Tag Archives: secrets

No Man is in Ireland

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Hello, dear reader.  How was your weekend?  I hope you managed to catch up on your sleep.

Last week my lovely friend Katie nominated me on Facebook to post “seven things that you might not know about me”.  I love Katie very dearly, and I respect the fact that she met this challenge, but I will not be completing it myself.  This is for two reasons:

1) Whatever the seven facts about me would be, there’s probably a reason that they’re not common knowledge, i.e. they’re boring as hell.  Who cares about my Year 6 SAT marks?  Not you, that’s for sure.  Not really me, either.

2) I’m a very transparent person, and I’m not sure that there are seven facts about me which aren’t common knowledge.  My Year 6 SAT marks, by the by, were 6, 6 and 5.

I make no apology for the fact that I’m an open book, because I think being honest about yourself is the only way to make real connections with other people.  Obviously I don’t go around with a megaphone broadcasting my personal information to the unsuspecting public of London town, but if someone asks me a question I will do my best to answer it truthfully.  (Except in very specific circumstances, such as when I’m being interrogated by MI5.)

Making connections with other people is important, because we need each other, don’t we?  Even Bernard Black needs Manny.  Ok, here’s something that you might not know about me but could probably guess: I’m very dependent on other people.  I set a lot of store by my friends’ advice, because they’re a pretty wise bunch, and when I’m sad or ill or cranky I want hugs and sympathy.  Sometimes we might berate ourselves for needing other people.  We do this because it doesn’t really fit in with the whole “independent, capable go-getters of the 21st century” persona that we are all so determined to portray, but actually that’s just a knee-jerk reaction to feeling insecure.

It’s all very well to look like a self-sufficient success story, but in reality nobody is completely independent.  No man is an island (or “no man is in Ireland”, which is what I thought the phrase was until I was about 11, and it confused the heck out of me at the time).  Yes, of course we should be able to take care of ourselves, be aware of our own worth and cross roads without other people’s assistance, but there is no shame in respecting and valuing the emotional contributions of the people in our lives.  That’s why we have them in our lives in the first place.

This is also true from a professional perspective.  Working in the arts is demanding (not least because the amount of effort you put in very rarely corresponds with your salary), and we need each other’s support in order to stay motivated.  In the case of Tumbling After specifically (the show I’m directing in Edinburgh this year – here’s some more info in case you missed my last post), the devising process means that we all need to trust each other and be as honest as possible.  Just in terms of the admin, the producer and I find that we are more productive if we meet up to swear and glare at our laptops together.  Sure, we could sit at home individually and do the same thing, but we are more productive (and more importantly, much happier) if we have someone to share ideas and coffee with.

Have a beautiful day.  Go and hug someone who contributes to your life.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Worriers

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Hola and a very merry Friday to you, you lovely thing.  I hope that your week has been productive, enjoyable and unusually amusing.

Today I would like to have a chat about worrying, and specifically worrying about someone you love.  It’s completely acceptable to worry about someone, because it means that you quite like them and want them to be alright.  Similarly, it’s usually quite touching to be told that someone else is worried about you, because it means that they’re thinking about you and wishing you the best.

So worrying comes from a good place, but what is it good for?  (“Absolutely nothin’, say it again y’all!”  Etc.)  Worrying about a loved one doesn’t actually fix their problems, and it’s not going to do you a huge amount of good, either.  Unfortunately, nobody has handed you a magic wand/fairy dust/a time machine with which to fix your loved one’s troubles.  So you feel a bit rubbish and you’re also aware that that feeling isn’t doing any actual good.  This is decidedly not cool.

The way to deal with worry is to act upon it.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that we follow people around saying “are you ok?  Are you sure you’re ok?  What’s the matter?  You look annoyed.  Are you annoyed?  I’M WORRIED ABOUT YOU” ad infinitum.  That is definitely not the answer, for obvious reasons.  However, I think we can agree that we need practical ways to deal with our worry:

1) Say something
Tell the person that you’re worried about them.  Not to make them feel more stressed or guilty for upsetting you, but to reassure them that someone (i.e. you, you super star) is thinking about them.

2) Say something to someone else
If the person you’re worried about has confided in you, obviously don’t go blathering their secrets around your social circle.  But if you have a mutual friend or family member who will understand how you feel (and may already feel the same way), share the load.  For example: I have four siblings, and if I’m worried about one of them I automatically rally the other three.  There’s a lot to be said for strength in numbers.

