Thursday, 29 March 2012
Friday, 23 March 2012
Most people follow a plotted path when it comes to living life. It’s a path that has been well worn many a time. It is the tried and tested route, so called because it seems right and it can bring happiness. Choosing to follow another route might bring bliss, or it might bring disaster. Then you have to scramble back onto the tried and tested route, desperately making up for lost time. Elizabeth Gilbert is married with a beautiful home and a successful career. The decision over whether or not to have kids forces her to acknowledge a drastic and life changing truth: Liz is unhappy, with her man and marriage, and with the designated path. She doesn’t want babies and she doesn’t want marriage. She makes the heart breaking decision to terminate her marriage, dealing with the guilt and regret that emerge in the aftermath, but she also experiences a new sense of liberation as she decides to search for happiness by dedicating four months to the pursuit of pleasure in carnal Italy, four months to devotion in spiritual India and four to balance in blissful Bali.
I was drawn to Gilbert’s work whilst undertaking my own voyage of exploration – volunteering at an animal sanctuary in Phetchaburi, Thailand. The book was sitting on the shelf, and I decided to pick it up. I’d bypassed the furore surrounding this book when it first emerged on the scene blazing a trail for bored, out of their twenties women who weren’t sure what they really wanted to be doing with their life’s. Julia Roberts portrayed Liz in the film (which I have not yet seen) although I think, in her younger years, the role would have been a perfect fit for Meg Ryan.
Gilbert was for me very relatable. She was very human. At times whiny, self-oriented, obsessive and irresponsible, she also struck me as honest, endearing and courageous. Who wouldn’t want to travel the world and follow their dreams if they had the finances and freedom to do so? Her story struck a chord with me. Chronically unsure that I ever want marriage or babies (I hate anything with a label and I’m not particularly maternal – although at the age of 23, this might be more an age thing – I’m still waiting for the magic marriage and baby fairy to strike), living a life devoted to pleasure, spirituality and balance seems rather attractive to me. Imagine leading a life dedicated to journeys, adventures, causes, new people, new places, joy, freedom, romance, magic…of course this might all be incredibly naïve. But the truth is I admired Gilbert for daring to step away from a life that was not the right fit for her and plunging into the unknown, facing nights of loneliness and depression before the nights of gorging on pasta and finding her fluent feet.
Ultimately, Liz ends up back where she started. After eating lots of Roman cuisine, scrubbing temple floors and shacking up with a medicine man, Liz falls in love, and due to circumstances beyond her control, ends up marrying. The moral of the story then, is not a 'Revolutionary Road' style attack on the domestic sphere and the domain of the husband, wife, family, house and career, but a story about following your heart and trusting that it will lead you to the right places. It might lead you to a man, a job, a country, a language, a type of food, a musical instrument, but trust it when it’s aching, pulsing, beating, begging you to take it somewhere, to do something. As such, there was no attack on marriage, or babies, or domesticity, but just ensuring that it’s the right marriage, the babies you wanted and the domesticity you can enjoy. The biggest lesson for me was one of balance. How many wives and mothers turn their backs on their passions, hobbies, dreams and friends when they settle down? How many lifelong travellers ignore the need for roots and purpose? Liz’s story reminds us that whichever path we choose, conventional or unconventional, we need to balance our own happiness with that of others by ensuring that our families, friends, communities and cultures, and those of others are respected as much as possible. You can be a mum and do something for yourself, and you can be a traveller and fall in love. Create your own story; know when to fight the good fight and when to walk away. Trust in your heart, your gut instincts and realise that the path you walk is always your own, no matter how similar it may appear to someone elses. As such, you have a duty to yourself to ensure that there are a few flowers along that road...
Monday, 12 March 2012
Ever girl fantasises about being the object of many men’s affections. The mam in the middle. The rose between two thorns. The lady of the moment with her pick of the litter. In Hollywood this woman exists. This woman is Lauren Scott. There are some who have questioned the choice of Reese Witherspoon as a suitable stick of man magnet lady candy, expressing that she lacks the raw, magnetic sex appeal that would cause men of such distinction to fight over efforts to paw all over her, especially when you could have a Megan Fox or a Jessica Alba, but how many machines of monstrous men forged from the remains of the Titanic itself have gone gaga gooey goo goo over the girl next door instead of Miss Super Hot, Super Sexy, Super Star, Super Model and with her luminous hair, ocean eyes and killer smile, Ms Witherspoon is still looking pretty damn good. Besides, she has felled such mantelope in her time as Ryan Phillippe and Jake Gyllenhaal so she must know that sweet and sugary wins the race. Anyway, it's not a bad job being paid to have men fight over you...
