Prose

Noughties Pop and Neuroscience

Today has been deeply healing in a most unexpected way.

Struggling for a soundtrack to my day, I hit a little cynically on a “00’s pop” (say noughties, it feels good) playlist and let it roll.

My God.

I wept, I danced, I travelled through time to the most tender and terrible places of my teens and twenties. Songs I didn’t even like at the time hit me straight in the heartsy-chords and vibrated through my being. Justin Timberlake? Really? Celine Dion??? Mortifying.

I was pretty taken aback but the waves were strong and I was soon taken under again – free diving through forgotten emotional backwaters. After each big release my heart felt warm and alive – pumping love and feeling so much more connected to – me.

It felt as if there were corners of my heart with dusted over debris waiting to be cleared, and this slightly cringey pop playlist was blasting through them like a jet wash.

I reckon most of you reading have been there, or somewhere quite like it. Maybe for you it was 80s glam rock or early 90s skate punk (reckon I’ve got some work to do there to) that hit the spot.

The reason I am sharing this is not that it is a unique or totally remarkable experience but as an excuse to tell you something I’ve learned about neuroscience.

You weren’t expecting that at all from the title right… Just bear with.

So those bubbles of random emotion, thoughts, images that surface when you hear a song – these are what is known as implicit memories. They are sensory and perceptual experiences in the moment that appear as if out of nowhere. These feel like live, here and now sensations – with no sense of coming from a specific past event.

As we stay with the feeling, following the crumb trail of thoughts, images and associations that unfolds as we do, we will come eventually to an explicit memory.

This is a tangible past event recollection which we can pinpoint to a time and place. An encounter, a holiday, an argument, a bereavement, a surprise.

As this explicit memory comes into focus, we are able to make conscious links with the implicit memories – the emotions, felt sensations, thought and images that were arising at random -and neurologically staple them together.

This is referred to in psychology and neuroscience as ‘integration’.

Integration means, in short, that next time you hear Eminem playing and your palms get sweaty etc you will be able to access that explicit memory of falling over at the high school disco while pulling your best moves. You will know that the rising shame and anxiety you are feeling in the moment, belongs to some moment in the past. Realising this you are able to pause, reflect, calm yourself in whatever way you need to and not be swept along in this unattributable emotion and ruin your day.

This is an actual physical process in your brain where new neuronal connections are being formed and coated in Myelin which is like super lube for brain activity and makes everything slicker and quicker. Your brain is building new bits that help you to be more balanced and chill.

So if you feel like doing some neurological fitness activities to get yo’ mind right – bouncing round your room to cheesy tunes and bawler ballads from your youth (or death metal or happy hardcore or whatever it was) comes recommended from me.

You’re welcome.

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Meh. Break Up Poems.

1.
Straight off the train and it’s hanging in the air.
Scanning everywhere
For a glimpse of a moment gone by.
I feel his hand on my thigh.
Your name in lights, literally, above the night.
Your name in lights, literally, above the night.
It’s that time again
When we began.
The air feels just right.
Such a waste and such wide-eyed delight…
Fireworks
Featured heavily
Inside and out.
I watched through the lens of love
And you were next to me
Seeing clearly
What was in front of you.
Seeing only that.

2.
I’m too finely tuned to tango.

I serve up my heart raw
Like a high delicacy
When I open
To dance.

You smell the iron sweetness
Emanating from my neck
And the hairs stand up
On the back of yours.

However far afield
I feel your radar find me
When I open and emit
My full embodied pulse.

It is safe and sad to be shut up tight,
My body sluggish and sorry
Headed for hibernation,
Hiding from hurt.

It is ravenous and mighty
To let all the feeling
Frozen deep in tight musculature
Throb and release
In salty dissolution.

It is all my beauty and power
Bound up
Packed away
Pushed away
Kept at bay.
Kept quiet.
Lest you hear its call and turn your head.

