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Sep 2, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

An octopus, one head barely distinct from the body, three hearts to pump blood blue with copper to survive the depths and eight arms with two rows of suction cups, arms reaching in all directions, arms in motion, arms with choices, arms full of neurons, far more even than in the brain, each arm almost a brain itself, able to bypass the brain and communicate with each other, arms ruled by senses. Each arm tasting what it touches.

I long for an arm built for creating joy and releasing false responsibilities, sweeping past unnecessary demands, an arm for embracing ease instead of effort, this arm that goes limp and cannot be willed to write a list of chores to check off, this arm of curiosity, refusing time, tossing clocks.

An arm for holding and pulling close, full of muscle and flex, an arm to protect, to unfurl and cast back into the ocean, this arm of neurons lighting up when others are ready to swim, this arm that knows when to let go and speed off before poisoned by its own ink, blinded by the ink of others ready to go.

An arm to grasp courage and fling off fear, an arm to pull back another arm when it gets tied down with tedium, this arm that will fill the porch with wildflowers, steep in autumn air, stay and stare at stars until their light reaches down and through, burrows into bones, light becoming marrow, holding the patience of lightyears.

An arm that holds my mouth open wide, suctions my fingers to pen and pen to paper until all that was needed to be said was let loose, even if these words are disregarded, tossed and scrambled back into random letters, words no longer floating through my blood, ricocheting through veins, pulsing through gut, now riding ocean tides.

An arm that reaches up, grabs a rope, a wave, the tail of a kite, a witch’s broom, pulled fearlessly forward, joined with a cloud on a far horizon, knowing if it lets go, gives up, that backward motion is deadly, this arm that grips tight to free reign, avoids the hard falls that come with restraint.

An arm to cast away like a spider’s fine filament, not knowing where it will land, across creeks and pastures, in woods from tree to tree, across oceans and rising tides, slant of sun holding the power of being seen or unseen but casting away anyway, an arm arching toward adventure.

An arm that meanders, finds its own path, pushing through dirt and rock, ocean silt and the shells that hold others captive, barricading and camouflaging when necessary as it strays from the expected, the known, crawls through deep water, cradled in currents ruled by a moon it cannot see.

An arm able to regrow when severed.

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Another stunning response from you here. I love the cadences of your prose, how you build such insistent rhythms...but it is never just beautiful phrase-making: there is always this point being built towards or departed from. And I love too how often your pieces tell me something I didn't already know about the natural world, before using whatever is invoked in such surprising ways. Thank you, as ever. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#sheilaknell

Tanya xx

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As always, so much gratitude that you take the time to respond. Such a wonderful way to wake up, see a response, a smile before coffee! Such a fun journey....

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What a fascinating passage! what a thought! Loved reading it. Have you watched My Octopus Teacher? There is so much we can learn from nature. I think your writing encapsulated so beautify what's it like to be a human... that desire to trust oneself and yet the need for some external validation and reassurance. So unlike an octopus. Well... at least that is what I saw in your piece. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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Sep 4, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Elena, thank you for taking the time to reply. I have not watched that yet, but have been meaning to, everything is so much more fascinating when we learn more about it. And yes, it always is the push and pull of wanting to trust oneself vs. external validation. So happy you related to the writing, usually I just toss stuff out to my friends so this has been a fun experience.

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Sep 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I have just had to reread this after a night shift sleep ,read yesterday and stayed somehow in my mind, floating though.

On second reading I search for phrases I love and what I love….it’s the whole. The wonder of those arms I can almost see.

The arm for creating joy and releasing false responsibilities….sweeping past unnecessary demands…..

And now I want it in film….don ‘t know how but I want to imprint the ideas in my head because I love them !

Thankyou for matching the slight strangeness that comes with shift work. I will be yearning for some of these arms tonight,for soothing sick infants,for taking parents full of angst to a place of ease. Mostly though for getting me a cup of tea and biscuits when my body asks for it and before my brain is able to rustle it up or my other arms are busy giving infection fighting ,pain soothing drugs or taking pulses of the tiniest of babies.

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Sep 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Louise, your job sounds like every shift would hold every emotion, I felt my heart tighten and open just reading this, what a gift you offer. Thank you for responding, glad it was so visual for you. It makes me happy to know this resonated with you and hope there are plenty of well earned biscuits and cups of tea.

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What a lovely response to Sheila's piece. Thank you, Louise, for what you bring to this community - as a reader and writer both. Tx

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Sep 14, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Love this piece Sheila. The amazing multi-coloured images that developed in my mind as I read through your work. An amalgam of human and octopus casting arms to capture the world.

It has a poetic pace to it that oars you along. Thankyou so much for sharing these words.

Steve.

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Sep 14, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you for this! I loved the visual of being oared along.

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Sep 7, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

What a beautiful way of capturing all the selves we long to be.. This felt like a precis of a longer piece, reminded me a little of Calvino's Invisible Cities. Gorgeous writing!

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Sep 8, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you for this, so kind of you to respond. I'm not familiar with Invisible Cities but will look it up. Also the idea of turning it into a longer piece, I'm going to play around with that idea, could be fun.

