Things My Parents Argue About Now That They’re Retired

Like every couple who have been together for a significant amount of time, my parents are prone to the occasional argument.

I don’t think that this is particularly their fault. They have been together for thirty years now and being with same person for three decades has its challenges.

In addition, two years ago, my mum joined my dad in the realms of retirement and, as a result, the two of them have been spending more time at home together than they did previously.

Before they both retired, they spent long hours apart working shifts which provided them with a healthy break from each other. As the saying goes, absence makes the heart grow fonder but presence does a frictionless relationship squander (not sure that this is an actual saying, not even sure that frictionless is a word tbh..)

Like most people, my parent’s never fight about the actual emotional tensions in their relationship.

Instead, they tend to use everyday items and mundane issues as proxies for the underlying problems that they are attempting to address. For example, they recently had an argument over a jar of jam which they insisted was ‘about the jam and nothing but the jam’. However, I personally think it was about my Dad’s percieved lack of emotional transparency.

Like most couples who have enjoyed many years of marriage, my parents have an unparalleled ability to create an argument out of just about anything, including the process of arguing itself. One of their favourite arguments is the ‘We’re Not Having an Argument’ argument in which each of them tries to convince the other that they are not pissed off whilst progressively becoming increasingly pissed off.

This argument, which sometimes feels like an infinite loop of disagreement, can basically be summed up as the following.

The pandemic has also put a lot of additional tension on my parent’s relationship.

Being together for thirty years is challenging.

Being together for thirty years and then retiring and living together in the same house is even more challenging.

Being together for thirty years, retiring and living together in the same house WITH NO FORM OF ESCAPE is another thing altogether.

I first realised that my parent’s relationship was suffering from pandemic pressure a few months ago when they had a full-on meltdown argument over a towel.

The argument started when my dad made the grave mistake of disrupting a towel washing system that my mum had put into place during the first lockdown.

I’m not totally clear on the intricate details of my mum’s towel washing system (something to do with keeping light and dark towels separate) but I assume she made it in an attempt to create some sort of order for herself in the middle of the coronavirus chaos.

Therefore, when my dad tampered with the system, he was messing with one of the things that was helping my mum cling to some semblance of control; this is the only thing I can think of to explain the ferocity of her reaction.

My dad bore the brunt of my mum’s towel-fuelled wrath for around fifteen minutes, making several further impassioned comparisons between her domestic activities and Orwell’s 1984 in the meantime.

The argument eventually climaxed when my dad stormed out of the house in order to get some ‘freedom from oppression’ time and threatened that he might not come back. However, his rebellious resolve didn’t last long as, ten minutes later, he returned home because he needed a wee.

Now, I don’t want you to get the impression that my parents have an awful relationship; they don’t. Obviously, things have been very stressful and uncertain over the last year and a half and this manifests itself in tension and outbursts of rage over insignificant things.

I’ve heard that it is important to look for small blessings in times of hardship and, as far as my parent’s relationship is concerned, I guess one of the small blessings is they haven’t been going on as many car journeys together as they would have done in the before times.

The car is probably one of the worst places to have a squabbling match as it physically impossible to take a time out unless you do a Ladybird and lob yourself into the road. Therefore, any argument that my parents enter into the car tends to escalate and become quite heated.

Obviously having an impassioned argument isn’t one of the things that driving instructors tend to focus on when teaching people to drive safely.

Maybe then, it is a small solace that my parents have been stuck in the house together because at least then I don’t have to worry about them inadvertently crashing because they’ve been fighting about towels.

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My Lockdown Diary Entries

I started writing a diary in March 2020.

I was struggling with my mental health at the time and thought that writing down my thoughts would help me gain some perspective on how I was feeling.  

The escalation of the coronavirus situation also made me feel like I was living through history and I quite liked the idea of documenting life in the pandemic like some sort modern day Samuel Pepys. I imagined people in the year 2500 discovering my diary and lording it as a priceless historical artifact, offering profound insights into life at a time of international crisis – a relic of a bygone time.

