Thursday, 31 December 2009

Christmas Wake Up Calls

As I said yesterday, this Christmas was good for me. But it wasn't without its challenges. And those challenges came in the form of my friend's two lovely girls.

I have watched these girls grow from tiny baby scraps in to little people and they continue to surprise me every year for entirely different reasons.

The youngest girl, K, turned seven in August. From the moment she could talk, K has had the ability to completely disarm me. I have never known a child with such intuition - when she looks me in the eye she can see straight through me and that scares me ever so slightly. Okay, it scares me a lot. She totally has my number. On Boxing Day she wanted me to sing with her on the Wii. I turned her down, giving the excuse that I didn't really know the song. She gave me that piercing look. "You're scared." she said. And when I denied it she knew that I was lying "I can see on your face that you're scared. I can see you smirking". Thankfully I was rescued by lunch being ready. But truthfully, I didn't really know the song. And I didn't want to break her ears.

This minor confrontation was nothing, however, compared to Christmas Eve, when she discovered through her sister that I was smoking. Now, I'm not proud of smoking. I can give you all of the excuses in the world as to why I smoke, but at the end of the day I know that they are just this: excuses. I know that the habit has to stop, but with everything else going on in my life at the moment, now is just not the right time. Try explaining that to a seven year old.

She confronted me when I was trying to dry my hair.
"Why do you smoke? I am very unhappy that you smoke. You will die if you smoke."
I told her that I was going to stop, but not just yet.
"You must stop today" she said "Why don't you just throw the packet away and then you won't have to smoke. You must stop for Christmas. You must stop now. Stop now."
I had to restrain myself from reacting and somehow turned in to a version of my mother, with short, defensive phrases such as "when you are older, you will understand" and "I'm not going to argue with you, K, so drop the subject"
The more she kept on, the more I wanted to run outside and light up - my own childish reaction. I wasn't going to be told what to do by a child. What does she know about my situation?

But the discussion didn't end there. Later in the day we went out for a walk and stopped to buy some pastries. I snuck outside and had my third cigarette of the day (pleased with myself that I was only on number 3 at 3pm). Despite hiding round the corner, K spotted me.

When we got back to the house, I was prompted to try a bit of Brain Training on the Nintendo DS. My friend walked in to the living room.
"Oh dear" she said "K's writing you a letter about your smoking" Oh not this again. Give me a break, K, I've got enough problems as it is.
K stomped in to the living room 5 minutes later, whilst I was midway through discovering that I had the brain of a limpit, and dropped the following piece of paper in to my lap.

Everyone sat and watched my reaction as I glanced angrily at the piece of paper in my lap. I wanted to be defensive, but I restrained myself and finished my game, effectively ignoring what she had written but feeling my cheeks flush with shame. How can I dismiss her childish accusations when everything she said was perfectly true? After 5 minutes she reappeared and delivered another little note containing a Ferrero Rocher chocolate that she wanted me to eat. It said "This is mine but I want you to have this" and was accompanied by a love heart.

I remembered back to how grown up I felt when I was seven, and how sensitive, and decided to pick the right opportunity to talk with her openly. That opportunity came later on in the evening, when she decided that she wanted me to be her sister, and to come and play in her room. She handed me a notepad and told me to write something. I wrote something along the lines of "KR loves K and would very much like to be her sister". K read the note, wrote a reply and handed it back to me "K loves KR as a sister because she is funny and has a good personalty even though she smokes" Bingo. Opportunity on a plate.

"You do know that I am sad that I smoke too, don't you?" I said.
"But why do you? Why do you smoke when you know that you are going to die?"
I explained as best I could and promised that I would be giving up very soon. And I meant it.
"If you die my Mummy will be really sad, and I don't like it when my Mummy is sad, even though I don't really understand it, I don't like it".
Somewhere deep inside, my heart broke just a little bit more than it had before. My friend's Mum died very suddenly of cancer at too young an age and smoked voraciously all of her life. If I can't give up for myself, I need to give up for the people around me.

That was the last conversation on smoking although I continued to get sidelong glances when I grabbed my coat and sneaked outside.

The older daughter, L, affected me on a different level. She is 11 years old - such a tender age: just on the fringes of puberty. She still retains a childish innocence and is excruciating embarrassed over the way her body is starting to change. When the school recently gave the girls "The Talk", the teacher commented that she had never seen a girl turn so white so quickly when a tampon was passed around the class. I feel for her and remembering my own fears I wanted to talk to her and tell her that everything would be okay, but the bridge wasn't there to cross.

Her moods are verging on teenager, playful one minute, affronted the next, but her body is still that of a child - tiny, straight up and down, no hips. Just like I was. Just like I was the year that my Stepfather started to visit my bedroom with the offer of rubbing my back. Only whenever I have remembered this abuse, I have pictured myself as I am now, with a woman's body and a mature mind - someone who had the capability to say no. I have felt so much guilt over the years for not being able to control the situation - none of the efforts I made to deflect his attentions worked. And I have blamed myself for years imagining that somehow, with all of my teenage hormones and curiosity, I encouraged him - as though the thoughts in my head that I had about boys were enough to turn me in to such a temptress that he - as a 42 year old man - couldn't possibly resist.

But now I am hit with the sudden realisation that I didn't stand a chance. And that although the abuse went on for long after my body had developed (although, to be honest, I am still waiting patiently for my boobs to grow), when the abuse started I was just a girl. A girl whose only worries in the world should have been about growing up and keeping up with the latest craze - not desperately trying to engineer every waking moment to prevent 'consequences' that could never have been avoided.

If I think of any 42 year old man approaching L in the same way, I can feel my fists clenching, ready to fight. I feel so angry at the mere thought. I can see how easily she would be manipulated, how quickly she would shut down if she did not have the support of her parents, how swiftly she would blame herself. How remarkably easy it would be to take a beautiful, caring, open child and crush her spirit out of all recognition. And I've never given myself the same consideration - there is still a part of me thinking "But maybe if I'd done this, or not done that, or told somebody". Maybe I am just too proud to admit that I was outwitted at every turn. I thought I was clever, but just not clever enough.

