Sunday, 25 September 2016

Fascination.



Fascination with objects and things just for the way they feel and look is good for the part of your mind that processes shapes and colours. I have no science behind that, just experience. Enjoying craftsmanship and invention and design just because it exists feels very... pleasant.

Today when we drove home from one of those beautiful, harmonised family days out the sunlight was so awesomely clear that it illuminated one of the most magnificent rainbows I've ever seen. The colours, too vibrant to be real, were fantastic. We enjoyed looking at it, a full and exciting scene for our eyes.

We'd been at a house full of a collection of 'things' that had been collected just for the pure enjoyment of them. Tiny figures carved from bones, strange paintings, doll's houses, jars of exotic beetles coloured like gems. Everything was brilliant, just because they were. The house was meant for people to have an adventure in each room, to spend time just looking around and discovering bizarre and wonderful objects.

Fascination with what the world has to offer you is healthy and it is good. It means you are alive, and you are using every part of yourself to take that all in.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Bodies are cool.

I am fascinated by but also completely ignorant of the human body, like most people. I have a general idea of how certain systems work and why but really there are enormous parts of understanding that are missing. The scary/cool/bizarre thing is that huge parts of that understanding are missing from even the greatest doctors' minds too, except they may be closer to working it all out than I ever will be. But that's the thing: I'm walking about in what I think of as a case for carrying my thoughts and feelings without much knowledge for how the hell it's been keeping me alive all this time.

If you think about it, I mean really think about it, your body is the coolest thing you'll ever have. Right now I'm thinking about words in my head and then without consciously telling them to do so my fingers are finding letters on a keyboard that have been memorised and are turning them into words on this page. And at the same time there are white blood cells in my blood stream that are working really hard, doing whatever it is they do, fighting against tonsillitis. I didn't tell them to do that, whoever "I" is, they're just doing it. At the same time as all of this my body is doing a thousand other things working like an extremely complex machine to do who knows what whilst I am sitting here, inside of my body, completely unaware of it all going on. My body is really cool.

We sit inside our heads as if we have any control or any idea about what's going on inside of our complicated shells and we rarely appreciate it. We never really stop to think about the fact that our bodies stopped us from falling flat on our faces without our conscious mind sending a conscious message, or that our skin sewed itself back up after a deep cut because it can, because it's there to protect us. Whoever "us" is. I think our bodies can be unsung heroes a lot of the time, when we ignore the fleshy home we live in. Perhaps we should stop and think about them once in a while, not  as separate to "ourselves" in fact, but just stop and watch our beings be. It's really, really cool, if you're paying attention.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Sugar and spice and all things nice.

I experienced internalised misogyny last night. I don't know if I have done before but I was certainly aware of it then. It was one of those moments where my brain forgot to filter unwelcome social conditioning and I actually targeted myself in my judgement of women, of womanhood, of femininity.

It was extremely trivial, but extremely dangerous, and I immediately pulled back from the thought I was having in shock. I was thinking about a style of top a friend of mine owns. I was thinking about what that style of top would look like on me, what it would go with, where I would wear it. It's a pretty top; it has a Peter Pan collar and cute, short sleeves and an empire line and it's in a delicate blue. I like the top, I think it looks very lovely, but my thought was this: It looks too feminine, you don't want that to be your image.

What?

I actually considered that by wearing that top I would look too girly and therefore not be taken seriously enough. It wouldn't be cool because it wouldn't be ever so slightly masculine and therefore more grounded, more intelligent, more focused.

How dare I insult my own femininity like that. I'm so amazed at that thought, that creeping, sly misogyny poisoning my tastes and desires. Being feminine does not equate to being a woman, but despising femininity acknowledges the fact that female is inferior.

I actually had that idea run through me for a hot second: female is inferior and male is powerful, supreme, superior.

I think I must wear frills and bows and pretty things forever whilst stamping gleefully on the patriarchy just to prove that stupid idea wrong now. But I don't need to prove anything, my femininity is strong and serious and grounded, I won't be forgetting that again.

Friday, 2 September 2016

September stationery.

So the time has come for the summer to end and the world of students to trundle off back to school. Or university, in my case. For many this is a delicious time of year. The air cools, the trees set on fire,  new shoes and new stationery are in order. In fact it's that specific part of September, the buying part, that many find so exciting.

