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Nov 29, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Unforgotten. By Steve Harrison

It's always there wandering in the backstreets of my mind. In idle moments, fragments of woven memories stitched together from old photographs of 'her' and faded childhood impressions meld and become someone I remember.

My mother was taken on a school day, an ordinary day; a day of algebra, geography and metalwork which shaped the contours of that day until, she became no more. That school day became a desperate, misshapen day, unfocused and unformed.

I knew she was ill.

She led in bed for days. No words. No movement. Only glimpses of her blonde, Diana Dors hair style, now limp and drained of it's shiny vibrancy. She wilted and became cold. I lost her. She was locked away in forbidden territory, hidden under a sad sea of blankets and sheets. The glowing coal fire in her bedroom had no one to warm.

Fourteen years old.

Now crushed and cast adrift into an adult world of, 'be seen but not heard,' 'speak when you are spoken to,' and 'keep away from 'that' door,' my emotional compass was compromised and spun out of control. I needed to get close. Skin to skin. Look into her eyes and see life's spark, get past that 'adult' door closed by 'adult' rules. Emotional intelligence was something from a psychology book. No books in this house.

Unable to process.

My fourteen years had given me an incomplete deck of coping cards. I was not equipped to navigate my way through that powerful theatre of emotions that played out during her last days.

Reflection.

Time, was in a hurry to take her. I had all the time in the world to regret my weakness and forgive myself for not being strong enough to open that 'adult ' door and rescue myself.

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Apr 30, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is so touching, pulls the reader right in, felt the pain of the death and the regrets, how we judge ourselves for what we could not change. At 14 we often feel so adult, but as I aged, I realize just how young 14 is, so much you went through so early in life. From a house with no books, and now look at your writing. Sad, but a testament to resilience. xx

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I love how you read others' work in the project, Sheila. And although you and Steve come from very different places, I feel you both have a shared gift for voice: I could see a piece from you or Steve come through even without your names and feel fairly certain it was by you, I mean.

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May 2, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you! I love reading the other writing here. Life has felt a little busy lately so I haven’t had as much time to spend here. I wanted to share exciting news. I signed up for Kathryn Aalto’s nature and place writing class starting May 15. I never would have done this without your encouragement. I’m both excited and terrified and also proud of myself for making an investment in myself. A new adventure….xxx

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Wow! That's wonderful news! Katy is such a fine teacher and having been a guest speaker on one of her groups, I know you will have a wonderful new circle of writers to share words and exchange ideas with. And Katy will be blown away by your writing, I know... xx

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May 2, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Let’s hope so!😂 Your book really did make me think of my life differently, added a new dimension. I’ll keep you posted. xx

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Thank you for your comments Sheila, it does help me to come to terms with who I am- the authentic me and how I process past and present. I love all the work that you have posted; they leave me with an indelible impression of character and place pressing on the mind and diving deep into the roots of our personal journals.

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Steve - moved to tears by this contribution from you. How I felt for the boy you were, and how it is for you to carry that. I feel, too, all over again what a privilege it was to share that mentoring conversation with you last month. And to have you trust this experience to our shared story archive feels a privilege too - thank you. If any of the other themes also move you to memory, I will be glad to include them also. All themes stay open til January, when I will have a short pause for publication day and related events, before continuing this project in a slightly amended form for those joining us post-publication.

Here is the link to you powerful piece. Only a few slight edits to ensure it reads clearly in the online formatting that the website demands. Do let me know if any of the changes change your meaning in a way you don't like. If so, let me know via here what to change back and I will! Tan

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#steveharrison

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Sep 28, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Married 26 years to a man with a carpenter's calm, yet I still breathe the uneasy air that the women in my family have breathed through generations, communication forced down to whispers, silent looks. I was raised by these women who walked through cautious air every day, air thick and stale, air polluted with molecules of fear. Air that blows words away, a child’s balloon gone. This invisible heaviness, an unseen force field, opposing ends of magnets, oppressive, weighty, immobilizing, sound cannot move through this air, air like quicksand, concrete, air that keeps words captive, jumbled and tossed, knocked about until crumbled.

