Multiple layers

imageIt’s so cold outside, I might actually catch hyperthermia. Walking, my whole body has gone into shock. Where is the beautiful sunshine of earlier, the brilliant blue sky overhead? I had such a lovely walk this morning, but, somehow, as the day darkened into evening and the light disappeared, the warmth evaporated too, and now it’s nothing short of unbearable. Even in multiple layers; coat, hat, scarf and gloves: I am shivering. And my shoulders have risen so high, they are competing with my neck.

Hiding out in a cafe, I am waiting for the feeling in my fingers to come back, drinking hot tea to fast-track the warming. I have had a good day though, a reward for persevering with a weekly group. There was a large table: full; new people and old, people I knew and people I did not. I talked a lot. I made a friend. I felt at home… It’s such a change to be able to find things to attend, compared to the isolation of Mallorca, and the novelty of that is still to wear off.

However, group aside, I am drifting: my ability to write comes and goes, and with it my sense of wellbeing. Why is my whole sense of self; my identity, my smile, so tightly wrapped around something I can never hold?

As I try to figure out how to get through each day, how to get the most out of everything – being here, the chances, the opportunities… my boat pitches and I feel sick.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Growing the things that have shrunk

imageFinding a quiet place to sit and work is a challenge. London is always full, especially in the center. Walking from cafe to cafe, I spend longer than I would like, waste hours I would rather not lose, attempting to repair what has come apart. And as each day unravels, giving and taking, making and breaking, I become increasingly aware that I am trapped.

Closing my eyes and rewinding; going backwards in order to stop and process before turning around and attempting to go forwards again: I sense I ought to be travelling; ingesting new sensations and experiences, growing the things that have shrunk.

But I don’t know how to get there or where it is I ought to want to go, and every time I experiment with a different route, pick a different path or take an alternate turning, I end up returning to the place where I began.

Attending meditation classes at a local centre; sitting and listening and attempting to do: something, anything, etc… I am learning. But is it enough?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The Clucking of Hens

“There is no point in trying to suppress the babble of words and ideas that goes on in most adult brains. So if it won’t stop, let it go on as it will, and listen to it as if it were the sound of traffic or the clucking of hens.” Alan Watts

It’s my last day. My flight leaves tomorrow. I’m packed, the boxes have gone, the dog has been to the vets for pre-flight jabs. And I’ve tidied, washed, ironed and cleaned, to the extent that the house feels empty. I am no longer here.

I am lying in bed beneath a blanket writing by candlelight. In the main room, a fire burns. Outside, its raining. It has been for hours. The shift I had hoped to avoid caught me unawares, materialising without warning. It’s winter now, properly; not sometimes or some days… Still, at least I will be better prepared when I land, which is something.

I’m not sure how I feel, as I’m doing my best to avoid thinking and feeling is strictly banned. I’m scared that if I pause for long enough for it to sink in, the everything that’s happening around me (which is pretty scary and big) will rise up causing me to drown. I have a tendency to suffer from overwhelm at the best of times.

To keep the monster at bay, I drink lots of camomile tea and dose up on sedatives – all herbal, mind. I move a lot, too – all nervous energy atop impatient feet.

Looking after my dog is helping; tending her agitation, aiding my own dis-ease. What she is suffering is bad enough: she sees boxes, cases; knows something is happening to her environment, chipping away at it, but she can’t quite explain what it is. Is mummy leaving? Is daddy going on a trip? Has she done something to anger or upset? Why are things disappearing: her blanket, her bowl, her bed? I know where she is. Being in limbo is uncomfortable.

I wish I knew what was on the other side, whether I will love or loathe it. I wish I knew how long it will take, the exact length of this interlude. I wish I could have a guarantee that if I hate it, if I am unhappy, I don’t have to stay that long. I wish someone could promise me that the temperature will be favourable, that there won’t be much rain and that the sun will always shine. I wish there were answers. In their absence, I have no idea where I am, how I feel, what is happening. Like my dog, I am confused.

I reach out my hand to those around me, looking to them for comfort, only to realise too late that they are only interested in subtracting. I lend my shoulders, my arms, my breasts… while my heart endures a battering. I need to widen my circuit, balancing the flow between to and from.

Tired, drained, I shrink back, taking refuge in the one place only I can find. It’s quiet and dark. Even in a busy cafe, nothing reaches in. Safe within the void, held by the flow, I find comfort. For now, it works.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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