Ahh, the dawn of a new year. A time of drinking and puking, and laughing at people queuing outside Next for discounted polyester work trousers, and kissing people at midnight (or with bootless cries, beweeping your outcast state), and crap blogs about the previous year. And here’s mine. ‘Hooray!’ I hear you cry. Well I don’t, obviously. No-one is crying, ‘Hooray!’ They’re just crying. But now you know what this is about, you have my permission to leave. Go on – scram.
2010 has been unique for me, in that it represents the aftermath of a year that I sincerely hope will remain unsurpassed in its awfulness. In February 2009, my 34-year-old brother – a sensitive, intelligent and funny dad of three – died very suddenly of pneumonia. Nine months later in November, my boyfriend of eight years, who I assumed was in it for the long haul, ended our relationship. It meant that 2010 was a year of picking up pieces, and of Learning Stuff. Some of it was helpful, some of it less so (I’m not sure how useful it is to have discovered what lettuce looks like after spending six months in the fridge). I still only feel a little bit fixed. But a little bit is better than nothing, and I’m working on it. And here are the lessons I’ve learnt along the way.
Lesson 1: Pessimism is a virtue
By anyone’s standards, 2009 was no walk in the park, for me or my family. But strangely, being a natural-born pessimist helped me to cope. My glass isn’t just half empty – it’s smashed to smithereens on mum’s best rug, and she’s already warned me twice. I’ve had a Cassandra-like feeling my whole life that something terrible was going to happen, and my fear of all forms of peril, no matter how mild (see my earlier blog), stems from this – by being really, really careful, I thought maybe disaster could be averted.
What I didn’t realise then is that my fear of tragedy – and most pessimists’, I imagine – was actually a fear of being unable to cope with the aftermath. It’s the same with death. Few of us, except the crazy, hell-and-brimstone-believing types, worry about actually being dead. It’s the potential of our own fear or pain in the run-up to it, and that of our loved ones afterwards that we worry about.
Behind every imagined car-crash or emergency Heimlich manoeuvre was complete panic that if the worst happened, I’d fall apart. But it turned out that having an over-active, faintly ghoulish, imagination served a purpose. So often had I pictured worst-case scenarios, I almost knew what to expect. It was like a dress rehearsal for pain and, I imagine, meant I coped a lot better than if I’d spent my life walking around with a dopey grin on my face assuming that every time a bell rings a fairy gets its wings.
So now, when I have a low moment, I remind myself that being a natural worrier isn’t all bad. Sometimes, pessimism can be your friend.
Lesson 2: Never underestimate the importance of carpet.
In February 2010, I moved out of the flat I shared with my ex in Crouch End (he got custody of Waitrose, farmers markets and Simon Pegg) and into a new one in Bethnal Green. The flat was shiny and new and full of white walls and glass and laminate flooring. We were within walking distance of Brick Lane. My housemates were a lads’ mag journalist, a stand-up comic and a documentary producer. I mean, how cool does that sound? Really cool, that’s how cool. Unfortunately, I was too busy thinking about my fresh new start, and how awesome I’d look wandering around East London with my fixed-gear bike (I assumed the room came with one), to think about what I actually needed. Which was a cosy home full of fluffy carpets and chintzy wallpaper and housemates who wanted to stay indoors and bake. Instead, they spent much of 2010 whizzing around London being media-y and having sex, while I sat watching Sky, my lonely tears bouncing off our 80s-chic glass coffee table. I’m much happier now. But next time I have my heart torn out, I’m moving somewhere with shag pile.
Lesson 3: Real life is better than Twitter…
Before you run away crying, I’m in no way disparaging Twitter. Twitter is amazing. But it’s even better if you turn it into a 3D past-time. In 2009, I spent my first single New Year’s Eve for eight years at home spying on two Tweeters simultaneously watching a film together from their separate homes. Caitlin Moran was also doing something or other, but I can’t remember what. Since then I’ve met (as in, properly chatted to, not seen across a crowded room at Boring) around 60 people from Twitter, and made some fantastic friends. Okay, so their numbers are saved in my phone as things like ‘Sian Sparkles’ and ‘Suzanne Azzo’, and when you introduce Independent columnist and Scritti Politti musician @rhodri to other people as ‘him off of Twitter’ he looks quite murderous (it’s fun: try it). But that’s by the by.
Lesson 4: …But be careful if you’re dating
I’ve tried Twitter dating twice this year, partly because I’m very lazy, and like the idea of finding boyfriends while drinking in my living room. But also because Twitter is the ultimate dating site. You can get chatting to people without any agenda at all, and if you seem to have lots in common, you can usually work out if they’re single by looking at their timeline (Does he / she tweet a lot on Friday nights, and after midnight? Have they ever live-Tweeted dinner? Do their #MyView pictures happen to include ‘accidental’ shots of a shapely thigh or muscular arm? Single, single and single). Then you start DM-ing, and it gets all flirty and lovely, and if you’re lucky you end up with a date.
The downsides are very similar to the upsides. My first foray into Twitter dating ended very suddenly after three weeks, when it turned out he wasn’t as keen as I thought he was. I then had to watch him being all happy and flirty on Twitter, while I spent a few weeks going ‘WHY DOESN’T HE LIKE ME? AND WHO’S SHE? AND WHY ISN’T HE CRYING? WHYYYYY?’ I deleted my account about 15 times, only to re-instate it after ten minutes to do some more stalking. Not very healthy, but hard to avoid if you don’t have any other hobbies.
My second attempt to date someone off Twitter ended very recently, mainly because I don’t want kids (do any men not want kids? If you know any, chuck them in my direction, please). It’s hard to avoid running to someone’s house with a peephole bra, some pizza vouchers and a Scrabble box set when a) You both still like each other and b) You’re both on Twitter on a Saturday night going, BOO HOO SOB SNIFF WHY AM I SO ALOOOOONE? So if you’re going to date people on Twitter, proceed with caution. It’s easier to find someone – but it’s harder when you lose them, too.
Lesson 5: The heartbreak diet is awesome
21lbs! In six months! Seriously!
Lesson 6: Things can change in a moment
They can change for the worst. But they can also change for the better. When I was asked on a date by my most recent boyfriend, I really wasn’t expecting it. And I certainly wasn’t expecting us to get on as well as we did. But it’s made the last few months of 2010 better than I ever could have imagined back in February (apart from the whole splitting up bit, obviously, but you can’t have everything). Bad things happening doesn’t mean that more bad things won’t happen – see @taniaglyde’s excellent blog for more on that. But it doesn’t mean that good, unexpected things can’t happen either. For all of you who have had hard 2010s, I wish you everything lovely and shiny and wonderful for 2011.
Here’s to us.