Where To Now?

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Day 20: Wrap it up.

I’ve made it! (albeit four months after Writing 101 ended…) but I’ve made it nonetheless. ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ – and although I have completed this course at my own pace, that alone has moved me one step closer to overcoming a fear I once had of being too afraid to even begin. So in some ways, I have won the race, despite arriving last at the finish line. I have won because I overcame my fear of beginning, I didn’t give up and I completed what I set out to achieve – which was to complete the course and push my writing in new directions.

I’m asked at this stage to reflect on what I have gained from taking Writing 101 and where I wish to take my writing moving forward, and so here are my thoughts on that matter.

What I have gained

Writing 101, along with other courses I have taken such as Poetry 101 and Writing 201 have certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone. I have explored different writing forms, styles and perspectives, and for that I am grateful. At times I was surprised with what came out of me! And at others I have sat staring at the empty page wondering how on earth I could fill it with words. But I found that in the end, when I entered my heart space, the words just seemed to flow. If you haven’t already, I challenge you to sign up to a course in order to discover what you are capable of, not to mention the wonderful and diverse writers you will undoubtedly meet along the way. I have inspired, and I have been inspired – and that is a wonderful feeling.

Moving forward

When I first began writing publicly on Dear Dad the whole process was a little scary to say the least. Even though I have come a long way since losing Dad, there was a lot of heavy stuff that I had buried over the years and was still holding onto – I uncovered some fairly raw emotions in the beginning. Looking back on those earlier posts, I can see that I was wading through a great deal of guilt and regret. I also understand that I needed to revisit those darker recesses of my mind so that I could shine a light of awareness on them. I needed to kick the mud from my boots and free myself of the burdens that had so far, weighed me down. As Frosts’s opening quote reminds us;

The best way out is always through.

– Robert Frost

I do feel that I have undergone a healing process since I first revisited the events surrounding Dad’s death, and although I shed some tears along the way and undoubtedly have more to shed, the whole process has been cathartic for me. These days I feel more joy in my heart than I do sorrow, and I am overcoming negative behavior patterns that once plagued me. More and more I am uncovering my authentic self as I move through my spiritual journey; the dark clouds are lifting and I am able to see more of the light with each passing day. That is what I want to share more of moving forward. I know that there may be more places I still need to visit as I uncover more layers – but all in all, I am happy and hopeful for the future.

Whilst I will still be writing here to remain close with my Dad, after some long deliberation I have decided to proceed with a side line blog, Wholesome Souls I almost deleted this blog entirely and was convinced that I only needed one writing space, but since I would love a space to share healthy recipes and motivational life style choices, I have decided to continue with Wholesome Souls, if only to keep myself accountable. It is still in the early days yet, but my goal for this blog is to move closer to self-love, healing and transformation and to help others along the way. I truly believe that lasting transformation begins within. In having a separate writing space dedicated to health and well-being, I hope to quell behavior patterns and lifestyle choices that often prevent us from reaching our full potential. Feel free to show your support in following my second blog here.

Hayley xx

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Good Reads

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Day 19: Feature a guest or post a round up of good reads.

I haven’t been around on WordPress a lot lately, so reading others posts is something I need to catch up on. However, in my brief return I have come across some motivational posts which I would like to share.

Here are some of my great reads that I have read recently:

I discovered these wonderful quotes compiled by Ronovan Wester over at ronovanwrites. I am sure you will find a quote which resonates with you. Ronovan has also inspired me to create my own a post of favourite quotes! (watch this space) Head over because Ronovan has some great content including 10 Tips To Make Blogging Enjoyable.

I was totally moved by When Zoe Met Harry, which shares the experience a young girl’s wish (granted by Make A Wish Foundation) as she meets her TV hero, Dr. Harry. The video had me smiling from ear to ear at this very special interaction, which is sure to warm your heart. Retro Girl & The Chemo Kid is a memoir of a young soul who, even in her passing, continues to touch the lives of many. Through her mothers wonderfully written accounts of Zoe’s life and the lessons she continues to teach, we are taken on a journey through loss, love and acceptance.

