30 Days of Truth - Day 9

Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.


I first met Alf at a church fellowship group. I was in my teens and he was in his late twenties. Alf was a Peter Pan-like character, full of life and fun. An ex heroin addict he'd recently been released from prison where he had become a regular church-goer.

Not perhaps on first sight a natural prospect for friendship but Alf and I hit it off right from the start. I think sometimes very different people fit together better than those who on the surface at least seem similar. We became friends and remained that way for about 10 years all told. I was bridesmaid at his wedding. There weren't many people I'd wear a frilly dress for but in this case I was happy to oblige. I was thrilled to bear witness to such a positive step in his life.

In my mid twenties I went off to college to further my studies but I still came home quite often on the weekend and spent the shorter holidays staying with Alf and his wife Sarah at their home. Sarah and I are still friends.

We loved to smoke spliff together and would dabble in "party drugs" once in a while. We had a lot of laughs doing this. I never really thought about it being bad or dangerous because I wasn't doing it every day. Alf was though. I liked the effect of switching my brain off and letting go of difficult thoughts and feelings. I was working and studying hard so to my mind this was a way of both joining in and having some fun ... some down time.

Alf was doing other drugs from time to time although I was unaware of this. He was drinking at hazardous levels on a daily basis. I wasn't drinking at all back then but I was aware that the level of his drinking was problematic. Seems funny really that heavy drinking was the norm amongst a lot of my friends even as far back as then. I could see trouble ahead but Alf insisted that this was all just "having a good time" and I needed to "chill".

As my post graduate studies and work took me further from home I saw less and less of Alf and Sarah. We talked on the phone but saw little of one another. Their marriage broke down in this period and they split up. It had lasted less than three years. From there his drinking and drug taking escalated from hazardous to chronic in an incredibly short period of time. He was in self destruct mode. He isolated himself from pretty much everyone and deteriorated rapidly in both mental and physical health.

For some time from then on I mostly heard of Alf rather than from him. He was in trouble with the police, getting into fights, robbing people, other things that I won't go into. Whenever I was back in town I would trawl around the old haunts trying to find him. Sometimes I'd be successful and we'd go for a bite to eat. He was not the man I'd known. We'd drifted apart almost completely by this stage. Our daily lives were just so different. It hurt us both to see one another in a way. I understand that a lot better now then I did back then. I wished I'd known then what I do now.

The last time I heard from him was in a letter he wrote saying that he wished he was dead. This not long before his death. He had moved out of his room in shared accommodation and was mostly living on the streets with some overnight stays in hostels. Sarah talked with his old probation officer who kindly arranged for him to stay at a halfway house but he walked out after only a few days. They did not allow drug taking on the premises. It seemed that he was completey engulfed in his old heroin addiction.

A while later I heard that he was killed in a car accident. Turns out he stumbled onto the dual carriageway and directly into the path of an oncoming car in the early hours of the morning. He was probably just trying to walk back to the homeless shelter. According to reports he'd been seen earlier in the evening and was completely wasted. I hope this means he felt no fear or pain, but more than that I feel so very sorry for the driver of that car. What an awful trauma to have to go through and then learn to live with. Just imagine.

I didn't want to let go of Alfie, I think he just decided to let go of life and all of us along with it. He was only 42 when he died. I still miss him and all the laughs and the jokes we shared. He taught me a lot without even knowing it. On the whole my life seems vastly different now to what it was like back then although obviously some remnants remain. I am glad for that.

30 Days of Truth - Day 8

Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.

It's one of those things ... when someone does something that seriously impacts your life it can be hard to look past that on to other things. With this in mind I've decided to use this exercise to talk about someone in my present rather than my past.

One of the unintended consequences of the way I have lived my life is that until relatively recently I haven't let many people close enough to make my life hell on a personal level, even if they wanted to. Most people have no intent of harming anyone. It's easy to forget that sometimes.

As a young engineer I was bullied a lot in the work-place. Working on the factory floor as a 16 year old was an education in surviving in a sometimes quite hostile male dominated environment. I could say a lot about my negative experiences over the years as I have worked in many such environments since those early days. I have been hit, and hit on, spat at, pushed around, yelled at, had men expose themselves to me, been intimidated and humiliated. All sorts really.

Everywhere there are decent men too. Despite peer pressure these guys do not join in with the shenanigans. Perhaps they have daughters of their own ... perhaps they are steered by their own moral compass, but these men stand apart. They are the ones that help regardless of the jeers. I respect that. I know it's hard to stand apart.

