There’s no place like home

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It’s the 2nd of December and all of a sudden Christmas is just a handful of days away, or that’s how it feels. I have been in Mallorca since Friday and am slowly settling in – adjusting to the temperature, the scenery, the way of life; putting long held things down and letting go of things that are tight. The people are friendly and I feel welcome wherever I go. The sky is blue and in the centre of the day it’s warm enough to sit outside. The streets are quiet, empty… and I do not have to clean my shoes each time I go out. There is less pollution. Whites stay white. Food is cheaper, fresher and mostly organic. Apples taste how apples should taste. Seafood is common and it is possible to eat out often without guilt. I am eating out. I do not feel guilty. I feel restless though and I am finding this hard to accept. I cannot sit quietly or do what I usually do; there are fears and thoughts filling my mind with the kind of things that go bump in the night. 

I miss my home with its familiar surroundings – my pictures, my drawings, my ornaments, my Fimo unicorns and knitted mice, my crystals, my oracle cards, my pendulums and lucky charms, a tea for every day of the month, four alternatives to milk; gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, lactose-free products; a wardrobe full of choice, drawers full of excitement, a bed with a mattress and sheets that have only ever been mine, a brand new everything inside an old but renovated space… I miss the bathroom I at first disliked with its traditional sink and cracked white tiles, the floors whose scratches I hid beneath rugs, the neighbour upstairs and his heavy feet, the washing machine whose spin cycle woke everything up. I miss the central heating, the insulation, the open space and tall windows letting in the light. I miss it’s countless memories and the special things I did there. I could sit still and calm in that space for hours, content to be alone. I was warm. I was relaxed and safe. I am a creature of habit. I do not like to deviate from or break with routine; it tortures me, from the centre out, undoing all that I have put in place, unpicking all that I have set down, challenging my beliefs. 

Resisting the urge to rewind, burying myself deep in chocolate, tea and toast, over-sized omelettes and glasses of local wine, I try to love my hat, focusing on the importance of finishing that. But even while the comfortable click and clack of my needles soothes me, the simplicity of the project, the superficiality of its journey after that, fails to really get beneath.

Being mindful, I remind myself of how normal all of this is, how ‘okay’ it is to be a little spikey. In acting out I am speaking for the child within, the hidden part that is most often ignored. Like a dog, all she wants is a warm lap, a familiar space, a routine that caters to her every need and lots and lots of attention. Like an infant, she wants to play, existing solely in a space of love, laughter and light.

Maybe I will buy paper and coloured pens to paint my story out? Maybe I will buy thread and felt to stitch it down? I’d rather go for a walk on the beach, attempt to meditate with the sand on my skin, visit the cathedral, ride in a horse-drawn carriage, peruse the local markets, sightsee, explore, delving into each and every space, feeling, touching, tasting, really getting a sense of it. But I am trapped in another’s routine, rushing and rushing then sitting and sitting, counting the hours, avoiding the minutes, longing only for bedtime when, finally, I can shut it all out. 

This will pass, as everything passes; for there is nothing in life but change. We cannot still. We cannot cling. We cannot stop, no matter how much we might want to. And in the meantime – while I grin and bear and occasionally grimace and growl – it is best to view it as a meditation, the acquiring of a new level of acceptance, patience and self-love. 

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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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Chrysalis 

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I continue to exist in a state of flux, a butterfly locked in the body of a caterpillar, desperate to get out, to travel, to experience, to see, to taste, to touch….. but unable, because I am weighed down by feet that are corrupt.

As I walk, I trip, slip and deviate. I am sure there is a path: a true one, a straight one, a clean one; but mine, as ever, meanders and is slow. Considering I was premature – born early and left to ripen in a casket – I’d have thought I would be more direct, more able to hurry along. But I’ve always resisted speed. My natural rhythm is gentle and slow and I get overwhelmed easily. Why? Why so eager at the beginning and now, part through, so shy?

Fear, that’s why. I’m terrified of age, disease, pain and death, illness, misfortune, loss and hardship, dying as an action in and of itself. Life seems to be all about letting go and losing, saying goodbye. It’s a lot for a body to carry.

Burying my head in meditation, my heart in prayer, I muddle along, grateful for the miracles and patient with the truths. For while there are things that might hurt and things that render me flat, there are also things that lift me up so high, at times I fear I might not ever come back.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Yellow rose petals


I dream of school and find myself in a classroom, attempting to recall a language I used to know. Later, I stub my toe and although it is not hard enough to break it, it is enough to turn it black.

I don’t leave the flat and spend the morning being gentle – dusting, sweeping, tidying… and in-between I get more done than I have in months of going out.

If I were a bird, I would spread my wings and fly away. Human, I try to unpack my suitcase – endeavouring, at least for now, to embrace the place where I am stuck.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The underside of seldom-swept things

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Visiting the underside of seldom-swept things,
I discover a toy soldier and a ball of yarn.
On the opposite side of the room,
there is a doll without legs and a forgotten sock.

A drawer reveals sellotape, blue tack and glue.
A cupboard: scissors and paper.
I sketch a house with two floors;
am told to add a basement and a loft.

