“Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly/spider…”

After brutally vacuuming up a total of 16 spiders from my bedroom walls this evening I realised the end of procrastination was nigh. It became apparent that I had done pretty much everything possible to avoid making a difficult decision and now had nothing left to do but sit and think about it. “However, I COULD write a blog post about vacuuming those spiders which gives me another solid half an hour or so of not making a decision”. And that’s my piss-poor explanation/apology for whatever spiel you’re about to read.

I generally like spiders; they keep the bothersome fly population under control and apparently some have brains so big that their other organs have to overflow in to their legs. I was going to let the 5 in my peripheral vision set up shop for a while until they inevitably made tracks. Maybe one was a boy spider and one was a girl spider and they liked each other and wanted to riddle my room with baby spiders. Now they have died a death in my vacuum bag as tragic as Jack Dawson in the icy waters surrounding the Titanic.

This gif is probably showing something very similar to the spider's last moments being sucked in to a hoover.
This gif is probably showing something very similar to the spider’s last moments being sucked in to a hoover.

I’m not a fidgety person unless something is bothering me. I was sat at my laptop glancing over at these spiders wondering how they had the nerve to just dangle there distracting me. Didn’t they have better things to do like make a slightly more remarkable web than the one pitifully hanging by a mere thread? And what food store had they compiled between them? ONE MOTH. It was just embarrassing. There are insects adventuring around my bedroom all the time with it being an underground cellar conversion.

I then did that thing I do where I feel sorry for inanimate objects and insects with no real understanding of life and death. They aren’t so bad, these spiders. They don’t deserve to die. My counter-argument was that their silk is supposedly as strong as steel and that they could easily take over the world with that and their vast numbers if only they had the damn motivation. So why SHOULD I feel sorry for them?

I realise in retrospect that they hadn’t done anything wrong, these peaceful arachnids. I was taking my troubles of not being able to make this important decision out on my eight-legged friends and dragged the hoover in to my room with a cackle as disturbing as Norman Bates.

"Why, she wouldn't even harm a fly..."
“Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly…”

Once I got started there was no stopping me – destroying a family of five wasn’t enough. I scoured the corners of my room for any more spiders that were hiding from me and by the end had an impressive collection of 128 legs in my hoover. Did I feel good about myself? No. I remember a teacher telling me never to vacuum up spiders because they can survive and crawl back out the hoover again.. which is a fairly disturbing thought due to my paranoia about insects having an instinct for revenge.

I have basically wasted 30 minutes to conclude that I am indecisive AND a murderer.

“Women are said to never say what they mean and men never mean what they say.”

Human relationships make the world go round. Psychology teaches us that interaction with fellow homosapians (or for all you crazy cat ladies out there, mammals) is essential for well-being and good mental health.  Social interaction is unbelievably complex; women are said to never say what they mean and men never mean what they say, people pretend to dislike you so someone else likes them, a boy and a girl who call themselves friends apparently always have secret feelings for one another because lord forbid a penis and vagina being in such close proximity so often would ever lead to anything other than sex. We’ve been interacting with other people for so long you’d assume we’d have it all sussed out by now, yet communication breakdown seems to be the number one reason for relationship failures.

Imagine a world where everyone was open and honest all the time. I believe I am quite an open person – which fairs well with my male relationships and not so well with the female ones. If I want the last slice of pizza I will duel to the death in order to claim it. I don’t do so well with the girly pleasantries of “you can have it”, “oh no, YOU can have it” unless I genuinely don’t want it. Unladylike, you say? If being unladylike means I can be honest and quit the faffing chuck me a Yorkie bar and be done with it. Although I have yet to perfect this technique, I consciously try to be as open and honest as possible. I’ve seen too many good things go bad in the past just because I can’t ever say what I actually mean.

I wish I could pretend this example I’m going to use is a hypothetical situation but embarrassingly I’ve been here with a guy I was sort-of-seeing. And don’t make a face like this is weird because I’m certain we’ve all visited Awkward Alley before at least once. The writing in green is what is being said and the writing in red is what is actually meant.

X: Do you want to hang out tomorrow?

Do you want to hang out tomorrow?

Y: Um, it’s up to you.


X: Well I don’t mind.

If you’re not bothered I’m not going to show I’m bothered.

Y: Well do you have anything else on?

You have nothing else on so why would you not see me? Is it my thighs?

X: No, just chilling.

I told you I have nothing else on tomorrow so why would you ask?

Y: Ok. If you fancy it just let me know.

We both know we’re going to hang out tomorrow but I’ll pretend like I don’t know that.

X: Alright, see you whenever.

Alright, see you tomorrow.

In an ideal world, wouldn’t that conversation have gone something like this?

X: Do you want to hang out tomorrow?

Y: Yeah that’d be nice.

X: Cool, pick you up at 9?

Y: Sounds good, bring lube.

The frustrating thing is that both parties know exactly what is going through the other person’s head (aka the writing in red), yet still both come out with what’s written in green. WHY?! And look, I do this all the time too. I’m not pretending to be some kind of revolutionary communicator. I am aware of this and try very hard not to do it but I am just as big a culprit as the rest of you. It’s almost as if we can’t help doing it. Once you become aware that the red writing is happening there’s all this blue writing scrolling across the bottom of the screen that is your mind saying why are you saying that? over and over. We’re constantly fighting an inner battle with ourselves, but I feel sorrier for those people in denial of the red writing. They don’t even realise they’re chatting bollocks; at least we accept we’re stupid.

If you sit and think too much about nothing anyone says making sense it really does feel like your brain is going to implode. So I shall leave you with this: a llama in a scarf.

How majestic.

