Love is…bonkers.

It seems to me to be an impossible word to define and yet, like all things, just type it into Google and there it is. Over 5,000 words on Wikipedia describing what it is and what it has meant and how it means different things to different people.

This is just bonkers.

I may be alone in this, but there are some things we simply cannot put into words. Words can give life to so many wonderful things, but equally it can kill with a simple definition:

Love: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person

These words are so dry, so dead, that the meaning of ‘love’ to me is completely arbitrary. In fact, it sounds so deathly dull that I don’t think I’ll bother.

I’ll go knit instead.

There are many things that as humans, we excel at. Science, literature, adventure, architecture…but for some reason, we get ever so muddled when it comes to those philosophical questions that require us to actually search within ourselves for an answer.

What is reality?

What is man?

What is love?

Now, I am no expert, I don’t have a mind blowing alternative definition for you. But I do know that love is not something to be printed in black and white on the dry page of a dictionary. Love is something we FEEL, it is something we ARE.

Love is sharing a pocket on a wintry walk.

Love is pretending to like their taste in music.

Love is giving up the last cookie.

Love is a smiling when you kiss.

Love is words whispered to you in the dead of night.

Love is protection.

Love is being happy even when you are sad.

You cannot sum up what love is, you cannot say what love is to other people. It can’t be listed here on this blog; it can’t be pointed to in a book. You simply have to dive in feet first and be submerged in it. Let it take your breath away.

Because it’s a crazy thing, love. Completely bonkers.

When lost for new words, look to the old ones

Usually, I would have thousands of words awaiting the breath of life whispering at my fingertips and yet today…well, I’ll be honest with you, today it feels as if I have no new words.

I have instead a brain that is packed so full with notes and topics and philosophers’ names for my upcoming exam that I can’t quite remember what it feels like to think as myself and not as Thomas Aquinas. Which, since he was writing in the 4th Century B.C., is quite an exhausting man to emulate.

Not much happens during the exam period, have you noticed? It’s as if Drama takes a step back and leaves everyone alone for a bit, which, let’s face it, is perfectly acceptable seeing as we’re all so fantastic at creating our own. Public domains such as Facebook melt down and become an announcement page for anyone about to walk into an exam hall, hoping for someone to ‘like’ their status and give them reassurance that, if they do fail, at least they’re still popular in the virtual world. Any fashion awareness goes completely out the window, because no one has the time or the limbs to juggle extra outfits or accessories because they’re already carrying five folders and a laptop bag. And to top it all off, communication with family and friends dissolves into a constant stream of comparisons on how many hours of revision each person has done, what grades they hope to achieve and how this will affect them FOR THE REST OF THEIR LIVES.

Now, I am beyond compassionate to the drama Kings and Queens out there, what with me being one myself, but I don’t understand the panic in this scenario. This does not mean that I haven’t panicked before…but even whilst panicking, it felt like a bit of a waste of energy. An exam is an exam. You have spent years preparing, days cramming and yet no matter how hard you work at it, you’re not going to be able to change what questions turn up on that paper. You can just give it your best shot (or do the best darn bullshitting you can manage).

In the meantime, find some comfort-something or someone to bring you back down to earth and remind you of what else there is in life. Take a break from the books and settle in front of the TV to watch your favourite movie; stride out of those library doors and take a walk in the real world; run to the newsagents and buy the most expensive ice lolly, just because you can. For me, I find the sun is a beautiful distraction. Just sitting in the garden and listening to the birds makes me feel smaller, and then-in the grand scheme of things-writing an essay or solving an equation or two doesn’t seem so bad.

Because, who really cares if you get it wrong at the end of the day?

What I guess I’m trying to say is, if I don’t have any new words for you today, I sure as hell have some pretty reliable old ones:

CALM. DOWN.

The world does not amount to a spanner

We’ve all been the victim of what we call ‘one of those days’. You know the one-where eleven different people seem to be asking you eleven different favours and to be in eleven different places at one time. Nothing goes right. Your blood pressure soars through the roof.  You spill ketchup down your front when you eventually take a minute to shove some food down your throat.

