Moorland+Neolithic Stone Circle

Last weekend was a busy one: I was determined to make the most of good weather on Saturday, so I went for a walk on a nearby moor. It was tough going at first as I climbed up onto the moor, and I wondered if I would cope with the rest of the walk, but thankfully once up on the moors it was flat and fairly easy going. I saw a stone circle, some grouse, and various other (mostly unknown) birds. I went out quite late in the afternoon, which made for a very atmospheric walk. At one point it was just me, walking through the moorlands alone, the sun low, bathing everything in soft, yellowish light, everything quiet apart from the rustle of the wind through the heather, and the occasional chatter of a grouse or burst of song from a skylark. I walked slowly then, enjoying the warmth and the peace and the fresh air. I really needed it. I tried to hold onto that feeling of peace and contentedness as long as I could once I was off the moors and on the bus home and throughout the week, but it somehow escaped me as the week dragged on.

At the opera.

Anyway, back to that weekend. The next day I went out to the opera, which was fantastic, although I somehow thought wearing sky high heels was a good idea, which was not fantastic. Ouch. I went to see “Salome” and I loved how dark it was. That, and it was a full orchestral staging which was just epic, really. It’s funny, I find opera annoying to listen to, but I just love to watch it. It’s so dramatic and almost over the top, but in a good way.

It was a good weekend all in all, but a little tiring. So this weekend I did nothing. I nested at home – doing chores, giving some TLC to plants and fish, lazing around idly watching YouTube videos. It was nice.

Spring is finally here! It’s wonderful seeing so much color in the world – cherry blossoms lined up on avenues, patches of daffodils below said cherry trees, city and town plantings, fields full of flowering rape seed…. That, and there’s lambs in the field and they are the cutest. :3

I’m still commuting to another office for work, which involves a much longer commute. I switched country roads for dual carriageway which is much easier and smoother to drive on, but it’s still very long. It leaves me feeling tired but also, strangely, a bit restless, as it’s also rather boring. I feel proud of myself for managing it (as I’m such a new driver) but at the same time not so proud for not managing it very well- it’s a struggle to be on time. It’s a bit different in many ways and I’m enjoying it, sure, but it’s not without its challenges.

“It’s so painful, it’s so joyous, it’s so difficult, I’m yearning…”

I arrived back into the UK yesterday after two and a half weeks back home in Cape Town, South Africa. Where I was born, partially raised, and where most of my relatives are. It’s been a weird two weeks, there have been awkward moments, but also amazing moments, and it feels like I was just begining to settle into it all when I had to leave again.

It had been about seven years since I’d last been back. It’s a very long time and a lot has changed in that time. Two and a half weeks hardly feels enough to make up for it. (Though it is better than nothing, of course.)

In many ways, I have made peace with my dual nationality. Too South African to be British, but too British to be South African. I am South African/Scottish but I sound neither, and I can joke about that now. When we first immigrated to the UK I had no idea what was going on, I thought it was just a big fun holiday and everything would go back to how it was. Realising that it was not any such thing, that I would have to stay in a place where no one liked me and nothing felt familiar was pretty awful. I wanted to go home. For years I was determined that I would go back. I had no appreciation for adult concerns – finance, healthcare, social security. I was lonely and sad and I didn’t fit in and I just wanted to go home. Home became something magical to me, took on a brighter tinge. I wanted to escape back to what I had, which of course was wonderful and perfect. As I grew older I had to face reality. And now, coming back to South Africa and seeing the lives of my family there, I can appreciate reality even more. It was a good thing my parents did for me, to take me to the UK. Free healthcare and schooling and benefits are nothing to scoff at. No power cuts or water restrictions too. I have an independence that maybe I wouldn’t have, and I have a very good job, a very good home. I know these things. I was grieving for a long time, angry and sad and resentful, for the loss of what I could have been and the life I could have led, whatever that would be. I wondered how I’d look, if my personality would be more extroverted. I’d try to picture it, even though it’s impossible. But I’ve finally come through to the other side of my grief. The last stage is acceptance, right?

I have accepted the immigration and its benefits. and in many ways it’s freeing. It was brilliant going home with that acceptance. I could struggle to understand people in my home country and laugh it off. I could speak without feeling ashamed of my accent. I could embrace my otherness, and be a tourist in my home country, and not let it get to me. I surprised myself with just how well I did at not caring about it all. That was good. That helped a lot.

And I tried to enjoy being with my family, and reconnect with them, without all the miles and years between us getting in the way. Tried to have the same easy going acceptance of what is, is. That was a lot harder.

