Friday, August 18, 2017

RomCom Friday: Notting Hill

RomCom Friday is a new weekly feature here at Ramblings of a Daydreamer. I’ve always been a romantic comedy addict, and since I’m currently writing a romcom, I thought it would be fun to feature a favourite romantic comedy every week and talk about why I love it. Please note, there will be spoilers for each movie.

I started my RomCom Friday feature last week with what is probably my all-time favourite romantic comedy movie: Bridget Jones’s Diary. This week I’m featuring another top favourite: Notting Hill. In the next few weeks, you’ll likely notice I have a particular fondness for British movies and certain actors (whether British or not, but in this case, since I'm featuring two movies in a row with Hugh Grant, you can see there's going to be a pattern here!).

Notting Hill, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant encompasses so many aspects of what makes a romcom great: a fantastic cast (like with Bridget Jones’s Diary, you get a wonderfully eccentric and eclectic group of friends who you come to love and root for as much as the main characters), hilarious scenes and dialogue, a romance to root for, and countless quotable lines.

One of the things I love about Notting Hill is how it’s completely different from everything else Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant (two of my favourite actors, by the way) have done in their careers. The role of Anna Scott is an interesting choice Julia Roberts because the character is quite subdued and understated. I’m used to seeing Roberts in roles where she’s a lot more expressive and quirky. Anna is a bit jaded by Hollywood and wary of who she lets into her life. She’s used to dealing with fans, the paparazzi spreading rumours and taking unflattering pictures, and she’s been forced to try to remain to look young in order to keep her job. Her romances have been with fellow celebrities who know what the Hollywood lifestyle encompasses, so meeting and developing feelings for William really threw her for a loop.  

“And don't forget...I'm also just a girl standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” ~ Anna  

Hugh Grant as William Thacker, the bumbling, floppy-haired travel bookshop owner is just about the cutest thing ever. Grant tends to be cast as the insufferable jackass who says and does the wrong thing, offends at every turn, and yet still manages to somehow be charming. In Notting Hill, he’s purely charming.

“You are lovelier this morning than you have ever been.” ~ William

Not only are the roles different for Roberts and Grant, the movie itself is refreshingly different; the majority of celebrity-falls-for-normal-person movies and books I’ve encountered feature a famous guy and a ‘regular’ girl, so Notting Hill is a fun spin on that. I also like how they portray the passage of time (the scene where Grant walks down Portobello Road in Notting Hill with the seasons and people changing all around him while ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ plays is a clever way to show time passing, unlike a lot of other movies that just skip ahead and expect you to keep up) and that things weren’t easy or immediate for Anna and William.

Anna: “Can I stay for awhile?”William: “You can stay forever.”

For me, Notting Hill is a quintessential feel-good movie. It’s always made me run the gamut of emotions - even 18 years later (god, that makes me feel old!) I still giggle and get teary at all the same parts. I’d love to have a group of friends like William’s (I’d pass on a roommate like Spike, although you'd never be bored having him as a friend). This is one of those movies that seems to have an almost cult-like following, with people who will hear something like ‘whoopsidaisies’ or ‘love isn’t love without a violin-playing goat’ and know immediately not only what movie it’s from, but also the exact scene and what was happening.

Side note: there aren't many songs on it, but I love the Notting Hill soundtrack. To this day, I can't hear She by Elvis Costello, Ain't No Sunshine by Bill Withers, or When You Say Nothing At All by Ronan Keating without thinking of Notting Hill (and knowing exactly what scenes they're from).

Notting Hill Julia Roberts Hugh Grant Anna Scott William Thacker Romantic Comedy

Do you like Notting Hill? Who's your favourite character? Do you have a favourite quote? Have you been to Notting Hill? I've wanted to go since the first time I saw this movie and was so excited to finally venture there two years ago when I went to London, but we just didn't have time. Next time!









 


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Pity Party: Table of One


Last night, my friend JK got on a plane, passport and visa in hand, and flew to London. After spending a few days there, she’ll be on her way to Wales, then Scotland, and finally Ireland, where she’ll be living for the next two years. After living in London for two years (November 2014-November 2016) on a UK visa, she always knew that, visa permitting, she’d be going to Ireland next.

