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When the world came to a halt. When a space opened up in our days, full of time for thinking. I found myself falling.

I’d wished for the power of teleportation. Now that I had it, I’d give it back in a flash. What’s the point, when you don’t get to choose the destination? When the people you travel to are the ones you’ve tried so hard to leave behind.

Instead, I was ripped through time. Back to places I’d spent years pushing down. To the parts of my mind where the light doesn’t reach. To words like vinegar and smells that leave a cast. To being skinned and cut open. Twisted and pulled. By the tongue of the person who once was everything.

Falling through time and place. Landing, disorientated and bruised. My body bristling from the knowing of what was going to happen.

I needed to break free. And I needed help to do it. I needed to devour the words of other women. I needed someone to lead me safely back to these places, to explore them and see things anew. To travel new pathways. I needed to rewrite my story.

Somehow, I knew all this. The same instinct that got me out, guiding me now.

What I didn’t know is that…

I would be travelling again. Through place and time. There would be an eagle, gloriously soaring. And colour. So much colour. That memories would come seeping back through. Tiny, wonderful moments. Unlocked and unravelling. Wrapping me in their warmth.

I called it my year of freedom. It was an ending and also a beginning. In the great Sat Nav of life, I get to choose the destination.

Sometimes, I still find myself falling. But I know I can pull myself out now.

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May 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is full of energy, made me curious to know more but also perfect as a stand alone piece. Wonderful to think of how you found solace in the words of wise women and now share your experience and wisdom here…full circle! xx

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Thank you Sheila, so warming to hear that. I’m attempting to write a memoir (mostly because it just keeps spilling out anyway), but it is sloooooow going. Off to find your words now. I think I spotted them earlier! x

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Christina! I'm so glad you joined the project, and with this fiercely alive, intensely... kinetic piece. I feel that even while you are describing a transformative time acutely personal to you, you are also managing to put into words what so many of us haven't yet been able to about those lockdown times: how so many of us were abruptly pushed back into damaging contact with family members or places that we'd worked so hard to get free of. (My book has a final chapter that unfolded after the first draft was already complete, when I found myself spending a terrible week with my mother who was finally divorcing after 40 years: all the poisons of the past erupted in the seven days I was trying to help her sort and clear).

Love then the expansion of those final lines, the height, the lift - that eagle! What a perfect detail to carry all the other moments that must have also been part of your year of freedom.

Here is your link, and I'm adding you to the A to Z of contributors on the book site and on the By Readers tab here on my Substack. I so hope you will respond to other themes in the archive. All stay open. No deadlines. Whatever work I go into after next year, I will also find time very early or late to keep this project running for whoever wants to use it...

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#christinagolian

Tanya xx

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Thank you for your beautiful words Tanya. I’ve been meaning to contribute since listening to you talk about the project on a podcast a while back, so it’s great to (finally!) be here.

That sounds like it was an incredibly tough, intense week. Did the final chapter make it into your book? I am so looking forward to reading it. x

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Yes, that week in August 2020 becomes the final chapter of the book - one of only two written in present tense. I so hope the book speaks to you when you have time to spend with it. Lots of reader devour it in days - others write to me to say they've had to measure it out, putting it down for months sometimes, as it speaks so urgently to things they are still in middle of processing. I find it fascinating learning how differently people read it... xx

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This piece has been quite a challenge in that I wasn't sure how to present it for the best. As I relived the moments, the memory, the words came tumbling out with such a force that I felt I needed to leave the words on the page as they fell. However, it didn't feel quite right like that and I have played around with the presentation of it but time speaks the loudest so I have to say here it is, though I feel it isn't quite there yet.

I am here now, immeasurably far from there

and I am enough.

They are there still there and they are

watching.

Waiting.

I will walk to the edge but I won’t go any further I just won’t.

I just won’t and I know it and not only that I feel it with every bone in my body.

It envelopes me in the here and now and permeates time and space reaching those that were and those that will be...

This healing force that knows no bounds.

It is this strength this knowing this visceral certainty that grounds me and simultaneously surges me onwards...

Onwards to that edge to that space so close so very close yet so far so wonderfully far from all that was...

All that I was.

So far from where they stood indeed are standing now.

Watching.

Waiting.

They who are still there, there where I was, where all that held me for so long for too long, was.

But no more no more am I bound to that for I have transcended time and space and despite the mammoth effort the inordinate passage of time I am enlivened by it invigorated and energised by it and overflowing with it as it courses intensely through my very being.

So I stand and I look and I see and we speak and attempt to move forward together yet not for I am here now, immeasurably far from there

and I am enough.

