Thursday, 10 October 2019

Stone's Throw Show, opening on World Mental Health Day 2019

Today October 10th 2019 is World Mental Health Awareness Day and I deliberately chose this date to open my new show Stone's Throw, Lament of The Selkie. 

The show is about many things- it's semi autobiographical- touching on my own experience of trauma and symptoms of PTSD-  it's rooted in folklore, myth and the stories of outsiders, it's peppered with real life verbatim recordings from women in Wales and across the world who contributed their thoughts on identity and experiences of motherhood- its a show that celebrates the power of art to challenge and help to heal, but ultimately it is a show about stories... 

There is something so profoundly stirring and deeply humanising in the connections we make through stories.  As a singer songwriter, I’ve been sharing stories through song for over 20 years, but this is my debut (as a writer and performer) in Gig-Theatre. In 2017, I wrote a 10 part blog series exploring my experiences of injury, birth trauma and post-partum health issues. I was both moved and intrigued when I began to receive messages from women who had resonated with my experiences and wanted to share their own stories with me. It was these responses that spurred me to create this show. Birth trauma and post partum health issues are too often the stories that go untold, still often regarded as taboo. I had already touched on many of these themes in my 2015 Stone’s Throw, Lament of the Selkie, album release, but felt that there was still so much that I could do to, reach further into these ideas. Having anchored the initial narrative in autobiography, the medium of theatre has enabled me to expand my own story, blurring fiction and reality in order to create a space to give voice to diverse yet often untold stories that women experience.

For more info on the show and to book tickets please visit:

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

The Story Behind The Stone's Throw Show

I’ve been invited by the venues that I'm touring to this October to write a little about the back-story behind my new show, Stone’s Throw, Lament Of the Selkie. Having been a full time singer songwriter and touring artist over the last 20 years, this is my first venture into the world of theatre and I am thrilled to have received support of Arts Council Wales in order to make the piece. This is the full unedited version of the copy that I have sent out to venues. 

The back-story behind, Stone’s Throw, Lament Of The Selkie.

The idea of a collaborative storytelling piece focusing on a retelling of selkie mythology first occurred way back in 2011, when composer Gillian Stevens introduced me to the folklore tales of these shape-shifting seal folk. But this project was to be short lived as a few months later I was immobile and house bound, having sustained injuries to my hip and back after falling from stage while on tour in rural Italy. The fall was traumatic in itself, but what compounded it all was the fact that I was also 24 weeks pregnant when this happened.

My tour colleague Dylan Fowler told me that he’ll never forget the sound body made as it smacked the ground- it was stone-marble flooring…I felt pins and needles up and down my spine. Fortunately my baby was unharmed, I’d twisted so I landed on my hip and back, not my bump… but the accident left me very damaged. The Drs suspected that I had a hairline fracture on my hip- and my muscles locked in spasms leaving me with severely limited mobility for the duration of my pregnancy and beyond. This fall had a domino effect…the first of several waves of trauma that occurred over the following months that led to severe birth complications and postpartum health issues and in the end it me took years to recover. There was a time when my muscles were so atrophied that I could barely hold a note in tune- and my back would begin to spasm after holding a guitar for 30 seconds and I wondered if I’d ever be able to tour and play music again. And here’s where the selkie’s come in... During this time I began to revisit the folklore myths and found myself resonating with many of the themes that lay within these ancient tales. A selkie finding herself trapped on land in human form unable to return to her seal state of being, struck a chord with my own sense of being trapped by the limitations of my broken body… Slowly I began to write my 4th solo album- a process that took a further 3 years to complete and alongside this I continued to work at my own physical and mental recovery. Lucy Rivers played violin on the album and at this time we began to discuss performing the songs in a more theatrical way.

