The glint of sunlight through the branches
Melodies of birds peeping through bracken
My feet caressed by the Earth
The Divine warms my heart
The glint of sunlight through the branches
Melodies of birds peeping through bracken
My feet caressed by the Earth
The Divine warms my heart
This is a weighted question for me. I would say, overall, I am good at being honest with myself, but that has a flip side. I am very self-aware, which is mainly a good thing, but without some discernment it is easy to fall into the trap of becoming too intimate with my faults. Seeing and learning from my faults is a good thing. Judging and criticising them is not. In fact, when I criticise myself I have succumed to the past conditioning which created an image of myself as worthless and a failure. The thoughts quickly turn into the familiar narrative of how it’s pointless trying because I’m so useless and before I know it I’m back there again – hurting.
But I can see it. And this is my gift.
As a child, I saw how people’s minds and emotions worked. I wrote stories about them. I had not developed a full self image at that point. I was in touch with my intuition. I wrote to God and made characters express the feelings that I was unable to. I didn’t think about or analyse anything, it just flowed from me like a river from Source. It was only after I was forced to change schools at age ten that it all went wrong. And of course, age ten is pretty pivotal in terms of ego development. I’m talking here of healthy ego or personality development, when we learn who we are in the world, what we like, what we want.
I started the new school a shell of the child I had been previously. I was scared due to what was happening at home and school was no longer a refuge. I was socially anxious and had been removed from everyone I knew. The kids didn’t know what to make of me. In typical kid-style, they took the mickey. A year later I started secondary school, still friendless. The bullying started. I had always been an introvert but now I was completely withdrawn and scared of people. So rather than developing a healthy personality, I saw myself as an idiot who nobody liked.
I have already written about the sadness around my writing when I started university so I won’t repeat it again. Suffice to say, I suffered a lot through school but writing became an outlet for my emotions and something I considered myself to be good at, until I lost faith in that too. But now, as an adult in my forties, I see and understand that writing was not something that belonged to me; instead it flowed from me, and it’s not something that can be lost, just like the essence of who I was as a child cannot be lost. In a way I have become full circle; I am integrating what the child in me knew with the maturity of age and the challenges I have faced, and realising that what I believed about myself at school was an illusion.
Self-awareness is a gift. Writing is my offering. It is my joy, my passion, and I still like to believe I am ‘good’ at it because that is something that matters to me. In writing, I understand my story, discern my faults, see where I am caught. In writing, I allow the beauty of Divine love to channel through me, remind me I am okay as I am. There is a balance. There is always a balance.
Yes, my right leg when I was a year old. How it happened is shrouded in mystery because, as with all my early childhood, no one openly talks about it. What my mother dripped into conversation over the years is that I slipped from her arms at the bottom of the stairs. I asked my oldest sister about it once, when I was about 11 years old and staying with her (which I hated; she didn’t want me there). She is 14 years older than me. In answer to my question, she said ‘What are you thinking about that for?’ making a clear point that I should not be thinking or talking about it. I took the hint and never mentioned it again.
I don’t believe that there is any sinister explanation for my broken leg. Rather, the secrecy around it is typical of the atmosphere I absorbed into my very being as a child, knowing that there were ‘things’ that were hinted at, dropped into the conversation, but I wasn’t allowed to ask about. Another example is when my mother asked my father to move out (after years of not wanting me to speak to him, despite us all living in the same house). My mother was complaining about him to me, something she always did (and continued to do until his death), so I wasn’t taking much notice as I hated it when she did that anyway, and she suddenly muttered under her breath ‘getting a divorce.’ I said ‘No!’ and she simply said ‘Yes, I can’t take anymore.’ And that was that. A few days later my father told me that my mother had asked him to move out. He asked me whether I wanted him to go. All I could say was ‘I don’t mind.’ Truly awful words. But such was the fear of speaking my truth in that household. Indeed, the fear of speaking.
I accept now that my mother was locked in so much pain and resentment towards my father, as well as suffering from mental illness, that she didn’t have the capacity to consider my feelings or let it occur to her that I had any at all. She dealt with things the way she has always done: packing them into boxes in her mind and carrying on. But she let them spill over when it suited her; mutterings under her breath, flashes of anger, comments like ‘the worst mistake of my life’ knowing I would see and hear them but, being the well behaved child I was, wouldn’t say a word. I suspect it was her way of reaching out, as strange as that sounds. She needed my companionship, wanted to express herself in the only way she knew how. She had no concept of my fear. And I was remarkably good at hiding it, being strong, moulding myself into the listening ear.
