Becoming the butterfly.

Even if you don’t have a child, you know it takes up your time, your thoughts and your heart. You might not fully realise the ways in which it does so, until you have one. Having a child changes things in the ways that you would expect, but also in many ways you couldn’t possibly anticipate; in big frightening ways and in delightful small ways. This is what being a mother is to me.

Being a mother is caring. It’s more than caring for your child, for their physical needs and their emotional happiness. It’s caring about what happens outside your door. It’s caring where the items go that are ‘not widely recycled’. It’s caring about politics and the economy even if you don’t understand any of it. It’s caring, really caring, about climate change; resources; the bees. It is caring more than you could have ever thought possible about what might happen in twenty, thirty, fifty years time. It is caring about a world of which you will never be part. It is caring about other people’s children; the children in your little world and the children in the wide world. It is caring about other mothers, an unspoken knowing of the unfathomable depths  of their fears, their sorrows, their needs.

It is about love. A different kind of love. This love is supposed to be instinctive, well, it is and it isn’t. It develops, it grows, it shakes and it smashes. It spirals around your heart in a double helix; it becomes your heart’s DNA. It is boundless, formless, entirely without condition. There is no pain in this love, only fear in the loss of it. It is always staying afloat in its raging ocean, when you should be drowning. It is always being able to see through its impenetrable mist, to understand amidst its great mystery. It is not something you are feeling, or doing, or even being. It is something you are, something you were always meant to be and have now become, and which has become you.

Yes, it is about fear. Cold, cruel fear that could rule your entire world. Fear that can take you just as far as you let it. Fear for the known, fear for the unknown. Fear for the someone or something could take her away. To know that you alone are her protection against the many forms of poison inflicted by mass society, toxins to body, mind and freedom. To fear taking on the world and its perceived view of you, but knowing that you must stand, alone if necessary, to shield this blessing in your arms from harm, even if they call this harm safety. And it is about anger. At corruption and greed, at ignorance. It is about fearing judgement. It is unforgiving self reproach, uncompromising belief and fiery pride. It is a savage defensiveness against the thoughts and words of others, where they are perceived as threatening or condemning. Like a lioness, always alert, always ready, always poised to spring.

It’s about wonder. Wonder that you have created this little being with a mind and a heart all her own. Wonder that the little demon for whom you cared in those early days that screamed and screamed and seemed hellbent on destroying you is now lost in her own concentration digging in the sand, or in her thoughts staring from the car window. Utter amazement at the way she learns, copies you, interprets you. It is to be engaged in her wonder, in the surprising places that she takes the most joy, sometimes guided by you, and sometimes born entirely of her own magic. The way that she only glances with indifference at the beautiful peacock to her left, magnificently displaying his beautiful feathers, to thoroughly delight instead in the little pigeon to her right, pecking at crumbs on the ground. In the way she see everybody as equal. In the way she throws the same beaming smile, holds out the same little hand of friendship, to everybody, even those with whom interaction might, for many, be avoided. She does not discriminate in any way, where we only try not to. It is to marvel at her innocence, purity and sensitivity, and to faithfully promise to protect it from society’s debris.

This is what being a mother means to me. It is always having to rise to the challenge even when you are on your knees. It is remembering what is like to be the caterpillar, taking its time, ambling through the days, slow, slow; motion without direction. It is about remembering that casual tranquillity, and letting go. It is about spreading new wings, losing old ways but enjoying new freedoms, new depths, new heights of amazement. It is facing new, never ending challenges, embracing new mysteries.

It is becoming the butterfly.



Depression: To have and to hold.

robinI heard a great quote this week, just from someone in the office who I wouldn’t really have expected it from, while she was talking about Robin Williams’ suicide. While I only heard the last part of the conversation, it was clear that she and the other lady in question were taking a sympathetic stand on depression, and an unfavourable view of those in the “just buck up” camp.

“It’s like telling someone not to be so diabetic,” was what she said.