Then one evening in 2017 I found myself writing- 10,000 words, the full story of all the events of my unravelling. Tentatively I shared the sections as a blog posts and was met with an unprecedented response from women who resonated with my story. I began to receive messages from women from around the world, sharing their own stories with me. I began to perceive that there was a need for these stories to be given a public platform as the subject of birth trauma is rarely explored on stage and is still often seen as a taboo subject. So, last year 2018 teamed I up with Lucy Rivers for a research and development project to explore merging my own experiences with the a contemporary retelling of selkie myths. Alongside this I invited women to send me their own stories relating to birth and identity. The research and development project went well- positive responses from both venue bookers and all who engaged in the project. In response to this I set to work at applying for the next round of funding to make the show. The funding bid, was rejected. I was gutted- the comments from the funders were very positive however ( even though the project was rejected) and so despite disappointments and the massive amount of work and time that would be required to   submit again, I pragmatically decided to have another push at the same funding... and am thrilled that this time I was successful. So now this autumn 2019, we are finally making the full-length show… 

Below are some recent shots and videos of rehearsals with Lucy Rivers. 

Directed by Louise Osborn and featuring myself and actor-musician Lucy Rivers, the performance combines music, songs, spoken-word and storytelling against a backdrop of large-scale visual projections and bespoke verbatim recordings of women’s birth stories and broader thoughts on identity. The show is an intimate, stirring, but ultimately uplifting exploration of the ongoing process of rebuilding after an experience of trauma.
Tour Dates
October 10th 2019, Stwidio Stepni, Ffwrnes, Llanelli
October 11th 2019, Seligman Theatre- Chapter, Cardiff
October 12th 2019, Seligman Theatre- Chapter, Cardiff (AD and touch tour available for this performance)
October 16th Span Arts @- Ysgol Caerelen- Haverford West
February 5th 2020, The Welfare, Ystradgynlais

(additional dates now being added for 2020)

For more information please visit 

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

The General Relativity Of Success And Failure

I was very sad yesterday. One of the projects that I was hoping to be working on next year with poet Susan Richardson, didn't get its funding. We'd been shortlisted after the 1st round of applications and had, had some very positive encouragement from the funders, but this round was unfortunately unsuccessful. I know so many folks who know all about the highs and lows of the funding game- but as I've been posting a fair bit about successes lately I thought I'd keep it real and post about the disappointment also.

Most of the time it’s a gamble being creative. You do it, but you have no idea how things are going to be received. You hope that what you’re making will fly, knowing full well that the opposite is always possible and that your creations might fail, flop, crash and burn. Sometimes they do fail. Sometimes things go quite well, but not as well as you’d hoped. Sometimes they’re incredibly well received, but that doesn’t translate into anything substantial beyond the moment of critical acclaim, and occasionally everything seems to come together at the right time, in the right way and all is hunky dory… till the next time you create…. And then it’s back to square one all over again… 

I am still waiting on the results of another funding application for my big Stone's Throw, Lament of the Selkie project next year. It's hard to hold it all lightly, knowing that all the planning and dreaming may not work out in the way that I want it to, or maybe even in the way it deserves to. I was aware that last time I was successful with R&D funding, that for all my joy and excitement there were many worthy and exciting ideas that didn’t get to be made. How sad this business is that we’re all scrabbling round and forced to compete to be able to realize the creative visions we have.

On the up side of things Susan and I following this funding rejection are still going to find a way to make some new work together and will be plotting the next strategy for this soon.

Anyway, yesterday I needed a bit of space to lick my wounds. I walked away from what I had planned to be working on as I found I couldn’t focus very well and instead I ended up writing a new song about Jackie Leven. And now today I find myself asking if I would I have written this same song, without the disappointment of failure? Did something new get born from the frustration of yesterday’s crushed hope? Could this have existed without it?   

Jackie (for folks who don’t know about him) was a Fife born singer-songwriter, who started out in rock outfit Doll by Doll (after having to leave his hometown because of local gang violence). After a tumultuous time, with the band imploding and a serious mugging that damaged his larynx and nearly cost him his voice, Jackie became addicted to heroin… Eventually Jackie managed to get himself clean, created The Clore Trust charity to help addicts and headed out onto the road as as a blues- tinged, balladeer in the tradition of artists like Kevin Coyne.