While a woman makes dinner in the kitchen,
a man mows the lawn out back,
and although there are no children,
there is birdsong and plant-life.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The clouds float north while I travel south

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I survived but I’m scathed: different, somehow, from when I set out. Two days on and I’m finding it hard to stop and sit; impossible to achieve my usual level of calm. Inside there is this space: something that was there absent. And whether the thing removed ought still to be there or is better off where it is, it’s not a comfortable position to be stuck within.

Looking to the horizon but unable to see beyond my own two feet, I find it hard to have much faith in the future. Walking a straight line, I travel in circles: revisiting old ground, recovering people, places… When the shine fades, I turn to my knees, searching for something I have lost standing up. Washing in puddles, eating from bins, I gain a fresh perspective, readopting forgotten things.

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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A leap I couldn’t rehearse


Wednesday, 4th March
It feels like it’s been a long week, even though it’s only Wednesday. Why is that? What makes one shorter than the others? What’s the trick to managing it; making it better, easier? I think the bottom fell out sometime last week; maybe before? I’m suddenly struggling: missing Mallorca, sun; craving the simplicity of island life, the standard of living that allows. My head keeps going there awake. And asleep, I dream. Last night, I went to Port Andratx; to my regular table there: the one on the terrace, the one by the sea; the one surrounded by rolling hills and verdant trees, yachts large enough to be a house. Breathtaking, peaceful, warm… Imagining it now, there are tears. And I feel like I need to cry. Only I’m in the middle of a busy city and there’s nowhere quiet to go, nowhere private. I keep bumping into that, each day, in different ways. 

I’m tired. I’m rundown. I’m fed up. I want to go home; only I don’t know where that is anymore, or if I ever did. 

When did I last feel happy, safe, secure? 

I rewind but cannot arrive. 

Thursday, 5th March
I think I feel worse today than yesterday. And yesterday, I felt worse than the day before. Aren’t early nights meant to make you feel better, more alive and energised? My sensible evenings seem to be doing the opposite. Either I’ve burnt the candle down too far, or lived with two ends lit for so long I’ve run out of options, the wax having used itself up. It might require longer than a week. It might require longer than a month. It might, although it scares me to think it, require longer than a year. A long time ago, back when I first slipped and tripped up, back when I was still a child, I thought it would only need a season and ended up giving more than my hands, paired, can count. The tripping then was severe, though. I’m not sure it’s that bad now. Only: how to be sure? 

Today hasn’t been so bad, not overall. It’s given as well as taken. Spiritually, I’ve filled up. Reaching out has paid back and sharing restored. My chat with the Rector was worth investing in for the risk was well received and his advice compassionately tendered. For an hour and a half, we talked: me filling in my narrative history, my past and present script; he commenting and adding additional bits. He was easy to open up to, listening in a way that was both genuinely caring and intrigued. It felt like an offloading: the weight of recent events reducing, if not entirely, then enough. 

I’m still tired, but the tiredness makes sense. I accept the ‘why’ and understand the need. I have been running for so long, I’ve drained not only the readily-available but also the emergency reserves. Care and attention are called for and more self-love. 

Saturday, 7th March
I’m sitting in Starbucks. It’s 9 am. Outside the sun is shining and the city is quiet. It’s warm. There is lots of light. I can feel my body uncurling, my heart opening up. Delicate changes… appreciated. 

In half an hour I start the first day of a two-day course: the long-awaited Level 3. I’m apprehensive, scared. More is expected. 

Testing myself on napkins, I revise symbols and names, repeating over and over until I am confident they stick. But I can’t do anything about the root complaint, the ‘not being able to feel anything in my body or my hands’. Everyone else seems to get heat or pulsing, colour, when they close their eyes. Some can read auras. Others, discomfort and dis-ease. I see pictures; I get images, stories… But whether they are useful, part of that person’s story or only related to me, I can’t tell. Shared, they seem to mean something. But don’t they all? I can see a butterfly, hear a car horn, catch a leaf or watch the sun go behind a cloud… and take it as a sign. Another day, in a different frame of mind, I might miss it or ignore it. 

I listen to other people. I watch their lives. I scan Instagram, Twitter and Facebook dreaming of Singapore, Australia and Thailand, coveting Hong Kong, Japan and LA, mourning Mallorca and France, fighting tears and envy, trying not to want or at least not to want so much, to be happy, to accept. Only it’s not that easy, not after travelling to kinder places, experiencing warmer climes. I know there are options. I know I have a choice. And this – here, now – isn’t it. 

I’m falling, deeper and deeper: walking backwards, rewinding, getting tangled up; the past, more real, strangely, than today. I remember why I left, why I needed to; why I wasn’t supposed, ever, come back. Being here is a lesson in appreciation, in valuing what you have. Only I can’t decide what’s more important – people or sun, possibilities or peace, variety or routine… It’s not as simple as I would like. It never is. 

