My friend Rebecca has been writing blogs. She doesn’t usually but she’s written three in the space of a week! With pictures and everything. I have been waiting for inspiration, a spark of something…some words. They seem to be passing me by and a kind of numb, nothingness has come over me. I think it’s the corona virus crisis, being on lock down, having whole days stretch before me for me to fill without the speed and craziness that had become so familiar. I’m not really sure what to do with it although I know I need to just leave it alone, let it be. The past year has been one of those years…I have been shaken out of the life I thought I was leading and had to wake up to a few things. It’s made me more human, more me I think. Being very ill, close to death even has shaken my foundations, brought me closer to the people I love and more in touch with who I really am. I once said to a very good friend of mine that I was ready for life, all of it “give me it all!” I declared. My friend warned me to be careful what I wished for and I’ve thought about that over the last few months. The problem is that having spent a lot of my life thinking and planning and analysing and tricking myself into thinking I was in control I am now faced with the awareness that I am not, not in the slightest. The only moment that exists and that I can be in is the present moment. So if I want life I have to have it all. It all comes as one. I can’t split off the bits that I want and those that I can’t cope with. I’ve realised that staying in touch with the joy of being alive also means experiencing the grief and the sorrow. I can remember being little and the pure joy of looking at my grandad’s garden; something inside being touched by the sheer beauty of the tiny daisy like flowers that opened to the sun. Something so simple and yet heartbreaking in it’s beauty at the same time. The feelings are so big. Sometimes so big that it seems like there is not enough room, like it’s way bigger than me. I still want it all, the whole of life and I have got used to the idea that this is not the idealised version, it’s the pain and the messiness, living with the knowledge that we are all just doing the best we can with what we currently have. Is it possible that the person who brings the most joy also brings the ache, that movement inside that’s both heartbreak and beauty? And if I look back with regret and wish I had kept my guard up am I prepared to forego that joy? This virus has been a leveller. The distinctions that we make between one another based on our role or training has revealed itself as nothing but a veneer. At the end of the day we are all the same. We are all just as vulnerable and unable to control what’s happening. Those people who seemingly have the least are the first ones to step forward and reach out when they are needed. Here in Barrow we know how to do this. Despite the years of cutbacks and the deprivation we still haven’t forgotten. We are, as another of my friends said “the good and proud people of Barrow”.
I have been for my one walk of the day. I’m lucky as I live very near to the beach. Walking brought me nearer to some thoughts about this blog. I was looking around at the familiar sights that I have grown up with and feeling the comfort this brings, knowing where you belong, feelings and memories, the beauty of the beach and yet how ordinary it seems too. I never used to get it when strangers to Barrow raved about the beach. It was just our beach, holding memories of days out with no money, sandwiches in bread bags, weak dilute pop, laughing and playing and also the place where my brothers friend drowned as a young child. That’s the whole again-you can’t recall one without the other-not if you are ready for the whole of life anyway! Since being ill I have discovered something bigger than me. I’ve never considered myself religious or spiritual but have found myself discovering more about who I am, that place deep inside that is my essence. And I like it and I am ready for the whole of life so I am allowing more of it, learning how I make myself small or not me when I’m scared, how part of me has learned to hold back, to look out at others from a distance, to think rather than feel. I’ve been working with a guy called Cormac recently and the way that he does things has circumvented the “professional” me and reached the real me. He talks about “enough already”. We are all enough already. What a relief to feel that again and how true it is. Something has infiltrated my usual boundary and I am discovering lost bits of myself that make me smile. On my walk I was listening to Trash Glam Baby- Bob Geldof whom I saw in Gibraltar with my friend 18 months ago. I’ve never really been a Bob Geldof fan but in real life he was just so cool, older but very cool and I hadn’t expected that. Listening to him brought back memories of me and my sister walking around Barrow at night as young teenagers, drinking and listening to “I don’t like Mondays”. The music and the dark and the familiarity of Barrow as well as the alcohol brings back a whole mixture of emotion. I was wondering whether my friends and family know how much I love music-have I ever told them? It made me ponder and think about how even when you think you are not revealing your struggles those close to you often see it and feel it more clearly than you do. Looking back now my partner could see my sadness long before I managed to talk about it. I remember one day he left me little notes all over the house. Instructions to throw caution to the wind and let go. I think I still have it somewhere. It’s weird how getting older kind of means getting younger again too. Someone once said something about getting older and having all of your younger selves inside. I like that idea. I want to know all those parts of me and not have to hold back. I want both the joy that it brings and the pain and sorrow of being alive and I want to share it with others.
And so that brings me back to being Barrovian and LBf’s. We are on a journey too folks. How to be real, how not to make artificial distinctions and yet use what we know to help one another, how to embrace the messiness, the hurt, the anger and the sorrow, not running from it and always knowing that we are “enough already”.
Rebecca, my fellow Barrovian I love your blogs. Whilst I am wrangling with spirituality you are busy making bread and those lovely pancakes of yours, washing your tea towels, appreciating the support from our funders and sharing why you are so good at what you do. I am glad I have found some words!
And Barrow is most definitely our favourite place!