This is what we need to take from 2016, if anything! Colleen sums it up perfectly in a wonderful picture.
I don’t have any resolutions for 2017. I think it is ridiculous because I never keep to them anyway. Does anybody?
The truth is, I don’t have anything to be really proud of this year. I have achieved nothing. In fact the only thing I remember being truly proud of is a 98% on a creative writing assignment for university.
I did get a job, but I can’t stay there because of my husband’s job. I loved the job because I was teaching and I did really well at that. Lots of colleagues told me I had a knack for it despite not being trained. I think I do well with kids. I think kids like me. I taught kids from age 5 to age 17 and it was incredible and demanded a phenomenal amount of brain power and enthusiasm and energy and it was draining but also so wonderfully fulfilling and enjoyable. I love the kids. I loved the kids. I had lots of plans and ideas for this job, and I am so bloody sad to leave it but sometimes in life you have to make sacrifices.
Everything else was pretty much a flop.
2016 was a massive learning curve. But then again, every year is. Every year we grow and change, and we have different lessons to teach us different things and frankly, every year the lessons we get are harder than the lessons from the previous year. They have to be. Life is a constant challenge. It is funny how it works out like that.
I hope 2017 will be better. I hope I can be a better person, and a better wife. I hope I can be wiser and more intelligent. I hope I can be spiritually better, and have more faith. I hope I can finally get the body I want, and treat the problems I have with my hair. I hope that I can have a brilliant relationship with my family and stop being so bloody negative about everything. And lastly, I hope I get a first class degree and FINISH THIS GODDAMN BOOK.
What do you hope to see in 2017?
Christmas day for me was spent in Granada. Actually, travelling from Granada to Cordoba. In Spain.
They drive on the right hand side of the road, as opposed to the left side which is the side we stick to in Britain. This was confusing to say the least. There were several incidents where we drove straight into oncoming traffic. To say we angered the Spaniards is to make a colossal understatement.
It was a great holiday. We did not have brussel sprouts at all, which I am glad for. I went through a period in 2013 where I had brussel sprouts daily for months. Needless to day my stomach suffered horrendously. No, on Christmas day we ate dry cereal for breakfast, then for lunch we didn’t have anything and for dinner we had, well, I can’t remember. I think we had a late lunch in an Italian restaurant. We had a very cheesy pizza with almost no crust and a beschamel soaked tortellini stuffed with something sweet. It was a very cheesy meal, and also very delicious. Later that night I awoke from some very cheesy nightmares involving a particularly stinky brie. We walked miles and miles that day, I think we did around 18,000 steps. We relaxed and watched the sun set.
My husband checked some women out and I got super pissy about that. He did it blatantly and not just once but hundreds of times throughout all seven days. And it made me severely doubt the power of my booty. Which is a pretty good one if I do say so myself.
I am, still pissy about it and it has ruined my holiday and makes me not like him very much at all.
But the holiday itself was lovely. So peaceful and I saw and learned a host of incredible things about the Nasrid empire and the Catholicism that took over soon after. The battle of cultures is emphatically displayed in the magnificent architecture of the palaces and castles and mosques in Granada, Cordoba and Malaga. It’s a clash of religions and you know, it’s stunning. You can clearly see the gothic architecture competing with the Islamic designs and there are places where whole ceilings have been replaced, only to be broken in some corners and the mathematically intricate designs of the Islamic architecture carries on along the wall and some floors are mosaic and some are flagstone and you just stand there and stare at the deathly silence of it all; and if you stand very still you can hear the echoes of civilisation forming and building and living and dying and flighting.
It is phenomenal. Humans are phenomenal.
There was one point in Granada when we were exploring the Nasrid palace in Alhambra, when a tour guide was explaining the history of the palace to an older couple. I was eavesdropping very blatantly, because we didn’t get any audio guides and there was no information at all anywhere. What he was saying was so captivating, I simply could not help myself. The guide saw me eavesdropping and I felt like such a cheat. But he did not say anything, he just carried on talking. Maybe he felt I should have given him a tip at least, if I was too stingy to pay for a tour!
But oh, Spain was so beautiful. Courtyards and cobbled alleyways and mesmerising views and palm trees and thunderous beaches and orange trees galore.
When we got on the plane to go home we were surrounded by British people and I was reminded of how much I really don’t like British people. Maybe that is a generalisation. But a man of fifty odd years was swearing horrendously at his mother who was limping along using a walking stick. And he was effing and blinding in a most British fashion. And it just reminded me of city streets and uncouth louts.
