A Memoir of Chaos and Grace

From the moment Laura Jane Williams mentioned her friend Meg Fee’s book on Instagram, I knew that this book would be a comfort to me. It just came along at the right time.

Places I Stopped on the Way Home: A Memoir of Chaos and Grace – Meg Fee

In Places I Stopped on the Way Home, Meg Fee plots her life in New York City- from falling in love at the Lincoln Centre to escaping the roommate (and bedbugs) from hell on Thompson Street, chasing false promises on 66th Street and the wrong men everywhere to finding true friendships over glasses of wine in Harlem and Greenwich Village.

Weaving together her joys and sorrows, expectations and uncertainties, aspirations and realities, the result is an exhilarating collection of essays about love and friendship, failure and suffering, and above all hope. Join Meg on her heart-wrenching journey, as she cuts the difficult path to finding herself and finding home.

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From megfee.com a watercolour by E. Rhondeau Morgan

Ok, this makes it sound really cheesy. But as I try to make my own way in the world, I am loving this wave of wise young women sharing the lessons they have learned. Made more exciting by the way we think we ‘know’ them from their social media and blogging presence. Also: I don’t know if it’s solely because of Royal Wedding fever but I think there is something of Meghan Markle about the beautiful Meg Fee? No?

Meg lived in New York for 13 years, since she was 18. She met a lot of ‘maybe’ men, she battled an eating disorder, she hated jobs, she lost a friend in that painful way we all seem to have suffered. But she makes every warm cupped latte and cold bitter wind sound beautiful.

Laura Jane Williams, a feminist whirlwind I love to follow on Instagram @superlativelylj was email friends with Meg Fee for several years before they finally met in Paris. They shared the most intimate things across the Atlantic Ocean. I love that. And it gives reminds me of Time to Talk Beauty and I! (Irish Sea… met in Belfast, still!)

“This is a missive to and from the muddled middle.”

Each chapter is a place in New York, the West Village, The A Train, West 10th Street. She plots disappointments and her own mistakes, she doesn’t dwell on work, because it’s not important. I love how she writes. There’s one chapter, ‘On Home’ and she writes ‘And when I call you in hysterics, when I collapse into you undone by something you think small and ridiculous, just the moment before your impulse to fix everything kicks in, give me three words: I hear you.’

Reading between the lines, I don’t think she’s met the man of her dreams just yet, but she’s ok with that. She’s often overwhelmed by how much there is to look forward to. Most of the women I have read, shared, sent the link around to friends recently, the ones writing most truthfully and relatably about love are alone.

Maybe the danger is Meg’s chaos and grace are not as chaotic and a lot more graceful than mine. Briefly I worry that my misadventures and wasted time and indecision are a lot more damaging than hers. But this is not the point.

It’s a book you want to underline and memorise passages from, and I just love that so many women are sharing their favourite lines online. I was crying by the end. There’s a lot of wisdom here. I was annoyed LJW picked out a line in the foreword, ‘I am every man who has hurt me, and the quiet hope that we’ve only got to get it right once.’ Because what a cracker of a line, and I was waiting for it throughout the whole book.

‘The year leading up to my 30th birthday was astonishing. Mostly in it’s ability to wound. It was a year of so many What Ifs and blind curves on unlit roads. A year in which, just as soon as I thought I knew where the story was going, the ground would shift beneath my feet.’

I think anyone who is struggling with their twenties will get something from this book. I have read it twice already. Hold fast to hope, as Meg would say.

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What I read: January 2018

This long old month is finally coming to a close. I have written 2017 almost every time I have had to write the year, as usual. Only managed 2.5 books this month, there has been a lot going on! I have really enjoyed them however and would like to share.

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg

This was started in 2017 and finished at the beginning of the year. I was really enjoying Master of None on Netflix, and remembered someone recommending this about a year ago. I don’t really know what to comment on the recent accusations against Aziz. This is a great investigation by Ansari and the social psychologist Klinenberg. It begins by polling elderly residents in US residential homes about how they met their partner. And so many were from the same block, or same apartment building! And they were so happy. Now that the whole world is open to us through online dating etc, are people still so happy? It’s witty and thought-provoking, and uses a lot of actual data without being boring at all.

The Power- Naomi Alderman

Really fascinating. Women have developed an electric ‘skein’ a power that allows them to hurt and help with electricity from their fingers. That sounds ridiculous, but it is such an eye opener when men are afraid to walk down the street alone…hold on, is that familiar? And what a basement full of enslaved sex workers will do when someone sets them free and gives them power… Some of the personal stories were not completely riveting for me. Although abused Allie who becomes cult leader Mother Eve, like a holy female Mother is truly amazing. This book rewrites history in a way, a fictional female editor recommends that the man writing this particular history publishes his book under a female name to give him more authority. She thinks the image of male soldiers is super sexy because they’re just so unlikely.

