It’s been a while…

I can’t tell you the last time I found myself awake in the wee hours of the morning, tiptoeing around in the darkness to find my laptop for a good old ramble. Tonight something just seemed to tell me it was the right time to have a bit of a reflection and so here I am. It’s been a while, but it feels just like the old days.

I find myself sitting here approximately three years after I made the rather spontaneous decision to come to Greece. Three years of experiences and stories that I could never have imagined would feature in my lifetime. With the next chapter, perhaps the greatest plot twist that I am sure no one ever imagined, the Big Fat Greek Wedding just a few weeks away.

I always think it’s important to take a step back and reflect when there are big events happening in your life. For me, writing has always been a mechanism to sort through my thoughts to find the message underneath all the noise in my brain. My blogs in Greece helped me understand some of the most challenging moments I faced, they didn’t always give me the answer or the solution but they helped clear things up in terms of what direction I was going.

Three years ago my life was so far from where it is now, and I could never ever have predicted what was coming next. I was 25 and very caught up in the concept of my quarter life crisis. I didn’t write about important world events or commentary on the darker side of our modern history, no, I had a blog about comedic failed attempts at Tinder dating.

My life before Greece had settled itself into a routine, something I have never been very good at. I had a good job in Edinburgh, my first grown-up job out of uni, I volunteered when I could in various community groups, something I’d done since I was a teen although it became a little harder when I decided to move back in with my Mum to save money. When I moved out of the city, my work day included a six hour commute, six hours. Six hours of my day spent on public transport, desperately trying not to fall asleep on strangers shoulders. When I think about that now, six hours of wasted life every day, I genuinely find the idea horrifying.

I woke up, I traveled to work, I worked, I traveled home, I slept. I never kept up with friends very much, I see many of them more now than I did back then when I lived just around the corner rather than thousands of miles away. On Fridays, I had lunch with the Romanian Big Issue seller who worked outside my office, ham and mustard sandwiches and orange juice with no bits.

The routine went as it did, week in, week out and I knew I wanted something different but I just didn’t know what. Then a series of events, I guess I see now looking back, triggered the need to do something more. I wouldn’t say I was miserable at that time, but I certainly couldn’t say I was happy. Then one of my best friends passed away, and another dear friend, who is the same age as me, was diagnosed with cancer. I guess subconsciously it shook me up a bit to change my situation.

I applied for a work programme in Armenia and quit my job, but my Armenian plans fell through at the last minute and I had no idea what to do next. Looking back now I see it was a blessing, a blank page with some perspective on how life needed to be lived, but at the time it felt like the Quarter-life crisis was reaching a peak.

I had been following the events unfolding in Greece for some months by this point, and then the world took notice after the picture none of us will ever forget of Alan Kurdi filled our screens and covered our newspapers. I said to my mum that I was thinking about going to Greece for a week to join one of the volunteer groups, I’d found a cheap flight and had reached out to some groups through Facebook who needed volunteers. I fully expected her, like on the many times I’ve come up with some far-flung idea, to tell me I was crazy (like when I told her I was going to move to Armenia) but it was the opposite, she said to go for it. I doubted myself and whether I could actually be of any use in Greece but every time I told someone I was thinking of going they couldn’t have been more supportive.

So I booked that flight, to spend a week on the island of Kos, and here I am three years later about to become Mrs Greek.

I guess the reason I had that story in my head tonight is that people keep telling me how happy I look. I’ve never really been one for accepting compliments well but this one is something that really means a lot and I think I wanted to take a minute to see where I had come from, to this moment, to see why there has been such a change. I never noticed three years ago how unhappy I was, I was just living a life that I thought I should be living. But, in all honesty, a lot of it really didn’t have much meaning.

These last years have taught me so much about life, about the world, and about happiness.

The last few months, well most of this year really, I’ve been feeling pretty selfish. After being involved in the humanitarian field in Greece for the two and a half years previous I needed some time out to process, and with big life events also going on I have felt a little me, me, me of late. I do feel guilty for taking some time out, but I also think it was really necessary to give me some perspective. The first few years here were tough, really tough at times and the world became something I didn’t recognise anymore.

