Cathedral

The bank holiday weekend couldn’t have come soon enough – it was wonderful to have four days off work without having to use up my leave. I gave the flat a good clean and then went home to my parents for Easter. Both my sister and I came home that Sunday so we could have lunch together as a family. My parents hid our eggs in the garden, just as they used to do as we were kids. This was random, but amusing. After a good lunch, we sat around and talked…well, bickered, and ate chocolate, and it was a nice chill day. On Monday I went with my dad to Liverpool; there was an organ concert being held at the Liverpool Cathedral which we wanted to see. We did see it, and it was nice, though perhaps not as dramatic as I would have liked.

Afterwards we looked around the cathedral (and I learned that the phrase “pull out all the stops” is to do with the function of an organ, which fascinated me) and then we decided to pay to go to the top of the Cathedral. It turned out to be quite an adventure to get the top! We had to take two lifts and then climb some terrifyingly exposed stairs (I should not have looked down) before we reached the top. The views were amazing up there though. Although it had, of course, been raining the entire bank holiday weekend the sun was trying to come out on Monday. We could see clearly to the Mersey and could spot a few recognizable landmarks such as the Radio Tower and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Afterwards, we took the lift to another set of viewpoints – to some of the balconies at the top of the inside of the cathedral. This was the coolest. I have always wondered about the hidden stairways and balconies in a cathedral and we actually got to see some of that. Looking down from the balconies was so cool: the people below were tiny and busy, like in a Lowry painting.

I was so glad I had brought my camera. My father meanwhile had not, and without a strap on his phone, was left to take pictures whilst clinging on to his phone for dear life (can you imagine dropping something from that height…)

After the Cathedral we went to get lunch at a terribly overcrowded Pizza Express, and then did some light shopping before going to the World Museum. I loved the World Museum when I was a student in Liverpool; it’s free to enter with a small aquarium which I remembered had some beautiful tanks. I would pop in after or between lectures and sit and watch the fish to cheer myself up/relax. Sadly, the aquarium was undergoing a lot of work when we went in and it wasn’t like I remembered at all. We wandered around some of the other sections and it was nice, but I was disappointed about the fish. I guess nostalgia may have tinted my memories a little, made them better than they were? I know that does happen. It’s funny how familiar Liverpool feels to me, but also how distant now. It’s been a long time since I was a student there. Still, it was a fun day.

I’m not able to travel abroad this year for various reasons, and my UK Railcard which gives me discounts on rail travel is expiring, so I really do need to get out and explore around me like this as much as I can to keep myself from getting restless and to make the most of my discounted travel whilst I still have it.

It was such a long, exhausting journey back to my city from Liverpool though. I slept like the dead and woke up late on Tuesday. I was not particularly looking forward to going back to work after such a nice break either which did not help my motivation. But the week flew by in the end, and was mostly uneventful. I did drive to work every day and back which I am super proud of. As implied, I had taken the train to see my parents and to go to Liverpool, as I couldn’t face such long journeys by car. And I am still a very…all over the place driver. I have good days and bad days, but I am doing my best to gain experience. Today I also put petrol in my car for the first time which I am also proud of myself for (I even managed to figure out how to reset my trip meter!) then I drove down to my local park/nature reserve for a walk in the nice sunshine (of course the weather would turn brilliant when it’s not a four day weekend. :| ) and to check out the status of the spring flowers – the snowdrops have gone, the daffodils are ending, and now finally the bluebells are here. There were also many birds out, and I could see some baby ones too. It’s lovely to see the world come alive after the cold, dark winter. I love how long the days are now. I really got my driver’s licence at the ideal time – not having to worry about driving in the ice, snow or heavy rain just yet (fingers crossed). I drive to work in the light and leave in the light and it’s just wonderful. My days feel so much longer now.

I’m not looking forward to this upcoming week at all: I have my annual performance review and some scary training course coming up. I also have a few doctors’ appointments coming up, for nothing major, just investigation, but it’s a little worrying. The last post was kind of freeing to write though. Sometimes just admitting I’m not OK is enough to feel just a little better. I’m not OK, so I may as well not be OK and getting on with the things I need to be doing!

“When we were together, we were like kids. Now, where I’m going, where I am, I don’t know. I am roaming about. After sending you off it’s all dark.”

