6.30pm Wednesday 18th June 2014

I sat on my housemate’s bed trembling as she read the back of the box. “It looks like it’s definitely positive” she said, “do you know who the father is?”

I had been on a three month bender after a very sad breakup with my boyfriend. He did not want a family and children. I did. We had no future together, so went our separate ways. Since then, I was fired from my former job, started a new job, I had worked my way through five men, one of whom was married, and broken it off with two of them. I had sought out, met, and fallen in love with my biological father for the first time in my life. It finally looked like I had some sort of ‘career path’ mapped out for me and things were falling in to place. I was starting to get to the point where I was ready to get back on my feet and continue living my life after the end of one of the most hectic years of my life. However, I’d had a couple of days of nausea. I had passed comment to Married Man that I hadn’t had a period in a while, but that must have been due to all the stress that I was under.

6.30pm Wednesday 18th June 2014 was that day that I was proved wrong: that it wasn’t just stress, the dodgy chicken that I ate, or new-job fatigue. I was pregnant. I could hardly believe it.

Consulting a calendar, we established that it was one of four potential candidates. I immediately contacted candidate 1: Games Boy. His response: “the dates don’t match up and the state that I was in that night, it couldn’t be me.” Fair point.

I Whatsapped candidate 2, Army Boy, asking if he was free to meet up any time soon. He immediately questioned why and was son panicking. Despite saying that I didn’t really discuss this over Whatsapp, he messaged “Just to put my mind at rest, is this a pregnancy thing or go to a doctor thing?” We spoke on the phone a couple of hours later and he made his position clear: he wanted me to keep him updated but he wanted me to abort it. I suppose that the inbuilt army training in him instinctively wanted to annihilate the threat. He came across aggressive and cold. To be fair, I was nothing to him; he knew nothing more about me than how my vagina felt and that was that.

Candidate 3, Married Man, was a brief phone call that gave the impression that he would actually be quite solid about things. He wanted to focus on me and wanted to make sure that I was OK. He said that it wasn’t the end of the world and to not let anyone tell me what to do. He then said that if I needed anything, then I was to call him. I wouldn’t, however, as I knew that beyond 8pm his wife would be home. The next morning, he called saying that he had woken at 1am in a cold sweat and it had hit him. He knew that he couldn’t step up to the mark and that he didn’t want to know anything more. He asked where that left us. My response was that if it was a case of ‘let me know if you have an abortion so that we can keep hooking up, otherwise I don’t want to know’, then I was out and that I hoped that he had a nice life and sorted out his marriage.

Candidate 4, Barcelona Boy, was available to meet the next evening, so we met and despite the initial shock of it all, he was the most supportive of them all. He said that he wasn’t going to influence my decision, but that if I did decide to keep it and it turned out that it was his, then he wanted to know; that he would be a father and would want to be involved. We then sat and watched television for a bit, which was, after the drama on the past 24 hours, actually really nice. He told me that I wasn’t alone, and I believed him.

Due to logistics, it happened that all of the candidates were informed of the situation within 24 hours. I had met up with a friend, told a few people, including my father, and decided to get out of town for a bit to think things through.

So here I am in a coffee shop thinking things through. Thinking what to do, who to turn to, if I have the capacity to be a mother, if I had the strength to go through an abortion and to recover from the guilt, what kind of food I should be eating, where I am going to live, what everyone else is going to think about me and how I am even going to begin facing the Christian community that I was once part of but have been pushing away for months in an attempt to isolate myself from the love that I felt unworthy of.

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My Greatest Fear and My Greatest Hope

My greatest fear is that I am unlovable.

My greatest fear is that I will tell someone everything that I have ever done and they will be unable to love me.

My greatest fear is shame.

Shame: the sloped shoulders. Shame: the inability to make eye contact. Shame: the agony of bad decisions, wrong thoughts, cruel intentions that are fighting to break out of the innermost depths of your soul and in to the light. Shame: the lie that is told to hide the truth.

My greatest hope is that one day before my shame consumes me, I will meet a person that I can be entirely honest with, who loves me in spite of it all. I am not confident that such a person exists and may have to reside myself to the probability that it is only God who has enough supernatural strength to know and love every part of me. But I still hope; I long; I pine; I perish.

“Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”― George Eliot (aka Mary Ann Evans – a woman who knew a thing or two about the longing for acceptance.)

Walls

We build walls to keep others out. We are afraid to let people in because people hurt us. People play games. People are selfish. People leave.

