All that I am, all that I ever was…

I am more than my mental health. I am more than my homelessness. I am more than any one aspect of me. I am Addy. And this is…


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Try Looking At It Through My Eyes – Day 11: The Forgiving

Day eleven of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
Choose one thing in your life that you have done and feel guilty for and write yourself a letter forgiving yourself for that thing.  (PS. You don’t need to name the thing you did unless you feel comfortable doing so.)

forgiveness

Dear Addy,

By now you should be used to getting these letters from me so I’m not even going to bother proving my credentials; you know who I am because I used to be you.

So, where are we now? Parks and blankets, isolation and soup vans? I did tell you homelessness would be soul-destroying, so perhaps now you’ve experienced it you’ll spend a little more time listening to my sage-like advice instead of filing it away in the ‘too hard to deal with’ basket.

I’m not writing today to get you through homelessness. Partly because there’s little I can say that will make you feel better and partly because this is something you have to deal with by yourself. The only person who can help you out of this situation is you, Andrew, so just get to it…and never give up!

The reason I’m writing to you today is far more complicated and important. I’m here to help you forgive yourself for the things you feel guilty for. Now, given that I’m you, I know full well that forgiving yourself is one of the hardest things in the world. You hold onto things. You dwell on every decision. You take responsibility for everything, even for things that you had no control over, and it’s not healthy. In fact, all that’s going to happen if you keep blaming yourself is an early – most likely slow, painful and lonely – death.

Now, I’m not going to focus on the little things you can’t forgive yourself for; things like stealing the milk and chocolate from the convenience store or not asking Natalie out when you were thirteen. By now you already know how futile feeling guilty over these trivial acts actually is. What I’m going to focus on are the big three. And, just so we’re clear, I’m not going to forgive you for them.  I’m going to tell you why you should forgive yourself for them in the hope that you will find forgiveness in yourself.

-●-

#1: Grace

Should you have been there for Grace? Absolutely.

Should you despise your very existence for the rest of time because you weren’t? Possibly.

To be honest, this one is hard for me to justify without resorting to the tried and true excuse of ‘mental illness’. You know as well as I do that if you had been ‘stable’ at that point in your life things would be different. But you weren’t stable, you were hypomanic, you were lost to the ravages of this insufferable mood disorder. Half the time you weren’t even able to look out for yourself, so why exactly do you think you could have been there for other people?

When it comes to this mistake I’m afraid I don’t have any easy answers. You know you did the wrong thing and you’re going to have to live with that. You know you should forgive yourself for it. And I know that there is nothing I can say that will make that happen.

So please, just try to move past it. After all, when it came to Kathy, she did.

#2: Samantha

No matter what you tell yourself, no matter what lies you deceive yourself with, no matter how many times you tell yourself that you could have saved her; Samantha’s death was not your fault! At the time of her death you were 10,000 miles away on the other side of the planet. At no point in those months did she tell you she was depressed, suffering through mental health problems or becoming suicidal. If she had, you know damn well that you would have done something. Sure, you can play the ‘what if’ game from now until doomsday, but even if you had entered into a relationship with her there’s no guarantee that you could have curbed her drug use, which means there’s every chance she would still have taken that ecstasy and still lost her life at a tragically early age.

You did everything you could for Samantha. Not only were you her friend, you helped her achieve a life-long dream, and you witnessed the bliss in her eyes as she achieved it. Even her sister would go on to tell you just how much you meant to Samantha. You were there for her when no-one else was, and that’s certainly something to hold onto.

But the reason you shouldn’t blame yourself for Samantha’s death is simple; you don’t even know if it was suicide. Sure, your mentally-ill ravaged mind has latched onto this explanation as it’s the easiest thing to focus on, but there’s every chance it was simply an accidental overdose; which means there is literally nothing you could have done.

Samantha’s death was a tragedy that will affect you for the rest of your days. But instead of mourning her loss and languishing in her demise, you should celebrate the fact that for a brief moment the two of you were friends. And that is more important than anything.  

#3: Kathy

I am going to say something that you have already heard countless times over. In fact, over the next several years you are going to hear these words so often you’re going to want to smack people for repeatedly saying them to you: the abuse was not your fault; you did absolutely nothing to deserve it.

