Switchfoot and Running Away

I have this dream.
If you know me well, I’ve probably talked to you about it, because – well.
It isn’t a bucket-list kind of dream, or a recurring nightmare, or even a far-away “I’d like to do this but I don’t think I ever will” kind of dream.
One day, I am going to do it. I am going to take some cash and essentials and pack them into a rucksack and run. You know what? It could be any time. It could be in ten years. It could be tomorrow.
Don’t say so-long, you’re not that far gone 
Don’t spend today away 
‘Cause today will soon be gone.

I don’t know when. But one day I am going to get onto a bus and go all the way to the end of the line, and then I’ll get on another bus and do the same, and just keep going and going until I don’t need to any more.
Because there it is. There is this need inside me to run away, to get out. I don’t know where it comes from and I don’t know if running will make it go away. But I am determined.
I’m breaking away from the world of money and fame and status and standing.
do we know what life is outside of our convenient Lexus cages? 
I might run away from a stable job and finances. I might run away from a life that seems ideal. I might run away from a situation that makes people think, how did she stay there so long? 
But whenever it is, I know it’s going to happen. One day, I’m going to run.
She said he said live like no tomorrow 
Every day we borrow brings us 
One step closer to the edge.

Have you ever felt that? A deep-seated certainty inside you that makes your heart shiver behind the bars of your ribcage?
There is a distinction between running away and running to. If I were running to, I would know where I was going, or at the very least what I was searching for. But I don’t. I only know that it is not here, and that if I want to find it I have to really, actually look.
And I guess what I’m trying to say is that the cage that I’m breaking out of might not seem like a cage. Not at first.
But we can’t have the urge to break free if we aren’t trapped. And yet we distract ourselves with these petty problems – I lost my mobile – he broke up with his girlfriend – that test went badly- and sure. They’re important, in their way. But listen:

She told him she’d rather fix her makeup
Than try to fix what’s going on.

We’re all there. Trying to fix the things we know we can fix instead of the things that are a little out of our comfort zone, a little beyond us. Maybe that’s what I want to break free from. Maybe I want to change the world.
Let’s change the world.

*this is simultaneously a post about running away and an excuse to use and analyse Switchfoot lyrics.


I am never too old, and neither are you

You are too old for this.

You know, that’s what they say to misbehaving students. “You’re too old for this.”

No one is too old to stop messing around. The kid that sat in the corner and threw pencils across the classroom might grow into the guy who’s happy as hell, who has a job he loves and a family, or he might grow into the guy who travels the world, life in a case, or he might be the guy who is still throwing pencils across the room in a dead-end office job.

But someone is going to be that guy. Someone is going to be throwing pencils at you all your life.



This is what they say to people who watch the same TV they watched when they were teens. Or – no. They don’t say it, because they don’t have to say it. There’s an inching guilt every time I put my favourite movie on, because it’s an animated retelling marketed at children. But most of me sits with a cup of tea and that movie and laughs, and is happy.

Happy is not something that is easily achieved. It is something that I have had to fight for. It is something I have had to reach for, something I have had to lean into the abyss for. And I am still fighting, still reaching, still leaning. Happy is not something that is easily achieved.

I have learned this. And there are more things I will learn, and there are things I think I have learned that I will change my mind about. There are things I will never change my mind about.

I will probably never stop loving that movie. I hope I never stop loving that movie. I hope it never comes to the day that I touch the worn case and then shake my head and push it away, because there is a voice in my head saying, you are too old for this.

There are many things that will never be okay. This is the first thing – to accept that lack, to accept the romantics that secretly, awkwardly cherish their pain while hating it, tearing apart with that doublefold hurt. Accept that there will always be pain, the same way there will always be someone throwing pencils across the room because he knows pain, and he knows hurt, and he has wound up throwing pencils across a room, and do you really think he is any happier about it than you are?

There are gaps. There will always be gaps, and scars, and sometimes you twist or overexert yourself and that scar opens again – sometimes walking down a high street just a month too soon will rip that wound back open and suddenly the gap of the friend you lost years ago is back again with a vengeance, the gap you thought you had learned to ignore.

