Thursday, 4 August 2011

One Hundred And Twenty Minutes

I am disgruntled because Ostrich has forgotten to turn on the radio. So I know immediately that I am going to have to make my entertainment fabricating little animations from the cracks in the walls. And there they are; Ostrich, the Badger and Voley positioned in crescent around me as we begin.

Ostrich, in her usual manner, has not even finished setting herself up before she begins to flap. Her phone rings and she spends six minutes squawking down it. By this stage in my career I’ve perfected the art of knowing exactly how long a minute is without looking, so I knew it was six minutes. While this charade is going on, the Badger gets up and down from his dishwater green seat once or twice, seemingly undecided as to whether to start or not. As if in a competition of extremes with Ostrich, his movements are laboriously slow and his chair gives a little protest creak when it’s finally landed on each time. Voley is not in my direct sight line, I can see him out of the corner of my right eye but have no real urge to strain to look at him. Such is the way of Voley, a little forgotten about in the corner.

Twenty three minutes pass and I realise that I’m too distracted to cut off from my surroundings. My right leg is crossed heavily over my left and straining down my nose I can see that it’s looking a little more purple than it ought to. I decide not to look at it anymore and go back to my cinematic wall cracks, but they’re much less interesting without the forgotten about radio music to set my films to. I get a bit brave and start to move my eyes around in their sockets, taking in a little bit more of what‘s around me. I feel a tear roll down my cheek, my eyes protesting at being broken from their glaze. I hold my breath whilst I relish the rebellious movement my body is making against my control.

Thirty five minutes. The Badger has his tongue out, it lolls lazily on his face as he squints down his glasses that are slightly askew on his large head. He makes dainty little movements which seem uncharacteristic set against the speed at which they are performed. From nowhere an image of the Badger trying to tap dance gatecrashes my thought path, I feel the need to giggle but disguise it with a dainty cough. Then I swallow.

Fourty three minutes and approximately twenty seconds in before there is great excitement. Ostrich has knocked one of her little tubs off her stool on to the floor. It is empty but I enjoy watching her bend and stretch to pick it up, I observe the muscles in her arm moving but then immediately wish I hadn’t because I want to do the same with my own. I hope that the break in her concentration will prompt her to turn on the radio. It doesn’t.

Fifty seven minutes. Ostrich works in a very staccato manner and she scratches her feet about the floor too. The rhythm is not syncopated but it isn’t unpleasant. I enjoy setting her beat to the Badgers melody of graceful gestures, I guess Voley would be the background, some kind of bass line, but I don’t know - I’ve practically forgotten he is there. I begin to enjoy my little orchestral trio in the absence of the radio but it is soon broken up by Ostrich’s phone ringing again.

Eighty seven minutes and there is little hope of Ostrich calming again. She begins to make conversation at the Badger and Voley and probably me too because I know she isn’t really concerned with a response. I begin to experience the conversation as a kind of “rhubarb rhubarb” background noise. This is favourable to noticing how static my mouth has been for so long and then to have to suppress the urge to move it in an exaggerated manner reminiscent of elocution lessons. My attention is brought sharply back because Voley speaks, I jump involuntarily because I had forgotten he was there.

Eighty nine minutes. I take time now to strain out of the corner of my right eye to view Voley as he and Ostrich begin to have a bit of a heated exchange. Or rather Ostrich takes an aggressive tone and Voley remains quiet and neutral. In my silent voyeurism I applaud Voley for not being apologetic and remaining steadfast in his side of the debate. Perhaps I was wrong to overlook Voley, he is not to be forgotten about, he is intelligent in positioning himself away from Ostrich so he can concentrate.

One hundred and eighteen minutes. Silence from Ostrich has become a long forgotten about desire, but I don’t mind so much because it’s become a kind of welcome second best to the radio. I have only two minutes remaining anyway and I intend to sing all the way home.

Saturday, 4 June 2011


As a writer, nothing quite soothes the ache or the chaos of notions and emotions in my head quite as much setting pen to paper and just letting my mind knit its pattern on the page. Except that is, when my mind finds itself wholly consumed with something I find impossible to write about – like now.
There have been too many occasions to count where I have set pen to paper as I am doing now and attempted to write about this; but it’s like trying to paint a picture of it when there are no colours on earth that beautiful enough.

I didn’t know I was capable of loving someone quite this much. I think of her and it’s so much more than just a fleeting thought– it’s an experience that takes over my whole body. It starts in my heart so gentle and warm but at the same time powerful enough to explode all over my skin; a warm shiver – a tingling of a million little kisses all over my body. Washed over with an emotion so overwhelming that my very soul wants to cry; cry with joy, with unending gratitude and humility that I have the most beautiful person in the whole wide world to call my own.

