The Unbearable Lightness

There’s an all important pearlescent dribble that slides down our slopes and warms our wombs. Crawling through the cave of our cunts: they even say it has a tail. Like a lamp it plugs us in and turns the dull purposelessness of our design into something bright and brilliant: or so it would seem. I can’t deny how inexplicably beautiful it feels to beam from the inside out. It amazed me that at my heaviest, I could also be so light. And in that lies the paradox of all things. How can something die in the place designed for life?

There’s no worthwhile explanation. Nothing that could fertilize the too barren soil of my soul.

So there was a void. There was a gaping gash-wound so deep that I became a tunnel, big enough to bury even the biggest train. Frantically I threw out some of the dearest things to make space for the growing hole.  Not just people, but bits of me too. Parts of who I was that I will never get back. Parts that probably wouldn’t fit me anymore anyway.

I thank my lucky stars that there were friends who refused to be discarded, refused to back off. Those loyal lunch box and linen stealers, the ones who come thick as thieves in pairs like Jobber and Giambrone, or alone like the beautiful-faced wolf girl. Whether they have the strong arms of the polar bear warrior mamma who bravely birthed the Amazon, or the plentiful heart of the green eyed hard-girl who raises her fist to the world and cries for dead birds. No matter if they are a free spirited moon swan, the perfectly protective pink panther who has been there from the start, the softly savage De Palma, the raven haired witch sister who softened the severity of my sadness somewhat with sunflowers and haikus, the former pieman with the honey nature, the loyal ball-busting bambi-eyed wifey, the big hearted tin woman, the beautiful blondie who birthed my most favourite feline, the kindly compassionate one who Can Do It and WILL do it one day, the dos ossos, the coolest aunty with the contagious cackle and the button collector who went ahead on that tragic path and recalled the painful details to help me navigate through it: I will never forget how they weathered the storm of my sometimes unbearable personality and they will stay forever etched in the essence of who I am. So in the next life I’ll recognise them when they come tripping through the door, tea-stained CV in hand.

And I once sang at the top of my little voice, ‘from the darkness came light, from the blackest of nights‘, from behind my battered Come And Praise Hymn book, without questioning the purpose of choirs and childhood crooning. Without once considering the impact this conundrum would continue to have on me. So I fantasize almost as naturally as I catastrophize. Because from one thing springs another, like an endless rhythm of waxing and waning. Except from within me, (I think cynically), nothing springs naturally but my words. And maybe in the end all I really need to make me complete is the birth of a bloody good book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Freelance: like the cat

"Thank you my Finance darlings for the beautiful orchid. Pride of place on my windowsill. She's beautiful and I'm calling her Account dot dta in your honour. @[1442721296:2048:Laura Troiano] @[100006881567982:2048:Dorka Dee] @[574746038:2048:Remi Fiddes] say thanks to the other guys for me too. I love it. X"

The fog of other people’s voices and personalities blurs you out. You’ve developed this persona, based on clichés and what other people seem to like best about you. Developing who you are based on actions that reap the most positive rewards. You learn to play nicely with the other kids and modify yourself to suit their preferences. Likability takes on new meaning now because of Facebook but in my mind, it’s always been there.

They say at 29 years old, you’re at your most popular. But walking around the place grinning and high-fiving people isn’t really living. Or so I’ve come to believe. Those people crowding around you and laughing at your jokes aren’t your friends. They’ll go as quickly as they came and you’ll realise (almost 10 years on) it really doesn’t matter nearly as much as you thought it would.

A year since flying the office nest and I’m now full-time freelance – just like my Grandma’s old cat who was bizarrely called that. To my absorbent child mind, maybe Freelance (and her son Freeway) were the seeds that bloomed into the colourful flowers I now see. And sometimes I wonder whether life isn’t just like a novel; cleverly concealed clues enclosed in my chapters. 

So I’m freelance, not just in job title but in personality too. I’ve forgiven myself mostly for my misgivings, stopped giving such a fuck what people think and started following my happiness. If I’m not as popular today as I was when I was 29 then fuck it, at least I don’t have as many Christmas cards to write and at least I can lavish my love on the long-suffering lot that deserve it the most.  

