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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Running free

What do we need, where do we go
When we get where we don’t know.
Why should we doubt the virgin white of fallen snow,
When faith’s our shelter from the cold.

There was always a bit of him in every bloke I fancied. He set the precedent, created the mould. With his long blonde hair and his keen light eyes.

One day I was a child and the next I wasn’t. Turning the metaphoric (as well as the actual) corner to find him, sitting on the steps outside the off-licence in his ripped jeans and Megadeth jacket. He was new. 3 years older but still new. And from them on, so was I.

Of the gang of boys secreting from the estate, he stood out. Poisonous soulless fuckwits who revelled in hurting and humiliating wherever they could. I suspected a kindness in him that years later I would discover to be real.

So I became a collector of things connected to him. I immersed myself in things he liked, so by default perhaps I would become one of them. And it’s an embarrassing thing to admit that a lot of who I started to become was built around the interests of a bloke.

My crush on him forced me into a world of fiction. With pen kissing paper I crafted everything the way it should be and not the way it actually was. Lined A4 pads filled with romantic scenarios and how the two of us would one day come together. And I cringe now when I read them because it’s hard to take your first crush very seriously when you’ve been around the block so many times. If I was lucky enough for him to look at me or speak to me, I’d squirrel the encounter away ready for my wordy hibernation. Entire books based on scraps of something that could have been. And through him, I honed in on what I really liked and what I really wanted.

In later years I would discover that I could talk to him not just from within my head but in the real world too and finally came the time for me to put down the notepad (for a little while at least) and see how the real world compared. Although he never really had the same affect on me, there was always an appreciation, a softness I suppose you could call it, whenever I saw or heard of him. And those feelings, inexplicable at the time and now so very familiar, are still the basis for whether I really like someone or not.

I can conjure him at any given moment: walking with his hands in his pockets, wearing an oversized lumberjack shirt, flicking his hair out of his eyes. He smirked in a way that immediately made me think of sex, regardless how young I was or how little I knew about it. Him screaming ‘bacon’ at passing police cars, him putting my hat on his head on my 13th birthday and leaving behind the intimate scent of his hair, winking at me unashamedly while he pissed a heart shape on the floor of the underground car park and making my face burn with shyness when he asked why ‘I ♥ CB’ was scrawled all over my rucksack.

Hearing word of his death stunned me. Not high pitched and insane, not shaking and crying but somewhere still and adolescently sheepish within me. Not just because we were close in age but because despite never having been a part of my adult life, he somehow always seemed to feature. Characters fashioned from the essence of him made it into two of my finished novels and it occurs to me now that for him to have never faded in my mind, he must have burned so very brightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wheelie good idea

Some people are proper cycle-paths; they’ll put their own arses on the line just to try and make a difference. They look at the statistics on stillbirths, miscarriages and neo-natal deaths and they say ‘on your fucking bike!’

Wondering what on earth I’m talking about now? Is the suspen-sion killing you? Well here it is: the lovely Kim and Neil , gearing themselves up for a staggering 60 mile cycle across the capital.

Kimberley Course

They’re aiming to complete the challenge in under 6 hours through the night in the hope of raising a little cash for the charity Tommy’s. Undeterred by the smog and the stuffiness of summer in the city, this pair are properly prepared. Don’t try to let the air out of their tyres coz just like a pair of professional boxers, they’ll have to puncture!

Clicking onto their charity page and donating a little won’t stop me punning like a prick, but it will do a little something for a lesser known charity and a really genuinely good cause. It also gives a voice to the voiceless and helps to break the cycle of silence that stillbirths cause. It can be hard knowing how to speak to a bereaved parent about their loss or for a bereaved parent to know how to bring the subject up without bumming everyone else out. Parents who’ve suffered something of the like will know how hard it is when people ask if you have children, or how many kids do you have and so many of us just skirt around the subject or deny our truths to avoid shocking people who barely know us.