Brilliant. Replace that with any condition. Don’t be so arthritic; so infertile; so elderly. It also works with personalities and attributes; don’t be so funny, so relaxed, so kind, so anxious.

Don’t be so depressed.

So, is depression something you have, or something you are? Something you have or hold? If you hold something, you can put it down. Maybe you can change who you are, maybe not, and I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to decide which is the truth, should such a creature exist in this or any other matter. One thing is certain and that is that Robin Williams has raised awareness of a subject that is still so misunderstood, still taboo and even viewed with suspicion.  We may all feel depressed (although depression is a chronic state and not to be confused with feeling down) but depressed enough to take your own life? This is huge, scary stuff. No wonder it gets some people’s backs up, its just a terrifying and incomprehensible thought. What does that kind of depression feel like? I think the key word must be hopelessness. An absolute belief that the emptiness, the heaviness, the blackness, will never lift. Ever. That you have no choice but to let that blackness envelop you; that it has become you. That it is you.

People can be very uncomfortable around those with severe depression, because it can cause them to feel this hopelessness too, and given the choice, they would rather turn away. That’s the whole point; the sufferer can’t turn away. They may put on a face, and many, including our case in point, are extremely good at it, famous for it, even. But it is with them everywhere they go, embroided into the very fabric of their being and saturating their essence. A bleakness, a desperate sorrow, a numbness beyond emotion or capable of reason or fathoming. It is all pervasive, like broth soaking into bread.

I believe that Robin Williams’ greatest legacy will be raising awareness of this terrifying condition. He couldn’t just buck up, he couldn’t just move on. To be truly depressed is to be, in every sense of the word, alone, trapped in your thoughts and living within a prison with no hope of release, bar the one which those who are sympathetic will call tragic, the less so, selfish.

I was moved by the above photo of Robin, because his face shows utterly the kind of despair so typical of this condition, and to see it on a  face so loved, so regarded, is, hugely poignant. To be broken by depression is truly tragic, to live with it, terrifying and to witness it, traumatic.

I don’t know what the answer is, much less the problem. But this I do know. We can never understand the mind of another. But we can open our hearts.

Be kind to those around you. You can never know the tragedy behind their eyes.






To love this man.

I love him from the very depths of my heart. The heart that pumps blood through my veins now carries a love as powerful as it is luminous, as strong as it is delicate, rushing through my veins and filling my senses. It dances like butterflies and crashes like waves in thunderstorms. It rages like jungle fever and burns like eternal fire. Sometimes calmer, sometimes soft. Then a look in his eyes, a gesture, and I am overtaken with it, this total surrender to the pure essence of another. His heart, his love. We are magnets, reflecting each other’s innocence, mirroring each other’s seas. I see his weakness, I feel his fear. I fall where he is strong, I stand tall where he would hide. He is a rock, whole and unchanging, while I am air, tempestuous and turbulent.

To love him is light in darkness, a darkness in which I am no longer alone. It is lucidity in chaos. It is to feel an emotion so strongly it becomes tangible, a physical reality, a pressure emanating from my solar plexus which both grounds me and draws the weight from my bones, fixing me to the earth and freeing me to soar with wings light as air but strong as steel. No longer drowning, I am only made braver by the waves which crash over me. He will never let me drown, I know this to be true.  His love, more than a beacon, more than a siren or a song in a storm. It is lucent, effulgent, radiant. It is energy, it is spirit.

He will never let me drown.

To love this man is to dream every dream at once, to feel the breath of divine creation whispering in my ears. It is the realisation of hopes almost lost. It is a gift from stars wished upon so many long years.

To love this man is the true spirit of joy.

A soul’s true calling; the hearing, the listening, the anwering.

