Last year I wrote here that I was worried I was forgetting. This year I wanted to write a list of my most treasured memories.
When I managed to catch her before breakfast, still reading in bed and could sneak in next to her, and we’d talk for hours. When day we stayed there until dad came back for lunch – we felt so sheepish. I can’t remember of what we spoke, but the simple act of going so is enough.
Of watching her on stage – we only get snatches of seeing our loved ones in their natural or work environment – it always took my breath away.
That when she was in hospital over night, she’d wait at her window the next morning and wave to me as I went to work.
When she’d ask me to do her makeup before she’d go out to a party
Sitting under a tree, it was spring in the south of France, she was rehearsing for a job – recording a book on to tape. The Book was My Theodosia, I fell in love with that era of American History and Aaron Burr – it shaped a lot of my learning.
Tidying my room while listening to the many, many other books she’d read on to tape.
Singing the musical numbers of Guys and Dolls and an American in Paris while cooking in the kitchen together – the smell of tomato sauce and the steam.
When she was doing her Masters, I’d sometimes travel to London from Uni and we’d hang out.
After a very serious car crash, dabbing arnica on to her bruises (in the loo, at the theatre school where she taught and I was training) – catching her eye in the mirror and knowing we were both sending out all the gratitude that it wasn’t more serious.
Her letters. She wasn’t afraid to express how much she loved us, or anything else for that matter.
How soft her skin always seemed and how good it smelt, especially when it was warmed by the sun
How, even when she was really sick, she came to my work (during a particularly horrendous tech week) to bring A and I soup. I still have the fancy card she’d written the cooking instructions on
Discussing theatre with her and often disagreeing.
There was a time when we went to a bridal shop (a pretty rubbish one – it was on a whim), she kept stopping everyone and saying – “you don’t understand she’s normally in jeans” whilst requesting I try on bigger and bigger dresses
A star necklace she bought me from accessorise ‘just because’
Being with her when her Mama died and knowing it was the awful privilege of women to be the strong ones, to bare witness to these life and death events. Being with her when she died.
Picking up the phone and telling her of a particularly difficult breakup and having her just say – ‘Come Home Now’ and that was all.
Her chicken broth.
How she stayed with me, that one time a got blind drunk and very sick, because she was worried I might choke – how she didn’t get cross about it at all.
How, during my early teenage years, when I was awkward and friendless – she and dad would hang out with me and never thought that was weird (or let me know if she did anyway)
How the only time I ever stayed out over night, whilst I was at theatre school and living at home, she didn’t ask me where I had been, she just handed me an almond croissant the next morning
How she didn’t understand predictive text, so I’d receive messages like “thigh is al I cab’
How reading her childhood diaries would have us all howling with laughter.
I normally write to Ma at this time of year, and I will, but January always brings with it the spectre of loss, and this year I wanted to unpack it a bit.
I used to hate with a passion the term ’sorry for your loss’. This was in the early days of grief when actually, looking back, I just needed to be angry and didn’t know where to put that.
I’d get confused between loss and lost, and lost seemed so accusatory. I’d feel stabbed every time any one made a comment however sincere, I felt blamed. Neither she, nor I had wandered off in the supermarket. In fact, I had tried to stick ever so close, especially in those last precious weeks.
It felt backward too, if anyone had lost anyone she had lost us. We were still right where we had always been and she had left. Ah the muddle of illogical grief.
But really, she wasn’t lost, she hadn’t passed (don’t EVEN get me started on the stupidity of PASSED). My Mama had died. SHE’D DIED. Why did we need to pussyfoot around this? I needed people to be completely frank about it, which nobody seemed willing to do.
As you can tell, I was angry.
Anger, it has taken me an awfully long time to learn, is often times mis-spent pain. Grief was a new type of pain that I couldn’t understand or quite let in. It takes a special kind of confusion to take the words of kindness and find exasperation; truth is nothing anyone can say can really help when someone we love dies. I still pause before I say, “I’m sorry for your loss”, to someone else, in case I can find a more personal way to express myself.
I’ve calmed down a bit since those heady, raw days. I still wish that death, and the discussion of death in a frank, yet gentle way was more prevalent in society. It would help so much in the whole grief bubble and perhaps enable us to find the right words to say.
Do you know what else I’ve learnt about grief? Or Loss (I’m trying to reclaim it), sometimes the hardest grief is when the person your are grieving isn’t lost to the earth at all, just simply lost to you. The ache of knowing they’re out there but they have no need in their world for you. Ooof. That is sometimes harder than a death could be; at least I can look back now and know mama didn’t leave willingly.
