July 12, 2018 § Leave a comment
There’s a woman in this world called Gala Darling, who exists solely to sell you her concept of glitter-sequin-fluff-woo. Crystals, affirmations and the like. While I could never be a follower of a leader such as she, her blog is where I first saw the words radical self-love.
It’s a vile, girls’ mag sort of phrase. But it’s one I’m borrowing from today because I’ve been thinking about the self-care I’ve been celebrating recently.
I went with my best friend to get a spray tan. I was terrified and pressed the big green button thinking I’d be played the how-to video – but no, that was the I’D LIKE TO START THE SPRAYING NOW PLEASE button. Anyway, it wasn’t such a disaster and I’ve actually returned by myself several times since.
Now, I am a person with the paleness of a blinking rock creature lured out into the light. I don’t tan. I am mortally afraid of burning, also, and don’t wish to accelerate the ageing process. Which adds up to a blue-ish tinge, year-round.
So, it’s quite amazing what not being blue does for me. In the summer, I favour outfits with as few items as legally possible, and having a tan makes me feel so much less vulnerable. I feel…clothed? It’s lovely to have a little extra boost of confidence – in my head, even my legs are longer. It doesn’t matter what I really look like; this orange hue has given me a little bit of freedom.
These boosts are particularly necessary to me right now. I’m so far out of my comfort zone, work-wise, that I might as well be attempting to impersonate the minister for trade policy. Even turning 29 last week was something I welcomed. Any semblance of authority I can get, please!
I’ve worn grown-up trousers to meetings recently. I’ve had regular hair trims for the last six months. I’ve embraced fake nails. Spray tanning? Perhaps it was inevitable. It’s not even pretty that I’m trying to achieve; it’s together. It’s polish. Something I never thought I’d be capable of but am at least making an attempt at. Maybe it’s about showing I care? I’m definitely not just putting on a disguise because if it were that, I’d buy a black pencil skirt and a white shirt – and they’re conspicuous in their absence.
Most of this sounds vapid but for a large portion of my 20s, I couldn’t get my hair cut. I avoided the doctor. Until two weeks ago, I’d stopped going to the dentist because the tellings-off and unexplained bills were too much for me. I was so anxious about life admin and interacting with strangers that I just didn’t do it.
Anxiety and depression often lead to a lack of self-care. To me, getting my teeth checked, having a hair trim or getting a spray tan involve a lot of mental preparation, even now. I feel so lucky that I CAN face it now but it’s not comfortable.
So, I give myself a pat on the back for being 29 and finally able to indulge in the self-care that a lot of people look down on women for. It’s a ridiculous, expensive spray tan to you – but it’s a brave and important step for me. Turns out, a tiny bit of focus on myself was what I needed to realise I’ve actually not been doing too well recently. I’ve booked an appointment with my doctor to talk about my medication and I’ve also put myself on the waiting list for more counselling. We’re never fixed; maintenance is required. Some of it is fun and silly, some of it is hard and uncomfortable.
Maybe doing the fun, silly stuff is helping me face the hard, uncomfortable parts of looking after myself. Spray tans = life.
May 16, 2018 § Leave a comment
Yes, am. Busy but alive.
What’s changed (apart from everything)? I started my new job, I moved into my new house and I discovered a new tolerance for dogs.
I was spending a lot of time with neighbour-dog during our move and fell in love with her. I also work on a farm now, where dogs roam free and frequently click upstairs to sniff us. One is a complete dope in a wig but his sister is a glorious, gleaming mass of soft curls. She puts her head in my lap and it melts my heart towards the stupid beasts.
I stop for coffee at a pub now, that’s new. I was trying to find a coffee shop along my tiny-village route that opened early enough for me. It didn’t exist – they’re mainly village-shop-slash-cafes, and none open before nine. Then it hit me: pubs that are also hotels! Two in lovely Chiddingfold open at seven, and ONE is wonderful. Today, my takeaway flat white came with a bloody homemade biscotto, so happy days.
The house is a dream. We seem to have an excess of rooms but that’s a nice problem. I just need to not anxiously fill them with furniture I don’t need. Our existing furniture was all vastly oversized for the Victorian rooms, so that was a laugh. Our massive corner sofa, which I LOVE, is now in two parts: one lives in the living room and one in my reading room. The latter was intended to be a dining room but we had to put half a sofa in it, so…reading room. I don’t mind. I can’t imagine sitting at a dining table but I can imagine snugging up with a book in Sunday sunlight. It’s a good place for my stack of unread Economists to live.
It would be disingenuous of me not to mention how fucking awful moving was. It really was. Awful. On the last day, we went to our new local for dinner; I was wearing shorts and Phil’s shirt, with attractively paint-striped legs and panic-gleamed eyes. I ate my pie with my head in my hand, shovelling it into my mouth sideways. I could feel that if I didn’t concentrate, I would actually lose my mind – it would disintegrate and I’d fall down, down, down into nowhere. It’s a loooooong time since I felt like that, so clearly my meds are perfect for normal stress but no match for moving.