Like countless others, in fact, probably all of us, I often ask myself about the calling of my soul. I do not ask what this calling might be; I feel blessed in not ever having to question the call’s nature, but rather the way in which I do and should answer. It cannot be a thing denied that I have spent countless hours, accumulating no doubt in years, listening to my soul’s endless cries to be expressed, but how do I answer? It is that question which may keep me awake at night, or pensive during daylight hours. Why, I ask myself, if I am blessed with the insight to understand the most innate call of my being, do I immerse myself in endless pursuits of confusion, chasing the ghosts of chaos and submerging my creativity into pools of poisoned ink? Why, when I could be taking up the challenge set by my inner voice, charging forth with every ounce of divine energy gifted me by the universe, do I indulge in a lethargic, listless state of soul? Passive in its undertakings and innately inert.

To hear the true call assigned to each of us but to put it to the side is tragic and the true meaning of waste, as we follow fruitless paths; wasted avenues; consuming the empty calories of the soul. We chase our tails in some endless rush to fill our lives with nothingness, complaining at the end of the day that there is not enough time. It seems to me that we create our own barriers, hurdles which need not be there in the first place, but which we must leap across each day, rendering ourselves exhausted and depleted in more ways than one.  We would love to paint; to philosophise; to write, but we don’t have the time after the endless chores of the day. It feels almost as if expending our time and energy on the soul’s desires is a guilty pleasure. Of course, we live in a society where we have to make a living; we need to pay rent, bills; it becomes harder and harder to meet financial demands. This is not a new concept, of course. But, how many people who spend their days toiling in order to perpetuate the enormous wealth of some corporation or other, while just managing to maintain their own, feel satisfied when they lay down to sleep? That is, satisfied to the very core of their being?

I ask myself why I never became a ballerina, a pianist, a novelist. Of course, there’s still time. But of all the potential paths of procrastination, why are the truly important things the first on the list? I once read that there is none so attractive as the person who is “on their path”. Have you ever looked at someone who seems to have it all and felt sharply envious, and berated yourself for being so? The girl who followed a career in her beloved dance and who draws crowds to watch as she elegantly exhibits to the  universe her given talent; the musician who inspires countless listeners with their melodies; the writer who travels to the most exalting places in the world and makes a living from writing about his experiences. It seems to us that these people’s lives flow in an endless river of good fortune, gifts bestowed upon them from a unseen benefactor. Luck. Opportunities that were perhaps never afforded to us. And while it is true that release from financial restraints does certainly lend itself more to freedom, this does not automatically mean that this freedom is used in pursuit of our dreams. What is it about that person that is following their true path that makes them different from us? If not opportunity, is it confidence? An inherent self belief; a true sense of identity and recognition of one’s worth? Is it perhaps recklessness, a lack of regard for the supposed structure of things? Maybe I know the answer to these questions and maybe not, and maybe it doesn’t matter in the slightest either way.

Having always believed that a life filled with drama was preventing me from following my own creative path, it was only recently that I was set free from this limiting belief. Far from being the cause of the neglect of my creativity, it was the symptom of it, the reason why I was wasting precious energy on emotional futility, languishing in bleak, barren mental landscapes. This too, I believe is probably the reason why many artists are prone to addiction. It is not a new concept that addiction and creativity are often synonymous, but why is this? Is it something to do with the fundamental nature of “the artist” or is it a manifestation of the pain experienced when creativity is being in any way stifled? Creativity is our life blood; we come from creation, and to create is, I believe, our most basic instinct. On a fundamental level, this could be the instinct to reproduce, but there is so much more to creation than this. With our every thought, we create a pathway for our future, a blueprint for who we are and what we may become, and with every action we create an imprint in our mind for the rest of our life, or lives; buddhists would call this karma. We can choose what to think, and how we allow our thoughts to manifest. Our minds are filled with all kinds of thoughts, ambitions and desires, and with our actions we demonstrate that which we choose to embrace. This is our choice. Every word we speak or action we take as a manifestation of our thoughts is our creation.

That is really all any of us can do. If you are blessed enough to hear the call of your soul, do more than just hear it. Listen to it. 

Answer it.

The Spirit of Sunday.

I really dislike the “Sunday feeling.”

