My journey had taken a different turn when I read your words. A thousand ‘what ifs’ went unanswered. I had no idea how far down the road you were but, as much as I wanted to believe you, I had my doubts. There will never be a way to turn back.
I had carried it with me for longer than I could remember. I clung to it before I was even aware of what it was. Or what it might become. I was unaware of the potential danger. I guess, I needed it more than I knew.
For a long time I hid it away. I didn’t want the world to see. What might they think? But, it was always there. It was once all I had. So, somehow I befriended it. To whisper words of comfort late at night and feed it all it needed to grow. But protecting it was too much for me to bear alone. It almost killed me. It had become more than a metaphorical part of me, it now defined every decision I made and all I did.
So I showed you. I revealed it slowly, piece by piece. You listened and, little by little, learned of my secret too. And then you told me what to do. Gave me the answer I claimed I so desperately needed.
Let it go.
But there was something in this that felt like a betrayal. As much as I wanted to believe it might be better, to trust and find faith in your words, I was afraid. Of course I was.
How could I simply lose something that had meant so much for so long?
I have been a lover of lyrics for as long as I can remember. One of those girls who took the words of a song and went with them; no matter how vacuous, I would make meaning and live by their message. Or try, at least.
At school, my contact book was covered in songs scribbled alongside the names of boys who were breaking my heart that week. As if the words would provide an answer to the problems my life was starting to pose.
I was a fan of the music – the beat, the base, the melody – but that’s not what held my heart.
You see, words are what it’s all about for me. Whilst the opening bars of a song can conjure up a memory to make you smile, well written words play out like poetry. Like a mirror, they help you see. Parts of yourself that are raw, desperately needing nurturing or even waiting patiently to be exposed are presented in the words of another and and you realise that you are no longer alone.
I twitch and I am awake.
There is no blinking back to come around from a dream before rooting myself in reality because I know exactly where I am.
Flickering light half illuminates the room as a long forgotten film plays, almost silently, from the bookshelf opposite the bed.
It’s gone four am and I shouldn’t be here.
Your warmth radiates through the duvet and pulls me back, closer still. You are also awake but you don’t say a word. We both know what you should say. We both know I wouldn’t listen if you did. So, instead, I stay.
You smile. You sit up and turn on the bedside lamp before rearranging the cover to accommodate your new position. I shift my stance and sit up too. The bedside clock tells me that time is ticking by but still, not a word. We won’t be rushed. I take a sip of last night’s wine.
An eclectic selection of books are scattered on the floor amongst day old t-shirts and half drunk cups of sugary tea. Words read together that seemed to seal our fate. Shoes wait alongside an empty wine bottle, watched over by the shut door. The air is stale; stuffy and still, the stench of cigarettes and too much time hiding away.
You kiss me and I know this means I will have to go. You are right. You often were.
I close my sleepy eyes once more in a desperate attempt to cling to the night. A time when the world would stand still and all there would be, all that would matter, is you and I.
There is something strange, yet magical about the world when you awake in the middle of the night.
Far from silent, the sounds seem amplified and enormous in the otherwise still space. Cars pass headed to who knows where. A train rumbles by. The house softly groans. I feel the same way. My rested brain is more intent on interacting and yet the rest of the world is rightly reluctant. My mind drifts to dream of all of the people in all of the places with something to do other than to simply lie here. Still. The world seems to want to keep the action far away and out of reach and yet remind me that it is always there.
Minutes feel like a lifetime as you are left alone with nothing but your thoughts. Time to think is always a killer. The clock becomes an enemy and even an off hand glance in its direction is too much to bear. So I lie perfectly still and straight and hope that my mind might find it fitting just to fall…
The sound of others sleeping is a funny sort of comfort. A reminder that rest does exist. Frustration and reassurance come with each steady breath. And yet, I have come to almost enjoy this space.
I am free from obligation. I can breathe. I can exist and simply be.
Aspirations can be elusive. Something you should hold solid, clear and strong but something I was stuck searching for. Because there is always that contrived question lurking when and where you want it least;
what do you want to be?
Answering was easy. I knew what I should say. And what I shouldn’t. I may not have known what I wanted to be but I knew how I wanted to feel. And how I wanted you to feel about me. So I shaped my answer carefully and constructed myself in this refracted reflection.
Eventually my identity became defined: a soul shifting herself to become someone whole in all eyes but her own.
Then I found myself. Broken. Lost and alone and looking for a way back to who knows when.
Imagine how, if you had lived in darkness for as long as you could remember, any light, no matter how dim, would come as a welcome relief.