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This reads like a poem and a rite at once, Tracey: like Sheila I felt the energy and intention pulsing from and through it...

I've had a think though about adding it to the story archive and I feel that it does require that poetic spacing to hold its meaning, and as per the project guidelines, I can only accept prose pieces that are stories. This is mainly to do with the formatting - too many line spacings don't work well over in the story archive; but also the nature of the project is on story telling rather than the more lyrical nature of a poetic piece.

I'm glad you shared it here though! Txx

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Thank you for your feedback Tanya. I completely understand what you are saying about the formatting requirements for the archives.

Writing and formatting this has been an interesting experience for me and I appreciate having this space to share it in.

Tracey xx

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It's a beautiful piece and I think it's in the right format - which is why I didn't want to turn it into something more prose-looking simply to fit it into the story archive. Always feel you can share things here in the format that works best for your purpose when responding to prompts - there's only some restrictions on what I can move over to the other site in its current formatting.. xx

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Ooh Tracey- the line ‘I will walk to the edge’ is so powerful - beautiful writing xx

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Thank you Helen, I appreciate your comment. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

Tracey x

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Powerful piece of writing, Tracey.

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Thank you very much! X

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Loved this, Tracey! Felt the power of it, the raw emotion, felt like a manifesto, a woman owning all of her life and moving forward. A pulse. The repetition and lack of punctuation in the paragraph that starts with “but no more” is powerful, energizing! xx

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I am so pleased that you could feel the energy and power of it Shelia! I was in the moment with the whole experience of the memory and surprised myself with the very rawness of it. I wasn't sure how to capture it all and translate it onto the page. Your words reassure me that I have though, so thank you very much.

I consider myself an alchemist when it comes to my professional career and did not realise that the same skills are also required for writing!

It is so interesting and I am learning tremendous amounts in this space.

I am very grateful for Tanya and our TCFS community.

Thank you again Shelia xx

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Absolutely...I could feel the exhale at the end!xx

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You have made my day Shelia!!

Thank you!

Xx

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Tracey, your piece really brought tears to my eyes. It was like you were describing what often goes through .... I want to say ‘through my mind’ , but it’s much deeper than that. There are ‘they’ too, but ‘they’ are not important. It’s just the part of myself is still “watching’ and ‘waiting’; and at times, it’s unbearable. Sending you lots of love xx

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Bless you Elena for taking the time to read my words and to respond. It is much deeper than a mental experience as you rightly say, much deeper. I am happy for you that 'they are not that important:-) Thank you most especially for the love xx

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You are very welcome. And thank you! For releasing spells. Ultimately, I think, that’s what writing and reading does xx

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Yes I wholeheartedly agree Elena, it is what reading and writing does! 😊xx

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The first pregnancy ended bloodily in a D&C, washed up in a hospital bed surrounded by expectant new mums. The second in a brutally swift emergency surgery for a misdiagnosed ectopic pregnancy that nearly killed me and certainly killed all hope of anything different the third time.

That third time though – the terror of an early scan and another missing heartbeat running through me like mercury flipped to find the small flutter of life inside me. There it was, that insistent beat of belief in me that I couldn’t have in myself. It was dizzying. It was terrifying. It was brilliant. It was awful and awe-full.

I was suddenly struck by the fact that I didn’t know how to go forward with this. I didn’t know how to be a mother. I didn’t trust that my body knew and I knew my mind didn’t. I had been given hope, but I was going to have to learn to trust it and I didn’t know how.

I knew how to live with grief. I knew how to be eaten up by it until I was a shadow of a person. I was very clear on how I could shrink and shy away from life but how was I going to grow, not just for myself but for someone else, someone else who would believe in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

At that point I could feel myself splitting off into what would become the mother me and the me, me and I have been attempting to reconcile them ever since.

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Katy... before I even read your words, I had a surge of excitement seeing your name come through in my notifications thread for this project: because of the way you responded to my book as one of its very early readers, and now too because I've begun to read your own substack, and find it so full of energy.

How you used the word limit to concentrate so much loss, life. Wow. The second clause of the first sentence, how that captures the brutal-feeling strangeness of how they put those of us who have a pregnancy ending or who delivery has gone so wrong back into those busy wards with balloons and cards. It is as brutal, yes, as that sentence. The two things shouldn't be put together but they are (I was wheeled from intensive care after my coma back into a busy ward: when I insisted on a private room I was considered rude?!!)

The whole piece is powerful, deeply moving, but I need to quote back this line to you as it in particular blew me away: 'There it was, that insistent beat of belief in me that I couldn’t have in myself.' That is the kind of prose I admire so much: the rhythm that produces the sense as Woolf would say.

