Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Othermothers

Today, In the library, whilst supervising the kids and their homework, I attempted to squeeze in a bit of my own personal study. I was reading (*trying to read) an academic book regarding the place of Single Mothers in society and throughout history. Scanning through the pages I came across one paragraph that demanded my full attention, it read: 
One has only to look at Native American and African American communities to find alternatives [to the nuclear model of family]. Patricia Hill Collins describes the practise of “othermothers” [as] “women who assist bloodmothers by sharing mothering responsibilities,”
This called for some red pen action, the passage continued.. 

Shared child-raising practices contribute to a people’s self-reliance, says Collins: “Black Women’s relationships with children and other vulnerable community members is not intended to dominate or control. Rather it’s purpose is to bring people along, to – in the words of late nineteenth century Black feminists – ‘uplift the race’ – so that vulnerable members of the community will be able to attain the self-reliance and independence essential for resistance.
Jane Juffer, Single Mother -  the Emergence of the Domestic Intellectual.  
Just as I read this and scribbled in the margins the word: “Amazing!”, I got a text from the one most fittingly my (or more precisely, the kids..) “othermother”- the one who has uplifted me and mine and has given me the strength for self-reliance, it takes a skilled practitioner of kindness to nurture and support someone in a way that doesn’t make them feel dependent – but instead stronger and more free, free to be a force of resistance instead of a subject of vulnerability.

The text she sent at this opportune moment was a screenshot from the photoshoot we did this weekend (in the freezing fricking cold I’d like to add, she is both wonderful – and cruel). The brief I gave for the shoot was “I want it moody but not in any way vulnerable.” – None could have captured it so brilliantly than the person who has contributed so much, over many years, to making me feel as strong as I do. 
So here’s a big giant fist bump to the othermothers of the world – most specifically My Rachums*.


*for relentlessly beautiful photos - follow Rachel on Instagram here

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Self Love



“If you don’t love yourself who else is going to?”

I’d returned from Canada for a fortnight visit, my baby girl was 6 months old and I was anxious about meeting an old friend. Not just because she has forever been the creative babe to which I could never compare but also because I wanted to share some things with her. 

we were back just to visit because we’d decided to stick it out in Canada, the three of us, keeping at it, the Canadian dream, the good life. But in truth it had been far from the good life, not long had we bought our dream fixer upper home when the first infidelity began. And there in the midst of home renovations, all rubble and dust, we tried to figure it out, he pleaded, I ranted, raged and then collapsed wearily into forgiving. Because that’s what we’re supposed to do and who would I be without him anyway? After all I’d been his loyal puppy since aged 19. 

The renovations continued in the house as they did in the marriage. No longer was he on a pedestal. People used to call us “the love birds”, a stranger on the tube once asked for photos of us, we were a ‘force to be reckoned with’ - but that was then. And now, now the reckoning had been done, Now there was distance and disappointment.  My belief in grace, forgiveness and trust were being tested to the max and I know now how misinformed I was on such things. I see with hindsight how unhealthy it was to bend myself into trusting when it had not been earned. How I prized forgiveness over my own emotional safety.  

And this of course laid me bare and vulnerable to further indiscretion. Which in time was revealed. And so it goes 
1.  He begged and pleaded
2.  I ranted and raged
3.  I wearily collapsed into forgiving..

...Because that’s what we do and who would i be without him? (Though I’d a growing concern regarding the person I was becoming with him, depleted, let down, chipped away) 

But this time I was guarded, hard and distrustful. Which in time he’d resent me for.

The renovations progressed, Interior walls were moved, floors laid, new doors fitted and then to everyone’s surprise - the strip turned blue. 

Maybe it could all be a blank slate? 

Sitting on the picnic blanket in Belfast’s botanic gardens with the only friend here that I’d trusted with it all, I told her the journey in hushed, teary tones, whilst Molly giggled and cooed. 

“I may not know what it’s like to have your husband cheat on you Alli. But I know what it’s like to have your lover betray you...it changes you, you realise: if you don’t love yourself - who else is going to?”