Kathy was a sociopathic narcissist, a master manipulator, a woman so insecure in her own life that she would do anything to illicit control over everyone she came into contact with in order to prove to herself her delusional belief that she was the most perfect human being to have ever walked the earth.

And yes, you fell for your lies, get over it.

You will never know the reason why she chose you to destroy. (And if you’re still harboring any doubts…that is definitely what her goal was!) You loved her; she deliberately annihilated you. You had no idea what she was doing; she always knew what she was doing. So what exactly could you have done differently?

So I say again: the abuse was not your fault; you did absolutely nothing to deserve it.

And I need you to keep repeating that line, every single day, for the rest of your life, otherwise the guilt you feel over the abuse will cause a lot more damage than her vicious treatment of you ever did.

-●-

Although you won’t be able to comprehend this right now, not from the park that you currently call ‘home’, in a few years you will begin something called your ‘recovery journey’. You will spend many days, weeks and months looking back over every decision and action in your life so you can find closure and more toward a healthy, happy future. A large part of this recovery journey will be forgiving yourself for these three, and other, events.

Hopefully, by sending you this letter, the seeds of that forgiveness will have been planted.

So once you’ve read this letter, re-read it if you must, but then tear it up, throw it away, have it for your dinner, do anything to it other than dwell on it. You do far too much of that as it is.

Be kind to yourself, Andrew, life will get better than it is now.

And if you can learn how to forgive yourself, it will get even better, or so people say.

Love and hugs always,

Addy xox

~◊~

If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here:

| Day 01 | Day 02 | Day 03 | Day 04 |
| Day 05 | Day 06 | Day 07 | Day 08 |
| Day 09 | Day 10 |


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Dear Older Me,

Today’s prompt from the WordPress Daily Post blog is: write a letter to yourself in 20 years.

Dear Older Me,

You are probably dead.

Here’s hoping it was quick, painless and didn’t win a Darwin award.

Love and Hugs,

Younger You xx

PS: If you’re not dead:

◊ Give your wife a kiss and a bum squeeze from me. Don’t look at me like that! I’m you remember, only more Hobo-Chic than Silver Fox. There’s not a chance in hell you made it to fifty-three trapped in the same isolation you used to be in. You know as well as I that would have killed you long ago :) Besides, I know how hard you worked to get where you are because I’m the one doing all the hard work – and there’s no chance someone as awesome as us could work so hard and not get a payoff from it!

◊ Are you still writing All that I am, all that I ever was. Please tell me we’re at least in contention for longest running blog in the history of the world? You know that would be freakin’ awesome!

◊ I’m hoping that you told our family tales of yesteryear when you took them on a tour of Scotland. If you didn’t, why not? Seriously. Do you not remember how happy you were back them; gazing out over the loch hunting for Nessie (your kids will love that), hiking through Glen Nevis, taking boat trips to the Isle of Rum, skinny dipping in Loch Shiel? Okay, perhaps save that last one for your wife only, don’t want to scar the children for life! Hell, you better have fulfilled your fantasy of skinny dipping with someone in Loch Shiel…if not, the two of you should go back there this instant and get all nekkid! :p

◊ If I were to time-travel to a bookstore twenty years from now, will I be able to find a copy of The Ghosts That Haunt Me? Because if I do time-travel and I don’t find a copy with our name on it…you and I are going to have a serious conversation, young-at-heart man!

◊ If you haven’t already, you need to forgive yourself for the mistakes you made in the past against those you love. They wouldn’t want you holding onto that guilt forever. Well, not all of them, anyway.

◊ Are your kids close to P&K’s kids? I’m seriously hoping that they are. If not, get to it!

◊ Please, please, for the love of all those mystical things in the shadows, tell me you never became homeless again? If you did, then we’re really gonna have that serious conversation!

◊ If you haven’t crossed at least 50% from your bucket list you’re going to have to promise me you’ll dedicate the next twelve months of your life to succeeding in that goal.

◊ If you haven’t crossed off item one – WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!? DO IT NOW!

◊ And c’mon, am I not allowed to fantasize about giving future Mrs. Addy (or did you take her name…I bet you did, didn’t you?) a wee squeeze on her beautiful posterior? She probably secretly loves it. No way someone would have married you if they didn’t like the occasional surreptitious bum squeeze when you give them a passionate kiss :p

PPS: Rejoice! You finally wrote a PS longer than the body of the letter!

