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Where to go?

Where do I go with these feelings…?
I’m supposed to be a good girl and calm down and go to sleep now but I can’t. All I can do is tap one-fingered on this phone app and hope that something can be gained by opening the wound and letting words flow, messy and dripping, like blood.

The Thing is visiting again. The thing we now know to call anxiety. Such a cute little word for a total, life-wrecking bastard
It’s floored me.
It’s attacking my skin, my concentration, my moods – God! My moods!… my heartbeat, my energy, my appetite, my whole body. I am swollen, heavy, tearful, angry, confused, uncomfortable, exhausted – yet wide awake, lost.

Yes. Lost.

Where do I go?

I walk in a circle. And another circle.
I turn on the washing machine. I forget the detergent.
I burn toast. Again. And again. And again.
I look outside. I can’t go out today.

I’m distracted. But distracted by what?
What was it this time? Christmas worries. Money worries. Family worries. There’s no escape for an imaginative mind that one day imagines perfection and can only be disappointed when it doesn’t deliver, and another day imagines discomfort and can only feel vindicated when it comes true.

It’s late. My chest aches. I want my day back, my week back, my life back.

And I have to get up and do it all again tomorrow.

Know your beads

There are coloured beads on the table: yellow, green, pink, blue, purple, red, orange.

I hear something on the radio that’s relevant to the pink beads. It makes me think about the pink beads. I say something that connects that thought, those beads and whatever it is I heard on the radio.

“What about the green beads? You are greenist!” shouts a voice. “Life is not all about pink beads!”

“There’s more to that discussion than pink beads!” shouts another. “You’ve missed out the bit about what happens when you put blue and pink beads TOGETHER! I don’t think you know your beads.”

“Oh, pink beads…” whispers a new voice. “I’m so glad pink beads are your favourite too. Let’s you and me be best friends and only ever talk about pink beads.”

Oh fuck.

The Friend in the Mirror

The face in the mirror looks back at me, offended.
Why do you look so disappointed? it asks.
What were you expecting?

I’ve had three children.
I’ve lived forty-three years
I’ve seen great sadness
I’ve suffered many sleepless nights.
I’ve drunk too much wine.

I’ve thought
I’ve worried
I’ve cried
I’ve burned
I’ve chilled
I’ve strained

I’ve been slapped by wind
I’ve laughed
I’ve hurt
I’ve fallen

I haven’t let myself go.
I fought hard for this face

We’ve been young. Remember? That was years ago.

Now this face is furnished with the souvenirs of an interesting journey.

Not empty and open anymore.
This face knows things.

We have experience – this face and your memories.

Let’s be friends.

Forty Quid and Some Fruit

A flash fiction

There’s something about having nothing that makes you feel … well, both heavy and light all at the same time.
There seems no point looking forward or back, ‘cause every time you do you feel sad and kinda hopeless. Life like this just goes on and on and on, and when you see no end to it, no better days ahead, it makes you want to top yerself. But there’s a lot of point in living in the moment. Why not smoke? Why not drink? Why not eat sausage and chips? Small pleasures. Simple things.

My health? My future?
I’m not expecting anything to be honest.

So, I stop the fags and buy some fruit?… What then? I sit here and fiddle with me orange peelings and cry about tomorrow? No. I share a fag with a mate over a cuppa tea and we get a few things off our chest. We can’t do much for each other but we’ve still got that.

And do I tell Benjy he can’t get bladdered with the lads after work on Friday so he saves a few quid? What then? His whole working week is about Friday and his friends. He couldn’t get through it if he didn’t have his Fridays. The rest of the week is bloody miserable for him. You know they don’t even pay him properly because he’s officially still training? What a load of bollocks.

Anyway… What have we got then? Forty quid and some fruit? That can’t get us a car, a new place to live. The fridge is knackered, the cooker is knackered. Megan needs a new bed. There is no future just by depriving ourselves further.

I was looking over this fella’s shoulder on the bus the other day – reading ‘is paper. Some woman had written how people who drink and smoke should pay more for healthcare. I laughed out loud, I did. The man turned and stared at me like I was mad.
I was mad to be honest. “Healthcare”?! Most people I know don’t even bother with doctors no more. We just wait until we keel over with liver damage or breathing difficulties. What’s the point of being told we ain’t living right, huh? “Yeah, sorry, doc, I lost me Waitrose loyalty card and haven’t been eating my pomegranates recently.”
It’d be funny if wasn’t so bleedin’ tragic. You know I know some people who’s not even registered with a doctor?

I think if I did have forty quid and some fruit I’d make a big bowl of punch and have a party. Share a little bit of happiness. We never seem to have any fun these days.

How to be a good butterfly

If a butterfly has only a right wing or a only left wing it cannot fly.
If it only has a middle it won’t get very far.

If it has an extreme right wing or an extreme left wing it can only go around in circles.

If it doesn’t have legs it cannot land. After all – flying isn’t everything.
If it doesn’t have antennae it cannot know what is going on around it.

Butterflies need food and drink – too much is not good, not enough is not good.
They need a healthy place for their young to grow and develop properly.

Being a butterfly is by no means all about trying to look impressive.

Balance is everything.

(Photos by me. Please ask if you want to use them)


Plump is a nice word but I don’t want to be it.
It’s good to get your lips around it and make a small popping noise like a lollipop.
But, no, I don’t want to be puhlump.
And also: Neanderthal.
Cacophony, flageolet, pipette. Conglomerate


Wham liked that word.
What the hell’s got into you?

