Just give

We all know somebody who is raising money for charity these days, be it a sponsored triathlon, skydive or pie eating world record. It can be overwhelming to constantly receive requests for donations. I get it. But there are reasons you should donate.

1) These people clearly feel so strongly about a cause they are willing to go through pain, dedicated training workouts, losing their social life and risking injury to help others. Anyone who has that amount of compassion and belief in the work of an organisation should be respected and supported in their efforts.

2) They don’t ask for millions. With the wonders of Gift Aid, even a few pounds can raise even more than you give for their cause. A donation of £10 will give their charity £12.50, and this increases with every penny you give. So it’s not even going to cost you as much as they will get. If a person has fifty friends who all donate a couple of pounds, that’s easily over a hundred quid right there. And for charity, one hundred quid can feel like a million dollars.

3) People work hard for their cause because of their backstory. Maybe a family member has cancer, or they are outspoken victims of abuse, or they are a teacher who can see what poverty really does to children. Someone prepared to put in the hours of toil it takes to train for a marathon isn’t doing it on a whim: they have been affected in some way by the cause they are raising awareness for, and your support shows they are not alone. It isn’t only about money: it is about solidarity, about showing someone you care.

4) They are doing this because the people they love can’t do it themselves. Think about all those triathletes competing in support of their mother with breast cancer, or their grandfather with Alzheimer’s. As much as people seem to think raising money for charity is, these days, an ego boost of the highest order, it’s not. They feel helpless to do anything about the things affecting someone they love, so they show their support by finding ways to fund the people who CAN help. Macmillan nurses, research scientists, carers, safe houses – they all need funding and the government doesn’t stretch out its limited funds that far.

5) The government is crap. Services which should be supported by public money – such as research into heart disease, lung disease and all the other major killers of the population – are not, yet they are vital to the discovery of cures (*insert conspiracy theory here about keeping the population to manageable levels*). The government can’t even work out a way to support our mighty-yet-failing NHS; how are they going to cope with all of these major issues? They simply can’t. Charities step in where the government fails – it’s a sad fact. (Some charities, such as Women’s Aid or similar, should be independent of government anyway – but that’s for another post altogether). You might feel angry your tax isn’t going to these causes, or you might feel relieved. Either way, one day you WILL be affected by one of these major issues either directly or indirectly, and when that time comes you’re going to wish there had been more investment in research for a cure.

There are several charities close to my heart. But for now, where I’m asking directly for your support, I post just one link. A lady I’ve never met is taking part in a triathlon in May and her goal is admirable, achievable and downright inspiring. There, I said it, that word that everyone takes with a pinch of salt whenever put into the same sentence as ‘charity’. But I could never run a triathlon. I’d be lucky if I could run for the bus. I salute her ambition. A friend of a friend, she is participating in this run, swim and cycle challenge to raise money for Breast Cancer Care. If you can, donate whatever change you have spare – just like Tesco, Every Little Helps. http://bit.ly/141weLZ

Other charities worth a look to support include:

http://www.arthritiscare.org.uk/Home

http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Home.aspx

http://www.nationalbrainappeal.org/

http://www.womensaid.org.uk/

http://www.yorkagainstcancer.org.uk/

And there are literally hundreds of others you could help. You might not want to run a marathon, but there are people out there who do – I urge you to find some compassion and give whatever you can, whenever you can. There is always somebody more in need than you are, and one day you might need someone to help you back.

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Why I don’t write

Most people stop writing when they run out of things to say. I am the opposite. I stop writing when my own thoughts overwhelm me, and no manner of to-do lists or diagrams or post-it notes or flashcards or mindmaps will sort out the noise going on.

I don’t stop writing because I can’t write. I stop writing because there is so much to say, I wonder when people will get bored of listening. I want to write about moving house, about health, about dating, about work, about friends, about general life philosophies. But when I sit to write, it all comes out in a jumbled mess. I don’t suffer from writer’s block: I suffer from lexical diarrhoea.

Often it’s been commented that people think I live ‘in my head’ more than the real world. And then they seem surprised when I don’t disagree with them, instead nodding emphatically in the hope that might dislodge one of the many thoughts stuck somewhere in the parietal lobe.

