Sister

Poem from the onset:

The diagnosis floored me.
In its aftermath I walked a mile
with the sun warming my face
and a trace of your smile
as sun slipped into shadow
beamed full on my face.
My beautiful Aurora Balouris.
Your breath-taking light
radiated through memories
as I walked over the sand
and skimmed stones on the sea.
Then, in a downpour of rain,
I laughed, and laughed, and laughed
until I fell to my knees and cried.

The fear of c a t s is real

I have an alarming aversion to c a t s and, if I catch a glimpse of one, the unfortunate people within the vicinity could become victims of an unforgettable (even psychologically damaging) experience when witnessing my reaction.

So it is with trepidation that I have accepted an invitation to the ‘unravelling of writers’ group meeting on 2nd May to work on the finer details of ‘the book wot we are writing’ collectively. The collective being current/past University of Hull students who are participating/have participated in the Creative Writing Honours Degree Course since 2004. The book celebrates the 55 writers (along with their tutors) who have been involved in the programme during its reign at the Scarborough Campus, which is now coming to an end.

The lovely hosts for the meeting have offered to place their two c a t s in the bedroom where they ‘should sleep for the duration’ they assure me (YES… TWO IN THE SAME PLACE AT ONCE! YIKES!).

I don’t want to put anyone out but I know I will be riddled with anxiety in case someone accidentally opens the bedroom door.  Asking people not to let the c a t s out (as opposed to ‘don’t let the dogs out’) is not something I can announce without attracting unhelpful and irrelevant comments such as, ‘aw, pussies are so lovely, why don’t you like them?’ Er, it’s not that I don’t like them; I’m simply terrified of them. Doesn’t anybody actually know what ‘phobia‘ means? (Please note the sarcastic emphasis of this rhetorical question.)

There is an alternative option available in that the lovely hosts have offered to ask their daughter to keep the c a t s for the day instead of using the bedroom solution. I feel this is going to be a big deal – eg, maybe she lives a million miles away? – and have said (against my gut instinct) that I can probably try to cope with them being in the bedroom, especially as two understanding friends have volunteered to be on ‘lookout‘ for me.

I really appreciate the support on this one. And before anyone comes rushing in with advice for a cure, believe me, I’ve been there already (yes, even those ‘cures’ advised in the link at the end of this post!)… with all attempts proving frighteningly unsuccessful. I have suffered some horrible c a t experiences that I would not care to repeat and I still have nightmares about them.

I have attempted to write about these incidents, on a number of occasions, as a sort of exorcism to enable me to achieve a more comfortable place of acceptance rather than a cure. To date, this has been unsuccessful. The writing has proved far too scary and instilled palpitations in me to the point of passing out. I can’t help thinking it’s such a waste of experience for me as a life memory fiction writer. The horror story potential of the material is remarkable, particularly for an audience of readers who will go to any lengths to avoid any form of contact with c a t s, like myself.

However, it is a step forward that I’ve been able to write this post and ‘come out’ in public as a c a t phobic when you think about it and, looking through one of my journals recently, I did find a first draft of a c a t story that deals with the origin of my phobia, so there is hope.

The story fits my criteria for life memory fiction but I find the content too awful to revisit – today at least. In the future, if I can edit and craft this story into a worthy piece of writing, it is a good indication that I am capable of reaching out to that more comfortable place of acceptance I mentioned earlier. It’s worth a try but don’t hold your breath.

I’ll keep you updated on it (if I can)… and also on how ‘the book wot we are writing’ at the ‘unravelling of writers’ group progresses (whether I make it to the meeting or not).

The fear of cats is real  (LINK WARNING FOR PHOBICS – CAT IMAGE ALERT!)

Which damn fool decided it was a good idea to put an image of a  c  a  t  in an article about the fear of  c  a  t  s ?

I’m Here and I’m Now

As someone who has always worked to deadlines, I’ve spent years struggling with learning how to live one day at a time but now I think I’ve finally got the knack. This has come about through a close relative’s attitude to her diagnosis of terminal illness and the example she is setting in living each day as it comes. I have been convinced that, without question, what’s important is ‘right here and right now’ and simply being in the present moment is the best place to be. The past is gone and the future’s to come. Why bother worrying about either of those? Therefore, I didn’t start the year with a heap of resolutions. Nor am I in my usual state of panic because I am only just, on the edge of the end of the month, penning a January blog.

I’d already decided at my November birthday (see blog 27 Nov 2015) that I had been doing too much since I retired in March, so I dropped those activities that made me feel like I was still ‘working’. For example, I came off the Committee for the Scarborough Writers’ Circle (though remain a member).

I believed that saying ‘no’ was to be a new mantra for me in 2016 but, as always, life had a different agenda and presented an obstacle to that last Thursday. The speaker for the next Writers’ Circle session had to cancel and I felt obliged to provide something for the members to come along to – seeing as it was me who had booked the speaker in the first place.

So much for saying ‘no’ then…

The next best thing to not saying ‘no’ is to look for damage limitation. With that in mind I reached for a reliable cliché and killed two birds with one stone, ie, the first exercise planned for the session is to write a blog of how your year is going so far.

Ta Da!

