The Journey

She had been able to see it on the horizon now for a while, rising out of the darkness like an ancient monolithic structure. At first it had seemed so far away, too far to imagine ever reaching. Back then it was tiny, and if she didn’t keep her eyes focused upon it, she would lose sight of it. Kind of like pointing out a bird against the backdrop of clouds or an insect going about its business on a hot summer’s day in front of a wall of ivy.

She knew it was important and she knew that she mustn’t lose sight of it for, somehow, it would become her destination. There were deep gorges in the landscape between them though, areas where she could see the dark clouds looming and hills that from this distance looked insurmountable. She wasn’t equipped for this, her small body wasn’t strong enough, her hair would occasionally whip itself across her face, causing her pale skin to sting and the rocks felt rough beneath her feet.

But still, she pushed forwards.

There were other people on the path. People she knew, and people she didn’t. Some of them looked stronger than she did, more confident. They looked like they had made this journey before and were coming back for another stab at it. She wondered why they would… but she soon remembered that it was never a choice.

The days soon turned into weeks, which turned into months and years. She kept on walking, but she became so tired at times that she had to stop for fear of breaking down completely. In those moments she sat on the ground and took deep breaths, her eyes upturned to the sky, for if she focused on her destination too long she would lose sight of it. At times it felt like a mirage, forever shimmering and out of reach. Did any of these other people ever reach it? There were times that she questioned whether it had even existed at all.

At some points, she felt a hand slip into her own as she traversed the more difficult boulders and lakes. Sometimes the hand was big and smooth and when she closed her eyes she could see him sitting opposite her in a small, too-warm, room. He asked her questions, difficult ones that had no real answer and would cause the tears to burn behind her eyes and fall heavy into the lakes that were of her own making. On other days, the hand was as familiar as her own, warm and aged from a lifetime of work and love, she looked up and saw the kind eyes of her mother as she planted the seeds that would blossom into the flowers which she longed to see on the other side. On some days the hand was understanding and calming, the one that she held in the quietest moments where the memories jumbled and the tears could no longer fall. In the solitary moments of moving ever forward the hand still held her firm, reassuring her that it would never leave her side, even if the road was longer than they both ever imagined and on other days, the hand was small, and unsure. It gripped her tightly out of fear, and she didn’t want to look down at the child holding it because she knew that her own image would cause her to stay where she stood, paralysed in the thoughts that had brought her to this desolate place.

There were days that the sun would creep out from behind the clouds, where birds would sing in the early morning silence and the lakes would run clear and crisp. She would drink from them then, filling herself with the hope and energy that she needed in order to forge forwards. Sometimes these seasons lasted for mere hours, and sometimes they lasted for weeks on end. She looked forward to these times for it was during the sunlight and birdsong that she was able to move quickly. However the clouds moved quicker still and sometimes the storm was upon her before she could even smell its arrival in the air.

She kept walking, through the storms when the wind bit her cheeks and the rain mixed with her tears. At times she felt that the sky was crying with her and there were days when it couldn’t stop.

But she was drawing ever closer to her destination…

She could see now that it was a door, standing solitary and alone. It seemed so out of place perched upon that mountain top, but she never questioned it. She assumed that others on the path had their own door for she had never seen anyone open the one on her horizon.

There were days where her feet lost their grip upon the slippery rocks and she felt that she would tumble to the ground and have to begin again. She concentrated on the ledges that she passed and reminded herself of words that she had once heard about landing on one of them and resting. She would never have to begin completely again, not now, not after all the trails the path had given her. Her small hands gripped onto whatever they could find and the muscles in her shoulders burnt as she heaved herself upwards and onwards.

When she got to the mountain top she felt something that she had not expected. She felt grief. She turned around and looked at the landscape behind her. The hills that had felt like mountains, the deep lakes that glistened in the late afternoon sun and the forests that had felt so dark and imposing as she had walked through them, haunted by voices of the past. Looking at it all from up here as the wind blew her hair from her face she wondered how it had all felt so desolate, for it was beautiful and she knew that it had been of her own creation. She took a few moments to drink in the sight before her before turning back to the door that had been her destination all along.

