Why we all want to be a bit more Villanelle (minus the murder)

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My husband and I always tend to have our most deep and meaningful conversations in the car.  It makes sense; you’re wedged together for anything from a few minutes to a couple of hours where at least one person isn’t allowed to scroll the time away on their phone.  Conversation is going to happen, and when you’ve known each other for ten plus years, it’s not going to be about the weather.  In between mini-arguments over who’s Spotify Playlist has got the best mix (mine, obviously), bouts of road-rage and scrambling around to find that fruit pastille I dropped between my legs (it was a black one, no!) – we tend to get a little deep.  Last weekend – road tripping back from West Wales – we somehow got onto the subject of murder.  “Could you ever kill a dog?” I asked.  “No, never – not unless it was in pain,” was our united stance on that one.  Even then, I’d struggle and sob myself silly; I couldn’t even bear the thought of it, because, well… dogs.  And then we played that game you always play when pondering moral dilemmas; you go to the most extreme situation you can think of.  I shrugged my lips, “Alright then, could you kill a person?”  

Now before you start thinking that my husband and I are psychopaths who spend every single car journey plotting murder, I should probably explain that we don’t.  We’ve just been watching waaaaaay too much Killing Eve.

It’s back this weekend for Season 2; are you as excited as I am?  I’m so ready for another helping of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s razor dagger-sharp script-writing, more scene stealing fashion and two of the most complex, well-written female characters on the box (three, if you include Fiona Shaw’s Carolyn – which I totally think you should because she’s awesome).  But mostly because, finally, more Villanelle!  Played by the brilliant and beautiful Jodie Comer, she’s become a bit of an unlikely icon and – yikes, dare I say it? – role model?  Probably not for the cold blooded killer bits, but for just about everything else.

I mean, there’s a reason why tailored suits are everywhere at the moment, along with frou-frou pink tops and dresses (who can forget that psychiatrist scene from Season 1?).  And it’s not just the fashion, it’s her playful, devil may care attitude that we’re all hooked on; she does and wears whatever the hell she wants, speaks her mind, and is as tough as the Balenciaga Biker Boots she stomps around in.  There’s a beautiful brutality to her that I think we all fancy injecting a little of into our own lives – whether that’s wearing something eye-catching and extravagant, to telling someone exactly what you think of them.  To their face, with a serene smirk.  Sorry not sorry, baby.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge explained in an interview that crafting the character of Villanelle (originally created by the writer Luke Jennings in his book Codename: Villanelle) came from continually asking herself the question, “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid?”  And I think that’s the question we should all probably be asking ourselves every day in as many variously worded ways as possible.  It’s the only way to acknowledge the fear holding you back from being the most explicit and honest version of yourself, and then shake it and be that person – devil may care. “What would I wear today if I wasn’t afraid of being stared at?”, “What project would I take on at work if I wasn’t afraid of failing?”, “What would I say to that person if I wasn’t afraid of being rejected?” ad infinitum.  As long as the question isn’t, “Who would I kill today if I wasn’t afraid of being caught?” then you’re golden.

Killing Eve is back on BBC One this Saturday at 9.15pm.  Smell you later.  🔪

 

How to Bounce Back from Burnout

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About a month ago I hit THE WALL.  I’m not talking literally, of course, and neither am I talking Game of Thrones (…which would probably be for the first time in oh, I don’t know… SEVEN years?).  You know that scene from Run Fatboy, Run?  The one where Simon Peg is running the Marathon and he hits that metaphorical wall?  He’s knackered; he physically can’t move another step forward and mentally, he’s ready to give up.  Well, that’s kind of how I felt about a month ago (minus the marathon). Things had been a bit busy and I’d just kept on burning through – as you do – but when things became quiet again and I stopped to think, I suddenly realised how tired and uninspired I was feeling – mentally, I just didn’t have any fuel left to keep that fire going.  All the little things I enjoyed doing on a weekly basis – like cooking, writing and walking the dog – suddenly felt like a mammoth task.

I was burned out.

