Laying the burden.

There’s a catch to the idea of laying my burden of carefulness at the feet of God. Here it is:

It’s a bloody big burden at times.

There are times when the burden of what we experience is carried lightly. It rides in our bones rather than on our backs and it’s easy to let go of, easy to discard. There are times, though, that the burden we carry is so heavy, so cumbersome, that the idea of putting it down fills us with fear: not only because the logistics of safely lowering it are frighteningly inconceivable, but because we have forgotten how to stand straight without it. We have forgotten how it feels to be a person, to stand simply and alone, unburdened. The idea of that is even just a little bit frightening.

Here’s the thing: some of what I know I need to let go of – what I want to let go of – runs deep. Impossibly deep. These experiences, these humiliations and fears and angers, and points of pride and shame, aren’t just things I carry on the surface. After the better part of ten years of abuse and violence, and shame and anger and humiliation and fear, they are twisted right down through layers of being to the depths of soul: how can I possibly excavate them to be able to lay them down at the (metaphorical) feet of the most Compassionate One?

But here’s what I’ve decided. I don’t have to. I need to. I want to – but there’s no pressure. I can’t do it all at once. And I don’t have to. The Creator which unfolded the continents over billions of years can wait a few months more. The Source of love loves me anyway. The Ground of life continues to infuse me with blessings I could never have imagined. The crucified, betrayed, vulnerable, tortured Creator of the Universe keeps right on healing me even as I struggle to heal myself. All I do, I do within the Force of love, and life, and being. I think I’ll be ok.

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Low at his feet…

I had a conversation a while ago with my mentor, a gentle and very wise Catholic nun. We were talking about the depth of pain I carry at times, and the weight of it. What was done to me and the burden of that. We discussed John Monsell’s 1873 hymn, Worship the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness. One line in particular I had been carrying: “Low at His feet lay thy burden of carefulness/high on His heart he will bear it for thee”.

Every now and again, my friend Maggie, who is a cat, will come and visit me, and for one reason or another, she will need a hug. She will present herself at my feet, and sit there until I pick her up and cuddle her. If I fail to notice her, she will simply jump, in the supreme and occasionally misguided confidence that I will catch her. She will purr, comfortable and safe and cherished against my chest, my arms around her. Comforted, and protected, and loved.

That’s what this hymn says too. All of those things that are too heavy to carry, that I want to let go of, that I need to let go of – those things I can’t lift anymore, those things I have no choice but to dump, low at the feet of Jesus, the manifestation of the unmanifestable Sacred force of the Universe – he takes. They are absorbed, willingly and lovingly, into the life of the Creator, of the Source of love and life. They are cradled, cherished, as something utterly precious and worthy of protection and nurture. As precious to the Divine as my friend Maggie is to me.

I’ve carried a lot of shit for a lot of years. I’ve carried it for so long I’m only just learning how to put it down without being sent sprawling at the removal of a burden I’d grown so used to that it had become a part of my being. It’s been a horrible burden, heavy and spiky and unsightly and shameful. I’m learning to let it be cradled in the heart of the energy of life that we call God.

And yes, I realise that “unmanifestable” probably isn’t a word. It is now.

Aagh.

I am flying to Melbourne tomorrow. My flight leaves at six am, which means being collected in a taxi at half-four, which means being up at four at the latest, which means being in bed…

I have, as usual, travel anxiety. I’m not frightened of flying – I have precisely no fear of being up in the air, or of aeroplanes, or of crash landings. What I am afraid of is missing the flight. Of some random event – an escaped rhinoceros, for instance, or a meteor landing or an armed invasion from outer space – making me late to the airport. Of accidentally getting on the wrong flight and finding myself airborne and heading for Perth, or Uzbekistan. Of getting to the airport and finding that I’ve left my luggage at home, or that they’ve moved the airport overnight, or that suddenly physics has gone on strike and aeroplanes no longer work, and that somehow it’s all my fault because I’m not organised enough.

Because travel anxiety is completely rational. Said no one, anywhere.

An annoying little sadness.