I don’t take losses well. I still have heart pangs over a necklace left in a hotel in San Fransisco – one of a kind. I’ve mourned that necklace; every now and again I think of it, and hope it’s gone on to have a whole new story, that it is LOVED. I lost that necklace nine years ago, it’s inanimate object. So can you imagine what I’m like with an actual person?
We all have people who have been in our lives and aren’t anymore. Sometimes that is our ‘fault’, sometimes theirs; sometimes nobody was at fault at all, but they’re still no longer there. Some, you never even see again, and some, you might see all the time. The pain of small talk, where once opened hearted, free flowing dialogue was, can cut just as deeply as an absence.
When I think of my people, the ones who are lost to me. No matter the story behind the separation, I’ve started to hope for them an amazing, adventure filled, technicolour life. What I am trying to realise is that every loss is a lesson. Would I have thanked myself or anyone else, for pointing that out in the first heart sad days of grief – for mum or any of the others? No. I would of wished of them a chair to the face.
Now, there seems no other way of living with the pain, shame, and regret. It all needs to have a meaning and the only meaning I can control is what I learn. Does that mean I don’t repeat the same mistakes? Well, I’m not sure, but maybe with every one I get a little smarter, so give me another eight years and lets see how we’re doing.
7 years. HUH. Well, I’m just going to dive right in here – this year I find myself jealous of the people who still have mothers (or those who had mothers for longer). Those who can go to tea or talk on the phone, who can give the advice, hold the baby or approve the dress. I am fathered, parented, loved but I worry I have forgotten what it is like to be mothered. Perhaps that is the 7 year itch of grief.
It is easier to recognise when you are sad, than when you are happy, did you ever notice that? Why do you think it is? Are we generally a melancholic breed? OR is it just January, that makes it feel that way?
It still catches me off guard. The Sad. Earlier this week I had a client who was wearing the perfume that you used to wear. I’ve avoided it for years, thinking it might be a trigger to a wave of something, some emotion, I would not be able stop. I didn’t notice at first, an itch you can’t reach, an ear worm you can’t place, and then a little bolt of shock. So I chose to let myself remember.
I chose to. I don’t always. Sometimes I don’t let you in. I feel guilty about that, but I’m not at the point where I can guarantee I’ll feel uplifted and I’ve got things to do. I’m sorry. I worry that is why I’m forgetting.
I like to think I’ve gotten better at recognising the happy though, generally speaking. To take a breath and, for want of a better word, to honour it. To turn my face to the sun and take a breath and be grateful for the feeling. Whenever I feel grateful, I think of you. Gratitude is your greatest gift to me and it’s so circular.
I see a lot of people now, different people, practically strangers. It’s been a busy year.The good mama juju I asked for last year (along with the juju of all my friends and loved ones) came through in spades. Getting a business up and running – it doesn’t give you much time to think, or write or breathe. There is always something to do. I got overwhelmed before Christmas. I have noticed since my own brush with cancer, I feel easily overwhelmed and I am very protective of myself. I hedgehog, metaphorically speaking – internally I drop into a ball and scream to the world to stop. It never does. I’m not sure how you’d mother me through that. Generally speaking, we are a deep breath and carry on family. You had what is politely known as ‘a lot of grit.’ That’s hard to live up to.
Anyway, I see a lot a people now, grief has many faces, so many guises. It affects the body too, I didn’t realise that. Muscles remember.
The human body is a wonderful thing, but it can fail in a lot of stupendous ways, not just cancer. Which at first I found shocking. Cancer is all I knew about failure. The millions of tiny processes a body has to perform, of which we aren’t even aware – they can fail, go off kilter, they just go rogue.
Is it weird that I find that comforting? It’s weird, I know it is. But very few bodies function as the manufacturer (or evolution) intended. We are all walking around with a dodgy chip, or a wonky bolt, a chemical malfunction. Very often all three. Yet here we all are, living life the best we can. Walking, working, loving the best we can – getting massages even.
I have been told that I have walked with death much closer than most my age, this past decade I guess, perhaps thats why I find bodies so infinitely fascinating. I do you know, find every body fascinating. Like coming back to an area, somehow familiar, but with only a very old map. It’s the same but different. If I’m very lucky I can get those muscles to tell me their secrets, give up a little of the sadness they remember.