Another post worthy of a mention for the shear honesty and bravery of this exceptional writer is The Good Side Effects of Cancer. Not only does she write with eloquence and grace, but Lets Talk Cancer reveals real and relevant insight into a topic most people are too frightened to stare in the face. This inspiring young woman empowers others to take stock of their own life as she journey’s towards recovery and reclaims her health. A true warrior.

I hope you enjoy these posts as much as I did!

Hayley xx

We Remember

Day 18: Compose a series of anecdotes
Today, tell a story through a series of anecdotes (also called vignettes): short, episodic scenes or moments that together read as variations on the same theme. 

Based on real life accounts published in the local newspaper. Names and some details of individual experiences have been changed.

Last month over 1000 people gathered to remember the 185 who died in the February 2011 earthquake. I have written about my own experience of that frightful day here. With Christchurch still experiencing ground movement, we can’t help but be reminded of the many lives lost. Survivors guilt is very real, and whilst fleeing the rubble relatively unscathed brought with it renewed gratitude for life and loved ones, grief for those less fortunate continues to percolate the surface of emotions for many, especially around this time of year.

New Zealand Earthquake

February 22nd 2011, 12:51pm,
Christchurch, New Zealand 

The low rumble intensifies before Anderson reaches the center of the room, the ground beneath him gives way as the building collapses into itself. ‘This is it,’ he contemplates, before plummeting into concrete below.

The shaking stops and an eerie silence ensues. ‘I must be dead.’ The silence is pierced by a female coughing and then he too is coughing, choking on the thick layer of dust which envelopes them. The agonizing pain of his left hand confirms his existence as it throbs with the motion of his body. He winces. ‘Are you alright?’ he asks his colleague. Jenny? Sarah? Elaine?
‘I think so,’ she replies.

Soon after, sirens spring to life and two hours later, they are rescued. Emerging from the rubble, they are met with cheers from the street below. Inhaling the air as if it were to be taken from them again at any moment, they stare at the ruinous sight before them. We are the lucky ones…

***

The shutter on Langley’s camera clicks as the earth beneath murmurs its low guttural groan. Horses in the nearby paddock whinny as they jostle and bolt. Langley is thrown to the ground and he clings to the grass, the earth jerking beneath him like a wild bucking bronco. Turning towards the city where he sat at his desk just thirteen minutes prior, he watches as a thick blanket of smoke rises like an ominous cloak.

Within seconds he is behind the wheel of his Toyota racing towards the city, his camera on shane-tomlin-lead-300x340the passenger seat beside him.  Nothing can prepare him for what he finds when he arrives at the center; buildings brought to the ground, terrified people with blood stained faces. He pauses, sees that the emergency services are working hard to rescue those in need of help, then reaches for his camera.

As he takes the photos that will document a day set to change Christchurch forever, Langley spots a man pulled from the rubble, his face covered in dust. He is comforted by two males who have come to his aid. The dust covered man stares down the barrel of Langley’s lens. Click. 

***

Strolling through Christchurch’s City Mall, Mary’s daughter turns with a smile as she holds up a pretty floral scarf, “Isn’t this …” She stops mid-sentence, eyes wide as the deafening roar consumes them. Before Mary can run to her daughter’s aid she is thrown into chaos and darkness.

Seconds seem like minutes, minutes like hours and hours like days, and all the while Mary is unable to reach her daughter. Her legs trapped beneath the rubble, she tries to call for her girl: ‘Amanda… Amanda…’ Nothing. She lies back in agony, not sure which is worse, the pain of her crushed ankles, or the heavy dull ache in her chest. In the darkness that surrounds her, Mary begins to weep.

