About-Face

I knew this would happen.

I recently threw an existential tantrum. It went on for a while. I played the victim, I got mad, I got bitter, I lashed out. I was angry at the things that normally give me hope because, at the time, I didn’t have any hope left. I certainly didn’t want anyone throwing any of it in my face. Anything remotely motivational, positive or inspirational incited my arrogant wrath.

In normal circumstances, I have a deep and loyal faith in universal forces. I believe in my inherent spiritual safety and in my own power to create the world I’m living in. But I’m a human being and I’m susceptible to occasional periods of bleak, unwavering darkness that threaten to drown me. I throw tantrums and blame the world, other people, or the universe for everything I deem ‘wrong’ with my life.

Even with my ‘victim’ hat pulled low over my furrowed brow, I’m also a writer. When things get tough, I write. And I write, and I write, and I write until things feel bearable. Until the light seeps back in. I don’t share self-indulgent, insolent tantrums because I want to be saved or counselled or praised. I am grateful to the people in my life who care about me enough to have offered words of support, but it was not my intention to garner sympathy. I share my tantrums because I believe that, sometimes, it’s important to demonstrate all of the astonishing, spectacular ways we’re coming undone. We live in a world of impossibly high standards, harsh and vile judgements, and unadulterated fraud. My perceived inadequacies are normalised when I witness those brave few people exercising vulnerability and integrity, and teaching that not everything is, or has to be, perfect all of the time. And that’s more than okay. It’s okay to give yourself a week (or, in my case, lots of weeks) to play the victim, get pissed off, and flip the universe the bird (because let’s face it, sometimes the universe is a little bit of a dick).

I also share my tantrums because I’m selfish, and sharing them liberates me from their truth, their experience. As soon as I share the words, I realise the ridiculousness of my ‘problems’. My mind starts to clamber out of the hole it has dug for itself. For me, writing is healing. It stops the tantrum in its tracks. By the time the words are finished, everyone else is witnessing me stuck in a place that I’ve already fled from.

As I said, I knew this would happen. I entertained that ferocious, pretentious little child in me. I sat with her, I stroked her hair, I whispered in her ear, I kept her close and warm, I clapped while she shook her tiny fists and stomped her tiny feet. I enjoyed having her with me because she kept me strong while I was feeling lost (misguided as it was). But I knew, even as I gave her words, gave her weight, that I was going to be shooing her out of the house soon. (Again. Until next time).

I’m impatient and capricious. I’m wildly incongruous and I sweep from one emotion to the next. I get overwhelmingly frustrated at myself for not doing life better, for not living up to the impossibly high standards I’ve created for myself. I push all of the goodness out of my life with a perverse sense of smug satisfaction because I know that, in fact, I have far more than I need, in all of the ways; I’m one of the lucky ones. At times, I feel gloriously in control of my life, and at other times, I feel thoroughly unqualified for the world, incompetent and fumbling. Yesterday, bullshit memes offering cliched inspiration bore the brunt of my rage, but here now, today, I understand that clichés exist only for the truth in them. Yes, they’re sometimes infuriating, but they infuriate us because they are so simple and yet, so thoroughly, unarguably, truthful. They don’t entertain the misery in us when it wants to be entertained. They speak a universal truth that resonates with us all:

It really does get better (and then it will get worse again, and then it will get better, and worse, and better. Repeat).

Just because things are hard now, doesn’t mean they’ll always be this way.

You just have to get through it, and you will get through it.

Time is what will fix this.

You never know what’s around the next corner.

My favourite – it’s always darkest before the dawn.

I am humbled by the knowledge that the world doesn’t owe us anything. The universe owes us nothing. It has already provided, already equipped each and every one of us with the tools we need to flourish. What we do with those provisions is our own business, and it is entirely uncivilised of us to expect more. No, things are not perfect right now, and I don’t know when I will make it out of the dark place, but I will. I want to make this life work. I want to grow up and, eventually, become a wise old lady with hard-earned laugh lines on my face, and love and acceptance oozing out of every one of my impressively aged pores, and say to the world, ‘Look at me! I was brave and honest with this life, and sometimes I was utterly content, and sometimes I was devastatingly broken, but I’ve lived! I’ve lived out loud, with all of my precious heart.’ I’m here for a reason, glib cliché noted. I’m never anywhere without a reason, it’s the story of my life, and that’s not a cliché that’s just a fact. I’m always in the right place at the right time. So, I’ll make this work. I’ll make lemonade with the lemons of this new life I’ve chosen because, God knows, I don’t want to be the girl who leaves early just before the party gets good.

