Sleeping Beauty

We have recently been doing a tour of high school open evenings. My daughter, my baby, is in her last year of primary school and we are visiting a number of schools so that she can choose where she goes. This has led to a whole host of mixed feelings in me. Firstly I cannot believe how quickly the last 11 years have gone. Secondly, school seems to have changed so much since I was there, it looks a lot more interesting! Thirdly, what a shame it is that we do not appreciate it at the time. School days, although not without their own ups and downs, are free of many of the stresses and worries of adulthood and working life, and if I could go back now I would want to learn, and would make much better use of the opportunity to do so. But the strongest of these emotions comes from the increasing pace with which time passes. My baby is no longer a baby, far from it, she is growing up so quickly and that is bittersweet. She has always been a lot of fun, fully living up to her middle name, Joy, but as she has grown she has shed a lot of her shyness and self consciousness and shares her Joy increasingly with those outside our home. Yet I miss the times when she would climb sleepily into our bed in the early morning. I’ve got to be honest, I wasn’t always happy to see her, especially on weekends when I could have slept longer, but now that those times are over I am left with a little sadness at their loss. She no longer pesters me to play with her and her dolls, when I would rather be doing something else, and now I mourn the missed opportunities. Bedtimes are significantly quicker as I no longer need to read chapters of her favourite books when she reads them herself. So for now I will make sure to make the most of the times she does want to spend with me, for in no time at all she will be testing her budding independence. A few years ago I wrote this poem about her. It will always put a smile on my face.

Early each morning Sleeping Beauty creeps into our bed.
She rises with the sun and plods, slumber footed, into our room
Wriggling her way between us, she lifts my arm to wrap it around her,
Snuggles in and let’s sleep claim her once more.
Roused from my dreams I smile at the warmth of her against me,
This innocent child of mine.
Hovering between sleep and wakefulness, I try to re-enter my dreams,
But cannot, and so I gaze through sleep fogged eyes
At the perfect curve of her cheek, speckled with a gentle spread of tiny freckles;
At her long lashes, fanning out on her cheek below the lids that currently hide
her brilliant blue eyes from my view.
This beautiful face, so full of love and trust, causes my heart to swell.
Her delicate, wilful, big-hearted, enthralling personality radiates through every pore.
I am tempted to squeeze her into me,
to hold her so tight as if to never let go,
but I do not wish to wake her, so I content myself instead with a gentle kiss on her forehead.
Drifting away, my eyes close once more,
as a dreamy smile crosses my face
And I rest with our beloved Phoebe Joy in my arms.

The Mirror

One of the strange things about depression is the effect it has on my relationship with my reflection. How I feel inside is often not obvious in how I look on the outside. Sometimes when I look in the mirror and see someone who looks like they’ve got it all together, someone who is doing life successfully, I am amused at how well camouflaged the truth is. But other times it catches me off guard, I catch a glimpse of my reflection and think ‘who the hell is that?, that’s not who I feel like today!’ On the worst days it scares me, I look in the mirror and know that it is not me that is staring back, and i feel lost. Like the real me is invisible, is disappearing. Thankfully those times are usually short lived and I reconnect with my reflection pretty quickly. I think it’s so important to remember than you really cannot judge a book by it’s cover. There is absolutely no way of knowing what is going on inside someone by looking at them, and the most confident, together looking person could be crumbling and fearful inside.

Who is this person before me now?
A familiar face worn by a stranger.
Tell me if you know her, for to me she is an imposter.
She hides the truth and assumes what she is not.
Her smile is a lie and the curve of her cheek a deceit
I cannot escape her for she is my reality.
Tell her to leave,
Command her retreat.
She is not welcome!
She makes a mockery of my pain.
She belies the truth of my self doubt.
How dare she confront me with the truth I would not hear!
Leave me to struggle with the demons of my choosing,
But for pity’s sake,
Take her away!

A Little Tale

https://www.flickr.com/photos/reecardov/5047706897/in/photostream/

Inspiration can come at any time, and in any place, which is why I never go anywhere without a notebook. I also have a transcribing app on my phone so I can speak ideas into it while I’m on the go. That proved quite useful last week when inspiration struck on the walk to work. It was only 2 lines at the time, but I spoke them into my phone and forgot about them, until today. As the kids are now back at school this is the first day I have had to myself in a while, so I have got out my notebooks and phone to look at what I have scribbled down in the last few weeks, and see what I can do with any of it.

The two lines that came to me on the way to work last week have evolved into the following.

The moral of my little tale I hope to be made clear
I tell it as the sun descends as night is drawing near.
I do not wish to cause a fright, but wish it to be known
That anywhere you go round here you’re never quite alone.