Thank you so much for joining the project when you have (I think) a big house move happening and your own Substack developing. I hope you will respond to other themes from the archive. All stay open without deadline.

Here is your link and I'm adding you to the A to Z of contributors on the book site and also on the By Readers tab here on my Substack!

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#katywheatley

Txx

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Thank you for allowing the space to write and for your generous reply. xx

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May 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

This is amazing! So much conveyed here, “like flipped mercury” and “beat of belief,” just lovely language. Found myself nodding along to how much easier it is to shrink, the reconciliation of our new self after motherhood. I often think of motherhood as the feeling of every single emotion nearly every day and this piece felt like that to me. xx

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Katy, this speaks for so many women and says so very much, conveys so much of their pain. The brutality of it all and the very fact that is doesn't end where most would expect it to.

So very powerful!

Tracey x

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“High waving heather ‘neath stormy blasts bending … Bursting the fetters and breaking the bars.” It was for these words of Emily Bronte's that I crossed the world to walk on the moors.

Contained. Controlled. Careful. What horrible words these are to describe a person. And yet, how necessary these actions are to take to feel that you can walk through your days and still be upright at the end of them. It takes great courage to seek somewhere where you can be free of the constraints you feel hemmed in by and, without any obvious outward warning to others or any clear motivating factor, to seek it when no one but you knows that you need it.

And so it was that I began walking the moors of Yorkshire. Along the path were clusters of white flowers that looked exactly like small tufts of sheep’s wool, like the wool snagged on the barbed wire lining some of the stone boundary fences, like the fleece of the very sheep who grazed the moors. As the wind rushed over the moor heather, the movement caused by its passing looked like fast-moving clouds over a bed of green, the rippling of a Turkish carpet or blanket being shaken. The sun’s weak rays lit up the patchwork quilt of land in a pale glow akin to that of a nashi pear and I stood and I breathed. The movement of my feet on this land was wild and daring and enlivening.

Walking in open places, in treed places, in spaces of green and brown and wind and rain, everything is hushed except the breath of me being. A bell jar descends. Solitude embraces.

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Immersive... yes, as Christina has found it, true for me too. I'm under many blankets, with a hot water bottle and bed socks on, but I felt myself windswept. Not just by your description of the landscape but by the clarity of your purpose, how you let yourself travel those distances to be in the place needed for your transformation. And like Christina, I want to quote back the line that she did - I had already copied it ready to paste, then saw she had used it too (a sign of how strong it is): "...to feel that you can walk through your days and still be upright at the end of them." Stunning.

Here is your link, with my thanks as ever for what you bring to this project:

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#emilytamas

Txxx

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Thank you, Tanya. As soon as I read your prompt I had a vivid recollection of standing on that path, part of the Bronte Way, in the weak light of the sun and the rough brush of the wind, and feeling so beautifully out of myself and also so authentically in myself. It is not a feeling I have been able to hold on to continuously but it is something that I can always find again walking alone in open and wild spaces. The descriptions of the path are taken directly from the journal I kept as I backpacked around Europe from May to December of 2007. I haven't taken that journal out of the box of travel paraphernalia since then and, as I read the words of the self I once was, I am struck by how similar my searching was then as it is now. Thank you for this prompt that reminded me of this moment of transcendence. xx

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My pleasure Emily... and that travel journal sounds like a potent resource, especially given what you've shared with us from it here. xx

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May 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Loved this from the opening quote, I had a complete visual throughout reading this, also loved the same line of “walk through your days…” Then to see in your comments that you had gone from contained, controlled, careful to honoring you own needs and hitchhiking I was just amazed and inspired. xx

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Such immersive writing Emily. Deeply felt this line - "...to feel that you can walk through your days and still be upright at the end of them."

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Thank you, Christina. I so enjoyed the questioning and the contrasts in your writing on this prompt. I wish you well in walking upright! xx

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Thank you Emily for this piece evoked so many memories of my heart-wrenching year in Yorkshire and the miles I walked the moors in search of repose, of relief and remedy. The space and embrace of the wildness, and the ever consoling presence of my dogs healed so much and delivered to me my destiny. I will be forever thankful for the moors. Thank you too, for this evocative piece.