These women swallowed words whole like blue whales swallow krill, swept back into the throat by the tongue, trapped, krill die, words die, the giant swims on.

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‘A carpenter’s calm’… such a beautiful phrase & counterbalance to the storm-tossed history of your womenfolk…

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As always, thank you! Such a joy to be here with everyone.

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I continue to be fascinated by how you use the language from biology, from other species, to convey such powerful things about our intimate human lives. I can't think of anyone else I've ever read who writes as you do. Thank you for each and every one...

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#sheilaknell

Txx

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This has been such an enriching experience and allowed me to branch out a bit. I love reading natural history and then finding a surprising link forming in my mind. Thank you!

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Dear Shelia, there is just so much to absorb and to love about this! Blows my mind as to how you write this way. Is there anywhere else where I can access your writing please?

Tracey xx

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That is quite a compliment, but no, I've never been published and don't have a blog, etc. I love the constraints of the word count here to make me think hard about what I want to say. I really do appreciate that you take the time to respond, it means a lot! xx

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Ah well I shall have to be content with your wonderful offerings here. Thank you for letting me know. Have a beautiful week xx

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If I were a wealthy woman I’d hire you to send me these encouraging notes each morning!😂 Hope your week is beautiful too!

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🤣🤣 love it! 🙏

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May 14, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

It was so long ago, I’ve forgotten what I did to deserve it. Buried it deep, perhaps. Or more likely it was insignificant, anyway. Perhaps, tired of being teased, I’d had a tantrum, designed to let them know how fed up I was. The design, clunky and immature. Whatever I had said or done, awakened a force so strong in Dad, he finally voiced the words I’d so long felt. They had never wanted me.

It was this taboo that created the bond between my parents and my brother: a bond that was not strong enough to hold me too. Once broken, he came to the door of my bedroom, ashamed and asking forgiveness. Expressing regret, to his biggest regret. It was the only power I had ever been offered and I didn’t know how to wield it. I would later regret my denial, and forgive any man, ever after, for any sin. Regret to regret, shame to shame, ashes to ashes.

It turned out to be true. Some years later, an admission that there were money worries. Another child was not an option. Facing unemployment after working since he was a child himself, my Dad resented that I had somehow made my way into the world, as if he’d had nothing to do with that.

He never spoke of the others who hadn’t made it. Those good, obedient ones.

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How devastating these few short paragraphs are - decades (generations) of pain and difficulty compressed down around this one moment through a bedroom door. Each time you or another member of this story-sharing community uses one of my prompts to tell a story of this much power? Well, it my absolute privilege to receive and curate them. Thank you. Here is your link... Txxx

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#laura

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Hey Laura, I have just come across this piece and oh what courageous writing! It has stirred so many memories.

Tracey x

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Hi Tracey. I love your idea that writing releases spells. I hope in stirring the memory pot, I've released a spell somehow! Thank you for letting me know it meant something to you.

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Thank you Laura 🙏

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Nov 21, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

They say there are no coincidences. The very same November morning that I received an email notification for Tanya Shadrick’s recent book excerpt, I also experienced one of my life’s greatest regrets.

Just thinking about it generates a cold sweat as I’m made aware of the first wet rivulet inching down my spine; I become the source, a headwaters for streams of sweat and tears. Sorrowful fingers wander the keyboard’s checkerboard landscape and I wonder if there’s sufficient letters to type the words I’m hunting; can I summon them?

My stomach growls, not from hunger, but from that incessant gnawing of knowledge I’ve done something irreparable. In times of distress an immediate loss of appetite ensues as I enter a state feeling less human…something less likeable, less recognisable. A zoetrope of thoughts flashes an incessant reminder of my regret.

The very word, regret, implies an occurrence from which there’s no recovery and that is an agony. I blame my thinking for releasing its leash on insecurities; the tight rein on demons was loosened - their freedom lashed out with words deadlier than any weapon.

What did I do or say, you may wonder? I destroyed something most rare and exquisite, a unicorn manifest as human. Its decent nature shone brilliantly in any light; a gentle creature who stood patiently for me to come closer.