Hearing from those still on the inside, and not much changes in office life. The bitches are still bitches and the arse-licks are still licking arse. Besides a few pregnancies, it doesn’t sound as though I’ve missed much. And what I’ve gained is so valuable: the resurrection of myself before the rigmarole turned me into a reactionary puppet, torn between the principles of my personality or the pay-packet that would help me progress.

The best part is that now I spend most of my afternoons writing guilt free, without worrying Pawel from IT will grass me up for packing my PC full of fat files bursting with words that I can’t seem to stop myself putting together. I no longer need to get my kicks leaving abusive remarks in white font at the bottom of emails, telling management what I really think of them. Or fraternising with frustrating fraudsters who like to send me riddles, just to feel connected in a deeper way with daily tasks. I don’t have to hate the one I called ‘Getting ahead in advertising’ for being a cunt to women who outrank him in almost every human way. And best of all, I no longer have to suffer the insipid chatter of women who’s only source of confidence is slating everyone else. For this I am constantly and unfalteringly grateful. 

So I high-tailed it out of there, moving literally up and I realised this: 

  • moving sideways can sometimes be more rewarding than moving up
  • wearing smart shoes instead of trainers is a form of torture
  • having a woman boss isn’t always an improvement on a man
  • I’m really not at all good at keeping my mouth shut no matter how much I tell myself that I am

The fickle footholds of the financial ladder flip you back down onto your arse just as quickly as they cured your ailing accounts and before you know it, you’re back to square one. Scary though it is, both the universe and the girl with the universal soul knew kicking me out of Kingmaker House once and for all would finally force me to do the thing I have always wanted to do. Finding a soulmate who favours meaning over money, she shared her certainty in spaces reserved for doubt and sent me a ‘the sky’s the limit’ card that to this day still makes me roar with laughter.

The only things to be missed are the fuck-load of free tea, the brilliance of the bantz back at the beginning, pensions and paid leave, surprising snow days and the few genuine friendships formed through the shared drudgery of working for the man.

Eager to start work each day,  I enjoy the variety that making money remotely offers me. I love that I can work from my very own little office for a company that just wants to make kids and customers happy. I love the contacts that I have made and the lovely people who have enjoyed my writing and helped pay my bills. I love the piles of prose sent for me to whip into something suitably salesy. Essays to be edited. Words in bunches wadding out websites like keys that open a company’s door to the surge of search engine shopping frenzies. All of it, even the really shit stuff, I totally and utterly love it all.  

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

You can’t lick da mutt’s nuts

I once had a hand me down t-shirt that had a picture of a British bulldog sitting with his legs apart, showing off a massive pair of bollocks. The slogan read ‘you can’t lick da mutt’s nuts’. At the time, I was pretty convinced it had something to do with being British and being untouchable; an immovable force, someone to be reckoned with. A position of great advantage, like the family pet who can do the one thing his owner can’t; tongue his own testicles.

Thinking back, I’m aware I had a sort of thickness when it came to phrases. A constant source of embarrassment and misunderstanding while I grappled with the language that eventually I grew to love.

  • You can’t have your cake and eat it – A diet mantra for the overweight?
  • Life’s a bitch and then you die – Male dogs are immortal?
  • It’ll cost you an arm and a leg – body parts are legal and acceptable tender in some shops.
  • Beat around the bush – shrubbery designed to conceal parents smacking their children.
  • Cut the mustard – trimming your facial hair (I was raised by Greeks and my English wasn’t so great back then).
  • Wouldn’t be caught dead – A ‘to-do’ list for the afterlife.

I don’t know how it came across, a baby bubble like me, wearing a t-shirt of a union jacked dog. A plump little kebab of a child, unruly hair poking out the sides of my pitta. But I wore it regardless, even though I wasn’t sure what I was telling people. And if truth be told, I’m still not sure what the fuck it means. I can tell you this though: the first answer in a google search, who’s redacted text seems to be answering the question, will actually take you to a website called Instabang which throws live porn videos of ‘horny girls near you’ or even more worryingly ‘naked pics of someone you know’ in your face. Unwanted flick-book images of overly tanned munters eating their own nips dominates my screen, till my frantic clicking of the ‘back’ arrow finally sails me safely to the search listings.