If you know me well, you’ll likely know Ireland is my #1 dream destination. I’ve always wanted to go, and have even attempted to plan several trips, but something always happens and they fall through. When JK asked me last year to go with her to Ireland, I was determined to make it happen. I could stay there legally for three months without a visa, and since I can work from anywhere, it would have been ideal. I started saving immediately and planning out the things I wanted to see and do. I imagined the sweet little cottage we would stay in, my dream accommodation ever since reading Nora Robert’s Jewels of the Sun and fell in love with Jude’s house in Ardmore, Ireland. But as time went on, I had to accept the ugly truth: I wouldn’t be going to Ireland with JK.

Why? Simply put (although there’s actually nothing simple about it), the last year and a half has been hell for my family. Without getting into too many details, I’ve had a lot to deal with, a lot of responsibilities that shouldn’t be mine, and because of that, every time I’d get ahead with my savings, I’d need to use the money for something else. Not only that, but there’s no way I could leave right now; I’d feel like I was abandoning my family in their time of need. Even if I was the type of person to say ‘It’s my life, and I can’t let anyone or anything hold me back’, I know I wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy myself because I’d be worried about what was going on here.

Throw in the fact my career feels like it’s circling the drain, plus I’m stressed, overwhelmed, and overworked most of the time, and here I am throwing a fairly epic pity party. And I hate it. There’s no cake or balloons or entertainment, it’s just me inside my own head, alternately worrying and feeling sorry for myself. And feeling envious - there’s a lot of envy. I’m jealous of JK for getting to live my dream. I’m jealous she doesn’t have the responsibilities and commitments I have. I’m jealous her money is her own and she was able to save enough to go. I’m jealous of the countries she’ll see and the people she’ll meet and the experiences she’ll have while I’m stuck here, feeling like things will never change and having a hard time seeing any light at the end of a long, dark tunnel.


There are other factors, too, known mostly as ‘the online comparison game’. Being online, we’re surrounded by people living fabulous lives (or at least seemingly fabulous - what you see online isn’t necessarily the whole story) and it’s hard not to be envious sometimes. I follow a lot of travel accounts on Instagram; at times I realize I’m a masochist, because seeing all those beautiful places I long to travel to makes me wistful and sometimes downright sad, depending on my mood. And yet I love looking at pictures of pretty places and getting ideas of places to go and things to do someday. Can you say 'bear for punishment'?

Another issue (there’s more?! you say) is seeing people gain massive amounts of followers, or sell thousands of books, or get sponsorships and other great opportunities while I feel stagnant in so many areas. I’ve read so many blog posts with flashy titles like ‘the must-do trick to quadrupling your Instagram following’ or ‘how I hit the bestseller list and made enough money to quit my job’ or ‘how I got eleventy billion page views in six months’ (okay, I made that one up, but you get the idea). I’ve tried many of the things people have suggested, always hopeful the newest idea will be THE ONE, and I sit and watch my numbers...do nothing. Hardly anyone reads my blog, my Instagram follower number is stuck, and don’t even get me started on my book sales. It’s hard not to get frustrated and that frustration often leads to feeling sorry for myself.

Here’s the thing about all of this: I know I’m being ridiculous. I know this is small peanuts in the grand scheme of things. I also know I have so many things to be grateful for and a lot of people have it far worse than I do. But that’s the thing about self-pity: it’s not exactly a discerning emotion. It doesn’t care that you’re smart of self-aware or have better things to do with your time than wallow over things you can’t change. But then that’s part of it too - not being able to change things and feeling powerless and hopeless. It’s a vicious cycle.

So what do I do with all these overwhelming emotions? I guess the only thing to do is just keep on keeping on. Continue to work as hard as I can, save money, hope the situation with my family improves, and believe that someday I’ll get to Ireland and that everything else will sort itself out. I saw this quote yesterday while I was working on this blog post, and it really spoke to me:

“If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.”

I’ve always been someone who believes everything happens for a reason. I have to believe this isn’t my time to go, for whatever reason. But I refuse to give up on my dream of going to Ireland. And in the meantime, I’ll continue to work hard, focus on the areas of my life I can change (like writing and publishing more books, which will likely lead to more book sales), remember I have plenty to be thankful for, and hope that when I finally do get to travel again, it’ll be amazing.