Do not ignore the gaps. Do not try to fill them. Whatever you pour into the spaces will never be enough, no matter how much of it there is. It will leave you feeling hollow and cheated.

You cannot fill one gap with something else, because there is no puzzle piece that fits except the one you have lost.

So leave the spaces be. Sleep on one side of the bed because your body remembers when it wasn’t just you.
Leave the spaces be. Write poetry and turn to show it to someone who isn’t there. Read it to the empty air, and let the words float into the breeze.
Leave the spaces be. Stand on a balcony and imagine you’re a movie star, camera zooming in to focus on the melancholy in your eyes that no one else will see, and remember the spaces. Remember the things that used to fill them. Remember eating strawberries dipped in sugar, and picking the raspberries, juice running over your fingers.

And then remember why you don’t do those things any more. Remember why when you do them again, it isn’t quite the same. Remember why the spaces are a comfort, a blessing even, and leave them be.

They will fade on their own, one day, and you can walk down the high street without tearing open a scar, eat strawberries dipped in sugar without sadness, only reminiscing. You can do those things and smile.

Do not rush your grief. 

We are all Pilgrims and we progress, through a life that is not so easy as “the straight and narrow” sounds. It is not always clear which way is straight and narrow. Sometimes the path that resembles the straight and narrow leads to the Slough of Despond, and the brambles that surrounded the other road cleared only metres later to reveal the King’s Highway once more.

This is about life.

Remember to open the curtains in the morning even if it will be dark when you return, because behind a closed door there will be a room lit up with sunlight, like you. Remember to watch the movies you loved when you were a kid, and sit down with a cup of tea and fight for your happiness with those movies, because nothing is static, but guess what?

You are not too old for this.

Thought – Language of the Mind

I once had a friend who spoke three languages. Her father’s first language was Spanish and her mother’s German, and they all spoke perfect English – she was raised in the UK. She spoke to me about how she and her brother had taken much longer than regular children to pick up speech, because they had both learned three languages, with three different structures and patterns, at the same time.
For a while her parents believed their children had speech impediments, but in fact they simply had more to take in. One day, I asked her a question that had been nagging at my mind for a while, within the whirls of patterns. 
“What language do you think in?” I said, and she paused and looked thoughtful. 
“I’m not sure,” she said. “I think it depends. I can choose to think in any of them, but it takes a conscious switch of thought pattern because the languages are so different.”
She had never thought about it before. She explained to me that it was easy for her to think in each language if she chose to, but that her default thoughts weren’t in words at all – patterns and images and concepts that might never be developed enough to earn the right to words. 
It sent my mind whirling off on tangents – in what language does each of us think? How are our thoughts formed? What is the difference between those who think visually and those who do not? What does it mean that some think in words or pictures or simply unformed ideas, many of which they will never remember? Patterns, patterns, patterns. Where is the connection?
In my own mind, I am methodical and organised. There are patterns throughout, filing everything. Most if not all of my thoughts are filed away, and if I concentrate I can catch them without having to look at them, and explore that corridor of thought. I discovered that some people have no concept of visualisation whatsoever while others have an elaborate, complex visual idea of how their mind works. 
If I want to, I could think in another language. I could have a thought in French, if I so chose. But my natural state of thought is words in English, and since I myself am not truly bilingual I cannot switch, as my friend could, to naturally think in another language. So does this mean, perhaps, that an artist and a writer could switch their default thought-form from words to pictures and back again? Do they float somewhere in between?
How is it that a millimetre’s difference between nerve endings can create such different designs? 
Everywhere I look, there are patterns.