Tracey x

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Thank you Tracey. Physical landscapes have such a pull on our interior landscapes, don't they? The moors are powerful indeed and I am so glad to hear that it was there that you found your destiny. I can well believe it! x

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Oh yes the power of the moors has to be felt to be believed! I am from Hampshire so the Yorkshire moors provided a stark contrast to the familiarity of the soft Downs. Xx

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May 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Joining Beyond Self

I settled my coat and scarf just as S. took the podium, her long hair gleaming, earrings like feathers, dress of midnight blue or deep purple, I could not tell and wondered if I dared move closer. I had been so excited for this I left my ticket in the car and had run out and back, but my breathing soon settled to the rhythm of her soft, not timid, voice. Somewhere in the middle of things I looked to her left and saw her ancestors line up beside her, five or six of them, each profile melting into the next. It seemed natural to me, enveloped in her sound as I was. I blinked and the images dissolved. I must have jumped a bit in my seat as the woman next to me set her hand on my wrist. “Are you related to the poet?” she whispered. “You have the same facial bone structure.” “I wish I were,” I whispered back.

Less than a year later S. died, much too young and distressing many hearts. Around then I discovered that a Tribe may be identified by handed-down beadwork. I had some, and this, plus digging through church records of re-named Ojibwe children who were brought to Quebec by missionaries, gave me my answer. My ancestors' beads, the poetry of strong, sorrowing family lines, also seen sometimes in my mother's face.

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May 4, 2023·edited May 4, 2023Author

Oh Anna. This piece has transformed the atmosphere of my ordinary midweek kitchen by letting in the numinous and the known-by-the-body. There is so much sadness in this short piece - the loss of S and then that huge, awful generational separation of children from their places, their people. But the lasting impression of your story is of recognition and refinding of kin and kithship...

Here is your link...

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#annamarielaforest

Txx

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May 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much, Tanya! So exciting to be part of this wonderful project, and your comments are SO life-giving. I'm encouraged to write more of these. (I like your phrase "ordinary midweek kitchen" and am thrilled to have nudged the numinous in.)

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Such powerful writing and connection making Anna. The image of S's ancestors lined up beside her, "each profile melting into the next" is breathtaking.

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Thank you so much Christina! The experience took me completely by surprise and it took a few years for me to figure out how to put words to it.

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For five and a half years I’d been dreaming of home. I longed to see the weaved trunk of ancient yews and the horizon aflame with the colours of autumn. I had been in my own kind of winter for years and was struggling to emerge from the depths of grief. But the fertile void within was ripe for transformation and I sensed a return to my lands was needed. And so I went and felt the immediate softening of my bones as I settled into the Northern Hemisphere once more. Surprisingly, it wasn’t on my walks on The Downs of West Sussex, but an unexpected hike in the Swiss Alps that reawakened a part of me I had long forgotten. On that perfect summer day, time seemed to stretch across the creases of the mountains, lighting the steady path ahead as it led me up and across and down and up and across and up and up. For 7 hours I walked. And held in the embrace of the mountains and plains bejewelled with wildflowers, I let myself shatter completely. The darkness bled out with each tiring step, rendering me shapeless and afraid. Yet the cool glacial streams satiated a thirst I never knew I had, and the pines drew in the weight of my exhale, so I could finally breathe again. That night, 2500 metres into the sky, the stars seemed to lean in close and I felt as though my body was being rewoven into the cosmos.

That’s what I had forgotten you see. That I was part of it all. Not alone in my grief, not broken and irrelevant. I was a part of something much bigger; the regenerative flow of the Earth. And now finally, I felt the pulse of life ahead unfolding.

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Corinne - welcome to the project, and what a soulful first piece from you this is. How fully I felt alongside you in that remembered, reconstituting walk. I love how you invoke a rhythm of steps - 'up and across and down and up and across and up and up' - that then is revealed at the end for we the readers (as it was revealed to you back when it happened) that this has been a kind of weaving or stitching. Just beautiful. Here is your link and I will add you to the A to Z of contributors on the book site and also on the By Readers tab over on Substack. I so hope other themes will interest you to try - all stay open without deadline, and I love watching new contributors' aesthetic/themes develop across several prompts...

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#corinne

Tanya xx

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Thank you for your kind words Tanya. I'm so grateful to have found this project and community. It feels surprisingly good to be sharing my words at last. I'll definitely check out some of the other themes over the coming weeks and no doubt share some more. thanks again! xx p.s I've edited my name in the profile as I realise it didn't include my surname.

