Loose ends and torn edges

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The day drags,
trailing loose ends and torn edges,
collecting fluff.
Her bags carry things she will never use,
things she had planned to turn into magical objects.

A morning gone awry,
turns into an afternoon that drags
and the evening is growing old before it is young.

Trying to stitch two of the pieces back together,
she wrestles unaccommodating fabric,
cotton that has split
and a needle with a blind eye.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The question she was chewing on these days

imageTrying to keep the peace in a turbulent household is a full-time job, especially when surrounded by eggshells. One forgets how many landmines can be hidden beneath the floors, knives concealed underneath the smooth veneer of carpets and rugs; how much, in treading onto and then later exploding (albeit, by accident), they hurt. Having navigated a relatively uneventful path for a hand-span of days – commendable, given the circumstances – it was inevitable she would eventually slip up. That it had taken so long and gone so smoothly up until this point was what surprised her. At the end of the day, it all came down to leopards and dogs. You couldn’t repaint the sitting room, just because you didn’t like the colour. Nor could you rearrange the make-up of the stew, just because you were now a vegetarian. People were who they were. They looked and acted a certain way. After a lifetime of operating as such, they weren’t about to change for you or anyone else. And besides… life was a series of challenges, most irksome when you were already struggling. It stood to reason that there were additional bumps.

It had been a difficult summer: hard on the body, worse on the mind. There had been decisions, sacrifices, tests… They had had to prove they wanted it, and how much. Cross bridges. Climb mountains. There was loss, and cost. And it carried on costing. Even now – here, on the other side; standing, walking, running; somewhere in the middle of where they used to be and where they wanted to be eventually, where they were trying to get to when they figured it all out – they were hitting walls and coming up against barriers. If there was a God – a matter that, lately, had come up for dispute – he had a wicked sense of humour. Each morning as she walked across the bridge, the one just shy of Charring Cross, the one on the Embankment; passing the bible bashers with their books on Christianity and their poster asking: “does Satan exist?”, she had to wonder. Either she was being tested for something bigger, better, beautiful… that would eventually become clear – like daylight, sunshine; something she suddenly didn’t have much of. Or she was being sabotaged and thwarted by a tyrant. For now, she had no alternative but to go with the punches. But that didn’t mean she had to like it or pretend that it didn’t hurt. Her back ached, her feet throbbed, her shoulders screamed continuously. And as for her head and stomach… it was best not to go there. She was managing in much the same way as she always did: reverting to the tried and tested, resorting to medicating in imaginative and stereotypical ways. But it was a short-term fix. Sooner or later the facade would crack, causing her to crumble. There was only so long things like thoughts and feelings could be suppressed. Her backpack was heavy. Her suitcase dragged. It was high-time she unpacked.

A wet November morning, the edge of winter. A small cafe in a suburban town. Having been soaked by the rain as she attempted to save her dignity from foul things in the kitchen, she was hunched over and shivering, cursing her mediterranean excuse of a coat. While it might serve adequately in climates used to providing: it offered little by way of protection from the elements right now. Once it dropped below 18 degrees, it was basically useless: more frivolous accessory than practical attire. Why she had brought it in the first place, escaped her. Something to do with a cute shop, a bad day and someone owing her a gift. In that sense, it had served its purpose, removing a thorn that might otherwise have festered, dragging out the matter, causing yet more pain.

But what about the coat of now? How was she supposed to navigate the mean-time: the time in the middle, the time with its own agenda?

As she bit back the tears, cursing her skin for being so thin, her heart so pathetically fragile, she was involuntarily rewound, returning kicking and screaming to where it had all begun, the reasons for the adventure rising from the grave to press against her eyelids. She had fled, running away from it all, taking her almost entirely broken and still breaking as far away as she could. It had been an act of self-preservation. That it hadn’t entirely worked out, that it had tested her in new and unanticipated ways, was something she had then had to accommodate. But she had borne it all without complaint or hesitation, resuming vertical, relocating upright, glueing back together and replacing her cracked and chipped. Was there no end to the assault? Everywhere she went, every path she took, there seemed to be a new monster. What was that all about? And did it happen to everyone or just to her? That was the question she was chewing on these days.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The Clucking of Hens

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“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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Days like these….

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Some days are just plain painful, not for any reason in particular (at least not one I can attach any tangible sense to) but just for the sheer fact that remaining upright is an effort and maintaining a smile bearing any vague semblance to a genuine entity a chore.

