Forever Is Not Long Enough~

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When I was a child (perhaps 8 at most) I was sitting in the living room of our then house playing* while my dad was watching a film set in what must have been Victorian times. I was slipping in and out of attention to it, as kids do, but I remember being struck by a scene in which a dashing gentleman asked an aging dignitary if he could have his daughter’s hand.

“Why does he want a hand?”

“It means he wants to marry that man’s daughter,” replied my dad.

“Oh. Why is he asking? Why doesn’t he just marry her?”

“It’s traditional to get a daddy’s permission** before a man asks a lady to marry him.”

“Oh. Does that mean if a man wants to marry me, he needs to ask you for my hand?”

“Yes, but don’t worry, I’ll make him take the rest of you as well.”

Thus began a list of stipulations in my young mind about what my future paramour would have to do before I would agree to wed him. Obviously, as was proper, he would have to seek and gain my father’s approval and permission. I have always trusted my father would never sanction any man he deemed unfit to be my husband. As I grew up I began to understand that this was an out-dated, actually rather un-feminist tradition based more on the idea of passing property and status than a girl’s happiness, but my heart clung to it. For me, if the man who had raised me and protected me, and loved me without condition, gave his go-ahead, I felt I really must be in safe hands. And so it has remained an important part of any proposal, and I have let all possible suitors*** know this.

I have always reserved the right to say ‘try again’ if he lacked the courtesy of getting down on one knee. I mean… right?

Lastly, a speech. It didn’t have to be saccharine or long, just sincere and conveying the reasons why marriage (and marriage to me in particular) is an important step he is now ready to take. And why he thinks I should be ready to take it to.

Just three non-optional stipulations a man had to overcome to ‘win my hand’^. In a book I love, a character tells her partner, in no uncertain terms, that before he can ask to marry her, he must achieve three great deeds. I would much rather fight the dragons and walk the darkness with the man I love rather than have him do it for me, but I consider these three stipulations rather like the ‘great deeds’ a man must complete to earn his right to get a ‘yes’. Maybe not a feminist or modern-age way of doing these things, but hey-ho, there you go.

Of course, outside of those mandatory stipulations, I harbored hopes about how a man would propose to me. I wanted to be surprised, and swept of my feet. I wanted it to be perfect for us. I wanted special and magic and beautiful.

And then it happened.

I expected so much to happen when I was proposed to; I believed it would be important, where and when and how it happened; the speech, the candles and flowers, the ring^^, and romance. Really though, as soon as the question is out and around you, the only significant factor of a proposal: the person.

The truth is in the quiet moment that follows, when your heart jumps and then stops, when your voices catches in your breath, the place and time fade into the background, until you’re left with a human being kneeling before you waiting on one word.

Here before me was a person who had walked into my life just over two years ago, and started adding stuff, like magic and adventure and laughter and swords^^^, and all the really important stuff, like support and fun and generosity and courage and acceptance and kindness. And understanding. He just seemed to get all the less admirable qualities in me – all the bad anxiety days when I would withdraw, or cry, or find nothing good in myself or sometimes even the world. And he would come and hold me, or just be still and silent with me, or remind me why I have value and show me just a smidgen^* of the beauty in other people and the world. He can just make me laugh, no matter what mood I’m in; I can be drenched in my own tears and snot, or so worried my heart is beating too fast and he will say or do something which forces me to smile. I really am not sure how; I believe it’s just a wonderful aspect of who he is.

Here before me was my partner. Someone who had stood beside me during the dark days of both our lives. Someone who was always honest about our relationship, about our future and about his past. Someone who both trusted me with his broken bits and could be trusted with mine. Whenever some difficultly arises in our relationship, I always know I can speak honestly about it, when I am calm and ready, and be listened to and valued, and I have been amazed at how my comments are met with genuine understanding, and an active effort to better the problem which is instant and consistent. I see him making the effort to create lasting harmony between us, and I am always grateful for someone who believes in us enough to do so.

I saw this person who had been so easy to love from the beginning, the process of which had been as wonderful and as simple as stepping out into a beautiful morning, in the honey glow of a summer day, colours so much more vivid. Everything about is had been gentle and private – our meeting, our first kiss, our goodbyes and reunions, and all the little everyday adventures, going on holiday, making dinner, talking well past bed time about everything from the NFL to books and writing. Whatever we did was better because we were together. That’s all we needed. Just us.

It was no different when it came to the proposal. On an ordinary morning on May 28th*^, as gentle as as simple as all our engagements, Chris decided to ask if I would marry him, and that was all that mattered.

Did I want to be with this person for the rest of my life?

No. Not just the rest of my life.

A lifetime wasn’t nearly long enough. Forever could never be long enough to love and be with him.

So, I said yes.


 

*Probably Barbie was rescuing my little pony figures from the peril of my sister’s action man villains. Or possibly they were hosting a party with the villains. I can’t remember exactly.

**And I remember being extremely proud of myself that I knew what that meant.

***Two. There have only ever been two serious suitors who might ask for my hand in marriage, and one of them, I am pretty sure, would have received a resounding ‘no’ when he asked my father.

^And the rest of me too.

^^The ring, just by the way, genuinely struck me as incredible. Chris, all credit to him, managed, by himself, to venture into the jungle of engagement rings and strike gold. Now, I must admit here, I doubted him. Just a little. Simply because he is a man with little care to artistic design. Yet, I don’t think I could have chosen a better ring myself. So, bravo, Chris, bravo. I shall never doubt your jewellery picking ability again. But also, now you have no excuse for not buying me jewellery.  …. I get to squeal about the ring.

^^^Both metaphorically and actual. There is a real sword in our living room, which has become the point of focus for many guests, and which sometimes I remove carefully and use to duel the powers of darkness while riding my imaginary dragon. I always win.

^*There’s a word I don’t think we as a society use enough ‘smidgen’ – say it lots. It’s kinda fun.

*^Yep, it’s taken me that long to get this post written. No sign of those Winchester blogs I promised yet either. It’s a wonder I have any hypothetical audience at all.

An Early Riser

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My friend has the most comfortable temporary bed I have ever slept on, and given some of the camp-beds, air-beds and sofa beds I have used in my time, that is saying something. My sister has a sofa bed which I swear was once a medieval torture devise*. After a restless night, trying to find a comfortable position around the lumps of the feet, it is not uncommon to awaken with your shoulder where your neck should be, or indeed even a knee where your neck should be. Suffice to say, having slipped easily into sleep and remained there all night without trouble, my friend’s temporary bed is the kind I imagine god has his angels sleep on when they come over for late night universe discussion**.

However, it did occur to me that this particular sofa-bed has a slight advantage in that my sleeping habits have improved greatly over the last few years***. They were less habitual during my University days and didn’t improve much for some years afterwards. Somehow, if you can believe, somewhere over the last two years or so, I became what is known as an ‘early riser’^.

Yes, I too used to believe these people were either insane or taking some magical morning pill sold in shady corners of impoverished neighborhoods. When I had to, I could struggle up at 7:00 to be somewhere necessary for 9:00, but I was never happy about it, yet I knew people who could hop up from their beds at 6:30 with all the relish and cheeriness of a Disney princess. Part of me envied these freaks of nature, and another part simply took them for unicorns.  Either way, being able to rise from bed early and happily did not feel possible in my case.