Tantrum

‘Go!’ they said.

‘You’ll love it,’ they said.

‘This is going to be the start of amazing things for you.’

I went, and let me tell you, I don’t. It wasn’t.

I’ve never felt more like a failure. I’ve never felt less like myself. I’ve never felt so uncomfortable in my own skin, nor have I ever felt so much like a foreigner, geographically speaking (and, I feel it pertinent to add here, my parents dragged me to live half way across the world when I was a child). I’ve never felt more like a loose end with no anchor, swaying about and jostling for a position on sturdy ground, coming up short day after day. Out at sea. I keep reading memes on Instagram and Facebook about learning to accept that we don’t have a clue what we’re doing here, in this life. Apparently, it’s as simple as that. I want to yell fuck off. Loudly. Fuck off with your sanctimonious, ‘Be here nows’ and your holier than though, ‘Life gets better when you accept things as they are, when your attitude changes’. If accepting things as they are and finally becoming content means I’ll start creating bullshit memes that make people want to punch me in the throat, I think I’ll wait for the next boat. Thanks.

In case it’s not already abundantly clear, I sometimes fail at spirituality. Frankly, I’m not making much of a success out of being human at the moment, either, but at least I’m consistent. Usually, my trust in the inherent safety of the universe is fierce. Everything always works out for the best, you never know what joyful surprises are around the next corner, there’s always a silver lining, the universe has a plan for everyone so wherever, whenever you find yourself, that’s exactly where you’re supposed to be. Usually, I can find the lesson in every situation.

But, I’m tired. I’m losing faith in the universe. Those things that I usually believe suddenly sound patronising and foolish, like glib clichés for a gullible lost soul searching for something meaningful, something of worth in a vacuous society. I thought I was following the signs towards something fulfilling, and instead, I feel emptied out. Where once I would have embraced the ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ philosophy, today I’m wishing I never did. Because when you take a risk and do the thing that makes you the most fearful to chase after a dream that doesn’t come, the universe suddenly seems like one gigantic, soul-destroying, empty promise.

I believed that when I got brave and ran towards my best life, I’d be rewarded with enlightenment, freedom, expansion, and joy. But life doesn’t suddenly get better when you change your attitude. It doesn’t suddenly get better when you feel the fear and do it anyway. You don’t miraculously get happier. You don’t get healthier. You don’t get the amazing life you’ve always wanted. I’ll tell you what happens. You feel the fear, do it anyway, and you get more fearful. You figure out how to face every single day feeling unsure, lost, and completely and utterly alone. When you get brave, life asks you to be braver. And it’s harder. It’s not any easier. And when, from that vantage point, you accept life as it is, all you’re left with is this question: ‘Is this really it?’

I don’t want to be braver. I don’t want to take more risks. I don’t want to have to placate the terror bearing down on me with more clichés and bullshit memes (the terror that life is, in fact, utterly devoid of any plan or meaning). I don’t want to be told that I just need to give it more time, I just need to wait and see why I was compelled to upend the life I had in favour of a life I knew nothing of, but a life that dangled a fulfilled dream carrot. I don’t want to be told to simply accept things the way they are or to change my attitude. I want the reward for taking a risk with my life. I want what everyone said would happen – that it would be ‘great’, that it would be the start of ‘something amazing’. Instead, it is this tantrum at 10pm on a Wednesday night because I’ve reached the end of my tether and I don’t have a spiritual bone left in my uncomfortable, too-conspicuous body.

This is all I’ve got: I accept that I don’t accept my life right now.

Action

I can’t do your sensationalist calls to action.

Don’t force pictures of starving, homeless animals on me. Or starving, homeless humans for that matter.

Don’t litter my social media accounts with gauche and reckless images of bruised women, skin black and blue, self-worth entirely erased.

