Season 2, 010: In this last edition of Season Two, let's share our stories of account-keeping - those times when we need to take a frank look at who we are, what we've lost, what we've got...
Dear Tanya - I send gentle thoughts to you and your mother as you share hours of closeness and face private challenges. You are both in my thoughts often - because your writing gave me the chance to know your lives. To have that chance is a privilege. To learn how you came through pressures, crises, woes became inspirational. You are the bravest of the brave for doing that, for hurling away the mask, for not giving in, for fighting for your very identity. You will be drawing on that same shared strength now, I know.
I looked back at the three pieces I've contributed for The Cure for Sleep prompts and 'The most powerful gesture' for Gestures stands out as my 'favourite'. It takes me right back to a range of emotions over a lifetime, but has greater significance for honouring my dear dad. It speaks of his final day, and reminds me of the grief that is the inevitable price for love. In reading so many of the pieces posted by other writers, and certainly in your writing, this pairing are powerful players.
I hope you and your mother find comfort in the love that shines through in all the comments here. That love is the reflection of what you've shown to us, your community.
With love to both of you. Paul 🌿
This is the one that I would like to submit.
Sending love to you and your mom.
(This was the third part of something I wrote a while back, the first part was about the women in my family, the second me as a mother. This is where play re-enters my life.)
Isostatic rebound – the rise of land masses that were depressed by the huge weight of ice sheets during the last ice age
I will go feral, slog off the domestication and responsibility that I willingly surrendered to when I entered motherhood, spend days in the woods, less constricted from others as well as my own tightly cocooned constraints. I re-wild my mind, learn to lean into the sun and let go in the wind, to bite when necessary, to sink into creek beds and to wallow in dirt like a buffalo, assured that where I wallow the deepest will become a vernal pool. No technology beyond a wooden clothespin, I will read stones and practice erosion, I will huff and stomp like a deer and run when life closes in. I will map wildflowers and sing to stars, read spots on fawns like the gypsy reads tarot cards, and be tossed like a willow in wind. I will uncurl, loosen like a fern, arch my back, further, further, opening up to the sky, I will receive. I will wrap myself in moss. I will be the pig digging and rooting through layers of soil to find what I want and devour it whole. I will be the cow that refuses to be prodded back into the barn, the cow who will face the elements and eat all the grass, trusting that it will regenerate. I will relax in the pasture, conversing with birds as they pick bugs out of my hair and absorb the day and the sunshine and the shade and the gray storm clouds and the rain, all of it.
I won’t be the squirrel who buries the nut and hopes something will be there when she returns.
I will rebound.
I am a 68-year-old woman. This is the first time in my life that I am starting to feel old, even though I am still vibrant and energetic. Six years ago, I was forced to retire from an administrative county government job as a Director of Mental Health, Trauma, and Addiction Services. I was demoted a few months before my retirement based on age and gender discrimination, and my salary was cut by $30,000. It was the anti-climactic end of my 35-year career. It was a devastating loss.
I shifted my intellectual, analytical thinking to a more creative focus during the pandemic. I studied modern dance, which became a substitute for my job. However, it was a very different process, a different language. It was not a linear way of figuring things out; it was circuitous, grounded, and embodied. It became a way of creating beauty.
I had to become a beginner and put my ego aside to discover this new way of being. I became aware of my habits and patterns of movement. I had to allow my system to recalibrate and rewire from habitual patterns. My body trauma kept showing up. I had to take notice rather than bypass what felt uncomfortable and unfamiliar. I was holding my breath stuck with all the trauma I had stuffed into my body.
Six years later, I see myself in a new light. I thought my job was holding me hostage. Little did I know, it had become my job to hold onto all the trauma I had carried since childhood. My shoulders dropped as I let go. I could finally exhale as my eyes sparkled with curiosity. I have laugh lines and crow’s feet from weathering the storm. I have time now to question the paradox of ephemeral beauty.
I remember the day I committed to the challenge.
I was catatonic on the couch in an all too familiar swamp of depression.
Feeling worthless, pointless, listless-basically a plethora of adjectives ending in less, I decided that something had to give. I was genuinely fearful of what would happen if things continued as they were.
