Some while ago I was journaling and the question ‘Am I loving now?’ came through.
Am I loving now? Am I? I am now as I write this and honour the part of me that is creative and expressive. A child part,perhaps,that wants to be seen,to be heard. To be acknowledged. An adult who struggles with being expressive and dancing the delight that for me is writing.
Kind, generous people have encouraged me to write. Spirits have kept gently insisting.
Three, four, maybe five years ago the fierce question Am I Loving Now came to me. And at last I am choosing to answer this question and,boy,does this scare me. Terrifies me as this is a truly life changing question. It’s not one that allows hiding,no shirking the truth.
In the spirit in which this question has been asked of me I commit to writing here at least three times a week.
The question is a Soul question, a life question. For me, for you. One of the many reasons I’ve avoided writing this is because a perfectionist lives inside me that says ‘How can you write this? Who do you think you are? Look at your life,look at you! Who would ever listen to you? Get perfect then come back!’ Well,if I waited for that I’d never turn up and the shame,my shadow would win.
So I’m showing up here. I can feel my belly leaping but it’s time to love myself now by taking a risk,by showing up here. I love writing. Absolutely love it. And yet I also know its a gateway into me and that scares me as its an honest gateway.
So, I’m going to leave this opening to my question for today and leave you a poem. My favourite lovers poem because the lover that David Whyte asks us to meet is myself. Is yourself. And when I choose to meet me I truly am loving me.
There is a faith in loving fiercely
the one who is rightfully yours
especially if you have
waited years and especially
if part of you never believed
you could deserve this
loved and beckoning hand
held out to you this way.
I am thinking of faith now
and the testaments of loneliness
and what we feel we are
worthy of in this world.
Years ago in the Hebrides
I remember an old man
who walked every morning
on the grey stones
to the shore of baying seals
who would press his hat
to his chest in the blustering
salt wind and say his prayer
to the turbulent Jesus
hidden in the water
and I think of the story
of the storm and everyone
waking and seeing
yet familiar figure
far across the water
calling to them
and how we are all
preparing for that
and that calling,
and that moment
we have to say yes,
except it will
not come so grandly
but more subtly
and intimately in the face
of the one you know
you have to love
so that when
we finally step out of the boat
toward them, we find
us, and everything confirms
our courage, and if you wanted
to drown you could,
but you don’t
after all this struggle
and all these years
you don’t want to any more
you’ve simply had enough
and you want to live and you
want to love and you will
walk across any territory
and any darkness
however fluid and however
dangerous to take the
one hand you know
belongs in yours.
— David Whyte
from The House of Belonging
©1996 Many Rivers Press
(This was written in December, with the snow and freezing conditions in the UK today this still holds true. And does every day.)
I’m on my way to meet two young people to let them know Given To Live is taking them to a show. This is what GTL does, tries through live music to make someone’s world a better place.
It’s a two train journey, over three hours travel each way. And it’s cold. I’m cold. Waiting on platforms I overhear people saying…my god it’s cold…its sooo cold…it’s freezing.
It really is freezing. And the countryside looks fantastic out of the train window, cloaked in white. And while I nip out to buy a warming coffee in between trains I see a young man sat motionless wrapped in a sleeping bag.
And I remember when I was homeless. It was summer, a warm summer and it still was chilly at night. It’s not like going camping when you’re looking for a safe doorway or car park. A safe space where no one will abuse you, attack you, piss on you because it’s a laugh on a night out.
Homelessness isn’t all drink and drugs. And even if it was wouldn’t you want something to take away the desolation? Some say it’s a choice…can you imagine how terrible a life must be to make that choice?
I’m going to be cold again when I get off this train. Then I’ll be picked and into the warmth of a car and taken to the college where the two young people are. I’m looking forward to writing the story, which I’ll do in the warmth. I won’t be afraid, humiliated, desperate for a place in a shelter that won’t have room for everyone who needs it.
This post won’t stop homelessness, won’t stop those who will freeze to death from dying. But maybe you can buy a sandwich or a hot drink.
Just as importantly you can look a homeless person in the eye and say hello, trust me it really makes a difference being treated as human. Maybe you’ve a spare jumper, coat, sleeping bag you could give away or donate to a shelter.
Not everyone is dreaming of a white Christmas.
The sea lions barked and shouted.
Played, pushed, lay peacefully and sniffed the air deeply.
The sea lions fought for position, to be the boss.