It's New Year's Eve, and 2010 lies ahead, waiting for my next move. It is time to move on, to finally forgive myself for being out of my depth, for learning that the control I could not possibly have had then, I can have now. The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The Last Christmas of its Kind

I have to admit, that as part of a new attitude and as part of the New Me, I had a good Christmas this year. A very nice Christmas. Christmas is, after all, what you make it (as is any day). All the same, next year is going to be markedly different.

Christmas, for me, has for a long while been the most depressing time of the year. It wasn't always that way - in fact, for the first ten years of my life it was the most exciting, magical time of year. When my parents were together, Christmas followed a pattern. My sister and I would wake up and creep downstairs to make a cup of tea for my Mum and Dad, carefully opening the living room door and peeking at the pillowcases that served as our Christmas stockings. At 8am and no sooner, we would wake them up, drag them downstairs, and open our presents.

Later in the morning my aunts, uncles and cousin would arrive, Christmas dinner was served at 1:30pm, after which point we had an excruciating wait for the Queen to finish her speech before we could open the big presents under the tree. In the evening, after a buffet tea, we would open the little presents that had been stowed in the branches of our huge Christmas tree.

The only year this sequence went sour was the year that my sister discovered our Christmas presents hidden in our parents' wardrobe, and our feigned surprise on opening each present was met with "Oh don't pretend. You already knew you were getting that". Oops.

At the age of 11, Christmas became a whole new ball game. My sister and I lived with my Mum and Stepdad, and visited my Dad every other weekend. Each Christmas was alternated between parents, switching houses between Christmas and New Year. Each year my Mum would pull faces at the presents Dad had bought and make comments that he was just trying to buy our love and 'show off', and each year my sister and I grew further and further apart from my Dad as he built a new family with my Stepmum and my little brother, pushing us out of their circle. The joy of opening presents from my Dad slowly changed in to an annual performance of false gratitude (which surely deserved at least an equity card, if not an Oscar) as we unwrapped well-intentioned gifts that neither of us liked.

At least this was better than Christmas at home with my Mum and Stepdad. Whilst every day living with my Stepdad was spent walking on eggshells, the festive season was akin to hopping blindfold through a minefield. One particularly joyous year that springs to mind was when I was sixteen years old, and my sister had left home. My Mum had been working on Christmas Eve, and - sin of sins - had been seen by my Stepdad chatting to one of the workmen who used to buy his lunch from the shop. Saving his inquisition until he was well and truly drunk, the early hours of my Christmas morning were spent listening to my Stepdad accusing my Mum of - amongst other things - being a "f*cking whore" and wanting to "f*ck that ginger C*NT" accompanied by slammed doors, things being thrown and dropped, and occasional shrieks - which could have been injuries, or maybe not. It was always hard to tell.

Eight hours later my Mum was persuading my Stepdad and I to open our Christmas stockings as though nothing had happened and to "cheer up and be nice because it's Christmas Day", before she went out in the car to fetch my Stepdad's Mum and Dad. Christmas Dinner was intended for 2pm, but my Stepdad wasn't hungry at that point, and so we waited until 6:30 before tucking in to a long-overcooked and reheated meal in uncomfortable silence. We watched evening TV with a running commentary from my Stepdad, nursing his beer, shotgun at side. At 10pm I went upstairs and got ready for bed whilst my Mum dropped my 'Nan and Granddad' off home, at which point my Stepfather took the opportunity to come up to my room and sexually abuse me. Not for the first time, so no great surprise there then.

Ho. Ho. Ho. Me-erry Christmas.

After I had left home, whether in a relationship or not, I always felt as though I was being shoved from pillar to post. Dad always had a "family Christmas" and so the habit grew of having our Christmas at New Year. I spent Christmas with Mum once after she had left my Stepdad, but started to realise that the Christmas I wanted was never the Christmas I was going to get.

Every year I wanted just to forget all about Christmas. And when my last relationship ended I became the hot potato - "What do we do with KR this Christmas?" Christmas with my Mum has not been an option since she moved in with her partner 12 years ago - they have their own Christmas, together. For several years I went to stay with my Aunt, but after being woken up the last time on Christmas morning with a barked "Wake up, you!" and having no presents to open on the day except for a hastily grabbed pair of pink fluffy bed-socks, I decided I needed a change.

And then my friend made me an offer to visit them instead. I've known my friend for 25 years now and our lives are very different - she's been with the same man for nearly 20 years, has two daughters and is the main breadwinner of the house. We repeatedly promise to be better at staying in touch and yet still go months without any contact (this year our promise has been to Skype on a regular basis) but despite this we seem to have a bond that only gets stronger each year. When we do get together, it only takes one mention of "'E's a giraffe!" or 'Gothic Nazis' to send us back in to the same fits of giggles that got us in to great trouble at college. But most of all, we seem to just accept each other for Who We Really Are, without needing to say a word. And you can't buy that for Christmas.

The first year I went to visit it was slightly painful at first - sitting in on someone else's family Christmas, again pining for the Christmases I felt had been stolen from me - but now it's a blessing to be invited to join them, watching her girls create the memories that I once had and taking a Santa sized bite out of the mince pie before heading off to bed. It is a relaxed affair and they all make me feel really at home and part of the family. It's helped to remind me what is really important in my life and what the true meaning of Christmas really is.

Christmas is about goodwill, not getting crushed in the crowds on Oxford Street trying to find "the right present". Christmas is for Christians, not a spiritual convert who invests energy in Chanukah and Pesach and Rosh Hashannah. Christmas is for kids - to give them a day that they will look forward to and never forget for the right reasons.

Next year, Christmas is going to be reserved for the kids and the people I actually spend the day with. No more buying presents out of duty for those who leave it until three days before Christmas to ask when they might see me. No more charades. No more pretence. No more buying gifts as part of an obligation to family who celebrate a day which belongs to a religion I no longer follow.

Don't think that I've gone all Scrooge, though. I think that the Honest me is going to be far more genuine and giving and lighter than the Unhappy, Obligated me who spent most of her time clawing her way through Christmas wearing jeans and a grimace. I feel so much better now that I have got that off my chest. But don't think to get me started on New Year...

