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.



/ BY

The lighting of candles plays a significant part in my daily life. Each morning I stumble out of bed and fire up a tea-light. I’ve been doing it for so long that it has become a reflex, though none-the-less potent because of that. I have places in each room where candles sit and get lit. I am prone to making altars, if indeed this is what they are, wherever I go. Even an airport hotel on the way to somewhere else gets a little nod from this habit of mine.

Everyday, I light many candles. I go through a lot of tea lights, and make a quarterly trip to Ikea to bring them home a thousand at a time. As I write this from Bed-World (which is sometimes the whole world), a little flame illuminates stones in a glass pot, the face of Buddha in wood, two pictures of the sea, two of Leonard Cohen, and a drawing of Leonard The Dog by a friend.

I am talking about my relationship with burning candles because I want to speak about death and gratitude. These little flames infuse both. I’m always offering up candles. This one is for Catherine’s mother. I don’t know Catherine’s mother, but she’s dying and Catherine is walking with her mother until she has to let her go. So I send some light to them. I often have multiple prayers burning brightly – in amongst my stones and pictures.

I will remember the summer of 2018, not only for the extreme and unusual heat but for the death and gratitude that marked it.

My friend Jayne took her life in July. She was utterly defeated by her depression. She tried so hard to fix herself and get rid of what felt ‘other’, spending months on a psychiatric ward and trying every combination of drug protocol. For a couple of months, during this hospitalization, I was in almost daily contact with her. We had long text conversations and some calls where she was desperate. I was one of the people Jayne didn’t need to explain depression to – and that has value when you’re in the belly of the beast. I’m no expert on anyone’s depression except for my own, and I couldn’t tell her if hers would go or stay. I could only tell her about my own experience of falling into the Fields of Kindness when everything else had failed. If I could have carried her there, I would have.

When all else failed for Jayne, she took herself into the woods and after building a nest under some foliage, she took an overdose of drugs.

You might say, where’s the gratitude in that story?

Jayne’s death ripped a jagged hole into the fabric of her family. Her mother, her sisters and her partner are ravaged by losing her. And… and, yet there is peace and simplicity too. The way Jayne chose and actioned her own death touched me beyond any easy description. I could feel a gentleness and grace in how she laid herself down in that cradle, the earth. I could feel simplicity in her decision and I trusted it. I’m grateful for that. I am grateful for Jayne’s precious life, that she was in this world and I was blessed to know her. I am grateful to have known her in her joy, and, yes, I am grateful to have known her in her hell on earth.

Many candles have been lit and burned down to nothing, for Jayne, and all of us that loved her. During our hot, hot summer, a schnauzer called Dennis also died. I didn’t know him personally. He lived in North Devon with his people, and yet he touched so many, so far and so wide.

I belong to two communities on Facebook, over and above the community of my personal friends. One is my Leonard Cohen family and the other is Schnauzer World. Both are exquisite. When I say exquisite, I mean open-hearted, generous, hilarious, inclusive and above all else, kind. Dennis was our hero in Schnauzer World. He made it to eighteen years, and all of us Schnauzer people were cheering him on. When he started to have seizures, we sent him enough love to change the world. Then there was the CBD oil intervention. He rallied beautifully for a while, and, then he was done. After all, in dog years he was a hundred and twenty-six. He died while on a camping trip in the glory of nature, with the kind earth beneath and his dog brothers and human family by his side.

I grant you it’s easier to see the gratitude in this story. A whole childhood, beloved, adored and then slipping back into the mystery in an actual field of kindness. But, for me, with my bedroom altar crowded with candles for Jayne and for Dennis, I was filled with gratitude for all of it. Death is in everything, and when we’re done, we’re done, if it be at a hundred and twenty-six, forty-eight, or barely born at all.

I have always felt death as a friend. Even way back, in the violent self-destruction of my little history, buried in the chaos was my kinship with death. The manner of a death can be horrifying, but I believe the doorway of death is a separate thing.

I don’t buy any of the afterlife theories. I think we are gone, and that gone-ness, the no-thing-ness of it all, calls me like a siren. I don’t think we are reincarnated over and over until we learn everything (perish the thought) and I don’t believe there will be a line-up of all our dead, welcoming us through the gates to heaven. All that is too complicated for me. I am hoping for the radical simplicity of Nothing.

A few days after Dennis died, one of our group snapped a picture of a cloud in our bright blue sky. It was very distinctly a Schnauzer flying. That I believe in. Sometimes, as the autumn notes come in and our heatwave summer feels like a bit of a dream, just as I drift off to sleep at night, I see Jayne dancing like she did at my fiftieth birthday party.

I cannot face into any death without the taste of gratitude filling my mouth and throat. To finish as I started, with the candle rituals – every Sunday I light a tapered candle, sometimes but not always, blue, and say: thank you, Life, for another week.


A Breath Before Sixty


Photo credit: Elainea Emmott

I am so very grateful to
for their unstinting generosity, kindness and support to my writing. I was chivied to get on with this one, and I had to or the doorway to write it would have closed. Thank you for the chivying.

Here is my intake of breath before sixty.


/ BY

My hair is grey.

I return from my hairdresser having had the last bits of colour chopped out.  I’m now sporting a choppy, silver and pepper pot, topknot, not entirely dissimilar from my beloved dog.

I don’t fully understand the impulse to grow out the colour, which had me ditch the hair dye in April. I knew it was related to my sixtieth birthday, which is now a mere two weeks away. I wanted to see my hair. I had been using colour for fifteen years, ever since my hairline started to grey.

