Thirty Days of Joy: the finish line

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Huzzah! We’ve made it through thirty days of trying only to focus on the good things in life. Are you exhausted? I’m exhausted. I’m not gonna lie, I struggled with this task. Searching for the positive does not come naturally to me and some days, I really had to search my arse off to find anything worth waxing lyrical about. But here we are. I want to say something profound like “it’s been more about the journey than the destination!”, but quite frankly, I’m quite looking forward to not writing anything for a few days.
What I have learnt though over these past thirty days is that if you look hard enough there’s always something worth focussing on. Sure, some days that might be an essay on your new pair of shoes or the delicious chimichanga you ate last night, but if it genuinely bought you joy then that’s all that matters. Life really is what we make of it and how we choose to spend the little time we have doing the things we love, with the people that we love.
On occasion (sometimes seemingly more often than not) life can suck, and I mean SUCK. Like a hooker with a hoover. But I’m here to tell you that it’s ok, it really is, because if it didn’t, from time to time at least, we wouldn’t be the people that we are. And I think we’re pretty darn awesome.

My conclusion then? The biggest Joy of all? Life. It’s life. And everything that exists within it. I promise you.

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Day Twenty Nine: cheating

Sometimes, you’ve just come home from watching The Fault in Our Stars for the second time, you’re exhausted and kind of in need of therapy…and to be honest can’t really be arsed to write your blog. On these occasions I like to refer to a simple Joy known as cheating.. Like posting an explanation of why you’re not writing a post. That’ll do, pig. That’ll do. ‘Night all.

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Day Twenty Eight: kisses

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According to good old reliable Wikipedia, kisses can be divided into several different categories; love, affection, peace, respect and friendship, with obvious amounts of overlap. Personally I am a big fan of all five. Also worthy of a mention are butterfly kisses, using your eyelashes to tickle someones cheek, and eskimo kisses, which involves the rubbing together of noses.
As a very tactile person I often have to check myself and remind my wondering hands that not everyone shares my feelings on this topic. I have so far avoided being punched or arrested for being inappropriate with the wrong person at the wrong time, but neither would surprise me all that much. I’ve always considered kissing to be just as intimate (if not more, somehow) than sex, and I’ve never really understood the concept of going out on the town of a Friday night and seeing how many strangers I can swap saliva with. But that’s a mixture of being a diehard romantic and slightly OCD when it comes to germs. Mostly the germ thing…

Some need-to-know facts about kissing that will change your life (maybe);

  • Under the Hays Code (1930-1968), people kissing in American films could no longer be horizontal; at least one had to be sitting or standing, not lying down. In addition, all on-screen married couples slept in twin beds…and if kissing on one of the beds occurred, at least one of the spouses had to have a foot on the floor. Because, y’know, that way you can be sure it’s not going to lead to any funny business.
  • When two people kiss, they exchange between 10 million and 1 billion bacteria. Yum.
  • The insulting slang “kiss my ass” dates back at least to 1705.
  • Two thirds of people turn their head to the right when they kiss.
  • On average, we spend about 20,160 minutes of our lives kissing. That translates to about 336 hours which is 14 days. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but imagine nonstop kissing for 14 days straight.

Kissing another person’s lips has become a common expression of affection in many cultures worldwide. In some situations a kiss is a ritual, a formal or symbolic gesture symbolising devotion, respect, or sacrament. Other times it’s a couple of horny teenagers going at it hell for leather in the back of a Ford Focus. Both are important. Both matter. I’ll certainly never tire of either kind.

Day Twenty Seven: laughter (really is the best medicine)

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Laughter is good for you. Fact. It can strengthen your immune system, boost your energy levels and diminish pain. It’s also contagious. You must have seen those videos floating around cyberspace showing little kids completely losing their shit over daddy tearing up pieces of paper (if you haven’t seen this, stop reading immediately and go find it). It’s pretty much impossible not to be caught up in the moment and I dare you not to start giggling. It’s been proven that even faking it can do the body good (and yes, we are still talking about laughter you dirty bunch).
People tend to fall into different camps of laughter styles. My personal favourite is what I like to refer to as ‘the silent laugh’. You know the one – when something has become so amusing that sound has completely left the building and all that remains is a maniacal, horrific, open-mouthed silence that looks, quite frankly, terrifying. I belong mostly to this camp.
I have a strange sense of humour. It’s sarcastic, dry, silly and, more often than not, extremely rude. I am very lucky to have friends and a partner that share my sense of humour and are unlikely to disown me because I’ve just spent twenty minutes laughing to myself about a road sign that says ‘humps for 100 yards’. Most would, but mine are special, and I am thankful for them everyday.
There’s a lot in life to feel grumpy about and it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by these feelings, to drown in the negative and the scary and the dark. So I invite you all to stop what you’re doing right now and head to YouTube. You’ll find no shortage of inspiration for a good old belly laugh. May I suggest ‘Scenes from a Hat’ from Whose Line is it Anyway, anything by Eddie Izzard, or the aforementioned ‘little girl goes nuts over torn up paper’. If none of those get you giggling it’s quite possible that you’re a robot. Or dead.

