You try so hard to bind my tongue At times I can hardly breathe Your hand is clasped so tightly over my mouth. Confined in your embrace Your warm breath on my cheek sends shivers down my spine
But do not mistake my inaction for fear Do not take my hush for dread
I am ready to rage and wail at the top of my voice I am ready to scream and flail and fight I will not be silenced I will not allow you to still my voice Though you may grasp at me ever tighter And squeeze the very life breath from my lungs I will kick, I will punch I will grapple with the bonds you have drawn about me. My voice must be heard. My voice will be heard. Though my strength may at times fail me, I will not concede I will not kowtow to your pride and self importance
Enfolded in your arms I will squirm and claw Emboldened by your arrogance I will strain and wrestle And I will break free I will find space To draw breath enough to fill my lungs to bursting And when I raise my head and forcefully release No sound will come For my silence is of my own making
It has been a couple of months since I was last able to sit down with my tablet and write. Life in the lead up to Christmas was so busy, and with an extra part time job as well, there just wasn’t the time. After over a decade of working 3 days a week, to work 5 days was a change I wasn’t quite ready for and it has taken me a while to get used to the extra organisation required when you don’t have time in the week to get things done. Of course one of the things I used to ‘get done’ was spending time in a coffee shop with my tablet and/or notebook putting my thoughts into black and white. I hadn’t realised quite how cathartic that was. A lot of the time I just write whatever comes into my head – I am no more disciplined than that, it may come out as a poem or it may just be a collection of seemingly random thoughts, but however expressed it is a way of getting what is inside out. Of putting into words feelings that up to that point I may not even have recognised, and I didn’t understand how much this benefited me until I stopped doing it. Of course the truth is I have not lost that much time, I still have time each week which I can spend however I choose, but to a large degree this is frittered away or distractions like my phone. The habit of walking to a coffee shop after the school run each Thursday meant I didn’t even have to think about putting aside time to write, now I need to be more deliberate about it, but I am determined to get back into the habit of writing each week. I am also determined to break the cycle of ‘busyness’ I subconsciously keep trapping myself in. Whilst thinking this week about the way I spend my time the line of a poem popped into my head, not one I have written, but one I had to memorise whilst at school. Written in 1911 by welsh poet William Henry Davies, it seems more pertinent than ever in our present non stop culture.
What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
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.
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 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.
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. 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.
I do not remember the first time I wrote. It is something I have been doing as long as I can remember. At primary school I remember writing adventure stories, which were probably inspired by my love of the Famous Five and Secret Seven books. I remember one story I wrote about a hidden cave with a tunnel to an island and the smugglers who used it – inspired by Kirrin Island no doubt.
It was in my teens that I started writing poetry. Obviously for school work to start with, but I was soon hooked. At the time I didn’t know why I loved it so much, but looking back I think it was the freedom it gave me to express myself, especially as someone who was so painfully shy. I wrote a whole series of poems entitled “Adolescence” covering such topics as boys, exams, identity and annoying parents. Typical teenage issues, but I would have struggled to convey my feelings about these vocally, and writing poetry helped me to not bottle things up or dwell on them too much.
In adulthood I have written a lot of poetry inspired by life events and big emotions; love, birth, death; joy and sorrow. But a significant amount of my poems have been written when I was at my lowest ebb. I was 16 when I was first diagnosed with depression. It was to be the first of several bouts, including 2 lots of post-natal depression. When I am depressed there are times when the words just flow out of me, but they are not always pretty! I have written some very dark verses during these times, but they have been a way of getting it out, helping me make sense of the turmoil in my head. A release. Writing at these times can be cathartic, but also quite revealing, as I get to know myself a little bit better through the words I string together.
Sitting bent over my notebook. Scribbling, scrawling, words flowing from my mind. An unending stream of verbs, adjectives, nouns. Telling their story. Sharing their knowledge, their understanding, their insight. Opening to the world my innermost secrets. Displaying my private pleasures and pains for all to see. Once started they spill on out a continual cascade, try as I might to catch them with my hands. So slippery, they slide through my fingers onto the page, and I am forced to confront this truth in black and white before me.