Saturday, 10 December 2016

Learning Self Love

Self love isn't blocking pain from entering you
It isn't hissing at the enemy, or drowning in self pity
Or promising yourself to love less, next time
To care less, to allow less to hurt you
Self love is not becoming hard, strong
Self love is allowing yourself to stay soft
Self love is allowing things to come and go as they will
And being peaceful in the knowledge that you will want to restore yourself
Should you become damaged in the process.
Self love is not self protection.
It is self preservation, it is the commitment of gardening and nourishing your own soul
Learning the ability to hold yourself at your weakest
And acknowledging that this is very hard to do.
So, next time your self love involves a wall
or an arrow
or a knife
or a tub of ice cream
Look at the wall, brick by brick, and take it down with care, not because you don't need walls
but because you prefer the view behind it
Try using a different target, and take an archery class instead
Take the knife out of your own back, and use it to cut dead branches from the trees of the things that no longer serve you, or you them
And enjoy the ice cream.
You really, really, can't go wrong with ice cream.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Every Bee Sting Was A Kiss

After you left,
Every bee sting was a kiss
Sweet on my lips, honey, that sugar,
That abyss.
I ran with my tongue and savoured the taste
of the blood from the wound
of your hand on my face
On those soft, birdsong mornings when you'd rise and you'd fall
On those days made of grey when you weren't there at all
I saw you, I kept you, I longed for the sting
To feel something, just not nothing
As I forgot how to sing.
Your skin like your wings,
softer than paper
They couldn't fly far but you wouldn't escape her
and by her, I mean me - your watcher, your keeper
your lover, and griever, your hopeless believer in love
and the sting, whether sharp, whether small
to feel it defies there was nothing at all
So I follow the bees
wherever they find me
Seek the sting of your kiss
Even if just to remind me
That you lived,
That we Were
That we do not just "cease"
And when I swell and my lips are obese with the grief
Then I take my dark body, forgotten by gold
And I thank it, for the love and the pain it can hold
And lose myself to the world, that old tender friend
Follow sweetness, and laughter, round some new river-bend
I think of you often as I wander through trees
Of how lucky I am
to be stung by the bees.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Prepare for Loss

All our lives we are told
You must prepare for loss.
You must prepare for the day
when your world crumbles,
when friends leave, when summer ends
and the leaves turn brown
then to dust.

You must prepare yourself, they say
for the day your Great Love goes silent
when the cat is no longer there to be stroked
when the world is just you.
All our lives we are told
We must prepare for loss.

But we are not told to prepare
for all the Other Days.
The days our love lies next to us in bed
still and breathing heavy
All those car journeys and endless days
When the cat is here to be held,
we don't prepare for that

And even when the leaves are brown, we don't notice
that golden amber hue, the lingering magic
Perhaps not on the trees, but still
right beneath our feet
in front of our noses
As we press our hands and eyes against the glass
Breathing in on a world we are preparing to lose
But never preparing
to lose ourselves to

Sunday, 2 October 2016

5.30am Surfing

Today it is my birthday, and I leave behind my 25th year.

I think I'll always remember 25 as the year I finally stopped wading in the shallow waters - the year I learned to surf!

I'll remember 25 as the year I met the most spectacular man, who captivated and fascinated me like never before. The year I learned what a healthy, kind, loving relationship looked and felt like, so that I never settle for anything less. Learning what mattered wasn't trying to balance on the same board together, but being able to catch our own waves out on a shared sea - and afterwards, to run to each other on the shore, gasping, sparkly-eyed and salty, shouting "Did you see it, did you see it!? Wasn't that something!?"

I'll remember 25 as the year I learned how to lose things - completely and ungraciously. Some pain and suffering in life is unnecessary, but some deserves to be felt in every inch of your being. At 25 I learned that actually, I couldn't withstand the heartbreak that came with losing him. That everything I knew could still be shattered into a thousand shards of flesh and heart, but that even in my most vulnerable and childlike moments of grief, this world has still not ceased to bring me awe and wonder.

And at 26, I'm making a promise to myself to catch as many waves I can. Especially the big, foaming, crashing waves under trembling, brumous skies - regardless of the predators that might lurk beneath, regardless of whether I'm going to be knocked unconscious with a surfboard to the face. Because at 25, I learned that I'll always emerge from the sea - bloody and bruised perhaps, but always awake, always alive, always eyes sparkling. And I'll always run into his arms, shouting "Did you see it!? Did you see it!? Wasn't that something!!!"

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Morning Thoughts

Morning thoughts. It's a lovely cliche ingrained into our culture to "live like you'll die tomorrow", and certain experiences from the last year have really heightened this realisation in me, of "this moment is fleeting, it will be gone soon, and so will they and so will I."
But I'm not sure anymore if it's helping me to live better. Instead, I feel this huge cloud of worry that I'm not appreciating the moment enough, especially in times of sadness and pain, and every joy is tinged with the reality of it being held in the hands of entropy, and it's actually pretty hard work to be able to step out of the moment with your family, your cat, your friends, and look at the same moment being held in death's hand, and feel joyous about it.
So, I've decided, instead of living like I will die tomorrow, I am going to live like I will live forever, and that entropy will never take my loves, but also with the knowledge that the moment is still fleeting, the moment is still good.

Death is a different beast from other loss, I've learned. I was a pro at taking life's curveballs and enjoying them and rolling with them. This is an entirely different beast, and I draw words from Washington Irving to justify my resistance to "moving on" from this.

