Foundation stones

The wind was warm, lulling my skin into a sense of security that may yet prove to be false – this time of year is prone to change, to deceit in its budding fingers and icy pavements, its wide-eye skies that retain a burnished bronze at the horizon line… and the silky darkness of blue above, when the stars make a cold fire.

The tombstones were warped in a hazy red glow from the lamplight. Unnatural, almost hellish, and I had to bite my fist against the hard laugh in my chest. I’m prone to inappropriate thoughts and giggle-fits, which is one reason I can’t be trusted in important corridors and silent rooms.

I fell in love with the city’s cathedral at first sight – those tall turrets, so elegant and poignant against the sky, surrounded by lean-back roof lines and the echoing colour spirals of a rose window, the largest kaleidoscope I’ve yet seen. Trembling rose stems, twining about the black iron fence of the graveyard, and the weather-etched stones themselves, centuries past and names long melted into the face of tomorrow. Dear reader, we all end up in the same places, at the end. Whether marked or not, we go through the same channels of decomposition and leave behind those who once called us Friend and Foe, Lover and Life, Stranger and Oppressor, Comrade and Colleague.

You can go your own way. I’ll take mine.

The shadows etch themselves onto the cathedral face in wrinkles of time, backlit and forward thrust until the entire building lives and breathes contentment under the stars. At other times she is jumpy and hurtling towards the storm, set against the sky like a livid mark of every worried thought and hideous fright; sharp black and gunmetal presence. I love to walk straight into the teeth of the wind that endlessly circles her stones, feeling its fingers tear through my hair and making my eyes water. Tonight, those fingers caressed. Tonight, for the first time in a long while, I felt something close to myself again.

The fretful, arrogant, innocent, fumbling woman-child who is, the storyteller with a real problem of getting to a point, because she’s not entirely sure where it is she’s going to or who she is supposed to be…. except in a long form narrative. It’s just how we roll. It took me until age seven to fully grasp the English language and its numbers; age nine until I could handle money and time. To this day, I find myself going cross-eyed in trying to arrive at where I am supposed to be, perhaps through a reluctance of commitment (ever the nomad) or a latent fear of laying claim to what is Mine. Because then it is responsibilities. It is adulthood and a release of ideologies.

Or so I once thought. As it turns out, approaching 30 has at last brought about the inner peace my Nanna once extolled, which I heard and could make little sense of at the time. 17 is no age to try and foresee/feel the future, especially when you’re slowly dying a little more each day with anorexia. But now I know it – this sense of, well, these are my opinions and I’ll tell you because I have nothing better to do, you have yours and that’s fine … but I’m going to shy away and lean into a smile like a wary fox, a weak waver on the wind but a strong back, and walk where my thoughts and feelings go. And that’s that. I’m also now more open to change in the way the sky pales into spring. Black and white are no longer prerequisites. To leave a place is not to say it vanishes forever – I can return, the cathedral will be here for me to walk around its grounds and vanish into the light of the unicorn for a moment or more, knowing myself hopeless and helpless in the face of Time and fate and whatever else, so strong a hand at my back right now. So it seems. Less a boot up my arse, at least, than in 2013 when life unravelled. But things happen, and we go with them and it’s not the end of the world, only a series of events that perhaps propel us to –

Others. Places. Nostalgia has its place, and I still know its sepia tones in the fading light of the sky, on the hair of the twins as they grow, in the lines deepening around my eyes. The little boy wept downstairs the other day, when he learned I was leaving. The girl came upstairs to tell me, and in her solemn eyes her voice came out like the future bell –
Everyone moves on to other places.

She’s six years old, going on Eternity. They have souls made of stars, come out with things that shiver up my skin, watch empty places in rooms like the cats I once knew. I won’t say Goodbye to them in that way that feels like forever; it’s only down the road, this new home of mine. And even if it was the other side of the world, well, there is social media now. There are connections that were once only possible while sifting through the minds of sci-fi authors. There’s symbolic interaction, which has become the beckoning hand of the future, while I stand at the crossroads scratching my head in that way of the wanderer who holds a map she can’t yet fully read or understand.