This was truly the first time I had heard self love articulated. It was radically different from the fluffy ‘self esteem’ speak i’d heard so many times before, which depended on being built up by others. What my friend was talking about was resilient, tough, self love - the ultimate offensive weapon to a world full of people that will chew you up and spit you out. 

Those words have always stuck with me. And I’m glad I didn’t know then how many times I would need to be reminded of them. You could argue it’s more than a little pessimistic, “who’s gonna love me?”, But isn’t that the question we are always asking ourselves? And isn’t the easiest answer the only one which we can control? I will love me. I will show up for me and it will be a radical resistance to all the things that go on externally that threaten to chip, recede and demolish. 

I used to think self love was selfish. But we are talking about two very different things here. Distinctly different, not opposite things on the same spectrum. 

It’s taken me years to really put in place this kind of self love - but I recently LOVED watching spike lees Netfix series ‘she’s gotta have it’ Nola darling exemplifies this resistance Best 


Happy valentines xx

In Praise of Being Basic

One of my unspoken resolutions for 2018 was to come to terms with chronic FOMO. To learn to be content with sitting still, staying put, missing out. Little did I know I’d spend all of January very ill, including ten days in hospital and continue my sick leave from work into February upon doctors orders. 

Lately I can only seem to do one thing a day, if I’m meeting someone for coffee? That’s me done for the day. If I’m on my feet too long or speaking too animatedly I get out of breath. I haven’t yet driven beyond a five mile radius of my home (and yet still managed a collision due to black ice 🙄). 

My fear of missing out is not entirely dissolved but along with my body, it is somewhat weakened. When I’m scrolling through social media and I see all the coolest kids at a gig I want to be at - I only momentarily feel resentful and then I pull the blankets up round my face and go back to sleep. I recently heard someone talk about ‘post flu enlightenment’ - when you’re coming out of feeling crap and you appreciate everything so much more. I’m there. 

Here’s a photo of me being basic in my own home, I’d just unstacked the dishwasher. I’m not in a club, or with my girl gang, or on a date, there’s no cocktail in my hand or eyeliner on my eyes - but I’m ok with that.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

How to Start all Over Again - The Interlude.

When I wrote this post back in June I named it ‘part one’ because it seemed like I was in a growth spurt and I was learning lots about life and thus yoda-Alli had much wisdom to impart. 

However, One of the harsh realities of life is that progress does not often follow a steady upward curve but instead a jagged line of peaks and troughs and sometimes what seems like an endless mediocre stretch of time where the gradient is not there at all. 

In truth I do have part two of ‘How to Start all Over Again (Again)’ written, at least most of it. But the way of progress lately has been more a steady slog and that makes for a lot less exciting writing...and reading. 

So, I thought an Interlude should be indulged and acknowledged, especially considering it is that strange period of time in-between  Christmas and New Years, a time of binging on Netflix, eating yourself into a diabetic coma and of course melancholic reflection. 💀

How’s your year been? Mine has  been one of my most difficult years to date (and that’s saying something).  That’s not to say it hasn’t been a good one, there have been rekindled friendships, wild nights out and many comforting solo cinema trips. But it’s also been a year of extended stress leave, a break up and learning to live with the disapproval of others. But I’m still standing! In fact I’m standing on my own two feet more than I ever have, the independence is both empowering and  lonely. 

With the new year approaching and all the ‘new you’ rhetoric being bandied about, I sought my particular Hogmanay wisdom in the latest production of Little Women:

Nothing is ever perfect 
But it can be just right. 


This year I aspire more for contentment than improvement. Happy New Year xxw

Thursday, 23 November 2017

Path Ends Here

A sign at the end of the road, a warning, turn back! Uncharted territory lies ahead, rough terrain, brambles and stinging nettles, wild dogs and bogeymen. A wiser soul might take heed.  But there, beyond the perimeter, is my domain.

