Letters, trinkets, and other random oddments…

Whether you’re a natural hoarder or not we all tend to keep our own little collection of memories somewhere safe; a shoebox maybe, a special box that carries memories of its own, or in between the leaves of books. These little oddments will either act as a reminder of the good times of laughs, drunken giggles, and the odd morning-after spent splayed on the sofa under a duvet and a Sunday’s-best film on, or of the bad- times once (but no longer) very close to your heart, relationships long since burnt out or friendships no longer intact. We hold onto the latter of the two as tight as possible no matter how much it hurts just in case – one day – that friendship is rekindled.

We’ve all been there, watching the stacks of boxes and bags grow with each passing day, or having a fight with those items that just don’t want to sit inside the wardrobe (why won’t they just stay there?!) but at some point in our lives, preferably when we have a little time to mooch rather than just sort and throw, we need to tackle these boxes. Yes, there’ll be memories in there. Some will hurt – from the people no longer with us, to friendships burnt out long ago, and letters, ticket stubs, and memory books given to you lovingly by your other half at the time – but some will be good. Photographs you thought you’d long lost, various items of clothing from your university days (I’m thinking a very short red skirt and a yellow vest top with ‘lifeguard’ printed on it) or clubs that you were once a part of (trampolining club anyone?), flight tickets to various adventures, cruise cards, museum entry tickets, all bring back wonderful memories.

I think there comes a time in every one of our lives where we just need to let go of the past and move on. From the photographs and memories that you shared with your ex, grasping onto them for months won’t mean you’ll get back together, nor will they have any impact on their life. Holding onto these memories hinder the healing process, they literally stop you moving forward because your head is filled with the many “what if”s and “what if things were different?” – It’s the cold, hard, truth, and although you may not want to hear “get over it” once more (face it, you know you’ve been telling yourself that for months), sometimes it’s exactly what you need to do.

Since coming to the realisation that I’m not going to be in this house forever, I’ve started taking a very stringent approach to tackling my hoarding. I came across old cinema tickets, Valentine’s Day cards, old notes, and an endless supply of broken promises of which I had great satisfaction in placing them in their own special place – the bin. I’m a firm believer that we should “live with no excuses and love with no regrets” but I also believe that some things just need to end and their chapter closed and so forth – that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen however. I’ve heard girls say how they can’t believe their boyfriend loved someone before them, but it happens. That’s life. This is life. You can’t change the past nor should you pretend it didn’t happen. We’re all shaped by our experiences after all… I don’t need to look over the bucket list I once made with a boyfriend, or the memories from days out stuck in a book. Nor do I need the birthday or Christmas cards from people no longer in my life… The [good] memories will always have that special place in my heart; I don’t need to remind myself of any of the bad ones.

In the end these things matter most:
How well did you love?
How fully did you love?
How deeply did you learn to let go?
-The Buddha

Looking back at my life and these past few months of 2013 I have learnt a lot; a lot about myself, my relationships with people, and my presence in this world. I simply hold onto too many things, too many memories. Letters have been scribbled to people once close to me, possessions have been returned, and normality has progressively been returned. With my hand on my heart I know that I’m ready to move forward instead of looking back. I know I gave my all; I gave as much love as I could and yes, I made some mistakes but without mistakes we cannot learn, and if we cannot learn how can we progress…? Life is for living! Life is for throwing off the bowlines and sailing away from the harbour (thank you Mark Twain) and that’s exactly what I plan to do.

Maybe it is time to move on…

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep

Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste

Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Fix You – Coldplay

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When we get hurt, when things happen that just don’t bode all that well with our existence, very few of us feel content in completely letting go until we’ve had closure.  From the friend who talked about you in school, the family member who didn’t consider your worth, the ex-partner whom despite you giving them the entire world threw it back in your face, or the person you thought-you-knew-better who turned on you when things weren’t going their way. Or, maybe it was you doing the hurting – maybe your bitter tongue got the better of you and you said something to or about someone that you shouldn’t have? We’ve all been there thought, haven’t we? So how do we get closure? Do we talk to them, continually bring up the past, and have your fingers and toes crossed for an apology? Or do you just sit there and wait, wondering whether there is an apology or an ‘I forgive you’ but not being especially proactive about the whole business…

How about – and consider this for a second, please – we just let go.