Even without all that pop-up-punani, the listings still don’t give a definitive answer. As a politer way of saying ‘The Dog’s Bollocks’, The Mutt’s Nuts could mean anything from an old printing term describing a full colon followed by a dash introducing a list :-, to a Meccano factory faux pas for the best kind of packaging: The Box Deluxe.

I resolve that I don’t actually need a half-baked bit of cyber cod’s wallop posing as fact to understand the phrase, instead I’ll come up with my own conclusion because today I feel a bit like that cute-stupid little shit who barely knows her arse from her armpit but grins affectionately regardless.

  • Why does a dog lick its own bollocks? Because it can.
  • The truth is like a dog’s bollock: easy to find, if you dare to take a look.
  • You can’t lick the mutt’s nuts – in a hierarchy, the dog’s bollox is top.

Though you may be slightly lower down the pecking order than you’d like, restrained on a too-tight leash, dump and dinner times dictated to you by the arsehole Alpha’s of the group: there are still sweeter things easily and exclusively within your reach, pleasures they will never know unless they are you.

 

 

The best jokes will make you cry

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Towards the end of my dad’s life, I remember feeling close to tears whenever we spoke on the phone. I was desperately trying to disguise the strangulated quality of the lump in my throat. Desperately trying to savour his voice. Because I knew there would be a time when I wouldn’t be able to hear it . That time is now.

Phil used to say that he could tell whenever I was talking to either my aunty or my dad on the phone, because I would cackle like a wild woman with laughter.

My dad’s humour was elaborate; hidden like a present in the depths of a long story. Lapsing absentmindedly from English to Greek. Across the warm gravel of his throat, his words came with the exhalation of smoke, like long semi-colon pauses. I smile-waited, throwing my legs up on the sofa.

I don’t remember if I’d spoken to him the day that he died. But I do remember speaking to him the day before. And whatever it was that he’d said to me, he’d made me feel more positive that he was going to be ok. Horrible trick of the light.

So three years ago today, around this time of day, I had lunch alone and texted a childhood friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I told her I loved her and missed her and hoped that my text would repair the hole of time since we’d last spoken. Later that night I would be calling her with very different news.

I went home from work and idled about waiting for my husband to come home. I made a list, asked the universe for a sign and then the burger phone rang; it was my mum…

I could detail the stilling sadness of the events that followed but they would just be words spoiling the whiteness of the page. You wouldn’t be able to feel them as I did. Instead I’m remembering how much he made me laugh. The wild whirl of his personality was like the swooping of birds, cutting through the sky in formation. Plunging bravely headfirst: magnificent in their fearlessness.

Thinking back now, I wonder how exactly I knew that the best comedy requires an equal measure of tragedy.

He received a card one Christmas, with nothing written inside. I commented it on it as I handed it to him, confused who the hell it was from. “Ah that’s from Costas” he replied without hesitation. Quizzing him on how he knew, his answer came straight off the cuff “because he’s not speaking to me”.

 

 

 

 

 

The first stone

 

“Oh heaven, oh heaven, I wake with good intentions. But the day is always just too long”  Emeli Sande

If it weren’t for the fact that I am guilty of almost everything, I would be the most judgemental person on this earth. In this way I can be thankful (almost) for my mischievous nature. Because it gives, at least, some understanding and acceptance of the misdemeanours of others. If I wasn’t such a bitch, this quality would most likely make me a better friend to have.

And just like the song says, with each new dawn I’m at it again, new fuckeries to add to the long list of charges. There’s no solace in the knowledge that at least my sins are not crimes. No. This noteworthy distinction isn’t enough for me to let myself off the hook, and it isn’t for you either. Because I know I’m not alone in this denigration of self. This perpetual dispute over actions and covert intentions resulting in all manner of conclusions but leading invariably to one thing: guilt. When I really think about it, it’s no wonder I am so afraid of nuns.

