Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Remembering Grandad

It's exactly a year today since I got a phone call from my mum to say that my Grandad had finally had enough of hospital wards and operations and had passed away in the night.

I wrote this eulogy first in my head as I walked around the fields near my house exactly a year ago, then on paper, then on my battered old PC (mainly to see if I'd got the grammar correct. It's the little things that matter in situations like this.)

His ashes were scattered on Pendle Hill, an important geological marker to me, which I can see from my front door. I don't kid myself that he's watching over me from that high point - I reckon he's got better things to do. I do like how much of a vantage point he has over East Lancashire, the Forest of Bowland, Ingleborough and on clear days, Lancaster, Morecambe Bay and beyond though. If he ever does visit, he's got one of the best roof terraces in the world to keep an eye on us.

*~*

Like most of us Cronshaws, my Grandad was a doer, not a talker, so he showed how much he cared in actions, not words. He’d do anything he could to help, if it made you happy. He fixed things. His was a practical sort of love.

My Grandad and I spent a lot of our time not saying very much - I’m a lot like him, actually, and when he helped me to move my life from London to the North he had no idea how much better my life became. Or perhaps he did. Maybe that’s why we didn’t need to speak about it. I spent two years thinking of a way to tell him, finally meeting him with a brown envelope full of the money I’d saved to pay him back and the right words in my head.

He wouldn’t let me give that envelope to him. He had wanted to help. That sums him up for me - he was happy that he had changed my life and all he wanted in return was a hug and for us to have a pint together.

My Grandad showed me it’s okay to love life and still be a misanthrope sometimes. He was an insight into my family, into who I am. He showed me that it’s hard work to be yourself, but that there’s not much else in the world more worthwhile to work for.

The last thing I said to my Grandad was “I love you.”

It was probably only the second or third time either of us had said it to one another. It’s not a particularly common Cronshaw trait to have, a sense of emotional open-ness.

I’m glad I told him. I’m glad he always knew. We should tell everyone we love that we love them as often as we can - not fatalistically but because we can. Because we do. Because we always will.


Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Cry-laughing: An Epidemic

People are crying laughing everywhere I go. They are crying real tears when a man falls into the road - an angry man, who deserves ridicule. They dissolve into weeping hysterics in the safe knowledge that they are right and understood, thanks to statements pasted alongside an illustration of Edwardian ladies or the Minion Scourge; something that would have once been dismissed as Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: Fwd: content bullshit.

People cry laughing when other people are having fun. People cry laughing when other people are not having fun. People cry laughing when animals do the funniest things. People cry laughing when children are still feeling the effects of anesthesia. People cry laughing when fabricated, one sided arguments are posted under the guise of screenshotted WhatsApp conversations. (They don't even need to be photoshopped anymore, just write the words you never said on a word document, take a photo and share them on Tumblr.) People cry laughing when famous people's nobs fall out of their pants. People cry laughing at badly made cakes, at TV programmes, at bad fashion decisions, at terrible haircuts. People cry laughing at politicians, at journalists and at the royal family. People cry laughing at fake Twitter accounts purporting to be God, or Jesus, or Werner Herzog.

People cry laughing at mocked-up stunts, believing them to be real, believing themselves to be better than the person they are laughing at. People cry laughing at adverts, misunderstanding the original source material, believing themselves to be superior.

Cry laughing is the laugh of people who will never tell you what's so funny. It's the sound of the braying arsehole, loudly deriding your sorry existence by honking and pointing.

Except nobody is cry laughing anymore. Not really. Nobody has cried laughing at something on the internet in a long time.

We're just silently clicking, tapping, sniffing, shuffling into the darkness of total enveloping irrelevance. When hyperbole reaches critical mass, where do we go?

Into the dark, my dears. Into the comforting dark. Cry laughing into the dark.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

4 simple things you can do today to make yourself happier

I'm a glutton for punishment. Whenever I see an article that might be about improving my well-being, self-esteem or happiness quota, I click. I generally pride myself on my ability to swerve clickbait but these articles always hook me. There's something about genuine, simple happiness and contentment that seems just ever so slightly out of reach for those who are terminally cynical or who find it hard to forget that the world is perilously close to total shiteness at any given moment.

This morning my vice was i100, the Independent's hateful expanded Twitter feed of headlines and provocative sign offs designed with the intention of getting people (like me) to contemplate life and war on Facebook.

The article was a listicle (of course it was), detailing 9 simple things I could do, right now, in order to be happier. I hated myself for clicking, but click I did.