And I got this super strange stare from him on the plane and it felt very judgey because of how big my bag was. But I guess I am judging him and maybe he was just reminded of another bag in some other place which made him angry. Or something.
Anyway this man who was around 65 started talking to my husband about the forty years he served in the Navy. He spoke to my husband during the entire two and a half hour flight and while I didn’t hear much of what he had to say because the general sound in the plane is thunderous, I learned some interesting things.
And I felt bad for generalising my own people. The British. We are not so bad. Sometimes we can be awful, and drink too much alcohol, and reveal our pale, hairy bottoms in airports, and be generally quite stiff and awkward, and not like to speak what we think but like to show it in a manner of tuts and glares.
But some of us serve in the Navy for forty years and others do a myriad of different things and are their own people.
And some of us are not strong because we react to emotion. A strong person is not one who can fight and win. A strong person is one who can control themselves when they are angry. That is what I learned this Christmas.
I know it’s a comedy, but you know what REALLY annoyed me about Friends season 1 episode 2, when Ross, his ex wife and her girlfriend were at the first baby scan!?!?
It made me so MAD.
It was the fact that his ex wife and her girlfriend had already talked about baby names, and decided that the baby was to be called ‘Willeck-Bunch’ after the two mothers… despite the fact that the ex wife became pregnant WITH ROSS’s BABY, and the baby was not planned with or had anything to do with friction Susan!!
And Ross was just there stuttering and making agreements and Susan acted like she had a SAY in the whole matter?!
She didn’t, and it made me so angry to see her there so entitled like she did have a say. Susan is the OTHER WOMAN. Ross’s ex wife CHEATED ON HIM with Susan, and just because she is a lesbian does not make it okay. Why should SUSAN’S name be part of the child’s name?
Okay, maybe she will have a big hand in bringing the kid up, but still. Come ON.
If I was Ross, and my wife cheated on me with another woman, then told me she was pregnant with my kid, I wouldn’t want the other woman to have a say in the kid’s name or the kid’s life. I wouldn’t!
It’s not petty, is it?
Anyway. That made me mad.
She was a dream. No, she was dreaming.
She thought that dreams were just thoughts your brain is trying to have, but because it is asleep, it jumbles them up and gets confused. Poor thing.
She found this out because last night when she was trying to sleep she was asking her friend why her shoulders were over there. That was strange. There was a bird in a cage.
It made sense when she was awake, though. Because she was thinking of Barney’s canary. And Barney had wonderfully large shoulders. That was slightly sexual. She didn’t want to think of Barney’s shoulders, because what kind of name was Barney? A big fat purple dinosaur name, that’s what it was.
She couldn’t tell if this was a dream, or reality. She was standing, and she felt pretty tall. And Barney was there in his purple jacket, kneeling on the stone before her. The stunning view that was Granada fell away behind his back, and all she could see where the white houses tripping down the mountainside, cobbled streets winding around them like gleaming snakes in the bright sunshine. There was sweat on her back and behind her hair, and her lips were sticky with the remains of an ice cold coke, that left a hot, melty film around her mouth. It was horrible. She needed a drink. And he was on his goddamn knees.
Wait. He was on his knees. Dusty with the stone of one of the towers. Palm trees and red sand in the distance. Sweltering heat and tapas bars blaring sultry music. And he was on his knees.
She felt sick, suddenly. Barney with his purple jacket in the heat. Like the big fat singing dinosaur. The coke churned very realistically, very uncomfortably in her stomach.
I think I am ruining my marriage.
I don’t know how to be a wife. Hell, scrap that. I don’t know how to be a decent human in a relationship.
I think I have pushed things to the limits and I don’t know how to bring anything together. And it makes it worse because there is a severe lack of communication, or even the will to communicate. Because I always ruin everything. And I don’t know how I am ruining it because I am not told what I am doing wrong.
I know I am doing things wrong, though.
I just don’t know how to fix it.
Last year I thought marriage is hard. This year I wish I was in my shoes from last year.
I am a liar.
Em, can you help me with this tie?
Didn’t you hear me? I’m a liar.
He leant his forehead on the doorframe. His hair was thick, black, shiny. It was straight, almost spiky and fell over his wonderfully tan forehead. He was outlandishly handsome. There was no denying that.
Don’t you want to know what I am talking about?