There is a distance, and it hurts. And it’s not just that, it’s hard to be with someone on borrowed time, hard to slip back into their lives and then out again. Especially as my grandparents grow older I am left sitting there wondering – is this the last time? There is a pressure to have everything just so, because of the limited time, and it ends up feeling a little forced and sometimes, yes, it was awkward. Wearing a mask and putting on your best behaviour. It shouldn’t be that way, really. We don’t really know each other, but yet they are family, and I love them, and I know they love me, despite all the thousands of miles between us, and I can’t bare the thought of losing them. I lost two of my grandparents in the last seven years, without being able to say goodbye, and I’m not sure I could do that again.

Even as practically I can appreciate my privileges and all that I have, nothing can take away the pain of having to say goodbye to your grandmother at the airport, not knowing if it’s the last time you will ever see her. It just hurts. It’s a stone embedded in my heart, a wound that won’t heal or allow itself to be erased. It’s home, and that’s just the way it is, and although I have boxed up my grief and loss and tucked it away, it’s still there.

I want to go back, I don’t want to go back, I should go back, I shouldn’t go back, I can go back, I can’t go back.

It feels like I’ve just been woken up from the most beautiful dream.

My head: it’s ok. Time to get on with reality.

My heart: I want to slip back into that dream.

(Home is still something slightly magical, something otherly to me. I said to my coworker before I left that it, the holiday, won’t feel real until I see Table Mountain appear out the plane window as we circle to land. But I lied. It never felt real. There was so much that was so wonderful, and South Africa is just too beautiful for words. I love my home and I hope I can go back again, just have this at least once more…)

(Why does it have to be so expensive and time consuming to go home? It’s so frustrating.)

“These contradictory feelings…subdued, I stand here all by myself. Time passes quickly…”

This week has been a pretty stressful one. My fridge started playing up last weekend and by Tuesday, had given up the ghost entirely. I came home late on Tuesday evening to find the fridge silent, water on the floor and my food defrosting. Cue panic. Thankfully my landlord has been amazing in getting it all sorted out and quickly, but it was still awful chucking out bag after bag of uneaten, inedible, soggy food. It was also kind of gross. It hadn’t started rotting, thankfully, but that kind of smell was starting to set in as I cleared the last of it Thursday morning before work.

It was not a good time for it. I’m going on holiday very soon and I did not need to be dealing with clearing out and cleaning my fridge, I have so much else to do. I am thankful it didn’t fail whilst I was on holiday but I’d rather it would not fail at all.

My thoughts on my holiday have been changing a lot these past few months – excitement, nervousness, maybe even a tiny bit of dread, guilt for feeling that, more nervousness, and now pure stress. I have such a long to do list. I honestly thought I had so much more time than I ultimately did. I did not expect it to come round so quickly. I have not yet come to terms with the fact that I am going home in less than a week, and before that, less than a month, two months. It seemed so far off. I am not prepared in all the ways.

The house is kind of messy and unorganised, I am not packed, I only just finished off my laundry today and bought my travel insurance today too. I haven’t yet gone to the doctor to sort out my travel sickness meds and it’s looking increasingly likely I won’t be able too (good job, self) I wanted to get my hair cut, didn’t happen, though I did manage to get my brows waxed at least. I think I have mostly bought everything I need, apart from a couple of items, but of course it’s too late now. One item is stuck in the post and I’m very worried it won’t come before I leave and what if the postman can’t fit it through my letterbox? I am worried about all the food rotting away in my black bin outside, which won’t be collected for three weeks (thankfully it’s still winter…) I am worried about coping with the hot weather in Cape Town, and with the water restrictions happening over there right now. I am nervous about meeting my family again for the first time in years, and staying with them (especially with my odd eating habits ) I am feeling self conscious – about my weight, about my acne and my eczema, just how I look in general. When you meet someone again in a long while you want to look fabulous. I don’t feel particularly fabulous. Just tired and a little run down. That, and I am dreading any questions about the vertical scars on my wrists. I do not want to talk about those. And it’s not like I can hide them in the heat (It’s going to be hard enough hiding the scars on my thighs. I’ve got maxi dresses and loose cotton jumpsuits so I’m hoping I will not have to resort to shorts. Please no. Between my scars and my cellulite I just cannot.)

It’s so hard to focus on work right now, all I can think of is I am going home. I am being really obnoxious and talking about it at every opportunity I get, like a child counting down to their birthday. I just, I can’t believe next week I will be going home. I wonder how much it has changed? I wonder how my family are, and if we will get on? I wonder if I will enjoy it? I hope I enjoy it. I hope I don’t embarrass myself or my parents in front of my family. I feel like, this is either going to be amazing or a complete disaster. I feel that either way this is going to change everything, but that placing that kind of gravity to it is only setting myself up for disappointment.

Either way, it seems to really be happening. Ready or not, I’m going home.