Returning to my broken leg, I’ll never know the truth, but I suspect she was at the top of the stairs when she dropped me and I tumbled down. These things happen. I don’t blame her for that. What I wish is that she could simply say ‘Oh yes, I dropped you, it was terrifying, you just fell.’ We could talk openly about it. But my guess is that she, too, was afraid. It was yet another thing she had to force away in the depths of her mind, lest it reflected badly on her. Mum has chronically low self esteem, the outcome of her own childhood. It so often is. The irony is that if she could have come out of her shell and dealt with her own pain, we’d have both been okay. But isn’t that the epitome of the human journey?
I know this post paints my mother in a terrible light. She is actually a very sensitive, caring, intelligent woman, and we get on well now, within reason (she still doesn’t do emotions). Her mental illness has passed. Her physical health is not good. I have healed a lot of my emotional pain. I have found acceptance. We relate as adults. We never talk about the past. Maybe in that way we will remain as we always were. But we talk more openly and freely about our lives now, today, and I can be thankful for that.
As I was growing up I knew I was going to be someone great. I felt it deep in my heart. I was going to be a world famous Tv actress, or a writer. For a small child I had some pretty big plans. I was going to audition for RADA. I was going to journalism college. I was going to write a novel. I had no one to encourage me but I felt it deep in my being. I wrote pages upon pages of stories. Creativity was my lifeblood. I was determined to express myself doing what I loved.
Acting was the first thing I lost. I enrolled on an A-level in Theatre Studies at sixth form college. Not long after starting the course I realised that I wasn’t really very good. I suffered from severe social anxiety as a result of my home and school lives. My dramatic monologues paled in comparison to others. The teacher didn’t seem to like me and gave me no suggestions on how to improve. I started dropping out and eventually spoke to my personal tutor about giving up the course. I told him that I wasn’t doing very well. Even as I spoke the words I hoped he would say ‘That’s no reason to give up’ or ‘We can work on that’ but he agreed and I left the course.
When I started university two years later someone set up a drama society and I went along to the first meeting despite myself. I still had the spark of longing. But I couldn’t bring myself to join. All I could feel was the terror of making an idiot of myself. I feared everyone laughing at me, as kids had through school. Until Theatre Studies, I’d clung onto my love of drama and writing, my passion for creativity, believing that would see me through everything. Until it didn’t work anymore.
Things got worse. I took a creative writing module as part of my English degree and suddenly my writing was torn apart and criticised. I know this is par the course, but I didn’t have the resilience to manage it. Even worse, the students in my group showed far greater ability and got higher grades than I did. And truly, writing at that time was terrible. I was trying to come to terms with my childhood and being away from home and my heart was in darkness. Writing was no longer a refuge. Like acting, it seemed to prove that everything I had loved as a child was built on a lie, that in fact I was NOT GOOD ENOUGH. It was my deepest fear confirmed: I was actually a stupid girl who once thought she was great. What an idiot I had been!
Those beliefs sent me into a deep depression for many years. I still battle with them sometimes, especially when starting something new. I attempted a creative writing workshop a few years ago but almost immediately I realised I couldn’t match the level of those in the group. I was too scared to read anything out. It’s still a real source of sadness to me that something I loved so much when I was a child produces so much fear. I feel grief at not being encouraged as a child. I wish someone had seen the spark I possessed and nurtured it. But no one had cared. My family didn’t read anything I’d written. I think they feared my openness and vulnerability.
However, maybe in all that loss there is a gift. Acting and writing are wonderful talents to have, but they emerge from what we ARE, which is a spark of the Divine. As a child I was completely tapped into that wisdom and desired its creative expression despite the dysfunction that surrounded me. I didn’t compare myself to anyone else because I had no concept of doing so; all I knew was how to BE. Fear wasn’t even on my radar. My heart knew the way. I was walking the path of Divine love and OF COURSE I was – and am – someone great. How could I not be? The mistake I made was looking for fulfilment in someone else’s opinion and believing their judgements as well as my own. I got lost in my head. We are individual souls with our own way of seeing and experiencing the world. While comparison and constructive criticisms have their place, what’s more important is remembering our true nature which is creative expression itself, no matter which particular form it happens to take. Our souls are like trees -we express in our unique ways, but we are all beautiful. As a child I knew this in my heart. My lifelong task is to remember, and keep remembering that despite what I seem to have lost on the outside, I am always good enough.