Great tenderness arose from the heart I’d forgotten, coming back to me in great waves, new and fresh. I’d been lifted into that world I’d only glimpsed at from the distance of dreams and faced an opportunity for new beginnings through a narrow portal, just wide enough to enter.

Almost there and I crashed, my words destroying the very thing I held so dear.

I face ultimate regret.

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Diane, you know already via our twitter messages how much I think of this from you. If you do read my book next year, you will find a chapter in which I do something very similar. It's a hard hard thing to live with: but like you, it is important to me to own up to it. I can't repair the damage I did, but I can admit it. I admire your courage in this piece, very much. The link to your piece on the book site is as follows. Very best, Tanya

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#dianeauby

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Thank you, Tanya. I’ve been wondering why I took this leap to write about something so personal and then share it. Your gentle encouragement along with the support I’d received from the person I’d hurt gave me courage to step out from behind my shadows. The writing was in the moment and painful; my regret made all the more undeniable in print. The words repeat - what have I done? Hopefully, one learns from a regret, but the heart beats heavier.

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I have been thinking about regrets. I have many feelings - anger, frustration, grief - but regret isn't a massive one. When I was young, I sought out adventures. I made a point of saying yes. When I first told people about my cancer diagnosis, one friend confessed that her immediate thought was "Thank God she's done so much travelling".

I've been lucky. I married the right man. I have two children, who are becoming adults I enjoy spending time with. I had a satisfying career. I could have had more, but I could easily have had less. I sometimes wonder how things might have been, but they are idle thoughts, not regrets.

The regrets I do have are small but sharp. Here's one:

I was a student. One of my great aunts was ill. Seriously ill. I bought a get well card - it had snowdrops on it, her favourite flower. The card sat on a shelf in my room for days. My aunt died. I hadn't sent the card.

I told myself it didn't matter too much, I wasn't a big part of my aunt's life.

The next time I saw my mother, she gave me the jewellery that my aunt had wanted me to have. It wasn't much, nothing valuable, but she'd worn it when she was my grandmother's bridesmaid, and she wanted me to have it, as the only granddaughter.

I regret being careless, and thoughtless, and selfish. I still regret it - it still hurts me. And I wish I could say that that incident changed me, but it took years of similar missed opportunities for me to realise that it really doesn't take much to give someone a moment of pleasure, of feeling cared for. That we should take every opportunity to be kind.

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Each time you respond to a monthly extract, I get another new & deepening sense of you and your values. Thank you, Sarah, as ever. Here is your November link. Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#sarahconnor

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Thank you.

I've learned the hard way that when you are feeling ill, everything is important. When I was in hospital in April, my son sent me a picture of a flower every day. It meant so much to me. He's a much nicer person than I am!

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Feb 26·edited Feb 27Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Regret.

I got off the city train in the steep part of town and looked up at the platform signs. Left, or right? People moving in every direction. I chose right and started walking on the bumpy tiles designed to keep you away from the edge. I look up to see a white stick with a rubber base. A young man with a cloudy eye faces me.

‘Please. Which way for line one?’

‘Mmm. Let’s see…', wanting him to know I was on his case. The irony of my choice of words wasn’t lost on me but he had worries bigger than my crumby choice of words.

The sign above my head pointed left. I said, ‘It’s this way’. We walked a few meters, and he thanked me. I said goodbye and walked away. He had one eye that looked OK. I deduced he could see more than a bit. If he’d got this far, he’d find his way, yet I hesitated and turned to watch him.

The train was still in and he was walking, waving his stick side to side, but then he walked past the exit. In seconds he would hit a black wall.

I started running along the crowded platform. An older man left the train, woollen business coat over suit, saw the stick and the guy in the corner of his eye. He took a double take. I watched him check over his shoulder at where the blind guy was heading.

In large strides Suit got to him, muttered something, then guided him up the stairs. Suit's halo was as visible as cat’s-eyes in the dark.

I braked, smiled. 'It’s ok, I’ve got him', said the return smile. As I retraced my steps, I fought feeling a fool for letting the blind guy walk alone.

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It’s so exciting when a new writer joins the project and sends in more than one piece in quite quick succession - I get to discover whether they write in different styles according to what the theme pulls up for them, or whether they use each prompt to work in a particular voice.