And it would be nothing to you
To undo me completely,
Surfing and swirling in salty, scarlet waves
To invigorate yourself
And leave me there in pieces.

So I dance alone far away
Safe without postcode
And just feel the pulsing sonar
Of your attention
Through my body
Like a drum.
Like a warning.
3.
If you just want
To pick at me
Like the lukewarm remains
Of a meal you weren’t really hungry for
At the time.
Do not.
4.
I am furious
That I let you touch me
So deeply.

I am outraged
That it meant
So little to you.

I am sad
That we do not know
How to love each other.

When you touch the heart
Of a woman
Whose love is an ocean.

Be ready
To feel the waves
When you dip in your toe.

Or stay on the beach and watch.
Perhaps I am too terrific to touch.
5.
All the things I love
That you love too:
When I celebrate them
I celebrate you.
Why is my face always leaking when I do?

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Reading the signs: getting clear on connection and commitment

I’ve been repeating a pattern for a chunk of my life which involves getting attached to people who are, for one reason or another, unavailable for the kind of relationship that I’m interested in at the time. Or any relationship with structure or commitment. It usually begins with them telling me so and me nodding, and ends with me in floods of tears wondering why on earth they won’t just love me in the way I want them to and what terrible character flaw I possess that makes me so deeply unloveable.

Most recently, after falling head over heels for someone who had expressed clear disinterest (for good reason) in forming a committed relationship I found myself almost a year on licking my wounds and trapped in the pain of unrequited love. Pushing it down and kidding myself that what was on offer was enough. After finding myself in an Airbnb on the other side of the world for work, mooning and missing this person and writing to tell them so, and feeling utterly unmet by the response, the blackout curtains of denial fluttered open for a moment and I saw the light. We were in different places, he had been right all along telling me so as I sing-songed back my totally-fineness and utter lack of attachment, deceiving myself totally, and him by extension. It had to stop.

So I wrote and told him so, with as much kindness for the both of us as I could muster, in the middle of a tear-soaked coffee stop in a day of walking the streets for money (not like that – I collect data for a living, sometimes). After about 20 minutes (quite the anomaly) there was an answer back. He had suspected as much and was truly sorry but was not in a place of being willing or able to commit to a relationship, as stated, nearly 12 months ago… I’m trying hard to be kind to myself right now as I write, about how long this took me to truly grasp and to him for not nudging me a bit harder, against his interests perhaps, to wake up – though nudge me he did. I stormed with grief for the rest of the day, flooding the streets with salt water and stamping my pain into the Tarmac. Howling into the wind and the faces of passersby and singing out my sorrow to every pop power ballad I could summon.

Almost 2 months on, it has taken daily courage to keep walking away, step by step. I’ve had to turn myself back around several times, as I find myself metaphorically stood knocking at a closed door again. My good friends have listened to me talk myself back into a world of delusions and self abandonment and back out again more times than I’d like. I’ve sent messages I regret, made myself feel vulnerable, worried I’ve hurt his feelings. I’ve received beautiful listening, compassion and friendship from him. I’ve met silence and confusion. I’ve raged, fantasised and broken apart. I’ve doubted myself and derided myself and watched with detached disbelief as I disentangle myself from the affection of a wonderful human being.

Breaking my own heart, for my own good, is the weirdest experience. Emotionally it’s like cutting off your leg to get out of a bear trap. Hideous analogy but anyone who has experienced the withdrawal pains of breaking free from this unilateral pattern of relating will know that in the most arm-gnawing, hair-pulling, eye-scratching moments, it is true what science has shown us – the emotional pain of a breakup is experienced in the brain in the same area as physical pain and is hardly distinguishable by our nervous systems in the moment.