When I got on that plane to Greece I had no idea what I was letting myself in for, and I was terrified as I didn’t know how I could be useful, I just knew I had to try. Over these years I’ve found myself in different roles, in different situations where I have definitely not been the most qualified or the most useful person to be there in that moment. I have also held responsibility so far above my station it felt entirely overwhelming. But in all these situations, at the end of the day, I just had to get on with it and do my best.

I hope that I did the best for those who needed support, although I know at times I wasn’t the right person, at the right time, and that I made mistakes. At all times though, I had the best intentions at heart and I did the best that I could do as me, and that was all I could do.

I say these years were difficult for me but I say this with a complete understanding of the privilege I have to say this. I have not faced anything like the kind of unimaginable devastation that those I have met on this journey in Greece have and I have nothing but admiration for those who have shown me what true humanity is and the incredible strength and resilience of the human spirit. I am honoured to have shared these experiences with so many truly inspiring people who have shown me never to take anything for granted. You never know what will happen tomorrow.

I do find it interesting now after these last years, living the most difficult moments I’ve personally ever had to face, that I find myself now the happiest I’ve ever been.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this and I think it comes from the biggest lesson I learned during my time here in Greece, the importance of love in our lives.

I don’t mean specifically finding love, although this has been an extremely welcome surprise.

I mean love in the sense of human connection, the importance of family, and I don’t necessarily mean family by blood but family by your own definition, the importance of friends, the importance of community.

You can lose your home, your job, your money, your belongings, the clothes from your back. These things are not what makes us human. It’s the connection to others. It’s the strength that comes from loving and being loved that keeps us alive.

I always thought my job title, how much money I had, whether I had a partner, what I looked like, what people thought about me were the most important things. They are not.

Loving the people in your life is important, and being loved is important.

And you know what’s just as important, learning to love yourself because you know what Ru Paul says “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”

I have a sneaky suspicion this may be the last blog I write here, as I have been trying to put together a little bit of a more substantial story offline that I would love to turn it into that book I always promised everyone I’d write since I was kid, but who knows, I’ll leave this blog here for now, maybe I’ll be back, never say never.

Hey, I said I’d never get married and now we know how that turned out!

Whatever happens next, we all know the world is not the most comforting place to live at the moment, everything seems like a never-ending Black Mirror episode, and things just seem to get worse day by day. Be kind. Look after yourself and look after one another. Maybe we don’t have the power to change the world overnight but we can all make a difference if we keep believing that as human beings, we can be better than this.

Love will win.

We can all make tiny changes to earth.

 

If you’ve just stumbled upon this blog and want to check out my stories from the beginning of this journey you can find all my original ramblings here –

– https://wordpress.com/view/fromscotlandwithloveblog.wordpress.com

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I’m sorry, but we need to talk about suicide…

 

 

Earlier this week I found out someone who I had grown up with but had lost touch many years ago had taken his own life. Yesterday was the 10 year anniversary of an amazing human, someone who taught me more than they will ever know, taking their life. In the summer of 2015 I lost one of my dearest and best friends, in the same way, and she will never know that my life will never be the same without her.

This is a subject I have always planned to write about, because as many people who have followed my writing over the years will know, putting some words down and emptying the thoughts in my brain is a kind of personal therapy for me. But on this subject, I have always refrained as I know how deeply and how directly it affects so many of my loved ones.

However, I have decided to write something today, and I just want to say I do not wish to upset anyone in any way. I do not mean any disrespect to people referenced in this post, their friends or their families. I write from a place of love to try and tackle the stigma and taboo of this topic and to try to find a way to open a dialogue.

 

It was back in 2007, 10 years ago, that I first experienced loss from suicide. It was the middle of the night when I received a call that I will never forget. I don’t wish to go in to any detail as, as much as that night was hard for me it was so much harder for people who remain very close to me. The events of that night and the following day, although 10 years ago now, still feel like they are crystal clear, in slow motion, each frame stored in my mind in a slideshow to be replayed when I least expect it. Like when I hear a certain kind of laugh, or a song.

