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Life is Scary (and that’s okay)

I have always stood by the fact that you should do something every day that scares you. Doing things that worry you is good for the soul, and can be really empowering. 

When I tell people this, there is a common misconception that I’m suggesting people go skydiving. Obviously not literally, but when I tell people I like to do things that scare me, they assume I am a thrill-seeker. I don’t have a problem with that of course, but I’m quite the opposite. The truth you don’t have go skydiving, swim with sharks, or tell your boss to ‘go fuck themselves’ to be proud of yourself today.

For some people, to do something that scares you just means ordering pizza over the phone, driving in busy traffic, or even just getting out of bed.  This is a fact often dismissed. Some days meeting your friends to go to dinner can be the scariest thought in the world, and it’s just as admirable to get through that as it is to speak in front of thousands of people. Doing something that scares you, even if that is asking an employee in Tesco if they can help you find the meal deals, is the best thing you can do to improve as a person. 

Remember that ‘scary’ means something different for everyone and we cannot compare our own achievements with others. So go forth and get out of bed today, and wear that bright coloured top, and drive right through the town centre. Do something that’s amazing for you, even if it’s the tiniest thing. And do it shaking and crying if you need to, because life is scary and we all deserve to feel empowered by doing the things we don’t think we can do.

-Holly

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Falling

Falling, into the green-blue ocean. Plunging silently engulfed by solitude.

Was it you Mac?

 I remember fighting, snippets, washed with alcohol and anger, bottles falling, smashing. Bouncer’s fury, crashing us tangled together onto the concrete.

Was it you Mac?

Sophie was there, I remember now, a hazy vision of anger. Where is she now? Did she run, was it her?

Are you an innocent bystander Mac?

Was it Sophie?

Why Sophie Mac?

You had the world, why take Sophie too?

Is that why you pushed?

 In the terrible fight, the bruising the unreality, our fists meeting flesh like we were one.

Are we one?

In this terrible fate, are we one?

 Arms reaching, flailing against blackened waters, sinking dreamlessly to impossible depths. Lungs filling, burning screaming with aquatic terror beyond interpretation, reason lost.

It wasn’t you Mac.

These boards are too rough, too real beneath my body, shock clearing alcohol.

It wasn’t you Mac, but me!

And you, not I, fall Mac.

 Eyes closed, fight lost in quiet acceptance, terrible peace.

Yet where is Sophie, soft dark eyes wild with panic?

There, my angel, she comes to acknowledge my torment.

She comes send me to you, judge and juror.

Fresco

By Amanda Stokes-Geddes

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories. It was conspicuous only for its lowly contrast to the sea of masterful architectures, challenging the firmament, communing with the sky. Their soaring heights, sweeping curves and sinuous columns growing effortlessly from the surrounding maze of sun-kissed roads and manicured nature, afire in the sunlight.

It brooded.

A single light, lit characteristically early, the dusk still barely scuffing the horizon, emerged humbly from an upstairs window. Inside a figure was pacing. Long forgotten. Dreaming.

The occupants of the other buildings flitted like fireflies in their shadows, arms laden with bags from candy coloured shops filled with promises, dreams and mostly illusions.  They chattered to the wind, spirals of colour, sprites of eternal summer lifted on iridescent whispers of immortality.

They danced.

In the still sunlit streets, they danced, as the dusk slithered on the horizon.

The streetdancers barely noticed the squat grey parasite in their mist. It was a stubborn irritation kept firmly on the outskirts of their consciousness. A blot on an otherwise near perfect fresco of light.

A near perfect fresco, almost, but not quite.

There was ever a fence needing a dab of paint. A lawn edge that was a touch outgrown. Neatly paved paths would insistently sprout a weed or two but these were ruthlessly removed, smoothed, filled.  Always admired. Still, perfect perfection was elusive.  Sometimes it rained.

The hermit, pacing in the single lit window, paused. It’s bare feet, stopping briefly on sturdy floorboards, before continuing their circuitous motion silently around the sparse room. 

The hermit benignly considered the fireflies as they flowed around their rivers of roads.  It watched their startling vivacity, their circular energy. It observed their choreographed dance playing against their magnificent, cloud-defying backdrop. 

It observed the subtle purples and orange-rimmed pewters framing the edges of the sky.

 It considered.

The hermit’s apartness was obvious. This wild visage, this extravagance of vanities, fascinated it.  Like theatre or soaring musical symphonies, it at once calmed and exhilarated the hermits mind, but the hermit was not, could never be, a part of it.

The hermit had tried. 

On a brisk spring day, blossom snowing in the air, it had left its haunt. It had wandered, so briefly. The rainbow had parted; some sprites had looked on curiously; most looked on disparagingly. Many did not see it at all. The benevolent hermit began to drown in the technicolour wilderness and departed.

