Absolution

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I want to write something today but I’m not sure how or even what. It’s been a long time since I tried turning thought into entity, perfectionism and performance anxiety are getting in the way and I’m scared of saying the wrong thing or things that are insignificant so I say nothing at all. It’s a circumstance that has been stagnating for weeks, gradually building up so that at first I was not even all that aware of it; awareness only setting in once the damage was constant, a permanent switch. But if I am honest, and I try to be whenever I can, it’s been even longer than that: months.

When I look back on the past year, scrutinising and evaluating my achievements, what I have and have not done, it becomes obvious to me: there are many blanks. Two years ago, and for many years before that, I wrote and wrote. Nothing could stop me – not travelling or season or circumstance or environment, not sickness or health. And then there was the big that we shall call the ‘Big Bang’, the thing that changed everything, and since then the parts of my brain that created simply don’t work. I might get a poem or a piece of prose from time to time, but mostly it’s just non-fictional writing: analysis, exploration, education; nothing to write home about. I hate that: it’s like someone reached in when I was absent and hacked off a limb, rendering my writing arm useless, stealing pieces of my brain, removing the most authentic and valuable parts of me. I feel deprived, deceived, disillusioned and desperate. Disappointed too. And I don’t understand why.

Do I no longer have something significant to say?

Have I lost the ability to step into and walk through alternate worlds?

Am I no longer an ‘innocent’ or ‘good enough’ to be granted gifts?

And where do these thoughts come from, these doubts, these questions about my worth and my integrity?

I have always believed it is that inner naïve part, the small child that never grew up, that inspires me: for only she still has access to those other land- and timescapes, those other worlds. And while I might still wholeheartedly believe in them and indeed visit them very often in my dreams, I no longer know how to put what I see into words: the letters that complimented the pictures have gone.

I think, if I’m honest, it has a lot to do with this.

Writing is all about ownership – fessing up, revealing and holding fast
to core truths.

And I am avoiding doing this. There are things I want to say, things I need to clear, baggage I am tired of dragging because I have been dragging it for many years, that need to be aired. Only I am scared of sharing what is most personal to me and what might, if I let it, cause a storm, cutting me off and alienating me from more than I had accounted for or am prepared to lose. So I sit and stare and attempt to write and what is hidden behind remains concealed.

Do other people have this problem or is it just me?

And when relating to those that do: how long does it last?

I am impatient and eager for it to pass. I want to move on and beyond it. I want my limb back, even if it is now maimed and disfigured and not at all the same as it once was. I don’t care. I accept. I can’t continue without it. And there are so many other parts that no longer work. Or work, but differently, in a way that is visible and seen, that tells me there is a bone here, an organ there, a ligament, a muscle, etc. Their presence, their being there, is externally heard and felt. And there is pain. I am carrying a crucifix. If I can bear all of this, then surely I can bear that.

So before I conclude, I guess I will just add this, sending it out to whoever is listening, whoever relates or cares, whoever might have the power within their hands and with their prayers to change my reality.

I have had enough. I am ready to continue, moving forwards towards a ‘something’ instead of stagnating beside a ‘not at all’. Healing is going to take time, and perhaps I never will: some do, some don’t. I am learning to accept this. Take off the brakes. Release the wheels. Let me be. Trust me to choose and decide. So what if I crash, so what if I fall off and scratch things I would rather keep unscathed, so what if the direction I choose isn’t the one you had planned: I’m okay with that. After all, I’ve been choosing the wrong direction just fine up until now and I’m alive, I’m standing.

And if you cannot trust me or don’t deem it wise… Guide me and lead me instead. I am good at taking orders and following lists. What I’m not good at is staying still. There is a restlessness that won’t vacate, a voice that won’t silence, pain that longs for me to lie flat, and it is dominating my life.

Oh Father,

Please forgive me. I am human. I have fouled up. I have made a mess completely and I have sinned.

Grant me your forgiveness and a clean slate. Make me like a babe again and this time I will devote my life to service in your name.

I will not let you down. I will not disappoint. I will take your light and shine it brightly throughout the world.

Amen.