My mum always refers to the “tin of beans” analogy. Whenever we lose anyone, and we start to get our lives back to something resembling “normal,” she always warns me about the “tin of beans.” This isn’t always literal but it’s the fact that at some point in your life when you feel you have passed the generally accepted phases of grieving, that you will find yourself doing the most normal, mundane task of shopping in the supermarket, for example, and you will notice the tin of beans that was something the person you lost loved or reminds you of them. It could be a tin of beans, it could be a Nirvana song, it could be strawberry cider and macaroni cheese… it could be anything, but in that moment, all that grief will hit you again when you least expect it, as raw as it ever has been.

10 years later, I still often have these “tin of beans” moments.

My dear friend who I lost in 2007 will never know how much that loss affected me for many reasons and how his death influenced many of the decisions that have shaped my life. A few weeks previous to his death I remember clearly a conversation with a friend where I described his behaviour as “attention seeking.” I could say I was young, I could say I didn’t understand, I could say many things in defence of this but I won’t defend these words as it was ignorance. After his death I had this incredible anger, firstly directed at him for the pain that I blamed him for putting his loved ones through and then at myself for not being able to stop what happened and for writing it off as what I thought as “attention seeking.” For many years I replayed that conversation over and over again in my head and I held a huge amount of guilt around it.

At 18, after experiencing this, I changed many things about my perspective on mental health issues and I did many things to try to work on my ignorance.

I did courses, I read articles and papers and blogs, I attended training and volunteered in mental health programmes. I used my social media as a platform to share helplines and information for those seeking help as much as I possibly could.

When I saw anything I thought was concerning from a friend or family member I would go way and beyond to be there in any way for them, even people I barely knew. I thought I understood suicide.

But then in 2015, I was busy working, volunteering, doing a million things at once, and had been trying to arrange a dinner with one of my best friends but as both us generally were admittedly good at being a bit flakey we had changed the date so many times it had been a long time since we had actually seen each other in real life outside of texts and social media. Finally, we found a date and planned to have a dinner on a Saturday night.

When Saturday came I text her in the morning to see if it was still happening and when she didn’t answer I didn’t think too much of it as, as I said, we were a bit flakey and I just assumed she got busy. In the evening, I sent her a message with some kisses so if she was busy she would know I was thinking of her and that it was ok. In the morning I discovered she had passed away and in the coming days I found out what had happened.

When someone you love dies, the pain is visceral. It is physically debilitating. I remember that morning going straight to one of our mutual friends houses and I physically couldn’t walk up her stairs.

In time that physical aspect subsides but there is an emptiness. That emptiness, I believe is the hardest part of loss. It is exactly that, a loss, you no longer have that person in your life and you feel that hole, that empty space where they were. It is so sudden and so final.

My personal reaction to this loss followed what I imagine many people experiencing loss in this way is – What if? What if? What if?

But I did react differently than I did those years ago. That initial anger was not there, that “how dare you do this to your loved ones” kind of attitude I had held before. Over the years I had realized this was not what suicide was, it was not designed to hurt the people around, it was perceived in that darkness to stop the hurt. The only anger I held was at myself for not being a better friend, that is something I am sure will never leave me.

So, the point of this post was not to relive these moments but to draw attention to the fact that suicide is something we cannot ignore.  We grieve for the lives lost without tackling the issue and we find ourselves in a time where the most common cause of death in Scotland of 20-30 year olds is suicide. The people I have referenced in this post will never see the age of 30, along with so, so many others as they did not see any other way to continue.

A few years back I was sitting at a friends having a drink after the pub, there was around 10 of us sitting at the kitchen table having one of those 3am putting the world to rights kind of conversations when the topic of suicide came up. Each, one by one, told a story of the person who they loved who they had lost this way – friends, cousins, brothers. Each person directly had been affected by this very specific kind of grief.

This is so common, so, so painfully common and yet we do not talk about it. Yes, the conversation on mental health has opened up over recent years and it is an amazing start but suicide itself is still seen as subject we should try not to mention too much.

But we must, we must keep our young people alive, we must keep people believing their worth and that they are valued and loved and needed in this world.

