Stop Telling Me To Get Over My Grief

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Grief, it’s a funny old thing isn’t it? I firmly believe that once you have experienced gut-wrenching, soul-destroying levels of loss, grief will forever live inside of you. It never really goes away.

People always tell you that it will get better, easier, and other things that they believe you want or need to hear. You’ll have to excuse me, but I call bullshit on that. I lost my grandmother, very suddenly, almost four years ago. I’m still not over it, nor do I think I will ever be. I’ve accepted the circle of life, that people get old and die, but I have not gotten over the loss of her life. I’ve not gotten over the big hole left in my heart, over all the things we both left unsaid. I still think about the funeral, clear like it was only yesterday, I still feel incredibly guilty for being the only woman in the immediate family that could not cry.

People close to me at this time did not understand my grief, old people die, they’d say. Life comes full circle to an end. But my grandmother was a second mother to me, she brought me up from ages 0-10 y/o as her own child, and the loss of a parent is not one which you get over, which gets easier to bare over time.

What people don’t tell you about grief is that, in fact, it gets harder with time. Nobody told me that as the sound of my grandmother’s voice becomes more and more distant in my mind, the last sounds that I heard from her, in the midst of a violent asthma attack, become louder and louder, echoing in my dreams. I can still close my eyes and see her coffin being lowered into the ground, in high definition. But nobody told me that sometimes, suddenly, I would have to rush to a photo to remind myself of the features of her face, the lines on her forehead.

Nobody told me I could and would grieve for a sister I did not meet in life. My mum has one single polaroid photograph, taken in an incubator, of my sister, born in January 2000 and deceased three days later, when I was 10 y/o. That photo is the closest I ever got to meet her. Nobody prepared me for the enormous guilt that consumes me every time I forget to add Sara to the list of my siblings.

These two losses are completely different. But they are valid and as much as I learn to accept and live with them, I will never get over them. They have left holes in my life and heart, and no matter how much the pain dulls with time, it will always hurt deep down. We need normalise grief, and stop rushing people to “get over it”.

Lockdown In Bolton In Photographs

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Le Mans Square, Bolton

During Lockdown 2020 I had to venture through the town centre one day, and I was actually quite surprised at how pretty Bolton can be when its completely stripped back and naked. As towns go, this town is not the best, it has landed in the top five of worst northern towns to live in, more than once. But the Bolton that I found on this day, is one I had not yet had the pleasure of meeting in my eighteen years living here.

Bolton Interchange

The eerily empty Interchange station even had its own little charm, a few bus skeletons lay resting at their stands, and I walked past one single cleaner who jiggled his keys as he hummed a little tune that sent a shiver down my spine. The place was so spacious and empty that just the sound of my steps created a small echo. Cool, but creepy.

Victoria Square, Bolton

When I moved to Bolton eighteen years ago, Victoria square was probably one of the first places that I visited in the town, and it is now one of the only places that remains the same. The Market Place is unrecognisable, Newport Street, The Train Station, The Old Bus Station, The Water Place, so many landmarks have either changed or gone altogether, its comforting to still have one place that reminds me of such a huge milestone in my life. I will always hold a soft spot for Bolton in my heart.

Black Lives Matter

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Yesterday I took part in the peaceful protest for the Black Lives Matter movement, in Manchester. Thousands of people showed up for the cause, today we are all facing a huge backlash for attending. Today we are blamed for a possible second peak of COVID-19. People are missing the point, they don’t want to see it, they are happy in their own ignorance. Ask yourselves, what is so important that thousands of people took the risk of exposing themselves and loved ones to a virus during a global pandemic? Racism is a pandemic.

I get that for a lot of people it is uncomfortable to talk about racism, but how do you think those experiencing it for generations feel? We live in a time where the information really is out there if you want to find it, if you want to educate yourselves. I’m not claiming to be some sort of expert on the situation, but perhaps the point is more that I am doing something about it. I am learning everyday. You can read books, watch youtubers, listen to podcasts and documentaries. You can and must do more.

Here is the thing, you don’t have to like George Floyd, you are entitled to think that he was a low life for holding a pregnant woman at gunpoint, while five of his buddies ransacked her home. I think so too. But that is so beyond the point. I didn’t march for Floyd. I marched against oppression, against systematic racism. Yes George Floyd was a criminal, a violent criminal in some cases, but he was still murdered by a racist cop, using police brutality, in a inhumane manner. And if that doesn’t move you, then you are part of the problem, I’m afraid.