It is in those moments of anguish and disorientation, when just dropping them a text or going back for just a cuddle would make it all stop, that it is hardest to uphold the courageous choice to walk. In the moments when my head is clear of anguish and ambivalence, and I am not pacing around clutching my mobile waiting to receive the response that will never come, I know the choice was the right one and that I am healing a pattern that does not serve me or anyone else. Repatterning feels very disorientating and sometimes I find myself experiencing a sort of inner scrabbling for ground, clutching for false anchors, seeking out a shelter I have dismantled, and I know I’m on the cusp of building new ones that will stand.

I know I’m not the only one to go through this. People choose, at certain times of life or perhaps for their whole life, not to be available for deep emotional commitment. It is a totally valid choice to be respected like any other. The difficulty comes when these people, still wanting to connect and enjoy the company of those they are attracted to, lay this out dutifully and clearly and… for psychologically complex and I’m sure totally varied reasons… the other person just does not hear it/believe it/accept it and gives the go ahead.  Maybe we think it won’t be a problem for us, maybe we think it might change, maybe we just flat out don’t understand what they mean. On we go hurtling headlong into heartbreak.

As a woman, I know that my brain chemistry works in such a way that as soon as I am physically intimate with someone, then my brain releases oxytocin and gets me nicely bonded and emotionally attached to this person. The more this repeats, the stronger that attachment becomes. I might think I have a handle on the situation but all of a sudden I am playing out all kinds of attachment behaviours and my capacity to think rationally about the situation is going fast out the window. I’m in deep, and getting myself out activates the same regions of my brain as heroin withdrawal. So just know yourself. Know what’s happening in your body and brain, know your attachment style, know your vulnerability.

I believe in loving whole heartedly, I believe in going all in, and because of this I need to take better stock of what I’m getting all into, read the signs and read them again til I am clear what I’m signing up for, and what I’m not. Work on understanding the beliefs and desires that cloud my vision. Get clear on what my own vision is for relationship, and be brave to say no when what’s on offer doesn’t fit.

 

 

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Dear One

Dear One,

I adore you and I miss you and I don’t know what this sadness is but I know it isn’t love.

It’s something else that’s passing through that comes bubbling up when my heart is touched.

I’m grieving what feels like a loss even though I know you are not gone.

In fact you are closer than ever but feel very far away.

When we meet the light is blinding and the shadows loom.

I know you are busy with your priorities and that I am not one of them.

But hear me, I am your soul. I am with you always waiting for you to stop and to feel my presence.

Just stop a minute, breathe, put everything down, listen to the songs I am singing to you.

It’s very old stuff this feeling and this pattern, I know it.

I feel sad that I pour out vibrant rivers and you look away.

I feel sad that I am the ocean and you are thirsty.

I speak the pain of self-abandonment, clawing at passersby for relief from the gnawing inside.

If you don’t think this is about you, it almost certainly is.

Look deeper.

If you think this is about you, it almost certainly isn’t.

Look wider.

This is about all of us and its older than time.

We are two sides of the same coin, realising that we are at each other’s back always and yet believe we cannot see each other.

Don’t look around in front of you, sink back into what is holding you up. It was always there. It is a part of you. I am a part of you. We are whole.

I love you.

Be at home.

Rest in me.

Please.

I won’t leave.

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Let grief be an outpouring

“Let grief be an outpouring. When grief is allowed to exhaust its expression, then behind it is a profound silence, it’s like rest. No one can tell you when that rest is finished, it’s an intuitive thing” ~ Mooji

Saying bye bye to a heart’s companion today, a short but very sweet love connection with a little puppy being I have had the privelege of fostering, I have noticed how quite intense but uninhibited grief just pours out in bursts. And subsides. And pours again.

And this time, my relationship to it is different. I am totally okay with its presence and full expression. In front of other people, alone, with sound, without, at random moments. It feels really good and healthy, like good digestion. I’m not holding it in anywhere to deal with later on, I’m not holding on to its arising and making it a permanent state of being or the theme of my day, it’s just coming, and flowing, and gone.