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Nov 11, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I wanted to say thank you again as I have continued writing from this piece. It has turned into shorter vignettes, over 20 so far of what other things might long for, everything from death to frogs to witches to lists. So grateful and amazed by the impact we can all have on each other.

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Jan 9, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Oh that's amazing! I'm so pleased to hear that... I got side-tracked recently and started writing some short stories, but I think it's actually a distraction from the kind of writing I really want to do, which comes directly from the heart - exactly as your piece did. This is a good reminder to me to bring myself back to that :)

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Sep 7, 2022·edited Sep 7, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Love this xx

I have a bag from a shop with some of the details of the octopus printed on it ! I never knew about how amazing these creature's are !

Your piece is so unique it's lovely so full of visuals , love the witches broom and the arm that war's against responsibility and duty in our daily lives ! This is so true !!❤

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Sep 8, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you for responding! Your bag sounds so fun and absolutely, feeling at war with responsibility is such a common theme. Here's to finding balance one day!

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Yes if you find the balance let me please know !!! Ah they are available from flying tiger and are the loveliest blue colour !

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This response is quite incredible Shelia! So totally unexpected in every way! You gift the reader something in addition to your fine words and rhythm which in themselves are a gift and more than enough. You are extremely inspirational!

Tracey xx

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Tracey, Thank you so much! Your words were quite timely as I was feeling stuck and wordless. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond! Xx

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So much going on in such a small space with these words Sheila.

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Aug 26, 2022·edited Aug 26, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Not everyone would understand the feeling of longing. For some it’s meaningless – “Why long and yearn? Just go and get it!” or, simply, “Come back to Earth - want what you can achieve”. I envy that approach.

My birth had too much meaning for my family; it came out of need not love. I was an unplanned and an unpaid work for granny, the precious last hope of happiness for mama and a pension fund for papa (although he was sorry that I turned out to be a girl). In return, I’ve inherited their own often nameless and rootless longing. Longing to belong, to be free and to feel safe.

My parents’ accidental and unwanted union caused too much rift in both families, and I was left in a care of my grandmother for my first seven years. All week I longed to see my parents at weekends; then I longed to return home to granny. I longed to play with other children but there were none around. Instead, I played by myself, helped with chores, and listened to adults’ conversations; “child should be seen, not heard”. I longed to be heard and I longed for my questions to be answered but the only answer I ever received was “when you grow up, you’d understand”. So, I longed to grow up. At school I longed to be like other children, make friends and I longed to be alone. Often, I longed to be back in granny’s flat in a two-storey house surrounded by apple and cherry trees that were no more - demolished and bulldozed to give way to a sky-scraping, expanding capital.

And on and on it went until all I could long for was to be someone else, living in a different time and in a different place.

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Heart-rending, this expanse of time you describe so powerfully. I will add it to the archive tonight once I've set up this month's page there. xx

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Thank you so much, Tanya. I just thought that I should have finished it with - “and that’s what reading gave me” :) xx

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Dear Elena - as promised (though a few days longer than I hoped: end of long summer holidays and lots of back to school chores to do!) - here is your moving contribution curated on the website...

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#elena

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Thank you so much again for all the time you devote to this. Hope kids are happy to be back at school. I still pinch myself that our school life is over now xx

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Sep 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Love the longing that turns. That once it is gained has lost its edge. So familiar and I thought of my own childhood longings,to be part of friends families,to have a mummy like hers, then to be back with mine. Never a different dad, but not the one asleep after a pint at lunch time in front of the only telly in the house ! And then to be a parent,but a more competent /awake/present one than myself . Loving my own precious boy,but not this tantrum filled cross one! Inspiring me as you may notice…thankyou.

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Hi Louise, thank you so much for such a warm reply. there is so much that can be written about longing and how it changes and changes us as we get older.

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Aug 26, 2022·edited Aug 27, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Sad brown eyes , I had been told this more than once in my life , I knew that they were and I had often caught that sadness staring back at me in the mirror . All my life I had been searching for the feeling of home probably long before the fatal detination that send our family scattering into pieces in my 15th year when dad died .

Searching for him always , I knew he had gone but it was that feeling of not being able to find him again that became my longing for the rest of my adult life I looked in all sort of places for him just wanting desperately something tangible to hold on to a life raft of hope that I could pull myself up onto and feel better .

I put myself in danger to find this feeling, I tried to find it in people and places i joined communities then ran away when the burden of connection became to much.

I felt like I destroyed myself many times to fill the void

None of it worked so at 43 I knew I had to find some way to let you go and I did

I found a person and we talked about you

I talked with you in my head in those times also , I wrote a poem to say I released you and you could release me too and that was OK, that I'd be OK , because it was either you or me and you had died and I'm had to keep living .

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Oh Monique. What a moving - and beautifully written - response this is. I will set up this month's page in the story archive tonight (I'm catching up on a lot of messages after some days away at a festival) and will come back here with your link as soon as I have. It means so much to me that you're here and that this space is giving you a place to articulate what you've lost and how you've found a way to live beyond it. xx

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Aug 29, 2022·edited Aug 29, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Ah thank you Tanya for providing the space and I love reading everyone's writing it's amazing to share so many people have so much talent inside of them ! Also the photograph of you at the pool is beautiful , hope it's up somewhere lovely at home it's just so tranquil love the blues within it like water itself

And the festival wow ,from reading about it sounds amazing this year

I hope to go one day all that creativity 🙏

Hope you can relax now at home as well as well as working as hard as you do !