That was, of course, until a few years ago when I found myself agreeing to a job which required me to be ready and raring no later than 6:00am. To many people, including myself today, this is not actually an early start as early starts go. My father has woken at this time practically every working day of his life. What you must understand is that for myself, who had never thought 6:00am a decent time for anything (save perhaps getting to an airport) this was indeed a notion which invited horror. Yet, it had to be done, and thus I wearily set an alarm, tried to go to bed early, and failed miserably to get much sleep at all.

I just didn’t understand how anyone could do this everyday without oceans of caffeine^^.Each morning (particularly the dark, cold morns of mid-winter), I would fall gracelessly from my bed, eyes heavy and mind slurred, and topple into the bathroom, squinting against the sudden light. My movements were sloth like at best. At 6:40, I would clamber out into the morning, usually finally roused from utter dreariness by the snap of chill air. On route there would be dog walkers whistling merrily, joggers, and one particularly perky elderly gentlemen who was always on his way back^^^ from collecting the daily paper. They all appeared so alive, while I sometimes convinced myself I was wondering the world as a ghostly presence.

Nowadays, though, I too have become an ‘early riser’. By that I mean, not only do I wake at a certain time everyday (5:30am^*), but can now do so without scorn or painful eyes. In fact, in these last few months I have actually enjoyed doing so. Yes, actually, ‘enjoy’. Really.

Getting up early means you can get a lot done before anyone else is even awake, and that is a feeling of accomplishment which cannot be beaten. Knowing that the world is snoozing while you are sending off emails and ticking off items on a long to-do list is fantastic. I can now complete a morning routine (including work-out and shower) with time to spare, and on really good days, most of my to-do list is checked off before breakfast. Hard to believe, I know, but there we have it. At some point, almost without notice, I made amends with mornings. It leaves me both gleeful and, at odd times, resentful of myself, much like I was of those joyful joggers of the frigid winters.

I always considered myself a dusk person rather than a dawn, but it seems the two are not mutually exclusive. Now I believe they are two times of day particular for certain activities and feelings. Dusk is for relaxing, creativity and contemplation, moving into the peaceful, solitary hours of early night, where my heart has always found tranquility. Mornings, I see now, also have a purpose. Dawn is for energy and productiveness, and can offer just as many peaceful hours, but for reasons of gathering ones thoughts for the day, and setting the day in the right direction. Perhaps maturity has allowed me to see the value in a time of day I usually overlooked.

Even on weekends, I find actually waking early has a certain glee to it. Take for instance my stay on the aforementioned heavenly sofa-bed. My friend and I had the customary late night as is our way, and yet I still woke refreshed and raring, alarm free at about 6:30. I yawned languidly, read my book, dressed, replaced the sofa-bed and sat on the swivel chair to read further until my hostess with the mostess appeared to prepare breakfast. You see what I mean? Morning hours are great for more time doing pleasant things, like reading and thinking and stretching. Still not sure on the jogging though. It never seems a great time to just go jog.

Yet, who knows? Perhaps given enough time, I’ll suddenly get the urge to don a pair of expensive running shoes*^, and haul ass around the neighborhood avoiding pedestrians and dogs in minus-degree temperatures. For now, I’ll just enjoy the experiences of being an early riser.


*I know many people use that simile, but this really is. Honestly. I think I even had a dream while residing in its painful clutches that I was being harassed by people trying to extract information from me for King Henry VIII. And I wanted to give them information. I just didn’t know what it was.

**Which is something I imagine any god would do, you understand. Perhaps there is even a DDR competition and charades. I don’t claim to know the master workings of the Universe, but it’s fun to contemplate the matter. Perhaps, when this mortal coil of mine has been shrugged away, I will see the behind the scenes footage, though I doubt it will be anywhere as ordinary and human as I have described. I hope not anyway.

***And at no point has it been cursed to create a thousand years of torment by a disgruntled witch, which may be the case with my sister’s sofa-bed.

^The term ‘early riser’ always sounded too cutesy-wootsy to me, like something from a children’s cartoon. ‘Down in the land of the early risers’. Yet, I lack a better term, so there you go.

^^Given I cannot stomach coffee, this was not an option for me. I did more than once consider intravenous caffeine, but I lacked the street smarts to know where to find such things, if such things exist.

^^^You undertstand, back? As in, he had already risen from bed, walked to collect his paper and was now returning to his abode. Meaning either he was up at least half an hour before I was or he was incredibly quick. Or, a less realistic notion, he invented a formula which stopped the body’s need for sleep, and thus no longer went to bed at all. Those are the only possible reasons. What do you mean I haven’t considered other factors? Be gone with you, Sir.

^*In the last few weeks this has become 5:00am.

*^Have you seen the price of some of these trainers? It’s ridiculous. I saw one pair once with ‘bounce technology’. What the heck is ‘bounce technology’? A mattress and a trampoline should have ‘bounce technology’, not a pair of shoes. Not that it mattered because these shoes cost about as much as either of those things. They were over £100. Unless they possessed the ability to defy gravity, and came with an installed cup-holder, I’m not interested. If you need that much bounce, dear jogger, jog on a trampoline.

Mindful Decluttering (Pt2): Parts of Who I Was

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Recently I posted about my attempt to remove the clutter from my life. That business is now completed*. However, during my excavation of the study cupboards where I keep my notebooks, I found that some of them were actually used. By me. As a teenager. Something I had completely forgotten I did. Mostly, back in those less-than-favourable days I simply wrote stories** and I have always kept a vigil over these, and I remember most of what I wrote and when and why. However, the personal writings slipped to the back of my head, so rediscovering the lost archives of my personal history was enlightening, if also befuddling***.

My teenage years were not my best days, which I’m sure is true for most people, so I’m surprised much of it has slithered to the recesses of my head, only to be pulled out during my late night pondering. However, I was actually taken aback, because some of the stuff I stumbled upon can not be considered all that normal, even for a troubled teenager.

There are three items of importance, so we’ll start with the most normal and work our way down to the outright wacky.

1.The normal, yet highly depressing diary entries.

Apparently, back when I was around the age of 14-16, I kept a regular^ standard diary. I sort of remember doing this, because I had at that point, been introduced to a rather famous diary, and I started really concerning myself with what I would leave behind in the world. And, according to my teenage logic, the things happening in my life were somewhat akin to WWII.

Mostly, the entries are average teenage stuff. Actually, I wasn’t too focused on boys, save for two, and they were fleeting glimpses into my early view of how relationships worked^^. I moaned. I was actually very good at that. About people who caused me trouble and situations which didn’t go my way. I wrote at length about loneliness and not-fitting-in, about my feelings of powerlessness.

There are a few entries of containing some of the big questions, including one narrative piece entitled ‘What Would it be like to be a Duck”^^^ in which I contemplate the idea of just being a duck. The theme seems to be that being a duck would be easier than being me. Having had a read through, I find that the duck entry is about as weird as it gets.

There was a second diary which I kept during my first year of creative writing, detailing the transition I took changing course and the days living in student accommodation with five other girls, and dating my second boyfriend. The most interesting factor of this book is a list of improvements I wanted to make in my life to try and be a happier and stronger person. Otherwise, there is a lot of drama.

2. Letters to God

This one is odd, because it harks back to the days of my early theology, which was traditionally Christian. I knew that. For many years I tried to follow that particular faith, but even back then it never felt quite right – like a pair of ill-fitting shoes. Often I had questions about the sacred text, about the idea of who God was supposed to be, and when no one did very well to answer me^* I decided to finally go questing into the wider world and discover what I really believed for myself. But that’s another story.