There are certain things that go beyond words. We all know it. Given the option between an image and a set of lines, I’m ashamed to admit – as a writer – that I’m more prone to hold up the former, while trying to whittle down the latter into something that will get across what I meant to say. We’ve been here before, I know, but it’s worth remembering. A song, a picture, a video, all bear a salience that more formulaic prose can’t improve upon. When nothing else will do, there’s symbolism – with all its fault lines and misinterpretations and layered meanings. A curse and a blessing. Once you see the world for what it is, there’s little else to do but accept what is, will be.

Somehow, I am still alive. Somehow, I’m moving to a flat that I will furnish to my own tastes, funded by a new job in a research centre that I hope will allow me to move sideways in employment, if not up. Every bit on the CV helps. I’m not old yet, not middle-aged, not so bitter that I’ll break as all blades that have gone wrong in tempering, do. I’m here, and this is Now. You can come along, if you like.

Golden leaves and rustic walls. A lady cathedral that will stand beyond my days and nights, and I’ll see her again soon. Nothing really ends, nothing lasts forever. These are things I wish I’d known as a child, when it seemed that to walk out of a room would have it – and the people within – disappear, walk away, move on, leave me behind. My greatest fear. And adolescence, when it seemed the shaking of the world as it changed would knock me off my feet, when too much happened at once. How funny, how odd, that now I relish the speed at which things progress – if only because it means I don’t have time to stop and Think.

Hurt. Feel. Wonder if I’m doing the right thing.
Of course I am. But the sepia tones light my mind all the same, because I’m that sort of person. But now, I know not to stand still and Wonder for too long. Life has a habit of shifting with bubble evanescence until a completely new scene appears, and I must run to catch up. I’m doing all of this alone, you see, and can’t afford to let go or be afraid.

And as that little girl said, Everyone moves on. But we each of us take the stages of our lives with us, as chapters for others to fall into and read – backwards to move forwards – if they so wish.
I like to bookmark the best bits with a song, a picture and a smile at once was. They complement what is to come.

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Which for now, for tonight, is another chapter of a novel that – as mine invariably do – began life as a shortie, last year, as a collision of thoughts and emotions while brushing my teeth. I keep trying to start a blog entry on Russian propaganda, on the urgent need for the west to combat this with specific channels in the face of a rising (dis)information war… It’s a different front-line altogether. But I’m hopeless at starting most things without preamble, and am having trouble drawing the necessary lines between stars. While my voice falters each time I hear it, breaking on glass, on a mirror I’m not entirely sure I should be stood in front of to see myself, with a shadow close behind.
I know my own mind, its fault-lines and its high tides and buried burdens. We all have a story to tell. It’s just, mine are getting stuck in my throat at the moment.

Or perhaps my own excuses are a dull pain yet to be mastered. That fear of putting my name to something that might turn out to be an Even Bigger Cockup (I could spin you a few.) But I’ve fallen already, and got back up, and still trip over my big toe for no reason whatsoever while walking barefoot (there’s a useless factoid for you.)
This is my personal blog, after all. I make no claims of faultless accuracy, though I’ll do my best with what little I have; and I too often set myself up for failure by forgetting that I began this blog (and the old one, CelenaGaia) primarily to loosen up my mind and to offload, to talk with friends, in that inimitable way of bloggers with time on their hands and too much to do, and the protraction of emails and the disengagement/re-engagement of social media and offline life… and writing.