I recently read back through the my diary entries from the last year. This somewhat derailed my ambitions of becoming an iconic 21st Century diarist.

Firstly, the entries are generally too short and sporadically written to provide a cohesive account of what happened over the course of the pandemic. Secondly, some of them are so melodramatically emotional and swear word ridden that they make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

As a result, I decided to put together a compilation of a few of the more legible, lighthearted entries on here in an attempt to make some sense of my lockdown experience:

19th March 2020

Things have gone completely mad. Everybody is freaking out and panic buying supplies. People are raiding the aisles like they’re on some sort of dystopian version of Supermarket Sweep.

Saw a video on Instagram of two women fighting over a packet of toilet rolls as if their lives depended on it. It was a bit like The Hunger Games but in Asda.

23rd March 2020

So Boris has put us in quarantine. Feels like we’re all straying into unknown territory. Bear Grylls will probably be in talks with the BBC about producing a show on how to survive.

1st April

Grandad rang today and said that he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. He told us that it had been much harder for his parents in the war. I told him that just because something is more bad than another thing doesn’t stop the thing itself from being bad. He told me that I was being ridiculous and that I’d understand someday. I wanted to see things from his perspective so I visualised myself as an old lady telling my grandkids how hard lockdown was.

I guess it is a little less impressive than surviving two wars…

10th May 2020

Boris just made a lockdown exit speech where he effectively told people to go out to work but also stay at home which is, quite frankly, a paradox. Honestly, watching his speech was like watching two separate versions of Boris from different parallel universes being merged into one and talking over each other. But maybe that’s going a bit too Rick and Morty on the whole thing.

15th May 2020

Spent all day in a minion onesie. I feel like I would have judged myself for that in the past. I mean is a minion onesie even an acceptable thing for a 26 year old to own? You know what? Fuck it. Society’s closed. If I want to wear a minion onesie then I bloody well will.

Some day in May (I’d lost all concept of time at this point)

Had a breakdown today which was weird because I’ve been feeling pretty emotionally numb all week. It’s a bit like all my feelings have been put in lockdown and every now and then my brain decides to relax the restrictions and I ended up crying hysterically into a packet of Doritos.

5th June 2020

Played sims today. Moved my family to the beach and they had a welcome BBQ with all the neighbours. For some reason,  I suddenly started feeling really really jealous of them getting to socialise so I put them in the pool and removed the ladder. Afterwards I sat down and analysed my feelings and realised that my actions were unnecessarily harsh and impulsive. Felt bad about the whole thing in hindsight but I’d already pressed save so there’s no going back.

21st April

Did pilates today to try and be more aware of myself in my body. Don’t think the awareness I achieved was the type of awareness I was originally going for.

17th July 2020

Listened to another one of Boris’ addressing the nation speeches – poor guy had no idea what was coming when he took the PM position on. I reckon the smuggest people in Britain right now are the introverts and Teresa May. Probably triumphantly running through a field of wheat as we speak.

12th September 2020

Saw a middle aged man dressed in a full superman costume riding a Segway down the prom whilst blasting the Superman theme out of a speaker. Probably would have judged him in the before times. Now it’s like, you know what mate, it’s a tough time and if that’s your coping mechanism, go for it. You do you.

29th October 2020

Mum told me that she was standing in a queue today and the man behind her wasn’t wearing a mask.  She asked him to wear one and he told her that he was a human person and if he decided not to wear a mask than that was his prerogative. Wonder if when he said human person, he actually meant total dickhead?

10th November 2020

Trump was trumped by Biden. What a relief, almost makes up for how awful that Trump pun was.   

19th December 2020

Government just announced that London is going into a Tier 4 lockdown two days before Christmas. I feel bad for Londoners but even worse for the kids of the future sitting history exams on the Government’s response to COVID-19 and having to memorise like a billion different things.