I am adventurer born out of necessity, an exile turned pioneer. If ‘Reluctant carver of new paths’ - is not etched on my tombstone I’ll come back to haunt all you mothereffers, because surely in this modern day,  a consistent Instagram bio is by default the assumed epitaph.👻 


I digress. 
Here, in photographic form, is laughable truth - a metaphor. 

Can you see it? beyond the boundary, onward still past fringe and margin, and even further, through the wild terrain  - look on - from the overgrown and untamed it emerges...bethel, sanctuary. 

They say she can only be found by narrow path. They say “don’t stray, you will only find one thing from your wandering - you will only find yourself (dang, really? Let’s go)....No wait I hadn’t finished , you will only find yourself lost.” 

Yet here, in the wilderness, the bell tolls,
For whom? For me - the wanderer.


And should it really be of any surprise that here I find sacred space? for even if I make my bed in the depths - He is there. Even in that bed. Even there. 


Monday, 16 October 2017

Ophelia was the Rebel Girl



I put my best self on. I primp and starve and plank. I laugh but not too much. I’m smart and savy,  independent and aloof. And still, the movies lie, they don’t fall for you the way they say so. The pursuit is short lived. The attention span brief. My appetite is merely wet whilst theirs seems satisfied or perhaps refined to a taste that is impossible to pin down but definitely not: me. 

I heard someone say once that tinder has ruined men. Perhaps.  It might soften the blow to boil the issue down to one particular cause, but the culprit is legion. The culprits are the message makers bombarding us everyday with a multitude of choices, reducing us to bafoons unable to rest content. And I participate and perpetuate the charade with my “I woke up just like this” facade. The synthetic connections of glance and wink. The peacock dance of it all. I am weary, I have repetitive strain from the left swipe. And burn out from the matched flirt. I am perplexed by the chase and soured by the sweet nothings. 

I feel It may be time to hang up my relationship hat  whilst the children are small. It is too much upheaval to hope and feel and fall and then pick up all the little pieces afterwards. Pieces that are not just mine but theirs too. For they too wonder what it would be like, hope and pang and get attached. A constant absence is better than a perpetual loss, I think. 

And yet I observe the world and know it true that the game does not grow more fair as women age. The words from Zoe Moss in 1970 goad us still today:

Listen to me! Think what it is like to have most of your life ahead and be told you are obsolete! Think what it is like to feel attraction, desire, affection towards others, to want to tell them about yourself, to feel that assumption on which self-respect is based, that you are worth something, and that if you like someone, surely he will be pleased to know that. To be, in other words, still a living woman, and to be told that every day that you are not a woman but a tired object that should disappear. That you are not a person but a joke. Well, I am a bitter joke. I am bitter and frustrated and wasted, but don’t you pretend for a minute as you look at me, forty-three, fat, and looking exactly my age, that I am not as alive as you are and that I do not suffer from the category into which you are forcing me.


As these words resonate, I know the only fit response is to live as If the categories do not exist. To rebel against them, straining against every chain. I do try. I try to live self differentiated from what I feel is expected and presumed of me. 

But then again I don’t.  

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Glow

There's a brilliance that comes with singleness. Blink and you'll miss it. Especially when you're looking in the mirror. 

But sometimes, if it catches you in the right mood, in the right kind of light, You can see the luminous brilliance alight upon you. And you realise that you have freedom and fluidity and you can grow in any direction you please because you don't have to take into account the impact on your partner. 


Relationships can be fulfilling, but they can also divide you up. Your problems aren't always halved, sometimes they're doubled. That's the stuff a thoroughly unattached, truly single person does not have to deal with. 


So if you find yourself single and not quite comfortable with the idea of exploring the alternatives to that, I implore you: INDULGE yourself. Claim your city as your territory, put serious devotion into lasting friendships, go on mate dates with total strangers, drink your wine, sing Sheryl Crow songs at 2am, Buy that damn dress, gladly receive those compliments but entertain them no further. Because you've got that brilliance and for now that's enough.