Is it just me or does life seem to have gotten SO busy. There seems to be an endless flow of distractions and intrusions that hinder me. Recently I have been reading a book called The ruthless elimination of hurry. (Ok, I confess; listening to – I’m far too busy to sit down with a book!) The book itself is an easy read, but it asks some challenging questions about our modern lifestyle. Written by John Mark Comer, an American pastor, it is written very much from a Christian perspective but there is lots in it to speak to anyone living their life in our crazy, busy, noisy, nonstop, often overwhelming world. The chapter I read (listened to) this week is all about silence and solitude, something that few of us get enough of! After discussing it in our small group I was inspired to write this poem.
In the silence In the stillness Of the quiet place I will seek you Come towards you Turn to me your face
I am ready To hear from you Speak your truth to me I will listen To hear from you Words so Fatherly
In the silence In the stillness Of the quiet place I will meet you Be at peace there Rest in your embrace
Although I have been writing for decades, it is only more recently that I have had the courage to share my writing. It started with a writing group my husband got me to join. It was, thankfully, a small group but still when it came to reading what I had written it was painful. My heart would thump, my mouth would dry and I struggled to concentrate listening to the work of other group members, as I swung between desperately wanting my turn to be over so I could listen and enjoy the others, and hoping we would run out of time before I had to read mine. The fact that they actually seemed to like what I wrote was unexpected, and such a relief, but I didn’t quite believe it. Since the group ended, I haven’t read anything to anyone, so when I was asked if I would write and perform a poem for a Christmas concert this year I was as surprised as anyone when the “yes” came out of my mouth. I was still really nervous, but my self confidence has grown hugely and I knew that I could do this.
The first hurdle I had to overcome was actually writing the poem. It’s strange how poetry can come so naturally at times, yet now I just didn’t know where to start. I had plenty of notice, but that really just meant more discarded first lines and more time spent fretting. Eventually I sat down a week before the concert and looking back at all the ideas and abandoned phrases from previous attempts to write, I realised I had essentially written a poem in pieces. All I needed to do was put them together in the right places and I had something that summed up what I wanted to say. However, it was now time to panic about actually performing it.
I love reading to my children, although now they are older it is not something I get to do so much anymore. I put on voices, and try to ‘express’ what I am reading in a way that is fun for me as well as enjoyable/informative for them. But dramatic reading to my kids is a far cry from a poetry reading in front of a group of mostly strangers. I tried many times, when alone, to recite it with the right expressive emphasis but it just sounded insincere (to me anyway).And then I made the mistake of recording myself on my phone, my voice sounds so strange outside of my head that it really dented my confidence.
I did it though.
I stood up with a microphone in my unsteady hand and looked around at the faces looking at me while I said the words I had written. I didn’t rush, I didn’t stumble over my words, and when I finished I heard applause! I walked off stage elated. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not about to rush off into the world of performance poetry, but I achieved something that Saturday evening. I did something that a previous me could never have done, and at the same time proved to myself that I am not a small insignificant voice that no-one wants to hear.
One night. A night like any other A night like none before, like none ever again
The night came like each before; The sun descended at the end of the day Making room for the moon and the stars Little did the sun know it would rise to shine on a world forever changed
A star A star unlike any other A star like none before, like none ever again
The star appeared so brightly shining It traversed the sky, piercing the night, A herald of hope that surely proclaims Love has come, the Divine love has been born for all
A Baby Born in humility Born in a place obscure and un-renowned
His a birth like many others, a mothers labouring Long and painful, but oh so worthwhile when a tiny cry is heard. Yet here was straw and dirt and animals in a borrowed room Little did the cattle know, that the baby warmed by their breath was the child Christ.
How well do we hide this story? Deck it out in tinsel and holly Obscure it’s truth with feasting and merriment Smother this grace with excess and greed
We no longer see the radical love that started it all We have turned from the Glory of the God who reigns on high, Yet deigns to stoop and envelop us in his unconditional love.
He is here now, waiting for each of us To clear away the wrapping To free ourselves from festive distractions And once again gaze in awe At the majestic humility of the babe in the hay. Almighty God with us.
I have soared through cerulean skies Catching my breath on the peaks of mountains With the warmth of the day on my face I have watched the clouds unfurl their stories before my greedy eyes. I have inclined my ear to the music of ravenous thunder My feet have danced to the beat of the rain. I have tumbled in the arms of the ocean as it rolled out it’s lofty promises to dry in the midday sun. And when skies grew inky cold I set my course by the whims of the wind And hung my hopes on the shining stars
In a world that abounds with infinite possibilities You Are my truth.
Occasionally, when I am in the midst of a bout of depression there come odd bursts of anger. Sometimes these are nothing more than the irritability that many experience as one of the symptoms of depression, or a result of the lack of proper sleep, another all too common symptom. Sometimes they are outbursts of cathartic rage against the injustice of mental illness. On rare occasions they are my brains way of saying “Enough’s enough! No more! No more hiding, no more apologizing, no more feeling sorry for myself. It is these outbursts that act as a catalyst, pushing me one more step along a journey of change, of better self understanding, and hopefully a step towards freeing myself from depressions’ grip.
I have had enough of cowering cowardice Of having so much to hide Of clutching my mysteries so tightly I have almost engulfed them in my very flesh And have shrunk with the weight of them. But no more curling my defences around my core As you creep advancing. I will open up, I will Unfurl and stand tall. I will lift my head high and Throw wide my treacherous arms. And as I grow taller with each breath I will let all who would see all. For through exposure I am Emboldened Enlarged Empowered And when I stand full free – Tall as the sky and naked as a babe You will have hold of me no longer. And I will smite you.
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.
I am starting to realise more and more, that I am my own worst enemy. I have had issues with self confidence/ self doubt for most of my life, but i am only now realising how much I have allowed these to control and restrict me. For a long time I was confused with confidence. I felt almost guilty if I thought I was good at something, as though I thought it was not up to me to decide what I was good at – I had to wait until somebody else told me I had done something well or that they liked something I had written or created, and even then I would be coy and dismissive of compliments. I thought I was being humble, but this is not humility. I have a book on my bookshelf entitled ‘A Humble Confidence’. Although it is years since I read the book, it has taken until now for me to really grasp what it says, and to truely understand it. A humble confidence might initially sound like a contradiction, but in truth it is what we all need. Humility is not false modesty. It is not being self-effacing, or self-doubting. To be truely humble means to have a realistic appreciation, not just of your weaknesses, but also your great strengths. This allows us to use our gifts and talents in amazing ways, but also to step aside and let someone else to the fore when they are better suited to what is required. It enables us to do this without feeling we are in any way lacking or failing. We are all unique. We are all gifted are competent in different areas. We can all do incredible things, if we just get on with it!
I have put it off too long. Allowed myself to be shackled by a lack of self belief. But if this is what I want then I must step out Take the risk and expose myself To the possibility of ridicule as well as the possibility of success. Yet these bounds are tight and as I strain against them i entangle myself It is too easy to give up, to just stop struggling against These constraints of my own creation. But only I can bring them down. I alone have the power to crumple and destroy them If I am not too afraid to use it.