Mirrors, Musings and Glastonbury Tor

I have received two emails from WordPress recently, both telling me to get my head out of that essay and write a blog post.
In response, I browsed Pinterest and Twitter and Facebook and checked my email a bazillion times before finally arriving at a blank page again.
Why is it that some days my mind is overflowing, brimming with wonderful plans and ideas no matter how down I feel, and other days I am perfectly content but something within me, or perhaps without, has sapped my creativity and my curiosity and torn them to shreds?
I don’t know.
Today I am neither perfectly content nor vastly down, but there are words nevertheless. Transcribed memories, maybe. Senselessness will probably ensue, but I will try to say what I want to say.
I remember some years ago we went to Glastonbury. Not the festival, but the place, stayed in the van there a few nights and went into pretty little hippie shops. There was one shop that sold mirrors, and the mirrors were all over the walls, flashing and throwing distorted images of me around that little room. They all had beautiful frames. I remember them now like the tacky kind you get on 99p hand mirrors, except well made. It occurs to me that tacky things are often lovely things poorly made, like a recipe gone where the viewer can only see what should be.
The other thing I remember about that trip was that we climbed up Glastonbury Tor and it was the most beautiful thing I think I’ve ever seen. There were a few people there, and one was a guy with a drum who just sat there and played the whole time, sort of absently, and it was amazing.
I went and watched the world moving from up there and there was something so still and wonderful and quiet about it with that guy playing the drum.
I’m probably romanticising it in my memory. There were probably horrible parts to that trip I don’t remember. But isn’t it a little amazing that I only remember the good parts? When I’m older I probably won’t remember all the problems that are so important to me now. I’ll remember that I wrote a novel and went to a book club and not the tearing-out-hair moments in between all of that.
I don’t know if I want to forget the bad parts. But they aren’t forgotten, exactly – they merge into the happy parts and make them richer, truer. More.
It is sort of lovely.

Things To Be Proud Of

I’m making a list of things to be proud of.

I spend way too much time telling myself – even subconsciously – that I have failed. You didn’t write enough today. You could have walked home. You haven’t practised your flute in months. You did badly in that exam.

So now is where I turn around. I’m not saying I’m going to be able to stop telling myself these things immediately. I can’t. I believe them, after all. But I’m going to spend some time telling myself about the things I’ve done right.

Miriam Joy did a post on this which inspired me to do the same, because I am always criticising myself and am generally terrible at recognising my achievements.

So, things I have done over 2013/2014:

  • Between my writing and my editing, I wrote 50k last month. I spent half (or thereabouts) of January without my anti-histamines, which I have to take pretty much every day to stop my hands from feeling (and looking) like I’ve just fallen into a lake of highly venomous piranhas. *cough* My hands don’t like me using them for typing when they’re like this.
  • I started a blog. (Hi!)
  • I won NaNoWriMo. (At a total of 111,111 words, and I should really stop beating myself up about the fact that I didn’t make my target of 150,000.) I also won Camp NaNo in both sessions.
  • I plotted and wrote an entire novel (no, winning NaNo does not necessarily mean this). It was slightly less than 100k. I am in the process of editing it.
  • I have written regularly (read: at least 500 words every day) since the beginning of January.
  • I started playing my flute again. I haven’t played my flute in a good two months, and I didn’t realise until I picked it up again how much I’d missed it. Hopefully my lessons will start again soon, if all goes to plan.

So you see, I am actually pretty awesome. 2014 is my Year of Awesome. I am going to keep looking at what I have done over what I haven’t. I am going to learn to love myself.

One Day

So there’s this idea, this thing. This saying.

It goes something like this: “One day, I’m going to…” 

Or: “One day I’ll be…”

“One day” is another way of saying “this idea is nice, but I have X going on and Y reason for not doing it, and Z just happened.”

“One day” means “never”. 

Go out and skydive. Do extreme parachutes. Join a band. Take up the trumpet. Get out of your head and your self-involved world and write a novel. Record an album. Climb a mountain. Move out of your parents’ house. I don’t know. Whatever you’ve always thought you might do “one day” but making that day “today” was too big, too scary, too much – do it. 

You’ve got this.


I have to say that my basic grasp of this novel I’m writing is something like:




Also, I’m doing a little bit of editing and have discovered that I (apparently subconsciously) made all of my characters have a bordering-unhealthy obsession with hot chocolate. I think my subconscious was trying to tell me something.