She doesn’t know how much time has passed when she is finally pulled to safety, only that she does not want to leave the wreckage – not until her Amanda is also rescued. Against her will, Mary is raced away to the hospital, all the while calling out her daughters name… ‘Amanda…’

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  ***

48 hours later

Anderson sits in his leather arm chair staring at the forgotten brew in his lap. He has sat this way for over an hour, thoughts of his fallen colleagues circulating like a never ending ferris wheel. Up one moment, down the next, as news of his co-workers trickles in: Saho from Japan who’d arrived that morning to learn English as part of her studies… Peter, who always greeted him with a smile as he collected the mail… Janice, who was to attend her daughters wedding on Saturday. All of them, gone. A tear falls into his cold coffee causing it’s stagnant surface to ripple.

***

Langley sits staring at the screen in front of him just hours after hearing the news that the dust covered man he had photographed had later died in hospital. His editor approaches him and places a comforting hand on his shoulder. He cannot help it, a surge of emotion overtakes him and before he can stop himself, he is breaking down in floods of tears, hugging his colleague beside him.

***

Mary lies in the hospital bed, her husband in the chair beside her. Her legs are in a plaster cast but she doesn’t feel a thing. She is numb from head to toe, news of Amanda’s death not quite comprehensible, not making sense to this broken, grief stricken mother. She stares at the ceiling as her husband places his hand on hers; Why did you take my girl and not me?

My Music Map

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Hello fellow bloggers! I trust you are all well, and should that not be the case, I pray for better days to come your way and extend my warmest wishes to you.

Me? Well, I have successfully moved myself from the UK to the other side of the world, and am currently in a (rather shaky) Christchurch, New Zealand, whilst awaiting our move to Melbourne in March. Since I made a promise to myself to complete November’s Writing 101 challenge (I know, I know – that was three months ago!!! But I have a strange OCD for things being in chronological order and I cannot possibly blog about anything else until I complete it!) I am therefore persevering with the challenge, even if everyone else is crying out “That’s such old news Hayley!”

Call it genius (or just plain lazy) but I have decided to combine three prompts into one blog post and kill (three) birds with one stone! (For all you bird lovers out there, I am speaking figuratively here and besides, my aim really isn’t that good. Plus I love birds too!)

Day 15: Compile a playlist of 10 tracks that represent you. (My list will consist of 10 standout tracks from my childhood to the present day. (A difficult task since my music collection is so varied) however, I am sticking to tracks that remind me of certain times and places so as to tie this prompt in with the following prompts…)
Day 16: Mine your own material. Think about the things we leave behind. Tell us about a time you’ve left an object, place, person, or even an idea behind — and had to move on.
(I will be meditating on the different eras I have left behind as I have moved though life and music)
and finally,
Day 17: A map as your Muse. (Music has the ability to transport us to a particular time and place, so I will (attempt) to include maps along my music journey!)

I hope you enjoy my trip down Musical Memory Lane!

Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory.
~ Oscar Wilde ~

My first memories of music are whilst travelling in the back of Mum’s car. A particular song which Mum played almost on repeat, was Jimmy Cliff’s I Can See Clearly. I remember this song, not only for the way we’d sing along to it on our drives, but for the joke we’d tell inspired by it’s lyrics. The joke was about a man who was married to Lorraine, but was having an affair with a woman named Deirdre. The rather untrustworthy (and murderous) man decided to push his wife off of a cliff! Pleased with his efforts and making his way back to Deirdre’s house, he sang “I can see Deirdre now Lorraine has gone!”

Another favourite of Mum’s was Bryan Adams. Whilst most people will remember Mr Adams for Everything I Do, which remained at the Number 1 spot of the UK singles charts for a massive 16 consecutive weeks, I will mostly remember Bryan for Please Forgive Me. For reason’s unknown to me, I am moved to tears each time I listen to this song. When this song was released, my Mum had separated from my Dad. Since she played it so often, I guess part of me feels that she may have been singing this song to him. Although they parted, Mum always remained Dad’s friend and carer, and I know that for Mum, Dad was always ‘the one.’ I know she regrets separating from him for a man she no longer has anything to do with. One thing I do know, is that my Dad loved Mum until the day he died, and that he forgave Mum for moving on. I just wish Mum would forgive herself.

Other favourites of Mum’s were Wet Wet Wet, 10CC, Meatloaf and Cher. We were mostly driving in the car when listening to music with Mum, and so I haven’t included a map for these tracks.