PPPS: In all seriousness, I hope that when you read this letter you will look back on the last twenty years of your life and be kind to yourself. Remember, but don’t dwell, on all the dark places you visited. Remember all those times when you wanted to give up, when you lived completely alone, when you had to fight the daily ‘getting out of bed’ battle, when your home was a park in Inner Melbourne.

And as you remember all those times, look around you; at your wife, at your children, at your home, at all the wonderful things in your life, and just let yourself have one moment, just one moment when (out of earshot of the kids) you stand up and proclaim “I fucking did it!”

Because you really are awesome, Mr. Used to be Addy til you took your wife’s name!

But hey, you don’t need me telling you that. You’ve known it all along.

You just didn’t believe it until now. :)


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A postcard to my fourteen year old self

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt is: write a letter to your 14-year-old self.

A few months ago I sent an open letter to my thirteen year old self. If you haven’t read it, you really should, as it’s a post that has passed my strict regulations of awesomeness to become one I’m proud of:

Unsent Letter #7: And before you think it – no, I’m not trying to flirt with you!

Not wishing to inundate my younger self with letters from future me, I decided to send him a postcard instead.

~ CLICK THE IMAGE TO DISPLAY AN ENLARGED VIEW ~

 Callanish Standing Stones (Isle of Lewis, 2000) © Addy


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Unsent Letter #7: And before you think it – no, I’m not trying to flirt with you!

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay, this is going to be a little interesting. And difficult. Apologies in advance if I lose my way on this one!

9 September 2012

Dear ——–,

I know you’re not one for taking orders, you’re stubborn like that, but for the first time in your life you will do exactly what I tell you to do, understand? Trust me, you’re gonna want to.

Okay, I want you to grab a couple of bars of chocolate, a mirror and a bottle of water (it’s very important that it’s water) and then you’re going to walk to the Castle. Yes, there! See, told you I knew you! Not every day you receive a letter from someone who knows exactly what you’re thinking, is it?

You are not to read any further until you are safely nested away in your Fortress of Solitude, got me?

I’ll see you in about twenty minutes.

Okay. Settled in?

Good. You may proceed.

——–…I’m Addy, aka, you in twenty years.

I’m writing to you because in September 2012 you come up with a crazy idea to write a series of unsent letters on your blog (you’ll understand in time) to important people in your life. You don’t decide who will receive these letters yourself, but instead write down a hundred names and then draw the lucky recipient at random. You’re supposed to keep them anonymous, but given I’m writing to little-me, I’m bending that rule from now on!

Today, Andrew, your name came out of the hat. And yes, you are important to me, even if neither of us believes it.

So, before I go any further, I want you to pick up the mirror I asked you to bring. I want you to spend the next five minutes just looking at yourself. Look at your hair, your nose, your lips and the funny little scar above your eyebrow. Look at your eyes, I mean really look at them. Now stand up and take your top off, look at your chest and nipples, look at your back, your freckles and muscles. Unbuckle your belt and take a gander at your penis. No need to strip fully, just look at it. Run your hands over your body, feel your skin, your hair, your earlobes. Squeeze your buttocks. Wiggle your toes. And before you think it – no I’m not trying to flirt with you!

I know you Andrew. I know how much you hate yourself. All those hours you spend sitting in your room carving patterns into your leg with those scissors isn’t just because of the emotional pain. I know you’re telling yourself that, because I did.

You’re self-harming because you hate yourself on every level.

You despise the way you think; the way you can’t talk to people, the way you can’t talk to girls (especially Kathryn, but we’ll get to her in a minute), the way you think you’re useless at everything you do.

You hate how you look; your thin lips, your unmanageable hair, your weight, your chubby backside.

You abhor yourself so much you just want to end it all. No need to fake denial, Andrew, I’m you remember!

Well, I need you to understand that it’s all wrong. You’re suffering from an illness that’s all. It’s not an illness that affects the body – like mum’s diabetes or dad’s asthma – it’s an illness that affects the mind – like Kathryn’s anorexia or mum’s depression. I know you don’t know this yet, but you will, and I really, really, need you to start changing the way you think.

