A Little Girl’s Path to Destruction

This poem is incredibly personal to me. It explains why I am the person I am today. Writing this was emotionally draining, and posting it is stressful, still.

That in consideration, I hope you can find some enjoyment in the reading.

 

A little girl, barely four years old,
So confident and funny,
Loves snakes and lizards,
Could talk about them endlessly.
She hears people talking,
They say that she’s weird,
Obsessive, Unnerving.
She kept her interests to herself.

A little girl, in her first year at school,
Struggled to pronounce the letter ‘Y’.
Her parents joked and teased,
“You yuv your yetters, dont’ you?”.
She wasn’t sure why,
Not at the time,
But she became cautious of her words.
She learned to be self-conscious.

A little girl, about nine years old,
Would mix up letters
When practising reading –
Like all children do.
Her mistakes were mocked,
A joke amongst family,
And she learned not to ask for help.

A little girl, in Year Seven,
Bullied, for being so shy, most likely.
She loved sweets and chocolates,
But hated her ‘friends’,
If she could call them that.
She was unpopular,
Noticeably,
The bottom of the heap.

A little girl, aged thirteen,
Told not to eat “so much rubbish”,
She needed to watch her weight,
She won’t be thin forever.
A boy in her English class
Calls her one of the ‘fat girls’,
And from that time onwards,
She learned to hate her body.

She stutters and stammers
Towards her first love,
A tall, sweet boy, of quiet disposition.
Her mind, aged sixteen,
Late to her first kiss,
Thinks it’s forever.

And it isn’t.

He breaks her heart for the very first time,
So she coats herself in makeup
And does things to her hair.
“It’s just a phase”, the adults all cry,
But this phase is what keeps her going.

She starts to lose weight.
She doesn’t notice at first.

Boys take advantage,
They throw her around,
Her body and her mind,
But she feels invigorated again.
She feels wanted again.
Even in her darkest hour,
When she’s scared and defenceless,
Crushed by his weight,
She laments her past, because
“At least someone wants me”.

His rejection starts talk,
And rumours circulate,
But this little girl, aged seventeen,
She rises above them.
With a close group of friends at her side,
Her past mistakes are a couple of jokes,
And she’s relieved she’s still wanted.
She downloads an app to track her weight.

A little girl, aged eighteen,
She’s happy and with a boy she loves,
But she’s so self-conscious,
Although she tries to internalise it.
His sister, his friends, his flatmates,
They’re all so beautiful,
Wealthy and confident,
And she feels inferior,
Lumpy, repulsive,
Taking up too much space.

Three meals,
Two meals,
One meal,
Snacks and coffees in-between.
Several cigarettes and a bottle of wine.
It counts as a diet,
It must count as a diet…
but where are the changes?

No one notices the difference.

A little girl, aged nineteen,
She starts university,
Full of hope and confident.
But another’s scheme to steal him from her,
Her only happiness,
It tears her apart,
But no one believes her.

She gets ill,
Her mind betrays her,
She drops out,
And he admits she was right,
But he was trying to help her.
He promises that things will get better.
He’ll help her find a therapist.

A little girl, aged twenty, now,
She’s still without help,
Two bad therapists later.
She dances now,
She loved her old job,
She hates her new uni
And her hips protrude,
Her ribs are prominent,
And she can’t drink as much as she used to.

Rings slide off her fingers,
Yet still, no one notices.

She battles with panic,
Insecurity,
Dysmorphia,
On a bi-weekly basis,
And that’s a good week.

She swallows sertraline
And keeps up the illusion
That she’s relaxed, that she’s fun,
And is confident in herself.
They don’t see scratches from a breakdown gone by,
Or the meals skipped
In thanks to congratulatory hunger.

She doesn’t tell anyone,
She never will.
She maintains that she’s fine,
She always ate earlier,
And the wine is just a bit stronger
Than she’s used to.

A little girl, nearing twenty-one,
Her thighs now touch,
She takes booze by the bottle,
She eats full-size meals again.
She hates it, but what can she do?
Attempt,
Attempt,
There’s no one who gets it,
So, as a last resort,
She writes poems about it.

Dedicated to George, the online friend who gave me a reason to start creating again, and Frankie, because you’re still here and still fighting.

The Thunderstorm – Poem

When the lightning’s flashing
And the night is cold,
When rain pelts against our single-glazed windows
With holes at the frame,
I thank whatever it is
That I made the decision
To stay in tonight.

