It wasn't hard to title this post as after all this is what this whole piece of writing is about and a word that has suddenly come into my awareness. It had always been there, a word that kept joining the queue, getting three away from the front and then realising it had something in the oven. It's not that I don't want to be known as after all I join the queue, I just get scared when I realise how close I am to the checking desk.
Just after Christmas I decided to take part in Susannah Conway's Find your word. In all honesty I thought it would be a nice, simple morning meditation. Having taken part in harrowing drum journeys to retrieve parts of my broken soul I assumed a free 15 minute meditation would be a doddle. It's unusual for me to be so flippant about something but I see now that it was her trying to get out. So fed up of going to the back of the queue she thought she would blindfold the cashier. It was great, I felt quite relaxed and loved Susannah's soft tone but I didn't have a word, not really. I kept catching myself trying to reach for one off a shelf even though I know that meditation is about letting things come to you still my fear was creeping in 'Oh the word is defiantly creativity, that's nice and easy you can do that!' I realised that perhaps it was a good idea to let the meditation filter down so I decided not to move onto the next part. That was six weeks ago and I am still percolating.
Not long after I went to the stormy sea for some deep belly breathing. I am a water woman with my safe place being the gentle riverways that map the countryside around me but when it all gets too shit for words I head to the sea. Her vastness terrifies and inspires me all at the same time and makes me realise that words aren't always needed. Foaming waves may crash and roar but much of the magic happens silently below. I actually didn't know I was feeling that shit, I hadn't realised because my fingers were too tightly jammed in my ears. So as I picked my way across weedy rocks to find my resting place I had no idea of the power I was about to witness. I closed my eyes to better hear the shrill gull and the gentle caress of waters edge licking pebbles. When I opened them I saw a woman on the rocks before me so real was she that I jumped at her presence. Something wasn't right though, her skin was grey and she was naked, wrapped in weeds at her ankles and dripping with tidal salt. The only thought I had was 'Who is she?' and that my friends is where it all goes a little movie script.
Since my encounter at the rocks I have had big, buried memories flash back to me. This happens sometimes but nothing like what I have experienced lately. I once trained as a massage therapist and I was pretty bloody good at it, everyone told me I was and I'd deny it because for some stupid fucking reason admitting I might be good at something actually makes me feel physically sick...and I have been, that's how deep those cogs turn. Honestly though I knew I was good and a part of me wanted to be better so I took a massive leap and made business cards. I expect Vistaprint didn't know they were a healing tool! When they arrived it felt strange to see my name in brilliantly sophisticated curly writing, so elegant and disjointed from my sturdy Devonshire self. I stared at them for a few days before deciding to pop one on the local pin board. It felt good, I'd made a step to standing out. When my husband got home from work he suggested we walk up to the pin board together as he could tell I was already starting to regret it. When we arrived he asked me where it was? 'Oh' I replied ' I put it underneath that cleaners advert because there wasn't much room.' At being caught out I ripped down the business card declaring in true injured child way that 'I never wanted to do it anyway!' So where am I now in the queue? Well I'd say that was second place until I remembered that I'd left the door unlocked.
Memories like this have been spinning in my mind lately. I can't tell you how many exhibitions, fairs, workshops etc that I've paid for, done the leg work for and then cancelled because I am a snotty, terrified, animalistic child rocking on the kitchen floor repeating that 'I just can't do it!'.
I don't know where it comes from but I do know a lot of things that have contributed to it, which scares me. I wish there was a pivotal moment I could tap into and heal but it seems my whole life I have come up against moments that have fed the fear, that's a lot of broken threads to fix and it feels rather daunting. Some of the instances I am not ready to talk about and may never be. One huge one for me and one I find my hands now hesitating over is bullying. I was bullied by quite a few different people but I was pretty good at pretending it didn't bother me and in a strange way I decided it was a badge of honour, look at me I'm being bullied but I am still here. One evening when I was 17 I was walking home from a local pub when my boyfriend decided he wanted food so we went into the kebab shop. I didn't want anything and sat on that bench that props up pissed people whilst they wait for some indescribable food in Styrofoam. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the guy who had been bullying me for the past four years. He clocked me and smiled, I knew I was about to be called a fat cunt or have vomiting noises made at me so I sunk into my coat collar feeling a little claustrophobic in these four walls. More and more of his friends started gathering outside, some of them grown men who I'd never even seen before. I was sweating with fear, I wanted to be a superhero and take them all on kill bill style but I'm no Uma Thurman (I would like those legs though!) He sent his girlfriend in and as I stood to get closer to my boyfriend she confronted me and backed me into a corner (not a good place for me as I have had previous situations in those corners) Within a brilliantly fast haze I was on the floor being kicked, punched and ripped at by her, the guy and some of the grown men. I have no idea where my boyfriend was and needless to say that signed our fate. I stood up once they'd finished covered in tears, blood and shaking with adrenaline. I found instant comfort though knowing that for the first time he had hurt me in front of CCTV, this was it! he would never hurt me again. When the police arrived though they didn't arrest him or any of his friends. They took me to the station instead and as I sat there wanting to clean my face and hide my shame explaining to the police officer the years of abuse he laid his pen down looked at me and said 'What have you done to make him do this? Did you ever lead him on?' From that day I decided that everything I said didn't really have much importance, I wanted to be a writer but I put the pen down too. I figured that if I could come from a place of such heartfelt honesty and still not be believed then my worth was even less then I already expected. That was a huge moment in sending my identity straight to the back and perhaps into the toilet cubicle.
It's probably no coincidence that I write this today, that I saw that woman on the rocks when I did. This week marks the 5 year anniversary of a failed IVF attempt and miscarriage. A time when I realised that perhaps societies view of what a woman is wasn't going to be for me. I know I should probably be all upset about it and for a time I suppose I was but secretly I am really excited. What was this body made for if not babies? that's a whole lot of energy and potential ready to be birthed into the unknown.
This year I turn 30 and strange things have started to happen. I can hear a screaming in my ears and I think it's me. I have lived this story for far too long. I have talents, I have gifts and I love to write, the world should be my oyster. I feel like two people right now. One side has £50 in the bank and is struggling with everything. The other side of me is so fucking ready it's unreal, my body is so tense from being at the starting line for so long that it's going to jump the gun...and why not? maybe the gun went off when I wasn't listening.
Within that screaming voice and the flashing memories its the word Identity that keeps beaming into my soul. Everywhere I see it and feel it unsure what to do with this heavy basket of identity I seem to be carrying. My answer came two nights ago when I decided to read a book that's been on my shelf for an age, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Within the pages she writes of permission and about granting yourself a permission slip within one line she lightened my load and blew my mind...'You do not need anybody's permission to live a creative life.' Simple. True. What am I waiting for? somebody to tell me that it's ok, that I am enough. Well people have told me that and its never worked and Elizabeth made me realise that the reason their words never sunk in is because I wasn't the one saying it! so here goes...
'You have permission Lucy! You have permission!'
I have permission to jump right to the front of that queue and now I realise that it was never really a queue at all, it was just a bunch of aspects stood around having a chat waiting for me to realise that I'm ready. Also if I remember rightly when I didn't want to do something at school I never needed a permission slip anyway I just used to bunk off and have fun.
Thankyou to Susannah, Thankyou to Elizabeth and thankyou to the weedy woman for helping me to realise that I am enough and I have a right to be myself. I had guarded these vulnerable parts of my being for so long that I had become more like a dog on a leash than a guardian, slave to the thoughts and feelings others have instilled within me. I'm pretty sure that was me on the rocks, singing my soul out from the depths.