I remember washing you, the last morning you were here. I remember every freckle, and scar. Those massive clavicle dips, you would tease, you kept pepper in. At least, I think, I remember it all.
I’m not sure I’ll have children myself. Yet, for an hour at a time, I get to mother another human’s body, to comfort it. Not necessarily their mind but the rest of them. I coax it, nudge it, soothe it, so I guess something of the mothering has stuck.
Skin and muscles and tissue and blood and bone. The substance of life. So beautiful, and I get to work with it every day.
I love you. I remember what I need to, sometimes that’s just snatches on a whiff of perfume. Sometimes that’s all we get.
I hope the stars are fine this year.
ps. Whatever you do don’t watch the news – the world has gone crazy, don’t worry, the good people are working on it.
Yesterday I had a meltdown, a massive, massive, meltdown. I sobbed for a loooong time. In fact, I think A will think twice about going on holiday without me again, it was as though I’d saved it all up for his return, which is a shame because he had a great time and I’m very pleased he could go.
I was just overwhelmed. I was overwhelmed on a UK level, a global level and a personal level too. It all seemed too much, I had reached saturation point, my heart felt too full and my head too confused.
Tomorrow I open the doors to Loop Massage Studiofor the first time and the massive change I’ve made will be completed. From the moment I got the key and stepped into the space there’s been a voice in my head. A voice that says “no going back now”. When we lay the floor, “no going back now”, when we painted the walls, “no going back now”, when the plumbing and electrics went in “no going back now”…. you get the picture. Sometimes it’s an excited voice, sometimes apprehensive and sometimes it’s a very freaked out voice indeed.
Sunday is the 2nd anniversary of when A & I got married. There’s a lot of opening weekend celebrations happening and I don’t think I’ll get a moment to write him a blog post like last year but these two up events are linked or looped (if you’d allow me).
For those who don’t know A. – A. is a whirlwind powerhouse of energy, creativity and stubbornness. If he sets himself a task, he’s going to complete it and it will be the best thing ever. It’s a quiet and sometimes not so quiet drive that is 98% awe-inpiring and 2% a little overwhelming. Seriously, what he can achieve in a day is breathtaking to a procrastinating scaredy cat such as myself. It is an honour and a joy to hold his hand in this lifetime (and run to keep up).
- On a side note, it means the days when he stops and we just be are some of my favourites, a relaxed A is a thing of delight. -
A. was the powerhouse behind Loop, we walked by some empty shipping containers with a sign on them saying ‘for rent’ and he said “you should have a massage studio in one of them”, in 3 days it was a done deal. A leaps without looking in the best possible ways; having been burned a little bit, I’m a toe in the shallows woman myself.
Sometimes I’ve no idea what he’s doing with me. Our skill set and personality types are poles apart. I can make the man laugh though and he likes how I write. I like to think we compliment each other, and bring out the best. He helps to make me bolder and I, I think I bring a kindness to procedures.
We have been building this crazy dream project together since last September. I have had so many wobbles, I have learnt so much, I have had to braver than I ever thought I could be and learnt to be tougher. I now know what parts of a decoration project I care about and also that I will never, ever have strong opinions on sinks (apart from the fact and I know this makes me sound like a total ditz that the first time I put the water on in the cargo box it blow my mind shhhhh don’t tell anyone).
All this time if A has had doubts he’s had to keep them pinned inside because he knows if he wobbles, I wobble. All this time he has been there holding my hand and every night before we go to sleep he whispers “I believe in you” and it makes me feel unstoppable because the person I know who is truly unstoppable believes that of me too.
Every year we go on an adventure, sometimes not the best kind of adventure, sometimes they are wild and sometimes the change your life. They are life lessons, everyone and that’s what’s exciting.
I couldn’t be more proud of this dude. I can’t say I couldn’t love him more because I love him more each day.
He believes in me, I believe in me, together we are unstoppable.
A huge thank you to everyone who has been so supportive of my next adventure.
Adventures are important, especially now, in light of Manchester. People, horrendous, violent, destructive people, want to stop us, to scare us away from adventures. But the truth is adventures are what teaches us to be brave, to show empathy, to understand different cultures and not be afraid of what isn’t the same as us. How to rise above a tiny, and it is a tiny, deluded minority of individuals who will never know what real love and compassion is. Adventure boldly, prove them unimportant.