All I want for Christmas is a new beginning and absolution from what came before, confirming by its very existence the existence of a higher power and the possibility of salvation. I have to believe that there is something greater, that life is about more than this, that what has happened and come before will not break and prohibit what ought, by rights, come now.

~

If this article has stirred things up for you or made you realise there are things in your life you would like to resolve, please feel free to visit my sister site to see how we might work together in the future.

Or, to book an appointment directly, see my booking page.

Rebecca Atherton is an integrative therapist. She offers transpersonal counselling and psychotherapy mixed with energy and alternative healing. To find out more about her and the work she does, visit lemonrosepetals.

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Green and gold

I have nearly completed my Christmas tree and I’m so proud, waxing about her as if she were a newborn child. Given the brevity of time before me and the new terrain, the landscape of ‘different’ in which to source from, she’s a work of art. A patchwork of randomly sourced objects, lovingly put together with an attention to detail and adherence to certain rules – like each additional adornment must be serviceable all year, for life not just for December…, she presents a whole that even I with my obsessive need for perfection cannot readily unpick.

There is a velour cat with a bubblegum pink ribbon; a perspex diamond accommodating two mis-adventuring mice (one, with her purple jacket and hat, reminding me of my grandma) a child petting her pet, who just so happens to be a beautiful chocolate-brown spaniel; a hippo in a tutu attempting a pirouette; a moose holding a snow-clad tree – tiny in comparison to his rotund self; an eccentric giraffe displaying, in his outstretched hand, an umbrella (perhaps to remind me of England and all of the rain I incurred there); a felted tiger straight out of ‘Where the Wild Things are’, a similar felted fox and kangaroo, part of a matching collection; a terracotta angel painted Mallorcan style; a ceramic squirrel with a hollow centre and a rabbit carved from local wood. All that’s missing is the star.

Sitting at the very top, visible from every angle… the star cannot just ‘do’, she has to outshine. So while I’ve seen passable solutions and the occasional ‘blow me away with their beauty but also with their price’ attempts at twinkling joviality, I haven’t yet seen anything that works without breaking the budget (which is also one of the rules!) apart. But I believe… : in the solution, in the ‘right’ one, in the five-pointed declaration that is made specifically for me. When the Universe is ready (as like with everything else), she will extend her palm and yield. And if for some unforeseen reason she will not explain, she, the universe and all of the powers that accompany her… deem I am not to have a talisman, a gem to shine in the night, to ward off the darkness… then so be it. There are reasons greater than me.

And maybe it’s about being flexible in the face of restriction. Or happy amongst the uncompromising walls of limitation. Or about only seeing what you want to see.

Living from the one hastily-packed suitcase, a sitting room full of boxes it would be unwise to unpack; making do with another’s curious ornaments and furniture – a glass bowl full of plastic fruit, a black sofa with rose embellished cushions, threadbare rugs that house more beach than dust, a table and chairs with green velvet seats (seriously?), a kitchen that supports the making of tea but actively dissuades the creation of anything else, appliances that make their grievances known, usually throughout the night; bedsheets that itch and towels that scratch, tiles that bear the mark of generations and shift beneath passing feet: there is a lot of accepting and reimagining involved.

But like with boxes and randomly placed objects; unfolded clothes, decaying flowers and unwashed cups: all manner of unwanted but immovable things… After a while they cease to exist, the eye cleverly distorting what the mind lacks the conscious desire and active need to see.

imageSo really it’s just my tree that stands out, projecting beauty, colour, positive energy, fun, enchantment, love and pride. Greeting my return like a faithful friend, she adds a little warmth and welcome to an otherwise cold and inanimate space.

Uneven sides

imageWhatever way you look at it: my life is a triangle with uneven sides; wonky, like a tower that is crumbling or a cake that’s not right; a pack of cards stacked, tumbling. And as I attempt to navigate the landscape of my life: traveling across terrain that is uneven, bumpy; brushing up against, crashing into, obstacles that bar the way; incurring wounds and injuries… I am increasingly aware that, with time, instead of better, it gets less and less right.

