Good Gossip


Eleanor Roosevelt once said: “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” But isn’t it true that everyone discusses people? So are we all small minded? What I know to be true is that gossip as a practice is loathsome. And I do not find it interesting to speculate or discuss other people’s lives unless they are sitting in front of me. Because that means that they can respond.

I walk away from these sorts of conversations. I do not scour the Daily Mail for celebrity gossip columns, neither do I trawl the Times for individual political scandal, yet it is all around me. So why there is a need for us to discuss each other and what do we classify as gossip? Anyone who went to a high school or was a teenager knows what gossip is. The truth is that even if you don’t care for it, like me, there has a point at least once in your life when you have passed judgement on a person or the actions that they have taken.

Yet, this notion doesn’t satisfy me. After having a conversation with a few friends, it got me thinking about why we regard judgement to be a derogatory term. He judged me. She made a comment about me. Now you are remembering a comment that he or she made and I can bet it is making you grit your teeth. Why do we always remember the comments that make us feel small or demean us? The conclusion we came to is that judgement is not a bad thing – it is an instrument. A filter that allows you to understand a person and whether you want to make a connection.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why we gossip. We are desperate to make connection, and judgement forms a part of that. You make judgements in your head a thousand times a day with a thousand people you have never met. It is natural. But that does not mean that gossip has to be a bad thing. Purely discussing a person does not necessarily mean that you are trashing them. There is a fine line between praise and gossip – except praise doesn’t spread like wildfire.

So let us try an experiment. Practice good gossip. Give yourself a chance to say nice things about people and notice the good in them. Let judgement be in your corner and allow yourself to praise those that you value. Don’t get sucked in to an endless debate of cynicism and bile – rise about it. You are better than that. And if each of us just chose to spread this secret, one by one, word by word, then what is stopping random acts of kindness being a little less random?

Put simply, gossip hurts because it can be anonymous and snowball. But maybe it is time we stopped seeking adulation for praise and started being grateful for all of the great people making a local difference. Let’s anonymously start making the world a better place.

Fray


This post may be inspired by the fact that I have spent a lot of time on a boat this week. Although all things considered it is pretty irrelevant. However, sitting on a beach that only a handful of people will ever set foot on, at the southernmost tip of the country gave me some thinking space. There is nothing like watching the world go by without you.

We forgot an anchor. So we couldn’t tie down the boat and had to make sure that it didn’t hit the rocks. All we had were ropes. Connections that were responsible getting us home, rather than leaving us shipwrecked. They couldn’t have been more than an inch wide, but the strength of those threads were the only things that were keeping us going.

Have you ever tried to cut a piece of rope? As soon as you slice through, each individual component starts to fray – you can never get a clean cut or tie off all of the loose ends. No matter how thick the rope is, it is never the same again after it has been cut. It is no longer a support or a connection – it is irrevocably broken, even if from a glance it looks okay.

Every relationship is a piece of rope. We tie them between ourselves so that when we fall into the water, they suddenly become taut so we don’t drown. They rely on each other, as do we. Each one is a different shape, size, colour as are we. But too many ropes pull us in different directions and weigh us down. If we do not look after them, then it is only a matter of time before they break. Yet sometimes, it is appropriate for us to cut them.

In the last year, I have cut a lot of ropes. A lot of them have frayed and lost their use, or loosened and have failed to be supports. At the time it felt extremely difficult. As if I was slowly cutting away the life support and heading into open water alone. But there are some weights that we just cannot take and are not good for us. Some connections that are not worth holding onto if they are pulling you further and further down.

You just have to take a deep breath and forget about the fray. Leave the loose ends. Just cut the cord and open your eyes. I promise you’ll get to the crimson horizon faster.

I am enough.


 

Watch this. Make a cup of tea or press the spacebar on your keyboard to pause Spotify. Then plug in your headphones (if you haven’t already) and spend 20 minutes watching this. I promise you that it will be worth it. I am always sceptical of Ted talks because they are so hit and miss, but this one was recommended to me. And hence I am recommending it to you. If that is not enough, then in various articles and journals, this talk has been cited as one of the most popular of all time and has racked over 15,000,000 views. Has that piqued your interest?

Many of us engage in mock psychology. We ask questions and listen to our friends and loved ones when they are troubled and we try to help. Everyone has a story and in the span of our lives, depending on how sociable or travelled we are, we hear so many different perspectives and viewpoints. As we grow older, the noise gets louder and louder and it becomes difficult to hear what we want to do. The natural connections that we make start to consume us.

That is why we are happiest when we are children. We are inherently selfish in our purpose to explore and society deems it acceptable for us to develop. So when is it time to stop exploring and developing? When are we supposed to know enough to be depended on? When we start university, a job or a family? I don’t really have answers to these questions, mainly because I am still trying to answer the first one. All I know that is after listening to thousands of stories (and I mean really listening) it makes it difficult to appear vulnerable.