To me, she is not just a someone, she’s a feeling; a feeling that only those blessed enough to be completely intoxicated by the love for another person can empathise with. My drug of choice, my ecstasy, a pleasure so divine that it must be sinful. Yet she’s my angel and such purity cannot be defined in dark inks, language, at my disposal, has not the capacity for such divinity; which is why, once again, I’ll fail to write about her. I cannot do it, I lack the gifts to do her grace – but I’ll keep trying forever.

Friday, 20 May 2011

My Melpomene


Concealing mask,
Viable task,
War paint, top coat,
A facial basque.
Powdered face,
Saving grace,
Elegance, perfection,
And knowing her place.
Obscuring vision,
Contours, emotions,
All crafted with precision.
Painted on,
Realism gone,
Eloquent, beautified,
The show must go on…

In ancient Greek mythology Melpomene is depicted as the muse of tragedy, grief and sorrow, yet when broken down through etymology, “Melpomene” means “to sing” or “the one that is melodious”. Music is powerful tool, encompassing the power to change emotions and indeed lives.


I met my Melpomene at a dark time in my own life, though she went on to teach me great things about real pain and survival.

Upon first impression Melpomene was a vivacious and bubbly soul, I met her in group therapy for persons with particularly dangerous self destructive behaviours. I had to admit that I questioned intently why she was there as she seemed so light and alive. It took less than an hour to understand that this was her tragic mask, painted on with immaculate precision and of diamond durability. I have still, to this day, never seen her take it off in person.

Most of us experience a time in our lives we’d rather not have gone through, there are unfortunately too many people that have suffered abused at the hands of others, but Melpomene was an exceptional case. At the time I met her she had recently broken free of over 20 years of living with constant torture. From a young age Melpomene was denied the most basic of human rights. She was brainwashed into believing that this was her own fault and as a result was too terrified of what might happen if she acted differently to what she was told, objected to her treatment or breathed a word to anyone.

Yet to speak to Melpomene you would have absolutely no idea. Not that it was a contest, but it was apparent that she had suffered far worse than any of us ever had in that group, yet it was her that brought the sunshine to the table, it was she that could always find a positive to each problem we presented. She unwaveringly offered her support to the others both inside scheduled therapy hours and on the end of a phone outside them.

Her strength is incredible but her pain frighteningly real. In the initial stages of knowing her, I put a lot of her durability down to denial. Then she began to reveal more of what had happened and her vulnerability began to show itself in other ways. She’d often have to leave the group to vomit or would be unable to attend at all, as anxiety would prevent her from leaving the house. These were clear indicators of just how much her history was affecting her, yet she’d never show it to anyone else and she was never unavailable to anyone else. She understood the pain of others in the group and she never dismissed our worries, though they were vastly diminished compared to hers. She would write me little notes in my therapy folder or send me silly text messages under the table when things got heavy or too tough. She made the whole experience so much less daunting for me despite her own turmoil.

Steadily I watched Melpomene battle through the treatment program, working through exercises that she was terrified of doing. Task that seemed simple enough to the rest of us such as listening to music or going for a calming walk alone in the beginning were nearly impossible for her. Though she refused to let this beat her. She battled on and gave absolutely everything a go, she climbed mountains in that year and I was in awe. There was no denying how difficult it was for her, we could tell when she’d not slept for three days, when her weight dropped due to sheer anxiety or when she couldn’t make it in due to poor health. Yet she never once gave up, ran away or felt sorry for herself and she never stopped smiling.

A severe agoraphobic she went from not being able to go out or be in her home without someone with her to being able to go out to a pub and social events and even begin to build a relationship with a partner.

Melpomene was a huge inspiration and I have never lost sight of that when I feel too afraid to do something. The comparison of her fight and the enlightenment of her sheer courage made me want to succeed. It was tragic to understand that she would perhaps never be able to do a lot of the things I would be able to when we got better. Her age and general physical health prevented that but I knew mine didn’t. Whilst I wanted my own well being I also wanted to fight with her and share my achievements. I want to do all the things in my life in her honour and share my success - doing it always with her in mind.

