy away and creep back into my own shadow. Why?

I think I know why. I think it’s because the shadow is familiar. It feels safe and comfortable. I know the shadow better than I know the wide open space of fully standing on my own two feet. That wide open space makes me feel exposed and vulnerable.

I am afraid of stepping into the spotlight of my own life; I am afraid of stepping into my own power.  

Doncaster

This is a short non-fiction story I wrote as part of a writing course I did in 2019. The course details can be found here. It was called Write Like A Grrrl and I would highly recommend it for anyone, at any level, who wants to gain some practical tools for creative writing. I think some of the course organisers may also be offering remote coaching whilst we’re in lock down.


It’s very difficult to explain what makes Doncaster special.

To a first-time visitor, it’s an unwelcoming, intimidating and rather grim place.

The high street shops are mostly boarded up, the beautiful heritage architecture is derelict, and the people seem ready to fly off the handle at any moment.

As someone who grew up there it took me a very long time to tune in to the good in Donny—about 25 years in fact.

I spent my childhood and teens counting down the days until I could go out into the world and become who I wanted to be.

I did just that. I went to Leicester at 18 to study Contemporary History at University. Then after that, I spent the first three years of my twenties working and saving then backpacking for 2-3 months. When I turned 24, after months of careful planning and preparation, I flew all the way to Melbourne on my own and spent 12 months there building a life from scratch.

A very formative and memorable experience, but in hindsight I do feel compassion with a sprinkling of loving pity towards my younger self.

She was so determined to go out into the world and become who she wanted to be, that she felt the best thing to do was to literally go to the opposite side of the planet for a year.

Then, at 25, I found myself back in Donny.

In Doncaster, keen to hold on to the new sense of identity I had, I began interning for a grassroots arts & culture magazine (which remains to this day both the worst paid and most fun job I’ve ever had).

Halfway through my six month stint back in The Donx I really began to open my eyes to Doncaster and its people. What makes it special is it is full to the brim of self-made people.

People who’ve gone out into the world and become who they want to be. Oh the irony.

A bus journey into the town centre one day brought this home and left me smiling for days.

I was sitting behind a woman and a man who looked to be in their sixties. Friends; not a couple. The woman wore finger-less gloves.

I learned the woman was named Mary and the man was named Rick. A third man boarded the bus and joined them.

“Morning Rick, morning Mary. Y’alright?’

“Aye, we’re alright Dave. You?”

“Aye.”

They chatted quietly until the bus reached the market, where they started wrapping the conversation up.

I need to mention here that in my whole life, Donny is the only place I’ve known that has an independent military memorabilia shop. It’s always struck me as odd yet endearing.

Dave: “Right. Rick, Mary, I’ll see you at the cafe in half an hour.”

Rick: “Alright Dave.”

Mary: “Where is it you off to?”

Dave: “I’m going to the military shop!”

Rick: “Oh! Don’t forget to salute when you go in.”

Dave: “They salute me!”

Me And Thee

I’m going to share a trick my Granddad taught me to help start a slow but sure correction of something that irks me no end.

It is a trick that helps you know when to use ‘me and [name]’ in a sentence, and when to use ‘[name] and I’ in a sentence.

There are a lot of things that irk me no end when it comes to spelling and grammar. I know I’m not the perfect English linguist, but I do care a great deal about the quality of language and words. The rules matter! Well, I think so anyway.

How do you know when to use ‘me and [name]’ or when to use ‘[name] and I’?

It’s simple: remove the additional name(s) and see if the sentence still makes sense. If it does, you’re using the right rule. If it doesn’t, you need to switch to the other one.

For example:

‘Granddad and I are going to the shops; do you want anything?’

‘I am going to the shops; do you want anything?’

Here’s an example of the other rule working correctly as well:

‘You can sit with me and Granddad.’

‘You can sit with me.’

Now let’s switch both of those sentences.

Me and Granddad are going to the shops; do you want anything?’

‘Me is going to the shops; do you want anything?’

NO!

‘You can sit with Granddad and I.’

‘You can sit with I.’

AGH! MY EYES!

If you think I’m really boring for writing this, fair enough. I am really boring about stuff like this and I feel no shame about that whatsoever.

Resilience

I’m writing this on Good Friday, almost three weeks into lock down, which I’ve been seeing through alone.

It has been a bizarre experience. The shock and uncertainty compounded onto a number of Life Challenges I already had on the table, and suddenly there was no room for anything other than panic.

