grief · love · Poetry · Spiritual

Big girls do cry (Poem)

You can find my original article published here on elephant journal.

Photo: Squips Art on Pixoto

My power is not diminished by the tears that cascade tenderly down my gentle face,

sweeping over savannas of freckles and the treasure map of scars,

to caress my waiting lips with their soothing holy water.

 

The waterfall of my pain does not weaken me,

unstoppable in vibrant flowing passion.

Anguish rolling in salty torrents,

out from my crying heart, for the entire world to behold.

 

I wear them with pride, these tears.

They are truth

And they shine in a world of denied feelings and suppressed souls.

They sing that something has awakened my essence so intensely,

that they cannot be prevented with rational thought.

We must feel our truths to heal.

 

Tears are strength.

 

My force does not recede when I sit alone in the dark of empty days.

The determination to survive shines a light through the abyss;

it pulls me back from the crumbling cliff edge of despondence,

as I confront my own mortality there.

It compels me to breathe on,

even as my traitorous lungs cry “No more.”

 

Determination declares tomorrow is another day for me to conquer.
I will smile in the face of its luminous dawn,

thankful for the fleeting gift of time,

Even when its relentless march ahead wounds me,

For I am alive to feel it all,

and I will be whole again, one day.

 

Determination is strength.

 

Strength is not vanquished when I scream to the stars in anger.

Though it may be forgotten

in the white-hot fury of the moment,

it waits patiently, for me to return to my own harmony

Channelling the energy of my wrath to craft the change I desire.

 

It moves me to hold my fiery longing in both hands

Letting it drive me, without consuming me.

Peace sings out that I will not give anyone power over my serenity,

I hold that sacred for myself.

Regardless of what the world throws at me,

Tranquillity lives within, my peace is my own.

 

Peace is strength.

 

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adventure · love · Marriage · Poetry · Spiritual

This Love (poem)

You can find my original article published here on elephant journal.

pale blue sentries

This love is smoldering eyes

Burning fiercely into mine.

Navigating my pale-blue sentries,

Half-closed against the world.

A smile playing on soft lips

Tells me all I need to know,

It welcomes the mischief

that dances behind my curving lashes.

This love understands my curiosity:

childlike, innocent, free,

Appreciates my reverence for nature’s splendor.

It wipes away my falling tears

For her exquisite fragility.

It sees the shadows there also.

The places that I don’t like to examine too closely,

Nor let many see, for fear they will turn away.

This love sees my darkness and holds me anyway.

It knows that it cannot heal me, not fully.

It doesn’t try to make everything right

And I like that.

Sometimes I long to be rescued,

raised up in strong arms and cherished,

But some demons are my own to fight

This love knows the difference.

This love is snuggling in a cozy wood cabin

Deep in snowy forests,

fire crackling, casting shadows.

Far from everyone and everything

Needing only each other.

It’s being hungry for kisses, not food

For whispers in the dark

For laughter in dawn’s gentle caress.

This love is not sleeping,

for fear of missing each other

even for an instant.

This love is limbs entangled,

a single body for a heavenly moment,

Listening to thunder roaring around our embrace,

Echoing our pounding hearts.

It’s dancing in the rain

and peeling off each others wet clothes

to reveal a deeper layer beneath.

Skin upon skin.

This love is not smothering the other

With expectation, or demands

Nor jealousy or possession.

It knows that love cannot be tamed

And that holding it too tightly won’t make it stay.

This love admires the way you sleep so peacefully

Dreaming of our future.

It shows me that when I fall into your arms after the worst day

And feel your lips in my hair

That I can love the world once again.

This love is adventure. It is freedom.

This love is more than romance. It is home.

adventure · love · Musings · Spiritual

Home

See my original article here on elephant journal

 

The sounds of summer drift lazily over our back fence like smoke.

Children laugh and splash in paddling pools, squealing, cold water on hot skin, lawns flooded, warm mud squelching between small toes.

A lawnmower hums bee-like in the distance, and the smell of fresh cut grass hangs in the hazy air. I breathe it all in, the endless peace, the comforting familiarity of home. Sometimes, when I’m heartsick, I ache for this time, this place, these feelings. I close my eyes and let my memories bring me here, back to simpler times. They heal my soul.

My worries are bound by childhood, contained by school gates closed against the world. I agonise only over which friends to see and which games to play. The problems of the adult realm are far beyond my imagination and I’m in no hurry to reach out for them.

I recline on ancient sun-loungers with mum. They smell like sunshine and tanning oil and I feel grown up drinking tea beside her. We close our eyes and pretend that we are abroad soaking up Spanish sun.