For a week now, there’s been two moths in my flat. I’m not scared of moths but I don’t like them in my space, especially as they’ve become more panicked in the last days and taken to flapping around my head. I’ve been chasing them around with a drinking glass and an envelope, hoping to put them outside. I’m loath to use poison but they’ve been driving me mad. I don’t understand how a moth can repeatedly bang into a wall, hard enough to make a distracting splat! noise, and yet not knock itself out. My hunch is that if they did knock themselves out, they’d put both themselves and me out of our respective misery. Plus I’d easily be able to collect them and lay their little unconscious bodies among the petunias in the window box on my balcony.

Last night I successfully trapped one of the two moths under a glass. I didn’t even need to use the envelope I’d left on my dining table ready for moth-trapping; the poor thing was so disoriented that it clung, apparently completely bemused, to the side of the glass for me to carry it outside. The second moth continued to flutter around and attempt to flatten itself against any solid surface – including the side of my head – for the remainder of the evening, resisting all my attempts to trap it or trick it outside.

This morning when I woke up, the moth was lying quiescent in the middle of my sitting room floor. Triumphantly I seized the glass and the envelope, and clapped the glass down over the moth before it could think better of stillness and start to flutter around my head again – only to realise that the moth was dead.

When they’re alive, they move too fast to really look at. And, to be honest, these two were too annoying to really take the time to appreciate their beauty. But this creature, this former tiny soul, this little insignificant scrap of the Sacred, now no more – it lay silent and still on the floor. It was big for a moth, as big as the circle my thumb and my finger can make when they come together; it was the colour of a dark raincloud in the moments before it gives up its load; its wings were dusted with silky powder. Its body was small but dense and heavy and furry and it had impossibly delicate whispers of antenna, and it was hard to believe that such a solid little creature, such a tiny force of life, was no more. This small creature, so insignificant, and yet with the tenacity to keep slamming itself into walls in its hopeless search for light and the outside world…

Of course, I had to go about my day. I have a finite amount of time in the mornings to do a number of things before I leave for work; I don’t have time to mourn moths. But as I quietly disposed of the small corpse, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit sad that this small fleck of Sacred life was no longer in this world.

There’s one more moth flapping about the halls of heaven. Probably annoying the life out of the angels running around with drinking glasses and envelopes…

Spreading stunted wings.

I have a new senior colleague. I like her a lot and if she wasn’t my boss I’d think that there was probably the potential for us to be friends.  She’s a reader, too, and a writer. The more I’m getting to know her, the more I see that we’re facing the same struggles, the same difficulties of being a creative person juggling the demands of a full-time job and the daily interruptions of life, so that creativity simply falls off the radar.

Today I was brave enough to tell her about some of my plans for my creativity: a short story I’m working on, my plans to use my newly-granted extra day off per fortnight to concentrate on writing and creativity. Her response: “Good girl! Spreading your wings! Or maybe, growing them?”.

My new colleague knows a little bit about me and my ex. She knows a bit about the fact that I’ve got PTSD.  I think she’s put two and two together to get four. I think she can probably guess what’s happened to me and the impact it’s had on my creativity and my confidence. And she’s absolutely right.

For the longest time, my wings have been clipped. Sheared back by violence and by the consequences of it: intimidation and fear and the internalised oppression which still, even now, sometimes keeps me from doing what I want to do and being what I want to be. I had no idea that it would take so long for my wings to grow back (or even if that’s a correct analogy when it comes to avian anatomy). I had no idea that, a year in, sometimes it would still be difficult, and frightening, to pick up a pen, to allow words to flow, to shape narrative. To commit my soul to paper.

I kind of assumed that I can’t spread my wings before they’ve grown back. But it turns out that I can. Not as much as I will be able to in the future; but a little bit. Enough to be brave. Enough to start to trust my weight to them. Enough to start to see what I will be able to do one day soon. Enough to start to take pride in them again.

Just a little bit.

Blogging and keeping secrets.

I spent a long, long time keeping secrets. About why I couldn’t go out with friends. Why I was unavailable for after-work dinners or after-Mass lunches. Why I couldn’t answer telephone calls and text messages. And bigger things. Why I could never be myself. Why I wasn’t happy. Why I kept falling over my cat, or bumping into bookshelves, or having a lot of little accidents that left a lot of nasty bruises. When I couldn’t keep the secrets without people trying to delve into them, I lied. It turns out I’m a pretty bad liar – most people didn’t believe me – but I was duplicitous, I lied to my friends. It wasn’t my choice. The consequences of telling would have been horrific, potentially dangerous for me. But whatever the reason, I chose to keep secrets.