In the past few days I have deleted so many people from my facebook friends, granted some of those people were simply that, facebook friends, but I have zero tolerance for ignorance now. Yes, this a conversation that must be had, we must keep talking, educating and enlightening where we can. But this is our problem, it is not up to the black community to fix it. We are the oppressors, we are the racists, we have to change. And I have no time for “All Lives Matter” people. If all lives mattered, then black lives would matter.

Forty Days and Forty Nights of Lockdown 2020

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No matter what corner of the world you are from, currently we are all in the same boat. Except the boat isn’t really a boat, but a raft, made from soaked branches, fallen from rotten trees. There are multiple holes in the raft, water seeps through, and we are sinking, slowly, a couple centimetres each day. I hope you can swim. Some people have drowned already. Don’t look in the water.

And this is how morbid I am feeling in relation to Lockdown 2020, day 40, today.

But one day is not all days.

Looking back now, I feel like I wasted so much positive energy during the first three weeks of lockdown. I had the umph, the motivation to be productive and creative. I took on extra jobs, seeing as my job is on hold right now. I drew, I read so much, I started a bookstagram (insert shameless plug here), I wrote everyday, and I dedicated some time to my photography. But by the time the second lockdown was announced, I was consumed by an enormous anxiety.

I fear the return to normality, yet I crave it enormously.

I have found a really effective and positive coping mechanism for the times that I start to feel claustrophobic, oppressed by the confinement of isolation. This may not work for all, but for me it works a treat. It’s so simple, I just take a step back to count my blessings. I am alive, me and mine are all healthy. I have a roof over my head, and hot meals on the table every night, and most importantly, I am isolation with my family, in a loving and supportive environment. I really have no reasons to complain.

Yes, isolation sucks. I’d like to be able to meet my friends for a coffee, to go into the library to do my work, I’d love to go to a bookshop, which reminds me (as the postman delievers yet another package) I need to stop buying books. But for the vast majority of us, it could be so much worse.

Stay safe, stay sane, and most importantly, have a little more patience and stay home.

*avert your eyes now, massive cliche coming up*

This too, shall pass.

International Women’s Day Appreciation Post – As Mulheres Valerio

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First and foremost, Happy International Women’s Day. I wish you all strength and love. This post is dedicated to the women of my family, past and present, the Valerio women. Women of strength, resilience, women of faith. Women who have helped, knowingly and unknowingly, shape the woman I am today. Women to whom I owe my life.

The biggest appreciation has to go to my mother of course. My mum is the strongest, most inspiring, and most influential woman in my life. If not for her, there is a very strong chance that I would still be living an unhappy, unhealthy life, prisoner to career which made me mentally unwell. I used to think it was too late to go back to the drawing board and start again, I thought I was too old to learn a new craft.

That was until the summer of 2018 when I attended my mums graduation. At 50 years old, my mum graduated from a Bachelor Degree with a 2:1, and I was in complete aw of her. If she could do it at 50 then there was no reason, no excuse for me not to do it at 28. And so shortly after her graduation, I enrolled at university, and am not midway through my second year in a Creative Writing Bachelor Degree.

I could go on and compile this whole post with reasons why my mum inspires me, but I will just say this: after raising three children single handed, leaving everything and everyone she knew behind and migrating to a whole new place in search of a better life for us, and then beating a horrific bout of depression and going on to complete a BA Hons degree, she is my HERO.

I would also like to mention my auntie, Rita, who was a late child, and at only 32 has lost both parents. She was left to stay behind and look after my grandparents at the end of their lives. Being countries apart we can only offer limited support and Rita was the one left on the front line, dealing with my grandmas premature, sudden death and my grandad’s long battle with cancer. And she never complained, she just kept fighting on. Even over seas, Rita has taught me what resilience really looks like, and I don’t think she even realises that.