Don’t drag me into impassioned yet futile debates (that go everywhere for the sake of controversy, but never actually end up anywhere) about how men are also just as likely to be the victims in those same images. Don’t engage me in any more discussion about what a sexist, insensitive, and innately unequal society we live in.

Don’t tell me stories of innocent children who unquestioningly put their trust and faith in the adults around them only to be tortured and abused by those same adults in the most despicable and inhuman ways.

Don’t show me the news, hour after hour of reporting on all the world’s evil, all the world’s terror, all the world’s overwhelming, soul-destroying agony.

Don’t pretend you’re doing me a favour by “humanising” a story of horror, anguish, and unimaginable grief. Plastering the face of a person who was blessed with the gift of a family yesterday, and is imagining exactly how many fleshy pieces a gun or a bomb blew that same family into today, is not heroic. It does not make it more human. Broadcasting an interview around the world of someone who is in shock, and immersed in paralysing grief and terror, on the very day the life they created for themselves has crumbled, is shameless. I do not need to witness that split apart face. I do not need to hear that faltering, desperate voice, cracking under the weight of all that unfathomable loss.

Don’t converse with me about our only home, the one we’re suffocating, ignoring, and plundering in equal measure. I don’t want to see miles of rubbish we paid for our convenience with where I should be seeing a blue ocean. I don’t want to see turtles with their delicate necks wrapped in plastic, slowly slashing their own throats for our ignorance and repulsiveness. Unwilling martyrs in our mercenary games. I don’t want to know about the astoundingly selfish, foolish, and disgusting things we do to this world that has only ever tried to nourish us.

Don’t remind me about the state of the world’s political systems. I don’t want to see grown adults bickering like five-year-olds, and regurgitating big words and empty promises in order to one-up each other in a public forum. I don’t need to be a spectator of that laughing stock. I don’t want to hear about women having their pussies grabbed by someone of supposed power and authority, a neanderthal so putrid and depraved I can’t even bring myself to classify him a pig because I don’t want to ruin an entire animal species for anyone, least of all myself. I don’t want to hear about clinically psychotic infants “leading” countries, their fingers hovering impulsively over buttons that are prophecies of war, nuclear or otherwise.

Don’t tell me. Don’t show me. Don’t share with me. I don’t want to know about it, I don’t want to hear it, and I don’t want to see it. We all know. We’ve seen it and heard about it all before. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I can’t take any more of it. My heart is heavy and weary enough. I weep for the state of this planet and everything in it.

When I saw the picture of the orangutan and her infant who had lost their home because forward-thinking humans can’t figure out how to consistently substitute palm oil, I wept. My heart broke for those helpless souls who, as well as emaciated and homeless, also looked like they had been beaten to within an inch of their lives.

When I saw people jumping out of windows of some of the highest stories of the twin towers to avoid a head-on collision with an aeroplane, I wept. I imagined the desperate, crushing position they were in, the helpless and empty realisation that they were going to die that day, they just had to decide which one of two ways they preferred to go. I imagined how that would feel. I imagined what they were thinking in those long seconds of freefall, the very last seconds they would ever have in this mysterious and fickle world, before they hit the ground.

When a post appeared on my Facebook page about a cat who had been tortured by teenaged monsters, I wept. I imagined the innate curiosity and trust that cat would have felt towards the teenagers, and how they used that trust to ensnare it. I imagined the frantic panic the cat would have felt as soon as it realised these were not friendly humans. I imagined the excruciating pain it would have felt when they did what they did.

I don’t need to go on.

It is heartbreaking.

This world is so full of the most vicious, unimaginable horror. I know all about it, and I don’t need, or want, to be reminded.

Some may argue that I’m selfish and ignorant. I accept that. To you, I may be. For me, I’m just trying to survive without having my heart cleaved in two every hour of every day by another act of abhorrence that I’m probably already keenly aware of without the incessant narrative. I’m also assuming that if you are one of those people who believes you’re raising awareness and educating people when you view, listen to, and share these stories of the world’s intolerable pain, you’re also actually doing something about these issues, too. When you share these things, I assume you’re asking people to act, not simply bringing trauma to other people’s doorsteps for the fun of it. So, what are you doing? Sharing is not action. Clicking a button on social media is not action. Loudly and aggressively stating your opinion on these things is not action. It’s not solving anything.

