THE SLUMP

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I had high expectations for this Easter holiday.

Very high expectations, in fact.

I envisaged sun soaked sessions outside local coffee shops with my laptop perched on my knee in an oversized jumper. I pictured lazy days in the park spent scribbling in a notebook. At one point, I was booking a very expensive holiday to Cape Verde that I couldn’t afford, hoping to tan and write at the same time. Basically, I predicted that wherever I was in the world, I would be being (at the very least) creative, although of course, the reality of any sort of writing I do consists of my bed, some snacks and a pair of unwashed, faded pyjamas, so I’m not quite sure why I all of a sudden saw myself living in some sort of Hipster paradise, churning out great works of art on the other side of the world…

But anyway, two weeks into a two and a half week break from work and all I have posted on here are two ‘Sunday Papers’ pieces (which literally consist of nothing other than other people’s fantastic writing) and a couple of ‘Monday Mantras’, which, of course, everybody needs at the start of a working week, but it’s not exactly rocket science and/or a work of creative genius to find a quote and share it.

But it’s really not that I haven’t wanted to post anything. On the contrary, I was determined to become the next Zoella or whoever else is now living off the fruits of their online presence in the space of 17 days. But, surprisingly, it hasn’t happened. Perhaps I aimed too high? Perhaps ‘becoming Zoella’ was a little too optimistic? Perhaps I’ve lazed in bed for a little too long each morning? Spent too much time cooking delicious food or getting on with adult things like finding a flat and a new job?

Truth is, I really couldn’t tell you; I haven’t a clue why I haven’t been writing. I could list five thousand reasons why I might not be feeling particularly creative at the moment, but I really have no idea where my words have gone. The problem though, is that when these slumps strike, and I go into some sort of creative coma, it’s very difficult to hop back out of it and pick up a pen or start typing. Much like working out, once I haven’t written or posted anything of any significance in a while, the thought of doing so becomes scary and – at times – impossible. I question my abilities and grow uncertain about why I even do this.

And then I get an email.

Or a private message on Twitter.

People start questioning why I haven’t posted in a while and my hearts lifts a little.

I start to hear the familiar little cogs turning and get the urge to post something… anything.

So that’s why I’m here on this Wednesday evening.

I am hoping that by typing words and hitting publish without thinking too much about them, a creative valve hidden somewhere deep inside my body will open and, just like that, the juices will start flowing once again.

Here’s to thinking, writing and being more creative over the next few weeks.

Watch this space.

THE SECOND WIND

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Whenever someone asks me whether they should get back with their ex, I, and most likely you will too, dish out the same, woeful, clichéd advice: exes are exes for a reason; if things didn’t work out the first time, then they definitely won’t this time; don’t look back, you’re not going that way, or, my personal favourite: there’s plenty more fish in the sea.

But what about when the person contemplating getting back with their ex is you? What happens when you’re the one nervously muttering to your friends that you’ve been seeing him again and that it might be worth a shot? You once said that you would never talk to him again and now you’re holding his hand. Everyone shifts awkwardly in their seats and you order another round.

It’s at this point that you need to follow your heart and not the eye rolls from those around you. Mainly because they aren’t there and despite the fact that you’re convinced that the world and his wife are judging you and your other half, they aren’t. Unless you’re on Made In Chelsea, in which case yes, they are in fact watching and judging you every Monday at 9.

But it’s fair to say that those around us rarely know what to say in these situations. They’ve dragged us from the depths of break up hell – from nights in with all the food to nights out with all the gin – to being okay again. They want to protect you and are fearful of giving the wrong advice. So they end up not giving you any.

And understandably so.

However, as I perch nervously upon the very first few weeks into a second attempt at a relationship, I can tell you that all I want is advice. Advice on how to navigate a new old relationship. How to act, behave and cope. How to know when enough is enough and how to know if you’ve made the right decision. Each relationship is a personal journey and I most certainly do not have all the answers. But I can talk to you about what I’ve learnt so far.

So here goes.

Firstly, tread carefully. You have both been through a bad break up (more importantly, the same break up) and although you would like to tell yourselves that you are completely over the trials of yesteryear, it is only natural to have clung onto some of the nasties that lurked at the end of your time together.

But turn this into a positive.

Talk, listen and figure out whatever it was that led to your demise. Returning to the scene of the crime means that forgiveness becomes a part of your language and you begin to learn from your mistakes. You will gain a lot from letting things go and even more from working (hard) through others. Do not ignore the issues from before; deal with them head on and then – more importantly – move on.

Secondly, you do not need to know if they have touched another human since you broke up. Unless they’ve bumped uglies with your bestie, you are both here now and that is all that matters.

Thirdly, you can’t un-know each other. If you’re looking for butterflies and awkward kisses, then quit now. You know he picks his nose when your back is turned and he knows you secretly love Zoella. If you’re not okay with certain aspects of each other’s personality, you never will be. Behaving like someone other than yourself might fix things in the short term, but if things are going better now that you’re not being yourself, then it might be time to actually just… find someone else.

And finally, because break ups are so shit, you will inevitably have seen each other at your absolute worst. There are some splits  – I’m sure we have all experienced them – that can make even the coldest of humans feel as though their heart might fall out of their arse holes. And what is likely to happen when we feel like there’s a high chance that one of our vital organs might vacate our rectums? We act crazy. At times a little frenzied. Always a little out of character.

