I made two skeins of t-shirt yarn today. A task to do from home in my personal assistant role while my friend is away. I save the fronts of the t-shirts for a blanket project my friend has in mind, and the backs are destined for crochet yarn.
There will be remembrance of history – a different time and space in life – in her blanket project. There will be the creation of a new story in beautiful things made of t-shirt yarn. I am grieving for this friend as she continues to endure a long and exhausting season of pain. I am humbled by her ability to see a future of beauty. I am encouraged by the vision she has to create new from old.
Images from ‘Big Hook Rag Crochet’ by Dedri Uys
It’s slow, mindful work producing t-shirt yarn. The fabric is sliced almost to the top in equal sections. Turn the fabric through 180 degrees, slice every section in half – stopping just before the top. The corners of each section are rounded off, until a long single string of yarn emerges. Wind the yarn gently around your hand into a skein. I want to buy some beautiful brown paper luggage tags to label the yarn in length and width.
It’s slow work unravelling my history to make something beautiful for my future. I’ll be pondering the lessons I could learn from t-shirt yarn.
Readers of the last few months may have gathered… I am a huge Nashville fan. I am committed to not giving away any series 5 plot spoilers for my friends on this side of the pond, so let me just say that Rayna is one of my heroes (and I do know that she is a TV character – but she’s my hero anyway!) I love the way that we have seen her grow as a mother as her girls have entered turbulent teenage years, I love how passionate and open-hearted she is, and I love the way that we’ve seen her struggle to balance her career and her dreams with her life as a mentor, mother and lover.
There’s a scene in Nashville a few years back where Rayna has to play at a Country Club benefit. I remember her raising her eyebrows and assuring her band leader, “These are not ma’people” (try and imagine a lovely Southern drawl)
But here’s the thing, Rayna grew up with those people. Yet the comfortable world of the elite wasn’t for her. She knew they weren’t her people.
Ever since we moved from a cosmopolitan, diverse Northern city to a sleepy market town in the South West, I’ve been searching for “ma’people”. The direction life took us when Eldest was born meant that our local conservative, evangelical church began to feel less and less like home. We had too many questions. One of the reasons I left Facebook earlier this year was because I felt so aware that the views of many mainstream Christians just don’t reflect mine. These are not ma’people.
When life throws a lot of crap your way, it’s interesting how it can help you find your people! Over the last ten years or so, my friendships have deepened with other people who know what it is to feel broken. My little WordPress community is full of amazing people who are learning to live with limits. Next weekend I’ll be meeting up with the other mums from the ‘Head up, Heart strong’ film who have all battled postnatal illness. We will be sharing cocktails and stories of relapse. These are just some of ma’people.
This week I took a new step to reach out and find ma’people. I joined Team East Devon Swimmers for an evening swim in Sidmouth. The water was 12 degrees C and the swimming was magical! It was a special thing for me after a number of years living with mental illness to meet people based firstly on a shared interest, rather than on a shared experience of suffering. I learned a new word – Thalassophile – meaning someone who loves the sea. These too, are ma’people… and I can’t wait to get to know them better.
Here’s where we will be swimming. Just beautiful.
Matte red lipstick
Masking the trepidation within
Champagne flutes, prosecco
Intense spring sun in the courtyard
We are here to celebrate
We tell stories, tears flow
In all of us lives an intimate knowledge of loss
Here in this safe harbour
We are strengthened again
To face the open sea
Things have been a bit Bad Brain recently… I’m going to chat through some medication options including going back to a previous mood stabiliser (better the devil you know) with my GP hopefully on Monday. There’s mood stabilisation and then there’s being zonked until you feel as flat as a pancake that’s been driven over by a steamroller!
So it was a bit touch and go whether we would get away to South Devon this weekend to visit friends. I’m really glad that I’m beginning to learn from previous Bad Brain periods that avoiding social contact can feel comfy but is really detrimental. The weekend was brilliant, just what we all needed. A glass or two of a zingy Marlborough, and friends who we could be really honest with. Four fantastic girls for our two to play with, a garden stacked with a trampoline, flying fox, rope swings and a bonfire. A couple of miles run in the morning in a wooded glade. Eldest had a swim in the sea in her new wetsuit, and we picnicked on a shingle beach – who cares if it’s grey and windy! There is power in company, the beauty of nature and life spent outdoors.
Why don’t you get back into bed? Why don’t you get back into bed?
Why don’t you get back into bed? Why don’t you get back into bed?
Dury and the Blockheads opening refrain sums up my week really. Why am I so damn tired so much of the time? However the song also lists some pretty good reasons to be cheerful, so here’s my list;
Mr Whippy ice cream at the school gates, escaping to the sea and watching a hail storm from the safety of the car. Cheese scone and a cup of tea. Two girls smiling as they play with whizzing lights from daddy’s trip to Spain. Tulips in a vase. Elderflower cordial and sparkling water, washed down with encouraging conversation. A hot yoga class in Cornwall to look forward to at the weekend. Olives and Bombay Sapphire chosen with love in Spain.
Depression, or this blip or whatever is happening is a royal pain in the arse. But I’m not going to let it steal my weird and wonderful reasons to be cheerful (even if safety mode won’t let me watch the original video and I can’t get Spotify to work)
I have to admit to being really overwhelmed by the response when I first floated the idea of the good girl gap year on Facebook.
If I were to take a ‘good girl gap year’ (i.e. forget about my career and just live it up for a bit) what would you recommend I should try*? And should I write a blog?
*Illegal substances may not be a good idea for someone with my brain.
One of the first things that happened is that a few of my female friends expressed real enthusiasm for joining me on some surf lessons. It felt like something I should just run with (before I bottled it) and immediately Polzeath came to mind.
This gorgeous barn conversion came up on Airbnb and I discovered I am really not patient enough to wait 24 hours for an answer! I also found my brain filling up with worries that risked drowning out the excitement of just booking on the fly…
- what if it’s too cold in the water?
- do I really deserve this trip?
- what if there’s no waves?
- is this just a really stupid experiment?
Fortunately in the nick of time we had our answer; a smaller cottage in the same development was available so I went ahead and booked. Yes I do really deserve this trip (I tell my brain) – hot tub, woodburner and all.
p.s. the water temperature today was 8-9 degrees celsius so we almost certainly will be cold but we’ll be having an adventure for sure!
An inauspicious Thursday evening
There was something about that pizza right from the start. It surprised me with its beauty, all hand-stretched bubbles and micro-mushrooms. No tomato – just the fragrance of truffle oil and a scattering of rocket.
As we talked over that half a pizza, I told you about my fears for the future and my deep loneliness. My feeling of my career having been stolen from me by mental illness. My plans to volunteer with a mental health trust, my worries of never finding that thing, that elusive vocation which would satisfy me and make me feel whole again.
My beautiful friend, you turned it on its head. Wonderful and unfamiliar like my tomato-less pizza. You wondered if I could spend a year on enjoyment, on pleasure, on finding out about me again. Beauty rather than darkness. Could I take a gap year from obligation to any previous map of what my life should look like if I hadn’t been ill?
Somehow that half a pizza persuaded me that I really, really wanted to try.