I have been in engineering for over 30 years now and things have improved a lot. Even so only just over a year ago I was hit in the face by a colleague. Sometimes I get scared in amongst these men. Even so I can still honestly say that the person who has treated me the worst was and is a woman that I work with still. Like me she has been through some hard knocks over the years.

She's tough. She consistently gives me a harder time than any bloke I've ever had trouble with. She treats me like shit and uses her position of power to try to coerce me into things I am unwilling to involve myself in. I consistently state my opposition to her suggestions both when we are in the presence of others and when we're on our own. Because of the personal relationship she is in with one of the senior management she is effectively unaccountable which makes my position vulnerable. I have no leverage except my powers of persuasion.

Complaints against her tend to result in the person concerned being sacked, demoted or moved. One of my colleagues has just had this happen to him. Due to continuing unresolved issues between us I have put in formal complaints. Usually this results in her putting in a counter complaint. It is then put to me quite plainly that unless I drop my complaint I'll be subjected to the disciplinary procedure myself. The guys in my company play hard ball, no mistake. Usually there is a "cooling off" of her attitude for a while but eventually it all kicks off and escalates again until I put in a new complaint.

Our financial position is precarious as Trev has been mostly unemployed for 2 years now, making me the breadwinner. I can't afford to lose my job in these increasingly uncertain times. I am actively seeking other employment but the industrial sector I am in is slow and shrinking in size. I don't have the financial resources to re-train. Some days I fantasise about winning the lottery ... that or her falling prey to some spectacular demise. Mostly I just do my job, try to avoid her wherever possible ... and where that isn't possible I deal with her myself in order to buffer my team from her toxicity. I would like to find a better solution.

30 Days of truth - Day 7

Someone who has made your life worth living for.

My sister.

She is my all time best friend. We are only 15 months apart in age so we've been close pretty much all of our lives. We are total opposites, she is blond, blue eyed, tall, slim, fit, outgoing, party loving, disastrously disorganised, spontaneous, socially graceful, loving, laughing, fun to be with. Her strengths are too many to list and her weaknesses are outshone completely by everything else. I love her to the moon and back and always have.

She shares her life with me in an extraordinarily unselfish way. She lets me in and tells me stuff that's hidden in her heart. We have shared many of life's joys and sorrows together. When we were young we promised to always help each other and that is exactly what we've done. She asks for help when she needs it and trusts in me to be there. I honour that trust and cherish it. It has taken me a long time to get to the point where I do the same with her, but that is not due to any fault on her part.

Only once have we argued to the point of falling out completely. For over a year we hardly spoke. I think it broke both our hearts to a degree. We both learnt a lot from that. Her daughter is a woman now with a home and man of her own. She calls me her second mum and sends me gifts on mother's day. My sister's youngest children are Oliver & William. They light my life in ways I can't describe. Her gentle man is next only to mine in my estimation. He helped to heal a deep hurt in my sister and I never forget that. He welcomes me at every visit with a hug and kiss. Our friendship is deeper than almost any other in my life.

Some years ago my sister was in need of refuge and came to live with us with her daughter. At the time we lived in a two and a half bedroom small terrace. It was quite an upheaval to re-arrange the place and our lives to make space for them. They stayed for nearly two years. Never once in that time did my gentle man ever utter a word of complaint which tells you a lot about this man of mine.

My very own gentle man Trevor.

He is also my best friend but in a different way. He is so english that he could act as the template for english-ness. That makes me smile. He gladdens my heart. Always. His hugs are the best medicine in the whole world ... and they are free! Over the years he has learnt to understand how important hugs are just in and of themselves. He is decent to the core of his being, a totally loyal lover & friend. He is honest and true. He loves so many things in life and often tells me new things of interest. Nature, music and science/technology are his main interests so you can imagine that he is rarely dull to chat with.

He is so smart that it's astonishing to me still, and he has the most amazing powers of concentration. He can absorb stupendous amounts of technical information and is often to be found buried in technical bulletins/books. He has learnt not to overwhelm me with with too much detail in one go! He is a mad professor cunningly disguised as my husband. In his next life he is going to rival Richard Feynman or Isaac Newton ... perhaps even DaVinci, who knows.

He plays lots of rock / folk instruments so our home is often filled with music ... sometimes friends and music together which is just the best thing out. We have hard times just like anyone else. Distance grows between us sometimes but we find our way home in the end. Over time I have learnt that mind reading is an impossible thing to expect of anyone which makes things a lot simpler between us. I love Trev to the moon and back and always will.

Even after so many years together there are still some things I will tell my sister that I won't tell Trev. But the same is true vice versa so that is fair I guess.

There are many other people in my life that I love and cherish. These two though ... well these two make my life worth living and I will not choose between them.

