Friday, January 12, 2018

Old Crones

There is something about ‘Old Crones’.

From our childhood, we have always seen them in a mystical light. Wether they are witches, or the  spiritual head of our tribe, there is something about them. Pagan. Vibrant. Raw. Powerful.

The thousands of years of misogamy, compounds that essence. Old women were something to be feared; something alien and nonconformist. If you think back a few hundred years, then any woman older than her forty’s was something unusual. In childbirth, hard work or violence, the life expectancy was short. If you hit your mid forties, then you had battled, won and should be replaced by something more compliant.

Now that being forty, is now the new thirty, (and probably no more than mid twenties), then its hard to translate this mythical creature into ourselves. However, its probably more relevant than ever.

The era of the internet has changed how we view ourselves and others. Our pre-conceptions of what we have achieved and who we are gets diluted somehow. We become a homeopathic essence of what we should be. We view ourselves compared to tens-of-thousands, instead of the hundreds we would have done a hundred years ago. Our world is much smaller and it seems to make us minuscule. Instead of seeing ourselves through our village, we see ourselves through the stars and wonder why we fail to be the goddess people think we should be.

It is a strange week for me. Today, would have been my Dad’s seventy-first birthday. He died just over two years ago and it still cuts me to the quick. Next week I am forty-five. I compare myself to my parents -or even some of my friends-, and I feel a baby. I still blast the radio in the car to the songs I sang to in my bedroom when I was a teenager, and I casually forget that was thirty years ago. Even my -soon to be- teenage son, doesn’t deflate the idea that I still feel like a teenager inside.

Yet, I look in the mirror and I see the grey hairs which I lovingly collate. I joke to my husband that parts of my body are going southwards quicker than others. I contemplate the peri-menopausal sweats and dread when the real thing may come along. Physically, everything about me seems to be going outwards: all in opposite directions; all with no idea where the rest of me is going.

I saw on a page post on my Facebook wall, a link to a site interviewing the next Doctor Who on their costume. It mentioned the designer Roy Holman, and I smiled. I remembered when he came up to me during a Doctor Who convention and said how he loved my outfit. Then I smiled even more, because I reiterate in my head… “HE CAME UP TO ME”. Out of thousands of people there, he admired my costume. I looked back at the photos, just after and chastised myself, because frankly after a couple of years of practise, that costume was rubbish. I berated to myself, “I could do so much better now”. Then, I smiled and let it go. I remembered… “He came up to me”.

Last week, I decided to try a spiritual ritual of “smudging the house”. Over the summer, my herb patch had become overgrown with sage. Instead of ditching it, I cut it down, bound it with lavender, and dried it. On the morning, after the coldest night of the year, I insanely opened all of the windows, and lit my dried sage. I went through the house letting the smoke drift -hoping the smoke alarms didn’t go off- and internally chanted to myself that I was clearing out the old and letting in the new. 

I am not a religious person — I would only just call myself spiritual. I am not sure why I did this, but after the last couple of years I felt it couldn’t hurt. In those moments, I became almost pagan-like. Apart from the fact I was in my PJ’s, I had a kid shouting at me that he didn’t like the smell, and I kept wondering if the police would be called because the house smelt rather dodgy straight afterwards, I would be no different from the old crone from five-hundred years ago. 

Yes, in todays terms I am not old. Heck, forty-five is probably just entering middle-age. Doctors would probably expect me to live into my eighties or nineties. But, I still embody the old crone. As far as reproduction-years are concerned I am on my way-out. My hair has an equal amount of grey, and my breasts are closer to my belly-button than my chin. I have experiences, I have knowledge and I have confidence. That is why women were vilified as “Crones”, because we embody all of those traits. That is as scary now, as it was then. Women are NOT allowed to be wise and knowing. We were meant to be fertile and bonny. If we were old and said our minds, then we were discarded. Nothing has changed except our lifespan.

Some would say, I am letting myself go. (Yes, they are probably men). I don’t dye my hair. I have become accepting of my expanding waistline. I do not cover my scars and blemishes. They say this because they fear the alternate explanation. I know more than them. I care less on what they think. I understand myself and my worth more than anyone. I look up to no-one and I am comfortable with everyone. I pass my knowledge where I can. I do not cower; I fight back and I fight back hard. I am a force to be reckoned with.

That is my red-wine infused realisation (isn’t all insight meant to be driven by some type of hallucinogen?). I am an old crone — but that’s not a bad thing. I am wise, and wrinkled, and opinionated. I don’t dismiss what is unknown, but keep an open mind. I give my knowledge freely and expect nothing in return. I cannot give new life, but that doesn’t stop me nurturing. I am more than my reproductive organs and others opinion of me. I also know, that I do not need to be forty-five to achieve this. I could be fifteen, or twenty, or over thirty. Being an old crone is not an age but an attitude.

