Uneven sides

imageWhatever way you look at it: my life is a triangle with uneven sides; wonky, like a tower that is crumbling or a cake that’s not right; a pack of cards stacked, tumbling. And as I attempt to navigate the landscape of my life: traveling across terrain that is uneven, bumpy; brushing up against, crashing into, obstacles that bar the way; incurring wounds and injuries… I am increasingly aware that, with time, instead of better, it gets less and less right.

Good days, bad days; happy days, sad days. Fast days, slow days; high days, low days. Days that are nice and days that are mean. Days that are concealed and days that are seen. Days that smile and days that weep. Days that wake and days that sleep. Days that talk and days that think. Days that lift and days that sink. Days that expand and days that contract. Days that add and days that subtract. Days that love and days that hate. Days that embrace and days that escape. Days that do and days that don’t. Days that will and days that won’t. Days that are days and days that are years. Days that are friends and days that are fears. There are a million ways for a day to play out… A mere traveller on an expansive back, I am fed up with being their victim.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Stone in my shoe


Feeling antsy;
finding it hard to write.
Sitting down’s a mission,
but standing up’s worse.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Wonky triangle

imageA long time ago, in what now seems like another life, I published a magazine. Aimed at the mentally fragile (people like me), it promoted creativity for emotional wellbeing and self-development. At one point near the beginning, before it had begun to really take shape, before it was much of anything really, I asked my partner if he could help me to think of a name: he works in advertising and writes for a living, or used to before he decided to jack it all in and have a complete career change, and is used to having to brand things so I figured, in terms of heads and two being better than one, that his was probably better than most. And besides… being my other half, he wouldn’t judge or laugh if my own ideas were off. Wonky Triangle was his idea, based on the concept that triangles are supposed to be perfect, all measurable angles and straight lines, all neat and contained; and people, especially fragile ones, are not. Wonky, on top of being impossible (or supposedly, depending on how you view obtuse angles and the like), was all wrong because it was different and broken. Triangles cannot be wonky or crooked: it’s not in their makeup. It also wasn’t in mine to call my magazine after something negative, or to focus on the bad stuff. Inside Out, the name I eventually chose after much deliberation, fitted much better, encouraging individuals to turn their own insides out in order to positively express what was trapped or hidden, thereby bringing new meaning and value to things that were previously challenging or, because of the element of unknown attached, simply too daunting and cognitively painful to contemplate. Containing articles, workshops, exercises, interviews, examples, images and pieces of poetry and prose submitted by readers, it provided a platform for creative individuals to express themselves openly and honestly and to, perhaps for the first time, be seen by others who might not just understand and empathise but also learn and grow by way of sharing. But for me, on the other-hand, it, the ‘wonkiness’, felt quite apt. I am ‘wonky’ and ‘broken’ and kind of impossible; impossible in the sense that I am often my worst enemy, the wall blocking the way. And life tends to get on top of me and pile up: little things becoming enormous and enormous ones gigantic, until it’s all too much and, overwhelmed, I collapse. Like a triangle with slanted edges and angles that don’t match, I present numerous unnecessary challenges that must then be deconstructed in order to be rebuilt.

Today is such a trippy, slippy, bricky, hurdlesome day. In fact: every day, or most days since the beginning of November, have presented as such. And if I’m honest, then every or most days for a long while before that. It has been bumpy few years, in which I have ridden the waves and clung on tight, gripping hard to wooden edges for fear of sinking or falling in, wondering constantly about the location of the horizon and the proximity of land.

The solution for now and the one I have adopted for some time, the one that works as a plaster but fails as a cure, is to write and to make. Expressing how I am feeling, either in word or in image, in ink or in yarn, is cathartic, bringing meaning to the stuff that gets trapped. When I think about other people seeing it, it helps: the isolation shrinks, the dark hole is a little less daunting, the beast that growls becomes quieter and more benign. After all: Beauty befriended hers and look what happened… he turned into a prince. Mine isn’t that accommodating, but he does brush his teeth and file his claws and run a comb through his hair once in a non-too-infrequent while, toning the frightful down a notch.

