Free Verse: Letter To Myself (Aged 14)

DS,

There are so many things
That will challenge you in life,
And challenge will push you
To learn things
You should have never had to know.

Sickness,
Emotional pain,
And death.

You know all of these things early,
Yet I’m not sure anyone
Ever thought
To explain them to you
Properly.

Instead, you take everything in,
And you understand it
As best you can.

Help will always be there
When you need it.
If you need it.
But it will take you
A long time
To be okay with asking,
And even longer
To actually accept it.

You spend years,
Trying to repress
Any part of yourself
That makes you different.
That makes you stand out.

After realising you’ll never fit in,
You try to change yourself,
To make it less obvious
That you are different.
You try so hard
To make yourself invisible.

You will repress
Every part of you
That makes you unique,
For fear
Those other people
Will judge you.

But all the while,
You will desperately seek
Some form of acceptance.

First from adults,
Because as far as you are concerned
They are right,
And know what is best
For you.

Some will see you,
Really see you,
But their influence
Will be fleeting.

Most will side with the masses.

Most will tell you to be
Like those that make it hardest
To be yourself.

People will tell you to change,
And because you can’t
You will tell yourself
You have failed them.

That you have failed yourself.

I need you to know
That is not the case.

DS I wish I could tell you
That the loneliness goes away.
I wish I could tell you
That the love
You so desperately want to feel
Is something you will have
In abundance.
Perhaps never in the way you yearned for,
But know you are loved.

Your family’s needs will drain you,
But they also love you.
You have real friends,
Friends who you have absolute trust in
And who love you.

Not a pretend version
Of yourself, not a facade,
Not even the version of yourself
You portray to the world
To make it seem
Like you are confident.
They love all of you,
With no parameters.

Love is hard
For you DS.
It’s not something
That comes easy.

Even now
The most important person
Who could love you,
Needs to remind himself
Every day
That it is okay to do so.

I am so sorry for the damage
I have caused to you
Over the years.
I’m sorry for punishing you,
When you had worked your hardest.
I’m sorry for not understanding
What you gained, when you walked away
From a path which seemed important.

I’m sorry for pushing you
To be something you are not.
I’m sorry for blaming you,
For the things in your life
That you never had control over.

I’m sorry DS, for never trusting you
To make decisions,
For hiding and playing it safe,
When I could have instead
Let you live.
Truly live.

Worst of all DS
I am so sorry for not loving you.
You are wonderful.
You won’t always feel like that,
But it is no less true.

What you overcome in life,
Is truly outstanding.
You judge yourself
Against the worth
And the attainment
Of others.

You push yourself
To grow and develop.
But everything you do
Is done with passion,
Dedication,
And a sense of purpose.
Commitment
Which I cannot begin
To commend enough.

You can turn your hand
To anything
And make it work for you.

You’re flighty.
You are easily distracted,
But you always get done
What needs to be done.

You have so much love
In your heart,
And you willingly invest it
In others
Before you invest it in yourself.

You push yourself
To make life better
For others
And in so doing
Make it harder for yourself.

You struggle to get by.
You push to be better.
And if those around you
Aren’t flourishing
You will do anything you can
To help them, or blame yourself
If you can’t.

It is both the best
And the worst thing about you.
It will take you far in life,
But the one thing
That will evade you
Is your own sense of self.
Your own purpose.
Your own happiness.

But help is always there.

Eventually, you’ll ask for it.
Eventually, you’ll accept it.

Where you go after that
Is up to you.
But know that wherever you go
You have my love,
My support
And my trust.
For once, above all else I have
Your best interests at heart.

One day
I may feel like I have found
‘My purpose’.

But until I know for sure,
I would like
To make you a promise:

‘To keep trying, to enjoy
What I’m doing,
And to take care of myself.

To live a life I am proud of,
And one which allows you
To be as happy
As you possibly can be.’

Sonnet: A. Trip

Chewing on minuscule squares of paper,

How long will it be before it kicks in?

Too late now, just wait for it to begin.