My head throbs. My eyes prick. My neck and shoulders are locked: stubbornly resistant, oppressively tight. There is this malicious thing going at my chest with a fork. It is blunt and tarnished, void of serration and shine. It is old, too and overly admired. As for my heart, that most delicate of creatures: it feels fragile and weak, like it’s been recently broken by some element or identity it most desperately loves.

I’m not sure where to attribute the blame: the weather, the date, the season, bodily hormones, the phase of the moon, events, recent treatment of self by self and/or by others, or just life in general and the incomprehensible nature of it.

Not that blaming helps. Attaching a label is never a wise thing to do and rarely serves a greater purpose beyond shrinking and limiting. Call a glass of milk a glass of milk and it can never be anything but a glass of milk. Present it as a potent vessel, life-giving liquid, a substance matching a March moon in colour trapped within a container resembling in clarity a pair of NHS glasses or else tri-annually cleaned windows, and it is immediately that much more interesting. At least in my book it is. To you, it may now just be confusing.

As I said: I have a migraine and my thoughts are jumbled. I’m writing in an attempt to evict the pain and because, otherwise, my afternoon will be empty of employment. I can’t read. I can’t sleep. The thought of meditating, although tempting, also seems like a waste. I want to do something useful but my options are limited. This is the compromise.

Pining August, missing her already despite still sitting pretty within the arms of her last day embrace, I am trying to remain in the moment. If I look back, I see the ribbon of summer – colourful-worn and spent. Forwards, I see autumn leading towards winter, the approach of weather that hurts, sky that is mean, sun that doesn’t like very often to come out. A time of wrapped up, curled up, hunched in front of while the wind screams in earnest and the clouds weep. I see me disappearing. My voice fading. My confidence failing. Tears close by.

So I’m trying to stay where I am. Trying to make the most of every day I have. Trying to do enough so as to warrant justification and stave off regret. And I am managing, just about. Even with this pain, I am obedient to routine: traveling to new places, working out and about, visiting people, being as sociable as my limited diary will permit. I’m not slacking. I’m not shying. So why isn’t it easier? Why does this black thing, this shadow, follow me around and about? What did I do to deserve it? What can I do to make it go away?

I rest. I exercise. I meditate. I read enriching books. I express myself in words and in imagery. I make sure I get enough air and light. I eat raw ingredients and buy organic products. I avoid sugar and processed foods. I restrict, as much as possible, violence and crime, distressing information, destructive people, depressing news. I protect myself. I love my dog and I allow her to love me. I express myself openly and honestly – to my partner and to my friends, allowing them to do the same back. I try to be nice to everyone I meet, to give instead of take. I put in as well as extract, invest as well as lay claim. I believe in my purpose, my destiny: something I have looked deep to find, worked hard to own, and attend to daily. Surely life should be better having done and still doing all of this? That is, after all, supposed to be the answer.

But who is this omniscient being who professes to know what makes us tick; what repairs the cogs that are dented, the coils that are squeaking, the wheels that are turning the wrong way? He’s not God. He’s some intellectual who has studied a lot, some guru who claims to be enlightened. He’s not the real thing. He’s not even always a ‘he’. How can we, I, trust something so ordinary, so similar in genetic makeup? We can’t really and we oughtn’t to, but we do, because at the end of the day all any of us wants is answers, solutions to problems and questions; because the not-knowing how, why or when is just too big, vast, empty to live with. Like looking over the edge of a building or down into the depths of a well, there is this aching feeling, this hollow scream, a carved-out wound that feels like a child that ought to be there but isn’t, a lost baby, a dead pet. It makes one want to jump, to just hurry up and get it over with, to bail out. And it also makes one feel absolutely terrified. Far easier to simply buy into, accept, adopt, leap onto and cling. Whether it’s Deepak, Robbins, Hay, Hart, the Dali Lama, Buddism as a belief, Christianity as a crucible, Gestalt and Jung as theories and philosophies: anything, everything; one, two, ten… is a better thing to cling to than empty space.

I look. I find. I try. I attach. And for a time, I am full. Then the gnawing returns and my soul complains that it is hungry again and needs to feed. Like a child with worms, there is no sating it. And it’s the no sating, no solving, no sedating, that enslaves me.

So I lie here in limbo, an adult crying for a parent who no longer exists, yearning for a breast that has long-since been interred; essentially waiting for a miracle that may (or may not) eventually come. It’s a sorry state of affairs to be managing and yet somehow I am in charge of it.

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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