*click*

Apparently if you go for a nice walk, list all the things you're grateful for and "invite someone to tea" (I'm not even fucking joking about this), you'll feel like your heart has begun to glow beatifically.

Total nonsense I think you'll agree, so here is my offering to the world on the same subject.

Find at least three hobbies and obsess over them in your down-time

Remember when you were a teenager and playing the guitar was the one and only thing you cared about in the whole world? Was there a year or two of your life that you spent building dirt ramps for your bike or sawing up bits of wood to make a go kart or playing Final Fantasy 7 or Goldeneye or Abe's Odyssey or learning how to do an Ollie without your pants falling down? Did you hide crates of Fosters and bottles of Hooch in the woods near the park, wait until it got dark and then drink on the swings with your mosher mates sharing headphones and Richmond Superkings?

Weren't you happier then?

Of course, when you look back on your teenage years, there's every chance you believe that you were very unhappy. Being a teenager is really shit. However, the one saving grace of every adolescence is the amount of time available to devote to any given hobby. Hobbies are fantastic. They are often the only outlet you have where your actual passions can reveal themselves.

I have a lot of hobbies. I'm a pretty morbid person when I'm left in my own company, so keeping busy doing things I enjoy is a necessity. If you're the same way as me, give something new a go. I picked up crocheting last year and I can't get enough of it. I also relentlessly scroll through Instagram for tattoo artists' accounts and I recently started going to guitar lessons again after a 10 year hiatus. Do your brain a favour and think about something else other than your own mortality for a change.

Another hobby - going for walks and looking at interesting geological features. Look, a nice bit of conglomerate!


Make peace with people who pissed you off more than three years ago

The best thing about this advice is that there are no obligations to be made, it's just a way to make yourself feel better, no strings attached.

The trick here is to think about the people who you try not to think about, just for a moment. Why don't you speak anymore? Were they a dick? Were you a dick? Can you even remember? 

Now you have three options: Resolve the issues internally, write out a letter or send them a message on Facebook.

Resolving internally is the easiest to cheat at but the hardest to actually do. It involves thinking about why you still hate this person and coming to the genuine conclusion that this is not necessary, useful or healthy. Forgive them as much as you can and promise yourself that you're going to move on. Then move on.

Writing out a letter is my favourite way of exorcising demons. Write a long, heartfelt letter to the person in question. Include everything that you're upset about, include your own misgivings, capitalise it if it makes you feel better. Then, when you're done, read it. Then read it again. Then tear it up and bin it. You have no idea how good it feels to finally get all of these things out of your system. Bonus: The offending party will never know.

A message on Facebook is the ballsiest way to be a coward and I've only done this a couple of times. Basically, do the same as you would do when writing a letter, but with the intention of sending it to the person who upset you. Then read it. Then send it. Bonus: Frank and honest messages on Facebook are terrifying and you will almost never receive a response.

Stop being such a miserable bastard all the time

I know the last thing you ever want to hear when you're feeling low is that you need to pull yourself together. I know as well as anybody that depression is not something you can just sort out by putting on your busywork hat and getting on with life.

However.

After dealing with depression for most of my life, I've learned that when I'm feeling good I can put some of that good feeling in storage for later. What I'm trying to say is this; When you're feeling good, don't waste it. On days where the sun seems a bit brighter and interaction seems a bit easier, lean into it. There's nothing wrong with being happy. If driving to work in the sunshine blasting Haim with the sunroof open makes you grin like a Staffordshire Terrier (and of course it does because it's one of the greatest feelings in the world) then let yourself grin.

It makes it easier to believe that good times do return.

A happy staffie. Look how happy! Just because of a ball!


Find a way to enjoy living more healthily

THE WORST ONE. SORRY GUYS.

There's no way around this and believe me, I've tried. The absolute truth is, being more healthy impacts your wellbeing more than anythinge else you can do.

I don't believe that exercise alone can beat depression, however the goals and achievements you set and reach while doing it can make you feel a lot better about yourself. I'm not on about self-improvement because I have no right to tell anybody that they aren't already the best person they can be. What I do believe though, is that trying to be even a little bit more healthy helps you to recover from illness, helps you to be able to walk further and run faster and it helps you to improve your state of mind.

I run when I can and eat more veg than I used to and as a result I'm getting to vent out any aggression, think through my problems (there's not much else to do when you're running), take more care when it comes to deciding what to eat and I get a whole lot of superficial bonuses too.

Going to the doctors when you're sick counts too. Stop suffering from recurring colds and flu, weird pains or undiagnosed allergies and sort it out. You are worth looking after.
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