All too soon you are lost to this caper.

 

It comes, like all good things, to those who wait

Slowly at first, a peripheral haze,

Then colours and visuals steal your gaze.

And building at an exponential rate,

 

Individual thoughts come fast and straight.

They can’t be ignored, they always amaze.

Their lasting impact a need to appraise,

A lifetime. All of this because you ate,

 

A substance, which changes the way you are,

Into a trip, that can show you the stars.

Personal Blog: The Beautiful Warrior II

Written on Tuesday, 18th September 2018:

On the 8th September 2018 my mother’s physical journey ended. Where death for me has always come with a fear of nothingness, what her passing taught me is that the end of a physical existence is just the beginning of new existence. One in which the spirit and energy of a person is free from the confines of their physical form.

Tomorrow I, along with my family and friends, will gather together to attend a service planned to allow the people whose lives my mother has touched in some way to say goodbye to my mother’s body, the vessel that carried the soul of a warrior into her final battle.

Called in on a Monday morning to spend what we were told could be our final hours with mum we began a journey with our mother that lasted six days. Perhaps the six longest days of my life so far.

My mother was thrifty, and creative. She could create something from nothing, and always worked hard to provide anything that we required. So when she was given hours, she somehow managed to find days. Those days were long but she was never alone. Those of us that were with her ensured that in her final days she was constantly surrounded in love. Her family, and friends around the world prayed for her, loved her, and thought of her. Strangers who had never met her, heard of her and asked to pray, and to share her story. The story of The Battle of Room Seven.

Although the illness which took her into her final battle came suddenly, my mother’s health had been in decline for a while. Small things at first, things which we passed off as inconvenient, but which mum would never directly complain about.

As was her way my mother put the needs of her family first. This was her way in life, and so to was it her way in death.

With each day that passed in that bloody week, we struggled to come to terms with what we were being told. After the first two days of watching her fight so hard, I had to ask. I had to hear the words be said and so I spoke to a nurse and asked her to tell me what I needed to hear.

“Your mother is dying. She isn’t going to get better. She doesn’t have long left.”

The nurse who said these words said them because I asked to hear them. It didn’t make it easier, but it allowed me to change my thinking. To begin to process what was actually happening rather than what we wanted to happen.

We prayed of course for a miracle, but miracles come few and far between. To have shared a moment with Thilda was to experience the miracle of her generosity, of her kindness, of her ability to love indiscriminately and unconditionally. As a close family, I have the luxury of a lifetime of memories with my mum and I hold each memory dearly now.

As hours stretched into days, mum’s transition from physical to spiritual became a testament to ‘The Beautiful Warrior’. A woman who championed those she fought for.

I asked my mum a number of times throughout the years to tell me what made her happy. Her reply was always the same,

“I am happiest when you are happy.”

This was my mum’s way. To live for others and in particular to live for her family. As her final battle drew to an end, I was struck with a moment of clarity. The fight, the bold and bloody fight which my mum had put up so far had never been a fight to get better. It was instead a fight to be with the people she loved for every last second she could be. Each breath in and out a gift to us, to give us the time we needed to come to terms with what was about to happen.

During the whole week my mum was unconscious. Though she was surrounded in love. Love which transcended the physical environment she was in, and surrounded us all. Keeping us strong, and protecting us in this time before we say goodbye.

Mum’s last week with us was a powerful one. One in which myself and all of her family members learned about ourselves and each other. Even in death my mother brought us together, creating bonds that ensured we would always have people to surround us in love when our time comes.

Losing mum feels like losing a part of ourselves. It is a living nightmare from which we can never wake. The loss of such a profoundly wonderful person has affected so many people, but what I have learned about my mother since she passed is that she has given so much in her short time on earth.

Solace comes from the memories and love she gave and left us with. I treasure not just my own memories of The Beautiful Warrior, but those shared by the people whose lives she touched. Memories which keep her with us, until we see her next.

19th May 2017

One year ago today, I was at the very beginning of a mental breakdown that led me to write this.