So I mark my “burtaversary” (long story you can read about here) most years, in so far as it has been 3 years, and I’ve marked it every time. Sometimes it’s from the time I found the lump, sometimes it’s from the time I lost the lump. This year it’s actually from when I was told Burt (aka the lump) was cancerous.
I found out I had cancer via text and a phone call. People are sometimes shocked by this, they think it’s cruel and unusual of my Doctor but actually I think it’s more humane. Everyone knows that good news can just be told then and there, so asking to see me in person was a bit of a give away. Plus the way the news was delivered, it was not the worst thing that happened that day, so ya know, pick your battles. If the ‘how’ and not the ‘what’ is distressing you then count yourself lucky, I’m guessing you’ve not had cancer, our frame of reference is somewhat wider.
Before my own diagnosis I thought I was pretty cancer savvy, up on the lingo, the treatments, etc I didn’t really know ANYTHING and I wasn’t going to learn much on that first day, other than mammograms are surprisingly pinchy. Nothing really sinks in after the phrase “you have cancer”, you are all teflon and shock after that.
So unsurprisingly it took sometime for the “you can never not have had cancer” factor to really start to make sense, and boy do I remember being pissed off about it.
The YCNNHHC factor is not something you have to deal with at first, first it’s all about the removal, the meds, ‘the getting through’ but then slowly it begins to dawn on you. For me, my age and type of cancer meant that I would be on treatment for a LONG time, preventative measures.
The reason I’m writing all this now (and probably again) is that 2 weeks ago I came off Tamoxifen again (I had a brief stint without it last year,here), hormonally speaking things are messy at present. I had decided to come off them probably 6 months ago, after it became clear that the lower dose was not any easier to live with, but I stayed on it, I managed 2 years in the end, which is sort of the bare minimum.
My doctors wanted the extra year on the stuff because well, it’s effective and they didn’t want the cancer to come back. That’s how they talk, I don’t think they mean to, or maybe they do because they do not want the cancer to come back but it’s hard to hear about the cancer coming back.
My rebellious nature means 2 days ago I was sent to see my Oncologist to talk over options. Due to a mix up, we’d been waiting to speak to the Doctor for over an hour:
You have to wait in oncology, where you’ve heard most of the distressing news of your past cancer self. You have to wait surrounded by people who are sick, who are fighting the good fight. You smell the familiar smells, see some familiar faces. You have to get weighed and measured again, which is pretty much a weekly thing while on chemo, but you can’t for the life of you figure out it’s relevance now; unless it’s to remind you that no matter what you do you are still A STONE heavier than before cancer and that is somehow pretty humiliating.
In short you get sad and anxious in ways that are also familiar. I don’t mean to toot my own horn here but it takes a certain kind of badass to sit in that waiting room and still want to shed the protective layer that Tamoxifen affords you – badass-ness, recklessness or maybe hormone therapy is actually incredibly crappy.
Eventually you are speaking to your oncologist, who you’ve not seen in 2 years. He is kind and sort of giddy to see you, in a way that reminds you that you are his success, and that you are more than likely a highlight of his day. However, you are his success and you are wilfully going off treatment, so you feel you are a disappointment.
Like I said, he’s kind but he’s doing his job, he’s surrounded by cancer, he knows that secondaries are no joke, he’d want you on Tamoxifen for ten years. The term quality of life gets banded around quite a bit, other treatment options are mentioned, none are appealing, all involve keeping a level of unnatural medication in your system for years at a stretch, or having your ovaries removed and plunging yourself into actual menopause. None of which in your 30′s sound like what you want to be doing with yourself. It’s the opposite of sexy, I’m pretty sure if you were to look up this conversation, it would be in the dictorionary under ‘The opposite of sexy’.Though, perhaps it would read: The opposite of sexy : 1a : The above conversation. 1b : Donald J Trump.
Nothing is decided but the choice you thought you’d made, sensitively, painstakingly, rationally isn’t so shiny anymore. You can’t feel as proud as you had, for taking what you think is a brave decision to live your life; to purposefully hold higher, quality over quantatity because in Oncology, it seems cancer will inevitably come back and you are playing russian roulette.
You can never not have had cancer, it’s the gift that keeps on giving, if by gift you mean thing that makes me feel incredibly sad and pretty tired.
So what now? Well, I want a year free of all medication, it used to be a lifetime, however long that was going to be but I was chastened by Oncology. Oncology would prefer this to be 3-6 months but I’m standing firm, I want to remember what it was like to feel entirely healthy, to give my system a full break not just a pause. I want to use the time to become strong and healthy in body and mind, away from the pills. And then I guess we will reassess.
