A photo posted by Lara (@inbetween_day) on
The difficulty of having a happy place on the internet is that when you are feeling a bit out of sorts or just exhausted, it remains a quiet, silent place. I love this corner of the internet – it is a place for me to share my interests, passions and corners of my life.
But when you are not feeling yourself that becomes hard to do. I have always tried to keep my blog authentic since the original advent of Messy Tuesdays years ago when I realised I wasn’t interested in writing a glossy lifestyle blog. I am more interested how people really live. However, this year has been hard at times and I have been struggling with feeling overwhelmed and quite blue. I tend to minimise how I feel when I talk about things but there have been some dark places this year when at times I have suddenly hated everything. (Well, except my patient lovely family who have been fantastic at coping with me and reminding that actually I don’t really hate everything at all but that I need to look after myself.)
London can jar when you are feeling down – I get depressed by the boarded up shops, the feeling of people being too busy, and the lack of wild spaces. I have been anaemic all year which I don’t think has helped either and has made me feel exhausted. I have found it harsh, noisy, and expensive. I have struggled to find the energy to do the things I usually love and have at times shied away of seeing friends.
All of this coupled with some work/study deadlines has been the perfect storm and left me feeling rubbish. There have been tears, days when I have thought I would feel better if I lived somewhere else, put all my stuff into storage and a sense of not being sure where I fit. I like having a plan in my head and set of objectives/goals to work to but I can see that this also puts a lot of pressure of making the RIGHT choices and can led to anxiety about the future when I should be enjoying now.
At the heart of some of my anxiety is that I actually really like my life and in some ways do not want to it change greatly but I am worried that at some point in the future I might regret this. Having spoken to a few of my friends, this seems to be a shared anxiety amongst us and I think it is partly because the narrative you are presented with ageing is quite reductionist. When you are growing up there is a wonderful sense that there are many different ways to live but as I have got older it feels like you are presented with a narrower range of choices.
As my wise friend Felix wrote in an excellent blogpost, the narrative that is often presented in the media about being a woman in your mid-30s highlights messages associated with regret, fear, declining fertility, being past your prime and there as Felix argues remains a “collective impression that feminism has seriously lapsed.” The archetype of the childless woman is as either selfish, driven career woman or a sad regretful Miss Havisham figure remaining sadly unmarried still seem to haunt the popular consciousness and I have certainly been exposed to thoughtless comments over the past few years that I’m sure men my age haven’t had to put up with. There are so many more interesting things to talk about.
In The Bell Jar, there is a wonderful scene when Esther imagines life choices on different branches of a fig tree which as she contemplates them they fall to the floor and wither as she can’t decide which one to choose. This is the best description of how I have been feeling – paralyzed and unsettled by the possibilities.
Rereading it today I think there are so many conversations that need to be had about how to combine those branches and how complex and rich life can be. I’m not sure that you need to define yourself in one way or another – it is about being happy with whichever branch you are on now.
I have been getting some help and I’m into a better place. I am looking after myself better and feel lighter and brighter than I have for a while. I am going back to my resolve that I had at the beginning of the year to nourish. I’m saying no more to things, avoiding being endlessly busy and allowing myself a bit more space. I am trying to stop putting pressure on things I think I should do and focus on things I really want to do. I’m also trying to make a concerted effort to also do some more active things – there has been too much thinking and I need to find ways to get out of my head (figuratively, not in an intoxicated way).
I’m eating better, stopped drinking completely, sleeping more, doing some regular exercise, building in regular time for reading, making and play. I am in organising mode – making sure my study and work is in good order to help me feel like I’m across things, focusing on making my flat as nice as possible and tackling piles of doom in corners. There are some holiday plans in the offing for next year – I need to see the sea and there are trips to India, Shetland and Amsterdam on the horizon too.
Over the past few things – there have been things I have returned to read:
A Woman Turning 35 by Felix
Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up? by Lauren Laverne
Why It Is Important To Love Yourself by Hannah from Seeds and Stitches
Throughout this period, I have been counting my blessings and there are a great many things to be thankful for in my life. While I know all this angst could be construed as intense naval-gazing, acknowledging some of these thoughts and verbalizing them has meant that although I don’t necessarily have any answers, having the conversation is comforting and has made me feel loads better.
Instead of it being an albatross around my neck, I’m allowing it to fly free.
Image from here.