It wasn’t anything clichéd about aging and grey hair, that drove this. It hasn’t been comfortable at some points during the process, seeing the half in, half out thing going on, on a daily basis. Now I’m here. My hair is grey and I’m surprised by the strength of my feeling. Oh. I say to myself in the bathroom mirror. Hello.

I limp and lurch towards my ‘big birthday’ not only as a metaphor, but literally, as I’m long overdue for back surgery. Limping and lurching is what I do – though, my bulging discs notwithstanding – it is a blessed relief to understand that stumbling, staggering and lurching, is the human condition of our little lives. My own little life has become much sweeter, since giving up on getting life right.


Caroline Bobby by Elainea Emmott
Caroline Bobby by Elainea Emmott

The shoreline. The beginning of being old: to my way of seeing it, anyway. No, I am not the new forty. I am not still middle aged. I am averse to ageing euphemisms.

My mother died, just days after her sixtieth birthday. She was bitterness and sorrow as an art form, and I never really understood how that came to pass. I was on the other side of the world, caught up in my own version of sorrow and bewilderment. We were estranged for years. Her death coincided – although I wasn’t to know it for quite some time – with the death rattle of my addiction. No coincidence. I was so nearly dead myself, on my knees in the shadows of Sydney’s yellowest sun. My mother died and I stayed alive.

Thirty years ago: half my little life ago.  And, here I am with my grey hair, having somehow descended into tenderness. I wish my mother and I had had more time together, an opportunity to see if there was any other way to dance our dance. It was a brutal dance and I needed kindness like a desert landscape needs water. I nearly died of thirst. I believe that is exactly what she died of – she was latched on to the breast of death, and didn’t ever get to know there was another place to drink from.

Twenty years ago, when I was in therapy and starting to interpret past events, I went to the graveyard on the edge of Dartmoor where she’s buried and lay down on her grave. It was a pilgrimage of sorts, though I was making it up as I went along. I didn’t know what I was doing or why, but I managed to trust the imperative. If it were physically easier (those discs again), I’d go back there now to lie on the ground that holds her body. A mother and daughter, with a hundred and twenty years between them: thirty of them in this world at the same time.

This turning a new decade, it has some juice. As an exquisitely understated friend of mine would say – ‘it’s not nothing’.

Credit: Elainea Emmott
Credit: Elainea Emmott

I don’t have any recollection of reaching ten except for a tiny, waft of unease. Neither do I remember a twentieth birthday, which was undoubtedly due to drugs and alcohol. Turning thirty was the milestone of my life. I don’t remember anything at all with my conscious mind, but almost dead from self-hatred and drugs, I finally turned my face towards this human world.

Ten years later, I celebrated becoming forty around a table with friends. I had a profession: psychotherapy, and a partner. I was trying to force myself into an idea of myself and it was only a partial success.

By fifty, I had escaped the partial partnership and some internalized constraint. I had found and then lost again, the love of my life and the daughter we called in. I had a proper party with catering and dancing and wore a sea green dress. It seems so long ago.


With a light, yet serious touch, I’ve dedicated a few ritual acts of love and kindness towards this birthday. In May, I went on a pilgrimage to Hydra, the Greek island where Leonard Cohen lived, wrote and loved. More recently, I commissioned a photo shoot. At home with Leonard The Dog and Bebe The Cat. Family life. Love.

Credit: Elainea Emmott

And, it was not nothing – to see the sweetness and comedy I live inside, from the outside.

These last ten years I have been winding myself home. Many things I’d thought I needed, turned out not to matter much. I found the Fields of Kindness and Simplicity. I discovered they had been here all the time. I had been here all the time.

I wonder what the next decade of me, and of this wailing world will be. I’m viewing my personal next decade through the lens of no real appetite for more than that. My sense of having the capacity for another ten years, but not much more, is clear as a mountain stream. No drama. Nothing complicated or ambivalent. Just its ring of truth. And, of course I know ideas, beliefs and passions change, so I’m not gripping on too tightly.

I am trusting my own precious heart. If this is my last decade, I’ll do the very best I can with it.

If you are wondering about why a person might ‘only have another decade to give or to live’, I can only say I’m very tired. I’ve been tired all my life. Living with depression is tiring. I’ve been dragging myself through the days of my life, and while I finally fell from the self-violence that came down through my mother’s line, into something like Grace, it will always be heavy. Dragging the heavy is wearing and I am worn.

The thing is, all of this is gentle. I did, eventually get home to that precious heart I mentioned. The fact that it took a long time, and that in many ways I’m ready to go now, just makes me smile. Maybe I’ll make it to seventy. Maybe I won’t. If I do, and still feel like this, I’ll be writing about ending my life. If I get to seventy and don’t feel like this, I’ll be writing about that instead.

Depression and weary aside, I know I don’t want to be old, old. Seventy feels doable. More than that feels dangerous. We don’t hold old age with compassion and respect in these broken systems of our government. I am crystal clear I don’t want to spend my last years in that system. Unequivocally not.

So, here I am, stumbling sweetly towards my sixtieth birthday, which incidentally I’m celebrating by going on a Death Retreat. I tell people, and they mostly grin at the perfect pitch of it. So very me, and so very lovely to be seen and understood in my deepest longings.

As Leonard (Cohen)would say:

And here is your love
For all things.

And here is your love
For all of this

May everyone live,
And may everyone die.
Hello, my love,
And my love, Goodbye.