Building yourself, one world at a time.

She’s describing her newest Playmobil family to me.

‘This is the dad, he works at the hospital. The mum works at a restaurant. And this is the kid. She’s just….a free kid, because she’s home educated.’

Can we pause for a moment, just for the collective joy swelling of our hearts when we hear our kids say something like this?

I find parenthood is interwoven with guilt and second guessing myself, much of the time. The top 10% of my brain is telling me I’m doing a great job, to trust myself and the kids. The other 90% is like, ‘Really? You think that’s a good idea? Have you thought about the 83920438 ways this decision (whatever it may be) might screw your kids up?’

I hope I’m not alone in feeling that way.

I do find that I’m better at propping other people up than telling them I need support. I like reaching out to people when they might need a boost. I like inspiring others. But in reality, sometimes, especially during gloomy months full of clouds, ear infections, and sad news, I’m just trying my best to get through every day.

And so it rolls on. Am I doing my best, as a home educating parent?

It’s a fine line, a high and dizzying tightrope, along the border of feeling you aren’t doing enough and feeling you need to leave plenty of free time for small miracles to happen.

My miracle today is right now. It’s 1:26 pm. I can hear the kids; they are in a very involved game of Playmobil that’s been going on awhile. They are building worlds, they are living in them.

I’m upstairs in the office, alone, writing. A lot of stuff elsewhere, a bit in this blog. I find my old anonymous blogs that grew so popular were probably that way because they were anonymous. I’ve never written an inauthentic word, but a great many words haven’t been written because they were too scary, too painful, too much for me to share.

So this little period – be it ten minutes or thirty – is my miracle. I’m thinking and writing and feeling instead of all the other ways I use to numb myself on days when things all feel a bit too much. I’m here, I’m trying. …And downstairs?

Downstairs are just two kids who are free, because they are home educated. Because they follow their interests, because they explore their joy, because they trust themselves to find their way. And really, who am I to second guess that?

They are building worlds downstairs, I’m building worlds upstairs. We’ve put a money tree leaf on soil, to help it take root and grow. Sheet music has been read, youtube videos have been watched, I actually did the breakfast dishes. This day isn’t yet over, but we’ve done enough. Building a world, building yourself, is work enough.

What I do late at night. (AKA invent new subcultures and wax lyrical)

Tonight I uttered the phrase ‘middle class gangsta’ in a conversation and then was overcome with a feverish frenzy. Over the next three minutes I wrote around twenty poems on the subject. I sent them to my friend, who promptly wrote a chorus and responded with gratifying rejoinders at each new poem I messaged her.

I feel so alive, so ridiculously empassioned, so besotted with the wonder of the English language that I’m actually debating opening a Middle Class Gangsta blog and posting one poem a day. This shit is golden. (And some is just shit…but it’s midnight, I’m babysitting, and I’m very, very, very tired.)

——-

I’ll kill you with my hummus,
And my olives picked in Greece.
Everything’s organic, bitch
Your life is under lease.

——–

Do you want a fresh croissant?
I’ll hit you in the head.
Drink up that nice mint tea
Cause you’ll soon wake up dead

———

Now let’s make some nice craft animals
No, you shut up and listen.
We will use this felted wool
You’ll see what you’ve been missin’

———

Darling, share with Alfie
And give some to Fiona too
We all gonna pop some bullets
Then pop to the loo.

———-

Georgie knows all his colours
And all his numbers as well
Georgie likes to kick yo ass
He thinks its really swell

———–

I got glue guns, I got etsy,
I got crochet hooks and I got library books,
I got dirty looks, I got vicious slander
And I got maps to nice little brooks.

Walk down life’s path with me
Yes, towards the Steiner school
HAHA YOU LITTLE PUNK BITCH
you’re dead, I got you fooled.

————

Imma get you, ain’t nowhere to hide
I’ll look on amazon and order weapons real fast
While I wait for two day shipping
I’ll draw mandalas and sit on my ass.

———–

Sure, yeah I’ll fight you
Just givè me a minute
I need to pause this show
It’s a documentary, innit

———-

How do you say
‘I’ll fuck you up’
In mandarin and Latin?
Have you felt my new sheets they’re 100% satin.

———-

What you mean you don’t like
Baby led weanin’?
You’re so ignorant about healthiness
I think you need a beatin’

———-

I only wear barefoot shoes
Like all true gangstas do
The formation of my foot bones
Is admired by my crew.

———–

Oh you babywear your twins
Guess what, I totes do, too.
Baby’s in the back
And strapped on front’s my AK-42.

———-

Oh, mighty universe, thank you for the ease of communication that Facebook creates at midnight as I stretch my inner gangsta while sipping Organic tea, adult colouring book at my side. My hand knitted wrist warmers are superb at keeping me warm whilst allowing to me tippy tap on expensive electronic gadgets. The three minutes I spent performing an invisible rap YouTube video with my friend were worth at least a month’s supply of vegan raw food.

