Relatability #1: entering the week with all these grandiose ideas about how productive you’ll be but then never following through on any of them.

I follow all the self improvement sub-reddits. The ones that make you gasp and ‘gosh’ at all these humans around the world who wake up at 5am, go for a run, do some yoga and contribute more to the world before their Cheerios than you do in a full day.

Yes, I’ll say, this is my week. This is when I’ll finally write a poem every day, meditate for an hour, and work out every other day. I’ll get up and go for a jog just as dawn creeps in, and I’ll then whip up something green and nutritious in my Nutribullet before journalling like I’m fucking Ernest Hemingway.

I’ll sit at my desk and tap away at emails, words cascading down my fingers like children on water slides. I’ll break for lunch and not feel guilty about fucking off for half an hour to eat some beans on toast and maybe watch The Office. I’ll log back on and do my work and boss that meeting I’ve been so terrified about for weeks (the one where I’ll have to speak and sell our services with a honey-laced voice that only grows so sickly sweet when speaking to clients).

I’ll log off at 5.30pm and not feel guilty about not staying online for another three hours like that other girl, her icon a stubborn Shrek shade of green. It’s like a fucking challenge to find out who can stay online the longest, and who’s the most dedicated to this really-not-so-important-in-the-grand-scheme-of-things job. But instead I’ll shut the lid and forget about all the nothingness, and I’ll banish tomorrow’s meeting and next week’s presentation and the following month’s review from my brain as though they were cat hairs that met their end at the hands of a lint roller.

I’ll turn to YouTube for a workout that gives me electric thighs, Barbie doll arms and calves as juicy as hamburgers within a matter of weeks. I’ll see the poundage drop like Deliveroo groceries on a pandemic doorstep and I’ll finally feel chiseled and strong. Then I’ll take myself off for a shower and get in while the water’s running cold (I’ll do this three times a week to boost my immune system and tell everyone I know about it so they’re aware of how incredibly awesome I am).

I’ll apply skincare products as part of a rigorous routine to make my face porelessly porcelain. I’ll coat my hair with a masque that makes it smell like the inside of Victoria’s Secret or the Playboy Mansion. I’ll then read five thousand pages of a book, shunning Netflix for Sylvia Plath because I can learn much more through books than I can from Michael Scott obviously.

In fact, I grow so ambivalent towards Netflix that I cancel my subscription altogether. I sign out and tell my stepdad ‘no, I won’t be leeching off your account anymore’ and I bid adieu to Pam and Jim and all the others.

I’ll read a thousand books in a year. I’ll start studying beginners’ Arabic and take the GCSE in Russian I’ve been considering for a while. I’ll speak to pen-pals in unusual corners of the world and once I’m proficient in Russian and Arabic, I’ll apply to MI5 and become the next James Bond.

Oh the things I could do, if I could just get off my sodding arse.

From very high to very low

Today was a day of mammoth contrasts

when the good met the bad and then the ugly

and I found myself struggling to claw my way out of

a cylindrical hole

my feelings had pushed me into.

I think I broke part of my brain because this oxymoron was so loud

and moronic, true to its name

I think the bits of flesh couldn’t handle two juxtaposed giants

vying for my attention

I’d like to think they had equal chances but it’s clear the bad had the upper hand

the smirking winner

the bad took control and the good lay flaccid and dull

under a dreary spotlight

incredible praise met with steamrolling terror

that glides over you like you’re a wannabe pancake

making mince meat or mashed potato out of my head

an unbelievable contrast that collided against my skull

and I haven’t been able to think straight since.

Happy yawns

I never write when I’m happy

Except for now, while I’m bursting

at the seams with gratitude.

It’s overpowering

like water running through the pipes of the soul.

I sat on the carpet beneath the Christmas tree

and soaked up the flickering of the lights,

brushed the lukewarm, balmy carpet

with my fingers

and felt comfort envelop me,

cradle me,

shower me with its kisses.

Past experiences will always remain,

the future will always feel foggy,

I’ll always grapple with the present.

I may look upon it all fondly,

but that doesn’t mean I need it.

Tired and lonely

“Oh my god, other people struggle”

that’s what you hear them say

today it’s debilitating

so was yesterday’s pub visit

and Friday’s pool palava

enough tears to sink a ship

watching Blended with Drew Barrymore

and yearning for that family

my feelings are playing musical chairs

when it stops you hear the clap of arse cheeks

sit themselves down

and with no music to dance to

they twiddle their thumbs gingerly

Christ knows if the noise goes

the fear starts

leaps to attention

like some Nazi guard

the music can’t die down

else I’ll die with it

I stepped out to Londis and squirmed

teeth chattering

mind nattering the whole way

it’s cruel to live like you shouldn’t be here

and the crying is getting old now

I’m bored

wilting like a weed

I’d like to hit somebody

and really yell with my lungs

because I haven’t done that before

(except into my pillow)

and make them burst like two water balloons.

A hazardous week

I have been knocked over this week

Like pins at a bowling alley

Kicked and thrashed

Battered against the back

Of that mysterious black bit

You can’t see behind

Throttled by failure

Plagued by faux pas

And today I am supposed to dust

Myself off and present the shiniest

Brushed aluminium version of myself

To a total stranger

Desperately seeking an escape route

A respite for this mangled brain.