Feels good, and different. I mean, it feels intense in the moment, but I no longer label it as a bad feeling, just a healthy release from Inside. Feeling the benefit of some big releases (real eases) in recent weeks, and also that this moment of grief and letting go, allows remnants of moments past to also be released, as much of it is without a clear source and with no thoughts or images attached to it. There is melancholy, but its not colouring everything as much as other times.

 

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Call from an old friend

I received a call today.

From my body

And from Mother Earth herself.

“I’ve sent so many messages

Through so many messengers.

I love you.

I want you to come home.

I need you to keep me safe.

I invite you to cherish me more.

Honour me more.

Show up like a mama lion for me.

Soothe me with your touch when I am stressed.

Stop everything and put me first.

Listen long and lovingly to my needs.

Delight in meeting them.

Because you love me.

Don’t hand me over to someone else

To do it for you.

Instead of you.

Don’t abandon me when I feel unsafe

Stop everything and put me first.

I need to feel your presence.

All the time.

Always.

Put me first.

Honour me with your choices.

Put me first.

Honour me.

Listen to my every tiny desire.

Welcome and adore my desires.

Delight in pleasing me,

Nurturing me,

Lighting me up.

Treat me like a goddess,

A temple.

I am you.

I am that.

Act like it.

Come home.

 

Reading this message back, it feels like the deepest call of the feminine in me, to my masculine energy, which has been so active, doing and thinking and striking out. Building and shaping and directing….

In so many ways this call for union has been resounding in me. Even now, as I am here writing a blog post hunched at the desk, a wild little puppy is tearing at my ankles – “Hey!  I am life embodied, I am the earth in motion, be here now with me.” So I’ll end here, and go roll around on the rug by the fire.

 

 

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Don’t believe the hype

Wow. Today feels like a big hype day, a day where there are lots of capital letters. A New Moon and a Solar Eclipse offer a cosmic invitation for Big Releases and New Beginnings. It’s also International Women’s Day.

For me personally it’s also the Last Day of a wonderful 30 day challenge I have been taking part in (more to follow on that) and the First Session with a new coach. I’ve done some Big Releases and acquired some New Tools. It’s also the beginning of a New Chapter where I will be shortly moving to a new base and arranging my life and resources in a new way.

It all feels very much right this minute. I feel a pressure to come out shiny and glorious and embrace the massive newness and unlimited potential and epic joy of it all. To pull rabbits out of hats and scatter stardust all around.

It feels like. Way. Too. Much. Hype. I’ve been in with both feet for the build up, eager and excited for Big Shifts and Emergence. Waiting for the fanfare which heralds the grand event. Now I’m stopping – here at the threshold of pushing my dazzled self out onto a carnival float to dance the hula – and instead gathering myself up in loving arms to rest and to just be.

Yes I’m learning, yes I’m progressing, yes I’m growing, yes I’m healing. This is what our bodies and souls just do organically. We don’t need to be doing the doing, it is our nature. No need, really none, to press and push. It all happens, it all comes, it is all done.

These last weeks I’ve experienced huge shifts, internally and externally. Waves and voids and revelations. I haven’t made any of them happen, they have just been the content of my days, simply what happened.

Today I sit quietly and allow myself to be carried over the threshold. Stay in surrender. Allow the Dao.

I feel the slightly hysterical climactic energy of days like these in a similar way to the frenzy of Christmas. A layer of expectation is created which lays traps for the tenderness of souls. Paints a glittery gloss on the realness and rawness which is also present, which is always present where real growth and real healing is in play.

I celebrate too, I celebrate all the joy and the leaps and the new beginnings. For me the new beginning is this. It is being enough as I am, just right now. Not a carnival, not a dancing girl, not an empire being born. A butterfly, with soggy wings, exhausted from the struggle which formed it, from breaking through the cocoon of a former self, and wanting to get an early night with a hot water bottle.