So. We’ll see. There’s still a lot to read and to learn (backwards) and I’m doing this a little off the cuff, but I’d hate to lose myself in study at the expense of speaking out on what crawls up my back and occasionally makes my mind turn pale.
I’d like to say, of this year, that procrastination did not get a look-in. I took the jump for a new job and a new home, in a week. I can do things I once thought were impossible.
Now, I’m more prone to a shrug and a tired-defiant smile in the face of others’ doubt and my own (chronic) sense of self-defeat. This is one of the fun parts about getting older. One of the less fun parts, is finding you can no longer make it to midnight on a Friday. I woke up at 11.30-ish to find my cheek plastered to the keyboard, with an assortment of winking numbers on the screen (thankfully having missed Delete.) Long hours at work, time spent online, going through life as a perma-pedestrian and a gym fiend and a fuck-up and friend … there’s no time for boredom. My worst enemy.
But life is realigning itself, as it should post-anorexia. I find my priorities changing. This is no small thing, but I couldn’t really explain it all in a way that your eyes wouldn’t glaze over.
The world gets a bit bigger, each year.

The moon was a yellow and ragged thing tonight, rising through the clouds like a bell-chime. It turned gold in passing, grew stronger in the lines. I watched its course with interest, past the silent windows with their thickening darkness, across the tan-purple sky, over the flickering lake. The water was a beetle’s back, a sense of Tomorrow; the cries of the birds split the brooding quiet.
The stars went on with their feigned indifference, their watchful eyes. As above, so below.

Living the Dream

When we are small, one of the first questions we are likely to ask of ourselves and others, is “What will I be when I grow up?”

The answer might seem elusive as a bubble for some (like me, easily distracted), chased by a skittish kitten across a slippery floor. For others, ambitions are set early, solid and immovable as the stones found in a riverbed.

I have clung onto only two ideals in life: Writing, and Travel. Both have played their part in my learning experience, as I evolve at a stumble-trip pace, from that child wandering off down a sunstruck Mercy Street, to the frail waif who sought to claw back control in her life and almost lost the latter in the process, to the woman I am now – still a bit unsteady on her feet, but racing to catch up with the world, while the natural order of things seems to be coming apart even as I watch the sky dialling down.

The best we can do, is to seek out what makes us happy and brings us peace, as I did today, wandering through the park and watching the wiffle of tiny fish in the glassy water, where the sun seemed to sleep in its riverbed.

Sun in bed

We are all of us allowed days off from the world. I openly admit to having an obsessive personality, to getting strung up on details, while missing the bigger picture. In this case, it was the fight for a world I have recently rediscovered, grown to love and wish to maintain in its peace, while actually forgetting to stop and watch the glitter of sunlight through new leaves.

Bridge

The best we can do, is to follow what brings us freedom and fire to the soul. I’m still trying to strike that balance.

I read back over old journals from time to time, to remind myself of where I have come from, what I’ve seen and done. Not for a martyr’s song, but to ground myself in the reality of still being alive, after over a decade of anorexia nervosa / athletica; and to help me decide where I am going to next (in a will ‘o the wisp way.) While the experiences gave me a different take on the world, they were bare, blank years, and not something I would wish upon anyone or would readily repeat.

There are too many minute cracks in the crystal for me to tell you where the real split came from, allowing depression to pour itself into my soul, thick and dark as well-bottom water and rot. But one particularly deep cut runs through my writing career, which began – ended – began again, as an emotional outlet. It was the loss of singularity which was my undoing; a feeling of being (yet again) inadequate in the face of society, when I had precious little else going for me.

Upon returning to the UK from Germany and the travels across Europe with my family, I was so far behind my peers in all subjects that it was required of me to attend extra tuition, just to keep up. In particular, there was a special reading group, held by a gentle lady with pebble-glasses and iron-wool hair, and the sort of stoop some tall older people wear, when their spines begin to fade.

It was through her careful persuasion and tutelage that I managed to get past the frustration, to continue picking up the books which others seemed able to skim over like swans on the lake water. Whenever I feel left out, the first instinctive reaction is to stomp off in the opposite direction (I’m working on a more mature approach of standing my ground, though the hot angry tears still occasionally come if I cannot comprehend something which seems perfectly basic to others. Hence the hatred of Maths.)
It wasn’t long before the school library became a quiet haven of stirred pages, a refuge for a developing mind.