Good days, bad days; happy days, sad days. Fast days, slow days; high days, low days. Days that are nice and days that are mean. Days that are concealed and days that are seen. Days that smile and days that weep. Days that wake and days that sleep. Days that talk and days that think. Days that lift and days that sink. Days that expand and days that contract. Days that add and days that subtract. Days that love and days that hate. Days that embrace and days that escape. Days that do and days that don’t. Days that will and days that won’t. Days that are days and days that are years. Days that are friends and days that are fears. There are a million ways for a day to play out… A mere traveller on an expansive back, I am fed up with being their victim.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Unto us a child is born

imageAching, breaking, feeling fragile; the pain in my side no weaker than it was four day ago: I’m contemplating the ‘walk-in’ on Wardour Street. But I’m scared. Sick people remind me of my own mortality, and it’s not so sturdy of late. Things hurt. Others don’t work anymore. And I’ve no idea whether the hurting and the not working are permanent or temporary. Each time we move, each time I suffer a trauma or am challenged and pushed: I slide, and the slope is dark and dangerous.

Looking up, I can still see the sky: a weak hollow of blue light, diluted and empty. No clouds. No planes. No sun. Just a thin strip stretching from left to right. Some days it’s brighter, more intense, and on days like these I draw comfort from it. Some days it’s dull and dead and on these days I sink to my knees and pray, for I have no energy, no motivation, no drive, and things as simple as walking and talking tire me.

Recently, it’s been up and down, bouncing me like a yo yo on thread. Nausea creeps into my belly to sit and sip, drinking tea and stretching out, acting (for all intents) as if it owns the place – which it doesn’t but which I could be convinced to believe it does, because it is such a frequent visitor I can’t now remember when it last went away.

Sitting in church yesterday – listening to the sermon but drifting, not really there… images of past lives, past people, past things… passing through: rewinding me, reminding me; picking at threads, fingering snarls, thumbing pulls, travelling bobbles; contemplating each and every one as if it were the most intimate, infinite thing: precious, priceless… I have an epiphany. And whether it makes any difference overall, or any sense in a day or a week: the warmth and the strength are a gift. Raising limp hands, separating joined wrists, pulling reluctant arms from lazy legs, I wrap myself around that feeling as tightly and securely as I can, hoping against hope, against experience, against knowledge and thought, that it won’t ever go away.

Only it will, and the only question that holds any importance is when? For if the answer disappoints, I will be devastated.

Today I am tired and the colour of the sky unnerves me. Yesterday there was reason to celebrate, to try to feel positive and upbeat. And I guess there was a break too, from the normal way of things. But now it’s back: the pressure, the expectation, the need… and I’m struggling. Feeling useless, uninspired; doubting my ability: I look at everything I’ve done – now and then, lately and a long time ago – and it all seems so shallow and incomplete.

Doubt descends and I sink: deeper and deeper. And the slope down which I was slipping is no longer just a slope; it’s also part of the sea, and I am drowning too.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Deck the halls…

imageIt’s Christmas Eve and I ought to be excited. I ought, also, to be calm. But I’m not. I’m restless and agitated, on edge. If I were a dog, my heckles would be up. A person: I’m all spines and spit. Like Goldolocks: nothing is right – too hot, too cold, too thick, too lumpy… too light, too dark, too full, too empty; the usual suspects disappoint and the old favourites fail.

As I move from place to place – wandering up busy streets, traipsing down deserted alleyways, past places that are decorated and places that are dark, shivering and cold because there is a sharp wind and it’s raining out: I’m aware that I’m searching for something, although I’ve no idea what. The inner child is crying. The outer adult longs for tender words. Despite spending a relaxed morning with my dog, her first outing since arriving: I am fearful, wondering how to dispel the encroaching shadow before it joins forces with my own faint line.

Tomorrow is unprepared: full of desires but empty of plans. It’s a bit like my life, which tilts forwards and backwards.

At least there will be surprises tonight – like a Hoover, a lamp and several decorations: small things that, collected, make enough of a difference to lift the place. When you can’t bear to walk on the floor because of the dust, or spend a moment longer than you have to in a room because it’s dark and empty and that depresses you: it’s time to act.