Nice and simple. Nice and easy. Not quite as pain-free as you’d hope, but certainly better than rattling the snake’s cage and opening up a new can of worms. It might not give you the answers you want or even deserve, but it’s a damn sight better and healthier from your perspective and theirs as well.

In hindsight, whenever I have gone about looking for answers – from the boys who broke my heart, from the girl who shared a similar story – it has always ended up with more tears than frankly required! Maybe it’s time to listen to Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”

Okay, so you’ve taken the plunge, you’ve popped all of your people-worries onto little slips of paper and you’ve burnt them to ashes, you’ve tried to cleanse your karma, and you’ve tried to right the wrongs (in your head might I add, remember that sometimes bringing up the past just causes more harm than good!) so now where do you stand? You’ve obtained the hypothetical apology/forgiveness that you so dearly wanted, but you need to take a little bit of a step back, look at yourself long and hard in the mirror and ask yourself a question… “Do I forgive myself?”

Forgiving ourselves is a difficult process, I should know – I’m still trying to get there myself. Sometimes we do and say things entirely out of character and we just can’t explain why. Self-loathing is a dangerous and slippery slope, and I honestly believe that a lot of it has to do without obsession with the past. We are so fixated wanting to be the same person as we were years ago without really letting ourselves flourish as we experience life’s exciting highs and horrific lows. Maybe it’s time to shrug off the ‘old you’ and embrace with open arms this new and improved version. As Lao Tzu said, “when I let go of what I am, I become what I might be”.

Looking back on my life, although I’ve only experienced twenty-two years of this and most of that has been spent in full-time education (oh the joys), I’ve spent a large proportion in the past, precisely where I do not want to be. Where no one should want to be. The thing is, life throws so many obstacles at us and whilst our reaction in that instance is important, it doesn’t mean that days, months, or years after the event we should scrutinise our decisions. It doesn’t matter whether it was the right or wrong one because it’s in the past and you can’t change it. It doesn’t stop it from hurting, of course not, but it shouldn’t then hinder the rest of your life.

So, in true Lion King fashion (I have just seen it at the theatre after all) – hakuna matata – no worries. Take a big deep breath, take a final look at your reflection (give yourself a cheeky smile – it works wonders), pop on those killer heels, slick on your favourite red lipstick and grab your bag. It’s time to move on.

With love..Xx

Sometimes we just have to smile….

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Life isn’t always roses; I know this, I appreciate this, and I never expected it to be. I know that there were always going to be good days and bad days and, yes, the latter were always going to form the majority. Life doesn’t always follow those little paths that you want it to – sometimes you lose control and you need to put your life in someone else’s hands or seek guidance from others. Asking for help is not weak, nor is it an embarrassment. Everybody needs a little helping hand from time to time.

I find that, in the short-term, it is so easy to look at life through rose-tinted glasses. You wake up in the morning, birds singing the morning song, burst of light from the early sunshine peeping through your curtains, and a day ready to be faced with vigour and strength. Jumping out of the shower into freshly laundered Egyptian cotton towels, a cool breeze making its way through the window, the smell of freshly brewed coffee tantalizing your senses and you feel alive. Coffee sipped, outfit on, your favourite [and most faithful] heels stepped into, hair made, and a classy flash of colour from your favourite red lipstick and you are ready to face the world, smiling to your heart’s content.

I know that, in real life, people rarely lead lives like these. In all honesty, I don’t think I have ever had a morning that started just quite so perfectly. It is, in its true essence, a highly romantic view on how a day should start; anybody who expects this day in and day out is going to be sorely disappointed and unfortunately it would just lead to a spiral of unhappiness. What I envy most about people is that for some, putting on your favourite lipstick and greeting the world with a happy smile is the norm – it doesn’t have to be a product of the ‘perfect morning’, nor the product of a ‘perfect life’, it is just the way they are and they can naturally see the world through these rose-tinted glasses. I envy that, no matter how they are feeling, no matter what has happened, they can still compose themselves and act like nothing is at all wrong. I, on the other hand, can only wear that smile for as long as my facial muscles will hold it (which, as I’ve learnt from work, is about 10 hours until it starts to lag).

