Why Didn’t I? How Haven’t I Still?

1994.  I’m 17 and I’m in my bedroom in a house in Dagenham, Essex, where I live with my folks and younger brother.  The room is black.  I think the only thing that isn’t black is the skirting board; Mum insisted that I could have whatever colour I wanted in the room, but those skirting boards had to be white.  I guess it was cool that I was given freedom of expression, despite the single, parental stipulation; but I accepted the terms and proceeded to choose black furniture, black curtains, black bed covers, a speckled mix of black and grey wallpaper.  Posters?  Kurt Cobain, Pearl Jam, Morrissey/The Smiths, Soundgarden. Yes, I was into that whole Seattle grunge thing.  I had previously discarded my divan and the mattress, now on the floor, was what I attempted sleep on every night.  The scruffy sheets of an unmade bed,  scrunched and bunched up from a fidgety night’s restlessness, are the untidiest parts of this room and will remain that way today.  Despite my sullen mentality, everything else is in order, just how I want it.

I’m cross-legged on the corner of the mattress at the foot of the bed.  I’m wearing blue jeans, black and white base-ball boots (a la KC), a white T-shirt and my absolute favourite oversized, grey, woolly, big buttoned cardy – super grunge!  It’s 9am and I have nowhere to be.  It’s the 6wks summer holiday, between completion of my first year of A-Levels and the return year at my Comprehensive, but I have no intention of going back.  I’ve already drunk one can of Diamond White and I’m halfway through my second.  The can is in my right hand, my left hand is full of paracetamol; I have been saving them in a small tin for a while.  All that needs to happen now is to put the pills in my mouth and wash them down with the rest of the booze.  My suicide note is written and is laying on the floor next to the pill tin.  The house is empty apart from my brother who is fast asleep in his room, my parents have gone to work.  I don’t know how long I sat staring at those pills in my hand, but eventually I put them back in the tin, hid the note and, somewhat catatonic, left the house.

I had no idea where I was going or what I was going to do when I got there; I just left.  And walked.  I understood very well what I wanted to do.  I wanted to not be alive anymore.  I wanted that feeling to go.  I wanted the emotional pain to go.  I wanted the sadness to go.  I wanted the inadequacy to go. I wanted the self-hatred to go.  I wanted the pointlessness of life to go.  I wanted to go back to wherever I came from; a place I felt I had been extracted from so that I could begin developing in Mum’s womb; like something that had been missing all my life and I wanted to find it again.  But it didn’t exist in this life.  So it must be somewhere else, somewhere ethereal, other dimensional, unearthly, heavenly….anywhere! Just somewhere that wasn’t here.

I walked to the end of the road and turned right onto Central Park Avenue.  My Nan lived round the corner to us.  As I approached the turning to her road, expecting just to carry on past (without looking down towards her house as I would normally have done) there she was.  At that exact moment!  We literally bumped into eachother on the corner.  We hadn’t seen eachother coming as the house on that corner had a 6ft brick wall for a fence.  I was stunned out of my reverie, happy to see her, and continued on with her.  We walked down the (Oxlow) Lane and she ran her errands with me in tow; then we walked back to her house and I spent the rest of the day with her, playing cards, eating goodies, watching videos – without mention of what had happened at home earlier that morning.  A surreal day if ever there was one.

Sometime later that summer I wrote my Mum a letter detailing my mood and wanting help for my suicidal ideologies.  The outcome of this letter wasn’t favourable.  Fortunately for her she had no comprehension of depression, she’d never experienced it – but that doesn’t help a teenage girl with manic depression and a desire to end her life, looking to her Mum for answers.  Ultimately I was alone to face it all head on, to deal with it with zero input from anyone else and I vowed (at that time) to never tell Mum anything so personal again.   My folks hadn’t been too impressed with me a few weeks/months earlier when I destroyed as many photos as I possibly could that had me in them; ones from early childhood up ’til that time.  In my disturbed mind I wanted to eradicate myself from existence, so that when I died there would be no trace left of me; like I had never happened.  Obviously this wasn’t logical; there were many others with photos of me, let alone memories of me, but I didn’t equate that at the time.  I was in a weird place, not of sound mind, and yet I knew I wanted to die.  The problem is, I didn’t go through with it.