Jackie, like Kevin Coyne, observed the lows, the grime, the seedy, the pain, the mundane and the obscene. Always a storyteller and often hilarious, Jackie wove a tapestry of complex broken characters within his songs, but in doing so he gave them dignity and a spark of beauty.  

I met Jackie when I opened for him back in 2007 at the Barfly in Cardiff. I’d heard many stories of both praise and disdain about him from other artists, but on the night I met him, he was a lovely person and an extraordinary performer. Bill and I walked away from that gig commenting that it was a crime that Jackie wasn’t more well known, it certainly wasn’t for lack of showmanship, musicality or ability. Riding the rollercoaster of success and failure Jackie, sometimes spoke of his own disappointments that his work hadn't had the recognition over the years that others had achieved. He also spoke of the ongoing need for rejection of comparison. He followed the muse and made the work and that in itself was success... the comparison game is a battle every artist faces, no matter how successful...It takes a lot of conscious effort not to be continually dragged into and down by it. 

The day I found out that Jackie died, I was working on my Selkie project in its original form, a collaboration with composer Gill Stevens who had introduced me to the folklore tales. Gill and I stopped for lunch and suddenly we heard an enormous bang. A blackbird had crashed into her glass conservatory roof and died. Moments later as Dylan, Gill’s husband carried the dead bird away I saw the news on my social media feed that Jackie had also died.

It is just a week since the 7th anniversary of Jackie’s death.

My original Selkie project with Gill also didn’t get it’s funding. We then planned instead to create a streamlined version of it that would be performed on my return from touring in Italy. It was to be the last project before the birth of our daughter and it was another outcome that didn’t work out as planned. During that tour in Italy I fell from the stage and injured myself and lost my ability to perform for a season…

Life is funny....The letting go of that incarnation of the project was painful yet it led to a completely different version of a Selkie project, which in turn led to my album, which in turn played a part in my mental recovery, (see the 10 part Turbulence blog series on that) which in turn led to this years arts council funded R&D project, which has led to me putting in the application for the big grant to create the full touring show…Which may or may not happen…

Yesterday’s disappointment brought into sharp focus the reality of the fact that I might not be successful in this next round of funding for the Selkie project…

But I will cross that bridge in a few weeks time- when I come to it.

In the meantime, today has been a day for pragmatism… I’m still sad that specifics of my project with Susan won’t be realised in the way I’d intended them to at this time. It’s hard not to feel deeply frustrated after all the effort and time that goes into applications not amounting to equivalent outcomes, but I can’t stay in that place- I know it too well and I know that it won’t help me to stay there… Today I need to pick myself up, dust myself down and reassert my perspective on the general relativity of success and failure…

So for now I’ll just remember Jackie and focus on the fact that I have written a new song.
(I’ll see about recording a version of it soon)

Here’s a link to Paul Du Noyer’s excellent in depth article on Jackie Leven

Author Ian Rankin on Jackie Leven

Here’s Jackie’s own tribute to Kevin Coyne, anotherr hugely underrated artist... 

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Liberating Rapunzel (Confession of a 6yr old)

Earlier this year I attended a series of creative writing workshops and at one point during one of the sessions we had to do some free writing based on a childhood memory. 
I found myself writing about an incident that happened just after my 6th birthday when I was about to move from Nottingham back to Australia.

I had a favourite library book of Rapunzel, retold and illustrated by Jutta Ash.  

It was a book that we continuously checked out so that I could re-read it again and again. It was mostly the pictures that I loved and I would pour over them repeatedly. The story was based on the original Grim Brothers version that is a lot darker than the modern day Tangled rendition of the tale. In the retelling, Rapunzel is a musician who sings from her tower and captivates the heart of the prince riding by. Interestingly in this version of the story he doesn't ever rescue or save Rapunzel- they both end up banished, separated and in the wilderness until ultimately the power of Rapunzel's song brings them back together once more, along with the twins that Rapunzel has happened to have given birth to in the woods! (There is much that could be unpacked here: is this a really a story about teenage pregnancy... or the power of rock n roll? But I'll leave all that for another day)  

Part of me suspects, that for me personally herein these pages lies an early identification with my own desire to make music. Did I look at the image of Rapunzel and see the ultimate folk singer? The Pre Raphaelite version of Joni Mitchell? Or maybe it was always just my own desire to catch myself a partner? (My singing certainly managed to play a part in captivating Bill my husband to be when we met, sooo many years ago!) 