I suppose as well as glorying in my new found confidence, I am just wondering why it took me so long to get to the party.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


t is fair to say that I have been trying to write -well anything- for the last couple of years. This isn't just a severe case of writers block, this is full-on guillotine - noisy French peasants calling for my blood and my powdered wig wilting in the fetid city summer.

The reason I have written anything, is because of this post. It’s re-taking the first step doing something I knew I could -and previously loved - to do. Its sitting down and trying to condense, what essentially amounts to a shit, few years into a few lines: To have to admit what has happened and to write about it in is such an open way, was too hard to bare. I couldn't lay myself open and emotionally naked like that when it was all I could do to function on a daily basis. I tried. I tried many times and every time I opened my laptop, with a blank page in front of me, I would just feel the weight of it all crushing me. I just couldn't do it. However, I felt I had to, before I could write anything else.

The last couple of weeks have been an eye-opener for me. They say depression has a horrible way of creeping up on you. You don't realise how low you are until you come out of the other side. You never see it coming and it always hits you slyly, no matter how familiar you are with it. I have experienced a few deep lows in the last twelve years since I was first diagnosed and again my ‘black dog’ blindsided me. Depression comes from many different sources - this time around, my depression came from grief.

I didn't realise until now, that I was using this post as an excuse. I wanted to wallow in my own self pity. I needed to flagellate myself for all the mistakes I have made over the last few years. I somehow felt I needed to be punished, and stopping myself writing was a way to do that. I was grieving the loss of my home, my family, the sense of myself, and I was blaming myself for it - when in fact its just the natural bumps and fallows we all get in life. I was regretting everything I had done wrong, because I knew there was no way to change it.

I had felt that, when time came to write my return post, I needed to re-hash everything that had gone on before - that somehow I needed to announce all my woes in some catharsis. As if showing my emotional scars and having everyone announce how sad, proud, relieved, that I had written all of my blackness down, would make me start writing again. Now I have come out of my darkness, I realise that I didn't need to do anything of the sort.

People who know me -either via social media, or dare I say it, real life- already know what has happened over the last few years. I have had all of the actual and virtual pats on the backs and hugs. I have had my time to grieve over the loss of my home in Canada (something I didn’t realise that had affected me so much) and the dehumanising decline and eventual loss of my father. I have battled educational departments and solicitors and estate agents and I have finally found a home and a school my son finally feels settled at. I have fixed myself emotionally and physically. My work, for a while, seems done and I need to appreciate the lull.

One of the problems with depression and grief is that you become self-absorbed. You become so self-involved that -even though you acknowledge others are struggling- your full heart doesn't go out to comfort them. You are always holding something back for yourself; giving yourself extra cold comfort. There has been some interest from groups for me to resurrect ‘The Run Smiley Collective’ blog that I helped found years ago. Since I left Canada it has fallen to the wayside - a victim of my self-pity. When I look at all of the fantastic authors I had helped convince to write for the ‘collective’ I realised we have all had shit to process. It made me realise that I wasn't the only one who had suffered a huge change and was grieving a fundamental loss in their lives. I knew in my head of course, I am still friends with many of them, but I didn't fully connect emotionally. I had said all of the right words, but I wasn’t fully in the moment when I said them. Depression and grief does that. Its a disconnect. I distanced myself emotionally from every connection, no matter if it was good or bad. Even during moments of joy and happiness, I wasn't completely engaged.

A couple of months ago, I decided that I had enough. I was going to be active in bringing myself out of my depression and grief. I started to -very gradually- reduce my anti-depressants, I ensured I challenged myself in learning new skills; who knew I could crochet cute voodoo dolls?. I forced myself to get outdoors in -what is loosely called the British sunshine- and do hard physical work. I started to take care of my appearance and the environment I lived in. I am being kinder to myself. It seems basic steps, but it is unbelievably hard to do.

The last couple of weeks have seen the fruits of my labour. I have started laughing so much my cheeks cramp up. I have started considering writing again. I am taking pleasure in the small things and my heart is softening where I feel I can fully begin to give to others. 

The last few weeks have been a reboot. Like a failing computer system, I was crashing and failing. I was incapable of running the most basic processes and I had become so unreliable that I was next to useless. Instead of limping along, I have taken a dramatic step of a wipe, reinstall and reboot. My life feels a little more stable now and I feel as if I can actually be productive now.

My time of mourning is over, and it’s about time I got on with the job of living. I am pressing the shutdown and restart option in the menu, lets see what programs boot up when I next log on.