Even now, sometimes I keep those same secrets for a different reason. I lent a friend – a good friend, someone I like and trust and whose presence in my life I treasure – a book a while back, my favourite book, a book that had been ripped into three pieces during one alcohol-fuelled violent rage (my ex’s rage; not mine) and which I had clumsily mended with Sellotape. Any good bibliophile would be horrified at the state of that poor book; she certainly was. But even then, even in the freedom and the safety of my new life, I couldn’t bring myself to tell her the full truth: that either my poor book took a beating, or I did. That destroying or damaging or just threatening my possessions was a regular and unremarkable part of my life for a very long time, and a damn sight better than other alternatives.

It wasn’t that I thought that she’d judge me, or that she’d think less of me, or that I didn’t trust her, or even that I didn’t want to burden her with the story. Partly I couldn’t bring myself to tell her because her reaction would force me to acknowledge just how bad the destruction of my favourite book actually was, how much it had hurt. A small hurt, perhaps, in comparison with everything else, but a hurt nonetheless. Partly, though, I didn’t tell her because colluding with the secrecy around my own abuse was such an ingrained habit. I wanted to tell her. I wanted to be honest, to trust her friendship enough to hand her that one small pain and allow her to hold it gently for me. But I couldn’t.

This is why having a blog is such a blessing. These stories need to be told. They are clamouring against the boundaries of my secrecy, these narratives that need to be released from the depths at which I’ve hidden them for so long. But saying them aloud is too hard. It probably shouldn’t be, and it won’t be forever, but right now it is.

So I release the stories of what happened this way. In a minute I will proof-read this and hit the little blue button on the side of the screen that says “Publish”: and this one small narrative, of what happened to a beloved book and the fact that I couldn’t tell anyone about it, will be Out There. Out in the world. For real people to read. Released from secrecy. Releasing me from secrecy. Allowing me to let go of an agenda that was never mine in the first place.

I’m doing it kind of quietly at the moment. A little bit sneakily. But I’m sure as hell doing it. And now I’m hitting “Publish”.

Feeling not quite right, and creation.

This is the thing about being just a little bit not quite right these last few weeks: I feel like I’ve lost my creativity.

I haven’t, of course. I’m being a bit of a drama queen. I’ll accept that. Which in itself is probably not helping, because now I’m grumpy with myself about being a drama queen as well as everything else. Honestly, humans are such inconveniently complex creatures sometimes!

But the reality is that I’ve struggled this last few weeks to be a creative being. Despite the beauty of the world around me, the wealth of resources and inspirations, I’ve struggled to write so much as a Haiku. My journal and writer’s notebook have been carried around in my shoulder bag as usual (I’m still not quite able to trust that I can safely leave them on my desk at home without danger of them being violated and their contents used against me; I feel insecure without them in my possession at all times), but they’ve been crying out in silent, abandoned reproach. I’ve had the opportunity to do some writing – opportunity, but, apparently, not capacity. The words simply aren’t there. The thoughts aren’t there. It’s like wading through treacle.

And then someone said to me, out of the blue, “May God bless your creations”. Not, may God bless His creations, or may God bless Creation itself, but may God bless my creations. Naomi’s creations. And that was my very small ah-ha! moment for the day. Because the Creator created me to be creative. And while I struggle with the idea that anything I can create is worth anything at all, I am also aware that to refuse to be a creative being is to go against my creation. Against my Creator. And so (I think) it follows logically that the Creator wants me to be creative. That the Creator blesses my creativity. All I have to do is show up for it. Put pen to paper, fingers to laptop keyboard. Raise my voice in song, even if I do have to keep my fingers mentally crossed in the blind hope that my pitch isn’t entirely off the reserve. Trust that I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. And that when, like now, it’s hard – when at times it seems impossible – that’s ok too. I’ll keep showing up at the keyboard, I’ll keep sitting at my desk, I’ll keep surrounding myself with music and words. And a lot of what I produce will be rubbish and some will be worth something (I hope!) but the important thing is not the outcome – it’s the process. It’s the fact that I’m doing what I was created to do: creating.