We do what we can, using what tools we have. We reach for the sky. Sometimes we touch the clouds. Big things… little things… bright things… tired things… they all count. Given the resources and the lack of ready materials, I consider the improvements a miracle.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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…and then remembered.

imageSo there has been a development: though sadly, not of the life-changing kind. That would be radical and masculine; brutal and sharp-edged: involving movement and action, loss; the vacation of a space, familiar, for another – dark and unknown. There would be terms, conditions, requirements attached, and something cherished, left.

This is more subtle: a gentle shift; emotional perspective slanting, slipping, sliding right; sidestepping slightly to make way for something nice. And even though expected, suggested, guided and deserved: it touched me, deeply, in my heart.

The unexpected is rare and I like random romantic acts. And thoughtful presents (my favourite: homemade) are enchanted, coated with things like sugar, icing and sprinkles of winged-creature dust.

Arriving home last night – late, after Christmas shopping recovery drinks; restored and rejuvenated, energised: I discovered a grotto had come to visit my house, transforming a space which was empty and hollow into one that was full and whole. Spinning, turning, casting my eyes around: I took in a tiny tree encircled with lights, a collection of painted baubles, a red plant, crackers and strings of bulbs sitting snug upon formerly naked ledges. And while by no means perfect; less advanced than former years where the effort was magnanimous and the output large, where cookies were baked and pom-poms made, decorations knitted: it was enough to quiet the voice that resides inside and the child (me, younger) who was yearning for the usual trappings that would normally accompany such an affair. I slept like a baby, my dreams uninterrupted, free from the usual emotional collection of agitation, dismay and fear.

This morning, I still feel strong; for even though circumstances have been difficult: the move postponed, plans shelved, dreams derailed – there is reason to celebrate. We have each other. We have our health. A cold that won’t go away and an ache in my bones, a body that is exhausted and a mind that is dismayed: small things compared to the ones that others are experiencing all over the world.

Motivated, inspired, I have looked into volunteering, applying to help the homeless in my local area. Although by no means the same, I feel that events have given me a window that could, perhaps, be valuable. I can relate and empathise. And even if all I can do is listen without myself stepping in, or help to make tea and dish or clear up a meal, it’s something that wasn’t previously present, a person who stopped and saw when to the rest of the world they were invisible.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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The house that Santa Claus forgot…

Monday has lived up to its reputation and proved to be a difficult day. But what was I expecting… I knew there would be challenges at its outset and that hopes, deeply buried, would be dashed: my head told me, my heart warned me; my gut churned, upset. Maybe that’s the thorn in my side, the message I am supposed to take from my recent injury (which, as a result of an overly enthusiastic manhandling – my fault, not theirs – has resulted in a ribcage that cannot be touched)? I cannot even begin to describe the pain.

As I try to reframe the situation, pulling at the ground in search of roots that might be woken and coaxed, examining where I am and what I ought to do in order to navigate: I am surprised by the smile that has, against expectation, hijacked my mouth. From one-step removed, it’s funny. Hilarious, in fact, for I couldn’t make this stuff up. I couldn’t, even if I wanted, find it to read online. It’s far too tangled; knotted in strange places and personally attached. One thing? Possible. Several… perhaps. This many: no. Fiction would object.

I’ve read books about knitting spells into garments and tasting feelings cooked into food. I’ve watched movies about characters who have fought off monsters, survived natural disasters; faced cruel, menacing individuals and survived. But I haven’t come across a scenario where the protagonists have been attacked quite so thoroughly by all of the possible contingents that could come into play, especially not when they are trying so hard to make good things happen, taking action and leaping when previously they had been playing it safe. Gritty and grey: it wouldn’t sell.

Which begs the question: why am I attempting to document this, putting it all together into a PDF to later (hopefully) publicly print? I guess I’m hoping that my experiences will do several things; that, depending on the reader, they will advise, warn, entertain, enlighten, comfort and/or help. Worst case scenario, they will serve to remind me, holding everything that has happened and everything that will happen still, in place; remembering, in case I forget.