30 Days of Truth - Day 6

Something you hope you never have to do.

Oh my ... so many things spring to mind here. On a purely selfish note above all else I hope I never have to cope with a long / painful / debilitating illness. There are so many other lesser things that I hope never to have to do but I really don't care to list them. None compare anyway.

I hesitated to write this here today. Seems kind of funny maybe after writing some of the stuff I have over the last few weeks. It can be quite a challenge to open ones heart that's for sure.

The thing is I have some truly lovely people in my life both here through blogging and elsewhere who are going through illnesses of both a serious and less serious nature. It seems insensitive to say I dread having to cope with the very things they are having to face up to. Only this week a good friend of mine heard that she has ovarian cancer. The start of a new and uncertain journey for her. One where I will try to walk by her side as much as she will let me. How I hate cancer.

This serves to remind me yet again to be thankful, to live in the moment as fully as I can ... and to laugh more at my good fortune. I am so lucky.

Speaking of gratitude ...

This morning I was awake well before 5am listening to the cricket on the radio. I am a massive cricket fan. The Ashes series is on at the moment. For me this is the Wimbledon of the cricket season. Anyway someone on the commentary team said something quick and witty. There I was curled up under my duvet giggling like no-ones business at this guys humour. When was the last time I laughed first thing in the morning? I can't remember. Such a simple pleasure and yet it didn't feel simple at all. It felt profound ... like an internal shift is really under way again and I am so grateful for that.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend.

30 Days of Truth - Day 5

Something you want to do in your life

I've never been one to look forward much. I get scared I think. But that aside there are things I want to do.

I want to learn at least one of the instruments I play properly. To orchestral-ish standard ideally. I can't decide whether to pursue the violin, the piano, or the classical guitar, but it will be one of these three as I already play them at a very basic level. It is an area of my life that gives me a lot of pleasure.

I want to go to London and have tea at the Ritz. I know ... I live only 2 hours drive from London, so I could do this one easily ... and yet I haven't. I will set a date to do this in the Spring so I can do something else fun that day, like go to a gallery or meet a friend for lunch.

I want to expand on my voluntary activities. I used to volunteer a lot but lately I've been letting work dominate. No more. My life is no longer going to be work centered beyond the point necessary to keep a level of income to support us both.

I want to learn to work with wood. I can work in metal but I like the less predictable nature of wood. Last year a walnut tree fell down in our back yard. I have set some pieces aside and will look for some classes when our finances improve.

The thing that I would like to do most though is developing my spiritual life. I am not yet sure how this will happen or where I need to start on that one. I will start and see where it takes me.

I think that'll do for starters!

30 Days of Truth - Day 4

Something you have to forgive someone for.

I do not have to forgive the monster man but I can choose to. When someone sets out to cause such a deep hurt without any regard for the person whatsoever, why should it be down to me to forgive him? Because it is better for me? Because the broken-ness he inflicted might in itself be a product of his own broken-ness?

Some questions are totally beyond me. I can't fathom the depths of my own mind let alone his. Anyway it changes nothing. This was not something aimed at me as a person, I was just very unlucky to be one of the wrong children in the wrong place at that time. What's done is done.

What constitutes forgiveness? The man is dead. There is no restitution, there is no way I can know if he had any kind of contrition over his actions. So what purpose is there in my act of forgiving? I have read that there is healing in forgiveness and also that bitterness eats into your soul and destroys it. I'm not sure I believe that. I'm not sure I believe in souls either.

I look at Oliver and William now. I see the fragility behind their apparent robustness. I see how easy it would be to hurt them. It gladdens my heart every day that they have no real inkling of any threat to their well-being from the adults currently present in their young lives. I love that they are carefree in that way. It is a blessing. Children are ill equipped to defend themselves against those intent on harm.

My monster man was a boy once too. As defenceless as any child. I feel sad at the thought that maybe he was very badly hurt too. I can imagine that pain. At the same time it makes it easier for me to think that way ... I can almost understand how it might be then that he grew into someone capable of doing what he did.

In some ways I can see that I am more inclined to forgive purely on the basis of hurt done to him ... in other words conditional on his actions being attributable to some deep inner pain of his own. But what if there was a warp in his personality and absolutely no childhood trauma, what then? Well then forgiveness becomes an act of will, not something born of compassion. I find that harder to think through.

If someone has a personality defect are they any less responsible for their actions? Perhaps. It depends. Again these questions are beyond me. To answer them I must in effect act as judge and jury in an area in which I have no expertise whatsoever. And anyway, this can only ever lead towards conditional forgiveness. That just feels like cheating.