I can’t keep up the façade that everything is peachy and, before I can curse and accept my downfall, true emotions start to flow. Today has been a bit of an odd day (as Sundays seem to be at the moment!!) I woke up later than planned, I didn’t do anything in the morning and skipped my planned workout (and breakfast!) and was little Miss Snappy to the motherbear. I felt dreadful but for no particular reason. It has just been ‘one of those days’. Instead of taking it in my stride and accepting that bad days come and go, I let it have a massive effect on my whole outlook on life. I have dwelled on the past, I have said and done silly things, I’ve argued and snapped, and this isn’t me. Dolly Parton once said: “the way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain“. So, whilst I’ve been experiencing a gale-force 10 storm today, I’m going to take a deep breath and slip on that smile and remind myself that tomorrow will be a better day.

With love…Xx

We accept the love we think we deserve…

“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” – Marilyn Monroe

As a (relatively) new single girl about town I’ve started questioning aspects of my previous relationships. Not just with boys though, but with my friends and family, and with myself. It’s here that I sit with pen to paper, a deliciously simple parsnip and carrot soup bubbling away on the hob, and a cup of tea to the left (wishing it was a large glass of vino), listening to the wind howling outside. I’m left a little puzzled. One recurring question keeps popping up in my head – “why didn’t I do anything about it?”

Time after time after time I’ve just sat there, brushing it off, ignoring the raw emotion drilling through my body. Since starting to read The Buddha Walks into a Bar by Lodro Rinzler I’ve started assessing my moods, my emotions, the way that I’m feeling. He talks of the ‘Incredible Hulk Syndrome’, the accumulation stress built up from whatever state of mind – or klesha – that you’re in. This may manifest from a single state such as anxiety, or it may be an event that causes multiple kleshas, either way this describes a highly destructive emotional wellbeing; the root of samsaric existence.

It’s practically impossible to eradicate these feelings or kleshas from life. To do so you would be a walking zombie, emotionless, unhealthy. As humans we are supposed to feel – the good and the bad – but the way we react to these feelings can be helped. As you’ve probably gathered from previous posts, I’m a natural pessimist. I don’t like it and I do believe I’m improving and helping myself as I recognise problem areas in my life. I’ve been told that I see things in black and white, that I don’t see a middle ground. I’m either highly optimistic, or highly pessimistic, “you just can’t be ‘normal’”. Whilst I admit that in some ways this is true (given how I’ve felt this past year), I can now see myself in a new light – a new way. I don’t know whether this is because I’ve been reading into Buddhism a lot, where I’ve been acknowledging my emotions, my thoughts, my feelings, but not necessarily letting them impact my life, or whether I’ve just entered a new phase of my existence.

It’s said that we should surround ourselves with positive people, but what happens when it is the relationship you’re in that’s contributing to your negativity? The friend that pushes their troubles onto you without any thought of what it may be doing to you (I’ve done it myself, ashamedly) – whilst you can be the friend and help them deal with the problems, don’t let their negativity drag you down too. What about the boyfriend or girlfriend who won’t pull their weight around the house – cooking, cleaning, all down to you? Or the one that makes little snipey remarks that, whilst you brush them over, end up ticking away in the back of your head. Or where his or her actions make you feel unattractive, non-deserving of their love, inadequate, or – dare I say it – second-best to a bit of technology (we’ve all been there!)? Guess what? You deserve more. It’s difficult to identify when you’re so caught up in the highs, the love and affection that you may get. Love is, after all, blind. They say that whilst you may forget what someone says or what someone does, you never forget how they made you feel.

So, where does this leave you and I? It’s up to you. It’s your decision at the end of the day. I know deep down that I’m in a far better place than I was last year, or the year before, or even the year before that because I’m slowly becoming at peace with myself. We’re all fighting the same battle, fighting for the love and affection of others, but when will we start to give ourselves the love that we deserve? Follow your hearts, don’t let others bring you down, and don’t stay with anyone who doesn’t make you happy because you’re only fooling yourself. If you’re only loved when you’re at your best and feel neglected when you’re at your worst, something needs to change.

With love Xx

Review: Purely Natural skin care, 4 Oily cleanser

I am a little bit of a self-confessed natural freak, I maybe don’t go to the same lengths as most but I as soon as I catch wind of natural products I just can’t wait to get my mits on them. I think as I’ve been getting older (I still am only 22 mind!) and my skin has been changing somewhat (hello eczema, nice of you to pop up) combined with the ever present worry of premature wrinkles (what?! All women worry about these!) I’ve been more concerned with what lotions and potions I put on my skin.