"The sorrow for the dead is the only sorrow from which we refuse to be divorced. Every other wound we seek to heal - every other affliction to forget; but this wound we consider it a duty to keep open - this affliction we cherish and brood over in solitude. Where is the mother who would willingly forget the infant that perished like a blossom from her arms, though every recollection is a pang? Where is the child that would willingly forget the most tender of parents, though to remember be but to lament? Who, even in the hour of agony, would forget the friend over whom he mourns? Who, even when the tomb is closing upon the remains of her he most loved, when he feels his heart, as it were, crushed in the closing of its portal, would accept of consolation that must be bought by forgetfulness? No, the love which survives the tomb is one of the noblest attributes of the soul."

On this day 1 year ago, we fell into each others' arms. I knew I would adore him for a lifetime, whether only as friends, or strangers in passing, and to be given the opportunity to love him was a wonderful wave life offered me to catch. I took it, and I'd take it again and again and again. I have to catch other waves now, too. But that wave... that will always be the first time the sea took me into it's arms, and I felt at home, and I felt at one, and I learned the capacity for good life held - if you're willing to ride the wave. How can I turn away from a life, that in the same breath, gave me him? As much as I lament that I am here living in his absence, and that it comes so naturally, I must harness this and use it to push me to live and live and live with joy. To not only catch the other waves that will come, but to be willing to die for them, to sing and scream and let my mind throb with delight on them. Not to sit on them softly, waiting for them to end.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Therapy Night

I have found the grief and trauma that came with his death manifesting itself in the form of overthinking, in the form of picking fights with myself in my own head. I've decided to write about it, to spit it out, to look at my current opponent right in it's angry eyes and take it on, with my metaphorical sword of words.

"Right, you. Let's settle this. Lay yourself down."

Instead of laying down, I want to fight, I want to criticise myself for thinking that this was a good idea, that this would even make a difference. But I buckle and succumb to myself, like a screaming child who is upset from the lack of attention from their parent, and wants to hurt and upset their parents by making noise, yet needs their love and attention to recover and calm.

"Why overthinking?"

My mind has always been incredibly overactive. It would be climbing out of the windows of the school classrooms, running out the door at dull parties, constantly entertaining itself, constantly reviewing itself. I remember being six or so years old, and asking a classmate if she ever spoke to the voice inside her head, and receiving a very odd look in return. I didn't ask anyone about their inner voices for a good while after that, such was the confusion on her face, but I did immediately think to my six year old self "What if I ever get bored of talking to you?" "Hope you don't" I replied "I think you're stuck with me"

At present my thoughts resemble a drill somewhat. Usually, when they swirl and spiral, they're in one or another direction - a simple black and white, up or down, positive or negative. At the moment they are just going INWARD and HARD. I barely have time to process one thought before a counter argument pops up, and they aren't even on particularly worthy subjects, gone are the days when I'd ruminate on potential lovers and what they were thinking, or silly unimportant drama that I might have caught a whisper of... nope, I fight about utter meaninglessness of a completely different variety now. I fight about whether my thoughts are "right" or "wrong", whether my opinions are valid, whether I am impossibly narcissistic when I have a good thought or horribly depressive and no fun whatsoever when I have a bad one. My sense of self has just shattered, entirely, and it's like I am scurrying to connect the dots and pick up all the pieces to make something of myself by late morning so I can continue with my day without too much existential crisis looming.

I digress.

In trying to digest these thoughts, and then these patterns of thoughts forming, and then the purposelessness of thinking said thoughts, I realize I'm doing a lot of thinking and not very much "doing".

Issue 1) I have sat alone, in my apartment, in front of a computer, editing chin after chin after chin, for three days straight. When I am around people, I'm around 150+ strangers at a wedding that it's taken at least 2hours to drive to, and I'm not exactly relaxed and being my informal, often crude and inappropriate, self. Right. So this is probably contributing, not to the content of said thoughts, but to the set and setting. I mean, I've given myself the PERFECT scenario to go fucking insane.

So, answer? Finish up massive workload (yay!), schedule fun activities*
*read: go for walks, go take 365 in new places, see friends, go to the gym, go buy healthy food instead of ordering pizza, etc etc

Issue 2) My grief is changing. I recognise these weird, in-between-stages well, now. When he first died, I was flooded with one thing: Agony. It was a pretty easy emotion to process. It was just unbearable. I understood it, I could deal with it, it was shit, life was going to be shit, just bad, very very bad. In a way, because this was so easy to understand, it was easy to forgive. I didn't berate or argue with myself about feeling like that, because I understood it. What I couldn't get my head around a month later, was the weird sense of normality that had returned to daily life. I felt myself start thinking about other things surrounding his death, how my methods of grieving might be appropriate/inappropriate, or misinterpreted by people I wanted to have like me and support me. I noticed my thoughts flooding to THESE subjects, not him, and it terrified me.

That's actually when the inner arguing began. I felt like I'd had this huge surge of perspective on what was truly important - to live, to love, to notice all the small tiny wonderful details, to be grateful for them, to notice my own place in my life whenever and wherever I can, to be kind kind kind and make others' journey's easier... and here I was trying to work out whether someone I have never met approves of me or not.

I felt pathetic, but it seemed so huge.

The lack of support I received in the aftermath of losing him has really damaged me.
There, I said it.

Now, enough of that, let's work on healing that damage.

Answer? Let it go. You can't control whether what you do is right or wrong in someone else's eyes - you can only have good intentions, and I certainly have/had them. I only wanted to grieve in the way I know how, in the way that helps me. I wanted to lay out to others that life can be hard and it isn't always skipping in fields and smiling in nice hats. I wanted people to recognise what I had lost, the pain I was feeling - probably because I have some messed up need for validation but YOU KNOW WHAT, THAT'S OK! I'm human, I need support, and I deserve to be able to tell the truth about my own life and to ask for my needs to be met, especially since I'm lucky enough to have 20 odd thousand people who actually care and want to help. I felt like I was denied access to them, or at the very least shamed for wanting them.