I may be selfish, but I don’t think action has to be loud. And I don’t think it has to look like you spread yourself so thin trying to fix everything that you end up doing nothing. None of the heinous, monstrous things that happen in this world can be cured by reaction. Screaming loudly enough might get you noticed, but it won’t solve any problems. If you scream loudly and also take proactive, organised, and meaningful action, I applaud you. But if all you’ve got is a strong set of lungs, a well-muscled index finger to click a share button, or the ability to regurgitate every atrocity witnessed on or in the news, take stock.

Awareness is not action. Education is not action. I hate to state the breath-takingly obvious, but action is action. Life is hard enough without the world’s evil being at the forefront of our lives. Our existence is heavy enough, with the ebbs and flows of our lives and the lives of the loved ones we try hard to support and encourage, without the necessity of exploring the worst of what the world has to offer, global awareness and knowledge so traumatising it keeps us awake at night. Sharing the load of our community is, of course, necessary, but forcing us to wear the entire world’s wounds like badges of honour is not.

My actions are quiet, and private. I encourage people when and where I can, in gentle and kind ways, because that is how persuasion is done best. I clean up my own back yard and I try to lead by example, hoping that if we all do our bit, it will accumulate and create change. Because I cannot take on the responsibility of fixing the entire world, I do what I can, at a volume I can maintain. I don’t need to know, in full and horrific detail, what is happening in the world in order to do my bit. I haven’t chosen a career that requires me to know full and horrific details, so I’ll leave that up to those who have. They may be doing more than me, if such a thing as comparison actually exists, but we’re all just doing the best we can. We’re all trying to measure our sense of guilt and sadness about the state of the world against the changes we’re making. We’re all just trying to find balance.

So, can we be kind to each other and not thrust images and soundbites of suffering on anyone? It is against our nature to witness these things, and I fear we are desensitising ourselves to such an extent that we obsessively seek out the next most torturous event we can find in order just to feel something. Instead of thrill-seeking, instead of sensationalism, consider telling the world what you’re doing, telling the world what action you’re taking that is making a difference. Tell us something positive instead of simply reminding us what we’re up against. Set us up for success and hopefulness, not helplessness and defeat. Let’s shine affirmative, productive action on the world and light it up, rather than snuffing all the candles out.

Poets

Give me one of the millions of poems thrown out into the ether

The ones conjured up as a salve for the dissatisfied and ravenous hoards

One of those sacrificed by our new and eloquent heroes

Revered, these days, as benevolent wordsmiths, healing souls with profundity

They are everywhere, these new deities of ours

Filling bellies with lines of beauty, and lusciousness, and splendour

Bandaging existences with words of weight, of worth, of nourishment

Give me just one of those triumphs of ink

And I will pen letters to long forgotten gods

With saccharine words of honour and integrity

Prayers on humanity’s behalf, too poetic to be ignored

Instead of writing nothing, and wondering

When I will ever reach those same dizzying heights –

To stop an erratic mind with a sentence?

To melt a world-weary heart with one word?

I want what the poets have got

The status, the adoration, the responsibility

The arrogance of this, the hypocrisy of it, is not lost on me

And it is a useless desire anyway

Because the poets are hoping for the same thing the rest of us gypsies are hoping for

The words on their pages all amounting to the same words upon our reluctant tongues

Ours, unspoken

Theirs, tattooed on the skin of the universe

We all cry out, simply and unapologetically:

 

Love me as I am

 

Love me as I am

 

Love me as I am

 

Too Much

I fear I am too much for this world. I am all self-indulgent extremes. Ironically, I have been too ashamed of my too-muchness, made an example of by others who have always felt compelled to point out my excesses in disapproving and accusatory tones. For others, I’ve been it all.

I have been too hard – too impatient, too irritable, too aggressive, too ruthless.

I have been too soft – too emotional, too sensitive, too passive, too trusting.

I have been too dark – too sad, too negative, too pessimistic.

I have been too light – too happy, too optimistic, too dreamy.

I have been too much.

Of everything.

For everyone else.

And I’m learning to love myself there because I’m not the only one.

