Wednesday, 15 November 2017

A Godde who is not afraid of the dark


This is inspired by a mixture of recent mealtime conversations in our new home, a podcast about "God Our Mother", a church service during people who were feeling pretty desperate for things in their live to change knelt while one of the leaders read a prayer for them, Remembrance Day... Just life from the past week really.

I read that some people are using the word Godde instead of God to emphasize the feminine side of the Divine, so that's how you should read the poem. The title is inspired by a line from the podcast during which Christena Cleveland, a social psychologist and theologian, talks about the Black Madonna.

Our Godde who is not afraid of the dark

Her arm is a pattern of overlapping crescent moons
Even though her nails look too short to make a mark
Please stop
Please stop

I’ll kneel in the grit for you
Take marks in my knees for you
Kneel in the grit
Would I though?
I didn’t even look for a white poppy
I wore no poppy at all
Frozen by shoulds and overwhelm
I know I hate war
So would I fight for you?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

31, and Ten Things I'm Thankful For



Usually on friends’ birthdays I ask them what was good about the previous year and what they’re hoping for in the year to come. I had a really fun time celebrating my birthday recently (rare September sunshine, sisters, Aperol+prosecco…) but didn’t really have many ‘proper’ conversations or chances to reflect. And then, as it tends to be, everything happened at once (ie new flat, new jobs, etc... more on that in a moment!) and suddenly a month has gone by. But I think they are important questions, and as I started a list of ‘stuff I’m thankful for’ I was struck by just how much has happened in the past year.

One year ago I turned 30 (no, duh). I left my job with Small Axe and on the same day moved out of London  —having decided to make some big life changes, move back to the South Coast and ‘focus on creative stuff’. I didn’t know what that would all look like at the time, only that I was listening to my gut and hoping for a season of more space, time and growing in my writing and other personal creative ventures.

The plan —as sketchy as it was— has not panned out quite how we thought. Surprise surprise! I keep trying ways to tell the story of the last year in a not-book-length-blog-post and I'm not sure I can. So often recently I've had several writing ideas but then gotten overwhelmed at not knowing where/when to begin and ended up writing nothing. I don't want that to keep happening, so I think I'll go back to my THANKFUL list and let that speak for itself...

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

Friday, 17 February 2017

February reflections (getting back into poetry)


The flat-shaking drilling of the flood defence work has paused and the sun has come out, a rarity for the two to occur together, it seems. So for the first time I'm sitting out on the decking of the "new" flat we're temporarily living in. Pausing, this Friday evening, with a coffee, and if I smoked I'd have a cigarette in a poetic sort of way.

This week seems to have flown by but has also been pretty significant, in a whole bunch of ways. So I don't want to let it slip by unappreciated. Actually I was up until 3am last night just kind of buzzing with it all, which wasn't particularly helpful but I guess it reminded me I'm alive and no day is the same (and I ended up watching Luisa Omielan's comedy show which is pretty brilliant!)

The main thing is I've performed poetry twice this week, for the first time this year. Both nights were really positive and have enabled me to start building connections and feeling like I am beginning my journey of 'getting back into the Brighton (and hopefully beyond!) scene'.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

One Thing (on Resolutions and being KIND)


On Sunday at my church community's gathering, we were encouraged to think about ONE THING that we were going to focus on this year. I think we all struggled to narrow things down, straight away at least five things popped into my head. And while life does generally require us to balance more than one plate, I think there is a lot of wisdom in choosing one thing, one word, one activity. That way when it comes down to a choice between two important ways to spend an evening - for example - you've got your one thing to measure that choice against. I just listened to another of the Minimalists' great podcasts, on priorities, and again, they were saying how having several priorities realistically means we probably won't get any of them done.

Maybe the obvious one for me, this year, is WRITE. There's also PHOTOGRAPHY and DANCE. Maybe CREATE is more apt --- and I think this has always been the issue, that I try to spread myself too thin, that perhaps I don't want to risk just focusing on one thing because I might miss out. Or #FOMO as I've recently learned (fear of missing out). That's been quite a clear thread throughout my life - from A-level choices (I was the only person at school who studied Maths, Geography, Theatre Studies and Biology) to seeming to prefer to have three jobs simultaneously. In the end, I never get very far. Maybe that's fine, and there's definite value in variety and being a bit of a generalist, but I would like to at least attempt the discipline of ONE THING.

Monday, 2 January 2017

2017, here I am (Or, 2016 wasn't all bad)


2017 is finally here. And I'm here with it.

The geeky side of me feels like 2016 is a much more satisfying number BUT maybe it's time for a prime - time for something a little different, a little unique.

And as has been said thousands of times, 2016 wasn't exactly golden in many ways. But in other ways of course it was. There were miracles and promises and new life and adventures and the plodding-on-faithful-sort-of-love just as there was disappointment and death and departures and sometimes despair. Like in any other year.

For us, as you already know, there's been rather a lot of change.