As for online stuff, despite my masochistic tendencies when it comes to following people living the high life, I do have some advice for others who get jealous of people online: It’s important to curate your Instagram/Twitter/Facebook feed. It’s one thing to feel occasionally wistful at something someone else has, but it’s a completely different story if someone else’s life makes you feel like shit about your own. If someone’s feed makes you feel like you’re not good enough or you find yourself making constant comparisons, hit the unfollow button. It’s there for a reason. People should inspire you, not bring you down.

There are times in everyone’s life where they want what they can’t have. Everyone occasionally wants more or wishes things were different. The trick is to focus more on what you do have. What you can accomplish. I talked recently about self-care and giving yourself permission to feel your feelings. You're allowed to feel down and you're also allowed to take some time for yourself (social media breaks are especially good if online stuff is a source of your issues). Work through your feelings, find the root of the problem, and figure out what you can do to make things better. And if you want to sit at my table of one and make it a table of two, maybe we can turn this pity party into a real party. My comments and email are always open, or feel free to tweet me if you need support or encouragement.


Do you ever get in funks where you feel sorry for yourself? What do you do to get over them?









 


Monday, August 14, 2017

Why I Love Romance

contemporary romance romantic comedy romancelandia

I am addicted to romance, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Contemporary romance. Romantic comedies. Historical romance. Paranormal romance. Give me a good love story, and I’m a happy girl.

Something I see way too often, both online and off, is people crapping on romance. It’s unbelievable to me the number of people who look down on romance readers and writers, as if we’re somehow less, deprived or depraved, uneducated, or undiscerning. It’s come to the point where many people are embarrassed to admit they read or write romance. I’ve heard stories from fellow authors who have said people automatically assume their books are ‘similar to 50 Shades of Grey’ or that they ‘write porn’. And this is if they aren’t immediately dismissed and treated like writing romance means they’re somehow not a ‘real writer’. Well, screw that. Romance readers - and writers - are some of the most intelligent, open-minded people I know.

So why do I, personally, love romance? One of the main reasons is that reality often sucks. Whether in your own life or in the greater scheme of things (like, y’know, the whole possibility of nuclear war that the world is currently dealing with), life can be difficult, stressful, sad, boring, or a million other things, and sometimes you just need an escape. Romance provides something you can count on this a topsy-turvy world: a happy ending.

Is romance full of cliches? Can be. Is it predictable? Sure. But those aren’t necessarily negative things. There can be comfort in the formula, the predictability. Besides, it’s the journey that matters. You can read a dozen second-chance or friends-to-lovers or celebrity-falls-for-normal-person romances and while they have similarities, they’re not the same (or at least they shouldn’t be). The destination may be the same, but the journey is different every time. The characters, the tone, the themes, the subplots all vary. You’ll connect with some stories and characters more than others, but each one has its merits. Each one has the potential to touch someone, heal a part of them, give them hope, or simply entertain them.

As for people who say characters are one-dimensional in romances, that probably makes me laugh most of all. Some of the greatest character growth and depth I’ve ever seen have been in romance novels. Since romances are usually character driven, it’s necessary for the characters to be complex. I love characters who are realistically flawed, characters who have obstacles and setbacks, characters who have to work for their happily ever after. There’s such a wonderful variety in romance - books that break your heart, make you laugh, make you swoon, turn you on, make you think, tug at your heartstrings. The best romance novels are capable of evoking every emotion imaginable, which is part of why I love them so much.

Here’s the thing: I refuse to be embarrassed about liking romance. No, loving romance. I love it. I pretty much require romance in the books I read, even if it’s not the main focus of the story. I love seeing people happy. I love seeing people learning and growing and thriving. I even like seeing characters struggle, because it reminds me I’m not alone. I love immersing myself in someone else’s world, especially during the times when my own world feels nearly unbearable to live in. And, I’ll be perfectly honest: As someone who’s 33 and still single, I love that hopeful feeling I get watching someone else fall in love. I need that hope; I need to believe true love is possible and that I’ll get my own happily ever after someday.   
 
Just like I refuse to be embarrassed about loving romance, I also refuse to think of romance as a guilty pleasure (in fact, can we just completely do away with the concept of 'guilty pleasures'? Like what you like and don’t feel guilty or ashamed of it). Don’t let anyone make you feel embarrassed about your reading choices. If you tell someone you read or write romance and they react with disdain or surprise or anything less than ‘Oh cool, I love romance too!’ just remember that’s a reflection on them and not you.