Dad’s taste in music was less Pop inspired and more Rock n Roll, preferring to listen to bands such as Led Zeppelin and Dire Straights, with a few stand out solo artists who were favourites of his. One of my earliest memories of listening to music with Dad was when my eldsest sister and I, who were no more than six and eight at the time, would dance around the living room air-guitaring with him after school whilst Mum was at work. Message In A Bottle by Police particularly stands out as one of our most danced to tracks. Dad would shine the lamp at our feet in a make shift spot light and we’d rock out until Mum returned home and it was time for tea.

Another song from my youth that Dad would regularly sing to us was Purple Rain by Prince. I can’t listen to this song without being cast back to a memory of Dad with his dark shoulder length hair, strumming his imaginary guitar and becoming completely lost in the music. I am, again, moved to tears each time I listen to this song. But I love it for the memories and the emotion it ignites.

The house we lived at when we were rock stars.


Dad and I would be reunited in our shared music tastes later on in life, but in the meantime, it was time for me to discover my own individual taste in music. When I was about eleven, I remember hearing a band from Hull on the radio called The Beautiful South, and promptly asked for their album for Christmas. This was the first tape cassette I owned that wasn’t recorded straight from the radio’s Top 40. I would listen to it again and again until I knew all of their lyrics by heart. Don’t Marry Her was a favourite of mine for the simple fact that it had a swear word in it, which implied there would be some ‘bonking’ going on. At the tender age of eleven, it seemed rather daring to listen to this song with headphones on whilst Mum watched Coronation Street, blissfully unaware of the music content she’d purchased for her daughter. The lewd content of my music, however, did become more apparent when I bought the Marshall Mathers LP and no longer felt the need to wear headphones to hide my rebellious side! For now, however, the suggestive lyrics of The Beautiful South were plentiful enough to make me snigger at what they insinuated, even if I didn’t fully grasp the extent of the meaning just yet. Whilst there are many songs by The Beautiful South that I love, I can only post one here, and so have chosen One Last Love Song on the basis that I’m a hopeless romantic who hopes that the guy gets the girl in the end.

A female singer-song writer who I’d heard through a good friend of mine became very influential to me when I was around the age of 16. At the time I was living next door to my previous house on 54 Barleycroft, and now lived at number 56 with my Gran. I wont provide a map since it was only one door along the same street. My Mum and (now two) sisters no longer lived next door and lived about a fifteen minute drive away. Dad lived alone in a one bed apartment in the next town. I had gone to live with my Gran because Mum and I were fighting an awful lot. We were, I guess, just two hot-headed females who desperately wanted to feel loved by one another but didn’t know how. Gran suggested I move in with her, and for that, I was very grateful. But I also felt so lost and lonely and misunderstood. For a young hormonal teenager, being separated from the rest of the family left me feeling like an outcast and I ended up gravitating towards the wrong crowd in a desperate bid to fit in. My sensible friends didn’t get why I didn’t live at home, or why my parents weren’t together, and it was just easier to hang around with ‘friends’ who didn’t ask questions. Who seemed more confused and troubled than I was. I began to date a guy who was older than me and I suspect he was into some dodgy dealings. I began drinking and smoking marijuana, which only heightened my pain and confusion. I felt lonelier than ever. During these times, Tracy Chapman was my comfort. Many a nights I cried myself to sleep to Baby Can I Hold You and I would dream of escaping in my Fast Car. A year later I did escape. Not in a fast car, but in an aeroplane to Spain.