After a run-in with the ever famous Eve Lom cleanser (to which irritates my skin! Damn lanolin) I needed to give my skin a little break. Months ago the lovely people over at Purely Natural sent me a product to test and review and unfortunately I’ve only just got round to writing it (she says, sipping a coffee and tapping away on her iPhone whilst on the train London bound). Unfortunately I hit the little “save” button and proceeded to leave this in my drafts whilst I travelled around Europe for two weeks. Alas, I’m back, and ready to get my arse into gear and actually post this.

So, first things first, who are Purely Natural? Well PN is a lovely company with aims to deliver 100% purely natural skincare made with love. They are vegan and guess what? They are totally affordable. For people like me who don’t exactly have a disposable income (hello savings, you’re shrinking day by day when really you need to be growing for my trip to Australia!) this is a major selling point.

You can search for products based on your skin type (normal, dry, sensitive, or blemish prone) or more specifically through their classifications: “0 Tolerance”, “1 for all”, “2 dry”, and “4 oily skin”. I think this is quite a clever way of doing it personally. I chose to review the “4 oily skin” cleanser (which aims to work well for acne) as my face felt like it had been through the wars as if it had faced the wrath of a hormonal hurricane.

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When I was sent the product I was amazed that it was a full-size tub, what a marvellous idea. This particular cleanser contains the following ingredients: Ground almonds, vegetable Glycerin carbohydrate, kaolin, jojoba oil, green tea extract, lavender oil, vitamin E oil, sweet orange oil.

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Using a solid facial cleanser is not an alien prospect to me since I’ve used many Lush cleansers which are sold in this way. You can choose as much or as little product as you wish, I tend to pick up quite a bit as I like working it into my face as thoroughly as possible. Place a little on your palm and add some warm water, not too much but just enough so it creates an oatmeal-milk. Yes, you can probably liken it to porridge but this doesn’t phase me in the slightest.

ImageApply to your skin and gently rub in a circular motion, this will also lightly exfoliate your skin and leave it silky smooth. I tend to rinse a flannel under some hot water (hand-hot, not enough to burn you), wring it out and then place over your face allowing the steam to open up the pores. Remove the cleanser and splash your face with water. Alternatively skip the flannel stage and do what it recommends on the tub in that you just remove it with cool water. Gently pat your face dry and moisturise as usual.

What I found with this product – and something that I particularly like, so take note if you’re like me – is that it does not dry your skin out like most cleansers tailored for “oily skin”. My skin is more combination than oily, I have super dry cheeks at the moment (thank you weather, thank you very much) and I tend to get the oilslick of a t-zone, but this gently cleanses, drying up the oily patches and not drying out the already dry areas. I do find that you need to make sure you really wash this product off however as it does tend to leave a little residue on the face (and make sure you get rid of it from the sink, it can look a little unslightly). You could always sweep your face with a gentle toner but I tend to skip this step (mainly because I have yet to find a toner that doesn’t cause my skin to freak out).

You can buy this product from the Purely Natural website here (click the link to be directed to the actual cleanser) for £6.95 for 100g which I think is a fantastic price for how much you get and how long this subsequently lasts. It lasts about 3 months although mine has been open longer and it’s still fine as far as I’m aware!

Are memories not sacred anymore…?

Do you think of her when you’re with me? Repeat the memories you made together, who’s face do you see?” – Paloma Faith

Taking a break from my bidding war on eBay (trying to get my mits on a copy of Nigella’s ‘How to be a Domestic Goddess’) I’m sat here with what seems like my millionth cup of tea today listening to the cathartic hum of the oven and the delicious smells of baked goods tantalising my senses. I’m having a little contemplative moment – all so very typical for a Sunday afternoon. We have an incredible ability to harness the power of our senses; sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. Memories stored away in the back of our heads can be brought to life. Your first boyfriend’s cologne, you might not have seen him in tens of years but you can still remember the way he smelt, or the distinct memories of baking with your Grandmother (or, watching her bake and you licking the bowl). Even using certain shower gels or deodorants whisks me back to a place I remember well – a trip to South Africa, getting ready for a date, – the feelings washing right back over me again.