I recently read a blog post about how major changes can divide life into a before and a after. This resonated with me. I think about my befores and afters. Before my family immigrated to the UK, and after. Before my grandmother died, and after. Before my cat died, and after. A thing happens, and afterwards you are left with a new and terrible reality. But not all befores and after have to go like that, do they? Sometimes the after is better than what came before. Before being accepted to university, after being accepted to university. Before I was employed, and after.

And recently, before I could drive, and after.

I have a car now.

No more waiting around for buses, followed by an excruciatingly long and claustrophobic journey- funny smells, loud noises, packed tightly on overcrowded services. No more lugging my things around with me. Just me, my little car. I am in control of my environment and my journey. I do not have to carry heavy loads anymore. It is terrifying, every time I struggle with the clutch, when I stall, when there are no speed sign limits and I’m unsure how fast to go, when someone drives too close behind me… I have so much to learn still. But I can drive to work, in 40 minutes flat I can get there, 30 minutes when the traffic is good. (A two hour commute more than halved and much more reliable!) The world is shifting again. My world opens up, new and exciting, and also very scary. Another step towards an independence I want but don’t feel truly capable of.

A before and after that I think about a lot: Before I wanted to live, and after. The scars on my body remind me every day that I am alive, but that I once set a time limit to my life.

I sometimes find myself tracing the scars on my wrist with my fingertips, thinking about all that has been, amazed to have made it so far, but also wondering if I have the strength to go further. I doubt myself sometimes. I feel pressure and I know it’s coming mostly from me but I can’t seem to find the ‘off’ switch for my thoughts. I’ve had so much going on lately, most of it I can’t go into here, and I’m stressed out. My life has felt very all over the place, my anxious brain has been going at 110% with worry. Nights spent lying awake, thinking about this and that. Tired, so tired. Everything keeps changing and I am only just keeping up with it. Some days my chest feels tight, like I can’t breathe, it’s all too much.

But then I look at the scars sometimes and I stop at that amazement. I know I have survived, and that I can get through whatever life throws at me. I am reminded that I am still, despite everything, alive.

My brain can’t quite settle on a state of mind. I feel stuck in a bad place, wanting change, making some half-hearted efforts towards it, but dreading it all at once, and procrastinating and putting off the things I know I should do.

When I encounter something new, I begin to feel that familiar pressure to succeed at it. I can’t just do something without worrying about doing it well enough. Whatever ‘well enough’ means. I apply unreasonably high standards to even the smallest things, in ways that don’t make much sense. This is my perfectionism. I strive towards unrealistic goals and naturally never reach them, so I become disheartened and demotivated. Sometimes, before I even get going on my way towards my goals, I get so overwhelmed with worry that I won’t carry out my task properly that I can’t even start it. I procrastinate, put it off, and try to pretend it doesn’t exist.

I worry about driving, too. It’s hard to discuss when I can’t go into details about certain things, but I basically have gotten into bad habits, haven’t gotten much of a routine right now. I used my commute as an excuse for my disorganisation, and now with that stripped away, I am left vulnerable. I can look at having my licence and my car as a chance to press reset, as the good sort of change I’ve been waiting for. It becomes my hope that I can fix it all now; I can get my routine sorted and become more in control. But the reality is- I wanted a convenient excuse for why I am struggling (a bad commute!) and an easy fix (driving!) when there is definitely something more to it. I am overwhelmed by all the changes in my life, and I am retreating from it. I have set myself standards that are impossibly high and become demotivated because I cannot reach them. I am so caught up in worry for what may become, that I become detached from the now. I tell myself to take each day as it comes, but in the morning, when I have just woken up, my tired brain can’t quite be that strong, and I struggle to begin my day properly, and then struggle to get through the rest of it once I’ve failed at that. (Again perfectionism – if you’ve already failed there’s just no point is there. The world becomes very black and white.)

I am caught up in my befores and afters, tracing the scars too often, too afraid. This pressure to keep going, to keep succeeding. I don’t know what version of success I am chasing, or why I can’t be happy where things are now. I don’t know why I cannot accept the present, but am always looking ahead to what’s coming next. I can’t settle into a happy after without worrying about that shift again, something else changing again, turning bad.

“He puts himself in the box and there’s nothing in the box but him, him and maybe hope.”

Various images from/of Filey Bay. Dog not my own.

The weather was absolutely stunning over the weekend, so I decided to go to the beach. I was ridiculously excited to go, even got up super early, although the clocks changing made me a little disoriented and I didn’t end up heading off until ridiculously late. This would become important.