Vulnerability is synonymous with weakness, frailty and naivety and so people naturally avoid the label. I have done my absolute best to do the same. I do not want to be vulnerable, and neither do I want people to perceive me in that way. But have I felt vulnerable? Yes. All the time. This is the magic of what I believe Brown conveys. We have to accept that vulnerability is inevitable, and it can debilitate us if we allow it to.

“I deserve love and belonging because I feel I am worthy of love and belonging” – it seems a simple enough proposition. It comes from within. The whole-hearted are those that are not afraid of taking risks even though it may lead to disaster. They are mavericks who want to write the next story even if it means breaking the pen. This can be condensed into a three word affirmation – “I AM ENOUGH.”

I have watched this talk about 10 times already and every time it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Because no one is exempt from this – not even Brown herself. We are all surrounded by connection, but isn’t it time we started telling ourselves we were worthy? Even it is just once by reading this?

I’m Back Baby


This is the season of slumping. The time when most students hibernate into their rooms to stare at the artificial glow of their laptops as the first rays of Spring make concentration impossible. When punch cards for coffee are used vigorously in library cafes and books start to pile on empty desks one by one. This is the time when a year’s worth of learning is condensed into a month’s understanding and a week’s application. And here I lie, books firmly closed, writing another letter to you.

I feel invigorated. As the passion of writing and reading courses through every sinew of my being again, I can proudly announce that I am no exam machine. Although I will have to furiously write four essays in three hours and repeat this process three more times, the biro digging into my middle finger will not bother me. I will look at it as an opportunity to progress, to push myself further than I thought I would have to. I will approach things in a different way, actually believing that failure is a stepping stone to success rather than secretly thinking this is what inadequate people tell themselves to feel better.

I will remember what is important. The things that I have seen and experienced taking the first steps on my own, the mistakes I have made thinking that I knew it all. The people I put faith in who came through, and the ones who promised the world but delivered little more than excuses. And the ones who put their hands on my shoulder when I least expected them to. And the hands that lifted me up that I didn’t even recognise.

I am writing again and it feels fantastic. I don’t feel bottled up or stored away which can happen when you repress an expressive instinct. I do not feel caged or restricted or stopped by anything or anyone other than myself which is the perfect place to be. I feel like my head is clearer than it once was and all the doubts of impression have slowly subsided as each day has painted a bigger smile across my face. I can let the words flow, the metaphors drop and realise that I am at the peak of my being. It doesn’t even have to make sense, and it probably doesn’t, but strong emotions rarely do.

This is just the beginning. I have a cause and a direction. I am not bogged down in details, nor am I lost in the translation of the bigger picture. While everyone is questioning themselves, I am starting to find the answers. I have stopped running in circles and started to walk towards a path that will lead me to gratification. The speed of my fingers cannot keep up with the ideas that are pedalling back and forward in that brain of mine. So I will write them here. And I will make time to make them grow.

And did I mention? I’m back, baby. And it doesn’t look like I’m leavin’ any time soon…

Meet Beren


This is a particularly upsetting story and it was quite difficult to read, but it is important to share. This may seem like any other day to you, but the 15th of April 6 years ago was a harrowing day for the Rowbotham family. Through the eyes of her sister, Cendl, we can see the effects of Meningitis on Beren as only a small child. She was 10.

“I remember coming home from school and waiting until she got home from a friend’s birthday party. I could tell something was wrong. She was not her usual excitable self…she seemed fluey and said she was cold.” Beren did not have the flu. She had contracted the Meningococcal disease and she was in terrible danger.

However, none of the family expected anything and they went to sleep. Before going to bed, Cendl went to see her ill sister and she was getting progressively worse, “she was burning with a temperature and did not want me to touch her again and flinched away.” The next time Cendl would be awoken was by her mother to tell her to stay put, as she could see her sister being taken away by an ambulance out the window.

“The doors closed. Silence surrounded our farmhouse as the ambulance drove off.” Can you imagine what this young girl had to go through? Alone, grief-stricken, Cendl called her father who told her to say where she was as he made his way to the hospital. For the next few hours, she would lie there completely in the dark as to her sister’s condition and fate.

“It’s heart breaking to hear parents cry.” This sentence alone will make even the hardest person emotional. “I will never forget the words ‘we have lost Beren’ which came from my Dad’s lips” – Beren unfortunately lost her battle with this disease earlier that morning. The virus had got into her blood stream and spread around her body so fast nothing could be done.

“All I wanted was to see my little sister again. The loneliness is unimaginable. I lost my greatest friend and my soul mate and the wounds will never heal. All I can focus on now is celebrating what a wonderful childhood we had and how happy she and I had been.”