My experience was initially very much dominated by my ego. Long before the lock down came in, I was going through a separation with a partner who I had been with for almost three years. That experience in itself was difficult, stressful and a big upheaval. In addition to that, at the end of January I put in an offer on a property that was accepted. I was obviously very excited about this but also holy moly people are not lying when they say getting on the property ladder is one of the most stressful things you can ever do.

The lock down came in just before I could reach the exchange of contracts stage of my property transaction, so everything is now on hold. It has meant that I have had to stay in the flat I’ve been gearing up to leave for three months. Luckily my ex-partner has been living at a friend’s house while I wait for the sale to go through, so we’re not in lock down together. That could have been very difficult for both of us. It also hasn’t stopped me from at times wishing they had moved back in, because at the beginning of this dealing with the fear and stress alone felt impossible.

The sudden and indefinite pause on My Big Plan felt like a personal affront at first. The universe was out to scupper my plans and to stop me from getting what I want, of course it was! Wait…

It has been frightening to accept that the process is completely out of my control. It has been hard to accept that I’ve got to now live amongst memories I am feeling ready to forget. I have had to really dig deep for some inner strength to help me endure the constant I Am Completely Alone feeling, and to accept that whilst this is uncomfortable, I can tolerate it. I’ve got to tolerate it.

Slowly, I was able to get my ego to calm down and to see things a little more clearly.

I started to focus on what I needed. Basic things like enough sleep, water and greens. Exercise; I’ve been doing a lot of yoga, a lot of pilates and getting out for a run or walk each day. That’s not driven by hoping to emerge looking like a goddess. That is simply what I need to maintain good mental health.

I’ve learned to appreciate how lucky and privileged I am. I haven’t lost my job like some people have, I’m not trapped in a dangerous situation like some people are, I have a support network, which some people don’t.

Yesterday, a friend mentioned the word ‘resilience’ to me when we were talking about the experience of lock down and it got me thinking. I don’t necessarily think that resilience is what we need in order to get through this (although it definitely helps). I think that we’ll all leave this experience with a lot more of it than we had before.

Resilience for me is a bit like core strength; it’s something you build very slowly over time and you often don’t notice any difference until years have passed.

I think some other ‘things’ we’ll gain from this after it has passed are fortitude, acceptance and tolerance. I feel this can only be a good thing and our collective behavioural norms may be a little softer and gentler when we are eventually in a position to go back to normal.

Normal; strange concept now isn’t it?

What Divoc Is Going On?

It’s all very strange and stressful, so I am trying my best to keep good habits. I’ve been spending twenty minutes every morning doing a few yoga and pilates moves before starting work for the day, I’ve been doing my best to eat healthily (and give myself treats too) and I’ve been trying to accept that pretty much everything right now is out of my control.

Unfortunately I have no new photos right so I’m re-using this one of my yucca plant and I shall tell you for why! This yucca plant has grown so much since this photo. It’s a nice reminder that things are always changing. Either that or I’ve been in lockdown for too long.

That’s the funny thing really though; everything is always out of our control. I am in no more control right now than I was three months or even three years ago.

Anyway, I’ve had a bad day today. All of the uncertainty and fear has really gotten on top of me and I’ve felt a lot of sadness all day. So I decided to write a gratitude list, and then I thought, why not stick it on the ol’ blog.

Things I am grateful for right now:

  • My family. I’ve had daily video calls, messages, memes and a steady stream of updates on my four month old niece and it has all given me so much strength.
  • My neighbours. I’m only sorry I didn’t get to know them sooner! We’ve got a group WhatsApp thread now and are all pitching in to look out for and help each other.
  • Social media. I always knew social media would have its hey day. After many years of resolutely defending Twitter against ignorant criticism, I’m happy that, albeit under very difficult circumstances, people are finally getting to understand that social media can be a real force for good.
  • Technology. Imagine if the vast majority of us couldn’t work from home right now, if it just wasn’t possible? Thanks to technology, there is a real glimmer of hope for the economy right now.
  • Nice weather. After my pilates session and a couple of times throughout the day, I’ll take ten minutes to just stand on the balcony and soak up the sun. Really wouldn’t be anywhere near as relaxing if the weather was still doing what it did a few weeks ago.
  • Stardew Valley. I know that Animal Crossing is all the rage right now, but Stardew is the one for me. It is so relaxing and wholesome and nostalgic. Sometimes, and I’m not afraid to admit this, I just open the game and leave it on for the enjoyment of the background music.

I hope you’re all finding the inner strength and resilience needed to get through this fog of uncertainty, and I hope you’re all staying safe.