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!

Faith

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The second day of a brand new year and I’m standing in a small piece of Cambridgeshire, throwing a ball for Leonard The Dog. I’m trying to find the right word… overwhelmed, daunted, hopeless, helpless… a whole litany of words that mean, I can’t go on, swim around my head. I just want to put my head down. On the wet muddy ground. On a pillow. In my hands. Just down.

I wonder if this is the giant version of waking up each morning to find myself still here. A year feels a lot bigger than a day. And a day regularly feels too much. My mind is moaning and groaning and it becomes a hopeless mantra: it’s too hard, I whisper. It’s just too hard.

It’s funny, but for all my kindness to my own depression and my talk, love notes and forgiveness, I don’t let myself feel just how hard it is, to keep going, that often. I am feeling the full force of it now. And as you know, if you’ve been kind enough to read me, I don’t hate life, or blame it, or even argue with it that much. Recently, someone asked me how I was. Tired, I told her. What have you been doing, to get so tired, she said. Dragging myself around is tiring, I said back. I’m always tired and always have been.

One of the small rituals that hold me, is an Angel Card in the morning. Once I get vertical, I light a candle and take a card. Each angel card has a word written on it. A pack of tenderness. In fact Tenderness is one of the words and I always love it when that one comes out. I choose to read the cards as support, just as the lighting of my candle, lights my road, so do the angels. And I’m telling you this because I also take a card for each new year. This time my card has FAITH written on it.

And as I stood with Leonard The Dog, feeling everything and nothing on January 2nd 2016, I kind of marvelled at the depth and breadth of my Faith.  I don’t know how I found the doorway to Keeping The Faith. I’m just grateful beyond measure that somehow I did, because I honestly don’t know what I’d do or be like without it. I mean, I seem to have to keep finding it again and remembering and losing it again, but that’s not the point. Faith keeps finding me and showing me how to be in the world as I am. Even and especially when it’s hard. It’s always hard. It breaks my heart to say that, but not the same way it breaks me not to say it.

On New Year’s Day I went to the beach. My best friend Louise, Leonard The Dog and me, got in the car and drove down to the sea. It took a while and it turned out a lot of other people, families and dogs had, had the same idea. It wasn’t the deserted space we’d imagined. It wasn’t at all like our idea of the day. I ended up weeping because it was all too hard. Louise slipped her arm through mine and we walked back to the car like dear friends do. Leonard ate a small crab.

Some days it’s like this

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Making it through a day
A bloody one
Rage and hate push through
the Fields Of Kindness
Fill my head with obscenity

It is too loud
I want it to stop
I want to be nowhere at all

Bang. Bang. Bang.
Kicking my heels like jackhammers
So hard,
my feet fly off
Ugliness gushes from the stumps

In my desperate mind
(where an armoury of disturbing objects live)
I find an assault rifle

I mow myself down
Blow myself up
All the bloody pieces of me
Turning the Fields Of Kindness
into frontline combat

And, I hate everything
Especially, the Kindness and Mercy
that hold me anyway

 

This Is The Life **

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This is the life.
My life. The only one
I have.
My little life
I mostly don’t know how
to live
Think someone else
would make a better job of.

This is the life.
My little life.
That teases, taunts and
trips me up, so I
stumble and fall
and regularly crawl
through my days
never sure if I am
praying for mercy
or saying thank you.

This is the life.
My little life.
Orbiting round simple things
A small dog
A few good friends
Songs, poems and cake
Jotting down a few notes
as I spin.

This is the life.
My little life.
The only life that’s mine.
I probably wouldn’t trade it in
for a better one
(even if I could)
Not after working so hard
to get here
and finding a place
to call home.

** With gratitude to Ryland and Sue, for the lovely line that inspired this little riff.