Be more Kate.

It’s been a week since the world lost someone vibrant, bright, bold and brilliant. A week since a sudden, shocking illness saw us lose Kate Sutton – known to so many as Wit Wit Woo from her very popular blog.

Kate was my friend. Not just ‘an internet friend’ – something I don’t really think I believe is different to ‘proper’ friends anyway – but someone I regularly turned to on hard days, who I supported when she had her own. We shared some experiences – not nice ones – and both survived them and came out of them bigger and better and braver. But we were both able to talk to each other about the ways we didn’t feel brave at all.

Losing Kate – someone who was known for always bouncing back, for being impossible to knock down for long – so suddenly has been a terrible shock. It has been so powerful to see the enormous, overwhelming outpouring of love in response to the news – the hundreds and hundreds of people donating to help her two sons – the boys she was endlessly, unabashedly, unrelentingly proud of, every moment of every day – to give her the best send off they can, but also to just survive for a while as their world shifts.

To see thousands of #bemorewitwitwoo posts on Twitter, to see so many gorgeous smiling women braving their bikinis for swim suit selfies in Kate’s honour – because, oh, did she love to be proud and encourage that pride, no matter who you are, what your size, to celebrate beauty in all forms – she was so encouraging, so supportive, and had already had an impact on my self-view, on stopping me from hiding myself away just because I’d gained weight.

Kate has set off a positivity cannon. Losing her could suck a vast, sparking, rainbow (and, let’s be honest, leopard print) hole into the world – she was too full of life to simply be gone. But people aren’t letting her loss break them down – instead, we are celebrating her. We are honouring her.

I am so proud that I knew her, that I got to call her my friend, that I got to tell her that I love her, before she was so suddenly lost. I am so grateful that I had the chance to laugh and cry and laugh some more with her, and to share some experiences that bonded us.

I am all the more proud that I have seen so much love pouring from so many people, that so many have come together to support her beautiful boys, that they get to see the enormous, world shifting impact their wonderful mother had, simply by being herself.

Kate – I love you. The world without you is never going to be the same – but you haven’t truly gone, because you live in the hearts, the smiles, the positivity and the outpouring support that so many people are offering to each other in your honour.

Thank you for being my friend.

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Pochemuchka

I learned a new word today – it’s a Russian word, Pochemuchka, which translates as “a person (usually child) who asks too many questions” (or “person who talks too much”, according to Writers Magazine, but I think they’re less correct!)

 

This is ABSOLUTELY a word that would have been applied to me – with either definition – as a child, and one which could be applied to both of my sons, with their always busy minds and their never still lips.

I swore I’d never be a parent who said “just because” or “because I said so” – that I would give my children my attention, my time, my focus, every time they requested it, so their questions were never left unanswered – and that, when I was baffled, I’d find the answer for them, with them – and I try, truly I do, but I think the greatest gift I was ever given was a CD of Encarta ’95 – and as time has moved on, I have gifted my sons the magic of “this is how to Google that…”

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It backfires at times when my 9yo, the walking embodiment of World’s Biggest Ego, tells me I’m wrong about something, then backs himself up with facts and evidence (so frustrating…) but the world is so crammed with knowledge, and their minds are sponges, so ready to soak it all in.

This week, I learned a new word – and tomorrow, when they wake up, I’ll teach it to my sons – probably call them it affectionately (in place of “stinky butt”, their current shared moniker) and in return, they will babble their new knowledge at me, forgetting that I’ve been their age and discovered all these things already – and I will have to remind myself that they haven’t and so have the benefit of magic, the world being full of new things, excitement, and wonder.

This week my eldest, at 9, has discovered that he rather likes football, that you can enjoy a thing even when you aren’t personally very good at it, and that the camaraderie of shared happiness can lift the whole country. He has also discovered The Hobbit, and that being on stage fills him with happiness, and he might like to do more drama.

My youngest, at 7, has FINALLY discovered the mind-blowing magic of Tooth Fairies, of celebrating someone else’s moment in the spotlight, and that he, in fact, does not much care for football, but rather likes the fast cars.

And I have discovered a new word which has reconnected me to my childhood self, and to the innocent marvel my babies feel for learning new things, and made me think that I need to take the occasional moment to just listen to them, hear them, and remember that this is their first time here, and the world is a wonderful place.