Lots of love

Monique xxx

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Tears in my eyes (again) as I moved this to the curated story archive on the book's website. We are lucky to have you join this project - you bring such direct and whole-hearted honesty to everything you write as well as in how you respond to the work of others here. Thank you.

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#moniquekennedy

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Ah thank you so lovely to be part of this hope to always encourage and be encouraged ! Thank you Tanya ❤🙏💫

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Sep 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Monique,I feel the impact of the fatal detonation that scattered your family into pieces. My dad died at the end of my 17th year and I too longed for him and searched for him in such a similar way. On the tube, in my dreams next to me ,in my own eyes,in those of my son years later. The longing changed like yours and had to be eased too like yours I think. Now I do long still for him,but mostly know he is somehow alongside me but not too.

Thankyou for your writing .

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Wow Louise thank you so much for reading and writing to me ! Ah it feels so good to know I'm not alone in having felt that way and feeling still the absence of someone so important in much life and much I wish we could of shared

Thank you so much for responding 💗means the world to me 😚

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I was struck from the beginning with the sad brown eyes and how it may have been true, but also felt so labeling, that they are beautiful brown eyes too. This piece really highlights how self-destructive we can be when we lose someone that we love. So glad you made the choice to live. So moving!

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Ah thank you my love thankyou for reading xxx

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Love this

"They braid and knot "

Perfection.

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Aug 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Like insects, black in golden amber, they are caught in the past. Trapped by time, unable to move, unable to grow, they look at the world from the transparent matrix of their own captivity. I wish I could break their prism, invite them to step into the fresh air of ‘now’, stand blinking in a new decade, a new century, perhaps to acknowledge I am not the man I was.

They knew me then, they judged me then. Their verdict was cruel and accurate. I accepted it and, in accepting it, I was helped to grow. They saw the base thing for what it was, yet it is many years since I crawled. I am not the man I was.

Our time-lines are rarely straight. They braid and knot, they try to unravel, they always collect the rough debris of our existence; the pattern of one part is not the pattern of the whole. I yearn for a time when they will examine my first 20 years, years when the weave was clear and clean: or these last 20 years when the weaver grew in her craft and gave me the intricacies of age and experience, subtle in colour, soft to the skin. Oh I acknowledge there was a time, (look here at the middle 20 years), when the weaver grew careworn, the pattern was lost, the loom grew restless in it’s impatience to be done. Can we not ignore this part? Knot a scarf to cover the misplaced stiches? Wear life under a winter coat so only the finework shows?

My past cannot be unmade, but I am not the man I was.

Twitter: @TrailpikeRake

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Sorry again it has taken me longer than usual to get these contributions from you and others up - combination of travel and getting the children ready for school next week.

But it means I've had the pleasure of coming back to these words for a second reading, a third. If this is the voice of your long work, as I said a few days ago, then I think you are making a story that will speak strongly to people of our age/stage.

And we shall - all being well - be meeting again in a few months. At Ilkley too! A festival I'm so proud to be booked for and a place I'm looking forward to exploring - how lovely to feel I have a writing friend to meet there. Thank you.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#geoffcox

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Geoff, so so good to get this through from you. Such a tactile, tangible way of handling this theme. I'm just back from the Edinburgh Festival, and will set up this month's page in the story archive this evening and take great pleasure adding this to it. Will then come back on here with your link. If this is a glimpse of what it in your long work, then it bodes very very well...

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Love this

"They braid and knot "

Perfection.

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So beautiful and raw. I loved all the metaphors. Life hidden in a winter coat gave me the chills.

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Sep 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Love this,the embracing and letting go of all the men in your life! The idea of examining the earlier selves,the evolved intricacies of age and experience subtle in colour and soft to the skin. Knitting a scarf to cover misplaced stitches and wearing life under a winter coat so that the fine work shows …really visual.

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Oct 11, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

" If you keep staring at that box you will never amount to anything," said a six foot bib and brace man; a manual man, a callused man with an unforgiving hand with fingernails nightly cleaned; leaving the days labour floating in the pond of a sink.

I was careless with my time, neglectful of my allotted span. Three score years and ten was beginning to empty itself through the winged sand glass. I was slipping peacefully through, feeling gravities pull; filling my personal void packed with space to fail. A dark spirit crept in, camped out in my sandscape and sculpted my form. My shape was all wrong. I longed for a better fit, but I was anchored to my fate; but the fates were as mercurial as the sifting sands. My thread of freedom morphed into a limp acceptability that rabbits, mice and hamsters would fill that void. So, I clung to my furry comforters; dug in, did my time and watched my glass empty, but seeking succour in fur had a limited shelf life. I had a crushing need to flock with kindred kind

I yearned for a clearness of vision; unblurred, unblinkered by the embrace of familial approval. A crashing wave of inevitability was washing away any semblance of non- fictional me. I grasped on to fistfuls of feeling; stretched my imagination, stretched my skin over my emotions, bagged them up and hid them in a deep pocket.

