SMALL VICTORIES – AUGUST

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So, apparently July didn’t happen.

I genuinely feel as though I have just lost 31 days to grey skies and a whole host of Wintry dinners, in what feels like the space of about five seconds. I must say though, despite the need for long sleeves in July and what seemed like the quickest month to pass in human history, I seem to have come out at the other end of my unseasonal hibernation feeling invigorated, energised and ready for August.

But, as always, I will first let you know how I got on with last month’s Small Victories.

Firstly, my intentions to find a musical instrument and begin to learn how to play it just didn’t happen and well, let’s be honest, I can’t say I’m surprised. And I’m sure you aren’t either. However, my plight to organise my music collection did work out well and I now have six playlists which are lovingly (and somewhat unoriginally) labelled: Love, Party, Tunes, Albums, Guilty Pleasures and Pump. Albums is my favourite: it’s full to the brim with great records spanning decades and genres, from Time Flies and Caustic Love to channel ORANGE and Parachutes and I love it.

As for reading books outside of my comfort zone, I have yet to read anything completely untoward but I was gifted with ‘Very Good Lives’ by J K Rowling. A far cry from Harry Potter or The Casual Vacancy, it is a transcript of Rowling’s commencement speech that she gave to a group of Harvard graduates back in 2008. Her words focus on ‘The Fringe Benefits of Failure and Importance of Imagination’ which basically means that she urges us to find strength in our failures and to do what we love. Definitely one of the most perfectly timed – and equally gorgeous – presents I’ve received in a while.

As for my fourth and final promise to party and drink more gin? I think it’s safe to say I passed this one with flying colours.

Now, for this month’s Small Victories:

1. Write more.

Not just blog posts, but simply scribbles in my notebook. It’s great writing for an audience but sometimes it’s even better writing solely for yourself. You can be crudely honest and completely unabashed- very liberating.

2. Surround myself with art.

I live in London. So why is it that the only two galleries I visit on a regular basis are The Saatchi and The Tate Modern? Yes, it helps that I like modern art but, come on. The National Portrait Gallery? Amazing. The V & A? Inspired. I need to just do some research and then get off my bum and explore.

3. Travel somewhere new.

This one is actually pretty easy, seeing as I am going on holiday. The only problem is, I haven’t actually booked it yet. I want to find somewhere with the bluest sea and the whitest sands and I want to stay somewhere where I don’t have to lift a toe, let alone a finger. I want serenity and nothingness. A break from London, basically.

4. Work at working out.

I have joined the gym, which means that I feel a little less guilty about the musical instrument promise from July because I have joined an ACTUAL gym, like an ACTUAL grown up and I ACTUALLY really like it. At the moment I am just getting a feel for what I enjoy – experimenting with classes, machines and pace – but I’m hoping to work out a routine that works for me over the next month. My brother said he’s going to train me to kill. Watch this space.

So there we have it: my four goals for this month. By the 31st, I will be a muscly creative on a beach. But what about you? What are you going to achieve by the end of August?

Remember: keep it constructive, manageable and – most importantly – possible. Be kind to yourself.

Have a great month.

THE ABSTINENCE

large (4)No, this isn’t what you think it is.

I will not being doing a Josh Hartnett and refraining from any between the sheets action for forty days, instead I will be abstaining from unhealthy online habits.

If you didn’t grow up in the grasp of a Catholic childhood, you’ll be wondering why I’m abstaining from anything in the first place. But the reason you filled your gobs with pancakes yesterday is because you’re supposed to be giving something up today, for forty days and forty nights. (Bet ya didn’t think of that as you sprinkled the sugar on your fifth crêpe of the day, did ya?) It was supposed to be your final feast – a last supper if you will – before giving something up, or doing a good deed each day for the next month or so.

No, I am no longer a follower of the Catholic faith; that went out the window along with skirts past the knee and a complete incapacity to speak to men. However, I like to stick to tradition and normally mark the occasion by giving up bread in a bid to lose a few pounds, but seeing as I’ve realised I actually need it to function these days and lunch times get a bit boring without it, I’ve decided to do something to cleanse the mind, rather than the colon this year.

I’m going to stop stalking people on social media.

I’m not talking catching up with a friend I haven’t seen in a while or checking in with my favourite bloggers, I’m talking the stupid kind of stalking. The type of stalking that gives you a similar buzz to a theme park ride, paired with a come down worse than Glastonbury. I’m talking the stalking your ex kind. The stalking your new boyfriend’s ex kind. The stalking anybody ever attached to your boyfriend kind. Or the stalking somebody you’d like to look like kind.