It is knowing my expression is welcome.
It is knowing that I am here for me, and everyone benefits.
It is knowing that I am surrounded by love and support from all the divine beings in my life.
It is knowing that the entire physical universe exists to support me in physical form.
It is knowing that the more I let go, release and relax, the more I experience the support already provided for me.

This is what I am taking to bed tonight under the new moon.

“Practise not doing, and everything will fall into place” ~ Dao De Jing

I love you all, I share your joy, this quiet joy is mine today. The joy of self acceptance and feeling enough, at home in myself and safely held by life.

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When love becomes the Loch Ness monster

There are several people in my life who I tell almost every time we connect, that I love them dearly. Lucky them, and lucky me.

Then there are a few with whom, it feels so, so loaded. Loaded like a gun that could kill us both and splatter our guts up the wall if it misfires.

To be clear, this is not because I do not love them, it is because somehow the idea of  love has become the Loch Ness monster in the room and the focal point of the paranoid paparazzi of past hurts that roam around inside me seeking to expose and debunk it. Love has taken on a mythical status and a hype machine has activated around it. To believe in it, to seek it, to try to capture it, to be sure of it…

Most people have a picture in their head of what ‘Nessy’ looks like. A few claim to have truly encountered it in the flesh, first hand, and write books about it and exhibit galleries of blurry photographs of it. They say it dwells in the depths we cannot fathom, and only a chosen few can take a glimpse of it. This creature is widely acknowledged to be immense and terrifying, but by all accounts benign – despite a fearsome exterior.

These are the connections in which I have felt the most the resistance to offering my humble expressions of love in the moment, fully aware of their imperfection and shades of grey, and the bits of fluff that might have got stuck on them in the bottom of my bag on my way to bring them to you. I’ll spend too long looking at them, dusting them off, and decide they are not sufficient. This can’t be  it, this can’t be enough, this can’t be right.

I’ve deconstructed love like so many castles in the sand. I know only what it is not. I am left with that which the tide cannot take away.

I’m over it now, the hunting and the hiding both.

Here I am, unremarkable and utterly exquisite in the light of day. Here is my imperfect, fluffy love, presented unexpectedly in unusual gift wrap, tossed into your hands like a hot potato as I bolt for the bus, sung in your ear while you are trying to sleep, thrust in your face while you are watching a movie or trying to read, spilling out of the containers you try to catch it in.

There is no shame in it, I have judged it too harshly. Trying to hold my love to saintly, mystical standards, contain it in carefully constructed corrals, make it sit quietly in the corner and hide all its colours under an old coat – for days, months, years.

My love in its chosen expression comes to you like a butterfly or a bluebird. Free and exquisite in the moment. Embodiment of soul. Essence of beauty. Coming to land gently on you and bless your heart, drink a little nectar, bask in the sunshine.

Love is simply me, as I am, when I am open, to you. Just gorgeous.

I recorded this little burst of song on a whim, whilst pottering in the kitchen and feeling the feels. It’s not planned, it is not perfect.  Real feels from me to you. I love you, don’t forget it 💕

 

 

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Forged in the flames

“I will take friendship plus attraction any day over falling in love. For I am no fool for fickle: I search for a love that is built of friendship and can withstand the most merciless rains and flooding.”

~Waylon Lewis, Things I Would Like to Do with You. 

Maybe this is becoming true… And yet….the lover and the mystic in me adores the fire, the burning away, the raging, the purification, the vitality. In the end though, I look around and all is ashes.

Now that I am a little older. Now that I have held strong for so long in the heat of soul fire. Now that I am charcoal. I catch fire easily, I burn deep and hot. Still throbbing embers after the flames are gone.

If I can hold a little more heat, take a little more pressure, go a little deeper into the earth and closer to the molten core of it all. I’ll become a diamond. I’ll reflect back the dancing light of the flames and stand clear and shining in the heart of the hottest inferno.

What to do? Perhaps the friend, who can stand through all storms, is the diamond, forged in the fires of greatest intensity. Perhaps the way out is through. What to do?