Honestly, I don’t know how we tackle this but I know this time of year is particularly difficult for many people and for so many this time of year is so much that they decide to take their own life.

We must offer an alternative. We must show that there is a way through the darkness. Life is not always easy, it can be difficult at times, but it is worth living.

We must break the stigma around seeking support for our mental health, at the end of the day suicide is the result of an illness, yet all too often we forget this and it becomes a subject of blame either towards the person who has died, the people around them, or ourselves rather than looking at it as we would any other illness and trying to find better treatments to save more lives.

The people I have lost will stay forever in my heart and in my memories, not for the final action they took, not for their death, but for the beautiful moments of life we shared and for all that they taught me.

No matter how alone you may feel, there will be someone out there thinking of you, even when you cannot feel it, you are loved. 

Please anyone out there who may feel like they don’t see any other option, please reach out. If you can to your friends or family, or if you want to speak to someone outside of your situation I copy below some contacts for support. It is not a weakness to ask for help, trust me the people you love can get over a difficult time when you need some support but they will never get over you no longer being here with them.

Love and strength to all at this difficult time of year.

 

 

Samaritans UK and Ireland –

 

https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/contact-us

 

Greece – http://suicide-help.gr/

USA – https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

 

A Christmas Dinner For Care Leavers

Way back at the start of my Greek journey in 2015, a person came into my life which, even in that first moment of introduction, I knew would be a person I would never forget and a person who had a story to tell and a story to keep listening to.

 

Our first meeting was similar to many ways new people have come into my life since I first arrived in Kos. We met in the dark night, upon the port of Kos, trying to make the first moments in Europe less horrific than they already were for those arriving on the shores in rubber dinghys.

After this first nightshift we went for a breakfast, surrounded by tourists who were completely unaware of the nightly horror unfolding. We sat in this incredible juxtaposition and we talked, we shared and I knew that I was sitting opposite a truly inspiring human being who I would share many more moments such as this with.

 

It has now been over two years and this wonderful woman is now a dear friend of mine. Now, I could go on to write a detailed blog about the many ways I am inspired by the many different world changing initiatives she is involved in and generally about how amazing a human she is but I actually felt the need to write something today about a very specific project. I would love to write a blog simply about amazing she is also, but today I will focus, one day though!

Around this time of year, we all start to feel a little more charitable and giving, and personally I always look to find something I feel is important to support. Sometimes I share publicly what I am supporting, sometimes I just show up and do something I think is useful to help and don’t say much about it, but this year I want to share this to raise some awareness and hopefully some pennies towards something I see makes a real difference in real people’s lives.

In a previous life, a long time ago, I found myself doing a stint of studying Creative Writing in Manchester when my poetry mentor introduced me to the work of a poet named Lemn Sissay. As soon as I began reading his work, I fell in love with his words. Previously I had been someone who never particularly took much interest in poetry but my view of poetry and its amazing power completely changed in that moment.

So fast forward quite a few years, and one day whilst scrolling through my social media feed I notice the name of the poet who opened my mind to the world of poetry tagged in a post with the name of the inspirational soul who shared that breakfast with me in Kos and encouraged me to open my heart again to the world through words.

This post was about a Christmas Dinner event for care leavers. As I began to look into it I started to see how this event had been making a real difference to the lives of care leavers, at a difficult time of the year, for a while and that every year the event was expanding and reaching more people, creating more happy memories.

I previously volunteered in some organisations supporting care leavers and instantly I knew how an event such as this can make an amazing difference to someones wellbeing and how it is something really special to be involved in.

I am not a care leaver, I am in no position to speak for care leavers or to try and speak on behalf of something I have not experienced. A care leavers story is theirs, it is individual and it is not for me to claim or for me to try and put myself in their shoes to create my own narrative.

But the incredible human I met on the nightshift in Kos, who shared that breakfast, who supported me to find my own voice again and who helps to organise these incredible Christmas Dinner events with Lemn Sissay – she has her own care leavers story. A story which she has recently shared on BBC Radio and in her beautiful book Glue, which is why I know something she endorses this way is something to pay attention to.

