The Notebook

I found something on the train a few weeks ago.

I’d been deliberating on my way to the station about whether to buy a new notebook – I’d had an idea for a story, and it had taken hold like a limpet. It seemed like the fates had aligned to make a decision for me when I found one down the side of a seat.

When I flicked through it, I saw it wasn’t newly-bought,  an escapee from a plastic bag. It was full of what looked like study notes, tiny doodles of creatures I didn’t recognise, and intricate, swirling letters, scripted over and over again in various shades of ink.

It was suddenly awfully heavy in my hands. I was holding someone’s notes, sure, and it’s awful to lose them midway through a semester, but it was more than that.

I felt like I was holding someone’s soul as well.

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I’ve got more notebooks than I really need, all because I thought I needed blank pages to be the conduit for what I felt. Most of them are half-filled, bought for some project that never came to fruition, one burst of creativity that moved me so fiercely that I felt I might die if I didn’t transfer it to paper.

I tend to want to keep them pristine. One smudged line or poorly formed letter and it takes me out of the mood.

This is why I mostly write on the computer. Mistakes are clean.

But in those scribbles on the train I saw more than just notes and doodles from a dry class. I saw that place where things come from, a place deep in your soul. Whoever owned that notebook had bared themselves on the pages, moved by some force that I can’t explain or even adequately describe, a force that transcends brain and mouth and motor function. And mistakes.

I’d forgotten what that felt like.

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Looking in that book was like being caught in someone’s bathroom when you’re not supposed to be there. But it reminded me that those notebooks that I have stuffed in drawers aren’t just taking up space. I bought them because something was in me that was fighting to get out, something bigger than I am, and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. I was too bothered by making sure it was a work of art. A sign of one of my biggest flaws: if I don’t do it perfectly first time, it isn’t worth doing at all.

Which isn’t the way this game works. So thank you, whoever lost it, for reminding me of the beauty of filling a notebook, of carrying one around for when I need to catch my feelings.

I’ve got mine.

What I’ve Done in March

Working in an office that has minimal natural light is hard. It screws up the brainio and makes my emotions feel like they’ve done a half marathon with no training. A couple of weekends ago my brain hit the wall. I dragged the duvet onto the couch and slept for nearly 24 hours.

But it’s reminded me what anxiety feels like, and it’s reminded me why I’m so thankful for SSRIs.

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On SSRIs anxiety is like that funny noise your car makes, enough for you to notice it but you can turn the music up and drown it out and continue driving without worrying that something’s going to snap and send you into oncoming traffic.

Anxiety is driving down the motorway in the rain with no brakes.

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When it hits, I want to not feel guilty every time I speak to my friends, my family, because I’m annoying. I want to not have something open and sit with my thumb hovered over the keyboard before I interact, thinking do I need to? Do I REALLY need to say something? Don’t I think I should just be quiet and not remind people how irritating I am?

I want to be on top of my life without feeling the strain. I want to be able to come home from work after twelve hours out of the house and write and play games and sit on the couch with Sean and laugh at stupid videos without looking at a floor I haven’t hoovered and crashing into pieces, and I want to be able to stay on top of everything without burning myself out.

I want to make everything better. I want to make the world better. I want to open eyes and heal hearts.I want to reach out and touch people who are suffering. I want to sleep away days at a time because people are so awful to each other. I want to do something about it. I can’t.

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I’ve been AWOL recently while I unpicked the weirdness in my brain that the dark was doing. Normally when I feel like this it’s a sign that I need to go back to the doctor and get another round of medication. But surprise! It was just the lighting. Now I know about it I can stop every couple of hours and take a breather on the steps. It helps.

Take a breather. Go outside.

Out To Sea Again

One Dundee memory that’s never left me, in all the rollercoaster years that have followed, is walking down Nethergate in the evening rain with neon puddles all over the road. I was listening to Wonderful Life by Black and I thought yes, it is.

But not for me.

Back then I had one goal. Don’t fall apart, and that was a big ask at the time. It was winter inside and out when I was at uni, and good weather was a long time coming. But even in the worst times, there was progression. Second year, third year, fourth year. Graduation. Masters. Graduation. Rarely was I left without a path, although it was a dark, lonely one.

Sometimes I miss that.

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You know, you’d look at me and think “what on earth do you have to complain about?” And you’d probably be right. I have my family, a fiancé, a mortgage we can comfortably afford. I have two cats that let me scoop them up and squeeze them like big teddy bears. I have more friends than I’ve ever had, friends who turn up at our house with regularity, who bring me cake and drink my coffee and sleep on the couch when we’re done dicking about in the living room.

And I love it.

So why do I feel like a winter morning, when the sun is pale and struggling and never really rises?

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When you say you’re tired, people say “me too” or “wow, how late were you up last night?” and you want to say no, I’m tired, marrow-deep and thread-thin.

I quit my job. Not the wrong decision, but it feels like taking your hands off the wheel in a car with no brakes and accepting the crash. Like telling yourself to put one foot in front of the other and realising after months of walking you’ve been travelling in circles.

I wish I could be one of those people, energetic all day, every day. Those people who find joy in everything, in other people and wearing scarves, and small talk with strangers on a train that smells like beer and too many lives.

