1997 / 2007 / 2017

A retrospective.

CW: if you’re suffering from poor mental health, sometimes reading the experiences of others can send you into a tailspin. Please take care when reading this. It’s mostly reflective, but still pretty raw.

1997

“So I’ll change schools. I don’t mind.”

I meant it. Listening to my parents discuss which school my younger sibling should attend, realising the best school for him would be the *other* school, the one in the opposite direction from mine, I piped up with a suggestion – the suggestion which, I knew, would solve the problem for everyone concerned.

Later on, mam came to ask me if I meant it.
She said, “you must have been thinking about this decision for a long time.”

A year before this conversation, I had simply… stopped. Stopped everything. Talking, socialising, doing any work in school – even eating, for the most part. I had no appetite for any of it. Nobody really noticed; the ones who noticed didn’t seem to mind. I still pulled off decent marks in school tests. I wasn’t making any fuss or causing any bother.

I read a lot.

For years afterwards, I felt ashamed and embarrassed of this phase in my life. I knew I was getting something badly wrong. When I heard the discussion about schools, I saw my chance to start again – to bury the festering mess of this year and act like it had never happened. And to this day, as far as most people are concerned, it never did.

2007

“So let’s move to London. I don’t mind.”

Alicante wasn’t working out. Our tiny, beautiful apartment with its boundless view of sea and sky held a lonely and frustrated life. We hadn’t managed to make friends here, not like I had in Murcia, where every weekend brought some shared adventure – rock-climbing, local fiestas, band practice, dancing until dawn… Even the loneliness felt better in Murcia, sitting in an old-fashioned bar with a café con anis, reading the newspaper, writing, writing, writing.
But Alicante wasn’t working out.

My partner wanted a career in the civil service. I wanted… nothing, I wanted nothing. I had lost the ability to want. Some days, I made it as far as the market to buy vegetables for lunch, then collapsed with exhaustion on the sofa. Some days I made it as far as the floor and sat gazing numbly out to sea. Whenever I could, I taught English language classes to students and businesspeople. At the end of the month I hunted for coins down the back of the sofa, hoping to scrape together enough money to buy pasta, miserably aware that I contributed so little to our bills.

The future that I thought I wanted – a small house by the Mediterranean with fruit trees in the yard; a comfortable teaching job; a writing desk – was becoming lost in that fog. I fucked it up. My partner didn’t want it. I didn’t want anything. So I did the only thing I knew how to do: I started again.

We left Spain that summer. I haven’t really been back since.
It still hurts, a little.

2017

Witches make their own luck.

This has been my mantra. I’m not even sure why; I’ve never thought of myself as a witch before – but there’s something more rooted, more wily and resourceful in the word “witch” than in any name I’ve called myself before. I like it. I think I’ll keep it.

I walked out on my last job. I swore it would be the last job I walked out on. It’s harder in your thirties. But when I found myself in an airless office above Manchester, being told that I “obviously hadn’t tried very hard” to kill myself – by the occupational health service whose help I had requested – I came up against a hard boundary I didn’t know I still had in me. I walked out.

And then –

Nothing. For months. Months of healing, of gentle walks in the hills, of medicine-making and tarot-reading and sleeping and reading and cuddling the dog. How lovely that sounds. How raw and ugly and difficult it felt; the long, drawn-out process of recovery.

I was determined to get it right this time.

I read my journals from the previous year, felt anger for the drowning woman in those pages who couldn’t set her boundaries, couldn’t ask for help.
I felt anger for the schoolgirl who stopped eating, stopped playing, stopped working – anger that no adults had noticed, anger that nobody had helped. Anger at the shame she swallowed, at the gaping wounds she’d patched up as best she could with a new start and a brave face.

I didn’t start again. This time, I went back.

I wrote to my former tutor, asking if I could resume my studies. I sent my CV to archives all over the North of England. I met a former manager for drinks, told her about walking out on the job, asked her advice – all with the unspoken question, did I get this wrong? And she offered the encouragement I needed, gave practical advice, bought more drinks. No, you didn’t get this wrong, you needed and deserved support. And, at last, I allowed myself to be supported.

And now it’s December. I have a brand new job, in the same old career I had been working towards when the fog set in again. I found my way back.

I also have insomnia, “stress belly” and some fairly fierce deadlines to meet for my studies, not to mention a distressingly low cash flow (I’ve kept my Saturday job to ease the transition from weekly to monthly wages; it pays enough to cover my train fares for the week with just under £10 left over for emergencies). It’s not exactly a happy ending; more a work in progress. But it’s the work I wanted. Along with the writing, the divination, the gardening and medicine-making; I want all of this in my life.

Just typing that feels amazing.

I want.

Not much – not material things; not even grand experiences. Just to breathe, and to eat, and to touch; to stretch my muscles on these wild moors, and plunge my hands into the dark earth; to read and write, to speak and listen and be heard. To make a contribution.
I want, I am.

And, yes, I’ll be prepared for 2027…

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A Beautiful Resistance: The Crossing — Signposts in the Mist

Thing I’ve written elsewhere while I’ve not been writing here…

Originally posted on GODS & RADICALS: We have started rebuilding from the ruins. We are the children you never knew you would have. We do not see you but we keep on building the future you made your crossing for. Gods&Radicals is pleased to announce that the fourth issue of our journal, A Beautiful Resistance,…

via A Beautiful Resistance: The Crossing — Signposts in the Mist

by the light of the moon

Ten years ago I was living in a small flat by the sea, facing east. One of my most cherished memories from that time was the ‘path’ made by the moonlight reflected in the water – ripples of light leading to a smooth pool of silver on the far horizon. I knew it was an illusion, and that the silver pool could never really be reached, but that didn’t stop me wanting to jump in a boat and set out to try.

18_moon
The Moon – Anna K Tarot

The Moon card in the Anna K Tarot captures this feeling perfectly. As soon as I saw the artwork for this card, I fell in love (as I did with The Star and The Sun – all cards I can struggle to connect with in other decks).

Recently, The Moon has been appearing in pretty much all my readings – when it’s not in the spread, it will usually be the extra card I draw for clarification.

Continue reading “by the light of the moon”

new moon at midsummer: an ogham card reading

24 June: St Jo(a)n’s Day, when the rising summer sun can be seen moving on the horizon once again, after three days of stillness. The solstice was the turning point, but this is when the movement can be felt. The days are starting to grow shorter.

It’s still high summer, though, and after several stiflingly hot days the breeze this afternoon enticed me out into the hills. I packed my ogham oracle deck in my rucksack, and pulled three cards while sitting on a mossy boulder high above the town.

ogham
from The Celtic Tree Oracle

Continue reading “new moon at midsummer: an ogham card reading”

out of the woods: a tarot spread for a friend

Subtitled – sorry for the swears – emerging from a shitty situation.

It’s happening a lot this year: friends getting in touch to tell me they’re ok, but that they’re just beginning to realise they haven’t been ok for quite a while.  And while I was thinking about how I could help, this spread just popped into my head, almost fully-formed.

Continue reading “out of the woods: a tarot spread for a friend”