One, ordinary day at school my saviour turned up dressed in tweed jacket, deer stalker and sucking on a droop of a pipe blazing with three nuns tobacco. He helped turn over my winged glass and taught me to become a careful chronicler of my time.

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Steve, so lovely to meet you today, meet another Tanya acolyte in the flesh! And this piece! How it resonates so much with me. Careless and neglectful. watching your life-sands slip away. "My shape was all wrong". I'm having that, stealing it, it fits me so much, what an eloquent way to express unbelonging. and debilitating familial approval. I still have that, it is fixed in my psyche, however hard I try to fight it down. I'm glad you are freer now, your writing needs to be seen. All best x

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I'm home now but can't quite believe that you were both (unbeknownst to me at first!) in the Ilkley workshop, and that you are one of mentees this year Sally (the applications are strictly anonymised so I don't know who I'm choosing).

Steve doesn't often log on here, but please leave your comment here for him to find, Sally, as he has just said over on Twitter how great it was to meet you. There feels to be a rich regional pool of emerging writers in second half of life happening where you are, and I have an instinct you both - with Geoff Cox if he's interested - might be able to bring still more people together in a future season...

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Hi Sally, really good to meet you on Saturday. I'm glad you could connect with that piece. It means a lot to me to dig out the harshness from the past and sieve it through and express my feelings about it. I give it to you with pleasure. Take care x

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Oh Steve. This is another astonishing kinetic piece from you - with every contribution I'm impressed all over again by you very distinct sensibility and your gift for not only describing the physical landscape but also the topography and the movement of the inner life... it's what I admire too in Lawrence and Williamson's Tarka the Otter (the men themselves I find problematic but the rhythms of their prose and their immersion in the natural world I will always find compelling). But you are quite different to them too... I'm so so glad this project is giving you space to share your work and thank you as ever for bringing it to us.

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Steve, I've only just joined this community, so am late commenting, but just want to say how much I enjoyed this piece. I was especially gripped by the first and last paragraphs, " ... a six foot bib and brace man; a manual man, a callused man with an unforgiving hand with fingernails nightly cleaned; leaving the days labour floating in the pond of a sink." And "One ordinary day at school my saviour turned up dressed in tweed jacket, deer stalker and sucking on a droop of a pipe blazing with three nuns tobacco." Your descriptions are marvellous!

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Hi Wendy, Thanks for embracing these memories of mine. Drawing back the curtains on the past can invigorate the memory and place you back as a player: looking through an older eye and mixed with a dazzle of imagination past events came to life for me.

I haven't been writing for a while due to a family bereavement some months ago, so looking forward to reading your work and getting back to writing ways.

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Nov 6, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

When I was 28, I wrote an article for Writer’s Digest magazine* about how you can write for the joy of it instead of for publication. Readers wrote in to say how much they liked it. One person even asked if she could use it to teach her adult writing courses.

I was pleased, but I was also sheepish: the truth was, I didn’t want to write for joy. Since I was 15 I’d been scribbling in my journal about my longing to be a real writer. I wanted validation, legitimisation ... publication. This is despite working in publishing in my 20s and knowing what a fickle industry it is. I wanted to be published, but I didn’t admit it because I was even more afraid of failure.

This was similar to how, as a teenager, I didn’t want to look like a loser when we took our family vacations in Michigan, while most of my classmates went to sunny Florida. They got tans on the beach and had romances. We fished for walleye, slept in a musty cabin and swam in the frigid Great Lakes. During the frequent rains, we watched sitcom reruns. When school resumed, I told everyone how fantastic it was. The fishing! The swimming! The sun shone every day!

Fortunately, I’ve come a long way. I moved to England 20 years ago, and now brag about the few days of vacations when it DOESN’T rain. And I can admit that publication would be wonderful, but I’ve spent the last two decades following the advice I gave in that article and writing for the joy of it. I’ve also discovered that these goals can co-exist: I can choose to keep enjoying writing, but I might just find the courage to try to get something published.

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What a gorgeous piece. And it made me smile how - described by you, here, now - the 'real' vacations you had back then of the walleye, the musty cabin, the frigid Great Lakes... that these sound far more interesting than a summer in Florida.

It's lovely to feel I'm a small part of you being published now, even as you continue to write for yourself, for joy (and I know what you mean about the difference: having a book out with a big 5 publisher was in some ways a dream made material... and yet in many ways, the outsider work I did with my mile of scroll-writing was just as rich in connection, while being far less compromised: I didn't have to be aware of a market, or think about covers, or comp titles!). Although without the book I wouldn't have this community now... so if one thinks in terms of richness and breadth of new connections that come from publishing our work (as happened when you published that long-ago piece): that perhaps makes it easier to go through the hoops it takes to get our words out there...?

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See me, find me, I silently scream, attracting no one’s attention. With my entire being, this is what I want - to be seen, to be found. But I have a broken body and a fractured mind, and invisibility is so much easier for all concerned. My malfunctioning has no place amongst the functioning, it is awkward and it is ugly. Kind eyes become short sighted, warm hearts beat to the rhythm of avoidance.

Where to go with a soul which never belonged? My mother mistakenly birthing me into this world when I belonged in another. She meant me no harm, but I bear a grudge with a permanence not to be shifted. The baby with the fragile soul went unnoticed.

