I am What I Am

It was bound to happen eventually after a month of fairly heavy-duty counselling and the loss of my husband’s mum. This whole project only exists because I’m lucky enough to be able to do so in time that’s not taken up with being a carer and a mother. For the last week, poetry had to take a back seat, because other stuff became more important.

Now, however, there’s space to breathe again, so it’s high time we worked out June’s content.

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Starting in June, we’re using two media buzzwords, fused together as an overall theme for proceedings. Until the ‘Places of Poetry’ project is completed (which will hopefully be mid month) the weekly verse continues to take a back seat. There’ll be two new playlists (plus I promise faithfully all the old ones will make it to the website) plus a short story based on an offhand comment someone made last month on my Twitter feed.

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What has happened in the last six weeks or so is a subtle shift in how new work is created and edited, based in part on continued and very useful feedback. Hopefully this will show not only in the blog posts, but across the full spectrum of written output. There’s a lot to be learnt, and it is only two years ago that all of this began in earnest. Some days, it feels like a whole lot longer.

I look forward to seeing you for this new stuff in the usual places starting next Friday.

Life on Mars

I am already thinking ahead to what happens after End of the Fear. Some people might suggest finishing summat before starting summat else, but I am not them. My mind, on any given day, has the capacity to generate all manner of new and potentially interesting content. The problem, to this point, has been how all of that is filtered and then disseminated. Not any more.

June’s a bit of a line in the sand: a couple of major publications begin their Awards cycles, whilst others come to an end. I expect a lot of poetic material to become effectively recyclable at that point: first dribs and drabs are beginning to arrive. Some work is already written specifically for entry, what needs to take place once poetry project’s done is a sensible, organised re-arrangement of everything that I have, and where it could be relevant.

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Planning ahead has granted vital wriggle room for the longer-form works, and I fully intend to finally put time aside to make at least one novel-length work worthy of submission. I’ve made a choice, and based on my development in literary skills, hope it is possible to create summat that’s saleable but still retains the essential essence of what I am. That’s the biggest issue I’ve had since this all began.

I appreciate that my ‘voice’ still needs a phenomenal amount of work: the poem I won a contest with back in December was, in essence, an ‘ape’ of an original work. My ability to parody has always been pretty solid, but I’m as yet to find success with my own voice. It’s not really existed until now, if truth be told. Sure, the stuff that has come before has a resonance in me, but freeing mind via counselling really is altering both pitch and tone.

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However, I’d be lying if I didn’t say how much fun it is learning new stuff pretty much every day, that my mind is a completely different place than it was at the start of the year. That’s never going to rewarded by a magazine, or acknowledged with a cash prize. I get to keep all the credit, and long may that feeling continue. These are days of miracles and wonder, and I am loving every single one.

Come Together

I am running behind this week, or at least that was the case until today. Thanks to my subconscious, which has provided some quite memorable moments during the last few days, I have a completely formed romantic comedy in my head. It’s a really pleasant change from the normal fare of poetry and responsibility, and tells me that maybe, possibly, the brain is adapting to my change in mental circumstances.

There is always a small, inherent fear that when taking on a large scale project you’ll simply not possess the mental fortitude to complete it. Once upon a time that was most definitely true: this morning I went back five years and deleted the remains of the last project I’d tried to complete on this kind of scale and failed. The mental fallout from that project still haunts me on bad days.

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I managed to gain a stalker as a result of that series of events, someone who refused to leave me alone and went to increasingly frightening ends to make his displeasure of me obvious and very public. Once upon a time I thought it was useful to keep those memories and moments in my thoughts, reminder of what happens when you fail. Except, now I understand this does nothing but damage current ability to be creative.

Slowly but surely, ghosts from my past are being exorcised. It’s neither pleasant or pain free, but what is becoming apparent from the process is exactly how resilient I am capable of being, and that the work being produced is good, really good. Everything changed when it stopped being about keeping other people happy, and the realisation dawned that doing stuff for myself mattered far, far more.

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The slow, steady path to self-sufficiency and enlightenment continues apace. It’s not just poetry this week, but short stories and microfiction. Every new thing I try shifts things in a different direction, gradually expanding my skills. Confidence breeds more experimentation, less fear and a continuing desire to try more things, attempt better projects, produce the best work I can.

I’m never, ever going back to being the person I used to be.