The tragedy is that although the walls protect us from the badness, they also prevent the goodness. The good people who won’t hurt you. Who won’t play games with your heart. Who aren’t selfish. Who won’t leave. Who will love you.

Take Henry the train. He was afraid that a few drops of rain would ruin his green paint and red stripes, so he hid in a tunnel.  Thomas tried with all his might to push him out, but Henry wouldn’t budge. Therefore, the Fat Controller decided to leave him there to teach him a lesson. They built a wall in front of him and all he could do was watch trains go by.  Despite his attempted self-preservation, the soot from the tunnel ruined his green paint and red stripes anyway.

We spend so much of our lives afraid of the rain; the heartache, the pain, the vulnerability. We isolate ourselves in the safety of the darkness: the safety of what we know; patterns we have established; circumstance that we have grown complacent with; our passions are pacified and we are in control. However, we end up in a darker and much more damaging place than we first imagined. We get stuck.

When Henry was finally released, he teamed up with Edward to push the heavy carriages that Gordon couldn’t push alone. Henry and Edward were stronger together. “We’ve done it together, we’ve done it together” they exclaimed. He got a new coat of paint in the end.

The point of this bizarre blog? When we are in relationship with others, we can achieve. We fulfil our original purpose. We are happier together. Sometimes we need to let others pull us out of the safety of the darkness and lead us in to the freedom of the light. Sometimes we just need to dance in the rain.

No one can push you; you need to be ready to let someone push you out of your comfort zone to achieve all that you were designed to achieve.

The question is: are you ready to let that happen? Are you ready to let someone in? It might just be the best thing that you decided to do, and you might just get that brand new coat of paint that you always wanted.

I Dream

I dream.

I dream of waking up with you every day; turning to see you lying beside me: blue eyes, beautiful body.

I dream.

I dream of the adventures that we could have travelling across America in a 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible; you at the wheel, me by your side.

I dream.

I dream of marrying you and being surrounded by love, laughter and friendship in Compton: the place where we met and the moment I first knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life making you happy.

I dream.

I dream of a future where you are living life to the full; writing, drawing, expressing, creating. You are in touch with all the parts of yourself that you have hidden for years and you are secure enough in my love for you to try; even if that means that you might fail.

I dream.

I dream of a world where you can be mine and we can be us.

I have never been more embarrassed to have a vagina

I have just finished watching a painful five minute discussion on Loose Women. To be fair, I do not often watch it so I cannot speak as to whether this is the usual kind of thing that is discussed, but it was the topic that encouraged me not to change channels as I usually would have: the new OCR exam board proposition to expand A Level English Language and Literature curriculum by including texts such as ” Russell Brand’s views on drugs and Caitlin Moran’s Twitter feed” and “BBC Newsnight interview with rapper Dizzee Rascal and the work of former Guardian columnist the Secret Footballer.” (Source: English A-level with Russell Brand and Dizzee Rascal on reading list under fire, The Guardian, 6th May 2014)

The panel asked to contribute to the discussion: Janet Street Porter, Lily Allen, Myleene Klass and that one who used to be in a girl band before I was born. The response? Complete and utter crap.

Janet Street Porter, who of all people should have something to say on prejudice against class and language, simply offered a lukewarm endorsement and said that if it ‘gets kids reading’ then great, as that is the real issue.

Lily Allen’s response was ‘this really isn’t my topic – hahahahaha’ followed a pathetic disregard for her own power as a singer songwriter who has built a career on the power of language and message put to music.

Coleen Nolan’s response? To bring the discussion round to Shakespeare and to comment on how when she was at school it was just as boring as it is today, therefore anything that helps kids read has her vote.

Thank goodness for Myleene Klass, the only one who actually had something of substance to say about the matter…

Does the panel’s responses reflect those of the numerous fellow ladies at home watching this painful exchange, many of whom have children who study English Language and Literature?  I decided to look at the social media comments put forward by the women of the British public. Just a few of the 45 comments received at time of writing:

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I HAVE NEVER BEEN MORE EMBARRASSED TO HAVE A VAGINA.

Here are three things that I have to say on the matter:

1) No-one is saying ditch Shakespeare or the Classics. Study them AS WELL.

What OCR is proposing is a diversification of the texts that learners are exposed to whilst studying English Language and Literature. Interviews given by contemporary figures – and yes, rappers – and Twitter feeds have a rich and complex use of the English Language that has value to add to the understanding of how contemporary culture communicates, arguably as much as the Classic literature on which of our language and cultural identity is founded.

2) Studying English is so much more than just studying literature – that is why your children are studying English Language AND Literature.