Sensible bodies

You used to make me feel like I couldn’t dress myself

Like every piece of clothing lurking in my wardrobe

Wasn’t fit for purpose

You swatted away every pairing I attempted

Frustration etched across your face, thick like butter

And marinating your tone

‘Of course that doesn’t go with that’

‘Gosh you’re useless’

‘Let me do it for you’

Choice escaped me, driving off

In a sedan car, roof open, wind tugging at carefree hair

Because no matter what I chose, you would berate me

Belittle me

Bemuse me

And suggest your idea was better

You made me feel like I couldn’t dress myself

Like every attempt I made was childlike

Like everything I picked when we went shopping

Was five years my junior

The result is a current questioning of everything I buy

From the t shirts to the shoes

To the dresses to the playsuits

I feel incapable of dressing myself

And knowing what looks good

Even when parcels from far-flung places arrive at the door

And I unwrap exasperated, excited

There’s something I’ve ordered that you dislike

And you’ll tell me, naturally

Why keep quiet after all these years

Why stop licking the nettle

Why stop hammering at my self-esteem

I can deal with the bile, the upchuck, the name-calling

Better than I used to

But it still stings like chlorine

And lingers like burnt toast

Gurgling in the pit of my stomach

Until the next parcel arrives.

Minor occasions

I’m sorry I didn’t ask you how you were

As we tumbled down the stairs

Like soldiers in formation

I’m sorry for not tapping on your shoulder

And saying howdy how’s it going

Instead of staying silent

Humming like a torch’s bulb.

You see my hair was sticking to my cheeks

Stuck something silly like a tangled mess of hay

And my face was clogged with sweat

From the day’s struggle and strife

I’d picked at my fringe and prodded it sideways

Toppling over my eggy forehead

In a bid to reduce what I saw in the mirror

A ghost, a thief, a terrifying mirage

That burned holes in my outer shell

And poured its poison through them.

You see I wasn’t in a fit state to speak to you

I didn’t want your first impression to be

A slippery, oily mess of a girl

So I left you to glide down the stairs amid a sea of strangers

While I stayed back, coolly

Deranged and broken.

Friday TCR

And she sat up there

Words like rose petals floating from mouth to floor

And I’m just perched here in awe

Having travelled an hour and a half door to door

To listen to words that are honey-like

Dripping into the mic

Sweet and inspiring

Forehead perspiring (don’t all of ours)

And I’m fearful for tomorrow

For the fruits it’ll bring

A dark shadow sewn into my skin

Brain etched in a fog

Burnt out by the London smog.

After the gig I paced up and down Tottenham court road

Like a wildly indecisive runner

With too much time on her hands

And a stomach full of Dr Pepper

Couldn’t bring myself to go back in

And bare my soul to someone new

Whose job isn’t to listen to me natter

Burst my thoughts forth in glorious splatter

So I trudged to the tube and hissed at tourists who wouldn’t move

As quickly as my marathon legs

Short and strong

I made the hour journey back home

Walking up a dimlit alley I’m fearful of tomorrow

And I’m laced with sorrow

It permeates my core

And leaves me sore

But strong all the same

For ever more.

The middle of the carriage

And I’ll stand in the middle of the carriage

Entwined around a bar

Legs wedged around rucksack

Head resting on the pole

And instead of feeling exposed

In a sea of people – the only one standing

I toughed it out and remained there lurking

Could have hop-footed to the end

And hidden by that menacing window

That blows your hair to and fro

And is too stiff to raise

(I know, I’ve tried)

Instead I stayed stuck firmly in the middle

Of this leaky, foul-breathed carriage

Where coffee slurps and morning angst

Flood through like creaking sludge

The middle is where I was

Until a seat popped up

Like those rarest of Pokemon

And I snatched it and sat

Content with my mini achievement for the day.

The Irish Goodbye.

On the day of my departure, I spotted a corner in her bedroom and thought about what might happen if I stayed there. Lurking, hiding, tugging at the duvet with nimble fingertips… the corner looked so comfortable, so peaceful. Shrouded beneath micro-fibres and cat hairs which always flutter up my nose and make my chest wheeze, I could stay there and not have to go back. The life of an expat isn’t always so rosy when you’re headed for a country you wish you hadn’t ventured to in the first place. And as you feel your body being shoved hard in one direction, you start to dig your heels into the ground and that corner, that tiny, honeycomb crevice of carpet and dead skin suddenly looks so appealing… The same thing happened at Disneyland. I was on my year abroad and hating every second. A moment’s joy came in the form of a weekend break to Disneyland Paris and I found myself staring at another corner (this time in a bathroom) and wondering what would happen if I just stayed there, curled up like a kitten… and never went back to my desk job. Strange, isn’t it? How corners and small spaces seem to offer comfort in dark times, beckoning me in with open arms and clutching me to their simple bosom. Safe spaces are lovely and inviting, but in a similar vein to comfort zones, nothing grows inside them.