So heed my warning, heed it well, hear now all I say
Or you may never see again the brilliant light of day.
The all pervading presence of the life from days gone by
Will not allow the innocent to pass unhindered nigh

I speak of old and ancient tales that logic would decry.
The stuff of myths and legends long unseen by living eye
Of creatures from an evil hand with purposes so bleak
Of voices from enshrouded mouths, that wail and howl and shriek

Let none here mesmerise you, they seek to captivate
To lure you in until you find, retreat is now too late
So turn around, take no more steps along this errant path
Flee, make haste, take flight unto the warmth of home and hearth

The moral of my little tale, I pray has been made clear
I tell it as my hope descends, my end fast drawing near.

Rhiannon

A friend on Facebook recently posted a picture of a bottle of Welsh whisky named Rhiannon. Produced by Penderyn in the Cynon Valley, it is part of their Icon’s of Wales range of single malts which celebrates people, events and milestones that are significant to Wales. Rhiannon means Great Queen, and she features in the Mabinogion – a collection of early Welsh literature, believed to be stories passed down by word of mouth for many generations before being written down.

This picture sparked a memory. Several years ago, before I was confident enough to let anyone read anything I had written, my husband signed me up for a local writing group. We had different tasks to do for each meeting, which I enjoyed, and then we got to read what we had written to the group, which I did not enjoy. At first I was so worried about reading out my work that I barely listened to the words read out by those before me, but when it came to my turn I was amazed by the positive feedback I got and slowly over the following months my confidence grew. Unfortunately the group was short lived, but I will be forever grateful for it, and for the self-belief it fostered.

One of the tasks we were given in the group was to write a ballad to tell a story – either one we already knew or one of our own creation. I chose to base mine (loosely) on the story of Rhiannon and Pwyll in the Mabinogion. I had forgotten all about my ballad until I saw the whisky on Facebook, which prompted me to go looking for my writing group notebook. As I tend to do with old poems I find, I have tweaked this a little, but it is mostly as I wrote it originally for the writing group.

The Ballad of Rhiannon and Pwyll

Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, a brave and fearless man,
Went forth to do battle with the evil King Hafgan.
Returning home victorious he planned to have a feast,
Eating, drinking, dancing for the next 3 days at least!

But looking from his window, a maiden he did spy,
In splendid golden robes, on a white horse riding by
“Who is yonder beauty?” he demanded of his men
But not one could answer him and so he ordered them

“Back up on your horses men, to follow where she goes.
On him who finds out who she is rewards I will bestow.”
But no matter how they rode, their efforts were in vain
For her horse bore an enchantment so no one on her could gain

Now Pwyll could bear to watch no more as each man left the chase
He jumped upon his trusty steed and after her he raced.
But e’en he could not catch her up, so called after her horse,
“Fair maiden, for the sake of love, please stop!” she said “Of course.”

“Please let me know your name” said Pwyll “and what your business here”
“Rhiannon is my name” said she “my business is quite clear;
To have you fall in love with me and take me for your bride.
In searching for my handsome prince I’ve travelled far and wide.

“So let us set a date at once and one twelve month from now
With merriment and feasting, to you I’ll pledge my vow”
Hence one year to the day they met the two off them were wed
So let us leave our tale here whilst the lovers off to bed.

Star

Sometimes, it doesn’t matter how hard you try . . .

There was a star I reached for
I stretched my arms so far
I wanted to embrace it
And clutch it to my heart
I tried so hard to grab it
I sought to make it mine
My hands outstretched, my fingers
In it’s beams I did entwine
But as I tugged I realised
The mistake that I had made
It’s burning heat seared through my flesh
And made me much afraid

There was a star I reached for
I stretched my arms so far
I wanted to embrace it
And clutch it to my heart
With both my hands I grasped it
This glowing orb of joy
My arms grew weak, the might of it
I knew would me destroy
I let it slip from twixt my hands
For I am not that strong
And further heavenward it rolled
And took my dreams along

There was a star I reached for
I stretched my arms so far
My failure to possess it
Will ever break my heart

Beautiful One

Holy Cross Convent

Last year I had the chance to go on a couple of convent retreat days. I was a little apprehensive having never been to a convent, and because I knew I would be expected to spend increasing amounts of time in silence (no phones or other devices allowed). Life today is just so busy and noisy that the idea of spending time in silence just reflecting and being, without actually doing anything is entirely alien. But it proved to be a truly wonderful experience. It took a while to rid my mind of all the daily concerns and just stop it whirring, but as it did I had time to reflect, to breathe. I was fortunate that the weather was good each time I went, and I was able to sit in the grounds and listen to the sounds of nature that are all to often drowned out by daily life. I lay on the grass of the garden and sat pondering on the bench in the picture above. I was also able to speak to and, for the first time in a long while, hear from God. It was a wonderfully refreshing time. I really believe that whatever your religious beliefs, taking time out once in a while to just be silent and still, to step away from the bustle of daily life is of great benefit for your mental health. I was inspired upon my return to write this poem about women in the Bible who encountered Jesus.