The baby with the fragile soul became a teen with one, a dangerous pairing. And that teen hatched an unconscious plan to turn all eyes on her. She denounced food, rejecting sustenance, and she made her body small. And in her smallness she found visibility, her pain on show for all to see. She found that They wanted to talk about the pain, to soothe it and banish it. I found that I mattered.

But the success of my shrunken self became my downfall. It turns out that seeking to be seen is an illness, and one that is hard to shake; one which breaks body and mind, relationships and lives. And it becomes not a thing of interest or concern but a thing of anger and boredom, and, in the end, invisibility.

Loneliness kills they say, kills like cigarettes they say. Will it melt my lungs and put holes in my heart? Both diagnoses are easily imagined. Hope kills too they say, but not for me it doesn’t. For me, it is what keeps me alive.

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is beautiful writing, shattering. You bring the reader right into your world, such a visceral reading experience. Thank you for sharing this. xx

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Thank you so much Sheila, for taking the time to read it and for your kind words x

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Natalie - this is the first new piece I've read after a week away from my messages, and I am moved to my core by your absolute honesty. I don't know what life stage you are in now, but I know that it took me until last year, my late forties, to put into my book a similar need to be seen as a soul, such as you describe here. And like you, my body became instead the means for so long to receive what I needed. You are describing something so hard to bear, to survive, and to - hopefully - grow beyond (as I have done, so late, and after so many failed attempts). And yet there is beauty here too, in how you write. And this is the alchemical nature of writing, and writing well - with honesty, with measure - that always reminds me why it was so important to me. That hope that one day words I wrote and shared might go some way to solving that need to be seen and understood. I hope this project might become a safe way for you to continue your journey...

As you're the only Natalie in the project currently, you are welcome to use just your first name. Or to let me know your last name (or a pen name of your choice) that you'd like me to add to your piece.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#natalie

Tanya xx

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Thank you Tanya for receiving my words and I feel hugely relieved that my honesty was not too much (as I am always lead to feel in day to day life). Of course I’d convinced myself that my piece was not worthy of comment, let alone to be included in anything at all, so I am sincerely touched that it has found a place to be acceptable. Thank you for getting me writing - something that offers me such a healthy outlet, yet I haven’t done in such a long while due to my self doubt.

My surname is Dawson if you can add it easily I would be happy with that but not to worry if not! Thank you Tanya, Nat

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Natalie, you write beautifully of important things that are shared by so many other good people I meet in this late-made life of wide & deep connection I've created (after feeling as you do for my first half of life). You're the kind of person I created the project for - as a place where those who feel deeply can begin to dare sharing their words. Where we can moved between the silly and the serious. Where we don't have to guess at the right, polite register.

It's a pleasure to have added your full name now to the A to Z of contributors on the book site and also in the By Readers tab over on the Substack. And I hope you will write for other themes. Here is your updated link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#nataliedawson

Do take a moment to read the first seven responses that I curated last night for the first issue of Season Three: on the voices around us. You will see right there how many other people have grown up, like you, with messages about what they should be that have taken them years to begin getting clear from...

https://thecureforsleep.com/voices/

Tanya xxx

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Jan 31, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Sunshine sears a juicy June afternoon. I’m hidden in a reedy green ampitheatre. It’s a bend in the river where swirling gravel creates a tiny island, beached by the floods. Lying on my hand in this favourite place I’m stopped short by the sound of loud munching. Holding my breath, I scan dense rows of green spears. The sound is a mystery. But as the crunchy minutes pass I have my suspicions. Something extinct in these parts. I wait for a glimpse of yellow teeth, chestnut fur: a water vole.

My phone calls me back to London. My boyfriend, uncharacteristically wanting to meet me off the train. We wait on the underground platform, watching plump town mice snatch crumbs from the track. Silent, I share nothing of what I’ve left behind. A train pushes a filthy, warm guff of air towards us. The animals scatter.

He leads me to bed, to the four-poster he chose when he signed a record deal. The first time I saw this bed he apologised for its ostentatiousness, was coy about the photo I spotted, sent by a nude fan. But the four-poster, billowing with bright drapes in the Brixton Road breeze, reminds me of childhood dens.

Afterwards I stretch elastic egg white between my fingers. I frown, not knowing I will long for it in ten years’ time, with a different man. And ten years further on my fertility will be dispatched to the hospital incinerator. But what I’ll yearn for even more than babies I never had is a chance for all the disappeared wild animals to come back, something neither of those men might ever understand.

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Jo, this is a stunning piece from you. I was absolutely in each place, with each person, each creature that you invoked, with no idea of what would happen to you - and me as your reader - in that last paragraph, that last line. To write of things as vast as infertility and species loss in so few words with such impact and clarity - that is a rare skill. Wow. Here is your link to it in the story archive...

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#josinclair

Thank you for being part of our community here. Txx

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Feb 2, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much, what encouraging words from a writer I so admire! Your writing community feels like a spontaneous but contained space and I really appreciate what you've set up here. Good wishes to you and your mother, Tanya. Jo xx

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Apr 20, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

So good! Loved the weaving of the wild animals into your experience, so elegantly done. xx

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Sorry for such late feedback (I've only just joined the community), but this piece is a stunner! I normally say which phrases or lines most affected me, but I couldn't possibly choose. I love this. The way you entangle the natural world with the urban and built world, and the way you bring in the intimacy of the experience of fertility. Plus the intrigue of the musician! A really wonderful piece of writing. I look forward to reading more from you as I trawl through the archives.

