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Death’s Apprentice. Part Two. A Writing Experiment.

The sky burst. Rain crashed down around me, soaking me to the bone in a matter of seconds, and throwing up the scent of damp earth, decaying rubbish and rotten eggs as it churned up the water.

Come on Lola, where are you? I peeled my saturated hood from my head and held my hand up to my face to shield my eyes from the downpour.

‘Lola! Come on girl. Come on good girl!’

I thought I heard something, a whimper coming from behind me. I spun on my heels and saw a flash of white skin from beneath scrub at the base of an oak tree. I jogged over, my heart racing.

I removed the branches and weeds and found Lola cowering and whimpering, her tail flicking across the dirt.

‘Hey, there you are, come on,’ I said, stroking her head, ‘that’s a good girl.’ I reached into my pocket and fetched out a small dog biscuit, and offered it to her. Slowly she crawled out from her shelter and took the biscuit from my hand. I ran my hands along her wet fur; she was shaking. ‘What’s a matter girl? What’s he done to you?’ She rubbed her face against my leg. She smelled of dirt and wet dog.

‘That’s a good girl,’ I said, checking her ribs and legs. Everything seemed ok, but I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t trust him.

I clipped her lead onto her collar. ‘Come on Lola, let’s get you checked out.’ I gripped on to her lead tightly, my knuckles turning white as I thought about what he might’ve done to her. Shit head. If I found out he’d…I’d fucking kill him. I gently pulled on her lead and she followed me obediently, if slowly. Her legs seemed fine, but her head was low. She wasn’t her usual bouncy self.

There was a vet in town, about ten minutes away. I’d have to take her there. Make sure. I needed to make sure. I clenched my free hand into a fist. He’d pay. Somehow I would make him pay.

I managed to get Lola in to see the vet. He didn’t want to see her; he knows about my old step-man. Knows he’s no good. Probably threatened him, or broke in and stole some gear. In the end, he took her into the consultation room and gave her the once over. I didn’t tell him what I thought had happened and he didn’t ask. Ten minutes later Lola was given a clean bill of health, and I came out with a thirty-pound bill and a warning that if I hurt my dog again he’d report me. I hadn’t hurt her, but I didn’t argue, as much as it killed me inside that anyone would think that. No one believed anyone who was related to my shithead stepdad. And no one believed anything a member of the Bones family said. Looked like I was doubly fucked.

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To Forgive? Or Not Forgive?

To forgive, according to the online Oxford English Dictionary means to:

  1. Stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake.
  2. No longer feel angry about or wish to punish (an offence, flaw, or mistake)
  3. Cancel (a debt)
  4. Used in polite expressions as a request to excuse one’s foibles, ignorance, or impoliteness.

We are told by many people that in order to heal we need to forgive the wrongs that have been done to us and the wrongs we have done to ourselves. But, perhaps controversially, I don’t think that’s always the case.

Peg Streep, in the article, When You Should and Should Not Forgive, says that, “For all that we culturally admire the ability to forgive—it’s associated with magnanimity, spiritual growth, and, of course, religiosity—it remains a somewhat thorny issue from a psychological point of view. In layman’s terms, the ability to forgive is widely seen as evidence of how high humans rank in the chain of being—animals don’t forgive, after all—so it conveys a moral superiority.”

Forgiveness is seen as the ultimate goal, the only one true way to heal. We are expected to forgive and whilst many times this can prove beneficial to us, it’s not always the case. Sometimes we simply cannot forgive despite all the pressure put on us to do so. Does that make us bad? Does that mean we cannot move on?

No. It doesn’t.

Forgiveness isn’t always the answer, especially in manipulative relationships.

Someone close to me hurt me very badly. I will state now, it’s not my husband, he has only ever been a rock to me. I will not name the person, nor will I tell you what they did because that doesn’t matter. I forgave that person. After all, we’re only human, we all make mistakes.

Then that person hurt me again.  By doing the same thing. And again. And again. Despite what people say, I cannot walk away. Why? It’s complicated.

In this instance, my forgiveness of that person allowed the hurt to happen again and again. I’m not blaming myself because I’m not responsible for what that person did to me. But, I am responsible for my reaction to what they did.

Sometimes in narcissistic or manipulative relationships forgiveness will not do. Forgiveness makes you a target because, in part, you think that person will change, will not want to hurt you in the future now that they know they’ve hurt you. In these types of relationships, forgiveness can make you the victim again and again. To the manipulative person, forgiveness is a weakness to be exploited.