In any case, back during my mid-teens I was reading the bible and trying to make sense of life from a Christian stand-point, and thus, as an extension to this, I started a special diary where I wrote to God. I suppose it was just a form of praying I was comfortable with, because writing helped me process difficult emotions more carefully.

Most of the letters are simply rehashes of the diary entries*^ but with more of a pleading tone. Sometimes I allude to the questions which would ultimately lead to my leaving the religion, but otherwise I am mostly praying for people to talk to, and other usual teenage concerns. I always sign my name at the bottom, I think in part because I had a genuine concern God would not know it was from me otherwise. I didn’t really know myself back then, and I wouldn’t for a long time yet.

I wrote to a higher being, because otherwise I felt completely powerless and alone, and thus I wasn’t aware I had any ability to change circumstances for myself if I could control my attitude. Everything was so world bound and self-centered when I was young, and I think speaking with something I deemed to know me even when I did not know myself, was a way of escaping that mindset in a method I found simple^*^.

3. Diaries in Code. 

So, I think we can all agree that the first two items are not all that off. Maybe the letters to God are less common, but not completely out of place in the bedroom of a then Christian, confused, lonely teenage girl with hormones roaming her bloodstream like wildebeest the Serengeti. However, now we get to the rather bazaar item, which, despite being something memorable, I had completely forgotten about.

I wrote some form a depressing diary entirely in a made up language, complete with a code alphabet. Now, I’m certain I did not memorize an entire alphabet whether I made it up or borrowed it, but I have left myself absolutely no frame of reference to be able to read it now.  Knowing me, I hid it in a book, but having checked the pages of all the novels I read between the ages of 16-18 (judging by the hand-writing, this is when I wrote these entries) I have still come up short of even a clue.

Chris and I suspect the word I keep writing at the end of every page is my name, because I did that with both the diary and the letters, and the word is five letters long. If this is the case, we have deduced that the symbols correlate directly with letters in the English alphabet. Since my name has three vowels in it, we can safely say which single symbols are ‘I’ and ‘a’, which work in the context of the sentence structure. Other than that, I may have to sit down and try to crack the rest of the code like a puzzle.

Folks, it gets weirder-*

I know what you’re thinking*^*. How can I know the entries are depressing, when I can’t read what it actually says? An excellent question my dear hypothetical audience. The answer: because I doodled bleeding, stabbed hearts on the pages, and one page is a single sentence over and over again, containing what is reasonable to assume must be the word ‘hate’. I’m almost glad I can no longer witness the object of such hatred. My emotions back then were so strong and volatile; I remember how painful it was to feel so angry and alone, but these are not emotions I have experienced for a very long time. So, whoever or whatever it was that elicited such reactions in me, chances are I have let it go, and did so a long time ago.

Losing the code can be considered a blessing. The emotion behind the words is more important than what is being said.

End of list.

Interesting as these discoveries are, there was the pressing question of what I was now to do with them. They couldn’t just be returned to the cupboard to once again be lost to time. The whole point of the big de-clutter was to bring everything up to the jury, including sentimental, and surprising objects, of which these might be considered both.

If you read my previous post, you may remember my system of mindful questioning I used in order to help with the difficulties of attachment and letting go of possessions I didn’t ultimately need or even particularly want. This is obviously harder with items with have sentimental value and reside in a period of your personal history. Things like diaries and letters for example. However, the decision was not as hard as I thought it would be.

I read through the first diary, and immediately resented the memories and feelings it gave me. Much of my teenage years were unhappy for many aspects beyond my control, but I have learned now the truth behind many of the circumstances I went through and understand why the Universe presented me with such a difficult time. I’ve learned all the lessons I needed to learn to become who I am today, so I already knew I was going to rid myself of the item itself. This was not something I wanted to come across again, nor look upon to remember my teenage years. Nor do I want future generations to find such hateful things. So, I shredded the entries and bid them farewell, thankful that I wasn’t that person anymore.

I did the same with the university diary, because again, the person I was is not a person I was proud to be, and is no longer who I am. Everything I had to learn from such passages I have, thankfully, already gleaned**^, and so I simply thanked them for reminding me of the power I possess over my own life, and passed them on.

As for the letters to God, there was no need to hang on to these either. Firstly, they were selfish appeals to a deity I no longer believe in^^*. Secondly, they, again, expressed thoughts and feelings I no longer experienced and had long since come to terms with. With these, I simply thanked them for the release and catharsis they had provided me when I wrote them, and shredded them while uttering a blessing. These words were no longer mine, and so keeping them served no purpose than to remind me of the dark emotions of someone gone.

Lastly, the deeply depressive coded messages. I suspect I coded my words to shield them from the eyes of prying parents**^^, but this has ensured I don’t need to relive the experiences again. I considered keeping it as an item of interest, something for future generations to puzzle over. However, I realise I don’t want the contents to be uncovered. Normal perhaps as a turbulent emotional period is in teenage years, I don’t want my children or grand-children to feel these are things they should hide or bury under a layer of coding^^**.  These ugly feelings should be shared and dealt with, that way they cannot become so strong that such hatred and longing grows from them like fungus on a poisoned tree.

Once these coded words had given me this last lesson about how I will one day conduct myself as a parent, and now are of no more use to me. So I thanked them for the wonder of their rediscovery, and I shredded them into the ether.

Although all these items have a staple place in my history, they are only archives of the past. The whole idea behind being mindful is to remain always in the present moment. When I held these items and re-read the words, I didn’t associate with the girl who had written them; she felt distant to me, and as such, the diaries did not feel like mine. They belonged to a person who longer exists.

The girl who wrote them grew and changed into what I believe and hope is a better person. I’ve grown away from those broken days of my youth, and spent a great deal of time developing self-awareness and compassion (for both myself and others), and actively pushing anger from my life, because it is a destructive feeling which bodes ill on all sides. These objects do not help work towards peace and mindful living.

Instead I will step forward away from them, and continue to live now as I am here today, just thankful I’m not the girl who was so broken inside she wrote these desperate words.

There are no angry desperate words in me now.

 


*Apart from actually taking the rest of the donated items to the charity shop, because Chris is still away doing exams, and has with him the mode of transportation. As much as I want it all gone, I also don’t want to spend the few hours I have in the day lugging heavy boxes up a steep hill on foot in the rain.

**They are bad. Really, really bad. I suppose that’ll be what professors talk about in the documentaries about my life; the origins of my writing skills. I plan to someday include extracts in my memoirs. …. That’ll happen right? …. Guys…. Right?

***I didn’t think that was a word. Go figure.

^Regular being every few days, which is strange considering I’m lucky if I have time to update this once a week. Back then I had stuff like homework and moping deal with, and I still managed to sit down every couple of nights to splurge some hormonal testimony onto a page. Now, I don’t have such matters to concern myself with, and I still struggle to make time to keep this blog going, and even then I can go months without a word. This is just another example of how being a grown up is lame.

^^It’s no wonder I didn’t fare well with men for a little while; luckily when I was about 17 my dad passed me a copy of ‘Men are from Mars‘ and I quickly learned that men and women think very differently. I still use knowledge from that book to this day.

^^^I wasn’t great at capitalising title sentences then, but it’s interesting to see the beginnings of how I titled life writing, compared to what I do now. Of course, some other titles include ‘Life is so Hard’ and ‘I wish I Knew Why’. Make of that what you will.