So come on, say it with me now: I love romance, and I don't care who knows it!

 
Why do you love romance? Have you ever felt judged for your reading choices? What are some of your favourite romances?


Friday, August 11, 2017

RomCom Friday: Bridget Jones's Diary

RomCom Friday is a brand new feature here at Ramblings of a Daydreamer. I’ve always been a romantic comedy addict, and since I’m currently writing a romcom, I thought it would be fun to feature a favourite romantic comedy every week and talk about why I love it. Please note, there will be spoilers for each movie.

I’m kicking off this new feature with what is arguably my favourite romantic comedy  (I have so many and change my mind constantly, but this is usually the first one that
comes to mind): Bridget Jones’s Diary.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.” ~ Bridget Jones

Love her or hate her, I think there’s a little bit of Bridget in all of us. She tries so hard to succeed in her own life while keeping other people happy. No matter what obstacles appear, she continues to stumble along, often saying and doing the wrong thing, and sometimes making a complete and utter fool of herself, but at least she tries. She decides to take control of her life and learns that despite her flaws, she’s worth love and respect, plus she ultimately refuses to settle for anything, whether it’s her career or her love life. Her resilience makes her easy to root for.

“You seem to go out of your way to try to make me feel like a complete idiot every time I see you, and you really needn’t bother. I already feel like an idiot most of the time anyway.” ~ Bridget Jones

The characters really make this movie. Besides Bridget, I love her wonderfully eccentric group of friends, and of course Mark Darcy and even Daniel Cleaver. Daniel is one of those characters you love to hate. He’s an arrogant prick (or an ‘emotional fuckwit’ as Bridget calls him) who says and does inappropriate things, treats Bridget pretty terribly, and thinks he can use his charm to get whatever he wants, and yet...I don’t know, there’s just something about him. He’s not a bad person, he just makes bad decisions, and he’s definitely wrong for Bridget. I do love the conflict he adds, though, and I love the fight scene between him and Mark. I’ve seen this movie dozens of times, and that part never ceases to amuse me. There are hundreds of perfectly-choreographed fight scenes in movies and on TV, but I have a feeling this one was far more realistic in its awkwardness.

“I'm sorry? Outside? Should I bring my dueling pistols or my sword?” ~ Daniel Cleaver

Then there’s Mark Darcy. Colin Firth was meant to play the Darcy character, whether in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, or Helen Fielding’s modern-day retelling. He does aloof and disinterested very well (and sexy, but that’s just effortless). While Mark Darcy has a habit similar to Bridget’s - saying the wrong thing at the wrong time - there’s something so utterly charming and swoonworthy about him. While he and Bridget seem like opposites, they balance each other out and work well together.

“I don't think you're an idiot at all. I mean, there are elements of the ridiculous about you. Your mother's pretty interesting. And you really are an appallingly bad public speaker. And, um, you tend to let whatever's in your head come out of your mouth without much consideration of the consequences...But the thing is, um, what I'm trying to say, very inarticulately, is that, um, in fact, perhaps despite appearances, I like you, very much....Just as you are.” ~ Mark Darcy

Bridget’s friends, parents, and assorted extended family members round things out nicely and add humour, levity, and a few interesting plot points. Finally, the city of London itself is almost a character in a way. I love the scenes of Bridget walking through the streets, the shots of Picadilly Circus and the different bridges. I also absolutely love her flat and would give just about anything to live there.

I was seventeen when Bridget Jones’s Diary came out, and even then I related to the hapless heroine. She has an element of the ridiculous about her, but I think that’s what makes her so easy to relate to. Between Bridget Jones’s Diary, the sequel Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (which was just okay for me), and the third movie Bridget Jones’s Baby (which I adored, and which made me fall in love with the characters all over again), I’ve spent the last sixteen years relating to Bridget and seeing more and more of myself in her with each passing year. Now at 33 - single, childless, and still trying to figure out life, but doing it all on my own terms - I’ve come to realize I am Bridget. And I’m okay with that. Now I just need my own Mr. Darcy.

Bridget: “Nice boys don’t kiss like that.”
Mark: “Oh, yes, they fucking do.”
romantic comedy Bridget Jones's Diary featuring Renee Zellweger Colin Firth Hugh Grant
Do you like Bridget Jones's Diary? Can you relate to Bridget? Who's your favourite character? Do you have a favourite quote? Have you seen all three movies?


