A song lives in Leonard.
It is most particular,
not from his belly nor lungs,
yet informed by breath.

The sound tenderness makes,
love distilled to spirit.
Sometimes, I imagine this world
without Leonard in it.

Terror and heart merge,
fell me to my knees.
I stay down there
until I can open again.

Sometimes when I lay on the Table of Mercy
in the skilful hands of my osteopath,
the same noise happens in my throat.
I am reminded of how he lives in me,

In my blood and bones,
and in my very own throat song.
I do wonder if somewhere, just out of sight,
he might be writing a poem about me.


(with gratitude and love to Rose Rouse for her editorial support, and for so much more)




It has been a bit of a time.

These last few weeks have thrown me through the air and spun me round.

I was slow cooking something, writing wise, and I knew a few things about it. That is was called THIS and why it was.

And then Life really overthrew me, and This was not going down the writing enquiry I had in mind… and yet it was still This.

Sometimes I have to surrender, and for me surrender is another word for trust. I had to trust this uncooked, unplanned, unthought through, most crucial of all, undefended piece of writing, because it was part of a cry for help.

I wrote a letter and posted on FB. I also sent it via email to some people who don’t use FB. I did the very best I could, to not play any games, not to be clever or defended, or anything except real. It is one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done, just because there was nowhere to hide (nor should there be) but the feeling of that itself, was exposing beyond anything I’d ever experienced.

The outcome, as many of you know, was so overwhelmingly kind, generous and fast, that within a few hours I was able to ask my surgeon when was the soonest he could do my spinal procedure in his private clinic. I already had been given enough money for the basic fee. He couldn’t believe how loved I was. I couldn’t quite take in how loved and cherished I was.

I had some epic surgery, under the most optimum conditions, great team, great, tip-top notch theatre, no time pressure because there was no queue of people needing to be fitted in behind me. My lower back has been restructured, architecture and engineering has happened. It will take some time and patience, but the very worst post op pain is over, and I can feel the new story in my body beginning. My body is hopeful to such a degree, it is only through that that I really grasp how much hope I had deeply given up.

So, this is an epic tale of good fortune, of love, generosity and kindness. Many people who gave so much were friends and friends of friends, but some were strangers. Are any of us really strangers? Really? There was a moment when 2 transfers came into my bank adjacent to one another. One for £3 and the other for £3000. Both people really were strangers. And absolutely not strangers. At that level, to quote the great and lovely Ram Dass: we are all walking each other home… and we are all in in together. If only, only, more of us could crack open to the truth of that…. My longing for this for us, especially for those of us caught up in very oppositional positioning, is fierce. My tiny life is a prayer for that…

Anyway, back to the original cooking of THIS.

A while ago. A year or so, ago, I was talking to Colin. Colin is a lovely human. A fellow traveller, and in the weirdness of certain things, he also my boss. I have a little job looking after the front line responding, and behind that, administrating for the lovely work he does with his partner in life and work, Fanny Behrens. It’s called Movement of Being.

It’s such a privilege, being their front line, and behind holding, of their radically simple work that mostly happens in small groups.

So, on this occasion of conversing with Colin, I asked what Adam calls his work. I don’t know Adam and may never meet him. He is completely off the grid so it quite fruitless looking for him, and yet I do feel him… humming down through the lineage of teachers, and friends, just as I felt Fanny and Colin, long before I met them, through their students, my teacher’s teachers and friends…. I sent Fanny a card once, expressing gratitude for their work, even though we’d never met, and may never do so. Later I got to find out it lived on her dresser for quite a long time. These beautiful things we often never know, about the ways we touch each other.

So, Colin says to me, what I heard as THIS. Actually, he’d said, This Movement. The vagaries of going slightly deaf, getting old, losing pieces of ourselves along the road.  For ages afterward I thought Adam’s work was called THIS. I fell in love with this man I may never meet, because his gig was called THIS. How distilled is that?

It is always, always, This. I fight with this, I rage at it and refuse it, and sometimes love This so much I try and hang on to it with all my might. But This is here and then it’s gone. Over and over This is just simple and true… and I find great, deeply embracing comfort in this, THIS-NESS.

Of course, I forget, and remember again, and can only part pray and part muscle build, growing a bit stronger with practice in remembering the simple principle of THiS.