I got the train to Scarborough, which was long and uneventful, and then I got the bus to Filey which was also pretty dull. I really just wanted to be there already. I was filled with anticipation every time I saw that strip of blue sparkling on the horizon. Once at Filey, I headed down to the beach. I took off my shoes and socks and waded into the water. Then I started walking southwards, following the coastline. And I walked, and walked, and walked, until my feet were numb from the cold water and tingling from the sand. I gathered rocks and observed whatever else I could find, took pictures and generally went slowly, enjoying the sunshine, the stunning scenery and the waves rushing over my feet.
I have been so sad lately. Well, not sad. But rather unhappy. There are a lot of stressful things going on right now and I’m not coping and becoming increasingly frustrated with myself for not coping. I wanted to escape from it for a bit, and maybe I did for a while, but then I discovered that I was on the wrong path for where I wanted to end up, and maybe something broke inside me. It was too late to do anything except accept that I had failed. And so, I ended up sat on a quiet beach at dusk, feeling even more sad. I had wanted to escape my feelings of uselessness, instead I had given myself another chance to berate myself- why can’t you do something as simple as read a map right. why can’t you do something so simple as be on time. you should have left earlier. you should have gone a different way. you should have gone faster. I felt so useless. I feel so useless.

I got the bus back to Scarborough, and then I got the train home.

On the positive – I went to the beach, the weather was beautiful, I gathered some nice rocks for my aquarium (just a few small ones!) and I didn’t spend too much money on this trip.

On the negative – my mood didn’t improve. This little black cloud followed me there. Won’t go away. I’m determined to be positive, no matter what, but positivity can only get you so far when everything you try, all the things you do to break that low mood cycle, don’t do it, won’t do it. It wasn’t meant to be like this at all.

“Warm spring that left, won’t you come back to me?”

The past weeks have been swinging between extreme highs and extreme lows. Work is…there is a situation I cannot talk about but which is crushing me right now. I am stressed out and anxious. But in other ways things are good right now – my flat is not looking like a complete disaster for once, I have been getting into reading again and enjoying some good dramas too, my neighbour’s cat has taken to coming into my flat and letting me play with him and cuddle him, and I’ve had some pretty good weekends spent actually doing stuff and not holed up at home feeling sorry for myself (see: work.)

One of my goals when I moved to this city was to take advantage of the cultural elements available to me, and take advantage of my salary, to see more shows. I love going to the theatre to see ballets, plays and operas and I don’t do it nearly enough. So I’m doing something about that now. Opera North are currently hosting a Fairy Tale season and I’ve got tickets to them all. I love fairy tales, especially the dark originals. For these shows too, I admit I was drawn in by the posters, which show the main characters in traditional costuming, although I have been confused as to how different the operas are turning out to the posters. (Very confused.) Anyway, I also bought tickets for Turandot in May. This gives me something to look forward to in these stressful times, and gets me out the house, which is also good (see: no moping.) It’s not too expensive either. After all, you can get a seat for just £15, and I bought a three opera package which meant that both Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella were £13.70 each! (Lets not talk about how expensive Turandot was even with a three opera discount – I wanted a good seat and I better have got one!)

So, the other weekend I saw the first of the fairy tales: the Russian “Snow Maiden”. My sister came up to my city and we went out to supper and then to see the show and it was all awesome. The Snow Maiden was extremely odd – it felt like it should have been sung in Russian, and the costumes were a bizarre mix of traditional and modern that made little sense (I don’t get why the Snow Maiden was in jeans for nearly the entire show whilst all the other characters got to change into different costumes. It was in stark contrast to the beautiful dress that Snow Maiden is wearing in the posters for the show. Shouldn’t the main character be the most beautiful, the one that stands out the most?) But it was short and funny and wonderful. My sister and I went shopping the next day which was also great fun.