Anxiety is exhausting.

I’ve had this post as a draft for months. Held back hitting publish because even I think I’m ridiculous, and dramatic.

One of the things that has been said to me many times is “but your life is lovely, you’ve got nothing to worry about!” and I know. I know things are lovely. I know there’s nothing real to worry about.

But try telling that to the seventy three personalities living inside my mind, who all have an opinion, and all think they need to be heard.

The thing with anxiety is that it isn’t logical. Or useful. Or in any way something you can just opt out of having. Anxiety isn’t something I have because it fills the time. It isn’t just that I worry a bit, and should calm down. It’s nothing to do with how well my life is going (and if anything, things being nice in my life is far more frightening than things falling apart, because there’s more to lose from here and I’m BOUND to cock it all up!)

Anxiety just IS. It has a life apart from mine, it is a monster that lives in my body, that whispers in my mind, telling me all the ways the people I love are either in danger or don’t want me around. It tells me that there is danger everywhere, meaning I am always flooded with adrenaline. It makes my heart race, my hands sweat, my chest tighten and my body throw food back out violently when even the smallest thing happens.

My logical mind knows that there’s nothing terrifying happening. My logical mind knows that going to a networking event for work is not only not in the least bit frightening, it’s actually really good fun, and I like the people I see there. But my body is still unsure, and so I have to throw up before I go into the room – and because I’ve lived with this kind of anxiety for so many years, that is just something I factor into my timekeeping, and I tend to arrive first to any business meeting (even friendly coffee meetings with people I adore, actually!) because I’ll probably go and be sick in the bathroom and get a drink before anyone else arrives.

This has the added bonus of making me look like someone who is efficient and good at timekeeping – never a bad reputation to build as a freelancer!

The worst thing about anxiety is that it gets in the way of doing things – and often, I’m anxious because I need to do things – but then so frozen by the anxiety that I can’t do things, and then I’m even more anxious, because I’ve not done the things that needed to be done, and then it builds and builds.

I am then so anxious that I can’t sleep, instead lying awake thinking about a thousand scenarios that aren’t even going to happen, but which I can’t stop picturing – and then I’m exhausted, and that makes me even more anxious.

All through this process, there’s a very sensible voice inside my head (which, incidentally and not at all incidentally, sounds exactly like my Grandmother) saying “but what’s the worst that can actually happen?” and “But you know this is nonsense, and you’re spiralling” and – peak Nanny voice – “stop catastrophising, Child!”

Unfortunately, that one voice has very little chance of being heard and agreed with, because drowning it our are all the others, telling me what a failure I am, that I’m cocking everything up, that I’m crap at all the things I want to do anyway, that I’m going to fail so there’s no point in even trying, that I’m unlovable, unlikeable and unworthy, that I’m just a blob of negative energy making life harder for the people around me, that I’m just a selfish little vampire who doesn’t deserve to be happy, that nobody wants to be around me, including myself, and that I should just leave already and let them get on with life without me spoiling things.

And to each and every one of those voices I have a small voice of my own saying “this is just the anxiety speaking” and a Nanny voice who says “don’t be ridiculous” to each of those statements – but there are more of them than there are of us, and it is EXHAUSTING having to give myself that pep talk every moment of every day.

Every decision is a battle, every step is a war, every time I leave the house I have to bully myself into it, every time I see someone roll their eyes because I am being ridiculous and I KNOW I AM BEING RIDICULOUS but I can’t help it, I feel just that little bit more broken and things get just that little bit more difficult, and I can’t follow a conversation because I’m distracted by twenty others that are happening in my head all at once.

One is about that time I dropped ten pounds when I was 14 and a boy shouted “stupid skinhead bitch” after me as he scooped it up, laughing, and I told my Mum I’d spent it because I was too ashamed to say I was too frightened to ask for it back, but I couldn’t tell her what I’d spent it on, so got grounded.

One is the things I wish I’d said in defence of myself, at a time when I was afraid and instead I said nothing at all.

One is a conversation I think is coming, which I dread, for which I have no indication or evidence, because it’s a scenario that will never come about, with a person I’ve not had contact with for over a decade, but who still has a loud enough voice in my mind to matter.