 

Something which inspired me to write this today is the fact that yesterday was Black Friday. I watched people queue outside of stores to buy disposable products I am sure they did not really need just because there was a discount. I guess I just felt the need to balance this consumerist frenzy with a really truly good cause.

Maybe yesterday you bought a shirt and saved 20%, maybe you could pop that saving towards a Christmas dinner? Maybe you bought a new hoover and saved 50 quid, you could send some of those savings the way of a cause which will make a real difference. Maybe Black Friday makes you feel how it makes me feel and you didn’t buy anything but you were looking for a worthwhile cause to send some of your well earned pennies… well here it is!

The Christmas Dinner events funded by the Lemn Sissay Foundation take place on Christmas Day, not sometime around Christmas but on the big day itself which is what makes this so special. By donating you are sharing Christmas cheer on a day that for many can be a difficult and in many instances an incredibly lonely time.

 

Perhaps, this was a bit of a long post for something I could have just shared a link to on Facebook but it is something I care about deeply about and people I love care about. This is not just something you send a fiver to and never know if it actually did anything, this is real and you can see that your pennies become the kind of experience and memories that money can’t buy.

I urge you to please follow the links and find out more about this wonderful cause and support if you can, in any way.

To find out more, here is the link to their Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/The-Christmas-Dinner-2017-Lemn-Sissay-Foundation-1023975684412350/?hc_ref=ARSOYlL43Uq0gMhtBPPZ7T3I0uoCPI5VSKC5SoqPw1PTfKRObc6zx0zLbNJ7UC5Rm5w&fref=nf

 

Here is a direct link to the Crowd Funder – http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-christmas-dinner-2017

 

And here is a link to the truly beautiful book, Glue, by the woman who continues to inspire me, Louise Wallwein – http://www.poetrybusiness.co.uk/shop/954/glue 

Love x

#MeToo

When I came home from work this evening, I started the usual newsfeed scroll to catch up on any news of the day. I moved house today and started a new job so I hadn’t checked in on any social media, so when I saw my newsfeed was filled with the majority of my female friends posting two words – “me too,” I was wondering what on earth I’d missed.

Then I saw a post explaining the relevance of these two words.

If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.

When I understood, I physically felt my heart sink.

 

There has been so much discussion in recent days about sexual harassment after the Harvey Weinstein atrocities came to light and I have felt myself wanting to write something but I just couldn’t find the words.

The world is acting like these acts are not something that too many women are all too familiar with. Sadly, this man, will remind many of us of the man, or men of our past.

These news stories will remind us of that man who whispered inappropriate words in our ear. The man who catcalled us in the street. The man who tried to put his hand up our skirt in a bar. The man who threatened our careers, our relationships, if we did not do him a “favour.” The man who would not take no for an answer. The man who left us bruised and ashamed, but we were told it was ok because “he just gets like that when he is drunk.’

I do not mean to generalize a gender, I have some incredible, wonderful men in my life. But, there are also men out there who we are all starting to find the strength to expose.

I got so angry earlier this week when reading comments about how the girls who Harvey Weinstein assaulted in the first years were to blame for the later assaults.

I don’t know if you’ve ever known anyone who has tried to prove a sexual assault or rape, but there a million reasons why women do not come forward. Aside from the trauma, the shame, the myriad of “what if” thoughts spinning around their mind, there is so much at risk for a woman. Whether it be a career, friendships, relationships, family judgement, religious or cultural consequences – whatever the reason a woman feels like she cannot come forward, the woman can never be to blame for the future actions of a man.

If women felt they could come forward, that they would be believed, rather than being asked what they were wearing, how much they’d had to drink or how many men they’d had sex with – perhaps, yes, women coming forward could stop these actions from escalating. But they are not to blame when they do not come forward. The perpetrator is to blame. The system that stops women coming forward is it blame.

 

I am so proud of every one of my friends who I saw post those two words today. It may not seem like a big deal but to admit something like that to world, when sometimes it is hard enough to admit to even to yourself, it really is a big deal.

 

I hope that all women out there who have been hurt, find some comfort in this movement that shows that you are not alone. Of course, this solidarity cannot take away the pain of whatever has been experienced but I hope that it provides an opportunity for the world to understand that Harvey Weinstein is indeed just the tip of the iceberg, and not just in the entertainment industry.

