An open letter to my dog

An open letter to my dog

Dear Teddy,
Remember the other day when we went for a walk, and we found that field of wild poppies and Queen Anne’s lace, and you just lost your shit because it was so amazing? And I just stood there kinda grumpy (because menzies), while you literally frolicked through a field of wild flowers without a care in the world?
You don’t remember? Of course you don’t. You’re not one to dwell on the past. You’re so busy shredding the Vote Leave flyer I gave you to chew on and completely loving it that those flowers don’t even exist to you anymore.
What I’m trying to say, little man, is that you are GOALS. You’re like my life coach. You’re always reminding me to live in the now; to get excited by how amazing everything is; to NAP FREELY. It gets me thinking about how much better we’d all be if we were just like you. And then you start licking your balls and I think maybe not just like you.
You know what else I admire about you? The way you love. Human’s talk about unconditional love and selfless love and sure, we’re capable of those things, I think, but they’re not easy. They take work, and sacrifice, and sometimes that can lead to resentment. Our kind of love is so seldom perfect, but you met mum’s priest that one time and ever since it’s like Christmas morning for you whenever he walks through the door.
I don’t know if you know this about me, Teddy, but I’m really hard on myself sometimes. When I don’t do my best, and when I don’t accomplish my goals, and when I’m not the person I want to be, I feel worthless. And sometimes I try and talk about it with another human. And I’ll be honest with you, little man, most of them are smarter than you. They can have a lot of wisdom when I’m awash with sadness, and they can see me clearly when maybe I can’t.
But I look at you, and you have as much adoration in your eyes as you do when I’m feeling on top of the world. You don’t care about my successes and my failures. You don’t care if I’ve gained weight or haven’t washed my hair. You, too, see me clearly, and you never, ever judge. You don’t even know how to. Just imagine a world in which all we humans were as free from judgement as dogs. Is that the paradise you dream of when you bark in your sleep?
And there’s more. You never lie. You never hide who you are. You never hold your stomach in for a photo or pretend to agree with someone just to fit in. You are your complete, honest self, all the time, and you have never once worried about what the other dogs think of you. You know you don’t have to, because the other dogs are just like you. Just as wise to the simple rules for happiness and the best way to live: authentically, for today, with an open heart and endless wonder.
I think maybe, Teddy, you’re a human’s best friend because you’re so damn good for us. You remind us of our flaws and show us a better way. You’re generous with your joy. You bring us into the moment. You love us no matter what.
So thanks, for knowing how to relax; for being just so crazy excited to see me; for loving the outdoors and nature; for being fascinated by everything; for reminding me to live more like you.
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In search of inspiration

In search of inspiration

I had some incredible news a couple of weeks ago: a short story I wrote has been selected to appear in an anthology. I’m getting published. There’s a pay check and everything. Are you freaking out? Because I’m freaking out.
To make the most of this, I decided it would be a good idea if people who read it and like it can then Google me and find more of my work. The only difficulty is, there is no more. Short stories are not my forte. My ideas are all too big and ungainly. I barely know how to contain a complete work within a few thousand words, but if I did it once, I can do it again. I just need to come up with something. I need inspiration.
Inspiration. What an exciting, promising word. It conjures thoughts of Pinterest boards and long walks in the countryside; of the beginnings of innovative, wondrous things; of art and creativity soaking into you and oozing out as if by osmosis.
Yeah, I should be so bloody lucky. I hate this part. It’s the ‘inspiration’ stage of writing that always has me questioning everything. Because a real writer’s head would be exploding with stories, right? A real writer wouldn’t be staring at the nonsense in her notebook – in the margin of one page I’ve just written ‘dessert’; was I hungry? Inspired? Who’s to say? – waiting for the story to jump out at her in 3D like that scene from Tangled. A real writer would be inspired by everything, and right now, I’m not inspired by anything.
And you can’t force inspiration – as anyone who’s tried to knows all too well. It’s like trying to remember a dream that starts to evaporate the moment you wake up; the harder you concentrate, the faster it fades to nothing, and the more desperate you are, the more inspiration plays hard to get. But what if you’re chronically drawing a blank? This is your career after all, you can’t afford to just sit and wait. Maybe you have a deadline. Maybe you really need to make a buck. So you have to dig deeper, squeeze tighter, maybe just *kind of* force it but seriously though don’t force it. Inspiration is the fucking worst.
In fact, inspiration as I described it above is nothing but a myth. Sure, maybe once in a blue moon a story will feel like it’s writing itself and you’ll figure you must be some kind of genius. But most of the time, inspiration will be a single line, or a turn of phrase, or a punchy first paragraph with nothing attached. Maybe you can picture a scene or an interesting conflict. But to capitalise on that little freebie, you have to do the legwork. You have to build around it, and keep building, even if the first and second and third attempts fall flat. Writing, like anything worth doing, takes hard work and persistence. That lump of clay and your own two hands are the only tools you’ll need – and the only tools you’ll get – and the rest is just you wrestling it into shape.
I guess the moral of this story is that if something matters to you, see it through. You’re not going to love doing what you love doing all the time, and you’re definitely not always going to feel good at it. But that’s okay, because being a natural at something – if such a thing even exists – is overrated. Your proudest achievements will be the ones you’ve worked for.
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On keeping a journal

On keeping a journal

I’ve been keeping a journal for close to a decade now. Why? Because it’s therapy I can do without getting out of bed, and I can recommend it to anyone that appeals to i.e. all of you.
I started when I was seventeen. I had always tried to put the things in my head on paper – either through writing or drawing – and had even tried to keep a journal several times before. But in the middle of sixth form, things started to go south for me, and depression set in. My subject matter went from I had a really great sandwich today to why is this happening to me, and for the first time journaling became a vital outlet for a hella lot of confusion and angst.
I try not to look back on those entries. I don’t think I ever will. When I started writing it was as a record, because I thought that’s what a journal was for, but if I wasn’t such a hoarder I might even throw the old ones away. They’ve served their purpose.
It’s almost like a mental cleansing ritual. I’ve never been much of a sharer, and even though I spill my guts to my friends and my mum way more than I used to, it’s still not always comfortable. Being vulnerable is hard, and sharing yourself with the outside world is scary. From the way you dress to your opinion on that movie you loved that everyone else hated, self-expression comes with the risk of judgement and consequence, and that can make us feel like we have to censor ourselves.
But in a journal you don’t have to. It’s an outlet for all your most brutally honest thoughts and feelings, whether they’re too dark, or too mean, or just incomprehensible to anyone else. There are things in my journal I’ve never said out loud; the only place they exist outside my head is on pages nobody else has seen. I don’t know why it helps to ‘get it out’, but it does, the same way it would to share it with someone, minus the complications that brings.
But more than just sifting through my emotional life, it helps me make sense of it. Something about the act of assigning words to intangible thoughts and feelings brings clarity. I don’t know how it works in your head, but if it’s anything like my noggin, your thoughts don’t come to you in the complete sentences you use to recount them to the next person. They probably don’t involve many words at all. For some, the drawback to keeping a journal might be the difficulty of getting the words out; of actually translating what you’re thinking into English. But that’s just the benefit. It forces you to think more clearly and slowly about what’s burdening you.
I don’t write every day, just when I need to, and I’ve filled more pages in the last year than I did in the previous three combined. In fact, I’ve been relying so heavily on writing down how I’m feeling that I started this blog as an extension of my journal, edited to include only the thoughts I think will most resonate with and help others. Maybe when my journal is filling up more slowly again, I’ll know I’ve turned a corner, but I’ll be sure to keeping blogging.
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