Being Touched

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This morning I was touched by my own predicament. On my knees on the sheepskins, not exactly praying, but not exactly not praying, either. Somewhere between exiting bed and entering clothes… crawling into another day.

And, today, I was touched by my own predicament. Touched in the understood sense of touched. My heart ached with tenderness. Salt water pressed behind my eyes, and I felt my little self, through the cracks where the light slips in. I often feel nothing, and that’s a predicament of it’s own. To paraphrase Mr. Cohen: it might be empty but that doesn’t mean it’s light.

Recently, I was discussing ‘being touched’ with my friends. I have this sense of myself being touched, even when I can’t feel it. That idea, if it is an idea, sustains me. Underneath the crushing weight of depression on a daily basis, I am touched by Grace.

When I say Grace, I mean both the mystery and the exquisitely, ordinary things. I don’t quite know how it has come to pass, that I can feel touched when I can’t feel. It’s a peculiar thing and if I think about it too much, I make my head hurt. I just know it makes it possible to keep practicing welcoming rather than fixing, this thing called depression.

As Leonard writes:

You got me singing
Even tho’ the news is bad
You got me singing
The only song I ever had

Somehow, I have found the only song I ever had… and it makes it okay to be in the world like I am. More than okay, in fact. More like at home.

Oh, precious Life… merciful, unforgiving, holy, terrible, ravaged  and beautiful, Life… whatever am I going to do with You?

 

 

Today (so far)

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My strategies are slipping through my tired hands and it isn’t even 11am. I didn’t make it to morning Dog World, because I am buried so deeply inside the weight and darkness that my responses are in slow mo. A simple hello leaves me flailing like a fish on a hook, just trying to make a simple hello back. Where does my voice go? It’s the weirdest feeling, having to drag the syllables up from so far underground, that by the time they make it, the moment has long gone.

So, we went to the cemetery instead, where I don’t have conversations, or even fragments. More nods and mumbles in passing. It’s a different kind of Dog World with the dead and the trees.

If by chance I passed by Mr. Cohen on my heavy, footed circles round the graves, he would doff his hat and I would make the smallest inclination of my tired head. It’s one of those days. It often is.

I can’t go on but I do. And sometimes there is a lot of space around this paradox of my life… now is not such a time. Now. Right now, my lungs are too tired to try, and there is no space around the paradox of keeping going.

And I go on.

Elephant Day

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Walking to a London park with Leonard The Dog. Through gritted teeth and spikes of nameless fury, I am attempting to practice my Practice. Welcome… WECLOME… welcome… to this and this and this… I crack my jaw, doing a fair imitation of Munch’s Scream. I’m not sure if I’m getting some queer looks from passers by.

I am full to bursting with compressed and compacted anguish. I could burst. I really could. Burst.

Quite suddenly, I see, quite vividly, an elephant. Now, I’m not much prone to visuals. I am more a fragment of words sort of girl. But here, on the way to a London park , I am visited by an elephant. She’s lumbering and lurching in half circles, listing badly to the left. Do I have some trace memory of wildlife films? Have I seen an elephant do this? This elephant is clearly not okay. Her trunk is hopeless weight, her knees are buckling and she’s going down: a big, falling elephant in my minds eye on a London street.

I don’t even know about elephants. I don’t know if this is actually, factually, how one would fall. And the sound: Oh Lord, the sound of this elephant as she lists and lurches and falls… I don’t know if this is the true sound an elephant makes? Or just this one? This elephant inside me has been shot in the hip, or knee capped, or something quite inconceivable. Elephant depression. And, the sound of an elephant’s sorrow is too much for the ears or heart of a human, to tolerate.

Leonard The Dog is having a pee. Here I am on the way to a London park, having some kind of elephant breakdown and Leonard is cocking his leg up against a London wall.

I keep going. Dogs are good like that: good at moving forward. We walk and slowly my elephant bleeds back into the mystery. Now, at home in Bed World, tapping out an elephant report, I feel the tears behind my eyes. I see my own small endeavor to make postcards from my small sufferings, as the prayers for Mercy, that they are.

 

 

 

 

 

The Beat Goes On

 

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The thing about being a base line depressive, rather than an episodic one, is the weather conditions are relentlessly predictable. I’m thinking about this as I wrestle with another new day and the beginning of a new week, and I feel, as I often do, that I can’t go on.

So, I try and keep it simple and kind and practice what I preach. It’s just a precious little day, I say… a little day in my little life and I can make it through. And because it is so the same, and yet not the same, I find myself thinking about repetition and how over and over again I make the same moves. Every morning is a shock. Every morning I struggle mightily on the hook of waking up. Every morning I say no and life says yes.