^*Some tried, but could only refute my wondering with circular logic. There was however one particular man of the cloth, who in no uncertain terms, told me simply not to question anything because God would take it as ill faith. -_-

*^Minus the duck one. How amazing would it have been if I had actually written to Lord on high talking about wishing he would make me a duck because human life was too exhausting? I wouldn’t have put it past me to do so, but unfortunately (or maybe very fortunately) I wasn’t quite that strange. At least not yet.

^*^ My spelling however, was atrocious. If God had been reading, he may have struggled with the phonetics.

-* And ever so slightly serial killerish.

*^*Syke – I have absolutely no idea what you are thinking. I’m not a mind reader.

**^Other than learning the lesson that I had already learned the lesson, if that counts. I’m sure it must in some capacity.

^^*At least not in the Christian form anyway. Don’t worry, the Universe and I are still tight. Big U and I just have a far better understanding, and I choose to celebrate the greatness of it in ways I find much more comfortable and personal. I bet the Universe all in all its aspects is happy I’m no longer always begging it for the answer for very superficial things.

**^^This might make me sound deeply paranoid, however, I was really into adventure/mystery tales at the time, and secret codes are just cool. If you do not think so, I would recommend you leave now.

^^** Alice’s list of things which should be in code: treasure maps, secret Romeo & Juliette style love letters, HTML, medieval plots to over-throw the tyrant king, childhood languages.

Mindful De-Cluttering

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Recently I’ve been organising the flat, and a large part of the process has been de-cluttering everything, everywhere*. On the surface, our home actually appears neat and tidy, but it hides a chaotic mass of accumulated possessions which rarely (if ever) see the light of day. Buried beneath used items at the bottom of the wardrobes and in the hallway cupboard are hidden caches of forgotten clothes, ornaments, and notebooks** shoved away shortly after the move and promptly lost to the mind. Yet, on a visit to Chris’ hometown, we decided to cart back some of his things, only for me to despair about where everything would go. There was only one answer: time to sort some shiz.

So, we got on it. After a two weekends and a week of being away in various parts of the country for various reasons***, Chris and I only had a short four days to pull yet more boxes from storage, find and empty every box, bag and cubbie, and sort, donate, sell, recycle, or bin practically everything we own^. All while I was working my usual morning shift with the kiddlywinks and he was revising for some important upcoming exams. Time management was going to be a harsh mistress^^, and the magnitude of the task was instantly intimidating. However, when the project started, I wanted it done. I couldn’t abide the idea of all that stuff hanging around like a bad smell awaiting completion, or worse, being ultimately returned to the hiding places wense they came. If I had to do it, I was going to do it while Chris was around to help with the inevitable harsh decisions^^^, and while I still had the gusto to keep the ball moving.

My gusto and the early mornings actually made a rather productive team. Having to be up for work, meant I was already awake and moving by just after 9:00am when I returned back at the flat. Chris would also be awake by my return, the kettle would go on, beverages on hand, and we would get to business. I figured if we could summon enough motivation to get the bulk of it done while Chris was around with the car, I would wade through the smaller piles while he was away. Within the first three hours we had filled two large boxes and a clothes hamper for donation, and sold a large portion of our disused CDs and DVDs to an online service*^. We sent ancient mobiles to be recycled and purchased a shredder^* to handle old documentation and receipts, in what Chris terms as a ‘shredding party’*^*. By day two we had actually cleared away two huge boxes of obvious to-go items, which meant moving on to the nitty-gritty: the things I think I need and the sentimental.

On day three, I turned the study upside-down. For years I had been carting around heaps of stationary I was deluded to think I would someday find a special reason to use. Notebooks I had purchased in my teens still lingered in the cupboards, and I had empty files from University now void of their former content. Pretty objects with potential I couldn’t find a good enough reason to validate. It was time to say goodbye, but having kept them so long, it was harder to part with some items than I thought it would be^*^.

It’s funny how I didn’t even think about the things I was keeping in the background of my life before I analysed their worthiness in my existence. I was standing in front of two boxes^*^* – donate or keep – and always, regardless of item, found myself leaning toward the latter even when the rational part of my mind screamed a thousand reasons why that decision was counteractive to the task. It was easy to find counter arguments to rationalizations: I would put it somewhere I could see it and actually use it, I would resolve to actually spend time doing what it had been purchased for; I could do this or that, but I could not let it go at the moment.

Why?

It was the most frustrating thought process, and such thinking was probably why I had kept these things in the many clear-outs I had had in the past. This time, I was determined to be brutal, so I gave Chris the final vote*^*^ on almost everything, dictating the conflicting voices in my head. Being far more impartial than I , he allocated at least eighty percent to the donation pile, leaving me with a few spare folders and notebooks. His rationale was that we could simply buy these things again if a real, present need ever presented itself.

Chris was incredibly helpful, but I was going to have to face rough choices without him over the weekend and I didn’t fancy agonizing over every little possession like I had stumbled across a pile of diamonds, 50% of which were fake^^*. Mostly, because it makes the process three times as long, but also because I didn’t want to keep things just for the sake of not being able to let them go.

What is it about possessions which cause us such severe attachment? Ultimately, they are just things, ephemeral and lacking any ability to provide lasting happiness, yet they hold such dear places in our mind despite this. Without any effort, they crawl into our heads and sit there somewhere, almost secretly, creeping up only when the debate arises over what to do with them. Apparently, possessions actually trigger memory centers in the brain which connect with more abstract ideas about the self. For example, keeping boxes of long unused craft supplies**^ reminds us of our potential, and that we still have passions we want to pursue, even if we no longer have time or energy, or we have moved on from those particular enjoyments.

Memories and aspirations are comfortable places to stroll through, and possessions make it even easier to do so. Having things for many years, as far back as childhood, can make us feel calm, powerful and assured, because we attach a certain part of ourselves into old uniforms, and teddy-bears, into clothes which will never fit again, and instruments which have not been played in years. These objects remind us of who we were and who we might have been, if we had made different choices, the right choices, if we had given up corporate jobs or not given up corporate jobs, of a time when we were a blank canvas, a time when we were young and wild, or had more time, or didn’t care what the world thought, when we were skinny or confident or happy. A time before the trauma, before the accident, before he/she left us, before we made a big mistake. Possessions can zap us to a place and time seemingly more perfect than that which we inhabit. So, we keep them, because while they’re around we can drift off to another, better version of who we are.

Buddha had something when he spoke about attachment being a road to suffering. Mostly all these items do, having long since expired in any other meaning, is remove us from the present.  While you’re busy lost in the delusions of the mind, the real opportunities to grow and develop slip by unnoticed, allowing you to gather more possessions to fill the voids which grow where potential withers. Though the boxes may fill the spaces of our physical existence, no amount of material outside of us can sprout true happiness within; only the present moment and awareness can do that. Clinging to clutter is just a way of drawing further into a delusion, and the majority of us do this at least to some degree.

For me, I find owning possessions is not the problem. I know there is a simplifying movement sweeping through the West right now, but I genuinely don’t take issue with owning things, not even extraneous things; the true issue lies with the attachment, and the psychological minefield**^^ which can arise from such clinging.  I had to really think about why I was keeping things. Digging into your psyche can be exhausting, but is seems for me it is the only way to stagger through the obstacles of my decision making.

What did this singular thing really represent to me? Why was I holding on to it? External to my mind was it a useful object? Who was I when I held it and why did I want to be that person? Why was I anxious when I thought about parting with it – who was I when I was anxious to part with it?