3) Say something helpful
Offer your support.  Make sure that your friend/loved one knows that you are willing and able to help them if they need you.

4) Really mean it
Only offer support that you know you can give.  You may not be able to fix their entire life, but offering someone a shoulder to cry on or a good distraction from their woes is still very valuable.

5) Really mean it and prepare for it
Stocking up for emotional emergencies is a lot more fun than panic-buying for the end of the world.  For example, I have a secret stash of nice things – chocolate, fancy coffee, etc. – just in case one of my friends comes round and needs cheering up.  On a slightly more serious/less sugar-based note, if someone you care about is going for a scary hospital appointment, for example, clear your schedule for that day as much as possible.  They may claim to be ok, but they might change their mind at the last minute and need you to go with them.

6) Really mean it and prepare for it and then do it
If there is anything that you can actually physically do to help, do it.  If you’ve offered help to someone and they’ve taken you up on it, that demonstrates a huge amount of trust on their part.  Respect their trust and don’t push them to do/say things they’re not ready for.  Worrying is hard, but being worried about is also a big deal.

7) Let them get on with it
If you’ve said all you can say and done all that you can do, your only course of action is to sit back and let them work through whatever’s happening.  You can’t force someone to confide in you, call you when they’re sad or turn to you when they’re scared – some people prefer to do these things alone, and we have to respect that.  But if you’ve made it clear where you stand (i.e. right beside them whenever they need you), then you have already acted upon your worry as much as you can.

One last thing: I completely understand that being told not to worry is a bit annoying, because we don’t have much of a choice in the matter.  But just as your words and actions come from a well-meaning place, so do the intentions of the person who says “don’t worry about it”.  They just don’t like to see you wandering around looking as stressed out as the goldfish at the top of this post.  Poor, worried goldfish.

Have a glorious weekend.

They Know Too Much

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Hello, and happy Tuesday to you, you gorgeous creature!

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about personas, and how what we present to the world doesn’t match up with what we’re actually like.  Sometimes we come across well-meaning individuals who tell us that they can “see through” us, and that they know what we’re “really” like.

This is obviously infuriating for several reasons, not least because it’s pretty disrespectful not to take someone at face value.  Of course we all have many layers and sides and depths that we don’t reveal in everyday conversation, but I think we’re all at an age when we have arranged our social personas to be a good balance of what is accurate and what is acceptable.

Only a very few people in our lives are allowed to say that they “see through” us (and a good way of identifying them is that they very rarely feel the need to tell you so).  There are people in all of our lives whom we never want to lose, if only because they know too much about us.  It can be alarming and disarming to realise that your friends and loved ones understand some supposedly secret things about you, but I think that if we take a closer look we will see that this is an excellent thing.  Here are a few things that our true friends know about us:

What We’re Like When We’re Drunk
The friends who know you best will be able to tell at twenty paces how many drinks you’ve had, and in some cases what those drinks actually were.  (“Good Christ, she’s absolutely gone.  Must be between seven and nine ciders.”  “No, she’s only had six, but there was definitely a Jägerbomb between four and five.”)  While this can be annoying in terms of next-day debriefs, it’s also a very valuable asset.  Your friends know exactly when to humour your tipsy ramblings, dissuade you from drunk dialling, pour you into a taxi or even pour you another drink.  (That last one depends on how drunk they are in comparison to you, of course.)

When We’re Not Ok
It would be lovely to be able to go through life appearing as competent, happy and organised human beings, wouldn’t it?  A lot of the time, even when we are feeling very far from alright indeed, we can fool a lot of people into assuming that everything’s fine.  People who love us can always tell when we’re faking a smile or pretending to have fun, and it’s sometimes difficult to admit to when we’re trying to keep ourselves together.  You must know that feeling when someone offers you a hug and you refuse, just because you know that you’ll cry if you say yes?  Well, let’s all agree to stop doing that.  Take the hug.

When We’re Lying
I’m not suggesting that we’re all terrible fib-tellers, but our closest companions can always tell when we’re not being entirely truthful.  That might be when we’re umming and erring, trying not to offend them with our honest opinion, or when we’re being falsely bright with a person they know we can’t stand, or when we answer “yes” to the question “are you sure you don’t want seconds?”