And you aim a sly kick at your innocent cat for yowling too loudly while you work.

I seem to have had countless numbers of these days, believe me: I am the QUEEN of these days. Not only do I display all of the above symptoms, I am also prone to angry outbursts of long lists of everything in life that is worrying me. These are lists that go back not one day…but YEARS, bursting open old wounds and making the situation sound so much worse than it is so that I can justify my awful behaviour.

Which is why, when I receive a call from my boyfriend and he’s practically breathing fire at me down the phone, I understand completely where he’s coming from.

‘The car is broken, the brake light is gone, I’ve cut open my hand, there’s no one around who can help and I can’t find the bloody spanner!’ …were his main problems.

*Cue the sudden pressure thrust upon you when your partner is having (a somewhat minor) crisis*

My mind manically sifted through all the times this situation was reversed and he said something comforting to me, but realised me saying his signature ‘I love you, it will be fine’ would probably enrage him further.

It is times like this in life where we should all just take a step back (myself included) and stop, just for a minute. The problems won’t go anywhere while you stop to think how to fix them. Sometimes, one of the biggest problems we have is being unable to let go and accept temporary defeat. We may be the dominant species on this planet but it does not make us little gods. We cannot change everything that happens to us.

…So what did I tell my boyfriend?

 

I told him to breathe.

I told him to stop throwing the spare tyre around.

And I told him that the world does not amount to a spanner.

Heaven or Hell?

Life is a fragile thing, a tentative web made of heartbeat, breath, thought. We can be exalting in the majesty of it one moment only to be brought crashing down in a wave of destruction the next.

A car crash.

A heart attack.

A fall.

One wrong footing, one bad decision, one day too long and the flame of life is snuffed out by an unseen hand.

This year has brought me face to face with mortality, a terrifying void to be confronted and one that sends even the bravest of us fleeing for safety and warmth in our mother’s arms. Life is not infinite-at least not on this earth-but scripture, myth, legends and tales of old whisper promises of an afterlife to come, an afterlife of our choice:

HEAVEN OR HELL?

My beliefs do not lead me to the conclusion that these are physical realms, but that they are indefinable and unite all souls in one way or another when our time comes.

Heaven is different to all of us. To those that believe, it is ‘the abode of God, the angels, and the spirits of the righteous after death; the place or state of existence of the blessed after the mortal life.’ But to others, it is merely ‘a place of great happiness, delight or pleasure.’  Hell on the other hand, leaves us with no doubts as to what is to come: torment and misery. The only question we are faced with is whether this state of being exists in the afterlife or if it is present in all of us now.

There is no right or wrong here; there is no definitive place on a map to which we can point the existence of a Heaven or a Hell; there is no universal answer to the question of what awaits us on the other side.

And this terrifies us.

When death knocks at our door, we become selfish beings. We hold on to our loved ones desperately, forcing them to cling to what life they have left, no matter what pain they are in. This is something we cannot be judged for.

Whether they be a friend, a lover, a family member, or a mere acquaintance, death initiates the passing on to another place. We know not if this will be a Paradise, or a Hell. We are left to hope for them to be at peace.

We are left to pray for their souls, to remember the happiness they brought us, to be tormented by their memory, for as long as we live here on this Earth.

Their Heaven becomes our Hell.

The unsung heroes of the 1960s

What I don’t get about today is the music of popular culture. I don’t understand the appeal to R’n’B or that throbbing sound of drum and bass. Don’t get me wrong, I like a bit of Rhianna on a night out as much as the next girl but I just CAN’T listen to it all the time.

Music was my entire life, still is in a way. I learned to appreciate all kinds of music: from opera to baroque, from pop to heavy metal. I would sink into music and just…breathe.

But recently, it’s changed. I suddenly find that I recognise nothing on the radio, go blank when typing a song choice into Youtube, and find myself weeping in desperation at HMV (ok well…sniffing morosely at least).

And I am abruptly struck by the deepest desire for the past.

I want to know what happened to melodies. To hand jive and funky bass guitars. To music that lives on for decades with everyone mouthing the words without knowing how they learnt them.

I WANT THE MUSIC OF THE ‘60S BACK. 