Ms Lauren Scott might be Miss Successful, sweet and sexy but she is on a man hunt. Enter CIA agents and best buds, as well as contesting contenders for her heart (and loins) FDR (played by the usually straight laced Chris Pine), a smooth talking alpha male chauvinist and connoisseur of women who enjoys spying on bikini clad ladies in swimming pools and haunting the local video store to pick up lucked out singles, and Tuck (man of the moment Tom Hardy) who plays against type (delicious, dead eyed, bodacious bad boy) to emit a sweet, almost poetic vibe, as a family man who is infatuated with the idea of love itself. Tuck meets Lauren the modern way – via the internet, and FDR consequently bumps into her at his fave haunt (the video store of course).
What ensues is a ‘date off’ as Tuck and FDR spy on one another (and of course Lauren) as they attempt to out date each other with trips to the fair, art galleries, clubs and romantic restaurants. Slowly they uncover more and more about Lauren; her interests, ambitions and intrigues. There is a villain lingering in the background in the form of Heinrich, (shark-eyed scene stealer Til Schweiger) but he is merely an excuse for the odd car chase, explosion and get away helicopter. The real focus is on this three way freak fest.
Reese shimmers and shines as the sweet super sassy tweety pie cuckoo bird that we have come to know and love for her likeability and effervescence in roles such as ‘Legally Blonde’. What’s so workable with Reese is that you could see every thought cloud over in her baby blues and her face brightens up like a light bulb at just the right points.Chris Pine has moments of sheer hilarity and quick fire physical comedy. Hardy appeared oddly miscast. I simply couldn’t disconnect him in my mind from the intense, tenacious, magnetic, barbaric animalism he has previously channelled for such roles as Heathcliff and Tommy in ‘Warrior’ (a type that fits him better I feel). Mr Hardy is not ‘romcom’ man – this cheapens his dead eyed, bad boy, rough edged persona. Chelsea Handler is awkward-cringy- middle aged hilarity personified as Lauren’s best friend Trish, a woman who enjoys supping vodka from her baby’s beakers and eating Cheetos from the lardy roles of her partners’ stomach during intercourse whilst vicariously living through Lauren’s lustful love life.
Lauren does of course inevitably make a choice. She can’t ping back and forth, yo-yo like between these two hot bods forever. I was mildly surprised and disappointed with Lauren’s decision (anyone that knows my tastes will know now who she did not choose – friggin’ idiot) but everything wraps up nice and coherently (in true Hollywood style). I would recommend this as a light-hearted, pop corn fuelled rom-com that will make you laugh and even if it doesn’t, it’s so packed with man candy that your eyes will be thanking you for coughing up the cost of a ticket.
Thursday, 8 March 2012
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
1. Adventures, journeys, travel. New faces, new places.
2. Doing something worthwhile, productive and positive that makes a difference, no matter how small.
3. Living in a world of sounds and music, beauty and colour.
4. Reading and writing. Capturing the moments that matter.
5. Standing on the brink of fear and seeing over to the other side.
6. 'Excitement and danger, love from a stranger'
7. Living in the moment - no regrets, even if the moment is crazy and someone that 'isn't you' takes over
8. Living a life where I trust my instincts, live for the moment and follow my heart and not my head (as the heart has all the fun)
9. Seeing new cultures, new languages, religions and people and exploring their ways of doings things
10. Ensuring that my inner child likes the woman I become.
So I’ve been in an unusual place lately. Perhaps for a year now, I’ve felt what the French refer to as ‘ennui’. I learnt this poncy word studying literature at university but for those who have not yet come across it, ‘ennui’ generally translates to mean a great feeling of dissatisfaction and boredom and for that year, that’s the feeling that encapsulated my life. I was going through the motions of what I thought might provoke some sense of joy or fulfilment. I was doing the surface, shallow things that don’t mean much if they aren’t backed up by something more meaningful at a deeper level. On paper, everything looked good. I was working a job and earning good money. This job also gave me a lot of time off which is not something you could shake a stick at. My family are from heaven and I have some incredible friends who make me laugh and are always there for me. Despite this, I felt cornered, trapped and pretty exasperated. Life just seemed like a never ending grind, and I wasn’t getting much pleasure or liberty out of it.