I woke to a mild day, released from the usual burden of layers, the need for hat and scarf. Walking into Soho, I was immediately aware of another pleasant shift: Brewer Street was empty, Dean Street was dead; cafés and restaurants, usually open, usually full, were shut. It’s been busy recently, which has made me anxious, pushing me down unfamiliar alleyways in search of peace and although my missions have been successful and my journeys enjoyable enough, I have missed walking without interruption and following a straight line: it’s the closest thing to normality and order that I have. No longer worried about bumping into and being bumped up against, I relax. Sadly, that’s where the gratitude stops: for along with public services being in short supply, businesses have also emptied out, resulting in important individuals being absent. The problem of the house – the what are we doing and where are we spending Christmas? – remains: open and empty; a stain.

Inside the agency, a battle ensues: sunk feet, strong words; sentences; explanations; lies… fists, fingers, knives. No budging. Adamant! With no authority, those in charge throw toys, preferring to take back everything (that which was wanted and that which was not, that which was promised and that which was planned, that which has been done and that which is to happen still) rather than give in completely or consider a compromise. We can’t even be escorted or get access to a key in order to inspect the work; yet we are expected to sign and be happy with that. No way… not after the last time. Once bitten: I am twice shy; sensibly fearful.

Four hours later, the dust has settled and what I suspected has indeed transpired. The mouse problem has not been addressed. The cleaning has been superficial. The light fixtures and blinds (worn, discoloured, dated) remain. Disappointed, upset, frustrated and angry; I am also glad. Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t…. even if that devil (a.k.a: the other one, the one you don’t) might actually be from warmer climes. A vibrating floor, a bed with a heartbeat, fire escapes and balconies that fill up with smokers, usually at 4 am; builders outside the window staring in, living inside black blinds, a leaking sink, a malfunctioning hob, limited furniture… all preferable to a colony of four-pawed, long-tailed creatures, lurking inside the walls.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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A thorn in my side

imageI think I have done all of my Christmas shopping, or at least all that I can do for now: there will be more later, when I have time; when the crowds have dwindled to the last few stragglers, or, perhaps, after… once the sales start. Now, though, I am free, and I feel lighter. Shopping daunts me: I worry too much. It’s not just what to get: it’s where to get it and how much to spend and whether the recipient (he, she, them…) will like it. No matter how hard I try, how much I think or how long I spend on the task: I always get it wrong; it’s the story of my life. I do it with haircuts, nail colour, food in restaurants and clothes. I do it with books and movies and magazines. I even do it with wool and beads. And when it comes to my art: invariably, I mess that up too – overworking or miss-selecting, using colours that clash, adding too much texture or weight. I did it last night on my autumn quilt and now my heart is sad. Poor rabbit… poor carrots… poor ladybird, leaf and branch…

The thorn in my side today, however, is more tangible and I am struggling to function as a result. Moving is painful; I feel broken; something isn’t right. But what do you do about the things you can’t see: can you fix a problem located beyond the reach of eyes? Massaging my side, swallowing painkillers, moving gently and slowly, trying not to touch it or anything else: I attempt to navigate through the waves of discomfort, crossing fingers that don’t believe over hands that are cynical.

The past few weeks have been tough. The past few months have been challenging. My body has suffered while my mind has endured. Standing in the middle of the road; watching cars and buses, bikes and taxis: I deliberate over how much more I can take. We are still living in limbo. We are still sleeping on the floor – if what we are doing can be described as that. I have a cold that won’t disappear and I am cold most of the time. I am also exhausted. I know this because I long to lie down for days, long to lie down and never wake, craving horizontal more than I desire any other position I could pick were any others on offer. I cannot speak. I cannot navigate. I confuse my left and right. Sticking to the tried and tested, clinging to familiar friends: I manage by keeping it simple and small.

But what will become of me next week? And how will I find the strength to pack and move on Tuesday when we are supposed to be leaving our home-sweet-hell in favour of a new apartment? And what will I do if tomorrow we find out we aren’t moving yet and have to stay where we are instead, abandoning all hopes of having a relaxed Christmas; accepting, instead, a poor substitute lacking furniture, belongings, decorations and love? There are too many things in the pot and I am no longer managing. Like a snail, I need my house. And I don’t care if it’s a temporary house or a borrowed house or a house that actually belongs to me: I just need a place to call home that I can return to and relax in when I need to stop. Take away all of my creature comforts, suspend me in between here and there; poke me, prod me, push me, punch me, and I unravel. As the tail of thread lengthens and the length knots and snags, I start to wonder if, when I finally come to catch it, it can be untangled and rewound .