There is something in the air, it would seem, that is there regardless of the structure of my week, whether or not it is my day off, the last remaining day of freedom before being once again shackled by the chains of the working week, or whether or not I am concerned with the opening hours of commercial establishments. It is just…an atmosphere, an aura, a veil that can be felt but not seen.  At least, this is the way I feel about Sundays. Of course, I look forward to them each week, but, whatever activities they hold, I always feel a sense of melancholy hanging in the air, which, were it weather, would at times feel like a slight Cornish mizzle, a light weight but a weight none the less, and at other times a grey, barren bleakness like the foreboding moors described by Daphne Du Maurier in Jamaica Inn.

Morissey for me described it perfectly in “Every day is like Sunday.” Both the song and the video seem to adequately illustrate this kind of emptiness. Perhaps it is that many people on Sundays have slowed down, as have businesses, and whether this directly affects us or not, the feeling can be found dancing lightly on the periphery of our senses. Perhaps it is due to the expectation and anticipation with which Sundays are held, a yearning for its misty grey which, once arrived, is ultimately dispirited in its discontent. Perhaps because in this Sunday silence, we find ourselves reflective, pensive, lost. I find myself questioning my purpose, my path; the heaviness which hangs in the air gradually seeping into my bones until I feel an intolerable weight upon my shoulders, a dull gloom spreading through my veins and filling up my heart. Until I feel an oppressive sorrow for the world, the plight of the earth and the distress of its people.

Perhaps it is left over despondency from the Sundays of childhood – the day before the return to school, an institution where we had no control over the moments of our day. Perhaps it affects those of us more who grew up in families ruled by orthodox religion. But, if I had never worked Monday to Friday weeks, had never attended school or church, would Sunday have the ability or power to affect me differently? Would its curse seep beneath my skin through its hold on the lives of those around me?

The Sunday blues are a common institution in this society at least. Whether its hold over us is an illusion, a phenomenon or a curse, it certainly feels very real when we are spinning, albeit sluggishly, within its vortex. As all things must change, as leaves fall and grow anew and mist gathers and clears over water, so perhaps will Sunday become a day of great meaning and significance in my life.

But today, I must say again, I really do not enjoy the spirit of Sunday.

Sensitivity – a curse heaped with blessings.

Sensitivity. Everybody possesses it to some degree, but some of us were born with more than their fair share. Some of us could be described as ”hypersensitive.” I am one of those people, and on days like today, I largely see it as an affliction, though I have come to recognise that, even at those times, it is a blessing too.

What deeply wounds the hypersensitive soul? The very same things which feed and make it glow. Love. Music. The sky; the sea. The moon and stars above our heads, the earth that pulses beneath our feet. The voices that we hear in the wind and the crushing weight we bear from the lost look of a stranger. The inexplicable joy which ascends from our depths when passing an unfamiliar person on the street; the sorrow that descends when we pass the next. The contempt which consumes the mind when in one room of people, the sense of unity and contentment when sharing stolen moments within the next.

What does it mean to exude such sensitivity? It is to draw to yourself those that can feel the emotions which radiate from you; who wish to protect and love you, but to be turned away from those very people when they fear the depth they cannot then fathom. To be left in the cold because they are afraid of burning in your fire. It is to soar high above with feelings of such joy that only tears come close to expression of it; to eventually fall and writhe with the loss of it, wretched and empty.

It is to be told not to “take things so personally” or to “toughen up a bit.” It is to be the one that people cannot comprehend, but whom they turn to for understanding. It is to be the one who can see through the barriers of the broken hearted, who can bring the lost soul to a place they can vaguely recognise, while you yourself drift eternally, clutching your loss and sorrow to your heart but urged always forward by the sacred and the intricate.

It is to be loved, but to be alone. It is to be always drowning, even in the calmest, crystal waters. It is to see through every mist but to be deafened by the sound of heartstrings. It is to wish for the ethereal, but to be drawn into it so deeply that you struggle to find your way back to the cold metal of the earth, and once achieved, to be shocked by its cruel steel.

