Cardboard tea and sleep that is slow in coming

Monday, 26th January –
Woke feeling positive, energised, slightly better: my tongue improved and my skin (the eczema – although still there, still bad) different, thanks to a new and totally organic cream.

Showered, dressed, cleaned. Went out. Walked for half an hour, feeling moderately positive, despite the rain.

Had a hypnosis session and left more relaxed, stronger too, comforted by the connection to someone real and the gift of their insight. Felt more heard and understood than I had in a while.

Walked again, losing myself in a network of streets – all the same, all vaguely attractive. I have a habit of doing that: walking, getting lost. Where I used to be like a map, able to navigate anywhere: new places, old places… of equal challenge, no different: now I am like a first generation Sat Nav, my details out-of-date. England has changed me, damaged me, taking things that were useful and important away. A shell, hollow and cracked, I remain close enough to a person in appearance to fool those who care to look but nowhere near solid or real enough where it counts. A work in progress, I come together plank by plank.

Focussing on the present, I try to embrace who I am right now, but it’s hard to love something so volatile. I watch other people, especially the young, and envy them their vitality. They are who I used to be in the ‘when’ that went before; the ‘what’ that was the ‘is’ in another lifetime. But even with nothing to show, with the pile of damaged and useless that remains, I have faith. Today is a good day and on good days I believe: in the point, in the reason, in the eventually ending somewhere. There is a logic to all of this, a line running through the narrative. In time, it will become clear. Like others who are suffering, I will endure with patience and strength. I continue my journey and walk until I am found.

I get to my afternoon without further incident, glad to have somewhere to go. Quieter than before, it’s peaceful, and despite a lack of confidence in my ability to communicate, I manage to interact. But I struggle to give to those who wish to have, retreating from arms that are horizontally outstretched. This is not a dishing out and mopping up day. I require all of my energy.

Evening comes quickly, impatient to arrive, and I meet it without resentment. A switching off, it signals an end to ‘me’ and a beginning of something different, a ‘me, a she and a him’.

I sleep well, the little one against my neck, her needing me grounding me in the present; wake rested but wish to remain flat.

Tuesday, 27th January –
A morning of tasks: Reiki, packing, cleaning and washing up – all good, all easy; one practice for the next step, the where I’m trying get to, the rest old friends, processes I can rely on to hold me. I don’t get why people hate housework: beneath the surface, there is comfort and peace, gentle therapy. But I am aware that I was also looping, stuck inside: the day and its demands, its lack of events, bugging me. There was also an anxious dog, pacing and whining. In fact, it was her discomfort that acted to dislodge me, and it was from here that I dropped.

Walking helped solidify my morning, as did a place to be, but I lacked tolerance, patience and strength. A queue at the bank, and I gave in to a growl: frustration at having to wait for 20 minutes, sparking a vocal outburst, albeit brief.

My class, meditation, helped put me back together again and even though I completely failed to reach the desired space, the quiet and the light, the golden radiance, I enjoyed the knowledge and the companionship.

After, I continued to walk, restless and unable to remedy, resorting to negative behaviours to placate the anxious parts; angry at myself for allowing damaging habits to intervene. Why, when I am trying to find and walk a better path, can I not commit? What is sit that pulls me backwards? Finally, good sense wins out and I find a place to work and write. Once planted, I don’t move, keeping my seat for 3 hours: moderately still, adequately occupied.

The end of the day and the streets scare me, full of aggression and rush. I flee into quieter spaces, worn and wrung out. I am ready for the conclusion: home, dinner, my partner and my dog, my book and its window into a place that is ‘else’. My neck and shoulders ache, have done so all day: something tight unable to escape. My foot hurts too, threatening to break as I walk. And my eczema sits furious on my face: a cluster of raised parts, itchy, upset and red. I feel unattractive and old. I walk with my head bowed, paranoia and fear resting heavily, pressing down, invading every cell.

I focus on what I have done, what I have achieved, and this at least stops my morale from dropping, venturing into dangerous parts.