How do you forgive a dead man for something done years ago. I guess you make a choice to do so. Perhaps forgiveness is an act of letting go. Simply that. So yes, I forgive him.

I have sat here for ages looking at that last sentence and trying to find meaning in it. It wasn't easy to write. It hasn't been easy thinking this through. To be honest I don't feel that I know enough about what forgiveness means to be able to act on it yet. I might come back to this exercise later.

30 Days of Truth - Day 3

Something you have to forgive yourself for.

Not doing better.

So many facets of essentially this same mis-guided drive for perfection. It pervades so much of what I do and feel. I want to do better. I want to be a better person. Surely there's nothing wrong in that? It seems almost perverse to me that in order to progress I must learn to accept and love my imperfections first, and then go on to forgive myself for them. Where is the logic in that? It seems contradictory to me. It is imperfection that I am trying to overcome.

Yet I do see that this logic of mine has it's own inherent flaws. Since it is impossible to be perfect should I then never love myself? Where does that leave me? In a life-long state of being unfulfilled and unloved ... and all because I find it so difficult to reconcile myself to the fact that it is perfectly OK to be imperfect.

Why then do I entertain this idea that I must strive for perfection in all that I am and do? Is it arrogance? Stupidity? I think perhaps it is another consequence of the same rigidity of thought that I talked about in exercise two. It's hard to break out of certain kinds of thought patterns, particularly when they are the product of life-long beliefs. I can see that.

I do not expect perfection in others. Far from it. I am forgiving of others in a way I find almost impossible to be towards myself and I'm not sure how to unravel the reasons for that. My best guess is that it stems from my childhood belief that if I had been a good girl then the bad stuff wouldn't have happened.

In the chaotic environment of violence and abuse of those early years it was hard to see any sense. Hard to see why ... any kind of cause and effect. I couldn't figure out the rules on how to act so as to stay safe from all that. Children often only view events with themselves in the center ... it is the nature of a child to think this way. So as a girl I thought I must be the cause. My badness made the bad things happen. Perhaps then I need to forgive that little girl who didn't know any better.

It feels so odd doing this exercise. It seems in many ways as if I have to forgive myself just for being me. Perhaps that's the whole point. It just makes me feel sad that's all ... like I'm having to give up on something I've wished so hard for and worked so hard for in my life ... and for what?

At the same time it is a relief. However much time I've wasted trying trying trying, I can learn a different path. I guess what it comes down to is that I need to forgive myself for not seeking answers to these deeper questions sooner. Nobody is perfect.

30 Days of Truth: Day 2

Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.

Just as exercise one was easy peasy so today's is trickier. This learning to be gentler with oneself and becoming more self accepting is a difficult art to master.

Conversely after yesterdays exploration one thing I am learning to love about myself is that I am able to confront uncomfortable truths in a way I would never have thought possible even a couple of years ago. Not only to confront them but to work towards overcoming / improving / accepting them as well. I can see that some courage is involved in this process.

By learning to open my heart more freely I am increasingly becoming more self accepting. It is a slow process but one where I am able to see progress even so. I have had to be willing to explore my flaws and get used to the fact that whilst I might aspire to perfection I am never actually going to be perfect this side of eternity ... and possibly not even then!

There is something in the rigidity of my thinking that makes me incredibly resistant to this truth. It is one of those things I am having to force myself to accept, and learn to love myself regardless of these imperfections as I see them. I accept these things on a rational level, of course I do ... but emotionally accepting them is a different matter entirely. It grates.

I suppose I love the fact that at least I keep on trying. I am not passively waiting to be rescued but am paddling my own little boat through the choppy seas of life. Effort is never enough on it's own though ... something again I have had to learn to accept more fully. That along with having the humility to seek help with navigational skills. After all, it's pretty pointless paddling like crazy if we're just going around in circles.

Physically I love the fact that I look a lot like my mother. She looks good. She is a very direct and forthright person and it shows. She looks strict and stern because that is what runs through her core. She has had to be so strong in order to survive the knocks life has thrown her way. I admire that in her, even whilst wishing there was more softness in her character. I look at her and see myself years from now. In looks she has aged gracefully and I hope to emulate that.

30 Days of Truth

Shamelessly lifted from Christine's wonderful blog which you can find here

Almost identical exercise to one I've been recommended to undertake as part of my ongoing recovery but this one has slightly more questions so here goes ...

30 Days of Truth

Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself

Day one: Something you hate about yourself.

Well, quite honestly I could write a whole book on this, but summarising;
> attention seeking
> lying
> self pitying
> cowardly
> playing the victim
> fantasising ridiculous scenarios in my head
> problem drinking
> laziness
> procrastination

Of these I believe two are fundamental to the rest. It seems like my propensity for attention seeking leads on to me fantasising, playing the victim, self pitying and lying.

