Broken Record

I think, maybe, blogging is on hold for a while.

I have no desire to try to be funny or entertaining at the moment, but then that only leaves mournful posts about lost love that would make a country song sound upbeat.

A plane flew overhead the other day when I was lying on my bed. Just lying on my bed, looking at the ceiling. Trying to think of some reason for getting up off the bed and doing something, interacting with other human beings, that sort of thing; and instead, just lying there torturing myself by replaying arguments, wishing I hadn’t been so stupid, dwelling unhealthily on how happy he is without me and how quickly he forgot. You know, the usual.

And this plane flew overhead. Except it sounded wildly out of control, and as if it was coming straight at me. The roar of the engines got louder and louder, someone outside screamed, and I suddenly knew I was about to be killed. Now, I have since heard a rational expanation for the closeness and lowness and loudness of said plane, although I admit I’ve forgotten what that explanation was. But as I’d watched that 9/11 thing not so long ago, and also had never before heard a plane so obviously entering a nosedive right towards me, rational explanations temporarily escaped me. For a few brief seconds, I really, truly believed that I was going to be hit by a plane.

My heart began to race. But that’s all. I just lay there, staring at the ceiling as before. Perhaps clutching the edges of the bed a little more tightly. I didn’t move, didn’t jump up to look outside, didn’t cry out.

But it’s amazing just how much can take place inside your head in a few short seconds when you really believe you’re about to be killed.

My first thought was of the aftermath of terrorist attacks, war-stricken scenes, bomb-damaged rubble. Then I wondered who would notify the school in Korea about what had happened. A brief flash of the scene in Lost where the plane is in trouble and the suitcase falls out of the overhead locker and brains the police guard. Would The Ex be even slightly sad when he heard? I may have said his name under my breath. What if I survived but was horribly injured? What if I survived but none of my friends or family did? I don’t want that, I don’t want that.

Hence my final, concluding thought: Kill me quickly.

And then I closed my eyes and waited, heart thumping but otherwise calm. At which point the plane seemed to rise back up again and the tremendous roar faded away as suddenly as it had arrived.

So you see, someone who has that sort of reaction to imminent disaster is really in no frame of mind to be writing light-hearted blog posts. I apologise. The person writing this post is not really me, and no matter how badly I want “me” to come back, it seems to be taking a lot longer than I would’ve hoped.

You know, when a loved one dies, people grieve. It can take years to get over losing that person, if you ever get over it. But when you’re just “dumped”, you’re meant to just deal with it, get over it, move on. And you feel helpless and foolish and frustrated when you can’t. But not only are you dealing with the loss of the loved one (and grieving that), you’re also dealing with the fact that they chose to leave you. They didn’t die, leaving you against their will, still loving you. They simply walked away and merrily entered into a better life without you. Their choice. That part can feel worse than the actual loss.

Add to that the general sentiment that you should just stop moping, get over it, forget about them, be happy, yadda yadda yadda, and you find that you’ve also got a lot of guilt, annoyance and frustration with yourself, and a feeling of complete helplessness as you try to be a cheerful, together person in company, and fail to keep up the act when you’re alone. You’re a silly little schoolgirl for crying over it. Worse, for blogging about it. Don’t worry, I’m reading over this and rolling my eyes.

So that’s why I need to step away for a little while. I can’t be storing up any more posts like this as proof of my ridiculousness/ridiculocity/being ridiculous. I will write again when I have something to write about that isn’t just self-pitiful drivel; when I start my new job and have Actual Things to say; when I have filled my mind with other things out of necessity and no longer feel the need to hide in my room listening to Mad World; when I’m “me” again.

And at that point, I shall return, draw a line under this post, and start again, wiping the whole thing from my mind just like he has, and filling these pages with amusing tales of language barriers and accidental eating of live octopus.

It’ll be fine. I’ll see you then.

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Better Days

You feel a bit silly when you’re lying in your childhood bed, unable to get to sleep because you’ve got yourself into a state of nerves and panic.