Fought to impress a lioness.
They shouted with full bellies, not worrying about the two legged watchers taking in the scene of nature at play.
Watchers who daily poison the sea lions world, daily dump toxic loads, daily lay murderous traps of discarded plastic.
Finished with barking, strutting, playing, sniffing and loving the sea lions slept.
Slept in front of the watching humans.
Arrogantly intelligent humans that aren’t smart enough not to destroy the world they live in.
Dad died a couple of weeks ago and was cremated on Tuesday.
He was my hero until my journey into rehab and therapy opened my eyes. Opened my eyes to seeing that things that I shrugged my shoulders at because they’d simply been part of my life became real. Then therapy asked me to grow up, to mature and I accepted the question and became conscious. Not fully or perfect but awake. And this in turn created a chasm between me and my dad; and my family what little there is.
What I’ve realised this last few days is there is nothing in a relationship if it’s just a script. I loved my dad, I loved how our sense of humours were perfectly in sync. But the conversation never went past him. Never went past sport and gambling, past his stories about him and pretty much everyone had him as amazing.
He did do some truly awful things to me, both as an adult as well as a child. But as this week has passed and I’ve wondered, felt, mused upon things I realise the biggest heartbreak is I never knew him. I knew Tom Pugh (both Toms but not named after him) but not Tom. I knew dad but not a father. His masks were so fierce no one got in. Sure, some sentimental tears about my mum and grandfather but that was it.
Tom Pugh died the day he fell, drunk, and broke bones in his back in the summer of ’14. He was no longer able to play tennis, no longer able to be the sports star with his stories (he played cricket for Gloucestershire, won God knows how many racquets tournaments), no longer able to be the mask he’d worn for so long. And he had no idea how to be Tom, to be human.
I went to see him a lot early last year. In the end come May I didn’t bother and never spoke to him again. I knew he was going to die, knew I wanted him to. For me and for him. All last month I kept wanting to call but I couldn’t, I didn’t because I knew it would be just the same and my heart would break a little more. Although it’s only now I realised my heart was breaking each time we spoke. I’d get angry, frustrated, sometimes I’d hurt. But it was so usual my reaction was the same pretty much every time.
I wondered why did I go and see dad so often last year? The answer is I wanted to be able to love him and him love me. And he couldn’t allow either though in his own way he tried by leaving a note a couple of times. In the end we had one fight too many and I gave up. Maybe I shouldn’t have, maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I hadn’t he’d have written a note that said I love, the actual words. He never said that.
I wish I knew then that was what I was doing. I’d have simply told him I’m there because I want to love him before he dies. But I didn’t know consciously. And I’d walk in alone. No support or understanding from my very estranged brother and sister, no wife or partner to say take a breath or coax the tears at the end of the day. I didn’t really do very well but I tried. I’ve a long way to go.
I went to see him on Monday in the funeral home or whatever it was. I’m glad. I could be honest and vulnerable without him answering back and, to use one of his expressions, smashing me to smithereens which is what he did. I told him I loved him, which I’d forgotten in all the hurt, and I wished he’d once said he loved me or he’s proud of me. And he should have been proud. Yes, I did some really shitty stuff in my life when I was using and drinking. But without any help from my family I got myself back. Back after being homeless, many overdoses, suicidal, depression, back to living. But he never wanted to know, always changed the subject if I tried to bring it up.
And it’s so confusing because I only have his script, his masks to miss and I got so tired of those so long ago. Then I miss what could have been, what should have been and it’s hurts so much, so very much.
I loved him, I just wish I could’ve found him. Even once.
You died on Monday. Thoughts arrive in waves, usually crashing with grief. Not a grief of what I’ve lost but rather of what I never had. I had a dad but never a father. And I needed a father more than anything.
You never once told me you loved me. Not once, not ever. Yet you happily told me a number of times how you wish you’d hit me harder as a child. So I’d learn my lesson which is in fact your speak for you wish you’d beaten me into submission so I’d never challenge you or stand up to you. I remember the first time you told me that you wished you’d hit me harder. I felt sick. So sick I had to stop myself from throwing up while on the phone to you.
You’d fail to see the irony of the fact you hated that as a six year old I fought you not to get beaten as you’re telling me to take it like a man, yet you praised me for being gutsy on a sports field. I guess guts only matter as long as it suits you.
I have no idea who I’ve lost here with you dying. Certainly not a friend or a father. A dad I guess.