Monday, 21 December 2009

A Titanic Dose of Rage

I think I've finally worked out why the Titanic keeps popping up in my life. A few weeks ago I thought that it was referring to a large event which had started to bring my past to the surface. Sink or swim. Then, after the last meeting with my teacher where I almost, but couldn't, cry, I met with a friend who put a slightly different spin on things.

It's not so much my past that is being brought to the surface, but all of the feelings I had pushed down so long ago. The Titanic, he said, sunk to the bottom of the sea in icy cold waters, and lay there compressed. What you have to remember is that bringing the contents of the Titanic to the surface did not tear them apart. I remember looking at the dining sets at the Titanic exhibition in New York - crockery remarkably preserved.

What was strange is that all of the references to the Titanic had somehow stopped after I had met with my teacher and he had offered to listen. So perhaps now that I had got the message I didn't need the continual prompts. What followed the meeting were a few days of unsettling contemplation. Logically, I knew what had upset me and why, but I was still lost as to how to unleash these feelings during a 45 minute meeting. It needs to come out, but how?

I sent my teacher an email, asking for a meeting and giving a very brief explanation of my concerns. I am afraid that I will be wasting your time, I said, I refuse to cry.

He replied with a one liner, suggesting a meeting just before Rosh Chodesh, where at least 100 people would be coming along to understand the energy of the month of Capricorn.

Oh great - so not only do I not want to be seen to be crying at the best of times, but now he wants me to make a mess of my face just before Rosh Chodesh? But if this was the only time available at short notice, then so be it. I was going to give it my best shot.

I spent the next few days somewhat consumed by the approaching meeting. How was this going to work? What on earth could he say which would possibly get past this seemingly enormous barrier to allow me to open up? When I lit my Chanukah candles, I meditated on finding a way to let go. I played sad and bitter songs to try and get a rise out of myself. I tried to understand the crux of my issues - what was really the root here? What was I most upset about? What, if I try to explain to someone else, will push the button enough to allow me to let go? Despite feeling a deep lurking pain, no emotions were coming to the surface. Not so much as a tea-set. Just the much practised I am dead inside so just leave me be air of martyrdom.

I turned up for the meeting prepared to cry, grateful for someone to listen and having an open mind. He was running late, which made things worse. He asked me what had been going on for the past week and I started to explain my recent pre-occupation with trying to find a way in. Less than two sentences out of my mouth, and he interrupted.

"So, let's just stop here. What has changed? Nothing has changed here. You have missed the miracle of Chanukah. If you'd understood the miracle of Chanukah it would have happened by now."

He then proceeded to tell me that I needed to move on: to start doing the spiritual work. Stop telling yourself the old stories, he said. They're just old stories, they mean nothing. The only way you can move forwards is just to decide to move forwards and start learning. Have you read the Shabbat book? How can you come to Shabbat if you haven't read the Shabbat book? You don't even understand what consciousness you are meant to have. You can't just turn up like it's a religion and expect to see the return. You can't just sit in the room and listen to the reading of the Torah and gain from it. It shouldn't just be a habit that you do - you need to learn it. You should be an advanced student by now. You should know better. Start studying and all of this will just go and all of these old stories that you tell yourself will go away."

He spoke some more about the energy of the month, giving me practical advice on Kabbalistic tools such as the Mikveh, telling me that I always over-complicate everything, that it really isn't that complicated, firing information at me whilst my head reeled with a variety of emotions. I was stunned. I felt betrayed, stupid, naive, and as though all of my good intentions with Kabbalah were second rate and a disappointment to him and the centre.

After ten minutes of lecture he said "Okay, that's it, see you at the New Moon" I sat with my mouth open. So that's it?

"Okay, now go. That's it." I sat, motionless. "You have something to say to me? I feel you have something to say to me. What is it?"

I couldn't express what was on my mind clearly - confusion reigned. "I just... I just don't... people have been telling me to move on for years and I've never been able to. I just don't understand how that is meant to work. For the past few weeks when all of this stuff has come up I don't feel as though anything has changed at all" I said, trying to avoid eye contact. My throat was constricted and I fought the tears that were beginning to prickle at the back of my eyes. But it was for all of the wrong reasons, and he doesn't want to hear it. Who ever did?

"That is the illusion of the Opponent" he said "What happens when you change something in the spiritual world is that it is immediately concealed, so you don't think you ever had it. But it is there waiting for you. But if you keep telling yourself the old stories, you will miss it. You need to keep doing the work, and learning, and in a couple of months you won't have these feelings any more. They will be gone".

There was a moment's pause whilst I tried to accept what he was saying. Maybe he's right. I couldn't see how I was ever going to open up. Perhaps I am just too determined to hang on to my feelings. Perhaps it really is that simple - let them go.

Before I got up to leave, he casually threw in the question "So, how's the crying going?"
I laughed mockingly. "Yeah, well, like I said, I don't do crying"

He sat back in his chair and looked me in the eye with a knowing smile. "But you want to cry now, right?"


Despite all manner of thoughts crashing through my brain and a massive ball of rage slowly burning up inside, I haven't yet cried. But on Friday night I switched TV channels and heard the words "made at the same docks that built the Titanic", and on Saturday night "this is one Titanic event" and this morning "I take it you've all seen the film Titanic?"

Something is shifting. Perhaps I didn't miss Chanukah after all.

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Slippery Nipple (2)

On my 32nd birthday, which happened to be a Friday, I took the rare opportunity to invite any nearby friends and half of the office to come out and celebrate with me.

As I was inviting half of the people from the office, I felt obliged to invite everyone, including a couple of people who I had hoped would turn down the invite, but unfortunately didn't. How was I supposed to let my hair down with my boss and his wife lurking in the background?

The evening was to start with a bite to eat in a trendy bar in Hertford, followed by drinks for as long as anyone wanted to stay.

My chosen look for the evening was going to be trendy: Black trousers, black halter-neck top, silver chain belt, chunky silver necklace, bracelet and earrings, black heels. Hair short and spiky. I looked good. I looked skinny. I looked like The Party Girl. Bring it on.

The party kicked off a little later than expected, and by the time people started to show up I had eaten some walnut bread to keep me going, and to soak up the first Vodka and Coke of the evening.

