Living in the moment

I’m addicted to my phone. I have it with me all the time. I check it probably hundreds of times a day. I spend hours messaging people and hours on social media. It runs my life. Phone addiction is a real thing, and I’m sure there are people reading this that have the same problem. It’s widely known now that when you check your phone and you have a notification, it increases your dopamine levels, and that’s why we keep doing it.

I feel more and more that smart phones have ruined my attention span and ability to focus. Sometimes I will be listening to a podcast or watching a TV show, and I will still check Twitter or be Whatsapping someone at the same time. It’s distracting, time wasting, and bad for your health. I often have days where I think what did I actually do today? And the answer is just play on my phone.

At the weekend I went away to Suffolk for a friend’s wedding. I didn’t know there was going to be a beach nearby so that was a nice surprise, as I fucking love beaches. (Not packing a bikini did not stop me, as I can swim just as mediocrely in a vest top and shorts). There was no signal at all on the beach, and it made my beach experience so much better.  I did take some pictures but that only took a few minutes.

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The rest of the time, I wrote my morning pages and then I swam for ages because there was literally nothing else for me to do. It was a great spontaneous artist’s date, that I could just enjoy for what it was without mindlessly scrolling my Facebook news feed.

On the walk back to the B&B I got signal, (this was handy to check I was walking in the right direction because I’d got a lift on the way there), but the walk took longer than it was meant to, as I kept checking my phone. I did have to send one message about arrangements for getting to the church later, but the others could have waited. I also accidentally sat on a stinging nettle when I stopped to do stuff on my phone, so I guess that was the universe’s way of telling me to get off my fucking phone. Having said that, I discovered that I actually quite like the feeling of stinging nettles, and could totally incorporate this into some kinky outdoor sex in the future.

Recently I have been trying to put my phone on flight mode when I want to get stuff done, but I still find that 5 minutes later I will just take the phone off flight mode. Today I really wanted to try and break this habit, so I intentionally went out without my phone for probably the first time in about 16 years.

And again, without being able to use my phone, I had an awesome time. I took some bags to the recycling centre, then walked to Ally Pally park. With no phone to distract me, I noticed my surroundings more. I looked at the clouds. I watched a bee pollinate every flower in sight, and enjoyed the feeling of the grass under my skin and bare feet.

It was a little frustrating not being able to take any photos, but I soon got over it. I wrote a few poems in my notebook and appreciated  just being in the park. I wished I’d taken my hula hoop, so maybe I will do that in future. I had no idea what time it was, because I haven’t worn a watch since circa 2004, but there was something really lovely about this. Eventually I realised I was going to get hungry soon and needed to get some dinner. So next time I will take food too.

Being in the shops was another challenge, as I didn’t have anything to occupy myself while queuing, but it was actually okay. I channelled my inner 90s gal and it worked. I feel like we were all so much more patient back then. Because you had to be. You had to wait for so long for everything. Music, TV Shows, Movies, Dial Up Internet.

You had to actually phone someone on a landline if you wanted to talk to them. And sometimes they weren’t in.  If you wanted to skip a song, you had to fast forward and then guess when to stop it. And then maybe sometimes you went too far and you had to rewind. When you stopped that cassette tape in just the right place, that was a satisfying moment. We don’t have moments like these anymore. Everything is at our fingertips, which is why we get so impatient if someone doesn’t text back straight away or our WiFi stops working. But maybe we should learn some of the patience we had back then.

When I got home, I resisted the urge to check my phone, and put my food in the fridge first. Then I went on my phone and immediately lost 10 minutes of my life to Twitter, so now it’s on flight mode, and has been for the last three hours. Go self control. I’m definitely going to try and go out without my phone more often, and hopefully this will train my brain not to check it all the time when I do have it with me. Because I don’t want to look back on my life and realise I wasted half of it staring at a little screen.

Smartphones are great, and social media is great –  I wouldn’t have so many people reading my blog without it. But like everything in life – they need to be consumed in moderation.

Stuck in the 90s

On Wednesday I turned 32. Which I always remember is the same age Brittany Murphy was when she died. Which makes me want to clean my shower properly, so I don’t get toxic mold poisoning. But I hate cleaning. Or do I? More on that later.

When I was a teenager I thought that 32 was super old. I couldn’t imagine being that old. Or if I could, I thought by 32 I would be ‘settled’, probably married with children. I guess because that’s what you assume when you are a kid. That’s the narrative you’re sold, especially as a girl, and especially when I was younger and we didn’t have Frozen to teach us that true love can come from your sister, not just from a man.