Anyway back in Nottingham in the run up to the big move there was a moment when I was requested by my slightly frazzled mum, to help her by putting a few of my favourite books and toys that were selected to be shipped, into boxes. I spotted Rapunzel on a separate pile with a stack of other books that we had to return to the library. I can remember the frustrated, disappointment that I would have to give up this book and after a brief battle with my conscience I sneakily hid the Rapunzel library book into the box with the items that would be shipped. 

And so this Rapunzel book has stayed with me through every move back and forth across the world that I’ve made since that day 35 years ago. I think in my own way I was claiming a little piece of life for myself in the midst of all the letting go... and now it sits on my 6yr old daughter's shelves. 
(She quite likes it, but is generally much more fond of her space books!)  

Here’s the free-write as it came out during the workshop a few months ago…

Liberating Rapunzel
(Confession of a 6yr old girl)

I am climbing the stairs.
“Pack up your books” she said.
The boxes are ready
The piles are stacked high…
And I?
I am aware of the pile to my left
Smaller than the rest
She has put them there,
“These are not to be packed”
They’ll be returned
The last library trip
Before we leave”

And I didn’t have a name for it
But looking back, I can recognise

Rapunzel, the girl with the long golden hair
I so loved the words and the pictures of her
And I know that I shouldn’t,
And I know it’s a sin
To take something that isn’t mine
I love this book
With the patterned spine

Rapunzel she liked to break the rules
Letting that boy into her bedroom…

And so I choose

I choose to accidentally remove her from the pile
They’ll never find us
I justify
I can always pretend that I didn’t know
That somehow this was the one that got away

And Rapunzel she liked it
And so did I
Guilty, but without regret
I stash and pack her 5 books deep
And watch as the packing tape
Seals her fate
And so Rapunzel gets to leave her tower
And I am her liberator
But I worry that I have buried her
Am I really her traitor? 
It's a long way to travel
to Australia
“I’ll see you on the other side”
I whisper in my mind, while rehearsing my surprise...

“Oh mum look,
 We never took back this library book!”

Monday, 4 June 2018

Under This Blue

I grew up near the coast in Western Australia and I also grew up in the landlocked English midlands of Robin Hood territory, Nottingham.
I lived in both places, two separate times and moved within each of them a total of 13 times before I’d reached 12. So much moving in early childhood created an undercurrent of trying to figure out my place in an unfamiliar landscape that flowed through much of my life.

It was a childhood yo-yoing between,
Sunburn, wide, open skies, barefoot running on scorching beach sand
Suburban grey, low hanging cloud.
Chilblain fingers of the icicle window-pane, winters
That we shivered through, in our joined up houses.
“Ay-up me duck”-
Took over from
“How’s it goin?”
I had to remember that lollies were made of ice in England
Although they were sweets in Australia,
And chips were crisps unless they were hot
(This is vital information to assimilate in childhood)…
Then later as a 12 year old –
Flip-flops were definitely not thongs in Nottingham
And more importantly “Spunky” is not the word to use to describe the boy you think is good looking. (as that's just taking it to a whole new level!) 

The ocean however, has always felt like home. 

In my early years the Australian beach was something I took for granted.
I remember watching electric storms over the water. 
Swimming in the evening to try and cool down during a heat wave….
 All the waves… Diving into them, getting dumped by the big ones, rolling over and over, feeling as though I would drown, But I loved it.
I loved being in the water, imagining myself as a mermaid.
My hands would wrinkle and I’d always be the last one out.
My parents yelling,
“Time to go now, Rachel get out, it’s time to go!”