Seriously. Three minutes. Set your alarm and go. It will free you.

I’ve done cool shit.

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I have done some cool shit.

I’ve spent time teaching in a well known school for the Deaf, totally immersed in American Sign Language and Deaf culture. One of my most proud moments still is when two 17 year olds thought I was Deaf – a real relief as spending eight hours a day communicating in a language I was not born to was intimidating. But amazing.

I’ve worked at an American summer camp for years and years, culminating in an excellent time being the Director there. Summer camp is sort of like you see in the movies, only deeper and funnier and harder. It helped me discover who I was, to celebrate that, to be loved for nothing more simple than just being me.

I spent one memorable winter season living alone at that camp, 400 acres of potential axe murderers and demons at my beck and call. Many hours spent hearing voices outside the window, running like hell through the woods to my little cabin, keys shaking in my hands as I pictured the hounds of hell just about to disembowel me.

I’ve been part of the editorial staff of an international magazine. I never knew how mundane something so seemingly glamourous could be. I loved it. I loved the giant proofs of each new edition, I loved the weird pressure of my work being checked by people just as geeky as me, I loved the odd man who gave me lifts out of London.

I moved across the world to another country, practically sight unseen, for love. I learned how to navigate the most effed up city ever, fell in love with that city, lived in a tiny studio flat with a toy lobster hanging from the bathroom light pull. After a year of staying up all night on the phone to Suzy, waiting for the mail to come each day, what a miracle it felt like to live with her.

I had two years of therapy; it was a requirement for my course, and what a gift it was. I spent hours sitting on a couch across from a woman who showed me such love, such understanding, such humour. How profound it was to be seen, to be known. If I offered a quarter of that experience to the many humans I worked with as a counsellor, I consider that a job well done.

I’ve been inside some notorious psychiatric hospitals, many while volunteering as a mental health advocate. One particular night of trying to get off a locked ward, then out of a locked outer containment zone, then out of endless maze like corridors that all ended in locked doors stays with me still.

I’ve been pregnant with two children, and spent an entire summer on the couch, looking out the window at white fluttering butterflies. Every year when I see those butterflies I am reminded of movement deep within, of my huge, curved belly, of the heat of that endless time of waiting and wondering.

I’ve done cool shit.

I’ve shaved my head, dyed my hair every colour of the rainbow, pierced my tongue. Met many ‘strangers off the Internet’ in a time when that just wasn’t done. I won national awards for acting when I was a teenager and was still so stupid and so brilliant. I achieved a distinction on my Master’s dissertation, and have gone back to teach other MA students.

I’ve written a book or two. Or three. These moments were among the most joyful and fulfilling of my life.

I’ve had sloppy teenage kisses and made messy teenage mistakes. I experienced true love at a very young age, and those memories still sometimes creep into the nighttime landscape of my dreams. I’ve kissed boys, and girls, and my own arm before I was confident in my abilities when lips met lips. All those things led me to here – married just about fifteen years. Safety, laughter, ease, contentment, love.

I quit teaching right before starting a plum job that was hotly fought for. I dropped out of my PhD programme to pursue a career in counselling. I qualified as a high ropes course instructor despite spending three hours crying in a tree, trying to work up the courage to step off a twenty foot high platform. I’ve been in more Halloween haunted houses, haunted woods, and haunted hayrides than you can imagine – and wet myself in fear on more than one occasion. I’ve also wet myself lavishly while laughing.

I’ve survived hard stuff. I spent two years in a wheelchair, unable to walk. My grandmother’s death led me to what, looking back, I can only class as a breakdown. I had a very unstable parent, with many problems, and my choice to cut all contact troubles me still.

I spent time in the room where Anne Frank hid. I’ve stopped my car to let a bear cross the road. I lived without electricity or walls five months every year. I’ve seen meteor showers, I’ve survived tornadoes, I’ve danced in the rain at the tail end of Florida’s hurricane season. I’ve swum naked in a lake filled with dubious creatures. I’ve found friends who feel more like family. I got a qualification as a sexual health worker with young people, and had some of the most…interesting…conversations of my life as a result.

All these things I’ve done, and more, crept into my thoughts while I was driving home today. And I wondered: where is my cool shit now? Ten years from now, will I be able to add onto this list?

I’ve done cool shit. I want to do more.

Sometimes the truth wants to come out.

Sometimes (always) I worry about the power of my words. Years from now, what will my children think when faced with a pile of half finished journals? Some just messy writing, some painting, some awkward pictures mixed with words. If I am too honest, will I damage them?

If I am too honest, will the people who (will) read my books turn away from my stories?