Imagine

If we’d gone to the fire jam,
Just us, some friends,
And a lot of trees,
Standing out in the rain,
Rain so hard that we can barely
See three feet in front of our face,
Trying to keep our equipment dry
And our fires still burning.

No.
I’m glad that I’m here,
Inside, in the warm,
Getting drunk on cheap gin
And £2.20 bottles of cider,
Listening to the storm,
But tucked away from it.

Imagine
If, by some impossible chance,
The doorman didn’t check your ID tonight,
And we were at the club?
Overpriced entry
To stand in the fag pit
Smoking wet cigarettes
With only peaked 18-year-olds for company.

No, we’ve got this.
The sky is electric,
And so are we,
Embraced, mainly in silence,
With the occasional commentary
(And run-through of this poem)
To break it,
But we’re safe.
To be with you is to be myself,
And I know it’s the same for you,
And, trapped inside,
With the storm raging,
I feel like I’m in a film,
Where the heroine realises she’s loved him all along.

I’d considered, briefly, going out
For a walk along the sea,
And while I’ve no doubt the waves would be amazing,
We’d be freezing,
Wet and complaining,
Wishing we were home in our cozy little bed,
With our speakers and booze,
Our own private party.

It’s getting louder,
And brighter,
Like the world is ending around us,
Like we’re approaching the Black Gates,
But that’s out there,
And we’re in here –
Our own, private sanctuary,
Just you and me,
Standing strong against the elements.

That’s not to say
That we’re not both wishing
We could go outside without the threat
Of paranoia and a chance so minute,
That Zeus might strike us,
But we are together,
The one thing that never would have changed,
And for me, that makes my night
A good night.

Dedicated to Alex, my best friend, my love, my companion.

Incarceration of a Flower Child: 1: I’m With the Band

Following on from the prologue, this is the first chapter of the story I started many years ago. I really hope to one day continue it…

_____

“Tim, love, we’ve got a bit of a situation.”

My shirt buttoned only from the chest up, I poked my head back around the long, ‘velvet’ (supposedly, it felt more like a shaved rodent) curtain we’d been instructed by Phil, easily the angriest man in the world, to get changed behind for the show. Jean was stood, dressed head to toe in paisley, cigarette in her mouth, tapping her foot impatiently. “Jean, babe, what’s the trouble?”

She exhaled a cloud of smoke, which scratched at the back of my throat. “Don’t ‘babe’ me, Tim, it’s that doorman. Gav.”

“What’s he doing?”

Stupid question, what isn’t he doing? Gav was Phil’s worst decision for this place, from a non-threatening, welcoming atmosphere point of view.

“What he’s doing is not letting Michelle and Polly through—I told him they was with the band, but he’s not buying it. It’s bullshit. It’s not like they haven’t been coming here for every night since I got you that gig, or anything,” she snarled, glancing back over her shoulder towards the door to the club itself. God knows how she got in here, but it was clear that she wanted to get back to reigning over her group of psychedelic weirdos as quickly as she could. “Look, just get those kids in. I’m not having that bastard doorman making me look like a fool.”

That solved the mystery of why she gave two shits about Chelle and Polly; she felt that Gav, and yeah, she’s right, he’s a bastard if I ever knew one, was exerting power over her. And fuck, she may be tiny, but no one humiliates Jean Tobey and gets away with it. Her blue eyes were drilling into my skull as I fumbled with the last few buttons on my shirt. “I-I’ll see what I can do.”

Seriously. Jean is terrifying to the point where she can reduce a man over a foot taller than her to stuttering. How else could she get where she is?

Well… maybe some things are better left unsaid.

“You won’t see what you can do, you’ll do it, Tim,” she said, with a swish of her dress as she turned to march back towards her group. And, yeah, I’d have to do it, otherwise she could just as easily defile herself with Phil in order to have him kick us out as she could to get us in. If she hadn’t dropped out at fourteen to join the travellers she probably could’ve made a pretty effective spin doctor.

I shoved the pink silk inside my belt as I snuck away from my curtain. As I did so, Ian, in all his Hendrix-permed glory, grabbed my arm; I flinched, waiting for the rip of cerise which never came. I turned around to catch him grinning, his tongue poking out of the gap of his missing tooth. “Jeanie got your balls in her handbag, huh?”

“Not exactly,” I replied, nonchalantly. “Fucking Gav being difficult again. Not letting Chelle and Pol in, I fucking said…” I shook my head. “Anyway, I’m gonna go and get them.”