The birds sang their now familiar song, and the wind whistled above the landscape that she had come to know as home. She couldn’t explain it but the hands that hand held her own were now bodies around her, holding her firm and not allowing her to run back to the familiarity of what once was. She took a deep breath and reached out her hand to the doorknob…

She didn’t know where she was going now, but she knew she could face whatever it would bring.

Written for the May Writing Challenge

Week 1, day 1: Door

The Problem With Looking for a Saviour

So, today’s post is a little different…

This is the first writing of mine that I have shared on Elephant Journal 🐘 But it is something that I have wanted to do for years! I’d really appreciate it if you could click through and have a read, I’d really love this one to do well 🧡

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2019/05/the-problem-with-looking-for-a-saviour/

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All The Dogs I Have Loved Before…

I have been a little quiet over the last few weeks. This has been for a number of reasons – sometimes I can find spending time online to be quite tiring and draining for my little introvert brain and so I have been trying to recognise when that occurs and try and relax with a hot bath and some music or a book instead (I’m currently reading Elmet by Fiona Mozely, which is brilliant!).

It’s also been because my mental health hasn’t been so great. Therapy has been bringing to the surface a lot of feelings and emotions regarding my school years – this has led to me, in-between sessions, feeling very low and quite dissociative as I try to come to terms with some memories that are gradually starting to come back and the implications of them on my self-esteem and how I view myself, even twenty years after the events that took place. Yesterday my therapist asked me to try and write about it all – so I don’t know if that will be one for the blog or something more private, but I do know that I need to keep writing, and not let any of this slide. Writing for me is a way of getting some of the thoughts that bounce around my head out so that I can feel a little freer of them; it’s very cathartic, even if sometimes it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

However, today is a gloriously sunny day and I am, for the first time in a few weeks, feeling pretty chirpy! I know I do have to write about some of the harder stuff, but today I am going to give myself a little break and write about something wonderful, something that always brings a smile to my face and that keeps me going, even on the hardest of days.

I’m going to write about my dog.

Or rather, dogs, plural – my life in a history of dogs, of wonderful friends and companions.

My first dog was a Belgian collie called Mollie – she was beautiful, and she knew it! When I was struggling at school, I found it very hard on occasions to leave the house and so my parents thought that if I had a dog then it would help me with routine and getting outside, that sort of thing. I remember going to the Dogs Trust with my mum and brother to try and choose a dog and I think we all knew, straight away, that Mollie was the one for us. She had been rescued from the side of the road up near Evesham and I wanted to bring her home with us that very day – on the way home I tried to decide between the names Eva and Mollie, I still love the name Eva, but Mollie was definitely a Mollie!

She settled in so well and loved being within our family. My memories of some of those years are sketchy, but I know we had happy times with her. We kept her on the lead for quite a while and I know that it was on a camping trip down in Cornwall that my Dad tied a long length of washing line cord to a stake in the ground and let her have, pretty much, free roam of the field we were in. After that, she was let off of the lead for short periods of time and had wonderful recall.

She had some little quirks – as all rescues are bound to. She had a thing about men in white trainers and there was one time when we had a visitor to our house that she bolted out of the front door and my brother found her, trembling at the end of our road. We don’t know what happened to her prior to being rehomed with us and it is horrible to think that someone could ever have been cruel to her.

When I left home to move to Somerset, my parents kept Mollie. She adored my Dad (as most dogs seem to!) and my mum walked her miles every day. She would come and stay with us occasionally and there was one time where she had hurt her paw the week before – she was a little actress though, one evening she came bounding towards the living room, saw my husband was sat on the sofa and then slowed right down and started to limp – very pitifully – around the coffee table, only, it was the other leg! Around 2012/13, she developed a cancerous lump on one of her front paws and had to go to Cambridge for radiotherapy – she was becoming and old lady by then, but still with that collie energy and so my parents took her for treatment and she made a full recovery.