When the first friend arrived he asked "What are you drinking?" and that was the last moment of the evening that I mentioned the word vodka. Everyone who turned up after this came to say Hello carrying a new vodka: Vodka and Orange, Vodka and Coke, Vodka and Tonic. The word had got round that I was drinking vodka, and who was I to be rude and turn down a drink? Especially considering that nobody appeared interested in ordering any food - and after a couple of drinks in quick succession I was too drunk to be interested in food either.

But I wasn't too drunk to notice that my halter-neck top - which was matt black cotton-lycra with "secret support" was continually doing its best to head south. The broad elastic band kept sliding down my ribs, elongating the stretchy halter-neck straps in to thin strips. I couldn't seem to go ten minutes without hitching the top up one side and then the other. But at least I had the wherewithal to hitch it. Ha! I can handle my drink!

At 11pm the bar closed and we made our way to another bar that closed at midnight. To say that I was drunk was a little bit of an understatement *hitch*hitch*. One of my friends then decided to break the run of vodkas and ordered me a Lavender Aftershock (equal measures of red (Cinnamon) and blue (Mint) Aftershock). He warned me not to drink it all, but before I knew it, the glass was empty. How did that happen? *hitch*hitch* Someone then bought me a glass of water, which I knocked off the side with my elbow and turned round completely oblivious at the sound of the glass breaking all over the floor *hitch*hitch*

At the end of the night, another of my friends (the eBay Queen, pre-twins) asked me how I was getting home.
"Cab" I said, aimlessly pointing to where the taxi rank could have been.
"Do you have one booked?" she asked
"'shover there, shumwhere" I replied.
"Yes, but do you have one booked?"
Once I understood the question, I shook my head *hitch* hitch*
"Right, come on, we'll give you a lift"

The apartment I was renting was in an old building centred around a courtyard. At that time, there were three enormous workman's holes at the entrance to the car park, barricaded off with bright orange cones and florescent barriers. My friends parked up where they could easily turn round and we chatted for at least half an hour - the main subject being whether I had offended anyone during the evening or done anything which might become office gossip. I really couldn't remember, but apparently I'd managed to escape humiliating myself despite being ten times more plastered than anyone else there.

Finally I got out of the car, swung my bag over my shoulder, and tottered towards the front of the building, narrowly missing falling straight in to one of the barricaded pits. Coo, that was close. I regained my balance and my friend's husband put the car headlights on full beam. How kind, I thought. I turned round and gave them a big wave: I'm fine! Really! I turned back round and swaggered off, round the front of the building, up the stairs and in to my apartment.

Wow, I was busting for a wee... quick get to the bathroom... oo, what relief! That's better!

As I stood to try and drag up my trousers, I caught sight of my reflection in the bathroom mirror and froze in horror. The halter-neck top had twisted sideways and there I stood completely exposed - on full beam. No way! How did that happen? Or more importantly when did that happen? Surely this had happened only when I got in to the bathroom? Yes, it must have done. Maybe the dash in getting to the loo.... I couldn't remember. Crap.

I sent a text to my friend. When you left me, were my nipples showing?
Thirty seconds later, she responded. I cringed as I read her reply: Yep. Still laffin'

Thankfully I had managed to keep myself decent throughout the evening, and my top had slipped when I had thrown my bag over my shoulder as I clambered out of the car. Hence the full beam. My friend had laughed so hard on the way home that she had nearly wet herself and had to beg her husband to slow down over the speed bumps.

Practical joker that she is, she wasn't going to tell me what had happened, but wanted to see whether I 'noticed first'. Ah, a little bit of humility. We still cry with laughter every time the story is told.

I can wish that I had not been so drunk - blame the vodka, or that I had chosen a different outfit for the evening - blame the halter-neck top.

But deep down in my heart, I blame the slippery nipples.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Slippery Nipple (1)

Twenty years ago I had just left home. For the first time in my life I didn't have to report to anybody, I wasn't being watched, I didn't have to explain my whereabouts - I was a free agent. Bliss. Kind of. Because I don't really remember taking full advantage of my new situation at all.
Theoretically speaking, given my restricted teenage years, I should have completely gone off the rails: a wild child, drinking and clubbing and following a life of debauchery. But hey, I like to buck the trend. I am wild... in my own way.

My tolerance for alcohol back then was several shades higher than it is now (which, to be honest, isn't difficult given that my current tolerance is limited to sniffing a glass of wine before passing out). My favourite tipple at the time was Southern Comfort and Coke, or various cocktails gulped through a straw at Miss Pears. The evening was always started off with downing a 'Slippery Nipple' (Baileys and Sambuca), followed by multiple SC&Cs, and then usually a decision was made to either go clubbing, or head to Miss Pears.

Despite my evident tolerance for alcohol, I don't remember going out that often and hence can be classed as a binge drinker by today's standards. Or maybe I just don't remember how often I went out... it's all a bit of a blur.

One night that stands out clearly in my mind was the only night that I ever had a brush with the law (with the exception of kissing a policeman on New Year's Eve). My landlady and drinking partner, Shaz, and I went in to town on a school-night for a 'quick drink'. One quick drink (Slippery Nipple) followed another and before I knew it I was shaking my booty rather wonkily on the dance floor at Shanghai Sam's nightclub.

As usual, by the time we left the club, my feet were killing me. I think I had blisters on my blisters which were not being numbed by the copious amounts of alcohol consumed during the evening. I limped and scraped and moaned - we didn't have that far to walk home.

And then Shaz spotted the shopping trolley and had a Bright Idea.
Shaz: "Quick! Jump in the trolley! I'll push you home!"
Me: "Are you sure you won't tip me out?"
She grabbed a nearby traffic cone. "Wear this on your head and then you'll be safe"

What a fab idea. I hitched up my already short skirt, hiked one leg in to the trolley, then the other, removed my shoes with a sigh of relief, and donned my protective head-gear. Shaz started to push me as fast as she could go. Or at least it felt fast to my inebriated brain.

We had only gone 50 yards or so when a car pulled up alongside us. Oh. It was a white car with florescent stripes and blue lights on the top. Oh, it's a policeman and he's getting out. But he's smiling, which is a good thing. Or rather, smiling but desperately trying to keep a straight face.