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Wonderful. Hope you will write more with us here. I've updated your piece and your link so that your full name is included:

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#corinnekagan

Txx

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Corinne, this is so raw and beautiful. The visuals really resonated with me. For me also it was a call from wild nature that brought me home thousands of miles away from the place of my birth xx

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Corinne, I loved reading this. It evoked happy memories of walking in mountains last year - the criss-crossing and the healing that can take place in those places as we push ourselves physically and put our small selves into perspective x

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We are stardust

I’d slept for fifteen hours and when I woke there was a pause, a moment of calm. In that moment I remembered I was back in my childhood bedroom, safe. The navy curtains in the bedroom were drawn. It was a sunny day and late in the morning by then. There was a chink of bright sunlight shining through the gap between the two dark curtains and in the gap danced tiny fragments of dust, stardust – you, me and everything that surrounds and connects us in the cosmos. And with that thought it began again, the exhilarating, terrifying and joyous journey of my mind, untethered. I had a body, but this mind was out of it.

The day before I had taken the three-hour train journey home from Manchester, accompanied by my brother, his gentle coaxing stopping the out spilling of my mind becoming a public nuisance. A homecoming that wasn’t the visit I’d planned but was well-timed, nonetheless.

I remember my mother and brother sitting on my bed, trying to understand what I was telling them, worry etched on their faces. I had some important messages to convey, I understood everything now…but nothing as far as normality was concerned.

It was a time for decisions. I knew what was in my best interest, but could they trust my judgement? Long walks, under the expanse of wide Norfolk skies. Time alone to quieten and slow down, to piece together fragments of my shattered, twenty-year-old mind.

Thirty years later the fragments are pieced back together, mostly. I brought many back whilst others came, seemingly of their own free-will. Some were gifted back to me, often unconsciously and always kindly by loved-ones and strangers. A few remain, floating in space, like stardust waiting for their time to come home.

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Lou - moved to sudden tears here at my sunny kitchen table by what you've written, and how.

The compassion of your mother, your brother; you allowing them to take care of you. How you also let the wide Norfolk skies take some of the much you were carrying/constellating.

Like all good writing about the intensely personal, it has released in me a similar set of sense-memories of when I have been nursed back with compassion from a place of breakdown/flying apart. And how I helped my mother back into a safe state of mind as well as physical/housing safety after her sudden divorce got triggered in the first lockdowns.

Many others coming to your piece will also be able to access those memories of help and healing I feel.

Thank you. Here is your link: https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#louhudson

Txx

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Thank you Tanya for your kind response. So pleased this spoke to you. It was a relief to write it out after all these years, thank you for providing a safe space xx

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Apr 29, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

I knew as soon as I drank the dark brown thick sickly pungent tea that it was a bad idea, that I was in for a ride. The tea smelt like soil and earth and grass and other worlds. I felt the sickness in my stomach and my whole body lurched as the mushrooms sloshed into my system and started to move through me. Woosh, tingling everywhere, hands shaking. Was I coming up? It felt like I was sinking down into the ground, into the damp soil, into the seeds and the roots, pulled into the earth. I immediately knew I had taken too many, that it was too strong. Orange juice, must drink orange juice, that will help bring me down, ground me. Familiar faces started to look dark and distorted, moving in strange ways, unsafe. The wall was moving, breathing, shaking. Fuck.

I needed to be alone. With music and cigarettes. The 70’s tiles on my university bedroom floor a deep black lake and my bed was a boat, safe, sturdy. Woosh, waves and waves crashing over me. Vibrating, moving, I was a breaker, part of the rhythm of the earth, no longer separate from anything. My body was pulling apart, my skin, my bones, then my skull. Nothing left. Who was I? My body? Was I my family? My past, my present, my future? Where was I? Where did I exist? Did I even exist? Hours and hours of waves and pulses and visions and movement. Into another time and place. Into space. Sinking into life itself.

I woke in the morning and found my way back. Nothing was ever the same again.

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Wow. I envy you that experience a little - even though it began with fear - because you took it alone, and there was no other person messing with your boundaries if you know what I mean. You write so kinetically of an experience I've never had - my younger life so depended on absolute control and relentless work that I denied myself any experiments with drugs or alcohol that might pull me away from that. But I missed out on this kind of exploration/inner journey. Something for my elderhood instead perhaps. Love what you've done with the prompt, thank you. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#helenlouise

Txx

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May 4, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thanks Tanya- really enjoyed remembering this although it actually took me years and a lot of inner work to recover from it - I think it’s something that might be better with the greater stability of age xx

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I love this Helen! I could identify with so much of what you have captured here. Nothing is ever the same again, that is for sure!

Tracey x

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May 3, 2023·edited May 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Rock bottom came on day three of another vomiting migraine. I was on the cold bathroom floor, too exhausted to cry but tears ran down my face. At the end of day three I’m only ever left with surrender. All my resistance has been flushed away with the last of my bile.