As she got older, she slowed down, but very gracefully. What once was jet black fur around her nose, turned grey and she loved her daily walks with my mum up until the very end. We were all devastated when she left us – she had become such a wonderful (and entertaining) member of our family, but we knew she had a wonderful life, filled with love.

When I moved in with my (now) husband, back in 2004, he had a mixed breed dog called Buster. Buster had been his dog from childhood (along with Toby, who lived with my mother-in-law) and Buster was the grumpiest, most stubborn dog that I have ever met! He was stocky and short haired – a complete contrast to Mollie, but lovely all the same. I have heard tales of Buster in his younger days and the scrapes that he and my husband would get into, but I only knew him for his final year or so. He was like a stoic, proud old man – partially and selectively deaf and he used his voice, loud and often! Usually when we were eating our dinner…

Buster – In his younger days

After we lost Buster to old age, we knew that we needed another dog. Both of us had grown up with dogs around and I think that when you are so used to their company, the house can feel very empty without them. We both worked full time – but I did shifts, so it was manageable although we knew that a puppy was out of the question. We visited some rehoming centres local to us and one day, we found Benji at the National Animal Welfare Trust. He was very uncomfortable where he was – where the other dogs bounded up to the front of their stalls, Benji sat at the back of his, looking at us with his beautiful brown eyes. I think we both instantly felt that we needed to bring him home and give him the love that he so desperately needed – we weren’t aware then how much, and how wonderfully that love would be returned.

We had eight wonderful years with Benji. He wasn’t a young dog when we got him – the rehoming centre told us they thought he was around 8, but our vet, after examining his teeth felt he was closer to 5, so we never really knew. But he was a wonderful boy regardless of his age. He settled in straight away – we knew he had come from a family home where there had been children, and so he was fully housetrained and good with any kids that we had visiting. He and Mollie became like a little middle aged couple when she used to come and stay – he would wander off and plod around on walks and she would dart around like a mad thing, but they would both always find each other and come back to us together. When she left to go home, he would mope about for days and I remember making a ‘get well soon’ card using pawprints and paint when Mollie was taking her regular trips to Cambridge.

Mollie & Benji

He was like a bear – the biggest dog that I, up to that point, had ever had. But he was so gentle – when I was first unwell in 2010, he would just come and lie next to me, offering his quiet comfort and then when my husband got in from work, he would give him a look as if to say ‘it’s your turn now’. It was around this time that ‘bear’ became a very affectionate term in our house hold – we were like the proverbial three, even though Benji tended to feel like a wise old protector more than a baby!

Benji and I – off on an adventure!

He loved the TV – whenever we had it on, he would watch avidly and it took us a little while to realise that he was watching out for other animals, but specifically horses! He was a huge fan of the Lloyds TSB advert, and he knew from the very first note of the music that there would be a horse at the end – he would dart off and find a toy, a shoe… anything, and bring it back to the TV and excitedly bark whilst trying to keep it in his mouth. If he saw a horse in real life however, no reaction at all! Another thing that drove him wild was the song I’ve Got The Power by Snap!  Exactly the same reaction as he would have with the horses on TV. No idea why, but now that song will always make us smile

We lost him to cancer, again, a tumour on the front paw that was inoperable. He was also getting very unsteady on his back legs and we knew that it was time to say goodbye. Whenever we come across a picture of him, or hear Snap! Or see a Lloyds TSB advert, it’s with a feeling of love and gratitude – he was very special, the first dog that we had as a couple and the first dog that made us feel like a little family.

After Benji, we adopted Clyde. My husband has a thing for big dogs – and Clyde was big! He was a Malamute and to look at him, you would think he was a wolf. When we adopted him, we knew from the start that he wasn’t like Benji, or Mollie, or even Buster – he was his own man, no human was going to get in the way of that! But he was gentle, and sweet and had some very, very entertaining quirks…

Handsome Clyde

During the first week, we found that he had hidden potatoes around the house. When we started to store the potatoes in a shut cupboard, he would then leave us gifts of avocados, or apples in the bed. He had been found by a farmer who had watched as he was dumped out the back of a van – and I dread to think what his life had been like up until that point, but it seemed like the only way he knew to get food, was to scavenge for it. Nothing could be left out – and he would eat anything he could lay his paws on – food or not!