I shared it on Facebook at the time, but the words seem so powerful still that I wanted to share them again. This time as a reflection, and a reminder of where I have come from, and how far I have come to get to where I am.

Life is so hard to evaluate at the time, but rather than saying “is it better?” It has helped me to say,

“What is different?”

In the time since writing this so much has changed for me and likely will continue to do so, but I feel ever closer to the life I should be living. It doesn’t matter what I do, as long as I remember to do what I do for me and no one else.

*****

Two days ago, I became so overwhelmed I cried at work. On that same day the exhaust fell off my car, and when I finally made it home it was to find my washing machine had broken and the kitchen floor was very wet. But the time I was done cleaning it up, I was laughing at just how ridiculous a day could be.

Since then I’ve done very little. I’ve pressed pause, and I’m currently evaluating. I’m going up North with my family for a couple of days, and in that time I’m going to try and figure out what the next step forward is.

Sometimes it is about stepping backwards from the things that upset you and looking at the bigger picture. Once I have a better idea of what is really going on in my life I can consider what I do armed with information, clarity and hopefully for once in my life, my own interests at the forefront of my decision making process.

There have been more than a few people who have helped keep me together over the past… how long has this really been going on? It’s been a while.

Thank you for your ongoing support and thank you for giving me the space to get to grips with things in my own time. It can’t be easy being friends with someone with depression, but know that even when I can’t speak to you directly or when I cancel on plans that took far to long to put in place that I love you for your support and will always do my best to come back to you when I am ready to try again.

Never Play With Fire​

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Sitting quietly outside the doorway he was invisible.

Eyes the colour of earth, soaked with rain took in everything. Not the details of the room, nor the occupants; so enraptured in their conversation that the quiet boy went unnoticed, even as he shuffled closer to the door.

Upon arrival, the visiting adults had gushed over the artwork which the twins had brought home with them. From drawings and paintings to the hula hoops wrapped in crepe paper which hung ceremoniously at the bottom of the stairs. These props and pictures had been instrumental to the event the twins had attended earlier in the day. Now like all children’s crafts, they awaited their fate of either being discarded or moved into another room to be forgotten about for a while.

The twins often attended events like this and each time their parents marvelled at what they had created as if each project were a priceless work of art. Darren liked this, and getting to show off what he created to more grown-ups when his relatives visited was an added bonus.

The twins godparents came to dinner about once a fortnight. The routine always the same. Dinner, drinks and then hours of chatting and laughing together in the living room. The only variation came when a football match was on, and the men would slink off to the kitchen to watch, all the while shouting and cheering along so that everyone knew what they were doing.

After the first round of drinks, the twins godfather would take out his pipe and load it up. Darren loved watching his godfather smoke his pipe, from the way he tapped out the ashes, to the packing of the tobacco into the empty bowl with the edge of his thumb. The way he licked his lips before placing the pipe firmly between his teeth and taking a brief pause as he fished his gold-plated Zippo lighter out of his pocket.

This was Darren’s favorite part. The glint of golden metal as the lid flipped back, the spark which caught just as the smell of gas which came from the lighter became noticeable. The fire as it jumped to life, as if by magic, so brazen and free. Yet, contained as soon as the lid snapped shut and quelled the flickering flame.

Darren often watched quietly as his godfather smoked, and reveled in the moments he could watch this fascinating device be used.

From the doorway to the living room he watched as usual as the Zippo was freed from its pocket.  Produced with a flourish it opened and lit in one fluid movement. With his pipe already between his teeth, he puffed away happily until he was satisfied it was lit. While normally the lighter went straight back into the pocket it had come from; on this day it was instead placed on the floor, to the side of the chair his godfather occupied.

Darren paid no attention to the adults in the room, as they likewise did the same to him. Whether they were aware of him or not, Darren didn’t know. His eyes were fixed on the golden treasure before him. There was something alluring, adult and powerful and the draw to this power was too much for Darren to resist.

