Monday, 31 October 2011

snowflakes and spectres

I'm head over heels with Becca Stadtlander's illustrations. And desperately waiting for the first flakes of snow.

Things that make me happy today include peppermint tea, meeting an old friend, brightly lit windows by dusk, a quick wander-about in a bookstore and the wave of relief that hit me this morning like a freight train. I'm already sleeping better and feeling like a human being again.

Happy Hallowe'en everyone!

monday links (adventures, reading in the loo, long distance love)

I'm kicking off my stress-free November with things that make me happy. Like putting up fairy lights and trawling the internet for essays and poetry, truths and stories. Here is a selection of my favourites.

Adventures in Depression by Allie Brosh of Hyperbole and a Half.

Damien Rice covering I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Amazingly good.

For all book-lovers out there, a tongue-in-cheek article on whether reading on the loo is bad for you.

You know how well-written essays reduce me into a flailing mess of admiration and happiness? 
Well, here's one: Will Self wrote a stunning, heartbreaking essay on illness, addiction and mortality.  

Another thing I can't get enough of is spoken word poetry. Sarah Kay on long distance relationships.

And finally, when I was born, I was the 5,524,617,285th person alive. And the 80,727,002,777th person ever to have lived. What about you?

Friday, 28 October 2011

self-help, or, giving up and not feeling bad about it, or, i'm not quite sure what i'm doing with my life, but it's okay, i think

I  have given up. I have given up a huge dream of mine.

If you know anything about me, you will know that I do not give up. I just don't do it. Because to me, giving up means failure, and failure? Failure is the worst possible fate.

So here I am giving up and still breathing. I haven't raged, I haven't hurt myself. There has been some crying, but it's been the kind of quiet, civilised crying that you don't mind others seeing because it's not all puffy eyes and snot everywhere.

In fact, it's all been a study in self-help. Very calm and very fashionably downshift-y.

How did this happen?

Ever since August I've been doing some of the most scary and important things I've done so far in my life. Final exams, university applications, along with everything else. I've been going quietly crazy, losing my foothold on real life one toe at a time.

Every day I've had to tell myself over and over that I am capable and worthy and every day I've been feeling less so. I've set myself ridiculously high goals and I've sacrificed a lot of my friendships, a lot of sleep, a lot of my stability for all that. I won't go into too many details but let's just say, applying to British universities while studying in Finland? Not the easiest route to take, no matter how prepared you are.

When my stress levels get high enough, I lose my sense of perspective. Whoosh. Gone. 

I enter a second dimension of my own making where I believe it's completely normal to be this stressed out. To be so tired and to feel so worthless that sometimes, for weeks at a time, I would arrive home in the evening and cry. Some days I could feel the tears building up all day. Some days all I could do was wait until I got home. 

Yes, I actually looked forward to getting home so I could have a good cry and crawl into bed afterwards and hope for sleep. That is exactly how crazy it got. And I still thought it was normal and somehow okay. 

It took me a lot to get to this point, this point where I'm actually lessening my load.

The doubt crept up gradually, in the form of questions. Why am I doing this? Is this worth all the pain? Can I go on like this much longer? Why doesn't the future excite me anymore, why does it make me feel apprehensive instead? Why are my dreams making me feel worthless and undeserving, when they should give me hope?

And so I'm letting go of a big, unrealistic dream of mine because now is not the time for me to pursue it. Not when I can't take care of myself.

Although the disappointment is, at times, crippling, the relief more than makes up for it. I don't yet know how royally I've fucked up. I don't know if I'm a fuck-up at all. I honestly haven't wrapped my head around all this yet. 

No matter how much I'd love to be the person I want to be, the person who Never Screws Up, Ever, and is never weak or scared or tired or on the brink of a collapse - well. It's not entirely realistic, is it.

Because I have to be who I am. Weak, scared, tired, sometimes. On the brink of something or other, always.

And I'm eighteen, for crying out loud. I do believe everyone has one chance to fuck up their lives, as sung by Noah and the Whale. And to be quite honest, I hardly think this is my grand fuck-up. 

A grand give-up, maybe, but that actually doesn't sound so bad. Giving up.

Phrasal verbs are lovely because when you split them up, slide apart the verb and the adverb or preposition, there are whole new meanings to dissect. 

This is what my Oxford Dictionary has to say on the matter:

give, verb cause or allow (someone or something) to have or experience (something)

up, adverb towards a higher place or position

And that doesn't sound so bad after all.

So, through the minor panicking and the occasional feeling of disbelief, I'm gathering up my scattered pieces. I will trust my heart, or more likely my guts, with this and I will believe the people around me who have been kind enough to tell me I'm doing the right thing.

Deep breaths, now.

on love

Perhaps they were right putting love into books. 
Perhaps it could not live anywhere else.

William Faulkner

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

let the wild rumpus start

The Stockholm Subway by Chuck Groenink

This drawing is so eerily perfect I can't stop looking at it.
Also it really reminds me of Maurice Sendak's picture book Where the Wild Things Are

One day I swear I'll dress up as Max from Where the Wild Things Are for Hallowe'en and I'll throw a wild rumpus on a subway.