Day Twenty Six: sunshine

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I am definitely not a vampire. Of this I can be sure. I live for sunshine, I’m miserable without it and no amount of time spent in front of a UV light box is going to help me. I love walking barefoot on tarmac and feeling the warmth under my feet. I love wearing flip-flops every day. I would be happy to never have to wear a coat ever again in my entire life.
I’ve long since believed that I was born in the wrong country. I was simple not designed to be cold. I was always that wimpy kid during school swimming lessons who would cry every time we had to get out of the pool and make the freezing cold walk of shame back to the (equally freezing) changing rooms. I still sleep under a 15 tog duvet in the middle of summer. I was still going to bed clutching a hot water bottle until March.
So imagine my horror when during my very first week in Australia it began to snow. Fortunately the weather soon picked up (moving away from Ballarat was a good start) and I even started sporting some very sexy tan lines. At first I was made fun of. During a very early spring day my hosts came home to find me dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. They were still wearing jackets, and did a bit of a double take when they saw my attire. “You’re looking very…..summery.” they smirked. “It was bloody hot today!” exclaimed the naive tourist. Cue lots of laughter and head shaking. “Oh, Katy……..no…….no. This isn’t hot.” At this point I’ll admit that I did have a momentary panic thinking that I might not be able to hack the heat of an Australian summer after all, but I soon got over it and spent the next eighteen months enjoying every hot, sticky, sunburnt moment.
I spent today in Ely. Not quite Australia, but even I have to admit that it was beautiful. The flip flops were out in force and the usual cappuccino was replaced by an iced latte. We’ve got a while to go before there’s evidence of anything even remotely resembling a tan, but I do have a slight white patch on my wrist where my watch sits. And that counts, right?

Day Twenty Five: babies

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It’s not that babies come this far down my list of Joy’s but more that I’ve been struggling to word this in a way that doesn’t sound creepy and/or vaguely paedophillic. Hopefully I’ve succeeded. If not, thanks for reading! Come back tomorrow.
I’ve been hopelessly broody since I was about sixteen years old. I was never really surrounded by young children growing up so it didn’t come from that, but I did love dolls. The more realistic the better as far as I was concerned. I was always after the newest model of crying, peeing, belching baby on the market. I had the toy crib, the pushchair, the highchair, the summer and winder wardrobes hung on miniature clothes hangers. Loved it all. I’m pretty sure that I’ve just been biding my time since then until I can do it for real. Luckily I also have a reasonably sensible brain to go alongside the broodiness so I’ve also managed to avoid simply going out on the town and impregnating myself with the first sperm I happen to come across.
This was all fine and dandy until most of my extremely selfish friends decided to get pregnant, seemingly all at once. Now there are beautiful babies everywhere. EVERYWHERE. There is no escape. It’s wonderful and torturous in equal measure. Being broody is a bit like when you buy a new car. Suddenly you start seeing the same make, model and colour of car everywhere you go, having never noticed it before. When you’re trying to avoid thinking about having kids you’ll find that you start seeing pregnant women in every direction, people with pushchairs left and centre, cute, well-behaved toddlers the world over. Like an eclipse, you try desperately not to stare directly at them but the temptation is nearly impossible. I’m sure that eventually it’ll be my turn to be a mum. Until then, I get to be “cool Aunt Katy” to several pretty awesome little people.
Life doesn’t get much more magically than creating another human being with the person you love. It’s a privilege, a wonder, and most definitely a joy.

Day Twenty Four: music videos

A good (or painfully bad) music video can make or break a song. Would Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ have been as popular if it didn’t have the epic video to go along with? Possibly, yes, but you’ve got to admit it made a hell of a difference. ‘Thriller’ is probably the first music video I clearly remember watching, along with Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’. I was fascinated. A good concept for a video can make me to do a complete 180 on my opinion of a song. A bad video concept makes me hold my head in my hands and weep for the future of the music industry.