Burnout isn’t just about feeling tired; it’s a total and utter max-out in energy – period.  You don’t just feel tired, you feel drained of that fire that keeps you going on a day to day basis – your personal combustion engine.  And once that goes, forget it.  You know the creative energy that you need to be able to come up with new ideas at work and feel inspired to take on new tasks?  All out.  All that social energy you need to maintain relationships and forge new ones?  Gone.  The motivation to go out, to get some exercise and stick to your usual, healthy routine?  Nada.  If you’re feeling tired, overwhelmed, uninspired and are struggling to keep up with your friends and maintain your usual healthy routine, then all signs point to burnout, baby.

And it’s not just me; how many times have I heard the phrase, “I’m so ready for my holiday now…” in the past few weeks?  We all seem to be thirsting for that summer break – just a couple of weeks away from the desk and a bit of time to get that groove back.

But, what if that holiday is still a few weeks away and you’re feeling so burned out that you’re smoldering out your ears and snoring at your desk?  Well, here are five ways to get bouncing back from burnout.

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1. Strip Back Your To-Do List

You know when you’re on the computer and you’ve got a hundred different windows open at once (with about twenty different tabs in each on the go, as well as The Sims 4 running in the background…)?  Some days you can handle it, but definitely not when you’re approaching burn out.  Time to take a look at your to do list and see where you can lighten your load.  I mean it’d be easy to ditch the whole thing, but just sit down for twenty minutes and see if there’s anything you can strike out and put off until you’ve got the energy.

2. Sneak in Some “Me” Time

“Me time”, “Self Care”, whatever you want to call it – if you’re heading for burnout taking a little time to do something that’s guaranteed to either relax you or put an instant smile on your face is a must.  Sometimes a little bit of what you fancy goes a long way, and sometimes you need a couple of hours or a day or two to just do you – whether that’s something as simple as a soak in the tub, a takeaway, a walk with the dog or treating yo’self to something special – reminding yourself of what feels good will stop you collapsing in on yourself like a black hole post supernova.

3. Focus on NOW

Time forget about… time!  Or least shed the stress that goes with it.  Forget your monthly, yearly, big picture goals for a while and just focus on getting back on track NOW.  You don’t need the stress of worrying whether you’re going to fall behind when you’re trying to bounce back from burnout.  The less stress and worrying, the better.

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4. Reconnect with your Support Network

If work’s been keeping you busy and you’re feeling burned-out then you probably haven’t had time to see your mates in a while.  Time to meet up with your faves over coffee or head over your Mum and Dad’s for a Sunday Roast.  Reconnecting with the people who know you best can do a lot to remind you of who you are and how to be that best version of yourself.

5. Have a Break

You don’t need an expensive holiday booked to get a break away from the day to day grind.  A break can be as simple as a morning spent on the sofa catching up with your favourite shows!  (Can I recommend Fleabag?  I binged it last week and IT IS AWESOME).

Have a great week everyone! (Don’t work too hard 😉 )

 

Let’s Stop Self-Defecating (…yes, you read that right)

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Happy April Fool’s Day!  I don’t know about you, but I’m absolutely useless when it comes to playing practical jokes… and telling jokes full stop, to be totally and completely honest!  I either give the game away by giggling too soon or I screw up the punch line, and my go-to joke is the one about the panda who goes to a restaurant and eats shoots and leaves.  The one thing I am good at, however, is laughing at myself.  A couple of weeks ago, I managed to play the most ridiculous practical joke on myself while I was refilling a cook’s blowtorch.  When I (stupidly) decided to check whether it was working and pulled the trigger, the lighter fumes ignited and I was momentarily consumed by a ball of fire that not only burned my fingers but also singed off most of my eyebrows and a lot of my hair.  After the initial sobbing shock and cries of “my hair!!!” (and the call to NHS Direct to see if I needed to hop it down to A&E…) I did what I always do after I’ve done something stupid; I laughed long and hard over what an utter nob I was.

