A Letter to My Younger Self

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Dear Hayley,

It’s me, Hayley. Your future you. I wanted to write to you because, well, I guess there are some things you don’t know yet that I think may help you along the way. Let’s begin at the start shall we?

See that photo? That’s you on the day you were born, all red faced and new in your Dad’s arms. In years to come, when he is gone (don’t panic – you have nineteen more years together before that happens…), you will look at this photo a lot; at the way his hands, which are almost as big as your body, are holding you tight in case he drops you. You’ll wish you could remember being held as you look longingly at the presence of you both together. Don’t worry – see how Dad is looking down on you even though your eyes are closed tight? Your eyes do open eventually… And when they do, you can see the bigger picture. Although there are many years of feeling bereft, in time, you do heal. So don’t fret little one – he’s with you now, just enjoy the warmth of his embrace.

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This is your first birthday. (Healthy right?) This is pretty much your diet growing up as a kid. In fact, you’ll eat nothing but white stodgy stuff right up until the age of about eighteen. It’s surprising you don’t resemble a loaf of bread really! (And by the way, you go through a really weird phase of eating nothing but instant noodles and meatballs.) But fear not, after much trial and error you finally discover the beauty of fresh ingredients, and by the time you are thirty one, you are eating a diet rich in wholefoods – you’re even eating organic! (I know – madness right?) But I just want you to know that you’ll be ok and that miraculously, you manage to avoid any fillings or cavities despite the copious amounts of fizzy pop you’ll consume far into your late teens. In fact, you haven’t drunk a drop of sugary beverage for the last seven years! Can you believe it? I still don’t know how you manage to survive not drinking a drop of water until you turn eighteen??? But you do. And now you can’t get enough of the stuff!

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This is your first school photo. I don’t know how it became all speckled like that, but it looks as though you have a terrible case of the measles. Behind your smile is a frightened little girl. This is the year you first witnessed Dad have an epileptic fit and it’s made you very fearful. You’re scared of the dark, of sleeping on your own, you still wet the bed and you’re even scared of your soft cuddly toys because you think they come to life at night! You hallucinate quite a bit and have scary dreams too… But I’m here to tell you that everything will be alright. I know it makes you sad when Mum won’t let you sleep in her bed; I know you lie awake all night in terror that something will eat you… But I promise that you won’t get killed by the freaky looking pot doll Mum bought you, and you don’t need to long jump into your bed in case an arm pops out from beneath it to grab your ankles and swallow you up! You are totally safe. And yes, there will be times in your teens, shortly after Dad dies, that you begin to have nightmares again. In fact, you will experience a year of terrible insomnia, but you get through it and, although you are still a light sleeper, you now have a healthy sleep routine. You’re even brave enough to walk to the toilet in the dark! (I won’t lie, your heart does beat a little fast as you do) – but the affirmations you say whilst tip-toeing down the hallway help! I am safe. I am protected. All is well…  And all is well!

Hayley - film (5)

Heyyyyy twenty year old you! Don’t you look fresh? But behind that smile is a sadness so great I can almost feel it rendering me paralysed again now… In fact – here is another shot taken whilst you were off guard, and it reveals the true emptiness behind your eyes and your smile.

Hayley - film (2)

You are numb. You are confused and your heart is heavy. You are also smoking a lot (thank God you’ve stopped that filthy habit) and drinking to numb the pain. Recreational drugs are taking their toll on your relationships and your job. You feel as though life is grim and grey and it is. You have recently lost your gentle giant, and Dad’s absence weighs heavily on your heart. Why pretend you are happy when you are not? It’s ok to feel grief, it’s ok to feel pain – just roll with it, everything is in divine order. I want you to know that things do improve. You have a few more years of losing yourself in drugs and alcohol, and unhealthy relationships. So if I could give you any advice right now, it would be to stop putting on a brave face. Stop worrying that your grief will effect others. This stuffing down of your emotions is causing you to turn to external ‘pleasures’ and false sensory highs. You needn’t numb the feelings. It’s ok to allow them to just be. I know you feel lost, I know you feel lonely and misunderstood, but this, in time, will pass.

hayley-paris

And this? This is me (you) now. (Well – actually that photo was taken last year in Paris) but still! – this is you at thirty one! Not as bad as you thought eh? How could you ever think thirty was old?

