Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Two Left Feet

Tonight I think I need to confess how I'm feeling. Well, I probably don't need to, but I want to; so forgive me for using you as a kind of therapist's couch this evening. For I am confessing to being a mess.

In fact, it was last night when I realised what a mess I was, as I struggled out into town to band rehearsal, full of some strange flu-like illness, and sat wobbling on a high black stool listening to piano keys clunking and red wine being supped. I felt tears pricking my eyes and a familiar welling up inside. Shit. The penny dropped. I am all over the place.

Then something else happened. Something that rarely happens to me. Instead of feeling upset, anxious, fearful, confused and stupid about feeling a mess, I suddenly was overcome by a feeling of alrightness. Absolute alrightness. And I liked it.

I'm one confused human being at the moment. I wonder if this is why, when I am falling asleep last thing at night, my heart keeps doing little pirouettes in my chest and why my dreams are filled with psychopaths. Why I keep having to trim my hair just that tiny bit shorter. Why one day I wear low-cut tops and the next I find myself in high collared shirts. Why I reel from reading the biography of a saint to writing songs about strange animals to compulsively watching a tv show where women are dressed as men and strap-ons are as commonplace as the next soya-decaf-frappucino. All this might not sound too significant, perhaps a bit drama queeny, if you don't know me that well. Or maybe even if you do. But who I am doesn't add up anymore. It doesn't add up.

Tonight I feel less welcoming of this fact. I feel disarmed by myself. I'm also aware of the fact that I'm going to be back in Wales in a couple of weeks, and I know, deep down, I'm really frightened because it brings the mess of me right back into sharp relief. It brings back how confusing life is, and how hard it is living under the shadow of Mum's state; knowing how I've been blocking it out these last months, because if I didn't block it out, I would have become a mess, and I don't want to be a mess, I want to be ok.

So the mess has to cope with only getting little outings, little forays into the world of Clare. And the rest of the time, it is strictly relegated to the world of dreams.

As usual, there is a good side to this. Whether I let it in or not, the devastation of Mum's condition is working on me night and day. And the price I may pay in sorrow for this, is reaped back through all the cracks that grief shows up in my life. It prises the cracks apart so I can look inside and see what truly makes me tick.

I thought I liked it better when I supposed I knew what made me tick, even if it felt constricting and suffocating, like a silk stocking tight around my throat. Now, I don't quite know what to do with all this air. Or what this feeling is in my lungs. I know too well the sting of life. And how things can fester. But this breath inside me, well, it's equally as terrifying. Such a grave responsibility it is: stepping into one own shoes.

The Jobless Question ...

After having spent my day putting ads in papers and formulating ingenious plans to procure work in as short a time as possible, I finally found the answer ...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Looking in from the outside, you might say tonight that I am lucklustre in presence and partially absent of heart, a sleek shadow skulking about the flat whilst the wind gently rattles the windows. But from the inside, I can definitely tell you that the lights are still on and I am definitely home. I just don't want to do any kind of entertaining this evening. I am pyjama-ed and bed-socked. Passers by are most definitely not welcome.

Tonight, all those things that people need to keep them going, all their endearing little idiosycrasies that make them who they are, their quirks of nature, their habits, well, I'd like them to all kindly scuttle away and leave me in my hideyhole, at peace.

Hideyholes are the best, a vital necessity in this day and age where nothing is private, no lines of communication are ever blocked, and people can get a hold of you with the click of a switch just about wherever you are, whenever they wish. Don't we just love all that technology? I know I do. And this post harbours no resentment towards it or towards folk going about their way, in their way. But just for tonight, I want them all to do it somewhere else.

I've spent four solid hours today watching dvds, something I don't actually think I've done since I was a kid, and I'm feeling like a bit of a shameless tv set junkie. You know, it's one of the first signs of a junkie - when suddenly other people become less important, mere side players in the addict's great quest for their own fix and the bliss that ensues.

I tell you, it felt like some kind of divine intervention today when the lady in the Jubilee Library told me that the dvd set I've been chasing had finally arrived back - five minutes before I entered the Library. And when you start bringing God into the equation in such a matter, I think it definitely marks the onset of addiction.

So what else? Well, as we all may have noticed, in one swift and cruel move, winter seems to have arrived, bypassing autumn altogether. Perhaps yesterday counted for both the first day of autumn and also its last. The day had that feeling of summer ending as the first chill of the new season breathed into the sunlight that was still dancing upon the metallic sea. I absolutely love that time of year - frail and filled with poignancy and nostalgia, echoes and fading warmth. Unfortunately, it seems like that might have been it. Today was a bedraggled dog of a day, damp and chilled to the bone, the misery of winter too close on the horizon, etched on people's faces, a lost summer without climax following everybody's steps home.

If I can make some money this winter, I shan't be bothered about its dourness. In fact, I shall welcome it. I have loved my winters in Brighton for the last few years. There's been something so bitterly romantic about them, holed up writing, loving, losing; you know, all the usual stuff. However, significant portions of joy have come from the adventures abroad I plan during winter, because it's then that I can actually afford to travel abroad. Without that, I can see it's going to be a long season, as I haven't got away to any of the places I most yearn to get back to at all this year. And I am seriously pining.