In many cases we go from the last stages of pregnancy to an overwhelming and heart-breaking nothing. (It still to this day, 5 years on, amazes me that pregnancy results in a real life actual baby for most who go through it.) Many of us return back to work without a maternity break, weeks after giving birth, to face people who had been counting down the days with us and the whole ‘business as usual’ bollox doesn’t really cut it at times like these. It’s not their fault and it certainly isn’t ours. But charities like Tommy’s and people like Kim and Neil, help to bring up the conversation in a positive way.

They’re doing it in honour of Dylan but it would be bloody marvellous if you wanted to donate and leave a little note or dedication name of your own.

Thanks to the loveliest people I know, from both me and Dylan. x

 

 

 

The best jokes will make you cry

evening-959025_1920 (1)

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.

 

The spark that saves

Image result for a spark

It wasn’t just that she nearly killed a grasshopper on her windscreen, it was that I was hellishly miserable. Casual murder everywhere I look. And it’s no wonder I dreamt I was working in the library again. I told my boss that I’d come full circle. A complete back-track to the past. She smiled and showed me a courtyard that hadn’t been there before, a jungle of abandoned bed frames. It’s not just the meat, that I too have started eating, but the newspapers too. The radio interrupting my peaceful cooking time with a forced injection of panic. And why doesn’t the news come with a forewarning. Nudity and extreme language in films aren’t going to affect you as much as the random massacre on a beach full of sunbathers. It affects you deeply. This darkness, like a tumour, spreads until it’s stage-threed every last shred of your happiness, shattering the illusion of safety.

And now I’m blindfolded with the image of a man pointing a gun at a tourist, the image of the grasshopper getting almost crushed to death by the windscreen wiper. All this horror and I can’t bare it.

For all those of you ready to pounce on me that terrorism isn’t quite the same thing as bug death, I’d like to say yes I know. I appreciate that. I’m not comparing the deaths of many to one insect. I’m speaking from the perspective of my own feelings. And now I’m pissed off at all this self editing, too much awareness of my audience and who I could possibly offend with my words.

As with everything, it makes me think of Dylan. How much more I would have feared the world he would have inherited. I’d like to say he’s safe now. But who knows if that’s true. When I buried him my mother in law at the time said something to me which was barely audible. I think it was this: he’s beautiful now. It saddened and angered me all once. Provoked something in me that rebelled against the acceptance and peace she was trying to share with me. But it’s stayed with me, why? Because I think I want the sentiment to be true.

It’s an argument I have constantly with myself but I wonder why people breed when the world is so frighteningly dangerous? But then I see something a friend wrote about his son on social media: ‘what do you want to be when you grow up? A little tiny woman’ and I know why people do it. I suddenly know why they all would given the chance. Why I would if I wasn’t so riddled with indecision and fear. As simple as that. A new life. A little growing person who takes the world outside of itself and reinvents everything. It’s not Disney sentimental, its the spark of something brilliant in a haze of heavy shit.

Why do people hate so much. What is the impetus to kill when our days are numbered anyway. And why is it always the people who have nothing to do with the quarrel that end up losing their lives. Why must we sit in fear of our flesh being penetrated by the bullets of emotion sprayed like tears from dulling eyes? I don’t understand the horror that most have suffered, but I guarantee it’s enough to have ruined them. To have made it seem right to pick up a gun or a bomb or a sword and to lash out at the world, as it has done to them. And who am I to judge when I have never seen war from the wrong side of a TV screen. I feel for them too. I really do. And at the risk of sounding like a fucking idiot, I want the killing to stop. I want the aggrieved to heal, as we are all trying to do. I want armies of compassion to run bravely onto the path of war and disarm and diffuse till everyone realises what a prick they have been. Till every war monger looks themselves in the face and decides there has been enough killing. To see they have made their point loud and clear. On both sides of the fence. From all religions and governments and walks of life. Lets stop fucking killing each and take on the much harder task of doing a little good.