You are a beautiful boy, Andrew, really, truly, honestly. In a few years you’re gonna have girls wanting to strip those clothes off right where you stand but if you continue thinking the way you do you’ll bottle out and miss out on seeing their cute backsides!

You are not useless. You are not worthless. You are not stupid. You are not ugly. You are not grotesque. You are not evil.

You are the exact opposite.

Think of you’re writing, how creative you are, how you spend hour upon hour drawing portraits of Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. They’re good, Andrew, really good! Think of how imaginative you are, how your fantasies run so wild you spend weeks writing story after story. Think of how much you care. How you’re always trying to help people – mum and dad, Kathryn, your classmates. Think of when you helped that man cross the road even though those prats ripped the shit out of you for days afterwards. Think of when you helped the old woman on your paper round when she slipped on her front steps. Not everyone would do that, Andrew, but you do.

You spend so much time worrying about everyone else’s happiness you don’t leave any time to think of your own.

And you need to!

You need to be nicer to yourself. You need to stop berating and beating on yourself. You need to be kind to the only person you will spend your whole life with you. It’s not fat, it’s a challenge. Your hair isn’t unmanageable, it’s rugged. That butt of yours isn’t chubby, it’s spankalicious. Your nipples aren’t pathetic, they’re Super-Nipples (you’ll laugh when she says that, but it will make you so happy!)

Before we go any further Andrew you need to promise me that whenever you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself you’ll stop, take a breath, and twist them around just like I did above.

Because if you don’t do that you’re going to start self-harming more and more to get the same hit. You’ll move on from scissors to knives. You’ll start pondering matches, and then entire boxes, and you don’t want to go there Andrew, believe me, I speak from bitter experience.

OK? We got a deal?

Good.

Now, Kathryn. Not your sister, the other one. The one you’ve been dreaming about every day for the last eleven months. The one with the magical eyes, heart stopping smile and excellent bottom. You’ll learn for certain as you get older that women are scary, and enchanting, and terrifying, and amazing, and frightening, and the greatest thing on Earth. Seriously, Andrew, women have it all worked out. They are smarter than boys, funnier than boys, better looking than boys and you get on with them far better than you do the males of the species – even if that’s hard to understand right now.

What you’ll also learn over time is that, no matter what the media tells you, women and men are basically the same. We all want the same things; love, affection, care, compassion, orgasms and ice-cream. Not necessarily in that order.

They’re not going to bite your head off and feed it to their offspring. They’re not going to stab you in the eye with an ice-pick if you say something stupid. And they’re not going to chain you to a wall and whip you to within an inch of your life unless you ask them to and/or pay for the privilege.

What I’m getting at Andrew, is your anxieties over talking to Kathryn are powered by the same issues that’s clouded your opinion of yourself. You’ve convinced yourself you’re a terrible person so you can’t imagine how she could ever be interested in you, whereas you’re an awesome person (change your thinking, remember) and she’d be lucky to have someone as amazing as you in her life.

So stop umming and ahhing and convincing yourself it’s all too hard, just walk up to her and say ‘hello’!

That’s all you need to do. After that, it’ll be second nature.

As for the other Kathryn, there’s nothing you can do about her right now other than what you’re doing. Although, in a few years, when the family goes to Great Ormond Street – do whatever you can to convince mum and dad that she should be in there! She won’t get the treatment she needs where she is, regardless of what anyone tells you. So if you want to help her, make it happen! Okay?

POP QUIZ HOTSHOT (you’ll understand that in a few years) Fill in the blank….your feet are                                 .

The reason I’m saying all this Andrew is that you think you won’t always be like this, but the way you’re thinking at the moment is only going to get worse if you don’t take care of it now. In a few years you’ll be thinking of killing yourself, a few years after that you’ll be running away from home, and a few years later you’ll be so caught up in the cycle of negativity and self-harm you won’t know how else to live. You’ll end up homeless, isolated and alone.

And you deserve more than that!

You are an amazing kid, Andrew, looking back now I can see that – and I wish I had someone telling me all this when I was your age. Hence, why I’m breaking the laws of space and time to try change things! Although I can’t give too much away – partly because of the time-continuum, partly because I don’t want to spoil too much – here’s a few things to keep in mind:

– In 1995, when it comes to choosing your A-Levels, listen to your HEART not your anxiety!

