I stand in the middle, getting wet


Monday, 23rd February

Sunday challenged me in numerous ways, leaving me depleted. Fragile, restless, on edge, etc… I struggled to manage; surviving, but only just. And as if that wasn’t enough justification for a break, a light lifting of the cell I am inhabiting: the world also decided to descend. I can only conclude that I must have sinned and am, as a result, being punished. 

For a long time now it’s felt like there was a curse, that I am paying for a crime I have no conscious awareness of. Perhaps God is angry because I have wasted my life, acting without thought for the future? Perhaps he wants to wake me from my fugue, forcing me into action? Or maybe this is life without God: the world alone? And if that is the case: how do I put right what has gone wrong, rectify the damage?

I’m scared that I have left it too late or that I don’t possess the skills and the strength to turn it. I’m scared that I don’t know how; or that, in trying, I will do it all wrong. There is a pile of knotted yarn on the floor, a puddle of black at my feet. In it, snakes slither, rats scuttle and beetles sting. Standing on tiptoe, raised but not enough, I remain grounded but only just. My head longs to fly. My arms want to flap. My stomach dreams of floating and my heart imagines a world where everything is weightless. As my legs walk through dirty streets – London, winter, the current status of my ‘now’ life – my feet state their objection.

Each night I meditate on kinder things: sunsets, beaches, open windows and bright blue skies, love and friendship, the gift of starting over… And each morning I charge myself with healing energy: practicing my skills, putting to use what I study and preach. It’s not much, but it helps.

Tuesday, 24th February
I’m currently sitting in the cinema, having decided abandon the day: a difficult morning rendering me incapable of navigating with any success. One thing after another: people offloading onto my head, invading my chest: I wrote but went in circles, restless and anxious. And it was such a great start, an hour of Reiki should have sealed it. Why, when I try so hard – to be available, to listen, to give, to put others ahead… – do I end up a mess? I should feel good, capable, strong.

I can’t figure out if it’s the Reiki, the meditation, the introspection, the social interacting, the busy timetable, the weather, the change, the loss of the old, the adjustment to the new, the uncertainty, the upheaval, the series of events; or my having reached a point of unravelling… Is this the point of mid-life, the obligatory crisis? Or is everything catching up and crashing? Maybe I’ve reached my ‘sell-by-date’, the ‘best’ having gone before I had a chance to recognise it? The answer’s unimportant; what matters is how to proceed. Making boots for babies, mice for cats, donating to charity… Perhaps? Simple pursuits, unalturistic.

Wednesday, 25th February
Weeks go up and down. The rain comes and goes. I stand in the middle, getting wet. Attempting to navigate puddles in shoes that leak, looking for a replacement to a discontinued line, stubbornly insisting, persisting: I will not give up yet. And yet I must relent, for I have one of two choices: continue to bemoan the constant discomfort of damp feet or accept change and risk disappointment if ‘said’ different new shoes (ordered online) offend. 

Extending the lesson, I can see that it is necessary to grow and that to do so one must also accommodate. I’ve stepped over and around countless times. I’ve moved aside and sat out of as well. Lately, I’ve taken detours, tagging along on journeys that deflate. It’s all expansion, one evolving exponentially with the blows.

Only it’s starting to feel a little too one-sided and I am losing sight of me. With the eczema continuing to invade my face: it’s physical too. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this unattractive. It’s a new experience. Not the hating or the disliking or the being unimpressed, but the extremity of the emotion, it’s uncompromising nature. There was always flex, potential to soften, to allow another to enable to see. Now I am like a troubled teenager and there’s nothing words can do. Telling me it’s not that bad makes no difference: I know it is. It’s like telling me the sun is blue or the moon green; only children can imagine that freely, and possibly those on drugs. For the rest of us, it’s simple: certain things are a certain way.

I tend to my face with oak milk and chamomile and hope for the best. I place my hands over it and infuse it with love. I am patient. I am kind. I resist the urge to cover it in steroid cream. I refuse to scratch. But last night it felt like I was being attacked everywhere – ears, eyelids, arms; chest and legs. And this morning, I couldn’t hear. There is a message. I am missing it. 

Why, when I am trying harder that before – doing, attending, exploring, putting myself out there – is it so unbelievably hard? Why all the crumbling? 

Having a gentle week, I don’t venture very far: staying close to home, retiring early. It’s supposed to help; only my days are determined by the weather and other people’s moods, my evenings by the current frame of mind of my partner. Last night, he was scratchy: looking to vent a difficult day. And I started to think that my sudden outbreak – invisible but extreme, akin to knives, razors – might be connected. Perhaps it was a defence, my body begging a retreat?

I think I might need to accommodate failure, accept defeat, taking myself to the doctor instead of trying to self-medicate. It’s not something that I am keen to do, but I think it’s wise.

Thursday, 26th February
I’m scared I’ve done or might have done something stupid or that I might do something stupid still. I can’t deny it’s tempting; in one way, the answer: I’ve been looking for an escape. But which kind of escape? Surely nothing as extreme as this? And must the sacrifices be so high? To have to give up so much of what you love – abstaining, refusing, rejecting; to have to walk away in order to walk towards… it’s a lot. Maybe, too much? I’m confused. It’s not what it looked like from the outside, what it pretended to be. But then again… reviews are cruel.

It continues to rain and my shoes are still wet from yesterday. I am tired and I feel like crying. This is not a good day, not a good week. I think my ability to cope, to make and do, might have crumbled. England is hurting me in too many ways.

Unsure of the future, confused about which way to go and how to proceed; feeling hopeless and lost: I need help. I also need someone stronger that me to intervene. Why, when we reach a certain age, does it get that much harder, do the consequences grow?

I’m watching a man from the Council take photos of a broken bench: an ugly beach coloured thing that looks like a throwback from the 1950’s. It’s held together with bolts and screws, so it must be more modern than that but (as I said earlier) looks can be deceptive. Friends can lie, smiles can cover, wood can masquarade. Everything’s a mask. It’s our job to learn to see what’s behind it, what lies beneath. He’s taken over 100 photos. He looks serious. At first, I think it’s art, part of a project. And then I think he’s a tourist. But he stays too long, takes too many… It’s only when I see the sign: “No dumping. Maximum fine upon conviction £2,500,00” that I understand. We are all watched: both hunted and controlled. Maybe my decision has already been made? Maybe choice was something I lost a long time ago? Free-will never mine? Perhaps I am already inside? The thought scares me, especially as I am about to go back, entering the lion’s den for the penultimate time. There is still more to be learned, more to be taught, and I am enjoying the journey, not ready to leave yet.

Friday, 27th February
I made it to today and (inside) I have the lessons with me, both received and given away. My morning class was an eye-opener. Viewed from a different perspective, from the outside, I saw different things. I wasn’t scared; more relieved. Although it was sad not to have the belief or the connection anymore, to have to start over. 

Having searched for so long: I want to find so that I can follow and heal. I lack true faith, conviction in the theory; in their being someone or thing, some higher power, watching and controlling, making sure. To be here alone, is empty and sad.

Deciding to embrace the weather, I went to Nottinghill: walking, feeling the sun. Following my intuition, I revisited old haunts, stopping to make conversation with people as I went. It was a happy, smiley day with confidence and energy.

In the evening, I relaxed; until I remembered there was a significant change. The long-awaited furniture had finally been delivered – bookcases, chairs, tables, picture frames, rugs… Having left my partner to receive and then build; deciding I was better off out of the way, detached, denying, avoiding until avoiding was no longer possible to maintain: I was reluctant to return. Would I like it? Would I be open to the shift? Able to accommodate the change from minimal to crowded, bare to complete? Would the suddenly grounded; the ‘we are staying’ implied by the investment in material things: in a space, a place; the having to unpack the remaining ‘everything’… be too much? Would I like it, consider it me, us? When I had avoided for as long as I could – stopping, stalling, drawing out – I let myself be led; climbing the stairs, opening the door, turning on the light.

Initially: cardboard everywhere – on the floor, under my feet. And then: stuff. But with so much packaging, so many boxes and bags: it was hard to see. And although it was mostly assembled: it wasn’t necessarily right. Some things didn’t fit where we had planned. Some were too tall. Others too wide. And overall, it was all the wrong colour: availablity having forced compromise. The dining table worked, as well as the chairs. The bedroom unit and mirror, too. But the bathroom shelves were too high, and the sitting room ones too wide. The rugs were also too large. Either the details given online were inaccurate or else our measurements were. But, as I told myself when we moved in (accepting a flat that wasn’t chosen: an ‘all that’s out there’ as opposed to an ‘I love it, I have to have…’), it’s not forever; it doesn’t need to be perfect, to represent and reflect the inner me. And I know from having moved so much already, shifting between three places in as many months, that time conceals, leading acceptance and even love to things that were initially ugly.

Taking my morning lessons with me, my learning from a wiser source, I am determined to be strong. I can do. I can become. I can embrace and manifest. Picturing myself in the future, I see a different me – brave, confident and sure. A me to meditate on, willing her into the here and now.

Saturday, 28th February
I decided to go to a new group today: a practice group for Reiki; a place where I could use my skills and, hopefully, gain confidence. Something I have been meaning to do for weeks but, stubbornly, avoided: over-sleeping, forgetting, deciding against; all manner of excuses. I was scared, but I mostly am: new demanding me to leave my comfort zone.

Sadly, as a result, I cannot write, so all updates will have to be left until tomorrow. I will, however, draw instead, so it’s not all empty space.

Sunday, 1st March
Up early but twitchy, uncomfortable in my skin: something big and black stuck inside. I’m not sure yet what it is, but it’s bad and toxic and needs to not be there.

It was present yesterday, too, and I have no idea how to get rid of it or what it might be about.

Trying to visualise it, I see a large snake – skin the colour of spiders legs, eyes like cats. It has a tongue, too: red, like flames. The eyes can see into your soul and the tongue can cut, causing deep wounds that never get better. It comes and goes, this snake, and, with it, I am a mess inside. My stomach is tender and swollen. It hurts to touch. My legs also. I think it might have babies, trying to explore. It’s making me feel even worse than usual and I want to shout, opening my mouth and screaming until it slithers out. If I knew how to extract it, even if the extraction hurt, even if I felt raw and empty without it, I wouldn’t hesitate to act. Ignorant to its purpose and its desire, I try to apply myself to other things, focussing on what I would like instead of what I have.

I go to church, partly to cleanse myself and partly to reconnect. I haven’t been for two months. Perhaps they no longer remember me? I can’t expect help, beg spiritual guidance and Christian advice, when I am separate. I sent an email to the Rector last week, asking to meet. I’m so confused. Maybe he can help? And if not: then at least I have tried, will feel better, less alone. A problem shared is a problem with less velocity, it’s density reduced. 

The service went slowly and it was difficult to be there: conflicting messages and beliefs tangled up inside, knotted so tightly I couldn’t even try to individually unpick them. I managed to participate in parts, but found the praying hard, the words contrary to what I now perceive to be true, my whole belief system shaken. I find the Bible even more hollow; the whole notion that Jesus was God’s son, that he sacrificed his life for us, hard to accept. I’ve always questioned whether it wasn’t instead a work of fiction, a cleverly written guidebook for life. It works as that. It just seems a little too magical – babies being born to barren women, others conceived without sex, water becoming wine and fish and bread multiplying, feet walking on water, men travelling inside wales… Otherwise: why don’t these things happen still and why, no matter how hard we pray, does God not talk back? I’d appreciate a sign, especially now.

Then again, I find it hard to believe in anything: the curse of an overly-analytical mind. Nothing can be taken on, taken in, without my first tearing it apart. It’s why I struggle so much with modern therapy, with things like tapping and touching and hovering over actually having power. I practice them, I observe others practicing them and I see results, I hear positive feedback. Pain goes, problems ease, memories disappear. But I find it hard to allow that I might actually have the ability, what it takes, and that I might – touched, tapped – heal. Why, when I manage to cure another’s eczema, am I stuck with mine? Why can I release another’s trauma and yet only play tag my own, chasing it around my body but never kicking it out?

I’m like Thomas: full of doubt. If only there were a simple solution, a quick fix. I’d even be prepared to sacrifice my mind, swapping it for a fresh start. 

In trying to move on, I am made acutely aware of how deeply I am stuck, how the past discolours every new thing I try to do. I’m seeing the Rector on Thursday. I shall try to believe in that.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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