As I lay awake for most of last night, I remembered one night when I was about 10 years old. I lay in that same bed, in that very room (only it probably had Winnie-the-Pooh wallpaper at that time, which it doesn’t any more… although I still cuddle Eeyore), and thought about my impending trip to a music camp in Ballycastle. It was to be my first trip away from home; the first night I would spend in a strange place, without my family nearby and The Sister asleep in the next room. I’d insisted on signing up for the trip, and I was really excited, but that night, with the trip only a few days away, it suddenly hit me that I was going to be separated from everything that was familiar to me. Mum wouldn’t be coming to switch out my bedroom light and say “Night night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bugs bite.” as she had every night for as long as I could remember. And although it was to be for less than a week, I was overcome with fear.

Mum found me crying in the darkness, unable to get to sleep as I lay there worrying myself sick about what was intended to be a fun-filled trip for budding musicians – our first opportunity to get away from the rules of school and the routine of home.

“But I thought you were excited about it!” she said as she came to give me a cuddle. “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to. It’s OK.”

But it wasn’t OK. I’d seen an exciting opportunity, I was set on going, I knew I was going to have great fun with my friends. Even though I knew no one would force me to go, I couldn’t let myself change my mind. It was as if I knew my future self, even at the age of 10. What sort of life would I have if I changed my mind about every exciting opportunity, just because I was scared? How would I ever manage to do anything?

So I went. And I loved it.

And I’m going to go to Korea, and I’m determined to work hard, play hard, and have the time of my life.

But for some reason, when those lights go out at night, my brain switches into scared 10-year-old mode. What if I can’t teach? What if I’m homesick? What if no one wants to be my friend? What if I’m lonely? What if I hate it? What if something goes wrong? What if…?

What if. The question that has haunted me throughout my entire life. I don’t expect I’ll ever be free from its clutches, but like the 10-year-old me, I’m determined not to let it hold me back.

I probably didn’t help matters by reading what seemed like entire volumes of advice for new foreign teachers straight before going to bed. I overloaded my brain and went into panic as I tried to process far too much information at once. That, and the fact that the visa process is long and tedious, and that delays from all sides have put my departure date back and forward and back again so many times that I’m left with this unsettling feeling of not knowing exactly when I’m going, but knowing that it’s going to be very soon. I think I’d feel better if it was all sorted and booked and final. I don’t like this state of uncertainty.

Of course, I’d obviously find a million other things to worry about even if this weren’t the case. I feel sick. And excited. And terrified. And enthusiastic. And worried. I don’t want to go, and yet I can’t wait to go.

Summer Lessons

You know, if all goes according to plan I will be out of here by the end of next week.

It’s amazing how quickly a summer can go past when you’re moping and buying self help books about Getting Over It. And now I’m tempted to panic about the amount of work I still have to do (having struggled with a Heartbreak Relapse recently, which seemed to hit harder than the original spectacular event), the number of people I have yet to see, and also: holy crap, I am going to South Korea, where I have to teach English to little kids!!!!!

I really should have used this summer more productively. But it’s no use going down the Shoulda Coulda Didna road now. Instead, I think I’ll attempt to be positive by sharing what I have learned in this very strange, unplanned, poetry-inspiring summer. Life is about learning, so gather round, my dears, as I impart my, erm, knowledge.

1. The answer is not at the bottom of a bottle of vodka. Having reached the point recently where all I could do was buy a bottle and try to numb everything, I can safely say that the first time, it brings happiness and relief. When repeated three days in a row, it leaves you feeling like death, tired, sick, and several times more miserable than before.

2. Poison Ivy causes rashes because of an oil called urushiol, found in the leaves, which is absorbed by the skin to bring about a reaction known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis.

3. Cats do eventually forgive you for leaving the country without them, but you may have to endure many scratches and bites before you reach the happy and content point where they’re curled up purring in your lap watching Come Dine With Me.

4. Chinese food is not Chinese food unless it has been served to you in a little foil/plastic tub in Northern Ireland. Fact.

5. The tetanus booster vaccination causes untold levels of pain. I am currently sitting here drugged to the eyeballs and pressing a heat pad to my back and neck. Had anyone warned me about this, I would have taken my chances with Lockjaw.