So pull right back.

The throes of a break up can normalise screaming, shouting and name calling. They can endorse bad behaviour, shocking decisions and a great deal of tears and snot, but you need to remember that this is not how humans should behave. Particularly not two humans who are supposed to be in love. So touch base with what you were like before the end and go back to a time when you were respectful, honest and kind to each other. Things might have got bad towards the end, but they were once really good, right? Hark back to the good times and shake off the bad. You’re back together for a reason, so set boundaries for how loud you’re allowed to shout, put coping mechanisms in place for when times are tough and be really honest about what bothers you. Then just sit back and enjoy the ride.

I don’t know the stats on how many couples have been successful at a second wind, but what I do know is that if you feel as though something is worth a shot, then it probably is. Even if it’s just to hammer home that you are actually better suited to someone else.

Who cares if it takes you a couple of goes to get it just right? After all, practise really does make perfect.

Good luck.

The Music

large (12)There’s nothing worse than a music snob.

You know the types I’m talking about. Those who believe Frank Ocean to be a waste of time without having listened to one of his tracks and those who berate Ed Sheeran for being too mainstream. Basically, I’m talking about those who make unfounded statements for no other reason except for the fact that it’s cool to say that you have a distaste for modern, or even just popular, music.

I tend to just put it down to ignorance and a lack of dedication to the cause on your part. Dig a little deeper into today’s music and you’ll find some hidden treasures. And correct me if I’m wrong but it takes time to tick by for things to be deemed timeless, much like denim or the LBD. You laugh now but Ben Howard or Paolo Nutini, men capable of a lot more than some of your favourite golden oldies, could too be timeless, if you give them time, of course. And if you really do feel that way about modern music, then why are you dancing to the Arctic Monkeys on a night out? They released their first album in 2006. I don’t care if you’re drunk. Don’t be a hypocrite.

I wholeheartedly agree that it’s infuriating when an artist makes millions from generic dance tunes pumped out of what seems to be their arse holes, but don’t generalise and say that there’s no musical talent at the moment when you fail to do your research. Right now, sadly yes, the mainstream is all about mega bucks and fame and I would love to find a way to bring a wider variation of talent to the fore. But when you tell me that it’s impossible to boast about the talent of today compared with musicians from the 1970s, I can do nothing but laugh.

I’m not saying I’m a musical genius and I probably don’t know as much, technically, as some of you reading this, but I do listen to all kinds of music, all the time. My dad had me listening to Suede at ten years old and I was completely unaware of how political I was being when I introduced my best friend to Morrissey back in primary school. But it wasn’t all deep lyrics and men dressed as vicars. Dad also stood by my side as I sang along to B*Witched at Wembley in my pedal pushers with a light up wand and an oversized Fanta, and he whole-heartedly backed me through my Spice Girl phase. I believe that creative taste not only comes from the media, society or current trends, I think it’s also something that’s inherited, which makes it okay to appreciate older music, but we must be tolerable of all types.

I’ve been trained, by my wonderful – but completely barking – parents, to reserve no space in my life for pretentiousness, but I get when it when people are frustrated that a lack of talent becomes a sensation for reasons such as a leaked sex tape or a handsome face. But sadly, that’s been the way of the world for a long time now, and as epic as Elvis was, he too was predominantly a pretty face and a pair of snake hips. Unwarranted success is not a thing of today; in fact, it was something that was born a long time ago.

Compare Primark, for instance, to higher quality labels made with more craft, skill and a higher thread count; yes there’s an obvious difference in quality, but they each have a value.  Imagine you’d spent a shed load of cash on that one off trend last year? These fads are what clothing for a fiver was made for. I mean, thank GOD I bought a trouser skirt for a quid. That’s one piece I’m glad to see the back of, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. And the same goes for music. I was at a party this weekend where I watched a little girl ‘Shake It Off’ with more style and grace than Taylor Swift herself. Alongside her was my mother of 53 years, a granny of 85 years and two 16 year old males. I doubt that we’ll still be singing it in 2045, but a song that brings a range of people together and can provide that much happiness for three minutes, is worthy of something in my opinion and shouldn’t be mocked.

Do more of what makes you happy and less of what you think should make you happy. If you want to compose classical music by day and watch Miley Cyrus in concert by night, then do it. Life is too short to panic about who might be judging you or what is cool. And if you genuinely want to listen to Chopin all day errrday, then okay, but don’t condemn Joe Bloggs for listening to Usher on repeat – particularly if he’s going through a bad break up.

I’m not wholly exempt from this snobbery and have to check myself when I judge the footwear of tube hoppers across the capital or wince at men in jewellery, but if they’re happy, then I should be too. My brother thinks that some of the clothes I wear are outrageous and I do have a somewhat eclectic music taste but that’s what headphones were made for, as well as an inherent lack of giving a shit.

Being able to accept people for who they are and allowing them to love what they love in peace, whilst having your own opinion? You can’t get classier than that.

So just accept that some people prefer One Direction to The Beatles and get on with your life. I’m sure they probably think Dylan is garbage. And that’s fine too, kind of.

Each to their own.