2019 (a year in a poem)

2019. the year of

anxiety & sunshine

& beauty & depression

of drinking good coffee

& soul-nourishing gallery visits

of leaning into therapy & pain

of hours & days lost as buried tears were found sitting on the kitchen floor while Saturn played

2019. the year of

feelings felt & found & held & felt

of grief faced & waves crashing

food uneaten, weight losing

chasms opening

heart cracking & life shaking

of questions asked

& answers found wanting

as festered rage & long-accepted values

were both…released

2019. the year of

pain & striving

for peace

of lost memories found & faced

of emotional breaking & life & self shaking of inner light dimming

& slow sparking match-light reviving

of healing through

the mind-soul-body medicines

of meditation & journalling

of 29minute whatsapp voicenote musings

of beauty & art

& poetry & space

of lush bath-bombs & masturbating

of beautiful smells & netflix binges

& m&s champagne sipped

by fairy light

of radically

abundant

self grace

& the gift of

space

taking

& making

& giving

space to me

to breathe & be

& feel & see

& wonder & wander

Nayyirah Waheed

2019. the year of

taking-up

space

to cry & laugh & rage

the year of breaking

boundaries & beliefs

of (nearly) breaking apart

& being held in the breaking

2019. the year of

losing

& finding

& freeing

of shuddering beauty

& (beautifully) ugly crying

of breath quickening & catching

& deep exhaling

2019. the year of

frustrated containment in white spaces

of colour seeking & power claiming

of being unseen & seen

of being unanchored & held

in grace & love

2019. the year of feeling

& being

more

more

more….

of me

Brave Love

I’ve been thinking of late about love & forgiveness & voila, this poem came to me. It’s only after I’d finished it that I called to mind the wiser, more beautiful words of Kahlil Gibran ‘On Love’ in The Prophet so after you’re read my words, do read The Master’s!

Image: GKids

What is it to choose love

when that love may bring harm and hurt?

What is it to take risks with one’s heart, trusting that after hurt,

it will be repaired, as always,

by the eternal love of God,

and the deep resilience within?

What is it to say ‘this is worth it’,

and step forward in search of beauty,

knowing one may instead find

devouring ugliness?

What is it when the tie that binds

may also be that which chokes;

when the love which shatters

is from they who are meant to heal?

It Is

to recognise that,

your breath doesn’t come from another,

So they can’t choke it.

It Is

to understand that,

your worth is rooted in the foundations

of the universe,

So they can’t shake it.

And It Is

to recognise that,

that beautiful love

which made you giggle

on sunny days and in the rain,

which made you

know

Know

KNOW

You. Are. Truly. Loved.

(yet disposable),

comes from a broken human.

So,

in courage,

extend your own hand to love,

both hopeful and wary,

of deep laughter,

and sharp edges,

Trusting that,

whatever comes,

love’s brokenness

will not break you.

Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet: On Love

A (chronically) fabulous weekend

I had *such* a good weekend-hosting another ace LB party, followed by a 36hr mates movie weekend of late nights & being up early enough for McDonalds breakfast (with 2hrs to spare-such is our dedication to fitting in an extra movie!).

The cost of this fabulous exertion for me, however, is increased aches, pain & more tiredness than my non chronic-pain-enduring friends. So instead of doing the few things on the To Do list I diligently wrote up before bed yesterday, to do when my mates had left, I crashed on the sofa & napped instead of going to church this eve (very disappointing as it’s a great talk topic at the mo!); dinner was brought to me on the sofa by my kind husband who knew enough to rouse me to eat tonight when I’d have rather slept but actually needed the energy & enjoyment of the eating more (he’s a keeper!). The weekend’s activities were absoluteeely worth it (!!!) but in hindsight, having the movie weekend off the back of the party was over zealous social planning (I can hear other chronic-pain endurers going ‘duh!’).

OK, I know that describing two days of mooching on the sofa watching (brilliant) films & eating guest-made treats as ‘exerting’ sounds ironic but it’s not. I also know I am FORTUNATE! Yes I wake in pain every day & sometimes cry in pain or, moreso, from the physical & emotional tiredness from it but, hello, I danced, chatted, served, laughed & ate & drank from Friday to Sunday, & had more fabulous fun & conversation than many healthier peeps this weekend! Amidst the hosting, I let my friends/guests wash up each morning while I got my pilates groove-on cos hey, I’ve learned how to receive love & help (well, am learning), & also because I believe that it’s kind to let others show love & appreciation through service if they want to.

The time with mates has been so wonderfully nourishing for me mentally & emotionally as we watched great stories, had fun & scintillating conversation, deepened new friendships & ate & drank heartily. But it’s also been two eves in a row of 5-6hrs sleep for a body that needs-& rarely gets-9+hrs to be rested, but which will still wake in aches & pain every single morning regardless of how many hours sleep it gets, cos, y’know, chronic pain life. Nonetheless, now I’m more & more aware, & ACCEPTING, of the need for chronic pain *self-care* planning, I’m learning to plan better in future. So I’ve written off the To Do list: I’ll just have to suck in choir practice tomorrow as I haven’t the energy to rehearse tonight, & I am cashing in on the on the best perk of my job (well second best after the free coffee!) & am going to work from home tomorrow-a luxury for which I am immeasurably grateful!! So this is me being open. As I write that my face is saying ‘ugh’ as I hate vulnerability & showing any weakness! But, I’ve realised that is colluding with internalised ignorant societal norms which dictate that physical & mental health = strength when, in fact, it takes *real strength* to recognise, accept & acknowledge one’s needs & limitations. So here are some of mine laid bare. And they don’t make me any less (chronically) fabulous!