The fireflies, bobbing in their rivers, glanced at the horizon. Frowning, they noticed the bruised darkness lurking at the edge of the sky, the scar of red around its edges.  The onset of dusk dimmed their spirits a little, the gradual hardening of the sun from beneficent orange to dull, fiery red threatened to spoil the aspect of their glowing world. The greens a little duller, the fountains glistening in their squares slowly fading to dull blues. Briefly, very briefly, they felt the oppression of evening.  Unstoppable though, the shimmering façade arose victorious and fast. Lit by a million lights, bright enough to mimic the sun itself but in unimaginable rainbows of colours, it defied the fall of day. Almost completely restored to its eternal summer, it shimmered resplendent. The fireflies smiled at their own ingenuity.

The hermit considered.

It gathered tools from the corner of the room; it’s heavy overcoat from the peg and watched.  The corners of the sky were marching in victorious, confident streaks into the foreground. The sun was melting from gold to a deep soft russet caressing the rooftops, making windows glow softly. Deepening mauves and platinums were replacing the vivid cyan of the afternoon sky. The spectacular scenes of wild movement transformed and gently muted. A tapestry undulating across the landscapes flowing, glinting, peaceful, almost sophoric, briefly appeared. Briefly.

The hermit winced as the artificial glow of millions of lights sliced the sky.  A disturbing, painted mimicry of the sun. It was sharp edged, razor like, splintering the landscape. The dancers though looked on with delight, they marvelled in their artificial beauty stolen form the embrace of evening. They continued their eternal dance scattered amongst the lights.

The squat grey building blended with the shades of dusk. The buildings edges melted in the fading sunlight drifting into the landscape, absorbed by nature. The soft orange glow from the single, high up window flickered gently as candles and hearth light mingled into an ethereal glow.  The dancers still danced, slower now, as night inevitably descended. Occasionally one glanced at the squat, grey building now barely visible against its backdrop. This seemingly impossible disappearing act pleased them; removed a spot from their impeccable canvas.  Every once in a while a dancer spotted the movement of a figure in the non-descript upstairs window with the strange orange glow. Every once in a while one of the dancers wondered about the hermit beyond the ponderous grey walls.

But the moment passed in a twinkle, an indefinable pause in the dance, nothing more.

There were stories of course.  How that odd building had come to be, why it stood there, nestled hauntingly into the backdrop, disguising its magnitude.  Some said that it was deep, entering the very hillsides that it inhabited, almost eternal despite its unimpressive height. No one had ever investigated. No one remembered a time when it was not there.  No one approached. There were rumours of colour sprites of old entering the doors and never returning. Nobody cared to find out if it were legend or truth. They simply looked away, Ignored its odd magnetism. Enjoyed their own lavish beauty.

At times, if truth were told, an occasional figure stopped. This rather spoiled the dance. They stopped abruptly though. In that terse moment, those beautiful sinuous towers seemed to cast deeper shadows than expected. Their bags became heavy, the endless round of beautifying pointless, and the indefinable ‘stuff’ imposing.  Worse the squat grey building with its simple, rhythmic lines seemed almost lovely. Fortunately, this strange madness lasted only seconds. The other dancers would sweep by carrying the unfortunately misguided individual back into the swirling, circling hedonistic beauty and erasing the hapless musings of the previous moment.

That was the night of the storm.

The great swollen droplets of water dashed liberally from ponderous clouds. A furious wind scattered the dazzling illusion on which the sprites still fluttered. The darkness became tangible and thick, suffocating.  The dance of the sprites altered. They became drops of paint on a sodden canvas, desperately, despairingly running. They ran to their domineering towers of enchantment, shivering, pulling thick curtains brightly sewn with scenes of spring across pounded window pains. They hid.

A few, left on the streets, blown like chaff by the merciless wind, soaked by the chill river from the sky, stopped.  They looked around. Their surrounding transformed by gloom. Lost. Glancing upwards, they saw the squat grey building, closer than they recalled and suddenly comforting not menacing in the chill air.  The great front door was open, lit with the same warm glow that emanated from the upstairs window. Oddly, on this threatening night, the glow penetrated the darkness profoundly, almost seeming to become the building. They stumbled toward it, stepped into the odd building and found comfortable refuge in one of its many rooms.

The hermit pulled on its overcoat and gathered the prepared tools into its arms. It marched into the cruel embrace of the night. The darkness did not see it. The darkness was too consumed by its own intensity. The hermit worked. It gathered litter from the street, righted all that was blown into disarray. Patched paintwork. Tidied lawns. Picked weeds. The hermit worked until beauty was restored and chaos banished. The hermit pursued and caught the elusive perfect perfection. Finally the hermit calmed and soothed the wind and the rain. The hermit returned to the squat grey building, dragging the dawn with it. Laying it gently across the façade.

The butterflies emerged from their beautiful cocoons. They congratulated themselves on the resilience of the beauty they had created. Stared with fresh eyes at its perfection marvelling at it.

The squat grey building, only thirty-four stories high but infinitely deep stood quietly to the north.

The hermit contemplated.

The occupants of the other buildings flitted like fireflies in their shadows, arms laden with bags from candy coloured shops filled with promises, dreams and mostly illusions.  They chattered to the wind, spirals of colour, sprites of eternal summer lifted on iridescent whispers of immortality.

