Discontent


 
The sky is weeping and I am sad
but the trees are happy to see rain.

Inside the house, mosquitos gather around the ceiling light
and later they will torment me again.

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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Directions of work still to do


I’m exhausted today: no energy, no strength. After a morning in denial, I actually went back to bed – me, the obsessive taskmaster who never lets slip, the iron-fisted diplomaterian who demands and expects certain results, felled by external forces involuntarily imbibed. I’m learning, obviously: gradually developing the ability to be more personally kind, to allow what’s needed a space to rest; listening, sensing, feeling after so long in denial. And it felt nice, curling up with my dog: we shared energy, my hand on her side, her paws around my arm.

As I napped, drifting in and out, the past passed through my mind and my body reacted, various twitches and tremors lifting this, shaking that… Observing was a kind of story: directions of work still to do; each separate inner and outer part tugging me back to an event, an unresolved memory.

A friend suggested TRE (trauma release exercises), which resonated. And now I realise that this is why my back, arms, neck, shoulders, legs, hands and feet ache. It fits: so much has happened, not only in the last few years but also over the course of my life. The only question, and it’s always been the burning one, is will I have time to lift it in order to travel my mind, body and soul to the destination I desire?

The clock ticks…
 
Click here to read about my experience with TRE.

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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Growing from the centre

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Growing from the centre, spreading out; opening tired arms, reaching out… I begin to evolve; returning – slowly, surely, bit by timid bit – to my maker, to the one who conceived the thought and (albeit thousands of years ago), made my forebears who then lead lives that in a very protracted ‘meandering-around-the-fields kind of way’ (a bit like my writing) eventually led to me.

But who is that voice that’s calling? And why now? Why not before, when I first had need of it? 

Was it necessary to be so beaten, so tattered and torn, so tangled and tormented, bereft? Did I need to lose it all before I could from the ground, the grey grit of the tired bedraggled pavement, start crawling back?

~

Praying, meditating, practicing yoga; spending quiet time, alone time, time with me: I pick up the pieces, attempting to reassemble the puzzle that – whole, complete – amounts to an entirety of something I am only now coming to know.

I try to remember that God loves me and that Jesus died for my sins. I try to remember too that other people have suffered, suffer, are suffering still, and that we are all battling similar things.

Only it’s easy to forget and then feel miserable, or perhaps act out, speaking from the lonely part, the child that has since we began been neglected.

~

Reading self-help books; studying religion, spirituality, philosophy, metaphysics… I move, crossing a landscape of boulders that was ‘once upon a time long ago’ green and vibrant.

Planting seeds; tending to the garden, praying to the moon and dancing for the sun: colour arrives and I thrive, rising up from the ashes of pain and shame to walk with grace and confidence.

And I try to have fun and to remember how to play, taking advice from children and the tiny inside me, the ‘me’ that I am only now really learning to see and accept. Fimo unicorns dance across tabletops, origami doves gather around lamps, felttip rainbows remind me to be kind to myself when all around me I’m staring at clouds. Having allowed what has been forbidden to surface, it won’t now be shut back down.

I was afraid that perhaps I wasn’t being mature enough. 

I was also afraid that I had gone mad, losing my soul down a rabbit hole that, once entered, did not permit one to turn back. 

Now I see that the answer is simple, that I have instead been forced to rewind, returning to parts that never grew, reconnecting with parts that were rejected.

Listening to her, seeing her, for the first time; looking with complete awareness, judgement-free: I slowly heal what was allowed to self-destruct. It is painful and slow. Strange how this journey began as one thing, as a new career path, as an evolution of ego – albeit with a good heart – and then turned into something else entirely that has, in new and nefarious ways, challenged me.

~

Walking in the light, I see that God had other plans and that, really, when it’s all peeled back, there is only ever one path, one way, and it is love. 

Love makes us happy. 

Love brings us peace. 

Love enables us to forgive and thereby to finally heal. 

Love enables us to reach out and touch and begin to restore, transforming hate and anger, cynicism and judgement, depression and pain. Little by little, the world begins to change. 

It is a journey of a thousand miles. And, like all of you, each day I take another step. 

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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A thorn in my side

imageI think I have done all of my Christmas shopping, or at least all that I can do for now: there will be more later, when I have time; when the crowds have dwindled to the last few stragglers, or, perhaps, after… once the sales start. Now, though, I am free, and I feel lighter. Shopping daunts me: I worry too much. It’s not just what to get: it’s where to get it and how much to spend and whether the recipient (he, she, them…) will like it. No matter how hard I try, how much I think or how long I spend on the task: I always get it wrong; it’s the story of my life. I do it with haircuts, nail colour, food in restaurants and clothes. I do it with books and movies and magazines. I even do it with wool and beads. And when it comes to my art: invariably, I mess that up too – overworking or miss-selecting, using colours that clash, adding too much texture or weight. I did it last night on my autumn quilt and now my heart is sad. Poor rabbit… poor carrots… poor ladybird, leaf and branch…

The thorn in my side today, however, is more tangible and I am struggling to function as a result. Moving is painful; I feel broken; something isn’t right. But what do you do about the things you can’t see: can you fix a problem located beyond the reach of eyes? Massaging my side, swallowing painkillers, moving gently and slowly, trying not to touch it or anything else: I attempt to navigate through the waves of discomfort, crossing fingers that don’t believe over hands that are cynical.