Like the dull, reassuring green glow of the numbers on an alarm clock when you awake from a nightmare long before dawn.
You would stumble around for a bit. Find your way. Step by step. And, eventually, you would learn to see. It may even begin to feel ok. Normal, if you will.
But, after a while (who knows how long?), you would crave something more. Something greater. You would long to see sunrise; natural, beautiful, true.
And, with that, you would become aware of the darkness once again. A black sky suspended in time. Something all encompassing that seemed never ending and impossible to break.
And you would try with all your might to believe that dawn would come once again.
I think Alexa Chung said it best when she made the claim that there is nothing geekier than clean Converse. Although, I am probably mis-quoting her. I have read her words so much now that her thoughts have somehow become fused with my own (and her musings on heartbreak have almost made me believe that I am ok). But, anyway, she is right. Always right.
However, once they are well worn in, suitably scruffy and perfectly pre-loved, there is nothing so effortlessly cool. Even my daughter agrees.
It did take me some time to nail this look though. My first pair (a pair of postbox red hightops) were worn as a probably inappropriate footwear choice to my primary school sports day. Even with a final hair flick as I crossed the finish line and checked out the competition it is little wonder I failed to finish first. And, teamed with neon nylon cycling shorts and a matching crop top, I cannot say that I am sad to see the demise of VHS.
During my teens I failed to fully appreciate how one simple style choice could completely change a look and make an outfit appropriate for almost any outing. Instead I was busy lusting after the latest Reebok Classics or working out how I could get away with walking out the house on a Saturday afternoon in a pair of purple platforms. It may be cliched, but as you grow up you certainly find your fashion feet.
And ok, they may not be the most original choice. You are unlikely to be stopped in the street and complimented by a stranger for your shoe selection. But, sometimes, isn’t it nice just to blend in a bit? To find that comfortable fit and to feel free of fear of awkwardness or even an anxiety over making a statement that says too much.
They may only be shoes, but they are a start.
At the start of the summer, I stepped on the scales and was disgusted.
I won’t reveal the exact figure here but, suffice to say, it was significantly more than I expected. To anyone reading this who knows me, I acknowledge now I am not fat, however, after a few months of promising myself to be more healthy, failing most of the time, yet all too smugly (aided by some strategically timed weigh days) seeing little impact on those all important figures and still squeezing in to the same size clothes, it came as a massive wake up call.
The second I stepped off the scales , my mood changed. I knew that I hadn’t been eating healthily for quite a a while and, even after a week of being ‘better’ (whatever that means!), had eaten out and drunk far too much on that Saturday night, but the shock was still huge. It was as if every calorie in every crisp or cookie I had consumed over the last few months had conspired against me saying, “Hold on lads, let her believe all is ok for a little longer,” then piling on their pounds (more than just plural, SEVEN times more!) over one weekend.
I was disgusted and my face betrayed me to my boyfriend. Instantly, he asked what the matter was and, in that same instant, I began to cry. Yet when he heard my sorry confession his sympathy seemed to disappear. “Well, if you want to loose it you know what to do.” And he’s right, I have lost weight before and know exactly what works and have known all along.
However, in exactly a weeks time I would be boarding a plane to spend three weeks in swimwear in Spain and common sense waved farewell as all I could face was this fact. I resolved then and there to shake those pounds in whatever way worked. Stupid I know.
Monday was easy. Those vile figures still flashing before my eyes, I breezed through the morning without a morsel passing my lips. Even the left overs from my daughters breakfast bypassed my mouth and headed straight to the bin. What a martyr. At lunch time my mother attempted to tempt me by presenting me with my favourites; cheese and ham sandwiches (from M&S of all places!) and a whole bag of cookies. But I wasn’t to be fooled. I had a plan. My will power was super strong.
Fuelled by the success of my ‘fasting’ (five hours without food was possibly a new record for me), I consulted my faithful friend typing how to lose seven pounds in seven days in to good old Google. The range and combination of foods suggested by so-called success stories astounded me. Some of these fads I was familiar with whilst others seemed simply strange but the common factor claimed by them all was that this aim was more than just achievable, it was easy. Experience tells me that losing weight requires words I don’t associate with something being easy. Words like will power, determination, focus and restraint.
Additionally, aside from this common factor, the information all seemed so contradictory and therefore very confusing. It seemed to go against everything I had ever learnt about a healthy lifestyle; everything in moderation. These recommendations seemed excessive and extreme in every way. And whilst one recommended limiting your calorie intake every day or consuming only one particular food, others claimed this was a sure fire way to ensure you stored and created fat or that said food was sent from the devil himself. What should we believe? I stuck with what I knew; limited calorie, low fat salad and a run before bed.