But then it got nasty, I spiralled down into that final pit of self loathing,

“What if I die of a stroke and my daughter finds my body?”

“I'm going to get early dementia because of all of the pain medication and nerve damage.”

“I'm a total fraud! All of the spiritual things I've been writing about amount to nothing when I'm dry retching and begging for my Mummy, why can't I just fucking surrender because I know that's all I have to do.”

This time though, instead of curling myself up into a ball to smother the pain I tried to untangle myself from the berating voice that seemed to feed it. With that, an overwhelming compassion for that voice and for myself flooded through me. Then a separation between myself and the voice.

Silently with my heart I asked the voice 'What is bothering you?’

It said ‘'I'm tired, I've reached my threshold. I can't stop, everything will fall apart if I stop.'

I assured her everything would be ok and that we maybe we just take a break. ‘Shall we go for a walk?' I said.

Immediately I was airborne. I flew out my bedroom window into the forest behind the house. I could see and hear the leaves crunching under my feet, even though my feet were no where to be seen. I was suspended in body and mind. My head filled with a deep sense of peace.

Then, as quickly as I had left I was back in my bed and the migraine was gone.

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As someone who suffered migraines all through childhood and then through my twenties too, and who always fears they will return in another life/hormone stage, I read this with deep fellow feeling... and then fascination as your inner dialogue changed from one that I remember so well myself to another kind that I never undertook (and wish now I had). You capture so well here the intensity, the gravitational pull of a migraine, which is why your sudden flight is so unexpected and so yes fascinating to hear about. Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#amandacooke

Txx

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Hi Tanya, I really appreciate that reflection and I'm sorry to hear that you too know the intensity of living with migraines. May they never return for you! Mine have certainly tempered since menopause and it was a blessing I had a reprieve during pregnancy too. They've certainly been a potent portal for inner work, so I guess I'm grateful for them in that way. Thanks as always for taking the time to read and respond in such a considered way. xA

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Apr 27, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Congratulations on the launch of your paperback! And thankyou for the work you do here, and the support you give to new writers. Hugs to your mum. 💕

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Thank you dear Ali! xx

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I’m lying in bed listening to the muffled sound of nine o’clock news. Everyone’s home and I feel safe again, but not safe enough to close my eyes. I’ve been trying to invent different ways of staying awake and this time I’m clutching a torch under my blanket. Ribbed metal quickly loses its coolness in my hand. I rub fingers against its surface to refresh my intentions. I feel that I can stay awake this time. I’m not sleepy. Not yet. And when it comes, I’ll be prepared to fight it.

Ghostly shadows of my recurrent nightmares fill the room. I switch my focus to the noise coming from the street. Someone is talking loudly at the bus stop. A street janitor’s metal snow shovel scrapes against icy pavement. Drunken shouting a bit further away. Distant cars horns, occasional sirens... And then silence. Heavy winter silence, when you can hear the snow falling, unstoppable and emotionless. My attention floats inside. Footsteps pass my bedroom door. The tap is turned on in the kitchen on the other side of the wall. Clinking and clattering of the cutlery, dinner plates and pans. Silence. The footsteps return pausing by my door momentarily. I take a deep breath. The news is finished by now and a film is on. This time I’m not going to sneak into the corridor to secretly watch black & white flickering screen through the doorway. This time I dive under the blanket and turn on my torch. All I can hear is the thumping of my heart. Louder and louder. Mellow light of the torch and soft shadows on fabric creases that enveloped me are calming and exciting. I reach under my pillow and pull out a book.

“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas”. I open it and breathe in the air that comes off the yellowing paper. I’m still learning to make sense and sound out of those miniature creatures on book pages. Like tiny little ants they run away from me in all directions. But it doesn’t matter now, for I know exactly what those stubborn lines are hiding from me. I inhale the musty smell. The images of deep water and the gentle sound of air bubbles travelling upwards make me feel safe; safe enough to close my eyes and disappear into the ocean of mysteries.

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Such a completely embodied piece of story-telling here, Elena. I felt I was as much watching you on screen or on stage as much as reading - felt I could really see you back there and then, even as you were yourself escaping into a different element... Txx

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#elenayates

PS And thank you again for sharing word of what we're doing here over in our Hagitude community. Really appreciate it.