Life’s knocks, resilience & therapy

I was chatting with someone recently about a friend of his who needs therapy.  What was interesting about the conversation is that The Myth came up. You know The Myth. The ‘it’s not that serious, others have been through far worse and they don’t need therapy so why should I?’. I HATE this myth; I believe we ALL need, or at the very least would benefit from, counselling.

I know people who’ve endured sexual & other assaults, abusive childhoods & not had any therapy & who are reasonably fully functioning, healthy(ish) people.  And I know others who had secure, middle-classed lives in comfortable homes with loving but stressed parents who worked a lot, who have recognised areas in which they need help unpicking emotional issues so have gone to therapy.  And I celebrate and applause that choice because we can never be too emotionally healthy.

Some people can endure grief, illness & getting fired with supportive mates, hot baths or long runs, while others would be pushed to the edge by just one of these events. But it’s not a question of one person being tougher or another weaker. Some people have more emotional resilience and often it’s the people who, ironically, had the uncomfortable childhoods because they know it can be harder but that it gets better. And maybe they’re the people who have developed (hopefully healthy) coping mechanisms cos they’ve had longer practice.

The chat with my mate made me think of how you can drop your phone a dozen times on a hard floor and it’s fine. And then it falls 2 inches onto a carpeted surface one time and dies a thousand deaths! That’s what I thought about re resilience and life’s knocks. We can’t see the inner workings or structure of the phone; we can’t see how those minor knocks may have loosened wires and weakened the screen preparing the way for the fateful smash onto a soft, seemingly safe surface. Life can be like that. We can’t see how people’s emotions & thoughts are scratched & made brittle by words & events, but hopefully, we can listen to our own hearts & minds, & actively listen to others’ so that we are all more resilient.

Well, how??  Personally, I love using a simple ‘check-in’ technique to help identify what’s going on inside my head, sometimes just by taking a deep breath for 10 seconds to think of 5 words describing how I feel and then praying or journalling about it. And honest, open chats with emotionally intelligent friends. And reading the kind of books, & watching the kind of short vids, that make me go ‘ahhh, so that’s the word for what I’m feeling’. (Thank you so much School of Life & Alain de Botton!).  But when an objective, professional thought & emotion-sifter could be of more help, chatting with a counsellor is a fab idea.

stillirise.jpg
Photo: contrariwise literary tattoos

Non Super Dads Aren’t so Bad

So yesterday was Fathers’ Day- a day when, it seems, every other dad on Facebook is declared to the ‘The Best’ ‘Number 1’ Dad Ever (I don’t know what the criteria is but someone may want to tell some of them that someone else has claimed the No 1 spot already; maybe the Dad of the first person to post on Facebook has the Title for that year and then the race begins again next year? Hmm, but what about cheeky Aussies who have a day’s headstart?!)

It has got me thinking about people like me-no, not other humorously-bitchy, sarcastic, can’t stand unoriginality and detest ‘cute’ crap on Facebook whatever day it is people-but rather people who have no yearning to wax lyrical about our fathers.  Now my dad was a good dad in some great areas, the best area being FUN: kite-flying on Parliament Hill Fields followed by ice-cream on a Sunday morning, and cricket games in the back garden made more exciting with the addition of a water balloon-my dad’s genius idea! And, as with every other human being living or deceased, he was a twot in others. And that’s not a terrible thing.

I haven’t had to wrestle over which ‘Greatest Dad’ card to choose from the multitude because that’s not a card I’ll ever buy (nor should anyone over the age of 10years for that matter!). Neither is my dad my best friend or the person on whom I lean in life’s storms, or from whom I gain a sense of solidity and self.  *But I am actually immeasurably grateful for that!*

Due in part to realising early on that my dad is a really flawed, unfinished person (i.e. a human being. And a bloody fun, generous, intelligent and sociable one at that.) I am a wonderfully well-rounded human being:

I am wonderfully independent;

I am wonderfully strong;

I have my dad’s wonderfully sarcastic, witty, scathingly piss-taking sense of humour;

I have a wonderfully honed bullshit detector;

I have a wonderful capacity to lavish love and support, and to receive it from others;

I have a wonderful capacity to forgive;

I have a wonderful sense of self-worth which isn’t based on how much my parents or friends love, accept or like me. (While every experience of rejection or being disliked [that scathing sense of humour isn’t for everyone!] scuffs my self-esteem, and wobbles my sense of self-worth, it bounces back into place like a roly-poly toy.)

roly poly toy

So I didn’t buy a ‘Best Dad Ever’ card this year (which is fitting because my own, funny, dad would probably roll his eyes and make a sarcastic quip at it anyway!). And I am happy to say that having a dad who couldn’t compete in that competition is not a bad thing. I had an incredible Grandfather (even allowing for the ‘he’s dead so suddenly everything he did was perfect’ rose-tinted glasses effect he was pretty fecking fantastic!).  And my Heavenly Father is beyond superb: He is perfect. But I am *immensely* grateful for my flawed human dad. He has helped me practise kindness and grace and self-love. He has taught me how to strive to love my neighbour while also loving myself.  And he has helped me to be strong. Which is great because, as we all know, parents won’t always be here.  But when he’s gone I won’t be bereft. My sense of self is exactly where it belongs: securely held inside me.