I grew up learning the alright and not all-right model. It wasn’t explicitly called that, but I learned it deep in my bones. It coloured and shaped every single beat and pulse of becoming.  Baby boned me learned shame for almost every ordinary human experience: needing things, having feelings, taking up space, asking for help, making a mess, bodily functions, wanting to be seen, heard…. What I really learned was that I was never alright, and the only kind of welcome I experienced was if I was compliant. I learned compliance for a bit. And then I found rage. Rage at the seeming madness of the world, but mostly at my un-all-rightness. I learned a lot of ways to hurt myself. I almost died but couldn’t quite manage to let go of my little life.

A lot of things happened over the next thirty-plus years. A lot of healing happened. A lot moved, and a very deep thing stayed stuck. Depression is a funny word. Some object because it feels pathologizing and/or reductive. Personally, as one who recognises (now) that depression is her home address, it’s a helpful word if used in an expansive manner….

I became a therapist. Funny what takes some of us to this kind of work. I’ve done a lot of journeys, in pursuit of unsticking this thing about me I was making not-okay. Tantra, Amazonian plant medicine, inner child, cathartic work, personal guided channelled advice from beyond…. I started to feel defeated… there is a whole discourse in healing communities (I use the term loosely) about how we should be able to release and heal ourselves. In the end it felt tyrannical…. The tyranny of presence. The only thing I kept on trusting was dance, 5Rhythms et al. In the body was something true. In this practice was something trying to happen that I couldn’t so easily fuck up with my head. Poor head, trying so hard to work it all out

About the same time, four/five years ago, I started to give up on fixing myself, my depression, my failure. Sounds kind of soft, but it was awful and violent, and I was lost in the real, rather than theoretical experience, of there being nowhere else to go…. I can only write it like this, I fell. Falling happened. Not all at once, but fairly fast. It took my breath away, and I wondered if I was dying. I landed in what I have learned to call The Fields of Kindness, and it was there that I first started to get a taste of THIS. What if there really wasn’t anything to fix, to make wrong or right? Just This. Welcome or unwelcome. Easy or terrible.

Alongside the Fields of Kindness were the Fields of Simplicity. So much kindness and simplicity, just waiting for me to get there. Homecoming happened. Truly. How long it can take to make that journey when the beginning was rough as fuck and no-one knew how to show you those Fields of kindness or simplicity, never mind a doorway called THIS.

I could, if I were a linier bird, write a whole piece about the last couple of years, and the physical pain, and my enquiry about staying in, or leaving the world. But, I’m not a linier bird, and as I recover from my recent, rather miraculous surgery, waiting to see what the outcome will be, all I can say is that, that’s a riff and ramble for another day.

THIS this, is Sunday, on my beloved bed with Leonard the dog, some post op pain, some cracked open heart, interspersed with some head fuck about wanting to hang on to cracked open and knowing that nothing stays still, and that in all the welcoming and falling, I have learned that even if I drop in to the darkest places, luminosity still rolls through the darkness of rock face, and the stars are down there too. It’s the THIS-NESS of trusting that comes and goes: forgotten and remembered again.


Forgetting (again)


I keep forgetting what I know
I don’t mean the knowing my brain cells know
or the kind that’s hidden in oblique reference books

it’s the knowing that my breath knows
literally, my breath knows
and it’s ridiculously simple
stupidly, heartbreakingly
to give up struggling with this moment
to let go
or even relax

what if relaxing has less to do with spa-days
and more to do with the radical acceptance
of this moment
over and over, through the course of a little life?

oh my, how I wring my hands
and make a pig’s ear out of forgetting
what I know in my breath

I forget
to give up the struggle,
the bargaining and raging
I forget to draw breath slowly
into the pulsing meat of me
and unclench my jaw
and say: Fuck This
I don’t want this
I want that

And then laughing happens
roaring, messy, unhygienic laughing
that might well be crying at the same time
and I remember that I am not only weight and pain
Not only, anything

Tiny moments return me to myself
falling into the heart of a peony
sweet, sour, dog breath kisses
the linen sheets that hold my opiate dreams
texts from the ones who forgive my disappearances
and love me anyway


I remember what I know
in the sweet, simple mystery
of breathing|
I bow
I touch my forehead to the kindness of ground
(which is a relatively easy manoeuvre if you live on your knees)

I say thank you to Life
and apologise in advance
for the inevitable forgetting
up ahead






1460 Days with Leonard



Oh my, I am depressed
You might well say, what’s new
I might well say that too

I’ve supersized up, I’ve got
depressed with extra fries

I’m looking for a love song
for Leonard

Depressed has got my tongue
my eyelids can’t go on
I am on a respirator
though you might not see that
at first glance

Just a crooked woman
with a beautiful dog
Searching her muffled heart
for a way to thank him





For something like a second


The thing about depression as I know it, is that even though it’s baseline, home address stuff, there is also a spectrum of depressed.  The heaviest of heavy is when I’m furthest away from the Fields of Kindness.