Come on, how could you disagree? The Kinks, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, even Dusty Springfield…I can guarantee you all know the lyrics to at least ONE song by one of these artists.

My favourite song from the 60s is ‘All day and all of the night’ by The Kinks. Not because it was popular or because it’s easy to remember. But because I listened to it for the first time with the man I love whilst watching ‘The Boat that Rocked’ and we ended up dancing around the room at three in morning and singing it to each other for days afterwards. That’s a beautiful memory that will stay with me forever and I have that music to thank for that.

The 1960s brought us good music, the kind that makes you remember something or someone. It’s what makes you smile first thing in the morning or comforts you at night.

It has that element of soul that no one can explain.

The same way that no one can explain what makes ‘Yellow Submarine’ just so damn good.

DON’T TALK TO STRANGERS…right?

Don’t talk to strangers.

This is one of the first pieces of advice that is driven into you from a very young age. Along with ‘Don’t accept candy from strangers’ or ‘Don’t get into a car with strangers.’ In fact, you’re pretty much barred from doing anything that involves new people.

As you get older though, you grow out of these rules. It is simple maths: if you don’t ever talk to strangers (or accept candy from them), it is likely you will end up sad and alone (and hungry) for the rest of your life.

Clearly, you have to judge how trustworthy this new person is before moving forward into something ‘terrifying’ -like a conversation- but at the same time, what is so wrong with just having a little bit of faith?

Take me for example. Sat alone in a bus stop today, I was approached by a young man who opened the conversation with ‘Wow I like the colour of your toe nails!’ accompanied by a girlish chuckle.

Needless to say, immediate alarm bells went off…which wasn’t helped by the fact that he was carrying a bag full of beer and clutching a selection of velvet cushions. (I never found out why).

But after a few minutes of this man giving me his life story and a blow-by-blow account of how many hours he’s been on buses in the past two days (a total of sixteen if you’re interested), I began to relax. There was nothing dangerous about him, nothing scary. In fact, when he then introduced himself as Leonard and shook my outstretched hand, I smiled. It turns out he was simply one of those rare people who are genuinely happy to meet others and just chat in the afternoon sun.

It made me wonder though: why are we all so quick to judge? People were actively moving away from Leonard-and why? Because he had long hair and was dressed slightly differently? It all just seemed so pointless. We have all become institutionalised to believe the worst of people and never wait around to give them the chance to prove us wrong.

So I’m not saying shake the hand of every stranger that walks past. But I am saying don’t turn your nose up at the first person who seems different to you.

You might just meet a Leonard.

And we all deserve a smile on a Friday afternoon.

The Hunger Games: A Review

Now, I know I have previously declared a glaringly obvious love for Harry Potter and I also know that that is a rather predictable love. But usually, I am not one to follow the latest hype. I like to believe that I think outside the box, choose the less popular option and find something much more private and beautiful and mine. There’s an intimacy, I believe, when you find an unknown literary treasure that you don’t get with any other art form.

But then there were the Hunger Games.

Cue the hundreds of statuses on facebook; cue the familiar book cover obscuring the face of every teen on the local bus service; cue your every friend condemning you for not reading them because they are just ‘sooooooooooooooooo amazing.’

Quite frankly, I found the pressure crippling. So I caved and tentatively crept on to the ever expanding band wagon.

And found myself an overnight addict.

They may not be eloquently written, they may not be as intricate as more mature novels, but at the end of the day, the story is gripping. I surged through all three books in a matter of days and found myself pondering them for hours afterwards.

To me, a good book calls to something deeper within you than those surface feelings of rage or happiness, romance or war. Like a sponge, we absorb the secrets of the characters, the dilemmas of the plot. And at the finish line, we discover that along the way, we gave up a bit of ourselves to it.

Surprisingly, the Hunger Games joined the collection of the few tales that affect me in a way I don’t entirely understand. I felt inspired and scared and exhausted all at once. It was wonderful.

So give them a read. For those of us too proud or timid to try, pretend you’re reading it as a favour to your child or sibling. For I promise that if you do…

‘THE ODDS WILL BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOUR.’