He specifically had a thing for leather, and for socks. We became incredibly tidy in the short time that we had Clyde, making sure that we left nothing out that he could munch on…

Clyde and I on one of our many woodland adventures

He was a sweetheart though, his passion was for potatoes and he would stop at nothing to get them! But we had some lovely holidays with him as our companion – the most memorable one was when we visited the Lake District for the first time and walked so much, that even our pack leader, our fearless mountain climber who was bread for snow and ice was looking at us as if to say ‘how much further humans?!’. We have fond memories of his first encounter with a pig on a blisteringly hot summers day in Devon – we think he had found his friend for life…

Unfortunately, it was a life that was cut too short. He passed away very young, at only 7 years old. His illness was fast, but unforgiving. It is thought that he had a tumour in his stomach which burst – we comfort ourselves that up until the end, he had a few years with us that were filled with love and adventure and that he wasn’t in pain for long, but even thinking of it four years on, my heart still breaks.

Which brings us to now, to our current dog – Niko. Niko, to put it plainly, is a weirdo. An absolute enigma and fruit loop. He brightens our days in immeasurable ways but he is a tough nut to crack…

Niko -the not so little weirdo

Niko is an Akita; we adopted him from Ferne Animal Sanctuary back in 2016. We had lost Clyde in the October and we decided, after the shock and heartbreak of his death to give ourselves a bit of a breather. But, by the New Year, we both knew that we needed to get another dog.

I had been wary of adopting an Akita – I had read various things online and I knew that they were big (even bigger than Clyde was!) and strong. But my husband convinced me to come and see Niko with him, and he was beautiful. The rehoming centre was absolutely wonderful and they let us take him out for walks to make sure that I could handle him on the lead – and he was a dream! Clyde had always been very pull-y, but Niko was calm and laid back and was a pleasure to walk. We knew and were advised that because of the breed and also with consideration to his history, letting him off the lead was probably not going to be likely, so it was imperative that I could walk him and I could manage him if he started to pull.

We were in love… he was not only gorgeous, but also a little on the grumpy and shy side. However, that was still that nagging doubt in the back of my mind that he was very big. Ferne let us ‘foster’ him for a couple of weeks – he had been in the rehoming centre for quite a while and none of us really knew how he would adapt to a home environment. But he did amazingly, he was very vocal! But my husband recorded him whilst we were out at work and he soon quietened down once he got used to our routine and he settled really, really well.

He is typical of his breed though – we are his ‘pack’ and he is the most gentle, soppiest, loving dog you could imagine, with us. Anyone else though and he is wary. This is something that we and our friends and family have had to adapt to as we have always been pretty used to having dogs that like a fuss and attention. Niko though, is accepting of it on his terms and we have to recognise and respect those boundaries. We have no idea what he went through before coming to us at around 7 years old and just like humans, dogs experience trauma.

He has a space in our house where he sometimes goes (usually just before we go out) and that is ‘his’ space. We have learnt that when he goes there he doesn’t want company; he doesn’t want to be bothered or talked to. He just wants quiet – and that’s cool, we know that. But most of the time he is quietly with us – chilling out or following me around from room to room like a lost little puppy.

I think with Niko, he is the one dog that we have had that I feel incredibly ‘motherly’ towards. He is affectionate and he will come up on the sofa for snuggles (when invited and if he wants to) but he has also been plagued with health issues since we adopted him and I think that this has awoken a very protective, nurturing, mama bear role within me.

He has a very sensitive stomach (he’s the only dog I have ever know that is allergic to chicken and dislikes peanut butter!) But he loves his veg – carrots, broccoli, peppers, courgette, cucumber – he goes crazy for them. Last summer when I was growing tomatoes, he kept asking to go out into the garden and it didn’t take me long to realise that he was going to out ‘check’ if any had fallen onto the ground! (He’s very polite, but not daft).