This year I have a much longer list of things to buy. Not only do I get to look through pens and pencils and notebooks and folders this time round but duvet covers and pots and pans are a necessity too. This genuinely excites me. The IKEA shop is calling to me, over the hills, through the wind. I can't wait. I'm going to get a new backpack, it's very thrilling.

And yet, I can't help but wonder if this excitement over the prospect of buying new things is a problem. Why do I feel any emotion in acquiring objects that will ultimately lose their fun new shine in a matter of months or weeks? What I will buy will mean nothing. Ok, so I need a few pots and pans to cook my dinner, and the backpack's going to be pretty helpful when I'm cycling to and from the city centre, but do I need to feel anything about it? Is any sense of attachment to a bag or a pen or a notebook healthy?

You could say I've been overthinking this, and I most definitely have. September is new academic beginnings and I am lucky enough to be able to afford all the pens and equipment I need to help me with that. I don't resent it at all. I just wonder why it feels so good purchase new stationery...

Friday, 26 August 2016

Burkinis and Ignorance.

I was in the South of France when the burkini was banned there. I was on a train and reading through the news on my phone and I quietly contemplated what it meant without discussing it with any of my friends. A few days later we were in our room in Barcelona and the article came up again and they expressed their shock and I responded in a way that I'm embarrassed about.

I said: I can kind of understand it, it can be threatening that sort of conservatism.

I've tracked that opinion back to when I was in Turkey on a family holiday 4 years ago and the lovely hotel staff expressed their concerns at the growing level of conservatism in their secular country and the growing number of women wearing full burqas and burkinis at the beach. They felt it was synonymous with an ever oppressive government.

This is what I was responding to when my friends brought the topic up and I didn't give it any thought whatsoever. I immediately regretted saying it because I knew that I was wrong but I was too embarrassed to say so. Instead I internally cringed and tried to telepathically apologise to all the women I'd just oppressed with my own words.

I want to be honest and say how I initially responded because I think that's how responding to something alien to your own world usually works. Isn't it that the first thought is society's ideals rubbing off on you, and the second the thing you actually, truly believe?

So I actually, truly believe that no woman should be told what and what not to wear - especially when it comes down to not showing one's body in public for reasons of belief/faith/insecurity/fear. I don't think I will actually understand why a woman may choose to wear a burqa,  I am not religious and I do not come from a background with those values, but I would never tell a woman not to, because that goes against my own values.

I think I initially reacted to the ban with that pathetic, lowly response because it didn't seem real. I hadn't actually seen a woman wearing a burkini. But then the internet exploded with a terrible story and a terrible image of a group of stern, ignorant looking policemen standing around a woman as they forced her to undress on the beach. Suddenly the ban was real and women in France were not free. Muslim women in France were not free, let me correct myself.

The entire concept of not letting women who choose to wear burqas onto the beach to enjoy the sun and the summer and the sea breeze is just as oppressive, just as dehumanising as an extremist Islamic state. Forcing a woman to undress herself is just as abusive, just as humiliating, just as horrifying.

I'm learning that an ever oppressive government does not just force women to cover their faces and hair and bodies, it forces women to expose themselves and undress their beliefs and values in front of an entire beach of people. In front of mean, careless, insensitive policemen.

Liberté Fraternité Egalité? I'm not buying any of it.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Being afraid.

I have achieved a number of things in the last few months of this year. Some of them more obvious and conventional than others. One of them an extreme emotional challenge for myself.

I became ill with ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) when I was 7 years old. I find it hard to describe because I'm lucky enough not to remember why I was unwell, or how the symptoms affected me. My parents are unfortunate enough to remember that. I remember books that my mum had on the illness, as she tried to understand what was happening to me, and various children's groups she signed me up to, one of which I received birthday cards from, to help me understand what was happening to me. I didn't really go to school properly for two years, from year 2 to year 3, and in the years after that I would miss almost months at a time. I remember two women who would come to teach me occasionally at home, and I think that's how I learnt the handwriting and advanced reading skills that everyone else was learning at school.

The thing I remember most from this illness, the thing I can find most haunting, is the clinical anxiety that came with it and followed me all the way to where I am now. I am not clinically diagnosed with anxiety anymore, thank god, but it still turns up in my mind when I'm vulnerable and attempts to make everything a complete catastrophe.