Issue 3) I don't have all the answers

And I don't think anyone ever does. My desperate scrambling to find them seems understandable, I think we all search for purpose and meaning in our lives. I've done so for years, I find it fulfilling to learn and grow and expand myself. It used to be a very positive thing for me, these days less so.

I don't like this inner critic that I seem to have grown myself. I don't like critical, judgemental people in general. I used to stay away from them, reminding myself that people who cannot be empathetic or compassionate are probably unhappy, and that I should not take their opinions about myself as The Truth. But you cannot take anything as truth, and then I fight and say "But their opinions ARE valid, they need understanding, they need love, they need what you need."

Then I bow my head, and the sadness sweeps in.

There we have it. I needed support and understanding, I got silence and it wasn't an enjoyable experience.
But now I have to let it go.
I have to let all these thoughts go.
I promised him I would be OK, he said it with such worry in his voice:
"I don't want this to fuck you up. I don't want to hurt you."

I would like to howl from the tops of the rooftops that you never hurt me. You gave me all the sweetness and light I could taste. I am OK, I will be OK, and I love you, I love you, I love you. How could it be any other way?

Sunday, 11 September 2016

A thought in the present moment as a plane soared above

The present moment, for all of us, is actually always a very peaceful thing - unless of course we're being mauled by something hairy or faced with physical unease. The plane soaring overhead in the night sky will continue to soar whether we choose to tune into it or not. The peaceful present moment is a wonderful thing to be part of, but remember carefully - it never comes to us. We have to come to it.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

A poem for my cat

I should be so lucky
to let my senses fill
with you
It is that moment, when I open my books
and scan the words of the poetry I love,
that I keep for myself like a schoolchild hoarding their favourite sweets
That I see the ink printed so neatly, the words dance on the page
and hold my feelings better than the black tar holds them inside me
sticky and fluid in my chest
I see that these words are a better reflection of me than my own face in the mirror
these poems and stories I collect, they hold myself more than my body ever could
They reflect me, ignite me and turn me to ash all at once
And I weep
And I laugh
And I smile
And I keep on reading

Monday, 5 September 2016

A Battle Between Happiness and Peacefulness

As I pounded my feet on the treadmill this afternoon, I made progress but I got nowhere. Physically and mentally. My thoughts floated to the elusive "Happiness" that is so ingrained in our language and culture. "I just want to be happy" must be thought in billions of minds, countless times, all day, every day. Yet, we all grasp and understand that happiness is an emotion, fleeting, like all others. What we seek is an underlying peacefulness, contentedness, that is a result of what, exactly?

The clearest answer of course is circumstance. When all our circumstances in the world are "on our side" - the future looks solid and undaunting when we have a stable lifestyle, a nice home we like to live in, a safe financial future, travels plans and trips to look forward to, a lover who adores us whom we adore in return, good health and good family and friends. It is very easy to assume a full hand of these cards to be the remedy to peacefulness - and, whilst they certainly do contribute to a wonderful day or week or month, once you get used to having these things, we can find the restlessness settling in. We feel unsatisfied. We want more. What if there is a lover who can stimulate my mind more, or one who loves me more, who needs me more? Someone who needs me less, who lets me be. What if I had a better living situation, a bigger house - more room to breathe? What if I lived in a van, nomadic, romantic? Perhaps then I would feel so full and empty, all at the same time. We invent problems because it's natural, progression is an exciting part of living, stagnation and peacefulness are not one and the same. Happiness and peacefulness are not one and the same.

Like the majority of the world, I realised pretty early on that circumstances (material or otherwise) aren't what will give me peace. My attitude towards circumstances, my attitude towards the day, would do this. But then my mind would spiral - sometimes because of my circumstances - either positively or negatively in either direction. On a good, clear day, I would wake up with a sparkling mind, work out, eat well, finish up editing pictures, be productive, notice all the sights and the smells and sing to the music and feel at peace. I felt grateful for the day, for all days. My previous sorrows would feel laid to rest, accepted, almost sentimental. On a bad day, I could wake up and argue every negative about myself and my mind and life like a cynic with the worst stung heart. I would try to counteract myself with hope and gratitude, just to slam it back into the ground with the force of a thousand thoughts exploding in my mind like a firework display backfiring.

I still can't work out what determines a good day or a bad day, they just are. Today has been mediocre, leaning towards the bad. I'd like to think my week of chaos and busyness has kept me from being in touch with my mind and emotions, and left me vulnerable to an avalanche of sorts, which has toppled (or begun to?) today.

I ignore my friends and family and retreat inside my cave of myself. No one is enough. I only see the flaws. I only see my own flaws. I feel like a terrible person. I try to go easy on myself - my boyfriend is gone, and I miss him. I've had this argument with myself a thousand times, heard his voice chime in inside my mind: "I've not gone anywhere. Close your eyes and I'm there, you know that." I feel petulant and childlike. He always loved my petulance. The memory of him saying so with mischief in his eyes comes flooding back, and I'm a puddle on the floor again.

I sink into my sofa and think some more about peace. I'm sure it's to do with gratitude, that gratitude holds the key to it all. Being awake enough to see how precious the moment is, the moment of where you are in your life and all the things you hold - no matter what is lost, no matter what is mortal. And then I fight myself with the sad reality that the moment is already gone, cannot be saved, that there is only more loss and more grief and more hopelessness in store. This is my fight, and I am losing it.

I counteract my wallowing with an emergency poison dart, filled with magic and love and cliches. "Aha!" I laugh at myself. "Yes, it all dies. But it also lives! And that is what must be celebrated. And when did death become so morbid? Death should be so wonderful, you can lay down your misery and your baggage and feel the grass waving above your head with no yesterday, no tomorrow. It's peace. Love death, you fool. Love it all."