"Good morning ladies" he said rather formally (as far as I was concerned we were still on the night before) "Could you please get out of the trolley - it's not safe".
Me: "Oh but we're being safe, Officer. That's why I've got this cone on my head"
He stifled a laugh and then regained his composure.
Policeman: "I won't ask a second time. Where did you get the trolley? Did you steal it from Tesco?"
Me: "No, no! We just found it! We didn't steal anything! Honest! We would have taken it back!"
He sighed. "I won't ask a second time - please get out of the trolley. Where are you going?"
We told him. It wasn't far to walk, we said, we'll be fine. I clambered out of the trolley, displaying far more than he really needed to see, jammed my shoes painfully back on to my feet and started to hobble home.

He got in to his car and drove ahead of us, towards a bend in the road which lead to a small roundabout. Shaz started to commentate his departure: "He's goinnng... he's goinnng.... he's goinnng.... he'sgoinghe'sgoinghe'sgoinghe'sgoing......HE'S GONE! Quick! Back in the trolley!"

We legged the twenty yards or so back to the trolley and I clambered back in, cone firmly planted back on my head, shoes blissfully once again removed from my feet.

And he had gone. That is, he had gone, until he turned round at the roundabout and came back again. They're a suspicious bunch, the police. And strangely enough on that short journey he seemed to have totally lost his sense of humour too.

This time he didn't ask me to get out of the trolley, he asked us whether we would like to spend a night in the cells instead. Party Pooper. I was tempted, purely to trade the pain of walking home with a ride in a nice warm car. But we declined his offer. I clambered out of the trolley, displaying for a second time everything that I had to offer, and he watched as we crossed the road and disappeared out of sight.

Of course, I could say that none of this was my fault - it was after all not my idea to ride in the trolley or wear a traffic cone on my head. But I can't blame Shaz either.

So I think I am left with little option - I'll have to blame the Slippery Nipple.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The First Miracle of Chanukkah

Last night was the Chanukkah party at the Kabbalah centre and I decided that seeing as I spent most of my time there wearing jeans (albeit Seven jeans, but jeans all the same) that I would don my glad rags for a change. Make the effort. It's a party.

What makes me laugh about dressing up for parties is that I always prepare for the evening by applying lots of 'going out' make-up and styling my hair, taking extra time to look good. Then at some point during the evening, the Delusion Fairy visits and helps me to maintain the thought that I look as good towards the end of the evening I did at the start.

I left the house in a rush, running late for the train, and it was raining. Thinking that I did not have enough time to turn back and grab my umbrella, I walked as briskly as I could, feeling the curl slowly return to my straightened hair, and rather alarmingly feeling my hold ups slip a little down my thighs.

I arrived at the centre and straightened myself out. My bright red lipstick had smudged at the corners slightly, giving me an undesired clown effect, but my eyes still looked okay.

Every person I met saw the dress and said "Wow - I like this - you look great!" and little by little I started to slowly feel ever so slightly fantastic. "It's the first miracle of Chanukkah" I said "Me, in a dress"

After the candle-lighting, lecture and meditation, there was a fabulous buffet upstairs and disco downstairs. I queued for food, remembered to re-apply my lipstick afterwards (which was extra effort seeing as I usually give up with lipstick after the first application), and then got up to dance.

I was still feeling fabulous - life and soul of the party. The Lady in Black and Red. I caught the train home tired, but in high spirits.

Now, I'm not sure at which point in the evening the Delusion Fairy waved her wand, but I was halfway home when one of my Hold Ups very suddenly became a Let Down. All of a sudden I had a knee covered in rather tired, rubbery lace. Without further ado, I grabbed the top of it and yanked it back up to the top of my leg, exposing goodness knows what to the young men walking behind me. I took two steps and it fell straight back down again. Marvellous. I decided to hitch, and then hold, (are they called Hold Ups because at the end of the evening you have to hold them up??). I walked home like Jake the Peg, feeling rather inelegant, but not being able to think of a better option.

When I reached the steep steps on the hill, I came face to face with a fox. She eyed me warily, as foxes do, and I stood a while to watch her, whilst she weighed up how fast I would be able to run with my Hold Ups round my ankles. Deciding that by the way I was clutching my leg, I was probably injured, she slowly moved to the side and let me pass. It was a nice moment.

When I got home I immediately got changed and took a look at my face in the mirror. Oh dear. All of the eye make-up that started on top of my eye had gravitated south and the lipstick had spread in to a multitude of fine lines created by too much laughing. A limping clown panda had replaced the vision of beauty who sailed out of the house 5 hours earlier.

Curse you, Delusion Fairy.

Imagine the Crimewatch reconstruction for that journey home.

Friday, 11 December 2009

A Light in the Darkness

No, scrap that, several Lights in the Darkness.

First I would like to thank all of my blogging friends for throwing me a line - where I would be without you all, I just don't know. Luckily for me, it seems that none of you are prepared to let me slide in to my gloom. I am truly blessed and deeply touched that you care.

Depression is a cruel beast - but it is crueller still when you have an understanding of how life works, because it is accompanied by enormous guilt. Somewhere deep inside me is the knowledge of what I can bring to the world - the positive impact I can make to other people. So when I am locked away in my own pain, I am doubly crippled with the guilt that I am denying the world of what I am here to bring. And that sounds as though I believe I am something special, but actually, I am. And so are you.

My recent infatuation served a purpose. It wasn't about him, it was about me and my perceptions of what I am worth, of who I would want to be to even consider being with someone like him - who he would be attracted to and where I fall short in that equation at this moment in time: where I want to be in life, what I have the capacity to be and my beliefs relating to what is possible or probable with respect to falling in love.

The long and the short of it is: I don't believe that I deserve to have it all. Which is ridiculous, because, why not? Someone is out there waiting to come in to my life, and I am blocking them because of a fear that they will somehow fall short. I want them to be amazing in so many respects, but believe that if they are intelligent and caring and spiritual, they will also be pug-ugly and I would have to put a bag over their head to sleep with them. Or maybe they will be physically incredible, but intolerably shallow or dull. Or just looking for a good time and nothing long term. Is it possible that there is an attractive, intelligent, caring man out there who could possibly fall in love with me and who would love to have kids?

