Getting through grief, well, trying anyway

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Last year I think I just lost my spark for blogging, I didn’t want to put posts out just for the sake of it and copywriting became my main freelancing income. I guess a part of me was writing every day and sometimes night, not only was I exhausted but I just needed to write about things I was passionate about.

I haven’t updated the blog with some of the biggest things to have happened in my life since September (I finally got married!) and I will talk about them all but for tonight, I wanted to write about grief. I know, it’s a cheery topic to come back with. Totally on brand. Next month it will be 6 months since the sudden and unexpected loss of my beloved grandfather. I have thought so many times about writing a post about it, so many times about putting it into words and setting it free into the world.

You see, my Gramps and I were incredibly close. I even hate writing the word ‘were’. We shared a love of history, politics, family genealogy, music, laughing. There are some people in your family that you just fit with and, for me, he was one of those people even from when I was tiny. Even though I grew up, the thought of losing him was just abstract. His mother lived well into her 90s and he was always active, going to the gym more than me, eating right (mostly) and full of life and laughter.

I’d gone to Northern Ireland for my first work trip, I hadn’t been there for a few days before I flew because I had a nasty cold (not Covid) and didn’t want to give it to them but I called, I spoke to him the day before I flew on the phone. I planned to go there the day after I got back. I’d even FaceTimed my Mum the day before while she was at their house and chatted while he was sitting in his chair, laughing, cracking jokes.

If there had been any inkling, the slightest sign that something was wrong I would not have gotten on that plane. I would have cancelled my trip. I would have done absolutely anything. On the penultimate day of my trip, I’d done some sightseeing, picked up some gifts to take home, had gone back to my hotel to charge my phone, pack and have a nap. My biggest worry was where I’d get cash out for the next day. That was until my Mum called. Until my entire world changed. I’m not going to go into details, I can’t, but I threw everything into a bag, sorted a flight home and went and sat in an airport for about 2 hours sobbing while waiting for the next flight to London.

For weeks after I was filled with pain and anger, I lashed out a lot. I blamed myself for not being at home, I wanted to do anything just to hug him, just to talk to him one more time.

The weeks after are a bit of a blur, I was meant to have my Hen Do and was going to cancel but was banned by my whole family because he would have been mad if I’d cancelled. I had a day of relief, I guess and felt incredibly guilty after. I spoke at his funeral and even then it didn’t feel real that it was him. I got a tattoo in memory a month to the day.

From that point the wedding was weeks away and where I could I let it just take over, I planned, I sorted things, I had a part of his shirt sewn into my dress and I held it together for the most part. I kept going and wondered what would happen when I stopped. The night before the wedding I sobbed into my best friend’s arms, the day of I thought of him and smiled, the day after I cried again because I was so happy but so sad he didn’t get to see me get married when he was so excited.

And now we’re months passed, my brain and my body finally caught up with me. Months of keep pushing, keep going, holding it together broke. I’ve been in a flare now for a good few weeks and when you’re in pain the defences are wobbly. You’re already not feeling great mentally and the gates open and let everything else in.

Grief, for a human, is something that I’ve not truly experienced before, this is the first major loss for me and wow they had to go and take one of the big ones first. There’s no good way to lose someone but being alone across an ocean on your own with limited flights home was particularly shit. Pretty sure I scared a small child at the airport.

When the feelings overwhelm me, I cry until I feel like I can’t anymore, there is a gaping hole in my chest and physically have to hold myself together. All at once, I feel like a child again but an adult who has to put those pieces back together. I have so many questions and already in a matter of months there are so many things I want to say. It fucking hurts.

But there are days where I’m doing ok, where I can laugh and smile, look at pictures and tell people all about him. Try and convey the love I have for him without being able to introduce one of the most important people in my life as well as try and navigate this world without someone I always turned to.