I dug out the sportiest attire I could muster, creased and foisty, after being neglected at the back of my wardrobe for years. Luckily, I found some trainers that looked the jogging type, although flattened and warped under bin bags full of bedding, which was past its best, but disposing of them had never been high on the priority list. I recalled buying them years earlier, when I had reached a previous depression wall; adamant that I would exercise it out of me.
Instead, I had dived into the sticky, tumultuous whirpool of self medication.
White powders, illuminous pills, and rivers of fizzy, amber liquid sedatives, followed by sleepy days in dark bedrooms, unsure if the light cast through the curtain crack was signalling dusk or dawn.
This realisation that ten years on, and I was still using the same coping mechanisms, ones which evidently weren’t working, spurred me on to pull on my leggings and tie up my trainers.
I left the house feeling like it was my first day at high school, head down, desperate not to look up and witness the giggles and points that my brain told me were inevitably occuring.
My head was dizzy, I felt nauseous, and with every step, my brain willed me to collapse to the ground, and just die.
I did my five minute warm up walk with a steely determination though, reaching the canal towpath, where I chose to jog, as I hoped it would be quiet, with minimal eyeballs to avoid.
The thick, black lettering on the giant wall of Chipwood was the ultimate laugh at my expense.
I turned back, feeling ridiculous and dejected. This was a stupid idea anyway, I’m incapable of sticking to anything, and what difference is a bit of jogging going to make to my shit life anyway?
As I turned the corner to my house, a voice boomed through my headphones, telling me the warm up walk was nearly over and I needed to prepare myself to jog.
To my amazement, I walked straight past my house, and found myself on the stretch of scrubland next to the river a few streets away.
Even more shocking, a minute later and I found myself jogging.
Thirty seconds in and beads of sweat freckled my head, my lungs felt like they were burning, and my fatty stomach rippled below my DD boobs, nowhere near being properly supported by my ill fitting bra.
The intermittent walking was welcomed.
More than a pint of cold cider on a hot day, even more than a bump of cocaine after a week of serving others.
I hadn’t done this much physical exercise in years and it hurt, it really hurt.
I got home and looked in the mirror. My face was a big wet, red balloon-bloated and shiny.
If only I could stick a pin in and drain out all the crap. If only it was that easy.
In the following weeks, I dragged my defiant fat rolls, kicking and screaming (albeit lazy kicks) out onto hard concrete on a regular basis.
After a while belly laughs re-emerged, without breathlessness and without substances.
I would like my piece The whistle to be included as it celebrates my dad, a beautiful man who fought hard to stay with his family through illness but ultimately was called home to his maker ,and for all children that have to cope with the loss of a parent at a young age .
Born in chelmsford Essex
To parents from islands near and far from the UK .
Mother ,woman, hopeful human being .
Lover of words always on the look out for a soulful line to capture my heart .
Jack of all trade's sometimes nursery nurse to Gp receptionist ,Kitchen table thinker and writer when the mood takes me .
My writing came from wanting to purge feelings that I knew not where to put and this community has been a really beautiful place to place them. I most of all enjoy being able to delve inside people heads by way of their writing and as C.S.lewis says in the film shadowlands we read to know we're not alone ,this I have found to be complete true .
My journey to writing is yet to be written so i look forward to turning the pages and seeing what happens next .
So thanks a million as they say in ireland to Tanya, who without this community ,I would not be sure that my words would of made it out of mind or heart .
Paul lives near Oxford. After a career teaching Classics, he now walks extensively within the British Isles and writes about nature. His writing ranges from ultra-short form to essays exploring threatened landscapes. He is heading towards the finishing line of Bath Spa University’s MA Travel and Nature Writing course.
Some of his work can be found at www.aleatorscribit.org. Twitter: @gegegamble Instagram: aleator1962
I chose ‘The most powerful gesture’ for my featured piece. Through recapturing a moment or episode from long ago, I often reach a better understanding of subsequent feelings and behaviour. I found my way to such writing before I was aware of The Cure for Sleep, but Tanya’s generous curation of writers’ offerings inspired me to fresh thinking and greater awareness of why I am as I am. A fledgling book project will see me revisiting many places from my past. Memories will be stirred, and the encouragement of Tanya and her community will help me to understand these.
Dear Tanya, thinking of you in these precious days for you and sending love.
I've re-read the three pieces I have written and my contribution to 'Gestures Remembered' is the one I am most proud of as it evokes precious people to me.