Wednesday, 28th January –
Positive, because Wednesday is my favourite day, the day when I host my group. And, also, afterwards, I am having tea with a friend. Full days are good days, energising where others take; they comfort my inner child, encouraging the authentic me to come out. So, in spite of the rain and the wind, the early near-drowning, the arriving soaking wet, I am positive and alright.

My group goes well, even though this week it’s just the two of us. We talk. We knit. And as always, it’s curious.

Then tea and a great chat: honest and long, two-sided, me trying hard to help. This fills me up: I feel useful and strong(ish). And after, even though tired, anxious, aching in all of the usual places, nervous about moving in the morning and this being my last evening in a bumpy place that has, despite lacking a lot – furniture, light, peace and quiet – become home, I have a good evening, creatively inspired and relaxed.

I sleep well too, deeply and without the usual up and down antics that compel me to wake several times in order to pad barefoot to the bathroom and back. Putting myself first, pushing my guilt aside, I make my dog go to bed as well, relieving my arms from her body and its constant weight, a pressure which antagonises my rib, shoulders and neck. I dream, but what of I can’t remember: most likely anxieties about the morning and the turmoil it will bring; the end of my current, fragile status.

Thursday, 29th January –
My face aches, stings, is red: pieces of dried skin flaking, escaping, taking leave and slipping away. It has changed from angry to expressive to sick, and the journey continues: me wondering what, when, it will end. I’m unsure about what to do, whether to continue with the withdrawal, whether to trust in the advice given by a teenager over that of a GP. But I’ve been using steroids for so long and they are bad, I holistic things. And, besides… they didn’t really work. Which is why it’s back in full force with me trying to fight it.

Tuning in, sitting in silence within the relative comfort of a busy cafe, I attempt to communicate, asking the spots, the flecks, the weeping bits, what they are saying to me. They tell me that they are sad and disappointed, and also that they are mad and frustrated too: they have been sitting still for too long, waiting on a hundred ‘nothing’s’ to manifest.

And what of my tongue? That positively screams. On top of the ulcers, the sores, the cracks and the dents: I managed to actually bite it, impressing upon it two holes; their message clear: “shut up, silence, get back in your cage”. My speaking up, my raising previously modest expectations, my making demands, does not wash. Too much has happened for anything other than disaster to be declared.

But I carry on, determined, in spite of the obstacles in my path. Our journey is supposed to be hard; our road rocky and concealed: if not, there would be little point in our being here. In order for our lives to be valued, of worth: we must confront and conquer our individual demons, our bit to cleanse to the earth.

My dysfunction clings. Things cry out in the night. There are beasts at my door and animals in my house, bent on nefarious activity.

I slaughter the animals, one by one, feeding them to the beasts. I invite the beasts into my bed, ‘consciously’ killing them, making sure they are first surrounded by love, calm and unaware. Slowly the air thin and I begin to breathe. At first, only in short, sharp, breaths: laboured and painful, air wrapped in knives. But later – gradually, slowly – more deeply and with less conflict.

Meanwhile, my shoulders cut my neck and my back bends. My ribs refuse to heal. And as for my feet: they continue to disintegrate. But ‘it is what it is’ and it will either end or it will go on and either way – stop or play, cease or exist, persist: I will remain attached, like a limpet on a rock.

Picking up the keys: anxious, scared; I try not to overly anticipate. I have been bitten before. I have honoured false prophets, swallowed bitter lies. I have tasted offal and bile. There has been more bad stuff, more to dislike, than there has been to love. I love my dog and I love my partner, but I do not love my life: it has not been kind or fair; and neither has it, despite my continued commitment to it, been fun.