I did not know my Grandfather, I was 13 when he died of Lung Cancer. He was not your typical Grandfather, for one thing he insisted that we called him Kenneth (which was, to be fair his name).
He was no longer married to my beloved Mimee when I was born, from the scraps of family history I picked up, my loyalty was to my grandma, which made for a difficult relationship all round.
I don’t remember much about our times together, to be honest, occasional trips to the theatre, Terry’s dark chocolate oranges, a stuffed Kermit the frog and some shiny copper pans, a scary hospital room.
For years all I knew about him was that he was a writer, a theatre critic.
My Pa showed me this letter yesterday and it floored me. I didn’t realise what a writer he was. For the first time in 37 years I wish I had known him better.
It felt so relevant, that I had to share it and I urge everyone to share it. This was a man, writing to his young daughter, towards the end of a war, he thought, would end all wars.
Lest we forget, and it feels amid the anger and the hate that perhaps we are forgetting and that should embarrass us and our world leaders.
To our Daughter,
Yours is the heritage of two great nations. Born of an American Mother and a British Father in the State of Maryland, U.S.A., you are recognised as a citizen by the laws of both the United States and Great Britain.
And even discounting the more usual charms which all parents see in their own children, we are inclined to think that this dual nationality makes you rather unique. Nevertheless, it is strange that such a communication as this should be addressed to you when you are but six months old.
The present, however, is the only time at which these things could be written, for they are our pledge to you and your future. You will be given this to read, god willing, on your twenty-first birthday.
You were born, dearest daughter, in such times as have never before seen on this earth. The Brutality, the suffering, the death endured among mankind has never been surpassed. Nor, indeed, and paradoxically, has there ever been such idealism, such high integrity of purpose, nor such hope for the future.
As we write, a new world is being born in the minds of good men, and its bloody travail is sweated out across the globe, from tiny islands in the Pacific to the beaches, hills and plains of all Europe and Asia.
It is a world, as you know, in which every nation has its right to a place in God’s undiscriminating sunlight; in which each race is accorded the respect of other races; in which no man, woman or child can starve amid abundance.
Now, in 1944, we are eager that you should soon read, so that you may know how much of the past has gone to make the present and the future which you enjoy.
You must read of the Magma Carta of King John, of the storming of the Bastille, of the Abolition of Slavery, of the Declaration of Independence, of the Bill of Rights.
Then, as you read this in 1965, you will know that there once existed such a world that the inscription on the Statue of Liberty at the New York gateway to the United States reads:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
At 21 there is no “wretched refuse” in your world, darling. But you understand, because you have read of the racial and religious persecutions of Europe in past centuries, and of a Ghetto in Warsaw and a gas chamber in Lublin which we have known in our time. And because you know, too, of Abraham Lincoln and of his oration at Gettysburg which you read even before you were old enough to understand and know that this great American in 1863 was speaking of the same “great task remaining before us” as Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke about in 1936 when he told us that our generation had a “rendezvous with Destiny;” and the same “unfinished work” as Winston Churchill meant in England’s dark hours of 1940, and which has seen completion only in your generation.
Your will remember how we told you of these things years ago; and how all our endeavours, our printed and spoken words, our lives, were never for anything but the fulfilment of these promises to those who have given their lives in the battle for the Liberty of Man, to those who are yet unborn, and to you.
You will remember how the great power for war which was in the United States and in the British Commonwealth, joined with their brother nations, was continued into the greatest power for peace that men had dreamed of………. but it was not easy.
These great decisions about your future were actually made by the ordinary men and women in those nations, by the exercise of their democratic will.
As we write this, the people of the United States are debating keenly the issues before them in a wartime Presidential election. We have implicit faith in their ability to choose well a President committed in the fullest measure to international co-operation for peace, together with a Congress which will tender him loyalty and support. And, as foreign and domestic issues can no longer be divorced from each other, we know also that such an Administration must also strive for prosperity at home among a people who are tolerant of everything but intolerance.
Such an Administration must necessarily be composed of persons whose courage and vision can be assessed on the basis of their known records.
For 1944, darling was not a time when the world could afford to wait when that time came they, too, chose wisely and well.
You remember these things, of course. We repeat them here only to ensure that you will not forget them. Never, never forget them, nor the millions of ordinary people whose lives were dedicated and even lost to the attainment of the ideals of war.