In the end, they were just things. Whatever version of me had held them once, no longer was, and whatever version of me^^** I hoped would someday hold them does not exist yet, even if they might in the future.   Once I had worked out a strategy, it was easier to face the more personal items, even when I had no judge to hammer in the final sentencing.  Instead, I slipped into mindfulness and let my less earth bound (the side which is closer to the Universe) side hold the gavel. Which had a surprisingly effective result. Using questions geared around usefulness and self-awareness rather than emotion, I could more easily decide what went and what stayed, and in doing so, cleared three 80 litre storage containers from the hallway cupboard. Phew. But there’s still a wardrobe full of clothes to consider and bits and bobs which have been put aside while the big stuff is being processed.

One thing at a time. Eventually, everything will be done, carefully and mindfully.


*Don’t take me wrong; it’s not that I’m drowning in stuff. I’m not one of these people who have piles of useless junk everywhere. I downsize every time I move for goodness sake, and I move more than the Grey Whale. Look it up.

**Actually, I kind of knew about the notebooks, because I like having pretty notebooks ornamenting my shelves. Yes, I admit that’s a problem, but notebooks are a type of book, and if you have been following me long enough, you know we don’t question books. Don’t worry; I donated many of them this time around. Mostly because they were no longer on shelves, but were shut away in a cupboard. I only kept the really pretty ones…. Don’t judge me.

***Easter trip, anniversary trips, family visiting; it seriously felt like we had travelled thousands of miles in the space of week. I intend on writing some of those journeys, but so far life has strolled in dancing with a baton and getting in the way… so we’ll have to see. Hey, remember that time I said that before and then I actually wrote it up? Me neither.

^I say ‘we’, but 90% of it is my stuff.

^^Turns out the time management mistress also carries a whip and wears spurs on her boots, and she will ride you like a horse across the desert. I’m not even sure if that works as a simile, but she isn’t nice is my point.

^^^I’m pretty good at a few things in life; but making decisions about particular aspects of my life is something I am considerably (a lot) bad at. There’s nothing wrong with second opinions, right?

*^And oddly enough one book. I actually donated a few books which I hadn’t actually enjoyed all that must due to the shelf space crises of 2016. Not much, but I tried. Anyway, we boxed the book up along side the other media for selling, but when the recent came through, I was told the condition of the book was too poor for them to offer payment. What? Have you seen my books? Probably not. But my books have unbent spines and un-dog-eared pages, and are frequently dusted. So, you know, I’m insulted. I mean it was only 30p, but it’s the principle. That book, was the equivalent of a crufts dog pure bred… minus the probable birth defects.

^* Oh my goodness, guys, if you are getting tired of this being an adult shiz, buy a shredder. They are a blast! You can make confetti from boring documents like bank statements and everything. So cathartic. Seriously, it’s one of those adult things which is actually kinda super awesome fun. And they are a useful and practical item found in big important fancy offices, so you don’t have to justify having one. After a bad day, go and shred stuff. I guarantee 100% satisfaction.

*^* In which you shred a whole bunch of stuff which has been hanging around and then you throw it at each other like kids on a snow day. Then you recycle it, because you care about the environment and the whole point was to clean up. And you are an adult and stuff.

^*^ You know that show hoarders? Where people are basically buried in seemingly useless clutter, including heaps of stored newspapers and crisp packets and stuff? I have to admit I was always slightly judgmental of them, but now I understand how these psychological issues can actually arise from probably small beginnings.

^*^*Okay, drinking game. Every time you read the word ‘box’ or ‘boxes’ in this post, take a shot. Of apple juice. Stay in school kids.

*^*^ Continuing my thoughts in the notes earlier, also there’s nothing wrong with having someone impartial to give the final word after giving a second opinion, right?

^^*That was a fairly labored metaphor, but I can’t think of a better one, so you’re stuck with it. Sorry.

**^Yep. As you can imagine, this example comes from real life experiences.

**^^ Or mind-feild! Haha!

^^**More information on versions of me coming in a future blog. Saddle up folks, there are weird stories ahead.

What I Would Have Done If I Had Known Where He Was

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Back in the Autumn of 2013, which feels an age and a day ago now, I wasn’t doing so well within myself. On the job front, I was having a better time than I had been the previous year, being finally out of retail, and part-timing as a writer and child-minder, but I was making little money from either. On the personal front, I had recently broken-up from a whirlwind romance, which had been off-again on-again since spring. The experience was something few people actually knew about, and fewer still knew the whole story*. Truth be told, I had been saddened and a little embarrassed by the whole affair, and even though I was happy it had come to a conclusion, I was starting to feel disheveled about ever finding a person with which to spend my life.

My dour mood stayed with me for a while. I was still living on a pittance, keeping my head above water, and living with the rag-tag group of characters at the Buddhist centre. Nearer Christmas, I started to feel better. I had a trip organised to see my parents in the majestic land of the Swiss, accompanied by my long-time best friend for the New Year, and my work now included tending to the care of an adorable 9-month old who lived on the same street**. All this kept my mind away from relationships, and all the complicated mush associated with them. I was trying to figure out how to be me.

Just before New Year I was given the news via text message that I was being asked to leave the Buddhist centre over spacing issues. If there’s anything which is going to help you figure out who you are, it’s being thrust into the unknown with no money, no close friends living in the same city as you, and enough emotional baggage to fill the cargo of a Boeing 747.

There’s a person you’ll have to grow into before you meet the person you’re meant to be with. At that dark, transitional time, I wasn’t yet who I needed to be for the universe to deem me ready to meet Chris.

I was a penniless writer-come childminder living in the city, and he was a recently recruited officer cadet living in digs in a riverside town about an hour away. We were so close, but so far. I was single, but he had a recent girlfriend. Our destined meeting was to happen in just a few months, but I didn’t know that then. I was still just hoping that someday it would happen. Just hoping one day I would be enough.

There came a particularly difficult day; January 21st 2016***, a wet, cold excuse for a day, which had been a barrel of chaos in almost all areas. At work I had been told my pay was to deplete, a message had come through reminding me of my impending need to find new accommodation, my shoes were leaking, everyone I called was otherwise engaged^, and my family were at regular blow-outs.

On route home, on the long street which ran between where I got of the bus and where I lived, I hit my lowest moment. A loose slat caught my foot and set me tumbling down into a puddle, causing me to both slam my knee so hard tears weld-up, and get coated in a nice sheen of rain soaked street grime. If there was ever a metaphor for how I felt my life was going in any given moment, that incident was it. I remained where I was while my throbbing knee recovered, crying because I had fallen and because I felt my life was falling; because I was covered in mud and because I felt like mud.

And in that moment I wanted someone to be waiting for me; someone who would know me enough that they knew I was going to get up from that puddle, even with a busted knee and tear soaked eyes, and limp my way home if I had to. Just like I had always done when vicious plot twists wrangled themselves into my story. I knew I would do it alone, but I wanted someone who knew me to not let me get through it alone^^.

74 days remained before I would discover who that someone waiting was, but I didn’t know that, kneeling there on that pavement, wet and cold and in pain. I didn’t know who he was or where he was or what he was doing or when he was going to walk into my world.

If I had known, I wouldn’t have wept in the dirt. Here’s what I would have done.

I would have dusted myself off, and stood up, and carried on down that road, past my abode at the Buddhist Centre to the train station positioned just a few streets behind. I would have purchased a ticket for Totnes and taken the first available train to the station there. Once there, I would have waited patiently in the rain, maybe for as long as an hour, in the dark and cold, for the next bus service to Dartmouth. There I would alight, and start running.