2017.  I’m now 40.  I’m in a house that I rent alone and I’m writing about suicide.  (Is that worrying?!!)  Truth is, I just watched a film about Kurt Cobain and it took me right back.  He killed himself in 1994 and it hit me hard back then because I understood it.  That need to die, the ‘no choice’ of it all, the tragedy, the inevitability.  I felt the same way.  I felt like there was no other course, no other way forward that was gonna make any sense; to end it all made the most sense to me.  To this day, I don’t know how I am still alive.  I don’t know why I didn’t go through with it.  Actually, no, I do know why – I had too much of a conscience.  As much as I didn’t want to live, I felt I didn’t have the right to take a life that my parents had lovingly given to me.  I understood the devastation that a suicide can have on those left behind.  I hadn’t experienced it first hand, I’ve just always been an understanding and deeply compassionate person….how could I devastate my family like that?  So I suffered with a life I didn’t want, a life I resented, a life I wished away every night before I’d fall asleep.

I don’t suffer from depression anymore and haven’t for a number of years – but that is because I actively chose to not give it any power.  I do believe in experiencing a negative emotion, as it is character building, but not for any great length of time.  Acknowledge it, address it, resolve it – don’t ever hand it your control; but depression isn’t the only reason to commit suicide.  Genuinely, and I can say this because it comes easily to me and without deep negative emotion, I have thought most of my life that I will end my days by my own hand.  I guess it wouldn’t come as a surprise to me if I went down that road one day.  I know that most people won’t understand that way of thinking and immediately want me sectioned before I do myself harm, but it’s not like that!  You’re just gonna have to take my word for that.  It’s more to do with circumstance and a right to do with your life whatsoever you wish.  This isn’t about depression or sadness, this is about pure choice.

I live a good life these days.  I have taken many steps to rectify my own suffering over the years and I am far happier now than I have ever been, but that doesn’t mean to say I passionately love life in general.  I’ve never been able to say that.  Life, as amazing and beautiful as it can be, is still phenomenally exhausting at times.  Whether it’s confrontations you could do without, a plan not coming to fruition, the acceptance of disappointment that what you hoped from life isn’t coming your way, the incessant change of feelings, the unknown, the unfulfilled dreams, the fulfilled dreams and what may come next, and the constant sacrifices, there is the fundamental question at the base of it all….what is the bloody point??!!  Sometimes, for me, the sheer boredom from my relentless singledom is enough to make me question it all when life goes off kilter.  It can be all you need just to have that one person to come home to, to call when shite hits the fan, to be cuddled when tears fill your eyes, to be surprised by when everything else takes on a dullness.  When you don’t have that, year after year after year….man, that gets old real fast.  Although it is said that great things come from dark times, or bored times, to endure those times…well if you could see me I’m simply shaking my head, giving a sigh of incredulity and not finding enough words to put into perspective, for you, just how many times I’ve found myself in this insecure awkwardness of personal transition.  Looking into the future, what if I don’t find those things I yearn for?  What if I continue to find myself in this position where I am uncertain of what is coming and still alone with that uncertainty?  It’s not far from my imagination that I could just go, ‘ah fuck it, let’s clock out now….I’m done with this.’  As tragic and blah blah blah as it may be, sometimes it really does make so much sense to me.  I don’t think that suicide is a cop out.  I think it’s a legitimate life choice.  Well, death choice.  For the terminally ill, the suddenly incapacitated, the chronically depressed or the dispassionately bored, I get it.  And I have such empathy for it.

If I was to be told, right now, that this is all my life will ever be, with no great love to befall me; a life lived as alone as it ever was….I’d be punching that card, with love in my heart and an acknowledging smile on my face, and without any regret.  So I guess, curiosity and hope is what is keeping me alive now, despite the intermittent tedium.

JG 13.07.17

 

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Straight Dreams and Gay Days

 

My dreams have become a cause for concern lately; now I know to some, hearing about other people’s night time imaginings is a distinct bore, but I love ’em. They can be hilarious, confusing, peculiar, but always interesting; and I like to seek out the symbolism, whether in my own dreams, or the dreams of others. The general theme and running joke of mine for some time are the exploits of my apparent alter ego and her preference for those of the opposite sex. I was starting to wonder if I’m as gay as I always thought I was.