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Thank you Wendy, that's really encouraging and generous feedback. One of the great things about the space Tanya's created here is its open nature regarding timing of submitting and reading.

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You cast your spell over me, all golden and seductive.

Those long childhood summers you came calling, peeking through the letterbox, peering through the windows. As we splashed in the summer shallows, cool water soaking the hem of my dress, you turned dull days into sparkling, carefree, precious times.

When you left me, even for an instant, all was darkness and gloom.

I followed you everywhere. On long bike rides you urged me onwards, laughing into my hair. I felt your warmth close behind me. We’d lie together on the beach, hand in hand, oystercatchers peeping in the distance. Mother didn’t always approve. On long balmy evenings I was always late to bed, playing outside with you until darkness fell.

September brought school. Trying to concentrate on handwriting and maths, I’d see you, dancing outside the classroom, at once coyly tiptoeing around the edges of my vision, then brash and fearless, beckoning me to join you. I ached to be outside.

I was scolded for daydreaming, staring out at you, smitten. You’d call for me after school and we’d snatch a few urgent, precious hours, hating the lengthening nights.

Winter arrived and I missed you so much. You’d disappear once the weather turned cold. I dragged a weight around my shoulders like a lead cloak during those dismal, miserable days.

But over the years I’ve noticed a change in you. Where you were so gentle, your sweet touch a delight, lulling me to sleep, there’s a ferocity to you lately.

You come calling for me in winter now. I’ve caught you peeping through my curtains, even in January. You’re still frail in the cold, but stronger than you ever were.

Has my gentle friend turned into a monster?

I fear for our future, sunshine.

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Wow. Cathy, this from you is absolutely stunning - compelling to read as I believe you were speaking of a friend and guessing at what kind of relationship it might be, and then unnerving and absolutely-true of what was until you wrote it unvoiced in me, though I feel it too. As do so many of us. Yes, like the best of writing, you've not only shared a truth from your own experience, but given me direct access to mine. Privilege to have this piece in the story archive and here is your link to it on the cure for sleep website...

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#cathyrobinson

Tanya xx

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Thank you so much for your lovely comments Tanya :) x

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A beautiful and clever piece Cathy. I know that friend too, one I'm so fearful of now when summer looms.

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That’s exactly it just putting something out there is so rewarding even though it can feel very daunting it’s always worth it 🙏🏾

especially as it can help others and like you say help your own writing too

Thanks for reading mine I always feel vulnerable putting something personal out there but it just comes back to reward you in bucket loads in a shared community feeling!😊🙏🏾

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Sep 8, 2022·edited Sep 8, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Two of my sharpest childhood memories are from the world of sleep. Each bedtime I would fixate on the blank wooden wardrobe door and begin to hallucinate: geometric patterns would form, folding in on themselves in growing intricacy, eventually transforming into delicate willow-pattern scenes of swaying trees and curved clouds, of bridges stretching over slow woodcut rivers, of silhouetted figures talking and laughing and dancing in synchrony. An entire living world conjured effortlessly from nothing. The delicious feeling then of sinking into deeper sleep, inevitably guiding me towards the familiar dream sequence: willing myself gradually free of the earth, I would be running, fast and then faster still; I would break free of gravity, free of limits entirely, floating higher and higher, flying at will, the warm night air carrying me over the tiny town lights and into the hills of my imagination. The same dream over and over, the same thrill of aliveness and impossible daring, the same state of pure being rushing through me. A wild creature unleashed.

The longing that came later was a sharp, painful hunger, an endless raw animal yearning of unmet needs. Years after the dreams died, my mother's madness triggered horrific surreal nightmares in their place. Each lonely 3 a.m. the same longing for safety and love would ache in my soul. Just for someone to notice. After I was ejected from home at 16, the longing each Sunday for my Dad to visit, the pathetic window-watching from the corner of my eye, trying to conjure his appearance. The longing for him to like me.

Now all that collapses back to a simpler longing: to be that small boy again, dreaming a world into life, existing in a state of pure being, and aliveness, and joy. To be me again.

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Paul, this is the kind of writing that I read holding my breath, as if any noise I make might make it fly off & away from me. It’s such intimate & brave writing. Thank you for offering it to us here. I will be back with my laptop tomorrow morning & will add it to the story archive, returning here with your link to it. Very best, Tanya x

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Sep 9, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Ah, thank you for creating a space where I could even consider writing like this... what a beautiful wee community this is, I'm so glad to be a small part of it xx

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I try always to put the stories up the day I receive them. When I can't though, I get the pleasure of returning to read them again as I edit and upload them. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#paulmiller

I'm so looking forward to receiving more words from you as part of our separate mentoring arrangement. I have some time for that in mid December, but if you're not ready to send then, mid Jan also good...

Tan xx

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Sep 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Love the way you describe those childhood dreams. I remember conjuring thoughts from wallpaper and shadows especially in my grandparents house. I can still visit when I close my eyes. And the way you contrast this with a longing just to be noticed ,to be liked by your visiting dad . Really powerful.