This might start off with a real event that I exaggerate out of all proportion ... creating a complete fantasy out of relatively minor events, or out of some throw away comment made either towards me or in my presence. These lies start to take on a life of their own as I pile embellishments onto untruths, often shifting them through time and amalgamating them and interweaving them with other truths. Quite a tangled web.

It would be fair to say that in life generally there are times when I find it quite difficult to unpick things to segregate fact from fiction, and this is partly an extension of that difficulty. Having a vivid imagination and a love of stories feeds into it as well ... a trait I inherited from my father who to this day still tells very tall tales.


It would be all too easy to point to self esteem issues and other "mitigating" circumstances but in the end I think I am searching for comfort in any way possible. This does not excuse what I do, but goes some way to explain it. On the whole I do not hurt others with this aspect of my character and it is never my intention to do so in any way. I hate hurting people. I think it is generally just a very immature aspect of my personality that I have so far largely failed to even try to address.

The second is problem drinking. This has it's roots to some degree in the same drive for comfort. It is also in part an attempt to break out of my own head ... to rebel against my own best interest and to block out the dissonance I feel at doing things that are at odds with my own moral code. For various reasons my head fills with thoughts and feelings which I find hard to tolerate. To escape these I have used various means the latest being to return to drinking in an addictive way. I can see that escapism is at the root of this which in itself is an extension of fantasising. The two are thus inextricably linked.

Basically I find it hard to deal with the real world. I see this as a fundamental weakness in my character which manifests itself in all the ways I've described above.

Strangely it never occurred to me when doing this exercise to focus on something I hate about my appearance ... ha! Lucky really since there is in fact a super long list of those!

A quiet place

Lately I have been seeking silence
a quiet place to think things through
not to dwell
just to rest awhile
re-group after recent upheavals
change comes around the corner
and even when it wears a friendly face
still it frightens me
so much to learn
so much
it still surprises me
that I can spend years learning little
and yet moments learning much
it would be so useful
if these moments lasted longer
and happened more often
but I'm not altogether sure
my heart could take it

Poem #3

Life is never all one thing or another is it?

Over the last few months Oliver and I have taken to spending a couple of hours a week on our own doing "stuff". My sister and her husband have been taking their youngest son for speech therapy. Sitting in the waiting room is tedious for anyone but excruciating for a 7 year old. So instead we do our own thing.

A lot of the time it's simply a walk to the playground with our football and kite, or doing some Wii game if it's raining outside. We also cook, chat, practise juggling, magic tricks, make up jokes ... the list goes on but basically we hang out.

Maths. Oliver is stunningly good at maths. When we go for walks we start out with a mathematical problem that we can only use our heads to solve. No writing things down. Oliver loves to do mental gymnastics and I love to show him the shortcuts and tricks for helping to remember where we've got to in the process of finding the solution. Cool (his word).

And words. We try to think of the hardest word to rhyme anything with, and then try to find one that does. We do allow compound words and hyphenated ones because otherwise it's not fair (or so I've been informed). There are times when we must look quite mad as we bellow out that the word that rhymes with science is alliance ... we are still looking for a satisfactory rhyme for the word elephant.

On my fridge at home I have one of Oliver's first poems. When I look at it now I see that in his orderly manner he has noted the fact that this was in fact his third poem. Time passes so quickly don't you find? By keeping these reminders where I can see them I try to keep in mind that life is happening NOW. There is much to enjoy.

As some of you might have guessed, I am working through some things in my life at the moment. Even so, I am also finding time to have fun. Whenever I make a mental list of my blessings my family and friends come right up there at the top of my list. It is only recently that I have started to learn to rank myself up there too. Life is a journey.

This Regret of Mine

Taking stock of my life to date is an odd experience. How did I ever manage to get this far? I’m on the threshold of half a century of living but with very little idea beyond chronological aging of how I got here.

We have always had major difficulties in our intimate life despite nearly two decades having passed in our lives together. My gentle man is often at a loss as to how to help matters and this serves only to heighten my sense of total inadequacy in this most personal aspect of our relationship.

There are times when my body seems unable to distinguish between what lies in my memory and the reality of what is happening now. Between danger and safety. It is so tangled up and confusing that I don’t know how to describe it really. Other than to say that because of this there are times when I feel unable to endure being touched at all.