He also has issues with his skin and his fur. He started losing fur a couple of years ago and we took him to the vets and then onto numerous specialist appointments where they ran tests, gave him tablets and creams and… reached a dead end. However, his skin wasn’t itchy and the constant travelling and having to see various vets and ‘strange’ people was stressing him, so we decided to leave it and see how he got on. He’s like a well-loved, threadbare teddy and sometimes it is sad when you see Akitas with their wonderful coats, and then you see our wonderful but straggly boy – but he’s still beautiful, he still my little munchkin boy and he is still very much loved.

Niko and I last month

We have recently had to take him for some more tests as he was starting to get little blister type things on his bare stomach. We are awaiting blood test results and so we start again on a whole new set of appointments – but, he’s still a happy boy. Vocal and daft and a little bugger at times, he’s like a mountain goat once we get out walking through and so long as he is happy and content within himself then I am one happy and proud mama bear.

And so, those have been my dogs up until this point in my life. I hope that we have Niko with us for many years to come and that we have lots more adventures together- but Clyde taught me to cherish each and every day, because you never know what is around the corner. Dogs are wonderful, they are our trusty and noble companions and I feel that when you have rescue dogs they can bring their own magic – they have their own stories that they will tell you, through their quirks and their affection. We have been truly blessed with the dogs we have been able to share parts of our lives with and I cannot ever see us being without a dog, they make a home – they make a pack, and once you start to think like that, you realise how special that bond can be.

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Together


Photo by Maarten Verstraete on Unsplash

I told him that I was frightened of my own mind
again

And he wrapped me up
took me out

And he held my hand whilst we counted the stars
together

And the universe, and he
calmed me

Again
together

The Persistent Heart


Photo by Garon Piceli from Pexels

They warned her

Time and time again

‘Your heart is too big

… it’s not if it will break, but when’

And so quietly she whispered

She begged and she pleaded

‘Please heart, please shrink down

… they tell me it’s not needed’

But her heart continued to grow

Bigger than she could contain

‘Your purpose lies within me

… and love should not be tamed’

And so, the heart it won

And the girl continued to live

Her heart, it finally convinced her

That the greatest gift, is to give.


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The Four Month Wedding

Whilst I am all for honesty and openness around mental health and recovery, I feel that yesterday’s post was a rather heavy one. Today, it is Friday, it is also my best friend’s birthday – so pop on over to her page and give her a little read if you have a moment ❤

So, a bit of a lighter post for today. I have noticed a few mentions on Twitter this week regarding weddings, and anxiety. It’s billed as the most magical day of your life and, boy, does that ramp the pressure up! The thought of planning a wedding for someone with anxiety is pretty stressful to say the least – you have to make phonecalls, you have to arrange things, you have to make decisions and it all leads to one day – a day when you will be stood up in front of people and having to speak! They will all be looking at you!

I got married in October 2017 to a man I had been with for 14 years and engaged to for 9 of those! We had gone through phases in those nine years of discussing the whole wedding thing; we had been to view venues, we had been to a couple of wedding fayres, we had made lists of guests and ideas – there were some interesting ideas mixed in – namely having me walk down the aisle to the Terminator theme tune and also a ‘cheese rave’. We had been to other peoples weddings and told ourselves to just get on with it and have our own, all the friends we knew that were in couples were either having babies or getting married! Our relationship was going from strength to strength, but the whole wedding thing kind of loomed over us a little.

We visited some beautiful places in the UK, whilst also debating whether to just elope – Gretna Green, Lapland, Poland… we talked about just doing it and not telling anyone until after the fact, but deep down we both knew that if we were going to do it we wanted to do it surrounded by people we loved.