I sigh and curl up some more. I am not used to giving in to sorrow like this. I know I will become strong again - tomorrow, maybe. But the periods of time I am peaceful for, is that what determines peace? If I fail to be peaceful today, am I no longer a peaceful person? If I die today, will they forever remember me as a sad girl with boots filled with water? Or will they remember the majority of my days - the days they didn't even see, they didn't witness, that I may have written about or photographed, the lost days. What about them?

I drink some water and decide that I should probably stop thinking, today. Who would ever love a mind that can unravel like this? I don't know how to sell myself to someone. Yesterday I was baked with fresh fruit, cream, sugar, love and peace, love and peace. Today I am expired milk and spilled on the carpet.

I suppose this is all part of the human experience, my brain comes with my flesh prison, and I must succumb to it, the bad and the good. I find some peace in that. I should probably go to sleep now, clean up my war wounds and give them a chance to heal. I am exhausted, and I haven't even left my flat.


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Sit With Me A While

Tonight you came, soft and quiet
and sat with me for a while
I knew because my entire body flooded with calm
and tears rolled down my cheeks, I smiled
as you sat with me for a while
You wore soft piano and a gentle summer breeze
Ran your fingers across my forehead,
You didn't need to say a word
because you sat with me for a while
I felt your hand, I saw the creases by your eyes
that I kissed, and did again tonight
as you sat with me for a while

Saturday, 6 August 2016

I look up at the sky
It is navy, clouded, empty
There are no metaphors tonight
I hear gleeful screams through the branches of the trees
Cheers and jeers and
riddled fears are in my mind
I'd hoped this pain would make other pain incomparable
The taste of something so bitter would stick to my tongue
Like ice, the temperature of the world would drop
And any small joy would radiate, like a swallowed star
That any other sorrow would simply fade
as a stitch buried deep into a patchwork of sadness
And yet pain feels as pain ever did
And yet somehow I feel weaker now than ever
But better equipped
Tell me that a spirit doesn't crumble with a body
Don't tell me that a body just learns how to hold a crumbled spirit
And rebuild it
And rebuild it
And rebuild it.
I sigh, and let the crickets sing to me for now
I loosen my grip on my excitement once more
Welcome sorrow, sit with her a while
And when she dissipates, I shall make room for more.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Being alone in grief is one of the hardest things to bear. When you speak with family, friends, other people who knew and loved him - he is alive again between you all. You nod, and laugh, and reminisce. You recognise and share the same concept of him, ahh yes, there he is, the person we all remember. When you grieve alone, you alone bear the weight of keeping that person alive. And that my friends, is one hell of a responsibility.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

My Grief

You know when you were younger, and you'd gotten into an argument with someone at school, and you woke up in the morning with a deep dark pit in your stomach? You dreaded what the day had in store for you, your mind was focused on only that situation. You didn't want to go in, you desperately wanted to avoid that situation, but you were forced to confront it - you had to go to school. You couldn't just not go into school again, ever. You were rooted in that situation, and it felt AWFUL.

This is what grief feels like. Every day. You wake up in it, you are surrounded by it. It's reminders that you are "IN this" are everywhere - not just in the photographs you want to keep up in your living room (but can't bear to look at yet without bursting into tears), not just in the bag of oats that he gave you for morning smoothies on your kitchen counter (sitting there, untouched), not just in smell of his cologne that you keep but ration yourself for fear of spoiling the memory of, but it's all over your mind, it's all over your memories, it's in your daily routine and the sudden and very noticeable absence - that your favourite part of your life has disappeared.
As C.S Lewis writes about the grief he felt when he lost his wife, "Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything."

I have found myself "in" this, every day for the last three months. The initial days and weeks were unbearable, I found myself howling like a wounded or lost animal at times, I grieved like a child, my heart sobbed for his return.
I felt every inch of my life move, I felt every time the grief changed and shifted. I felt it when it sat more comfortably, but just as heavily, on my back. I noticed on the day I woke up and didn't think of his death immediately, but instead noticed the sunshine through my window. I noticed when I made choices out of emotion, rather than rational thinking - I noticed my grief working it's long dark fingers through my mind and into my life, and I noticed when I bolted upright in defence of this.

It has been my quest, for a long time now, to be emotionally healthy. As an artist, suffering can be glorified easily, we can wallow in our pain and let it take us, sometimes our identities are so enmeshed with pain that we do not even recognise or know a self without it. This terrifies me, not one ounce of me wants to suffer through life - artist or not. It goes against everything I believe in to wallow in sadness, to offer despair a chair at your table. I stand up for smiling and kindness, for finding the good and the positive, for being greater than your suffering. If you were to cut my soul in half, you would find the essence of positivity there at the root.

Loss like this, however, is new to me. I didn't shy away from the experience of it, because any experience can be a strength maker, and I intend to live so intensely that I could die at any moment without regret. That said, I grossly underestimated the impact this would have. I thought that knowing someone would die (after all, we all do) and preparing myself for it, would somehow lessen the shock, or the pain of grief. It doesn't.
BUT, I thought. Surely if I learn to truly "live in the moment" with him, to soak up every wonderful moment I get to spend with him, to really cherish him and appreciate every second of life with him with all the gratitude I can muster - surely that would numb some of the loss? I mean, if I do that, then I won't ever look back and say "I wish I'd appreciated my time with him more"?