And pudding.
I love the word pudding but I wouldn’t want to be pudding.

If I were a pudding and I ate myself would I be smaller?

Or still plump?

Ridiculous. I’d be that.

Thank y’OU!

The only chance I was ever going to get of gaining a degree and some sort of belief in my own intelligence was through the Open University.

On Saturday 27th October 2012, at least twenty years older than the average brick university graduate, I attended my degree ceremony in Portsmouth (Just). It was one of those rare, gloriously sunny days that have been in such short supply this year – but incredibly chilly and windy too. We left the house half an hour later than intended and took an hour and a half longer than we intended to get there. My one hour contingency plan was well and truly out of the window, we arrived flustered and distraught, we missed lunch and very nearly missed the photographer. I left the camera in the car in my hurry to get to the Guildhall. My best and oldest of all my OU friends was supposed to be there but had to cancel at the last minute and I really missed her. But I got there. My six guests got there and I graduated with a massive grin on my face.

This is how I explained my feelings about the day in an email to a friend later:

The graduation itself was nice and moving, and kind of weird – lonely almost. But not a bad lonely. It’s difficult to explain. I suppose it was because we sat with other students and away from our guests for the ceremony – and with the OU that means sitting with strangers. And we’re all adults and not just starting out in life – so many of us have to be proud of ourselves whilst also being someone’s parent. I almost felt selfish!
It’s when I was sitting there surrounded by strangers wondering where my guests were sitting that I realised it was me and only me who had got my degree and I’d done it all by myself, and only for me, and only I knew how it felt. I was charged with mixed emotions, and obviously missed my dad (who died in 2009). Some of the pomp made me well up with a combination of tears and laughter at the pageantry. The ceremonies at these things are a bit daft, aren’t they? I held a plastic fake degree certificate for the photo and was presented with a card at the ceremony because our certificates were sent through the post. So in a way it was all just pretend! 😉

But it was the ceremonial icing on that big cake of a degree. Without it it would have been like having a birthday without a party, Christmas without school plays, like landing on the moon without plonking a flag into the ground.
It says, “I got there. I did it. Look.”

This is the point at which most people congratulated me on my achievement of gaining a BA honours.
I love the look on people’s faces when they ask what the degree is in and I say it’s an open degree and actually I could have a BSc because I studied lots of ‘ologies as well as arts and humanities. Studying with the OU is a unique experience where one can choose a specific named degree course or explore lots of different subjects.

But what they didn’t congratulate me on was the courage it took me to sign up for my very first module in 2000, when all through my life formal education had been a fairly unhappy experience, and I seriously doubted myself and my abilities to cope in many ways.
And they didn’t congratulate me on managing to find 13 modules to suit my interests that had no exams to sit in a public place – so I could see them through to the end without panicking.
They didn’t congratulate me on managing to pass 13 modules without attending a single tutorial or meeting a single tutor either.
Nor did they congratulate me on managing to learn to interact socially online and make new, life-long friends.
They didn’t congratulate me on using my educational and online social experiences to improve the way I approach my thinking about life and society.
They didn’t congratulate me on my bloody-mindedness when self-esteem hit an all time low, and I had to fight to not let fear pull me out of something yet again.
They didn’t congratulate me on managing to find time to study when I got weeks and weeks behind because the rest of adult/family life had taken priority.

What a lot of non-OU-students probably don’t grasp is that however important it is to us, for mature students with a family, study usually comes last. It’s often finding the time, motivation and the staying power that’s the difficult bit.

They didn’t realise that learning stuff was the easy bit. In comparison.

They didn’t congratulate me on battling against an onslaught of recurring unexplained physical and mental symptoms – such as headaches, exhaustion and brain fog – that regularly left me unable to function.

They didn’t congratulate me on simply getting dressed on the day of the ceremony.

People who know me congratulated me on managing to attend the ceremony and getting through the 24 hours prior to the ceremony. That was one magnificent achievement, only made possible by a swift prescription of beta blockers the day before.

You see it’s just become official that I have anxiety – and have probably had it for 40 years. The GP used the word “anxiety” in a sentence when talking about me, passing me a leaflet, and discussing therapy yesterday so I know it’s true. It was thanks to my degree ceremony that I made the call and began to start accepting help.

All my life I have let fear stop me from doing things because of the immense physical relief I gain when I back out of things. Life has taught me that not doing things is better. Facing your fears is not good; it hurts and doesn’t come with reward. It became clear to me in my late teens that it was easier to not turn up for A level lessons, it would be easier not to plan to go to university, not to have too many commitments. I feel overwhelmed and exhausted coping with a room full of people for any length of time, and can’t concentrate for long, so what would be the point anyway?

The Open University’s unique “openness” answered all of my problems: study in my own time, at my own pace, no lessons, no social commitments, no compulsory tutorials, a choice of online modules with no exam, tutors who can be emailed, online social areas.

It’s been awesome and I’ve been on the OU website 3 times this week drooling over all the subjects I’m still interested in or think might be useful.

I will really miss the OU – it’s been my lifeline. But I simply can’t afford it anymore.

I got there. I did it. Look.


Tumble, tears, tumble.
Today I will not stop you.

I gave the sign and now the guide rope has been cut
The ground has been flooded

The shrinking ledge on which I perch is now but a brief resting place:
A hard climb up? A painful fall down?

What is at the top?
What is at the bottom?

If I stay here in this tiny place with only room for one –
One scared
One unprepared –
How long before I tumble?

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