After we were discharged from the group we have remained good friends. Regrettably, we now see much less of each other, time, life and circumstance reduce the opportunity but there isn’t a single day that she isn’t in my mind and heart. From sharing a battle, we now share triumphs. I cried when she told me that she’d managed to let herself eat fast food for the first time in 25 years and had been to the cinema by herself. This was relative and an equal achievement to me gaining a place at university. She tells me frequently that she’s so proud of me and I’m her shining little star, but it was massively thanks to her that I was able to do these things at all. If it were not for my Melpomene and without her courage, wisdom and incomparable belief in a life worth living, I would not have been as driven or inspired to move my life forward in the way I did.

She lives as an example to us all, that nothing is impossible to accomplish if you work hard enough at it and never give up hope. She has achieved more in life than some of the most celebrated people in the world, but she does not want praise, nor does she seek approval or sympathy - just peace. More incredible is how she now uses that new found confidence to help others in need working with other service users and reaching wider by posting motivational videos on YouTube to those without access to treatment.

My Melpomene continues to be a powerful anchor of comparison without intention, without condescending or competition. She epitomised tragedy in many ways, yet brought to my life great beauty with all the melody and mellifluence of the most heart rendering of ballads.

Monday, 10 January 2011

That L Word

I've been meaning to get around to posting my blog on this topic for quite some time, then when my February copy of Elle UK landed through my letter box this morning I was both surprised and a bit miffed to find that it contained an article by Hanna Hanra on the very issue. The article is written in beautiful way, it captured everything I wanted to say and the issues which I too am facing in my own life alongside the opinions I have around the "controversy" of it all. Though Hanra's article is well poised, I felt she lacked a real experience in the area, merely flirted with the subject, so I'm going to write my piece anyway.

I fell in love with my best friend and I don't mean in a platonic way. My best friend just happens to also be a girl.

I feel incredibly blessed to live in the twenty first century, within a society that for the most part accepts and embraces diversity and homosexuality. I myself have never particularly liked to categorise myself as hetro, homo or bi sexual - in fact long before I had any kind of a relationship with a woman I had listed on my Facebook profile that I was indeed interested in "men and women". I'm interested in people, gender doesn't really come into the equation. Though the "natural" world dictates to me that I "should" be interested in men, for sake of reproduction, for evolution, for going with the mass majority? I have to admit I never actively looked for a female partner, but I guess in retrospect I never really actively looked for a male partner, just that the latter were in greater abundance when it came to interest.

Throughout my life I've liked to challenge limits, in a quiet, passively rebellious kind of way - that's been my journey of growing up, finding where I slot in society. Mostly this has come in harmless forms of expression such as the way I dress, getting piercings or tattoos, dyeing my hair obscure colours and deciding to follow an "artsy" career path despite feeling I should go down an academic root because that was what I was "good at". But there have been darker elements such as my battle which anorexia, my rejection of the female form, becoming a woman and a long period of various mental health issues- a large metaphoric red flag that I wasn't quite okay with who I was in the world. My decision to be in a homosexual relationship, however, isn't to make a statement, it isn't about giving a big fat "fuck you" to conformity, it isn't about fashion, it isn't about finding who I am, it isn't about anything actually except what I feel for my girlfriend, for Josie. I can't control that - much less help it.

My relationship with Josie seemingly went from being close friends to something more literally overnight. I met her in college and within a few days of being in the same class I had set it in my heart that I wanted to get to know this girl, I knew we were going to be friends, but never had I imagined what was to come. Our friendship blossomed quickly - she makes me laugh, we share interests and views on the world, though are very people different at the same time. She is the girl I can go out with and dance all night drinking too much wine but equally stay in sharing our music and talking right into the early hours. The one I can completely embarrass myself infront of and not care, the one person I can be completely honest with and not fear her reaction. We understood each other quickly and trusted in the other wholly. We share deep things from our lives and comfort the others pain, knowing by instinct just how much to talk, just how much to soothe. When I left therapy earlier last year and shut off for a while, Josie would sit with me and say nothing with me as I did with her on bad days- we just have this comfort with one another, an unspoken communication, a respect and a love. It's the most balanced relationship I've ever had in my life, very open and without pretence.

When Josie moved in with me last summer I was the happiest little soul, a permanent sleep over with my best friend! Her in the very next room to giggle or cry with whenever it was required. During the months following we both got short term boyfriends, neither of which worked out and we continued in our lives being each others best friend, it had never really crossed into my mind that our friendship would ever be anything more. That changed after a few too many drinks one night and we ended up in bed together with frequent statements of "why isn't this weird?!". I knew immediately this was different, it wasn't an alcohol fuelled lack of judgement, drunk or not I know neither of us would've jeopardised our friendship for the sake of a bit of a drunken fumble, it wasn't like just casual sex - it actually definitely wasn't about sex and it felt so much more loving. We woke up together and giggled a bit but neither of us freaked out - it did feel right, it felt special - anything but wrong. There had never been a hidden agenda on either part - just obviously something subconscious and it just happened like that - though both of us hedged the point of what was really happening for quite some time, both afraid about what might come of it.