If you are in Scarborough on Tuesday next (2nd Feb) you are very welcome to join us. We meet at 7.15-9.15pm at Vernon Road Library, Scarborough. The meetings cost £2.50 (including refreshments) or £1.50 if you are a student or member.

The outline for the evening is as follows:

Bit of a blog talk from a personal perspective…
Sharing of blog/journal/diary entries (those who have done one).
Three quick warm-up exercises for ideas in gathering inspiration to kick-start a piece of writing.
From a selection of news stories to be given out on the night:
Choose one headline and write a blog/diary/journal entry using that headline as a subject
OR
Choose a news story – rewrite it from the POV of one of the ‘characters’ as a blog/diary/journal entry.
Read and share the above (and any blog that’s come to fruition during the evening.)
Discuss the process/progress of the writing.

Simples!

And so it is with enthusiasm that I embrace my new found inner peace and feeling of well-being as I continue to follow my relative’s example by enjoying being in each moment… whatever each moment holds for me as it encompasses the conception of living in the here and now.

With peaceful blessings to you all,

Julie

New Year’s Eve

The end of the year feels more like the end of my life as I know it. I am unable to engage with my in-depth writing on social media for the foreseeable future and will be using my private journal. I am too wounded to share.

I leave you with this thought:

It is better to come to the Lord in prayer with a heart full of love and no words than many words and an empty heart. 

Jesus bauble

 

 

 

Reaching a milestone… and letting go of a friend

Today I became as old as my mother was when she died – not that it’s my birthday – it’s 5 weeks from my (not telling) birthday – which was where my mum was at when she died. She was quite ill for the 2 years before her passing, being immobilised by a stroke… and other factors that I won’t go into here to save any embarrassment for family members. Mum could only move her right arm since her stroke, which she used to carry on her 50 a day smoking habit. Well, she had nothing else to do then, did she? She couldn’t let go of her friend. This is probably what contributed to her fatal chest infection.

I found myself thinking about my own ex-habit with a similar friend… whilst longing for this day to be over so I can finally rid myself of the psychology of reaching this particular milestone – 5 weeks before my (something/something) birthday. The fear of history repeating itself is strong in my family because it does tend to be a habit that we never learn any lessons from each others wrong choices.

I first met my friend behind the bike sheds at my secondary school. It felt so good to hold my friend between my fingers and suck in the calming properties between a pursed pout. Blowing rings of smoke was impressive and I won many a round of applause for perfecting the art. More than a friend really – it was a necessity, a fashion accessory. You were known as ‘cool’ and ‘in’ when you were seen out with one.

By the time I left school I was up to 5 a day but it didn’t bother me. I knew I could stop any time. I’d heard the old wives’ tales about it stunting your growth but that wasn’t serious was it? I could do with a bit of stunting as I was starting to put weight on. It couldn’t be serious could it? They sipped Martini on the adverts whilst holding a friend in the other hand. It was a social thing.

The years started rolling and my friend stuck by me through thick and thin, calming me down when I needed it, helping me relax. There was nothing to worry about I thought, though I did stop for a while because pregnancy made me feel sick and I couldn’t face my friend at all. It did save me a bit of money as I was on 10 a day by then. But, after the birth, I started to experience some strange feelings in my body – urges from the pit of my stomach – and my nerves were on edge. I couldn’t relax.

I looked for my old friend to comfort me and found an unopened pack in my pre-maternity drawer. It was empty by the end of the day. My brain had remembered how much it used to need to function. Oh, I felt fantastic – like my old self. I could face the world, do anything I wanted. Wonderful! Maybe there was some truth in those articles about its drug-like properties. There were no warnings on the packs back then so nothing to worry about.

Five more years and my intake had doubled. I had no money in my pocket for treats – I spent it all on my friend. Another five years and the coughing started – only a tickle – didn’t bother me – didn’t hurt. Ten years on and the addiction held fast. Then the warnings came out from the government. They were plastered all over the packs, the walls, and the news. Adverts were banned from TV – no smoking signs sprang up and multiplied like weeds. It was official. Smoking kills.

I felt okay though; so maybe I was immune to it all.

Two years hence and still holding, I began coughing up obnoxious fluids, couldn’t catch my breath, and my chest sometimes felt like it was exploding with pain.

I finally gave up my friend – after dad passed with cancer at the end of 2003 – but the damage was done. Diagnosed with angina in the 3rd month of stopping, I had a stent fitted in the offending artery in February 2005, suffered a heart attack in 2008, then in 2012 developed difficulty in breathing, initially diagnosed as asthma. It was a year before my body found a treatment to bring it under manageable control. By then I had another diagnosis: COPD (chronic obstructive airways disease).

I’m in REHAB at the moment – learning how to manage these diseases of my own doing… through education on exercise, breathing control, relaxation, diet, technique of taking inhalers, etc, etc.

It seems so far away from the days when I was puffing away on my friend, and as I wheeze my way through a life sentence with no cure for undoing the damage to my smoke filled arteries, I reflect on my life with my friend and wish I’d left it at school and gone my own way instead of being one of the in-crowd.

I really hate those damn bike sheds!

Giving up a friend