What Our Weaknesses Are
Someone who has been in your life for a long time knows what your Achilles’ heel is, even if you’ve never explicitly revealed it to them.  It might be a particular food, a favourite film or even another person, but don’t forget that your real friends always know.  For example, my friends know that I am easily placated by shiny things (up to and including tin foil).  The great thing about weaknesses is that sometimes you discover that you share yours with someone you care about, which makes them more fun to indulge in.

I think that the main problem we have with our friends being so flipping knowledgeable about us is that it can make us feel vulnerable, and their understanding of us does sort of undermine the persona we present to the world.  Having said that, it’s only by being vulnerable with the people who love us that we are able to be who we actually are.  It’s so much better to let people in on your secrets than it is to go around pretending to be normal all of the time.

Have a glorious Tuesday.

McFly Were Incorrect

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Good morning dear reader, and welcome to midweek!

Today I’d like to talk about something that I think a lot of us struggle with, and that McFly were wrong about: it’s not all about you.  I don’t mean that in a narcissism-busting sort of way, or want to imply that you are self-centred.  You’re obviously a tremendous and non-selfish person.  I actually mean in it in a really positive way.

When we were in Year 9 or 10, a girl in my form was keeping an online diary, or “blog”, if you will.  (Blast from the past, right?  I know.  Whatever happened to those?)  One thing you should understand at this point is that in those days the internet wasn’t broadcasting for us in the way that it is now.  Teenage girls saw the internet as a virtual locker, and only certain friends could open it with a special key, i.e. if we told them which obscure website our stuff was on.  This applied to various things, including fan fiction writing and blogging. Someone unexpectedly finding your blog in 2004 was the virtual equivalent of somebody breaking into your locker.

Anyway, some other girls in my form (who were nasty to everyone all the time for funsies – not quite bullying, but on the cusp) found this diary, printed a load of pages of it out and brought them into school.  They went and found anyone who was mentioned in the blog (including me), and charmingly read out the passages of text pertaining to them.  It’s not always easy to look back at your fourteen year-old self and find things to be proud of, but this is one of those moments for me:

Me: “I don’t care.”
Sort-of Bully: “But she’s said mean stuff about you!”
Me: “You say mean stuff about me all the time.”
Sort-of Bully: “She’s been horrible about everyone!”
Me: “YOU’RE horrible about everyone!  Is that why you’re showing it to us?  Because it saves you the effort of thinking up new insults?”

BOOM.  Well chuffed.  High five, past me!  Etc.  Anyway, the reason that I brought that story up is because I knew at fourteen that people will say unkind things because they’re upset or hurt; it’s not necessarily about you.  Teenagers can be very unhappy and/or confused, so it’s not surprising that a lot of them lash out.  For instance, when I was a teenager I said some dreadful things to my mum (who, as discussed in previous blog posts, is very awesome and did not deserve that), but unfortunately it’s not exclusive to adolescents.

The people who love you the most are supposed to cherish you and build up your confidence.  They are supposed to be proud of you and encourage you.  They are also supposed to take the mickey out of you and embarrass you occasionally.  They are not supposed to take bad stuff in their lives out on you, blame you for things that you can’t possibly help or make you feel guilty because their life is not what they want it to be.  Loving somebody is difficult, because you’re essentially giving another person your favourite type of cake and hoping that they enjoy eating it rather than smashing it in your face.  Ultimately the choice is up to them.

Sometimes your boss will be unkind to you, or a stranger will swear at you for crossing the road when you shouldn’t, or you’ll discover that a friend has been bad-mouthing you behind your back.  You have to ignore it.  If someone gives you a fair criticism, use it to learn from.  If someone says something about you that you think is based on truth and you could improve yourself based on it, absolutely go for your life (for example, maybe wait for the green man before crossing next time).  But nine times out of ten, people who say nasty things to you are just not worth listening to.  It’s not about you; they are hurting, they are lashing out, and they are trying to make you as unhappy as they are.  Do not let them succeed.  I have said this to you before, and I will repeat it many times: you are a wonderful human being.  You do not have time to listen to rubbish like that.

Bearing that in mind, I hope that you have a lovely Wednesday filled with small victories and lots of moments of random kindness.  I’m off to Surrey to help my best friend clear out her garage, because I definitely did not choose the thug life.