I would run from the bottom of the town along the river edge, and take on the steep hill leading to the majestic building which sits at the top, behind a set of ornate gates, monogrammed with a seafaring logo. The guards at the gate house wouldn’t keep me out either^^^. I would bound over the barrier between us, through the parade grounds, and into the building, and I would head to the zoo*^ where he was living at the time, along with the rest of the guys in his division. But even if they were there, I wouldn’t stop. I’d find him in the mess of maleness^*, and I would get his attention, gently saying his name, and I would look at him.

I would look into his washed out green eyes for the first of what would be many times, knowing he was doing the same thing. And I would say this:

Hey Sweets. Sorry. Chris at the moment. That nickname won’t mean anything yet. 

In 74 days, you’re  going to meet me. I imagine the idea of that is horrifying right now, given I  look like I swam here through a dike using my knee as a flotation device, but I promise I’m usually groomed, with joints of a regular size. Truth is I had a really bad day, just a stupendously bad day in the middle of a stupendously bad few months, and I just wanted to see you, because soon you’ll be who I turn to on all my bad days. And I know I don’t have that long to wait, but I want you now. I want us to be us now. 

I know I have a little bit more to learn before I can be with you, so I’ll leave in a minute, and wait until the Universe really brings us together. I mean, right now you have a girlfriend, and I have issues up the wazoo, so I think we both have some aspects of our lives which need to play out. Particularly the girlfriend thing, who by the way, has more issues than me. But our meeting is coming; that amazing day is just a few months from now. And the odd thing is, it’s going to be just as average as any other day. But we’re going to meet, and that will make it one of the most incredible days of both our lives. Because two years later, we’ll still be together, living together, fighting all the bad days together, and sharing all the best days.

74 days doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s the gap between you and I, it still feels like an eternity. Because I don’t want to have to wait to be with you. I want to be with you now; I want to know you and laugh with you and love you now. And I know you want that too. I do, because I am going to know you. Soon. 

You’re going to know me, and I’m going to know you – but not like anyone else. We’re going to know each other in that deep, everything kind of way. Not just the little things like favourite food and what make’s us laugh, but the dark, scary, messy stuff, like the worst thing you ever did, and all the little broken bits inside. 

And man are we going to love each other. So much. Just so much, that if I start trying to describe it to you here and now it’ll all come out as cliched rubbish. Not to mention all your oppos here will probably make fun of you the moment I leave. Well I suppose they will anyway – I mean I just burst in here from the street, crazy Jane no-body, desperate to meet the man she knows she’ll marry. Let’s face it, they’re going to give you stick. I’m sorry about that. But I may as well keep going now, huh?

I love you. Some part of me has always done so, even when it was just the idea of you. I always knew you were somewhere, and I always loved you, and I love you now. In 74 days, you’ll see. 

That’s when our story is going to begin, in a coffee shop, on an otherwise ordinary, rainy morning. I know this all seems wildly unlikely; two people just finding each other one day, but we will. 

We’re going to know each other. And we’re going to love each other. And it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime, a story we write and share. Fighting the monsters together, taming dragons, exploring foreign places, searching for buried treasure, changing the rules, breaking the rules, paining futures in the clear night skies, ducking for cover when the storm hits, kissing in the rain. The whole 9-yards and then some. 

You and me. That’s all we’ll need.  

Anyway, I better go now, because you’re probably going to get some phone call from your crazy soon to be ex-girlfriend, demanding attention and raving over something small you forgot to do, and I’m almost certainly about to be thrown to the ground and arrested for running in here uninvited, but it’s been worth it just to see you when I feel like the world is against me. I can fight the world with you, Chris.  

See you in 74 days. Wait for me, alright?

But, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know about that seemingly ordinary morning in April just around the corner. I didn’t know about Chris, or his smile, or his way of making me smile even when I’m crying. I didn’t know how much I was about to love someone just for being the person they are. I didn’t know any of it. I was just a girl in a puddle.

So, I lifted myself off that pavement, and I took a long breath, and I hobbled home alone.

 

————————————————————————-

*This can be attributed to my young-adult make-something-of-myself appear-perfect pride problem. It’s not such an issue anymore, but it bubbles to the surface every now and then, which is why even after the cooling effects of time, I’m still not liable to speak of that spring/summer relationship in any concrete detail. Maybe one day though. I’ma workin’ on it.

**As of the time this is posted she will be three, which I think makes me 1263538-years-old.

***I’m not 100% sure on the exact date, but I am certain it was a Tuesday, because Domino’s had the special two-for-Tuesday running as I walked past. There’s a chance it was the following Tuesday, but I needed a solid date for dramatic effect. Let’s call it creative license.

^ I mean in terms of being able to answer the phone; at the time, I don’t think any of my close friends actually had a ring on it, save two who had wed the previous September.Rest assured though, if my life were a sitcom, at the time, probably everyone of note in my circle of allies would have been neatly paired off.

^^ That should not be taken as a discredit to any of the wonderful people I had in my life at the time. Guys, it was a really rough day, and as stated above my tries at communication failed.

^^^They jolly well would. I imagine outside the realms of this hypothetical land where I am able to know the future, the most I would get here is a face-full of gravel as I am tackled mercilessly to the ground for trespassing, but in the mood I was in that day, I reckon I would have made it further than on any other day. Not that I would jump gates and barriers at major military training facilities, nor recommend doing so. Let’s face it, I would hardly do well in prison.

*^ From what I understand, ‘the zoo’ is the initial dorm area where the cadets bunk together for the first period of their training, before moving to more private pastures later. They are the only animals in it, as far as I am able to discern.

^*Fun side-note here concerning messy maleness (all PG I assure you). I once visited a ship as a guest while most of the occupants were on shore leave. Chris took me aboard in the early days of our relationship as a quirky date/see where I work kinda deal. There were a few sailors still milling around. When Chris took me to see where he and other cadets slept, I was astonished to discover no one was much dressed, and none at all above the waist. One guy was changing when we stumbled past him (I saw nothing), and another was ironing in his boxers. I never did find out if Chris had mentioned to anyone that I would be stopping by, but he certainly didn’t warn me of the very very casual dress code.

— In the end my knee was fine, just very bruised and a bit swollen for a day or two. I used one of the monks’ frozen veg packs to aid the recovery when I got home. Actually, thinking on it, I’m not sure I ever told him I had done so. O_0′ Wonder how karma will get me for that error. I did live without a freezer for a year, so maybe it already has.

The Rabbit Died~

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Little bunny, you picked a beautiful morning. *

The second day of spring, a sky so clear it could be mistaken for glass, the view of the hills a water-colour painting behind the houses. If some day, hopefully a long day away yet, I get to choose the day I go, I’d pick a day like this one.

There is so much we’ll never understand about the way animals think and feel. Many reading this will accuse me of anthropomorphism. Maybe they’re right, maybe my hopes are spilling into my words like ink across a page, but I believe in my heart these things to be true. I believe you knew, and I believe you held on for the right moment, even as the Universe was calling you.

After dark and painful days seeing that glorious sunlight beyond the window must have seemed perfect. I felt it too as I woke that morning, though I’m not sure you slept. Perhaps you were up, watching the hazy clouds disperse to reveal the sunrise, illuminating each new bud from the trees and each daisy scattered on the lush grasses. Birds, flapping care-free from the branches, must have given you ideas. It was your turn now, to fly. Ready as you were, though, you held on, just long enough and for that I will always be grateful.

