Robust in recovery

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One of the things I’ve been learning in recovery is that if you take on set-backs, be brave enough to experience and express the pain you feel at the time; your capacity for recovery is that much quicker.

I’ve had a few dark days of late, some incidents that propelled me right back into the arms of my childhood bogeymen ‘rejection‘ and ‘abandonment‘ and all the more powerful for the connection to that well worn pathway in my brain. But by allowing myself to feel it, not caring if the pain showed and having a good old cry; I feel OK. I am slightly shocked by my new found resilience!

Like a lot of depressives, I stuffed my feelings away, finding them too scary to express or feel. I maintained a cheery smile and an efficient demeanour, no matter what the torment boiling away inside. My emotions were always there, behind what felt like the wall of a badly built dam, I was terrified that I would be overwhelmed in the torrent, should it ever burst.

I have also come to realise that rejection is not necessarily a thing to take personally. I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but people reject others for their own reasons, which you have no responsibility for or control over – and although the child in you may be screaming “that’s not fair!”, it isn’t necessarily your fault, or as a result of any failing on your part, it may well be a problem the rejector has. And that’s for them to deal with.

The fear of abandonment that used to scare the living daylights out of me, was so often misplaced. It was something that I felt as a child when I was abandoned, because then the fear is triggered by a need for survival – life or death.

A friend of a few months can hardly be described as ‘abandoning’ you, in the same way. In my case, we fell out, I’m still not sure why, but it has to be put down to experience. It doesn’t really matter. Certainly not in the long run.

I hope that life continues in this vein through recovery, I hope that I continue to build resilience and am able to see things in a much more logical fashion. I hope I discover a truly waterproof mascara, because if I do feel like crying, I’m damn well going to!

When did you notice the first signs of recovery in yourself after a set-back? How did it feel for you? Please respond and let me know. Thanks!

Coming Home

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I always think I’m different
I usually am, a woman of firsts
This time I am one of many
Last in a line of the disappointed

My pride is stung, its swan neck
Bowed low, bruised and bent
I saw the truth that was so ugly
I closed my eyes, held out my hand

The last time I felt so worthless
I was small and giddy with possibility
Tap-dancing prettily for a parent
Whose heart was devoid of love

It felt like coming home.

Cat woman or Dog woman?

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Since antiquity, there has been a general unease about single women and cats. It possibly started with the medieval witch trials, with the cats seen as familiars and all the European superstition around black cat’s and bad or good luck. The cat seems to embody the mysterious female power that many fear.

Cats are the ideal pet for a modern woman. They are independent, can fend for themselves, are content to come and go, or spend long periods alone, sleeping.

At times of need, they quietly give their affection as a warm and tactile companion. They are emotionally contained and selective, both intelligent and cruel as their circumstances dictate.

If their owner is away for a weekend, or on holiday, they are easily managed if someone pops by and feeds them. Outdoor cats are easiest of all, with no litter tray and detritus to cast an unappetising pal over a woman’s inner sanctum.

And they are elegant and beautiful. Enhancing a home, rather than wreaking havoc.

I find single women with dogs, far more suspect.

Dogs require as much attention as a recalcitrant two year old. They require their owners to stay at home or pay a dog sitter. Those women who stay at home and treat their dogs as canine children will often comment that ‘animals are better than people’ and lavish all their unrequited love on the poor animal. It smacks of loneliness and desperation.

Single women with dogs, that I have known, treat their pet as if it was a child they have never had. The dog also takes the place of a man, they sleep with the creature and their homes have dog hairs, half chewed treats and toys around and to non-dog owners, there is that unmistakable smell.

Twitter is full of such women. Some even prefer a photograph of their dog as their avatar. I personally speculate that says a lot about the owner’s self esteem and the position that the canine creatures have taken the place of a yearned for human beloved, long since given up on.

To want such a dependent creature also tells a tale. Dogs are foolishly loyal. And manic. Without exception, single women’s dogs are badly behaved because they have been over loved and spoilt and lack discipline and training. They will clamber over visitors, lick them in the face and pounce on anyone that enters the home. It is almost like they are acting out the inner desperation for affection of their owners.

If I were a single man, I would steer clear of women that promote their dog as the centre of their lives. There is a big hole in such a person’s life. Watch how the creature behaves and you will get a good idea of the dog-like devotion your presence will inspire if you become involved with the owner. Get out while you still can. Or get a leash. You’ll need it.