Your first piece showed your deep internal experience of childhood places… and now I’m getting to see/hear you in everyday life, just as you’re handed one of those sudden ‘off book’ moments: when the usual habitual ways of responding get tested.

I always admire a writer when they can reveal themselves falling short of a standard they already hold - or when they find themselves newly revealed in a shame, or a shortcoming. I find too much recent non-fiction focusses on how the narrator has been mistreated and not enough (for my taste/for narrative balance) on how the one who is writing makes mistakes.

Thank you again for joining us here! Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#pippwarner

Txx

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Feb 4Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Totally fincwith that. Thankyou. Jean

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Jan 31Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Regret – Jean Wilson

I’ve spent the last hour in a virtual co-working space ‘Heartleap’, hosted by Sara Walker, a discipline I’ve needed. Tempted to be distracted? Look at those busy writing. I’m using the sessions to respond to ‘Cure for Sleep’. This week I felt pretty negative. ‘Why am I doing this, it’s too late, etc., etc.’ Imagine the Heartleap when I opened Substack to see Sara’s post, ‘Do you think it’s too late for you? Think again’, and later her reminder, ‘Synchronicity, as Julia Cameron writes in the Artist’s Way. You are on the right path’. It’s true. Last week I was filling in gaps from series one on Childhood stories and that was the very topic Tanya chose to repost for the current season.

So what do I regret? The ‘missed’ and ‘unfinished’. I’ve 12 so far, probably the tip of the iceberg. Worse still, often they included other people’s time. Here’s a flavour of my sins! James’ decision to go and work in the shanty towns of Cape Town – still just notes. Eileen’s work in European refugee camps – more notes. A colleague setting up teacher training in Africa – notes again. A client of my sister ran the London marathon after podiatry treatment, coming from the very village from which water for the London marathon originated. Even researching Cumbria Life as a possible place to send my efforts. Not sent.

From childlike beginnings, ‘Tales of the Potting Shed’, written in an old school exercise book to ‘Teaching Grammar through Shakespeare’, in English in Education for which I earnt £60.00 there have been many opportunities to write only some of which materialised!

Some did. I’m focussing on that. Where now? Hopefully all the encouragement that readers and writers supply so kindly here will make those regrets a thing of the past.

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It’s so good to feel that this space here, Jean, is playing a small part in your larger writing journey. Thank you again for returning this month.

I’ve curated your piece, but felt it needed a slight edit - not for quality reasons as it reads clear and true - but because I try not to put too much emphasis in any of the curated pieces on this project itself. Yours begin with a ref to this one as well as to Sara’s, and I’m mindful that lots of readers might find the piece via my book website and not be aware of the Substack aspect.

I also wanted the emphasis to be fully on YOUR writing and your process.

Take a look and if you’d rather it wasn’t in the curated part of the part in my edited version, I can of course remove it - but I hope you’ll be happy to have it part of the collection!

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#jeanwilson

Txx

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Childish Regrets by Barrie Thomson

I have not thought about this for a long time. Have I ever truly thought about it? I haven’t spoken about it. I suspect I never will. Regret is pricking at my eyes now, tears threatening to spill. I made a choice. Yet, there was little choice. I made a decision. Abruptly. On my own. Without consultation. I am squirming now at the ill-considered rush of blood pumping to the heart that I was about to break. I am focusing on how it affected me but the burden was never just mine. The loss was not for me alone to adjust to. It should not have been about me. I was immature, too young to know, way too young to have been a father. I was too young to be a husband and that’s why it crumbled. We were too young. We did not know ourselves so how could we steer a shared course. And when the fabric tore and lay in tatters around us, we stuck needles in one another through the children. Of course, I saw myself as the victim. A cashpoint not a dad. The ‘sensible’ one who pronounced haughtily about homework, and clothes, and influence. Every fortnight they came to me and I gently tried to redress the imbalances that set out to exclude me from their lives. Every fortnight. But it was not the time. I should have played, chased, and laughed, and offered them my example. I struggled to be that dad. I felt crushed by my lack of day-to-day involvement when I should have been celebrating the moments we shared. To my regret, I wrote to the children and told them I was stepping back, ‘to give them room to grow up without the tensions’. I should have been there for them.