Sunday, 8th March
It’s 9 am and, again, I am sitting in Starbucks, killing time before my course starts, attempting to align myself to the day. I’m nervous, full of fear. After yesterday, there is a lot of emotion attached. And I didn’t sleep: worry and noise keeping me up. 

I feel underprepared, my defences weakened. Already, there are tears and nothing’s happened. I’m not sure I can get through the day. If it weren’t for the fact that I do not have a choice, that it’s now or I don’t know when, I would beg a reprieve. As it is, I’m stuck. 

Deep breaths. Squash and press. Quiet inner child and summon outer warrior. 

Only, I’m technically more of a ‘worrier’. Brandishing weapons; hooting, hollering, wearing short skirts and skimpy tops, feathers and paint: not something I’m keen to explore.

I wish the day over, the course complete, sad that this line of study is falling short of my expectations. Nothing is as it is presented, as simple as I would like to believe. It all sounds terribly fun and exciting in print, in theory. But in reality: it’s too much too fast; insufficient time in the framework to practice, process and assimilate. No wonder 90% of the people who attend these courses never have the confidence to go out and practice what they have learned: using their skills, their abilities; working; owning the mantle they invested in both mentally and physically, requiring more than they have within reach to gain

by Rebecca L. Atherton
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The mirror is old and ornate

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Monday, 2nd March
I’m being tested today. I can feel it acutely. There is a tension in my stomach like butterflies. And my heart is hollow and sad. I keep thinking about what my partner said this morning, returning to the words, the thoughts… and I can’t make it go away. It’s haunting my head in a way that is aggressive and unkind.

I’m also frustrated: I just spent an hour writing something which failed to save. As a writer, this is profoundly painful. Although, for some reason, it’s a lesson I never seem to learn. I should have copied it first, giving myself the backup option of pasting it back if it refused to update. I usually do. I must have been distracted. The writing was intense, the journey deep. And now it would appear that I went there without cause, dragging myself over hot shards when I could have self-nurtured, dreaming of things that would have made me happy instead: like unconditional love and healing hugs, Sunday movies and newspaper fish, new friends, and kittens and puppies, my parents, my relatives, drawing and knitting, unexpected compliments and smiles; making something and then, after, when you’ve finished it, loving it for what it is; it’s been a long time since anything I made brought me joy: I’ve lost the inside bit that came alive.

Anyway, I digress… Ignore my meandering. Instead, rewind. Let me take you on a journey. Slip down beneath your eyes, falling silently. Picture the passageway, the hole; you are Alice in Wonderland. Make-believe that this is a meditation. I am taking you on a journey.

You are in a bathroom. It is warm and light, a radiator pumping out heat, a window looking out onto a quiet street. There is no one walking below. In the distance: traffic, busses and cars. There’s a man showering and a woman brushing her teeth. It’s Monday morning and the air is heavy with anticipation and fear. Neither one wants to leave. As the water flows – hot and cold, fast and slow, intermittently – a question is presented casually. “How about going away in a couple of weeks? I was thinking Mallorca. We could stay in a hotel, something in Palma.” Brilliant. Beautiful. Kind. A lovely idea. Her mind travels… tentatively, returning.

She falls silent. She thinks. She opens her mouth and starts to agree. And then she stops, abruptly, pulling away. To go there now would be to open a box, inviting contribution from things that are better left, opening wounds that have yet to heal. Some haven’t even been inflicted. Some were made today. However, even she cannot stop what happens next, falling down a crack, travelling backwards, landing in a place she misses so acutely she has since sought to avoid all contact, all memory. 

It’s summer. There is a villa with a long drive: palms lining both sides, leading up to the porch; a large meadow surrounding all of that. There is a walled garden too, towards the back, and in it, a pool. It is calm and peaceful; blue. The wind strokes the trees, the crickets stretch, the geckos decorate the walls. The windows are open and she can see inside – to a large bedroom: white, with a dressing table and a mirror. The mirror is old and ornate. She looks, and sees a woman smiling back: toned and brown, healthy and alive. She looks happy, relaxed. There is a flicker of recognition, and then it is gone. 

Further down, following the wall, meditating over brick, there is another window, inside of which sits a sitting room. It contains a sofa and two chairs, both comfy and new, her style, and on the floor, a cowhide secured beneath a trunk. There’s a fire too and next to it a pile of wood. The wood comes from outside, from the trees growing on the land: olive, almond, pine. It’s a lovely room: fresh and airy, light. 

Round the corner, there’s a corridor with a sink. Next to it, a bathroom. The bathroom consists of a tiled floor, a long mirror, a toilet, a window and a shower. Minimal. The shower is open to the floor. When you use it, everything gets wet. It shouldn’t, but like everything else on the island, it doesn’t quite work. The ‘not working’ lends it an air of eccentricity, a quirkiness that she initially resented then grew to love; a bit like the lack of speed, everything taking an overly long portion of time: the Post Office an hour, the bank two, service in cafés and restaurants, bars, half. The first year they were there they weren’t prepared, had no idea Christmas shopping would take days. It’s not like England, London, the rest of her known world. 