I seem to be caught in this distance and weight.  I know the fields have got me, but I don’t feel the Grace. That’s weird conceptually, because it’s a blessing to know I am held in this cradle of Grace, even if I don’t feel anything.  Without this knowledge, even if academic, it’s a whole different story.

When I say, don’t feel anything, I mean anything tender. The light doesn’t slip through the cracks and I am trapped in Sylvia’s Bell Jar, like a half dead insect.

On this end of the spectrum, I murder every opportunity to find my ravaged heart again. I don’t listen to music or raise my face towards the sun. I keep my head down and the shutters closed. Even though I am longing for a beat of tender, I won’t let anything touch me.

This morning, whilst getting out of bed and into another day, instead of listening to the woes of the world on Radio4, I turned on my IPod. The complete body of Leonard Cohen’s work, on shuffle, while Leonard the Dog watches me get dressed.

Joan of Arc comes riding through the dark. The young Leonard is singing in my bedroom, forty-seven years on from when I first heard this song. The Bell Jar cracks and the light comes in.

Then the old man Leonard is singing, Light as the Breeze. Thank you, I mumble, to the angels that shuffle the songs. This is one you won’t know if you don’t know Mr. Cohen well. It wasn’t a big hit, and no one is ever going to cover it on a singing show.

I especially love it for the collision of sacred erotic and dark human, comedy. Only Leonard could write a song like this. A devotional hymn to giving oral sex to a lover, woven into the ways we can lose, and maybe find one another again in long relationships.

She stands before you naked
you can see it, you can taste it,
and she comes to you light as the breeze.
Now you can drink it or you can nurse it,
it don’t matter how you worship
as long as you’re
down on your knees.
So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
at the cradle of the river and the seas.

O baby I waited
so long for your kiss
for something to happen, oh something like this.

And you’re weak and you’re harmless
and you’re sleeping in your harness
and the wind going wild
in the trees,
and it ain’t exactly prison
but you’ll never be forgiven
for whatever you’ve done
with the keys.

As well as the sheer pleasure of Leonard, the personal gift in this song, today in my bedroom, too far from the Field’s of Kindness, is this. To be reminded that for something like a second, I’m healed and my heart is at ease.

So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
I knelt there like one who believes.
And the blessings come from heaven
and for something like a second
I’m healed and my heart
is at ease


Kitchen Mojo


Last week I made a small exception to my socially reclusive ways. My dear and patient friend, Rose, got me out of my house and into another friend’s house. A gathering to celebrate two birthdays, and Life itself. Women who laugh and cry about it all, with great gusto. There was food and drink, and the hot tub in the garden for after dinner.

I wasn’t in the mood. I wasn’t going to stay long. It’s been a few gatherings since I was able to get my failing body into Suzanne’s hot tub. Though it is perhaps worth mentioning, that the last time I did, it was for a live streamed, Facebook discussion about death.

By the time evening comes, any capacity I have for sitting is done. I’ve made it through another day by 5pm. Mostly I say no to invitations out. I know how to take care of myself in this condition. It just isn’t very relational, unless you’re the dog or cat of the house. I have a whole world on my lovely bed. Project BedWorld. It has taken some efforts, but I have to say I’ve done a marvellous job. It is the place I can get as comfortable as is possible in this body. I have cushions, pillows, linen and velvets (yes, I am a sensualist).


This is the place I am yearning to be returned to, as I lurch around the festive table, casting (in my worst case paranoia) a shadow across proceedings. These women, who forgive me and care for me, spontaneously start a riff about food I have cooked in the past.

Do you remember the little tarts for Rose’s book launch?
The tiny cheesecakes?
The raspberry and vodka truffles…

Unexpected grief stabs me in the heart. I have so utterly lost my kitchen mojo that I’ve spent the last year eating ready meals for dinner. And, after what felt like a revelation that this body is never going to be able to manage big food gigs again, I gave two boxes of baking paraphernalia away on a neighbourhood forum.

My cooking was an intimate business. I’d forgotten how tender that can be. My friends were showing me that even if I forget, I am still held in the narrative of what has been, and what has been so alive. I faintly recall myself saying: this is part of how I make love in the world. My mission statement for Carolina Cooks.

