Baa Baa, Black Sheep

Things keep breaking inside my house
and I seem to spend every spare moment fixing them.

I seek comfort in a warm cup,
my bed, and the gentle rhythm
of two needles going clickety clack.

Slowly nothing becomes substance
until eventually a blanket appears.

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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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
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Letting go

imageIt’s been a week and so far I have survived; done better, in fact, than I had imagined when staring at the space from the wrong side of the door. The ‘big bad’ that I had feared, trembling in front of like a child about to pee itself, an adult held close to the end of a gun, wasn’t nearly as aggressive or nasty in reality. And the thing that lived under the bed – that still (obviously) lives there – has become my friend, in a detached sort of way. Funny how that happens: the big and the bad, the aggressive and the nasty, becoming friends. It has been a learning curve, for which I am truly thankful, teaching me to be more patient and not to expect so much, to embrace everything, no matter the casing. Ribbons and bows are all very nice – and don’t get me wrong: I really like them, like really!!! – but they don’t actually prove anything; they don’t make what’s underneath better, nicer, brighter. And once you take them off – removing what is now, your eyes having taken their fill, redundant – what lies below is of far more importance, it’s worth extending, sometimes, if you are lucky, far further than the end of today.

In light of this, I have unpacked my boxes and hung up my clothes, taken out pictures and ornaments, vases and cards. And I have done my best to lay them out, attempting with a light and happy heart, a clear and proactive head, a head full of commitment to the future, the task, to do the best that I can. It’s not perfect by any means, but that’s the point. Perfect is impossible. Perfect is hard. Perfect sets you up for disappointment and failure, frustration and hate. Perfect lead me here, to writing this blog, to living this life, to the tangled mess it’s all in. And perfect – not the clinging to it and the attainment of it, but the realisation that it has to be let go – will be the very thing that sets me free. Tolerance, acceptance, viewing things from both sides, examining every angle, learning to let go and to embrace, to like and to love, to see the good in every situation and the beauty in each story: that’s the way now; at least, this is my plan.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The innocent mistake

image“The innocent mistake that keeps us caught in our own particular style of ignorance, unkindness, and shut-downness is that we are never encouraged to see clearly what is, with gentleness. Instead, there’s a kind of basic misunderstanding that we should try to be better than we already are, that we should try to improve ourselves, that we should try to get away from painful things, and that if we could just learn how to get away from the painful things, then we would be happy.”

Which is ridiculous but also completely true: we are constantly in pursuit of something better, something improved; a more functional, successful self. And it is this pursuit, this searching, this dissatisfaction with what we have, that leads to our dishonouring and devaluing, often destroying, the beauty and value that exists quite naturally of its own accord in the centre of every single one of us.

Instead of waiting for our potential to bud – watering, nourishing, providing sustenance to what lies below; simultaneously pruning and weeding, irrigating the surrounding terrain, the soil in which we, grown, must then further grow – we ought to be celebrating every dent and chip, cheering each knot and tangle; attempting, in our own clumsy way, to tell our innermost most authentic selves that it is ok to be broken and slightly bent and that, contrary to popular opinion (which, in my opinion is all poppycock anyway) it’s the bits that stand out, the bits that dare, that are the diamonds in the otherwise unastounding us.

Whoever said ‘normal’ was something to aspire to, that we should endeavour to fit in and try hard not to stick out, was a prize idiot, a right twat. It would be a very bland world if we all matched, appearing replicas, twins… There would be no art, literature, innovation or culture, no technological advancement or sport. Identical, capable of the exact same things, we would have nothing to aspire to and nothing to prove. There would be no point in trying to do because nothing we did would be any different to what has already been. The beauty of being ‘human’, of being ‘flawed’, is that it is our ‘humanness’ and our dysfunction that make us who we are and which both motivate and inspire us towards truly exceptional things.

“Meditation is about seeing clearly the body that we have, the mind that we have, the domestic situation that we have, the job that we have, and the people who are in our lives. It’s about seeing how we react to all these things. It’s seeing our emotions and thoughts just as they are right now, in this very moment, in this very room, on this very seat. It’s about not trying to make them go away, not trying to become better than we are, but just seeing clearly with precision and gentleness.”

And so I study hard. I seek with the desire to find. And I go out and explore, learning, learning, learning… And through doing these things: pushing myself into new corners, travelling down new roads.., I begin to discover, not just the world, London, what it has to offer that perhaps other places don’t, but also other people pursuing similar themes.

Attracting conversation on the tube, the bus; stopping to talk in cafés and shops; joining and attending classes, groups: I begin to unpack, relieving the suitcase of redundant bits.

The load lightens. The spirit lifts. There are significant shifts. I can accept that as well as half empty: the glass can also be half full. And rain, although hostile, aggressive, a pain, does not necessarily suggest disaster; just as sunshine, benign, does not guarantee smiles. People surprise. Situations impress. My cave grows. Managing, navigating, making it up, resolving and problem-solving as I go, I surprise myself: for as well as hate, there is love.

“The problem is that the desire to change is fundamentally a form of aggression toward yourself. The other problem is that our hangups, unfortunately or fortunately, contain our wealth. Our neurosis and our wisdom are made out of the same material. If you throw out your neurosis, you also throw out your wisdom.” Pema Chödrön

In other words: there is a baby in that bath water; have care.

Be soft. Be kind. Be both a mother and a friend. Greet yourself as well as your nearest and dearest each morning when you wake.

Ask yourself what you need and listen to the answer, for it is in that reply that you will find the seed.

Tread carefully but tread with confidence and belief, both of self and other.

Never lose faith or heart.

You are special and you deserve to be loved. Celebrate the birth and the life of yourself.

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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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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Loose ends and torn edges

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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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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