The kitchen comes next: open plan and large, the heart of the house. In summer it is her favourite space, the only place where she can comfortably sit. In winter it is cold, and there is always a fire. She looks around, sees the well with the bucket, the worktops and units, the large fridge. She sees her dog in her bed and the cupboard above it, the lines of shelves. She sees the beams and the walls: original, authentic; typical to the area. As a room: it’s almost as big as where she lives now, a place surrounded by people and noise, a place which she has managed to like but will never love. Her heart pulls and she falls deeper. 

There are birds in the trees and sheep in the fields. Because it’s spring, there are lambs: small and white, innocent. Many will die, catching a cold when it rains. There is blossom. There are flowers. There are sunrises and sunsets, some so beautiful she has to stop before she can accept that they are real. They look like paintings. At night there are rabbits in the fields and when she walks up the drive she can hear them scatter. It’s so dark she cannot see without aid. Her neighbours are far away, the equivalent of a street. She cannot hear the road. There is only one place she can walk to. 

Each day she travels to a different village, visiting a different space. She walks, she sits, she writes, always with a backdrop of meadow and mountain, beautiful architecture, sand and sea. Sometimes there are yachts. Some have siblings. Several have helicopter pads. She has never seen so much wealth before. She would like to go on one, just the once, to see how the other half live, but she doesn’t have any friends that are that wealthy, that live like that. She wishes she did. Her favourite places are close to water. She sits outside in the shade. She is warm but also cool. She wears clothes that are thin and light, delicate like petals and diaphanous like dust. She would like to wear nothing or clothes that are almost invisible: it is that hot.

But now there are tears and her heart is torn. She is scared that it might break, that she might not be able to stitch it. So reluctantly she pulls herself back into the present and lands in her chair. 

She is in London in a café she likes, only she doesn’t like it much today. And she’s drinking a tea that’s overly milky and starting cool. Her stomach feels heavy and full. It is uncomfortable. In seeking to release something that was trapped, she has woken something that wasn’t present before, adding instead of subtracting. She is missing for the first time, pining what was lost. She wants to go back. She didn’t expect that.  

This is why the weekend is a bad idea, a punishment as well as a treat. In indulging she would only be making remaining impossible and there isn’t a choice. To leave now would be to throw away everything that has been invested, everything that is yet to come. It would make it a waste. She tries to care. More and more lately she has felt like running away and each time she feels it she cares less about the price. Life is for living and she is only surviving, only just doing that.

Packing up, putting away, moving on: she sighs. It doesn’t do to dwell. She mustn’t linger. Already, she has strayed.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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I stand in the middle, getting wet


Monday, 23rd February

Sunday challenged me in numerous ways, leaving me depleted. Fragile, restless, on edge, etc… I struggled to manage; surviving, but only just. And as if that wasn’t enough justification for a break, a light lifting of the cell I am inhabiting: the world also decided to descend. I can only conclude that I must have sinned and am, as a result, being punished. 

For a long time now it’s felt like there was a curse, that I am paying for a crime I have no conscious awareness of. Perhaps God is angry because I have wasted my life, acting without thought for the future? Perhaps he wants to wake me from my fugue, forcing me into action? Or maybe this is life without God: the world alone? And if that is the case: how do I put right what has gone wrong, rectify the damage?

I’m scared that I have left it too late or that I don’t possess the skills and the strength to turn it. I’m scared that I don’t know how; or that, in trying, I will do it all wrong. There is a pile of knotted yarn on the floor, a puddle of black at my feet. In it, snakes slither, rats scuttle and beetles sting. Standing on tiptoe, raised but not enough, I remain grounded but only just. My head longs to fly. My arms want to flap. My stomach dreams of floating and my heart imagines a world where everything is weightless. As my legs walk through dirty streets – London, winter, the current status of my ‘now’ life – my feet state their objection.

Each night I meditate on kinder things: sunsets, beaches, open windows and bright blue skies, love and friendship, the gift of starting over… And each morning I charge myself with healing energy: practicing my skills, putting to use what I study and preach. It’s not much, but it helps.

Tuesday, 24th February
I’m currently sitting in the cinema, having decided abandon the day: a difficult morning rendering me incapable of navigating with any success. One thing after another: people offloading onto my head, invading my chest: I wrote but went in circles, restless and anxious. And it was such a great start, an hour of Reiki should have sealed it. Why, when I try so hard – to be available, to listen, to give, to put others ahead… – do I end up a mess? I should feel good, capable, strong.

I can’t figure out if it’s the Reiki, the meditation, the introspection, the social interacting, the busy timetable, the weather, the change, the loss of the old, the adjustment to the new, the uncertainty, the upheaval, the series of events; or my having reached a point of unravelling… Is this the point of mid-life, the obligatory crisis? Or is everything catching up and crashing? Maybe I’ve reached my ‘sell-by-date’, the ‘best’ having gone before I had a chance to recognise it? The answer’s unimportant; what matters is how to proceed. Making boots for babies, mice for cats, donating to charity… Perhaps? Simple pursuits, unalturistic.