The past few weeks have been tough. The past few months have been challenging. My body has suffered while my mind has endured. Standing in the middle of the road; watching cars and buses, bikes and taxis: I deliberate over how much more I can take. We are still living in limbo. We are still sleeping on the floor – if what we are doing can be described as that. I have a cold that won’t disappear and I am cold most of the time. I am also exhausted. I know this because I long to lie down for days, long to lie down and never wake, craving horizontal more than I desire any other position I could pick were any others on offer. I cannot speak. I cannot navigate. I confuse my left and right. Sticking to the tried and tested, clinging to familiar friends: I manage by keeping it simple and small.

But what will become of me next week? And how will I find the strength to pack and move on Tuesday when we are supposed to be leaving our home-sweet-hell in favour of a new apartment? And what will I do if tomorrow we find out we aren’t moving yet and have to stay where we are instead, abandoning all hopes of having a relaxed Christmas; accepting, instead, a poor substitute lacking furniture, belongings, decorations and love? There are too many things in the pot and I am no longer managing. Like a snail, I need my house. And I don’t care if it’s a temporary house or a borrowed house or a house that actually belongs to me: I just need a place to call home that I can return to and relax in when I need to stop. Take away all of my creature comforts, suspend me in between here and there; poke me, prod me, push me, punch me, and I unravel. As the tail of thread lengthens and the length knots and snags, I start to wonder if, when I finally come to catch it, it can be untangled and rewound .

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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A flower in winter

imageBehind the wheel,
he’s a man with small feet.
At home,
his fists are made of iron.

As for me,
I’m a flower in winter,
a bird
without wings.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Morning has broken

imageLast night’s dinner covered in ants.
The metal contraption that cooks in various shades of black.
Dirty plates, empty cups.
A girl with broken eggshells in her lap.

The snake of uncertainty.
A spider without legs.
A dust mote, a cockroach,
a senile cat.

The hive of a head.
The blue beneath.
Paper birds.
Hide and seek.

Tripping over objects.
Impatient feet.
The man in the photograph.
A final receipt.

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

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His part in the affair

imageThe robin was reluctant to admit to his part in the affair: the things he had done, the words he had said, the actions he had taken and the others he had withheld; things which, collectively, had led to the arrival of the blue bud – a despondent bloom who did nothing but weep, crying over today as if it were the last day on which it were possible for such things to be shed. Such was the weight of his woe, he had quite saturated the garden, coming very close to drowning an earthworm and several small slugs. The robin sighed. How did one deal with such a creature? Should he approach with a handkerchief and attempt to wipe the stain from his nose? Or should he prepare a pot and serve hot tea instead? Whatever, whichever… he had to do something: the pathetic plant was driving him mad. Besides, he didn’t have time to indulge the dramatics of others, not when he still housed so many of his own. In addition, to future complicate, he had been raised to see all forms of weeping as weakness and displays of emotion as frail. Tears were for the faint-hearted, those who couldn’t function adequately or competently cope, the type who were afraid to go far and who would be fated to fail if ever they should. To show oneself in the company of strangers (most of whom would likely always stay that way) was both unadvisable and unwise. They might haul you in, examine your head, ply you with medication, lock you up… The bud was obviously unstable, in need of help. Anyone could see that. But he wasn’t about to be the one to give it, not now, not after so long… and he resented the feeling that was trying to make him believe he should.

The sun rose slowly, breaking through the blanket of white, weak rays caressing the darker, still shadowed landscape. It woke the robin, its glare gently tickling his eyelids. It roused the bud too, evicting it from its temporary respite, causing it to shudder and twitch as, with reluctance, it awoke. Lifting its head, it turned its face to its only companion, attempting a smile. Then, failing, as entirely as one might manage to fail when attempting a venture whose outcome they had vested an amount of energy and interest in, it looked sadly away. It knew it had to do better, figure something out, but how did one attempt to wrestle the weight of the world, placate the paralysis of problems? Did one? Could one? It wasn’t sure. Uncharacteristically moved, the robin asked if it was hungry and offered to get breakfast in.

While he was away, most likely foraging in another farmer’s field, the bud decided to confront the intruders, attempting to deconstruct the darkness in order to remove it from his life. Lifting a leaf, he poked and prodded in the space around his head, believing the problem to be in his stamen. But when he brought it back out, it was empty of defect and blight. Refusing to give up, he tried his roots, pushing another leaf down into the soil. Jackpot, immediate resistance; a creeping, crawling, carpet-skinned thing that felt like it was made up of hundreds and thousands of creatures. Ants? Beetles? Bugs? How undignified. And how horrific to have the source of his pain situated there, somewhere so far from his immediate person and in a region he couldn’t ever hope to visually reach?

The robin returned, presenting a slug. The bud faked grateful, forcing a smile, surreptitiously sliding the odious thing away. Didn’t the robin know that slugs were poison to buds, likely to remove whole chunks from leaves and half bites from heads? To eat it would lead to his destruction, a slow crunching and chomping from the inside out, him disappearing – bit by bit, cell by cell – until he was dry, brown and brittle, a hollow shell. Or maybe that was the plan? And if it wasn’t, then maybe he should adopt it as such? At least then he would have a choice. And being eaten by a slug was less intimidating and worrying then being possessed by beetles and ants. At least it would move on once he went away. The ants, on the otherhand, wishing only to torment, would stay, hanging around to forage and bring back to, running up and down, in and out, hiding, holding, until he found another conclusion to escape the confines of his life.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Migration

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My pain migrates from left to right
as I attempt to write it onto the page,
extracting the edges,
smoothing them over with my pen.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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