Within a week of moving to Spain, I met a girl named Katie who was also from England. Like me, she had no family there, other than her Scottish boyfriend, Cameron, who she always seemed to have a troubled relationship with. I think she was pleased to have some female company; we’d often go shopping or dancing together, spending long lazy days on the beach. At seventeen and nineteen years of age, we were troubled, yet care free – both trying to find our place in the world, and so found comfort in each others company. Katie and I quickly became friends. So much so, that within three months I’d moved in with her and Cameron, and Cameron’s Dad, to help them (and of course me) with reduced rental cost.  However, shortly after I moved in, Katie came to me in tears and told me that she and Cameron had separated – that she’d be moving out. I was, of course, sad to see her leave, I’d never felt comfortable around Cameron and his Dad. Two weeks later, Katie was dead. We found her in her apartment the morning after her nineteenth birthday. I was, of course, completely traumatized by Katie’s death. At seventeen, Katie dying was my first real experience of losing someone. Katie’s death was treated as suspicious, I was scared and frightened and had to give a statement to the police. Still, to this day, we never truly discovered what caused Katie to die. Her boyfriend was sent to prison but was released on bail and returned to Scotland. We never heard more after that despite our inquiries, the Spanish police didn’t want to release any information to us. During this time I found comfort in Puff Daddy’s Missing You. Eventually, I had no choice but to simply move on. But I will always remember Katie for her kind and caring friendship, and for her sweet giggle. Nineteen was far too young for her to leave this world.

There came a period in Spain where I felt a sudden urge to move home for a while. After two years of living on the Costa Del Sol working as a waitress, I felt that I was being wasted. Working in a bar was fun, but I didn’t want to waitress for the rest of my life. I’d dropped out of college to move to Spain, and at the age of nineteen, felt the need to get some further education under my belt. I came home and studied a computing course for four months from November to February. Little did I know at the time that this would be my last Christmas spent with my Dad.


During my brief return home, Dad and I rekindled our shared love of music. Still separated from my Mum, Dad would sleep over at Mum’s place at the weekends so he could spend time with his family. Our favourite bands at the time were Oasis, Travis, Keane, Maroon 5 and Coldplay. Coldplay was an all time favourite of ours and in the past when Dad had come over to visit, we’d regularly fall to sleep listening to their first album, Parachutes – Dad in the bottom bunk, me in the top. So it was natural that we would play this album again when I returned from Spain, along with some of their newer music. It’s hard to choose just one track of Coldplay’s that reminds me of my Dad, but the final song of the Parachutes album, Everything’s Not Lost (which includes a hidden song at the end) seems fitting.

Once I had completed my computing course, I returned to Spain in hope of better employment prospects. Three months later, I received the dreaded phone call with news that my gentle Dad had died. It was, to say the least, the most excrutiating experience of my life, and anyone suffering from the loss of a loved one will empathise greatly. Even today, I still feel that I connect with my Dad through music. Sometimes it’s the only way I can feel close to him. That, and through my writing. One of Dad’s all time favourite artists was Bob Dylan, so it seemed fitting that we would play Bob Dylan at Dad’s funeral. Forever Young is therefore the 9th song in this playlist. I have blogged about Foerever Young previously, and so you can listen to the song and its significance to me here.

“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

— Maya Angelou

The final song in my playlist is One by Shapeshifter. After I lost my Dad I traveled Australia, Thailand and finished up in Christchurch, New Zealand. I moved to New Zealand completely alone, I literally didn’t know a single soul when I arrived there. As much as I fell in love with New Zealand, it was, at times, very lonely. That was, until I bumped into my current partner of almost six years, Mark. Being a lover of Angel Oracle cards and the guidance they bring, they showed me that Mark was my ‘answered prayer’ and my ‘twin flame’ (which basically means soul mate in Angel Card speech!) A song Mark would often play to me, and that we still play today, is One. This song fills me with hope, with courage and reminds me that I am never truly alone.


Thank you for journeying with me through my life in music. Which songs resonate with you and why?

A Heavy Departure

Writing 101, Day 14: Recreate a single day
Write a post that takes place during one single day. Zoom in even further, limiting yourself to just one hour of your chosen day.

door ajar

It is the early hours of the morning. Mum waits downstairs with my case, ready to take me to the airport. Time to return to Spain – to return to the man I love and will eventually become engaged to. A man I shall never marry; a man I eventually part from with no regrets.

I creep into the room where my Dad sleeps, the aftermath of last night’s argument heavy in my heart. I peer at the man I am leaving behind. A man I love dearly; a man I shall part from with a lifetime of regrets.

