Dry January – Coming Late to the Party

If you receive our Studio Notes, then you would have read that the beginning of 2021 did not go as planned. Miss Ella got sick, real sick, having to go into hospital for a few weeks to recover from an infection. We didn’t know what was happening and it was worrying.

At the same time, our local hospital trusts brought in stricter restrictions in terms of visitors to hospital. They brought in the rule of one parent per child, 24/7. So swapping out of parents to give some respite and relief. No sharing the load.

It made sense that Miss Ella’s dad stayed in hospital with her as then I’d be available to run around, bringing in food and changes of clothes, as I drive while Miss Ella’s dad doesn’t.

Not being able to see her, cuddle her and tell her everything was going to be alright was so frustrating and painful. For a few weeks there I was self medicating with wine and binge eating crap just to numb the pain and worry. For a few blissful hours each night, I could switch off and forget everything. But the worry and fears were still there to face me the next day.

We’d decided that when Miss Ella was discharged from hospital she’d come stay with me to recover. I hadn’t been with her for so long and it also gave her dad a break after his hospital stay. I needed to be there for her, be switched on and watched her like her hawk. Therefore, alcohol was out of the question.

I’m so pleased that I’d made this decision because within 24 hours of being out of hospital, I had to rush Miss Ella back in with the same symptoms as before. This time, I was the parent to stay in hospital for a few days while they worked out what was wrong and treat Miss Ella again.

By the time we got home again out of hospital, I was 5 days into not drinking. And even though we’d been on another rollercoaster of a ride and alcohol was offered as a means of unwinding and forgetting the recent health scares, I abstained. Again I wanted to be alert and on standby just in case of another emergency with Miss Ella.

So that’s the long story. The short story is Dry January is happening and it wasn’t on my radar. And I’m not really following it as I’ve said, I’ve been drinking this month. But today, I’m 8 days dry.

Sobriety is something I tried last January and completed the month. This year, I’m planning on going beyond the month.

I think my drinking became an issue for me in terms of my behaviours and actions and go-to during 2020 lockdown, marriage breakdown, separation and new home period of my life. It became easy to reach for the wine bottle and forget my worries and concerns. But I just can’t accept the excuses any more. It’s not really worth it as our recent health scares and hospital stays have illustrated.

Throughout, 2022, I intend to share my journey with sobriety here as I realise writing about my struggles is part of the cure. I

have a choice and I chose me, authentic me.

The Path

“If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s your path.” – Joseph Campbell

The Healing Threshold

I’m stuck within

the healing threshold

drowning in grief.

Too stubborn

to turn back,

too tired 

to move on.

Sacred scars

raised, I lick

to quench

a November thirst.

Navigation bleak

across the silken 

land to peace.

Sister moon,

give me your light;

a blister in this bitter air,

as once again

with head down

and heart up,

I set forth

into becoming adrift.

Reading and Writing, Writing and Reading

A few weeks ago, when I was in the thick of my separation and wondering how I was going to get through the rest of 2020, I made a commitment to myself to designate October as a creative retreat month. I’m not going anywhere, but I am protecting my time to retreat from the world and outside commitments in order to focus on my creative practice.

Due to circumstances, I’ve allowed things to get lost in transition. Focusing on what brings me joy, like reading and writing and creating haven’t been top of my list for ages, it feels. So protecting October, my favourite month of the year, my birth month, as time and space to re-engage with my creative projects and start some new ones felt right for me.

Only a few days into October, and I was inspired in a poetry workshop to attempt #thesealychallenge. This challenge is to read thirty-one poetry books or chapbooks in the thirty-one days of August. I know it’s October but I’m coming late to the party. But I feel this is just what I need to relight my fire, put pen to paper and write poetry.

So far this month, I’ve read 5 poetry collections and chapbooks. What I’m doing while reading is also collecting words, single words which I like the sound of, or I find are being used in new and usual ways. Words that stir my interest and create a reaction.

What this reading is doing is inspiring me to write again. So from just reading other people’s work, immersing myself in the world of poetry again, I’ve created 6 new poems. So I’m going all the way this time, and trying for 31 poems by the end of the month; 31 poems in 31 days.

This has already gotten me through a block, a fear that was starting to take hold of me that I might be only able to write while in crisis, while in an unhappy state. But by producing something over the last few days, I’ve now put that fear to rest. I’m back, reading and writing, writing and reading.

Moving Foward

Over the weekend, I attended a Wretched of the Earth gathering in London focusing on #climatejustice, billed as Building Our Power. This was a first for me to attend such an event; where I knew the majority of participants would be black, brown and indigenous people as well as gathered together to discuss the climate crisis. I didn’t know what to expect but I was excited about the prospect as far too long I’ve been the only black face in the room when talking about the natural world, the environment and conservation.

The event didn’t disappoint. It was such an amazing and inspiring space to be part of as everything was being co-created; the values and actions, the tactics and strategies of the movement moving forward. What struck me and what I take away with me and move forward with is the way that the climate debate is framed within Western society is wrong and misleading. There has been growing concern for endangered species and the melting icecaps and how we can make a change through recycling and other such individual measures. Yet this narrative keeps hidden the major causes of climate change along with the pain and suffering that has been experienced for decades within the Global South because of such.

Climate Justice is about re-writing the narrative and exposing the inequalities and injustices that have been going on for the last 500 years through colonialism, imperialism and capitalism. This climate emergency cannot be divorced from other issues such as housing, crime, poverty and racism. we enjoy a privileged standard of living in the West because communities and people in the south suffer, be that through being used as cheap labour or have their homes and livelihoods decimated due to extractions industries and drought.

There is so much to be learned around these issues which I’m motivated to explore and share. The creative non-fiction memoir of mixed genres which I’ve been writing this year centres about a black woman’s body with/in nature, I envision to take on a more climate justice stance as I continue to champion how nature has helped me heal and how we, humanity, need to heal through our re-connection with nature.

Rest is a weapon

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“Rest is a weapon.” – Jason Bourne

Rest is a gift. A gift I rarely give myself because I always have this feeling, this inch at the back of my head that I should be doing something, going somewhere, not wasting the day doing nothing.

But that’s it, rest is not doing nothing.
It’s been drummed into us that doing nothing is bad, that it’s laziness and will be our ruin.
Rest is not doing nothing. Rest is an active thing, for me. Rest is something I have to give myself permission to do. It’s something I have to let myself off the hook to do. I’ve got such high standards for myself, of myself and others that I’ve viewed rest as not being active and a negative thing to be doing. I’ve run from rest. I judged that rest is for the weak and I didn’t want to be associated with it.
But not anymore. I know slowing down and resting, putting my feet up, taking a break, unplugging and shutting my eyes, and taking slow deep breathes and doing absolutely nothing is powerful and needed and makes me stronger.
I get things done after a rest. I’m present after a rest. I can pay my projects, my people, myself more attention after rest.

Rest is a weapon; a powerful weapon which I keep in my arsenal at all times.