Where the Wild Things Are was one of my favourite picture books as a kid, along with everything Roald Dahl and Astrid Lindgren and Kirsi Kunnas. What were your favourite books when you were little? Also, what's your Hallowe'en costume going to be?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

just for a while

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. 
No need to be anybody but oneself.

Virginia Woolf: A Room of One's Own

Monday, 24 October 2011

monday links (history, love stories, marilyn)

So I'm thinking of making this linky-post thing a Monday regular. Since the internet is a minefield of amazingly interesting/beautiful/astonishing things.

Case in point, for all you history nerds: Norma Clarke on the role of British women during WWII. Or you could have a peek at these beautiful and beautifully rebellious posters from the Paris protests in 1968.

A love story in literature. (Stunning. I'll say no more.)

In one of my absolute favourite TED Talks to date, Isabel Allende speaks of feminism, passion and writing. Amazingly funny, spunky, wise. The best TED Talks make you laugh and cry, they cling to the folds of your brain long enough to maybe eventually change you for good. This, for me, is one of those talks. 

My Week With Marilyn is a film I can't wait to see.

Last week I mentioned the new online quarterly, The Junket. It's so ridiculously good I can't help bringing it up again. For the latest edition, Carrie Plitt wrote an exquisitely crafted essay on running and success. It's called 'The Wall', or, What I Talk About When I Talk About the 400 Metres and you really should read it.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

sunday blues

Sundays might be my favourite thing.

(Also, have I mentioned how much I want it to be winter already? I got a new winter coat yesterday (a navy blue peacoat) and it's my second-most-favourite thing right now. Helsinki has reached the miserable point of autumn, the rainy dreary grey bit where all you can do is wait for snow. And ice skating. And roasted chestnuts and Christmas lights and all kinds of glorious wintry things. Waiting for winter always makes me act like a complete child - all the more reason to adore it.)

Friday, 21 October 2011

mindless self-indulgence, or, dear critics:

Recently I've been getting some snide comments about the self-absorbed nature of blogging, which has got me thinking. Accusations of narcissism are common in this oddly convoluted virtual world of rampaging self-indulgence, and I've chosen to ignore them until now.

But the hell with it, this is my blog, and I shall do what I want with it. (Just look at my ego right there!)

Of course the act of broadcasting my thoughts and my life on the internet is inherently narcissistic. I wouldn't dare claim anything else. But really, the act of writing anything is deeply narcissistic. And I don't see why extending self-expression to blogging would be considered any more narcissistic than keeping a diary. 

I am well aware of the ridiculous paradox between my low self esteem and bone-deep egoism; there's no need for me to pretend humility and act affronted when faced with accusations of endless self-interest. I'm quite sure I know better than anyone just how selfish I am.

Most often I am criticized for self-pity, and my blogger friends tell me this is a common accusation. First World problems seems to be a popular term. I don't claim that my problems are any more pressing than anyone else's. I know most people suffer and have suffered more than me. But can anyone honestly say only bloggers complain needlessly, that only bloggers ever feel hopeless over small things and say it out loud? 

I am not forcing you to read this. You may well trot off on your merry way and forget this site ever existed, if you wish to do so. I assure you my feathers would remain quite unruffled. 

I don't feel the need to justify blogging, just as I don't feel the need to justify writing in general. I write and I blog simply because it's something I enjoy. I do it because I want to. 

It may seem as though the blogosphere is just a bunch of navel-gazing narcissists. In reality, each blogger has their own reasons for investing time, energy and emotions into writing, photographing and designing the blogs you read and hopefully enjoy. Play nice, and, if you have all these opinions you want to express over the internet, why not start your own blog? 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011


I really don't feel like thinking or writing or speaking at all. (Surely you know days like this.)

Things I do feel like doing include:

ice skating
aimlessly ambling about.

I balance in between. I knit in class. I go to bed early and wake up to dreams of ice skating. (I've actually dreamt of skating four nights in a row now.) I take little impromptu walks sometimes, to the seaside or childhood parks. I don't bite my nails. Honestly, I don't. 

I do adore this time of year but all this university business is a bit too demanding. (On a brighter note, the trickling of emails beginning 'Dear Ms Kayhko, thank you for your application' has been making my heart stutter in all the good ways.) 

Also I still feel like Christmas and my condition is definitely not improving: I saw the first Christmas calendars on sale today. 'Tis the season, except not yet really. 

things i know but don't yet understand #2

And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good. 

John Steinbeck

(found here)

Monday, 17 October 2011

monday links (poems, essays, soundtracks, magic)

Spoken word poetry: Taylor Mali on What Teachers Make. (This made me cry, shoo, off you go, watch it.) 