There’s nothing better than having a good ol’ chuckle, is there?  Even when times are tough having a laugh about it – y’know, a proper tear-streaming, snorting, rib-aching, gasping for air kind of laugh – is better than any kind of medicine.  And self-deprecation (or “self-defecation”, as I used to call it until someone stepped in and corrected me… yeesh…) is the one woman stand-up routine I’ve been performing since I can remember.  I slip into it so easily these days: if someone compliments my anything, I’ll launch head-first into a bit where I take out a metaphorical magnifying glass and hover it over every flaw I have and can think of.  Like, the dog hair clinging to my brand new black jeans, or my vampire skin that’s hilariously allergic to fake tan, that ketchup stain on my new shirt, my flat chest, my misbehaving hair and *tap tap* “Hey, is this thing on?”  I’ll downplay my own achievements and shrug them off as pure luck – as simply being in the right place at the right time – because – come on now – there’s absolutely no way this train wreck is capable of achieving anything on her own other than maybe inhaling three cream eggs in thirty seconds.

Har de ha.

And I know I’m not alone in this.  We’re all guilty of slipping into that old routine in social situations, aren’t we?  Whether we’re with our mates or with a whole crowd of new faces – it’s an easy way to seem more human – more relatable – to come across as humble instead of arrogant and therefore more likeable.  In theory!  But are we harming ourselves in the process?

If I’m constantly poking fun at myself and telling other people that I can’t cook to save my life, that I only wear flats because I look like drunk giraffe in heels, or that the reason I got that big promotion was completely down to luck rather than my own hard work, I’m going to start believing it myself.  And for what?  To spare someone else’s ego?  To be liked?  At that point we’re not self-deprecating anymore, we really are just self-defecating – shitting all over ourselves and our achievements!  And that ain’t cool, my friend!

I came across some sage words of advice on how to own your achievements and talents a while ago and it really stuck with me.  It’s basically all down to learning how to self-deprecate in a self-aggrandizing way.  I mean, you’re still poking fun of yourself – but you’re doing it in a much kinder, more positive way.  For example, instead of rolling your eyes and telling yourself and others “I can’t cook to save my life”, laugh at that burned slice of toast and declare proudly, “I clearly need my own cookery show – watch out Nigella Lawson!”  Next time your eyeliner’s wonky or you’ve gone in too hard with the blush, don’t pull the ol’ clown face gag out the bag – just have a chuckle and say, “Nailed it.”  Or the next time you send out an email full of mistakes (and to the wrong person – yikes!), instead of coming down hard on your writing skills just laugh and say, “Hey, I was clearly robbed of that Pulitzer.”  It’s a small switcheroo that’ll help change your mindset and have you owning both your flaws and achievements in a more positive way.

Let’s have a good ol’ laugh at ourselves without being the fool.

Anyone played any good April Fools pranks today?  The closest I got was Sunny politely informing me at 6.30am this morning that our toilet was backed up and spilling over – hilarious!  NOT.  Have a great week!  🙂

Why I’m Making Habits instead of Resolutions

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Happy 2019!  I’ve gotta admit; it feels pretty good to be back in the swing of things (even if the first thing I marked in my brand new diary was a dentist appointment for today – the most Monday-est of Mondays…).  To be completely honest with you, this post was supposed to be a recipe for Thai Noodle Soup, buuuuuuut the truth is that I spent a little too much time on the sofa during the Crimbo Limbo scoffing cheese and chocolate and binge-watching You on Netflix instead of prepping Blog Posts.  NO REGRETS.  You’ll just have to stay-tuned for that recipe, but until then how about a good ol’ chin-wag about Resolutions instead?

For the record, I’m not a fan. I’m a pantser not a planner by nature with absolutely zero willpower (see Netflix and Chocolate binge above and the fact that I bought a five pack of jam donuts this morning ten minutes after my dentist appointment…) and so the prospect of waking up on the 1st of January a new and improved version of myself complete with a laminated list of goals for the year ahead in hand is not only enough to bring me out in a cold sweat but absolutely and completely bonkers.  For a start, I’m lucky if I even get out of bed on the first day of January, and who the hell wants to pile that kind of pressure on top of themselves on the very first day of a new year anyway?  It’s so easy to make those ambitious, slightly vague statements on New Years Eve with a glass of champagne in hand, isn’t it? Before you know it, it’s February and – just like the champagne – you’ve lost your fizz and all your grand plans have fallen flat.  That’s resolutions for you.

But hey – despite all of that – I still can’t resist that squeaky clean, brand spanking new, fresh diary feeling you get at the very start of a new year. Of course, there are a few things I’d like to change and try my hand at this year, but instead of making resolutions, I’m making new habits.