Outside the door: a struggle to get in, man pitted against lock. Then in: eyes wide, mouth open, in shock. Nothing has changed, or not enough. As I look around in disbelief, the tears arrive and my anger turns to pain. Fear wraps me in a blanket: I cannot live here. It is worse: worse than the nightly noise, the lack of privacy, the blinds that are always down and the mess outside, the tramps and the drunks… And I want to stay, where it is warm and safe, where it is known, where is is at least shiny and clean. The kitchen stares at me like a broken smile, ugly and garish, half done. I feel like I’m in an office or a student flat. The radiators remember a time gone by and have missing bits. The fireplace is cheap, naff. And the floor is so dated, so damaged, so old, there is no resurrecting it. All that can be done is to cover it with rugs, however many it takes to eliminate the underneath mess, its surface telling stories I don’t want to read, containing the imprint of lives with too much to tell.

Friday, 30th January –
Up early with reluctant feet. Into the bath and then out. Flat on my back on a bed. Pushed and pressed, pieces that have moved away manipulated back. Exit feeling fragile: things that hurt, hurting in different ways. Back to my parents, where I hibernate, waiting to feel well again.

Mind heavy, full of fear; scared to leave: unsure of whether I am capable of surviving it, the dreaded unknown of a new place and of managing to change my heart so that I might be able to settle there. Comforted by parental companionship and being one-step-removed, but aware that it is temporary, an escape.

Wait…

Tick… Time passes.

Eventually, an email: tied to an earlier promise; effort attached, closing the void. Call. Speak. Thank. Pack and prepare. And even though I feel weak, broken, unfit: I take my leave and get on the train.

Crowds. Noise. Discomfort. Clinging to cardboard tea and sleep that is slow in coming.

Then reunite; hug, kiss, walk: anxious and cold.

Find a seat, a bottle of wine, needles attached to a ball and something intricate emerging. Relax, unwind, smile, if only for a while. Delay going back, digging heels in.

Then a door, a key, and wood opening; me standing still: eyes shut, patiently waiting. Scene set, I step: lights low, music playing, radiators churning… Cosy. Impressed by the ‘for now’. So much energy and love, it’s enough to paper the cracks.

Make do. Cook. Sit and eat. Imagine it’s just for a week. Then read in bed until eyes tired enough to shut, mind sufficiently distracted to grant peace. Cling to body of dog, leg of man, deep inside duvet heat.

Saturday, 31st January –
Slept well, even though plagued by nightmares: people invading the apartment in muddy shoes, a bath full of pins, and my parents and various other less familiar relatives descending to gloat. But woke aching all over as a result of the Cranial I had, delicate enough to break. My face was also red, raw: eczema torment. I am trying to be patient and kind, to love myself despite feeling ugly: it’s hard, mirrors offend. But I refrain from judging symptoms I can’t help; my face does not mean to harm me: something beneath it does. It’s a root I need to extract.

Managed, eventually, to get up and set about sorting through boxes in order to hang and tidy away: figuring, if I’m going to stay, if I’m forced to be here for a while, I may as well try to fit; resisting will only further antagonise.

Braved the shower, survived, and even managed to laugh about things like using a brass light covering as a mirror to dry my hair and a dog bowl as a cup.

Went out in the rain, didn’t collapse, stayed practical and present. Sat down to work and caught up, easing the burden that has amassed.

Sitting in the present, feet fighting to stand, pushing everything else – the future, the past – away. Then, next, are dangerous, too many emotions attached.

Dreading Monday, being alone, but okay for now.

Sunday, 1st February –
It has turned bitter outside and the wind has teeth, invading the weave of jumpers and coats. My bones ache and I can no longer feel my limbs: arms and legs brittle sticks that snap. Side-stepping tourists and distracted commuters, guarding my body as best I can. The effort exhausts and I long to stop, pulling my outward inwards where it’s safe. Only there is no respite, not inside or outside, because of the things that glow white.

Last night discomfort joined me in bed; sleep was slow. But waking was significantly better: raw and itchy, flaky and soft.

The day drags and I fail to find peace in pursuits that normally deliver and even though I dread tomorrow and once more being left alone, I long for an end so that I might escape. The flat that on Thursday upset me enough to run away, now doesn’t feel so bad, familiarity blurring the edges, because, if nothing else, it has become my own. And can I afford to move again when moving demands so much, draining the almost empty, turning the upright wrongside down?

