Healing Words

She Howls: the book that must be written.

SHE HOWLS BOOK

Sometimes when the shite hits the fan (again) you need to use that damn stinky stuff for what it is intended – FERTILISER. ✊🏽 

You get hold of that sloppy mess and mould it in to something wonderful, a dream that needs time, a message you need to spread or the book that is waiting to be written. 

Some books won't wait. Some books weave their own jadoo so that anything that gets in the way of their creation, will be shoved to one side and if you don't listen then that pile on the side will maturate in to shite.

Then it will stink out your ifs, should and buts.

It will stink so loud, make your eyes sing  'hai rabba' and your nose dribble for mercy. 

It will be a lingering stink that travels on the slightest breeze so at just the moment you feel you got it all together, it goes whoosh bang slap in a big messy slop. 

Right over your life. 

It will make you beg...

Why me?

It will reply...

You listening NOW? 

You listening to me NOW. 

Write fucker. Write.

Hear me and write me until your fingers are raw torchlights melting plastic keys and searing through wood to lead.

Write me to the moment that you can't write me anymore.

I am going to exhaust you until you birth me like a wild howl in to blood red sky. 

Ready?


Expected publication: Summer 2019

A soul-full and uplifting field guide to writing out of our hearts and souls. Excavate the feral poetry that lies deep within.

This field guide will be crammed with inspiration, poetic words and practical creative writing activities and adventures, exploring the power of words to heal us and how they help us to live our truest and wildest lives. 

Warning: Writing can seriously change your life for the better. 

 

Imagineered by Dal Kular, curatrix of the SHE HOWLS  open mics & writing circles, poem-maker, word-activist and facilitator of creative writing experiences for healing and transformation.


IMPORTANT GRATITUDE MESSAGE:  Shite happened and I called my friends. My allies. My fellow rabble rousers. Believers and seers. And they helped untangle the spaghetti mess. They listened, dusted me off,  strengthened my wings with duct tape and scaffolding. They reminded me of resilience. And of what I need to do in this fragmentary moment called life rather than the ifs, should and buts. THANK YOU mavericks and secret agents and brains, you know who you are. xo


The Poetics of Loneliness

The medicalisation of loneliness mystifies a condition for which there is no cure. Loneliness often expresses the difficulty that we have in understanding our place in the world.

Frank Furedi

 

Loneliness is a hot topic at the moment. There's even an appointed minister for loneliness in the UK. It's brilliant that this vital conversation is finally happening, and that more people are feeling confident about expressing their feelings of loneliness and isolation.  

I've had many conversations with people over the last few months about their feelings of loneliness, from single folks living alone to those who appear to be in solid relationships, with loving families and surrounded by friends. It could be because I have been very open about the bone-deep loneliness I felt after my Dad died – sharing opens a conversation.  Or it could be that at long last, people feel they can open up about it without being stigmatised. The funny thing about being lonely is, you're not alone – many, many people feel the same. 

The loneliness I experienced after Dad's death was excruciating. Mentally and physically. It was exhausting and overwhelming. I'm open to life after death and keeping 'in contact' with my Dad. But physical Dad, the Dad who always had my back, the Dad with vast palms that glowed with warmth is not here to give me a hug and tell me everything will be ok. 

Loneliness is not the social or emotional abnormality it is often presented as, with stereotypes of lonely older people or live-alone singletons (like me!) heating ready made meals for one in a microwave. It's not something to be solved in six sessions at a socialisation group.  Yet, it is being medicalised and pathologised with solution-focused approaches and interventions to 'tackle' loneliness in Western society.  Well meaning voluntary sector organisations are lining up for funding to 'tackle loneliness'. It's the big new fight and also big business. Your loneliness has a price tag attached to it. Loneliness masked as depression is currently big business for psycho-pharmeceutical companies.

This troubles me because after decades working as a Social Worker, too many interventions, including medical and psychological are individualistic, loading the burden of change on the individual, not society. They lack imagination. Medicalising loneliness deflects the intersectionality of the person experiencing loneliness. It 'others' people.  The clue is in 'society'.

In the Chambers Dictionary, society is defined as, 'fellowship, companionship, company, association, a community...'. When I speak with others about their loneliness, this is often what they feel is missing, a sense of belonging to a community. Belonging. Feeling like you belong somewhere and to something. 'Society', despite government rhetoric is something that has slowly been attacked, split and marginalised by harmful policies, funding cuts, lack of social housing – the list goes on. 

I originally started writing this blog post back in March, when loneliness felt like all over psychological toothache. Especially after the longest winter.  Would the light ever come back? I wasn't depressed but I was lonely. I had lots of friends but I was still lonely. My family had become incredibly fragmented after my Dad died and the sense of isolation was vast, despite us never being a close or particularly sociable family unit. I decided to experiment with loneliness, to stare it right in the eyes and see what would stare back at me if I didn't avoid it. 