Let’s talk about Affluenza

We all remember the reputable opening line to the Pokémon theme song despite probably not sitting through an episode in years. I’d hazard a guess that at least 5% of readers will have the tune on their iPod for those moments when it’s “just necessary” to put on. Although perhaps not the most dignified example of the point I’m trying to push, it does underline the importance of “being the very best” as something drilled into us from an early age and staying with us through to adulthood.

Striving to achieve great things has always been seen as something positive and healthy; the motivation a parent gives their child to win the race in sports day or get the certificate at the end of assembly being the unquestioned foundation for a successful life to come. Having dreams and even daily goals is our reason for getting up in the morning, if you don’t want anything it is easy to slip into a seemingly pointless routine of get up, eat, sleep, repeat.

Question is: to what extent is wanting to be the very best a good thing for our emotional well being? How do you find the balance of a driving, competitive nature that pushes you to your limits in order to succeed and satisfaction with one’s self?

It’s interesting to hear people’s views on the term “being competitive” and how different childhood experiences can lead to it being either a good quality to find in someone or an undesirable characteristic. A lot of people simply settle with “it depends” because, fair enough, it’s all about striking that balance.

Have you noticed that if you’re working or get on with a competitive person you’ll usually accept that it’s ‘in their nature’ and substitute words such as “spirited” or “hard-working”? Put in a position where you’re working against or already have a negative predisposition of such a person the terms “bloodthirsty”, “aggressive” or even “psycho” get muttered disapprovingly.

The reason I got thinking about all this was after reading “Affluenza – How to be Successful and Stay Sane” by Oliver James. The comparison to Affluenza used by James himself is the HIV virus. “Just as having the HIV virus places you at risk of developing the physical disease of AIDS, infection with the Affluenza virus increases your susceptibility to the commonest emotional diseases: depression, anxiety, substance abuse and personality disorder”.

James used the term Affluenza to describe one’s obsession with becoming an affluent character as something like a virus. “It is a set of values which increase our vulnerability to emotional distress. It entails placing a high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of others and wanting to be famous.”

Although it’s common and accepted that many people in the Western world strive to be wealthy or famous or admired, James attempts to highlight why this isn’t such a good thing for our emotional well-being.

Many of you, as I was before reading this book, might be wondering why wanting the best for yourself is possibly a negative thing that could develop emotional distress. Those few people that settle with a job that pays just about enough to live comfortably are viewed as lazy and having no aspirations. Surely we should use what we have to the best of our ability rather than pathetically drifting through life accepting we’re not good enough to be the best?

Fact is guys; we AREN’T good enough to be the best. No matter what mummy and daddy or that motivational character in most television programmes that comes out with a line similar to “you can be whatever you want to be if you put your mind to it” told you, no matter how hard you work you are never going to be the best.

It all started when our pushy parents forgot the meaning of unconditional love and “motivated” us to be the best in class. Whether they were living vicariously through their children or thought their child having this title would show the world something about them as parents, majority of them are guilty of it. Any parent reading this, or James’ book, would retaliate with “I only wanted the best for my child”. Exactly. Read on.

So, once you’ve won the title of being the best in class and achieved the top grades in your exams, you can move on to one of the best secondary schools in your area. Without top grades in your exams in the best secondary schools you can’t get into the top universities, and without the top grades in your exams at one of the best universities you can’t get into the best jobs. Scary to think that such young people are under so much pressure, isn’t it? Once you’ve secured a place in one of the “best jobs” your next goal is to get to the top. Something like a managerial position perhaps? And why wouldn’t you; your whole life has been spent working towards being the best so far.

Say you succeed and are earning a six-figure salary in one of those swanky offices where all the walls are made out of glass, the bin men and teachers and other ants of society scuttling around on the pavement in clear view 47 floors below you. Are you going to stop there? Of course not. Why would you settle with what you have when there’s always more to get? Once you become comfortable with your standard of living that voice inside of you that’s been constantly pushing you to get more starts niggling away. Why settle with this salary when I can have more? Why drive a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa when I can cruise the streets in a Ferrari 250 GTO? Why live in a flat in London when I can relax in a detached country barn conversion and commute to work with my personal driver?

If you live your life always striving to be the best your mindset becomes flooded with ways in which you can have more. “Needs” are confused with “wants” and you will never be satisfied with what you have because there’s always, always more. You can tell yourself “this won’t happen to me, I’ll get X amount a year salary and live in Y and be happy” but you’ll have already contracted The Virus. Affluenza will reside in you subconsciously and the tiniest of mistakes or missed opportunities will develop into emotional distress.

The cure? I’ll let James tell you that, (wouldn’t want to ruin the book for you, I know you’re all dying to read it now).

The pressure we have to compete from such a young age affects us in ways we don’t even realise. Where do you think the jealousy for your best friend’s iPhone comes from? Why do you feel ashamed when you give out your postcode to a family from a more affluent area?  Why do you sit in the dark thinking “why am I still single?” when you receive the invite to the wedding of someone you went to school with? The media poisons our perception of what it means to be happy with the characters portrayed in films and TV, the ways certain people are reported on and the social media content that only shows what people want to be seen.

In my opinion, we should learn to be satisfied with the simpler things in life. Think about all the people’s day you make better just by turning up, complementing their shoes or even taking out the time to read their blog (wink nudge). If you weren’t around, who in your life would it impact negatively? For example, I doubt my baby sister Scarlett appreciates me for who I am for getting good grades in my A level exams, but for doing gymnastics on the grass with her when I get home.

Think about Affluenza as a concept, and consider how it might already be affecting you. Statistics show that 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health problem in the course of a year – how much of this is Affluenza-related in the Western world?