Initially I began dreaming of the only men I found physically attractive, Beckham, Somerhalder, Pavelka, Hartnett, Tatum…..oddly Tom Daley crept in one time, don’t ask, I am unable to explain that one (apart from him also being gay I’m probably old enough to be his mum)….oh, and Jason Manford….anyway, they were all in love with me and wanted to be with me. I took enormous comfort in their adoration and affection, although it wasn’t similarly reciprocated.  Very recently I dreamt about a male work colleague; it’s been years since I dreamt of a friend in that way, especially a fella. Recounting these shenanigans was just for fun; to tell my straight girlfriends just how much hot Hollywood action this lesbo was getting.  Recently though, I had been getting somewhat perturbed.

Googling, ‘straight dreams when you’re gay,’ wasn’t particularly helpful; but it did provide a glimmer of hope. I wondered if my spirit guides were trying to warn me of what is to come, so that I’ll be less shocked if I was to ever fall for a man in reality. Bizarrely I have to say……it was working. I have been bombarded each night with straight love, straight intimacy, so much so that my waking mind has opened to the notion that yes, it is a possibility. When you fall for a person you fall for their soul, not their packaging; as an open minded person, I have to be open to the notion, although I’m not at all keen on the idea! Yet dreams being more to do with symbolism than hard fact, perhaps it’s more of a reflection on my attitude towards love and relationships. I have been told by a clairvoyant that the person I end up with doesn’t fit the bill of my usual type, and you can’t get more opposite than the opposite sex! However, it’s more likely that my subconscious is opening my mind to allow freer ideas of what my future love will be.  (Thanks Google search.)  As a result of my subconscious hijinks, the wall I have successfully built over the years has finally cracked, revealing shards of light from the land of love beyond.  Crack on I say!

Since the colleague dream, after which I began putting this brain fart to paper, I had gone to bed the next night asking the Universe what it was playing at. I advised my guides that even if I did fall for a man it would never work….the physicality of such a relationship is incomprehensible.  I needn’t have worried too much; my prayers were answered and I awoke with a smile on my face. I dreamt that I had organised an Orange Is The New Black convention in town and various pub/club after parties. Every single person in my dream, filling the town, was a lesbian; not a straight woman or man to be seen and I found myself quite in my element. If I needed an affirmation of my sexuality then that was definitely it!

JG 05.04.16

Losing Faith

To have faith (not necessarily religious) is to have hope; to lose faith means all hope is gone. It’s understandable, therefore, why, ‘Keep the faith,’ resonates across the globe; but what if faith lets us down? What if we wait so long for something we believe in that we end up growing wearisome and abandon our hope? Life, in that instant, becomes entirely meaningless; depression will ensue and in the most extreme cases, where no light is found, suicide. It seems simple, given the drastic nature of such a demise, that the best option is, indeed, to keep the faith; yet in my experience, doing so is exhausting; sometimes the faith just slides away; a situation I have found myself in recently.

I have long believed that my soulmate is out there, that my perfect version of love exists and that I am yet to find her. As a woman who will not settle for less, I am resigned to being single until the big one reels in. I have also believed that my maternal Nan, who passed away five years ago, has been with me ever since, in spirit, and I have felt her presence from time to time, consciously as well as subconsciously, in my dreams. A paternal Uncle has visited me at key times, also within my dreams. These experiences had been too significant to simply be random sleepy imaginations.

Recently a decision to accept an invitation to Paris in June, became the catalyst for the shattering of my belief system. I have refused many previous nonchalant invitations by acquaintances because, for me, Paris is too romantic to see with anyone other than a soulmate, lover, partner. This time, when asked by friends, I figured, why not? Why wait any longer? If I never meet ‘the one’ I’ll never go; and in that simple decision to take a trip to Paris, I lost my faith. Slowly, my self-awareness crumbled, parts of my psyche packed up and wandered off in varying directions, leaving me lost and unsure of my existence. There are, of course, a chain of circumstances that lead up to such a malfunction, but there’s always a snapping point, thus Paris.