Some examples of good music video making for your perusal:

Foo Fighters – Best of You
http://www.vevo.com/watch/foo-fighters/best-of-you/USRW40500006

This is a prime example of how exactly to make a good music video. It still gives me goosebumps to watch all these years later. Of course it helps that it’s Foo Fighters and they can pretty much do no wrong, but I love the use of quick flashes of seemingly random images that move so fast you have to watch it a couple of times over to really take it all in. Incredibly simple but somehow still manages to pull at your heartstrings.

Sia – Chandelier
http://www.vevo.com/watch/sia/chandelier-official-video/USRV81400135

I haven’t shut up about this video since the day it came out. It is, simply put, genius. She somehow manages to create a piece of artwork in itself without ever actually distracting from the awesomeness of the song. Not to mention the insanely talented (and practically foetal) Maddie Ziegler, dance superstar at the grand old age of eleven. Watching this might will probably make you wish you’d taken up ballet at age two or that you could stop eating so much junk food, but it will also make you feel pretty damn good about life. Sia, you’ve done it again.

Naughty Boy feat. Sam Smith – La La La
http://www.vevo.com/watch/naughty-boy/la-la-la/GBUV71300528

I’m not ordinarily a big fan of dance videos in general, but I completely fell in love with this. A beautiful play on The Wizard of Oz, it’s what you’d get if Mexico had a lovechild with a children’s story book. What’s not to love.

And finally, how NOT to do it (take note, future musicians):

Talk Talk – It’s My Life

I would love to have been in the room with Talk Talk’s marketing team when the decision was made to go with this particular video concept. Lead singer Mark Hollis sitting in front of a green screen wearing terrible 80’s clothes (they were all terrible in the 80’s, no?). How could this be improved on? Surely only by adding some nature program footage in the background! I am truly amazed that when No Doubt covered this song in 2003 they didn’t opt for the same approach. What a mistake, Gwen.

The Village People – Sex Over the Phone

Another example of something being so bad it’s almost good. Not that anyone expected anything Oscar worthy from the people who bought you ‘YMCA’ but wow. Just wow. After watching this I felt like I needed to bleach my eyeballs clean. Blindness would be a welcome sacrifice if it meant never having to sit through this again. See, and decide for yourself, but keep harsh chemicals close to hand.

Kanye West – Bound 2
http://www.vevo.com/watch/kanye-west/bound-2-explicit/USUV71302195

Now I find Kanye West creepy pretty much all of the time anyway, but he really cranked the creep factor up a notch with this bad boy. Add Kim “famous for nothing” Kardashian to the mix and you’ve got yourself a winner. I will never get over this man’s love for himself, which is so large it’s almost impressive. Warning: do not watch this on an empty stomach. Do however watch if you’re feeling a little down about yourself. It’s guaranteed to remind you that things could always be worse – you could be Kanye West.

Day Twenty Three: a cup of tea

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There’s not much in life that can’t be eased by a good old fashioned British cuppa. The only real argument caused by a cup of tea, however, would be over how to make the perfect cup. According to yorkshiretea.co.uk the rules are simple;

1. Run the tap a little so the water is nicely aerated. Use water that has boiled just once – any more than that and the level of oxygen in the water is reduced and your tea can taste a bit ‘flat’.

2. Pour freshly boiled water directly onto your teabag in a mug. This way the tea infuses better than adding the teabag to water.

3. Leave to brew for 4-5 minutes according to taste.

4. Remove the teabag with a spoon giving it just one gentle squeeze.

So now you know.

There’s also the debate about whether the milk goes in first or last. Friendships have been broken by the differing opinions on this hot topic. Wars have been fought (possibly). Personally I like to put the milk in first but that could very well be due to the fact that I take my tea so weak that it has been referred to as ‘insipid’. I have friends (you know who you are) who will stew their teabag for so long the spoon practically stands up by itself, whereas I prefer to subtly wave my teabag at my milky hot water on it’s way past to the bin. Whichever way you choose to do your brew though, most would agree on the fact that it’s damn good. As someone who always feels a little uncomfortable in times of great stress and/or confrontation, I find it useful to have “Anyone for a cuppa?” in my back pocket if things get particularly hairy.

Tea is offered to those thought to be suffering from shock, and is often given after labour. Surely this is all the proof one needs that this beverage has untold magic and medicinal qualities to it. I’ve lost count of how many times I have sat curled up in a chair, under a blanket, with a good book or a trashy magazine and a steaming cup of tea, and it never fails to calm me down or relax me. In the words of C. S. Lewis, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me”. What a wise chap.