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight

What is it about life and it’s determination to upend me? Why is it impossible for me to have more than one good day in a row; for a day that has been good thus far, maintaining a steady flow of status and quo throughout, to be ruined upon reaching the ending? And why must my morning be a mess today, when today is a day upon which I need to be happy, vibrant and alive? I am not impressed and I am not smiling. Can you tell?

Sitting in Starbucks, and a grotty one at that; hiding on a table to the side and towards the back: I lick freshly inflicted wounds – wondering why, how, what just happened happened; trying to figure out what it was all about and who the main antagonist was. My head buzzes: overly full. My heart hurts, exposed and bleeding. There is the familiar pain of a hole and a slice, right at the centre, and the sense of a part that should be but isn’t. Where did it go: the thing, the part? And when, if it was there at all, did it disappear? I wonder if it always been like this, since the beginning. Or if it is more recent, something that has happened as a result of my journeying across the intervening years?

I wrap my hands around a hot mug, sip overly sweet tea, berate myself softly for the number of sweeteners I felt the need to add for comfort, wishing I were stronger, better, more in control, more like other people. Just like I do not need to click, click, click until everything tastes like it came from a sweet factory in order to placate my insides; I do not need to stubbornly plant my feet like a defiant dog refusing a walk in order to convey my point, especially when said planting and conveying results in my own person sabotage.

I blow my nose, emptying out the tears that I refuse to let flow; trying for just one day not to ruin my face – or at least not until after sundown, when the dark will hide the marks and the smear of mascara. That she hasn’t called, hasn’t even emailed to make sure I am alright, to ask where I am and what happened: only makes it, the incident, worse. Now I feel twice attacked: once by them, the angry receptionists; and once by her, the professional I stood up.

What happened? Was I wrong in my decision to act? Why did they take offence to what I intended to be a polite exchange, a look at the situation from the other side of the double-edged blade? I run the script through my mind, attempting to analyse and dissect exactly what happened, picking at words and sentences, paragraphs and phrases, until I am sure, or almost, that it wasn’t my fault.

I could have kept quiet and swallowed the humiliation… I could have pretended to be unscathed… I could have acted hard and cold and passed the buck back onto her… But I didn’t. Why the need to explain, the desire to placate, the attempt to enlighten and sway a disinterested other; the aim to aid future arrivees, discerning individuals, from a similar plight? And why leave prior to reaching a satisfactory conclusion to the heated debate, thereby denying myself the aid which had led me to the wretched organisation in the first place? Why indeed..?

As I sit here, I am an hour down and an ear short and the offloading that I had anticipated, that I had needed, that I still need, is far away. I now – thanks to my stubborn feet, my disobedient mouth, my wonky pride – have two weeks to endure before anyone, anything, attempts to step in. Not that any of the aid or the stepping has made much of a difference to date of late. The only dent in the armour has been self-made. I long for my ears of yesteryear. Patient and loving, gentle and kind: these are the people who have given and held; people who, for whose help, I am always and always will be eternally grateful.

As I slowly return to myself, I thank God for their presence in my life and the changes they helped me to achieve. I am who I am because they were there to guide me, gently encouraging and pushing like parent, friend and sibling; taking on roles that I was lacking elsewhere, and determine to care more and act with greater responsibly in the future. Just because money is short or because certain people are located elsewhere (like abroad), does not mean that I need to be restricted. The last two years have rewound me. I have been hurt; I have been broken; I have been held back and pressed down. I am clawing my way back – up and out, slowly. I need to take this time, treat this experience, as a chance to return. And if it means borrowing from the bank or going into debt, then so be it. I am worth it. It’s about time I understood that. Who, if not me, is going to treat me right, love me enough, respect and push me in the way and ways that I currently need?