I have done some slightly more difficult writing in response to Taking Stock but I think it would sit wrongly on this feed - I have gone, as you suggested, where the resistance was. Instead, I have put it under Mirrors.
Thank you for everything Tanya xxx
I have just read the final words of your soul searching memoir and wow what a journey you have been on, and are still on of course. I don't know that I can accurately capture the ride this book has taken me on over only the few days it took me to devour it. I know I will be forever positively transformed by your gift to the world! I cannot thank you enough!
When I read your opening lines in this 'Taking Stock' post I felt so sad that this impending transition of your relationship with your dear mama was happening so abruptly, however, after reading through many of the beautiful comments and your responses, I am relieved to read that you both, hopefully, have more time than first thought! I wish you and your mama so much peace and tranquility through this final chapter together in this realm. Love and hugs to you both xx
I have yet to share any stories of my own on here, having just found you on this platform. I have been reading through your past work, listening to your podcasts and reading the stories and have found it all to be so inspiring! I plan to share some stories of my own here, as I finally burst out of the aspiring writer's broom cupboard and tell the world that I would love to be a writer too!
Thank you for creating this community Tanya, it is an honour to be here!
Love to you both xx
These are heartbreaking news, I am so very sorry to hear them. But your mother is such a strong person and is now surrounded by so much love - I hope with all my heart that you have a year or more together still; it is amazing what love can do. I have arrived at your book and this wonderful space you created not that long ago, but already you and your mother have had a huge positive impact in my life, for which I am so grateful to you both. You have no idea of the strength you give me. Please do pass my thank you, my admiration and my love to Margaret. And much love to you too. xx
I'm sending gentle hugs Tanya xx
That is a warm, loving photograph of you and your Mum Margaret in a head embrace; fills me with deep feeling. You look so comfortable and connected together. I am so sorry to hear of your Mum's diagnosis. Please send her my warmest thoughts
I share your feelings at the moment. I have just returned from Gloucester where I have been with my brother Michael who was diagnosed with a brain tumour last September. He will die in the next few months. It is a sad, sad time.
Thinking of you, your Mum and my brother pulls me back to the November issue, On Regret. I choose this piece of work because it opens up my memory book of Olive my Mum. Take care xx
Tanya, that's very kind. I wasn't sure if you would have time or headspace to look at it. I don't think I have your email address. I hope things aren't too difficult at the moment for you or your mum. I think of you often.
Dear Tanya…I have been thinking of you and your mum lots since you shared the sad news with all of us. What a privilege it has been to be an active witness to her story, her unfolding late in life….her courage to break forth and set herself free. I say to her now: Your bravery is an example for everyone, and a reminder that it is never too late to go your own way in search of something better. Sending love….
Joan Didion wrote "We live by telling stories." Participating in this project has really made this powerfully clear; the palpable feeling of relief and contentment so strong when reading the words of others archived here, and submitting pieces of my own. In reviewing my own pieces, I am astonished by the depth I've reached in such short pieces. The one that means the most to me is "A Powerful Itch", on choosing, because that choice is really about finding the truth—uncovering, and telling.
I'm so sorry to learn of your mother's diagnosis, Tanya. What a tender time this must be for your entire family, but especially for the two of you. In your characteristically thoughtful way, you've provided your readers with many ways to stay engaged with the beautiful threads you've created here, and with you as you go through this passage. I remember my own mother's transition days as a sacred time out of time. Although incredibly painful, moments still float to the surface of my memory that comfort me. I wish you both courage as you navigate this time together... May it be as gentle and loving, and full of gratitude for life and what you've shared together.
I continue to be struck by the tenderness of the photo of you and your mum. I admire you both so much for your willingness to have the hard discussions, to tell the truth and then the courage of your mum to really hear that truth so that the relationship could heal. Such a gift to all of us who read your book, who witnessed the power of change, a reminder of all that is possible, of new paths opening. Please share my gratitude to your mum for her graciousness in sharing these times with us, the offering of her struggles to continue to create meaning in her life, and therefore, in all of our lives, her ripple of compassion that will continue to move forth. It really has been her heroine’s journey to offer this sense of hope to us all, this challenge to live our lives to what is most true. It makes me smile to know that she was able to let go of all that held her tight and find true joy in her life. Much love to you both as you share these days together.