Recent Times.

Before I go to sleep, I stare at the ceiling. I want to calm down, but my mind is up, up, up.

I’ve got the itch.

I’m manic with adrenaline.

Pregnant with possibility.

Sleep brings me no solace: the visions go with me, as real as the beat of my heart, and I wake up in those terrible night terror-induced sweats.

After years of stillness, I’m eager to go. I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to talk about getting round to it someday because I’m anxious that someday might not come.

It’s not a given. Nothing is.

I spend the days fantasising about the opportunities that tomorrow could bring. I see myself stronger, leaner, faster, taller. I see myself successful and ambitious, but content and grateful. I see a place that is my own, where I govern myself and myself only. It’s a cosy and comfortable space. It’s not much, but it’s home to me. It’s the place I feel safe.

It’s a home, not a house, filled with patchwork furniture dotted around the living room and framed photos of those uni mishaps, awkward family photoshoots and pixelated selfies at a festival on the walls. It’s the stack of bequeathed vinyls, yet to be sorted through, and a record player poised on the shelving unit, no sign of dust: ready to play. It’s the coffee machine finally unboxed and perched on the kitchen unit where it belongs. It’s the lived-in office room, desk littered with paper and shadows cast on the wall by tilting bookshelves, spines of all varieties spilling over the edges. It’s the faint aroma of incense sticks that are so constantly burned that their musk is practically embedded in the walls. It’s the silence in the mornings as coffees are sipped on the breakfast counter, interrupted only by audible yawns and the creak of dry eyes as the sleep is rubbed away to reveal the world anew. It’s the night-light aglow as the hypnotherapy tape plays aloud and lures me into sleep.

I’ve grown attached to the ideas of what could be. But that’s all they are for now: ideas. And that’s what really gives me the itch.

Until I act to make these fantasies real, they’re about as valid as the Tory government. I want to act instead of talking, talking, talking and never seeing these talks into fruition. I’m desperate to manifest it all before the energy is all gone and I’m completely deflated again.

I want to carve out an existence for myself, the kind I can grow to be proud of. I want to look myself in the mirror and know that I saw and I conquered, or at least I tried.

I want to get out and see the world. I’ve genuinely forgotten what it feels like, to adventure beyond the perimeters of safety and routine. The same faces and the same places make for a stagnating mind.

I want to reconnect with the friends from my old life, the pre-illness life where I was independent and capable as my own person.

I want to drown out the constant chatter of UNWORTHY INCOMPETENT NOT ENOUGH TOO-SENSITIVE. I want to be formidable and fierce, a real force to be reckoned with. I want to be.

BOOK REVIEW: How To Be A Heroine by Samantha Ellis

Plot:

There’s no plot, as such, with this one. It’s more Samantha Ellis‘ quest to determine which of her childhood literary heroines live up to their status when re-read years later. She talks us through some of her favourites and, with a retrospective view, dissects problematic aspects of the women we hail as heroines. After all, the heroines we idolise as children don’t often stay with us to adulthood because we outgrow them. Ellis discusses the influence of the authors and their tribulations upon their fictional characters, as well as relevant cultural discourse at the time of publication.

Things I like about the novel:

  • Writing style: succinct, comedic, poetic at times. It slightly felt like reading somebody’s PHD thesis, though it was accessible and never ‘lost’ me, despite my lack of familiarity with some of the texts. Overall, reading this book felt like being at a cafe with a cappuccino in-hand and sitting across from a fellow bookworm, losing hours of time over a good gab on our favourites.
  • Little snippets of Ellis’ cultural background sneak into the book. There’s stories of growing up in a Iraqi-Jewish household with conservative cultural beliefs and expectations. In between the discussion of literature, I really enjoyed Ellis’ account of how the books impacted her life decisions and perspectives, particularly her earlier relationships. I definitely relate to the romantic notion of seeking out fictional ideas of fictional men when it comes to relationships. I could blame authors for distorting my worldview of men, but at the end of the day, we all need a bit of escapism. Sometimes it’s it’s nice to fantasise about those mysteriously enigmatic and brooding men who swoop in at all the right times and say all the right things. However, I’ve learned that, in reality, chasing archetypes of the Byronic bad-boy and sensitive romantic aren’t worth it. Real people are so much messier and problematic than fictional figures. Part of me really likes that, actually.
  • Admittedly, I haven’t read all the titles featured, so some sections were a little lost on me in that I lost the impact I would inevitably have felt if I was more acquainted with the characters and narrative arcs. That being said, Ellis does a brilliant job of summarising the key elements of the novels so that you don’t feel completely in the dark. Also, her passion for literature absolutely shines from the outset till the end.

This book is a lovely ode to heroic wordsmiths who have provided the world with the light of these iconic protagonists. It says a lot that these heroines have lived on for hundreds of years, in some cases, through faithful readers and word-of-mouth. Ellis’ book is a firm reminder that we still turn to our creature comforts despite our busy lifestyles, re-reading classics like Wuthering Heights on the bus to work or tuning in for the latest remake of Emma. This is because, despite our differences, there are admirable and strong traits to be noted in these iconic literary heroines and they continue to inspire us to this day.

Goodreads rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️