We need to talk about this.

And for the record, yes, me too.

T’estimo Catalunya… A love letter from a Scot in Greece

It was September 11th 2012, we stood together in the centre of Placa Catalunya, strangers who had only met 24 hours before.

Your children took my hands, welcoming me as part of the family on our big city day out.

Each took turn of tying their flag around their shoulders,  a red and yellow cape with its independent star.

“I, Inde, Independencia!” the crowd cheered.

I had never been to Barcelona before and I found myself sharing the city streets with over 2 million others that day. All wearing their capes. All flying their flags high.

Drums were pounded, songs were sung. People laughed and danced and chanted. We marched, a sightseeing tour like I could never imagine.

When the little feet couldn’t march anymore we huddled in a doorway to watch the rest of the procession. The streets were packed with people – protesting? The word protest, as I understood it, didn’t fit here.

Babies, kids, mamas, papas, grannies, grandpas.

You told me the story of Catalonia that day. I never forgot it.

We went home to our quiet little seaside town, the sleepy superheroes still caped in their flags napping all the way.

As time went on I began to notice the every day little injustices.

I remember when we protested outside the town hall when they tried to stop the children learning Catalan in school. The older generation could still remember when they were not allowed to speak their native tongue.

I learned to always say, “moltes gracies,” instead of “muchas gracias.” As a foreigner, speaking Catalan made more people smile.

I went to school, I learned Catalan. Yes, I was the only one in those classes who could not speak Spanish. I am likely still the only Scottish girl who speaks Catalan but not Spanish, guess it says a lot about my politics.

I left my happy Catalan home with a different view of Spain.

I may have left Catalonia, but I never left my Catalan family.

We joked about who would have their own passport first, a Scottish or a Catalan. I always told you the Catalans deserved it first.

We grieved together after the Scottish referendum. I knew how much it would have meant to Catalonia if it had gone the other way.

Spain told you a referendum was illegal, but you did it anyway on the 9th November 2014. It may not have been legally binding but we were there that day at 6am to make sure the police didn’t stop the vote from taking place.

The votes may not have counted but I saw what it meant when people dropped their papers in the box. I saw the elderly lady crying. I saw the couples with their children imagining a future free from the restraints of Spanish rule.

After my Catalan life, I spent my time with those fleeing war. Those victimized by their religion, their nationality, their ethnicity.

My Catalan babies made a stall and sold their old toys to send me money to make more sandwiches for refugees.

I saw persecution on a greater scale, from a different perspective.

I see the actions of Spain and I begin to draw comparisons in a situation I never believed held any comparisons.

I remember the sign above the river in Girona, “Catalans want to vote.”

This week the National Theatre of Catalunya released a statement that their board members had been imprisoned because they supported a referendum.

Comparisons are consistently drawn between the Scottish referendum and the Catalan independence movement. What happened in Scotland cannot be compared.

Catalans want to vote – but legally they cannot.

 

A friend once told me, “The people of Catalonia are like the sand on their beaches. The sand here sticks to you and you will keep finding those little grains throughout your life, where you least expect it, like the people, no matter where you go, they will always be with you.”

 

The Catalan spirit never left me, Catalonia is a home to me, Catalans are my family.

The people of Catalonia deserve to have a say in their future.

Even if independence is not the result, the people of the region should have a voice and a vote.

Catalunya, I am with you.

 

 

 

 

I could write a more academic explanation of why Catalans should have the right to vote for independence, referencing their history, politics, economics but what the Catalans showed me most was love, and this is why I choose to share this story of love in return.

Grounded

 

All through life when times get tough, when things start to run away with us or when things start to get too much we often hear the advice “stay grounded.” We are told to “keep our feet on the ground” to balance us, to remind of something solid, something steady that can help bring us down from those dizzying heights that challenging times can take us to. But what happens when that safety net fails, when you can no longer trust the earth to keep you steady?

Recently I experienced a rather nasty earthquake which has left this question playing on my mind. When we live in a world of such uncertainty, how exactly do we stay grounded when we can’t even trust the ground we walk on?