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

An Afternoon With an Old Friend and Some Thoughts on Self-Care

This past Monday, my mum and I spent the afternoon with my best friend from college (who I hadn’t seen in almost ten years), plus her mum and three children.

Melissa was my first ‘adult’ friend - the first friend I chose. You know when you’re in elementary and high school, your friends are classmates and maybe neighbours? They’re friends of convenience and proximity. You may have absolutely nothing in common except for the fact you go to the same school or live near each other. That’s not to say those friendships aren’t important; many of my early friends shaped who I am, were there for me through countless ups and downs, and meant the world to me. But those friendships are different from the ones you form as an adult. The friendships you form based on common interests, values, beliefs, etc. The friendships you can choose to walk away from if they become toxic, whereas you don’t usually have that option as a child because you’re stuck.

Anyway, Melissa was the first friend I chose as an adult (or adult-type person, all of eighteen years old and just starting college). Our relationship was completely different from any other friendship I’ve had before or since. We went through so much together. I’m not sure how I would have survived college without her. The year after we graduated, she went with my mum and me out of town when my mum had surgery. I was scared out of my mind, and I don’t know what I would have done without her. We slowly grew apart after that (mostly because of distance; she lived an hour away, then moved four hours away and now lives about 2.5 hours away), but I was at her bachelorette party and wedding, and I attended a baby shower for her second child. In the last nine or so years, not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of her and missed her. The two years we spent together in college and the time we had together before she moved away had a huge impact on me.

The other day, Melissa messaged me to say she and her kids were visiting her mother, and she wondered if my mum and I would be available to meet for a day at the park. Her mum picked us up, and from the moment we drove into the parking lot of the park and I saw Melissa, I started getting choked up. I scrambled out of the car and wrapped my arms around her and started to sob. I was horrified and embarrassed, but I couldn’t stop. It took me a few minutes to get myself under control. I guess between all the things that have been going on in my life lately and the fact part of me thought I might never see her again made me weepy. It was amazing to meet her kids (I’d previously only met her daughter, and that was when she was a year old) and to see her mum again. We talked non-stop for hours, and I cried a few more times, but I also laughed harder than I have in ages. It was like being back in college, as if nothing had changed, even though a million things have changed. I needed that. I needed to reconnect with an old friend, talk about serious things and nonsense, vent, reminisce, and catch up on what’s been happening in our lives for the last decade.

Yes, we look alike. No, we're not related. Yes, we got asked that a lot in college. No, we didn't mind. ;-)
You may be wondering why I’m writing an entire post about this. Well, like I said, there’s been a lot going on lately. I’ve been feeling incredibly overwhelmed by life, circumstances, work. I’m exhausted mentally and physically, but have just kept plugging away, thinking if I could check a few more things off my never-ending to-do list I could take a break. Take a day or maybe even a couple days off. But I never do.

My mini emotional breakdown with Melissa showed me I need to take some time for myself. We all need to take time off sometimes, no matter how busy we are or how overwhelmed we’re feeling. Especially then. You need to feel your feelings. I’ve been alternately burying mine and pushing them aside, not wanting to take the time to acknowledge and address them, deal with them in healthy ways. As someone who’s dealt with depression and anxiety for nearly half her life, I should know better.

It’s important not only to take care of yourself, but also to take time for yourself. The world isn’t going to end if you take an afternoon off, or better yet, a whole day. Monday was a reminder of that for me. In the morning before I left, all I could think about was the things I needed to do and how I’d probably work all the rest of the day once I got home. I was worried it would prevent me from being fully present. But from the moment I wrapped my arms around Melissa, I forgot about work. I forgot about how tired I am, how stressed. I was able to talk about all the crap that’s been bothering me, all the things in my life that are weighing me down. And I felt lighter afterward. When I got home, instead of working the rest of the evening like I’d planned, I hung out with my mum, read, and went to bed early (something I rarely do, but man those 9 hours were much needed). I'm going to try to do more of that from now on.

The absolutely stunning sunset on Monday night ♥

Do you ever get so overwhelmed or bottle up your emotions so much and for so long that it all just explodes? Are you as bad as I am at taking time for yourself? What are some things you do to take care of yourself and de-stress?
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