It’s no bad thing, not living in the real world too much. I’m not totally head-bound, I mean, I can make a cup of tea and hold down a job, so am not doing too badly. But just as some people read escapist literature, or watch a film, I just think. I like to wonder ‘what if?’ on ridiculous scales. I like to tell myself that this is how all great literature began. This is, probably, an example of ‘head-living’ that is not so beneficial. I like to stay in my head. Which means the ideas don’t get down on paper. Tolkien may have taken decades, but he damn well wrote all the time.

My life – as most people’s – is full of excuses. But I guess this post is yet one more – simply to reassure you that I’m still here. There are works in progress. But if I let these grand ideas fall out unedited, it might scare the world away. Or probably get me locked in the loony bin, at least.

I guess my entire mind is a work in progress. But for now, there are things to be getting on with. I have a chalkboard to buy, for these post-its, mindmaps, notebooks and alphabetti spaghetti just aren’t cutting it…

‘Buzz’ off

I found myself apologising recently (it happens often). But then I had to go back and think on why I was apologising. Had I done something wrong? Nope. Had I offended someone with my oft-ill thought out views? Nu’uh.

So why was I saying sorry?

I was defending the fact I have really short hair.

Yup.

I was trying to explain to a lady that I am a femme lesbian – I like long hair, paint my nails and wear makeup. I own dresses and am learning how to dress for curves. (Turns out miniskirts are not the way to go when your thighs are the size of most women’s waists…why did nobody tell me this?). But she was insistent on the hair issue – if I was femme, why do I have a buzz cut?

I tried to explain that it all fell out because of medication. But then it became some kind of confessional – I don’t want potential dates to necessarily know I’ve been ill. They don’t need to know that straight off the bat, and when they do there is often the reaction of  ‘Oh. Well… so anyway yeah when I was on this date last week…’ and they slip through my fingers.

I’m not ashamed of being ill. But I don’t see why it should define me. If I want to go out and have a bit of fun, why should I be paranoid about revealing the heavy doses of chemo I’ve been facing? People don’t know how to deal with it, and it becomes awkward. Either they ask lots and lots of questions, turning a potential date into a research session, or they can’t deal with it, make their excuses and leave.

Hello? There’s more to me than chemo, you know.

Social media and writing, part 2

Dear authors,

I am not just interested in your latest book. Please interact with me and others on Twitter without always telling me that you have a latest release. Sometimes, yes, that’s fine. But don’t litter my feed with constant self-promotion.

Cheers,

Evelyn

Having been launched into the world of Twitter, and since my last post about creating an online platform for writers, this has been my number one pet peeve. In fact, it’s more a pet peeve because these people always seem to have tons of followers, while I tirelessly plug away at creating my ‘brand’ – ie personality representation online – and have not so many followers. (If you’re feeling so inclined… @EvelynRoseFict).

This seems backwards to me. I thought the whole point of having an online presence was to create interest not just in your work, but to engage with others in the industry, other people and generally interact. I don’t know anyone who enjoys blatant marketing like that. Do you?

The other reason this has annoyed me is because I’m verging on Twitter addiction. (See Obsessions). But this isn’t quite so bad as an obsession because it’s sociable. That’s what I keep telling myself and that’s the story I’m sticking to thankyoupleaseverymuch.

I am genuinely interested in other writers and what they have to say – even from a purely selfish point of view where I can see if my work really does have a market niche or is already being done by others. The research aspect of online communities is vital; but in doing my research I’d like to speak to more people who are interested in more than just self-promotion. Of course, I speak with exceptions here – there are some great, interactive and engaged writers and forums out there – but come on. How am I going to buy your book when all I know about it is how amazing you think it is?

And now, I realise I have turned full circle (technically 180 degrees but let’s skim over that, numbers aren’t my thing – I’m a writer, daahling). I’ve gone from not understanding the point of social media to realising why it is so important in this technology age: screen out the nutters and bad conversationalists (if you can’t hold an online conversation how have you written a good book?) and welcome in the engaged, intelligent, talented people who are there. Really, they are, I promise. You just have to dredge through the rubbish to find them…

Getting there

Time for a serious post (yes, I do have it in me). No stories of Tomb Raider fascinations, no props to other bloggers talking about equal marriage.

I’ve been having a bit of a think lately. It hurt, but I pushed through. Sometimes it happens when you face your own mortality, and while through everything I have tried (and I hope mostly succeeded) to remain upbeat, the thoughts can drown out the positive vibes. As I sit here, in bed in a freezing room in London on a bitter February night, struggling to not throw up because the chemo is getting the better of me, I wonder about it all.