Mum is glamorous, all curves in her bikini, brown skin glistening. I long to be beautiful someday too. I don’t hold much hope—I am awkward and skinny, all arms and legs and unremarkable. I stare at myself in the mirror sometimes and try to imagine what my grown up features will look like. I can’t see beyond the braces that imprison my smile and the unruly curls that never seem to lay straight and shiny like the popular girls at school.

In later years, I will breathe a sigh of relief as I start to fill out and my cheekbones decide to make an appearance. I will be startled when my first boyfriend notices me among my friends, an individual for the first time. I will grow into myself, a butterfly emerging from the cocoon of youth.

Charcoal barbecues, colourful picnic plates, my family talking and laughing under a bright blue sky. Dad’s radio blares summer-time anthems from the sanctuary of his shed. It is full of treasures, musty and masculine. He croons along and I smile, swept along in his happiness.

Even today, these familiar melodies transport me instantly to a brighter place.

Night never falls on those evenings. The light lingers and we stay out late exploring a neighbourhood that holds every memory of my childhood me. A close look reveals me there still—wading in clear cold rivers with fishing net in hand, collecting conkers in the shade of great oaks, and eating penny sweets on swings, flinging higher and higher, trying to fly from the frame to the wide world beyond. We race the setting sun to beat the darkness home.

I soar downhill on my bike, clothes streaming in the wind, fearless. The courage of a mind that has not yet had to comprehend pain. I get entangled with my friend’s pedals and we tumble to the ground together in a laughing heap. We are not afraid. Broken bones, blood, death—they are not for us.

We are young and wild and will go where the night takes us. There are no alarms to set, nor places to be. The only rule is curfew and even that can be overcome with pleading and promises.

We long to grow, to explore, to see the world. We yearn to cast off the tight, constricting skin of our upbringing and be so much more. So impatient are we to be released, that we don’t yet realise that these playful years, roaming free under a summer sky, are among the best we will ever know.

We are sending our roots deep into the ground, laying the foundations to hold us securely, when the storms of life howl around us. We never imagine that we will return here often during our adventures beyond, in dreams and memories, seeking exactly what our youth sought to escape—family, contentment, safety.

We don’t yet understand that whatever far off corner of the world we find ourselves, regardless of the people we meet and love along the way, our hearts will always long for the familiar laughter of someone who has grown with us and those sounds of summer, drifting over the back fence.

There’s no place like home.

adventure · Spiritual · Travel

Discovering India’s magic through it’s own eyes

Read my original article here on elephant journal

 

‘One photo madam, just one photo.’

Another day in India.

This particular morning finds me at the Taj Mahal, enthralled in the splendour of the marble dome shimmering gently in the reflecting pool. The heat pursues me relentlessly as I shade my eyes against the cloudless sky. I feel peaceful here.

No one knows me, and I rejoice in that freedom.

Locals pass me by, not bothering to avert their dark eyes from my strange face. Their curiosity radiates openly and they whisper to one another in magical tongues.

They form a line to have a picture with me. I’m a little embarrassed, giggling nervously. I’ll never understand what the fascination is for them. They reach out to touch my fair skin and gesture to my light eyes. I nod and smile and long to climb inside their heads and understand their world; a kaleidoscope of colours, sounds and aromas to explore.

A world where a blue-eyed girl is worthy of queuing, like some kind of movie star.

I wonder what they would think of me if they could know me as a person. One with thoughts and problems and dreams just like them. Would they view me differently through those mysterious eyes?

I smile obligingly beside each of them as my ‘paparazzi’ have their fill. Their wide grins dazzle me and I find myself wondering where my photo will end up. Perhaps I will live for eternity, trapped in a dust-covered frame among the gods and relics of this strange land. Perhaps I will be dragged out of old boxes to be shown to future grandchildren; the day Papa met the British girl, standing in awe in the shadow of the Taj.

I find my friends as the sun begins its decent from heaven, blazing a hot red fire in its wake. We retreat to the outer walls to admire the way the light plays on the glimmering roof, bathing us all equally in its purifying glow. Poverty, dirt, death are transformed for that brief time. Everything is beautiful for a while.

We buy a coke from a bustling street vendor, and are told not to go off too far. He wants the glass bottle back for the next customer. I don’t let myself think about where the ancient bottle has been during its battered life, or how he is washing them. I just enjoy the cold bubbles washing away the day’s dust from my mouth.

Kids run around us, playing, pushing, shouting. Hands outstretched, they smile shyly as they ask for money in a strange tongue. They rub their tummies to show me they are hungry and my heart melts. I want to stroke their tousled hair and wipe the grime from their tiny faces. I want to love them for a while and show them that the world can be a better place.