Very recently, I met a girl. She was walking alone along a country lane in Cornwall, wearing her pyjamas and a dressing gown, slippers shuffling along in the gravel, and she was sobbing uncontrollably. She could barely breathe. The thing that broke my heart (again, too much – too easily broken) is what came out of her mouth after she had found her tongue.

‘I just need to learn to control my emotions. This always happens. I’m just too emotional.’

Her boyfriend had already fled the scene with a back pack hanging off his right shoulder. I had heard him yelling at her. I had also seen his cowardly tail slinking away, leaving the girl alone and wailing on the side of the road. She was too much for him, this one, this too emotional woman who clearly loved him.

Even more recently, I arrived at my grandparents’ house in England, the one I haven’t visited for five years. The house is different now, of course. One of my grandparents is gone. She has moved on to greener pastures, but her chair is still there, where it always was, where it always will be, until my Grandad chooses to join her. Even without her body here, her presence is commanding. She fills the space. Her energy envelops the entire house from the foundations to the chimney top. Some would say she was too much. And I suppose she was if I really think about it. But she was too much in all the right ways, all the most glorious and comforting ways. She was too loving, too welcoming, too friendly, too trusting, too loud, too funny, too nurturing.

She was too much, and she was perfect.

And so, I find myself wondering about my own emotional extravagances, and about others like me, others who are too much. Could it be that there’s nothing wrong with us at all? Could we, like my Nanna, be perfect in all of our dazzling imperfection? Because that woman got too much just right. She was loved for it by her tribe, and she was dismissive of the people who didn’t understand it. Too dismissive, in fact. Too cut-throat.

And, as for the sobbing girl from the edge of the street in Cornwall, she was told, unequivocally, that she was not too much. There is no such thing. And if the little boy who had left her alone believed she was, it was not for her to analyse or to fix. The loss was entirely his. That poor, pathetic boy who could not meet this woman where she was at, could not cherish all of the many things she was, could not love her in all of her magnificent too-muchness, was the one who should feel ashamed. She may have been too much for him, but she won’t be too much for a man willing to love her wholeheartedly. She will be met eye-to-eye, in her splendid too-muchness, and she will be cherished for all of her passionate and indulgent extremes.

After all, this is the point, when all is said and done – to love our own superabundance, those of us who are too much, to find other kinfolk who love us just as we are, and to love them ferociously, in return.

Even if it is too much.

Especially if it is gloriously, brilliantly, too much.

Job Done

When I woke up this morning, Karma was not in bed next to me. And yet, here he is this evening. Silent, expectant, ticking almost imperceptibly. Karma has me in his sights tonight. He will not be satisfied until I have crossed his palm with the gold he has loaned out to me, until a pound of my flesh has balanced the scale. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, the settling of an ancient debt. Plus interest.

Karma is dark and he is brooding, but he is also light and carefree. He is masculine and she is feminine, more masculine today for he is chasing an awkward repayment. He is dealing with stubborn clientele. He needs to be masculine today. I would likely slay him where he lay should he even remotely resemble the feminine at this moment in time.

Earlier today, but after the jubilant expectancy of a resplendent weekend had been cut off at the knees in its infancy, a piece of paper in an envelope spoke to me. The envelope said so much more than the paper inside, wrinkled with the lines of her writing, caressed by the heel of her hand. The envelope screamed and cried and flailed. I knew more from that vicious and merciless envelope than anything new I discovered from her letter.

The envelope told me she was gone. The letter told me she had left a long time ago.

More recently, the telephone spoke to me and it hijacked her voice (for surely that was not really her?) and it said,

“I’m in a car, driving…somewhere.”

 Somewhere? Where is somewhere? Somewhere is not here and here is somewhere so where are you? And more to the point, who are you with? The telephone spoke again (in her voice),

“You don’t want to know.”

No, I don’t want to know and yet, I know, which brings me back to my original point. Life isn’t always fair, and sometimes you know things you don’t want to know, and sometimes you end up somewhere when you should be here, and I know something I don’t want to know so play fair and uphold your end of this bargain.

Be here. Not somewhere. With him who I don’t want to know about.