So, what can you do?

I found that acceptance has helped me.

I’ve accepted that the person in question is a shitty person, that they will keep doing what they do and they will keep playing the games they play. That’s on them, not me. And, I don’t forgive them for what they’ve done to me but, I’ve accepted it’s happened and will happen again if I let it. Acceptance has made me stronger, it’s given me back the power. What has happened has happened, but I won’t let it again. I’m in control of how I respond and how I deal with the other person. I can’t control them, but I can control my response. I don’t forgive them and that’s not just okay, that’s bloody beautiful! I’m free from expectation. I’m free from the forgiveness trap. I’m free from anger!

That’s not to say you shouldn’t forgive if you need to. That’s your call. All I’m saying is, there is another way. You can move on and heal without forgiveness.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Pinterest (not mine, but I can’t find anyone to attribute it to); “Sometimes you have to accept things the way they are and move on.”

 

Further Reading:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-compassion-chronicles/200803/forgive-or-not-forgive-is-the-question

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/disturbed/201208/why-you-dont-always-have-forgive

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/tech-support/201410/when-you-should-and-should-not-forgive

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/forgive

A Writing Experiment?

I thought I’d try a little experiment. Every Wednesday I’ve decided I’m going to start posting a section of another piece of writing from a novel I’m working on. It might just be a sentence, a couple of lines, a paragraph or two, or a couple of A4 pages. The story has a working title of Death’s Apprentice. I haven’t done much planning in regards to this story so I don’t have many details and I shall be writing it as I go along, by the seat of my pants. I’ve never written in this way before and I usually do loads of planning so I’m well out of my comfort zone. This inevitably means that there will be loads of mistakes, loads of plot holes and I will forget things but, in the end, I will hopefully have a rough draft to refine and work with (fingers crossed :)).

I’ve decided there are no rules. I’m going to write what comes to me and I’d like you to come along for the ride. Please comment if you want to, all suggestions are welcome 🙂

Let’s see what happens!!

Death’s Apprentice

Clouds gathered above, heavy with rain, and dark, like my mood. I pulled my hood over my head and continued walking down the dirt path, Lola’s black leather lead clasped tightly in my hand. He’d done it on purpose, I knew it, despite all of his bitching otherwise. He’d left the back gate open, I could see it in his shitty brown eyes. In the curl of his lips as he told me she was missing.

It was payback.

I looked at my right hand clutching the lead; my knuckles were still red and angry and swollen. I smiled. He’d come off worse; his eyes were as black as the clouds above me. I think I’d broken his nose. He deserved it. Lola didn’t.

I kicked at a stone on the path. It flew through the air and landed with a plop in the canal. I watched water ripple out from the point of impact, ever-increasing circles stretching out across the muddy brown surface. Rain began to tumble from the sky and pock-mark the water. A white-beaked coot scooted into the reeds to get away from the impending downpour.

Where was Lola?

‘Lola!’ I shouted. I thought she’d be here. ‘Lola!’

A train rumbled by, shaking the green railings that blocked off the canal and scrubland from the railway tracks. Dried, brown leaves were kicked into the air as it rushed by. The air stilled, and quietness descended upon the wasteland.

‘Lola!’ My stomach rolled. I thought I would’ve found her here, in her favourite place. I cast my eyes around the scrub, desperate to find her. What if…what if he hadn’t just let her out? What if…

The sky burst. Rain crashed down around me, soaking me to the bone in a matter of seconds, and throwing up the scent of damp earth, decaying rubbish and rotten eggs as it churned up the water.

 

 

 

Thinking Outside the Box?

Thinking Outside the Box?

I can’t even remember where I put the damn box!

Much of our Christmas shopping was, like a lot of people, done online. The downside to this was the mountain of cardboard boxes that we’d built up in the garage. Knowing our recycling bin was going to be emptied soon we decided yesterday to finally attempt to crush them all up to fit them in the bin. As I was doing this, I realised that those of us with chronic illnesses are put into boxes and it’s very difficult to climb out.

To be fair, as humans we love to organise, classify and put things into categories and little neat boxes. It’s human nature. And not always a bad thing. It helps us to simplify things, to order things and make them more manageable to understand.

It helps when those of us who have struggled with pain and fatigue and other symptoms finally get our diagnosis, whatever that may be. It can help us to process what’s going on and gives us the opportunity to learn about our conditions.