I reach into my pocket to give a few rupees, and my friend stops me, shaking her head. I’m confused. She crouches down to eye level with the little girl in front of us; speaking to her in an urgent tone, in words I cant follow. She reaches into her bag and pulls out a packet of biscuits. She hands her a couple and then sends her skipping on her way.

‘Most of the little ones give the money straight to their parents, who send them out to beg.’ she tells me. She always carries food instead to give to them. It’s a good tip, and I decide to do the same from now on.

Darkness creeps in now as the sun peeks out from the horizon. The dusk sees us running across a deserted moor, laughing breathlessly, whooping into the nothingness. Grassy wasteland as far as the eye can see, dry yellow stalks crunching under our feet. My friend is cracking a whip he bought from a street seller, trying to make the same satisfying snapping noise that the vendor could coax out of it.

A figure swathed in orange robes beckons us towards him with a withered old hand. He grips a gnarled staff in the other. He looks at us with a cheeky grin, and poses for photos with us, a cataract creeping across one of his eyes like spilt milk. We take it in turns, looking into the camera, arms firmly around our new friend.

I smile to myself as I realise we are ending the day as I began it, capturing memories through another’s eyes.

grief · love · Spiritual · Wellness

Beating the grey clouds

You can find my original article on elephant journal here

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The dark clouds of misery suffocate me.

They suck the colour from my life, banish the light. It feels like I am losing the essence of who I am inside; that I will never be happy again.

I wrestle with urge to give up and let despair take me. Surrender to the agony of grief. What more can it take from me? I have nothing left to give its greedy strangling hands when they creep into my nightmares.

Fighting the dark clouds is a battle that rages daily. I fight for the motivation to crawl out of my warm bed each morning to confront the punishing dawn. Choosing what to wear feels like scaling Everest and the very thought of talking to people leaves my stomach in a hot tight knot.

The voices in my head tell me that I can’t do it, and I whimper and cringe apologetically before them—I believe them.

On those days I ache to be soothed. To regain the strength I need to put one foot in front of the other. It’s hard to know where to start.

Slowly, I’m identifying the methods that help me banish the dark clouds when they descend. And on the days where I have no fight left in my battered body, they give me a place to curl up safe to weather the storm until it passes.

I want to share these with you in the hope that they might help you find your own light in the darkness. And if you have suggestions that work for you, I would also love to hear them.

1. The Ocean

Nothing equals the peace that quietens my soul whilst watching the swell and fall of the ocean. The understanding that we are all part of something bigger and more powerful than our tiny lives is truly humbling.

I am forced to submit to the constant churn of the deep, and there is a comfort in that surrender. I can no more deny my soul it’s happiness than I can stop the surf crashing onto the white sand, embracing each grain with the knowledge that the tide will eternally shift, and they will never have this moment together again.

I close my eyes and listen to the melody of unrelenting waves, a constant in a world of unknowns. I listen to birds calling and how their freedom echoes in the early morning calm. My heartbeat slows and my mind clears.

The sea breeze caresses my hair like the gentlest lover soothing me to sleep. I let it blow away the cobwebs of indecision. The salt erodes anger, sadness, and pain. I let the darkness soar away, a kite sailing on the soft wind.

Perhaps I’m alone on that beach. Eyes fixed on the sapphire horizon, knees drawn to chest, toes digging into wet sand. Perhaps I allow someone I love to share the moment. Maybe I let them hold me, without talking, but breathing in the magic with me and letting my tears rain gently onto their chest.

A lifeline in the depths of the darkest place I tread, tethering me back to the light. Maybe they can’t follow where I go, and maybe I’m too heavy for them to pull back right now, but I know that they hold me safely. I know that their strength answering my weak tug promises a place where the sun shines still, awaiting my return, when I’m ready.

‘The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.’ ~ Isak Dinesen

2. Tea

As a child my mother made me tea every morning and every evening without fail. I remember the first few times feeling like a real grown up, being allowed to drink out of one of her beautiful cups, adorned with gold leaf and vibrant flowers. The flavour didn’t matter as much as sharing a moment with someone I adored

I came to know tea as part of my daily ceremony, to help me face the morning, and to discuss the going-ons of the day before bed. Opening my heart to my mum in order to make sense of the world, as the hot liquid gold spread comfort through my entire body.

Even now, aged 29, tea makes me a small child snuggled up next to my mum. There’s no situation that a cup of English breakfast can’t make better. Shared socially with friends from the same cherished pot, or being brought a cup in bed to tell you that you are loved.

Photo: David Leggett on Flickr.