So a little of your life now…You are learning to love yourself. In fact, most days you look in the mirror and say, I love you Hayley. And guess what? You actually mean it! Some days it’s harder than others, but deep down you know that at your very core you are love. You have replaced drugs and alcohol with yoga and meditation. You love to spend time in nature (just as you did when you were little.) And you are a teacher too! You love working with children and seeing the world through their eyes. In fact, it has reminded you of the importance of embracing your own inner child and to follow your childhood dreams of becoming an author (just like Roald Dahl! Remember?) You write again and feel so much joy when you do. You have neglected your passion for drawing and sketching – but we can look for an art class here in Melbourne if you like?! (Oh yes – you now live in Australia!) And behind that lens is your best friend and man of six years, Mark.

It’s been a journey of self-discovery, of learning to love and be loved. But do you know what? You finally feel joy again. You have a deep and profound gratitude for life. You’ve discovered your true nature, your authentic self, and with that comes a knowing far greater than ever imagined – a knowledge that you are whole, connected, one – despite being imperfectly you. Dad is in your heart, you are in his, and that, my dear child, will never change.

Love always,

Hayley xx

My Music Map

music

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?

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

Home

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Writing 101, Day 3: One-word inspiration

Sometimes, a single word is all you need to get your mind’s wheels turning.

The word I chose was ‘home’. I must still be in the mindset of last month’s Poetry 201 Challenge since I decided to write in the form of a poem. I have never seen myself as a poet, yet I do hope you enjoy my take on ‘home’.

Tell me, where is home?
Is it the place that one has always known?
Or the place where time is spent the most
In between travelling from coast to coast?

And tell me, am I alone,
That I should not identify with home?
Those familiar scents of toast and wood,
Reviving memories of all things good.

And please Sir, what of home,
If you should spend your days there all alone?
No callers since your family has flown.
Would this remain your safe, sacred home?

What say you? What is home?
For should I settle and no longer roam,
I shall coin a bosom to safely lay
A fine home of heart to see out my days.

Travelling Heart

Poetry Day 5: Map, Ode, Metaphor

In keeping with the Ode form, I attempted to inject the use of archaic language. Please excuse any errors (and point them out if there are any!) I wanted to add another verse to this before bed – but my housemate is having an extremely loud conversation which is penetrating my creativity levels (and one must eat) : /

the-lonely-road-wallpaper-1

Sustaining tender life of mine from deep within
my Mother’s womb; long ere all knowledge of my own existence.
Bearing gifts of renewal; O, a new life to begin.

More than a mere muscle beating; with quickened pace
Your unguarded wishes race to thy heavenly skies
Conveying to it every which place we traverse in time and space.

O, heart – O compass guiding – where to from here?
Must I travel with no sense of home each passing year?

The Fallen City

Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You

Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.

How does that make you feel?

Consider your voice again.

Tuesday 22nd February, Christchurch, New Zealand.

She had visited 5 months prior, in September, while we were sound asleep in our beds. She shook our TV from the unit and shattered our wall mirror just shortly after 4:30am. She left the whole city talking, wondering; making her presence known with the occasional tremor here and there. And then she seemed to depart. The ground settled, and as the rumbles became less frequent – life, once again, returned to normal. Mother Nature’s visit in the early hours of the morning had almost been forgotten; but when she returned five months later – she came with a vengeance.

The day she decided to unleash her fury – I was standing in the staff room on the top floor of our five storey office building in Christchurch, New Zealand. I had lived in Christchurch for almost a year; a move I’d made after flipping heads for New Zealand three times in a row with a dollar coin. The move proved to be a happy one – I had already met my current partner of five years and had fallen completely head over heels in love with him, his accent and his beautiful home town. With its stunning landscapes and mesmerising sunsets – Christchurch was truly breath-taking. From the kitchen at work, we had a striking 180 degree view of the vibrant central business district and its surrounding countryside – and from the main office space, we could see the other magnificent 180 degree view.

“Do you fancy coming to Cashel Mall with me?” Kelly asked. Kelly liked walking on her lunch breaks – she could survive a nine hour shift on an apple and just a few nuts and seeds. I, on the other hand, would pack at least two or three Tupperware containers of food to sustain me; I politely declined. I much preferred to fill my boots with food whilst admiring the view in the thirty minutes permitted off of the phones. Occasionally, I would pop around the corner to the Sushi Bar below, it was close enough to eat and still feel somewhat rested before returning to the relentless monotony of dialling. In the past when I’d wandered a little further afield to grab some fresh air – I’d returned to the office to find the evil red tea cup flashing rudely on my computer screen, the numbers counting down into the negatives as a reminder that I was late! Cashel Mall was a good ten minute walk away – logic told me that by the time we reached the mall and had a brief look around that it would be time to come back. Thankfully, Kelly decided that she didn’t want to go alone – a decision that quite possibly saved her life.