The realization of writing as an emotional outlet came with watching a class video about brick-work children, in the factories of Victorian England. I can still remember the feeling at the back of my throat, at the sight of those wide white eyes staring out of dirt-blackened faces, the little chapped hands and the stooped backs. Though of course these were characters played by actors and actresses, the stories were based upon the country’s historical context, as the teacher had told us before the video began. These had once been real lives, real suffering.

The thought of children my age (six years old, at the time) not having the same simple privileges of life which I enjoyed and took for granted – playing outside with friends, eating when hungry, sleeping when tired – was a shocking dart between the eyes. I felt very still and quiet inside, in that way of walking from the cinema after seeing a film that stirred the soul, leaving you in dire need of the emptiest night-streets.

Normally, after watching such videos, the class would then go outside at break-time and re-enact in games what they had seen. I didn’t feel up to it. The company of my peers felt cloying; I couldn’t shake off the weird nimbus-mood.

When I got home, I asked my mother for a few sheets of blank paper. Keeping in mind what I’d seen a teacher do, I asked her to fold it over and staple the edges, to make a “proper book.” This would be the first of many; I still have some knocking around in old files, scribbled dark with biro and pencil. The pictures usually took up much of the page, with the narratives captioned beneath.

That first story took the brick-work children out of their scraping-by environment; away from the flames of the kiln which burnt their skin, and out into the countryside – all via a convoluted map, of course, with contemporary enemies thrown in for good measure (I’m pretty sure there was an electric gremlin somewhere en route.)

In the only way I knew how, I gave those kids a shot at freedom, to take their lives into their own hands – though of course, it all balanced against my developing suspension of disbelief, for I was all too aware that the Victorian children were long gone. But still, that creative outlet somehow worked to appease my sense of morality, a little.

The rest of the story lies in the ebb-flow of this writing career.

Anorexia worked its claws in, around the time when I discovered I was not unique as a writer. There were others who, to a lesser or greater degree, were saying much the same things I was – using the same terminology, tapping into the same ideas, putting up their hands in class to give the answers I would have spoken, had I dared to bother to open my mouth first. More and more, the words What is the Point? ran through my head, a whistle-rush loop to throttle out all creative impulses. Someone would have inevitably done it before, and better – why should I waste my time?

With the loss of identity, anorexia was all too happy to step in and fill that echoing space. But since I wasn’t keen on death, and the grey place I was stuck in didn’t seem to be making me happy or peaceful, the only other way was up, and out. And though my brain was fried for a while, I never stopped writing – even if it was only to do a crossword or four, every day, to keep my mind ticking over; albeit, teeny-tiny ticks, inching about the clock face, counting out the days and the years that were becoming one and the same.

Time is something I wish I had more of – don’t we all? – while it is forever escaping from these pockets, to go rolling off down the street. I hate to feel as though I’ve wasted a moment, especially after leaving hospital. There is so much to catch up on. Once something has caught my interest, it will become yet another crystal for me to look into and through, multi-faceted and in equal parts beautiful and deadly, depending on how self-destructive I am feeling.

My ex partner was always trying to educate me in the glorious arts of Sitting Still and Doing Nothing; he can watch a fish tank for up to an hour before settling to write, while I must barge around like a walking hive full of bees before anything close to relaxation occurs, let alone a creative onslaught on a page. Evenings are my favourite time, when the body is weary enough to let the still-bright mind take over; sitting up in this eyrie-home with my back to to the wall, heart in my mouth and occasionally on my sleeve, watching the speckles of rain and the golden light that reflects off of gathered cumuli. A silence so heavy that the air itself shifts in colour, and it seems as though the world is holding its breath –

Until the thunder-clap and my heartbeat, a reminder that I had something to do or somewhere to be, something to read or write; another thing to learn and recall. I’ve given myself cluster-headaches recently, perhaps trying to do too much at once.
But I’d take it all, the newborn mind and the frantic energy, insomniac nights and the red-eye days, over the stagnancy of before.