Karma has been very accommodating today. He has been extremely sympathetic. I know because, even tomorrow, those few words, in her hijacked voice, will be the only words I vividly remember coming out of the telephone. There will be a vague recollection of tears, and of not having knees to support my legs, and of my heart leaping from my mouth and running away to be with the faeries who will pack it in ice, and still won’t quite have finished returning it, even years later. Karma has taken the sting off the avalanche that is my edges falling and tumbling and burying me in their wake. He has caught me a bubble and placed me inside it so that reality is on the outside, and the bubble is a forever space.

But here he is. He wants me back, now. I have had my sympathy, and now he wants to burst my precious bubble. So here, Karma, take this. This is your compensation:

I accept the terms of our agreement. I accept that this was always our contract. She was always meant to leave, and I was always meant to be the one who felt like I had been left behind, just as I inevitably left her behind once, who knows how many lifetimes ago.

Karma looks at me carefully, kisses me square on my mouth, lights a cigarette, and rolls over. He’ll be asleep soon. Satisfied.

Job done.

The Book Seller

On a whim, I made a decision today to approach a local book store in an attempt to get my book out into the big, wide world. I recently saw the shop’s flyer, and noted that they are advertising themselves as supportive of local authors, so I felt as though it might have been a welcoming place to start.

When I approached the shop owner, the welcome was frosty. When I introduced myself, and told her that I’m a local author, I was met with a barrage of interrogative and defensive questions. I never actually managed to even say the words I had wanted to say for the first time, “I’m wondering if you’d be interested in taking a copy or two of my book to sell in your shop?” When I told the woman that this was the first time I had EVER approached a shop, EVER, to sell my work (the hint being, back off a little), I was patronised and spoken to like I had prudent sections of my brain missing. I was informed that my chosen publishing company, and others like them, are all “sharks”, and that I could have done better. I was told that self-published books (mine amongst them) “just LOOK self-published”, and I had wasted my money. I was warned that my book probably won’t sell because self-published authors rarely sell copies straight off the shelf, and there’s too much competition. When I asked if I could leave a flyer about my book launch in the shop, the response was hostile and reluctant (I believe the exact words were, “I suppose you could leave one…”). Finally, a story was relayed in which a woman had spent thousands of dollars self-publishing her books, and every single copy of her ten or so works were piled up in dusty boxes in her shed, never to see the light of day…

Then, I was told about the shop owners own self-published work – the one printed on trade paper (therefore, better than mine), the one done by Amazon so the author gets all the profits (therefore, better than mine), the one thicker than mine (yes, that’s right, she actually compared the thickness of her book against my own, as if that is somehow a measure of its worth). She gave me her retail price (a full dollar less than my own, and therefore, you guessed it, better). She pulled her book out of a decorative cotton purse and informed me that she was lucky enough to have been shortlisted for a prize for her book, and had made her money back within six months. Three years later, she is still selling copies (“people just keep buying it, and I’m like, why do you want THAT?! It’s three years old!” That wasn’t me talking. Just to clarify).

I had a choice to make in that moment.

Option one: take the ONE copy of my book that she accepted for the shop, the one that “won’t sell”, and “probably won’t even get picked up off the shelf because it doesn’t stand up against the big names”, and walk out with my head held high, no closer to getting my work recognised.

Or, option two: leave my book there. Leave the time, the energy, and love I put into it. Leave the pride I feel for its very existence. Leave all of the positivity I have worked hard to pour into its creation, trying to protect it from any inkling that I couldn’t make it a reality. Leave all of the belief and faith other people have placed in me as an author. Leave it all sitting in the book seller’s shop, and hope to high heaven that that little self-published number flies off her shelf quicker than she can say ‘bubble burster’, one person closer to being acknowledged as a writer.

I left my book there. Because that woman is just a lesson in growing a thick skin, and I’m not about to let one Negative Nancy trick me into ruining this creation or believing it wasn’t all worth it. Because I’m proving a point. Because I think she’s wrong, and I want the evidence.

I write because I am compelled to write. I write because it makes me joyous. And I write because it feels like home. If I was in this for the dollars, I would buy myself an independent book shop marketed as a hub in support of local authors, and then I would try to slowly weed out the competition through bitterness and negativity whilst simultaneously tooting my own horn and spruiking my own wares.