I kiss Dad gently on his cheek, startling him from his sleep. I whisper, ‘Goodbye, I’m leaving now.’ As Dad murmurs, drifting between sleep and consciousness, I tip toe from the room, taking with me all of my heartache – all of my regrets. I close the door, unaware that this is the last time I will see Dad alive.

***

“Have you got everything?”
“Yes.” We walk up the garden path, the sound of my suitcase harsh and uninviting, the quiet of the morning disturbed by its heavy drag.
“You sure? You haven’t forgotten anything?” A sigh, a glance towards the bedroom window, a sinking feeling.
“…No.”

Faded Photograph

I like to finish what I started, even if it is a month after Writing 101 ended. In the wise words of Ben Huberman, ‘Self-flagellation shouldn’t be part of the writing process — all of us have work, family, and other obligations to attend to. Our lives are complicated, which is why they’re worth blogging about in the first place. (It’s also why you should never start a post with “Sorry I haven’t posted in so long!”‘ With that said, I will be picking up where I left off with no apologies.

I first heard about six word stories whilst browsing through the archives of one of my favorite blogs here on WordPress, Stranger In a Strange Mind. I just love the way this diverse and exceptional writer captures a sense of thrill and fear in so few words. Check out his six word story here. It got me thinking about how sometimes the untold parts of the story are what makes the tale so thought provoking, allowing the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imagination.

Whilst sifting through some of my belongings over Christmas in preparation for my move to Australia, I was prompted to write my own six word story.

Writing 101, Day 13: Play with word count

Beholding the faded photograph; she wept.

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xx

Think.

Writing 101, Day 12: Critique a piece of work.

Today, express your opinion on a topic or a piece of work. This is your opportunity to comment on something you’re passionate about, or review a piece of art or entertainment that you love or despise.

When I first read this prompt, my initial thoughts were: who am I to critique the creativity of another? And then I remembered that not all critique is negative. However, for some reason, when I think of the word ‘critique’, I am reminded of the many ways in which people criticise and vilify one another; our co-workers; that person we saw on the television last night; our children; our spouses; the lady on the bus! Sometimes we don’t even realise we are doing it… But why do we criticise others? It is as though we believe tearing shreds out of one another will make us feel better.

I am not immune to this and have expressed opinions I have later regretted, particularly in my teenaged years when I simply followed the crowd and was far less aware of the power of my words. As I have grown, so has my compassion for others. These days, if I catch myself or another being insensitive or narrow minded, then I will simply remove myself from the situation, or speak up should I feel it necessary. Quite often we get caught up in the moment and we forget to be that beacon of light – our true authentic selves.

Working alongside children, it becomes easier to notice the effect our words have on others. Even a seemingly harmless comment made in jest can have a profound effect on the way children see themselves and the world around them. Although we become thicker skinned as we get older, we are still, as adults, sensitive to criticism. That is why I believe that critique should always uplift and inspire, that our feedback should allow one another to grow, to evolve and expand; it should never cause ridicule or upset.

Next time we catch ourselves or someone else criticising a friend’s recent weight gain, or the lady from the television who seems to have gone overboard with her plastic surgery, let us be mindful of the deeper issues that may have contributed to their actions in the first place. Could it be that outside criticism has driven our friend to take comfort in food as a way of filling the void? Maybe the lady from the television has been made to feel ugly all of her life and has changed her appearance in an attempt to fit in and feel accepted? Equally, is it necessary to provide negative feedback about someone else’s work/painting/book/production? Of course we are entitled to our opinions, our unique likes and dislikes are what make us human and differentiate us from everyone else – but what doesn’t speak to my heart may speak volumes to another. That is why I take little notice of book or film reviews; they are, after all, just personal opinions.

So in a world that, at times, feels clouded with criticism, prejudice and judgement, let us refrain from following the crowd and stand up for what we believe in. Let it be that our words, thoughts and actions uplift, inspire and empower others, not tear them apart.

Peace be with you.

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