I recently stumbled upon an online quarterly called The Junket, defined by one of its contributors as 'a forum in which we can nudge each other into writing'. More than just that, it's a collection of well-crafted and often exquisitely beautiful essays. I especially recommend Picking the Lock by Susanna Hislop, about passwords, locks and memory, among other things. Or maybe On Knowing the Words, where Thomas Marks speaks about learning poems by heart. 

I'm also completely smitten by Downton Abbey. Not only is it the perfect period drama (involving the First World War, romance, exquisite costumes and clashes between social classes - what's not to love?), the soundtrack is perfect too, especially for cold October days like this. The sound of sloping lawns and tea. 

And last but never least, Marco Tempest's TED talk on The magic of truth and lies (and iPods).
Pure magic - truly.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

33 ways to stay creative

(found here)


I think I call every season my favourite time of year while living it. (Except for spring, springs are difficult and I have learnt to fear them.) So right now I'm in love with autumn.

The yellow maple leaves like starbursts against the shiny black pavements, red-cheeked apples and approaching Hallowe'en.

(Also, Halloween or Hallowe'en? I was taught the latter spelling and I think I'll stick with it either way. The apostrophe adds a certain flair, does it not?)

In other news, I applied to university today. It all feels very grown up and surreal and I'm only beginning to understand what I've got myself into.

Friday, 14 October 2011

kind of blue

things i know but don't yet understand

One day I'll look failure in the eye and say, I'm not afraid of you anymore

Because there are far worse things one can do than fail, and one day I really will understand this.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


This past week has seen Helsinki ambushed by endless rain and strong winds. Winds that make tin roofs rattle and dry maple leaves sweep the pavements in waves.

Oh, October. All I feel like doing is curling up in an armchair inside and drinking Earl Grey and reading and maybe watching Downton Abbey. (I'm telling you, that show is dangerously addictive.)

Luckily for me, I'm on holiday for the week. So that's exactly what I'll do.

(And once I've slept enough and consumed my own body weight in tea, I might venture outside and slink into the nearest café with some friends. And maybe really relax, for the first time in months.)

Also, am I the only one who's been feeling kind of Christmas-y lately? I've had this song on repeat for the past three days and I have to exert all my willpower to keep from watching Love Actually

Saturday, 8 October 2011

happy saturday

(Reading Auden
[you shall love your crooked neighbour / with your crooked heart]
and listening to this song and writing this infernal personal statement.
Thank goodness I have no school next week. 
If I'm lucky I'll catch the coattails of an Indian summer.)

Friday, 7 October 2011

i have nothing to add to this

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

(found here)

a bit of wanderlust

Oh if only all commercials were romantic, wanderlust-inducing short films.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

things that are nice


This song, and this one too. (And okay, one more for the road.)

Books that are so sublime I can't bear to watch the films made of them, because the book would never be the same for me again. (The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje is a prime example. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close will probably be another.)

Things that we owe to Shakespeare.

Stephen Fry on language. (I've recently discovered Stephen Fry's podcasts, which make me wish my trips to and from school were longer. They're still available for download on iTunes, if you're interested.)

This quote.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

a new kind

This is a post that was difficult to write.

Again and again I drafted it in my head - when brushing my teeth or skipping down the library steps, I would think, Yes, that's what I want to say.

Then sit down and stare at the blinking cursor for a while. And after a few futile attempts at catching the edges of my thoughts, give up. And repeat the following day.

You see, lately I've been bored with myself. And that's not a nice type of boredom.

(I would consider myself quite proficient at dealing with boredom. There are so many things to be done and people to be met and books waiting for their spines to be cracked. But looking in the mirror and feeling distinctly disenchanted, that's another thing entirely.)

I've reverted to the point where I can't write a single thing without bringing on a mental avalanche of criticism. I look at myself or listen to myself and all I see and hear is hopeless inadequacy. (James Dean once said that if he were to be put in the same room with himself for five minutes, only one of them would come out alive. There is that.)

Of course, this is really nothing new. Self-loathing is to me as natural and indispensable as breathing.

But last spring my therapist urged me to start treating myself with kindness. To address myself with patience and, most conspicuously, with mercy.

And so I tried it out.

I would pick my heavy limbs up in the morning and say, Come along then dear. I would look into the mirror without cringing and I would pay attention to the things I did manage to do right. I would shrug my shoulders at my own infuriating habits. I would allow myself to be tired and needy, because we all are tired and needy sometimes, and it's essential to remember that these are not signs of weakness.

I took long walks and made sure to get enough sleep. I wrote. I was happy in a vacant way, afraid of breaking my fragile construction of calm.

And now, of course, we are back on track. There's nothing quite as belittling as endless university applications and crippling hours of exam revision. To be quite honest, I feel like a failure.

I know that right now I am taking a very narrow path very close to the edge. It would be all too easy for me to slip into my old habits of infinite self-hate again.

But quite frankly, and forgive me my narcissism, I deserve better than that. And luckily enough, I now also know better. I've seen the flip side and I know myself to be capable of kindness, of practicing a new kind of mercy.