Matter resolved, I dip my spoon into my cappuccino, scooping out milk flavoured with cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg. I have drunk my way through two teas already. I’ve been to the bathroom twice that many times. I’ve sent emails and checked Twitter and Facebook, visited Amazon and surfed online. It’s been a difficult morning but I am stronger now and a decision that ought to have been made at the beginning when the reason was obvious has been solidified. Feeling lighter, stronger, cleaner and more resolved, I slip on my coat; squashing my head into a hat that I knitted in another life, pushing hands into gloves that were born in comfort and in sunshine. It’s cold out. I don’t want to hurt things that are already damaged.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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Star light, star bright, the first star I see tonight

It’s mild out and I’m sweating in my coat, softly cursing my heatgen underwear, wishing I had had the foresight to check the weather forecast before committing to clothes. I’m also wishing I had packed my umbrella, another reason for checking Thursday’s intentions in advance of entering into her orbit, but it’s too late now, so I unbutton my coat, shed my hat and gloves and thank God for his kindness. In December, 14 degrees is an unexpected gift: I’ll not be condemning the horse or speaking ill of the dead, even if it does mean juggling extra pieces. I wipe water from my nose with a tissue and close my handbag; it’s spitting slightly and threatening to rain and the sky looks positively angry. In truth, I’m slightly scared. Ominous and oppressive come to mind; vindictive, also. I walk fast, hoping to make it to the station unscathed.

I cross Leicester Square, dodging commuters and eager tourists. Continue on to Embankment, where I pull out my Oyster, tap the gate, scan the map, turn (as per instructed) and descend, stepping almost immediately onto a train. The doors close and for four stops I knit, the strip in my hands extending, bit by bit. Two weeks in, it has advanced from single brown square to autumn quilt, albeit a small one, housing a bunny rabbit, two carrots, a ladybird and a branch. Organic, in charge of me rather than me in charge of it, I have no idea what comes next: a flower, a moon, a person, a dog…? At the end, there will be a message; there always is. I am keen to read it. I used to check my horoscope and consult the cards, translating from a ‘how to’ book. I also analysed leaves, pulling shapes out of cups. But creativity is better: harder to decipher, perhaps, but more insightful and based in fact. My novels held messages about where I ought to go and where, as a result, I’ve travelled since. My poetry, too; warning and guiding, if only I had been open to seeing and obeying when it was relevant.

At Sloane Square, I finish my row and bag my needles. Then it’s up and off and through another barrier.

Outside it’s dry and quiet, a scattering of people queuing at a newsstand, several taxis speeding by, the odd bus… I take out my phone and check the time: if I’m quick, I can grab a coffee; I could use the pick-me-up as I’m feeling tired and the ‘no light’ does strange things to me. Fresh out of bed, I’m not yet sure what kind of a day today is, but if the last month and a half are anything to go by, it won’t be great; I don’t want to tempt fate by starting on a backfoot. It will also act as a shield against what’s to come if it turns into an ambush or becomes in any way uncomfortable: after Friday’s disaster, I’m on edge; I’m also nervous. In truth, I’d rather not be here but I made a commitment and a bad day or a bad day last week, isn’t enough of an excuse to deny myself a potential opportunity that, in the long run, I should appreciate. I’m dipping and dabbling, sampling and savouring, endeavouring to fix the broken and right the wrong. There will be mistakes. There will be disasters. There will be injuries and things that ache. But it is by being open and by doing, by absorbing and by experimenting, that we learn. Curl up small, attempt to shut it out, retreat and withdraw and reverse into relative silence: and it all stops: movement, action, improvement, progress, healing, happiness and health.

Coffee in hand slightly later than planned, I rush towards my destination; turning sharply onto a quiet street, slipping through a peeling gate, stumbling down mossy stairs. Nose running, coffee dripping from my coat, late: I’m flustered. Now I wish I’d carried on walking or bought camomile tea instead – it wouldn’t stain and there would be no frantic mopping up, later attempted washing, need to visit the dry cleaners… Cost aside: I’ve nothing else to wear in between. A dress and a cardigan; a skirt and a jumper, don’t quite suit. Even with gloves, a hat, a thick scarf, etc., I will be freezing.

But all of this is tissue paper and beside the point. What’s important is yesterday and how that made me feel and how I feel today, still, as a result: positive, alive, strong. Which, after everything I’ve endured, everything I’ve done, everything I’ve suffered and everything I’ve survived, is a miracle.

by Rebecca L. Atherton

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