Day Twenty Two: my new blue shoes

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Were it possible to marry an inanimate object, I would marry my new blue shoes. I love them like Joanie loved Chachi, Romeo loved Juliet, like Brad loves Angelina. If I was not quite so lacking in the available funds I would totally have myself a shoe addiction. Unfortunately I have more important things to spend my limited cash on, like food, for example, and rent. And so when I do treat myself to footwear not purchased for £4 in Primark it’s a pretty big deal. I’m not talking expensive shoes here either, I’m talking about the £20-30 ballpark. Picture the scene – you’re idly wandering around Dorothy Perkins (other High Street stores are available) waiting to be inspired enough to part with your very hard-earned cash when something catches your eye. It’s a pair of shoes. They’re electric blue and made of something that would be suede if this were a much more high class establishment. Yes, they were probably still constructed by a four year old child toughing it out in a Bangladeshi sweatshop but, oh, sweet Lord, they’re beautiful. You stop. You stare. You gingerly reach out to touch the aforementioned faux-suede. It feels good. Really good. And just like that, you’re in love. You must have them. You do a quick bit of arithmetic in your head (alright, on the calculator on your iPhone) to work out if your 10% NHS worker discount will mean that you can both purchase these beautiful objects AND pay your electricity bill. It’s looking good. You feel slightly guilty about the impending purchase but not guilty enough to put the shoes back. So you head towards the counter. The sometimes friendly, always over-caked in foundation girl at the till offers you a smile. You cautiously give one in return, place the shoes on the counter and wait until time comes for payment. You slip your debit card into the machine slot and enter your PIN. Now comes what is, in my opinion, the most nail biting part of the whole ordeal – either your card will accept the price and debit your account accordingly, in which case you will leave the shop with your awesome shoes and your head held high, or…..your card will be declined. You will mutter something incomprehensible to Foundation Girl about how that card’s been giving you so much trouble lately before fleeing with your tail between your legs and the knowledge that you will never be able to shop there again. Hopefully though, and certainly in the case of The New Blue Shoes, everything goes swimmingly and you find yourself back at home, cup of tea in one hand, the other gently caressing the beautiful blue material between fingertips. Life is good. It’s very good. And you have the shoes to prove it. One day you may even have occasion to wear them, but until then, they’re pretty great to look at.

 

Day Twenty One: Supernatural

Hello everyone. *waves* My name is Katy and I am a geek. More specifically a sci-fi geek. I could quote you every line from every episode of Firefly (yes, I even signed the online petition to bring it back for season 2). I could identify an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer from a single still. Joss Whedon is my hero. Now, I’m not even slightly ashamed of this admission, the only problem is that I also have quite an addictive personality which means that once I get my hooks into something there’s no letting go. I will, for example, watch 6 seasons of a TV show in a little over two weeks. Impressive? I think so.

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The show in question is Supernatural. As with most good television I arrived about 8 years late the party with this one. But I was hooked after just one episode, went out and bought the season 1-8 box set and binged. And I mean BINGED. I barely left my flat and I didn’t even care. So what was it about this show that superglued me to my couch, getting up only for pee/food breaks? Well, for starters, they’re all pretty nice to look at. I feel like this shouldn’t really matter but let’s face it, it bloody helps. Then there’s the angst. I have absolutely no interest in watching a show where everyone is happy all the time. Demons and angels as subject matter might be stretching the truth slightly but as far as I’m concerned continuous cheerfulness is even more unbelievable. Supernatural is never short of angst. I don’t think there’s a single beloved character who hasn’t died at least once. Or been heartbroken. Or quite seriously maimed. To counteract the angst there’s also an abundance of love. Brotherly love between Sam and Dean, angelic love from Castiel, fatherly love from Bobby, romantic love (though, word to the wise, anyone who has ever kissed or slept with either of the brothers has died, so you have been warned). There are also some of the best one-liners I’ve ever heard in a TV show.

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And they’re not bad at providing insults to add to your arsenal either…

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There is an episode in season six when the brothers are transported into an alternate universe by a Trickster. Here the boys (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) play themselves (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) playing their characters (Sam and Dean Winchester) as Sam and Dean Winchester. Got it? A bit of a mind-fuck but they totally pulled it off. Fourth wall – you are no match for Supernatural! Aha ahahaha! Ahem.

As previously mentioned, probably multiple times, I am a big fan of escapism, and shows like this allow me to do just that. For that hour or so I allow myself to become completely lost in someone else’s life. And it might on occasion be a deeply depressing life where everyone you love dies a grisly death, but it’s also a life where those same people are brought back and live to fight another day. It’s a life full of excitement and danger, of anticipation and magic. We all need a bit of magic sometimes. Go check it out and experience some for yourself.