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Thank you, Tanya xx

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Elena, love this peak into your life, it was so visual, I was there with you, hoping you wouldn't get caught. A girl trying to read "tiny ants," already full of grit and determination. xx

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Thank you, Sheila xx

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May 3, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

September 2021

The enormity of trees cracking and falling, trees that for decade upon decade silently stored their power, power hidden behind bark, power hidden underground, power grounded in silence, trees waiting their whole lives to say this one thing. This one thing that cracks me open, reminds me of my inconsequence beyond the few people who love me, this harsh beating of the heart. These trees that moments before were continuing their silent pulling of energy down from the sun and up from the earth, the release of oxygen, this continual shared waltz of humans and trees. And then, ground saturated and wind relentless, the earth releases the roots, the trees fall. Hickory and maple down, falling onto each other.

Things are just this way, here, solid, waiting for tomorrow, and then not. Thirteen servicemen here and then gone, families imagining airport arrivals full of hugs and stories, moms planning favorite meals, and now, just fractures. Kabul here and then fallen. A virus here, then easing up, then mutating back. A hurricane here, then houses, lives, gone. My body teeters me toward terror.

To cling, or to fold under, remembering to stand, to look up, to see the trees that remain, still collecting light, to notice mushrooms that push up through moss and how can they be purple? How can the world that creates purple mushrooms and cushions of moss and deer who run silently through the woods on black Cinderella slippers also be the world that will steal all we hold close and sometimes shackle us to fear while we wait?

We shift like light through the woods, powerless to determine what is illuminated and what passes into shadow.

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This is such a powerful piece Sheila - all your pieces are, and yet this is so in a new way, because I hear not only a distinct voice but also an authorial voice: a writer sharing private experience while also speaking about the world beyond. It's such a beautiful poignant feeling for me having been publishing you here for over a year now (I think): to see you reaching an understanding of your gift as a writer that I saw in the very first piece submitted. Katy's course is absolutely going to give you more and more scope now to share longer form work and to discuss things in real time with your course colleagues. How much I hope Katy might invite me to join you all so that I can be just a small part of seeing you in that setting!

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#sheilaknell

Txxx

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You should contact her, it would be so fun to have you there! I am concerned about being able to write longer work, I have never tried that before and being a part of your project has tightened it up even more. That tightening has felt like a gift though so I am trying not to overthink the class. I'm trying to just be excited about it, I had to jump through some hoops at work to get permission to do it there since it's in the middle of my work day and I've never invested in myself in this way, so already pushing myself in new directions. And yes, we are celebrating our first anniversary! I have now responded to all of the prompts except for the mentoring one. You are the closest I've come to having a mentor, always so appreciative of your time and encouragement. Thanks for your kind words about this piece. Living where we do, I've heard a fair number of trees fall and it always gives the heart a jolt. xx

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Such a rich piece of writing Sheila, with all its connections and tender explorations. It took me on such an emotional journey, and that last line is so very poignant yet also beautiful. Look forward to reading more of your words. x

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Thank you for taking the time to respond! xx

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May 17, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

It takes me about seven minutes to get from the station to the North Shore. My heart grins on the way down, past the grey/green glass of the huge Sainsbury’s rearing up like the prow of a ship; past the charity shops, the Premier Inn. I know, I think, something of what is about to happen, something that always happens when I come here. For a few hours, I will be free. For a few hours, my life will be about expansion, not contraction. About safety, not harm.

The tide is out. The sky is very blue. It is cloudless, and there is a faint shimmer on the horizon, a blurring. I am really grinning now. The space. The huge sky, the vast stretch of sand: the sense of possibility that opens up inside me. I walk quickly to be nearer the water, to hear the waves breaking on the shoreline. Hello, I whisper, hello. I can’t stop smiling. The blue of the sea, of the sky, the merging, is startling. It is pure, beautiful, transcendent. I have to keep stopping, to look, to feel. The blues. Everything.

And then something happens. Time stops, or rather, time ceases to exist. There are no boundaries between my body, the horizon, the sea, the sky…. It becomes a liminal space. My edges have dissolved. I still have my senses: I hear the gentle lapping of the waves, I smell the sea air, I see the luminous blue that surrounds me. And I have a thought: if I were to die here, now, life would have been enough, just to experience the ecstasy of this moment.

On the train home, hours later, I remember Bluets, by Maggie Nelson, and Joni Mitchell’s Blue album. My experience today was real, and what I am going back to is also real.

Make it stop, I think. Dear Christ, make it stop.

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Kerry - as ever there is my immediate human reaction, one woman to another, sadness for what you are dealing with as referenced in this piece. But then there is the excitement of seeing a memoirist (whether you go on to work in essays or long-form) developing response by response through these themes. There is all you cannot control... and then there is the work, the words. Keep going.