I like to think of myself as particularly open minded, if any of my friends came out and told me they were in a gay relationship I wouldn't even bat an eyelid- it's just not a big deal - or at least it wasn't until it came down to being about me. I'd had flings with girls before Josie but never really thought anything of it - it was a bit of fun, nothing serious and nothing that needed mentioning or sharing with the world. Just a twenty something girl experimenting with her sexuality (yeah I did kiss a girl and yeah I did like it)- as many of us do - nothing particularly special or notable about that. Though when Josie and I made a decision to be together exclusively I felt a mixture of euphoria and outright dread. I have always been a people pleaser, that's an essential part of who I am and suddenly I felt like I was doing something wrong, something that was going to be disapproved of and it worried me greatly. In my life I have done things that people wouldn't approve of but this is different because there isn't just me involved - there is also Josie and I wasn't going to let anyone or anything hurt her. This felt so special to me, I didn't want it tainted and for quite a while we made a decision to keep it to ourselves. Though hiding it made it feel like it was something to be frowned upon and what I feel is that wonderful that I wanted the people in my life to be in on it too.

Hanna Hanra pointed out in her Elle article that society is indeed open to the idea of gay love - but for men. It's accepted and understood about gay men and they are often portrayed in the media as colourful, fun loving people - indeed every girl wants a gay best friend, but lesbians have a much less glamorous portrayal. As a lesbian you are either an aggressive extreme feminist, are butch and lacking in feminine qualities, femme and dowdy or possibly some kind of pedophile. I certainly don't fit into any "stereotype lesbian role" and neither does Josie. In fact I was more than a little offended when we came out to friends at party that after a few drinks someone asked who the butch one was - why does there have to be a dick (metaphorical or not) involved in a relationship? Is this a construction created by men I ask? For this is obviously a realm they cannot enter or is that me being an aggressive feminist? Why do lesbians have such a bad rep? And the even bigger question was why was I buying into it? I have lesbian friends who I don't regard any differently because of their sexuality and they certainly didn't change who or how they were before because of coming out yet I feared that people would think that I would. Both Josie and I have been blessed enough to have been brought up by liberal parents. When I told my mother she was fantastic, as I knew deep down she would've been - but it still had taken me a long time, I still felt sick telling her despite her saying what I'd known deep down she would - that she was happy so long as I was. Even so even she voiced that she thought it best I don't go around telling everyone (as if I was going showing up to family parties naked covered in rainbow body paint shouting about my lesbian lifestyle). She was concerned about what others would think and how they would judge me, "Don't tell your Grandma". I know this was out of protecting me and not wanting me to be subjected to any kind of cruelty - though I reassured her I am prepared for that and in all honesty not bothered by it - it was the opinions of those I loved that mattered to me. I still haven't been able to tell my Dad - and that's not because I fear he'll reject me (I know he won't) but because I don't want him to look at me differently - I am still the same Ruby - actually a much happier and well balanced Ruby.

Of course there have been questions in my mind about my future, I still don't class myself as homo/hetro/bi sexual because of my relationship with Josie but neither is that to say I do or don't see myself spending the rest of my life with her - no more so than I would if she was a man. Josie knows about my omnipresent desire to be a mother one day and I know she'd never get in the way of that - there are so many options today - in fact I even read an article about how children of lesbian couples statistically perform better academically and have a much greater level of mental well being - I'll toast to that! These are all bridges I'll (we'll) cross should we get to them but right now this is about she and I. Enjoying what we have and enjoying each other.

I do feel it's safe to say that what I feel for Josie is unlike what I've felt for anyone I've had a relationship with before - she my best friend first and foremost and my lover additionally. Her happiness is all I think of and all I want to achieve and if that's at the sacrifice of other's approval then so be it. If that stereotypes me then so be it. Nobody really knows how this is except us and if makes us feel so wonderful as it does then how can that really be wrong?

I'm going to end as Hanra did her article with a quote from "The Miseducation of Lauren Hill" as indeed it is very true, "You can love anybody, but when you're in love with somebody, you're taking that person for what he or she is, no matter what he or she look like or he or she do". Love can't be put into boxes and neither can we.