But now we have a treehouse. I hung circus lights under it and wrapped copper wire LEDs around our apple tree. The grass needs cutting but I don’t want to do it because it’s like glossy faux fur. We’ve cooked outside plenty since moving in but that does make us drink, sadly. It’s that holiday vibe. The whole house feels like holiday. There are huge strawberry plants growing outside my front door – how did I get THAT lucky?
The cats are happy with more space. I mean, I think they are. I still worry all the time that they know they’re joy slaves, kept for my pleasure against their will. I wish I knew what they were saying to me. I’d probably hate it if I did. But they flop on the kitchen floor because it’s so warm from the Aga, they snug in their dog bed in front of the fire and they skitter about the place, chasing each other. We have so much cupboard space now that they can be allowed in the kitchen unattended without eating entire loaves of bread, and I think they’re much better adjusted not being banned from certain areas of their own home.
I lost 10 pounds, which is nice. Been more active, eaten less, moved house. It’s good to fit back into some of my favourite clothes. It may have started to slightly slip a bit in the last week because we’ve been drinking and eating a lot with the holiday vibe. Got to get back on morning pilates once there’s floor space because I was getting well good with it. I think the year before I turn 30 is a good time to be looking after myself. Botox next year.
Well, that’ll do.
February 16, 2018 § Leave a comment
Yes, folks. I am, as my erstwhile team would say, dead. Dead to them, anyway – off to do words elsewhere. I’m leaving ingenie next week.
It’s been four years of my life and I barely recognise the silly child that sweated and gabbled through her interview in a very imposing Victorian courtroom.
I signed up to be a content writer and really just wrote every single word that someone near me needed. Password reset emails, speeches, texts, apps, ads, BOOKS. Even a eulogy, once.
You can’t have missed me being way too involved in my job. ingenie, young drivers, road safety – it’s been an obsession. I love car insurance and I know I’m in the minority. You just try matching for that on Tinder.*
It’s been difficult adjusting but I’ve had three months and I now believe both that I’m going and that I’m not leaving. At the same time. I accept that I am Going to Another Place but I haven’t grasped that I’m LEAVING ingenie.
You see, ingenie has been a family to me. I struggled through my worst episode of mental health shenanigans over the first two years of my time at ingenie; I was doing too much freelance work, my social anxiety was out of control and dermatilliomania had entered my life. The people around me showed me how normal relationships work and let me be brusque and outspoken and volatile and desperately attached to the horses in the field next door, who were my go-to safe place for panic attacks.
I’m now a person who can give directions, debate feedback without needing therapy, present to a roomful of people, ask for what I want and speak up when things don’t feel right. I’m known for being opinionated and hard-working, knowledgeable and conscientious. Bit of a brat but pretty OK.
I don’t think I would have turned out like this if I hadn’t filled out that one single application after two glasses of wine. ingenie was only my second grownup job – and it was my home.
Goodbye, friend. Striking out alone is bloody terrifying but I’m capable, now.
* Dis is joke. I happily married** with cat children.
** Well, not MARRIED. You know, when he gets round to it. Maybe. I’m not, like, desperate. Don’t even believe in it, to be honest with you.
November 20, 2017 § Leave a comment
My poems are in a book. Three of them. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.
The first, the most important, is Lonely Sound. It’s probably my favourite piece of writing and seeing it in print was a magical moment. It’s so personally evocative for me (God knows what a reader thinks) and it’s a really important thing that it’s out in the world.
Here’s how I explained Lonely Sound when I first wrote it:
Lonely Sound is an imaginary body of water that lives in the recesses of my mind.
It’s a desolate place. The sun never quite breaks through the cloud cover and it’s only ever warm and damp or damp and chill.
Looking out over the sound is a sad old cabin with a half-collapsed porch. It’s rotting from the outside in and it’s full of empty rooms that no one could be bothered to care for. The air is thick with melancholy and you wouldn’t want to be stuck there.
I started believing in Lonely Sound a long time ago, before I knew its name. Then I read about a place called Doubtful Sound in New Zealand and it gave me such a weird, creepy feeling – like I knew it somewhere in my memory.
Lonely Sound isn’t even really a sad place. It’s blank. You might feel sad reading about it but it’s worse than that; it’s depression and the kind of hunger that exists when you’re past wanting to eat. It’s where you go when you’ve done all the crying and you’re left stoney and still.
I find Lonely Sound comforting. I can go there when I need to feel more than what my life is. Do you keep a memory or an idea that helps you feel pain? Lonely Sound is my place for that. My unhappy place.
October 17, 2017 § Leave a comment
Any single thing that seems to be empowering or educational or whatever – someone’s got to do a think-piece that explains otherwise.
If you were asleep yesterday, #MeToo was trending as women all over the world were brave enough to say ‘Yep, sexual assault. This is a thing that has happened to me.’
And now cometh the ‘Why #MeToo is problematic‘s. So here’s my two pennies’ worth.
I am usually pretty matter-of-fact about my own experiences of sexual assault but yesterday I had to steel myself to post #MeToo because I didn’t want to seem like I was somehow using it for attention or give the people I know an undesired impression of me.