I hated your racism, sexism, misogyny. It’s what I was brought up with. You passed it onto me and I’ve done so much to try and heal this. And I’ve had to learn to apologise and accept I’m wrong because you certainly never showed me how to. You never said I’m sorry. Not once. Or admitted a mistake. I thought this was how to be, how a ‘man’ was. But you’re wrong. An apology is something beautiful. Yes, to apologise we choose to make ourselves vulnerable, yes this can be hard but it shows the other that we truly value them.
How I’d have embraced an apology or admitting you’re wrong. Even once.
You know, it wasn’t ok you owned a brothel. No! Whatever you say it’s not ok. Nor was taking me there as a child.
It wasn’t ok to ask me to give an affidavit against my mum when you wanted to get custody of my brother. You had no right to ask but at 17 and a clueless dutiful son I said yes. And broke mum’s heart. A heart that was already breaking enough. You don’t ask a child to betray their mother like that. But you didn’t care as long as you got what you wanted. I think of this often and how much I hurt mum and I know she never forgave me. I’ve done some shitty things in my life but that’s the worst. And you asked me to, forced me to.
I tried hard to love you. Tried even harder to be loved by you. I wanted that so much. To feel like you actually cared about me. But I never felt that once I started to grow up and mature. Once I realised the only thing you ever talked about was sport or gambling and that there was never a chance of intimacy, of adult conversation. I tried. Oh I tried, and each attempt brought an attack whatever the subject. Shaming me for being sensitive, for having claptrap philosophies. Anything you didn’t understand you attacked mercilessly.
So who the fuck have I lost? I really don’t know. I lost you years ago once I started being myself, not who you wanted me to be. It would have been amazing to sit down over dinner and be allowed to tell you who I am, for you to be interested. To tell you of mistakes I’ve made, fears I have and have you, my father, support me, love me. For you to have taught me it’s ok to be vulnerable. But dinner would be an endless procession of stories with you front and centre until you decided going out wasn’t an option and dinner would be watching something for you to gamble on so loud talk wasn’t possible or you’d sssh me like a little child. So I’m lost. Totally lost. Someone who was never there can’t be gone.
Yes we’d laugh. A lot, deeply knowing our sense of humour. But that’s not enough when it’s always the same and all there is. If only there’d been more. Intimacy, honesty, a father. I’m angry, really fucking angry and so confused because I lost you years ago. Lost unless I was exactly who and how you wanted me to be. Like when you offered me a great 21st birthday present…on the condition I split up with my girlfriend you didn’t approve of.
My head says I should be in bits crying but I’ve done that for years. I’ve missed you for years. I reached out to you for years and would be smacked back.
What do I do with the man who admits he used my uncle’s funeral to punish me? Refused to allow me to read yet my brother and sister read when my uncle was also my godfather? You told me not to come to the funeral, which I did, so you could tell everyone how bad I was for not coming. The man who destroyed my relationship with my sister so you weren’t challenged by her about hitting our mums and in the process crushed her as well? Who the fuck wants to destroy their daughter? Their son?
I don’t know what to do or how to feel except angry. And I know there’s deep sadness, I’ve felt it, carried it for years.
Dad, maybe you can be a father and come to me in a dream and help me find a way to you.
Two sets of lyrics come to me and trigger the sadness…
Oh dear dad…
I’ll ride the wave
Where it takes me
I’ll hold the pain
Tidal waves don’t beg forgiveness
Crashed and on their way
Father he enjoyed collisions; others walked away
A snowflake falls in may.
And the doors are open now as the bells are ringing out
Cause the man of the hour is taking his final bow
Goodbye for now.
Boy did you like a fight. Wow. And didn’t much care who you hurt. Just so long as you won. Christ, you’d even tell stories proudly of who you’d crushed. Makes me feel a little ill.
So, you tried to destroy me, crush me to your will. It didn’t work.
I’ll see you at the funeral.
You shame those aching for peace?
Yet no shame
sending your children to death, sending others’ children to their death?
Do you look your own children in the eye and say I love you when you are sending to death fathers in lands far away that you’ve never shared bread with?
Do you make love to your wife? Each thrust echoing the strike of a bomb, perhaps falling on young lovers. An orgasm of blood at your behest.
Leading children to death from behind your secure walls is not noble. Is not courageous.
You shame those who say no to death? Perhaps one dark night when you look down at your bloodstained hands you may feel the shame of murder.