I'm putting up barriers to avoid what I perceive to be inevitable disappointment, pain and tears. I hanker after the unattainable, because at least that way I can't be rejected. As a result I am missing out on a lot of fun and the opportunity to find love.

I met with my new teacher yesterday, and after 45 minutes of 'being honest' about feeling so low (I didn't mention the infatuation) but as far as I was concerned skirting around the real issues somewhat, he said "You need to put a plan in place so that you can move towards where you want to be". I laughed out loud, mocking his suggestion "Plan? Plan? That's all I ever do is plan! I write out lists of what I need to do every day, but there is no structure! There is no one to set me deadlines, nothing to work towards... I can go for days without seeing anybody. I leave the centre and go home and I don't see another person from one day to the next! I can't keep myself going and yes, I do know that this doesn't help and it isn't where I want to be!"

"So, what do you need? You need more structure? Can I help to put a structure in place?" He asked.
"No, it's not the structure... it's not the structure! I need... I need...." and I so desperately wanted to say "LOVE! I NEED MORE LOVE! I HAVE NOTHING COMING IN FROM DAY TO DAY! I JUST WANT SOMEBODY WHO WILL LOVE ME!!" but at that point I realised that I couldn't say that without crying, and crying is not what I do. Plus I know that love comes from within - nobody can love you until you love yourself first. There is asking for the impossible, and asking for the impossible.

What followed was a bizarre situation where I couldn't speak for fear of crying. So I sat with my head in my hands, fighting to hold back the tears. Don't you dare fucking cry. Breathe. Suck it back. Now is not the time. Crying looks stupid. Breathe. And all of the time I was aware of him sitting there in silence, waiting patiently without judgement, and I thought Well, hey ho, this is a little strange. I feel like a right muppet. If I look up now, will my face look stupid? Will I burst in to tears? He's not going to say anything. Oh crap, hurry up and pull yourself together.

The minutes passed whilst I fought with myself, and eventually I won and composed myself.

And therein lies my issue - the darkest seed that lies festering within. When I was 11 years old I mastered one important lesson to help me to survive the situation I was in: my feelings didn't matter. And so I learned to shove them down as they came along - I was one person to the outside world and another person within. I changed my behaviour to keep people away. Despite the horrors that went on in the house I pretended that it didn't matter. Every time I tried to express my feelings, I was told that I was making something out of nothing, mountains out of molehills, being dramatic, seeking attention. And when you hear that message every day for over seven years, there comes a time when you believe it to be true.

When I left home, the habit of being one person on the surface and another underneath remained. The well of unhappiness grew in to a dense, dark spot which has been added to with each emotional upset. I've never wanted to disturb it because I dread to think what I might find. It's too black. Too overwhelming. If I open up this can of worms I might never survive - it will swallow me whole. I'm frightened that if I start crying, I will never stop. The fear is too great.

Oh piffle. Fear is an illusion. And in any event, now that I have recognised something that has been controlling my life for all of these years, I can't not deal with it. Ignoring this for any longer is simply denying myself the opportunity to be happy - pushing away the Light. And that I can't do.

I was aware of all of this before I met with my teacher - I said none of it. It didn't matter because after watching me force my tears down, he could see all of it. And he has offered to help.

Now is my time. The time to face everything that I have previously tried to ignore. The time to move forwards, once and for all, release these blockages and find me some Luuurve as a result.

Best prepare yourself, chaps, this is one woman who once she decides what she is going to wear, doesn't need a lot of time to get ready...

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Probably the most depressing post in the world, ever

It's all very well understanding the Laws of the Universe - how it all works, what I am meant to be thinking, feeling and doing in order to get results - but putting it in to practice is another matter entirely.

What is even worse is knowing what works and what doesn't and choosing what doesn't.

This Friday night starts the week of Chanukah - the week of miracles. We are in the month of Sagittarius, which lends a little light-heartedness and breeziness to life, but it also means that we expect things to happen without much effort and at the sign of any challenges, we run.

This week we are meant to go the extra mile - put in the extra effort to generate the miracles for the coming year. And all I want to do is run. And hide, which is what I do best.

And as if I didn't have enough on my plate - selling things, watching the money run out, trying to find the strength to motivate and believe in myself, think about how I am going to push forward with work, buy cheap Christmas presents for people knowing that I will feel utterly unworthy when I receive their generous gifts - I have found something else to completely wreck my mind.

I've fallen in love.

Except of course, I haven't fallen in love, not really. I've met someone - once - spoken to them two or three times, and become totally besotted with them. It is and always will be totally unrequited. And even though I know full well that I have fallen in love with a total fantasy which is probably a long way from the reality, it hurts.

Not just because I feel jealous of whoever has had the pleasure of his attentions (because, oh dear sweet God, how did you manage to create a man in such perfect proportion? And why did you not use the same tape measure for all men? Answer me that, huh?), but also because I can imagine what type of woman he would be attracted to. Or rather I think there are a number of types of women that he would be attracted to... and I don't fit in to any of these types.

In short, in my current situation and state of mind, I can't blame any man for giving me a wide berth. I'm not taking good care of my body or my mind. I need more than a few new outfits, at least 3 months at the gym (preferably 9 to 5), a haircut and 4 hours of waxing, minimum. I need to find work so that I am not sitting around at home losing my self esteem but am losing my self esteem so much that I can barely talk to people about work. (oh boy, chicken, meet egg. Egg, meet chicken).

And then this man comes along and helps me to see where I would love to be... and how far it is from where I'm at.

So I need more than one miracle. I need a bagful of miracles. Unfortunately I feel so low with constantly beating myself up I think I need a miracle just to get off my arse and actually do something which might grant me a miracle.

Friday night is the lighting of the first candle of Chanukah. Last year I didn't bother with the candle lighting, but this year I decided to make the effort and invested in a Menora. It's not your standard candlestick, oh no. It's a set of little glass bulb oil lamps which you fill with olive oil, with wicks and floating stopper discs, and a strange wax stick-type-thing - the purpose of which is completely unknown to me. I have all of the meditations in Hebrew, and the exact times for lighting the candles for each of the 8 days of Chanukah. And no instructions on how to light them.