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Barrie… so much respect for you from reading this. It takes a lot for a person to set out to themselves - even in private thought - such a clear account of a regret of this kind - and still more to write it out without veering into blaming or shaming others. Two lines in particular hit hard: ‘But it was not the time’ & ‘I should have been there for them.’ You know from my book that I never had any form of words - spoken or written - from my estranged father to explain his absence from my life and I think even the most self-serving account would have been more useful to me than the awful silence. To have had the chance to receive words like the ones you’ve written now would have been a blessing.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#barriethomson

With thanks as ever for what you bring to this project and how you speak for it elsewhere,

Txx

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This is so very touching, in every way. I caught myself unawares, perhaps, or wallowing in the annual reflection about whether my daughter - now 36, 37 later in the year - will be ready to receive the letter I so want to write her. She isn't in my life - thank goodness my son is or I'd be swamped with those regrets - but I want to ask her how she feels, how it affected her, is there room for a something from now going forward. We'll see. Clumsily, as I wrote, I forgot your story and your own estrangement. But your words suggest I need to get my grown up trousers on and fling a letter into the void and see if a gentle breeze delivers it as intended. Thank you for the kind words. What you do in this space is so very important to so many of us. Bx

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Straying away from the writing conversation to the life one for a moment on my part, and speaking from personal experience as a daughter: yes, if you are able to send something without any need to get what you need from it… but only to offer apologies and extend a quiet invitation to a new way of being… yes, I think that sort of gesture precious and rare. xx

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That's very kind, thank you x

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Hi Tanya, I appreciate once again that you have left these prompts open for so long.

Thank you!

Here is my experience.

Regrets.

They’ve gone, packed up and left and it is all my doing. But good riddance I say, they were nothing but trouble in the end.

They materialised many moons ago and made themselves quite at home, seemingly settling in for the long haul. It was almost as if they immediately recognized that they had discovered somewhere worth making their own.

It wasn’t so bad in the early days, they were quiet, laying low and biding their time for when they would take over, run the place, own the space.

As time tramped on, their numbers grew as they stealthily sought out others of a similar ilk. Trouble was that they never had to look too far. As they gained momentum, they began to make themselves known. Subtlety at first, almost by invitation really, innocently encouraged to stay awhile; but back then they read the room and knew when to leave.

If they had left it at that, things might have been different, but they didn’t. They began to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye, refusing to leave when asked, loitering in the shadows reluctant to retire. Turning up randomly, unannounced and unbidden, unperturbed by their own insensitivities. Muscling in at every opportunity, deafeningly derisive and demanding. There wasn’t a moment’s peace; it was traumatic and tortuous.

Oh, they really ruled the roost, until the day dawned when I precisely perceived their power, their persistence to create chaos and commotion, despondency and depression and the decision was made.

In that very instant I just knew. I knew it couldn’t happen overnight, I knew it would take time and tenacity, but I knew I could do it. Someone had to leave, and I knew it wasn’t going to be me.

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You describe here so very well that persistent, tenacious nature of regrets - how they grow in and crowd out... and the effort it takes to clear our lives of them. Thank you for sharing it with the project, and here is your link: https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#traceymayor

Txx

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Thank you for taking the time to read and comment and send the link, as always it is very much appreciated.

Tracey x

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Regret was passed around easily in my family. I don’t think I’d be around if my parents and grandparents had had access to the time machine. Myself? I could have made different choices as well. I could have been braver and bolder, and my life would have been different. Would I have like it more? Or would I still wonder “what if”? It’s true that I’ve been a drifter; following the downstream of life with very little defiance. Taking opportunities that were given to me; but never seeking them, never being strong enough to single-mindedly follow an aspiration. Maybe I didn’t have any aspirations apart from one for safety, however fragile and illusionary it was. Knowing what you want beyond safety is a gift. I had to take a long and winding road to get that knowledge and I’m still not sure if that’s the right one. But I wont regret being mistaken yet again as I know I had a go at it and did what I could.