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Sep 25, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you :)

I love this generous sharing of people's responses, it's hugely encouraging and motivating to keep going, and to work at writing and improve. Also, I love that your childhood memories overlap with mine! I always felt quite odd that the younger me could do that.

Thank you :)

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Sep 22, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I agree with Tanya about holding breath while reading. This was so vivid, so heartfelt, three paragraphs that say so much, three distinct times in your life, yet all connected.

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Sep 23, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much for your kind words.. it's quite a vulnerable thing to do - is that how you felt? It's also slightly addictive though! I just need to keep making sure I keep doing it I think... thank you for reading and commenting :)

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Sep 23, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Yes, vulnerable every single time and yes, make sure you keep doing it. Take care!

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This is wonderful ! Only just seen your writing

Really beautiful I hope you have found some peace to dream 🙏🏾

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Sep 16, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Ah, thank you so much! I feel quite shy about putting it out there in the first place, but it's really lovely to have someone read and comment on it.

BTW, I loved your piece so much, I just couldn't think of anything useful to say about it... but in a lot of ways I prefer your style to mine, it's so direct and open, I think it's more powerful and more affecting. I think one thing that might come out of this site is learning from other people's styles, maybe playing with that and using it to experiment with different ways of expressing things. I might try that. But also, just seeing that other people have difficult things that need to be articulated, gives a real sense of community and belonging that I value very much xx

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Mar 26Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Longing Series 02:05

I am longing to be free of this constant, excruciating pain. To wake up one morning, flex my foot, lower it to the floor and walk steadily to the bathroom. To descend the stairs quietly, first up, eschewing the support of the bannisters. To cross the kitchen floor, finding it pleasantly cool to my touch.

Standing on tiptoe on both feet, I will reach for the cord and raise the blind, letting morning light flood the room. Water will gush from the tap, the kettle will boil and, reaching sideways rocking over on my left foot, I will painlessly lift a mug from the hook.

Tea made, I will swivel round, tuck my journal under my arm and head for the front of the house, holding book and cup effortlessly without need to hang on to the side of the stairs, shuffle along the wall or grimace. Relaxed into a smile, I will open the curtains on my world without gritting my teeth. Realising my pen is still on the kitchen bench, I will not sigh and prepare for a second expedition to retrieve it, but will weave gracefully around the coffee table and return sunny mood intact.

Delighting in the quiet and the sunlight, legs tucked comfortably under me, I will begin my daily journal and exult in the joy of an established creative habit pausing only to sip tea.

Later, I will trip happily down the stairs and head out. Joining the traffic queue, raising and lowering the clutch slowly with my left foot, holding back several tons of metal with ease, I will drive to the pool. Later still, I will take up that invitation to a long walk and delight in heart to heart conversation with my writer friend. Who knows what delights await us together.

Jean Wilson

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Jean! I’m so sorry that I missed this somehow. I’ve just read it with a deep feeling of fellowship - so much of my life was spent in chronic pain and I’m (for now, and I hope for a long while) in that state you in this piece are wishing for: the ease of everyday life. From a style/craft perspective, I feel this is a clever and effective way to show the drag, the dread, the effort of pain: by describing all these small daily doings that feel like treasure to one kept from it by pain.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#jeanwilson

Txx

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Apr 4Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thankyou so very much for such encouraging comments. Going to pop a letter in the post to you.

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Hi Tanya. I submitted a piece a few months ago following a session from you that was part of our MA at Bath Spa. It was called 'Tapping' and was about my Father-in-law, Derek.

I would like to submit the below piece about Longing for wilderness.

Hope you are as well a can be expected. So sorry to hear about your mum.

Warm regards

Jo Baker

Longing for wilderness

I am sitting on a mountain top in Switzerland yearning for wilderness.

I reach out for it with both palms, with all my being.

I imagine I have clasped it, then it blows away like a dandelion seed, whisked up into thermal currents, higher and higher until it disappears.

What is wilderness? Wildness, loneliness, being alone?

Many religious leaders, pilgrims and vagrants experienced solitude. Christians believe that Jesus sought quietness, time away from crowds, space to meditate. The bible recounts stories of him retreating into the mountains or the desert. St Cuthbert used to stand in the sea just off the shoreline of Lindisfarne and today pilgrims trek along the Santiago de Compestela trails searching for answers to life’s questions.

People head for the mountains when they have a decision to make. This can be a pilgrimage to a known or unknown place, or simply a way of finding the peace and rest that we desire.

Wilderness represents a place where there is little life: a desert, a derelict piece of land or the top of a mountain where the wind blows on your cheeks and the air smells fresh.

Wildness, on the other hand, makes me think of uncontrolled and untamed landscapes, such as our garden or the courtyard nearby where ivy winds around the pillar in a figure-of-eight, like a Christmas tree adorned with green ribbons.

I want it to stay like this: a blend of rural and urban, because I am a mixture too. I would never rip off the ivy. I would trace the patterns to appreciate its route, to celebrate its audacity. If it were left alone, it would flower and fruit next year. If it were removed it would leave behind an imprint of its journey embedded in the bricks.