I have taken time out of my long term contract to attempt to re-evaluate myself, my life; to have a break from people and all external noise, so that I might hear myself again. There was no need to run abroad to a beach or go back-packing in search of finding oneself; the truth is we find ourselves within ourselves and our physical beings can be anywhere for that to happen. Instead I have stayed around familiar settings, the comfort of my home and my family (and a few caring friends in between who have kindly been to see me, or messaged to check up on how I’m feeling.). Yet, even the high of visiting family up North dissipated within a few hours of being back in my own home. The incessant aloneness is unbearable at times and I soon found myself floundering in the well of faithless gloom once more.

Despite having a fairly sociable week, my mood hadn’t altered. With my energy levels bordering on low to non existent I kept a promise to visit a friend and her partner last weekend in Salisbury. I don’t really know how this happened…but when asked what I’d like to do I promptly responded, “Glasto.” She’s always telling me how lovely a place it is, so it was the first thing I thought of. She’s been to see a Medium before in the town, so she must’ve asked if I wanted to see her, and I must’ve said yes, because before I knew it she’d booked me an appointment for the day I arrived. No sooner had she collected me from the train station we were on our way to Glastonbury; she dropped me at the shop with only a couple of minutes to spare before my appointment commenced, while she went off in search of a parking space.

I had no expectations of the meeting and I was completely unprepared for it, emotionally. Though I believe in mediumship and clairvoyancy, my untrusting nature means I am always sceptical of the individual claiming to have the gift. As with all people I encounter, I look for trust before I accept them. This particular woman was either totally legitimate, or excellent at reading body language and facial expressions. She accurately described me; divulged details of what I am seeking/feeling and advised that my Nan was indeed with me and watching me at all times. Some of what she communicated didn’t make sense to me, but a great deal did. I left the meeting quite shell shocked but, most assuredly, changed.

There is no way of truly knowing if my Nan was my by side in that session, or whether I was played to the tune of £35 and 30 minutes of my day; but I immediately realised that it didn’t matter either way. We all have an abundance of choices at our fingertips, every second of every day. In that moment I had the choice to believe or disbelieve. The messages and encouragement I received were entirely positive and exactly what I needed. To draw me out of my funk I needed something powerful, something from beyond the grave. I needed my Nan. What I heard was the door to faith reopening. I felt empowered.

From the moment I stepped out of that mystical shop, (which is basically like every other shop on the high street…..in fact the entire street permeates joss sticks and sounds the clanging of a million wind chimes; with the occasional vegan café thrown in in-between), I felt better than I had done in weeks. My belief system had begun to rebuild; the soulmate, the future, the possibilities, all started to filter back into my being and my eyes re-opened. Choosing to disbelieve the experience wasn’t really an option. Okay, so I’m going to Paris without a lover…I’m over it….and I can’t wait to get there! The day will come when I’m able to go with my soulmate and it will be every bit as beautiful as I have always imagined it would be.

Life can be hard work at times; the battle can wear you down to the point of despair, but it truly is hope and faith that all will be well, that we can make different choices to improve our lives, that keeps us going. Losing faith in ourselves or our life’s plan can destroy everything we are. I am extremely glad I had that special half hour. With this new and improved faith, I have hope, and that is a much better feeling and far more productive state to be in.

No matter how hard it gets……..keep the faith.

JG 09.02.16

Soul of a Poet

I am frequently told that my poetry makes the reader feel my sadness.  In response, I usually advise that they aren’t always written from a place of sadness, I just seem to sound that way.  (This observation isn’t exclusive to my poetry, it seems the tone of my text messages also emits the same impression!)  It used to be a standing joke, with an old friend of mine, that the mere mention of my putting pen to paper must mean a looming depression.  It is true, of course, that some are written purgatively, as though to exorcise a dark daemon.  When this occurs I usually feel instantly better and free of negativity; the rest of them are written purely as an expression of thought – some directly pertaining to my own emotions/experiences, the rest pure imagination.

