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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Contemplating Jesus


Long day: early morning, late night; tired, always… Body struggling, mind malfunctioning; stomach empty and full. Baby crying, adult sighing; both unhappy still. Looking; searching. Finding: keeping. Sitting on and hiding away. Questions. Answers. Are there any? No! The future: heavy and dark. The past: burning and hot.

Talking of which: an enthusiastic oven, a metal dish, a bed of pitta, a tray of bread, a mind distracted by a labyrinth, a hand not paying enough, and suddenly a stigmata: rugged, red.

Contemplating Jesus, I sip tea, a coffee machine purring in the background; overlapping chatter and clatter, the room heady and thick. Regarding fresh toast, tomato, interchangeable eggs, jam, butter, avocados: I’m fighting the urge to steal. But it’s Sunday and God beckons; so it’s coat on and pen away, along with all bad thoughts and behaviour.

Moments later: a red priest, a white chaplain, a group of strangers; candles, incense, holly, baubles; collection packets, bibles, hymns books, service notes; a man playing the organ, another collecting stragglers, tea and cake around the corner – our reward. At the back, a play table – pens, pencils, colouring books… And yet there are no children, just me, longing to reach in and extract. Colour me purple, colour me pink; make me a mess in pen and ink.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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A dark hole

imageMy partner has started to refer to our situation as a black hole. The sky barely visible, the horizon concealed, it is a barren place without comfort or cheer. It is also full of anger and rage, emotions which scare me. Cold and empty, lost and alone, I feel hopeless and desolate. I no longer know where to go, how to feel or what to attach myself to. The plan we had has gone awry. Bad things keep happening. And there are too many antagonists in the mix. If I’ve felt worse, fallen lower, had more to cope with at one time: I can’t remember it.

I’ve suffered accidents and injuries. I’ve experienced heartbreak and loss. I’ve been disappointed and disillusioned… I’ve swallowed lies, drunk poison and eaten rejection… I’ve lost my best friend, my grandmother and the love of my life. I’ve been broken, bruised and damaged. I’ve been injured, ill and sick. I’ve been a danger to myself and a danger to others. I’ve been used, hurt, left and abandoned. I’ve swapped one life for another in pursuit of a dream, only to be sorely disappointed, twice…

Yet, none of it was like this. Here, now, the shit just keeps on coming and there’s nowhere to hide.

Today I should be happy. Today I should be productive. Today I should be facing in a direction. Today ‘We’, should be solving at least one of the many things on our ever-expanding list. It should be a day of moving closer, a day of advancing towards, a day of shrinking the problem(s) that seems determined to grow. But this isn’t the case. Life has thrown yet another curve-ball and – hit, injured, wounded; eyes black, heart blue, spirit torn – we are sitting in a café trying to make the best of it.

My best, or at least my idea of attempting such an ambitious feat, is to take the situation and pour my soul into it. If I can document – in transparent account, in poetry and prose, in illustration and needlework – what is going on, perhaps something positive can come out of what is dark and negative?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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David’s stone

imageThis morning I had a mini-meltdown, the backpack finally finding my rigid shoulder blades, the suitcase latching lipit-like onto my balled hands. Two months after making the decision, four months after sensing the need for a different approach, a year after feeling itchy and miserable, it’s hit me – the mountain, the avalanche, the stone, the thing I’ve been evading – and I can’t, no matter how much I might want to, escape.

Standing in the middle of my new flat – an apartment really to be exact, to give it (my abode most humble) its credit, its due, the tears came and my lips collapsed. Used to being strong; to coping, to managing, to steering the ship; to keeping us (both e and my partner) afloat – if not financially, then at least emotionally and directionally: I was both humbled and shocked. Shit! What now? What next?

Overwhelmed, everything beyond the current moment was black: the hour, the day, the week… all the way up to as far as I could see without losing myself in the clouds of tomorrow. Too many problems, too many obstacles, too many malicious them’s attacking and subtracting from the sum (currently pitiful) total of us.

I’m sure, comfortably seated in the future, once again enthroned, I will look back and laugh: ha, ha, ha!!! I’m sure this – now; the beast, the burden, the monotone, the unmanageable, etc. – will all be a joke. When my house is a home, when my shell is a nest; when my family are settled and together, happy… But now, in the void, in the interim, in the in-between space from which there is only today, a day that is heartless, callous, never-ending in its pursuit, there is no laughing or smiling or joking. No furniture, no fixtures, no familiar things: it, this, where I currently am – both emotionally and physically, is just an empty space, devoid of emotion, of meaning or me. Which wouldn’t be a problem, only we are bereft of the means to make amends.

Finances being short, thanks to a run of unfortunate events, events that stubbornly keep on coming – thick and fast, faster than we can fight them off, faster than one would have thought possible: we are well and truly up the creek (proverbial) without a paddle to steer by. This is not how I like to be. This is not where I want to be. This is not what I saw or what I agreed to in the beginning when we kicked this whole thing off. Having been sold a dream which was already a personal nightmare (my idea of Hell, if I am honest), I am struggling to keep up.

Slipping, tripping; sinking, drowning: I attempt to evade the wave. Yet no matter how fast I move, how far I go, how much I push against it, there is no escaping the flux. Even as I write this, endeavouring in concretising to superficially placate my rapidly breaking self, there is more… The café that has been my haunt, my rock, my stone, my safe space in a place that lacks any and all things familiar, has just ousted me, informing me that my presence is not welcome any more. Apparently it’s okay to come and sit, providing said ‘sitting’ is for a short while – bite-sized, delicate and feminine – partaking of a coffee and cake or a toast and tea. But to idle with my iPad or sit with my knitting and stitching, is outside the realm of the image they are looking to promote.

If I wasn’t already so upset, so emotionally bruised and battered by the current run of events, I might be able to see my way to the funny side; after all, it does keep coming… As it is, I am struggling not to collapse into a heap. Two things hold me together: 1. I am expecting someone – who, ironically, I am intending to use wool to make things with; and 2. I am surrounded by people who, disturbed by a sudden flow of water, would turn in curiosity to stare. Dignity and pride are my saviours and I embrace them for all they are worth.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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A fog shroud

I’m so tired I can’t think and speaking is laborious. Navigating my way around town is challenging: my legs dragging hard against my feet, my inner compass spinning; everything the wrong way around. It’s not just the landscape that’s different: the streets themselves have changed, shifting before my eyes.

Trying to walk to Regent Street, I end up on Shaftesbury Avenue: China Town dead ahead, Compton Street behind. Spinning…, turning…, I attempt to reacquaint myself, calling on instincts that have fled. Eventually, accepting futility, I slip into a café. People huddle together, hunched over tables that are too small for adults; sipping tepid drinks that cost twice what they should, what they do outside of London. Noses glowing, eyes streaming: they are full of germs.

I wait in-line and order a latte. Cold and flat (I don’t get this obsession with luke-warm coffee, especially in winter), we’re a perfect match. Shedding my coat, I take out my iPad. My only friend, it’s screen offers me access to a world I no longer inhabit and may never visit again. This is sad: the leaving and the isolation. Lowering my head, I try to fight the loneliness.

Do I miss it: the place, the climate, the lifestyle, the people? I’m not sure. Bits and pieces, yes. But the entirety? My emotions are so tangled, my body so tired: I can’t tell left from right, right from wrong.

Forward-facing, fast-pacing: backwards has become a blur, a sinking horizon concealed beneath a fog shroud.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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