On a personal level, I was relieved to get my diagnosis of fibromyalgia after years of pain and being pushed from doctor to doctor. It was something solid, something I could research and get a handle on. It was something. It gave what I was going through a name and an identity. It helped me get the treatment I needed, It helped me get the right medication. It helped me figure things out in my head.

And yet, I can’t help but see the label of fibromyalgia as a hindrance too (I know, I know, I’m being contrary :)). I was given a label and put in a box and sometimes it feels like I’ll never climb out of that box.

A person with fibromyalgia is still a person. A person who, on their good days, has so much more to give! An adult with CFS or ME shouldn’t be written off because they have CFS or ME. We are more than our labels! And also those labels don’t even begin to illustrate how varied and unique and wonderful we are in our own special way. We are people, not labels. And I am not my fibromyalgia!

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

As Adam Alter says in his blog post on Psychology Today, Why it’s Dangerous to Label People, whilst “labeling isn’t always a cause for concern, and….(is) often very useful….it’s important to recognize that the people we label as “black,” “white,” “rich,” poor,” smart,” and “simple,” seem blacker, whiter, richer, poorer, smarter, and simpler merely because we’ve labeled them so.”

So, I would say to you, let’s not be afraid to climb out of that box. Don’t be afraid to take that box and jump on it and crush it. Tear it to pieces if you need to. Be who you are, not what the label on your box tells you to be.

And if anyone else tries putting you back in that box? Tell them you are fabulous, and like all fabulous people you don’t fit into that damn box!

I will leave you with an inspirational quote from my all-time favourite writer, Charles Bukowski:

“Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?”

 

Further Reading:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/alternative-truths/201005/why-its-dangerous-label-people

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beautiful-minds/201210/the-pesky-persistence-labels

 

New Year, New Projects!!

So today I thought I would share with you my new writing project. It’s a Women’s Literature Novel (well, that’s my intention but sometimes things change) and it centres on woman called Jo who has fibromyalgia (well, I may as well use my illness – it uses me :)) and she has a mother called Helena who is less than sympathetic to Jo’s illness. In fact, Helena has her own issues as she has narcissistic tendencies. Narcissism is something that really intrigues me.

The mother in my trilogy, BonesAshes and Dust also has narcissism. I use the narcissistic motif because I’m intrigued by the motherhood myth that plagues society, that is, the idea that it doesn’t matter how much she abuses you, you should always honour thy mother. I disagree with this and I find it an interesting topic to delve in to.

This is the first part of my next novel called (for the moment anyway), The Narcissist’s Daughter. Tell me what you think!! Bold writing indicates where I’ve put my thoughts in because I’m not sure of the details yet. This is very rough, there will be many errors :).

Background – Jo has been living in Ibiza with her husband. She’s come home to the UK after the failure of her marriage and, more importantly, because her father is dying. This scene is where she goes to visit her dad in the hospital after a few years of no contact with her family at all.

The Narcissist’s Daughter – Rough Draft – Chapter One

The smell of old age, of sickness, and death, hung heavy in the air like a thick black cloud. The stench of urine and faeces was still detectable under the smell of disinfectant. Jo wretched as she entered the ward. And then she saw him, lying amongst it all, looking breakable and fragile and not how she remembered.

She stopped in the middle of the ward. His bed was in the corner, by the window. He looked so…small, so…not like her father.

She took a deep breath and went over to him.

His face was gaunt, his skin so paper thin that the blood vessels were visible like deathly flowers blossoming beneath it. His head was tilted back, his mouth wide open, false teeth protruding from under his hairy top lip.

She didn’t recognise him. But then, she hadn’t for a long time.

Jo looked at him. His hair was all wrong, not how it should be, not how she remembered it. She reached out to move his fringe, then stopped. Her hand quivered mid-air. Do I dare touch him, she thought, I can’t remember the last time I touched him. In fact, I don’t remember a time I ever threw my arms around him. But a part of her really wanted to hug him now, to hold him tight and never let him go, even though that would be so alien to who they were. They weren’t that type of family. She let her hand drop back to her side. Better to keep things as they were, how they always had been.

Instead, Jo sat down on the plastic seat next to the bed and looked out of the window. Rain was splattering on the dirty glass. Dark clouds rolled across the sky as Storm Brian battered the UK. She hadn’t missed the weather. Not one little bit.

She looked back to her father. My father? How strange that sounded to her. Father. It was foreign and bitter on her tongue like love turned to ash.

‘What the hell are you doing here?’