Telling myself: this too will pass.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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London, England, 27th January; a quiet hotel

imageI feel like I have been running for weeks, chasing after a destination that I cannot reach. Like a tail that keeps moving and a carrot that dangles just outside the circumference of my longest stretch, they torment as much as they entice: dreams, promises, pathways; numerous possibilities…

Thoughts come and go. Inside, my mind is always active: frustratingly so. Practicing meditation, attending classes nearby: I am searching for answers.

Some days, I manage to get there: briefly experiencing a shaft of light, a warm glow, a sense of peace. But mostly, I don’t. Mostly I remain trapped on the outside; where I want to be, a closed door.

I’d like to take it further, see where it might lead; I feel a deep pull towards a different way of life, a life that is mindful and kind, a life that is aware of its ‘self’ and more useful to others. I would like to give and for there to be takers.

Growing things bit by bit; treating me – this, here – like a seed: I apply water as required. The weeds continue to choke the small simple bud, keen to swallow the baby before it can grow strong; they know that it will harm their own wellbeing. And even though I hold pieces of them in my heart, treasuring the companionship they give, the stories they share, the wisdom they impart: I realise the need for the travelling in tandem to end.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Without stitches you just have rags

Monday, 19th January –
Feeling peaceful and positive, full of confidence and energy: a great start.

And I had an amazing day: talking to lots of people, both known and unknown; attracting conversations and connections from strangers, both on the tube and in shops.

I challenged myself and liked how it felt.

Tuesday, 20th January –
Anxious. Trapped. Stuck under a cloud. Unable to settle anywhere, familiar places as alien as previously unexperienced ones.

Had moments of peace in class: listening, meditating… but then drifted, aimless, getting progressively stressed. Felt weak and fragile, detached from myself.

Physically, I’m run down: the result of being overly challenged; events beyond my control demanding energy and space.

Discovered a blood-filled blister in my mouth: ugly, large. It scared me: I don’t like surprises. Planning to treat it with Reiki tonight. Watch this space.

Wednesday, 21st January –
Delicate, self-conscious; lacking confidence. Experiencing low esteem; lower than what I am used to and used to managing alone.

Spent a semi-pleasurable morning knitting with a friend, teaching and guiding her through the ebb and flow of a blanket. But then – afterwards, alone – the day dragged.

By evening, I was a mess: anxious, stressed, entangled.

My mouth, instead of improving, has grown worse: the blister making way for sores down both sides of my tongue. This doesn’t help the way I currently feel about life and about myself. It feels like ever since I hit thirty, I have been unravelling. I look in the mirror and my reflection offends: old and tired, ailment-sick. I am learning not to look too hard and to stand back. It’s one of the few times it helps to be long-sighted, further convincing me that, despite struggling to see, to navigate safely – up stairs, through doors, down streets… I am better off without frames. I am tempted to start wearing make-up and push the idea around in my mind: mulling, stewing, letting it sit… But it is so contrary to what I believe in, so ‘not what I do’, that I don’t know if I can bring myself to change that much: it would be a betrayal of self, an open acknowledgement that I am less. Or am I advertising exactly that in my refusal to conform, to attempt to master beauty? I know it’s what’s inside that counts, but I am surrounded by beautiful people and I feel like I don’t belong. Besides, I’m not all that proud of the inside either. A work in progress: me, myself and I still have countless miles to go.

Thursday, 22nd January –
Took the morning slowly: pottering around the apartment, cleaning, meditating, doing Reiki… Felt better. Went to meditation, which I enjoyed, and was able to participate. Decided to pass on all afternoon activity in favour of my other half: in hindsight, a mistake, as energetically we clashed. Thankful when the day was finally over and I was released.

Still physically rundown: tongue getting worse; stomach aching, burning, cramping; shoulders and neck tense; lower back tired, drained; feet hurting, especially the right.

Friday, 23rd January –
Felt noticeably better than yesterday, finally over the effects of the Cranial I had on my rib (the one the cheap massage before Christmas broke, the one in the Chinese massage parlour, the one with the small girl who took a flying leap).