Starting in childhood, I’ve been a prolific diary and journal writer, filling out pages upon pages with introspections and often deep emotional pain. I’ve kept them all. I rarely read back over them as I’ll be honest, most are horrifically painful to read, and easily send me back into a dark place. But neither can I throw them away. Sometimes I wonder whether holding onto them is the right thing to do and all I’m doing is clinging onto a past that has gone. Surely I should be willing to let them go, like everything else? The truth is that I can’t. The journals are the voice of the child, and later the teenager, who had virtually nothing and no one else, and to throw them away feels like dismissing her strength and courage to be her own person even when she felt invisible to the world.
It’s an interesting dilemma though and I often ponder how I’d feel if the journals were taken from me. Would I be devastated or relieved? Would I feel lighter and more present to my day to day self or as if I’d lost a part of me? The time may come when I won’t feel the need to keep them anymore because what they represented has become fully alive inside the self that I now am. In truth, I’m already there, but for now I am honouring the child through their presence.
I wanted to be a writer from as far back as I can remember. I filled notebooks with prayers to God before turning to short stories at age ten and journals at sixteen. As a five year old I loved creative writing class on Monday mornings because we had to write what we’d done over the weekend. Most of it was made up of course. The reality was that my childhood home was pretty dysfunctional with secrets and violence.
Writing saved me. I have absolutely no doubt about it. I escaped into my own world where I was best friends with my favourite TV actors and used to meet them every day at made-up studios for lunch. As I grew, I wrote about abandoned animals finding loving homes, family dramas, and teenage romances. I wrote huge amounts of fan fiction based on my favourite shows, believing I was the characters. Years down the line when I considered that the characters I had created didn’t really exist, it was a visceral shock to my system, because they were so real in my head.
Then I went to university to study English and undertook a creative writing module as part of that. It wasn’t the first time my writing had been criticised of course; I had my share of constructive comments at secondary school. But this was on a whole new level. The tutors didn’t like my work. Worse, I was surrounded by people who were very clearly a lot more talented than I am. This destroyed my sense of who I was. You see, writing was my very heart and soul. It was the only real friend I had. I lived and breathed it. To have it torn apart by people who had no clue was like having my insides ripped out very slowly over time. I was struggling to come to terms with a painful past but this time I no longer had the writing I loved. I was on my own.
I gave it all up. Things changed when I started seeing a therapist to cope with my young autistic son and she commented on something I’d written about my childhood many years previously. She said ‘you write very well.’ I was stunned. I told her that I no longer believed that. I said I couldn’t bear to even hear it because it wasn’t true. She said ‘of course it is.’ Bit by bit, I began to tell her how studying a creative writing module had broken my heart. Telling my story, this time out loud, once again helped me to heal.
Tentatively I started to write again. Not as much as I did before as I no longer had the physical or mental strength, but once again it became an outlet for my feelings. I wrote a couple of stories about my son. Then I began journaling as an outlet. I no longer cared what others thought. Over time I began to reclaim the natural joy and creativity I’d had as a child. This led me to start blogging to share my thoughts and experiences with the world.
I no longer hold tightly onto the identity of ‘writer’ but I write. It is what heals the soul. My five year old self knew that all along.
I wrote this some time after I got my beautiful dog Zoey as it feels like she symbolises the unconditional love I have always been seeking within and without.
Branches silhouetted like witches fingers
puppeted by the roaring wind
Dead leaves quiver like spiders
shadowed by their search, nearing the end.
I gaze up into the velvet sky
where stars glitter like diamonds
matching the tears falling from my eyes;
cosmic energy, pulsating life.
I shut my eyes to find
beauty and blackness filling my soul
starlight radiating through my heart
reminding me I am home.
A fluffy ball of white
brushes past my leg
and barks her love
into the night.
Life in one name: Zoey.
The search is over.
Your moon eclipses my heart
sending my life into deep shadow
where the tiniest point of starlight
can stream through, via the Sun –
burning through my soul
setting my broken heart blaze
in Divine glory
yours and mine.
Leaves floating in the autumn breeze
destined for their resting bed
setting the thicket alight
with fifty shades of gold
gradually turning to ash.
Abandoned trees silent
roots deep in the Earth
secure in their own being
awaiting the return
of the Divine Sun.