“Want me to clean out the storeroom?”

“You what?”

“Y’know, so you and Chelle can…” he wiggled his eyebrows.

“Fuck off, Ian.”

Ignoring the following jeering and vulgarity from him and Rog, I left our pitiful excuse for a dressing room at a jog, shoving through the doors with such force that they almost smacked right into Phil, who was laden with a large glass of beer and expression so venomous he could spoil milk. Which he’d probably feed to us after the show.

“You, Rowand. Where the fuck do you think you’re going, you’re about to go on stage?”

Great. His eyes were probably glowing red with the fires of hell beneath those bloody sunglasses that he was wearing, despite the fact that this room was, as is probably characteristic of unused nuclear bunkers, dark as shit. Even those which have since been extended and converted into a dank, yet somehow popular, night club.

“I think I’m going to get my friends in because your bouncer is being an arsehole again,” I replied, suddenly filled with inexplicable courage. Maybe it’s a pride thing; if I couldn’t stand up to Jean, that was enough humiliation for one night, thanks. “Michelle Carne and Polly Beckett?”

“Look, son. You know as well as I do that I couldn’t give a flying fuck who your friends are. Just go and get them in, then get back here and play that keyboard like I’m fucking paying you to,” he snapped, actually surprisingly more compliant than he normally is.

I gave a nod which hopefully didn’t look too surprised, and proceeded through the door—just in time to hear a cry of “Sergeant!”, which suggested that the real reason he didn’t eradicate me on the spot was because he was saving all that pent-up rage to rip into Ian. I’d say that I feel sorry for him, but I don’t. His hairstyle looks like my grandmother’s and if I’m perfectly honest it looks a lot better on her.

Bloody typical. Shaking my head to myself, and hoping that Phil wouldn’t break anything of Ian’s which would stop him playing bass like we all kind of needed him to, I marched past the tables which lined the back so as to avoid the ‘dance floor’, where bored adolescents swayed roughly in time with the erratic sounds of Cream. The tables all smelled the same: smoke, spilled vodka, and weed, though at least one lot had the courtesy to try and disguise the stench of it all with incense. Too bad it stank like dog shit, in my opinion. A few people turned their heads. I should’ve expected as much, really; a cerise-shirted silhouette behind a keyboard graced posters scattered all over the city, but I didn’t really have the time to give them the winks and half-smiles they wanted. I needed to get these two girls inside and my own arse backstage before Phil finally had that heart attack we’ve all been waiting on.

I reached the door just as the huge guy was stepping back, so that I was nearly thrown off-balance. I cleared my throat. No answer.

“Gav,” I said, rather more timidly than I’d anticipated. He didn’t reply. “Gavin,” I repeated, swallowing back whatever it was which made me sound like an imbecile. “Gavin.”

“Jesus Christ, what?” he said, with anger, whirling round. He realised it was me, and seemed almost startled. Nice. “I mean, yeah?”

I moved towards the door; he moved aside. I looked out, and saw two girls in their late teens standing together looking partly dejected and partly like they could kill six people each with their bare hands if provoked. I turned to him; my height meant I could look him in the eye. He just happened to be as wide as two of me.

“Gav, those girls, Michelle Carne and Polly Beckett?”

“Oh, the kiddies? What about ‘em?”

I could almost see Chelle’s fists clenching. To be fair, she was eighteen. “Whether or not you believe that they’re old enough is your own view, but, trust me, these girls are both adults and they’re actually really good friends of Ian and I…”

Really?” he seemed sceptical.

I gave an affirmative nod. “Yeah. Back at the Poly, we used to skip all the time to hang out with them. We’ve been friends since ’63. I don’t want to be rude or anything, but it’s a preference of all the band if you let them in?” by that, I meant Ian and I—Roger barely spoke to them and I don’t think Jude’s even met them at all. “Also, you’ve really pissed off Jean Tobey and she could fuck her way into the PM’s office if she wanted to.”

“You’re talking bollocks,” he spat. Clearly, he’d yet to learn that judging a book by its cover when that book was called Jean could pretty much result in you not having any bollocks by the end of the night. “But whatever. Take the kids in, if you stick ‘em in the dark, they’ll stop making this place look like a daycare centre,” he turned to them. “You’re in. Better thank your musician friends later.”

