Monday, 18 September 2017

The Feast of Trumpets, Brighton style

Of course the day after the rare occurrence of me drinking too much wine, my church celebrated the Feast of TRUMPETS. My head said why, why, why? Gwyn had asked me to write a poem for the service, I'd not heard of said Feast. I ran out of time to write, anyways. But the morning was a poem itself...

It seems trumpets are only the icing on top
Of a day that runs deep and rich and sweet
Meanings layered like the apple slices on the table in the centre
Shana Tov! Happy (Jewish) New Year!
God said "set aside a day to remember that time I told you you were my own special treasure"
Five boys run to the front, volunteering to light four candles
The fourth is blown out to allow the smallest one a turn
This is a day to rest, reflect
Sing of the beauty of creation, the Creator
Becky tells a story with firewood and knife
of a sacrifice, atonement
A story  - foreshadowing a world-changing tale
Look back, look forward
We remove shoes and walk silent through the waters, conscience cleansing
Ruben makes a dive for the gap in the blue sheets draped over tables
We don white paper robes in varying sizes, cut out by Jean
This is not a people who do things by halves
Love is our judge, we are covered
Hannah mutters that she's way out of her comfort zone
Cackle and crackle as we take our seats again
Then, at last, a call to gather around the table
From which homemade treats have filled our nostrils and tempted our tongues all morning
Honey drizzled over warm cinnamon roll
Pomegranate sprinkled over golden cakes
Trumpet shaped biscuits - a "labour of love by Leanne and Carmella last night"
Taste and see that HE is good
The paper robes catch our crumbs
The kids' handmade "trumpets" screech wild
Finn parades his trombone
Robbie pounds his familiar rhythm on the djembe next to me
Wake up and remember
Look back and look forward
We shout-sing hymns out of tune
Tears of laughter rolling down cheeks
At the madness and mayhem of our family
I'm aware of the people visiting for the first time
It's not always like this...
We murmur prayers for the dear-ones we carry in aching chests
Tears of longing rolling down cheeks
Look back and look forward
The Feast of Trumpets
Waiting for final reconciliation call
Waiting for that day
When the waiting will end

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

I Was Raised (An attempt to sum up my spiritual journey in a less-than-5-minute poem)

As the blog title says... this is an attempt - to put some of the last 30 years into words --

I wrote this for a performance at a Poets & MCs Battle event for Brighton Fringe, at Komedia, so needed it to make some sense to people who weren't familiar with a Christian upbringing. And I was on the 'Spirit' team (battling the 'Sceptics') so it forced me to dig deep to find the hope often buried under cynicism. I definitely didn't find it easy to write!

5 minutes and words alone in general will never be enough, this is only a slice and simplification of the story. But it's a start. An offering. It's cliche but I think faith is most certainly a journey and things change day to day. For most of us. I don't think it's healthy to stick in exactly the same place, even if that makes it all a lot more uncertain. Performers on both the Spirit and Sceptic teams agreed that an open mind was really important and there were elements of doubt and hope and questionning in all perspectives.

Anyways, here goes!

I was raised 

I was raised in the holy city of Basingstoke
On a diet of memory verses -
I could recite a Psalm, or three, or four for you
List the books of the Bible
Sing you a hundred modern day hymns
I was raised on communion and creationism
On revivals, prayer meetings and baptisms
Notebooks filled with prayers and prophecies
My childhood heroes were missionaries

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

State of Mind Part 2 (or swimming alone in the sea at night)

Just to highlight the point of my previous post about mental health (published this morning) - that no day is the same, and that my current understanding doesn't leave everything neatly wrapped and tied - here's another update, written tonight, an attempt to capture some of what was running through my head today...

It's like someone or something is sat on my shoulders, forcing heavy sighs and muttered "fucks" from me. Especially when I'm alone and in the car. Often I just sit in the car when I get back from work, grinding my teeth and trying to muster enthusiasm for the next thing I'm doing. AImlessly scrolling through social media feeds. I use my phone too much. There's too much noise, everywhere.

Maybe having more time on my hands is a bad thing. Evenings with no plans make me feel guilty. Pretty much everything makes me feel guilty. Not working full time. Not wanting to go on the trampoline with my employer's daughter. (But going on anyway). Not getting up as early as I plan, every day. Not writing that poem.

I don't know why I feel blue-grey today. I'm not pre-menstrual, I've not been stressed. I feel lonely but with not enough social juice to hang out with people. I wonder if I am just too much a sponge and have soaked up too much of other peoples' sadness this week. I want to hide but I have nowhere to hide. I think maybe swimming will help but the pool isn't available. I tell my housemates I'm feeling down. They love me and are kind. But I don't want to get lost in cigarettes and TV so I go out on my bike as the light fades. The sky is grey, the sea is grey, but soft. There is a streak of pink on the horizon, I thank God for it.

State of Mind: a reflection and update for Mental Health Awareness Week



Since it's mental health awareness week this week (well, last week, now), and after a thought-provoking evening with the Share Your Story community in Brighton on Wednesday, thought I'd reflect a bit on my state of mind, and how things have changed in the last couple of years - or, since I wrote quite a bit about depression and my journey of starting to take medication, which was actually five years ago. Jeez.

One of the talks on Wednesday was a particularly powerful reminder about the limited nature of words and the damaging (as well as positive) potential of diagnoses. Five years ago, being able to call what I was going through "Depression" was very helpful. At the same time, I know I'd experienced similar thoughts and feelings at other times in my life without calling it that, and currently I don't know if I would use the same language. Similarly, someone else talking about depression may actually be describing something very very different. Just think it's good to bear that in mind, especially when we talk about mental health. 

So, where to start?

Medication

I'm not taking any mediation (Citalopram) at the moment. I haven't for over a year. Maybe two. I'm not sure. I've thought about re-starting several times, when I felt like I couldn't really cope with life, but decided against it as I explore other factors that might affect how I feel. Or should I say how I think? What does mental health even mean? In my experience I don't think I can separate thoughts from emotions - both can be powerful, overwhelming, sometimes scary and sometimes barely existent.

I'm not against medication, wouldn't rule out taking it again in future, it definitely made the lows less low, but at the moment I'm up for carrying on without it.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Six lessons Improv is teaching me


This week I finished an 8 week Beginner's Longform Improvised Comedy course with the Maydays.

Shortform improvisation revolves mainly around games - as you'd see in "Whose line is it anyways?" whereas longform has less structure, allowing a scene to unfold in any direction...

I can't even remember where the idea of trying out Improvisation came from - perhaps a recommendation that I see some on my trip to NYC (although I failed to actually get to a show!) planted some seeds. Then I ended up googling it when I got to Brighton, saw a free taster with the Maydays advertised, went along (back in November), and, well here I am now!

I wanted to do something that would develop my performance skills in preparation for my Fringe show, something creative and fun, but also wanted to learn how to cope better with unplanned situations: not just on stage but also in life. If I have a script, a poem, a plan, then I'm generally fairly confident. But if I have to come up with something on the spot - be that a speech or simply an answer to an unexpected question or a response to any kind of criticism or conflict - then I panic, shrink, seize up. As much as I'd like to be an easy-going person, I guess I'm not always very good at going with the flow.

So improv felt like it could be just the right thing. Of course, life itself is improvised - and for me the lessons learned on a Tuesday evening extend way beyond getting a laugh or playing a character.

Here are six 'lessons' that impacted me and that I hope I can build more into the way I 'do improv' AND the way I am in the world:

Wednesday, 8 March 2017