This is a very long blog and if you got to the end, I’m impressed. I don’t know how much sense this makes, if it makes any sense at all. I had to write though because he loved reading my blog and read every single one he could, leaving comments that it was a good write, talking to me about when I’m finally going to write a book. He told me once I would be after he was gone and I didn’t believe him, but I guess now it is.

What I Read In January 2021

The start of a new year and a new reading challenge! This year I’ve set my challenge at 100 books again and so far, so good! January has been an excellent reading month, mostly I’ve read shorter books because I just haven’t been able to concentrate on anything too long. I’ve also started to fall back in love with audiobooks! A positive start!

I was sent a copy of The Sad Ghost Club so that I could take part in the blog tour last week (take a read here) and it was a great book to read after the stress of 2020 and the gloom of another lockdown. I highly recommend and gave it 4 stars. Next up was a collection of poetry I picked up in the Waterstones sale Poems To Save The World With was a tricky one to review. I absolutely adored the illustrations and it’s a beautiful book, but I wasn’t that enamoured with the quite a few of the poems included, but that’s just down to personal preference!

I was also sent Here The Whole Time by Vitor Martins by the team at Bkmrk , a translated novel about two teenage guys who get to know each other more over the summer after one of them has had a crush for years. This was really sweet and I flew through it, I don’t know how anyone could read it and not fall in love with Filipe. A 4.5 star read for me.

There was definitely a gentle romance vibe with these two. Next up I read The Falling In Love Montage by Ciara Smith. It had been on my radar for ages and on my bookcase for a while and I really loved this book. I loved the characters, I loved the plot being focused around coming to terms with illness and family as well as romance and the ending was perfect. It was also my first 5 star read of the year!

I was sent a copy of Gut Feelings by C.G Moore and invited to the virtual book launch in January. Not only is Chris a lovely human but he’s written a spectacular book about invisible illness, going through medical trauma in your teens and early twenties, love, sex and working out who you are when your body isn’t the norm. It’s also written in verse with a fantastic layout. Another 5 star read!

Next up was another Waterstones sale purchase and I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful the cover is. This is an exploration of a life through books in a relatable way, Dear Reader was the comfort I needed. It’s also a book full of different kinds or reads rather than just a load of classics, which collections of this kind normally are. Also, I reached out to Cathy to thank her for such a wonderful book that gave me hope and she was so kind to reply back. I finished this one and immediately ordered her previous book.

My first audiobook of the year was Seven Kinds Of People You Find In Bookshops by Shaun Bythell. It was only 2 hours long but felt longer. This one really wasn’t for me, the use of latin, the judgments of people just didn’t sit right with me and seemed a little snobby. This was a 2 star read.

Last, but certainly not least, is The Last Act of Love also by Cathy Rentzenbrink. This is the story of Cathy and her brother, Matty who was hit by a car at 16 and sustained a brain injury which lead to him being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). We go from meeting Cathy and Matty before the accident and seeing their relationship to the hope the family has after the accident, through Matty’s care and ultimately when he passes. This book will touch your heart and make you want to cuddle your loved ones close. Cathy did a fantastic job putting everything into words. 5 stars, without a doubt.

What did you read in January?

Let me know in the comments below!

Blogmas 2020 - How To Save Spoons Over Christmas

Blogmas 2020 – How To Save Spoons Over Christmas

Remind me who had the great idea of taking on Blogmas while also moving house? Oh yeah, that was me. You might have noticed that yesterday I didn’t post – oops! But I’m still determined to do 24 blog posts, even if they don’t go out on time. In 2020 I think there’s some wiggle room.

The fact that I’m posting this a day late is literally down to the fact that my Fibromyalgia royally screwed me over yesterday and I crashed. For the past few days no matter what I do I’m exhausted, fatigue is kicking my arse more than just a little bit – so, I actually need to take my own advice.

Try and plan in rest breaks

I *try* and plan a rest where I can, even if it’s an hours recharge nap, any bit of rest helps.