Tuesday was tricky. Still focused, still determined, I woke early and headed out for another run. I was tired and hungry but plugged in my headphones and upped my pace. It felt good. When I returned home, on a high from fresh air and exercise and with a whole host of fresh positive thoughts, I skipped breakfast and instead refuelled with a glass of sparking water. Something about the bubbles fools me into feeling full. But by lunch time I was ravenous. A slice of ham, some cucumber and two (dry) ryvita. Yum. Still starving (yes, I am aware of the true meaning of this word and acknowledge that, although very hungry, it doesn’t apply to me), I simply upped my intake of diet coke.
By three I clock I had consumed three bottles and the buzz from the caffeine sparked a memory of a trick tried and tested by a friend who had been highly successful in losing weight; herbal weight loss pills. Immediately, I headed to Holland and Barrett to scour their shelves. However, as you can see, I had conducted very little research in to why these might help or the methods they were claiming would work and, faced with row after row of so-called wonder drugs, felt completely bewildered and simply opted for the cheapest. I have no idea if a pricier option would have been more effective but I doubt it. I stuck with the stated dose but within the hour I was flying. I went to text my friend for reassurance that all was well and I wasn’t having some awful adverse reaction but the screen kept shifting before my eyes. I couldn’t keep still. I found the bottle and, through shaky vision, made out the advice that the pills should not be consumed alongside additional caffeine. This wasn’t the product for me.
Wednesday was worse. I had work. For me, that alone is reason enough to comfort eat. I started off strong but then realised I was in fact due to stay late that day. I hadn’t planned for this. When would I run? What could I eat that would be below my calorie limit? I fought my fears all day and again ate nothing until, at 5pm, I found a lonely low calorie sandwich awaiting me on a supermarket shelf. I ate the whole thing in less than a minute and believe me when I say that bread has never tasted better!
However, by this point I already felt failure was inevitable. Despite my usual rule of weighing myself no more than once a week, I had been partaking in a daily weigh and seen little difference in those figures. And that sandwich was just so good…
Thursday was full of cravings. From the moment that I woke until the second I stuffed that cookie in to my mouth it was all I could think about.
And by Friday night I was eating a proper (albeit rather heathy) dinner and enjoying my usual end-of-the-week glass of white.
Fad diets aren’t for me.
Spain came and went. I took extra care to avoid any mirrors whilst wearing my bikini. I continued to run a lot, then a little, then forgot about it at all. A little yoga. Much too much wine. Then home again and on those scales. The same again. I told myself I’d start again once the summer was through…
And here I am, the second week back in to the new school term. The mornings are dark, the leaves are golden on the ground and it is time to dig out that winter wardrobe and hope it still fits.
I know that if I want to lose the weight I have to make the change. I know that it’s not what I do for seven single days that counts. I know that when I start, I should stick to it. I know that it’s not easy. I know that it’s not fun.
Because the wonder behind weight loss simply is no secret. But often the truth is the hardest thing to swallow.
Her lips were the part I noticed first. When she was born, it was her big, soulful eyes. Eyes that spoke directly to me and broke my heart there and then before re-building it and turning it into something stronger, something strange and new. But before that, in that grainy, swirling black and white footage, it was her lips. Her fathers lips; full and pronounced and perfect. Just perfect.
When she was a tiny baby (that phase where they don’t ‘do’ anything but you are just so amazed by it all) I kissed the tips of her fingers endlessly. I simply couldn’t believe I held something so precious. So pure. I would stroke her skin and watch her sleep and kiss her. Always kiss her.
And when she learnt to kiss me back I couldn’t have been more thrilled if I tried.
But she is a clever girl, one who knows her own mind and how to work us and get what she wants, and so she learnt the words that would thrill me even more; I love you. And my heart expanded and broke all over again. Aren’t words wonderful?
And I thought I might be blessed by a few more years of this. More magical moments that make you burst before her little independent soul grew and flew and sought her own life and love. But time flies when you are having fun and the words soon came thick and fast and now knowing her own mind is not enough for now she can speak it too. Her words are very clear;
Mummy, no kissing.
With those words I saw more grainy shots of what the future holds in store. I saw beyond her first day at school to the day I wouldn’t be allowed to wait at the gate as she walked in. I saw past the welcome bedtime routine to nights spent waiting to hear her turn the key in the door. I wondered who else’s lips would she kiss? What other words might she choose to use and what might be their effect?
Now everyday I fight the urge to hold her hand a little more tightly.