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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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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Multiple layers

imageIt’s so cold outside, I might actually catch hyperthermia. Walking, my whole body has gone into shock. Where is the beautiful sunshine of earlier, the brilliant blue sky overhead? I had such a lovely walk this morning, but, somehow, as the day darkened into evening and the light disappeared, the warmth evaporated too, and now it’s nothing short of unbearable. Even in multiple layers; coat, hat, scarf and gloves: I am shivering. And my shoulders have risen so high, they are competing with my neck.

Hiding out in a cafe, I am waiting for the feeling in my fingers to come back, drinking hot tea to fast-track the warming. I have had a good day though, a reward for persevering with a weekly group. There was a large table: full; new people and old, people I knew and people I did not. I talked a lot. I made a friend. I felt at home… It’s such a change to be able to find things to attend, compared to the isolation of Mallorca, and the novelty of that is still to wear off.

However, group aside, I am drifting: my ability to write comes and goes, and with it my sense of wellbeing. Why is my whole sense of self; my identity, my smile, so tightly wrapped around something I can never hold?

As I try to figure out how to get through each day, how to get the most out of everything – being here, the chances, the opportunities… my boat pitches and I feel sick.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Growing the things that have shrunk

imageFinding a quiet place to sit and work is a challenge. London is always full, especially in the center. Walking from cafe to cafe, I spend longer than I would like, waste hours I would rather not lose, attempting to repair what has come apart. And as each day unravels, giving and taking, making and breaking, I become increasingly aware that I am trapped.

Closing my eyes and rewinding; going backwards in order to stop and process before turning around and attempting to go forwards again: I sense I ought to be travelling; ingesting new sensations and experiences, growing the things that have shrunk.

But I don’t know how to get there or where it is I ought to want to go, and every time I experiment with a different route, pick a different path or take an alternate turning, I end up returning to the place where I began.

Attending meditation classes at a local centre; sitting and listening and attempting to do: something, anything, etc… I am learning. But is it enough?

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Uneven sides

imageWhatever way you look at it: my life is a triangle with uneven sides; wonky, like a tower that is crumbling or a cake that’s not right; a pack of cards stacked, tumbling. And as I attempt to navigate the landscape of my life: traveling across terrain that is uneven, bumpy; brushing up against, crashing into, obstacles that bar the way; incurring wounds and injuries… I am increasingly aware that, with time, instead of better, it gets less and less right.

Good days, bad days; happy days, sad days. Fast days, slow days; high days, low days. Days that are nice and days that are mean. Days that are concealed and days that are seen. Days that smile and days that weep. Days that wake and days that sleep. Days that talk and days that think. Days that lift and days that sink. Days that expand and days that contract. Days that add and days that subtract. Days that love and days that hate. Days that embrace and days that escape. Days that do and days that don’t. Days that will and days that won’t. Days that are days and days that are years. Days that are friends and days that are fears. There are a million ways for a day to play out… A mere traveller on an expansive back, I am fed up with being their victim.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Stone in my shoe


Feeling antsy;
finding it hard to write.
Sitting down’s a mission,
but standing up’s worse.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Wonky triangle

imageA long time ago, in what now seems like another life, I published a magazine. Aimed at the mentally fragile (people like me), it promoted creativity for emotional wellbeing and self-development. At one point near the beginning, before it had begun to really take shape, before it was much of anything really, I asked my partner if he could help me to think of a name: he works in advertising and writes for a living, or used to before he decided to jack it all in and have a complete career change, and is used to having to brand things so I figured, in terms of heads and two being better than one, that his was probably better than most. And besides… being my other half, he wouldn’t judge or laugh if my own ideas were off. Wonky Triangle was his idea, based on the concept that triangles are supposed to be perfect, all measurable angles and straight lines, all neat and contained; and people, especially fragile ones, are not. Wonky, on top of being impossible (or supposedly, depending on how you view obtuse angles and the like), was all wrong because it was different and broken. Triangles cannot be wonky or crooked: it’s not in their makeup. It also wasn’t in mine to call my magazine after something negative, or to focus on the bad stuff. Inside Out, the name I eventually chose after much deliberation, fitted much better, encouraging individuals to turn their own insides out in order to positively express what was trapped or hidden, thereby bringing new meaning and value to things that were previously challenging or, because of the element of unknown attached, simply too daunting and cognitively painful to contemplate. Containing articles, workshops, exercises, interviews, examples, images and pieces of poetry and prose submitted by readers, it provided a platform for creative individuals to express themselves openly and honestly and to, perhaps for the first time, be seen by others who might not just understand and empathise but also learn and grow by way of sharing. But for me, on the other-hand, it, the ‘wonkiness’, felt quite apt. I am ‘wonky’ and ‘broken’ and kind of impossible; impossible in the sense that I am often my worst enemy, the wall blocking the way. And life tends to get on top of me and pile up: little things becoming enormous and enormous ones gigantic, until it’s all too much and, overwhelmed, I collapse. Like a triangle with slanted edges and angles that don’t match, I present numerous unnecessary challenges that must then be deconstructed in order to be rebuilt.