Wednesday, 25th February
Weeks go up and down. The rain comes and goes. I stand in the middle, getting wet. Attempting to navigate puddles in shoes that leak, looking for a replacement to a discontinued line, stubbornly insisting, persisting: I will not give up yet. And yet I must relent, for I have one of two choices: continue to bemoan the constant discomfort of damp feet or accept change and risk disappointment if ‘said’ different new shoes (ordered online) offend. 

Extending the lesson, I can see that it is necessary to grow and that to do so one must also accommodate. I’ve stepped over and around countless times. I’ve moved aside and sat out of as well. Lately, I’ve taken detours, tagging along on journeys that deflate. It’s all expansion, one evolving exponentially with the blows.

Only it’s starting to feel a little too one-sided and I am losing sight of me. With the eczema continuing to invade my face: it’s physical too. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this unattractive. It’s a new experience. Not the hating or the disliking or the being unimpressed, but the extremity of the emotion, it’s uncompromising nature. There was always flex, potential to soften, to allow another to enable to see. Now I am like a troubled teenager and there’s nothing words can do. Telling me it’s not that bad makes no difference: I know it is. It’s like telling me the sun is blue or the moon green; only children can imagine that freely, and possibly those on drugs. For the rest of us, it’s simple: certain things are a certain way.

I tend to my face with oak milk and chamomile and hope for the best. I place my hands over it and infuse it with love. I am patient. I am kind. I resist the urge to cover it in steroid cream. I refuse to scratch. But last night it felt like I was being attacked everywhere – ears, eyelids, arms; chest and legs. And this morning, I couldn’t hear. There is a message. I am missing it. 

Why, when I am trying harder that before – doing, attending, exploring, putting myself out there – is it so unbelievably hard? Why all the crumbling? 

Having a gentle week, I don’t venture very far: staying close to home, retiring early. It’s supposed to help; only my days are determined by the weather and other people’s moods, my evenings by the current frame of mind of my partner. Last night, he was scratchy: looking to vent a difficult day. And I started to think that my sudden outbreak – invisible but extreme, akin to knives, razors – might be connected. Perhaps it was a defence, my body begging a retreat?

I think I might need to accommodate failure, accept defeat, taking myself to the doctor instead of trying to self-medicate. It’s not something that I am keen to do, but I think it’s wise.

Thursday, 26th February
I’m scared I’ve done or might have done something stupid or that I might do something stupid still. I can’t deny it’s tempting; in one way, the answer: I’ve been looking for an escape. But which kind of escape? Surely nothing as extreme as this? And must the sacrifices be so high? To have to give up so much of what you love – abstaining, refusing, rejecting; to have to walk away in order to walk towards… it’s a lot. Maybe, too much? I’m confused. It’s not what it looked like from the outside, what it pretended to be. But then again… reviews are cruel.

It continues to rain and my shoes are still wet from yesterday. I am tired and I feel like crying. This is not a good day, not a good week. I think my ability to cope, to make and do, might have crumbled. England is hurting me in too many ways.

Unsure of the future, confused about which way to go and how to proceed; feeling hopeless and lost: I need help. I also need someone stronger that me to intervene. Why, when we reach a certain age, does it get that much harder, do the consequences grow?

I’m watching a man from the Council take photos of a broken bench: an ugly beach coloured thing that looks like a throwback from the 1950’s. It’s held together with bolts and screws, so it must be more modern than that but (as I said earlier) looks can be deceptive. Friends can lie, smiles can cover, wood can masquarade. Everything’s a mask. It’s our job to learn to see what’s behind it, what lies beneath. He’s taken over 100 photos. He looks serious. At first, I think it’s art, part of a project. And then I think he’s a tourist. But he stays too long, takes too many… It’s only when I see the sign: “No dumping. Maximum fine upon conviction £2,500,00” that I understand. We are all watched: both hunted and controlled. Maybe my decision has already been made? Maybe choice was something I lost a long time ago? Free-will never mine? Perhaps I am already inside? The thought scares me, especially as I am about to go back, entering the lion’s den for the penultimate time. There is still more to be learned, more to be taught, and I am enjoying the journey, not ready to leave yet.

Friday, 27th February
I made it to today and (inside) I have the lessons with me, both received and given away. My morning class was an eye-opener. Viewed from a different perspective, from the outside, I saw different things. I wasn’t scared; more relieved. Although it was sad not to have the belief or the connection anymore, to have to start over. 

Having searched for so long: I want to find so that I can follow and heal. I lack true faith, conviction in the theory; in their being someone or thing, some higher power, watching and controlling, making sure. To be here alone, is empty and sad.

Deciding to embrace the weather, I went to Nottinghill: walking, feeling the sun. Following my intuition, I revisited old haunts, stopping to make conversation with people as I went. It was a happy, smiley day with confidence and energy.