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In this - as in other pieces you've submitted now - I love to watch your mind take a journey through the theme, the questions you ask around it. I enjoy how you take me from one place to another, I mean. Thank you. Here is your link: https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#elena

Txx

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Aug 20, 2022·edited Aug 20, 2022Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much for taking all this time to go through those broken pieces xx

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A privilege. x

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Hi Tanya.

Thanks for sharing another powerful piece of your writing. I try not to have regrets, as there is little you can do to change the past once what's done is done. But this is a regret that I didn't organise my mind in time to ask for an apology for our family. Thanks as always for your encouragement to share our stories.

V xx

***

“It will be informal,” they said.

You could say the white Formica tables had the air of an old school canteen about them. But there was nothing informal as the coroner entered the courtroom, pronouncing, “All rise”.

Proceedings began. The driver took the stand. He avoided our gaze and mumbled well-rehearsed words. Bubbles boiled in my stomach. The judge asked whether there were any questions. I glanced at my Mum and sister before releasing the grip of my hand from theirs. Slowly, I stood. My mouth, as dry as sandpaper, was now level with the microphone. The room was silent. I had no idea what I was going to say. How can you articulate everything you want to vocalise to the person who took away a part of your very being?

All I wanted was for him to acknowledge us. To have some respect for the family that was no longer four, but three.

To buy me some time, I asked the lame question, “Did you call the ambulance?”. At least he turned to look at us now. The succinct reply came.

“Yes”.

I thanked him, but I had to know, “Was Dad dead when you attended to him?”.

Another single-word answer. “Yes”.

I was trying to process the cold comfort that at least Dad hadn’t suffered. I sat down as a whirlwind continued to swirl around in my head.

No, the driver hadn’t premeditated Dad’s death. He hadn’t gone out to kill him that day. But why hadn’t he seen him crossing the road? He couldn’t explain. And yes, I am sure he suffers daily, too.

My regret? I wished I had asked the driver to say sorry. To honour my Dad’s life. And to apologise for the gaping hole that he left in ours.

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Vanessa, I admire the forensic way in which you have shown your great loss and grief in this difficult time. With my apologies for the few days of delay in adding to the story archive, here now is your link, with my thanks as ever for your generous and courageous taking part in this project... Tx

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#vanessawright

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Thank you Tan. I didn't want to come across as too angry, as accidents do happen. I haven't written about the horrible inquest before now, as it was just an awful day. But the fact is, I was livid that I felt he didn't give Dad or us that dignity of an apology. Thanks for letting me have that vent x

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Hi Tan,

I have seen your post about your Mum and wanted to send my love to you both. You are in my thoughts and sending you the strength for the coming weeks. May you find some peace and calm in the coming weeks as you navigate this difficult time together.

As always, you are a role model of generosity and thank you for the offer to feature in your Series 3 when that time comes. I was deliberating which story I am most proud of and I think it might be this one. While it is not the most upbeat, it was the hardest one to write. I am not used to articulating anger, and I was worried this would come across as a shouty rant. But with your help, I was able to put this small moment onto paper. If this is a little too downbeat, then I was pleased to write the one for Memory Games as this was my first contribution to your project and it literally took me WEEKS to pluck up the courage to post! But the most recent one is probably the most positive, and something happy that has come out of something bad.

Anyway, please send your Mum my love. What a wonderful daughter she has in you who is so talented and generous, and what strong women you both are. Lots of love xx

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For Season Three of The Cure for Sleep with Tanya Shadrick…

As you know, I’m wanting to begin featuring pieces from the story archive, and hope also to share some thoughts from their authors.

I’ve been trying to create a form for this purpose, but it’s getting too complicated. Instead, if you’d like to be featured, please may I ask you to give the following information here in comments?

Where are you based (country or county is fine)

Your bio (no more than 50 words; written in third person)

A link to your website or social media – only if you’d like that to be included

(Remind me of) The piece you’d like featured

Where are you in your creative journey right now – and how does writing for this story-sharing community support that? (no more than 100 words)

Is there anything else you’d like to say about how you came to join this community? (no more than 100 words)

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Hi Tanya,

Thanks again for offering me the opportunity to be a featured writer. And you and your Mum have been in my thoughts a great deal. I hope you are taking good care of yourself and each other.