He looked at her sideways, and there was tiredness in his hazel eyes, green in the dim haze of the dingy hotel room. Then he walked slowly towards her, slouching, his back a weary hump, and put his head on her shoulder. They stood like that for what seemed like an age.
He didn’t say anything. He just leant on her, and she had to bend her knees slightly to support his weight. He smelled of leather and expensive spice. A hint of manufactured tobacco essence, and cinnamon. She could smell his hair, so human and masculine, clean sweat. She closed her eyes and loved him incredibly in that moment.
I lied to you, Dean. I lied ab-
Shhh. Just – shhhh.
His finger was on her lips. He straightened up, tied his tie, slid his watch on to his wrist and went to the door.
They were silent, walking down the stairs. Her heart was racing, and she glanced sideways at him as they emerged through the dirty glass doors of the hotel. He glanced back at the sign, ‘Hotel Mariano’ the ‘O’s were blacked out marks where the metal letters were welded on once. The orange street lamps gave his face angular shadows. His forehead jutted out at night. It reminded her of a gorilla.
Why won’t you talk to me about it?
Just drop it, Emily, won’t you?
And now we’re just going to the party and pretending everything is normal?
Everything is normal.
You don’t even know what –
Just drop it. Please. I don’t want to know.
Do you even care?
She dropped it.
She likes to be in charge of answering questions.
Secretly, it drives me up the wall.
I never tell her this, though. I just let her answer all the questions, my ones and her ones. It makes her feel validated and in control. And I think she likes it when she is answering for me.
It makes her feel like I am hers. I belong to her.
Which I do, of course.
Except sometimes when I am sitting twiddling my thumbs while she speaks for me, I feel a little like a school boy. In a headmaster’s office. With my mother.
I would never tell her that.
I love her to pieces. Also she would be mortified.
I’ve forgotten how to write. I’ve forgotten how to read.
Hell, I’ve even forgotten how to live.
I’ve forgotten how to smile and make conversation. I’ve forgotten how to make my eyes light up when my lips stretch from side to side.
I only know how to drink copious amounts of water with lemon squeezed in and a daily bowl of instant noodles with fresh lemon and coriander.
I know how to walk for hours a day, amassing over 20,000 steps to nowhere and running my eyes over hundreds of houses decorated flamboyantly for Christmas.
Sometimes, Christmas is the worst time ever. I don’t blame people for wanting to celebrate a non birthday at this time. People need something to look forward to in this dreary, grey, dull time of year. They need magical lights and bright tinsel to light up the darkness. When the sun comes out, flooding weak rays through naked trees, heat dissipating with the low lying mist that spreads damp fingers along every crack and crevice, every hole in clothes, I feel depressed.
I remember the smell of stale cigarettes. A hacking laugh. Tall, gaunt, skeletal. Long feet with bony white toes. Filthy kitchen, deceased dog. Cigarettes. Dependancy on a puff of weed. Unkempt pale brown hair. Long, face, large head. Skinny, skinny pale legs. Disgusting jokes about kicking me in a place no woman should ever be kicked. Hacking laugh.
I realised yesterday that I really did ruin my life. That even when I do want to publish my book, I can’t put my name on it. Because he will find it and then find me. I have no freedom because I am still afraid of him. No, petrified. That even in my happiest moments he is lurking somewhere in the background and I can’t ever escape, and I always, always have to be careful.
I realised that I threw everything away because I was a stupid, stupid girl.
I realised that I still think about him.
I laugh at a joke and then my insides suddenly curl up and a stinking, dripping rot spreads through my gut and I feel sick with fear because I am reminded of him. I hate that I am reminded of him.
And at night I still lie awake and tremble. For hours and hours. When my husband falls asleep I turn on the lamp because I can’t bear to lie in the darkness. Sometimes in my house I can smell that faint, sickly sweet smell of cigarettes and dirty clothes and I want to hurl. I rush around putting all the candles on and scrubbing until my fingers are raw.
The smell is in my mind. It is not real. But I can smell it as though it is there. I think I am going mad. I clean and clean and clean but I can still smell it. It makes me feel dirty.
I hate this country. I hate these people. I hate this atmosphere. I hate this season. And I have given up trying to catch up with the world. It has long left me by the wayside.
I also loathe myself for allowing myself to make such a stupid mistake.
I realised that I have not healed. And even when I think I have, the dreary winter sun will come out and remind me forcefully, miserably, that I have not. I think all my happiness has been sucked out by him and I will never ever feel joy again.
And it’s been more than three years. I don’t know when I will stop feeling like this.