“We will!” Polly assured him as she shuffled through the door. Chelle, meanwhile, sauntered through with a look of entitlement, giving him the finger when his back was turned. I dragged them more towards the stage. They, if anyone, were going to get the best places we could offer them.

I left them right in the centre, and placed my hands on my hips. “What happened to ‘we’re with the band’?” I joked.

Chelle rolled her eyes. “Asshole wouldn’t believe us. You’re gonna have to get us cards or something,” she remarked, her evident dislike for Gavin shining through in the dryness of her North American tone. “But, no, thank you, though, I guess. I actually didn’t think we’d make it in this time.”

I shrugged. “Eh, take it as a compliment. Better to look younger in the long run, I guess. But, anyway, you’ll join us at the pub after the set?”

“Yeah, probably,” Chelle said, while Polly, with wide, blue eyes, looked somewhat startled but also willing. Chelle turned to her. “We’ll get one of the guys to get your drink for you,” she assured, before returning her attention to me. “Who’s going?”

“Uh… me, Ian and Rog, definitely. Jude might, I think he’d be up for it if we persuade him enough—that’s our singer-guitarist, by the way. Jean and some of her lot join us sometimes, but it looks like they’re smoking themselves to Mars right now, so fuck knows if they’ll be in any state to…”

From their particular corner of the room came the strongest waft of grass, and the loudest eruptions of laughter.

“Cool,” Chelle nodded, a smile forming.

Beside her, Polly grinned. “Yeah, cool.”

June Outfits

Another month, another outfit post! Only, this time, I’m going to try and note down where I actually bought everything – when I can remember it…

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Can we all be impressed that I managed that hoop shoulder stand? I’ve been trying to get it for ages! It’s not perfect, and I can’t transition from it, yet, but I’m getting there!

Oh yeah, in other news, I broke my toe a week ago on Monday. Dropped a 2 litre bottle of cider directly on it. I’ve never known pain like it, and have to walk with a stick every now and then. Luckily, I’ve had a LOT of painkillers, so it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it used to.

My next post is most likely going to be about the last festival I went to – 2000 Trees – although I’ve yet to decide whether to focus on the festival as a whole, or why it was so important for me this year… all I will say, is that I had the best of times there.

Here’s a photo to tide you over…

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Have a lovely week/month/time period!

Incarceration of a Flower Child – Prologue

This is the prologue of a story I started writing a long time ago. I one day hope to come back to it – I’ve written over 12,000 words for it so it’d be silly to give it up…

__________

I guess, all things in perspective, it started back in 1963, two years before the band really took off.  Ian and I were still at the polytechnic, and we’d met a very pretty, nineteen-year-old American girl from the art college. Michelle from Maine, we called her back then. And, well, that was pretty much where the truth ended; she was actually just-turned sixteen at the time, and attended the secondary school round the corner from my house. Ian’s younger sister had recognised her one time when we were hanging out. Sixteen or nineteen, Chelle was gorgeous and, with hindsight, clearly had a thing for me which I should’ve acted on – she was beautiful. Ian and I used to skip lectures to get lunch with her and her friend, Polly (Christ knows how they got out of that school). By the time we found out that they were actually three (and in Pol’s case, four) years younger than they’d said, we didn’t really care. These girls were cool, and they’d become a pretty integral part of our friendship circle.

It was through them that we were introduced to Jean Tobey (dead now. Breast cancer in 1998, there was a tribute on the telly), seventeen at the time, who was 4’9”, and had the biggest sex drive (and Napoleon Complex) known to man. But she was the one who got us the spot at the White Rabbit which kickstarted our entire career. By which I mean, she did the manager a couple offavours’ and we were booked.

Thinking about it, if I had pursued anything with Chelle, I wouldn’t even be in a position to write this. Even as family friends, I only spent so much time at the house with Jude and everyone because I was very, very keen on his sister, Sarah. However, as fate would have it, I saw right past my opportunity to make it with a gorgeous, blonde American, and instead got to see my childhood best friend stumble down a path of destruction that I – we – didn’t exactly help to prevent.

I am mentally ill.

When people think of mental illness, they think of one of two things: the straightjacket-clad, stereotypical ‘mental patient’ you see depicted in tasteless halloween costumes, or the black haired, teenage girl, crying to the Smiths with eyeliner running tragically down her face, as she writes poetry about her broken heart. Most significantly, one never thinks of their best friend, or their dad, or the bartender at their local. People distance their depictions of mental illness from their friends and family, and even themselves, because it’s something that only happens to ‘other people’.Screen Shot 2017-05-08 at 21.03.25

I take daily medication for my mental illness. It helps me to disguise the fact that I’m irrationally panicked by pretty much everything, and that a jealous twinge can send me spiralling into self-hatred.

