Saturday, 28 March 2020

Lockdown Life

IMG (c) Myself - 2016

   Day 6 of Staying Inside. 
   During this time of personal and global panic, it appears that a part of my brain I have not met yet has jostled it's way to the front and taken control of the wheel. I don't want to insult your intelligence, but I'll go ahead and clarify that that metaphor was not informed by any sort of expert opinion. I have no clue what's going on in my brain. However, what I mean is that despite having my usual cauldron of anxiety bubbling beneath the surface, I've stopped catastrophising and my autopilot is keeping me occupied. My family and I are in a very privileged position in that we can all work from/stay at home so as time goes on and nobody is showing symptoms, I have been able to calm down a tiny bit. I'm still extremely anxious about my partner and extended family, but for now I am able to focus on tasks at home without too much dramatic pacing and fretting. 

   My days have mainly consisted of working on some online teaching, playing Animal Crossing: New Horizons, watching Supernatural for the first time and a bit of crochet and clay modelling here and there. Getting used to this home routine has been really strange. I spent a very long period mostly at home a few years ago when my migraines were a lot worse and I was in a slightly different place in life. However, since then I've been much more active; I have a full-time job and I've been much more nomadic since meeting my partner. In case you're wondering, we do not like being apart but we are coping by sending each other daily gifts on Animal Crossing

   The image above is a self-portrait from 2016. I am wearing a hoodie that I still own, some cool jeans that sadly became too faded and shrunken to wear, and some unicorn slippers which also sadly fell apart (I loved them too much). I also had my bright red hair and side shave which I kept for a really long time, but I am now back to my untamed brown hair. Most of the time you can find me wandering the house in unicorn pyjamas, buried in a fluffy, grey housecoat, lugging an enormous mug of tea around with me at any hour of the day. However, one things remains the same. I am always carrying a little fire around with me. The self-portrait depicts Calcifer, a fire demon from one of my most beloved films, Howl's Moving Castle. I was inspired to draw it not only because it's one of my favourites, but because ever since I was quite young I've imagined fire in my hands. I can understand at this point you're thinking, what?. It's not as edgy and superhero-esque as you think. 

I just have really cold hands.

   For some reason, my hands are always freezing and one day they were so cold and they hurt so much that I was Googling how on earth I could warm them up. I saw a random post which described how imagining a little fire burning in your hands like magic would actually help them to feel warmer. So, Google had spoken and I was ready to give this a go. Long story short, I've been doing it ever since. 

   On the topic of Howl's Moving Castle, a friend recently asked me why it's one of my favourites, because theirs is Spirited Away (an excellent choice). I know why, but up until this point I never considered trying to articulate it any more than half-screaming at people to watch it. After she asked me, I've been really thinking about it and I think I've come to a conclusion. Howl's Moving Castle is special because it's familiarly unfamiliar. 

   In one scene, Howl and Sophie prepare eggs and bacon for breakfast and sit at the table to eat it with Markl. These seemingly normal events are interrupted firstly by Calcifer loudly eating the eggshells, then by the lack of clean cutlery in such a large castle, and the sudden appearance of a curse, burning itself into the table. Even Howl, an irritatingly lovable character who plays what appears to be a love interest at first, is punctuated with quite serious political significance, childish reversion, and mysterious legends of heart-eating and star-swallowing. There's no all-encompassing way to describe why the film is so important. However, it's important to me for many personal reasons. 

- The scene where Howl takes Sophie's hand and they walk through the sky.
- The unbelievable soundtrack which, when it builds, is phenomenal. 
- The immersive way that you feel aged alongside Sophie.
- Howl's grey and salmon coat. 
- Howl's bedroom. 
- When the castle opens it's mouth and the tongue sticks out. 
- Turnip head.
- The perfect casting for the voices.
- The way Sophie eats the block of cheese from her little hankerchief hammock. 
- The ever-so-slight character progression. You could argue that both Howl and Sophie are the same person they were when the film started, but after watching it a few times, the subtle ways their characters are tested and forced to grow is inspiring. 
- The very idea of the flower shop. 
- Howl's gooey tantrum.