“I just need to breathe, I just need to be alive, why can’t I?”

snowy fieldI woke up today, admiteddly very late, and looked out the window to see the street was covered in snow. This hasn’t been unusual lately, but it was rare weather for the weekend. I decided to venture out with my camera, get some pictures and some fresh air. I don’t mind snow when it’s fresh, not yet been trodden into sludge and ice. I thought it would be nice to enjoy it, instead of looking out at it from my office window.

Unfortunately, it was not quite the winter wonderland I expected once I’d gotten going. It started raining about ten minutes into my journey and didn’t really stop. I was sodden and miserable, trudging back through deep puddles and sludge. Of course, I’d stubbornly walked all the way to the nature reserve I wanted to as I intended, and done a circuit of it too, before finally heading home. I kept thinking, it will let up soon but if anything it just got worse.

This is why I am no longer running. I think I’ve mentioned it before, haven’t I? That I really want to be a runner. I really love the idea of being a runner. Being like those people in movies or books or worse, on blogs and Instagram, who run off their stress, anxiety and depression, for whom running is freeing and life changing. I tried it once, stopped about a month in, sore and exhausted and still anxious. Then I decided to try again. I thought, maybe I was too ambitious last time and instead of following couch25k religiously, I circled through weeks one and two. It was easier running when I could break it up with bits of walking. Sometimes, I liked going out in the evenings when it was quiet. Sometimes, I thought I came close to understanding those fictional characters and those people – sometimes it felt good. Other times I was exhausted and sore and I hated it and didn’t want to do it. Then winter settled in properly, and I didn’t want to go out in the ice, in snow, in strong winds and storms. I had an excuse to give up. I’d see people out running in those weathers anyway and I’d feel, I do feel, such a baby. But I also feel very cold right now. And I do not like being soaked through and sore from walking awkwardly on slippery surfaces. Like today. I could appreciate the beauty of the scenery in many ways, but I also felt cold, and I’d left my earphones behind so couldn’t distract myself with an audiobook or music. It wasn’t aweful, but it could have been…considerably less damp.

I am vaguely unhappy right now and I don’t want to be one of those people who complains without doing anything about it so I have been trying things- running, yoga, going for walks, cooking more/eating better, cutting out caffeine, decluttering the house. Nothing seems to really work and nothing seems to really stick. I do compare myself to other people – out there running or doing yoga or meditating or eating tonnes of salad to a happy, healthy mind and I wonder – what is wrong with me? Mindfulness definitely doesn’t work.
And other things, is it me making excuses, giving up too soon, doing it wrong or is it simply me. I want to find something that frees me, but I can’t. I can’t make it work. It’s very frustrating. Perhaps I have too high expectations, compare too much. In fact, I definitely do. Now, like always, I need to accept good enough instead of striving towards some bizarre, unrealistic ideal. It’s hard though.

I think – I should stick with something and find some acceptance that way, I must keep moving. Then I think, I must be kinder to myself and just keep trying, eventually I will find something. I remind myself- I am perfectly allowed to quit if something really doesn’t work. I am allowed not to stick with something actually. So. I’ve given running a good go and it’s not worked and that’s…that’s ok. That should be ok. It’s hard this, to let go of your expectations and hopes, when necessary, to admit that maybe you were wrong. To stop trying to be someone else/who you think you ‘should’ be. I’m just too stubborn. Like today, I should have just gone home straight away or at least sooner. That also would have been ok.

It’s hard to find the middle ground between being kind to yourself and being too easy on yourself – you need to push yourself to grow, or do things you don’t like sometimes. I’m just, evidently, not very good at picking my battles.

Unfortunately not my cat.

At some point, I stopped writing. Online and offline, I ran out of words. Things haven’t been great these few weeks, months, this year. I grew tired of that narrative. I didn’t want it here, on this blog, and writing it offline wouldn’t help. I told myself I’d come back when things improved, when I was in a better headspace, but that has not happened. Nonetheless, there are good things, too.

Moments like this. I’m sat on my bed in my parents house, with my sister’s cat curled up next to me. I’ve missed my own cat so, so much this year. Nothing has been the same since she died. I am very happy to have some cat time. I’m at my parents house with my parents, my sister, and my sister’s cat. We will open presents tommorow and have Christmas lunch. It’s really good to be at home and not be at work. I was counting down the days until Christmas break and I was almost giddy with happiness, hyper, on the last day on Friday.

I’ve never been one to believe in New year’s, or enjoy Christmas. But with things so otherwise bleak I’ve thrown myself into festivities – hanging lights in my apartment windows, buying too many presents, crafting an ornament for our Christmas tree- and I’m looking forward to trying to reset things alongside the change in year.

Anyway, wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, or a happy holiday break, and a happy new year.