6. Staying friends with the person who dumped you is not advisable. Seeing their complete lack of pain can make your own heartbreak a million times harder. A sensible person would reason that obviously the person who dumped you is not going to be remotely hurt or sad or have trouble just getting out of bed in the morning, because they dumped you and therefore got exactly what they wanted. Sadly, I am not such a person, and it took a few months of torturing myself with The Ex’s Facebook status updates, photos of pretty girls, and general happiness without me, before I worked this out and cut all ties. I have deleted all the thousands of cherished emails, the photos, the online connections. It is still hard, because there is no “remove friend” button in my head, but it’s definitely easier now that I don’t see, every single day, exactly how much he loves life without me. I think I might be further along the healing process now if I’d cut all contact right at the start (or the end, if you like), as I would have just had to get over him dumping me – now, thanks to my inability to see this, I am also having to get over him getting over me so instantly. This is actually a lot more difficult. If you have found this blog through googling “how to get over a broken heart” (not that I’ve ever googled such a phrase, of course), then take heed. Step away! Don’t drag it out! You don’t need to know what he’s doing, because if you do, it will magnify the pain like you wouldn’t believe. Ignorance is bliss – or at least, more bearable. You have been warned.

7. People are mostly good. I really feel that I’ve learned a lot about human nature over the past year, and more specifically over the past few months. And for every one who will steal your purse and all your money, there are dozens who will offer help, look after you, and lend you a hand. For every one who shouts a fat-related comment at you out of a car window, there are dozens who will tell you they love you, boost your self-esteem, and make you feel good about yourself. And for every one who breaks your heart and leaves you feeling like you’re broken into little pieces, there are many, many more who will gather around to help you pick up those pieces and put them back together.

8. A vegetarian diet for a dog is generally not recommended. Don’t force your beliefs on to your dogs, people.

9. I always feel much better after forcing myself to spend time with friends even when all I feel like doing beforehand is hiding under the duvet and sniffling.

10. The Bridget Jones movies are perfect for lifting the spirits. The book Five Chimneys by Olga Lengyel, less so.

There… a summer of interesting findings, all in all. Here’s to the autumn, though. I’m ready to fill my life and my mind with new things, scared to death as I may be about my next move! I’ve had too much time to sit and think, hurt, muse, wallow. I need to be busy again, and forget. And all being well, the time for that will be here very, very soon…

Top Ten: Nicest Smells

The previous post left a bit of a bad odour around here, so I’m counteracting it with a much nicer list…

Freshly brewed coffee – Nothing smells nicer, nothing. Words do not do it justice, so I won’t try.

Roast chicken – I think I’ve roasted a chicken once in my entire life, and it was more hassle than I could be bothered with. It’s pre-packaged chicken breasts all the way, with me. But the smell of a roasting chicken is just wonderful. It fills the whole house and makes it smell sort of Christmassy. Mmmm.

Cinnamon – Speaking of Christmassy smells. I adore those Christmassy scented candles, and the little sachets you can get to place on your radiators, so that they emit a cinnamonish smell when they heat up. I don’t really know why the scent of cinnamon is associated with Christmas, but it does fill me with a very strong desire to sing carols and watch The Snowman.

The Sea – Fresh sea air, sharp and salty… ahh, nothing like it for making you feel all healthy and invigorated. If I can choose anywhere to go for a walk, I will always pick the seaside.

Leather – Ways to win my heart: Get a scruffy and dishevelled look going on, write me long and romantic love letters (demonstrating an excellent standard of spelling, grammar, and punctuation, of course), engage me in meaningful conversation, and give me a big, strong bear hug while you’re wearing a leather jacket. I’m yours. ;)

Aftershave – as long as it’s not dirt cheap stuff. Davidoff Cool Water is particularly blissful.

Pipe Smoke – I don’t exactly know why. It’s just sort of… comforting.

Eeyore – More specifically, my Eeyore. I find it hard to sleep unless I have my face buried in his (threadbare) fur. He probably smells quite unwashed and disgusting to the untrained nose, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.

Freshly washed and tumble-dried sheets – Or clothes, for that matter. Clean and dry and warm and fresh. Gorgeous.

Bookshops – The best bookshop I’ve ever been in is The Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop in Paris. There are books piled from floor to ceiling in every available space, and the smell of them is delightful. I don’t know if you can smell learning and intelligence, but if you can, this is the smell.

There. Things smell a bit nicer here now, don’t you think?!