Here are the answers to your questions. I hope I have done them justice.

Thanks again and lots of love

Vanessa xx

Where are you based: Hertfordshire, UK

Your bio (no more than 50 words; written in third person): Vanessa splits her time between Hertfordshire and the Hebrides. She gave up corporate life during the pandemic, taking the plunge to follow her passion for wildlife. Recently completing a Masters in Nature and Travel Writing, she has been announced as Runner-Up in the BBC Countryfile New Nature Writer of the Year competition.

A link to your website or social media: @elgeeko1506 on both Twitter and Instagram

(Remind me of) The piece you’d like featured: My first one - Memory Games

Where are you in your creative journey right now – and how does writing for this story-sharing community support that?

Two years ago, I hadn’t written anything other than corporate communications. Writing creative non-fiction on my Masters course was a scary prospect, but I loved it. Experimenting with different types of form and subjects to find what I enjoyed was part of the fun. I even tried poetry! Having just graduated from my course, alongside being listed as a finalist in a few writing competitions has been a boost to my confidence. However, I still feel that I am at the beginning of my writing career; starting to publish with a small portfolio of publications. Contributing to the Cure for Sleep community with elements of memoir amid such generosity has been a huge support.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about how you came to join this community? (no more than 100 words)

I first 'met' Tanya on Twitter and was fortunate enough to be offered a mentoring conversation with her. I was grappling with an assignment on my Masters where I was writing about the death of my Dad and was finding it extremely painful. Her advice has stayed with me ever since: focus on small moments or scenes and allow yourself time to heal. My contribution to Cure for Sleep was one of the first things I had published. It took me weeks to pluck up the courage to post, but Tanya’s supportive feedback was a gift and has encouraged me to write more. Thank you!

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Oh Vanessa. Thank you for your kind words about me/the project - and how wonderful it is to see you talking about your work (please can you confirm the competitions you've been finalist in - with any links to those pieces/the announcements. I want to blow your horn loud and clear for you when I feature you! It may be a few months away, but you know I will let you know by this route when it's due out. xx

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Thank you for your words here, Vanessa. I will pass them on to Mum.

And I will love to have you as a featured writer. Your writing journey is a joy to watch. I will be back in a few weeks with a link to some questions I'd love you to answer so that I can include those as an interview alongside your Memory Games piece.

xxx

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Dec 2, 2021Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya for the editing, it now has an interesting flow and shape which adds to it's effect. Great mentoring session, loved it. I hope to contribute more to the shared story archive. Thanks for sharing. Steve.

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Glad you like the small formatting changes. And I really hope to see more from you in the project.

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“Remember how this feels.”

The last words she said to my face.

Said with compassion and love, but knowing how deeply both sides of the sword would cut me. She meant ‘learn from this’.

“Remember how this feels.”

She meant ‘feel my love but feel my anger’.

The bright sunshine of a Queensland winter streaming through the departure lounge on her perfect skin. Light as bright and warm as the English summer I was returning to without her, because I had lied. I’d lied to immigration and I’d lied about that to her. A lie I had desperately tried to turn into a truth, because everything else between us was a pure and powerful truth. She was the one for me and I was the one for her, and we’d become bonded together like a yin and yang. We both knew how that felt.

“Remember how this feels.”

But my lie was like the lone prop holding up an ancient mine-shaft; it was rotten and fragile and it was always going to be when, not if, it would splinter and collapse.

“Remember how this feels.”

It felt like the end. The end of everything that mattered and the end of everything that I had cared about - not just for four years - everything I would ever care about. The end of something perfect and irreplaceable, like watching your home be consumed by a fire.

“Remember how this feels.”

The love is still real. It hasn’t abated or withered or slipped away or been bettered or replaced.

We still speak most months. Her winter mornings are my summer nights, and we laugh and care and reassure and help and we have not forgotten.

“Remember how this feels.”

She only ever said it once, because she knew that was enough.

