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.

Posterity’s Sake

I wrote this piece on 17 January this year. My life had imploded spectacularly and I was looking for control over my existence. 

Now, I don’t believe for one second I’m in control of this life I’ve been gifted with. 

I don’t know about you, but that’s how I stay sane.

I am becoming obsessed with time. Not seconds or minutes or hours. Not planning and organising events around a certain tick of the clock. Not watch checking and re-checking, anxious to get this done, get that done, get that seen to, get to there by then with him and her and not a minute later. I am fixated on moments in time – epic events (and, sometimes, not so epic events) that crossed the path of my fate. I’m distracted by pinpointing the precise moments these events came to pass in relation to my one, solitary life. I am feeling an overwhelming desire to draw myself a timeline, plotting the major incidents of my life on its one long arm and labeling them clearly and neatly. Time is very important. I want precise years. I want exact ages.

I want, inexplicably, to know that in 1994 when I was eleven years old, my familiar, a tiny brown tabby called Trixie whom I loved and adored (and who loved and adored me in equal measure, I might add) didn’t come home, and my heart was cleaved in two for the second time in my short life. I want to know that in 1994 I sat on the narrow windowsill of my bedroom and I sobbed while I prayed. I begged that my soul mate be returned to me, unaware that while I was praying she was probably already gone. I want to know that one day, when I was eleven years old, I stopped looking for Trixie to appear. The first thing I did when I got out of bed was not to go to the glass door and see her sitting there, expectantly, in my mind’s eye, only to be broken all over again by my cruel and heartless physical eyes.

I want to know that in 2003 when I was twenty years old, I stood in an elevator late at night and time stood still. I want to know that at twenty years old, a man I had just met, who made me uncomfortable and whose interest I had been trying to escape, walked me to the elevator in a dark and deserted street despite my assurances that I would be fine by myself. As I stepped into the small stuffy cube of that elevator expecting the stranger to take the hint and leave me to my own devices, I felt him step in behind me. The air compressed. His energy pushed up against my back. A vacuum was created in the atmosphere and all of my independence and strength and dignity tumbled violently into it. I knew that if I allowed the elevator doors to close with both of us trapped alone inside I would never get them back. I would never get myself back. In 2003, at twenty years old, I rushed out of an elevator and I was spared.

I want to know that in 2008 when I was twenty-five years old, I made a decision to leave my family behind and take a job on a remote island. This move made me in some ways (I discovered that I really was capable of surviving by myself) and broke me in others (I learned that being independent is all fun and games until someone you love dies and you’re trapped on an island in 2008, at twenty-five years old, with no exit after the 7pm ferry has already departed).

But that’s just the problem – I don’t know that it was 1994 or 2003 or 2008 and I don’t, therefore, know that I was eleven or twenty or twenty-five years old. I am desperate to put the moments of my life into a context of year and age. Memories are flooding back to me in a torrent, and I can’t put my finger on what year it was that these memories were made. How old was I? I am so frustrated by this inability to pinpoint time. It gathers in my chest and adds to a sense of urgency, unease, anxiety. I feel an irrational yearning to hold my memories down by their throats and cross-examine them, beat the facts out of them with fists and feet and barking commands. For what purpose? To what end? Part of me is extremely concerned that I’m going to die soon. Why else would I feel this compulsive need to plot my life on a timeline – a series of unfortunate, and not so unfortunate events? I should start thinking seriously about that last will and testament.

The other part of me is laughing and shaking her head at the first part. She is reminding her that we don’t die until we’re in our early nineties. Stop being so dramatic! But this other part of me, the sensible, practical one, is still confused. How will wrapping my life events up in pretty wrapping paper – labeling them neatly and lavishly with dates, ages and descriptions, sitting them down in a row in chronological order – how will this make me feel any better? How will it satisfy this pre-occupation with time that I’m battling against? Am I sidetracked by this because somehow, in the act of organising events in order of their manifestation in my life, I can capture their essence, contain their effects, bottle the emotion and keep it from seeping out into the rest of the timeline, indiscriminately poisoning, medicating, or intoxicating future events? Am I trying to take back control of a life that I feel is out of control? Am I harbouring a secret desire to write a memoir?

I don’t know. I foolishly hoped that in pouring all of this out of my head and onto paper the truth would miraculously reveal itself, glistening like Excalibur in the morning sun. I thought all of this ink would lead me to its origins, give me the wisdom and the power to heave it from the wet earth, hold it up in the air triumphantly, and watch the answer drip slowly from the pointed end of the steel blade. I was wrong. I have no truth for this, but that which is already written. No cute decorative bow to stick haphazardly to the top of the wrapped parcel. Instead, I’m left none the wiser. All I have is what’s here – the way I feel, the way I think, the way I exist.

Could that be it? Could that be the point? Could this obsession with plotting my life in the context of time be about the absolute, unquestionable, stupidly simple fact that time is of no importance in this life? In anyone’s life? Is the lesson here that it doesn’t matter when memories were made? That it doesn’t matter what year it was that x happened or how old I was when y came to pass? All that matters is how I felt, what I thought, and that I existed in spite of it all? What is more, I am blessed with the ability to bring all of those thoughts and feelings with me through the years, down the timeline, and integrate them now, here, today, and grow and stretch and flourish. Is that it?

There’s a secret about me in here too, though. The lesson has just dawned on me and I still want the timeline for posterity’s sake. I’m grateful for the lesson, but I’m also grateful for this –

I had enough self-awareness and foresight to stamp this piece of writing with today’s date.

Fight or Flight

When faced with perceived danger do you stay and fight or do you flee the scene?