Top Ten: Worst Smells

K8‘s other half has been complaining about the smell of the magnificent White Lily.

I have to agree with him, despite her objections – white lilies seriously upset me. They’re very pretty, I suppose, but I’d choose a less attractive flower with a less pungent odour any time. I have been known to leave a room when white lilies are present. Actually, I don’t think it’s so much that I dislike the smell (although, really, there genuinely is a faint whiff of cat pee)… more that it causes me pain. I’m not good with perfume in general, particularly if I end up sitting next to someone who has felt the need to douse their hair and clothes with half a bottle of cheap stuff. It weaves its way into my nostrils and spreads internally throughout my body, to the point where I can taste it, hear it, feel it, and see spots in front of my eyes. White lilies seem to have a similar effect, and they make me nauseous and sneezey.

Anyway, I commented to K8 and to Biopro that the smell of the White Lily would be on my top ten list of Smells I Absolutely Detest. Then I thought I might as well chase the thought and make the list. Perhaps this is a sign that I am struggling for inspiration at the moment. But let’s run with it, shall we? In no particular order:

1. B.O. – It really does make me gag. I used to know a painter and decorator who suffered badly from Antiperspirantlessness (what? It’s a real thing!), and had incredibly whiffy armpits. Unfortunately, being nearby as he worked was sometimes unavoidable for me, and of course his job involved him spending a lot of time with his arms raised in the air… urgh. Once it was so bad that I had to pretend I had a cold and put Vicks on a tissue, which I then held to my nose for most of the day. For the same reason, I also find it very difficult to be on public transport during the rush hour cattle-car-squeeze. Being someone who overheats very quickly, myself, I have every sympathy for the hot and sweaty amongst us. But really, there is no excuse for letting it get stale and gag-inducing.

2. Public Toilets – I avoid them as much as I possibly can, but when you’re travelling they become a necessity from time to time. The smell horrifies me. Stale urine and all the etceteras. Even the clean ones smell bad to me, because the stench of bleach mingled with the underlying scent of sewage is almost as bad as the sewage on its own. If I go into a public toilet, I pull my t-shirt or jumper up over my nose and try to breathe through my mouth the whole time.

3. Babies – Or at least the ones who need their nappies changed. My pet hate is being in the supermarket and a passing mother wheeling a trolley containing a small child, and the overwhelming baby poo smell wafting over me. I know they can’t help it, but it doesn’t stop it being utterly disgusting.

4. Bins – Fermenting fruit and vegetable peelings, rotting meat, emptied ashtrays, used coffee grounds, smelly food packaging, leftovers… all mixed up and contained in a small, airless space. Open lid: BLEURGH!! Always makes me emit distressed noises.

5. VomitAbsolutely putrid. Although it has to be said that the sight, for me, is worse than the smell. Seeing (or even hearing) someone throw up will honestly make me do the same. There’s a scene in a music video by Pink (if I recall correctly) where a bulimic girl sticks a toothbrush down her throat and… well.. actually, I can’t finish this, or I’ll puke. Suffice it to say that that scene is permanently stuck in my head.

6. White Liliesas mentioned.

7. Breathnot necessarily just bad breath. Even if a person has been drinking something with a very nice smell, like coffee, or wine, I would prefer not to smell it from their breath. I hate it when people get really close to me when they’re talking, unless they’ve brushed their teeth within the last 5 minutes. And if they have bad breath, my displeasure becomes queasiness. I accept that mine is probably not much better, but I don’t insist in leaning right into your face and sharing it with you, you see. And anyway, I can’t smell my own breath, so it doesn’t bother me. :)

8. Damp Towels – you know, when you realise you haven’t washed them for a while, or you forgot about the one lurking at the bottom of your swimming kit. Or damp anything, really. I have occasion to be repulsed by this smell quite a lot, as I very often forget to take things out of the washing mashine on time. Yuck.

9. Stale Cigarette Smoke – I quite enjoy the smell of cigarette smoke (particularly if I’m in the middle of a quitting phase), and I really love the smell of pipe and cigar smoke. But smoke on clothes and in hair after a night out turns my stomach. It’s not such a problem nowadays, since They force us to go and stand outside in the fresh (and cold) air to smoke, but it used to be a smell I hated waking up to on a Saturday morning!