It’s easy to romanticize the Aussie life, but when I was there, I missed the green… the forests, seasons, the countryside and the old buildings and narrow roads. I missed my grandmother and her well-spoken, good-mannered, kindness and probably most of all, I missed her big old farmhouse surrounded by fields.

It was a childhood of contrasts.
It was a childhood of leaving.
It was a childhood of arrival.
It was a childhood of grieving…

Memories… Some we cherish and some sneak up on us triggered by sight or sound or word or smell or face.

There was one particular summer that my mind holds onto.
I was becoming a good swimmer.
I’d won some races in the pool at school.
My Dad began taking me to the beach in the mornings before school.
He’d sit on the sand and I would swim.
And there for 30 minutes I would wake up in the water, on my own.
Floating, splashing.
Red eyed.
I perfected my backward somersaults and my underwater handstands…

I was also in awe of the sea. As much as I loved it, it frightened me… I knew about sharks and I knew about currents and I knew about waves so big that there would be no chance that I could out swim them. I knew about jellyfish and seaweed and in all this knowing there was the understanding that this ocean that I loved, was not necessarily my friend. I had to be wise to it, if I was going to survive it.

In December 2011 I discovered that I was pregnant with our first child. Suddenly my own childhood began to sift my thoughts. I recalled my life of migration as I watched the refugee crisis unfolding within the world around me. I recalled the ocean and sensations of swimming, being submerged in water, as the fetus swam and turned somersaults inside me. I found myself returning to that summer in the sea, pin pointing the moments when I felt completely comfortable in my skin, doing my thing, being myself. Being part of the landscape, not just on it, or next to it, but actually in it, working with a force that was greater than myself... counting the waves as they washed over me, just as the child growing in me was at once herself but also a part of me, working with the life force of my body.

All this became the backdrop to my Somersaults song... 


Under this blue 
Back somersaults 
Who would miss me? 
And why so much? 
Keep staring up 
Keep drifting out 
Who would miss me? 
And know my touch 
Under this blue 
Under this blue 

Into this deep 
Head back and kick 
Tight to a ball 
Head back 
And fall 
Keep turning 
These summer 
Summer somersaults 

Today I have just signed my daughter up for swimming lessons. 
I wonder how she will take to it...

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Lament Of The Selkie (Research and Development Project)

As many of you know I was delighted to receive Research and Development funding from Arts Council Wales, with support and funding in kind from Llanelli's Fwrnes Theatre. The grant offered funding to explore turning my latest album Stone's Throw, Lament Of The Selkie into a multi art form performance.  I have been privileged to have spent 10 days of this last month collaborating with Gig Theatre expert Lucy Rivers of Gagglebabble, Autobiographical story telling expert Eleanor Shaw of People Speak Up  and socially engaged practitioner and Visual Artist Bill Taylor-Beales of Hushland Creative. (Yep the very same Bill I've been married to all these years.)

In order to do this the project explored ways of combining the mythological selkie story, with my autobiographical story of injury and immobility during pregnancy and the birth trauma that followed.  It wasn't easy trawling through the layers of my trauma again, but Lucy, Eleanor and Bill were incredibly compassionate and empathetic and enabled me to find processes to engage with the content.

Throughout the project we sought to find new collaborative and creative ways of retelling these stories through a combination of music, song, spoken word, storytelling and visual image. Our objective was to create the initial foundations for a full-length show that could be toured in the future.

Below are a few pictures of our initial collaborations, story boarding a script, that I later went on to develop into a first draft version of the show.

As part of the research element of the project, a session was held in collaboration with People Speak Up, providing discussion, consultation and conversation about the themes and content of the project, with women from the local community. The women were also invited to contribute their own voices, through audio and video that could be used in the final sharing performance piece. We also put a call out online for people to be involved in this aspect of the project and received input and contributions from women from all over the world. I'm so grateful to everyone who contributed, this aspect of the performance piece has really moved the project into deeper realms. For our next round of funding we're going to explore taking this idea into each location we perform in, so that we can create site and community specific elements to each performance. (See one of the videos we created below at the end of the blog.)