I’m in it for the feels. I don’t believe in competition, and I definitely don’t believe in creating a life of dullness and failure by letting other people have me believe my work will not compete with others. I’ve got my own self-doubt and insecurity to grapple with. I refuse to carry someone else’s. Thoughts become reality. Don’t let the bad ones in.

So, I guess I really am an author, now. I’ve got the rejection from the threatened, insecure, competition-focused cynic to prove it.

I’m grateful for today’s lesson.

(Side note: Really, I’m only human, and I’m just PRAYING for someone to buy that book and wipe the smug, self-important smile off today’s lesson’s face. But I mean that with love in my heart and faery dust in my veins).

(Additional side note: people who don’t reside in Adelaide can buy This Little Light of Mine from http://www.balboapress.com; http://www.amazon.com; or, http://www.barnesandnoble.com. Visit http://www.facebook.com/clairehornewrites for further details).

 

This Little Light of Mine

I’ve just had a book self-published. It’s called This Little Light of Mine and it’s about a young clairvoyant girl called Stella, and her Faery, Astrid. At its simplest, it’s a story about Mother Earth, and treading carefully on this planet that supports us. At its heart, it’s a story about embracing the light we all have deep inside us, illuminating our souls.

Something I’m learning about the publishing world is that, as an author, you are required to categorise your work based on a set of generic rules, and the rules change every which way you turn. Often.

For example, if your word count falls between (insert considerable range here), then it’s a children’s fiction; any more, and it’s teenage fiction. If your work is pitched at ages (insert smallish number of years lived here) then it’s teen fiction, and if you’ve pitched it any older, it’s adult fiction. Also, teen fiction is sometimes referred to as young adult fiction, and sometimes, pre-teen is considered young adult. The mind boggles. All labels, genres, categories, and target audience forecasts are arbitrary and fraught with the potential to pigeon-hole an author in an area they never thought they belonged to.

Sure, it’s useful to have a vague idea of where something loosely fits in the world, but there’s also something spontaneous and liberating about accepting a work based on nothing but face value (without the rules). Take me, for example – I didn’t think I was a reader of crime fiction, and then I read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and my limitations changed.

Who knows what magic we might stumble across if we ignore the labels?

I’ve been telling everyone that This Little Light of Mine is a young adult book, however I’ve recently seen it described as children’s fiction. My spiritual mentor (and one of my editors), Wendy, is a full-grown adult and she weeps every time she reads it (I have it on good authority it’s not pain related). My Auntie Pat was one of the first people to ever read an early draft, and she told me she couldn’t put it down. When I worked as a teacher, I read a few chapters to a class of grade five and six students, and they seemed rather interested.

The truth is, I don’t really mind where This Little Light of Mine fits. In terms of labels, genres, and categories, I hope it doesn’t clearly fit anywhere. Because that was never the point of writing it. I wanted to write a book about some of my real-life experiences; I wanted to write a book that would help people embrace their spirituality; and I wanted to write a book for Mother Earth. Also, I made a fairly heavy-duty deal with a sassy Faery, and once the money was on the table I couldn’t take it back.

So, whether you’re a child, a pre-teen, a teenager, an adult, a senior, a whatever, my hope for This Little Light of Mine is that it awakens your inner child, stirs your soul, and helps you find your own Faery*.

*DISCLAIMER: Just don’t make any deals you can’t come good on.

Thank you to Balboa Press who designed and own the cover image.

All the Little Boys, All the Little Girls

I once knew a boy desperate to be a man. He showed up with little commotion (I should have guessed even then), and I knew he wasn’t the right fit.

I knew I was too much.

I knew he wasn’t enough.

I did that thing that vulnerable people sometimes do, and I allowed him to convince me, and then I convinced myself until I had spent the better part of a decade trying to bend and flex my boundaries, my values, my self-worth. I made excuses for his deficiencies and his cruelty, trying to make him live up to the golden and reverent version of him I carried with me in my mind’s eye. The version where he was a kind man with no deep, dirty secrets, and he truly loved me. The version where he was an unbroken man who was loyal and honest and accountable. The version where he was a man.

It was always going to disappoint us both. Because this is what I’ve discovered recently – I wanted a man, and he wanted a little girl. I’ve learned that the boy that I lit up and elevated, the boy I used to tell myself was pure and kind and respectful, hated women.