Animals love. I know this deep inside. If not all animals can love, some do, and you were one of them, and you loved those little boys enough to hang in there. You knew they would come to your cage that morning, as every morning, to cuddle you and speak to you. You were their friend and confidant after all. Your long, fluffy ears probably heard more whispered secrets in your short time here, than my will ever hear. They trusted your loyalty more than is possible to ever trust a human’s. You wouldn’t betray their thoughts nor judge their words.

You listened and you allowed their hands into your space to caress your fur not always carefully, but always with joy, because you loved them.

They loved you too. For your silence. For the comfort your presence provided. For that quiet corner of the house, which for a moment, was just theirs and yours. Never more and never less than what they needed.

I loved you too. For our quiet talks when we were the only ones home, for gently taking vegetables from my hand, and giving ‘bunny’ kisses to all of us. For being a strange little creature with laughable habits. For dashing across the living room floor in flips and bounds, and hiding from me when you knew it was time to go back to your hutch. For sometimes coming over as I sat reading, to crawl onto my lap for cuddles when you trusted I wouldn’t catch you…. Even though you sometimes tried to eat my book.

And I’m going to miss your little nose poking at me as I come in in the morning, and hopping like mad at the first sign of food. I’m going to miss watching your explore every crevice in the house when you were let loose. Already, it’s not the same.

I’m sorry they don’t know yet**; but you understand how their hearts will break when they learn the truth. I know you understand that, because you love them, and that’s why you held on just long enough.

Long enough for them to say goodbye. Even if they didn’t know it was the final time. ^

I wish the Universe had allowed you longer; spring is the time of rabbets after all. We had plans to let you outside to eat the dandelions, and kick mud up as you hopped around, and feel the sun on your back. You deserved more.

I hope it didn’t hurt^*. Did you feel as we closed your mortal eyes and covered you over to rest? Probably not. That wasn’t all you anymore.

I hope you enjoyed those last cuddles as we hurried out the door; I hope you felt all the love those little boys feel for you, and will feel for you always, right down to your sweet core into your soul, filling you to brimming with the strength to go beyond.

The Universe is kind to kind beings, always, so I know you were not alone. Cosmic arms reached into your little home as you lay, and delicately pulled the final breath from your lungs so you were free to leap into unseen arms. I’m sure you didn’t though. I’m sure you bound joyously from your mortal shell, dashing off into the green wilds ethereal knowing no one would seek to contain you again, enjoying warmth and light, the kind you shone on this family by your gentleness.

I’m sure you ate fresh grass on open hills all day, and settled to catch the amethyst dusk set on the little street, where little boys were preparing for bed, missing you before they even knew you were gone.

As I stepped out into the evening chill, the moon almost full above, I swear I watched you bound across the stars*^.

————————————————————————–

~Um…. Spoilers?

*This actually took place on the 21st March 2016, a Monday. As is customary the weekend had been cold and dreadful.

**At the time of writing this, the boys were on their last week of school before the Easter holidays, and one of them had a school performance the same evening, which contained characters who were rabbits. It was decided to spare them stress during their final week and to let them enjoy Easter (another rabbit filled day). They were told the rabbit in question was at the vet (we left out the bit where he was being cremated). Technically we didn’t lie…. It didn’t feel right to post this before they were told, which they now have been, when they can mourn without school commitments and plays.

^ I can’t thank that little rabbit enough for sparing the boys the sight of his remains. They can remember him as the leaping, wonderful, pain-the-neck-to-catch, little ball of bounding fur he was.

^* Though, unfortunately, we think it might have a little bit. The illness hit just before the weekend when he lost his appetite and didn’t appear to move much. Over the next few days he perked up and ate, but by Monday morning it was apparent something was seriously wrong. After investigating his hutch and finding very little poop, I suspect he might have had a blockage in his piping somewhere. The plan was to take him to the vet as soon as the boys were at school, but unfortunately, he decided to head off before then. Though, the vet stated if it had been a digestive blockage he probably would’ve been unlikely to survive the surgery. I’m glad he went quietly, at home, cuddled in his straw. If he had to go, that sounds like the better way.

*^ My condolences to any astral body or spiritual being who ever has to catch him.  Dear Universe, if you have a cosmic sofa, check behind there. If not, check beneath the cosmic display case.

The Bargain

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So, due to the library closure post being priority last week, I didn’t get around to mentioning that Chris returned from his latest ventures upon the ocean blue*. I met him at the train station, and so I was able to prepare him for the influx of books I had purchased during our long separation**. Partly because I wanted to ensure he knew I hadn’t been spending money frivolously*** for four months, when I know we’re saving for future expenditures. Mostly, though, I wanted to alert him to the shelf crisis. In his absence^ I have managed to fill all the available space on my bookshelves, and am having to get creative with stacking. Even this is now pushing the capacity of the shelves.

This is where Chris and I differ slightly in our solutions. For me this simply means buy another shelf to house more books. Then you buy more books to fill the shelves, and then more shelves for the books and on ad infinitum^^ until we just live in a library, which, as far as I am concerned, is the dream. Chris’ less wonderful answer is for me to get rid of books^^^. My exact answer was: “No. Shelves or divorce?”

In any case, the subject came up again a few times over the five days he was around. My sister was also around for a visit during the week, so we were focused mainly on enjoying the hours I wasn’t at work. Hol and I hadn’t been in person together for a while, since she lives in Switzerland with my parents, and the closest we can get barring expensive air travel is Skype. Recently, I put her onto reading a web-comic I became obsessed with*^ and in an attempt to support the artist and enjoy the story offline, I purchased the published volume from Amazon.

Only to discover I had accidentally acquired an Italian version^*. Le sigh.

It’s not so bad right. Return the Italian version, and purchase another in English when the amount is refunded. Except, when I searched Amazon for a replacement I could read without Rosetta Stone, I found only soft-back editions were available in English. Usually, I prefer paper-backs, but this book is in itself a piece of art, and I’m not sure if the paper-back comes with all the extras. While it did occur to me to undertake learning Italian to navigate around the problem, and keep my beautiful hardback copy, it was suggested to me this might be unnecessary… and the stupidest reason to pay for second language lessons ever*^*.

When I showed the book to Chris, wearing my sad face, he pointed out I should wait for the return to come through before buying another one. I think this is because he worried I would actually keep the Italian version anyway, therefore adding to the too many books issue. He might have been right. I mean, that way I get a hardback edition and a paper-back edition, and I could maybe find a better excuse to learn Italian some point in the future. Besides, graphic novels are much thinner than conventional novel paperbacks, so they wouldn’t take up sooo much room.

I think it was at this point, or at least soon afterwards, that my to-read shelf came up for discussion. One of my lower shelves on the second bookcase is used to store books I have purchased and not yet read. Apparently, this is a space-consuming and inefficient means of book-reading, at least with so many**^. I guess he has a point, not a good one, but a point. I know readers who buy by need; they finish one book and then buy the next one. My trouble is I have a tendancy to read everywhere and anytime- at work, in the bath, on the bus, while waiting for appointments, when I should be sleeping, more than once when holding deep conversation, when I’m eating dinner. Really anywhere that allows a free hand so I can hold the book^^*. And when you read that way, you may suddenly require a new book at inopportune times, when the books shops are closed*^*^ or far away, and ordering from Amazon will still take a day for delivery. I stock my shelf in preparation; I suppose all I’m really guilty of is over-preparedness. Le sigh.

When I was pouting about my Italian book, Chris pointed out I had a whole shelf of unread books to get through before I needed to worry about another one coming in. “That’s different,” I said, “I was looking forward to reading through it, because I was in the mood for that book.”