One is the list of things I should have done, and haven’t, which repeats on a loop, berating me for failing, even though many of the things on the list are things I couldn’t do or which aren’t my responsibility anyway.

Another is the voice who laughs at me when I want to call my friends, because I don’t have friends, these people tolerate me, but don’t want to carry the burden of my angst.

All of these, and more from my youth, my imagined future, and the mess I think I’m making of right now, are always happening. Add to them that every time I drop my babies at school I spend the day imagining the flames that burn it to the ground with them inside, and I’m not there to save them. Or someone walks in, pretends to know them, and steals them before I go to wait in the playground to pick them up at half past three. And every time I get in the car, I feel the crunch of metal against metal as I crash and die. I hear the words of the doctors telling my partner that I didn’t make it. I see the children growing up without me, because I took my eyes off the road just for a second and a second was all it took. When I walk down any pavement I see myself trip, and fall into the path of a lorry, which hasn’t got time to brake, instead crushing me beneath its wheels. I cook knowing that I will somehow set the house on fire. I wash dishes knowing that I will fumble a knife and slash my wrist, bleeding out before help can come. Each time I go up or down the stairs, I know I’ll slip and fall and break my neck, because Laura Ashley tripped at home on just three steps, and died.

I check my children each night before I go to bed, to be sure that they are sleeping and breathing, and through the night I often check again, just to be sure.

I lock the front door and check it again, and just once more, to be sure I didn’t make a mistake.

I answer each call knowing that the phone is ringing with the news that someone I love has died. I answer the doorbell knowing it is the police telling me I’ve broken a law and am being taken away.

I concentrate on what is being said to me by anyone having a conversation, but have to concentrate harder and harder to follow it because I’m distracted by the voices telling me this person wishes they were talking to anyone but me.

I work, knowing that I’m terrible at what I do, and will doubtlessly lose every client after this job, because they think the same.

I jump inside at every sound, knowing it is some approaching danger. My heart is pounding, my vision is blurred, my hands clammy, my hearing alert but also muffled, and I remind myself to breathe because I’m dizzy with the fear of it all, when there is nothing here to fear.

I am suffocating, in this wonderful life, happy with my family and friends, building a successful world, and terrified, every moment of every day, of my own happiness.

That is anxiety. Not a little worry. Not a choice. Not silly. Exhausting. Always. Relentlessly.

 

You thought your smear test was bad?

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Being the feminist, strong-independent-woman type of lady that I am (because, obviously) I’ve been paying attention to the loud and proud ‘smear for smear’ campaign running riot on social media.

Being who I am I also, of course, couldn’t just post a quick boomerang of me smudging my lipstick all over my cheeks (in part because I’m an enormous lipcote fan and my bright red lip isn’t budging, babe) and have turned instead to writing – that being the way I peel open my skin and show you all my insides.

Now; to protect the innocent (and I mean you, not the characters involved) I will be naming no names in the following stories. The first tale is one my Grandmother – the incomparable Nanny B – told me when I was invited to my first smear test and called her to panic on the phone about the process.

Nanny B is a famous face in many of my stories; she was a powerful phenomenon – and her friends were cut from the same cloth.

Now; picture this. You are going for your own smear. It’s awkward. Nobody likes it. Not one of us want to be there, showing our muff to a stranger. Nobody wants to have their private places cranked open and discussed, and poked around. We KNOW we don’t like it. We know, ladies. But seriously – it could be so much worse…

FON (Friend Of Nanny) got The Letter. You know the one. THAT one. “Come and let a nice friendly young thing crank open your hoo-hoo and scrape things out of it. Wear fresh pants.”

And, because she was a responsible-lady-of-a-certain-age, she booked the appointment and went.

When she arrived at the surgery she had a call of nature and – as is so often the case (and, knowing what we do about NHS budgets, we can’t get mad) there was no toilet roll – so (again, being a responsible-lady-of-a-certain-age) she dug around in her handbag for a tissue to take care of business.

Mission accomplished, with an only-slightly-used kleenex from the depths of her handbag, she tootled back to the waiting room and listened for her name being called. When the call came, she was politely asked if she would mind (there being some history that made her interesting) if some student nurses were to witness proceedings, and she said she was absolutely fine with that.