Right now, I am struggling to get the words out to describe those few weeks of being 'in loneliness' and completely opening myself up to it. I feel a shield across my chest and an intake of breath thinking about it. I can only describe it as brutal. It stared back at me unrelenting and hardened. There was no epiphany or big 'aha' moment. Just brutal. And painfully awakening. 

Yet as the days and weeks passed something inside me did shift slowly.  By staring the blood red monster in the eyes I saw that loneliness had the softest gaze veiled in tears and sadness, beauty and light. That to be lonely is to be gorgeous and vulnerable and 100% real and thoroughly in touch with the deepest parts of yourself.  That I never feel lonely when I'm in nature or near a tree. But I do feel lonely when I am de-natured. In the city. In my family. My family de-natures me. The ever deepening realisation that I needed to re-construct my own 'society' of like-minded souls, landscapes, music, books and activities that fuel my soul and deepen my belonging, to both myself, the wider world and the unseen world.

  

Tell me you are lonely

and I will tell you

how beautiful you are,

soft soul creature. 

 

Feeling lonely is as normal as feeling grief, sadness, joy, anger. Because it's not been highly publicised by the movements of happiness, joy and positivity it's been demonised alongside less glamorous emotional states such as anger, jealousy, anxiety. Something to be corrected or fixed. Like so many emotions loneliness is tidal, reacting to the weather, the actions of human beings, the planets and more. It is deep, unruly and complex. Sometimes loneliness will disappear for years, sometimes it is a gentle stroke of the shoreline and sometimes it's a destructive tsunami or a long cold winter. But rest assured, loneliness is full of potent poetry and medicine if we dare to sit with it, brave it out. Loneliness feels like a void. Dark and unbearing.  Yet it is rich and fertile.

Darkness is where the magic happens. May the poets and the seekers be our guides. 

In a Handful of God by Hafiz

Poetry reveals that there is no empty space.

When your truth forsakes its shyness,
When your fears surrender to your strengths,
You will begin to experience

That all existence
Is a teeming sea of infinite life.

In a handful of ocean water
You could not count all the finely tuned
Musicians

Who are acting stoned
For very intelligent and sane reasons

And of course are becoming extremely sweet
And wild.

In a handful of the sky and earth,
In a handful of God,

We cannot count
All the ecstatic lovers who are dancing there
Behind the mysterious veil.

True art reveals there is no void
Or darkness.

There is no loneliness to the clear-eyed mystic
In this luminous, brimming
Playful world.

 

LONELINESS: an excerpt from Consolations, by David Whyte

"LONELINESS

is the doorway to unspoken and as yet unspecified desire. In the bodily pain of aloneness is the first step to understanding how far we are from a real friendship, from a proper work or a long sought love. Loneliness can be a prison, a place from which we look out at a world we cannot inhabit;loneliness can be a bodily ache and a penance, but loneliness fully inhabited also becomes the voice that asks and calls for that great, unknown someone or something else we want to call our own. 

Loneliness is the very state that births the courage to continue calling, and when fully lived can undergo its own beautiful reversal, becoming in its consummation, the far horizon that answers back.

In the grand scale of things, loneliness is a privilege. Human beings may have the ability to feel aloneness as no other creature can; magnified by the power of intelligence, longing and imagination. Loneliness asks us to speak and specify a life we feel we might be missing.

Loneliness is the substrate and foundation of our belonging, the gravitational field that draws us home and in the beautiful essence of its isolation, the hand reaching out for togetherness. To allow ourselves to feel fully alone is to allow ourselves to understand the particular nature of our solitary incarnation, to make aloneness a friend is to apprentice ourselves to the true foundation of vulnerability from which we make our invitation others. To feel alone is to face the truth of our irremediable and unutterable singularity, but a singularity that can kiss, create a conversation, make a vow or forge a shared life. In the world or community, this essential singularity can even join with others through vision, intellect and ideas to make a society. 

Loneliness is not a concept, it is the body constellating, attempting to become proximate and even join with other bodies, through physical touch, through conversation; through the mediation of the intellect and the imagination. 

Loneliness is the place from which we pay real attention to voices other than our own; being alone allows us to find the healing power in the other. The shortest line in the briefest e-mail can heal, embolden, welcome home and enliven the most isolated identity. Human beings are made to belong. 

Loneliness is the single malt taste of the very essentiality that makes conscious belonging possible. The doorway is closer than we think.

I feel alone; therefore I belong."


Writing from where we are glued together.