I went to see the second of the fairy tales last weekend: the German “Hansel and Gretel”. This was a full on modern production of the opera. Again not as advertised, at all, though I did end up loving it. The music was stunning, and the opera itself was…surreal. It was very odd and slightly disturbing (young children singing happily after brutally burning to death a witch OK then) but it felt true to the dark spirit of the original fairy tale. I thought it was a more successful modern rendition of the opera than the Snow Maiden – the snow maiden swung between traditional and modern, which was confusing, but this one went all out modern. So OK. It was also hilarious… and I loved some of the odd details, like the witches wand being an electric beater (so random) and the use of video and cameras. It was really great. I also appreciated that it was also short – as much as I enjoyed 5 hours of parsifal, it can be a big demand on your time to sit through such a long show! I missed my sister, my default show-going partner, but she let me text her throughout the evening so it was like she was right there with me anyway. :)

I am looking forward to Cinderella, although I was drawn in to that by the gorgeous poster (the dreamy dress Cinderella is wearing, with bare feet) and from these two I can tell already that the actual product is going to be very different. Cinderella will at least be sung in the traditional Italian. Both Snow Maiden and Hansel and Gretel were in English. :( I can understand that for accessibility and drawing younger crowds (a goal of this opera season, if I’m reading the programmes correctly) it makes sense to present the operas in their English versions, but one thing I enjoy about the opera is getting to hear different languages. I would have loved to have heard Russian. Oh well.

This weekend though I am…actually holed up at home. I had plans to go out and buy some more fish, but it’s too cold and miserable. Winter is starting to get to me – dark mornings, grey, dull days and then it’s only a matter of time before its dark again. Last weekend there was actually some sunshine and I felt optimistic that spring may have finally started to come…the bulbs are starting to show… surely it should be time? I need some sunshine already. I’m starting to get cabin fever. I pace through my own flat, filled with restless energy. That’s maybe just the anxiety though. I wish work would be better. Then everything would be so great. I suppose it’s an impossible dream to want everything to be going perfectly well at all times. Come spring, hopefully things can settle down at least. Being pushed to these extremes, often quickly, is exhausting. I try on focus on all the good things going on in my life right now, those highs, but the stress of the lows leaves me so tired out and makes even being happy feel too effortful.

“Back where I collected him, the landscape shimmered with color, the sky fizzed with fireworks, and he stood open mouthed in wonder”

It was my birthday on Saturday. 24 years old and definitely feeling it- although I think my anxiety over my age is actually more anxiety over the fact that it drives home the age of my family. My sister bought a house recently, my cousin had a baby, and on Saturday it was a year (exactly) since my own graduation. I think about where I’m at in life, and whether it’s at the right place, and feel anxious that I’m not. I don’t feel particularly adult. I feel a mess. I am lost and overwhelmed and trying to come to terms with my reality, but it’s hard.

On Saturday I went to the pet store to buy some plants and yet more fish tank accessories (it’s never ending) I got to see adorable axolotls, kittens and bunnies whilst there at least. (I nearly took home one of all, of course) I came home and planted and cleaned the new tank, and then prepared and fed peas to my fish, who actually seemed to enjoy them. I then had to clean the house- My parents were coming round for my birthday and I was nervous for their opinions on my flat. I shouldn’t have bothered. My mom started muttering about my flat as soon as she arrived- it feels like no matter what I do, it’s not good enough. My sister curled my hair and reassured me.and then thankfully we could leave/get out the house.

We went to a Mediterranean restaurant for an early supper. The restaurant was quiet at 5.30pm, which was nice. The food was divine- we ended up with starters, mains and dessert. The staff were lovely, and helpful. I asked the waiter about cream in my main meal, and he remembered it enough to come to our table after we’d order dessert and ask if the butter in the dessert was ok. (I felt a bit guilty saying yes. I probably shouldn’t have, but I love pastry too much) afterwards we drove into the city centre to watch let it be, a Beatles tribute. It was amazing. They’d obviously put a lot of effort into it and were likely mimicking specific performances to the smallest details. In between performances they showed clips, of Beatlemania (kpop fans have nothing over that, i thought to myself) and they even had an ad break with some old adverts that would definitely not be considered pc today. It was adorable watching my parents, especially my shy father, get into the show- cheering, dancing and singing along. For a time, not speaking to each other and absorbed in a common interest, we all got on, were even affectionate to each other. Afterwards we were happy and relaxed enough to get ice creams and chat pleasantly whilst eating them on the walk back to the car.

Sunday wasn’t as good. Everyone was a little tired. My mom in particular was in a bad mood. We went for a walk at a local park / botanic gardens and it was ok, at times. My mom was a dog with a bone: she wouldn’t stop nagging me, about the tiniest, most insignificant things. My mom holds my flat to standards she herself doesn’t apply to our family home and I don’t understand it.

I felt a little relieved when they all left. Which is terrible, but I was starting to feel smothered and way too criticised. Since then, work as usual. The days bleed into each other, always doing the same things. Keeping the same routine. I am tired, a little depressed.