Perhaps the first miracle will be that I don't burn the house down....

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Voices in my Head

No, I haven't gone crazy. We've all got them, haven't we? Those voices in our heads? And just before you start to think "I don't have voices in my head" then ask yourself, who just said that? That's right - the voice in your head did.

Yesterday morning was the same as any Shabbat Saturday. I woke up to the alarm and wished I had gone to bed earlier the night before. Can you really be bothered to get up and traipse in to London? It looks a little bit cold out, and miserable. And don't you do enough of traipsing in to London? What's the latest train you could catch? Can you spare another 5 minutes in bed, or risk a second, sedentary cup of tea? Why not just stay in bed, where it's nice and warm...

Okay, enough already. You say this every week. I know who you are and you're not going to stop me from getting to Shabbat. I got up and dressed, and made the train on time.

Once I was on the train, the voice changed from It's really not worth the effort to Smug. God, you're good. Overcoming your lazy ways and making this effort. You could have just stayed in bed for another hour. But no, you are putting yourself out and overcoming your negative behaviour. You can be proud of this....

It's the same voice that is speaking - the voice of my Opponent - but it changes from moment to moment according to the situation. It always shouts the loudest, no matter what it has to say. It doesn't matter if my soul is propelling me with the purest of intentions, the Opponent always tries to obscure any efforts I make. That's his job. Ring a company to talk about a project? Oh, they probably won't be interested in me, I'm not good enough, I can't do it. And anyway, they probably won't appreciate the quality of my work - they wouldn't know quality if it stared them in the face. Well, it's their loss. Arrange a night out with some friends? They all have such busy lives that they probably won't be free, and even if they agreed it probably wouldn't be to see me because I always end up taking over the entire evening with my own stories. And they just don't seem to appreciate my sense of humour. They'll probably make excuses, so best not to bother. It's not worth the hassle.

My new teacher gave the lecture at Shabbat, which this week was all about the energy value of thoughts and words, and awareness of the Opponent. He said that the Opponent's single greatest power is in being such an accomplished liar.

To illustrate this point, he finished with a story about a Kabbalist (now, come on, with my name-nesia, you don't expect me to remember the Kabbalists name, do you? All I remember is that it began with a B, if that helps. Or was it an R? I digress)
It was the middle of winter and the Kabbalist woke before dawn. Every morning before sunrise, he would walk down to the lake and perform the Mikveh (immersion in water) before starting prayers. It was bitter outside and the wind howled. As he lay there in bed, hesitating, he turned to find his Opponent lying in the bed beside him.
"Miss the mikveh today." his Opponent said "Look at the weather outside - it's dark and it's freezing cold. The lake will be frozen over. It's not even daylight yet - you might fall on the path. Stay in bed - it's so warm and snug in this bed. You can miss one day. I won't tell anyone."
The Kabbalist looked outside and back at his Opponent.
"I'll tell you what" he replied "I'll go and do the Mikveh, and you can stay in the bed all nice and warm. I'll be back, I promise - it will take only half an hour. So just rest here and wait for me"
He left the house and walked down to the lake and it was frozen over. Not to be deterred, he broke the ice and slipped in to the freezing water, and started his immersions - up and down, up and down... Halfway through, he noticed that the Opponent was sitting at the side of the lake.
"What are you doing here?" he asked "I thought I said you could stay in the nice, warm bed? I thought I said you were free to wait for me to return?"
"You did" replied the Opponent "But I've just come here to tell you how amazing you are, that you should come out despite this cold and perform your immersions - and with the lake being frozen over and all. You are truly an amazing Kabbalist. In fact, you are most likely the best Kabbalist that ever lived"

So I guess it happens to the best of us. Not that I am saying that I am the best, or anything.

On the train home, the voice of my Opponent was one of judgement, and I had to laugh at myself. I boarded the slow train to Cambridge, which stops at every station along the way. What is it with people and train doors? Why do they find them so hard to open? It's not rocket science, is it? The train stops, you press the very large button marked "OPEN" until the doors actually start to open, and then you step out on to the platform.

None of the passengers on the train yesterday seemed to understand this simple procedure. Some of them seemed to think that they were still riding the Underground - when the train came to a standstill they stood gormlessly waiting for the doors to open on their own. Others mistook the big squashy buttons for a touch sensitive screen - placing their finger on the rubber but not actually pressing anything. And a couple of people pressed the button lightly once so that the doors hissed and juddered but didn't open... and then did the same thing again to no effect.
And all of the time I am sitting in my seat silently screaming at them "Just push the fucking button! don't just stand there gawping, you idiot - push the fucking button! Harder that than, you twerp! Jesus! Do you want to get off at this stop or not? At this rate the train is going to leave! Hold it in! No, hold it in! Don't tickle the damn thing! You haven't got all day, you know! Oh, there you go. Now that wasn't so hard, was it? For crying out loud... some people... I ask you.... can't even open a fucking train door.... what is the world coming to....I'm surrounded by a complete bunch of muppets"

With every criticism came a counter thought. The only reason you are thinking this is because you panic that the button won't work and that you won't be able to leave the train. Take a lesson from them - they're not even worried that the doors won't open. Stop judging their level of intelligence on something so insignificant. Who are you to judge them at all?

And so what happened when we got to my stop? I was so lost in another dimension that when the train came to a standstill I was rudely interrupted from my daydream by a man's voice... "It won't open with the Close button you know..." He smiled. "You looked like you were on another planet"


Friday, 4 December 2009


Is there any other word for the inability to remember names? Numbers and dates, I'm fine with. Names and faces escape me.

The first time I mentored a group for a Kabbalah class, I made a concerted effort to remember the names of the ladies on my table. Rather keen to be a 'Good Mentor' I tried to arrange for the group to meet for coffee before the next class, and waited at the allotted time outside a busy tube station.

I stood for fifteen minutes searching the faces of every passer-by before I realised that I couldn't remember what any of my students looked like. I had remembered their names, but not their faces. Oh bugger. Hiding around a corner, I rang each of their mobiles in turn and peered through the crowd searching for any young woman answering a phone.