24th December 2020

Mum came into my room today whilst I was getting in touch with my inner zen (meditating) and asked me to contribute to the housework. I told her that unfortunately contributing housework would be destructive to my relationship with my inner zen. She told me that my lack of cooperation was disruptive to her inner zen and also the Feng Shui of the house. I told her she could always ask Santa for some Feng Shui if she liked it that much. I am a terrible daughter.

30th December 2020

Played Catan today with my brothers. Got into a massive fight with Robert about ore supplies after I built a settlement on an ore hexagon that he had wanted to build on. He said that I had completely screwed him over with my ‘total dickhead’ of a move to which I replied that he could always trade with me if he wanted to increase his ore supplies. He said I could take my ore supplies and stick them up my arse. Nothing like a nice family board game to lighten the mood.

4th January 2021

We’re in lockdown again. Sigh. Feeling much calmer this time round. Resigned to my fate.

6th January 2021

A load of Trump supporters marched straight into the capitol today. I guess some small deluded part of me though that we would leave the shitshow behind in 2020 but it seems the series of unfortunate events is continuing into 2021. Feel like I’m living in a Lemony Snicket novel.

This was my penultimate diary entry. Now, you would assume that the final entry would have a thoughtful concluding comment, some sort of witticism to up the whole coronavirus experience in a profound way.

Instead, when I turned the page, I found something that looked a lot like this:

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2020: A Review

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that 2020 has been the weirdest, craziest, scariest, most existentially-challenging, emotionally-draining year of my life.

A lot of bad things have happened and, at times, whilst caught in a Matrix-style existential mindset, I’ve become convinced that I’ve probably been living in an unpublished Lemony Snicket novel without being aware of it.

I mean, at least the Baudelaire kids were allowed to move between households…

The whole year has felt like an extension of that strange period between Christmas and New Year when you lose all track of time and end up eating an excessive amount of chocolate whilst engaging in a nostalgic Julie Andrews movie marathon because you’ve forgotten your purpose in life, there’s nothing else to do and at least Julie seems happy about things.

It takes one crazy year to mess with both the foundations of society and the concept time itself and it’s a bit weird to think that it’s coming to an end, almost like stepping out of some surreal alternate reality.

Months, weeks and days have melded into one another and become one long unstructured mass of time and, looking back, it’s hard to believe that I’ve achieved anything or done anything significant.

As a result, I thought it would be useful to write a post to remind myself that I have done some things this year, aside from of sitting on a sofa in my oldest tattiest hoody, staring into the existential abyss whilst stoically making my way through a family size bag of Doritos.

LIST OF 2020 ACHIEVEMENTS SOME THINGS I’VE DONE

  1. Survived 365 surreal, weird, stressful 2020 days.

2. Watched several of Boris Johnson’s ‘addressing the nation’ speeches and only considered punching the TV once or twice (exhibiting considerable emotional control).

3. Recovered from a spiraling Amazon addiction after realising that buying loads of things to help with stress (candles, incense sticks, meditation journals etc.) was only making me more stressed about the state of the high street and also the state of my bank account.

4. Managed to keep in touch with most of my friends, despite being confronted with my own face on Zoom more than I would have liked.

5. Didn’t shave my legs for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.

6. Didn’t wear a bra for the entirety of Lockdown 1.0.

7. Briefly considered wearing a bra when going to the supermarket…

8. … and then didn’t (I’m sure that’s feminism or something… and by ‘something’ I mean extreme laziness).

9. Became closer to nature by taking lots of relaxing walks in the park.

10. Became closer to my dogs by taking several distinctly less relaxing walks in the park.

Swan was angered when Jessie made a unconsidered attempt chase it in what was potentially the most terrifying moment of my life to date.

11. Ran out of perfume and avoided buying more from Amazon by discovering a cheaper alternative.

12. Learnt to juggle (3 balls, not general life responsibilities)

13. Shaved my brother’s head and briefly considered becoming a barber. #RethinkReskillReboot

14. Resisted a sudden impulsive urge to shave my own head whilst bored and looking for something to do.

15. Briefly tried to eat more healthily to counter an increased amount of sedentary sofa time but then decided that it was a difficult time and I deserved to treat myself.