– In 1997, phone home first.

– In 1999, don’t question the woman with the left-hand side obsession.

– In 1999, remember the word Walkabout.

– In 1999, listen to what Alice tells you instead of thinking it’s a joke.

– In 1999, tell the person who paints your face what you’re too afraid to tell Kathryn right now.

– In 2000, the woman who slaps you in the face needs your help. Do everything and anything you can!

– In 2000, don’t listen to your ethical code; you will regret it for the rest of your existence!

– In 2001, remember the initials V.S.P

– In 2002, listen to your heart and punch you’ll know you in the face.

– In 2004, suggest you wear a wedding dress as a form of protest.

– In 2004, don’t worry, she’ll be back.

– In 2006, trust the taller one.

– In 2006, remember to say what you’re thinking when you’re eating soup.

– In 2007, if you’ve forgotten all of the above and things play out exactly as they have, remember:

– In 2007, do not drink the Gin and Tonic. If you do, and it happens (believe me, you’ll know what), tell someone.

– In 2007, triple bind the scarf to stop it stretching.

– In 2008, someone will offer to repay you in kind, accept it.

– In 2008, call her! Just fucking call her. Do not let anything, anyone or any anxiety stop you!

– In 2009, the person who shares the name of someone in your past needs your help. Do everything and anything you can!

– In 2009, remember a synonym for rocky pinnacle; not a flightless bird.

– In 2009, do not click ‘publish’ when mentally unstable.

– In 2010, they are not offering Salvation!

– In 2011, if you’ve forgotten all of the above and things play out exactly as they have, buy a new belt, yours is getting weak!

Hopefully you’ll only need to remember the first item to give you the life you want; I’m just trying to cover all the bases!

Now, with all that in mind, and without trying to embarrass you, I need to talk briefly about you know what. If I remember rightly you’ve already started thinking about it and you’ve already started convincing yourself that it’s wrong, bizarre and downright disgusting. But remember what I told you? CHANGE YOUR THINKING!

POP QUIZ HOTSHOT: Fill in the blank…your thoughts about this are                                                                 .

I told you to think positive! Now, given I know you won’t want this written down anywhere – prying eyes and all – I want to let you in on a few things. Firstly, you are not alone! There are many people who think the same way you do – millions upon millions of them! Secondly, in about five years you’ll discover something called the Internet and when you do you’ll berate yourself for wanting to type something in. Don’t! Because you’ll finally learn that I was speaking the truth when I said you weren’t alone. Thirdly, there is nothing wrong with it! Fourthly, never, ever, ever, let anyone stop you from experiencing it.

Life is meant to be lived, Andrew, never forget that! You don’t want to get to my age and still have this as a fantasy! It will invest you like a parasite and devour you from the inside out! Just embrace it!

You see Andrew, like all those body issues and mind fucks you give yourself, this is just another part of the anxiety; another reason to hate yourself, another reason to convince yourself you’re the world’s most grotesque human being.

Whereas in reality, it’s just another reason to love yourself even more!

Like your writing, your art, your imagination, your compassion, your creativity, your passion…this is just another small stitch in the multi-coloured tapestry that is you!

No-one will ever define who you are Andrew, trust me on that. People will try. Oh, believe me they’ll try! But no matter what gets thrown at you, you don’t let them. You channel your strength and keep trying to be the best version of yourself you can be. This is what you need to start doing now.

Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your life. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. Don’t let anyone control your destiny. Not those cunts at school, not your sister, not your teachers, naysayers or abusers. You – and you alone – are in charge of your life.

So as long as you believe in me like I believe in you, we’ll be just fine.

Take care my friend, be nice to yourself, always.

With love and hugs,

Addy xx

PS…In 1996 you will become disheartened and question your faith…just remember 2005!

PPS…POP QUIZ HOTSHOT: Fill in the blank…The freckles on your hand are                                                  .

PPPS…Yes, I still write dozens of PSs!

PPPPS…Please stop hating yourself so much, no matter what you or anyone tells you, you really are a good person.


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Unsent Letter #6: In the end, what we regret most are the chances we never took

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay, this one is an anomaly because even though they’ve made a significant impact on my life – I’ve never actually met them!