Kneel at the crib of the beautiful one
Knowing that you have been blessed.
Watching the saviour of all of this world,
this child, who lies now at rest.

Kneel at the feet of the beautiful one
Washing them clean with your tears
Finally finding the love that you crave
That you have searched for these years

Kneel at the well while the beautiful one
Tells all the things you have done
Offering to serve you the waters of life
Proclaim now that he is the one.

Kneel in your shame while the beautiful one
Asks who will cast the first stone
He knows no-one will be left to condemn
For each of you he will atone.

Kneel by the seat of the beautiful one
Listening to all he will say
Leaving the chores and the tasks to be done
Seizing the joy of this day

Kneel at the cross of the beautiful one
Weeping is all you can do
But take from this moment the promise of hope
Knowing he did this for you.

Kneel at the tomb of the beautiful one
Rejoice as he calls you by name
Knowing this moment the world has been changed
Never will life be the same.

Fog

Fog. It is not something we see an awful lot of. I always find it a little exciting when we do – it lends an air of mystery to even familiar places. There’s a certain romanticism to it too, conjuring up images of misty moors and half hidden landscapes obscured by fluffy whiteness.
Brain fog, on the other hand is ghastly. Unfortunately it is all too common a symptom of depression and can be horribly debilitating.
At the moment I’m finding it so hard to write. Impossible even. It kind of feels like that part of my brain has been switched off. I can only barely deal with the factual and any sort of creativity is just beyond me. I think this may be down to a medication ‘blip’, meaning I am having to go through the initial side effects that I got when I first started taking it. I know that it will settle down in a few weeks but in the meantime I am frustrated, headachey, struggling with blurry vision and can not get my foggy brain to do anything useful despite my endeavours. I am annoyed that I have not been able to post anything for so long, so I have been looking back through my old stuff and thought I’d post some old poems. Hopefully the fog will clear soon and I can get back to writing some new stuff.

The silent depths of very night.
That’s how it was when first you came to me.
Out of the shadows into the silver patch of
moonlight on my carpet.
You startled me
I had thought of being alone,
but instead you were here –
an intruder on my solitude.
The anger flash in my eyes yelled
‘Do not disturb!’
The threads of my thought so fragile
I feared a misplaced word may chafe or tear.

So you sat there silent
in the still of very night
and when the morning sun crept stealth-like
through the darkness
I sent you out to capture for me
the dawn chorus.

Rainbow

I have captured myself in a rainbow 
I have wrapped it around me so tight
I have let all it's power pervade me
And now I am bursting with light.
The out play of infinite colours
Releases the brightest of dreams
A world of outrageous existence
Where nothing is quite what it seems.

I have made me a bed of a raincloud
I have wrapped it around me so tight
I have let all it's tears wash right through me
My stains are now all lily white.
I arise from this absolving slumber
Awash with the joy of new birth
And I run from the heights to the oceans
Stretch my arms out, embracing the earth.

I have swallowed the sound of the thunder.
I have taken it's might for my voice
I have tasted this sonorous morsel
Now all men will hear me rejoice.
For my voice now has power to move mountains
Watch as I sing and they shake
If I bow down my head to your ear
One whisper and how you will quake.

But these powers I now have were not given
I stole them away - not for fun
I wanted to win your affection
For you are my bright shining sun
So I stand now with boldness before you
My splendour displayed for your view
One word, then you turn and I crumble.
I'm no match for the power that is you.

Where did the music go?

