Bad Mantras and Velvet Underground Album Covers

I am peeled raw like some exotic herb denuded of its skin. I am the human expression of that Andy Warhol Velvet Underground and Nico album cover with its ‘peel slowly and see’ banana with the soft pink flesh under the outer protective sticker. It is not very comfortable. Slowly, oh so slowly I am being stripped of my outer carapace. I wonder when it will stop? I wonder if I will be exposed until there is nothing but the raw me left pulpy and soft, heart open to all the sorrow the world has to offer. Perhaps it will has a pay-off. Perhaps I will not just be exposed to the sorrow but also the joy, the happiness, the light, the truth that lays beyond books and weed and gin and ancient stories, but that burns within our very DNA. Who are we? How did we get here? Why are we here? Where are we going next? All these Big Questions with potentially unnerving answers burn within my brain.

I came to this path simply looking for medicine. Instead I got a tour of who we are, where we are and why we are. I am faintly embarrassed of myself and my current convictions regarding life beyond this Earth and the origins of life on this planet we sit on. I don’t feel that I believe, I feel as if I know there are entities out there, aliens if you will; beings that are bigger and badder and sometimes better, much better and always more advanced than us. I now know, in my heart of hearts we are the object of creation.

Lessons thrown my way alongside tapdancing spiders and Scarab Beetle Empresses have been appearing with regularity. Lesson one, and we still have not learnt it on mass, after thousands of years of evolution after our human life was seeded on this planet, was an exercise in equal and fair exchange. I give you this, you give me back something which is fair and equal. Lesson two: what hurts me hurts you too, so no stealing, bashing over the head or murder, jealous or otherwise. Lesson three: altruistic efforts to help those lagging behind catch up. Sometimes equal and fair exchange can be forgone in the name of helping someone who really needs it for not only their good, but because their suffering hurts humanity as a group, as a struggling and suffering whole. If these lessons were learnt we would have no crime, no slavery, no violence. If these lessons were learnt and observed we would have no homelessness issue, no problem with drugs. The only problem is applying those lessons when faced with whatever the world throws at us.

I am no saint, and I have been a dirty rotten sinner at times. I’ve lacked self respect, self control and when I lost my autonomy due to abuse I became little more than a golem focused on the survival of my little family. Even golem fail when faced with overwhelming odds, I suppose. That said, I have fought the good fight for most my life. I’ve done my best and I’ve said my apologies. I’ve tried to make things right, show people I appreciate them saving my life and when all is said and done, I don’t think I can ever truly thank at least my dear friend and sister-of-my-heart Ruth, ever enough for everything she has done for me and the Boy.

I used to have a way to deal with feeling raw and scared. Whenever life overwhelmed me, which happened with horrifying regularity, I would have my mantra. I have done this since I was a child being abused by people who were meant to care for me and about me, not hurt me so badly my chances of a good, easy safe life in adulthood disappeared in the rear view mirror. I would say this mantra over and over again until I felt better, until the calm returned. Are you ready? The mantra which calmed me so much was:

I am dead

Detroit Richards. In times of stress..since? Time began for me.

“I am dead I am dead I am dead I am dead…” I would repeat it in my bed. I would repeat it in my head. I would say it out loud softly. I would speak it out loud with force, but only when no one else could hear me. I am dead. Those were the three little words with all the power in the world. I didn’t think it through when I first started saying it to myself when I was just a child. I just said it and it made me feel better. In time I realized that if I was dead already then nothing could hurt me. I was out of reach, out of the remit of their hands and their actions and their ability to hurt me. I was unreachable. I was dead.

It was a way of putting me out of harm’s way, that mantra. It had its cost, though. Being dead has a price. It cost me any desire for a future. After all the dead don’t dance. The dead don’t live. They stay protected in their bubble, a ghost, apart from the world, yet moving within it when they have to or want to. It protected me, and it destroyed me at the same time. After all, if I was dead, then I couldn’t die again, and so doing anything that felt good to a walking dead girl, was absolutely fine, di rigueur in fact. It gave me the out I needed to simply please myself, at least until I became a mother.

Becoming a mother did not protect me from being dead. What it did do was show me that dying was still a possibility. I could die all over again and in a different way. We all die, just not the same. My little inner-death was not a physical one, but that became a real possibility and so I had to live a little again inside and that hurt more than I can ever explain. I was told to live for my children, but here is a little secret. A woman can live for her children, and be expected to, but it won’t keep you alive. I lived my best young years only for them, to keep them alive and happy and well and I did so with no appreciation at all. The man who was meant to appreciate me was trying to kill me. One of the great joys in life now, is the fact I have an older teenage son, in the midst of his sugar-mountain days, those days between adulthood and childhood where life is magical and horrible all at once, but like Neil Young once sang, you can’t be 20 on Sugar Mountain. Thankfully we are quite a way away from twenty years old, both of us. There are more sweet days left, but he is old enough to express to me the great love he has for me as his mother, the great appreciation and respect and, yes, adoration and he shows me and let me know he knows what I have suffered to get him here and safe and happy and together. I feel seen and I feel as if someone sees that I am not dead, but had to live for him, and that it was not easy to do so.

What kept me alive was my inner life. My personhood while my womanhood demanded things of me which were utterly self sacrificing, demanded everything I had and would ever have. It demanded my happiness, my freedom, my chance at being loved romantically and loving back in that romantic way. It was worth it. I would do it all again, just so my Boy could have his life, and that I could know him for the wonderful, kind, beautiful, intelligent, creative, sweet young man he is. He has been the source of all the joy in my life, of every single moment of happiness. I love him dearly, and I hope one day he reads this and is reminded how much his mother loved him.

Because the sad thing is, death is real and possible, and assured in an end which is not as far away as I would like it to be, and I am staring it right in the eyes. It regards me with a dragon’s stare, unblinking, focused, unrelenting. “I am dead” is no longer a little mantra, a trope, a coping mechanism, it is something to flee from as far and fast as I can. It is something that has driven me to ditch every single painkiller and pursue a cure, or some remission, or even just a bit more time, and throw myself into a medicinal regime which has tested every single atom of bravery I have in my body, mind and soul.

So, spare a thought for this old peeled banana, her skin laying on the floor, her favorite album unplayable because it is too harsh for such naked ears. Spare a thought for this old girl, not so old as to have seen this coming, standing on her watchtower, fighting death after years of inviting it, living in it, and embracing it. Spare a thought for my tattered mind and my hurting body, and these hands that are gnarled and sore and useless and soft when they used to be so strong and brilliant and capable. Spare a thought for a woman who used to be able to fix anything and now needs to be helped up from her sofa and guided up stairs and held onto on moving stairs so she does not fall. Spare a thought for hands too sore to grip a walking stick that keeps the rest of the body upright. Keep your own fingers crossed I can stay out of that wheelchair a little longer. I need more time than I fear I have and more bravery to throw myself into the medicine so I can do a bit more living before that dragon swallows me whole and takes me to dance with the spheres in the sky. I know there will never be a time when I will be one of the grateful dead. I want to live forever. I want to shine and I want to exist and I want to live and see and experience and love and create and BE. I don’t intend on ceasing to exist, no matter what, no matter which plane I have to live within. I am going to live forever, even if that looks rather strange to me to write down right now.

I am not dead. I am alive and I can be hurt and I can be betrayed and I can be let down and I can be scared. The girl who was dead is dead and gone. The woman who lives replaced her. Beware. She has stars embedded in her eyes and moons revolving in her shattered tenderized soul.

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