“The Head Not The Tail”

I’ve been away for a few weeks in the beautiful welsh countryside near to the Pembrokeshire coastal path and the blustery Irish Sea. Just me and the 🐶. We have experienced the most extremes of weather, snow, hale, ice, wind, rain and sunshine, each day bringing with it fresh air and new life and each night, in the pitch black darkness the most awesome stars.

I have recently been privy to a wonderful book; Fast Track your Memoir by Racheal Herron, ‘twas   the only companion needed for going off grid with the sole purpose of writing my own story. In her text, Racheal refers to Brene Brown, an inspirational speaker and fellow social worker who I have found thought provoking  for many years, often using her work in my own lectures and teaching sessions on professional integrity and self care. Brene talks about the importance of sharing our stories with the right people, emphasising that if we share with the wrong person,they can easily become one more piece of flying debris in an already dangerous storm.

I know that in the coming months I shall be choosing to share mine and that opportunities are arising to enable me to do so honestly and sensitively but I’m not nieve, I recognise that in some respects that will be costly and open to misinterpretation, such is the nature of that world and the human experience. And yet, at the same time I know that it will be cathartic and therapeutic, not in the clinical sense but in the increasing knowledge that I shall be standing shoulder to shoulder with an ever growing population of people also telling theirs, my community.

As a child, growing up ‘different’ meant that finding a sense of community was difficult, times away from home for long periods were hard and later, in my teens, I lived in a welsh community and subsequent ‘faith’ communities that ultimately saw me ostracised and excommunicated because of my difference. I was fortunate, I was taken in by a family who despite their own ethical challenges simply loved me and those who sought to quieten my creative voice because I was the ‘wrong shape’ succeeded for some twenty years or more but didn’t ultimately have the final say.

Finding my own way back was a complex, rich, often humorous, sometimes tragic process which only truly found its voice again after grief, loss, mental health crisis, going missing and then finding freedom through personal pilgrimage and the beautiful voices of others who were living with and singing through their own pain.

I could have just stayed home, written songs in private, grown vegetables, stroked the cat, kept a diary, painted on a Sunday, doing what our culture has often historically seen as the right thing to do, not airing your dirty washing in public. But I can’t do that. It would feel as if all of the struggle and the years of defeat and overcoming barriers had been a waste of time. People in the media sharing their own stories recently have given me courage to stand up, to articulate, to filter the pain and the passion and to bring people into a world where it’s possible to find solace and healing if we dare to look our demons in the eye and declare what my friend Carrie would say “I’m the head not the tail”.

I want to stand alongside and join that army of warriors who know what it’s like having been battle worn but equally have sight of the joy and hope in reaching out to others in the thick of their own challenges.

So, I’ve been off grid and shall be for a while longer, writing, writing and more writing, the dog has been worn out from walking and the air that I have breathed has been life affirming and invigorating. Even this minute the dog’s tail is wagging so vigorously that he’s smacking himself in the thighs at the anticipation of one of mummy’s ‘thinking walks’.

It has meant digging deep, no half measures, no dilution and it s well under way, the only story I am truly qualified to tell, it has a shape, a context and a purpose and hopefully, once finished, a publisher!

Its the story of a chance knock on a hotel room door, the misinterpretation of a random sentence and a bottle of Champagne that changed my life course and led me back to a place where the voices of others gave me back my own.

See you on the other side

Ju xxxx

 

 

Time to come out of the shadows, blowing the cobwebs away

Sharing some of my artwork from when I had my own studio after being one of the first young people to benefit from sponsorship by The Princes Trust after overcoming challenges in my childhood. Was lucky to be chosen to then paint and exhibit for Prince Charles 40th birthday and went on to enjoy some success in exhibition after gaining a first class degree in fine art in Lancashire. Not bad for a kid that left school way too early with no qualifications but painting was such a valuable means of expression and I’m becoming more and more inclined to start painting again. Sadly, a lot of the main degree show and subsequent pictures are now gone as they were on average over nine feet long. It was a sad day when I had to take them to the refuge tip because I had nowhere to store them. My main focus for my degree exhibition was industrial landscape in the West Midlands with poetry to go alongside it. It feels strange to be sharing this work now but absolutely the right thing to do, it’s like my songs, they’ve been collecting dust for too long, time to come out of the shadows, sending love, Ju x

The Caring Years

Being a carer was in fact probably the most singly defining, character building experience of my already rather complex, unorthodox life, it was rich and funny and enlightening and pleasurable and solitary and seamless and precious as it was courageous and frustrating, lonely, isolating, haphazard and beguiling and downright bloody irritating at times, we’re not angels you see, it’s not a calling or a duty or a gift or an option, it’s a process of loving and letting go, of laughing and crying of finding your strengths and pushing them to their absolute nth degree, it’s a journey, it was our journey one that mum and I embarked on together. Today, as I walked through the forest I captured this picture, mysterious, enchanting, frightening, unclear, distant and real, not a million miles from those Caring Years xxxxx