Sometimes this happens when my gentle man is “well under way”. This is the most difficult part of all for me. Whilst I enjoy the closeness of the initial stages and build up towards intimacy, I do not enjoy the sensations of the act itself, the movement inside of me. My body sends out distress signals that I sometimes find impossible to ignore. I do try to though. There are occasions when these signals are of sufficient magnitude to bring things to a halt and other times not. I have neither the will nor the courage to be more graphic but I’m sure you get the gist.

We are both aware that most of the problems stem from within me and from the past. And yet I can’t help feeling that on those occasions when he decides not to respond to my distress by stopping he is in some ways reinforcing the violation perpetrated by the monster man from so long ago.

I know that it’s not fair on either of us that this shadow hangs over us still. And I know that it is grossly unfair to characterise my loving gentle man as in any way similar to the one who did the damage all those years ago.

I suggested that we get some help. As it turns out though, I am not the only intensely private person in this relationship. In many ways I was relieved because in this as in so many areas of my life, I lack courage.

So we have soldiered on through the years. We talk about it now and then, but not much. When we broach the subject the conversation is usually short as this is not something either of us finds easy to discuss. Despite this, over time things have improved somewhat to the extent that we both find some enjoyment these days. At least sometimes. We are mostly happy.

I come now to a period in my life that I find difficult to comprehend even in retrospect. I've always assumed that I am by nature a faithful person. Hardly surprising really given what I’ve just relayed. Even so, I believe strongly in commitment and the value of a promise given and kept.

And yet I have been unfaithful. There are all sorts of things I could say about this but none of them are more relevant than my deep contrition and confusion over the way I behaved. I found I was capable of acting in a way I never dreamt possible.

I will not describe how this came about other than to say that I'd never experienced anything like the level of desire I felt in those moments with her. I won't deny it. In some ways I think this was partly due to the unreality of the situation. Drinking has that effect.

It was just so incredibly freeing to be close without being burdened by the anticipation of sensations I‘ve learned to dread. Having said that, this was two short lived episodes.

So … a few hours of delight weighed against nearly two decades of loving faithfulness. Which justifies nothing. I know that. It is impossible in the real world to undo what has been done.

Would I undo it though? Yes I would. In an instant.

It’s simple. I did the wrong thing, there is no doubt in my mind about that. I broke trust with my gentle man. I thought I was incapable of doing that. I acknowledge that I learnt something about myself even so. I'd long ago reconciled myself to the idea that I mightn't have the capacity to feel such intense physical desire at all.

But the cost has been higher than I could have imagined. Nearly two years have passed and still I’m trying to find a way past it. To tell my gentle man is not an option. Not only would it cause untold hurt but I think with our history it might break our relationship beyond repair.

Anyway, why should he suffer for my mistake? So if I can't or won't disclose this then I continue to break trust on one level in order to preserve it on another. This is my deepest regret of all.

Not quite 20/20 vision.

It’s quite something when you come across symmetry where you least expect to find it.

Nearly twenty years passed between the comings and goings of the monster man present in my early childhood until the time that my gentle man first appeared. And nearly twenty years have passed from that day to this.

With the departure of the monster man and not coincidentally our father from our lives, childhood turned in turn into adolescence and then on into adulthood. Time moved on outwardly but something inside me remained trapped in the past.

To deal with the pain of that early trauma I tried many avenues. I tried faith and prayer. Faith is capricious though. Not unlike handfuls of sand the harder you grip the more it runs through your fingers. When you open your hands it’s gone, leaving only fine grains clinging on, the grit a reminder of those early aspirations to believe.

I tried smoking it out as if a colony of hornets had taken to nest building under the eves of my mind. The smoke billowed and blotted out the world, but it did not diminish the pain left in it’s wake. I tried pills and potions that had my mind whirling in every direction skewing my perceptions of reality and not. I tried submerging it under a lake of fire water to little effect beyond drowning myself in the process.

Building a virtual box of lead in my mind, I poured my memories into it, hoping that the radioactive waste would be sealed beneath the weight of this heavy mental metal. Then I built walls around it until wall building itself became a habit, a rite, crafting ever thicker layers to separate myself from the whirlwind within.

It was in this state that my gentle man found me. I can’t explain to you why it was that he persevered in the face of my determined resistance, but he did. Initially he lay siege in what might be described as the usual fashion, but to no avail. Quite some time passed but still he persisted.

Eventually he appealed for a truce and I walked out from behind the walls under the protection of a white flag. We talked long into the night and through the dawn of a new day. He whispered of the fears that lay in his heart and in turn I tried to explain some of the reasons for the walls I‘d built. I mentioned something of the dark taint that lay within. I can’t explain to you where I found the courage to do that.