I am a person who has known great sadness, but I also know great joy; yet like a true Wednesday’s child, I can only seem to harness the former in my thoughts/writings.  I presume that the lack of finding true love is the culprit.  Perhaps, should I ever find my soul mate, I will no longer write poetry?!  It seems I am, as yet, unable to write a happy poem.  For my birthday, early last week, I received a wonderful gift from a colleague and friend.  She had a selection of my poetry printed in a hard-backed book and wrote a most flattering dedication for the back cover.  I took it to show my family; many of these poems my mum had seen for the first time.  She said it made her sad to think that I lived such a sad life.  I couldn’t seem to reassure her that I didn’t live a sad life, I live quite a full life, and rather a charmed one in comparison to some; however, I do concede my heart is a permanently heavy one – heavy with the burden of unfulfilled love; but let’s face it, it’s not the end of the world, life goes on regardless of one’s marital status. (Sigh)

It is unusual why I can’t seem to write something that captures happiness, I am not impervious to life’s intense and varied beauty.  I tried recently.  I had so many lovely gifts for my birthday, a lot of them very personal and creative ones.  With all this happiness, appreciation and love in mind, I sat outside Costa one morning (I had my birthday week off, naturally) and set about capturing that gratitude on paper.  What emerged was utter rubbish!  All it reflected was how badly I translate happy thoughts into poetry.  I shall have to leave that to the likes of Pam Ayres, rhyming with a comedic wit, intent on making the reader chuckle.  The soul of this poet is somewhat cumbersome, not unlike my physicality.  I could write about the happiest day of my life in a blog and the reader would feel the joy pouring from each word – but put it into a poem and it would surely sound like my worst day ever!

So therein lies my niche.  I am the world-weary, heavy hearted poet, but being just expressions of a single emotion, they do not detract from the fortunate life I currently lead.  When the day comes that I publish a truly happy poem, please raise a glass in my name, and congratulate the love I have undoubtedly found.

JG

Metaphor for a Buttercup

I took the brave decision to extricate myself from the Brightonian beach yesterday in favour of attempting the countryside.  (I am much more a fan of sea salty air and seagull watching than of creepy crawlies and buzzy bees, hence why I have never, and will never, go camping.)  I have been intending to take myself to Devil’s Dyke since one of the tour operators sold me on the idea when I was here a few weekends ago.  So after a lavish hotel breakfast and an hour’s lay in the sun on the pebbles, feeling like Uncle Travelling Matt, I donned my back pack and headed for the bus stop.

On a clear day the views from up there would be stunning; but I could make out the varying greens of patchwork England well enough, despite the low cloud cover.  It was peace that I sought and I most definitely found it.  I adore the beach, but my ten minutes of tranquility ran into trouble when the Carousel behind me fired up and the Pier to the left of me opened, pumping out chart tunes for the thrill riders.  Up on the Downs this was far from an issue.  I found a nice, quiet spot off the rambler’s track, beneath and betwixt two tall trees.  The only sounds were nature’s rustling and chirping; the occasional panting dog and gravel crunching passer by.  Finally, I was alone with my thoughts, of which are plentiful at present.

Scattered about me were wildly bright flowers in amongst tall blades of grass and short, stubby clover – though not a four leafed specimen to be seen, alas.  It was a buttercup that grabbed my attention the most; so rich in colour; such a vibrant yellow and, for a moment, I wanted to pluck it to hold in my hands.  I hesitated over it whilst it occurred to me that should I take it from its dwelling and claim it for my own, I take possession of it, but for what?  To place beneath my chin and discover that I do indeed like butter as the yellow reflects onto my skin (as my Mum and Nan did when I was a child); to spin it rapidly, yet whimsically, between two fingers; simply to take a closer look; perhaps to be placed behind my ear for decoration?  Ultimately, it would be cast aside, limp, useless, dead and wasted.

I’m sure this could be a metaphor for a multitude of things; but for this seemingly eternally single girl, I couldn’t help but wonder if this is a better way to exist; to be left to blossom alone.  So many relationships I see, regardless of sexuality, are unhealthily codependent.  The romantic notion of two individuals being so in love with each other that they wouldn’t want to walk this Earth with any other is perfectly beautiful in my eyes.  This is totally different, however, from the couples who live in eachother’s pockets simply because they can’t bear to be alone…..and I won’t even broach the ridiculousness that is their idea of jealousy being a healthy component in a relationship….it really isn’t.  Quite like the buttercup thieves, they pluck one another from where they stand and take ownership of eachother’s lives.  When this happens pieces of what you once were slowly die until you are changed; unrecognisable.  Having had a codependent partner I can fully identify with this.  Before and after her I remain vibrant, free; I am that independent, thriving buttercup, left alone; I would say for all to enjoy but that would imply something potentially very rude and/or arrogant, and truly, promiscuity has never been my thing.