Next up, my godmother and auntie Sandra, who I always thought would always be the cool aunt to travels and brings you back cool gifts, but is now a wonderful mother to three beautiful children. Big up auntie Sandra for migrating first, and then talking my mum into doing it too. Thanks to her, we have a quality of life we never would have had back at home. And she practically was a live babysitter for some years, so there’s that. Lastly I want to thank her for my love of Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

And lastly, I want to shout out my grandma. I can not list all of the things she has taught me throughout my life, but the most important one has to be unconditional love. She didn’t understand my life choices, especially regarding my sexuality, she was a woman of tremendous faith, and I guess her god didn’t accept me. But despite all of this, my grandma loved me unconditionally and she never, ever, treated me any different. She may not have understood the person I was, but she accepted me, even though that went against everything she stood for. And that speaks volumes to me, I miss her dearly every single day, and I will lover her eternally.

I Learn With My Hands

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Oh hello, sorry I didn’t notice you there. Don’t mind me, I’m just sitting here in the corner, alternating between rocking back and forth and hitting my head against the wall repeatedly. I’m not at all academic. I was never that way inclined, even back when I was an innocent, intelligent and applied high schooler. I do like learning, I love learning new skills, and learning about all the things I’m interested in, but I don’t learn from reading dense text books. I just can’t. I learn by watching and doing. I learn with my hands.

Doing a degree in Creative Writing is amazing. I get to explore my creativity in so many different ways and it has really awakened a huge passion inside of me. But there are times where I doubt my abilities, and whether I am capable and worthy of being here. Those times, I want to drop out. But no matter how tough it gets, this is the one thing in my life that I am determined and fully committed to seeing all the way through. I will graduade. Even if it not with the grade that I want.

I make the grades in the creative modules without much effort really, balancing a full time student/full time employment life is tough and I don’t always have the amount of time I’d like to dedicate to my creative projects, but still my grades show that I am a good writer. When it comes to the academic side though, as a mature student, out of education for over a decade, I’m struggling. Although not failing by a long shot, I also can’t seem to be able to attain the level that I want to reach. Academia is my nemisis.


Sometimes You Just Need A Little Creativity Therapy

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Well hello there, dear blogsphere. How are we today? I know it is only Wednesday but I’ve had such a creativity filled week already, I thought it only apt to write a little blog post this fine afternoon. I have been blessed with opportunity this week, firstly getting access to a complete dress rehearsal for Willey Russel’s play Shirley Valentine on Monday, followed by a poetry workshop and a live literature event with brilliant author Rosie Garland on Tuesday, and finally spending the afternoon promoting The Bolton Review, a student led creative arts magazine, of which I am part of the editorial body.

Time goes by so quickly lately, sometimes it’s difficult to keep track of what day of the week it is.

Between working a job that is neither part-time nor quite full-time, attending university lectures, running a poetry Instagram account, Working Class Poetry (which is slowly beginning to thrive) and trying to maintain any sort of social life, I feel like I’m napping through life recently. Whether its a twenty minute power-nap on the train from work to university, or during breaks from lectures, I find it hard to find time to just write, for me, and for you, the nobody out there that I imagine when I write.

Lately I have been making a conscious effort to write more by starting a diary, and trying to keep up with this blog, but I also want to start to explore my creativity more. Which is why I have made the most out of this week and the opportunities it has presented. Watching the dress rehearsal for Shirley Valentine was amazing, I have to write a short review for it as an assignment, and it’s safe to say I think I’m going to struggle to keep to word count. I just want to shout about it from the rooftops. Mina Anwar is an outstanding act, she made me laugh out loud and evoked such emotion that almost brought a tear to my eyes. I would urge anyone to try and see it.

And of course, I couldn’t leave without mentioning the fabulous Rosie Garland. Author of three novels, poet, lead vocalist and an absolute first class performer. Not too mention super charismatic and hot. Last night I had the privilege to sitting inside a library, and listen to Rosie read from her latest novel, The Night Brother, and from her latest poetry collection, As in Judy. It was magical. I felt every word, and I’ve got to say I think I have a slight crush. Also, slight claim to fame but I shared a conversation with Rosie before the event, and today she followed me on twitter, I’m wining at life.

Forever Running Out of Time

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It’s safe to say that I have been massively failing to manage my time recently, but now I feel like I’m finally starting to get back in control. I have gotten over the stress from assignment season, and I have even started planning this semester assignments ahead of time, and finally I have started to revive my poetry Instagram account, which has been grossly neglected over the last little while.

Semester two already feels miles better than its predecessor. There is a lot more creativity involved, I have once again been asked to join the team producing this year’s issue of our university’s creative arts magazine, The Bolton Review, which is super flattering and exciting. Also, the ratio of creative to theoretical modules this semester is in my favour, so all in all, I’m feeling more positive about the near future. I’m looking forward to learning the art of reviewing all kinds of art, and I’m super excited to putting together my poetry portfolio.