In the evening, I relaxed; until I remembered there was a significant change. The long-awaited furniture had finally been delivered – bookcases, chairs, tables, picture frames, rugs… Having left my partner to receive and then build; deciding I was better off out of the way, detached, denying, avoiding until avoiding was no longer possible to maintain: I was reluctant to return. Would I like it? Would I be open to the shift? Able to accommodate the change from minimal to crowded, bare to complete? Would the suddenly grounded; the ‘we are staying’ implied by the investment in material things: in a space, a place; the having to unpack the remaining ‘everything’… be too much? Would I like it, consider it me, us? When I had avoided for as long as I could – stopping, stalling, drawing out – I let myself be led; climbing the stairs, opening the door, turning on the light.

Initially: cardboard everywhere – on the floor, under my feet. And then: stuff. But with so much packaging, so many boxes and bags: it was hard to see. And although it was mostly assembled: it wasn’t necessarily right. Some things didn’t fit where we had planned. Some were too tall. Others too wide. And overall, it was all the wrong colour: availablity having forced compromise. The dining table worked, as well as the chairs. The bedroom unit and mirror, too. But the bathroom shelves were too high, and the sitting room ones too wide. The rugs were also too large. Either the details given online were inaccurate or else our measurements were. But, as I told myself when we moved in (accepting a flat that wasn’t chosen: an ‘all that’s out there’ as opposed to an ‘I love it, I have to have…’), it’s not forever; it doesn’t need to be perfect, to represent and reflect the inner me. And I know from having moved so much already, shifting between three places in as many months, that time conceals, leading acceptance and even love to things that were initially ugly.

Taking my morning lessons with me, my learning from a wiser source, I am determined to be strong. I can do. I can become. I can embrace and manifest. Picturing myself in the future, I see a different me – brave, confident and sure. A me to meditate on, willing her into the here and now.

Saturday, 28th February
I decided to go to a new group today: a practice group for Reiki; a place where I could use my skills and, hopefully, gain confidence. Something I have been meaning to do for weeks but, stubbornly, avoided: over-sleeping, forgetting, deciding against; all manner of excuses. I was scared, but I mostly am: new demanding me to leave my comfort zone.

Sadly, as a result, I cannot write, so all updates will have to be left until tomorrow. I will, however, draw instead, so it’s not all empty space.

Sunday, 1st March
Up early but twitchy, uncomfortable in my skin: something big and black stuck inside. I’m not sure yet what it is, but it’s bad and toxic and needs to not be there.

It was present yesterday, too, and I have no idea how to get rid of it or what it might be about.

Trying to visualise it, I see a large snake – skin the colour of spiders legs, eyes like cats. It has a tongue, too: red, like flames. The eyes can see into your soul and the tongue can cut, causing deep wounds that never get better. It comes and goes, this snake, and, with it, I am a mess inside. My stomach is tender and swollen. It hurts to touch. My legs also. I think it might have babies, trying to explore. It’s making me feel even worse than usual and I want to shout, opening my mouth and screaming until it slithers out. If I knew how to extract it, even if the extraction hurt, even if I felt raw and empty without it, I wouldn’t hesitate to act. Ignorant to its purpose and its desire, I try to apply myself to other things, focussing on what I would like instead of what I have.

I go to church, partly to cleanse myself and partly to reconnect. I haven’t been for two months. Perhaps they no longer remember me? I can’t expect help, beg spiritual guidance and Christian advice, when I am separate. I sent an email to the Rector last week, asking to meet. I’m so confused. Maybe he can help? And if not: then at least I have tried, will feel better, less alone. A problem shared is a problem with less velocity, it’s density reduced. 

The service went slowly and it was difficult to be there: conflicting messages and beliefs tangled up inside, knotted so tightly I couldn’t even try to individually unpick them. I managed to participate in parts, but found the praying hard, the words contrary to what I now perceive to be true, my whole belief system shaken. I find the Bible even more hollow; the whole notion that Jesus was God’s son, that he sacrificed his life for us, hard to accept. I’ve always questioned whether it wasn’t instead a work of fiction, a cleverly written guidebook for life. It works as that. It just seems a little too magical – babies being born to barren women, others conceived without sex, water becoming wine and fish and bread multiplying, feet walking on water, men travelling inside wales… Otherwise: why don’t these things happen still and why, no matter how hard we pray, does God not talk back? I’d appreciate a sign, especially now.

Then again, I find it hard to believe in anything: the curse of an overly-analytical mind. Nothing can be taken on, taken in, without my first tearing it apart. It’s why I struggle so much with modern therapy, with things like tapping and touching and hovering over actually having power. I practice them, I observe others practicing them and I see results, I hear positive feedback. Pain goes, problems ease, memories disappear. But I find it hard to allow that I might actually have the ability, what it takes, and that I might – touched, tapped – heal. Why, when I manage to cure another’s eczema, am I stuck with mine? Why can I release another’s trauma and yet only play tag my own, chasing it around my body but never kicking it out?

I’m like Thomas: full of doubt. If only there were a simple solution, a quick fix. I’d even be prepared to sacrifice my mind, swapping it for a fresh start. 