Although I didn’t have a sister, so that would probably have just pissed me off. I couldn’t understand as a kid why my mum couldn’t just give me a sister, because I didn’t know that some things do need to come from a man.

But anyway…anyone who knows me or follows me on any social media knows that I am obsessed with the 90s, which is ironic because we didn’t have social media in the 90s. I didn’t even have a hotmail account until 2001.

It confused me when I was younger why my mum was obsessed with the 60s and would still listen to The Beatles and The Supremes – I was like ‘ listen to some new music, mum!’ before slamming my door and putting on the Spice Girls.

But as we all are doomed to turn into our mothers, despite our best intentions (HEAD DESK), now I basically haven’t moved on since circa 1999. I still wear shag bands and chokers, watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on a regular basis, and recently sang Jennifer Paige’s song Crush at karaoke (while on a Tinder date which I realise is not very 90s).

So I thought, what better way to spend my birthday evening with my mum than to go and see ‘2 Become 1’. A 90s themed musical (with real 90s songs). It opens with one of the characters Jess sobbing into her landline after a break-up, and singing All Saints Never Ever (All Saints was the first concert I ever went to) before her 3 friends persuade her to go to a speed dating event.

It had everything I had hoped for and more – Shania Twain, butterfly clips, hilarious facial expressions, audience interaction, Titanic, 3 Spice Girls songs, dance routines, Britney, Gina G Ooh Ah Just a Little bit, and not one – but two Buffy References! They even managed to mix ‘I’m Horny’ and ‘Genie in a bottle’ together. It totally embodied the sense of fun that the 90s were all about. 

And there were free badges! I am now the proud owner of a badge that says ‘No Scrubs’ on it.

I loved that there were some references to the way some men see women (‘he wants you to suck his cock, but pretend like you’re doing it for the first time’), and the crap that we read in women’s magazines.  There was also some dramatic irony about how online dating will never catch on because it’s better to meet someone in real life, and the character Molly imagining a terrible world where we don’t have a Labour government and there are loads of cuts to the NHS, and the arts.

It was basically a wonderful trip down memory lane for me, even though it made me a bit sad that I never had a Tamagotchi. (Belated birthday present anyone?)

I do feel sometimes like the 90s was a better, more innocent time, sure we had lads mags, but there was something more tongue in cheek about it, plus we had Girl Power to balance it out. And I’m sure loads of bad stuff was still happening (I remember the war in Kosovo) but we didn’t hear about every bad thing all the time because no one had Twitter. The 90s was a time when a Union Jack dress was nothing to do with Brexit and a troll was a toy you would collect.

There was so much hope! (Before the ultimate disappointment when your cassette tape got tangled and even a pencil couldn’t save it). Especially with New Labour. I loved Tony Blair so much at one point that it was my dream to become a politician. Not even joking. Can you imagine? I mean I do have the legs for it.

Maybe 2017 can be the new 1997? The small optimistic part of me wants to believe that on the 9th of June we can tell Theresa May to talk to the hand ’cause the face ain’t listening. And if not I plan to get drunk and listen to Nirvana. Actually I will do that either way.

Although the 90s resonate with me and I love them, I don’t necessarily love who I was then. It’s easy to idealise the past, but I’ve changed so much  and I much prefer the person I am now. And yes I’m not where I thought I would be at 32. But I discovered that I don’t want a conventional 2.4 children life, and also more recently that sometimes I hold myself back because of self-fulfilling prophecies I have about myself.

I spent years telling myself I couldn’t be good with money, or tidy, or good at cleaning, or able to achieve certain things but that’s just me limiting myself when there should be No Limits, and now in the words of Ultra Nate, I’m free to be who I want to be.

I also think I’m starting to get the balance of simultaneously living for the present and planning for the future. As Buffy would say ‘seize the moment ’cause tomorrow you might be dead’.

So yes, I am stuck in the 90s, and I think that’s okay as long as it’s musically and fictionally, not mentally. I do have to accept that it’s not 1997 anymore, and that’s a good thing. Maybe I’ll even start listening to some up to date music. While I clean my shower. I just need some 90s nostalgia to Spice up my Life sometimes. 

P.s. If you’re reading this before Edinburgh Festival 2017, go and watch ‘2 Become 1’ before you regret it like I regret never seeing the Spice Girls live (which was going to be the band I hadn’t seen on my list of ten bands, except I don’t do bullshit Facebook fads like that).

2 Become 1, written by Natasha Granger and Kerri Thomason, was at King’s Head Theatre Islington, 12th April 2017 – 29th April 2017 and will be at The Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14) Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 – Tickets here