Drawing for the first time in over a year on Thursday – a birthday treat, albeit one that arguably backfired because the instigator wasn’t quite so accommodating as I had anticipated – I was rewarded with a glimpse of something that had been there but there hiding. It started with an eye, which became a face, which became a disembodied girl with long flowing hair, which became leaves and weeds. In place of her body, there was a hanger; holding, instead of clothes, letters. Her eyes were wide and terrified. Her cheeks were on fire. Her mouth was a startled ‘O’. Her hair was all tangled and drag-you-down weighty, like it was trying to make you drown. And the words spelt out things like ‘Chaos’ and ‘Cry’. It’s a strange image, half intriguing and inviting, half scare you away. I worked on her all day, and ever since I’ve run.

Pulling her out again this morning, laying her on the table before me, sitting and staring, silent and still, I attempted once again to summon some compassion and empathy for this hideous thing that was, by all accounts, supposedly me. We are all of our characters, both in stories and in dreams, in images and in conversations. We are everything that we think, everything that we say, everything that we do. So I am her and she is me and we are meant to love each other. Only I don’t love me and I don’t love her and I don’t think she loves me or herself either. So we are in a fix. And anyway, navigating more than my fair share of turbulent waters and tight bends, I have enough on my plate for now. All I can manage is to carry on and to respect myself enough not to overly antagonise what is already brittle by not forcing things that don’t feel right. I shall draw again. I shall finish her. But I shall not torture myself by returning to the ingracious instigator who, on my birthday of all days, so pained me, because I have better things to do with my time and, already, I have wasted enough.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Lemon Juice

Time hangs immobile,
stubbornly static;
like stagnant air.

A dog at my feet,
a kettle on the hob:
worrying…

An accident with a knife;
a sudden slit:
and blood, everywhere.

Lemon juice smarts
and the day – already grey,
darkens.

With the hours stretching further
than my eyes can see,
and the space in-between longer

than my mind can imagine:
I am not only scared,
I am terrified.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Sharing space with a stranger

imageMimosa Mawson, Rebecca Kokkonis, Ellen Freeman, Jon Donaldson; Church: a cold room, comfortless. And yet… abandoned by the other half, sharing space with a stranger: I find something. And even as I warm my frozen hands up sleeves that wish to be elsewhere; feet sharing similar sentiments, blocks of ice: I am glad to be here.

Yesterday: damp, dreary… dragged. Today, will be shorter. But the speed in which it travels will be determined by events whose course is currently beyond my control.

Submissive to the kind man manning speech at the altar, I ask silently that the Lord he invites us to pray to, in turn listens and, hears my prayer.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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A drowned rat

imageYou know the phrase: “the best laid plans?” Well, today is a bit like that: high expectations, no air. I guess I should have known, what with it starting on a deprivation of sleep. My partner snoring and coughing, my dog snorting and shuffling, trying to get comfortable but for some reason failing to do so: I rested not a jot. Watching the clock, I forced sheep over fences and pushed cows into pens; only my cattle were words and my constructions lines. I’m not sure how much I wrote or if it was any good. Not that it matters… I can’t remember any of it.

At 10am, I chose to vacate my flat, ignorant to the day’s disposition and my very-soon-to-be-entrenched response. It was quiet out. Wet too… and grey, with very little light. I acknowledged the temperature and the lack of pedestrian traffic, went to a new place, sat by a fire, drank hot coffee and wrote. Admiring the walls – metal moulds shaped like hearts, houses, eggs, hens – I snapped and posted until my enthusiasm was satisfied. In the space that opened up, I then transcribed, starting with my most recent diary.

At 11.30am, I made my first mistake, packing up and leaving instead of deciding to stay. Wandering the streets; window shopping, popping in to talk to shop assistants when the mood took me, loneliness descending like a cloud: I carried my sorrow until, heavy, I had to put it down. Then, leaving it in a doorway, I went to find a length of yarn to tie around its neck and subsequently dragged it behind me, where it became increasingly irate.

It’s now 4pm and I have only just sat. My hair is flat, my coat is wet and my nose won’t stop running. Sitting on an uncomfortable chair – wooden, slatted; what is it about London these days and the obsession with impractical chairs: doesn’t anyone realise they are totally unholistic? – I’m self-medicating with my keyboard and tea. By no means perfect: it works for now. And even if everything I am writing is a miserable waste of time, at least I feel semi-productive.