Jo jumped, startled by the harsh tone of Christina’s voice. Fuck, she thought, I’m not ready for this. Jo took a deep breath and turned in her seat. Her sister was standing in the aisle, coffee in one hand, leather purse in the other.

‘I came to see Dad,’ she replied, aware of how her words seemed so redundant. What else would I be doing here?

‘Came to see Dad? Yeah, that’d be right now the time for actually doing something has gone. Now that he’s at death’s door.’

Christina pushed passed Jo and placed her coffee cup on the cupboard at the side of the bed. ‘What have you really come for?’ she asked, reaching down to pull her bag out from under the bed.

‘I –‘

‘You want to see what you can get out of him, what’s in the will,’ she said, dropping her purse in her bag before pushing it back under the bed with her foot.

‘I…No,’ said Jo, swivelling in her chair to face her father again. She could feel her face burning. Why was she embarrassed? That wasn’t why she’d come home.

Christina grabbed her coffee and sat on the end of the bed.

‘So?’ she asked, playing with the white plastic lid on her coffee. Her red nail polish was chipped.

‘So what?’ asked Jo, knowing full well what she meant.

Christina huffed. ‘So, what ARE you doing here?’

‘I wanted to see dad, before…. I heard he was in hospital and…’ My therapist said maybe it was a good idea to say goodbye.

‘And you have, so why don’t you piss off again?’

Jo didn’t reply.

‘What? You thought you’d come back, play the doting daughter again after all these years?’

‘It’s not like that.’

‘Really? What is it like?’

‘I…’

‘Why don’t you just go?’ She looked at me, her hazel eyes on fire.

‘I’m not going anywhere. Not yet.’ Not until I get what I came for.

‘No, you’ll wait for him to be put in the ground first, then take his money. Well, I’ve got news for you, there is no money, so if that’s what you came for…’

‘I haven’t come here for money.’ Why had I come? ‘I wanted to say goodbye.’

‘And you have, so I say again, why don’t you just piss off?’

‘I know I haven’t been here, but –‘

‘No. No you haven’t been here, have you?’ Christina jumped off the bed, her coffee sploshing out from the hole in the lid. It trickled across her fake-tanned fingers. ‘Whilst you’ve been poncing around in Ibiza, Mom and I have been stuck here looking after him. Do you know how hard it’s been?’

Jo opened her mouth to speak but didn’t get a chance to respond.

‘No. Of course, you don’t,’ continued Christina.

‘You weren’t the once scraping shit off him, or taking him to A&E when he had funny turns, or scrubbing the piss from the carper because he couldn’t get to the toilet quick enough.’

‘I know, I –‘

‘NO. No you don’t know. You’re not the one who’s had to clean the crap of his legs and re-do the bandages every single pissing day because his lymph nodes are packing in.’

They’ve actually had carers in. Haven’t really done much.

‘His lymph nodes?’

‘He’s got cancer, Jo, cancer.’

Cancer? I didn’t know he had cancer.

‘Can you keep it down, please? We have some very sick patients in here,’ said a small nurse who’d appeared from behind the curtain drawn around the bed opposite.

‘Sorry,’ mumbled Jo.

Christina glared at the nurse but didn’t say a word.

‘Causing trouble again?’

Jo knew the voice. It was hard, cold and unforgiving. Her stomach began doing somersaults inside her. Suddenly she felt sick. She could feel it stinging at the back of her throat.

‘Mom.’ Jo stood up and turned slowly to face her mother. How long had it been?

Her mother looked the same as she remembered; willowy, golden brown skin and perfectly coiffured hair.

‘Joanne,’ she said, sidling passed her and perching herself on the chair.

Jo stepped back.

‘How is he?’ Jo’s mother asked Christina.

‘He’s the same. The doctor came this morning and he said he doesn’t think it will be long now.’

A lump caught in the back of Jo’s throat. She wanted to cry.

‘How are you feeling today, Mom?’

Helena put a manicured hand on her chest. ‘I feel so worn out.’ She ran her hand through her blond bob, and then said to Christina, ‘When did Lady Muck get here?’

‘I don’t know. I found her here when I got back from taking a break.’

Wow, thought Jo, just Wow.

‘So, why have you come back now?’ Helena looked up at Jo, her face looking like thunder,

‘I’ve come to say goodbye.’

‘I suppose you want to stay?’

‘If that’s okay?’ No, thought Jo, I don’t want to stay, but I suppose I should.

‘Well, don’t expect me to run around after you, I’ve got enough to do.’

‘Thank you.’