So while at work, I allow my mind to wander freely. My job is high-intensity and very much blue-collar; there are some in my life who have made their opinions known, that I have “sold myself short.” It was their opinion that for someone who is holding three top-grade A Levels, I could certainly be doing better for myself; perhaps earning a better wage, driving a car, renting a bigger flat. Etc.

Should they ever read this, they will know who they are, and I hope that they will understand why I’ve included it here. I will point out now, as I did ten years ago when I took my first job after leaving hospital, that I am in work and I am alive. This is enough for me. I do tend to forget, which is OK in most circumstances, except when I grow complacent and/or rag on at myself for falling short of expectations.

I have few responsibilities and fewer outgoings, by personal preference. Even before the long spells of inpatient treatment, I was suspicious of all things long-term, of that which caused a commitment to be made, a responsibility upheld. When you’ve seen your life hanging by a thread, watching with dulled eyes as it was pulled taut, you become hyper-aware of Now.
Tomorrow, as they say, is just another day.

So I rarely plan anything in advance, and leapfrog from one project to another, with all the enthusiasm and naivety of a woman who has (and probably never will) grow up or grow old. My phone contract alone gives me a cold sweat. It’s probably the longest financial commitment I have to date.

Maybe one day, I’ll feel secure enough in myself and the turning of the world, to lay down roots.

This certainly isn’t the Be-All and End-All of life. The daytime job is just that, for all that I love the interactions with the personnel involved; it keeps a regular flow of cash coming in, and maintains my fitness in ways I hadn’t thought possible before. This is a particularly worthwhile investment for (allowing myself to break a rule) the tough times which may be ahead, if anorexia has a few latent “gifts” to give me when I am older.

The job allows me the freedom to come home and get on with the real career, the writing which sustains me mentally throughout the day; when not filtering through articles found online, researching this and that until my mind whites-out with weariness.

One day, I might actually know enough to write with a valid voice, about the things which engage my interest and are starting to redirect my concerns and priorities. The peculiar importance of the upcoming European elections; the actual benefits for education and global research, which our membership in the EU brings vs. the need for reformations; the rise-fall-rise of UKIP, and their consideration of an alliance with European far-right parties, to form a so-called Right-wing Eurosceptic bloc. Considering what some of the policies of these far-right populist parties are, let alone their controversies, I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with the idea.

I’m not a part of the so-called Metropolitan Elite. I earn just enough to stay alive, and try not to take more than I have earned. I’m only Me, a novice in this arena; but all I ask for, is to live in a country where everyone may go about their business without feeling persecuted because of their skin colour, ridiculed if English is not their first language, or unrepresented if the way in which they live differs to the social majority. It can’t be too much to expect, right? Heaven forbid if several individuals should happen to get together as a group, and to also be Romanian, and moving at speed into a house..

(Mr Farage has since retracted his comments, after a rather messy interview with LBC radio’s James O’Brien, in which I think it’s fair to say that the UKIP leader’s true colours were given an airing. Will it make a difference?
I’d throw a dart at a board. You’d have more chance of finding an answer.)
The Sun duly issued an example of deadpan assertion, just to ratchet up the pressure (via @pawelmorski / @jamesmanning4):

Sun newspaper

Sometimes, it really does come down to a dictionary definition.

I’m still learning as I go along. Still fucking up, backtracking, coming at things from one angle after another (hitting my head.) Always processing what others tell me, and what I witness on and offline. I’m not content with keeping quiet any more, and all of this waiting around, to find and validate my voice … it’s a bit boring. I guess it’ll happen when the train arrives.

To get back to the original point: I’m a writer. I make things happen with words. I may not always be writing what I know, but I know that I’m writing what I feel, what I fear and what I wish to talk about with the world.

Additional: On my school prom night, I was voted “Most likely to strap herself to a rocket in protest.”
Hope that helps.