I studied with the Open University and in June 2017 I had my end of year exam. For months, I studied, wrote, revised… then the exam day came and went and suddenly, I had all of this spare time. I decided that now was the time to sort this whole wedding thing out once and for all! I had heard snippets of conversations that the registry office in our local town had moved and it was really beautiful, so I started looking into that. I had my husband write a list of who he wanted at our wedding, the bare minimum, and I did the same. We were going to do this…

I had always wanted an autumnal wedding. The colours that time of year are beautiful and both my husband and I are huge nature lovers. I think that there is also a sense of building excitement at that time of year – you have Halloween, bonfire night and then Christmas isn’t far away; to me it has always felt rather magical, what better time to get married?

October was four months away.  16 weeks.

It was that or wait yet another sixteen months – and, hey, I’m a Sagittarius, I wanted to do this and I wanted to do it now. I rationalised it with the fact that with a timescale like that, we wouldn’t have time to overthink and panic, we would just have to get on with it and get it done – how romantic, eh?

When I called the registry office to book, I was so nervous. How does one book the biggest day of their lives? Is it just as simple as calling someone and asking what availability they have for weddings in October?? Um… yes, it really is. The woman I spoke to was lovely and within moments, it was done, at 1pm on Saturday October the 14th, I would marry the man I loved.

I have had anxiety for years but in 2017 I was doing pretty well, things were under control and manageable – my husband, who has never been formally diagnosed with anxiety but exhibits all of the symptoms at times – was the one needing the reassurance. We came to a deal: I would plan the wedding, and he would sort the honeymoon (and the groom stuff). I do like to reassure myself that it wasn’t the prospect of marrying me that made him anxious – but I could understand where it all came from. He would be the centre of attention for a whole day (as an introvert, this is very daunting), he would have to make a speech, he would have to make decisions, his parents – who had divorced 16 years earlier – would have to be in the same room together, for the first time. It was undoubtedly overwhelming and there were times when we almost called the whole thing off, but I am so pleased that we didn’t – and truthfully, so is he.

For four months, my best friend (my other one) and I planned my wedding. She was absolutely amazing ❤ We went and checked out the venue, we went to different hotels and pubs to sort out the meal afterwards, I was a very lucky girl and had 3 hen do’s! (One with work colleagues, one with family, and one with my closest friends where we went to Pride in Southampton) My husband spent his stag do walking in a very wet Devon with two of our closest friends and his brother – I think this was the highlight of the four months for him 🙂

Everything just seemed to come together – I fell in love with the first dress I tried on and although I did try on others, the first one was the one I felt the most drawn to. My husband found his suit, the right size and colours on ebay for £15, worn once. The animal sanctuary where we had rehomed our dog from the year before were so helpful in agreeing to take him for the weekend (Akita’s mixed with a houseful of excited people – no). My sister’s boyfriend, a photographer, offered us wedding photos as our gift. Even English Heritage, custodians of the beautiful castle ruins we wanted our photographs to be taken in were so generous and helpful.

My brother arranged to borrow his boss’s car and be my chauffeur, a family friend offered to do my flowers. My parents visited Somerset countless times and we planned and talked and came up with magical ideas. The country inn we had chosen for our wedding breakfast could not have been more perfect, local artists used the bar area as a showcase for their work and the food was to die for. The only thing, the most unexpected thing, that I struggled with – was music.

Now, I love music. Lyrics are a big thing for me from all sorts of artists and all sorts of music genres. I’ve written about Nina Perrson before, how her lyrics resonate so strongly. The same goes for Shirley Manson, Phoebe Bridgers, Damien Rice, Laura Marling, even Lana del Rey, amongst many, many others…

I had many ideas of what I wanted to walk down the aisle to before we made any real plans. One of the choices was The Minstrel Boy, an instrumental by The Corrs. It’s so beautiful, however, my husband thinks it sounds ‘like music you would hear in a morgue’ – so, that one was out.

Next was a beautiful instrumental by Nordlys. We agreed on this one! It’s a beautiful piece of music… I played it to my mum and she remarked that it reminded her of the theme to a Swedish crime thriller where everyone got their heads chopped off – so, that one was out.