A new year carries with it more weight than a new day and as such, we find ourselves seeking ways to clean the slate. Sprucing up the self is always the best place to start. I thought about it for too little time whilst in the bath and resolved that I would seek out this self-assurance that at the time seemed such an attractive quality to me. In the time it took to dry my toes, I had changed my mind. Seeing it as an annoying form of arrogance: too restrictive a territory for this turbulent traveller. And the research that it involves would certainly dilute my well-intentioned enthusiasm before I knew it.

Sniffing around the scene idly, surely there was something important I was getting at. A grotty skirting board somewhere that needed a clean. Self-assuredness is great en’all but when we really want to do something, we’ll always find a justification to make it possible…or else spend our days what-iffing. Bringing us back nicely to guilt and regret: the two most popular postcodes for people to reside.

But all things have their place and guilt surely helps us stick to the right track doesn’t it? Or is guilt a smothering straight jacket supressing the life and lust deep within? Either way, you’ll feel it regardless, even when you try not to. And I really envy those self-serving pieces of shit that don’t feel it at all. The ones who will always do what suits them best. They’ve got the right idea. Because as my new favourite Nan told me, “life is such a quick thing. Before you know it there’s no time left at all.This isn’t a revelation of any sort but coming from the nicest and most elderly person I know, it’s a rightful incitement to a little selfishness now and then.

So we move forward, past the wishes and expectations of others and into a new undiscovered realm. Fresh and untarnished by anyone else’s wants, this place is uniquely ours. We are the only dreamers of this particular dream. And it’s everything it should be and more…the sun stings bright happy eyes, playful blinking, lips lifted flirtatiously like the hems of skirts revealing some leg or gums. Frolic and flounce with all the fucking frivolity of a dance thoroughly needed. Exhaling. Muscles slumped, one on top of the other like a bum sits nicely on the heels of your feet. Looking around, like a baby blinking into existence, you see that you’ve achieved more than just the aesthetics of your dreams: in this place of unabashed insistence you realise that you’ve found yourself.

This is where we experience the flipside of guilt. The un-sulky and much more deeply rooted kind. On the verge of liberation from the combined misfortunes and self-inflicted sadness of the past, we notice a fire-exit like a giant green flashing angel. But we realise that by walking through it, we are condoning and accepting the hideous happenings that we have spent our years hating. Because on the verge of acceptance, comes that one last pang. “If I take this final step now, it means I have gained from the severance and loss of a child. It means I have benefitted from the loss of a soul that deserved his life certainly more than I do”. Or at least that’s my deepest fear. And when you see someone, whose womb has seen both life and death, smiling sincerely from the snag of their stubby toes to the flick of their bottom lip, you have to know it doesn’t come without repeated mental punches to the gut.

So we stay on the precipice, looking through the window at a feast we will never enjoy. Hungry, hurting and self-loathing but not entirely unhappy in our darkest of places. Arms folded smugly across my breasts, hair unmanageably long: I watch from the window as children swarm my street on their way to school. Like happy woollen kebabs, padding around blindly with just their noses poking out. Warm necks to the sky as the first of the year’s snow falls. And I can’t help but be softened like butter slip sliding into the pores of my toast.

Letting yourself off the hook isn’t as easy a thing to do as it sounds. But you must because hating hard on the unprejudiced unpredictable strike of lightening that once struck you and invariably despising the crispiness it has left you with is a rash that will prickle over the whole surface of skin. Slowly driving you insane with its itchy creeping demands. Till you’ve scratched and scratched and there’s nothing left but the dabby stickiness of blood and sinew. Boiled blistering skin, parched thin, scarred and weeping, no longer any use to anyone at all.

And maybe that’s what it means to burn in hell.


The self-indulgent stillbirth.

Discussions reveal that not keeping my story to myself is symptomatic of a sociopath. It transpires that sharing my thoughts and feelings on this matter comes across as ‘a bit too self-indulgent’. And that it was ok in the initial stages of my grief because, like a car-crash, my audience slowed at the scene to get a glimpse of the horror: intrigued. So now, this late on, apparently I’m milking it.