Well, yes and no. I am so grateful that I can say I savoured every moment with him, and that I truly acknowledged how precious it was, and that I felt true happiness with him, but living this way also invited this big dark cloud of entropy to hover over me. Feeling that elation and joy meant that one day I would be very much without that elation and joy, and I didn't know how that would feel - whether or not that would break me, break my positive spirit. The catch was, until he had actually died and I had learned that I could still access that happiness and joy, I just didn't know. So my joy and love was tinged with this overwhelming sadness that it was just so, so temporary. I couldn't crawl into those moments with him, in his arms, and stay there. Indeed, the last morning I spent with him on that day he left, we cuddled and laughed and smiled and told each other to have a wonderful day, and I let myself let him go. I thought, "he isn't mine to keep." You have to live like you won't die, like those you love won't die, otherwise you will be crippled by the attachment of having them. And eventually, this need for other people will contract and compound and you will be so afraid of losing things and of change, that you never dip your toe into the water that all life has to offer. I knew I couldn't do that. So every time we parted, I savoured the moment, and I let it go.

And looking back, I'm glad life didn't wrench me from him. I'm glad my last goodbye to him was as sweet as all the others.

So yes, this is where I am. I wake up and notice he is gone, but it is not immediate, it is not overwhelming as it was. I am currently more grateful for the memories I have, than sad that I cannot make more. Most days are enjoyable and I drive in the car and sing, I let myself enjoy what life has to offer, because he wanted me to do that and because I want to do that. Occasionally I have a bad day, like yesterday, when I just do not have the energy mentally to psych myself up for another day of positive living. And that's OK for me, too - as long as it's just a day, and as long as I don't wallow.

What I'm beginning to realise, is that grieving is also the same as healing. For me, to switch off the sadness would be to switch off the same emotion that gives me access to happiness, to gratitude, to appreciation, to peace. Grieving like this allows me to enjoy the lighter moments, knowing that I've truly felt the heavier ones. I let myself enjoy them, just as I let myself suffer the sad ones. It's cheating the guilt that comes with grieving - the guilt of feeling good and being able to carry on when you never thought it would come so easily without them.

The night before he died, we sat on his bed and I ate a bowl of peas and he ate chicken soup (he had a cold). We talked about what we wanted from life. He just wanted to always "be", and I just wanted to always "feel". It still stands - I never want to stop feeling, I never want to stop dipping my toe into what life has to offer, everyone deserves to. And he continues to "be", in my heart, in my head, in the things he taught me that I apply to life. He's alive in the stories I tell about him, he's alive in the mannerisms and language I picked up from him, in my photographs, in my memories. It's funny, because I suppose that's the solution to death, almost, keeping someone alive in you.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Thank-You

I opened the window, the air breathed green again
"Thank you."
I said to him.
"You've given me everything I needed to learn.
And everything I could never quite touch
is mine now.
Thank you."

A tear leaked down my cheek.
Given the choice, I would always choose him as him,
over him as concept.
him as memory.
him as experience.
him as lesson.
him as story.
But knowing I cannot choose
and knowing what he would want to be
since he cannot be himself any more.

Then I shall open my arms to all of it.
Today is the first day of my life.
Today I embrace.
I hold my life again, with him, still breathing into it.

Today I say,
Thank you.

Friday, 10 June 2016

How To Deal With Haters

The Internet is a strange place.

On one hand, here is a place built for connection. We're finally free from our bodies and the judgements and prejudices that come with them - just souls without a vessel, able to bare ourselves in whatever way we wish. Unless we chose to upload a photo of ourselves, we don't have to be judged based on our physical appearances - what we were born into, what we can't change, what we are as a result of our lives. Finally we can be judged purely on our character, our spirit, our kindnesses and our actions.

Sounds great, right? Doesn't that kind of sound like the Utopia we've all been hoping for?! Oh man.

Somehow, this incredible opportunity for judgement-free connection got hijacked by people who, like The Joker, just like to watch the world burn. I say that with a wink and a twinkle in my eye, because really, the negativity that comes with the internet is something you must play with. In fact, that goes for all of life's hatred and negativity. You need to soap up and learn to let that stuff slide off your back, into the water beneath you to dissolve and dissipate - back into the abyss from which it came. Life is a real tricky beast sometimes, and learning to have fun with it is very very important. Because the Real Hard Times are coming for us all, and wow - if I hadn't had a really really really good attitude and mindset (to people, to life) I don't know how I would have gotten through mine.

So, here are my own personal experiences of Haters, and how I got through it.

46/365 - i can be anonymous too
(self portrait from almost exactly 8 years ago today, I was 17)

1) Teenage Years

I'll be the first to admit - I wasn't a lovely teenager. Granted, I wasn't the kid who pushed people about and spat at people or mentally destroyed people (at least to my recollection, I never did that) - but I was a very defensive teenager.
When confronted with arguments or conflict, when I perceived to be the "misinterpreted" party,  instead of calmly saying "Woahhhh, I'm so sorry you thought I meant to hurt you - that isn't what I meant at all. I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings there, buddy" I would emotionally leap up in self defence, shut people out, talk about them behind their backs in order to build up a safety net of "friends" to validate me and protect me, I would sometimes say hurtful things in order to "get one back" and other childish things that teenagers do. Yikes. Just reading that makes me feel uneasy. It's very clear to see why kids these days dread going into school - when even the Nice Kids Aren't-That-Nice.

What first changed my mindset during this time was being totally isolated from my entire friendship group at one point - I can't remember why. But I remember that people were being told not to talk to me, I felt very alone and very misunderstood, because inside I felt like I was a "nice person".

This is when it hit me - actually, I wasn't that nice. And actually, why would people want to talk to me? What good WAS I in their friendship group? This little revelation hit me like A TON OF BRICKS.

Once I dropped the "people owe it to be nice to me" thing, and started actually wondering WHY they owed it to be nice to me, I began to transform.