Time lags. Light fades. Background chatter rises. I want to get off, but there’s nowhere to go.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Concrete flecks, tarmac lumps

imageNew Year’s Day: January 1, 2015: time to start over, forcing my complaining body all the way back until it hits the beginning and shoves me back. I shudder… With 2014 only just in bed, I’m not sure I can bear to get up and join just yet, especially with an unfamiliar partner.

14 was the biggest dick; worse than 12 and 13 combined. I suffered; I wept; I was beaten. Eventually… I turned black. His breath sour, his mood cruel: his hands were tough. Already weak from subsequent years, the result of an assortment manifesting and then landing, I slipped, falling to the floor where (vaguely comfortable) I stuck.

Examining the surface: concrete flecks, tarmac lumps, the smell of winter; dog pooh, tramps’ piss, restaurant trash; crisp packets, beer cans, chocolate wrappers… this place is dirty. I miss the meadow: flowers, trees, shorn grass; a small pool full of clear water. Searching for my body beneath the layers: I am unsure if it still exists. I imagine shunning clothes, stripping off, slipping naked and getting wet; extending arms, flapping feet, propelling stomach and chest; travelling…

What if 15 proves to be more of the same…? What if he’s worse? Do I really have it in me to face another one down? And how many times can I court and connect, consecrate and pledge, only to then be rebuffed?

Sitting in an unfamiliar chair in a friend’s kitchen, surrounded by the aftermath of last night (torn tablecloth, scattered chairs, dirty floor; sticky counters, stained glasses: wine, cocktail, shot; plates and cutlery; sweaty cheese, dry biscuits, dehydrated stew…), I’m struggling with vertical, failing to stand up.

Drinking slowly, minimally; sticking to red; rejecting gin, vodka, champagne… a pot of chamomile by the bed: I presumed myself safe. With the departure of youth, the hangovers get worse… Things hurt: liver, kidney, gut. The pain isn’t worth the disturbance. I live in fear and drink with caution, preferring to sip like a sparrow rather than lap like a cat. And yet, somehow, I have ended up with a thick head and a swollen stomach and I can’t seem to wake up.

Dragging my legs onto a train, stealing my eyes tight shut, I hold my dog gently: stroking, drifting… Dreaming of an island, scanning the landscape for familiar things; missing people, places: I visit with friends… : Peter and Jane, Uncle Jack. Scared, uprooted, restless: it helps.

Unsure or where I am, what I am, how I am going to do it… I long for a routine. But where the hell is home these days? And what happened to feeling grounded and connected?

Bereft; left: I am all alone.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Transcribing

imageI’ve decided that 2015 is going to be my year; the one in which I do everything that I’ve been intending, imagining, talking about, planing and wishing for, for as long as I can remember. It’s going to be a busy year, like every other year – only with more arriving and accomplishing, less stagnating and stalling.

Instead of just working in isolation – sitting at home: writing, knitting, sewing and drawing; I will also be publishing, exhibiting, teaching and healing, stretching all of my skills to their full extent. I’m not a ‘one-trick’ pony, even though I’m inclined to feel like one; it’s time to ‘man-up’, defending my honour against everything and everyone that has (in the past) made me feel unworthy. I’m susceptible and weak by nature; permeable by design. The shield that protects those who are strong, fails to protect me. Like a mood that is delicate, my smile can be turned by a glance or shattered by a glare, my bounce stopped in mid-flow by a careless remark. Except for when my spines are up and I’m spitting like a cat, I’m vulnerable.

Step one in this ‘master’ plan is to transcribe my book, copying up the pages of handwritten text from the notebooks I have filled. Over the years I’ve bought, loved and completed many, spending a fortune in money and time; some years writing vicariously, others less so. For now, I’m sticking to last year and the book I’m calling: Writing the Monster out of my Head. It’s the book that saved me. Aimed at other writers and artists, as well as those who would consider themselves sensitive and pensive souls, it’s a story of trying and overcoming, an insight into the trials and tribulations of me.

Step two is to proof, edit and lay it out in a PDF; then to design a cover, write a dedication and export it as an ebook file.

Step three is to upload it to Apple and Amazon, for sale over the internet.

Step four is to market myself and sell as any copies as I can, trying to get local and national support along with recognition and praise.

