Grief

Back in February I wrote an article for Lippy magazine about grief and losing someone. Last week it was published and I wanted to share the article on here as well. I’m proud of myself not only for having my first piece of writing published in print, but for finding the words to say all this.

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I am experiencing grief, a loss like nothing I have felt before. It is something that creeps up on me unexpectedly, catches me off guard and throws me off course. My life is permanently changed and yet, no one is talking about it.

In December, my dad died after nine years of cancer and it has been a very strange time, particularly since being back at university. I am more anxious, more indecisive, more emotional, I cry because I don’t know what I want for dinner and laugh at the inappropriate jokes I make. I am sad, but equally, I am so incredibly frustrated.

I know that everyone grieves differently, and that perhaps some don’t want to discuss their emotions, that its too soon to bring up their loved one and they would rather process everything internally, but that is not me. I am trying to keep my dad close, to summon my memories to the forefront of my mind and to feel him with me daily, yet I’m struggling to do so because my immediate circle are saying nothing. They are censoring themselves to the point where they aren’t acknowledging what I’m going through, they don’t ask questions or continue conversations when I bring him up. I don’t know if they are scared of upsetting me, if they think I’m fine or if it slips their mind’s in the busyness of their own lives but regardless, I am desperate for a change.

As a result of the censorship of their own speech, whether it’s conscious or not, I feel like the same is being done to mine. I am scared to bring things up for fear of making people uncomfortable, for feeling like a burden and perhaps I worry they’ll feel guilty for not actually addressing it. Clearly, I don’t want this. I want an open conversation. I want to share my memories, stories and laughter with my friends. I want to open up about my confusion, my anger, my sadness and to encourage them to be aware of their families and for them to understand that it’s ok to acknowledge my dad. He has died but he also lived, just because he is gone does not mean his name has to be reduced to a whisper.

Dad was hilarious and more than anything it is the endless laughter that I’ll remember. He planned the most incredible holidays and seemed to know how to get anywhere without looking at a map. He had three successful careers and ran five London marathons. He could get on with anyone and knew the importance of good relationships. He thought warthogs were called ‘waterhogs’ and got confused between risotto and ravioli. He was rubbish at knowing song lyrics but he was brilliant at knowing about castles. He has made my siblings and I who we are, and I want to tell people about that.

Talking about grief is so crucial to the healing. This sounds obvious and yet many forget. It helps people to process emotions they may not have even realised they were feeling, it can help people feel closer to who they’ve lost, it acts as a form of release and can prevent the immense isolation that can feel so heavy. That is not to say you should put your life on hold and constantly be ready to be there for anyone experiencing it, almost the opposite. By discussing grief we are normalising it, we are making it part of the everyday, it is something we will all experience at some point, so why is it so rarely talked about? We don’t need to always take time out of our day to have emotional conversations, we just need to mention it, even if its just in passing.

Perhaps I should be saying this directly to my friends, in fact I know that I should, but I am hesitant to make that step. I feel as though I am too busy processing my own thoughts and emotions to worry about what their’s are. I know everyone is going through things and I know life has not stopped just because of what I am experiencing. I don’t know how I would behave if our roles were reversed but that being said, I do know the importance of being aware of people’s lives, of acknowledging the experiences they’ve had and those they may be having.

So uncensor yourselves, when someone is experiencing loss, acknowledge it. Ask them questions, bring up death, let them tell you about the person, about how they are feeling, about the things they’re thinking. Do not tiptoe around their grief as though you are scared you’ll set it off. You are not a trigger, you are their support.

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The magazines are £4 and available to buy from Balcony and Common Ground in Leeds or if you want me to post you a copy let me know. It is obviously full of great articles by other budding writers.

Instagram: @IndiaGarrett

Twitter: @IndiaGarrett

Writing

I spent about 3 hours yesterday evening trying to write something, anything. It did not go well. I struggled to think of what to write about, no idea I had seemed to work and I couldn’t find the words I wanted to say.

I don’t feel pressure to write on here, no one reads it and there is no obligation to post anything. However, I do want to. I want to share my thoughts and recommendations and the goings on in my life. I’m just still figuring out how to. As much as I like to think I have the words to share my thoughts on controversial topics, to discuss body image and feminism and mental health and sustainability and the environment and Brexit, I have no authority on any of those subjects. But, then again, I don’t really need to have any authority, a large number of people commentating society’s goings on are just opinionated. Maybe that is the issue, maybe I’m not opinionated enough. If I don’t know how I feel about things how can I expect to find the words to express myself. I have passionate friends, people who advocate for minority groups and know what they want to do with their career and have already worked hard to achieve great things. I just kind of bob along pretty averagely. I have never protested or written an article about something I disagreed with or started a career project or had an intense debate with someone who thought differently to me. I tried debating at school but would always end up agreeing with my opponent. Not really the point.