Why? Well, the problem with resolutions is that they’re usually a bit vague (I’m going to lose weight, I’m going to save more money) and/or a bit extreme (I’m never eating dairy again, I’m going to read 50 books) with no realistic plan in place to actually achieve them.  They demand perfection without a blink at the planning and hard work that needs to be put in; so it’s really no surprise when we flunk out come February. Habits on the other hand, are specific changes in behaviour that need a bit more thought and planning to put into practice.  Habits become a part of your daily routine – you have to actually make time for them – and so they’re much trickier to break and a more realistic way to achieve a new goal.  They’re more about the long road to perfection than perfection itself.

For example… 

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“This year, I’m going to get fit.”

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“This year, I’m going to go to Pilates class every Wednesday night at 7pm.”

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“This year, I’m going to find a new job.”

HABIT
“This year, I’m going to spend an hour every Tuesday night between 8 and 9pm applying for jobs.”

See what I’m saying? Think of it this way; the resolution is the goal, the habit is the plan you’re going to put into place to make sure you achieve it! …Or that’s the idea, anyway. 😉

So, which resolutions am I hoping to turn into habits in 2019? Honestly, they’re all really boring! Firstly, I want to read more books (she says, for the third year running… resolutions, ugh!); I love reading, but I’m terrible when it comes to making time for it. So this year I’m scheduling in an hour of reading time every day between 5 and 6pm. Be there or be square! Secondly, I want to add some more recipes to my midweek meal repertoire, especially some healthy ones. I’ve got a handful of go-to recipes that I’m getting bored of making all the time, so I’ve decided that I’m going to make it a new habit to spend an hour every Sunday researching a brand new recipe to cook for dinner during the week. And thirdly, I want a cleaner house (See? I told you they were boring!). Just before Christmas it became very clear that my old cleaning routine just wasn’t cutting it (the whole house was pretty much buried under a layer of Bungle’s fur…), so this year I’m going to try and set aside an hour a day to keep on top of the cleaning, one room at a time.  If I come up with something that works, I’ll let you know.  And that’s it! For now, at least…

So what about you? Are you making any changes this year? Also now’s the perfect time to let me know if there’s anything you want to see more (or less!) of here on the blog in 2019. Let me know in the comments! Hope you’re having a great start to the year! 🙂

4 Times my Confidence took a Hit and How I Punched Back

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Let’s be clear here; I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where my ego doesn’t take at least a little bit of a dent.  You know, those little everyday knocks to your confidence.  Bad hair days, bad skin days. Those moments when you can’t seem to get your words out straight without spitting them all over someone (“Hey, I asked for the news not the weather!”). Days when you walk down the street and end up tripping over your own shoes (come on, we’ve all done that little over the shoulder look to blame an invisible crack in the pavement – “I was framed! I’m not just a complete and utter prat!”).  Those times when you just get it wrong; whether it’s an outfit, an answer to an important question or a telephone number (oh the horror).  I mean, that’s life right?  We all need taking down a peg or two from time to time; it’s those little knocks that remind us that we’re not actually walking Gods but snorting, spitting, “whoops I slipped up!” humans.  Who knew!

But in terms of overall self esteem those are just little bumps and bruises, aren’t they? No biggie. A bit of a knock or a graze that can be sorted with a bit of Sudocrem from your emotional first aid kit by way of having a good old chuckle over the fact that we’re all capable of being a bit of an idiot from time to time.

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But then there are those times when someone or something throws your ego a suckerpunch. One you didn’t see coming. The kind that knocks you flat on your back and leaves a little bit more than just a couple of bruises.  Something breaks and you need a bit of time to recover.  Maybe you even step of the ring for a while, and when you do come back you can’t escape the fact that you’re different – altered in some way.  More skittish, more likely to duck out before you get hit or maybe you’ve learned how to punch back.  Okay, I’m going to ease up on the boxing metaphor now – I’m getting carried away!  What I guess I’m trying to say is that no matter how much it hurts at the time, it’s only through moments that shake our confidence right to the core that we find out what we’re really made of – and who we really are and want to be.  Here are four of mine. 🙂

That time a famous Children’s Author told me to “Go Away”