Dead Reef

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I am more porous than I thought
A live pulsing sponge instead of coral
All those tears may have eroded me
But the poison I have soaked up
Is rotting me faster from the inside

All the venom spat like a vinous cloud
The perfidy of those loveless ones
A shipwreck of a life rotting sodden
Parasitic barnacles clinging to old skin
Shredded slowly in little bites from blind fish

I was attached to something once
Grounded, had control could wave cellular
Fronds out into the warm water nutrients
Now I float anchor gone, rudderless torn
Away from my roots which kept me safe

I wanted you to squeeze me dry of this
Instead you poured scorn and dismissal
Into my gaping yellow holes as I passed
Innocently enough riding the tide of fate
I am wracked green with strangling weed

Kindness in a cruel world

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I witnessed a discussion on my Twitter timeline today that made me want to stride forth with a flaming sword in hand and smite the people that were having it. It was about kindness. The conclusion that they came to can be summarised, thus:

Those that are kind are psychologically damaged people pleasers who manipulate others.

Just take that in for a minute. In that warped conclusion there is a microcosm of our corrupted, selfish society and all the self-serving cynicism and greed it stands for. It made me angry, then sad.

I am not a saint. I have the kind of abusive background that statistically produces drug addicts, drunks, whores and recidivistic criminals. I escaped that fate and became moderately successful and fairly popular, with a small group of people in my life that love me.

I survived, not because there is anything special about me, but because I was reasonably intelligent, have a tendency to think deeply and I saw first hand, through my mother, what bitterness can do to a soul. So I tend to avoid bitterness at the fate I have been dealt, for my misfortunes, for being a depressive of the melancholic variety. I deal with life the best I can.

I assume most people are neutral, with a bias towards the good. I can usually spot a rotter quickly and avoid them. It feels most comfortable for me to operate on a level of even handed pleasantness. I understand most people who meet me would find me ‘personable’. I see that as a strength rather than a weakness because my interactions with others tend to be positive, I make friends easily and I’m comfortable in most situations.

And I must admit to a tendency to be kind. Not sycophantic, fawning, smothering kindness, I’m staunchly independent and not needy. I mean courtesy, thoughtfulness, helping out when I can and being generous and open most of the time.

I’m a loving, affectionate, team player type. I hugged my colleagues regularly. I was often surprised and touched to find out in various groups, I was generally popular. For me, this makes life worth living.

I’ve been hurt in the past, I’ve lived with grief and guilt. I’ve been made to feel ‘not good enough‘, a few people have taken advantage of me. But I refuse to see the world as a place of fear, think that people are inherently bad, reject offers of love and help because I think others want something in return, or despise anyone with good intentions because I think they are foolish.

If that’s not Hell, I don’t know what is.

I will continue to be kind when I can. I will keep being open and loving and expect the best from people. I will be kind to myself when offering help, tread more carefully if someone is broken and in pain. I will measure my kindness carefully and keep an emotional distance in those cases. I know that some don’t want kindness or help.

In a Society that sees love and kindness as a sick weakness, we all have a duty to prove them wrong. Otherwise we are all doomed to isolation, cynicism and loneliness and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Kindness is small things, like giving a stranger your unexpired parking ticket or travel card. Feeding a meter because you have spare change. Smiling and chatting to a lonely old lady at the shops. Helping a parent with a buggy down the stairs at the station. Cooking a few freezer meals for an ill friend. Sending someone a book they’ll like out of the blue. All of these are small things, but if more people did them, wouldn’t the world be a tiny bit happier to live in?

Be kind, when you can. It feels good. Especially when it is pure and unselfish. That’s the kindest of all.

Moving on up

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One of the amazing things about recovery is discovering that you are a different person than you thought you were. After the dark night of the soul, you get the opportunity to completely change your life.

After so many years of being defined by my career in a not so noble industry, I have started to discover my true nature. I have faced my many faults and weaknesses, am working on the ones I can change and accepting the others. I have found what makes me content and happy and I now need to go after that with all the power at my disposal. I have discovered I am stronger than I ever imagined.

Life in a big city tends to peel us away from what is important, for a long time I was drunk on financial success and materialism. An endless round of cocktails, parties, restaurant openings, shopping, seeing the latest films, expensive holidays. Like many others, I had an empty feeling in the middle of this “successful” life and it took fate or the universe to metaphorically whack me around the head before I woke up.

Having been ill for the last year, at the lowest possible point of nihilism and having experienced a slow-growing back, I discovered a new sensitivity, a gentle dreaminess, an innocence of heart and a genuinely loving nature, that I had buried for years.