There is almost a disparity between the person I am and the person I want to be. The person I want to be writes interesting thought provoking pieces that she would be proud to show potential employers and start conversations about. The person I am struggles to think of anything to write about whilst Bridget Jones is on the TV in the background. She writes about how she can’t write. I don’t think I’m the only one who tells themselves they’re going to do things and then doesn’t, especially at this time of year when uni work needs to take priority, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

I’m done rambling for now, but if you have any ideas on how to get inspired please let me know…..

Instagram: @IndiaGarrett

Twitter: @IndiaGarrett

P.S Apologies for the lack of pictures I promise I’ll sort myself out soon

Normal People

Last week I did something a bit different. I went to a book event. On my own.

For those of you that don’t know, these events generally happen in bookshops across the country shortly after an author has published their latest book. They chat about the book, answer some questions and do a quick signing. Exciting stuff. The one I went to was for Sally Rooney’s new book, Normal People, where she was interviewed by Literary Friction podcast host Octavia Bright.

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Firstly, let me say the book itself is brilliant and worth a read. It follows the entangled lives of Marianne and Connell as they begin to navigate the adult world, both together and apart. It’s set over 4 years, beginning with the pair’s initial conversation whilst they’re still at school, and then continuing to their university careers. It looks at power dynamics, intimacy, self-awareness and how they all change over time, particularly during the early years of adulthood, something I definitely relate too. There is nothing particularly great about the characters other than that, as the title would suggest, they are normal people who feel very real.

Rooney had a wonderful ability to answer any questions about the book with a wider context. Her comments and opinions meant I left the evening with far more to think about than where the inspiration from the characters came from. As I mentioned, the novel looks at power dynamics, something Rooney admitted to having a fascination with. To her, a power imbalance is a crucial element to any relationship worth writing about, one in equilibrium is too steady to create a story that’s exciting and emotional. She wonders how we can strive for a power balance in our relationships and whether that’s something we should even be striving for at all. I would say that yes, it is. It is unfair of us to want to have a hold over someone, or to let them get away with having one over us. I think there is a difference between treating someone well out of love and putting them on a pedestal to be adored regardless of their behaviour. A relationship in balance is not boring, it’s healthy.

Sally also mentioned that she spends a lot of time wondering about our individual senses of self and whether such a thing exists, or if we are just composites of those around us, if we are ‘thumbprints of the collective’. I think we are obviously combinations of our surroundings, the people we know and the things that have happened to us, but that doesn’t mean that our independence is any less valuable. Just because we are shaped by external factors, it does not mean our internal personality is fake or any less unique. Without other influences, we would never change or grow and adapt.

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Finally, Rooney was asked about the role authors and artists have in today’s society, a society where there is so much wrong. She said that in simple terms, art itself is not revolutionary, it’s a commodity. She spoke about how the axis between art and commerce is always going to be uncomfortable because as much as art likes to criticise the commercial norms, one cannot exist without the other. Not all books are controversial or informative or insightful, and when they aren’t it can feel like an indulgence to immerse yourself in such a simple form of pleasure, why are we entitled to do so when there are so many bigger issues? Shouldn’t we be spending that time doing things to help?

I think that yes, there is much that needs to be changed about the world and no, that change is not going to come from reading. But, it does’nt mean you can’t enjoy the book, or go and listen to the author talk about it for that matter. It starts a conversation, and who knows what could come from that.

Instagram: @IndiaGarrett

Twitter: @IndiaGarrett

Imperfect

Everyday since my last post, I have brainstormed ideas for what the next one should be about and to be honest with you, I’m still pretty stuck. I think it’s partly because every time I think of an idea or topic, I worry that either no one will care what I have to say about it, or that it won’t be good enough.

I’ve always been good, but not quite good enough. My essays are always ok, but never quite a first. I can sing, but gave it up when it got competitive because there were people much better than me. I acted throughout my school career but never got a lead part. I rowed, but never made the top crew. You get the idea. But writing is something I really want to be good at, it’s something I enjoy and want to share. Recently though, I think I’ve become so focused on producing words that I want other people to enjoy that I’ve forgotten to enjoy them myself. The fear of doing something and failing or doing something and it not being perfect is stopping me from trying in the first place. And no one got anywhere by not trying.

So, I’ve decided that I’m not going to worry. I’m going to write what I want to write and allow myself to not be perfect at it. I’m going to give my opinions and recommendations and advice and write pretty much whatever I want and enjoy it, and if you’d like to read it too, that’d be even better.

Twitter: @IndiaGarrett

Instagram: @IndiaGarrett