In trying to move on, I am made acutely aware of how deeply I am stuck, how the past discolours every new thing I try to do. I’m seeing the Rector on Thursday. I shall try to believe in that.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The crack in the teacup

“I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.” ~ Frida Kahlo

Monday, 16th February
Another week, another Monday, another start. Tidy by nature, Monday to me always signals a chance to start over, implementing the beginning of promises and pledges, new plans… So today I decided to get healthy and organised, cutting back on the things that aren’t helping, instilling more of those that are. New habits are hard. But after a couple of days, they grow infinitely easier and it’s the old ones that rub. So, a partial detox, more supplements and super foods, regular meditation and Reiki, lots of sleep and a firmer grasp on what’s happening in the future. In light of that, I settled myself early and worked for three hours; avoiding distraction, getting a lot done.

And then it was off to Belsize Park for my Monday group: a gathering of like-minded souls – young and old, beginner and advanced. It’s a place I like so much, I even braved the rain, hiding under yet another umbrella (I think I now have six…). One day I will catch up with the weather and come prepared; or else accept that it’s nature is changeable, it’s behaviour hard to predict. I used to always carry protection of some kind, but I’m trying to give my body a rest; which only works when I travel light. As it is, I have managed to trap a nerve, upsetting my right shoulder and arm. Add that to the sciatica in the same leg (something that first appeared in Mallorca when we were debating if we should leave, communicating, in me, a reluctance to commit to a given path) and you begin to understand why I am feeling like no matter what I do, there are always more battles to fight. Fed up with the persistence of each complaint, each ailment and grievance, things that reject my ministrations, my care, I’m starting to wonder if perhaps I’m doing it all wrong. And if I am; if all of this effort and trying are just more of the same, a journey of mistakes: then what next? If I knew which way to go, if I could have help with drawing the map, planning the calendar, I’m sure I could put it right or at least turn it back the right way. I don’t expect miracles: I’m too old for that and too world weary. But it would make it a lot easier to continue to fight, to have faith in the conclusion (which is really a beginning again, only from a better place), if I could see the progression and feel some measure of success.

The afternoon passed. I talked, I took, I shared. And then: a lovely surprise: a shared return with the gentlest, sweetest, shyest, kindest person there; a person who, while considerably younger that me, feels my age. Perhaps my own illusion? Perhaps not? I just know that currently I am connecting more with 20-year-olds; the grannies who used to collect, gone: scurrying off in search of warmer climes.

Tuesday, 17th February 
So today was always going to present bumps: I knew this from the beginning. Not because I was trying to trip or purposefully collide, but because it demanded a leap I couldn’t rehearse. Don’t get me wrong, I planned – long and hard; filling my calendar weeks ago – then yesterday life intervened and suddenly I was cancelled too late to rearrange. From full, I went to baggy… and in baggy, broke thread, snagging the fabric of my dear and tender parts against rough and ready bits. Making it up as I went along, I managed to get to mid-way; then descended as the afternoon advanced.

I won’t get angry or cross or hold it against myself: the morning presented information I need to digest, things I need to think on for a while. This could be the start of an amazing adventure, a coming home to myself; a re-discovering of what I have, over time, lost. Equally, it could be an end; which leaves me with a hole that needs filling up. To have found after searching for so long, and then to discover it was all a farce, a beautiful illusion that banned entry at the gate: would be cruel.

Wednesday, 18th February
I’m alive. I survived. And, “Shock, horror!..” (at least to me): I’m still smiling. How? Yesterday was the worst day; one of those days when no matter what you do, how hard you try, it just goes wrong. I also underestimated just how much I cling to routine and how deeply my morning class, my current intellectualism (religious in nature, self actualising in trajectory), affected me. To say that it turned my ‘Right Side’ ‘Wrong Side’ up, over and into: would be an understatement, belittling both it and me. For one minute there was a rug – beautiful and pretty, soft to touch… and the next: nothing. The stones scratched. The dirt got ingrained. The spiders tickled and the worms slid. And as it rained, which it did (if only in my head), my feet squelched, causing me to slip. Hurt, confused, tired, unhappy: I tried to tend to my house as best as I could. But I wasn’t far enough away. Had I been able to stand back, to float up and sit above, I would have quickly seen the solution. My garden was overgrown. The weeds were choking. The flowers – roses, red – were disappearing, dying. Where only moments earlier there was light; now there was darkness: the sun gone, the moon veiled. I learned a valuable lesson: never expect; what existed hours, minutes, seconds before, won’t necessarily continue to remain simply because you demand it. Come prepared. Look often. Tend and clean. It is your responsibility to oversee and it is vital that you do. For someone who has tripped and stumbled, fallen to her knees and then flat, I have been awfully complacent. How quickly the grass grows. Even in England in the middle of winter, juggling challenge and catching disaster, I have managed to ignore important work. Yesterday warned me: a red flag. Floundering beneath it, I caught drips as it bled.

The day stretched, pulling my mind into tangles. Moving from place to place, travelling the map of London from East to West, back, I sought out spaces in places impossible to find. Only when I gave up, accepting and returning, did the noise stop and the torment contract. Hiding at home behind walls and windows, I relaxed; watching the lives of others on TV.