16. Did yoga like 10 times and only broke one item of furniture in the process.

17. Discovered a brand new way of burning calories.

18. Discovered a new comeback that has proved useful for whenever I get yelled at by groups of youths in the street.

19. Got bored and built a really tall tower out of used toilet rolls.

I mean, it looked a little bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa before it fell on top of me so it was basically like being on holiday.

20. Took up mindfulness and meditation and stuck with it even though my body seemed intent on conspiring against me.

21. Survived several mental breakdowns.

23. Had more time to write and draw (it may have been an awful year but at least I’ve got a few decent cartoons out of it!)

All in all, I may have entered 2020 with a fresh rush of energy and a resolve to strive to become the best version of myself that I possibly could be. And I may now be ending it by dragging a significantly less impressive version of myself towards the finish line.

But, all things considered, I reckon that is the biggest achievement I could have hoped for.

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My Journey To Find My Inner Self Didn’t Turn Out As I Was Expecting…

In 2016, I spent six months working on an outdoor education camp in Canada.

In the Spring season, the site was often rented out by various groups of people who wanted to use the camp’s natural beauty as the backdrop for their events.

As a result, in May, I found myself working on a weekend Yoga Retreat full of people who had found their chackras and could bend their bodies into a variety of complex positions.

At one point, I remember talking to a man who informed me that setting time aside time to connect with his inner self had enabled him to gain control of his mind and banish negativity from his life – or, as he put it, to ‘tell all that sadness and self-doubt crap to piss off’.

The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.

I’ve never really been the kind of person who particularly likes spending time with myself but, like most people, I’ve had significantly more free time in 2020 and I thought that it might be useful to spend some of that time attempting to improve my connection with my inner spiritual world.

So I started meditating in April, full-on expecting to have some sort of transcendent experience where I would suddenly feel at one with myself and the universe.

However, my first few meditation sessions were quite underwhelming – as far as I was aware, nothing happened.

I felt slightly disheartened – I had actively attempted to get in touch with my inner self and it seemed I had been put on hold.

This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that the meditation music I was listening to sounded a lot like the sort of music that often plays when you’re put on hold in what I can only imagine is a vain attempt to make you less likely to get stressed and swear down the phone.

Despite this, I decided to push onwards with meditation, reasoning to myself that nothing worthwhile is ever easy and that the transcendent joy of being at one with my inner self would be worth it in the end.

I guess I assumed that my inner self would be this wise oracle who, once found, would help me transcend above the concerns and stresses of everyday life into a state of zen-like peace.

A few weeks into lockdown, I started to become aware of a part of myself that I hadn’t noticed before.

I was initially excited and intrigued, thinking that I had finally got in contact with my inner self.

However, if I had, she was in no way the peaceful oracle-like being I was expecting her to be.

In fact, if anything my inner self more closely resembled a moody teenager who wholeheartedly resented living under my roof and, needless to say, wasn’t as sold on the concept of working towards meditative enlightenment as I was.

Although my spiritual awakening wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped, I kept trying to get in touch with my inner self, thinking that eventually she would open up to me.

However, the more I tried to connect with her, the more I irritated she became.

I had dragged her out of my subconscious against her will and she was NOT happy with it.

As lockdown dragged on and I spent more and more time with my inner self, our relationship started to feel quite tense and I noticed that I was reacting to setbacks in an emotionally dramatic way.

Anything, from receiving a job rejection to dropping a piece of toast butter side down, would make me irrationally upset.

I felt like I starting to lose control over my inner self.

It is strange and unsettling to feel like you are being bossed around by a grumpy teenage version of yourself but I tried my best to be mindful about the whole situation.

I decided that I would sit quietly with my inner self and try and have a calm, logical conversation about how she was feeling.