Then I found a gorgeous piece of music, it was called ‘Fairytale’, it was sweepingly, soaringly and breathtakingly perfect… it was also from the movie Shrek – it was out.

I found the same with the Jurassic Park theme (which is actually really pretty and a favourite film for both of us), but for weeks friends tagged me in various dinosaur memes on Facebook. Again, that one was out…

I was starting to struggle a little. It needed to be short, but not too short, it needed to have a certain type of arrangement near the start so that my bridesmaids could walk in before me, and it needed to be something that we both liked.

There is a TV show that we both adore. It has apparently finished for good now – although I hold out hope they will bring it back – it’s called The Detectorists, and yep it’s about metal detecting! But it is so beautiful, so simple. It’s written by and stars Mackenzie Crook from The Office (uk) and it’s just about two guys, chatting shit and metal detecting whilst living pretty normal, mundane lives. Each season has been set during summertime in the English countryside and each season you wonder if they ever will find that treasure, which is usually right under their noses. But then as each episode passes you realise that it’s not about getting rich and finding stacks of buried gold or historical arrowheads, it’s about having a good time with your best mate.

The theme tune is beautiful. It’s a song written especially for the series by singer/songwriter Johnny Flynn, and, it has those all-important lyrics that I am always so fond of.

One night, fraught with stress over this aisle walking song, listening to pieces of music that had no real meaning to us, I put on this song for a bit of a break… my husband was sat in the lounge and he just went…

“Well, why not this?”

And why not this?

Will you search through the lonely earth for me?

Climb through the briar and bramble

I will be your treasure

I felt the touch of the kings and the breath of the wind

I knew the call of all the song birds

They sang all the wrong words

I’m waiting for you, I’m waiting for you

Johnny Flynn – Detectorists

Its nature, its countryside, it fitted with our woodland theme and it fitted with us, we both love it and we both love where it came from and how we came to hear it.

And he was waiting for me, at the end of the aisle. His back straight, his heart pounding. In all honesty, I didn’t even hear the song, because he was right there in his beautiful suit and he had the look in his eyes that he gets when I do something great, and he was all I could see – everything, all the years of stressing over how we were going to do this, all the visits to places where neither of us felt comfortable, all the discussions and anxieties and planning over the last few months – it all came down to that one moment, and in that moment none of it mattered.

That evening, my sister’s boyfriend, the photographer who had been stood in front of us getting some wonderful pictures and who had a different view from anyone else told us how he had a lump in his throat as he watched my thumb stroke the inside of my newly wedded husbands hand, a subconscious and re-assuring gesture as if to say ‘It’s all ok, it’s me and it’s you and it’s all going to be ok…’

Eighteen months later, that song still makes it onto nearly every playlist I make – and whenever I hear it now, I see him standing there; I remember the moment he turned around and watched me walk down the aisle towards him and I know, this is what love is.

Squad

Image Credit: Tatiana Vavrikova @ Pexels

This writing came about last year as part of a Blurt* picture challenge. I decided to create writings instead of pictures throughout the month and ‘Squad’ was one of the prompts…

Squad is I think the first one of these challenges that I’m left drawing a blank on. It’s not a word that really enters my vocabulary. I know loosely what it means of course and my husband plays with his ‘squad’ on Pubg… but as a subject matter for me to write about….? I enlisted Google on my quest…

Crew, posse, gang: an informal group of individuals with a common identity and a sense of solidarity. The term is a bit flashy and is more likely to be heard in hip-hop lyrics than in spoken conversation.

Well, I don’t listen to hip hop, so no wonder I am a little in the dark on this…

I do have a sense of solidarity though, with two women who have grown to be my best friends.

Friendship has always been a tricky one. Our childhood years are so formative in the way we view the world around us and the relationships we form within it – and given that I spent so many of those years being bullied by a group of girls who would be your friend in first period and your worst enemy by lunch…my idea of ‘healthy’ friendships became a little skewed.