8 September 2012

Dear ——–,

Given you and I have never met I want to make it clear from the very beginning just who I am. If I don’t this letter will either come across like some weird junk e-mail from an Arabian Prince or something even more creepy and disturbing that you’ll have to ask your parents about. You see ——–, I’m your Uncle, and at the time of writing you are two years old.

Your life, at this moment in time, revolves around eating scrumptuous food, playing with toys, throwing the occasional tantrum and making life as difficult as possible for your parents. If you’re not doing the latter, hop to it! They’re called the ‘terrible twos’ for a reason – until next year you have carte blanche to be as naughty and annoying as you like!

Throw food around at dinner time. Draw stuff on the walls. Stick toast into your Dad’s video game consoles. Pour honey in your mother’s hair. Sit in the middle of a supermarket screaming until your mum caves from embarrassment and gives you a chocolate bar. Vomit over a lawyer’s $10,000 suit. Bring home a stray raccoon and leave it in your parent’s bed.

Obviously, these are just a few ideas, but as your Uncle it’s part of my job to make sure you’re living life to the full. Don’t worry about your parents, they may scream and shout from time to time, but they’ll see the funny side of that racoon one day!

Anyway, I’m sure you’re far more proficient in the ways of the Dark Side (get Dad to show you if you don’t understand this pop culture reference) than I am so we’ll get on to the gist of the letter.

As you know, we’ve not had the chance to meet yet because I’m currently living in Australia publishing novels, directing motion pictures and hanging out with the Wiggles. You know the Wiggles, right? All this talk about me being a crazy homeless man is hearsay started by a rival film-maker who’s trying to discredit my project for his own nefarious (ask your mother) ends. I assure you that once I’ve finished my film I’ll invite you to the premiere so you can dazzle the crowd with your awesome tuxedo before winging you home way before bedtime so as not to earn the ire (ask your dad) of your parents.

Before that though, I’ve taken a few hours break from filming in order to pen you this letter to fulfil my duties as Uncle and partake some vitally important life-lessons that I hope will hold you in good stead for the future.

  1. Whatever anyone tells you, there are only three Indiana Jones movies. It is a trilogy that begins with Raiders of the Lost Ark and ends with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Got that? Good, now remember it always!
  2. Your mother is God. Whatever she says, you do. No questions. Unless she wants you to wear a silly Easter Bonnet made of tin-foil, in which case, don’t. Those pictures will come back to haunt you, I guarantee that!
  3. When you get to High School and start crushing on a girl (or guy) even though it feels like the hardest thing in the world – talk to them! Don’t let any anxieties get in the way of flirting with them…and only if they’re willing…kiss them, canoodle them and attend all night parties against the wishes of your parents. Trust me, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
  4. Never – ever – do drugs. If they’re ever offered to you remember Grange Hill (ask your Dad) and just say NO!
  5. Should you feel the need when older to travel the world, there are some stunningly hot girls (and guys) in Australia who are just gagging for a sexy accent like yours. And remember, what happens in the land Down Under, your parents need not ever know about.
  6. In relation to number 3, never forget Mother’s Day. Should you ever have any problems working out what to get her, your mother is a huge fan of: Civil War Re-enactments, Ed Wood movies and WWI era memorabilia.
  7. As for Father’s Day you wouldn’t be going wrong if you got him: the novels of Mills and Boon, anything from the discography of Crazy Frog, tickets to a Monster Truck Rally or mittens.
  8. Vanessa Hudgens is the world’s finest living actress. Or if she’s been cruelly snatched before her time by the time you read this, was the world’s finest actress.
  9. Apple and all its products are evil. Don’t get sucked in.
  10. You’re a man, yes, but that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to feel emotions. Never feel bad about talking to people about any problems you have. If you don’t, if you choose to bottle it all in, chaos will ensue. I assure you.
  11. Harry Potter doesn’t exist. The entire series is a mass world-wide hallucination. Don’t fall for it.
  12. Find something you love doing and do it. Don’t let criticism, naysayers or bullies stop you.
  13. As with number 1, there are only three Star Wars movies. It is a trilogy that begins with The Phantom Menace and ends with Revenge of the Sith. Got that? Good, now remember it always!
  14. For the love of whatever you grow up to believe in, NEVER START SMOKING!
  15. Look after your teeth, you’ll miss them when they’re gone.  And yes, I mean brush them twice a day without fail.
  16. Scotland is the greatest country in the entire world. If your parents tell you otherwise, they’re lying.
  17. Christopher Nolan is an over-rated hack. The same goes for Joss Whedon, David Fincher, John Lasseter and Alfred Hitchcock. So avoid any movies by these people and go for: Michal Bay,  Brian Levant, Uwe Boll and Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer instead.
  18. When your parents show you their wedding album, I am wearing a kilt not a skirt. A kilt! And before you ask, yes, beneath the kilt I was decked out in the traditional Scottish way! (ask your mother)
  19. You will go blind. It’s not an urban legend.
  20. Remember the words of the great Frasier Crane (ask your parents) always:

I should point out that, like Dads, Uncles have a terrible sense of humour. It’s part of our official duty to be as unfunny and embarrassing as possible – something I learned from experience – so it’s entirely possible I was being a little sarcastic with some – if not all – of the above pieces of advice.

The only thing you need to remember ——–, is that this is your life. Don’t let anyone tell you who you are, what you can do, where you should go or who you should spend it with, especially if they leap out at you unexpectedly carrying a big red book! (ask your Mum)

It’s up to you to live your life however you see fit, and when things go wrong (which they will, be under no illusions of that) remember there are people like your mother, your father, your grandparents and all manner of aunts and uncles who will be there to help you back on your feet. All we want is for you to have the best life possible, and we’d move mountains to help you achieve it; your mother and father especially, who love you more than you’ll ever know.

Just remember no matter how naughty you are, no matter how many times you do the wrong thing, no matter what mistakes you make, no matter how many raccoons you kidnap into your parents bed, you will always be loved.

And in the end, that’s all we need.

With love and hugs,

Uncle Addy xx


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Unsent Letter #5: It’s a bit of hole, but a gorgeous hole

The idea for this series came to me last week whilst writing about how social anxiety has affected my life. How my inability to share myself with others prevented me from saying the things I really wanted to say. So, last night, I tore a sheet of paper into 100 pieces and upon each one wrote a name. These names were partners, teachers, acquaintances, ex-work colleagues, family members, old friends and random strangers who made a significant impact on my life.

Each day this week I will draw one of these names at random and then write them a letter.

The only rules for this challenge are:

1) The person will remain anonymous.
2) The letter should include unsaid things I always held back.
3) It shall be written as a sixty minute stream of consciousness. (i.e. no painful seven hour editing sessions, so please excuse any grammar and/or spelling mistakes)

So with all that in mind…[shakes beanie, shakes beanie again, once more for good measure, plunges hand into sea of scrunched up piece of paper, selects, reads name]…okay. An oddity this one, considering I only knew her for four minutes!

7 September 2012

Dear ——–,

Never thought you’d be hearing from me again, did you?

What was that?

Ah.

Don’t worry, I’m not upset you don’t remember me – I would’ve been stunned if you had! You see, the thing is, I’m doing a series of unsent letters to important people of my past and today, your name was plucked out the hat. Aren’t you a lucky woman? It’s not often you receive a letter from someone you knew for four minutes some thirteen years ago, is it?

Yes. You’re more than entitled to screw this up and throw it in the garbage but before you make a decision let me tell you why you’re an important person from my past, it may just pique your interest to keep reading.

You are responsible for the best twelve months of my life.

Yep, I’ll say it again just so it’ll sink in. You, ——–, are the person responsible for the best twelve months of my life. Now, doesn’t that feel a little awesome? No. A bit creepy? Fair enough.

In September 1999, I was but a young, fresh faced wee thing completely clueless with the methods of bunk beds, dorm rooms and all night drinking games. You were a ravishing raven haired backpacker hostel receptionist, who, like the Sirens of lore, enchanted every male who ventured too close. I was too shy to strike up a conversation for the five days I spent in Edinburgh, but on the last day, I bit the bullet.