He stole into the room and without interjection lifted the lighter, before making a hasty retreat. After years of watching this giant of a man create fire from nothing; Darren now held this prized device in his hands.

The movements his godfather made to open the lighter were movements made with practiced hands. Practice Darren had never had. It took minutes to open the lighter, yet once open the magical flame did not erupt. Instead, Darren was left staring at sharp metals, contained within the metallic casing.

Growing more curious, and frustrated Darren retreated from his doorway hiding place to the sanctity of the stairway. The walls on either side giving him a little more privacy to fathom the secrets this metal mystery held uninterrupted.

Copying the motions made by his godfather, Darren was surprised when he finally managed to flip the lid properly causing the flame to appear, as a genie from a lamp. Ready to appear, but waiting to be released.

The flame itself was beautiful. The yellow, red and orange which danced in synchronicity around a core of black which lay at the heart of the flame. The longer Darren stared the more entranced he became.

If he’d paid attention, he may have noticed the body of the lighter heating up. Instead, it wasn’t until his hand released the hot metal that Darren realised his mistake. In his haste to create; he had given no thought to how he would destroy this rapidly growing beast.

After escaping his hand the lighter landed on the bottom step. Picking it up quickly and carefully, wary now of the hot metal Darren closed the lid.

The damage, however, was already done.

The flame having escaped the confines of its metallic prison was now trying to flee. It crawled along the carpet, slowly as if testing the limits of it’s new found freedom.

Self-presevation was the first instinct to kick in. Hastily entering to the living room Darren returned the lighter to the spot he had taken it from before moving back to the stairs. The fire on the bottom step still moved slowly, but as Darren looked on unsure how to tackle this beast he watched in horror as the flame moved towards the crepe paper, which dangled still from the hula hoops hanging on the end of the stairwell.

The paper exploded with heat. The walls, the carpet the very floor melted under the intense heat caused by this unexpected fuel source. As the hoops were engulfed so too were the stairs and Darren realised all too late that things were out of his control.

He thought of fire extinguisher in the kitchen. He thought of the adults who could better help, but he was so conflicted with the idea that he’d be in trouble he froze. Eyes locked on the growing inferno, tears escaped as finally, an alarm sounded.

At once all of the adults sprang to action. The men moving to extinguish the flame and the women moving to console the child frozen at the bottom of the burning stairway. They removed him from the house until the fire had been dealt with, and Darren learned a very important lesson.

Never play with fire.

Missed Opportunity

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I believe in the universe. I mean obviously it exists, but I believe not just in it’s physical presence but it’s spiritual one. I don’t mean that to sound so abstract and nonsensical, but I have a deep affinity for the belief that as long as you actively try in life, there is no win or lose, pass or fail, and dare I say, right or wrong. My past is littered with experience, both positive and negative, and while there are times where darkness has threatened to consume my existence, I have tried to live by the simple ethos that once something has passed, it no longer has power over you.

You are welcome to disagree with me, even I do sometimes, but it is something I try to embody as I live my life. For the most part I am happy with who I am, with the beliefs that I hold, and the life I live. There are aspects of my life that are not easy, but each individual has their own set of challenges to face. As long as we keep trying, then however many set backs we experience, we can always say we are moving forwards. For the negative aspects of our past to have power, we have to give an experience meaning, so we can ultimately take back power from experience by recognising it for what it was and forgiving ourselves for the pain we allowed the experience to inflict upon us.

Good or bad, once an experience has occurred, it becomes a part of us, an intrinsic piece of an infinite puzzle. Some of us can get stuck on a particular piece of that puzzle, they may not be able to see past it for some time, but as time progresses, so does the way we see things, and eventually, we realise that it doesn’t matter where that piece of the puzzle goes, because it’s ultimately just another piece that leads to the bigger picture that exists in the present. We are who we are because each puzzle piece has been added, good or bad, right or wrong, when we keep adding to the picture, the picture becomes clearer. We just have to remember to step back and look at the whole picture, not just the puzzle piece you are stuck on.