10. Sour Milk – mainly because the smell inevitably reminds me of the many times I have inadvertently tasted it. :::shudder:::

What’s your most hated smell? I’ve heard that decomposing corpses are the worst of all, but fortunately I don’t have the relevant experience needed to include this one on my list. Have I missed anything obvious? Or is there a smell you detest but everyone else seems to like?

This is riveting stuff, cutting-edge journalism and all that. Tell your friends.

Wasted Journey

Bah.

Today was a complete waste of time, mainly because I am not, as it turns out, a gifted genealogist. Mum and I took the train to Belfast, clutching our notes of names and dates, to visit the PRONI. While it was certainly quite fun to get our photos taken and be issued important-looking visitor passes to wear around our necks, the rest of the experience proved to be very disappointing.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much Who Do You Think You Are?, because I had quite excited expectations of finding out all sorts of interesting things about my ancestors, and tracing the family back to the days when they were living in caves or suchlike. There were rooms full of catalogues, microfilms, books, documents, computerised records, files… all that we needed was surely there! Unfortunately, we didn’t have a clue how to find any of it.

It was something like how I imagine I might feel if thrown into a room filled entirely – from floor to ceiling to wall to wall – with millions of M&Ms, having been instructed to find the six special gold ones that had been mixed in amongst all the worthless ones. Certainly, they’d be there, somewhere… but knowing where to start looking would be another matter altogether. Never mind coming up with some sort of system for the search. Plus you’d start getting covered in melting chocolate before you’d even sifted through your first hundred.

I did not get covered in chocolate at the PRONI, sadly, but I did feel completely overwhelmed. The website (which I had studied carefully before leaving, being quite conscientious like that) says that once you arrive and get signed in, a member of staff will meet briefly with you “to discuss your research needs.  They will help you to get started, showing you how to use the catalogues, guides, indexes and leaflets, and how to order a document”. This was the part that had given me the confidence to go, because once I’m shown how to do something, I pick it up very quickly and can be surprisingly efficient. If I’m not shown, and am expected to figure it out for myself, I either need (a) a lot of time, and complete solitude in order to get my head around it, or (b) to give up , sulk, and run away.

Alas! My expectations that the staff would do, well, the things they’d said on their website that they’d do, were not met. The brief meeting with the member of staff was, in actual fact, us going up to a man at a desk in the corner and asking for help. The help to get started was him pointing us to a folder entitled “Catalogue of Church Records” and going back to his desk. The showing us “how to use the catalogues, guides, indexes and leaflets, and how to order a document” was therefore somewhat more minimal than I would have hoped.

We tried getting reference numbers from catalogues and then going to the microfilm room, but when we asked for help there, the (very nice) woman just gave us a couple of random books of Sunday School records and sent us on our way. We looked through the books, not exactly sure what we were meant to be looking for. We returned the books. We went to the computers and tried searching the records there, but again, had no real idea how to do it or where to start or what we were looking at. I asked for help again, and the girl who responded was really very very nice indeed – I feel the need to put this in as I’m sounding a bit harsh, and this girl couldn’t have been more pleasant – but, like the others, spoke to me as if I had been working there for as long as she had, and knew what all the records were, how to search them, what the reference numbers corresponded to, how to find the folders and files they corresponded to, how to order a document to read…

I did not know any of these things. I tried to ask as many questions as possible, and yet was again left with the utter frustration that I tend to feel when I know that I’m intelligent enough to be able to quickly understand something and make use of it, but can’t because the most basic parts of it haven’t been explained.

I know these people are busy, and that it’s free to go in there and use the service all day every day if you want. But I didn’t expect a personal assistant! All I wanted was the 5 minutes I’d expected to get at the start, where someone would just talk me through the whys and hows, and tell me what the various sections of shelves and files contained. That way, I could’ve gotten stuck in and made use of the resources quite independently, rather than faffing about for two hours and then giving up in frustration.

At which point, incidentally, it started lashing out of the heavens, and by the time we’d walked down Balmoral Avenue to the station (and accidentally walked past it once) I was completely drenched to the point of having to dry my dripping hair under a waist-high, downward-pointing-only hand dryer in the toilets of Great Victoria Street station.

I think I want chocolate.