In May 2015 I wrote this on Facebook:

Mornings take it out of me
The poems don’t work anymore

I’d like to wake up different
Like women in shampoo commercials
Especially the ones they shoot in Greece
I’d like to throw the shutters open
On that salty, blue, white world
And raise my face up to the sun

Here, in the Kindness of a London bedroom
I wake up wrestling with each new day
Watched over by Leonard The Dog

It describes a repetitive experience, in that it looks like this every morning. It is simply, just like this. And still, every time is new. This is the point I am groping and fumbling with in this postcard. Every time is new… those of you who are kind enough to read me will know I do return to the Morning Theme. Maybe I’ll always be writing riffs about mornings. Maybe the break of day is my muse.

I titled this postcard, The Beat Goes On, partly as a bow to my home/dance group that goes by the same name. And because the beat does go on, until it doesn’t for each of us… we go on doing the things we do, rolling on through life as life moves through us.I am grateful beyond measure to have washed up on the shores of tenderness and found a lot of human wreckage there. I am in good company. I am broken and whole. And the beat goes on, as my heart pumps life through my system and I fall through these days that are faster than they seem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Death & Longing

 

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A little riff on death and longing, published this morning by the marvellous http://advantagesofage.com

Dreaming of Death

 

The Only Song I Ever Had *

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This afternoon I came upon this riff from 2014. I find myself touched by how the song changes and doesn’t change, both at the same time. Both the old and the new, the new and the old. *As Leonard would say: the only song I ever had.

My little life is tired
It wants to lie down in the green pastures
of that half remembered psalm

It wants to lie in a slipstream
of clear water and be
Washed
Out to sea

My ramshackle apologies for poems
Notwithstanding
And my postcards from the window ledge
That catch the odd joke
As they fall
Don’t always save me

My little life is tired now

My little prayers
The useless rage
My hopeless hopes
The scratched out page
All the tattered remnants
Of the misremembered
And revised
Are gathered at my bedside now
To gently close my eyes

I need to put my head down
I need to float, or rest,
On this raft of hungry words
This lusting after death

 

 

365 Days With Leonard

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On April 6th last year, I went to Bush Hall with my friend Rachel and saw Sharon Robinson sing. As Leonard The Man would say, the incomparable Sharon Robinson… and, it was the very last day of life before Leonard The Dog.

 The next day, my friend Wendy drove me to a smallholding in Cambridgeshire and we brought a small dog home.

 I loved Leonard before he was even in the world. I loved him as a possibility in my heart and a shard of grace in the mystery. I loved him when I met him aged 5 weeks and he breathed a tiny out-breath on my chest.

 Oh, I said. So you’re Leonard.

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First day home

 I loved him immediately he became my dog. Yes indeed, instant love. And then came discovering and uncovering him.

 Funny thing about falling in love, that it both does and doesn’t take time. I knew I loved him, but I didn’t know who he was… now I know I love him, and I know him. He’s in the beat and breath of me.

 We’ve learned each other through the turning of this year.

 He makes me laugh. Often. He makes me laugh in the bleakest moments, when it’s all, just too much to bear. He’s a natural comedian. He helps me remember that this life is tender, funny and awful, in equal and unequal measure.

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Leonard meets Pip                                                   Bed World

 Let me tell you our morning story. As those of you who kindly read me, know, mornings are always a shock. I struggle up from the dust of dreams, resisting consciousness with all my might. I mutter and mumble and groan. Every morning, Leonard The Dog meets and greets me on this border and brings me in. He’s so happy to see me. I get my face washed all over. Now, for some that might seem very unhygienic, but for me this is a daily blessing. My favorite bit is when he kisses my closed eyelids…

 After the dog kisses and a short grace period, Leonard starts getting me up. He gets a particular glint in his lovely, brown eyes. He barks. I call it, The Bark Of Longing. It is shrill. And when I beg him for mercy, for five more minutes, he gets hold of my bedding with his teeth and tugs. I laugh and groan. I get up. He’s happy, and it has to be said, a tad triumphant. It takes less than an hour to get from first blink of my horrified eye, to walking out the front door with Leonard. It’s a repetitive movement. It’s a meditation. It’s loving a dog. And given how I have excelled at falling and failing in the mornings, sometimes for days on end, it’s nothing short of a miracle.

 Many things that I love about being with Leonard, I’m very aware some might say about being with a lover. I haven’t gone completely nuts. It’s not an erotic thing. But, gosh, it is so very physical and sensual. I adore his little body, the way he looks and how he feels under my hands. I like the way he smells and how he runs, and how soft his fur is. I’ve learned his sounds and his rhythms. He snores. I wake up in the night and he’s there. I dream about losing him sometimes and have to wake up and check.  He’s there.