How sick. I didn’t put it on Facebook because I don’t want those people judging me, guessing at who it was, discussing me, disbelieving me. Although I felt OK with posting it on Twitter, I did so in a way I hoped came across as unhysterical.
— Honor Clement-Hayes (@mutatedmusings) October 16, 2017
Why? Why shouldn’t I be hysterical about it? It’s something people must surely be expected to be hysterical about?
But I didn’t want to change people’s idea of me with something someone else did, that I couldn’t control. I didn’t want my brand tarnished by someone else’s behaviour.
After I’d posted my #MeToo, I filled in a survey about sexual assault that a lady I follow tweeted – she wants to write about women’s experiences. And my down-to-earth, matter-of-fact self went all to shit.
An experience I’d previously been fairly OK about suddenly had me #triggered. (Turns out that meme, that JOKE is a real thing.) I felt shaky and panicked and sick. A 10-years-old hurt I’d mentally put to bed came back and bit me in the ass.
Most of how I felt came from putting it into words – something I realised I’d never done, despite being a writer and oversharer in all the time since – and launching it into the public. I had to face up to how I’d deal with people I know being aware of it. I had to choose whether I gave identifying details. Then I had to wrestle with why I DIDN’T give identifying details, why I chose to protect someone who should have protected me from his selfishness and didn’t.
That’s a whole lot of shit for a Monday morning. Women (hey, anyone who experiences it) walk a tightrope when it comes to talking about sexual assault; both saying something and not saying something come with a whole lot of baggage. Posting this will be difficult because if I don’t, I’ll feel hypocritical and weak. If I do, I’ll make people sad and uncomfortable – selfish honesty.
What a mess.
So, y’know. When we DO manage to be honest, maybe don’t go and piss all over it with your think-pieces.
September 12, 2017 § Leave a comment
Last week, a copybuddy said she was suffering with the old imposter syndrome malarkey. You know it, I’m sure. She asked Twitter for advice to quiet her traitorous mind, and I advised putting on a silk peignoir, smoking a candy pink Sobranie and reciting excellent lines from the silver screen to her reflection in the mirror.
The older I get, the more I find comfort in small things. Is that my life shrinking? I don’t care if it is. I’ve seen enough.
These are my ways to stop feeling like shit:
Make coffee in the stove-top percolator, then drink it from my Wedgwood cup and saucer. In the sunroom, preferably looking out at some rain and listening to it thrum on the roof. Pyjamas or silken robe must be involved.
Check New Arrivals on Zara. I know, how awful. But it’s the truth that I am comforted and cheered by how Zara just GETS me. It’s like looking at the inside of my brain. Moss green velvet, puce silk and tiny glistering beads on a cashmere blend.
Put on a podcast about serial killers and lay down on my soft soft bed. Perhaps a smol dogcat will come and lightly jump onto the covers, pad across to my face for a snoot boop, and then settle down to tangle their claws in my hair.
Drink something with my best friend. It needn’t be alcoholic but it is a totemic symbol, the chalice. It allows us to cup our hands around our subject and pour forth all the twisty stuff we’ve been storing. It’s easier to untangle with your best friend.
Write. It can take an effort, when you feel like a failure, but I always remember I’m pretty OK at life when I write. I also make money when I write so writing in any mood is a good plan.
Have a gin in a gold-rimmed champagne coupe. Stir with a small, glittery plastic spoon I keep solely for the purpose of stirring magic into cocktails. Probably smoke a fag, to be honest. I’ve stopped a thousand tears with a well-timed cigarette.
Play fetch with my boycat. Scrubble his tummy every time he brings back the sodden mouse and say “You such a good bo-oy! You such a good BOY!” I always insist he SITS between throws, which he’s getting very good at. A pure joy.
Instagram. Yes. I’m sorry. It’s just Instagram’s algorithm knows me so well? I can go on Discover and see thousands upon thousands of pictures of 1950s dressing rooms, hand-shaped novelty jewellery and cat portraiture. I’m sure it’s terrible for my psyche but it’s an indulgence that never fails to bring me pleasure.
Send my workbuddy a dog to name. Just that: one of us will send a picture of an animal and the other names him. The original sender then usually derides the namer for their choice. “Are you BLIND? His name is obviously BRUISER, you idiot.”
Write down outfits (OK, fine, make full-on mood boards). So soothing. Now I have all my clothes on rails, I can flick through them easy pie. Getting dressed is probably my number one hobby. It brings me so much happiness and totally influences my day.
September 7, 2017 § Leave a comment
I was worrying about something on my drive home last night.
They say (who, who is they?) it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything.
I was concerned, because I figured there’s no way I’ve spent that many hours copywriting – how could I look my boss in the face and happily collect my salary?
So today, it came up in conversation and I apologised to him for being such a rookie charlatan. And it played on my mind some more. It was time to do the maths.
I work 37.5 hours each week
There are 52 weeks in a year
I get 25 days of holiday plus 5 bank holidays each year, and probably have for my whole career
So I work 1,920 days each year – I’ll take 6 off for that weird flu I get every spring and the odd furbaby emergency
1,914 days a year for 6 years = 11,494 hours
And I freelance too.