End of 2020: Thank fuck

At the end of a year, it’s natural to do some reflecting on the year past. Particularly what with time off work for the holidays, it’s natural to start thinking with more time on your hands. Having just watched Death to 2020, it just really hammered in what a bizarre year it’s been. With the Hong Kong security law, Brexit, the Beirut explosion, a new intensity of wildfires due to climate change, the trash TV show that’s been American politics, ending with a big finale of the election all drawn out to the overture of covid and all its complexities… It’s hard not to have felt fatigued from reading the news this year. Opening a news site became associated with an ominous feeling of dread “what new development awaits us now?”. And that’s all stuff on the global news cycle that I have no control over. In fact the main mental health implication is how those breaking news stories bled over and impacted personal life. Not just mine, but everybody across the globe. It’s hard to imagine another development positive or negative that has simultaneously affected everyone globally.

Personally I’m doing well which I recognise and am very grateful for. My partner and I are both working for companies that have not only survived but had very good years despite covid so our jobs are stable. In fact, my job has been incredibly stressful and busy since August which brought on its own issues. I work in an industry which has historically been vulnerable to budget cuts so my company has been cautious in spend (i.e. hiring people), and being in a world situation where job losses was at an all time high it meant you had to just suck it up and pull in the intense and long hours in order to meet client demands. Which has sucked. My mental and physical health has suffered for it. It’s scary to think that I am still considered one of the lucky ones and I do still think that.

Mental health wise, being in London has been incredibly tricky. It’s so easy to feel stuck, London has always had its own centre of gravity that made it difficult to leave, but now public transport was made to be something to fear, it meant you couldn’t travel 45 mins to get to the other side of the city to do that thing you wanted to like go to a restaurant or a climbing wall. With restrictions changing on a weekly sometimes daily basis like the menu of a bougie hipster cafe or restaurant, just flip flopping between being stuck indoors and being able to go out and see friends, it’s been really hard to adjust and get through it. You’re having to adjust every two seconds with very little consistency. The loss of control and ability to actualise what I want to do is the thing I struggle with the most. It will be interesting to see what the mental health implications of this will be. You don’t have to have had covid to be affected by the pandemic.

With vaccines being approved one by one, and distribution starting, I know the start of 2021 won’t look much different from the end of 2020 – I don’t think we’re under any illusions there. But I do fervently hope along with the whole world that we can reach a point where this becomes manageable. Covid isn’t going away miraculously, no matter what outgoing idiotic world leaders say so. It may mutate out of existence (which is random and small in chance), but likelihood is that it will continue to exist and infect people so if we can get to a point where there are protocols to manage it like smallpox, we might be able to get back to some semblance of life before. Where we were able to go about our lives without having to worry about an invisible enemy.

This Too Shall Pass

That is the phrase I have tattooed on my leg in Hebrew. “Gam zeh ya’avor”.

I got this because a friend had said it to me during the really dark period of my life a couple of years ago. It was such a short phrase said almost as a throw-away attempt to comfort me (nothing brought me much comfort in those days). It stuck and it seared itself into my memory becoming some sort of mantra.

This too shall pass.

This time shall pass. This awful feeling will pass. This horrific time will pass. This journey will pass. This amazing time in South East Asia will pass. It will all pass, good and bad, all of it.

There are so many things to take away from that phrase. It did bring me comfort. In the days where I was hurting so much I wanted the world to burn with me, it comforted me to know that at some point it probably will. In the days after where I went travelling to heal, it reminded me to savour every beautiful, precious moment out there, because it too, undoubtedly will pass.

And now, in my more settled state in London, I find myself still lost, having been lost since I got back. I know what direction I want to go but I’m scared. It will require sacrifice of time, effort and hope. The last one being something I know how scarce and valuable it is. So I don’t dare dream, I don’t dare strive. I try and build towards my dream within the tiny sandbox that I have penned myself in. It’s impossible to build a real castle inside a sandbox.

Today was the first time in a long time where a conversation with the right person ignited my enthusiasm, my passion if you will. It was there all along, it’s never changed or waivered. I just needed the right person to help me unearth it. I don’t belong in a sandbox. And it is scary to try and invest in this. There’s no guarantee it will be a good investment. But time will pass, it doesn’t hang around. You don’t have eternity so get moving now. You’re never going to be as young as you are now so what are you waiting for?

New Decade… huh?

Feels bizarre to hit a new decade. The realisation hit me only two days before the new year began. This year I will be three decades old, which is quite an overwhelming thought for some. It’s interesting speaking to friends in similar situations and seeing the breadth of reactions. One friend admitted they had gone to therapy because of anxieties about turning 30. They weren’t where they thought they’d be in terms of career or relationship/family. I guess that’s why it’s important to manage expectations and see the importance for setting goals (to encourage motivation and ambition) but accept that things may not quite go to plan.