Today I made biscuits. A lot of biscuits. My heart shaped signature biscuits. Fig and coffee, and chocolate with chilli. I had to push myself hard to make this happen. If you asked me why, I’d be hard pushed for a coherent answer. Something to do with the grief, and something to do with a kind of discipline. Not a sadistic kind of discipline, but more as practice. Showing up on the dance floor anyway.

I didn’t get much obvious pleasure from baking my hearts. I made a rookie mistake with the glaze on the chocolate chilli. My body has forgotten some of what it knows without thinking. Now I have to scrape glaze off, tweak and reapply. I’m sure there’s a metaphor here.

I’m finding that my depression, informed by unforgiving back pain, is not a forgiving place. I know the Fields of Kindness are holding me and all of this. I know it in my bones, and my gratitude is legion. It’s just, well, I miss myself softer and less clenched.

I’m looking for a softer and less clenched way to sign off  this postcard. If I listen to my teachers, I remember that I’m here already, clenched and all.






Hello darkness my old friend…


‘Hello darkness, my old friend… ‘

It is not so much that I’ve had a break from my depression. It didn’t go anywhere. It lives in the air that I push and pull through my lungs. It is weight in my bones and blood.

Rather than having a sabbatical from depression as I know it, I’ve been engaged with acute physical pain. Physical pain and emotional pain are dysfunctional bed-fellows, co-dependent even. It’s easy to not know the wood from the trees.

I’ve lived with back pain for a very long time, but depression was here first. Depression was here from the start; in the umbilical cord. In the bones and blood of my mother, and more than likely in the bones and blood of hers.

Pain in the body: it’s been so long that I only faintly remember there was a time before. My back/hip/leg pain, has been lurching  and stumbling though the days of my little life. I learned to mange pain with a combination of medicine and prayer. It was something of a beast, and it was slowly but surely getting worse each year that turned.

About two years back, almost overnight it seemed, the pain jack-knifed up to acute. Unlike previous acute episodes, it never dropped back down to what I called ‘chronic severe’ and had found a way to live with.

This was another country. It took a lot out of me and from me. It brought new meaning to my experience of survival. It changed something in my relationship with my own baseline depression. Like I said, it didn’t go anywhere. Yet the pain in my body was such a constant bellowing, that I had nowhere else to be except in the bellow of it.  A brutal teaching of ‘being here like this’ which as some of you know, is one of my favorite songs.

On several occasions during this period, I said that full on, unadulterated depression as my home address, would be like respite, a beach holiday… I shouldn’t have said that. On several occasions, I have been thrown face down on the ground by a tsunami of depression as I know it in my bones and blood. It breaks through the physicality of things you can see on an MRI scan and discuss with an orthopeadic surgeon. It takes the wind out of my sails. It tears the sails from the mast. It takes me right down into the darkest rock and earth, where I have forgotten that in this unremitting darkness there are silver threads of luminosity and light.

It seems to be tsunami season.

Maybe, because I have just had back surgery, and though my legs are better, my hips and groin are still bellowing. Maybe, because it took so long to get to that surgery and all sorts of magical thinking and voodoo were tangled up in my hopes and prayers. Maybe it is just tsunami season, or the great comedian in the sky is having a laugh at my beach holiday, throwaway line.

I’m simply, brutally depressed as I know it in my bones and blood. Waking up in the morning, even with Leonard to dog kiss my defeated eyes, is brutal. I remember that I’ve written a few riffs about brutal mornings, and wonder how many ways there are to write that same old song?

And, this is me writing it again. I wish I wrote more. Writing helps me remember my name, and that I have a little place in this brutal and beautiful world. It is a silver beam of light in a dark place. It is how I stay alive. It is how I find my way back to the Fields of Kindness when I forget again, that they hold me anyway.

Writing is a tonic. I wish I did it more. And, though I don’t really play the New Year Resolution, game, there is a a whisper in the bedrock, in the fields, in the stillness and the noise, in that pile of gorgeous notebooks people keep gifting me because they imagine me beavering away… a whisper I can only just hear, about writing more. This year. This life. Before I run out of breath.



Death & Gratitude



I’m so grateful to my friends at https://advantagesofage.com for encouraging and chivvying my write. Special thanks to the very special Rose Rouse.

It is particularly poignant to be publishing this piece on the day another valiant friend’s funeral takes place in Paris. Another notch on the bedpost of depression, another precious person couldn’t stay in this world any longer.