I decided that I was going to become The Kindest Person Ever. I decided that I was never going to talk about people behind their backs, ever again. I decided I was going to try try try to understand EVERYONE, regardless if I disagreed with them, because holy crap I wanted someone to try and understand me at that point. I started walking down the street, and thinking lovely things about people I passed along the way. "I love the colour of her dress" I thought. I started smiling at people, enjoying people, for the simple human they appeared to be in the seconds that I encountered them.

Of course, people don't suddenly notice you've gone from being Average-Nice-ish-Person-Who-Is-Sometimes-A-Bitch to The Kindest Person Ever in a week. Or even a month. Or even a few years. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are still people out there who probably hold hurt from things I said to them when I was younger, and for that I will be always willing to apologise. But, what I do have, is an inner peace and confidence in myself that I am Kind. I am always still learning, and it is not always easy to act with kindness when you feel misjudged and misinterpreted, but I am learning.

This was the first lesson I had to learn in how to deal with Haters - first I had to deal with my own hate, my hatred for who I was. When I understood myself, and then forgave myself, it allowed me to understand and forgive other people.

Why Me

2) Internet Haters

The Internet seems to be the place where Haters gather and pour insults like shots at a bar. It's a scary place to be, it's an even scarier place to lay out your vulnerable self - in blogs, in photos, on social media. You're pretty much opening yourself up to All The Criticism. It's an even scarier place to try something new - like photography. I was 17 years old when I first started uploading self portraits on Flickr, for my 365 Days Project.

Very soon, due to my "openness" (I mean, I was The Kindest Person Ever now, what did I have to hide?) my flickr profile started gathering momentum. I think people were just intrigued by this 17 year old kid who took weird pictures of herself dressed up as a clown in her bedroom after school.

My photos weren't particularly great. They were imaginative, but technically, they weren't great. The kind of broke all the rules of photography - and not really in a badass way. They were out of focus, they were photoshopped to near death, they were slammed over and over with texture upon texture, they were filled almost as much teenage angst as they were textured, and then blasted through ALL THE FILTERS and uploaded with pride. By a teenage girl. I wrote about my life - about my day, about my thoughts, about the good, about the bad. I mused on things, I connected with the strangers that stumbled across me, I felt at home.

A few people saw this, and didn't like it. When I say "a few", I'm going to translate that into what felt like the entire internet. After the photo series with my then-boyfriend Aaron got featured on a few blogs and news networks, I was suddenly open to every criticism known to man.

I mean - who the hell did I think I was?! I was some teenager who had spent zero years and zero money being educated on photography, shooting on the most basic of kit, making a big textured mess of what I did make, and getting more recognition and support than people who had been SLAVING over their craft for YEARS had gotten. I'm the first to admit, I can totally see why people were agitated by that. And then there was the time where I ran out of ideas for self portraits that I was trying to post every day and didn't credit the original ideas (which I very much should have) on my photos. What followed was the most heart wrenching period of my teenage life.

I had hate campaigns set up in my honour, people on websites and forums all over the place talking about how I should just curl up and die, people wishing cancer on my family, people in school coming up to me and asking if my relationship was being sponsored by Adobe as a marketing tool "because they'd read it online somewhere". I was torn apart, for being an 18 year old kid excited to share something I had created, that I was proud of, that I wanted approval for.

I knew that I could very easily switch myself off from it, that I could just turn off ALL the hate - simply by deleting my Flickr and never picking up a camera again. I stopped my 365 Days project for a week and felt huge surges of guilt whenever I saw art online that inspired me. I felt like The Kindest Person I had tried to become was dying a death, I felt myself wanting to turn on the people who were making my life miserable to live, who were taking my passion away from me.

I remember being sat absentmindedly in Biology class, ruminating on my horrific online situation that was unfolding, paying no attention whatsoever to what was being taught. I remember thinking I was never going to be able to get a job in anything else, because nothing captured me like Photography did. I didn't love anything like I loved photography. And then it clicked - what else did I love photography more than? I loved it more than people's validation of me. I loved it more than I loved the safety of being liked by everyone, I loved it more than anything I had ever loved.

It was that day I knew that Haters were just going to be something I took on as part of this journey - and that every day I picked up the camera, it would be worth it. I started shooting self portraiture again, and wrote a massive post about my mistakes and handed the haters exactly what they wanted - acknowledgement that they had a point. Because sometimes, just sometimes, people do have a point.

The decent lot who had been writing mean stuff about me, took my apology and allowed me to move on, some of them supported me, some of them are now my friends. Some of them carried on hating, because haters gonna hate. I don't know what they're up to with their lives - and that's something else that I've realised - the things you are willing to take from your situations are the things YOU have to live with. If you go about taking bad, giving back bad, don't be surprised when you're living a bad life that you don't think you deserve. I try with all my might to give good, to take good, and for the most part, I will happily confirm that this has yielded me a Good Life.

she had not known the weight until she felt the freedom

3) Shake It Off

Once you have accepted that haters gonna hate, the next step is how much you let it penetrate your life.

I have chosen to pay attention to approximately 0%.

If someone writes a mean blog about me, I don't read it.
If someone writes me a mean email, I delete it.
If someone writes a mean comment on a picture, I just leave it or delete it. I don't let it sink in - because the general rule of thumb is that anyone who has time to spend making someone else feel bad either a) hasn't felt enough sorrow in their life yet to really appreciate how silly it is to do that
b) has also felt sorrow in their life, but has not felt enough kindness to know how wonderful kindness is.

You would be amazed at how often it is the latter.

So, here is my solution to Hate.

When someone shows hate, so often they just need to see what understanding and kindness looks like. They just need a hug, they just need someone to listen, they just need a bit of connection, a bit of patience. And though I'm no Dalai Lama and won't be driving round to theirs with a bar of chocolate after they've told me they hope I get hit by a bus, I will certainly not throw more hate back their way.