When I look back at my time studying English at school, it wasn’t Shakespeare or the Classics that I was exposed to that comes to mind. It was the contemporary poetry, the study of newspapers and articles, and the history of the English Language, including texts written by contemporary figures such as Janet Street Porter herself, that I remember.

As for the educational value of a Twitter feed? As Barbara Bleiman, co-director of the English and Media Centre said, “A Twitter feed is a hybrid that has features of written language and features of spoken language, so it’s particularly interesting to study something like Twitter or a blog or online communication because it sharpens the questions of what distinguishes speech and writing.”

3) Studying this kind of course would NOT ruin students’ chances of getting in to a ‘good’ university, as some tw*t at the DfE has suggested.

That is simply class-related prejudice that is sadly still rife amongst those dictating the way that our (failing) education system should be run. In fact, studying this kind of a curriculum could broaden students’ understanding of English Language and Literature and, in fact, could encourage a new and exciting perspective in the field of linguistics, a university level subject.

Furthermore, we are not just educating students for higher education. Being able to critically analyse language, especially language used by people of influence: politicians, celebrities, the media, etc., is a key life skill that we all need, and is a skill that I wish some of the women whose comments I read on Facebook had, if only for a more interesting read…yawn.

Yesterday, today, tomorrow.

It has been 8 months since I last wrote about depression. Since then, there have been peaks and troughs but overall, it’s been a steady line on the richter scale. Then BAM, out of nowhere, it comes: a duvet day. It makes its presence known upon dawn’s eye opening; a sudden realisation that today is not OK. Today is not yesterday.

Four hours later, my bed loses its battle and I manage to drag my weight to the shower pleading with my mind to let me go

Yesterday I was fine; good even. Life was lived in technicolour. That’s one of the most frustrating things about depression: something small or insignificant triggers a relapse. All of a sudden, you’re back to square one, usually just when you feel that you are making progress; that life without Sertraline seem within an arm’s reach. Alas.

You feel defeated, pathetic and a sense a loss. You grieve what today could have been: the plans you made to make things right with the people you lost touch with after your last episode; the meetings that you had confirmed but won’t be able to make; life’s daily opportunities that you don’t even notice until you are taken away from you, like food, company, or laughter.

What keeps you going? Tomorrow.

Abandon Me, Dump Me, Fire Me: The kindest things that the men in my life have done to me

I find myself at a crossroads in my life not knowing which road to take. As I try to work out how I got here – single, jobless, directionless – I realise that it’s in part the fault of the men in my life, in particular: my biological father, my ex-boyfriend and my most recent boss. Paradoxically, I am eternally grateful to them for abandoning me, dumping me, and firing me, for I realise now, thanks to the gift of hindsight, that these are the kindest things that they could have done for me.

Abandon Me

I never knew my biological father. ‘Abandoned’ before birth, he and my mother separated before I was born. However, my mother met the man I call ‘Daddy’ at a party when I was 18 months old. For the past 24 and a half years, I have been loved and looked after by a man under no obligation to commit his life to being a father to me, but who has. Abandoning me and leaving the space for another man who wanted me as his daughter is something that I am eternally grateful for; for without it, I wouldn’t know my Daddy.

Dump Me

Valentine’s Day. He walked out of my room and I knew that this time, it was over. An irreconcilable difference: I want a future with marriage and children, he doesn’t. Would I have ever ended things with him? Probably not. Do I resent him leaving me? No, I respect him immensely. I respect him for loving me enough to let me go, knowing that if he couldn’t commit, he needed to release me to find what I am looking for and to give himself space to work out what he wanted in life instead.

Fire Me

“This isn’t working, is it?” he said, as I burst in to tears in his office. He was the best boss that I had ever had, and the office was the best place that I had ever worked. However, the job wasn’t the right for me and was slowly bringing me down. “Have you ever thought about journalism?” he suggested, after I explained that I had absolutely no idea what I am doing with my life and was clueless as to what I might do next. My answer was yes: I have always wanted to write and it’s not the first time that someone had suggested that I would be good at being a journalist. Rather than go home and cry under my duvet, I started researching journalism courses and writing opportunities. I called a friend who I knew worked as a journalist and asked her advice. I drafted this blog post. I felt something stirring in me that I hadn’t felt in a while: determination.

These men made difficult decisions and ones that I would have never asked for myself. Yet I will be eternally grateful to them for being brave enough to hurt me knowing that I deserved better and wanting me to be happy. For through the bitter experience of pain comes the sweetness of hope: the hope of the endless possibilities that are to become my future.

Image courtesy of @benreeson benreeson.com