Three things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon

Ah, my personal favourite. And not just because it has a Battenberg pattern on the front! I was crying in Cafe Nero today reading over bits to write this.

  1. The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
  2. There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
  3. Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

I have read Dr Joanna Cannon’s blog for so many years, shes a psychiatrist who has worked the hospital wards for many years. Her stories are beautiful, and full of care and patience and love. There is at least one beautiful sentence on every page. I remember printing out a blog post she wrote about her mother getting old for my Mother and Aunt. She’s that good!

Florence, an elderly resident at Cherry Tree Home has fallen and she is waiting to be rescued. She goes over the last few weeks, the new resident who is not as he seems, and tries to find a terrible secret from her past in her memories.

It’s a book about loneliness, friendship, kindness and forgiveness. Flo and Elsie are the stars of the book, the friends. I think I figured out one of the things about Elsie early on, but it didn’t take away from the book at all. It’s interesting in this sense how Elsie prompts and helps Florence remember things. They depend on each othter.

Even the secondary characters Miss Ambrose, who is like the manager of Cherry Tree and ‘Handy Simon’ the repair man, I could really relate to their anxiety and worry about their career, and their meaning of life searches and disappointments and hope. I also think its so special that Joanna thinks of these issues, as she is a Psychiatric doctor, surely she doesn’t have these dilemmas?

We walked into the men’s department, and it was coat-hanger quiet.

Jack bought several pairs of socks and a new pullover (which he said would see him out)

Jo’s experience on hospital wards have inspired her, she’s obviously understanding and kind, she can and does teach us about loneliness and caring for each other.

Perhaps the most important moments of all turn out to be the ones we walk through without thinking, the ones we mark down as just another day…we benchmark our lives with birthdays and Christmases and holidays, but perhaps we should think more about the ordinary days. The days that pass by and we don’t even notice. Elsie once said that you can’t tell how big a moment is until you turn back and look at it, and I think, perhaps, that she was right.

How to Be Champion

I love Sarah Millican. Yes she’s a ‘dirty bitch’ as my Mum says (she loves it!) But she’s also so real, wise, FUNNY and is outspoken about the world’s beauty standards/ sexism. She maybe doesn’t match up to what is deemed beautiful or fashionable by the Instagram generation but she has learned not to give a crap (except literal IBS craps that she describes in detail!) and she encourages all of us to do the same.

My International friend (ha) Caoimhe and me saw her live stand up, two years ago? In our hometown and we loved it! Her honesty about her marriage breaking down, her dividing us into flowers or pets, her ACCENT, and bravery all make me love her. Also her sharp risqué wit that had me laughing til I cried.

 

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I’m a proud member of Standard Issue, the online magazine, now podcast Millican started in 2014.

In September, 2014, Standard Issue launched as a smart and witty online magazine for women by women, covering everything that interests women – ie everything. No celebrity tittle tattle, no photo shopping, no calorie counting, no cellulite circling. Just honest, good, interesting and funny writing from a bunch of cracking broads.

Standard Issue will never tell you who to be, what to wear or how to look. We believe that every woman should feel empowered to simply be herself.

I was excited when I saw she had a new autobiography out, How to Be Champion. I devoured it, with plenty of tea and coffee and cake as prescribed, in a couple of days while not wanting it to be over.

Sarah’s description of school was similar to mine, I always felt extremely ugly and I would melt if anyone asked if I had a boyfriend. She was studious and interested and got picked on for that, the reason people are in school!

She’s obviously worked SO HARD to get where she is, and I enjoyed reading about all her different jobs. Even though I still feel like I was stuck in her 19-year-old job at age 28!

Sarah got married at age 22 and the marriage broke down after 7 years. She was absolutely floored, really hit rock bottom, moved back in with her parents, became deeply depressed, but somehow started finding funny elements of the situation and worked on her writing, and somehow stumbled into stand-up comedy which she was made for. She’s wise and smart about the divorce. I think it would be very helpful for someone going through the same thing.

Her achievements are amazing, and she really deserves her success. I hope I can somehow channel her enthusiasm and willingness to work hard and sleep on people’s sofas for maybe writing a novel someday. She somehow gives people extra permission to be themselves while being HILARIOUS of course. I love a book that makes me literally LOL.

She has her priorities right, and in so many ways the Internet…the world does not, and this book is a breath of fresh air for women especially.

I almost did a cry as Sarah would say, when I finished the book. I read someone’s tweet that said ‘It’s a rare thing to find a book that feels like a friend.’ @NaomiPanter

I feel like that too. I just kind of wish she didn’t tell me the thing about hotel kettles. Can’t stop thinking about it.