I always thought I was a fighter and I was proud of that fact. These days, I’m not so sure it’s always the right choice to fight the good fight, slog it out to the death, and persevere despite the crippling odds. These days I’m selective about when I put my gloves on.

Only today though, I had a conversation with a strong, composed, and successful woman who told me that she becomes savage and finds an inexplicable physical strength when she feels physically threatened. Credit where credit is due – this feels heroic to me. 

But what of the others (the LOTS of others) who talk to me about a spiritual danger? They describe a nagging feeling that I have felt recently. They feel small. They feel incomplete. They feel dissatisfied with life. I know that feeling well. It was only last week I decided to take myself seriously. I submitted my book for self-publishing and I started a blog, determined to validate my own existence as an author. Some might argue this is a fight response, but it’s not. I’m fleeing my old life. The people I talk to, the spiritually at risk people, they want to flee their old lives too. They want to run. And run, and run, and run until they take off, soaring after their own contentment. They want flight. And so do I.

I can’t remember what was happening in my life when I wrote the piece below. I don’t remember who or what the fodder was (yes, it’s true – stealing versions of the truth to offer up to the Gods of fiction is my bag), but I found it today and it seems like a good time to share it so share it I will.

If there had been a fracture in Time itself, a deep, gaping wound where so many moments would have been, would you have let yourself slip into it? Would you have dived purposefully from the lip of Time’s bruised and bloodied flesh and allowed yourself to fall through eternity, unclear of where or when you would end up, just to escape that precise moment in time? Fight of flight, Sister? Which would you have chosen?

It is delicious, a realisation such as this one, when ideals are turned on their heads. Fight always seemed so noble, so gallant. It turns out flight is a much more terrifying and courageous path to follow, a more heroic dive to attempt. To fight is a lesser evil. The enemy wears a set of familiar faces. It is a known quantity. Flight carries the weight of the dense unknown and a terrifying lack of destination. Flight wears only one inescapable, unavoidable face – your own. When you run, wherever you run to, you have only yourself left to turn to. It is brave to flee without knowing if you are enough for yourself.

An Astrid was Born

I’ve written and self-published a book called This Little Light of Mine (which will be available soon, all being well). In the publishing world it fits the ‘young adult’ category, although I’m not comfortable with labelling it anything if I’m honest (personally, I don’t think anything creative should have to fit a category). Stella is the main character and she has a best friend who happens to be a faery named Astrid. The piece below isn’t in the book, but it explains where both Stella and Astrid come from. When I wrote it I wasn’t actually thinking about Stella at all, I was thinking much, much closer to home.

To unsuspecting eyes, it seemed like an ordinary day that day. For eyes that see, see deep into souls, there are no ordinary days. There is no ordinary. There are only miracles.

The woman with the entire planet reflected in her eyes, the Mother of the Earth, the woman called Pangea, watched carefully as the star she had just selected began to pulse and vibrate wildly. She had chosen this star with great deliberation, keenly aware of the importance of getting it right. A child was preparing to be born on her Earth, and the child was relying on Pangea to select the star intended for her, just as she was intended for the star.

With great responsibility comes great satisfaction, and Pangea was satisfied she had chosen correctly. This star was the one. Up close, it emitted light so pure it was purple. It hummed with the songs of a thousand voices in perfect harmony. The song was for the human child about to take the first breath of her new life. The song sang her name; the song sang for her soul. Pangea had cupped her hands around this star and blown a puff of air through them once to bring it to life, to cause it to wake up, and woken up it had. It was time.

Pangea waited only a short while before the star exploded silently in a shower of tiny, illuminated fragments. She caught the largest of these fragments, a vivid, metallic purple, in the palm of her hand. She uncurled her long, delicate fingers and saw a tiny body lying across the deepest crease in her palm. Its skin had a slight hue of lilac, hair cropped and blonde. Its eyelids were shut with miniscule glittering stars at the ends of the eyelashes. With the most delicate of touches, Pangea skimmed a finger over the body, a girl, and the girl’s eyes opened, large and vivid green. She looked at Pangea and recognised her at once. She felt safe. She pulled her shoulders back and two glimmering gossamer wings erupted from her shoulder blades, the colour matching the deep metallic purple of the starlight she had just been born from. She stretched her wings out to the corners of the universe, not a girl at all, but something else entirely, and then shook them softly, drops of dew showering Pangea’s hand. Pangea began to whisper to the faery. She whispered secrets only nature spirits can know, and she breathed a new purpose into the faery’s soul, a purpose that would be shared with the human child soon. After they had spoken, Pangea lifted her hand, and with a slight flourish the faery took flight and began her journey to Earth, to her human child.

And so, this ordinary day was not so ordinary for the human child taking her first breath in her new body. Her eyes, still brand new, could not see clearly. Her ears, still so fresh, could hear no better. But she saw her nature spirit in vivid detail and she heard her perfectly as the faery alighted on her shoulder, untouched as yet by human hands. The faery whispered directly into the human child’s ear:

“I am Astrid. I am born from the breath of Mother Earth; born from a star that sang your name. You have been reborn for me, and I have been reborn for you. I will love you, protect you, guide you, and learn from you. Our souls are joined as one. And so it is.”

The human child listened and let the faery speak. As she opened her mouth and screamed the scream of a brand new child in a cold and brightly lit world, she grasped her nature spirit tightly and knew she would always be loved, always be safe, always be looked after. She gripped the faery with as much intensity as she could muster, and Astrid curled up, content, in the palm of her hand. A new home for a faery who needed a girl, a girl who needed a faery.