It is to feel suffocated by the tension between those around you; to be intoxicated by their excitement; inspired by their passions. It is to fall at the feet of the world’s sorrow and wish for a temporary release from your own compassion, as empathy and pity wrack your open heart. But it is to feel elated at the slightest change in air pressure, euphoric as you feel the rain about to break, enchanted and lost within a melody.

It is to be deeply cut by a word or lack of one. To withdraw into sorrow at not being heard, to weep at not being asked. It is to wish with the open heart of a child and to fear like the tangled screams of the damned.

Yes, to be sensitive is a heavy burden, a path unchosen but walked with fierce loyalty. It is to feel, always to feel; the hard, the joyful, the perceived, the real.

It is brutal and beautiful. It is a gift, a spell, a burden.

It is what we are.

Who says there’s no music scene in Bournemouth?

People say there’s no music scene in Bournemouth. I have always challenged these people. Are you looking beyond the cover bands spewing out the same old tired Green Day and Deep Purple covers on a weekend evening in the heaving bars of the town centre? OK, Living on a Prayer is an amazing tune especially when you’ve had a few, and especially for those of us who remember it from back in the day. But, if you are prepared to look around and open your eyes, Bournemouth holds musical treasure beyond your wildest imaginings. I have lived in Falmouth, and was lucky enough to be absorbed into the heart and soul of the vibrant student town’s musical scene. People flock from around the country, even the world, to study music in such a beautiful backdrop and emotive landscape, and yes, the results show in the melodies spilling out onto the streets every night from the local bars. It is pretty special. But I say, musically, Bournemouth can hold its own.

Last night, I popped down to  Solid Air to watch Si Genaro. Si is the epitome of what is wrong with the phrase, “There’s no decent music in Bournemouth.” Si will, without fail, deliver the most emotive, passionate and beautiful performance you will ever see, each time, every time, despite audience, conditions or technology. What you see on the stage, whatever stage it might be, is intricately special; gorgeous melodies, a gentle voice which breaks into a haunting and broken cry just when you don’t expect it, eerie high notes and pensive dreamy low tones which trail off into the world this man has just created before and around you. Beautiful guitar playing, unbelievable beat boxing and perfect singing are all there, but it’s the achingly raw passion with which Si delivers his songs that gets me every time. It  transports you to another world; a dream like state; an altered consciousness.

This is what’s right with the Bournemouth music scene. What’s wrong is…Where is everybody? Why is this room not bursting with people sat in silence, occasionally starring at each other in non verbal understanding of bewilderment and bewitchment? Chris Woodford is another one. In my opinion, there is no finer guitarist, he delivers the most beautiful compositions on his 12 string, which I cannot even comprehend writing let alone playing. Again, despite unbelievable talent, passion is the key to Chris’ performance. Every time I watch Chris, I look around in disbelief at the fact that the room is not full of people like myself, staring in awed silence at the creation before them. And this is all for free!

Conrad Barr, chief magician and Lord of all at Solid Air hosts his music night currently on a Monday at the Cellar bar in Boscombe.  Conrad offers original artists the opportunity to present their musical creations to the world and for people like myself, who would never have had the courage to stand up and play their songs to a live audience without his encouragement, support and feedback (of the non screechy equipment variety) it is integral to their musical journey. For so many people in Bournemouth, it is where their musical journey begins, and as Si proudly told his audience last night, it is still his favourite place to play, and I second that myself. Conrad gives everyone a chance to share their creative voice, and without him, I am certain that many talented performers would never be heard.

The Cellar Bar and Chaplins hosts this music every night of the week and Harry Seccombe should be loudly applauded for this, it is, in my opinion, Bournemouth’s best local music venue and therefore, best venue! Ant Lewis is another local musician who through his music nights gives artists the opportunity to play, hosting open mic nights at the Dancing Moose in Ashley Cross and the Dancing Jug in Bournemouth, as well as Showcase opportunities, and who is supportive and encouraging as well as being a fantastic original artist himself.

I would challenge anyone who thinks there is no music scene in Bournemouth to open their ears and their eyes to the musical wonder that surrounds them!