Here is your link:

https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#kerrywhitley

Txx

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May 21, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you so much Tanya. Keep going. I need that at the minute. Tested positive for Covid this morning and feel really unwell. Also last week was full of solicitors, Women’s centre appointments, and advice to contact the police. BUT. Have had a lovely day drifting in and out of sleep, listening to the blackbirds outside my window and looking at the bright blue sky. And then a reply from you! Life can still be sweet…xx

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The painful administration of getting free of bad domestic situations... heart goes out to you, having kept beside my mother since 2020 when her late journey towards her new solo and sovereign life began. I never thought she would heal from the stress and cost of all that, coming after decades of unhappiness and mistreatment. Although she has this terminal diagnosis now to contend with, she spoke with such joy last night from her light-filled little retirement flat (that she dismissed as a 'hutch' and a shameful place when she first got it). There's never any certainty that things will work out for the best, but I've seen proof that it can...and in someone with much less resilience and ability to express themselves than you. Holding you in mind, and although unable to help with these wider life challenges, always here to support your writing as I believe completely in you-as-writer, whatever other roles you hold or are constrained by. xx

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May 23, 2023Liked by Tanya Shadrick

Thank you Tanya. Sending so much love to you, and your mum. How lovely to hear that she can still speak of joy…and that her flat is filled with light.

In my world at the moment, you are my light. My friends, my writing, and your presence and support in the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Xx

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Sheila, what a beautiful and deep piece of writing that holds both light and darkness. A beautiful reminder that our human world is inconsequential to the power of nature. The sense of control any of us might still have is just an illusion. And yet the light is still there, the light that also creates shadows xx

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Elena, thank you for responding. It has been nice to get to know frequent responders through this project and I know that you have seen your share of the dark and the light. xx

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Yes and yes. I really look forward to your contributions. The octopus one will stay with me for a long time. As for the dark, it’s the only way to see the stars, as someone very wise said before. Sending you a big hug 🤗 xx

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Thank you! This space reminds me of a poem my daughter wrote in high school, which I will poorly paraphrase, but it was about how she looked out into the hallway and saw a couple walking down the hall, close together, hips occasionally bumping and how no matter what happened to them the rest of their lives, no matter who else knew them, only they would know this part of their lives. Same here, I think, where many of us have shared parts of our lives others that are close to us don't know. Sending a big hug right back to you! xx

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Oh, that’s sounds like a beautiful subject for a poem. And yes, some things are easier to share with a stranger on a train. Online projects like this and writing courses always reminded me of long train journeys xx

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Love the metaphor!

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Good luck ,good luck with the paper back edition my love ,more people get the pleasure we have had , to enjoy your book !

Love to you and your mum ,wishing you are both held together in love and grace and more time 🙏💛✨️

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Thank you dear Monique xxx

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Mar 26·edited Mar 26Liked by Tanya Shadrick

The Jackdaw Tree

I see it now as a foreshadowing, that bristling hot afternoon my love and I came upon the embers of the lightning tree. For so many years, and lives, it had been part of my inner and outer landscapes, a jagged entity back-lit by a meandering tale and a rolling sky. I wept, then, for the gaze of generations that had held us as we came and went through the wheeling seasons along the path through the meadow, but most of all for the last, transmuted as it was from the nestling's blue, to the earth of youth, then to sagely white, while my words were testing their wings. 

And still I weep for that tree whose shape, I long dreamed, was the same as the bolt that smote it. Perhaps that was when the spell was cast and it first became a crucible for life, spring after spring, its louring hollow a-jangle with hungry maws. 

It was a human hand that torched it into shadow, that much we know, but why? And who doused the flames? More often now, I stir the coals of the memory of it and all who dwelled there and wonder what became of them, and of me, when the fire in my head was no more and cinders were all that remained, smuts on a page. There is no wizened being on the skyline, no wicker witch frozen in dance. There is no me, as I was then, wound in my own enchantment, before the ones I thought would protect me razed me to roots and char. 

But then, somehow, unfathomably, there is this. A quickening of green, and the ink drop spark of beetles . . . a "jack-jack" on the breeze.

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How completely you took me there, to it, with you, in this. This line in particular went straight in: ‘And still I weep for that tree whose shape, I long dreamed, was the same as the bolt that smote it.’ The concentrated power and sound of those end words!

Here is your link: https://thecureforsleep.com/out-of-body/#claireeverett

Thank you as ever for writing for us here. xxx

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Tanya, thank you so much. This piece took me by surprise. It was the kind that writes itself and was really therapeutic. I so appreciate being part of this wonderful community. I'm trying hard to catch up and explore in between working full-time. It's a joy to have discovered your work and this safe space to share. ❤️

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