But this idea of losing trust in your surroundings goes further than a shift in tectonic plates, for me personally anyway. Over recent months I have watched the bubble of my own personal little world of experiences shift drastically. I now live on a little Greek island where the best and worst moments of humanity play out on a daily basis, here it is very difficult to stay grounded, particularly when the earth literally moves so I do tend to find memories of home a steadying anchor, or at least I did, until recent months.

I watch the outside world from the perspective of my little Aegean island mostly through traditional and social media and more often than I could ever imagine I wake up to the Facebook safety check icon informing me another friend is safe from another horrific moment in our modern history.

I see the pictures of Parliament and of London Bridge and read the messages of friends who were there, who witnessed the horrors and remember the times we shared much happier memories in these places which will be forever changed in both of our minds.

I see the pictures of frantic families trying to trace their missing children who had gone to simply enjoy a concert but became victims of a horrific attack in my old University city.

Most recently I see a place where I found a family not connected by blood but by love, a place that has always been my refuge, reeling in horror, in destruction, in terror on Las Ramblas. I still see the picture of a small boy who remains missing being shared on social media and remember the days I walked this street holding the hand of a little boy I love dearly with never a thought crossing my mind that anything so heartbreaking could have happened in this beautiful place.

But we all now have these memories of places we love being shadowed in the grief of terrorism or the new layer to our terror filled days – the rise of fascism. Every day we wake up to another horror, near or far, and it doesn’t seem to be stopping anywhere. So what do we do to stay grounded?

I mean we can always distract ourselves from the terrorism on our doorsteps with the escalating rhetoric of nuclear war between North Korea and the US? Or we can watch white supremacists march the streets waving Nazi flags murdering young anti fascist demonstrators? Or take minute to remember the still ongoing refugee crisis on the shores of Italy and Greece and the hundreds of lives still lost in the Mediterranean or the hundreds of lives still trapped in camps and detention facilities in an endless wait for asylum in Europe.

I could go on with many more examples but as you can see it’s pretty hard to stay grounded when crisis and horror become our every day. But what hurts the most is how we are now so used to this life that we have become so desensitized, but what else can we do other than detach, it is not possible to live day to day if you spiral into all in the grief in the world.

So again, how do we stay grounded, how do we not go to denial but keep our heads?

Honestly, I am not entirely sure, I am very open to suggestions. Answers on a postcard?

But I do know that the most important thing we can all do is just not buy into all the hate. Terrorists whether they be pledging allegiance to ISIS, the KKK or whatever the hell radicalized ideology do not represent their race, their religion or the colour of their skin. The white supremacists in Charlottesville represent me as much as the terrorists in Barcelona represent the religion of Islam. These individuals are a minority, they are not the majority no matter what the media may have you believe.

I don’t believe the world is as doomed as it may seem on the surface. The majority of people out there are kind and loving and just trying to get by in these bloody scary times. But unfortunately fear isn’t too many stops away from hate and when we are really scared our ignorance can lead to some pretty extreme standpoints on issues we never really felt too strongly about before.

I discovered something interesting recently about ignorance. A friend began to tell me about an article she had read about a new development in Artificial Intelligence and before she could even begin I asked her to stop talking about it because it scares me and I don’t want to know anything about it. That, my dear friends, is ignorance and it is as easy as that. Replace AI with something the media have told us to fear, for example refugees, and if you take the same stand point as I did and refused to learn any real facts, no wonder you are scared.

So maybe, to stay grounded we need to start learning more about the world we live in. We need to stop allowing the fear to take over and we need to discover how we can make change. I’m not talking about changing the world, but maybe little changes that can add up. Maybe even just talking to friends with a different viewpoint than you, opening up a discussion, challenging ignorance is a place to start.

I don’t know what will happen next, but I hope it is not as terrible as it all may seem right now.

Stand together, show love where you find hate and don’t let fear win.

 

Also, quick tip, if your boyfriends’ parents are staying at your house and you live on a fault line, make sure to always wear more than just your knickers to bed… that is an added horror no one needs when waking up to the earth shaking!

Be strong friends! Peace.