Today I woke to an altogether different mind: Wednesday is always a good day. Short of tripping or slipping in the street, getting hit by something moving, or stumbling accidentally into the middle of a fight: I will be ok.

Thursday, 19th February
I woke scared, unsure of what to expect from my morning, my class that, Tuesday, upset me. Would it be more of the same: rules, regulations, big changes, serious promises, pledges, commitments, decisions in certain novel directions that may or may not be right? Or softer, like before? I think I need a few weeks to settle, to digest. The news didn’t sit comfortably. Shared, it was a bomb – fire everywhere, ashes hot. Still dusting myself off, still chewing on questions, I’m unsure.

Part of me pulls forwards, into arms more loving and available than any I currently have, any I have ever known. And part of me pulls back, reluctant to lose what limbs I have: for while not currently available, available ever as far as today can show, I still hold out hope that one day they will open to receive me in the way that I want.

What to do? Where to go? These questions make me feel unstable, as do the ailments that won’t be silenced no matter what. I hear their message, I observe my life ‘according to the view presented to and through their eyes’, I try as best as I can to do what I must in order to placate them, I am running fast but I can’t seem (still, ever) to catch up. With so much missed, so much dropped, so much let go of and slowly but steadily broken apart: I am increasingly haunted by the feeling that it might now be too late.

Friday, 20th February 
As the 7th March draws steadily nearer – casting an ever larger, ever darker, shadow over the remaining days – my anxiety increases: there is still so much to do in order to be prepared. I’m learning, but slowly. Things still perplex. The old and new tangle, snag, catching me out. Not sure what to expect, the level of proficiency required, I don’t know how to plan and it is this, above everything, that creates difficulty. And yet, there is satisfaction and joy, and that’s what’s important.

Up and down, backwards and forwards: this ride is tiresome. Seated next to a hare and a lion, aware that there is also a rat and a snake, I can’t help but wonder: What it’s all about? Where it’s leading? …for surely there has to be a point, or why? Conclude that I must have fallen back into my former ‘Sevenoaks’ trap, my winter cavern. This climate does not love me much.

Saturday, 21st February
Off to a great start. 12pm and I’m sitting in a cold, cheerless cafe: moody staff, tepid tea. And before that – wearing new shoes; open, summery: I got soaked by a car driving too fast, too close… Weathering wet feet, damp tights, shoes that have been unfairly christened, indoctrinated in London: oil, sewage, mud, dirty water, etc… and mourning a coat that’s covered in blotches – dark and brown, already ruined at less than a month: I am trying to shut it out. But it’s hard. I might be travelling towards a better place, one that’s enlightened; heading for the promised land at the end of a long, lonely tunnel: the tunnel that’s me, the tunnel that’s my suitcase, the tunnel that comes as part of being in the world, but I am years away from arriving. And the harder I try, the longer I continue, the more I invest, the further the divide between old and new.

While a part of me celebrates my progress and it’s rewards, the beauty of its gifts; another part weeps. The price demanded is high. And there’s this new possible path that scares me, that wants a lot in return for a life that’s supposed to be simpler, happier, less conflicted; purposeful, pure; deeply spiritual and connected, rich with friends. I wrestle with my conscience. I argue with my heart. I ignore my gut and listen to my head. Too much, too fast: everything else is oppressive.

I’m losing touch with who I am. I’ve forgotten who I was. I’m trying to see who I will become but the future is still obscured. With so many possibilities; so many rivers and mountains, deserts and oceans: to get it all right at once would be a big deal. Not one for failing, for giving up, I face it with resolve and strength, unable to turn back but unsure of where to go.

Sunday, 22nd February
Surviving. Slowly figuring it out: what works, what helps and what upsets. There is more to hurt. Less to help. The trick is in the balance: endeavouring to pick up and knot, weave and sew, something flat or as near to that as possible. I’m dreaming of English fields full of flowers and butterflies; meditating on beaches with golden sand; drawing gardens with pedicured lawns: putting it out there, hoping the law of attraction works. If nothing else: it gives me focus. Too often my brain runs away, getting lost.

Yesterday I attended a seminar entitled Time Management Skills. Unsure of what to expect, I was actually pleasantly surprised; gaining helpful suggestions to the problems that persist. She spoke a lot of sense, the teacher, possessing considerable insight for someone so young. I feel old. There are too many twenty-year-olds in London. They surround me everywhere I go. Are they the only ones with money? Or are they the only ones with the desire to interact? The old, those closer to my age, those above, hide, preferring suburbs and houses, travelling to and from, in and out, without getting caught up.

In the evening, I try to knit: working on completing, tidying up. But my plans are thwarted by the lack of proper light and I am forced to give up.

Happily today as part of a group – the one that was meant to teach me crochet but has not, the one I bought a hook and yarn for, the one I postponed visiting my parents for… I managed to catch up, casting off and sewing up a hat, knitting a picot edge on one of an eventual pair of booties, beginning the next small shoe, casting on 26 stitches in black.

by Rebecca L. Atherton
To keep up to date with my progress and receive a copy of my newsletter, send me your email address.

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