My friend Adam posted an amazing photo onto a photography group today - and got some grief about it linking to his editing tutorials he sells. One person wrote how they were going to download and pirate his tutorials, because they were broke. I suggested he send them a free copy.

If there is opportunity to good - do it. What's the worst that could happen? Someone walks all over you? Feel free. If I'm a doormat, then I have a big fat "WELCOME" sign on me. The risk of being used FAR outweighs the possibility of that kindness making that person go "Wow, actually, that was nice and I'm going to try and be a bit nicer."

At the end of the day, there are no prizes in life for those who live with Kindness. You won't avoid pain by being kind. Pain comes for all of us, the concept of karma is just another way of hoping those who hurt us will be unhappy. There are no prizes for those who live with Hate - you won't avoid pain by being hateful or hard.
The Real Hard Times are coming for all of us. Mine came for me just six weeks ago, and I was launched into the depths of sadness so deep I had never fathomed. As I sunk lower into my sadness, I kept hoping my toes would touch the sea floor, it never came. So instead, I am learning how to swim, and appreciating all the time I spent on the shore, glad that I savoured every single moment on it with him.
There are no prizes either way you live your life. There are no ways to avoid the tragedies that you are on a collision course with, the entropy that you are furiously speeding towards without even moving from your sofa.

But I can tell you, life is so much lighter lived with kindness. Life is so much lighter when lived without hate.
So when you encounter it - first understand it. Put yourself in their shoes, even if they're totally wrong, even if they're totally misunderstanding you. Forgive it. Apologise if you need to. Work it through your fingers and if you can, help out the person behind it, who is probably struggling in their own way. You could even hug it. Embrace that hate, and before you know it, it will slide off you like water. There are no prizes waiting at the end of this race, but a journey that you enjoy taking is surely the best you can hope for. Let's all try to make it a good'un.


A Bad Day

The clouds had rolled in, her brumous mind began to tremble
She allowed the fog to sweep low, to moisten her eyelashes
She heard the sirens sing in the distance, then fade
Until all that remained was background noise rain,
Like TV static that wouldn't switch off
This was a storm she could not stop.

She let the thunder clap and jeer.
Let the crowds laugh, let them watch with their raincoats
Transfixed by suffering that is not their own
Let them make light out of lightning
They will tell the world how they saw it
But they do not mention how
They did not feel it slash across their skin

Let them return home to their lifeboats
That they claimed, that they built, that they bought
That they will not admit that they need
Until all is lost
and they too, are at sea.

She stood alone, and let her barriers give way
Let her ankles lift and take her, somewhere else maybe
Underwater might be better than here
If she had to drown, she would drown in her own mind
In her own world, with the scars she chose herself.

I got out of bed.
The skies were still made of slate, today.
For reasons unknown, I turned on all the lights inside my house.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Strength: Revised

"I am strong, I can get through this." "You're the strongest person I know." "This will only make you stronger." "Just be strong, it will get better."

Lately I've been thinking a lot about being 'strong' and what it means to me. I've always considered myself a 'strong' person - I'm kind, and make a conscious effort to be. I equate kindness with strength, because I believe it is easier to find reasons to hate - to hate life, to hate people, to hate your circumstances. It is far harder to love, to be gentle and kind. But right now, kindness isn't really doing much to ease the loss and absence I am feeling, that I can't escape from.

So, okay, let's put kindness aside for now. What else do I have? Well, I'm pretty good at avoiding pain. I have built a life for myself away from most things that hurt - I live in a cosy affordable apartment in the countryside, so I don't have to suffer the pain of ever being financially crippled and not being able to cope. I simply avoid the stress of city living, the hustle and bustle of people pushing through the crowds on their way to some destiny, by sitting in the fields miles away from it all, toes stretched and earth under my feet. I'm pleasant to everyone I meet so I don't have to deal with the anxiety that they might not have enjoyed my company, that they might not like me. I listen to my own music instead of the radio, so I can control the mood I'm in when I run my errands for the day. I only take on jobs that I will really enjoy with clients who seem like really decent people, so I can minimize stress and avoid going to bed with a defeated heart and a sense of emptiness.

And this is all working for me, it has worked for me up until now. I created a climate in which I could breathe, I made time for the small pieces of glitter that you catch glinting within all the grey stone. I have walked the sadness out of my shoes many times, run with tears rolling down my cheeks until I couldn't deny the feeling of being alive any longer. I have savoured the taste of the camp fires in the air and I enjoyed every moment I had with you, with myself. I allowed time to pass without trying to hold onto it. I thought I was prepared for this, I thought this had made me strong.

But I sit here, and I remain.
The first time I looked in the mirror that day, I didn't see my reflection. I saw me without you, a person I never wanted to see.

I do not feel strong, I feel carried. Time takes me to the next day, and the next, and the next. I just remain here in my body, powerless to fight it.
If strong is an attitude, then yes, I have moments of strength. But my motivation most days is limited to lying with a white mind, in my white room, on my white sheets, motionless.
When I moved in two years ago, I chose that bedroom because when the evening spring sunlight shines into it, and the soft curtains catch the breeze from the open window, it feels like heaven. And I lie there, in my self created heaven, not feeling much at all.

So I ask myself, how can I avoid this? I usually have all the answers. I could travel to a room bursting with colour down a side street in Morocco, but I don't think this sadness is something I can unpack from my suitcase. I could swallow sweetness and use biology - lift up my wilting mind with dopamine, sugar, a fix. But I think I am too aware of my own bad habits to fool myself any more.
The idea of filling the hole you have left with another is sacrilegious to me, my teeth crumble at the thought. The idea of loving again seems inauthentic, and I am convinced any feelings for another down the line would be a result of loneliness and a need for human contact, because no one will ever compare to you. No, I've had my fill of love for this lifetime. It might not have been for long, but it was enough, a taste was enough.