Embracing it, I went for a walk in the sun, and didn’t die of the cold. Actually, I enjoyed it and felt happy to be alive. A first for a while…

Spent the afternoon with my sister catching up, celebrating her birthday; exploring Covent Garden arm in arm. Managed to be kind to myself as well as her. Enjoyed connections with lots of people, shining from within.

Later, I even stood up for myself, realising, profoundly, that I am often happiest alone, separate from known others whose energy – hard, aggressive, paced – has a tendency to clash. However, instead of happy, this newfound awareness made me sad me. It doesn’t bode well for my ‘home-sweet-home’ and notion of the future.

Saturday, 24th January –
Great morning pottering around the flat: cleaning, tidying, etc..; to me, therapeutic.

Did Reiki.

Went to another Meetup group (I’m an addict: the deprivation of the last two years making me extra determined to throw myself into anything and everything interesting while I can). Met more people. Made friends. Really enjoyed it.

Afterwards, became anxious: most likely hunger-led. Since the Attunement, my body has turned into a greedy child, wanting always to be stuffing, cramming… craving sugar and carbs: bad stuff; things that, previously (due to professional advice) have been banned. Succumbing daily, my will power weak: I continue to exacerbate what I should be attempting to fix and I’m not sure why. Am I trying to be nice to my inner child? Or am I seeking instead to sabotage the direction in which I am trying to go, stalling what is quite possibly the most important journey of my life?

Sunday, 25th January –
After a terrible evening (containing an argument, a breakdown in communication, upset and floods…) and an unsettled afternoon wandering, clinging on, agitated and anxious: today was actually a good day: meditation seminar, long walk, lots of writing and studying in a café.

Felt more connected. More energetic too, believing that I have found something to which I can belong. I might give all of my possessions away and join a monastery or a temple, really devote myself. I like the idea: always have. Maybe that will fix the holes, enabling me to be here without all of the pain? Probably an idealistic solution; a rose-tinted remedy. Realistically, there would still be unhappiness: stubborn injuries, incurable ailments, internal malaise; big, existential questions without answers that suffice… Still, I can dream: zzz zzz zzz.

On that note: tongue still sore, stomach still burning; shoulders, neck and back, aching and tense; old foot injury back: rearing, biting; eczema a little better (perhaps?). Notice rib for the first time since Friday: still there, still tender. What a brat.

And yet: without stitches you just have rags. I am at least making progress.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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A wind with malicious intent

imageThe temperature has dropped, causing me to shiver in my thermals, huddling beneath cashmere, alpaca and wool in a coat too thin to provide comfort from anything, let alone a wind with malicious intent. My hands ache and my nose runs. My hair is lank and flat thanks to my hat, which leaves a kind of residue in its wake, oily and damp. It probably needs a wash but I can’t bear the thought of having to block it again, stretching it into shape over a plate, the nature of the plate determining the nature of the garment. I have had too many misses to tempt fate. Better to wash my hair more often than risk spoiling something that took me weeks to make and which I am rather attached to having around. Sentiment can make you do crazy things; I have mourned many a hat and glove, burying each disaster beneath less distressing objects, hoping, in spite of knowing different, that time will heal. I will perfect the art of blocking one day, maybe reading up on it or taking a course. For now, however, I have more pressing concerns, like studying meditation and adding to my skill-set of alternative therapies.

I have decided that 2015 is going to be the year in which I really get to know myself, not just by way of disassociated observation but also in terms of greater comprehension, genuine attachment and unconditional respect, starting with a part I have long-since referred to as ‘the whining brat’. Like the infamous ad campaign suggests, I will endeavour to ‘stop, listen and look’ in order to re-stick, tending to what’s been left hurt and broken. And while it won’t be easy, fun, warm or quick, it will be worth the effort if the result leaves me internally stronger, better life-equipped.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Secrets and lies

imageTrying to be authentic, she writes.
But her words are hollow
and they fail to convey anything.

Her sister turned thirty today
reminding her of own big ‘three-o’,
years ago now
which she regrets.