There was always an inkling of who I really was, trying to break through. As a child I was a day-dreamer, fascinated by nature, fairies, ghost stories, the weird and wonderful. I played alone a lot and when I did find friends, they were the “different” ones, bookish, imaginative, quiet, geeky. They were gentler than the screeching, competitive, children that made up the majority at school.

Every weekend I spent in nature, the woods were my favourite place to walk. I’d climb trees and peer at bird’s eggs, I’d collect leaves,cones and acorns. I loved to find toadstools and strange fungi. I drew all the time and even at five tried to make little books, with drawings and stories, much to my teacher’s amusement. My very first drawings were of trees and landscapes.

As a teenager, I hung out with disparate tribes, dressed in an odd mixture of vintage and medieval inspired clothing. Not Goth, but a strange Guinevere meets Stevie Nicks combo, complete with purple felt wide-brimmed hats, shawls, draped sleeves and long skirts. I smelt of vanilla essence and strawberries and musk (my creation because of my sensitivity of smell).

The world of work changed my clothes and my attitude. I had to conform to succeed and I did both. When parts of my more esoteric wardrobe crept in, during my early career, I was reprimanded by my boss, as the image of his team was as important to him as the twelve yellow pencils he kept sharpened at the same length on his walnut veneered desk and his scarlet Ferrari.

I left my friends behind, several times. The musicians, the writers, the poets were replaced by the teachers, the social workers, the actors and eventually my advertising colleagues. The creatives and the planners, never the suits.

My spiritual, gentle,dreamy, nature was channelled into the practical: idea generation, concept production, strategic vision. For a while, my life turned monochrome. The colour of London streets and skies.

I often used to drive out of London whenever I was unhappy or restless. Looking at the green of the land used to soothe me. Wherever I lived, I felt happiest close to green spaces, so I would choose flats close to parks or commons. It was essential for me to see trees from my window.

Now I live in the country, on the edge of a village, but there are too many houses close by for me to feel truly at peace. I like to lie under the trees in my garden, but as soon as there is a hint of sun, children start screaming, people starting banging hammers and neighbours get out huge petrol fuelled lawn-mowers, that don’t echo a gentle suburban memory, but sound like tanks coming over the hill to kill you.

I think it’s time for me to plan a real escape.

I’m not sure where yet. But it has to be rural, with a connection to a like-minded community within a drive away. I don’t think a commune is the answer, I am too solitary for that level of sharing, but I can do it now and then for the sake of learning or experiencing something new.

Weather is important, I need clearly defined seasons, not the ragged ever-lasting winters of damp and greyness that the UK is currently experiencing.  I feel more alive with just a little sun. I don’t want tropical heat, or hurricanes, or monsoons. I want temperate, but summers that are like the summers of my childhood in Ireland. Long days and long shadows.

The West of Ireland is a possibility. It is my cultural home and I have family there. The pace of life is quiet, slow and friendly. There is still a connection with the land and an openness to art, music and the other-worldly.  I will make a trip there soon and see if it feels right, instinctively.

I do want a partner on this journey, which will be a balancing act. I need to be alone and undisturbed to write and to work, but I also want the physical comfort of a loving and nurturing presence at the end of the day. Someone to share my esoteric discoveries with, discuss my work with, to love and to love me in return. Someone who is on the same growth trajectory as I and who is willing to develop alongside me, spiritually and emotionally.

But, all that must wait. I wish I had a magic spell to instantly create that kind of relationship, but it seems that I have to learn new skills like patience and forbearance and maybe even how to deal with disappointment. The kind of man I want is rare and I need to take my time.

My new home will be a small cottage in woods or down a quiet lane, deep in the countryside. There will be room for a walled kitchen garden, a summer-house and a pond. If I am lucky, there will be sea or a lake nearby. I love the changeability of water.

I will grow food, have a pantry stacked with gleaming jars of preserves and potions, have a few chickens and ducks, maybe a goat or two and a grizzled Irish donkey.  There will be cats and dogs and salvaged furniture, that I have made beautiful with paints,pigments and patchwork. There will be an open fire and an old wood-burner rather than the stultifying heat of sealed in modern central heating. I will draw energy from the soil and recycle waste back into the land.

I am a tenacious creature and I will birth this into being. I want to leave behind the shallow waters of materialism, corrupt governments and a society eaten up with envy and aspiration for an artificial form of happiness.

Next step is an inventory of what I need, a divestment of material possessions except the ones with beauty and meaning and a gathering of my inner strength.

Having lived one way and found it wanting, I owe myself a brand new life.

And knowing how I have endured and prospered against all the odds before, I know that I’ll do it again. But this time it will be real. And finally, I’ll live the life I’m supposed to.

Watch. This. Space.