Writing this makes it seem so simple. I think I am at my most beautiful when I am the most me – even when ‘me’ can struggle so much, can say the wrong thing at the terribly wrong time, can be so doubtful about all that I am. Because that’s just part of me: of course there is another part who thinks I am limitless and beautiful. But the older I get, the more I realise that the limitless me makes the rest of me only feel more glum.

Look at all the books I have not written! Look at that opportunity to write a film for a new director that I turned down! Look at the manuscripts (that I recently had my wife dig out of obscurity) sitting in a pile, thick sheafs of paper just heavy paperweights.

Literal weights made of paper, heavy in the corner. Making the air thicker, making me more fearful and more hopeful. I remember the time I gave a novel, sealed in a thick manilla envelope, to a friend. I had her hang onto it, had her mail it to me. Was it my old therapist, was it the powerfully brave and insecure woman I met on my therapy training? I don’t remember that.

I remember the terror of giving my words to someone else. I remember anguish at knowing she wouldn’t read what I’d written, but relief because I’d asked her not to. She carried a bit of my weight.

And these women surrounded me. My therapist was one that was a happy meeting of need and want. My course required us all to undergo a significant amount of personal therapy; a damaging, world blown wide open bereavement made me realise how much I needed a place to just try to claw myself out of the blackness that death brought into my life.

My therapist was good friends with a well known author. She also was a therapist of other writers, other creative types. And she said I said the same words they did, in the same way. Sometimes she laughed, in this gentle, loving way, and shook her head. Told me I talked like a writer and it was so apparent. And I knew she was frustrated with me, the same way my friend on the course was. She said the way I spoke about writing made her know I was a writer with talent, with love, with the chance to actually do this thing.

Ah, I thought. But they’ve not read my words. What do they know?

And I sit here tonight, wondering what it is that I know. I’m in the same place creatively I was when I started training as a therapist, almost ten (!) years ago now. Stunted, bent, thick and close to the ground. But not broken.

Perhaps that is all I need to know now. I am not broken, no matter how the darkness sometimes presses against me, no matter how deep into my core it goes. I don’t know if I want to extinguish it; I don’t think so.

I have darkness from hope unfulfilled, from little kid love damaged beyond repair, from death and all the ways that destroyed me.

But I’m still here. And these people and places are part of me. Even the people I no longer have in my life, and by those I mean the ones still alive I choose to not welcome into my life. Those are branches of my own little tree of darkness I pruned not for myself, but for my children. For my sanity.

Those discarded branches don’t seem to rot away and melt back into the earth like normal branches. They hang around, they hurt me when I catch small glimpses of them. But seeing them is reminder enough of the tremendous hurt they could cause if I somehow tried to reattach them.

So I am here. Stunted, bent, thick and close to the ground.

But not broken.

Creative communities of women.

I made (correction: am making) a list of 100 things I want to do this year. Some big, some small, some silly, some far fetched.

One of the far fetched ones was to find a circle, a community to safely explore myself/others/life on a more philosophical, spiritual, creative level. A place to learn, a place to grow. It’s been something I’ve wanted for awhile, but didn’t have any idea how to go about it.

Most people see me as exceptionally confident. I suppose, to a certain extent, that is true…especially the older I get. That being said, I’m not confident enough to rock up to a moot, random meetup, etc on my own. I feel more confident staying home and watching social documentaries about grown men who love My Little Ponies (have you seen Bronies? I found it surprisingly touching!).

A few weeks after writing this down as a goal for the year – in a few forms – wanting a training circle, wanting to find teachers/mentors, wanting to create more, wanting to help form a supportive community – I was sent a Facebook invite to a select, small group of women. I’d met none in person before, but had been FB friends with one for awhile (who I ‘met’ on a pagan parenting group….again, a place I had wanted to go many times but had never done so). I felt privileged to have been invited, and even more so when I read the posts and saw the images these women shared.

Truly creative, caring, intuitive, generous, beautiful women. And so when one of them suggested an actual meet up, I surprised myself by saying yes. Enthusiastically.

Last night was the meet. Five of us gathered in a warm, safe space to eat cakes, get to know each other, and share information you wouldn’t normally share with strangers (outside of a therapeutic space, anyway!) It felt surprisingly easy. It was good to laugh. It was good to voice thoughts that had been swirling in my head for weeks, it was powerful to hear others voice thoughts I agreed so strongly with. The fragile threads of trust were already being spun, and I just felt so grateful.

Grateful I was asked to join, grateful I said yes. Sometimes all you have to do is say yes, to live the yes and just show up, to give something new a chance and see what happens. I can’t wait till next month, when perhaps the creating will shift from verbal to physical. I suspect having a place to bring my heavy manuscripts will be powerful – even if they just sit in my bag and soak up the healing, supportive, creative, powerful energies of potential.