   I'm hoping in the future that I can write more extensively about Howl's Moving Castle. I read the book last year, and they are very much seperate entities, but I highly recommend both. I don't want to rush writing about it, but I am also eager to go to bed, knowing that we are going to lose an hour in the night. 

   Another thing I've been doing a lot the last few days is listening to music so I will leave you with my Lockdown Playlist, which is really just a bunch of songs I've been listening to a lot during my time Staying Inside.

Take care saplings x

Sunday, 15 March 2020


IMG (C) Jinifur

About this time last Sunday, I started to write a post that went like this:

"I'm writing this post because I don't know what to write about. It's 9:54pm on a Sunday evening. I've done some work, watched the final episode of Doctor Who, stared into space, and procrastinated doing anything productive. I have more work to do, blankets to knit, personal fictions to write and I also happen to be halfway through a volume of Transformers, recommended by a friend. I truthfully did not expect to enjoy it as much as I have done, but the concentration needed to read is not here tonight. 

I even took a break from writing this for a moment to check Twitter and became distratced by an app that lets you design your perfect island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons. This semester I am teaching a module on Utopias and Dystopias, and I have to tell you that writing content specifically tailored to Animal Crossing has crossed my mind more than once."

   Last weekend, I was actually feeling pretty depressed, but I styled it out with "hey I'm just procrastinating and having some "me time", it's okay. I'm doing this on purpose!". 

Narrator: but she wasn't doing it on purpose.

   However, despite the state of things, I'm in better spirits than I was, most likely due to being able to see my therapist this week. I think it's important to talk about attending therapy in blatant terms, a bit like saying I'm visiting the doctors or the dentist. Sometimes I can't do self-care for my emotions and I need a bit of professional help, and I think the human race would be better company if we all did that from time to time. So if you're reading this, and you're struggling on your own, please reach out for help. If you're in the UK, Healthy Minds is a great place to start. 

   I have a slight feeling that my elevated mood is somewhat due to adrenaline, because if you haven't noticed

the world is weird atm

   If you've found your way to this blog post, then it's very unlikely that you are unaware of what's going on in the world at the moment. Despite the relentless notifications that remind me of the situation every 60 seconds, it's been really important for me to shut myself off from it this weekend. I may have been on Twitter, and have been reading scary things, but I do not want to contribute to the mass panic of tweets when I'm already having my own mini panic. As someone with anxiety disorder(s), hand washing and hand sanitiser are very familiar concepts to me, and I do not wish to discuss them at length. Thus, I have dedicated most of my online presence to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which is joining us on the 20th of March (five days from now!). 

   The metaphorical ball of stress, not to be confused with a stress ball, is a tangled mess, yes. I've been dealing with a lot of Personal Stuff™, and pushing existential crisis to the back of my mind whilst I focus on work, feeding myself three times a day and planning what my town is gonna look like on Animal Crossing: New Horizons, PRESSING, pressing things.

   It looks like others around me are starting to smell the fear and they are very sweetly comforting me, and hopefully themselves in the process. My partner decided to set up a co-op Stardew Valley farm because they know how much I love this game, and they also know how much I've been struggling recently and that waiting for Animal Crossing is physically and emotionally killing me. So I spent most of this weekend harvesting crops and mining copper ore. When I got back home to my parents, I found my dad had set up the Wii U and had found all of our old games. I started with Wii Sports and worked my way through (spending a bit too much time on Smooth Moves) and settling on Twilight Princess. All was well until the low frame rate gave me motion sickness, and now here I am writing to you. 

   In truth, this post is probably just a form of comfort for me and I commend you if you're still here. If you're feeling the stress at the moment, like me, remember to take some time out. Disconnect from the world for a little while, and stay indoors and relax if you're able to. 

Take now for instance. 

Breathe in through your nose for five seconds, and out through your mouth for five seconds. Forcefully push the air out of your lungs and feel them filling back up again. 

If switching off electronic devices is difficult, even just for the night, I recommend Sleep Stories. Even if you're not going to sleep just yet, they're comforting all the same. 

Stay safe, saplings.