This man of mine has the kindest eyes. They reflect something of the soul that lies within. With a wisdom I still find quite breath-taking he explained that whilst the monster man might have taken my innocence, he hadn’t taken me. The way he described his love for the person he saw in me was my undoing. And so it was that he became my gentle man.

In the real world there is no happily ever after. Even so we have built a life together. By making himself vulnerable to me, my gentle man shows a strength I’m not sure I will ever match. Fundamentally it is this willingness that underpins our relationship. Without it, I would always feel like the weaker one.

There are times when he is washed out into the sea of his own foreboding. Long periods when he is lost to me in all but name. Other times he shuts himself away behind his own walls. When this happens I carry a beacon onto the shore to light a path homewards. So far it has always worked in the end, although there have been times when I've despaired of his despair. In constancy I show my own kind of strength.

In a similar vein there have been periods when I too have retreated behind my old walls, falling prey to the need for self protection in uncertain times. I forget that real trust is built on an ever firmer foundation in times of trouble.

A while long ago I breached that trust in a way I never thought possible. I need not burden you with the whys and wherefores. Suffice to say that despite being crippled with self doubt on so many fronts I’d always believed that once I made a promise I would keep to it no matter what. It has been hard to learn to live with this failing. I would undo it if I could, but I will not disown my actions all the same. Contrition and sorrow have gradually eroded guilt. But still it remains.

Somehow over the years my gentle man and I have found ourselves taking up self destructive habits with an ever increasing frequency. For him this has largely been a matter of recreational relief from the stresses and strains of life. For me though, these habits are of a more compulsive and dangerous bent. They threaten to drive me back behind those walls of total isolation. I have much to lose and little to gain by such practices whatever their allure. In these last years in particular I have fallen under their spell more and more.

And so finally we have come full circle. In order to progress from here I must once again make myself vulnerable to my gentle man by telling him in a more forthright manner the sinister effect these habits have upon me. How they undermine my sense of myself. Ultimately this impacts us both, damages us both. I have already sought outside help, but now I must seek it within our relationship too. In this way trust is built. I know that.

You might think I show strength by such actions, but not really. You see despite the ups and downs of the last twenty years I have been learning to trust a small step at a time. How strange. It seems that I have found faith where I least expected to.


I am an engineer. Not a particularly good or smart one, but one of quite long standing now. It doesn't completely define who I am obviously, but nevertheless it suits me. From an early age I loved to build and fix things, but most particularly I loved to take pretty much anything apart to see how it works. In the painful, chaotic and confusing environment of my childhood I found much comfort in the solidity and constancy of gadgets, construction toys and the domestic machines we had dotted around the place.

In my work there are days where I do nothing but carry out a repetitive sequence of relatively complex calculations to ensure that the parts we are planning to make will actually work. I love those days. I shut everything and everyone out for a while and lose myself in the numbers.

Calculating and manipulating the various formulae is kind of like playing with toy soldiers in a way. I arrange and re-arrange the numbers and symbols. I order them about. I line them up this way and that until a pattern emerges that looks stable. I know then that the design part concerned will withstand the working conditions in which it must function. Numbers consistently obey the rules just as machines are designed to. They are friendly in that way.

I know that probably sounds a bit odd. But the thing with numbers is that I know that as long as I'm careful ... if I can just work through each stage methodically in a focused manner and not miss anything off ... well then I can get it right.

I mean right right, not nearly or almost, but bang on perfect.

There are no other areas in my life where this is possible. But there is much in my inherent nature that wants it to be. I want to be able to figure everything out ... to shake all the variables out onto the table and then line them up and if necessary modify them so that they behave consistently ... or at least more consistently.

I find change and uncertainty frightening. Always have. Social stuff scares me stiff most of the time. Have I mentioned that I stammer? Also I blush like a small girl over the stupidest things. I go blotchy red and hot. There's often no cause that I can pinpoint other than the fact that I feel anxious a lot when I'm with people generally. I can't figure out why or how to stop it happening.

I hate being this way and yet at the same time I know it's chicken feed in the overall scheme of things. There are worse things than being a nervous wreck. But it stops me wanting to mix with people who don't already know me ... and sometimes even the ones that do. Close friendships are few, but they light my life all the same. They are deep and solid. I believe in them and I trust as much as I can. I am lucky in many ways, I know that. Through my friends I am learning to lighten up ... kind of.

I see people around me embracing change all the time, welcoming it for the excitement it brings. I wonder at their courage. I wonder at my lack of it. If I knock all the toy soldiers over they won't just get up and re-group by themselves.

I can't conjure. I can't change things to be the way I want them to be. But I can learn to accept things the way they are.