Walking through London,
she passes the restaurant where she celebrated,
just her and him in a booth.

He gave her a ring.
It didn’t fit,
and the promise that accompanied it
is still waiting to be kept.

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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Loose ends and torn edges

image
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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A different approach to me

image

A place previously travelled

On Sunday 18th January, I attended a Reiki course at a place called The Light Centre in Moorgate. Having qualified three years ago whilst living in Australia (following a system with 7 levels), I was curious to experience the Western way. How would it differ? Would the symbols be the same? And what of the hand positions: What order? And how many…?

Level 1 of 3, we learned about the origins of Reiki, its lineage and theory, how to cleanse our aura and how to channel the ‘Universal Life-Force’ energy for ourselves and others. During a 50-minute silence – in which we sat in a circle, eyes closed – we were treated to an individual attunement: a process where several symbols are individually placed into specific chakras.

This weekend, I am taking the second level, which (according to the Western system) allows me to practice professionally.

In a month, I do level 3 and 4.

Simplified:

• level 1 enables me to practice in a non-professional capacity
• level 2 gives me permission to practice in a professional capacity
• level 3 makes me and allows me to practice as a master practitioner
• level 4 qualifies me to teach

To advance from there, I can take different courses with different practitioners from London, from Europe, from the west and from the east, and study the ways of Reiki as it is practiced in each one, learning the subtle differences, picking up new techniques, strengthening my ability. And I think I will, as and when the opportunity arises. It’s a nice idea. Studying is rewarding: it helps to keep me energetic and vibrant; alive.

So, before I dive in to this leg of the journey, this different approach to me: I guess I had better explain what Reiki actually is, that way you won’t get too confused and you’ll forgive me for repeatedly mentioning things that could perhaps be considered distasteful or socially incorrect. Or if not that: then at the very least, boring. Like the state of my physical health, my emotional wellbeing and my general ability (or not, which is often the case) to cope with the ebb and flow of things within the circumference of a world that often feels unfamiliar. By that, I don’t mean to suggest that I am an alien being and that this is all new to me: this body, this identity, this personality; this country, these people, this place… Just that, having been away, London is at times frightening and a little fast-paced. It tends to crash and hurt, wound and scare.

Reiki: an overview

Reiki is a wonderfully gentle yet very powerful form of healing, administered by the laying on or over of hands. A simple, natural and safe method of body and mind self-improvement, it can be used to heal any form of illness – be it physical, emotional, mental or spiritual – and bring about improvements in a wide range of conditions, from depression and bereavement, to cancer and arthritis.

Often described as palm healing or hands-on-body healing, Reiki is based on the idea that an unseen ‘life force energy’ flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one’s ‘life force energy’ is low, we are more likely to get sick or feel stress. And if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Reiki resets our energy and realigns our chakras.

A gentle therapy, it is both relaxing and non-invasive.

For more information, please see the following links:
Reiki explained
Reiki energy and how it works

Booking a session:

If you would like to book a session with me, either directly or remotely (I can do distance healing too, if this is more convenient/practical for you), please send me an email.

Reiki Journal:

Below are links to pages from my journal, which, on my instructor’s suggestion, I have been keeping since the beginning of my training. So as not to overwhelm, I have divided them into weeks.

Level: One
Week One
Week Two
Week Three

Level: Two
Week Four
Week Five
Week Six

Level: Three
Week Seven (a.)
Week Seven (b.)
Week Eight

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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

• View or buy my work at my online portfolio
• Save 30% and buy from me direct
Learn more about my work and the inspiration that guides it
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The Prince who Favoured the Beast

imageFor years now I have shared my bed with a beast, although he used to be a prince and still was one when I met him and when we married. “How did it come to this?” I ask myself, querying the question. “And why won’t I leave?” To which there is no reply. These are but a handful of questions pulled from a list of intimidating length.