Another half hour later I realised that it wasn't important that I didn't remember their faces because none of them were going to show up (a lesson learned) and have been working on a technique to help me remember both names and faces. I think I might be scaring people - either that or they think I am permanently constipated. Whatever method I am trying doesn't seem to be working, so now I have decided to master the art of conversation when you can't remember someone's name. Wish me luck.

Last night two men boarded the tube I was on - one of them was extremely drunk and having trouble standing up, and the other was constantly checking to see if he was okay. Then I realised that I knew the man who was drunk. In fact, I spent a year hanging around with him when I was on student placement ten years ago, then kept in touch for several years afterwards as part of the student crowd. We'd been to Dorset, Cambridge, London... and his name is.... and his name is.....

What's his name? Oooo.... it's Rob's Friend ----....... Rob's Friend---------- "Rob won't be coming along tonight and neither will -----" Shit.

Roger? Jake? Jason? Jeff? James? Jay? Kevin? Kenneth? Keith? Carl? No.... let's start with the A's.... Alan? Adam? Aiden? Adie? Ade? Adie? Aiden? Bert? Brian? Billy? William? Charles? Charlie? David? Dave? Davey? Don? Don? Donald? Don? Ron? Damon? Damien? Darth Maul? Diego? Eric? Ernie? Fred? Fernando? Graham? Gary? Gollum? (*silly*) Harry? Ian?
J... J... I'm sure it begins with a J...
The names went through my head all of the way from the Underground to the overground train home. There was a black hole where his name had been. I know this man! I've met his wife! What's his name?! It's..... It's....
Jonathan! No! James! Jake! Gah! What is it?! Hang on... it'll come to me...
Every time I caught an inkling of the tail end of his name it slipped out of my grasp like an eel. And I hate eels.

Fifteen minutes later and I am still working through the alphabet, repeating all of the names I had thought of before, and more, trying to fit them to his face.
Oh this is stupid. Steve? Steve? Steven? Sevriano? Simon? Si? Sean? Salmon? (Salmon??) Sherwood? Vernon? Vick? Mike? Michael? Micky? Martin? Mark? Ryan? Richard? Rick? Ricky? Tom? Thomas? Tommy? Terry?

TIM!!!!! It's TIM!!!!

Oh, where'd he go? I wanted to say hello to him.

Went to visit my Business Advisor this morning (and yes, I do remember his name). The journey on the way there and back was on the big bus, which was nice and warm. On the way home I noticed a sign outside a church which read "Don't forget Jesus this Christmas"

Oh crap - I don't even know what to get Dad for Christmas... let alone Jesus....

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Have you seen this woman?

On the 7th of June, 1984, I watched the first screening of Crimewatch. (For those American readers, Crimewatch is the UK's version of America's Most Wanted). For a number of years from that point on, once a month I would avidly watch to see if I recognised any of the criminals so that I could do my bit as a British Citizen and, well, basically grass the baddies up to the police.
After several years of watching I realised that the likelihood of recognising anybody was slim, given that most of the time I am too wrapped up in my own thoughts to notice anything going on around me.

Twenty years ago I dated a farmer called Tony. He was approached by a friend who, knowing that he could use the money, asked if he wanted to take part in a robbery of a post office in a nearby village. He'd done a few before, he said, and they had much less security than banks and just as much available cash. Tony declined.

A month later, Tony was watching Crimewatch and there was the picture of his friend on the screen, having successfully robbed the post office of £10,000 but being caught face-on by the security camera before he had donned his balaclava. Stupid, stupid man, he thought, that has to be at least 2 years inside without a doubt. Everybody around here knows who he is.

Three weeks later he bumped in to his friend on the street.
Tony: "What the hell are you still doing out? Weren't you on Crimewatch?"
Friend: "Yeah, gave me a bit of a fright. But when I was out doing my shopping the next day, I bumped in to half a dozen people who said 'Ere, I saw you on telly last night. Nice photo, mate!' And I haven't heard anything since. Like my new watch?"

I guess it pays to be liked.

Although I have virtually stopped watching Crimewatch altogether, something that has stayed with me are the reconstructions. Accuse me of having an over-active imagination if you will (guilty, as charged) but ever since I started watching the program and I am walking home late at night, I feel as though I am in a Crimewatch reconstruction to the point where I can actually hear the voice-over.

Nick Ross: "And on to our next mystery - have you seen this woman? Her name is Kabbalah Rookie, she's in her late thirties and was last seen on Wednesday night walking home from the train station.
Sue Cook: "Known as a bit of a recluse, she was the type of person who kept herself to herself and was rarely seen even by her neighbours. We know little of her contacts but knew that she took the train in to central London at least once a week and returned home late at night.
Nick Ross: "Passengers remember seeing her at 11:45 pm exiting the train at her home town, and she looked very pleased with herself - possibly because of an encounter she'd had on the train or earlier in the evening, or possibly because she had chosen the carriage doors which stopped precisely opposite the station exit, unlike the other passengers in the carriage who rather foolishly opted for the doors further down.
Sue Cook: "She then walked over the bridge, stopping at a convenience store on the way home to buy some milk. The shopkeeper said that she was very cheerful and couldn't understand why he had never seen her with a boyfriend. Are you her boyfriend? Perhaps you have taken her away on a whirlwind cruise without telling her family. If so, please get in touch.
Nick Ross: Or are you her friend? Did she have any friends? Has she ever had any friends? We suspect that she spent most of her time on the Internet, blogging and reading emails.
Sue Cook: Kabbalah Rookie was last seen walking up a dark alleyway near to her home. She was said to have had a faraway look in her eyes. Maybe she was not quite paying attention and fell in to a hedge. Did you see her reach the top of her hill? The passer-by reported her as being out of breath - perhaps you heard what you thought was a knackered fox. It may well have been the last moments of Kabbalah Rookie.
Nick Ross: Detectives on the scene are not able to determine whether she reached home - her house was in total disarray and may have been ransacked as most of her possessions appeared to be missing. If you have any information, please dial the number below. Oh and remember: Don't have nightmares, do sleep well.