Step five is to offer a hard copy option so that those who are tactile, who want to hold, smell and touch it, can: nothing quite beats the old way, even in this modern world; some things need to be treasured, respected, kept. I have boxes of books in storage; they are among my most prized possessions. Reading the titles on a shelf, back when I had one to gloss over, transported me back: 2, 4, 7 – Spot, Meg and Mog, The Wind in the Willows; 13, 14, 17 – Watership Down, Forever, Wuthering Heights; 21, 22, 23 – The Great Gatsby, The Bell Jar, Ovid; 30, 31, 34 – Beloved, The Bloody Chamber, Cloud Atlas, etc. So many adventures, so many experiences, so much knowledge… so many highs and lows. Books have kept me company throughout my life. I hold them amongst my closest allies.

Book down, we move on – to my poetry, prose and art. It’s high-time I got all of it out, there’s enough, and I’ve been sitting on it for years; a lot of it has never even seen the light, what with my writing it before the advent of the internet and the existence of blogs. I submitted it to various publications and managed a degree of success, but then, like so many others, I gave up – when the rejection letters outnumbered the acceptance forms and the money paid by publishers to secure copyright for first print failed to cover the postage and submission costs. It was same with competitions; I ended up spending a fortune, earning a pittance in return. I knew it was hard to earn a living as a writer, I did my research, but I never knew it was that hard and that painful. I think my average income over the span of five years was £30, which isn’t bad when you consider that most payments were in the region of 30 pence. Still, it’s not very many coffees; I spend more than that on securing my writing space each week.

At the same time, along the lines of income and earning some, enough to boost my self-esteem and confidence, there’s revision and study: polishing up on my EFT and Matrix Reiprinting, extending my skills in Reiki, gaining a certificate in Meditation, joining a practice group or groups, finding a room to practice out of, buying a massage bed for use with clients, and seeing actual clients themselves. I also need to work out what I want to offer, who I want to offer it to and how many hours a week I want to work. These answers will come along the way, growing as I grow, solidifying as I become.

I’m sure there are other things… But for now: the above is enough.

So as not to be all talk and no action: I’ve placed two ads on a freelancing site and been in talks with those who have submitted proposals. I’m looking for a template designer and a transcriber, ideally in the UK. I’ve started typing up my notebooks, too, in case I struggle to find someone I can afford and trust: there’s a lot of text and hourly rates are higher than I would like.

On a different thread, I’ve also applied to volunteer at a homeless shelter and am hoping to work there several days a week. And I’ve committed to a Reiki training programme starting at the end of January. A day shy of the new year, this isn’t bad.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Dreaming of where next…

imageThe January sales dominate the high street even though technically it’s still December and there are people everywhere. Out from 9am, there’s no avoiding them; unless one rises at some un-Godly hour. Already a victim of ‘doing too much and sleeping too little’, I pass; my 8am alarm, an impatient chihuahua (literally), is early enough. Make the day too long and there is too much space to fill, too much obligation about doing and achieving. In another life, this would have been desirable. Now, what is already difficult would become unbearable. I’m micromanaging as it is. Is everyone this useless in cold weather, or is it just me?

In summer, I can’t get enough of the day: diving in head first; grabbing hold of it with both hands, stretching it out, sometimes even sitting on it to stall it, occasionally digging in my heels and leaning in with my teeth. It’s not unusual either, to begin at 6am and end long after midnight. I see the sun rise and set, the moon wax and wane. I notice things to which I had previously been oblivious. Things like the number of lizards in the house, the amount of dust clinging to corners and shelves, the way the flowers open and then curl up, the lines of ants on the drive, the rows of trees in the orchard, the way the pool rapidly empties out. I drink a lot, swim a lot, read a lot and meditate. I write and sew too, addicted to the movement. Life is sweet and I am happy. Or as least, looking back, that’s how I appear to be.

I miss summer. I miss sitting outside with next-to-nothing on; feeling hot, complaining. I miss needing a fan, eating ice, sleeping with a frozen bottle on my chest. I miss people smiling, the sun shining, the temperature being kind. I miss open windows, open doors, the garden and sitting in it. I miss the landscape, the colours, travelling…

London is gritty and grey. It’s also hectic. Everywhere I look there are people and cars. It’s loud, fast. It’s difficult to navigate. I get lost.

Dreaming of ‘where next’, I try not to focus too hard on the future for there is still so much to be had here. But it’s hard. I’m restless and I’m tired of being cold. I can’t feel my feet. My hands are beyond freezing. My nose is red raw. Surely there’s more than this. But is there a place that can offer it without demanding too high a price?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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