I house a lot of memories of distinct places. I remember where my first kiss was (and who with), I remember where my first serious boyfriend told me he loved me, I can even remember the date and the time (same goes for my last boyfriend) and I know that I could never repeat those memories with another person because it just wouldn’t feel right. I’d like to say that I respect those relationships enough to give them that special place in my heart…. But what happens when you realise that the respect is not mutual…?

I just can’t imagine how someone could have so little respect for someone in their life (whether past or present, it doesn’t matter) to relay the same memories with someone new. What about your song, isn’t the whole purpose of ‘your song’ to be something special between you and the other half? Not you, the other half, and all of his ex-relationships! From special songs, to anniversary meals, to special places that you share with a once-significant other, these memories should be kept under lock and key in your heart.

Maybe this is where the XX and XY chromosome barrier is apparent, maybe men and women do really think of memories and special places in very different ways. I hate to generalise because I know everyone is different, but from talking to a few of my male and female friends I can see the distinction. I would never dream of taking a boyfriend to the Belvedere on Plymouth Hoe (sometimes called the Wedding Cake) because I know that’s where I spent a lot of time with an ex, nor would I ever take anybody to Whitby and to the Church of Saint Mary because I know that was a special place… What hurts me is that I know these memories have been shared with others… Are memories not scared anymore?

Maybe I’m looking at this from a very odd angle because, in retrospect, I was never to find out that memories had been replayed from one to another, it was more the result of my intrinsic mooching. I’m not sorry for this; it has opened my eyes to a whole new world of repetition and unoriginality. It has made me realise that whilst some have such textbook approaches to a relationship (same champagne, same restaurant, same films, and same destinations for all relationships) there will be the odd one that tailors these surprises around you as a person so don’t give up hope just yet.

I would never turn someone down if they genuinely didn’t know that a certain place was special (for example if they were the ones suggesting it!), but that being said if Prince Charming approaches me wearing Issey Miyake I may just have to give him the heave ho. The memories of people fade with time, but there’s always that one smell that brings it all back to you.

With love, Xx

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”

Probably one of the most influential quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt, it has been stapled into my mind since I first heard it sometime when I was in college. I have always been that girl who seriously lacked self-esteem or was constantly reminded that I had a negative outlook on life. I guess in some ways I’m still that girl but I try as hard as I can to drive my head out of that mindset.

Relating back to the quote, I can remember being told that you shouldn’t listen to what people say about you (whether to your face or behind your back) because only you can decide how it shapes you as a person. It’s all easy enough to say this but for someone who’s lacking in confidence in can be easy to absorb it in and take offence to the snide comments of those individuals. What we all need to do (and I should really take my own advice) is to shake it off and push it aside. That person’s opinion doesn’t matter and, nine times out of ten it stems from jealousy.

Why are people the way they are? There are certain people that you’ll come across in life that, from an outsider, appear whiter than white. Then you get to know them and you see that they are incredibly devious and manipulative. They will spread vicious lies about others to make them look the victim, to make you feel for them, but they will use it against you. By always playing this victim, pointing out what other people have said or done, they somehow manage to get who they want, when they want, and at whatever cost. This ‘new attitude’ that I’m trying to adopt means that I need to see behind this and try to understand why people do this. I honestly don’t want to blame them, but hiding behind this façade is so dangerous for the well being of both themselves and the loved ones around them.

I find these people to be very clever. Are they doing this to seek revenge from someone? What happens when they’re so bitter that the insults start flying, not about you but about them? What happens when you begin to relate to what they’re saying? You’re head begins to whirl around with questions: Do I do that? Is that what I’m like? They’ve sussed that your lack of self-esteem is the chink in your armour and they begin to hammer it until there’s nothing left.

You can’t let this happen. Don’t build up the walls so tall that you don’t let anybody in, that’s not especially healthy either, but don’t stand for anything you aren’t happy with. I made a big mistake in not walking away, not voicing my opinion, and actually succumbing to the vileness that surrounded me. Instead I joined in yet all the while I was being hurt by the comments and there was nothing I could do. I was quite literally giving that person permission to hurt me, and that’s where we can’t fall down, that’s where we stand tall, and that’s where we face nastiness with a smile (and a bit of lipstick!) and show them who’s boss.

With love, Xx