It soon became apparent that maintaining any form of calm logical dialogue with my inner self was going to be a near impossibility.

Instead, I thought that I would try strengthening my connection with her by engaging in a variety of relaxing hobbies.

Unfortunately, she didn’t seem as committed to the activities as I was.

Dragging my inner self through a series of mindfulness activities made me feel inauthentic and, as a result, my ability to reach a state of meditative calmness was compromised.

Eventually, I decided to leave my inner self to her own devices and instead tried to focus on everyday practicalities.

I thought that if I tried to get on with my life in the way that I had before, she would eventually calm down and my mental state would return to normal

However, as soon as I tried to concentrate on anything, she seemed to experience an inexplicable urge to hang out with me, distracting me from whatever I was doing with a seemingly endless stream of irrelevant and anxiety provoking information.

All things considered, spending more time with my inner self this year hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world.

Just as spend you can only spend so much time in another person’s company before you start to get on each others nerves, spending too much time with yourself can cause things to become a bit tense.

Being a human is complex, confusing and not always comfortable, especially this year and, for me, things became a bit easier when I stopped trying so hard to force my inner self to behave and communicate with me in the zen-like way I expected her to.

Maybe being in touch with your inner self isn’t about achieving a state of eternal chackric calm; maybe it is more about accepting your inner self exactly as they turn up, no matter how annoying they may be.

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Why Dating Drives Me Nuts.

I’m not very good at dating

This is for several reasons.

First of all, flirting does not come naturally to me.

For me, flirting is one of the most awkward and contradictory forms of communication that you can engage in as a human being – you are trying to play it incredibly cool whilst simultaneously caring intensely about what the other person thinks of you.

Under these conditions, my brain tends to short circuit and I normally end up with something that is the complete antithesis of cool spurting involuntarily from my mouth.

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I also spent a lot of my teenage years reading teen romance novels and watching period dramas and, as a result, my expectation of love is unrealistically high.

Although I feel I have matured a lot since my Twilight days, some part of me still expects a potential romantic partner to declare their feelings for me in an elaborate display of affection, something involving a series heartfelt handwritten letters or a moonlit guitar serenade.

Unfortunately, the language of love nowadays instead seems to consist mainly of a series of strategically constructed WhatsApp messages – I always feels like I’m playing a highly tactical game which normally ends with me lying awake at night, debating whether I should substitute an ‘X’ at the end of a message for a generic smiley face emoji to avoid coming on too strong.img_0625In addition to my general inability to engage in romantic communication, I also have quite a severe nut allergy which means that I have to be careful before I kiss anyone to make sure that they don’t have any traces of nuts in their mouth.

Needless to say, this doesn’t do much for creating an atmosphere of spontaneous romance.

img_0634In an ideal world, I guess it would be easiest if I could find someone who also has a nut allergy, partly because we would understand each other’s dietary needs, but mostly because I’ve been waiting for years for an opportunity to use the phrase:

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I honestly have no idea why I’m still single…

Overall, I don’t really mind being allergic to nuts that much.

I mean it kind of sucks that I can’t eat certain things, like Nutella for example, mostly because everyone’s always telling me how good Nutella is.

I was once seeing a guy and things were going quite well until we walked past a Crepe stand on a date and he asked if I wanted to share a Strawberry and Nutella crepe with him.

I told him that I couldn’t eat Nutella and he looked at me with an expression of raw shock and anguish, as if I’d just told him that one of my close relatives had died.
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As I was speaking, I saw it slowly dawn on him that he couldn’t eat Nutella in the afternoon and then get off with me in the evening – the two thing things couldn’t co-exist in the same reality and he would have to choose.

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To cut a long story short, he chose Nutella.

A few weeks later, one of my friends came to me upset because her boyfriend had left her for another girl.

This, of course, was awful and terrible thing to have happened but I found it hard to feel too much sympathy for her.

I mean, at least her ex left her for another sentient being…

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