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!

 

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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.

 

Panic, in the most logical of ways.

Today was a rather mundane way, in that delicious “everything is ok” kind of way.

I woke just before the alarm, and enjoyed the few minutes of space to think over my plans for the day.

I fed the kids breakfast, got them into the right pieces of School uniform, drank a coffee I forgot to add sugar to and didn’t really enjoy, and dropped them at school.

I ran some errands, picked up a few Christmas gifts, some fancy toilet roll I’ve fallen in love with from M&S because it smells of cinnamon (not even just in my mind, where scents often get muddled with the way things look, but for real) and then answered some work emails and calls and did some writing.

I wrapped the presents, put away the giant Christmas tesco delivery, collected the boys, fed them, had an evening of games and silliness (I am the reigning household twister champion!) and then had dinner with my late-home-very-important boyfriend before tucking the kids into bed, and knitting quietly on the sofa in front of the tv.

It was a lovely, ordinary, mundane Monday. It was blissful.

But from the instant I woke, I have been battling panic. Proper, heart pounding, joints weak, muscles burning, chest tightening “I can’t breathe and think I’m going to faint” panic.

Logically, I know that this is because the injections I was given to help with my endometriosis are wearing off (praise all that is good in the world for that, they have been hell, absolute hell, and if anyone ever offers them to you do NOT try them, I will elaborate in more detail in another post, just don’t do it!)

I know that as a result, my hormones are frantically rushing around my body trying to make sense of a nonsensical situation. They have been stopped, started, rebooted, frozen and juggled for months.

So logically, I know that’s what this is. I know that I am ok. That my life is ok. That my babies are ok.

As I am telling myself that I’m ok I walk up and down the stairs three times, counting the steps, so that I can keep my bearings in a fire.

I am using sat nav to navigate short journeys I know by heart, because I need to see the journey passing so I don’t faint.

I am counting the tiles in the kitchen. I am counting the light bulbs in the house. I am counting junctions, the number of ticks my indicators are allowed, the swipes of the windscreen wipers, the blinks in an advert break, the syllables in a chapter.

I am counting anything that distracts me from counting the beats of my heart that I can feel in my throat, because as soon as I start counting them, I remember they are counting down, and could stop at any moment, and I wouldn’t be here.

I am counting because once I am thinking about that countdown it scares me so much I wonder if it might be easier to fast forward, and take the pressure off.

I’m aware that these thoughts come from those hormones, dashing around in places they aren’t needed, and that the medicine is meant to help but hasn’t, and that there will be an alternative which doesn’t do this to my body, and that this will pass.

I have had a lovely, ordinary, beautifully mundane day made of all the simple things which make life so lovely.

And for every single second of it, I have battled my own body, battled panic and terror, and battled the urge to lie down and close my eyes and wish it all away.

Because that feeling isn’t me, it isn’t my life, and it isn’t allowed to win.

It’s a funny old day

It really is a funny old day. It’s a Tuesday – I usually spend a large proportion of a Tuesday napping, since I started a course of hormone treatments that have given me “the menopause” at (just) 34. 

It’s a day I left a bag of medication I keep quiet in another home too far away to pop and pick them up, because I am in a strange halfway state between house moves across many, many miles. 

It’s a day that Facebook memories is reminding me of jobs I had to leave, jobs I adored and which would have taken me to fantastic places, and of people I had to leave behind with them.

It’s a day that I cried in Boots and some lovely people chatted to me about cooking birthday cakes for small dogs as they popped pills into a bottle so I wasn’t overly upset by the blister packs not being symmetrical. 

It’s a day that people I adore are hurting over losses I can’t even comprehend, and all I have is platitudes. 

A day in which a friend I want to wrap my arms around is too far away and all I can give her is black comedy in a message to put a smile on her face when she’s struggling too. 

A day when my eldest child – the one with aspergers who, according to all definition, is supposed to struggle to factor in the feelings and needs of others – asked his Cubs cooking group to leave the Kiwi fruit out of the kebabs they made so he could share his with me, because I’m allergic but he thought I’d like to share. 

It’s a day when I am in the first place I’ve  ever lived that has felt like a true, safe, wonderful home – but it has become a suffocating box, and all I want is to move into my new home in my new location to embrace my new life.

A day when I’ve worked on a business plan, written content for clients, acted like a competent and successful business woman, and worn a fluffy poncho and comfy pants to do it. 

Another day when my kids made me laugh until I cried, and I’ve cried until I laugh at myself. 

It’s a funny old day. 

And now I think I’ll end it with some sleep. 

Grief is weird

Grief.

It’s not just a weird experience, it’s a weird word. Grief. It rhymes with ‘brief’, but it isn’t. It can follow ‘good’ but it isn’t that either. It is too many things, and – for the terribly British among us – more than a little uncomfortable to feel in a way that people can see.

I lost someone very important. It brought closer the losses of other very important people, and kicked the foundations out of my world a little. Grandparents who were so important, who took us in when we were young, who homed me when I was lost, who guided me and raised me and taught me and loved me. Who held me, and who offered the same to so many other people.

And my grief feels…raw. Lonely. Vast.

I haven’t just lost a Grandfather – I’ve lost a parent, a role model, a guiding star and a friend. I’ve lost a possibility of redemption, for the many times I should have called and didn’t, the visits I should have made and never made time for. I’ve lost the chance to fix all the ways I should have been better to him, and let him down.

I’ve lost hearing more stories of his time in the forces, his many and varied business investments, and the way he once helped an Escort to reclaim the cost of her stockings on a tax return as a business expense.

I distanced myself from him at a time I should have been by his side, giving support in the way he’d given so very much to me, because I was afraid.

I lost my Grampa, and feel anew the loss of two magnificent Grandmothers, and fear for what losses may come.

I lost someone who was so much more to the world than he was to just me – he was more than Grampa, he was adventures, tall tales, grand gestures, sound advice, hilarious anecdotes, witty responses and culinary genius (aside from the boil in the bag rice phase we should probably gloss over).

He spent the last days of his life eating only sweets and dessert – because, as he said, “I’m dying anyway, what the fuck does it matter?”

He loved beauty and grace, he married the most powerful feminist I’ve ever met in person, he fathered four children and they had dozens more. He headed an empire, and guided us all. He was hilarious, serious, incredibly bright and totally oblivious.

He was my Grampa. And he was a whole lot more.

And now I am supposed to say goodbye – and I don’t know how.

So instead, I am telling my very young children stories of him so they remember they knew him too, I am re-framing a beloved photograph, I am speaking more with my family, and I am eating a slice of battenberg because it was one of his favourites.