If you don’t want to come across as a sociopath who stands to gain more in the sympathy of others than she has lost in the death of her child, then you shouldn’t really share all your womb-woe’s with such a big and impersonal audience. Or so I am told is the general etiquette of ‘acceptable public grieving’.

And all through myself I want to laugh. Because I thought it was implicit all this time, that what I was trying to achieve was a little bit of clarity in the blur of my own feelings, using the only medium that feels right to express it in. In hindsight I now realise I should have baked a private pie and filled it with all my fears and phobias and feelings and eaten it secretly like a bulimic bug in the basement. ‘I shoulda known!’ I cry sarcastically in my own head for NO ONE TO HEAR BUT ME.

There was me thinking I was being brave and helpful and who knows, even hard-core with the momentous miserablising of my own memoir. Oh dear, what an error, what an oversight on my part. I should have kept it covert like the cunt-clippings and the arse-crack grease that everyone is guilty of cutting and smearing behind their own closed doors. God forgive that anyone should share the bizarre initiations of our insecurities in a bid to batter them into bearable submission.

After a little time has elapsed and I have filtered feelings from fury on the subject, I realise that these sensible stiff-upper-lipped snatch-saviours are just misplacing their guilt over something they have that you don’t. The same as the bulbous-bellied net-mums who cross the road to avoid you when your baggy bump sags down redundant like an old fleshy apron. They don’t know how to hear what you have to say…and who can blame them.

And I know that everyone has suffered and I know that everyone has their hurt. And I am just as bad as the next person when it comes to dealing with other people’s misery. I can forgive them for feeling frustrated and wishing I’d shut the fuck up about my failed-nearly-one-shot at being a mum. I can understand, I really can. But I won’t shut up, not now and not ever. Not because I’m ‘self-indulgent’. Not because I collect sympathy like old shavings in the hope that one day I can fashion a new foetus with it, no. But because I love to write, I love to express and yes I sometimes like to pick the scab: sometimes the sadness and the stories and the saying it over and over, are all I have left of the little soul I wanted so very much to keep.

 

I want this one

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.

mevlana jelaluddin rumi – 13th century

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In the gentle swaying of the trees, somehow she eclipsed me. Like weather: the way we are going to feel is seldom certain.

I have spent too long moderating the way I feel, for fear of being hurt and of hurting others. But there has to be one true place that’s just yours in this world. Where you can boldly be with respect enough for the past and for the future. If only I could find it, I’d go there with her and we could flail around like a couple of happy pricks with complete abandon.

She makes believe that time began the second I walked through her door. Because willingly she wiped out the test-runs of the past. And I betray her in the sense that I don’t, or more aptly, that I wont. It has to be a form of self perseveration or perhaps the endeavour’s of pride: that I struggle under the weight of my bygones like a bag-lady. Bringing with me everything I ever had, everything I ever was and everything that has at one time or another touched me. It’s a wonder she has room enough in her soul for me and all my shit.

Five years ago today I left some words on a page, like a time capsule, for my future self. Although written with love and joy, the strokes of my pen slashed across my emotions like a rusty nail. Because life then was so different to now and I could not have anticipated the horrors yet to come.

But in the same way that the world is sometimes unkind, it is also nurturing. Perhaps if I were a nun I would say ‘when god closes a door, somewhere he opens a window’. I want this to stay forever true.

I think I now see the value of both the memory box as well as the hope chest and I treat the two the same, like a pair of incessantly squabbling brats, each selfishly demanding attention over the other. I acknowledge them, I thank them and through love, I tell them both to shut the fuck up. Because in this moment I want to give her something. Just for her. Something she can palm and keep close to her heart. I love her now.

And what I realise is that loving again and moving forward with your life is not an insult to everything that came before. The newest blossoms of an old tree pay a pretty homage to the pollens of the past. The tireless cycles of nature depend on them, so we do what we can to force out a flower from the ends of our lonely sticks. And who knows, maybe this year’s blossom will prove to be even more fruitful than the last.