C: “But you read it online?”

Me: “Your point?”

C: “Um…. that you already read it, and you can read it again any time you want.”

Me: “Your point?”

C: “Is that you can read it without the book.”

Me: “But I want to read the book version.”

C: “It’s the same!”

Me: “But I want to feel the pages, and look at the pretty art up close. Not on a screen.”

C: “… You have a problem.”

Me: “I went to the original site, but the shipping to the UK is almost as much as the book…. Can I have £50 so I can buy it from the main site?”^*^*

C: “-_-… You have a whole to-read shelf, all those books. Maybe if you finish them, I’ll buy you the bootlegging cats book.”

You would think after nearly two years together, Chris would know better than to make nonchalant comments about buying me books. Particularly expensive ones from the US. I turned, my smile Cheshire cat like, pondering the power Chris had just given me, and how to play the outcome right.

“So, if I finish all the books on my to-read shelf, you will buy me the book from the main site?”

C: “Yes, but that won’t happen, coz you’ll buy more.”

Me: “But what if I don’t buy more? What if I finish the to-read shelf without buying any more books to add to it.”

C: “Then I’ll buy you the book.”

Me: “Why? What’s the catch? What are you up to? This is not serious. You’re not serious. Are you?”

C: “Yep. But you can’t buy anymore books until you finish all those.”

Me: “Okay, but I want the second volume too. And the art-book and the playing cards when they come out.” *^^*

C: “Fine. But every book. And if you buy books, they count. The shelf has to be empty.”

Me: “O_o….. 8) Gauntlet picked up”.

My sister witnessed this agreement, so Chris, not that he would, can’t wiggle free when I complete the task,

However, when I counted up the stack, I realised Chris has a good amount of time to save up for my expensive prize. That’s just the books I own; if you add the library books I currently have waiting to be read, it could be a substantial amount of time before I see any returns on my investment. Plus, I have pre-ordered sequels due to arrive on their publication dates, and some of the stack are the first installments to series, which I may want to continue immediately.  No wonder Chris was so sure. I think he knows at some point for some reason I’m going to end up adding to that pile, especially with a Waterstone’s gift card now burning a hole in my pocket. He might be right, I do have a problem. I’m like a smoker trying to quit.

There are benefits to this challenge however; the to-read pile is getting to the point where I’m not even sure what’s on it anymore. There are some books which I’ve had for years, and just never got around to reading because newer more exciting releases took precidence. Many are from the 4 for 99p deals at a local charity shop which I used to splurge on during my poor days; I only got them to make up the number needed for the deal^**^. There are all sorts of genres and styles to choose from, and a verity of publication dates, some as recent as a week ago, others classics. There’s enough to satisfy whatever mood I’m in. Theoretically anyway.

I don’t really have an excuse(*).

So, here we go. Bargain struck, challenge accepted, conditions laid down. No more buying books I haven’t read until I finish the ones I have.

*gulp*.

This bargain was actually struck on the 15th March 2016, but I elected to post it now so the library closure post could take precedence (and so I had some editing time). I’m actually already two books down. I’ll keep you updated on my progress, you know, if I don’t fail miserably by next week. *gulp again*. 

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*Come to think of it, I’m not sure I actually mentioned he left again. I’m not certain I even alluded to his departure, which took place back in November. Two weeks after his return, because the Navy loves me like that. Anyway, he came back earlier this month and is now based a lot closer, at least for a little while. Unless the Navy decides it loves me again, and shows its great admiration for me by sending Chris on an important mission in the middle of Timbuktu, to, you know, keep an eye on the salt trade or something.

**Although, if he didn’t predict this occurrence in one way or another I’m not sure he knows me too well. How else am I to fill the void in my soul during his deployments? And the shelves and stuff?

***I mean as much as spending excess income on books can be ‘frivolous’, which in my opinion is never. And I know relationships require sacrifices…. just not books.

^ ie. His voice in my ear banishing the book-buying-fairy who sits on my shoulder and convinces me that ‘just one more won’t hurt. You’ll like this one. All the cool kids are reading it.’

^^Full disclosure: I could not for the life of me remember this term, and when I turned to Google for help it basically spat at me. Not actual saliva, you understand, just really unhelpful answers. It tried to refer me to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art when I typed in what I thought was a close rendition of the Latin phrase. In the end I had to text Chris for the answer, because he knows this stuff. Chris is the new Google. Tell your friends.

^^^ -_- Feel free to jeer at the screen fellow bibliophiles. Hoarding is not good for anyone… unless you hoard books, then you’re that cool person who lives, eats and sleeps in a library.

*^ If you enjoy booze smuggling, prohibition era cats you should check it out too.

^*Usually I find nice surprises when I buy books online. When I bought a copy of Leviathan a few years back, I was delighted to discover I had been sent a rare cover edition. Another time, I purchased a used copy listed as ‘not bad’ (for 1p!) to be sent a copy which looked new, and once I even managed to buy a book in store to get home and discover the edition was signed by the author. My luck has been dwindling lately, though; I got a battered copy of a book which I don’t think is in print anymore, and now a beautiful graphic novel turns up in a language I can’t understand. Oh , crudele destino , perché mi hai abbandonato ?

*^* I disagree. Here are some stupid reasons to pay for second language lessons 1)You want to insult a man in his own tongue. 2)You are moving to a country, but they speak your first language, but you want to seem cultured and intelligent. 3)To easily by-pass street sellers and door-to-door salesmen by convincingly telling them you don’t speak their language. 4) Per leggere questa frase senza utilizzare l’applicazione di un certo popolare motore di ricerca si traducono , come ho fatto io di scriverlo . Zuppa, chiavi , lampada , turbine , e gomma da masticare . Queste sono solo parole a caso che saranno in italiano , confondendo la mia non italiano di lingua ipotetica pubblico . Questo probabilmente non ha nemmeno senso in italiano . Eppure , forse lo fa . Mai andare a dare in su , senza mai andare a deluderti , mai andare a correre e si deserto. (Sorry to any Italian speakers made to endure that for the sake of this joke).

**^At some point during his deployment Chris was apparently crowned ‘Grand General of Rules for Buying Books’ and has thus placed his doctrine on my otherwise un-criticized habits. Apparently, buying books just because they come as part of the ‘buy one get one half price’ deal is unnecessary, and buying books ‘because the cover was cool/pretty/interesting’ is unreasonable. I don’t get it either.

^^*Without bending the spine; it’s possible people, you just have to believe, and be as anal about protecting the binding as I am.

*^*^Now, this is the moment where the traitorous heathens start banging on about the wondrous convenience of a kindle. No. Just no. I will never convert to those cold, artless, non-book-smelling, eye melting contraptions. Books should not be able to go online, and should not be made of plastic; books should have the heavenly smell of dusty pages, have pages you can turn delicately with a flip, and become art when stacked upon shelves with their brethren. I will never give up the beauty of true books, never!!!!

^*^*I was joking. Chris does not expect me to ask permission or for money to buy things, but I often consult with him when I make large, unnecessary payments…. just not books.

*^^* At this point I was just seeing how far I could push it.

^**^ Which I now realise is  pretty lame, considering the extra expence was probably pennies, and I was in a Charity Shop.   It occurs to me I should now proceed to spend some of the money I save during this challenge on a donation to said charity to thank them for keeping me in books when I was low on income, and considered them a luxury item. Yeah, I’m going to do that.

(*) But if you think of one, please feel free to comment below or email me and let me know. Because I really want one.