Minutes later, she was lying on her back under a tissue-thin blanket, knickers removed and legs akimbo (we’ve all been there) and the doctor swept into the room with a gaggle of terribly young things (as FON called them) and someone off to the side ran the metal crank (I know, speculum, but crank is funnier) under a hot tap so she wasn’t uncomfortable (HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAA!) and he asked a few questions, discussed the procedure, then lifted the tissue-thin-blanket.

There was a brief pause, a cough and a cleared throat, then things proceeded as expected – nice doctor talked the terribly young things through what he was doing, FON endured with as little discomfort as these things allow, and all in all it was rather brief and uneventful.

Until.

UNTIL.

As he folded the tissue-thin-blanket back over FON’s knees the nice Doctor met the eye of the supervising nurse, and, clearing his throat again, said “could you…” and, giant plastic tweasers in hand, supervising nurse stepped forward and dipped below the tissue-thin-blanket.

FON was a little confused, and felt a gentle tugging down below, then supervising nurse, pink in the face, appeared and thrust her giant tweasers at FON, saying quietly “will you be wanting this?”

Attached to the tweasers?

A second class stamp.

Clearly, the rummage through the handbag for a kleenex when the NHS failed to provide loo roll had some side effects!

 

I made a life

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This poetry writing thing has taken me quite by surprise – I appear to be writing a few a day, at a rate I haven’t since I was an angsty, angry teenager. (The type to write about feeling forlorn, perhaps?)

Some of them I’ve decided not to publish, hence not sharing one yesterday, but I’m aware that this is my own little tiny piece of the internet, and there aren’t many of you waiting on the edge of your seats to see more posts from me!

As I mentioned previously, I’ve got myself a subscription to Writers’ Forum magazine, and I’m still coming back to the prompts I saw in there earlier this week; the next prompt I’m sharing was ‘a first or last breath’.

I made a life.

I discovered another person, inside me
hearts in time and a tiny dance
that swam like our magic, secret world, I held this knowledge tight
until the day my body reached a limit
and an instinct to tear our one to two
that, spoken by the universe, we could not halt
took over
and the world that he inhabited
suddenly
and glacier slow
became a whole new world
apart
from me.

A push, a pull, and life was there
atop of me where once within
and fury filled a face unhappy with this change
of situation
life, but not yet living,
yet
until
a heave of bird like, butterfly chest
breath
creating life so true.

My heart broke
rebuilt
soared
all
in one moment
made anew.

A silver line that binds
my soul to his
stretched ever thinner as he learns to fly
from my soft, love feathered nest
my pride outshining sorrow
as he climbs towards a full grown self
no longer part of me
this journey we’re both on
takes separate paths
as it should be.

 

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Forlorn

As part of my mission to write more, write better, and write things people see so I can get used to people seeing my writing (which is akin to peeling off my skin and asking you all whether you like the way my dermis displays my nerve endings) I have sought out a number of prompts and exercises, some from the Writers’ Forum magazine, as demonstrated in yesterday’s post, and others from elsewhere.

Today’s is from daily post and the prompt is a single word, with  which I can do anything. So I’ve done this;

Forlorn

A word is a place we can occupy
when we speak from a secret deep inside
a world in a word we can make our own
and a universe we can call a home

a word is a secret, whispered close
to the ears of a loved one trusted most
a whisper is a promise and a piece of self
a betrayal to the sanctity of mental health

A word can be everything, out on its own
in a universe tailored for pairing alone
souls to bolt two whole beings together
to make anew something that can’t last forever

Eternity cycles from every decision
all of our choices become our prison
as free as we try to believe we can be
the older we get, the more we can see

We are trapped in this pattern, this endless recycle
of living and breathing and dying, desciples
of promises made to a world we just visit
and we question, each moment, if this really is it

A word, whispered tenderly, sharing a moment
gives a piece of ourselves until we’re just the remnant
of a soul, given piecemeal to those we would warn
and our love, given freely, leaves those remnants forlorn.

Image shared from http://www.azquotes.com/quotes/topics/forlorn.html

I’m writing things

For many years I’ve told anyone who’ll listen that I’m a writer, and that I’m working on a book. This is true – I write for a living, and I’m writing a book. In fact, I’m writing three or four, at any given time. But I’ve never finished any of them. Not got past the first few chapters and a rough outline.