And finally, as you read these words in 1965, pause awhile to hear the world echoing at last in unison, the great American creed:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Do you hear, our dearest daughter, do you hear it? – clear and sweet as the bell of Evening song across the English Country side – carried on the winds across the Atlantic, over the Western Plains on a Kansas breeze, sweeping low to the Antipodes, heard like a persistent drum in the dark Congo, soaring upward to the Himalayas and on up the Nanking Road to rise with the stars over the Steppes, whispering soft over the Mediterranean blue, riding the wave-crests crescendo in Biscay Bay – and on, on again.
Listen, for we know your hear it. It is the measure of our success.
God help us all, if we, if our generation, have also failed.
Be yourself, everyone else is already taken – Oscar Wilde
So, about 2 weeks ago I wrote this blog post and I guess I must of captured a feeling or something because it went wild, it actually crashed little blog for a while (thanks to Rob for getting us back up and running and for not complaining about the midnight wakeup call). It was a weird feeling to have something I wrote quite so ‘out there’, weird good not weird bad but I did get a little shy.
I also felt like a fraud. I wrote that piece in 30 minutes, I didn’t really even check it as I was supposed to be making dinner at the time and A. was due home. I even thought about taking it down, it felt too raw, too exposing – and this coming from the girl who documented her cancer and writes regularly about death! Luckily I kinda forgot about it, I often do that, once I’ve got the writing out, I’m more free to live my life. And now I can tick gone viral off the bucket list (not that it was on there in the first place, not that I have a bucket list, I have ten).
What it led to was a lot of lovely things being said – some by people who I’d never met, so I wanted to thank everyone – I doubt little blog will ever actually reach all those people but thank you very much anyway, it certainly made my last week in theatre a lot more bearable.
I also got asked a lot about what I’m up to next and that is a slightly longer story.
When I was little I never had a very clear imagine of what I wanted to be when I grew up. I could never quite picture myself as the stockbroker, brain surgeon or CEO. I wanted to be the person who was indispensable to them, I wanted to be their helper, their carer, the one they relied on. I wanted to be the “girl-friday’ and that embarrassed me; and based on absolutely NO evidence, I was also pretty sure it would embarrass my parents. All the words I had for what I wanted to be had lowly conatations, and given the care and cost my parents were putting in to giving me an exciting future I felt guilty, really, for not wanting ‘more’, I didn’t ‘want it all’, I wasn’t about to forge my path as a leader of the universe. I felt like a failure because my ‘all’ looked quite different from what we are always being fed is ‘successful’.
I didn’t want the spotlight, I didn’t want to be a power-player, I incorrectly thought that I had no ambition and that was something I should hide. I was wrong, I had/have ambitions they just looked slightly different.
Finding Stage Management was a relief, not only did it mean I now had a plan, that I could be the facilitator, the helper that I always thought I should be but because I also had Manager in the title I needn’t be embrassed.
And then I grew up, actually I got sick, and I stopped caring quite so much about what others might think. The new mantra was ‘fuck it, just be you’.
I no longer believe that it matters what people feel about my career path. It should never of mattered what people felt about it.
What matters, for any of us, is that you are striving to pay your rent, pay your taxes, feed yourself, and hopefully give a little to people who need it more. As long as you aren’t hurting yourself or others; how you get there is frankly nobody else’s concern.
I finally looked around and realised it takes all sorts to make up this crazy community we call a planet. Truth be told many be are so busy worrying about how they look to others and if they’re doing the right job – they probably don’t even care what I’m doing. If everyone was a CEO or stockbroker or brain surgeon the world would be a very dull place. As long as I am giving it everything, being the best that I can be, then that’s enough. If others want to be proud of me, I’m also cool with that.
So, I’ve retrained as a Massage Therapist and I’m starting my own business. I can incorporate all the parts of me, the helper, the admin lover (I LOVED playing post office and library as a kid) and the person who fears they’ll get bored of a desk job… This move feel right, scary but right. I may not be changing world with a ripple that can be felt around the world; but I hope, I hope I can make a small difference the people of Bristol!
LOOP Massage is in it’s fledging stages. It has a home, in a cargo container at Wapping Wharf. It very nearly has a start date – March 2017, I’m coming for ya! It has me, who is nervous, excited, buzzing and probably every other emotion you care to name as well.
I’ll need supporters too (actually it has a fair few already, I’m very grateful but I’d love a larger community), you can check out my new website here.