We shared our final work in progress on March 7th at the Stwidio Venue, of Ffwrnes Theatre. The Q &A discussion that followed the performance was enlightening as it became apparent that this content and subject matter of birth trauma is so rarely explored on stage. I have been staggered by the amount of positive feedback I've had throughout this project regarding the subject matter and need to hear stories that reflect the reality that so many women face.

So, now we are in the final stages of evaluating the project and looking at the next round of funding to fully produce the piece. I will be bringing on board  a director and script editor (dramaturgy the official word) to help further develop the stories as well as lighting and sound designers for phase 2. We're also going to develop the "women's voices"  community / audience development opportunities for each of the venues we perform in so that we can continue to include the voices of women that we encounter in each final performance.

Huge thanks to all who have been involved with each stage of this project, offering support, answering questions, sending me audio/ video and text, endorsements, attending the events and sharing the info on social media. A big shout out to Lucy Rivers, Eleanor Shaw and People Speak Up, Bill Taylor-Beales, Jonny Rees, Sharon Casey and all at Ffwrnes Theatre, Henry Rees and Arts Council Wales for enabling this all to happen.

I'll end the blog here with one of the videos we made that included women's voices both locally and globally. During the performance Lucy and I provided live music underscore, but we've added soundtrack here online to give a sense of the atmosphere that the music created to the visual images.

Stone's Throw Exit film with underscore... from Bill Taylor-Beales on Vimeo.



Friday, 1 September 2017

Turbulence Part 10: An Embracing

(Once more we’d boarded a long haul flight and were hitting those rough air currents again)

Towards the end of the first 12 months of our daughter’s life, Bill began to develop severe migraines, most likely triggered by sleep deprivation. As time went on these became chronic, until he faced them daily. Just as my strength was returning I went from being cared for to care giver in a complete role reversal. It was very difficult for all of us but I remember a sense of relief to be well enough in myself to be able to do this. Bill was and is incredible. I genuinely don’t know how he managed to keep working through what he was going through. My admiration knows no bounds for his persistence. Pain filled days, darkened rooms, lack of sleep… the pressure was heavy and unrelenting. I realised that I really couldn’t be out touring and on the road again, with Bill in that condition trying to look after our daughter. So as I released my Stone’s Throw, Lament Of The Selkie album, I had to let go of the big push of live work that would normally accompany an album.  After two years of trialling various medications, some of which had severe side effects, Bill finally found a medication that did at least help, even if it didn’t prevent the onslaught of the migraines.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. We made the most of the moments that were migraine free and grabbed days at the beach in the sun when it shone (a rare commodity living in Wales) as well as when it rained. We recorded and worked on our creative music projects in the evenings and did our best to defy the ongoing battles of health hardships. As with any chronic condition, it becomes normalised as you learn to live with it.

But there was another turbulent factor that began to sweep across the UK however, namely the political business of “austerity.” The cuts to arts and third sector budgets were becoming increasingly severe. We watched on as our peers and colleagues began to find themselves out of work and then, Bill’s own role as creative director of his self founded arts charity became more and more unsustainable. Revenue funding was nowhere to be found.  Eventually the heart breaking decision was made that after running for over a decade the best thing to do with Bill’s People Around Here charity was to amalgamate it into a larger organisation, to enable some of its work to continue. As Bill’s own job searching began, it soon became apparent how crushing and far reaching the regime of austerity cuts have been for so many and inevitably, despite our best efforts, our worst case scenario “that if we couldn’t pay the rent once the charity had ended then we’d have to put our stuff in storage and stay with my folks for a while” is what happened.
Home and studio packed up, just our clothes and an acoustic guitar, our pets, (one of whom has now passed away) and as many toys as we could fit into a bag for our 4 year old daughter.