More accurately, I wonder about all those people who don’t have someone with them at times like this. I don’t, but that’s because I choose to. I don’t want my loved ones to see me frail, unable to keep food down, too tired to sleep and too bone achingly exhausted to turn over. I can’t even type: this is being written courtesy of the amazing Dragon Naturally Speaking, perfect so my hands don’t hurt any more than they need to. During the daytimes, when I do venture out the house, I am all smiles. There is no point in feeling sorry for myself, because as far as I’m concerned, I will get better, and there’s no point troubling anyone else with these ideas. Of course it’s difficult. Of course the chemo turns my insides into a mangey excuse for a stomach – they should market it as the new chemical peel, sure it’d get rid of wrinkles pretty quickly (and everything else besides. Who needs a nose/eyes/lips/cheeks – skeletal chic will be on the menu, you’ll see…)

I’m lucky enough to have started with a chunky enough frame to not look like a skeleton. But I am buying new clothes with the money I don’t have just to have trousers that stay up without the sumo-hitch every five minutes. I’ve even resorted to wearing braces instead of a belt. People who see me every now and then comment on how well I look – what they mean is I’m finally looking about the right weight for my height. These are the people who think my buzz cut is a style choice. Turns out, half the people in my old office thought the bald look was a style statement – apparently I can pull it off, which is no mean feat.

There are the well intentioned comments, the pitying head-tilts, the eyes darting anywhere but your face when they realise you really aren’t too well. People don’t know how to deal with this, but here’s the thing: neither do I.

I don’t know what to tell people when they ask me how I am. The truth often gets a short reply of ‘Oh….’ because nobody knows what to say. A lie feels morally wrong. The best response is ‘Getting there’. Some days, this is true. Some days, I want to grab them by the collar and shout in their face: does this look OK? Do I look healthy to you? Should my eyes be red, my teeth be yellow? Should my hair be patchy? Do I look like I can stay awake through this social engagement? Can I really get drunk with the rest of you instead of being despairingly tee total? Do you really think I might be able to get over this?

Lucky for them, I don’t do this.

Lucky for me, I don’t do this.

So for anyone who wants to know how I am – and how I guess most people going through chemotherapy might feel from time to time – here you are:

I feel terrible. I want my social life back. I don’t want the majority of my exchanges with human beings to be with the (amazing) Macmillan nurses. I want my most intimate moments to be with someone I at least fancy, if not love, and not with the sixth doctor of the month. I want to be able to eat the food I love without fearing I’ll taste it again when it comes back up. I wish I could have a machine which drew all of my pain out of me and stored it in a little box – even if I had to endure some of that stored pain bit by bit over a long time, that would be preferable to this constant, nagging bone ache that makes you feel hollow and solid all at the same time. I want to be able to sleep the night through. I want to be able to sleep without waking up in soaking sheets from night sweats. I want peace.

I want peace.

The more I think about it, the less I think peace will come. If I get better, sorry – when, I’ll be itching to get out and do the things I always wanted. Go travelling. Publish books. Learn archery. Learn Mandarin (OK this can be done now but have you tried concentrating with a 3-day migraine?). Take a yacht around the Caribbean islands. Move to a country cottage. Get a dog.

If I don’t, the only way peace will come will be when I die. And I don’t want that to be the next time I experience peace. I don’t want all this treatment to be for a painless death. I want all this treatment to mean something. I want to know that I feel like shit because there is something waiting for me afterwards, in this life. In the life I know exists. In the life I can see happening around me. I can hear it even now, the main road under my bedroom window. The window shakes every time a bus goes past. I can hear a toddler chattering away to her mum. I can hear a dog’s claws clacking on the pavement. This is life. I can see this happening and I want even these simple things to be mine. Without fear of pain, without my tendency to faint being an issue.

So many things that I want. And I will have them. Just, not yet.

Writing resolutions…

It’s February. I’m mainlining Skittles and strawberry laces, chugged down with double-bagged tea to really make the caffeine shakes fun. I’m glad I don’t smoke and am not allowed to drink because of my treatment, because I’m fairly sure those resolutions would have been broken already too.

Everyone makes January resolutions with hugely overestimated goals, then wonder (just as I am when I am busy picking all the purple Skittles out to ‘save for last’) what happened to them.

A year is a long time. A resolution looks too far ahead. So, Dear Reader, I propose weekly resolutions. Mine, specifically, will revolve around writing.

