Coming Back to Our Story

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A strange thing, this life, this writing business; this process of picking ourselves open along the scars.

I’ve been somewhat stressed of late and started not sleeping well again and, oh, generally feeling a bit overwhelmed by the workload. I often talk about the workload because it’s a constant. I’m at a point in my career where I still can’t turn things down, and I have to constantly have a plan for the next thing. At the minute I am simultaneously working on four projects, two of which are big future projects which are terrifically important to me as a creative practitioner and the other two projects are terrifically important to me because I need to pay my mortgage. I seem to just chip one thing off, and I have to add another on. This isn’t a moan post, by the way, I am incredibly lucky to have found a way to make a living helping people with their creative endeavours and I would not swap that for anything, I love it. I love all the things I do – the theatre reviewing, the article writing, mentoring, editing, course running. But I’m also a writer. I need to write.

I was meant to have finished the final edits on my new collection way back in April. My incredible, patient publisher hasn’t bugged me about it, they are giving me the freedom to come to this collection in the way that I need to. This is by far the most important collection of poems I’ve written. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think they’ll be earth shattering, award winning, life changing poems for anyone other than me, but they are my truth and my story, and my daughter’s story. Because of that, they are the most important poems I have ever written.  The subject matter is so full of emotional moorings. They feel sticky with pregnancy and birth and when I look at them they feel full of my daughter, swelled with her importance. But more than that, they are full of recognition by me, of me. It’s difficult to define why that’s important. They are a recognition of myself as strong, as an individual: as a woman, as a child as a person, as a bereaved mum, as an infertile woman, as a childless woman. These are big, painful poems. They are so close to me and I am so frightened of touching them again that I have effectively procrastinated the months away, prioritising other things instead of tackling the MS, and getting more and more worn out by the amount of work I’m doing. I am still packing the wound that her death left with work, making sure I feel bone tired. I’d started to post sad little ‘I’m tired’ posts on social media, which I was deleting because, God, who isn’t tired?! Who isn’t struggling, who isn’t suffering in one way or another. I have no complaints, I have a good life, I just need to embrace the difficulties and celebrate the good stuff, and there is good stuff a plenty.

Yesterday was one of the ‘I’m so tired, poor me’ post/delete days. Heightened because Chris was going away and I worry so much about him dying in a car crash or being stabbed in street brawl or any number of horrible things that could happen but probably won’t but could but probably won’t but could….on and on and on in my head like that, that the anxiety will keep me static for hours until I know he’s safe. Such is the legacy of trauma I’m afraid. To cut a long story short I happened to check into Facebook memories. Mostly these memories tend to be selfies and pictures of my cat, but sometimes a worm hole opens to the year my daughter died. Yesterday’s was from 2010 ‘another bottle of gin drunk, another bottle of gin bought’ and I remembered suddenly so clearly that time three months after she’d died when I was spiralling, out of control, sinking into her death and drinking a bottle of gin a day to deal with the unbearable pain of it. It was one of those ‘bloody hell, that was a bad time’ things where you recognise how bad things have been. I made a comment about it on twitter and said it sort of put things into perspective, because yeah, I’m tired, but I’m no longer trying to survive an alternate universe of grief in which every single thing, thought and feeling is hell. 120 people liked that post, I was completely taken aback by the support. And I got a shed load of comments of support, some from people who have only recently had babies, too. I think my experiences are often difficult for people who have just had babies or are pregnant to deal with. They don’t know what to say to me, so that sort of recognition rather than avoidance is always appreciated.

It was like a touchstone to that time, and I thought about it all day, all night, and suddenly I realised I’m ready. Christ, look at me, I’m Titanium, I’m bomb proof and I have a voice and I have a story, our story to tell. This book, it’s a goodbye to my daughter, and it’s an acceptance of self and of future. I think I’ve said something along these lines before, about this book and what it means. I’ve been working on it since, I think, 2014. And now it’s nearly done and I am nearly done. Losing my baby, especially in the way we did, it took everything from me, but having her, having the experience of a love that big and knowing exactly how much you can love someone, it gave me everything, it gave me everything I am today, here. This is where I am now.

I have only written two poems this year. I would have been worried about that before, but I’ve come to recognise that for me poetry is a specific process that comes when it comes, and I can feel it now, it’s coming back. I think when I finished the MS I was just exhausted by it, poetically exhausted. I couldn’t write another thing, it was a giant purge of extreme emotion and I haven’t, if I’m honest, really read a great deal of poetry either. I’ve put the edits on the MS off because I didn’t want to go back down into the underworld, back to hell and back into yet another deep depression, which is what happened when I was working on the MS last time. But now, I don’t know. I feel like I am preparing myself. I can feel it coming, I’ve started reading poetry again, I’ve started writing poetry again, and it’s good, it’s right. I tentatively opened the MS and I can see what needs to be done with it. I’ve been testing the poems on audiences at readings and they go down well.

There are poems to be written and they are prickling around my bones like new red blood cells. It feels like being in touch with the intensity of emotion that the experience, my love is and was,  it feels like I am about to meet my daughter again, and I feel just a little bit mad, on the cusp of some great wave of creativity that is going to take me somewhere else, and it feels good. It feels clean and sharp, I feel clean and sharp and strong and fast, like a hare, ready to do this.

That’s all. I need to tell this story. That’s all.

x

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