 I’ve had some fine lovers in my time and a few brave attempts at making a partnership. It has taken a long time to understand, that while I am capable of great depth and intimacy, I’m not really built for sustained proximity. I need a lot of space and solitude. Otherwise I can’t breath. I can breathe deep and freely in my dog love affair. I tell him the story of us, as we amble and romp. Going out and coming back in again with Leonard is something I now do twice a day. Everyday. These slow walks are bookends to each day. It is an intimate thing to walk through a whole year of days, with the one you love.

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With best friend Daisy Mae

 He’s gregarious and open. He expects the world to love him back. Mostly it does. He knows me too. Of course he’s not writing blog posts and poems about me… but he knows that I belong to him. I’m his person and he’s my dog. He has taken me in and I live inside him as he does in me. It is quite something, to be loved and trusted by a dog

 Getting Leonard is the best decision I’ve ever made. The very best. He hasn’t cured my depression. Of course he hasn’t. But he’s showing how it can be to move more with the weight of me. That old embodied despair can walk and walk and walk… walking with Leonard is a prayer and I need it. Dog prayer. The very best medicine for this ravaged heart.

 Thank you, dear Leonard, for our first year. Thank you for being my dog.

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Bebe & Leonard in Peace Talks

 

 

Down On The Farm

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I just spent a week on a very nice farm near The New Forest. I didn’t see much of my local surrounds. I was cooking like a dervish. My feet beat a path from the kitchen door, to the poly tunnels and then the chicken coop. Sometimes the other way round. Round and round. Over and over. You can make a groove in a week. I missed it when I got home.

I was there to feed a small group who’d come from various countries to learn some stuff from  Nic Askew . About… well, about being human. Exquisitely so.

The edgy thing about this kind of gig, is being required to make such a radical gear change. I need to call my mind, body, heart and soul, into fierce, fast engagement and productivity. It’s not my natural gait. I took a trick from the wonderful writers of The West Wing. What’s next? says Mr. President, repeatedly, like a staccato drum beat throughout seven seasons of top notch television. What’s next? A call to focus and action. Actually, I’ve been incorporating it into the beat of my own life. The slow and heavy beat in which I stumble and bumble along. This particular week though, I employed it more in the spirit it was written. I, what’s nexted myself from seven-thiry in the morning until ten at night. It was relentless. And, it was great to be on a mini-break from my more accustomed terrain of relentless. The thing about having to do a lot, do it fast and do it well, is that there’s only that.

You might say, well do it more and live in heavyweight less. But I can only do it in-between the lines of heavy. I can only do Carolina’s Kitchen if I give myself up to my deep, animal nature, enough. And enough for me is a lot. I need to crawl, sigh, groan, moan and walk slowly with Leonard The Dog.

The more I practice giving myself up to myself, the more I know and trust I can do the other thing too. That I can show up and slip, slide off shank’s pony, into the racing car. Not that I can drive, but you get my drift.

So, thank you life for showing me who I am and can be. Thank you for the gigs, for the sheer, brilliant pleasure of it and so I can pay the bills. Thank you for this week down on the farm, for the precious people, new threads of connection, chickens, dogs and the horse that kissed my hand.

  • Photograph of our view by Nic Askew. The building in the picture is the aforementioned chicken house.

How much does depression weigh?

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This week, out and about with Leonard The Dog, my walking point has been the above question. Walking point means something I find myself chewing on as I let my feet free my mind. I walked and walked, albeit slowly. Dragging all that weight around can slow a person down. Anyway, I couldn’t walk away from this question, even when I’d more than had enough of it.

I can get preoccupied with weight. In simple terms it’s my main symptom. I am so heavy? My depression is without doubt heavy. How heavy? How come heavy is the same , but also different at different times?

This is where I’ve got to, for now anyway. My depression weighs what it weighs. It’s a sack of rocks, a mountainside, a dead star. I can’t weigh it. I know its weight but I can’t weigh it. I think though, its weight is stable. It weighs what it weighs, and it is how I carry it that changes. It weighs more than me, and always has. I think that has driven me crazy a lot of my life. The life and death battle with the sheer weight of my depression. How can it weigh more than me? But it does. And as I learn to give up trying to destroy it, or heal it, and just (just!) practice welcoming it, I find things are simpler. Though to paraphrase Mr. Cohen ‘That don’t make it light.’

Sometimes, I can carry the weight of myself with such a softness and ease. I have to say it really hasn’t been like that for a while. And, I must resist the temptation to chase it, or make myself wrong for not feeling it… like orgasms and tears, softness and ease comes and goes, and doesn’t respond well to pursuit.

Mostly, when I find myself this sort of crushed, I don’t move so much. I certainly don’t go out for two substantial walks a day. Blessed is the dog that loves me, and needs me to walk. So, I’m walking… and don’t even get me started about the mud!