I look forward to hearing back from you. Jo Baker

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Hello Joanne. How lovely to get a second contribution through from you. I love the searching, explorative nature of this piece, which feels like it could be the start of a longer essay as well as working here as a perfect self-contained piece. And that last line! My mother died on Wednesday morning - and she lived her whole life, like Wordsworth's Lucy, in the few square miles of countryside where she was born. 'If it were removed it would leave behind an imprint of its journey embedded in the bricks.': This is how I feel about this landscape without her in it.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#joannebaker

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Hello Tanya,

So sorry to hear about your mum.

Thank you for your kind words. I am glad that the last line resonated with you. I found your thoughts really moving and emotional.

Do take care.

Warm wishes

Jo

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Thank you Jo xxx

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May 7, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Longing isn’t a positive verb. To me it implies pain, agitation and being incomplete, inviting an internal interrogation of merit, skills, worth, and every other form of self-critique. Somewhere I learned that longing was some combination of pointless, delusional, lazy, or just sad.

“If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” was one of my mother’s favorite sayings. And she was right to teach us early to not expect too much. She had 12 children and a husband that, for many years, drank too much and was often ‘between jobs’. It was safer to long for more attention, less chaos, and time by ourselves, than to hope for the material things we craved.

Now that I have summited the hill, I am excited for, instead of dreading, the other side. I am approaching it like a long slope after the first snow; full of potential. My longing now is anticipation of the joy flying down the other side, as I shed layers of anxieties, biases, and need of acceptance, leaving them in a heap at the top with a note saying, “Marie was here!”

The house in Ireland, which I regularly declared I would one day own, was an up-hill, first half of life longing. It was an ache to achieve the quest of going home. It would signal success, and was as realistic as a Christmas unicorn.

My lovely strands of tinsel I welcomed as my ‘Wild Hairs’! They are a visual reminder of all I left at the top of the hill. They welcome my Crone Crown with pride and cheer me on as I jump into this Fool’s Journey. My silver strands and tiara will be a beacon to welcome all my sister Hags to my Irish home to create magic.

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Welcome to the project Marie! And what a beautiful first contribution - such a strong sense you give, in so few phrases, of the place and people you were formed by.

And then the thrill I got when you invoked the longing of joy with that gorgeous simile - 'a long slope after the first snow'. It reminded me of my favourite lines/scene in Eliot's Wasteland:

And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,

My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,

And I was frightened. He said, Marie,

Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.

In the mountains, there you feel free.

I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

But here, instead of that joy being in a long-distant childhood, it is ahead of you, with your 'wild hairs' streaming behind.

Just beautiful. I do hope you will be tempted to try other themes...

Here is your link, and I am adding you to the A to Z on Contributors on the book site and also on the By Readers tab here on my Substack.

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#marieleahystark

Tanya xx

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May 10, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya for the kind words, and for introducing me to Eliot's Wasteland. It seems like it could be a timely read. Plus, I'm curious about this other Marie. I looking forward to working with other prompts.

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She only has that brief appearance in it - though knowing that poem there's probably a story behind who she was and why he included her! So much of Eliot I find distasteful because of the prejudices - but then there are some lines like 'hers' in it that I can't help but hold by heart. Thank you again for joining the project.

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Nov 18, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Back on the chain gang

I looked down at the fried egg sandwich, grease oozing out onto the white plate, and felt sick. He came back with two cups of tea, grinning, stumbling, drunk. The cafe was loud. Condensation ran down the windows. The link was cracked.

Eat, he said, and I did.

Back at the flat, he fell onto the bed, which wasn’t a bed, just a mattress on the floor, and lay there with his hands behind his shaved head.

Take my boots off, he said.

Why, I said.

I want to watch, he said, and so I did.

It took some time: I was drunk, and he was wearing his 12 hole oxblood Doc Martens, but after a truffle with the laces I threw the boots across the room. He raised his hips, undid his zip and I dragged his jeans down. He was smiling. He was already hard. I crawled up his body and put him inside me. He never wore underwear.

I took his face in my hands and kissed him. I opened my eyes so I could look at him. I wanted to trace the teardrop tattooed under his left eye, but I knew he wouldn’t like that. I wanted him to open his eyes, his beautiful brown eyes, but I knew that wouldn’t happen either.

When I was kissing him I thought of Chrissie Hynde’s voice earlier in the club, the yearning. I remembered the song because he had got up to dance. I loved it when he danced, because he didn’t do it often. He liked to watch. And smoke.

The yearning. The longing. The key changes, and the crack in her voice.

The powers that be. Force us to live like we do…

Eleven weeks later, I was sitting in the abortion clinic, with that song in my head.

Forty years on, it’s still there.

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Well this is stunning. And if this is part of the longer work you are wanting to embark on, then I'm excited by the prospect of where you will take me and other readers in it. Love how you earth all the emotion and desire in such material details. The kind of writing I'm always most drawn to.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/august-issue-longing/#kerrywhitley

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Oh Tanya I don’t know what to say. Just knowing you have read this, and like it….having real problems with my son at the moment, and I hardly slept last night, but carving out time to write…and I really didn’t expect such a quick response.

So appreciate it. And all the prompts still left to respond to.

Thank you. My heart feels very full at the moment.

Kerry x

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