What I came to realise, slowly, was that I hate London. I hate the pace of life, I hate the rat race, I hate prioritising money and possessions over experiences and accomplishments. I hate sitting in the same dreary carriage on the same dreary train in the same dreary weather day after day because I feel obligated to some notion of earning money and getting caught in the web that we all get stuck in to some degree: ‘I need money. I NEED IT. Because without it I won’t be able to eat at that restaurant or see that movie or buy that house or have that wedding or BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH’. Now these are what they call #firstworldproblems on twitter, because it’s all too easy to moan and groan about these things when you live a cushy life where you can afford to sit around and complain. Richer financially yes, but I don’t know that I’m richer mentally, emotionally or spiritually. Now there are a lot of great things about London, but I've lived here my whole life. Frankly, I'm bored of it. At this stage in my life at least, London has nothing else for me.
Recently I had an experience that changed a lot of things for me. I’ve always been a very ambitious and adventurous person, but those two qualities have always been buried beneath an avalanche of fear and mistrust of my own intentions. The part of me that hungers and hankers for far flung adventures, the part that is magical and free, that dreams, dances and wishes, meets with a very constricting individual who urges me to stay on the path and do the ‘right’ thing (the right thing translating to mean the path that has been trodden many times before.) The thing about the right thing and the well-trodden path is that, even if you hate it, even if you get to the end and think ‘god I wasted my time’, you’ll be in good company, because that’s the way most of us head, but if you deviate and end up hating it, you are more in the minority. That’s what’s scary about going ‘off-road’. Still this part of me that wanted an adventure was getting louder. So loud it managed to push the fear away and I signed up for a volunteering project called Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. Animals are my big passion and I really wanted to do something positive. I think everyone has their own reasons for doing so, some catalyst in your own life that encourages you to reach out and attempt to do something for someone else. My catalyst was the encroaching boredom. Nothing will strangle you more.
This experience (and I will blog about it more thoroughly later as there is much to say) taught me several vital things about myself that were buried for a long time:
1) I can do the thing I fear most
2) I am not incompetent
3) I can survive on a lot less; less money, less clothes, less comfort, less food
4) I can stand on my own two feet
5) I can be a friend to myself
6) I can be strong for others
7) I am not satisfied by the 9-5 office grind
8) People are people the world over; everyone has their own pain, their own hurt, their own suffering and everyone has something or someone they would like to run away from
9) Every culture and every people has something to teach you, and also something to learn from you
10) You can’t hide from your passions and dreams forever
Now, back home, I realise nothing is keeping me here. The feeling of being trapped and of feeling claustrophobic is back again. My family and friends are all that keep me here. The job? The job is just £ for the bank. The city? London no longer feels like home. It feels like a strange place.
So what do I need? A plan. I need to take some action. This strange mood is kinda hard to take for sure...I’ve never felt so antsy and restless, so consumed by wanderlust and so bored and disinterested in things that I would expect on some level to intrigue me. TV ads to me now are just trying to sell me what I don’t need. They are part of the trap. Shopping now is like an extortionate consumerist nightmare. Work is just a way to fund a lifestyle I’m not sure I even want, and have also thought I’ve never wanted since the age of about five (big house, marriage, kids). That’s the dangerous thing about doing the thing you want. You can’t go back because to go back is so unsatisfying. I definitely think I’ve opened a door to what I want, and now the door is ajar and I can peek through to what I’ve just been privy to. I can’t slam that door shut ever again without feeling deeply unhappy and distressed. Part of that experience, and I can't go into full details, was being active, direct, doing what I wanted and going with the flow without thinking of the consequences, the repercussions or what I might think or feel about my actions later. All that mattered was the moment and whether that moment brought me joy, happiness or exhileration. If it did, I was living.
So what is this post about? It’s just me telling me: get up, get out, go do it. And the same to all readers and followers: that slow, aching boredom will become a mountain of rage and frustration eventually. If you know what makes you happy, please go and do it! Don’t be afraid that it will go wrong. It’s better than letting that ‘ennui’ boil you alive.