I have memories of this anxiety that I'm not going to share yet, because they're horrible and they make me sad. Maybe I'll write about them one day, in some fiction where it's easier to describe such painful, irrational fear. Today I'm going to write about a good memory; one of my biggest achievements to date.

Most of my anxiety was about leaving home, leaving the country and being away from my mum. I just spent 3 weeks travelling through Europe without my mum, and I am completely alive and well to tell the tale. I can't really explain to you how cool that is.

I've been extremely anxious this summer, because that part of me will never really go away and will come back in occasional, unasked for waves. I think this wave came because of exam stress, but in any case I felt small and vulnerable as all the helpless feelings from my childhood that I haven't really felt for a few years came back in buckets.

One thing I am now lucky enough to have is the ability to deal with such intense emotion, but that doesn't make it in any way a walk in the park. Some of this year's joyous ball of fear arrived on the plane to Greece for a family holiday, it remained for a few days and waned as the week came to an end. I spent some of the nights shaking and seizing up and crying as random and pointless anxiety crept up on me again. I found it really scary, because the next week my mum wouldn't be there to soothe me and I'd be in an unknown, cheap Airbnb or hostel possibly not being able to deal with it.

But here's the thing, I totally was able to deal with it. And I faced every worst fear I've ever had in one go. And I didn't die.

The three weeks away with my wonderful friends made me feel constantly tense and afraid and it felt like more times than not my chest was tight and the world was like when Alice falls down the rabbit hole and everything floats past her and she doesn't know where she'll end up. I had food poisoning in Split which forced me to deal with everything I've spent my entire life desperately trying to avoid and I now have a great memory of myself on the awful toilet floor of a ferry, crying to my mum on the phone, vomiting every 15 minutes.

But I did it. I did it. I did it. I did it. I had the most crazy, amazing, bizarre time and I love my friends and we did it together. We made it to every train and every accommodation and survived wild nights in strange new cities.

I keep having this strange desire to run back through time and tell younger Mollie what she did, what she will do. For a very long time she is very worried that she'll never be able to travel, that she'll never be able to go to university, that she'll never be able to leave home. She's doing all of those things now. I want younger Mollie to see me because I know exactly how comforting that would be, how exciting, how proud it would make her. I know that younger Mollie would see everything she's hoping to become.

If only an older Mollie would come back and do that for me now, for the future. But that would lose half the fun, and half the fear. I guess I just keep going forwards now, right?

Friday, 15 July 2016

What a piece of work is a man.

We do tend to head straight to the obvious cause of terror every time we accuse an attack before we know the truth. It is almost understandable, such is the current climate of things. But it is absolutely unforgivable to quote and give value to a nasty, unthinking islamophobe in the moments before we know the cause of each tragedy. Or even after we've worked out the facts. 

You'll notice that we quote him less when tragedies occur outside our western bubble despite being for the same "reason" as our own interspersed attacks. That'll be because those events do not affect his presidential campaign. They do not help him fear monger. Those who are scared of Muslims do not care about Muslim countries. 

I highly doubt he actually cares about the 84 dead in last night's occurrence. I doubt he cares about French culture, how this affects French lives, French government. He won't mention that some of those who died, who were equally celebrating on Bastille day, were also Muslim. He won't mention that he doesn't actually know why the killer has done what he's done. We don't know what kind of terror he was inflicting yet.

It's important to remember that if these types of attacks are going to happen that we refrain from scapegoating innocent people. Millions of innocent people who are just as horrified by such tragedies as the next white Christian. It's important that we ignore a certain orange (white) member of our own western terrorist group. I'm shocked that in several of the articles from large tabloids that have come up on my newsfeed this morning it was deemed necessary in their live online reports to mention what Donald Trump had said on the matter. What relevance was this? I'm sure most of us can imagine what he would like to say about this incident, and most of us would prefer to steer clear of him given his absolute ignorance on the matter. He's not an expert, or a sensible ally of France, he's not yet a world leader - thank god. He's a racist, narcissistic, islamophobic, nasty piece of work who we absolutely should be turning our backs on most obviously in moments like this. Stop feeding him what he wants. Stop laughing at those horrible things he says. Ignore him, remove his power. Focus on someone else. 

Donald Trump will never have anything useful, or informative, or inspiring to say about occurrences like these. There is no point in making him a part of an important report of unfolding events. He wasn't there. He's not intelligent and worldly. He's an idiot. No one should be listening to idiots.