I’ll shamelessly hold my hands up and say that I love it. There’s nothing better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a couple of free hours to snoop on someone who makes you feel a little bit insecure about yourself. Think about it. Why wouldn’t you look through your ex boyfriend’s photo album of him and his new beau in the Bahamas? It’s obviously, completely vital to take a look at your current boyfriend’s life before you. And it would be silly not to take a look at that girl with the perfect body after you’ve gobbled down a burger and chips. It’s the most stupid and ridiculous, but actually, one of the most common things to do of an evening. But why do we do it?

I hate to say it, but it’s a female thing. I genuinely don’t know one bloke who stalks his ex girlfriend – or someone similar – but boys, please correct me if I’m wrong because I’m no expert. And also, I’d like to think that it isn’t just us girls who do it.

Back in the day, when you broke up with someone, they disappeared from your life quicker than a fat kid at a salad bar. These days, they’re more in your face than Lady Gaga’s engagement. So for the next forty days and forty nights, I’ll be avoiding this social (media) trap and refraining from stalking those who I shouldn’t because, well, it makes me feel a bit shit.

So whether you’re religious or not, pinpoint your bad habit and give it up – be it smoking, vodka, or something a little less easy to reach out for – 40 days is far less daunting that 365, so see it as a trial resolution for the year ahead.

You never know, it might result in you kicking that bad habit once and for all.

Good luck!

The Dawn

large (15)If you’re not fussed about the forthcoming 365 days, or you roll your eyes at those looking for a fresh start, then count yourself lucky; it means that you’ve probably had a decent year. For those of us who haven’t been so fortunate, midnight tonight is more important than Christmas Eve, Cinderella losing her slipper and the Super Bowl, all rolled into one.

I now sympathise with those who secretly hope, as the clock strikes twelve on New Year’s Eve, that something will happen to make them forget the past and magic a whole new them. I haven’t understood this ideal until now because I haven’t ever wanted to do either of those things, but this year is different.

For those of you who know me or follow my blog, you’ll know or have picked up on the fact that 2014 hasn’t, shall we say, been the best. Between bad choices, unavoidable familial catastrophes, a lack of creative umph and a steer in the wrong direction, it has all been a bit bleak, culminating in a tremulous blow on November 30th which served to ensure that my year, would in fact, end on a downright low.

After the final whistle, as I sat on my bathroom floor surrendering in floods of tears, I knew I had reached rock bottom with a big, hard thud. But, alas, what happens when you hit rock bottom? Things, thankfully, start to look up. And in this case, I started to look at the positives: I regained a good friend this year; I finally got to see New York; I’ll turn 26 in March; I have tickets to that long-standing festival in Somerset and my birthday falls on a Sunday which means there is a high chance of an epic brunch and a cycle along the river in springtime (following a night of gin and debauchery, of course; I’m not that old). So I guess things aren’t all bad and the horizon is looking warm; sunrise is soon.

It hasn’t helped that I’m not the only one suffering; the whole world has taken a battering it seems: missing planes, deadly viruses, famine, war, sex trafficking in the North, an abysmal World Cup, hacking scandals, violent protests; riots; Black Friday; Frozen being legal and X Factor just not giving it up.

So after this gloomy year that most of us have had to endure, why don’t we, for once, stop history repeating itself? Instead of letting go of everything that went wrong, or taking for granted what has gone right, learn from it all and take charge of your own story; this time without making the same mistakes twice. My resolutions this year are simple: drink more water, be more creative and do things that scare me, as often as possible. Be brave, be kind, don’t be afraid to be hopeful.

I’ve started to realise that 2014 and the negativity that it brought with it was just a dress rehearsal for the year ahead. I’ve gotten rid of all the bloopers, the lazy, half-arsed run-throughs and am now ready for opening night. Which, for me, will be midnight on December 31st. Or after dinner on the 1st, once I’ve eaten off my hangover.

So today, take the time to freshen up for the show of 2015: exfoliate your skin, trim those beards and sort your lids out so we can start the year as fresh as can be; looking great, feeling optimistic and sure as hell a lot more savvy than this time last year.

So until we meet again next New Year’s Eve, with more lessons we’ve learnt and happy memories to share, here’s to the next 52 weeks. They’re yours for free. Own them, and enjoy them.

Happy New Year.

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