As far as relationships go, one must only hope to find the like of which enables us to thrive regardless, to be as powerful apart as we are together; to be able to stand alone and come together on equal footing; to be together in spirit, mind and heart, when not together in body, and cope perfectly well.  Anything else seems pointless to me.

And as for the buttercup, I left it where it was, untouched, alive, hopefully for somebody else to enjoy it’s simple beauty after I’d gone, as another may have done before me; and I promptly returned to the beach.
  
JG 25.05.15

All About The (Baby) Boy

Being able to share in someone’s joy is a distinct privilege and honour, especially when it is due to a life changing event.  Earlier this week our department threw a baby shower for a colleague.   A few of us early birds gathered in the decorated office, eagerly awaiting her entrance and consequent reactionary surprise.  Sleepy-eyed and unaware of the spotlight, she breezed in to find a sea of faces gazing upon her, lit with mischievous smiles, glistening eyes and, with bated breath, we watched her expression change from quiet calm to happy chaos.  Balloons bobbed around on weighted ribbons, others taped to her computer screen; bunting and banners adorned walls and doors; wispy pastel coloured shapes floated down from the ceiling; a ‘Mum to be’ sash sat perched on the back of her chair, wanting to be worn; and a large blue-iced sponge cake with letter block design atop, sat proudly at the centre of her desk, hand made by a colleague.  Suffice to say she was shocked. Once we felt she had been embarrassed enough we dispersed wishing her a happy shower day. 

At lunch time we laid out the party food, to which we’d all contributed, enough to afford us lunches and snacks for the remainder of the week.  On display, upon a cleared desk sat a large cardboard box, dressed in baby themed wrapping paper, overflowing with gifts. Rather than a collection we’d opted to buy presents individually. For a department of around 20 staff this was an impressive, and very generous, haul. 

Now, I’m not a fan of babies, but I am a fan of parties, especially of helping to organise them; and this party was extra special.  The mum-to-be silently suffers an irrelievable pain that comes from being unable to carry your own child. What should be every woman’s natural born right – to procreate – has been denied her; for a woman with such maternal instincts and desire for a child, this truly is one of life’s cruellest injustices. However much it will remain a tragic lament in the depths of her heart, it should pale into insignificance thanks to the imminent arrival of a 9month old baby boy into her and her partner’s lives.

The adoption process is arduous and characteristically intrusive with good reason of course; the safeguarding of a child is paramount; but considering two spotty teenage oiks can perform a drunken have-at-it and immediately fall pregnant, the lengths two genuine and decent people have to go to seems relentlessly burdening.  Still, perseverance has proffered what they wished for; a child to raise and call their own. Biology isn’t everything and it’ll make them no less of a Mummy and Daddy, in fact it’ll make them more so.

After the lunch and gift opening had finished and all was cleared away, as if right on cue, she received a call from her social worker to confirm the adoption had been signed off and paperwork was in the post. It was official. All that remains is for them to be introduced and, at the end of a week of supervised meets, bring him home; a beautiful new chapter to begin together. 

For the rest of us, we are all sharing in their joy. We’ve been kept in the loop over the last year as to what stage they were at; the trials, the hopes, the upsets and now the reward.  It’s fair to say that we all feel we’ve adopted a part of this baby boy; we are Aunties in waiting (and one Uncle.) No doubt we’ll be seeing him inside and outside of the office very soon.

On the whole, at work, we are a unified team. The women I work with are incredibly compassionate, generous, loving, caring.  Having been on the receiving end of the cushion of love and support they instinctively provide at times of need, I knew exactly how the mum-to-be felt….overwhelmed.  Needless to say the bubba has no idea how much love and fun he is about to inherit from his new folks….not to mention his army of work Aunties!  How unique it is to proudly call your colleagues family.

JG 23.05.15 

And Then…..You 

The night before we meet

(Though we’re totally unaware

To this do we’ll both be going)
I wonder what I’ll wear
The dawn before we meet
I think about the day
Where I’ll be, what I’ll do
If the sun will chase this grey
The afternoon before we meet
Tomorrow comes to mind
A meal for one, a film at home
A chance to sit, unwind 
All that was has changed
For now is when we meet 
Despite the crowd, your eyes meet mine
And we forget to speak