I get that far, then psych myself out, decide I’m a terrible writer who’ll never achieve anything, tell myself nobody will take me seriously anyway, and then quit.

I am so paralysed by the fear of anyone actually reading, and commenting on, what I write that I don’t get anything to a point where anyone can actually read it, in case they voice an opinion and I can’t handle it.

This isn’t very helpful, when my aim is to get a few books published before I croak, and since one never knows quite how or when one might croak, I think it’s time I grew up, stopped being such a fanny, and just bloody write already.

So, from my collection of half-started, unfinished stories, I’ve picked one to finish. I’m going to write 100,000 words, then print it out, hack it up, and edit it. That’s the goal. Maybe nobody will ever read it, maybe it will never be good enough to be published or shared, and maybe that doesn’t matter because that isn’t the point. The point is to DO THE THING.

With ‘just bloody write’ being my mantra now, I’ve got myself a subscription to “Writers’ Forum” magazine (see how this blog about not procrastinating has introduced a method of procrastination that I can pretend even to myself IS NOT PROCRASTINATION because it says writer in the title? I’m so smart…) and I saw, in one piece, a poetry workout exercise, and thought “I’ll give that a go.” then I thought “I’ll do that on my blog, because that will mean people might see it, and I can practice hearing people’s opinions, even if they say it’s shit, because that’s good practice” so here we are.
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First, a poem about an article of clothing that was either appropriate or inappropriate for a particular situation. 

(Hold on, be right back, I just got an email titled ‘how to stop procrastinating’ and it might be a good read…)

(It wasn’t, but I got a cup of tea and dusted the TV stand, so it was worth pausing…)

The wrong shoes. 

Christmas was cancelled the year I was 12
and we smiled, said we understood.
The work had gone quiet, the money unflowed
so we promised that we wouldn’t mind
wrote a short list, and shared our love like blankets
that made the day special.

I don’t remember the other Christmas days
with presents piled high, what was inside the paper.
I remember, vividly, this holiday with one gift,
(Titanic, the video, so long it needed two)
and held my breath to freeze the moment
as we danced and made merry, that Christmas we cancelled.

I remember the tears my Mother tried to hide
When her father laid money on our table and told us to celebrate
and the day we went shopping.
I didn’t wear underwear
not understanding the plans,
singing a song with my sister as we drove.
“Going commando, we’re going commando”

I hadn’t seen the day pan out, the shops we would explore
all trying on clothes, refusing to try, because I couldn’t bear
to press my bare flesh against the unbought cloth.
“you silly girl, you’ll spoil the day!”
I hadn’t known where we would go,
but spoiled it unknowing.

Clothes stayed untried, but shoes caught my eye
Blue and silver, platform trainers
these shoes, I knew, would make me right.
Would make me someone who belonged
these shoes, these bouncy castle Spice Girl shoes
would make me someone who made sense.

I felt like the queen of the world, of my world
when I danced around the store in these life winning shoes
until my sister chose them too
“The same colour, we can be twins”
and I couldn’t explain why I needed this just for me
when she found popular so easily
and I needed this ticket to get through the door.

I took them home, tried to feel the magic once again,
but with their twins a smaller size
sitting by their side
by the door
the magic had faded,
and I felt ungrateful for that feeling.

The holiday faded back into reality,
and school announced a day I walked into with dread
no uniform
my clothes all wrong, my understanding
never explaining the how or the why
just knowing
knowing I was wrong.

I wore my Spice Girl trainers, talked into them again by Mum.
These magic shoes could never make up
for the reasons I didn’t fit, the never-quite-right
way I appeared, though I studied with all my might
the way the others found belonging so easily
and I felt conspicuous, too tall, too bouncy
in the blue and silver wrong decision I’d betrayed.

I turned the corner, can still smell the damp brick
the bristling plants beside the temporary classrooms
thirty years in place
waiting for their chance to retire
and I froze before the sharp eyes of my nemesis
an older girl who hated me
for simply being wrong, for not belonging, for never knowing why.

We looked each other up and down. I waited for the blow.

“Cool shoes.”

The slap of her words, her hair flicked as she turned and walked away
has left a deeper mark than any wound.