Keep yourself warm

For myself and most of my Spoonie friends, the cold makes symptoms worse. So, making sure you stay warm will help. Personally, I find layers the most effective because I can strip off if I find myself getting too warm (not like that, cheeky!).

Some other ways to stay warm include little heated pads to put in your pockets, hot water bottles, heated blankets, adding draft excluders to the house etc.

Ask yourself, do you really NEED to do the thing?

I know I usually push myself too far, normally it’s so I don’t feel like I’ve let people down. So, listen to the idiot that I am – ask yourself if it needs to be done. Does my flat need to look like a Christmas wonderland when we’re moving 2 weeks before the big day? No. Do I need to do a virtual meet up with friends every evening even though I’m knackered? No.

No is a magical word.

Set your own boundaries

Especially important this year is setting boundaries and they will be pushed. Know what you’re limit is and what you’re comfortable with. With the pandemic causing a lot of Spoonies to isolate or lockdown more than others know that it’s ok to set firm boundaries and stick to them.

Be compassionate to yourself

While in therapy this year, this has been one of the things that I’ve been working on the most. My inner critic is harsher than any person I’ve met in real life. I also hate admitting I can’t do certain things sometimes because of my disability.

So, I’ve been working on being more compassionate to myself and acknowledging that I’m doing the best I can do right now.

Ask for and accept help

I want to be as independent as possible, but that isn’t always how life works. This Christmas was always going to be one where I needed to ask for help (I was supposed to be getting married in a few weeks but it’s been postponed, thanks ‘rona). So when people ask if they can do anything I’m saying yes because, honestly, I’m exhausted right now.

What are some of your tips for fellow Spoonies? Let me know in the comments below.

Why You Should Join A Book Club

Why You Should Join A Book Club

Last year I did something a little out of my comfort zone

Now, I’ll admit, my first book club I was so nervous. I’d been to one in my town before and it wasn’t great I didn’t gel with most of the people there and as far as I know it didn’t continue. On the day in question I was in the middle of a horrific flare causing me to get the time wrong and turn up half an hour late.

You are literally there to talk about books

Chances are if you’re looking at going to a book club then you like books. I don’t know about you but if you’re a total bookworm like me that alone is a reason to join. No one rolls their eyes when you get super excited about a new release or despair at a lackluster ending.

It’s a great way to meet new friends

I’ve met some of my closest friends in book club. I was already a regular at my local book shop but since joining the club I’ve made best friends that I now don’t know what I’d do without. I also ended up getting a job over Christmas and I only knew about it because of my visits!

You can explore reads you might not have picked up before

Book clubs are meant to show you new books you might not have read. We always vote on a range of books in a kind of knock out round system, the book with the most votes wins.

Thanks to the club, and my friend Maddie, I found a new fantasy series I adore The Mirror Visitor, starting with A Winter’s Promise which is an incredible book that you all need to read!

It gets you out of the house

I’m an introvert, I love nothing more than being left to drink lots of tea and stay in on my sofa in the evenings. Basically, I needed a reason to go out and see other people that didn’t rely on alcohol or spending a lot of money. This was the perfect excuse to get out while not being too out of my comfort zone.

It’s Fun

I have so much fun every month, we have snacks, I get a large cup of tea talk about the book with people. We don’t always stick to the chosen read, it’s perfectly normal for us to go off on a tangent here or there and sometimes I even go to the pub afterwards. It’s a nice feeling.

Are you part of a book club? I’d love to hear what you’ve been reading and if you were able to carry on virtually! Let me know!

Enjoying Writing Again

Enjoying Writing Again

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll have noticed I didn’t post much in July…in fact I only posted 3 times. I got to a point where I felt like the blog was another pressure in my life, another thing I needed to do and that’s not what this blog is about.

My blog has always just been a place where I can write, get ideas down and create something that I’m proud of. So when it stopped being fun I took a step back. For me, there was never a question of me getting back to it but I didn’t know when. I thought maybe I’d take until September because I was just so overwhelmed and struggling with my mental health.