Coming soon….

So, I have lots of ideas of stuff I’d like to include in this blog. One is a series of posts on the ‘best of Bristol’….and wherever else we happen to hang out. There are so many amazing places we’ve discovered, some obvious and some more obscure. I also recently asked on my personal Facebook page for people to offer suggestions on their favourite quirky/mainstream/outdoor/indoor/old/new places, and I’ve got a few new ideas from there as well. I like the idea of my blog being able to help other families/individuals find new places to adore and explore!

Speaking of Facebook, the blog does have a Facebook page. Every blog update is posted there, plus one or two thoughts/pictures a day. I’d like to have another enriching way to while away my time, so please do click and like it! (And share. Ha.)

I’m also getting back into the world of Twitter. My username there is @alisonmariemay and I welcome meeting new people, as well as chatting to old friends.

The other thing I’m thinking of adding to this blog are some posts on babywearing, if anyone would find that useful? Once upon a time, I had a popular(ish) blog on babywearing twins, and I’ve got some popular(ish) videos on youtube showing how to do various carries for both singletons, twins, or two children of different ages. Is that something you guys would like? I’ve got loads of posts I can transfer over, maybe one every couple of weeks? I have a Facebook page for babywearing twins that I don’t add anything to anymore, but people are still joining. So I suspect there may be a few mums/dads of multiples interested in the subject!

I was borderline obsessive about babywearing back when my two were younger, so again, the idea of sharing such a great thing with other people would bring me joy.

Is there anything else you would like to see? Or questions you would like me to answer? Ideas for blog posts? Please don’t be shy.

When M and S were under a year old, I had a lot of time to be online. Everyone says the first year of twins is comparable to hell on earth, but I loved it. They slept a lot, usually on me, and I twittered and tweeted my time away! And when they were awake, well, it was mostly loads of fun and firsts.

I don’t know what happened. Ages 1, 2, and 3 seemed to hit me for a loop. Every day feels so busy and intense, and when Suzy gets home I tend to run away and hide upstairs….far far away from wanting to blog. Age 3, though, is when some of life started returning to normal. We actually celebrated Halloween and did projects/crafts/stuff around various holidays. Prior to pretty recently, as my dear wife says, we had time for very little. Nothing extra, only survival.

Age four is looking pretty awesome, I have to say.

I think blogging is coming back for me, which hopefully is a good sign that I’m getting some time and space (emotional, not just physical) back to myself to use in ways I find enriching.

Aaaaanyway.

I’ll be blogging soon, and don’t forget to leave suggestions/questions/comments below. They’ll be a help!

What came first…the writing or the exhaustion?

I don’t know what it says about me when I stop writing, or perhaps I choose to not share what I may know. Regardless, it’s not the first time I’ve dropped off the face of the earth that is populated with vowels, letters, sentences. It probably won’t be the last.

The truth is, I’m just often too tired.

I spend all day being, well, spectacularly busy – and even on a slow day, it still feels busy to me. Being surrounded by people all day, even when they are the people I most love, is difficult for me. I like down time. In my last job, I was intensely present during sessions with my clients. I loved the deep feeling and thinking involved in supervision. I liked learning how to facilitate new things, like group therapy.

But even in that job, I had the odd ten minutes to play on Facebook or take a trip to the loo without fear of constant interruption. I once spent the better part of an afternoon composing haikus in the office, laughing my head off with colleagues. I took trains to meetings, and I had time to stare out the window, to read, to eat a muffin without worrying if it had allergens in it.

So when the evenings come, I am quick to attempt an escape – though often it is peppered with interludes of hide and seek, bedtime twister, and the like.

But in this period of being tired, of not creating, I am thinking I am missing the opportunity to have more energy by virtue of writing. When I am happiest writing is when my fingers fly across the keys, like when I played piano as a child. It is mostly effortless, no proofreading, no anything but letting words flow down my fingers and onto your screen.

It makes me feel good. Just a sort of sunny, warm feeling in my bones.

So….here I am.

Because I realise the other thing I miss in not writing is the daily things that happen that make me think, or laugh, or worry. I  miss the sweetness of documenting M and his ever more complex creation of games within the Minecraft world. Or S and her love of the trumpet she got for Christmas.

I won’t be able to have cute pictures with every post, or meaningful commentaries on the state of life. I won’t be able to tell you about endless fantastic adventures or our evolving lives. Not always, not in the depth or breadth life deserves. Because I find myself trying to be more busy out there living life, even when life means wanting to stay in pajamas all day and watch Labyrinth.

I won’t be able to write uninterrupted, or when I am not tired, or capture some fossilized bit of perfection. Sometimes it’s not like that.

And that’s okay.