Poetry Archive :: Outside

Here’s the second of two specially-written pieces for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: as discussed last Monday, body image is a big deal for me and is something I’ve struggled with for decades. Now, however, it is not nearly as problematic as was once this case.

I suppose, as a result, you could also consider this piece as autobiographical.


Outside

Presentation, count
ways to look better: measure
perception, result.

Camera’s a lie,
pointless deception: smoothing
flaws into focus.

Step away, redress
internal balance; preserve
personal conscience.

What’s possessed within
far more vital: true beauty
growing from within.

Outside, realised
transformation: evolving,
solid impression.

Poetry Archive :: Inside

Here’s the first of two specially-written pieces for #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek: as discussed last Monday, body image is a big deal for me and is something I’ve struggled with for decades. Now, however, it is not nearly as problematic as was once this case.

I suppose, as a result, you could consider this piece autobiographical.


Inside

Afraid of myself, skin tight
fights image others present,
content with themselves: not here
inside, conflict remains.
Body, not who I am.

Constant, persistent beat
‘life not good enough’
repeats, eat more, ignore
conflict, inside remains.
Mind, not what to think.

Understanding, emerge
chrysalis breaks, expanding
wings; inspired desire
love yourself, unbound.
Love, now what you are.

Without filters, building
inner confidence, no
co-incidence, expanding
horizons, new options.
Grasp what can now be.

Result: evolution brings
joyous optimism, ignore
criticism, other’s beauty
not my duty to uphold.
What I am: strong, bold.

Grand Designs

This week, all told, has pretty much gone exactly to plan.

Okay, there was a bit of a moment on Thursday and Friday, when I wondered (again) whether counselling during a major project was a good idea or not, but as it transpires everything is very much on track. I have completed poems too, plus so many fragments to sort that Monday of next week’s being put over just to that: organising what’s been produced so far, and what is as yet untouched.

Right now, there’s a lot of work still to do, but very little worry over how it will get done. Before I started the location work that was an issue, but not any more. The photographs are having exactly the desired effect: kick-starting brain into poetic action. In fact, the more places I go to and take shots of, the more fertile these ideas become. Next week however, I will take a pad an pen with me because however convenient it might be, typing on my phone is sub-optimal.

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Favourite picture today #EndOfTheFear

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Once the fragments are collated and saved into my master document, it’ll be time to work out which locations are still missing pictures, before I begin building the foundations of the collections’ permanent online home. They’ll be linked to the Places of Poetry website (of course) but the pictures I have will form this secondary holding space. As this is free to me (only costs the time, which I’ve rationalised as good practice for my picture taking skills) it will end up as a nice online portion of my CV.

Without further ado, it’s time to start pulling the disparate pieces of this puzzle together…

Communication Breakdown

It is incredibly easy, in the midst of a thousand different crisis both mind and body are bouncing between, to believe you’re coping. There is often no time to sit and consider what is taking place around you: simply no right time to do so. Only in the moments of quiet and reflection, often early mornings or late nights, does reality of situations become apparent. Sharing your troubles, undoubtedly, has its advantages.

Talking to someone else can make a world of difference.

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I’ve been in counselling for six weeks. The overriding takeaway from all the sessions is simple: talking really matters. Not being afraid to share everything with someone who is not there to judge or attack, whose task is primarily to listen and make appropriate observations, is probably the most transformative thing that’s ever happened to me. So much of my life before was judgement from others, how their words affected view of self.

Now, it’s about learning how to make informed, sensible decisions without that judgement. How I look at what happens and understand the personal consequences of the actions, and then how these decisions in turn are a measure of my ability to learn and grow. It is apparent that a lot of my issues come from places that are obvious in hindsight. Now they’re exposed, it becomes quite simple to deconstruct and move on.

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The other key point that’s been grasped in this journey revolves around being ‘fixed’ or ‘cured’: it is abundantly apparent that this was never someone else’s task to complete. I’m the one who has to do the work. This is not a case of taking a course of drugs and suddenly problems vanish: for many, however, with the right medication, lives can be radically transformed. This is a discussion that’s been had, and there is no need for me to go down this route.

What happens at the end of twelve weeks is as yet not clear. Right now, the consequences of conversation are having a radical, life enhancing effect on how I conduct absolutely everything. Writing that was previously painful and inaccessible is being returned to, with cautious optimism. Confidence is at its highest point for many, many months. There’s also no fear of taking a step back and relaxing, when the mood takes.

Talking to a counsellor is actively improving my entire existence.