They emerged victorious from around the compass along the given roads. West, mostly west but from all the corners of the façade; south-south west, south-south-east, east…

Wales,water and the search for peace

By Amanda Stokes-Geddes

There are things that a phone camera quite simply cannot capture. The panoramic splendor of the Welsh countryside around the Brecon Beacons is one of them. Stay with me I have a point! 

The subtle interplay of light and shadow as the sun caresses the long green expanses, the plummeting depths and soaring slopes, the brush strokes of surprising and vivid colours etched across the vista.

This is where I found myself today, climbing down steep causeways, winding up near vertical slopes, always with the sheer roar of water as a wild force of nature, pounding around me.

Peace is not something that comes readily to my infinately  racing mind. Like most in the western world, I suspect, without concentrating on the down time (meditating, yoga ect) the rush of thoughts pouring thunderingly through my mind goes unchecked, wearing away at my cliffs of resilience and calm, dangerously eroding them.

Today I found something more than the majesty of nature as I walked beneath the cyan, cloud studded sky. Something I lost, or almost at least, some years ago. Something that once positively saved my life at a time when the way forward seemed blocked in every direction. Something that I had long since thought that I couldn’t reconcile with the other principals and drives of my life.

It was there as I realised how peaceful walking in the green shade of towering, sheltering trees made me. It was there when I felt dwarfed by the raging flood of water as I walked behind a ferocious waterfall. But actually I felt it most looking at the intricate, unique detail of moss and flowers modestly, quietly clinging to the smoothly carved surfaces of the rocks. 

So what did I find. I found that despite the niahlism of science, the logic that encompasses and passively explains our sources of wonder, I don’t quite believe the premise. That is not to say that I don’t love science. The unending quest for truth and severe derlf scrutiny had led too enhancements in our lives bryomnd measure. I rather hope that Mr Dawkins can forgive me for what comes next!!

I cannot look at the beauty of nature and believe it to be an accident. Possibly I am deluded. I cannot look at the intricate detail and massive forces. I cannot regard the sheer ingenuity and perfection without knowing that it was created purposefully for something that is beyond my comprehension but which I and all the life I am privileged to share this universe with am a part off.

I had forgotten that I never originally found any faith within four walls or within a well meant speech. Certainly these things sustained me in part when there was a need. The truth is though that the original spark of hope from nothing came to me when I reached for it in desperation and without any hope of success.

I find my faith and connection in a field or a forest in the beauty of nature because nothing man ever built can ever compare. I cannot be confined between walls. I will live imperfectly, trying daily to be better. To connect better with my fellow human beings and earn forgiveness for my many many faults by remembering that those who exhaust me with their unkindnesses are on their own paths deserving of forgiveness too. 

I will not jump around saying look at me with my faith. When I stop and find the silence I know there was always a hand behind me waiting patiently for me. I will not be proud off it, infact from this day forward I will never mention it again directly. I’ll just do and hope that it is a source of inspiration for other. Actions after all are much louder than words. I’ll get it wrong, mess up and act  in ways I am ashamed off, but I will try.
Love then my friends and I hope you find your peace wherever it is for you.

The Vegan Conundrum

So, I have been vegetarian since I was eighteen years old, I don’t even give it a thought anymore. Well only when someone looks at me and asks incredulously,

“But can you eat chicken?”

The answer, in case you are wondering, is no! It doesn’t happen very much anymore, the world is finally coming to terms with the idea of vegetarianism and generally getting the hang of the basics. That’s a good thing, when I first went vegetarian if I wanted a quick protein substitute (yes, even vegetarians sometimes have to eat quickly) then my best option was a kind of thick peanut butter type arrangement that slid greasily out of the tin in a block and on to the baking tray. Oddly it tasted suspiciously like hot, solidified peanut butter!

Anyway I digress from my main intent. Having endlessly re-tweeted (@happilydrifting) posts by PETA about the virtues of veganism and animal rights in general, I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is, literally. So I have been vegan for about a week now. It should have been easy, I already only use soya milk including in cooking. I haven’t eaten egg as an entity for months because it makes me feel ill. Not apparently as easy as you might think, here are some of the reasons why:

  • They hide milk in a multitude of products which really do not need it.
  • When people kindly buy me sweets they don’t notice that chocolate has milk in it and that they happily stuff gelatin into anything they possible despite a range of perfectly good alternatives.
  •  Restaurants in general are still absolutely terrified of vegans
  • Don’t even try and get a reasonably priced birthday cake

So there has been a couple of hiccups along the way so far and a bit of sulking on my part when I really fancy something sugary. I don’t generally have a sweet tooth so this shouldn’t be a huge issue. My eyesight is a bit of an issue, ingredients can be in tiny print and tucked away. I am really grateful for my local coop who tend to label their own brand products clearly and to Superdrug  who’s own brands are all vegan, cruelty free, highly affordable and good quality. Make up that actually covers my now not so youthful skin that doesn’t cost a fortune may be an issue too, I’ll keep you posted on how I get on with that one.

Mandy x