They say that love is strange and life is complex, that there is no understanding either one of them, no dissecting the element to make sense of the parts. And I am inclined (albeit reluctantly) to agree; after all, who am I to argue with those who are in charge the universe, the people who research and study to lay down and prove? Besides, given my current predicament, I would have to say that they are right. But it’s not all bad, not always…

The man behind the mask is still present inside and on good days he even comes out.

The boy next door still lives on my road and when I visit, I can sit quietly in my car and watch him come out.

In fact, if I am truthful – and I suppose I should be because this tale is more truth than fiction and honesty is the main point: I suppose he is around for half of my waking life. But the nature of that percentage is fragmented and split up and cannot be relied upon to present itself. One can be walking, working, socialising, shopping, etc…. and suddenly he –the beast, the demon – arrives, descending like a cloud to swallow everything else up. Then, the hand that I was holding is replaced by a paw, the eyes I was swimming in turn to ice, the voice that was whispering growls complaints and I am trodden on and trampled until I submit. It’s all rather pitiful and I am ashamed to say it out loud. But sometimes speaking difficult things is the bravest thing we can do and sharing can help others to avoid similar mistakes and, who knows: medicine can come from anywhere and take many forms; mine may arrive as a result of this.

Anyhow, this is a cautionary tale and I implore you proceed with care: you never know when something inadvertently encountered is going to rise to trip you up. I’ve cried over poems and wept over books, made decisions based upon films. I’ve travelled far, experimented widely and challenged myself in ways I never imagined I would. I’ve admired, praised, loved; rejected, run towards and fled from. I’ve hidden, stolen, joked; lied, laughed and wept, etc… all inspired by creativity, in one form or another. It’s a powerful element and can do strange things – healing and hurting, helping and hindering, in equal measure.

A fairytale in reverse, this is the story of a Cinderella deprived of a ceremony, a Rapunzel raped of her virginity, a Sleeping Beauty hooked on Prozac and a Snow White sold into slavery. It’s a child abandoned, a sister denied, a lover subjected to violence and a mother deprived. All very tragic.

So how did it start and where are we now and why do we allow it to go on? And what went wrong and why did it happen and who’s really to blame? And do these things matter to anyone but me, when the result is just the same: unhappy, heartbroken, sick? I’m asking you to provide the answer because you are the only ones who can.

We all have our own story, each one containing multiple chapters. Some of us live a new one each day, our pages turning rapidly, our words snappy and fast-paced. Others are slower to reveal themselves and are longer in length, appearing more like entire narratives, a book in themselves. At different times in our lives, their durations will vary. And, depending on what we are experiencing, so will their themes. Some will be romantic in nature, others more comedic, presenting as silly, carefree, frivolous and light. Others still will be tragic and sad, pensive and deep. We will reflect upon the passing of the years, the coming and going of people, who we are, who we were and who we have become. Despite being hard: it is never boring, for we never know what to expect.

For some of us, the element of surprise is alarming and we suffer greatly as a result. For others, not knowing is liberating, allowing space in which to experiment and expand. Ideally, we fall somewhere in the centre, permitting what will be to be without attempting to block it or stand in its way.

Love is equally as unpredictable and unreliable in nature. It comes and goes. It mutates. The quality rises and falls, often depending on external circumstances we lack the ability to control or predict. If we choose to indulge in this most human of experiences, seeking that perfect other half to complete our own gaping whole, then we risk falling and breaking. And if we decide to stick it out, believing still in spite of evidence that might suggest the opposite that things will improve, then we accept that the journey will be difficult. All this I have learned from experience. It is the hard way. But if we truly desire our happy ending, it may be the only one.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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One step far away

imageShe’d been there for seven days and so far she’d survived. Done better, in fact, than she had imagined when envisaging it in advance from one step far away. Given the circumstances, the disruption, the different location and altered routine – a routine she stuck to, swore by and depended upon as if her life were a cup made out of the finest bone china, her routine an armoured tank to huddle inside – she was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps things wouldn’t be so bad after all, or not nearly so bad, anyway? And anything not so bad after all or not nearly so bad anyway, was good in her books. If she was going to be bold: perhaps even better? Her doom and gloom predictions were bleak, end of the worldy, of the cut her down and slice her apart variety. She had thoroughly expected to be lying in a heap by now, catching boot heels and trainer soles and fending off umbrellas. To be upright, standing, walking even, was a miracle she couldn’t help thanking the constellations for. Maybe the misfortune that had dogged her ever since her real life dog had died had realised it was time it departed, making way in its absence for another breed of fortune to arrive; one that was bright, shiny and pleasant, a joy to have around? Maybe her dreams would come true, allowing along the way her wants, needs, hopes and goals to be both met and realised?