There are not that many instances when I am lost for words. But after this post, I was. I can’t imagine what this child is going through, losing her young sister to something that could be prevented if a vaccination had been brought forward earlier. I am not trying to make people feel guilty here, despite what some of you may think. This is not a conscience shock, but a reality check. These things are happening and we have the power to stop them.

We just have to link hands and think bigger.

If you want to read Cendl’s words, then click here.

And if you would like to donate to a cause that matters and makes a difference then click here.

Gimme Everything You Got


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I have forgotten how great it is to do voluntary work. Not because it makes you feel warm and gooey inside, or even that you can publicise it (even though I know I am), but because it is fun! It is as simple as that. The sort of things that you do for free for someone else, are the sort of things that other people couldn’t pay you to do. However, the motivation isn’t payment but the understanding that you are stepping out of your comfort zone which can only help you grow…and the bonus that another vulnerable person might benefit as well.

That is why I dressed up as a gorilla outside the Bullring in Birmingham. Hang on, maybe I should back track a little bit. I found a cause this year that I really believed in, raising money for the Meningitis Research Foundation, and I wanted to keep a log of everything that I am doing so this is the place where I am writing it all down. I am going to be climbing Kilimanjaro next year with their support, so I am doing everything I can not only to raise money, but also awareness and give my time to them. Our time is the most priceless donation we can give.

With my university RAG, and dressed in a massive gorilla costume, we raided the city of Birmingham on a sunny Saturday afternoon buckets in hand. It was a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be because people tend to avoid collectors if they can even if they are dressed as a 6 ft (well nearly!) monkey in the middle of the street. Or they are even more annoying and pull on your tail or shout a bit of abuse at you which can be a little disheartening. Nevertheless, it is all worth it when you wave to a small child and with a smile and a nervous look towards their parents, they come up to you and shake your hand. Or give you a hug – I really liked those ones.

You might be thinking that this doesn’t have much to do with Meningitis, charity or awareness. But sometimes you have to take a step back and realise that you cannot be serious all the time. People are constantly bombarded with messages of woe and guilt to get them to feel something. When in fact, the best way to make someone feel something is to make them laugh or smile and then half your work is done. And I really enjoyed being in the suit, even though it suffocated me.

So I hoping that the next few posts and my journey to Kili will not only move you, but make you laugh and smile along the way. It is not my mission to make you feel guilty so that your conscience forces you to donate. I just hope that you will give to a cause and a person that is trying to make a difference in the only way he knows how. By talking to people. And by making his community listen.

So gimme everything you got!

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Let The Dust Settle


It isn’t true when people say that setbacks make you stronger. It depends how many you have in a given time period. If you are constantly taking one step forward, and two steps back, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that you are going backwards. I felt like I was going backwards for a long time. It is always difficult to talk about this sort of thing, even on here, because it always comes across as self-indulgent. The truth is that this is my own form of therapy – the talki-I mean the writing cure. So it is slightly self-indulgent.

People don’t like to talk about the things that stop them from getting out of bed in the morning. It isn’t the natural conversation that you have over the dinner table. We prefer to talk about how our families are doing, or how our communities are changing, or what we are up to right now. We like to talk about politics, but not the drama that is going on in our lives. No one wants to know, we tell ourselves. They have their own problems to deal with and they won’t care about this insignificant speck of dust on the windshield of my existence. So I’ll keep it to myself, and we’ll talk about how muggy the weather has been recently instead.

But do you know the problem with dust? It builds. Soon, if we forget or choose to ignore the dust then it collects so much on this windshield that we can no longer see through it. And that is when an arrogant kid comes along and writes out “Clean Me!” on the front of it to make matters worse. I let the dust settle for too long.

I have never really been good at analysing the things that I do wrong. I’ve always got too many questions, and I’m searching for the wrong answers. So when I am about to take another step back, I can’t seem to stop myself and it’s the most infuriating thing in the world. When you know you are falling, but you have no idea how to catch yourself. And then it hit me. It is impossible to catch yourself. For we must all be caught.

It has taken me 19 years to realise that I need help. That I can’t do it alone. I always thought that speaking to those that are close to me and asking for advice was a sign of weakness, and so I never did. I learnt to deal with things myself and I learned to fend for myself, which has made me the person I am today. But it also meant that I fell faster and harder because I didn’t have all the answers. Well, no one does. But some have a better idea than others, you just have to find out. It is better to say something, than to lose your voice completely.

For the first time in a long while, I finally feel caught. And it feels amazing because when I get out of bed in the morning, I don’t want to look back at it. If you feel like you are falling, then reach out to someone or something. Reach out to the only person you trust, to a complete stranger or even a diary. It will be difficult. Just please, for the love of God, please promise me that you won’t let the dust settle.

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