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Tim - thank you again for this superb piece. Here is the direct link to your contribution - useful in the month's when I get lots of contributors! https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#timleroy

If you have a website or social media account you'd like me to link through to on your name, just let me know via here and I will update. Tan

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https://twitter.com/Timleroyis Thank you again Tanya

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Tim - this is an astonishingly moving piece of experience/writing. What a rare compassionate yet boundaried soul your lost love is: and another mark of that is how you & she are still in regular contact. What a tribute you have paid to her, & your time together. As soon as I’ve set up the November page on the book website I will reply here again with a direct link to your words in the story archive. All the other themes are still open if you want to add to any of them… thank you again. Tan

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Thank you Tanya - thankfully she's not lost, and yes, she's very, very special :)

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In a National Trust tearoom years ago, I watched a fair-haired little girl wait patiently beside her mother as cups, saucers and plates of cake were loaded onto a tray at the counter. I remember her as robustly pretty, plump, sufficiently above average height that her immaturity might puzzle and irritate strangers. As they turned to find a table, she asked eagerly if she could carry the tray.

‘No,’ her mother replied. ‘You dropped it last time.’

I saw the little girl’s crestfallen disappointment. I can still feel it. And I have the same furious urge to say to that woman, ‘Have you any idea what you’re doing to your child? Isn’t it difficult enough to grow up a girl, without feeling that every mistake will be held against her always? How will she learn, if she’s never allowed to try again?’

But of course I didn’t say those things. How could I, to a total stranger amongst the sandwiches and scones? How could I make a scene and add to the little girl’s mortification? My companion took the mother’s side: naturally she didn’t want a repeat of that earlier confusion and embarrassment. But I continued to feel the sting of those few words. And I have wondered about that little girl. Did the self-doubt framed that day go on to overwhelm her belief in her own judgement and abilities, her courage, her readiness to make the attempt? Touched by the sharp edges of that template, was she flinchingly confined by remorse and caution ever after?

And for all that I am witness to her dismay, seeing it with absolute clarity over and over in my memory, I cannot truly claim to know what she looked like. Because her height and fair plumpness, her willingness, her regret—they are mine.

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It means so very much to me that you have entrusted a story to this project, given how much respect I have for how you respond and review the work of other writers. Your reading of my book astonished me with its insights - and now I’m moved by how, in this short piece, you reveal the same quality of close attention and questioning.

That last line - when you bring the searching quality so suddenly and clearly to bear upon yourself: so powerful. And it was in my mind this morning when I heard parents swearing at each other while they carried and pushed two young children up the street. Every time I witness these things my soul rushes out to intervene (and I have a few times in the past, this being a long street midway between town and the different main housing areas, so that children often find themselves exhausted here: I go out with offers of chocolate or water to defuse - if only once, for a moment - the anger). But of course, I am both the observer and the child who was so often trapped with angry adults. All this thought and feeling coming today from your words….

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/november-issue-on-regret/#theunhurriedreader

(some of the formatting on the page where your piece is has gone funny in the lastest Wordpress update and is going to take me some time to resolve: but yours is looking as it should)

Txx

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It’s down to the last wire so these are now coming at the very last minute. A lot has been going on inside my head even if my body hasn’t been able to sit down and write as much or as often as I’d wish. I’m not sure this offering is about regret as such—more like just a thought if things had been different. Because I’ve lived too many wonderful things to really live with regret, and every choice I’ve made has led me to where I needed to be.

*********************

3 a.m.

Listening to cat tongue on fur

my own breath, warm

beneath a blanket pile

and staring at the sidewalk light’s faint glow

around the edge of the window shade

I think of all the planes ferries and trains I’ve ridden

I remember my suite of rooms at Oxford

that clifftop Aegean sunset

an icy Coke chasing bitter warm Sardinian beer.

These are not small things

that I remember here alone in the dark:

I dreamed them as a young girl and

lived them true as a young woman, I muse

as I shift onto my left side.

These are not small things but

it’s also true that the cats do not minister

to my poorly spine and hips.

Perhaps if I had dallied in my twenties

lusted and loved

instead of living inside books.

But I was determined to be

the only one I’d need. Perhaps

there would be a strong shoulder now if…

But I didn’t know I’d lose my body

so soon or so fast.

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