Yes, I have started writing poetry again, finally, after months of simply not being able to conjure up enough motivation to get back into the swing of it. As I mentioned above, I run an Instagram poetry account, Working Class Poet is my first ever creative brain child, it has been under some sort of construction/maintenance for a long, long while, but it is finally heading in the right direction towards the vision that I have for it. Feel free to check it out via the link above, if you enjoy amateur photography and a spot of poetry.

I promise to back, with gardening gloves and a watering can. I promise to tend to you much more frequently, my little flower. For now, take this shower of words and rest, tomorrow brings more light.

Why I Bought My Mum a Children’s Doll For Christmas.

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Merry Christmas!

So Christmas is over. Just like that, in the blink of an eye, all the stress and excitement of the big day evaporates and we’re all left admiring our gifts, binge watching Christmas films and eating left over calories for days. I love Christmas. I love the joyful spirit that it spreads over the world.

I love getting all the family together, playing board games with the kids, sitting at the table eating Portuguese food for hours on end, drinking Portuguese beverages and carrying on the Portuguese traditions of Christmastime. It makes me sad that we waited until my grandma passed away to go back and celebrate Christmas in the motherland.

Christmas is the one thing about me that is still 1000% authentic. I mean, I even dream and think in English now, after eighteen years of living in England. But our Christmas, is still very much Portuguese, always will be.

This Christmas was extra special for me. I haven’t always been the best daughter. Lord knows, I’m still not even close, but I’m grateful for moments like these, moments that allow me to make up for my past mistakes. Moments that allow me to show my mum and family how much I love them. Which leads me to my favourite part about Christmas, the look on people’s faces when they open my gifts.

I know Christmas isn’t about presents and material things, but when I shop for presents I buy with the intention of making someone happy. It isn’t about the materialist gift itself, but what the gift represents. I put thought, love and care into my gifts, for family and friends alike, and those gifts represents the love I have for them.

Story Time

This story begins a couple of weeks ago. One night, driving somewhere with my mum, mum driving, me aimlessly scrolling through my phone, absent minded. Mum begins to tell me about a competition hosted by a local radio station urging people to write in with a story about the toy they always had wanted as a child but had never found waiting for them under the tree.

I laughed and asked if this was her subtle way of telling us that this year she would like a toy for Christmas. Mum laughed too, but then proceeded to tell me the saddest story.

As the eldest of four, in a working-class family, she had never received toys for Christmas, but instead chocolates (which she could eat in abundance all year round) and pyjamas. At the time, I found this incredibly sad, but the longer I thought about it, the more it broke my heart.

I knew mum hadn’t had the best or the easiest of childhoods, in fact I believe that mum was robbed of most of her childhood, but the more I thought about her at Christmas, always asking, always hoping for this one toy, but never finding it under that tree, the heavier my heart grew.

Enter Nancy

Nancy was a Spanish manufactured, pre-Barbie doll. She is much bigger than a Barbie, but pretty similar in all other aspects. Popular during my mums childhood in the 70’s, she is now a collectible. And this is the “toy” that my dear mother had always wanted and hoped for as a young girl. The gift she never received. Enter Romina.

I decided that this Christmas, my mum would finally, excitedly unwrap her very own Nancy doll. She deserves that, and so much more. I did a basic online search, ebay came up with a couple of second hand dolls for £5. That simply would not do. I asked around my older friends. None of which had ever heard of Nancy. Not surprising after realising she was indeed manufactured and primarily sold in Spain and Portugal.

Finally, Amazon (the deathstar, as one of my lecturers like to call it in his best creepy voice) came through for your girl. Brand new, boxed, collectible Nancy dolls. I can not tell you the immense happiness I felt making that purchase, unboxing the huge doll box, and Christmas wrapping it for my mum.

But none of that compared to the feeling of watching her unwrap it, the wide shock that spread through her eyes, or the massive smile on her face as she played with Nancy on Christmas morning, carefully changing her into a new fairy tale dress. If you’ve read this far, thank you for sharing this amazing Christmas moment with me. I will stop waffling on now and leave you with a couple of snaps capturing the moment perfectly.

I hope everyone has had a Christmas filled with as much love as I did.