For the most part, I have always had fairly little long term expectations of where I would be. At my roots, I am a dreamer so I have a thousand things I want to be, but the realist in me knows that I cannot be all of those things at once so I compromise by having an attitude of trying to be the dandelion puff that rides on the wind. Except, perhaps with a tad more self-determination.

A decade is a long time. 2010s saw me grow into an adult and learn some hard lessons. I wonder where 2020s will take me.

April’s Fool

I recently went through a wobble in relation to my work and lifestyle at the moment. Coming back from travelling into a full blown long hours London lifestyle was something I chose for several reasons:

– because I craved working in the mentally stimulating environment of the business sphere

– it was a good way for me to support myself with a decent wage whilst trying to figure out what it was I ultimately wanted

– because it was familiar

Having seen that I don’t need a lot of money to be happy, it’s felt wrong to be here since I’ve been back. I got so caught up trying to use this period as a stepping stone that I had a mini freak out at the idea that I might be settling back down. The last thing I want is to get too comfortable and then never leave. What is it with my mind and always thinking like each new development is the end all and be all?

I am slowly accepting that the person I am today is similar but not the person I was last November. I think it was just harder this time round because I had such hopes and expectations built into that version of me and the path that I would take. There’s no reason why I couldn’t go back down that path again though.

There is no rush Louisa. You can enjoy your time whilst you are here. As the tattoo on your leg reminds you, “this too shall pass” so you may as well try and be present whilst you can.

Anxieties of a Long Distance Relationship

It’s bizarre to think we’ve only been together for three and a half months. I’ve never been with someone who I know like I know you. It’s not that I can claim I know you like the back of my hand (or maybe it is because I don’t know the back of hands that well), but it’s more that I can read you – you make sense to me. I spend my time in relationships deciphering the other person. Each one is like a puzzle and up until now, working it out leads me to boredom. But with you, you just get more interesting and I can’t put my finger on why that is. Maybe it’s because I genuinely believe you could leave me at any point and not show any remorse in doing so. I have experienced it and it hurt like hell. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. There won’t be a third time. I love myself too much for that. But even though the possibility is very real that you might break up with me again, and even though it lies there like an exposed nerve, I still want to make this work.
A small part of me is quietly convinced that this will work out. And I’m past the point of knowing whether this part is my gut (which is pretty on point) or whether it’s a ridiculous hope I have.
It’s like the world’s most tense game of chicken and the prize is priceless but the forfeit is tragic.
All this is part of my anxiety I know, and it makes me into this flustered mess that feels like I have no control over anything. I hate that feeling, like I’m spinning wildly out of control and might end up doing something wrong. And that’s why I know I need to calm myself down and compose myself, even though that’s the last thing I want to do.
You need to snap out of it Louisa. You’ve been through too much to let this affect you the way it is. The tighter you try and hold on the more you’ll smother him and the relationship. You want to be with him because he chooses to be with you not because you convince him or nag him into it.
If it ends, it ends. There is very little you can do about it but you know you’ll be alright. That tattoo on your leg saying “this too shall pass” was to serve as a reminder that nothing is permanent. Everything single fucking thing in this world is transitional and temporary. And there is no happy ending because your life is not a story. So take a deep breathe. It is what it is and what will be, will be.

Journeys of the Heart

I’ve recently entered into an incredibly intense and mind-blowingly amazing relationship with a guy I met here and it’s thrown up a lot of uncomfortable feelings I have experienced and dealt with in the past. Largely the main enemy is insecurity, which I’ve learnt long ago is rooted within oneself most of the time and not in the other person. When you discover something so rare and precious, then you stand to lose so much and that fear is what drives the insecurity and anxieties. Or at least it is in this case. I’ve successfully managed to deal with it in previous relationships, partly because I cared less for the others and stood to lose less. But this, this has really taken me for a turn.

As if planned, I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind last night which is one of my favourite movie. I love it because of its’ storytelling and the complexities within the plot and also the use of a sci-fi-esque invention within the movie to explore relationships. One of my favourite parts is at the very end, after Joel and Clementine discover all the messy events that have led them to be where they were because they had reached the breaking point in their relationship previously. Despite this they are still drawn to each other but knowing there is all likelihood that they will end up down the same path of confrontations and arguments. Joel simply looks at Clementine and goes “Okay.” with so much acceptance and resignation because he thinks it’s worth trying.

I also saw something a friend posted on my Facebook feed today. “life is tough, but so are you”. And I know I’ll be fine no matter what, I’ve been through enough to know that. But life sometimes makes you build walls in order to protect yourself and to open up to let that someone on is terrifying. To then run the risk of losing them is even more so. But like Joel said, okay.