As of Monday, I shall:

1) Write a blog at least every other day, and not just a link, a full blown blog.

2) Write at least 500 words on the next story in the Unlabelled Collection.

3) Send those competition entries I keep dallying over as I over-edit and desperately (pointlessly) anticipate the judges’ mood for the day in the future when they read it.

4) Identify two new competitions and plan them.

5) Work on my Twitter skills without getting the RefreshpagenowincaseImisssomethingtotallyimportant crazy face. It’s not pretty.

Clearly you won’t be able to tell whether I manage any of those except the first one. But the first one is fairly important, so I’m going to use that as my benchmark. If I do that one, the others shall follow. What are your writing resolutions?

And to help make sure I stick, I think I’ll have the orange Skittles first. The vitamin C will keep me healthy and my brain alert…

The working lesbian

I’ve just read a great short piece at Diva and was reminded of my outing experiences at work…

I was very wary. Especially soon after I’d split from my fiancé – the dreaded ‘What happened?’ question was met with the usual ‘We just wanted different things’, which of course felt like the biggest lie in the world. If anything it was our mutual interests in breasts and all things related that broke the relationship apart. So when at work, in my previous job, I kept quiet. Everyone had known me as straight and it was very odd trying to come out. It wasn’t until two weeks before I left the job that I felt confident enough to say in response to the ‘Up to anything interesting tonight?’ question with a casual ‘Oh, I have a date with Marty”. This of course was followed by the excited ‘Ooooh who’s Marty? Where did you meet him?’.

The look on their faces when I revealed I’d met HER ages ago through mutual friends. We’d always had our flirt on but it wasn’t until I was single and she was single that we both realised the other was a then-still-closeted lesbian.

 

Cue new job. New scenario. By this point, I was more comfortable with who I was. But the reactions of previous colleagues (who went on to ignore me/not pass work to me/have a generally uncomfortable air when I was around for the last fortnight) had made me incredibly cautious about who I came out to.

The decision: don’t label yourself. Don’t actively proclaim your sapphic tendencies, but don’t hide it if asked.

This worked surprisingly well, at first. Nobody gave a damn and all assumed I was straight. Until I met Him. You know who I mean: the one colleague you get on with best. You take lunches together, buy reciprocal drinks on Friday nights, build in-jokes quickly.  Doesn’t help that he (let’s call him Office Boy, or OB) is possibly the most attractive man in the office. I say this with clear unbias. Charming, intelligent, funny and a cheekbone/jawline combination you could shave cheese on. Of course, the gossip started.

Then tensions rose. Turns out if you have a female boss who liked her status as Top Bitch and enjoyed the over-flirts with OB, you can step on toes unwittingly. Gradually, team members found out through mine and OB’s not-so-subtle in-jokes (which was absolutely fine). Top Bitch had a marvellous knack of never listening to anything, whether work related or not, so clearly didn’t pick up on this.

It got to a point when the two of us (Me and OB) were getting into trouble for mistakes that didn’t even happen. Another colleague admitted that Top Bitch had said more than once she thought that OB and I were having a fling (the idea disgusts me; in my mind it would be close to incest). Eventually, I went to HR – I would have gone to Top Bitch but I rather liked my job – and mentioned that this tension was ridiculous because I was a lesbian and clearly therefore wasn’t having a thing with OB. HR immediately spoke to Top Bitch and tensions eased. But it often got awkward in downtime-chat (when Top Bitch and I had established some kind of unspoken mutual agreement to get along) when the team were discussing their partners/dating habits/relationship woes. Each would have their say, with a response from Top Bitch, but it came to my two cents and the conversation got shut down.

It was interesting to me that the rest of the team, all much closer in age to me, were completely accepting. They even liked the novelty of a girl admiring the new girl’s choice of dress more for skirt length than fashion critique, but that I was also a softie when it came to emotional discussions and am a girly girl at heart. But Top Bitch just couldn’t get her head around it, dodging any questions relating to personal life in case it was against some lesbian-specific policy and I was ready to sue her for discrimination.

I refer to a previous post, that it shouldn’t matter to anyone who you are getting your jollies with. But at the same time, it matters to everyone else and life gets a lot simpler without having to juggle the white lies.

Generally, now, I go on the assumption people know. Having a shaved head (through chemo, not choice) helped break down those barriers – but that opens a whole other Pandora’s Box of irritations surrounding stereotypes. I think this blog is long enough – let’s save that one for later…