So I can see that without money, life may become an endless trail of trips to the Jubilee Library to get my fill of imagination and excitement, my backside numb from lolling around on couches staring at LA lesbians and New York mafiosi, my eyebrows crinkled and mouth permanently mishapen by all the grimacing I've been doing at the high-octane emotional drama unfolding before my eyes.

Rock n roll. Bring on Episode Five quick.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Since I cut my hair, it no longer gets in my eyes the way it used to; it no longer falls down my back in straight lines or spreads across my pillow in the morning. These days, I'm not sure who it is I look like, or who I thought I was before. A new dress, a different pair of shoes, a pair of trousers; a grey felt hat cocked at the perfect angle, and a person can be changed forever. These clothes, this face, my body, are all a mystery to me. My own mirage; the hieroglyphics written here.

Tonight, the world is spinning too fast for me to grab hold of what it's made of or what surrounds it. I'm sitting on the island where I always live, peeking at stars and toying with black holes, wondering which dark galaxy I am heading for next, still not comprehending from where it was I came, still hoping for angels.

Just now, I washed up my things in the sink, switched off the dvd player and came here to this uncomfortable seat to feel my fingers against keys, to feel myself uncoil. The screen becomes for some minutes my lover, my God, the mirror reflecting what I couldn't see otherwise: the lines and cracks, the substance, the light which temporarily blinds me when I am shown it. Damage. Sorrow. Fight. Heaven. And something else I'm not sure I have words for.

Isn't that the struggle and the point of writing? To somehow birth into being what we cannot give a name? And into which letters will it sink itself today? Where is the cadence that will have us all weeping?

Tonight I ache under my ribs with a tenderness that makes me swallow quickly, that makes me fear I'll get cut in two if anyone were to walk through my living-room door right now and show me any more beauty than is already here. Luckily, my front door is bolted.

I'm a slow-moving fish. A rattling train. I whisper too many secrets to myself and wish the world would tell me his. It's getting late, but not late enough. I am genuinely happy for the first time in a long time, and for that I am, as ever, troubled.

Thursday, September 06, 2007


I've been flailing about lately, as perhap you may have discerned from my recent posts. I could also say I've been a bit in the wilderness, a place without borders or signposts, without a nice cup of tea waiting at home for me, with a few wild animals tracking my footsteps and a distinct lack of fresh water.

I am tempted, as is easy to do, to assume that this is a problem, that something is wrong in me or in my life. To temper this, I find the good old 'New Age' sound bites rising up in my mind. "Follow your heart". "Trust the process". "Everything is a lesson". Oh, to be a New Age writer churning out masterpieces such as "The Little Book Of Wisdom" whilst earning a nice few hundred thousand spondulies.

I digress. I can mock such phrases, but that doesn't stop them from potentially being true. The problem for me, as I suspect it may be for a lot of people who don't feel guided by angels or the will of God, is precisely how to discern exactly what these statements mean. One can follow ones heart, but that doesn't mean it won't lead you straight into a ditch. One can try and trust the process, even if it's difficult, but there's often the niggling doubt that there might not actually be a process going on at all, one may just be in a bit of a mess. On a good day, all is a vast and mysterious lesson from which one grows. On a bad one, well, the word dukkha springs to mind, that is, things are painful and crap, and basically sometimes there can be no reasoning that out. In fact, to try and reason it out is just to try and escape the suffering.

Having said all this, it cheers me up more to think of profound cosmic things afoot in my experience, of processes rising and falling and leading me to a greater understanding of something or other.

So how to find something in this life that endures. That's the question. I know it's all going away, every last drop of this life is disappearing with the clouds, never to return. And living with such fragility and uncertainty, and finding the peace and beauty is certainly what I have been taught to do through Buddhist practice, and what I've tried to do, in whatever ways I can, for years.

But right now it doesn't feel enough. I can't struggle with that existential question on my own. My body isn't large enough to hold the magnitude; this 'self' of mine cannot meet nature, time, old age, sickness and death on its own terms, never mind violence, injustice, poverty, cruelty, betrayal, corruption, abuse of power. I am no one woman army. And the fact that we all stand in exactly the same shoes when it comes to facing life and death means we can be guiding lights to each other, unfortunately our relationships made out of the same fragile and delicate material as this life. We can claim solidarity, but we still face the questions alone.

Perhaps it is obvious, where I'm going in this post. This thing that endures, that can hold all life within it; that isn't separate from life or from the people in it; that's in the buildings and the structures of our existence, the hearts and minds and bodies, as it is in the end of them. But is it an unnameable force which is at once there and not there, an emptiness which is full, a fullness which is ultimately empty; the beauty of transience itself? Or is it a tangible, real presence we can call on, we can count on, that has a name and a face; a body and blood?

I don't know. But these are the questions I don't quite know how to put to rest.