In times of grief, pressing small shivering hands against the warmth of the mug reminds you that you are still alive. I don’t remember how many cups of tea I made when I lost my stepfather, but I do know that the ritual brought me normalcy and hope for the future. For where there is tea, there is another day dawning, and another morning where I will wake and face the world once again.

‘Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.’ ~ Chaim Potok

3. Baths

Foamy Bubbles. Lots of them. Water as hot as I can manage before my skin blisters, run to overflowing. Lights out, candles flickering gently, a book and of course, tea.

I sink into that blissful pool of deliciousness and feel no guilt. No sense of time. No thoughts of housework, or to-do lists. I listen to music, or I don’t. Read, or don’t. I close my eyes. Dream. Let the water wash away the heartache, the resentment, the suffering. It sinks below the surface, trapped in rainbow bubbles. Later it will be sucked into the plughole, gone forever.

I feel my muscles relax in the heat and admire my body where it peeks out at me from its soapy landscape. I appreciate how my skin shines in the wet and let my hair drift like seaweed, embracing my inner mermaid.

Baths cleanse my soul from the outside in, taking me back to my happier self. Having the bathroom window open to let the cool breeze contrast with my warm body has been one of my favourite sensations since childhood. It evokes memories of carefree summers and long light evenings. No responsibilities yet, and no scar of loss.

I remind myself that showers are practical and baths are luxurious. And also that I deserve that luxury when I am hurting. I set up a shrine to my inner water goddess and let her sparkle.

4. Good Friends

Cliché? Maybe. But where would I be without them today? I’ve closed up shop and boarded my windows to the pain that prowls close by. Yet still my friends wait outside, patiently. They sit on the doorstep swinging their legs. Sometimes they slip a note under the door to let me know they are still there. They demand nothing. Not even a response. But they wait.

Sometimes they play just next-door so that I can enjoy their laughter from afar and not be left behind. And when I peek out of a gap in the panelled wood of my mind, they turn and they smile at me—the kind of smile that only a true friend can give you. A ‘Hey, I’m so pleased to see you,’ and a ‘No we don’t have to talk about a thing, or even try to fix it. We can just sit here and be’ kind of smile.

The hard days are a gift in disguise because they let us know these friends exist. And that it’s ok not to be ok. I reach out to these angels when I can. Sometimes I do it even when I am exhausted with the world, because they remind me that they think I am wonderful.

They prove to me that I am not as broken as I think I am. They show me, again and again, that though it may be different to what I once knew, one day, the world will be a beautiful place to be once again.

adventure · grief · love · Poetry · Spiritual · Travel · Wellness

Heart Song (Poem)

 

She sits alone with pain and listens to her heart song.

Its echoes in her soul, subdued these days, unused to being heard over the din of her ordinary life.

It speaks of brilliant waterfalls that splash turquoise-hued rainbows over the world and make it new again.

It tells of enchanted forests, where life flourishes, if you know just where to look.

It whispers of fairies dancing in clearings untouched by human hand or eye.

It yearns for the places where sunlight cannot reach. Dappled beams through ancient branches, faces etched into trees, watching her, waiting for her life to start.

The shackles of the corporate world burn into her ankles, making her cry out.

Salty tears come in ocean waves. Tears she could drown in.

They were supposed to be temporary binds

To anchor her whilst she learned, which way to travel in this world,

But over time, they grew tighter,

Curbing the flow of magic to her heart, strangling the dreams of childhood innocence.

She deceives herself for a while.

Convinces her brain that this is a path, as good as any. Respectable.

Successful by someone’s definition.

She shines, because she always does. It’s expected.

Prizes she doesn’t care for, honours that cant hold her attention for long.

Tight prison walls of expectation hold her tightly with iron grip.

The cruel and painful grasp of accomplishment.

Her sparkle dims with every passing year, her soul retreating softly away.

She screams inside and begs someone to hear her.

No one does. Only she can save herself.

What happened to the girl, who dreamed of African plains

Stretching endless into the abyss?

Of the majesty of lions roaring in the darkness to dangers unknown,

Of the burning setting of the sun, lighting the world’s colours for all to see,

What happened to the girl, who longed for adventure?

For passion and frenzy in the heat of a moment,

Decisions felt with the heart, not made with the head.

What of the girl, whose words want to dance across pages?

Giving graceful glimpses of her soul to those who dare to read.

Sometimes the words bruise like stones as they tumble out of her mind

So intense that she can barely breathe until she has expelled them.

Where is she now?

She wants the intensity.

She wants the pain because it shows her she can feel.

That she is alive.

She wants the life less ordinary. And she wants it to begin now.

 

Originally published on elephant journal here