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Right now, life is intense and exhausting. It feels a bit too much at times. Yet, finally and with great relief I can say...in really good ways. I know, even I am shocked at hearing myself say this!  After a deeply fracturing, splintering and traumatic few years, this year I've been returning slowly back to some new-kind-of-myself. I feel back in 'my life'. In my body.  And despite the last few difficult years, I've realised that it's actually been decades since I've felt this kind of flow, this belonging in my life (just to say - it's not all perfect, there are still challenges and difficult days!).

A 23 year career in Social Work, whilst full of growth, challenge and learning (and occasional running for my life) sucked every bit of spare life-energy out of me. The spare life-energy I needed to make vocational changes, follow dreams, write stories and essays. I berated myself for years for not being able to shift my life in a more creative direction. But now I look back and realise with compassion, there was no energy at the end of each day to water the seeds I was planting. None. 

Thankfully, the seeds lay dormant, waiting.  Waiting until I glued myself together.

Split open...

My Dad's death in 2016 slammed mortality at me and thoroughly woke me up. It split me open and demanded change. It was a violent awakening. I made the conscious decision to fully grieve, to let the deepest howls of pain spill out. I couldn't live the old life any longer.  And I couldn't hold the pain in. Even though I tried.  The pain of grief has been unlike anything else I've ever experienced or wish to experience ever again. 

In June 2017, I woke up to find my face red, raw and blistering and parts of my labia minora had disappeared.  You read that correctly. Parts of my most precious flesh had literally disintegrated, a process called re-absorption due to a condition called Lichen Sclerosis. This was a week after the Grenfell tower block fire in London, a catastrophic event that made me critically question my role as a Social Worker due to the mass failure of public services to support traumatised residents in the immediate aftermath. What was evident was that the local, grassroots response to the fire became the agent of comfort and solace to those who survived - local people caring for each other, not the professionalised public sector.

A week later, around Summer Solstice, I lay on the Hill of Tara near Dublin and said ' do whatever you need to do with me'. I was barely holding it together. 2 days later I woke up completely broken, not remotely together, barely functioning. I called in sick to my contract (I was due to work a 64 hr on call shift) and have not returned to social work since. That summer was filled with a deep depression yet moments of pure wonder - this is another story.

Returning to the body...

Looking back from where I am now, it's weird to see that I wasn't in my body and I definitely wasn't in my life. I was a zombie, a night walker, a shell. Trauma, grief, stress and living a life that's not yours does that to you. It steals YOU. It stole me. It's difficult for others around you to understand and when you're in it, stunned, it's difficult to describe it to others.  In Shamanic cultures this could be described as soul loss, parts of our soul disappearing in to the ethers, fractured by trauma, waiting to come home to us.  On a neurophysiological level it may be described as an amygdala response, getting 'stuck' or a very challenged polyvagal nerve. Spiritual crisis, nervous breakdown, meltdown, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, some WHO ICD-10 category or the other.  Mostly deficit-based descriptions. None of these labels felt feral enough for me. They were too limiting to describe an experience of multiple shades, quirks, pains and wonders. 

My definition - one mother of a fucking wild awakening, a brutal splitting open, a dragging by the hair, ripped from the old and thrust in to a more 'me' version of my life. Because I was resisting too much. Too bloody fearful of real change. Damn, I could've made the changes so much easier if I'd been brave. Really I could have. Maybe I've watched too many Bollywood movies and went for the full shabang of a wailing change instead. 

The last 6 months have been a slow returning, a slow belonging and a massive relief - I'm back. Parts of my soul have returned. I'm still looking over my shoulder, still slightly wary after the tumultuous times of what unwanted surprises may lay ahead. Mostly, I feel immense gratitude at being wildly alive. Of surviving. Thriving. Wild. Alive. 

Singing from the glue...

Now, you'll hear the good singing, from the bits I've glued back together and that's where I intended to start this blog post, with some inspiration from the book, 'Poetic Medicine' by John Fox, where he asks, 'Where are you glued together? (That's where you hear the good singing)'. Reading that line reminded me that all the work I do with words and glue-people are about the 'good singing', the loud singing, singing from the glued up bits of ourselves, finding the courage to express our dangerous and untidy bits, our suffering and joys. This is where transformation happens, when we sing together and others hear us. We need to write words that sing. 

 

It's O.K. for the rich and the lucky to keep still, 

no-one wants to know about them anyway.

But those in need have to step forward, 

have to say: I am blind, 

or: I'm about to go blind,

or: I have a child who is sick, 

or: right there I am sort of glued together...

 

And probably that doesn't do anything either. 

They have to sing, if they didn't sing, everyone

would walk past, as if they were fences or trees.

 

That's where you can hear the good singing. 

People are really strange: they prefer

to hear castratos in boy choirs.

 

But God himself comes and stays a long time

when the world of half-people start to bore him.

 

~ Rainer Maria Rilke.