Ok, so it was still winter and wet, dark and cold most of the time. But it was also unseasonably mild, given that by now it would usually be freezing and the rain, although persistent, was at least intermittent and light. For England, that was unusual.

It was also unusual for her to be feeling so chirpy at this time of year and so excited about the future. She had energy and enthusiasm to spare. By all accounts, she should really be holed up inside, hiding behind the walls of an apartment or snuggled beneath the folds of a duvet, curtains drawn, lights low, music bleating softly… She hadn’t realised how much she had missed her former life – her friends, her family, her country – until she had come home from being away for a while.

Maybe in order to appreciate what you have and know what it is it does for you, you have to journey outside, venturing beyond what feels comfortable and safe to then realise in coming back that it was enough in the first place?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The dishcloth dog

imageI have begun a new piece. It is three days young. Starting as a simple, non-challenging project – one designed to take me from A to B (with A being Mallorca and B England), a sad parting attached to a reluctant returning – it has quickly evolved, presenting me with a list of demands: a cashmere circumference, merino eyes, a mohair tongue and snowflakes of mixed synthetic origin in an array of colours: coal, chalk, slate, berry, pearl and ice… I expect glass beads and metalic sequins to follow, as well as lace edging in a yet-to-be-determined yarn. Promising to be many-layered and complex, it should help to keep me occupied for a while. And while I cannot speak for the length of that illusive allotment of time, that intangible allocation of clock and calendar digits, I can at least relax in the knowledge that it will be long enough for me to start to settle and adjust. It’s a brave new world out there (big, loud and scary) and I am a timid old thing (small, quiet and soft), it could take some practice.

Stitching a new friend out of yarn and thread

In times of upheaval, being busy is important, distracting us from what we cannot cope with or do not wish to see, acting (if you like) as the ideal wall of defence against externals that could otherwise turn around and bite. Fearing change and needing routine, this (the necessary employment) is especially true for me. Think of it as a holding agent – a boat to cling to or ride within whilst navigating a vast and choppy sea roughly the size and temperament of the Atlantic. I need my dishcloth mutt: today, tomorrow and next week.

Since arriving (four days ago for me writing, longer for those of you reading this), words have deserted me and what I have managed is painful, taking ages in gestation and demanding much in labour to be set down. I’m also unable to read, my mind resisting the page like two opposing magnets. Television works better, although only intermittently depending on what I’m trying to watch. Having been away for three years and not having watched anything at all for two of those, I am out of touch.

It was the same yesterday when I went into town (and here, I mean Windsor not London: diddy rather than hulking, slow rather than fast, outskirts rather than central). The world appears to have grown in my absence, leaping forward several decades in the course of several years, so that – walking into a bank, navigating the likes of Superdrug or Boots, attempting to connect to WiFi in a café or pub – I have no idea what to do or where to start. Even the bank has changed. What happened to the cashiers? Like Scarlet Johansen in Lost in Translation, I am totally confused. And the confusion is like a weight bearing down on me, crushing my ability to navigate.

I’m trying to stay positive and strong, placating my inner brat with all of the things it likes: hot drinks in take away cups, people-filled venues, central heating and warm clothes, quiet time, creative time, cuddles and company, upbeat music, light and fresh air, exercise, routine, sewing and yarn, plans, projects, ideas and dreams, romantic notions I choose to believe in, life after the brief diversion of here… And while it might not be the solution I am seeking or anywhere near a cure to my current malaise, it’s a start to somewhere and something and that’s good enough for now.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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