It also affected my ability to trust, especially other girls. I remember in one therapy session, a good few years ago, my therapist quite rightly pointed out that the people I chose to confide in, were always men. And why wouldn’t they be? Women (in a friendship capacity) up until that point in my life had ways been the ones to cause the most damage.

(The men I was choosing weren’t that great either if we’re being honest, but that’s another writing.)

But then one morning in the Dr’s surgery, there was a woman with a young baby. We started talking… that young baby is now 9 and if I ever have children I would want them to be just like him. The woman is one of my closest friends, she has been my rock, just as I hope at times I have been hers. She has intelligence and compassion by the bucketload and she helps me see things clearly when my own mind is playing tricks. We’ve been to Dublin, to London and to Wales and I trust her with my life. We’ve laughed and cried and despaired together; she was my maid of honour, along with her daughter as my bridesmaid when I got married, I’ve decorated her house and she’s the only person I trust to look after my highly-strung pooch. She’s an absolute star…

She makes my ‘squad’

Not long after meeting her, my husband pointed out a framed picture on his Facebook feed. It was of a pencil drawing of two characterful dolls ‘Falmouth Dolls’ – a girl he knew from way back in school was selling it. I loved it and arranged to pick it up. That girl is now my other best friend. Amazingly strong, beautiful, wise and talented… she is the embodiment of magic and I don’t know where I would be without her (and her two wonderful girls). I introduced her to my friend above when I was planning my wedding and I just sat back and watched as two of the most important people in my life bonded over so much. She read at my wedding and helped the day run so smoothly. She reminds me when I need to pause and practice self-care and I do the same for her. She has taught me so much and I have come to think of her as a guiding beacon of light, especially over the last few months. Sometimes our texts to each other are short little check-ins, reminding each other to breathe – other times they are essays that span pages. She has restored my faith in humanity on many an occasion and I can see us still texting (or whatever the crazy futuristic equivalent is) every day when we are 90…

She makes my ‘squad’

I am so blessed to have two such wonderful people in my life and this writing is a good reminder to myself that I am worthy of the friendship that these wonderful women bring and that I am a better person for knowing both of them. I’m not sure I am 100% comfortable in referring to them as my ‘squad’, I like to just think of them as my friends.

Something that I once questioned would ever exist at all.

*Blurt is a charity that ‘works to increase the understanding of depression, from the perspective of those who have actually experienced it’. They are a wonderful resource and collaborate with schools, medical practitioners and employers to help reduce the stigma and create awareness and understanding of depression. Check them out @ http://www.blurtitout.org or @theblurtfoundation on Instagram @Blurt alerts on Twitter or @Blurtitout on Facebook

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Love

Photo: Meditative Owl

Depression lies. Its a big, ugly, horrible, untrustworthy liar. It tells you that you are useless, it tells you that you are wrong, it tells you that you are too fat, too thin, too quiet, too self-absorbed, too sensitive, too open. It tells you that you don’t deserve to be happy, it makes you believe that you don’t deserve to enjoy food, it forces you to think that your friends are against you it keeps on and on and on at you. And that one thing that makes your life worth living? The thing that day after day keeps you going, gets you out of bed, makes you try just one more day, makes you fight… Why the hell do you think you deserve something so wonderful, so precious that it makes you want to carry on living? What on earth makes you believe that you are worthy of that?

Love.

Love does. Love doesn’t back down. It doesn’t turn away when it all gets really hard. It is the voice that counteracts the voice of depression. It is the quiet hand hold in bed at 3am when you are softly weeping your heart out, and the full body shake of the shoulders that you need when you are saying ‘no, it has won, I can’t do it any more’. Love is what sits with you in countless waiting rooms, it’s what rationally talks through options with you and doesn’t tire of the same ruminating conversations. Love is what gives you a reason to keep fighting and love is eventually what will one day heal you.

And I am worthy of that. We all are.

Thank you for reading 🙂 If you have enjoyed this writing, please feel free to come and join me on my following social network pages to see my new posts and daily musings:

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