I tipped my healthy stir fry onto a plate ready to zap it with a deathly dose of electromagnetic waves – and that’s when I felt it. It began as a steady, rhythmic pulsating motion, growing with sudden and rapid intensity. I barely had time to react. I dropped to my knee and sheltered beneath the narrow breakfast bar behind me, clinging tightly as I was wrenched back and forth; my shoulders screaming with the sheer force of her wrath. I was pinned to the ground by her violent rocking, unable to stand or move of my own accord. My knee slid back and forth across the metal rail that separated tile from carpet, as the building swayed and jolted beneath me. A freshly boiled pot of noodles ran across the same spot, burning at my torn flesh – I could see it but couldn’t feel it – the pain masked by the adrenaline surging through my veins as I contemplated the end. I’d like to think that I thought something significant in that moment – but truth be told, my initial thoughts were Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! I was then overtaken with an innate instinct to survive. I fell completely silent and simply held on tight, listening to the crashing of ceramic plates as they flung from the cupboards with each ferocious jolt. I could hear the frightened screams of my colleagues, but was unable to budge until the juddering finally came to a halt. My chest contained a charging rhino which threatened to break out and bolt at any moment. I was up within seconds, my eyes scanning the disarrayed office for any casualties – apart from a few stunned faces, there was nobody in any serious or critical condition.

Some stayed to do a head count, but myself and a younger, pregnant girl took the stairs – neither of us wanting to risk being in the building should an aftershock strike. With bated breath, we descended the five flights of stairs. No words were spoken, both of us intent on reaching the bottom before she struck again. When we finally reached the exit, the frames surrounding the glass doors were so twisted that we were unable to escape. Passers-by noticed, and one man freed us by breaking the glass with some fallen debris. Though relieved to be out of the building – nothing could prepare us for what we were met with once outside.

Standing on the pavement, it quickly became apparent that not everyone’s buildings had withstood the earth’s tremendous jolts. Our relief at escaping our office soon faded as we entered the sea of frightened faces wandering around in a state of shock. All around, buildings had fallen like decks of cards; piles of rubble strewn across the pavements. My mind raced as I tried to come to terms with what lay beneath the wreckage. The Sushi place that I visited weekly was now a pile of bricks; the Newsagents beside it was nothing but rubble, its yellow sign broken in half. I began to tremble, feeling utterly helpless. A wave of guilt ran through me as I realised that, although I had survived, many others had not. I was shook from my state of shock as fresh bouts of aftershocks hit the city. A flurry of screams came from all around as people began to panic. The sound of sirens was deafening as ambulances and paramedics rushed to aid. A hand grabbed me through the crowd of people – it was Kelly urging me to safety. “Let’s get out of here,” she said. “It’s not safe.”

Many buildings were reduced to ruins

Many buildings were reduced to ruins“Let’s get out of here”, she said. “It’s not safe.”

We slowly made our way through the confused crowds, our feet becoming drenched from the mud and liquefaction which had risen through the cracks in the pavement. As we approached my Corolla, it was tire deep in mud and water. We stopped and glanced back over that woeful scene. To our horror, Christchurch Cathedral, which had stood so grand and majestic in the centre of Christchurch’s Cathedral Square, was now crumbled and in ruins; its broken spire a chilling reminder of the fallen city we were leaving behind.

185 lives were lost that day. One of them was Kelly’s friend Joe, who was crushed beneath falling debris whilst shopping in Cashel Mall. Witnessing her grief and heart ache was utterly soul destroying. Like me, she struggled with feelings of guilt; both unable to fully rejoice in our survival when so many others had been less fortunate. That being said, the devastation left by the earthquake certainly put life into perspective again, and I will forever feel immense gratitude that my loved ones, myself included, were spared that day. Life is truly precious.

So when prompted to imagine how I would feel if an important event was cancelled or taken over, truth be told, I can’t. When I think of the events of the February 22nd earthquake, and consider other countries who are facing and have faced the loss of their homes, their livelihoods and their loved ones as a result of natural disasters – a cancelled event, to me at least, seems mildly inconsequential.

Christchurch Cathedral after the February 22nd Eathquake

Christchurch Cathedral after the February 22nd Eathquake