Well we’re here again, another year….. and I’ve got nothing to add to that.
Well I do, it isn’t very often when I’m totally speechless.
I think what I mean to say is, what can I add to that? It’s another year on, some days I miss you keenly, other days your memory is a thread that if pulled would mean I’d come undone. Don’t judge but sometimes, for sanity I choose not to pull.
What I am learning is that there is no rhyme or reason to these days. Often times I can steel myself for an event and be absolutely fine and then on a sunny day in June, I’ll be stifling tears in a supermarket because the spinach has jolted a memory.
Grief dances to the beat of it’s own samba band and what can you say in the face of that? Nothing much, you just have to dance along the best you can.
So anyway, there’s news, there’s always news. Even when I plan for a quiet year something comes up.
I’ve left theatre, well it’s actually only been a week, but I’m starting my own business so I’ve left theatre. I actually wrote a blog post about it, it went viral so that’s something to check off my bucket list. It’s weird writing that I’ve left theatre to you, in some ways I think I stayed so long because it connects me to you but so many other things do and it’s time to be a slightly different me.
I’m opening a massage studio; I’m basically taking all things I like the most in life and placing them in a beautiful setting and hoping other people enjoy it too. I’m excited. I’m excited to the extent that I can be excited, which is heaps while still waiting for the other shoe to drop (was I wary when you were still here? I often think your illness was when I became a slightly more pessimistic human, I think my own cancer finished me off, if you’ll excuse the rather unfortunate turn of phrase).
Actually you started me on this road too, enrolling me on a weekend workshop the summer after you were diagnosed. I think mostly, so I wasn’t just hanging about the house, making sure you weren’t going anywhere. Or maybe because in a weird Mama bear psychic link thing, you predicted this, I’m not sure I can whole heartedly get behind that theory but I know better than to mess with the Mama Bear Juju.
So here I am, at the start of a New Year, figuring out a new path in life. Another one. Without you. I’ve done a few of these now and it still blows me away, the influence you have on me, do parents know this at the time? Is that what makes childrearing so scary? That years after you are gone, your echo remains? Is that why people have kids (other than the continuation of a species, which I’m not going to lie, I sometimes have my doubts about) so that something of you remains and continues. I suppose it is comforting, along side being totally scary.
And here I am again at the end of our annual commune via the ethernet. Your echo remains. This dance for me continues and the year rolls out in a blanket of unknown future choices.
I love you Ma, of that there is no doubt and if in the star dust you now are the Mama Bear Juju is still strong, can you sprinkle some on the new business? I thank you.
I fell into Stage Management, I was 22 years old with no plan, I had a degree that prepared you for nothing (back when you just needed a degree and didn’t have to worry about the debt). I was working little bit jobs, and not thinking about the future when a man I respected very much asked me to be an ASM and I remember thinking I have NO CLUE what that is but he thought I could do it and I trusted him. I thought at the very least it would kill 6 months; I ended up with a career.
I was right I didn’t have a clue, I learnt from many, many mistakes and from many, many patient people. I still don’t have a clue but I’ve got better at hiding it, plus I find smiling really helps.
Now 15 years later I’m falling out of it again. I’m down to my last week of shows, 9 performances, and I know that if I don’t write this now, I may not ever because I figure before the week is out I’ll be ugly crying and trying to take it all back because theatre is the most wonderful safety blanket, filled with the most wonderful people, many of whom, I count as my friends. I will be bereft but new adventures loom and it’s my time to go.
Being a stage manager is an odd thing to do, to want to do. In a nutshell we are the people who enable the people who work at inhabiting other people, in other worlds; we manage the story tellers, the dreamers and that is a hard line to tread.
You are introduced to a group of people on the first day of rehearsals and for the next month, 3 months, 6 months or year, they are your people, your family – sure you might not like them all but you’ll fight like hell to protect them.
As a breed we are are often perceived as officious or jobsworths, spoilers of the fun but I’d say 98% of us aren’t that way inclined. Stage Managers live and breath theatre, they care just as deeply about making a production work, they battle a hundred little wars to get to Press Night just the same as anyone else on the production. It’s just we work in the shadows, our job is not to be seen and so we’re a little strange.
But if you choose to work in this industry, at this time, I think you have to be a little strange. We are all misfit toys trying to make sense of this nonsensical world by story telling. That’s not something everyone chooses to do. You have to be tough to stick at it in a world that values money and power. In a world of cuts, where healthcare or schools or social housing or helping people across the globe has become the impossible either or situation; it takes brave, tough and pretty strange folk to stand up and say Art matters too, these stories matter and the way we tell them matter.