I wish I could sink money into useless things that would keep me afloat. House a revolving door of junk, a museum of temporary relief.

Sometimes I wish I had faith, something intangible but omnipresent, the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. A candle to warm my hands on when the weather turns cold and I can’t see where the doors are.

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This isn’t a cry for help, I’m lost, not bereft. I’ve been lost often enough to know that the fog will lift eventually, but boy is it difficult when the clouds never clear from behind your eyes. Your arms are always tired and you just want to eat mashed potato.

The reason I can tell I’m OK is because I can still find moonlight.

I saw the first robin this morning. My sister is coming to visit soon. Morrisons sell gluten free curly fries.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful life.

Maybe not yet. But it will be.

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Images from Pexels.

 

What’s the big deal about autumn?

I’m slowly rediscovering a love for sunsets at dinner time and central heating all day every day after years of being ravaged by winter depression. But from a brief peruse of social media is looks like everyone else is WAY ahead of me. When did everyone begin to loathe summer and love autumn? Is this part of growing up, or is it a new phenomenon?

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There’s plenty to be excited about in autumn, but there’s also plenty of hype that leaves me scratching my head and wondering if everyone else has moved to some higher plane and left me behind. Inspired by a conversation I had on Twitter, here’s all the things about Autumn that are SO OVERRATED.

Halloween

Seriously, when did Halloween become A Big Deal? Halloween when I was little was a homemade cat costume, leotard, black tights and faux fur tails sewn on the back. I looked like I was starring in an amateur production of Cats and I loved it. Now it seems to be just as big as Christmas. There are entire supermarket aisles full of decorations. If you had Halloween decorations when I was wee you were That Rich House in the street. I don’t get the hype. Why is Halloween good?

The benefits of living right at the top of a hill with no kids in the immediate area is that I don’t have to draw the curtains, turn all the lights off and sit in the dark to pretend I’m not in, which is what we did every year before I moved out. The downside is that I no longer live with my mum, who would buy bags of sweets “just in case” and then we’d actively avoid luring anyone to the front door. Good times.

Pumpkin Spiced Lattes

Let’s get real: these things are not good. I get that they’re the unofficial Harbinger of Autumn, but why? They’re disgusting. It’s like drinking a Yankee Candle. I’ve tried one exactly once to see what all the fuss was about and gave it away after one mouthful. This was a much bigger paragraph when I first drafted this post, until I realised it was eight different ways of saying “they are vile”.

Seriously though, all the cool things about this season and we as a people have made this horrendous drink the biggest phenomenon?

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Christmas things in the shops from September onwards

I swear this is happening earlier each year. August is barely over before you start catching strains of Cliff Richard while you’re standing in the cheese aisle in Tesco. I fastidiously try to avoid anything festive before at least November, but it’s the middle of August and the Christmas chocolate boxes are out. The adverts will be on TV soon. HELP.

I like Christmas as much as the next person but how fatigued do you end up feeling by December when it’s rammed down your throat every time you do literally anything?

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You might get to this stage and think “What a miserable cow”. In order to correct this assumption, and since I mentioned at the start that I liked autumn, I figure I should probably name some things I actually do enjoy about this time of year.

Toffee Nut Lattes

I’m sorry, this is the real deal as far as seasonal drinks go. This blows Pumpkin Spiced Burn Time 30hrs away. I genuinely can’t go past a Starbucks when they’re in without having one of these. The moment the first taste passes my lips I sprout a woolly hat, scarves, gloves and the world’s thickest jumper spontaneously like some sort of stop motion animation. Even thinking about it is making me want one. When do they come out again?

My birthday

I’ve already spoken in my Florida hype post about how I’m spending my 26th birthday. Generally though, as much as I’m generally ambivalent about birthdays (hello late 20s, it’s a bummer), 23rd September is the point at which it Becomes Autumn and isn’t just Late Summer. All bets are off now. Jumpers are worn regularly. You’re allowed to say the C word out loud instead of just thinking it like a dirty little secret. I learn how to work the thermostat in my house again. Everything is right with the world.

Weather

I like weather. Doesn’t matter if it’s blazing sunshine and blue skies, massive snowstorm, wind that could blow you over (actually happened to me outside work earlier this year) or torrential sheet rain, as long as I’m indoors (or outdoors if it’s nice).The only kind of weather I really can’t be doing with is your bog standard grey skies and nothing else is going on, which unfortunately is the prevalent weather condition in Scotland.

Generally autumn means it’s time for ridiculous poor weather, and there is NOTHING better than whacking on a dressing gown, lighting enough candles to do Molly Ringwald for the rest of her life and writing something while the rain goes sideways against the window.

Top tip: Heartland by Runrig is the best album to listen to on cold dark winter nights. Trust me.

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We had a pretty reasonable summer in Scotland this year (take note, people, because those words don’t appear next to each other in a sentence very often) so it’s a little sad to be winding down into September, but I won’t deny that I am ITCHING to put a jumper on. It’s too muggy right now for that to be a viable clothing choice, but give it time…

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Afternoon sunset from the office window.