At home, he played his part like a fiend, convincing at times, entirely transparent and flawed at others. For the most part, he did all the right things at the right times, he said all the right words, he felt all the right feelings. Because he was being watched. Because there were witnesses. One witness, actually. One dreamer, one idealist, one pathetic little doormat who knew it was all a fragile, self-destructive illusion, but chose to live her life as if the carriage was about to be thrown from the tracks anyway. But when that naïve, deluded doormat wasn’t watching, the boy strutted around like a peacock, showing his true colours to all and sundry. He objectified women and embarrassed himself in the company of other peacocks, peacocks who were men and who were ashamed of the infant they called a friend. The boy disrespected women and viewed them as meat, fodder for his distastefulness, leering and spitting lewd comments about their bodies and what he would do to them (as if he was somehow God’s gift to all of womankind; as if he could actually do anything about it). Out in the open, he wanted his women to be sluts. He wanted them dirty. He wanted them submissive, to do what they were told, to go where they were put. He wanted women who wouldn’t argue and who wouldn’t fight. Little girls in porn star packaging.

At home, he behaved like a good boy, well-trained and obedient (later claiming it was me who had somehow beaten him into submission). That boy who had the capacity to transform women into acquiescent objects of contempt, passive vessels he could pour his hatred into, became vacuous and immobile at home where there was a witness. He always told me it was the people who talked the most about their sex lives that didn’t have one to speak of, and he proved his point thoroughly. Out in the open, he was virile and eager, shamelessly sniffing out new bones to place beneath him. At home, where there was a woman, he was paralysed and frigid; a little boy.

But, in his defence, he wanted a little girl. He wanted someone who wouldn’t challenge him, someone who would say yes, someone who would sweep it all under the rug with the rest of his secrets and lies. He wanted a girl who would lie down, keep her mouth shut, and let him hate her the way he hated all women.

He wanted a little girl, but what he got was a woman. A fierce, independent, honest, hurricane of a woman, and it terrified and repulsed him in equal measure. He got a woman who expected more from him, expected more for herself. He got a woman with courage, a woman with balls. He got a woman who was more man than he could ever dream of becoming.

It was always going to disappoint us both.

Fossil

Everyone has stories they’d rather not tell, stories they aren’t proud of, stories that leave them unbearably vulnerable, naked and exposed. The thing about being an author though is that at some point, if you want to be authentic, you have to share your own shadow side.

This is a chapter of mine.

The sky fell down today. Everyone who ever said it wouldn’t has been made a liar. It has fallen out of the atmosphere where it was perched majestically, and its dense, azure pieces, jagged and haphazard, have collected heavily at the bottom of my stomach. They are rubbing at my insides right now, grating and scratching. Inside, I am a million tiny cuts and nicks. I have swallowed glass. I am torn apart and messy, my soul bleeding out, slowly. It is oozing forward like lava into my organs, hot and pulsing. I am a puddle. I am ceasing to exist.

How is it that when the sum of my life’s parts has catastrophically imploded and crumbled in on itself, when my universe has retracted back to a single atom, all thought and memory and deed and emotion humming electrically at its point of origin, the rest of the world continues on? How dare these people, little ants in a maze with no centre, so self-important and determined, carry on with their lives? How dare life itself continue? My life, comparatively, has been snap frozen like an ancient animal in the icy past. Later, all they will find of me will be fossilised. A relic. My story decomposed. No one will know how I got here. How life drew on, infinitely without me while I waited in this particular moment of time, praying I would wake up from a nightmare I did not choose. Wasn’t even asleep for. No one will know that I stood still, mind racing, trying to comprehend, desperately scratching at rational thought, waiting. No one will know that even in the middle of this monumental collapse, this folding of my world in on itself, I thought the best of you, I saw the good in you, I believed in you. No one will know that at my core, unmeasurable and unobservable by the time my tiny insignificant fossil is found, I loved you with every branch of my DNA, every breath in my body, every drop of marrow in my bones. No one will know but me, and possibly you, and we will take our stories with us and hold them close.

And maybe, as the sky was falling down around us, that was always the point.