You were wearing a pair of faded, dark blue jeans with a slight tear in the left knee. Your shirt was red, your jacket raven black to match your hair and your socks rainbow striped beneath kicked off ankle boots. You had a small Celtic knot tattooed on your chest, a silver stud in your nose, a gold ring in your left eyebrow and a single looped ring in your left ear. You also wore Jarvis Cocker style black rimmed glasses and had a habit of scratching the back of your neck whenever a guy was pissing you off.

I remember the latter only because I stood in line for ten minutes whilst an ogre of a Spaniard tried to chat you up, but you kept fiddling with the ring on your finger hoping he’d get the hint.

Anyway, when I finally reached the head of the queue I made no attempt to convince you into my underwear, merely requested your assistance. I wanted to book a hostel in Fort William and you were able to do so until you asked if I’d ever been to Oban. After telling you I hadn’t, you nodded sagely and and then picked up the phone.

After you’d booked the accommodation – and given them my credit card information – you gave me a booking slip and told me I wouldn’t really need it as they had a record of my reservation but to hang onto it anyway. I thanked you and you said “You’ll need this though,”

You then leaned over the desk, revealing the tattoo on your left stomach (which is when I wanted to ask you what is it with you and your left side? but didn’t) and pulled out a train timetable. Which I already had so politely declined until you said “Not to Oban, you haven’t,”

(And then the conversation went something like this…)

“I’m going to Fort William,” I said.

“I made the booking in Oban,”

“I asked you to make a booking in Fort William,”

“I know. But you also said you’ve never been to Oban. So I booked you Oban instead,”

“Why?”

“Oh. Did you have something important you needed to get to Fort William for?”

“No, not really, I went there a few years ago and wanted to pay it another visit,”

“So you’ve already been to Fort William?” You said. “But not Oban,”

“I’ve never been to Oban,”

“A sentence you’ll never be able to say again after tomorrow. Look, there’s a train at two-ish and you’ll be in Oban by five, easy,”

“But,” And then I made some weird sigh, and then I smiled, and took your timetable. “So what’s in Oban?”

“Nothing really. It’s a bit of hole, but a gorgeous hole,”

Now, I’ve worked in backpacker hostels in the years since this exchange and I can honestly tell you that if any of my receptionists had booked a hostel for someone that wasn’t at their destination of choice, without asking or confirming first, there would have been lashings of trouble. We’re talking a bollocking of such biblical proportion it would have redefined this British colloquialism for scolding for the rest of time.

I should have been angry. I should have been pissed. I should have been all manner of cheddered off.

But, like you said, I’d never been to Oban. So what the hey?

Anyway, we never crossed paths again, so I was never able to thank you for being such a bizarre receptionist. The thing is, ——–, like I said at the start to try and tease your interest, you’re responsible for the best twelve months of my life.

Because if I’d gone to Fort William I would never have been in the Oban backpackers to pick up a copy of the Anne Rice book Memnoch the Devil from their book exchange. And if I hadn’t picked up that book I would never have had a random conversation with a strange little Danish man who waxed lyrically about a wee town called Portree.

And if I hadn’t listed to his sonnet over this fishing village I would never have decided to go there after a few days in Fort William. And if I hadn’t gone to Portree I would have arrived in Inverness a week early, which means I would never have met Patrick, and if I hadn’t met Patrick, I wouldn’t have gone to Aviemore, so I wouldn’t have chanced upon an old woman in the Visitor Information Centre who recommended I visit Foyers.

And if I hadn’t extended my stay in Inverness to visit Foyers I would never have met Deborah. And if I’d never met Deborah I would have missed out on spending four months with some of the best people I’ve ever known. This, in turn, inspired me to go to Canada where I would meet Annie and Rachel.

And if I hadn’t done that, lord knows where I would be right now!

You see, ——–, your rather cheeky action set off a chain reaction that not only gave me the best twelve months of my life, it changed my meager existence in so many ways it’s almost impossible to count. Without you changing my plan for me, I wouldn’t have met people I couldn’t imagine my life without.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Even though we knew each other for only four minutes some thirteen years ago, even though I don’t even know your name, the impact you had on my life is beyond measure – and I’ve always wanted to tell you this.

With love and thanks,

Addy xx

PS…I took this photo twenty-four hours after we met. It’s always been one of my favourite’s from the trip.

PPS…You’re right, Oban was a bit of a hole, but a bloody gorgeous hole!

Other letters in this series: