Lend your arms

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Lord,

My heart aches and feels hollow. Inside, there is such grief. Please lend me your arms to hide in in my hour of need. And after, you shoulders to hold my fears. And then your lap, like a basket, to cradle my tears.

Help me to let go of all that is trapped and broken, to fix it piece by piece. Help me to confront all that I am afraid of and in doing so find peace.

Open my eyes to beauty, my soul to sound. Awaken all my senses to the world that surrounds.

Guide me towards a better outlook and quality of life: one that is still and centred, and free from strife.

Show me how to release the past so that I might move on. Show me how to embrace the future so that I can belong.

Turn my attention inward, away from material things. Give me the strength to allow the feelings introspection brings.

Let me love myself as I love others. Let me myself forgive. Show me how to receive as well as how to live.

Love me like a father, guide me like a sage; stand by me as I walk into a future of knowledge and age.

Teach me to live freely. Permit me to yearn. And when the void beckons, help me to learn.

Give me roots to stand on and branches to stretch. Give me buds to nurture and seeds to collect.

Give me leaves to shed and flowers to release. Give me water to drink and air to breathe.

Give me birdsong to dance to and company to share. Give me shade in darkness and space in air.

Give me peace in body and comfort in mind. Give me strength in soul so that I might find the land that I dream of, the people I miss, the place that I belong to and the purpose of this.

Amen

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Unto us a child is born

imageAching, breaking, feeling fragile; the pain in my side no weaker than it was four day ago: I’m contemplating the ‘walk-in’ on Wardour Street. But I’m scared. Sick people remind me of my own mortality, and it’s not so sturdy of late. Things hurt. Others don’t work anymore. And I’ve no idea whether the hurting and the not working are permanent or temporary. Each time we move, each time I suffer a trauma or am challenged and pushed: I slide, and the slope is dark and dangerous.

Looking up, I can still see the sky: a weak hollow of blue light, diluted and empty. No clouds. No planes. No sun. Just a thin strip stretching from left to right. Some days it’s brighter, more intense, and on days like these I draw comfort from it. Some days it’s dull and dead and on these days I sink to my knees and pray, for I have no energy, no motivation, no drive, and things as simple as walking and talking tire me.

Recently, it’s been up and down, bouncing me like a yo yo on thread. Nausea creeps into my belly to sit and sip, drinking tea and stretching out, acting (for all intents) as if it owns the place – which it doesn’t but which I could be convinced to believe it does, because it is such a frequent visitor I can’t now remember when it last went away.

Sitting in church yesterday – listening to the sermon but drifting, not really there… images of past lives, past people, past things… passing through: rewinding me, reminding me; picking at threads, fingering snarls, thumbing pulls, travelling bobbles; contemplating each and every one as if it were the most intimate, infinite thing: precious, priceless… I have an epiphany. And whether it makes any difference overall, or any sense in a day or a week: the warmth and the strength are a gift. Raising limp hands, separating joined wrists, pulling reluctant arms from lazy legs, I wrap myself around that feeling as tightly and securely as I can, hoping against hope, against experience, against knowledge and thought, that it won’t ever go away.

Only it will, and the only question that holds any importance is when? For if the answer disappoints, I will be devastated.

Today I am tired and the colour of the sky unnerves me. Yesterday there was reason to celebrate, to try to feel positive and upbeat. And I guess there was a break too, from the normal way of things. But now it’s back: the pressure, the expectation, the need… and I’m struggling. Feeling useless, uninspired; doubting my ability: I look at everything I’ve done – now and then, lately and a long time ago – and it all seems so shallow and incomplete.

Doubt descends and I sink: deeper and deeper. And the slope down which I was slipping is no longer just a slope; it’s also part of the sea, and I am drowning too.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight

What is it about life and it’s determination to upend me? Why is it impossible for me to have more than one good day in a row; for a day that has been good thus far, maintaining a steady flow of status and quo throughout, to be ruined upon reaching the ending? And why must my morning be a mess today, when today is a day upon which I need to be happy, vibrant and alive? I am not impressed and I am not smiling. Can you tell?

Sitting in Starbucks, and a grotty one at that; hiding on a table to the side and towards the back: I lick freshly inflicted wounds – wondering why, how, what just happened happened; trying to figure out what it was all about and who the main antagonist was. My head buzzes: overly full. My heart hurts, exposed and bleeding. There is the familiar pain of a hole and a slice, right at the centre, and the sense of a part that should be but isn’t. Where did it go: the thing, the part? And when, if it was there at all, did it disappear? I wonder if it always been like this, since the beginning. Or if it is more recent, something that has happened as a result of my journeying across the intervening years?

I wrap my hands around a hot mug, sip overly sweet tea, berate myself softly for the number of sweeteners I felt the need to add for comfort, wishing I were stronger, better, more in control, more like other people. Just like I do not need to click, click, click until everything tastes like it came from a sweet factory in order to placate my insides; I do not need to stubbornly plant my feet like a defiant dog refusing a walk in order to convey my point, especially when said planting and conveying results in my own person sabotage.

I blow my nose, emptying out the tears that I refuse to let flow; trying for just one day not to ruin my face – or at least not until after sundown, when the dark will hide the marks and the smear of mascara. That she hasn’t called, hasn’t even emailed to make sure I am alright, to ask where I am and what happened: only makes it, the incident, worse. Now I feel twice attacked: once by them, the angry receptionists; and once by her, the professional I stood up.

What happened? Was I wrong in my decision to act? Why did they take offence to what I intended to be a polite exchange, a look at the situation from the other side of the double-edged blade? I run the script through my mind, attempting to analyse and dissect exactly what happened, picking at words and sentences, paragraphs and phrases, until I am sure, or almost, that it wasn’t my fault.

I could have kept quiet and swallowed the humiliation… I could have pretended to be unscathed… I could have acted hard and cold and passed the buck back onto her… But I didn’t. Why the need to explain, the desire to placate, the attempt to enlighten and sway a disinterested other; the aim to aid future arrivees, discerning individuals, from a similar plight? And why leave prior to reaching a satisfactory conclusion to the heated debate, thereby denying myself the aid which had led me to the wretched organisation in the first place? Why indeed..?

As I sit here, I am an hour down and an ear short and the offloading that I had anticipated, that I had needed, that I still need, is far away. I now – thanks to my stubborn feet, my disobedient mouth, my wonky pride – have two weeks to endure before anyone, anything, attempts to step in. Not that any of the aid or the stepping has made much of a difference to date of late. The only dent in the armour has been self-made. I long for my ears of yesteryear. Patient and loving, gentle and kind: these are the people who have given and held; people who, for whose help, I am always and always will be eternally grateful.

As I slowly return to myself, I thank God for their presence in my life and the changes they helped me to achieve. I am who I am because they were there to guide me, gently encouraging and pushing like parent, friend and sibling; taking on roles that I was lacking elsewhere, and determine to care more and act with greater responsibly in the future. Just because money is short or because certain people are located elsewhere (like abroad), does not mean that I need to be restricted. The last two years have rewound me. I have been hurt; I have been broken; I have been held back and pressed down. I am clawing my way back – up and out, slowly. I need to take this time, treat this experience, as a chance to return. And if it means borrowing from the bank or going into debt, then so be it. I am worth it. It’s about time I understood that. Who, if not me, is going to treat me right, love me enough, respect and push me in the way and ways that I currently need?

Matter resolved, I dip my spoon into my cappuccino, scooping out milk flavoured with cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. I have drunk my way through two teas already. I’ve been to the bathroom twice that many times. I’ve sent emails and checked Twitter and Facebook, visited Amazon and surfed online. It’s been a difficult morning but I am stronger now and a decision that ought to have been made at the beginning when the reason was obvious has been solidified. Feeling lighter, stronger, cleaner and more resolved, I slip on my coat; squashing my head into a hat that I knitted in another life, pushing hands into gloves that were born in comfort and in sunshine. It’s cold out. I don’t want to hurt things that are already damaged.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight

It’s mild out and I’m sweating in my coat, softly cursing my heatgen underwear, wishing I had had the foresight to check the weather forecast before committing to clothes. I’m also wishing I had packed my umbrella, another reason for checking Thursday’s intentions in advance of entering into her orbit, but it’s too late now, so I unbutton my coat, shed my hat and gloves and thank God for his kindness. In December, 14 degrees is an unexpected gift: I’ll not be condemning the horse or speaking ill of the dead, even if it does mean juggling extra pieces. I wipe water from my nose with a tissue and close my handbag; it’s spitting slightly and threatening to rain and the sky looks positively angry. In truth, I’m slightly scared. Ominous and oppressive come to mind; vindictive, also. I walk fast, hoping to make it to the station unscathed.

I cross Leicester Square, dodging commuters and eager tourists. Continue on to Embankment, where I pull out my Oyster, tap the gate, scan the map, turn (as per instructed) and descend, stepping almost immediately onto a train. The doors close and for four stops I knit, the strip in my hands extending, bit by bit. Two weeks in, it has advanced from single brown square to autumn quilt, albeit a small one, housing a bunny rabbit, two carrots, a ladybird and a branch. Organic, in charge of me rather than me in charge of it, I have no idea what comes next: a flower, a moon, a person, a dog…? At the end, there will be a message; there always is. I am keen to read it. I used to check my horoscope and consult the cards, translating from a ‘how to’ book. I also analysed leaves, pulling shapes out of cups. But creativity is better: harder to decipher, perhaps, but more insightful and based in fact. My novels held messages about where I ought to go and where, as a result, I’ve travelled since. My poetry, too; warning and guiding, if only I had been open to seeing and obeying when it was relevant.

At Sloane Square, I finish my row and bag my needles. Then it’s up and off and through another barrier.

Outside it’s dry and quiet, a scattering of people queuing at a newsstand, several taxis speeding by, the odd bus… I take out my phone and check the time: if I’m quick, I can grab a coffee; I could use the pick-me-up as I’m feeling tired and the ‘no light’ does strange things to me. Fresh out of bed, I’m not yet sure what kind of a day today is, but if the last month and a half are anything to go by, it won’t be great; I don’t want to tempt fate by starting on a backfoot. It will also act as a shield against what’s to come if it turns into an ambush or becomes in any way uncomfortable: after Friday’s disaster, I’m on edge; I’m also nervous. In truth, I’d rather not be here but I made a commitment and a bad day or a bad day last week, isn’t enough of an excuse to deny myself a potential opportunity that, in the long run, I should appreciate. I’m dipping and dabbling, sampling and savouring, endeavouring to fix the broken and right the wrong. There will be mistakes. There will be disasters. There will be injuries and things that ache. But it is by being open and by doing, by absorbing and by experimenting, that we learn. Curl up small, attempt to shut it out, retreat and withdraw and reverse into relative silence: and it all stops: movement, action, improvement, progress, healing, happiness and health.

Coffee in hand slightly later than planned, I rush towards my destination; turning sharply onto a quiet street, slipping through a peeling gate, stumbling down mossy stairs. Nose running, coffee dripping from my coat, late: I’m flustered. Now I wish I’d carried on walking or bought camomile tea instead – it wouldn’t stain and there would be no frantic mopping up, later attempted washing, need to visit the dry cleaners… Cost aside: I’ve nothing else to wear in between. A dress and a cardigan; a skirt and a jumper, don’t quite suit. Even with gloves, a hat, a thick scarf, etc., I will be freezing.

But all of this is tissue paper and beside the point. What’s important is yesterday and how that made me feel and how I feel today, still, as a result: positive, alive, strong. Which, after everything I’ve endured, everything I’ve done, everything I’ve suffered and everything I’ve survived, is a miracle.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The moon underwater

imageWe sit opposite one another, each wrapped up in our own silence – yours hot, mine cold – juggling problems that refuse to be solved without the aid of phone calls, lawyers and threats. You are angry and your breath is red.

I’m angry too, but the weather has twisted my emotions so that my words are like water, hard to understand. Inside, bad things grow: a tree without roots, a plant with black leaves, strange-shaped flowers.

I listen to my body and it tells me it hurts, but with everything that is happening, I haven’t the will to care or the energy to do anything about it if I did.

Time extends. Days repeat. Hours drag. Mornings are difficult.

I get up. I go out. I walk until my feet ache and my legs collapse. If I’m lucky, I find somewhere to stop, but the closer it gets to Christmas, the harder it gets.

I break and I mend, over and over; and somewhere in amongst it all, I grow strong. Not physically, like Helen of Troy or Boudicca, but mentally like Sylvia Path and Anne Frank. And as my body bends – accommodating each trial, each tribulation, each trauma; each difficulty, burden and disaster; misfortune, misery and curse: climbing mountain and crossing ocean, traversing path and scaling tree – my mind repairs, reinforcing my character.

With this newfound strength, I begin to explore – finding comfort in strange places; only it’s fragile and cannot be relied upon. Monday’s bolt-hole rejects me on Wednesday. Tuesday’s womb is Friday’s cell. There are people everywhere, always, in festive jumpers and hats. Men parade as reindeer, women as elves. I can’t move for Santa’s and snowmen. They eat and drink, talk and shout.

Meanwhile, in the background there is a list: a house that needs repairing, a mortgage that needs paying, tenants to be sought and secured. And that’s on top of a contract that needs reversing, money reimbursing and a new apartment found. Plus, the few items of furniture we bought last weekend – in excitement, in hope, in anticipation… need returning to whence they came, if indeed they can go back; and our suitcases – half-full, half-empty; half-broken (one) – need to be repacked. After that: clients, courses, workshops, groups, jobs, opportunities, friends, etc. It’s a lot, so I try not to think about it.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Snowmen in winter

imageBetter the devil you know than the prince you are chasing after. Better the life you have than the future you would like to arrive. Birds in the hand are worth more than mammals in the distance. Eggs more reliable assets than chickens down the line.

Thank God for what you have and count your lucky stars. Let absence take care of what is missing and providence provide. Tread softly around others, be mindful of their dreams. Give what you can to the less fortunate, take only what you need from those who can provide.

Think big, stand tall, set goals, climb skyscrapers. Plan ahead, take action, share often, do more. Walk with courage, run with enthusiasm, sit down with dignity, sleep with pride. Love each season as if it were the only one available. Embrace all weather, as if it were all there were.

Build snowmen in winter. Plant daisies in spring. Pick apples in summer. Make fires in fall. Smile at those who hurt you, laugh with those who don’t. Listen to your elders, teach your youth. Show those who are searching, lead them who would like to learn. Imagine it all different, then get up and take a turn.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Spilt Milk and Tomato Ketchup

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The anger burnt her tongue
and her stomach churned violently.
Her mind disengaged.

He used to love her more than his ipad,
pay her more attention than his phone,
but she had given up on that.

Their keys were cracked, faded;
their screen was smudged and scratched;
their battery redundant.

If he were Pinocchio,
he could have planted trees with his lies;
there would have been hope.

As it was, there was nothing for it,
save stepping off and diving.
But could she swim?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

imageTo keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

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