That is until today, when I could feel my fingers itching to get to the keyboard and write about things. I could feel ideas for posts forming in my brain without it feeling like a colossal effort. Despite the fact I’m absolutely exhausted today (gym workout felt great yesterday, less so today) I wanted to write again. Yippie!

So, I’m not planning on putting pressure on myself to post a certain number of times a week at the moment, or on the views because, really does it matter? I blog mostly for me, to write, to get better at my craft etc. I don’t rely on this blog for my income, it’s not something I have to do so I’m going to get back to writing what I want again…I hope you enjoy it!

It’s good to be back.

Racism Is Everyone’s Problem

The video of George Floyds murder is not an easy watch, nor should it be. It’s the latest in a number of videos we’ve heard from the US about an unarmed black person being killed by the very people who should protect them.

Racism is alive and well – it never went anywhere.

I am aware that I’m writing this as a white woman. I’ve never had to fear for my life because of the colour of my skin. I cannot tell you what it feels like to be treated different because of my race and I’m not going to try. We need to listen to people who live the experience every day.

Listening is one part but also we need to recognise our privilege, now, some people have a problem with that statement. If you are oppressed or are living in difficult conditions it’s hard to feel privileged but realise that none of your problems are made worse or caused because of the colour of your skin.

When I was younger, I naively thought that we didn’t have a racism problem in the UK. I was so incredibly wrong that it brings me shame now to admit it. Racism is alive and well and we have our own history to recognise as well as what people are going through in this country today.

Claiming that there’s ‘nothing you can do’ about racism or that it’s ‘not that bad here’ is part of the problem. Not knowing doesn’t make you a bad person but living in ignorance does. Take the time to learn about the issues, have an understanding and change your own thoughts and behaviours. It’s not easy and you won’t be perfect but you can do your part.

We need to work together, listen and understand.

Welcome To Mental Health Awareness Week 2020

Writing about mental health isn’t anything new on this blog. While it may have changed in recent years to being about how I’m doing mentally in regards to chronic health conditions it’s still very important to me.

This years Mental Health Awareness week is very different and it’s likely that more people are aware of their mental health. We’re living through a time that none of us could imagine. As simple affection is limited or, for some, impossible I feel like now more than ever it’s important to discuss how we’re feeling.

This years theme is kindness, something we can all give but could all do with receiving too. While the world might seem like the most anxiety inducing place right now, and it is, there are also signs of hope and generosity.

During the last few weeks I’ve received messages, family members and neighbours have helped when we couldn’t go to the shops, strangers on the internet have sent me things from my amazon wish list and so have friends. I’ve tried to do things for others too in the ways I can.

I know that, for me, it’s felt at times like we’re stuck in a reoccurring nightmare. That it takes more effort than I have when things are hard. It’s normal to have days where it’s all too much, especially now. Taking it day by day, even hour by hour we can get through it together.

I’m going to be posting hopefully every day this week about mental health. Even though it’s a different kind of awareness week. I hope you find the posts helpful.

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Fifty-One – Things I Want To Keep

I know my last few lockdown posts have focused a lot on struggles that I’ve had in particular. I think it’s a pretty accurate representation of where my brain has been for a little while. We’re over 50 days in now and that is a long time to go without being able to hug your family or friends, right?

That said, when people talk about going back to ‘normal’ I think there are a few things I’d like to keep, a few positives that I’ve found and enjoyed. I hope I can carry these forward and I think other people are thinking along the same lines.

Having time to enjoy as a couple

While the entire sound industry shutting down is not ideal in the slightest it has meant that I’ve had Ali home for a long time. Normally I’m used to him working until late in the night or going away on tour.

We’ve had time to curl up and watch films together which is just really nice in itself. He might need to drag me off of my laptop to do it but it is calming. I know that he will go back to work, and I want him to because he loves his job but I think I’d like to make sure we spend the time differently.

