It’s been a while and the seasons change. The writing seasons change – the why, the how, the need, the levels of blockage. When I started I was full – I had lots to say , points of view to share, ideas and convictions. I believed my story was worth telling and desperately wanted to share it with anyone who wanted to read it. It’s not a trivial thing, to share your life online, but despite beginner’s nerves, I was fully-convinced that this was the next step for me. I took the plunge on 1st September 2010 and my ‘firstborn’ blog went online.
Looking back now, it’s all a bit of a muddle of topics and categories. Some of the old posts about numbers and signs make me squirm. But you had to be there! It was true to life then and those were the signposts that kept me going. Sally Ann Dyer’s blog remains a valuable resource, a window on that time – perhaps most-importantly because it tracked the journey we were on with our son Sam and his brain tumour.
At first I didn’t advertise it beyond people who knew me or knew of me and wanted to follow the ups and downs of our lives – because they cared and wanted to support us. There were plenty of them to keep informed, without worrying about the wider world, and this seemed a good way to do it. Writing was therapy, sharing was cathartic, readers were responsive, encouraging, amazed. Raw honesty, exploration of suffering and death – themes most people shy away from – along with re-examination of our faith and theology, groans of prayer and hope, all ladled out in my stream of consciousness, long-winded style. I was totally “out there” and vulnerable. But I was on a roll, carried along, uncaring of anything other than dealing with where I was at.
What a roller-coaster ride it was, a soap-opera in real time full of anguish and grace: Samson led us a merry dance! It couldn’t go on indefinitely – for various reasons I hit the wall in December 2012. The grace dried up, the reality of the situation struck, perhaps most of all I couldn’t continue to tell a story that wasn’t mine to tell. The archive of those days is still available and still gets visitors… One day maybe it will provide the material for a book.
I did continue blogging in 2013, but divided the subjects into 4 specialist areas, 2 of which still survive. My favourite outlet has remained my photoblog, a lover of the light. It’s been easy and fun to share my photographs there and such an easy thing to do, not having to think of words to go with the pictures, just choosing pictures that somehow follow the last one and enjoying them again. I guess I’ll run out of free space soon and there’ll have to be another change. It’s what happens in life.
The dedicated poetry blog, Ray & Redhead – a joint venture with the extraordinary Ray Bramford – also remains a source of satisfaction, even though neither of us have been able to keep up a steady flow of posts. Posting poems is perhaps even more challenging than prose pieces: we are hardly professionals! Again, I look back at some early efforts and wince! But poetry has become even more important to me in the last couple of years – the opposite of my long-winded style, condensed, intense, the careful choice of words to convey images and emotions: it’s a good discipline for any writer. Hopefully, with some guidance from a young poet running a local weekly workshop in the city, I am improving!
Writing about our lives moved first to Longing to Escape. The title itself was a heart-cry over where we found ourselves, living with the uncertainty of Sam’s prognosis. I tried to make that blog more open to unknown readers, the general public, the internet surfers. If a story is worth telling it should be told to all, in words and language all can understand. When the escape actually happened – which unbelievably it did 6 months before Sam’s final illness – I moved on to Gone Upstairs, another statement of where life had taken me. This was my re-invention as a 3rd generation woman removed from the action, looking at life from a different viewpoint. It was just the beginning of a whole raft of changes in our lives… and then, Sam died. The grief had to find a voice and so despite a more general mandate, I found myself writing about him once more until on the 2nd anniversary I wrote the posts about his final 10 days.
Where next? I have retreated into silence, into self-care and probably a much healthier approach to healing than telling the world. Everything has changed – home, work, activity, passion, desires, calling. Plus, I’m no longer ‘upstairs’. I’ve come downstairs again and am finding new ways to be involved and tell my story in the world. We’ve been positioned in the centre of Leicester at the heart of things, and gradually I’ve started developing my wordsmith skills atthe local over-55’s poetry group, taking painting and pottery classes, learning French, and unexpectedly finding a completely different spiritual home at Leicester Cathedral – just what we need for this time and season of our lives. Grief is and always be a major factor now – the hole the loss of a child inevitably leaves in the heart. My circle of friends and acquaintances has shrunk down and changed – I even cut my facebook friends by half as a statement of moving on and as only one person complained…
I mostly stopped writing – apart from the 10 days about Sam – because I no longer wanted to be “out there” and vulnerable. I no longer wanted the effort, work, buzz of putting things into words: silence and depression dulled everything. I think I have changed and have been listening and waiting in order to find out how and why and who I am now. Having let go of so much and come to the point of accepting this new state of things, I sense I’m on the way to finding out who I was really made to be, the Sally before all the traumas of life, the child in the heart of God. No image projection necessary.
But I do know I am a writer and I should write, I do want to write… But what to write?? I’m still only interested in telling stories that are true, but it doesn’t all have to be about me, does it? 😉 So, that’s what this blog is here to find out. I intend to avoid the personal diary approach if I can – though undoubtedly the writer will come through in the writing. I can’t imagine news, politics or religion will prove inspirational to me and haven’t got a hobby horse or particular axe to grind – it’s very much a blank page. No major projects like Mercy Cry or Headshave for Haiti – the activist has been tamed. This is just ordinary life being lived in a small, multi-cultural city in the middle of the UK, one day at a time.
God speaks to us through our lives. I can look back on an incredible journey that has led us to this point and despite times of hopelessness and doubt, I do believe there is a path to follow into the future. I can dip into memories, travel, a wealth of life-experience. There are people and events all around that stimulate thought and imagination. If I have to use prompts from books, I will – I have a couple of good ones and writing exercises are stretching and educational. We’ll see. If the worst comes to the worst, as a friend said today, I can write about the cats!
Let’s give it a go. Hopefully it will be fun!