Today is such a trippy, slippy, bricky, hurdlesome day. In fact: every day, or most days since the beginning of November, have presented as such. And if I’m honest, then every or most days for a long while before that. It has been bumpy few years, in which I have ridden the waves and clung on tight, gripping hard to wooden edges for fear of sinking or falling in, wondering constantly about the location of the horizon and the proximity of land.

The solution for now and the one I have adopted for some time, the one that works as a plaster but fails as a cure, is to write and to make. Expressing how I am feeling, either in word or in image, in ink or in yarn, is cathartic, bringing meaning to the stuff that gets trapped. When I think about other people seeing it, it helps: the isolation shrinks, the dark hole is a little less daunting, the beast that growls becomes quieter and more benign. After all: Beauty befriended hers and look what happened… he turned into a prince. Mine isn’t that accommodating, but he does brush his teeth and file his claws and run a comb through his hair once in a non-too-infrequent while, toning the frightful down a notch.

Drawing for the first time in over a year on Thursday – a birthday treat, albeit one that arguably backfired because the instigator wasn’t quite so accommodating as I had anticipated – I was rewarded with a glimpse of something that had been there but there hiding. It started with an eye, which became a face, which became a disembodied girl with long flowing hair, which became leaves and weeds. In place of her body, there was a hanger; holding, instead of clothes, letters. Her eyes were wide and terrified. Her cheeks were on fire. Her mouth was a startled ‘O’. Her hair was all tangled and drag-you-down weighty, like it was trying to make you drown. And the words spelt out things like ‘Chaos’ and ‘Cry’. It’s a strange image, half intriguing and inviting, half scare you away. I worked on her all day, and ever since I’ve run.

Pulling her out again this morning, laying her on the table before me, sitting and staring, silent and still, I attempted once again to summon some compassion and empathy for this hideous thing that was, by all accounts, supposedly me. We are all of our characters, both in stories and in dreams, in images and in conversations. We are everything that we think, everything that we say, everything that we do. So I am her and she is me and we are meant to love each other. Only I don’t love me and I don’t love her and I don’t think she loves me or herself either. So we are in a fix. And anyway, navigating more than my fair share of turbulent waters and tight bends, I have enough on my plate for now. All I can manage is to carry on and to respect myself enough not to overly antagonise what is already brittle by not forcing things that don’t feel right. I shall draw again. I shall finish her. But I shall not torture myself by returning to the ingracious instigator who, on my birthday of all days, so pained me, because I have better things to do with my time and, already, I have wasted enough.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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It’s my party

imageGrey clouds, wet sky, drizzle; me, soaking it up – Uggs beyond saving, coat part-drowned, hair flat. On any other day… not so bad; but today: tragic.

I should have known there would be a rapid deterioration from here: therapist hiding behind an opaque veneer; eyes slip-sliding – mentally absent, disinterested in me; subsequent drawing consequently traumatic, submerged beneath layers of ink: shop assistants attacking, pedestrians snapping, the tube packed… Only the ‘should’ I ought to have been aware of was in hiding and I wasn’t aware of anything until afternoon turned up.

Black and blue from too much walking, talking to myself, I wander and search, visiting every known bolt-hole for a place to write. Gradually conceding, giving up; admitting defeat…

Hours later – slipping limply into a dark interior, bedraggled and worn out – I borrow a chair and invest in two cups; one’s cold and disastrous, the other’s delightful and hot.

A failed attempt at writing, and I reach into my bag, realising there is nothing for it but to bring the ‘thing’ out. Twisted and tangled, it’s grumpy and upset, anxious to be loved and lonesome without it.

Ballpoint braced, I revisit the page: pen dancing and glancing, mind whirring and incurring, repeating the lines I earlier, under intimidation, made.

A girl appears: unhappy, young; hair streaming, eyes leaking, mouth a crooked O.

Then words appear: ‘chaos’ incorrectly spelt; ‘cry’ back-to-front; ‘help’ upended. And, finally, I laugh, the irony catching up.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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