Hope is like that

My younger sister has always been frightened of things. Nothing in any way unusual, just the normal childhood fears. Thunder, lightning, fireworks, wasps, spiders, creepy crawlies in general and snakes. As she's grown the list has lengthened to include heights and anything that might endanger her children. She is still the bravest person I've ever known, a fierce lioness in the protection of her cubs, but with the gentlest of natures in loving and nurturing them.

When we were small Kath really hated thunder storms, and the flash of lightning in particular. For some reason nearly all of my childhood memories of these storms are of the ones that happened at night time. Perhaps that's because at the first sign of distant rumbling she would scoot across our bedroom and crawl under the blankets with me. I would then turn on my little torch flashlight for her to see. Already frightened by storm sounds the dark spooked her, so we'd hunker down and watch the bulb fiz and crackle in the night. Small low voltage light bulbs did that sort of thing back then.

Anyway, I would wait until I thought she'd dropped off to sleep before turning off the torch to save the batteries. Sometimes the click would re-awaken her because on some level she was attuned to this noise despite the background of crashes and rumbles. So I'd switch it back on, and wait her out again. However dim the remaining light was as the battery faded that little light never failed to bring some measure of comfort to her. I like to think my presence helped a bit as well though.

It's funny though isn't it? What light does in the darkness I mean. Even the tiniest candle flame can be seen in the night from miles away in clear conditions. Such is the power of light against the immensity of even the deepest darkness. In fact it is this contrast that makes light such a beacon in the gloom. Little wonder then that light is synonymous with hope. Where faith might falter or even fail, some small element of hope remains.

Earlier today I was writing to a dear friend of mine. Someone who keeps reminding me of the steadfastness of hope and friendship in hard times. I was trying to find some way of conveying to her where I am just now, which is in a far better place than even a few days ago. I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, it's there ... and while it might still be some miles off, it's there. Hope is like that.

Learning to let go

History itself is irreversible it's true
no I mean it's really really true
beyond dispute or the power of wishing
even if you yearn with your entire being
the past remains resolutely unalterable

Remember it or not
it matters not a jot

So then it's not a matter of undoing
or re-hashing it over and over again
it is over, to be filed away in the archive
the only thing that can change now
is how we choose to think of it

For some reason I've always thought
that true healing meant undoing
and re-making over again but whole
because I wished it so, so much
I wanted the done to be undone

I didn't want a papering over of the cracks
I wanted the cracks to be mended
the parts fused without scar tissue
I wanted it to look better than this
smoother, cleaner, more complete

Clinging on to impossible wishes
only serves to encourage us to shelter
from the truth on all sorts of fronts
we indulge in our hopeless fantasies
rather than engage in the reality of living

But life refuses to lay down passively
beneath the insubstantial blanket we fashion
to insulate ourselves from the cold winds
of a reality we're unwilling to face
instead it continually rises up to confront us

And in doing so we turn to rail against it
this injustice of not getting our hearts desire
feeds into the general frustration within us
calling from inside us in increasingly strident tones
this is not right, this is not how it should be

But the fact of the matter is, that it just is
and whether that be right or wrong is immaterial
for when what is now is caused by what was then
then transformation to what should have been is impossible
and so learning to let go starts with accepting what is

to be continued ...

The sky is not falling in ...

I love the story of Chicken Licken (sometimes called Chicken Little). At the beginning of the story an acorn falls on her head. She looks up and all she can see is the sky. Now being a somewhat scientifically minded, and literal rather than lateral thinking kind of chicken, Licken concludes that the sky is falling in. So she sets off to warn the king.

It's so tempting to hide behind verse. One of the reasons I started writing verse in the first place is because there are so many things I am not brave enough to talk about. So instead I say it in a roundabout fashion. But not today.

I guess Licken decided the sky was falling in because she couldn't think of any other explanation for the knock to her head. She'd looked upwards, but not down or around. She just didn't gather enough evidence to adequately support her hypothesis.

Even so, you have to give Licken some credit here ... despite her mistaken conclusions she did at least act in good faith. I have every sympathy because I too suffer from a similar kind of blinkered vision. Even so, like Licken I act in good faith most of the time despite my many regrets and mistakes.

I am humbled by the loving support and kindness you have shown towards me, particularly over the last few weeks. I am getting help. There are better ways to deal with emotional pain than drowning it out. The nature of addiction is that there are often many false dawns before the reality of a true sunrise ocurrs. However harsh the sun seems, I am determined to walk in the light.

I am not sure how my blog will evolve from this point. It may become part journal part verse, I'm not sure yet. I'm so sorry not to have been popping by to visit you all with anything like the frequency I'd like over the last little while. I will make more of an effort over the next few weeks.

xx Jos