Catching up with old friends

I’ve found myself talking to people I haven’t in a while and I’ve realised how much I’ve missed their company. While I can’t see my little introvert self meeting up with people all the time when we’re allowed it’s nice to catch up and see how people are doing. I want to do more of that.

Making weekends less digital

I don’t need to have my laptop or phone on to catch messages and emails about any potential work at the weekend so they’ve actually become a lot less digital. They’re for reading, sleeping and maybe writing some blogs if I feel up to it.

I’ve really enjoyed just using the weekend as quiet time for me and my brain to just log off for a bit, particularly when I wake up and have some quiet.

Going for walks when I can

It’s not always possible for me to go for long walks, depending on my pain levels but it has been quite nice to go out for a little walk to my local parks. Obviously I won’t be going it in the winter when it’s pissing it down but while the weathers nice I quite enjoy it.

Is there anything you’d like to keep after lockdown? Let me know below!

The Dylan Thomas Prize - Surge By Jay Bernard

The Dylan Thomas Prize – Surge By Jay Bernard

This year I was invited back to read and post about one of the nominees for the Dylan Thomas Prize Blog Tour- The world’s largest literary prize for young authors. Again, I chose to focus on a poetry pick, that being Surge by Jay Bernard. So, what is it about?

Jay Bernard’s extraordinary debut is a fearlessly original exploration of the black British archive: an enquiry into the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which thirteen young black people were killed.

While reading this I was shocked that I had no idea what the New Cross Fire was, even after a Google search I found little information about the fire itself and more about the activism afterwards. It seemed crazy to me that so many young people could die and so little seems to be said about it.

Of course, I’m no expert, but it does come across as something not being right. Officially it says that the fire was caused by an armchair but that many people being killed by one fire? It doesn’t seem to add up.

The way in which Bernard has shown this story to a whole new generation of people and has also linked it to Grenfell is incredibly effective. It really made me question how much has changed in this country in regards to racism. I’m a white woman, I’ve not been a victim of racism in my country but this gives me an insight, however small, into what needs to change.

As a debut collection Bernard has a strong voice and I can see more powerful poetry coming from them in the future. This was incredibly impactful and the writing showed extreme talent. While there were parts where I don’t think I fully understood what was going on, I felt that this added to the sense of disbelief.

I would really recommend picking this up if you want to learn about a chapter of history that I fear is often left out of the conversation.

Thank you to the Dylan Thomas Prize for sending me a copy in exchange for this review and good luck to all of the nominees! You can find out more about the prize here.

Celebrating World Book Day With Viking Books!

Celebrating World Book Day With Viking Books!

A very happy World Book Day to you! My feeds have been filled with pictures adorable kids dressed up as their favourite character from a book, some people have decorated potatoes which is now a thing. It’s just great to see kids getting excited about books and reading.

Back in January I received an email asking if I’d like to team up with Viking Books on World Book Day for a craft project. Now, I’m not the most crafty person (it seems to have skipped me) but I do like a chance to get creative.

So, what was the challenge?

I was gifted a box full of goodies including craft supplies, old book pages, a frame and a copy of Book Art by Claire Youngs to give me some inspiration.

As a brief I was told to get creative and show a book that inspired me, one I couldn’t stop thinking about. The first one that came to mind was Harry Potter but then I had another idea…

My Piece

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath had a big impact on me when I was studying at university. I could really identify with the main character, Esther, her worries, concerns and thoughts.

One of my favourite quotes also came from that book “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” There are also so many great quotes I could list but it’s a book that speaks to me and that quote in particular reminds me to take a minute when it all gets too much.

How Can You Get Involved?

So, I took quite an easy approach BUT there are some really great ideas in the book that I’m going to try later on. Pick up an old book and get creative or maybe pick one up cheap at a car boot sale or jumble sale.

Thank you to Viking Books for sending me the materials and book in exchange for this post.