If you met me, you wouldn’t necessarily think I suffered from a mental illness. You might see someone who’s a bit shy, dresses weirdly and needs coaxing to engage. That image of the cute, quiet person, who just needs a kind word, that romanticised depiction of mental illness. People like it when mentally ill peers present that way – discrete, quiet, blending into the background. They want to help us, they feel sorry for us.

All that changes as soon as we actually display our symptoms. My quietness can be annoying, my moods can be erratic, and I can start having a panic attack in the middle of Tesco because two people knocked into me. Then, no one’s sympathetic – they’re exasperated, they want to know why you didn’t do something you said you would – and the answer is because I couldn’t bring myself to get out of bed. I missed a fair few lectures because of this reason. Everyone says they’re sympathetic of mental illness, until they meet a mentally ill person.

Furthermore, what’s the deal with so much hatred towards medication, anyway? My mother was horrified when I told her I’d started taking antidepressants, and was hoping I could kick them off over the summer. Obviously, I don’t want to be on them forever, but they’re helping me. We should remember that they’re a good thing, that they’re designed to help us function like everyone else. And, yeah, they do alter my brain function, just like my contraceptive pills alter my uterus’ functions, how my granny’s inhaler affects her respiratory system’s functions. It’s medication, that’s what it’s supposed to do. It affects my brain’s functions because my brain isn’t functioning correctly. I’m not enhanced, I’m being brought up to speed.

I’m arranging therapy, currently, and I do hope to come off antidepressants before next year, but I am always going to have a mental illness. Even if you can’t see it, it’s still there.

(One of my next posts is going to detail my experiences of sertraline, or zoloft, from when I started taking them until the current day.)

What’s in a name?

Names are a bit weird, aren’t they? They make up such a huge part of our identity, yet, in most cases, we get pretty much no say in the matter. Our names are sometimes picked out for us before we’re even born – before we’re even conceived, in some cases – and it seems to be pretty much pot luck as to whether or not your name fits your personality.

In spite of this, in spite of the fact there’s absolutely no way of knowing how someone will turn out as an adult, people are hugely resistant to the smallest of changes to one’s own name – even down to the nickname. I still remember the expression of absolute disbelief and defiance on my grandfather’s face, as he said, with the most over-exaggerated shock in his voice, when I, a mature, grown up twelve-year-old, decided I wanted to be ‘Liz’ instead of ‘Lizzie’: “no… Lizzie!”. And, to this day, he’ll write Liz in cards, but will always call me Lizzie to my face.

As most people who follow me on social media are probably aware of by now, I’ve recently decided that I’m no longer going by ‘Liz’ or ‘Lizzy’, and am instead going by ‘Zara’. The reason being, if one needs to be given, is that I’ve never felt those names suited me. I’ve been known as ‘Lizzie’ since birth, and only changed it to ‘Liz’ when I decided the former was too childish. I’ve never liked ‘Liz’ that much, either, but I was twelve when I made that decision. ‘Zara’ is such a beautiful name (and can come from Elizabeth – ‘EliZAbeth’, ‘ZAra’), and I really feel that it’s a name that suits me. People have already used it to address me, and it fits.

My friends, and most of my family, have been kind, but I do worry about the response. Apparently, despite it being my name, my deciding that I’d like to be known as something else can be seen as an inconvenience. I know my aforementioned grandparents will be calling me ‘Lizzie’ until the day one of us dies – not because they can’t remember what I’d like to be called, but because they choose not to. A visit to them reminds me that I only have so much power over my own identity. (My nan, on my mum’s side, I will cut some slack; she’s terminally ill and has other things on her mind, like making sure she has enough oxygen.)

With that in mind, I’d like to ask you all, no matter what the reason may be, to respect your friends and family when they decide to change their name or nickname. Their name is theirs, and not yours to dictate. A name is so important and it should fit its bearer. Why else do you think novelists spend so much time picking names for their characters?

As for all of you who’ve been wanting to try out a new name, do it. Just do it. People who matter will accept it. Occasional forgetfulness, especially in the early stages, is okay. “I’m going to keep calling you (x), because I’ve always known you as (x)”, is lazy, dismissive, and downright disrespectful.