Yep, you read that right.  Back when I worked in a High School supporting English lessons it wasn’t that unusual for authors to come visit and read to the kids, and some pretty big names passed through.  During one of those visits the teacher I was working with asked me to do a little bit of essay marking for her during the reading; it was coming up to reports time and she was absolutely swamped.  So, “sure” I said and went to sit at the back of the crowd where I got out my green pen (apparently red’s seen as too negative these days) and started marking.  The author got maybe a paragraph into his reading when he suddenly stopped and shouted, “Uh, the woman sitting at the back with the glasses and snot-coloured top.  If you’re going to insist on scribbling through my reading, I’m going to have to ask you go away and scribble somewhere else.”

Oh man.  I’m furious just thinking about it.  If the same thing happened to me today, I’d have absolutely no problem punching back at someone like that.  In fact, I’d enjoy it.  But back then, I just couldn’t.  I felt small every single day because I hated my job, and the way he’d treated me made me feel even smaller.  Practically microscopic.  He’d humiliated me in front of the people I worked with and worse, my students – who never let me live it down.  Had it been rude of me to sit there marking while he read?  Maybe.  But was I – little old me with the messy, mousy hair, glasses and snot-coloured top – SO distracting, SO offensive that he couldn’t even concentrate on the simple task of reading a book out loud?  Would he have spoken to me like that if I was a man?  I doubt it.  The truth is that Mr Successful Children’s Author had felt the need to pump up his already bloated ego by deflating mine.  I’m sure he forgot about me the minute I walked away, but I didn’t.

That time I flunked my A-Levels

Okay, maybe flunked isn’t the right word because the truth is, I didn’t really flunk my A Levels.  I did absolutely fine, the problem was that fine wasn’t quite good enough to get me into my top choice of university… or my back up.  The day before I picked up my results the plan had been to go to Cardiff University to study History.  Well, that plan went tits up – spectacularly.  I was absolutely devastated.  I felt like I’d let everyone down, including myself.  The truth was – and I think I knew it deep down at the time – that I just hadn’t worked hard enough.  I’d gotten sloppy.  I’d overestimated myself, and it was tough coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t quite as good as I thought I was.  My confidence took a savage hit.  But hey, it all worked out in the end.  I went through clearing and got a place at Swansea University instead.  In the end it was good for me to get out of my home town and out of my comfort zone, and I had such a blast that I stayed on for another year with the guy I was really into at the time (…and still am, reader, I married him 😉 ) to study the other big love of my life; Creative Writing.

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That time my hair started falling out

I used to have really long hair.  I mean it was always quite fine, but I had a lot of it and it used to grow really fast.  I used to steer clear of the hair dressers and didn’t really need to bother caring for it.  I brushed it, I washed it and that was about it.  Then during my twenties, everything changed.  It became very dry, very brittle and even started falling out in massive chunks.  My confidence took a nosedive.  I stopped wearing my hair down and felt really bad about myself and how I looked.  In the end, I had to get it all chopped off just to take back some kind of control over it.  Nowadays I never take my hair forgranted!  I get it trimmed regularly and take care of what I’ve got.  It’s not perfect by any means, but these days I put in the work to keep it on my head!  (If you’re interested in reading more about how I got my hair back, I wrote a whole post about it here).

That time I was called a liar during an interview

Oh the shame.  This happened during one of my first interviews after graduating .  I was  so excited to have finished university and felt fairly optimistic about getting out there and finding a job I loved, although the truth was that I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.  I was entertaining the idea of moving to London and was looking at jobs in marketing and publishing.  I managed to bag an interview for a job in sales with a big marketing firm in the middle of London and went in feeling super confident.  But it all went south during the interview.  I don’t know whether I was nervous or got a bit tongue tied, but the man who was interviewing me smirked the entire way through.  At the end he raised his eyebrows, scoffed and then said, “Sorry love, I don’t believe a single word of what you just said.”  I can’t remember what I did or said next – I must of repressed it – because I was absolutely mortified! I couldn’t get out of that room quick enough!  It was a good few months before I felt ready to go on another interview, and I didn’t apply for another job in sales after that.  Good thing too, I’d have been bloody awful at it!

How do you cope when your confidence takes a hit? 🙂