‘I hope you haven’t brought much. I don’t want you clogging the house up.’

No, thought Jo, I don’t have much to bring with me anyway.

‘How’s Aidan?’

‘He’s…We’ve…’

‘Spit it out.’

‘We’re divorced.’

‘When?’

‘It finalised in Novem-‘

‘And yet, you’re only telling me now?’

‘I…’

‘Nevermind. Take these,’ she said, pulling out a ring of keys, ‘take the spare room, at the back.’

Jo took the keys from her mother’s hand. They were cold to the touch, just like mother.

‘Thank you.’

‘Well, what are you waiting for?’

‘I wanted -‘

‘Joanne dear, we don’t care what you -‘

‘Hello, Mrs. Black.’ A doctor had appeared behind us. ‘How are you today?’

Jo’s mother turned in her seat. ‘Oh, hello Ravinder, I’m fine, thank you. You haven’t met my daughter, Joanne, have you?’

Jo felt herself burning with embarrassment.

‘No, I haven’t. Please to meet you,’ he said, extending his hand.

Jo took it despite her embarrassment. His grip was firm. She looked up at his face and immediately regretted it as she felt herself glowing red. ‘Hi.’

‘Joanna here has just got back from Ibiza, She’s been running her own Yoga retreat. I wish I could have gone out to see her more but, with Robert…’

Really? Thought Jo. She hadn’t ever been to see her in Ibiza in the whole of the time she’d been in Ibiza. That was how many years?

‘I understand. Sometimes, life gets in the way,’ he said, with a shrug. ‘But at least she’s here now.’

‘Oh yes. I’m so proud of her, going out to a foreign country and making a go of it.’

‘I’m sure you are.’ Ravinder looked at Jo. Jo looked at his badge. Dr. Ravinder Singh. ‘Anyway,’ he said, ‘must go. I’ve got to complete my rounds.’

‘Well, thank you for coming to see us. I do appreciate all you’re doing for my Robert.’

‘I’d do the same for anyone,’ he said, with a smile that looked uncomfortable to Jo. ‘Nice to meet you, Joanne.’ He nodded in her direction.

‘It’s Jo, actually,’ she replied, ‘nice to meet you too.’

They watched the doctor disappear down the aisle and out of sight.

‘Your name is Joanne,’ snapped Helena.

‘Well, I like Jo and no one has called me Joanna for years, so…’

Helena’s face turned to thunder. ‘I christened you Joanne. NOT Jo. And as I’m your mother, I think I know what your name is.’

Jo sighed inwardly. Now was not the time for an argument.

‘I’ll go home now. Do you want a lift?’ she asked Helena.

‘What do you think? I’ve only just got here. I can’t be swanning off, not like some of us.’

‘See you later, then?’

‘Yes.’

Jo turned and walked away without another word. When she turned the corner to exit the ward she caught sight of Dr. Singh at the nurse’s station. ‘Bye,’ said Jo, although she didn’t know why.

Ravinder looked up, ‘Bye,’ he said, with a warm smile.

 

With thanks to pippalou at morguefile.com for the featured image of a Narcissus.

It’s New Year’s Eve!!

Hello again! I hope this New Year’s Eve finds you well. I have to say, I’ve eaten so much and now I know how an over-stuffed turkey feels!! I hope you had everything you wished for and that your house is filled with peace and harmony.

Today is going to be a more reflective post. I think we all get a bit like that at this time of year, don’t we? Or is it just me?

So, 2018 has been full of highs and lows, but I must be thankful that there were far more highs than lows. It’s been such a transforming and busy year. From feeling low after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia to the highs of deciding that I wasn’t going to let it define me. That was probably the most transformative thing I did and I haven’t looked back since! I am NOT fibromyalgia. And, the most important part of this was accepting that I had a chronic illness. I detailed how important this step is in the post, Chronic Pain – Acceptance is a Key.

Now, I run this, A Pocketful of Stardust Blog, I have my shop, A Pocketful of Stardust on Etsy.com, and I have my shop on Conscious Crafties. I’ve taught myself how to use resin, and polymer clay and I continue to work on my technique and my writing. My books, BonesAshes and Dust, have been selling well. I feel truly blessed!

If I have achieved so much in 2018, what does 2019 have in store for me?

I really don’t know, but I’m excited to find out!!

Will it be easy?

Probably not, but it WILL be worth it!!

Won’t you join me???

Thank you, dear readers, and I hope you have a very, very Happy New Year xx