So I am left with this. This is now my Great Journey, there is just my shadow left walking down our road.
And whilst I do not "feel strong", I do "feel". And though this pain I cannot avoid, I must find a way to work it through my fingers, to add water to it, to turn it into some softness. I must learn to dance with it, to listen to it, to stroke it's hair, to love it. I must learn.

To be continued.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Stage Left

The air thickens
in my lungs
I breathe in water,
under water
salty and seasoned
by some numbness.

I try to take hold of life and shake it
Instead words drop from sentences
like heavy leaves, dead from a branch
And I remain
The sky is blue and high
I feel it all, I see it all
I am free to leave, unlocked
You asked me to leave myself ajar

 But I do not move
I curl into myself
Wishing I was a dying leaf too
That I did not have to live in this humid
you-less place
more a place borne to choke
each breath out
Your absence rings in my ears

For now, I live in the hesitation before the choice
the word you search for on your tongue
but cannot place
that's my home
My hope lies in the leap days that will never happen
Maybe you are waiting there
On some star with some telescope
a thousand years before our births, waiting
to watch us meet again

You call, and temporarily I forget
this headache simply dissolves
Except for this deep bass note, reminder
that every second that passes is hurling me towards your grande exit
Stage left
And there is nothing I can do, but watch
with big eyes and a broken heart

Friday, 15 January 2016


So I've thought quite hard about it, and I've decided there is only one way to not let life eat you up with sorrow. Grief when death slips itself quietly underneath the door, the unspoken mourning when you realise you are never going to be this same person in this same place in your life ever again, when your fragile glass house of comfort and safety crumbles in an instant, like it was only built of sugar all along. The only way I can deal with this furious entropy speeding toward me, is to really notice when I am light, when I am happy, to sing as loudly as I can to the music, to smile as I kiss him, and to notice and be glad for these moments when I really do have it all. And then maybe, when sorrow comes and wraps it's long fingernails around me, perhaps there will be no life left in me for it to squeeze out - for I had soaked it all up, let it evaporate into the past as it should, nothing to yearn for, nothing left to be tainted, nothing that grief can take from me, nothing it can leave within me.

Sunday, 10 January 2016


I have these dreams of a nomad life, on a blowing road. Just me, my feet and some rusty trailer van. Cold nights adjourned with blankets, the chill of loneliness offset only by the warmth of solitude... Oh how these visions bloom inside my head, every time I let my racing mind pause for breath, a spring flower thought blooming out of the mundane frost. I can hear the music, I don't know where it's playing from, some soundtrack to it all - I invite the musicians into my home on wheels, I don't know their names or their stories. And yet they play them for me as though we are long lost friends, bonding over some camp fire, exchanging memories like currency. My cat travels with me, of course - a furry friend to curl up with, another soul to study, a release for my maternal instincts that will go undoubtedly buried.

I pause, and mourn quietly for the loss of the life I grew up supposed to have. My grandmother's hands in soapy water, her voice narrating a husband with hands to wash me, whilst my mind is drifting off into a barn alight with feet, somewhere. I know how to be still, but only when everything around me is in chaos. I know how to move with the wind, let my feet bleed raw, leave the pavement beneath me wanting more... but only when everything around me is stagnating. I do not feel up, nor down, not here, nor there. I remind myself that this - this is the beauty of being. The song changes, and now I am a ballet dancer with all the softness of rain - no, the reflections of rain on a car dashboard, I wouldn't exist without the streetlight... I am unwashed droplets on the windscreen, I look like a thousand stars when another car comes over the horizon. I am nothing without this music, this poetry, this world which taught me how to feel.

I turn onto my back and cover myself in the blankets, each which held lover after lover. Each who held me, broke me, soothed me, healed me, taught me how to heal myself. Taught me how to comfort myself, like a panicked child - to forgive myself, I murmur softly "I know why you thought those terrible things, I understand, I forgive you, I love you, I love you." I exhale my old hopes and dreams, a husband, a home - they had built up like a thick tar in my lungs, slowly choking me and forcing me to learn how to breathe in a different way. I inhale my freedom. I question my sanity. I laugh, because that is all you can do. I smile to myself, because I know so little about who I am - the only thing I know for sure, is that I Am A Traveller.

I Am A Traveller.
I travel at lightning speed through the galaxy, I travel year upon year around the sun.
I travel through the moments of my life, experiencing each day as though it had already been written - as though some omnipotent being has given me one last chance to live it all again - I hold each moment to my chest and let my heart fill with a buttery mixture of sweet joy and sweeter grief, and I cast it aside with the most gentle, soft ruthlessness I can muster as I travel to the next now, and the next, and the next...
I am a traveller. As I lie in my trailer on the side of the road, wrapped in the blankets of my past, all those people I never really knew, and I let them keep me warm. I'm on some hillside, some unknown place again in my mind. But all is home to a traveller. And I am a traveller.

As the song tails off into silence, I lay fixed in my solid bed, in my solid home on solid ground, wheel-less and stationary. I have lived here for nearly two years, and every day I have travelled. To memories I will never experience, to dreams that will never come to be, and yet exist just as beautifully as real life, if only I always allow myself to travel to them. I cannot bring myself to close that door of my soul, it is the only door I have ever known, one I built somewhere deep within myself. I feel it is a part of myself that cannot be given, or sold, or shown.

It seems there is so much talk of letting other people into ourselves, but never is it mentioned of how to let ourselves out.