In many ways for me this latest round of turbulence has felt so much easier than any of the post birth trauma. I can walk, I can function, I can sing, I can carry and lift, physically and emotionally. I can fully engage with life and all the people in my life. Helping to found the One Day Without Us campaign in support of migrants (the week after we packed up our home) was both a great experience and a great distraction strategy. Sometimes it helps to just focus on others, many of whom have far greater troubles. More and more I find myself empathising with the devastation that is faced by refugees…This part of the story isn’t over yet, we’ve lived in limbo, travelling the length and breadth of the UK for interviews (picking up small bits of freelance work along the way) for 11 months… but events of recent weeks have brought new hope with them that very soon we will be back in a home of our own

People say we have to embrace our pain and my kneejerk reaction is to want to yell “No, that’s not it, that’s missing the point of what pain is, that’s masochism.” Yes, I accept that there will be pain in my life, but that doesn’t mean that I want to run head on to embrace and greet it, generally I’ll run the opposite direction and try to repel it if possible. I want to be spared from pain and to save others from having to go through an experience of it if possible, but I know that sometimes there is just no way to avoid pain.

Going beyond the semantics and working from the understanding that to embrace means to accept, (as in embracing an idea) I can fully comprehend that pain is an essential part of life and that without it there can be no growth.
I do not accept that all pain is justified or “meant to be”.
I do believe however, that all of us are able to take our brokenness and allow something new, beautiful and true to be born out of, and in response to, the wreckage of our lived experiences. This doesn’t have to be via an art form, though it is what most artists do, but it can equally be through conversations, life choices and attitudes. Sometimes we can attribute new purpose, worth and meaning to ourselves that becomes far greater than the initial suffering and that has the power to reach and heal far and wide. Sometimes it’s just about being authentic. Not having a grand plan or wisdom or ambition, just saying, “This is who I am here and now. This is my life.” And through that honest vulnerability others can say, “Yes, I know that too in my own way, this is how it happened for me”…  and so as we resonate, we discover we are not alone.

Some pain we can bear. Some pain is unbearable and we break.

So do I embrace it?

I embrace life.

In embracing life I acknowledge that pain is part of the fullness of this mortal existence. If the physical process childbirth reveals one thing, it’s that there is no life without pain.
I learn to embrace the growth I can make out of pain.
I learn to embrace and lean with compassion into the part of myself that experienced pain.
I learn to embrace a process of recovery.
I learn to embrace a process of facing up to pain and in doing so destroying its power.
I learn to embrace a process of overcoming my fear of pain.
I learn to own my pain as part of who I am and I can choose to hold onto it or find a way of letting it go (and sometimes I think I do both at the same time.)
I learn to embrace my story and the sum of the parts that make up the whole.

None of that is easy... (Brief pause for my cynical internal voice moment saying, “You embrace life?! Could you sound any more pretentious? At least suffix it with a…“well I try to” statement...”)

I don’t deny any of the struggle, anger, frustration, bitterness, loneliness, self doubt or hopelessness I experience as I try and I fail and try and fail again. Every now and then however, I find that I can and that I am and that I have managed to learn to do some of the above and that is reason enough to continue to try. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am now (for better or for worse) if I hadn’t gone through these and other experiences.

In telling my story I reclaim the narrative and choose the interpretation that best serves me to continually overcome. I can now perceive myself not as the victim of a specific set of circumstances but as a survivor who finds a way through.

I rediscover my story reflected in the words and lives of others; in the myths and the legends, in the novels and songs and paintings and poems, sacred and secular and across the blurry line where there is no longer any divide, and in those moments of connection my own narrative becomes part of something greater. We are all stories and each of our stories interconnects to make up the epic tale of humanity in the cosmos that has been ebbing and flowing from the moment life first crawled out of the ocean. The pages of our brokenness aren’t always an ending. Sometimes they lead into new chapters of redemption as we regain ourselves, or even just survive to live another day. Sometimes the new beginning comes from a totally unexpected angle as life takes on a twist that we never could have predicted.  Sometimes it may be as simple as an unexpected act of kindness or empathy from another human.

The turbulence is never going to stop shaking up the long haul flights of our lives.

Dark days and anxious nights will visit far too often... and stay far too long…

But, if I am going to say that these last five years have taught me anything it’s the truth in the words that Leonard Cohen sang:

“There is a crack, a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”