I feel I’m leaving my comrades at the worst possible time, there is less money but so much more need for theatre; whether as a distraction from the world or as a mirror to hold up to it. We theatre folk help to heal the rifts, shine a light on the the ugly, make things that are painful, beautiful or at least bearable and some times we just make you laugh until you think you might be sick. I am so sad to be leaving but I hope I’ll support those who remain in different ways.
I’ve had the best of times and the worst of times in theatres watching performances and working on them. I wrote my mother’s eulogy during a Dress Rehearsal, I had an Opening Night the day of her funeral, I worked up until my operation when I got cancer and I came back as quick as I could. Nobody made me do these things, I chose to because theatre has a funny way of saving your life. It’s never just been a job for me, it has been a heart and soul commitment; and it has been such an amazing ride but as such, it has meant other things have had to be sacrificed.
I had a lot of time to think about it a while back and for me, Stage Management is a younger persons game. I’m sure others wouldn’t get jaded or could make the work/life balance work but I am an all or nothing kinda gal and for now, for this moment at least, I need to step out of the shadows and peer at the world from a different angle.
But in this crazy, unpredictable world, in a year where it feels anything could happen (and only 45% percent of it good) my money is on the story tellers and the enablers of the story tellers because they are my people, my loves, my family and they do wonderful things.
Thank you to those who have made the last 15 years so very, very interesting; who have held my hand in the toughest of times and shared the happiest moments. I have so many amazing memories.
I’ve tried really hard to like it. I like the idea of fresh starts, exciting challenges and “a new bikini ready body in just 30 days”, plus all the fireworks and champagne.
I admire the people who can sharpen their pencils, turn over to a new page and charge head first into the new with an optimism and determination that I cannot muster long term.
I like September for those kinds of goals, the start of the school year will forever be ingrained in me as the real fresh start. Mostly because I thought that one day I’d return to school prettier, popular and smarter than I left it in July, which never happened (I was just too oddly awkward for that) but a girl can dream. Plus autumn colours, leaves changing, the smell in the air and the still warm days of late summer.
Now I know I’m not alone, that many people openly admit to not liking January; it’s cold and it’s dark – nothing fun happens. Which is just the sort of underdog month I feel I should be able to get behind but I simply can’t throw my support that way.
I can feel myself tensing up as the month progresses, I get tetchy, unable to settle, everything feels a lot harder and I lose the ability to express myself. It’s like I’m living at a completely new altitude that I’ve not gotten used to yet. Or I want to behave completely recklessly, to be a selfish person, purely out for my own pleasure.
I start to fantasise about hibernating, burrowing away and pretending the world doesn’t exist. I shut myself down. I’m pretty sure the human equivalent is box-sets, a warm fire, thick curtains and endless mulled wine.
As you can imagine, I’m a complete joy to be around.
January can’t be about new starts for me because it will always finish with the spectre of the hardest ending – inevitably it will be about loss to me.
It’s tough this year because there’s a huge new project afoot, lots to do, to think about, to plan for. I’ve been so excited, and crazy scared and chomping at the bit – I’m finally changing up my life. I should be the perfect January New Start but all I feel is empty.
Yup, January, in this household, is to be endured.
Oh gosh, this is a sorry excuse for a blogpost. Apologies. I guess the reason behind it is to reach out to those of you who maybe feel the same, who can’t quite put their finger on it but don’t go crashing out the gates on Jan 1st, bright eyed and bushy tailed. Who look down out their to-do lists and sign not with satisfaction but with the enormity of it all.
What do we do because we can’t hibernate (that’s actually a question) can we hibernate? Well, what we do if we can’t put ourselves into stasis is; put one foot in front of the other until February and then March arrive, which if we’re lucky, they will always do.
We take pleasure in small joys like baths and books and hot, slightly stodgy food. We stretch our bodies out and remove some clutter from our houses and our minds. We eat the chocolate, if that’s what it takes. We watch movies and light candles, cook for friends. We make ourselves a warm drink, wrap a soft scarf about us and we march towards March. We are the endurers of January and we will be kind to ourselves because sure as sure can be, one day, we won’t feel like this, we will see the beauty in the world again and we will get our groove back. I almost said we will get our fight back but we are fighting, we are powering on through, despite January and the best news is, we will get to win.