Where did the music go?
Music was always a part of my life. I grew up in house where people sang. My parents were both in an amateur operatic society, and later in a choir which I also joined in my teens. I started piano lessons at 4, I learnt the violin at primary school, and at high school switched to the oboe, which I played in the church worship band. I did dance lessons for a while. In my teens I had a record player in my room, and eventually a CD player. I listened, I played, I sang, I danced. Music was everywhere, adding colour and extra flavour to my life.
Somewhere along the way I lost it.
A friend on Facebook recently asked people to post which songs they listened to for different moods. I was stumped. I realised I couldn’t remember the last time I actually bought any music. My life hasn’t been silent. It’s just that none of the music I’ve listened to for a long time has been of my choosing. When the kids wanted to choose the music it was easier to just let them, especially on long car journeys and I just sort of gradually forgot that I had a choice too. That might sound silly, but I think one of the characteristics of depression is a sense of unworthiness. Why would anybody want to speak to me, spend time with me, listen to me, or to my choice of music? So I got used to listening to the kids choice and my husbands choice, and kind of forgot about the music that I would choose.
Also, as seems to be the way lately, my phone had it’s part to play too. Previously there were times, especially when I had the house to myself, that I would have put on some music and danced or sang around the house. Maybe doing a bit of housework as I went, but enjoying the music, feeling it. Now I can’t help myself, my phone demands my attention, and once I give it I am drawn in, and have no concept of passing time.
When the post came up on Facebook the first thing I did was to open up Spotify on my phone and look at the music I had downloaded. Most of it, un-surprisingly, was stuff I had downloaded for the kids, some of which I do quite like, but I am unlikely to listen to the soundtrack of Mary Poppins Returns or Trolls when they’re not around. I also had a couple of my husbands playlists and the song list for the choir I sing in. The only thing I had downloaded because I actually wanted to listen to it was the soundtrack to the True Detective series and a Sia album from 2014. I listened to both that day. I sang along and got nothing else done. And then I was sad that something that had previously been a big part of my life had been so constricted.
I am apt to brood on things and not actually do anything to improve them, but I am in a better place currently, so I have been trying to rectify this. I was already on the path – having joined a gospel choir in September, I am at least singing again. But I have been choosing to listen to music this week, when I might otherwise have scrolled through my phone. And, when the chance arises I am choosing to just listen. To let the music wash over me, and to hear the melody, the harmonies and allow myself to feel the music. There is great power in music, and I could really do with some of that in my life!

I didn’t realise that you’d gone
I don’t know when you went
I am sorry that I let you go
Un-noticed

You crept away so slowly
You stole such pleasure away
You left a hole so glaring
Un-noticed

It is only in hindsight that
I realise what joy and beauty
You took with you

Just let me sleep!

https://www.deviantart.com/nakovalnya-artist/art/Insomnia-718713095

One of the things I struggle with most about depression is the effect it has on my sleep. As if my emotions weren’t already all over the place, everything seems worse when I’m tired, especially when I’m exhausted. My energy levels are lowered anyway, and then lack of sleep sends them to rock bottom. Trying to motivate myself to do anything seems nigh on impossible, even if my mind is willing, my flesh is certainly not up to the task. It can feel like I am trying to swim through treacle. Retaining information becomes troublesome – I am usually a quick learner, but in the middle of a period of insomnia I struggle to hold on to anything new. I forget what people tell me and can seem uncaring if I fail to remember something a friend has told me. Work can be challenging as getting my head around some of the maths and frequencies required can be an uphill struggle, when ordinarily they would all just slot into place.

But the worst thing is the irritability. Every. Little. Thing. Is .SO. annoying. I forget where I’ve put something down and get all snappy and accuse people of moving it. Strangers step in front of me in the street, How dare they! I can’t get something to work properly and it ends up flung down in anger! I can almost shake with the adrenalin pumping through me at the slightest provocation. At home is where it hurts most though, my husband is a saint for putting up with me. But it is when I find myself snapping at the kids for doing nothing more than being kids that the guilt starts. I hug them, I apologise and then I worry. Worry about the effect this is having on them, worry that I should be better able to control my irritation around them, and worry again about how this is all effecting them. The kind of worrying that keeps me awake at night . . .
And so the circle continues.

Thankfully, these periods don’t last forever. There are periods when I do get some sleep. There are also some nights when I am assisted by a small pill, although this can result in severe grogginess the next day, and induced sleep does not refresh in the same way as natural sleep.
I have just had to accept that this is something that will happen from time to time. Nights spent tossing and turning with a brain that just won’t switch off can be painfully long, and what helps me one night can have no effect the next. Sometimes getting up and doing something other then trying to fall asleep can help, other times I sit up all night writing poetry .

I'm currently excelling at insomnia.
I've got to say I really am the best
When it comes to lying fretful in the darkness
While everybody else is getting rest.
Some would say they do not understand it –
I really do not need to worry yet,
About the problem that I'll have a week next Tuesday
With somebody that I haven’t thus far met.

I'm currently excelling at insomnia.
It’s great to say it really is a strength.
When it comes to stopping me from ever sleeping
My brain will really go to any length
Even though my body is exhausted
My brain, it seems, would like to tell a tail
About everything and anything and nothing,
The narrative I just cannot curtail.

I'm currently excelling at insomnia.
It's something that I really do quite well
While everybody else is deep in slumber
I'm fretting in my own personal hell.
I don't think this can go on for much longer
Another night I really can't endure.
I've spent the week resembling a zombie
A good night's sleep I really must procure.

I'm currently excelling at insomnia …