There are many aspects of my life that have led me to deep introspective assessment of the choices I’ve made so far. After all, life is a series of choices, one leading to another, leading to another, leading to another. Once you’ve made a choice, it becomes a fixed point in your individual story, a piece in your own puzzle. In some cases we have the opportunity to change our minds, to make mistakes and try again. In others opportunity comes once and regardless of the choice made or the outcome of those choices, the opportunity is gone.

What I find most interesting about opportunity, is that sometimes you don’t realise it was there until after it has passed, and it is only once it’s gone that you reflect on what that may then have led to. For every choice we make, there are a number of alternate choices or outcomes that could have been made, but going with the decisions we made at the time, we often don’t see the things we didn’t do as missed or lost opportunities.

At the tail end of last year, I felt decisive. I had spent the better part of five years studying among other things, with the intention of applying to university. I picked a range of Higher level subjects that I should have attained in high school and threw myself into them. After a while I got the hang of studying and it changed my world. I still had the main goal of university in the back of my mind, as I didn’t really have any belief in my worth as a person without a degree, but the closer I got to being ready to apply to university, the more I realised I wasn’t ready to apply.

The reason was because by studying, by trying new things, talking to new people and having new experiences I had become a different person, with different goals and aspirations. For a while that threw me, as I had had such a firm plan of action in my mind that when I realised I no longer wanted it, I didn’t know what I wanted. I was ready for a change, but I had nothing to change, so I did what I always do, I waited. I kept doing new things,  as well as doing a number of the things I was already doing as well. I kept learning and I kept growing, and soon an opportunity presented itself, a job I’d wanted for a long time became available.

I applied, still with the notion that without a degree I was wasting my time, so when I was successful in achieving that job, I was filled with a sense of power. With hard work, commitment and experience I achieved exactly what I had been working towards, the goal I had set for myself was unnecessary, but if I hadn’t had that goal, I wouldn’t have pushed myself to develop in the way that I did. Without meaning to, I’d grown and become knowledgable enough to not only have an opinion but to stand behind it. I realised that opportunity doesn’t always come to you, that hard work and patience isn’t the only way of creating opportunity. Sometimes, opportunity has to be created by you.

This realisation was a profound awakening, as I realised that there were many times in my life where opportunity while not inherently present, could have been if I had had the awareness to create it. This notion burned within me, and I thought of all the things I wish I had done but for one reason or another, did not do. Among all other things, I settled on one experience.

In my fifth year of high school, in maths class, I sat next to someone. For nine months I sat next to this person for 45 minutes each day. Other than pleasantries, and the occasional request for forgotten stationary, I couldn’t have told you anything about this person. I had missed an opportunity to get to know someone, not because I didn’t want to, but because I did.

The reason I was unable to get to know them, was because at the time, I didn’t know who I was. They represented a part of me that I had yet to recognise, the part of me that desired another person. As I hadn’t experienced that connection to a person before I didn’t recognise it for what it was until years after the opportunity to know them was gone. With time, I was able to admit not just what I had felt towards them to myself, but to others as well. Eventually it led me to form my first few relationships, and become happier in and of myself.

But I still held them on a pedestal within myself, not as an object of desire, but as a representation of what it took me almost a decade to understand. Opportunity can be created. Which is why six months ago, I contacted my former high school crush (isn’t social media wonderful) and asked them to have coffee with me. I didn’t expect a reply, I just wanted to say I had tried; that we then met up and had coffee and a fantastic conversation was a wonderful bonus.

I had coffee with them again today, and again I was treated to a conversation I would otherwise have never had, had I not recognised that we create our own experiences by being decisive.

We have the power to make our lives whatever we want them to be, as long as we actually want them to be that way.

If I have learned anything it is that the opportunities we miss, aren’t wasted, if they affect us and give us the drive to try harder, even if it is years later, then the missed opportunity was meaningful. Like all experiences it becomes a part of us, and when we are ready to step back and look at the whole picture, we realise that the pieces of the puzzle that you thought were missing, were just meant to be placed somewhere else, at some other time.

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