The Invitation

I recorded this reading of The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer last weekend for the DDC. It came after a number of conversations where, basically, everyone was being nice about everyone else’s voices. Its a poem that has featured heavily in my mental health journey, and we had it read in 2012 at our wedding by one of my brothers. Its a story of owning your own responsibilities and worth, and of accepting your partner in whatever context for who they are just as they accept you. Its always been a beautiful piece. Personally I always feel like I sound like I’m speaking ronud a mouthful of rocks when I talk – but I keep being challenged on that, so here goes outside my comfort zone:

My reading of The Invitation

The Invitation by Oriah
It doesn’t interest me
what you do for a living.
I want to know
what you ache for
and if you dare to dream
of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me
how old you are.
I want to know
if you will risk
looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me
what planets are
squaring your moon…
I want to know
if you have touched
the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened
by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know
if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know
if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you
to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations
of being human.

It doesn’t interest me
if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear
the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know
if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
“Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live
or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me
who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me
where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know
what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know
if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like
the company you keep
in the empty moments.

By Oriah © Mountain Dreaming,
from the book The Invitation
published by HarperONE, San Francisco,
1999 All rights reserved

Cosplay Confidence

I think one of the great skills I’ve learned through attending conventions and dressing up in silly costumes has been to leverage my customer service skills and old stagecraft from performances at school to strike poses and appear confident in public in those costumes. This in turn has bolstered my confidence at work with knowing I can wear sometimes ridiculous outfits and have people admire them.

What it doesn’t do, and I still have great difficulty with, is managing the socialising side of things. In large part I think this comes from imposter syndrome and that dreadful temptation to take people’s social media representation at face value. I’m dreadful at remembering names or being confident in having conversations at times. If I let it, this fosters huge feelings of isolation as I see other people interacting and making plans.

But then I remember that I have a great number of people who I quietly just know and get on with enjoying things with. They’re not the showiest, they’re actually capable of deeper connection and empathy, and who always have time for me.

It’s just a measure of my own baggage that I don’t feel I deserve it, or that people are just tolerating me. Adult brain knows it is false, and also celebrates not embracing shallow showiness, but it is still a head siren call to resist.

Lady M reminds me that the quiet strength and conviction, and no small measure of stubbornness are signs of the strength that she admires. In other ways, so too does lady s. The chorus is strengthened by my counsellor, and by coworkers who prize my ability to tell and sell people unpopular news without flinching, and not alienate them in the process.

I wouldn’t wish the twists and turns of my path here on anyone, and I’m proud of who I am, even if the black dog disagrees. My hobbies, upbringing, lifestyle, and hard work have tempered my confidence and presence. If that inspires or gives strength to other people that’s a grand thing too – whether that’s in cosplaying, work, or the quiet of their lives.

Accidental Boosts

If you follow me on any other social media, or know me in real life, you might have noticed that I’m drawing and doodling and sketching and painting, and generally being an expressive soul all over the place. I have work colleagues who are reassured to see my doodles all over scraps of paper as they know I’m based out of that location for a while, and others who in the past have zealously gathered up those scraps before I can throw them in the bin to keep hold of them.

I mention this because I’m starting to return to writing and drawing in my journals, especially as I’ve been gifted with, and also acquired for myself, a number of different sets of brush pens and other lineart tools. It has prompted me to develop new refinements of my artwork. It has also meant that I’ve returned to drawing around odds and ends that I’ve written in the books as I can’t stand having wasted space in them.

Drawing and Writing as usual

Sometimes these are fiction fragments or bits of a story that I’m working on, and sometimes they are more thoughtful pieces that I’ve written – often while the black dog is barking and worrying at my heels.

I write these pieces to ground myself and force myself to acknowledge the positives and available options around me. Sometimes they are light and fluffy, and sometimes they are from a lower and more stubborn place, plodding along like a donkey pulling a cart through the mud.

Many of these pieces end up on Instagram to break up the flow of selfies, cosplay pictures, book covers I’ve enjoyed encountering, or other random facets that I highlight in any given day. I present them “as is” without comment, simply because I want to preserve them somewhere, and I like some aspect of technique or design and want to show it off. I certainly don’t expect to enter into long conversations about them as they’re usually just dashed off while watching tv or something.

This piece however got a response from someone who read the text and found it spoke to them – that it was what they needed to hear at that point – and that even though they often use writing for similar purposes they don’t feel the confidence to post them online. This spoke to me – partially in recognition of the power of similar moments as I’ve encountered them, partially being glad to have been able to give someone a lift in that moment, and partially a disbelief that I have been able to affect someone in that way. Its humbling and more than a little cool to receive that kind of feedback, and I hope I managed to not sound completely awkward in responding to that person.

Short Story: Inspiration

The library of lives sighed around them as they walked between the shelves. They were following the tail flick of the cat that had brought them here. Whenever they felt lost or at the very least uncertain if where to go next, they would see the cat, pale in the shadows of the books down a particular passage, or sense the speed of his darting from place to place.

They had searched through dreams, first for their guide, and then for each other, determined to find the common inspiration for the visions that pulled them. In the waking world they had compared notes and constructed scenarios to ponder in those shifting grey moments before the veil of sleep claimed them.

The cat had been the first clue, pale as bone rather than the dark shiver of motion they had been expecting. It had regarded each of them as they slept in their beds, and the memory of it had been singular enough to stay with them on the other side of the dawn.

They made a pact to recall and follow where that cat led them. Past the deserts of Lost Nahend, and across the ruby-strewn obsidian plain below the Sundered Peak, their guide had dared them to continue.

Eager, their entwined dreams had brought them to the libraries that never were, and the various annexes that threatened to derail their search. They saw other dreamers from time to time in those crooked corridors, entranced by the volumes they had only ever planned, or contemplating the poetry they had never dared.

The white cat led them past those traps, and out into a sunlit room with bare floorboards and a sunny view obscured by the grime of autumns been and gone.

They cautiously explored the blank journals on which their guide had come to perch, but saw no titles on the spines. The cat yawned and began to groom itself as they looked around. They had been searching for the inspiration that drove them and sparked their work. Finding no answers in the waking world, they had turned to oneiromancy, sure that such an ephemeral goal could best be lifted from the skein of dreams.

They stood there in that plain room, surrounded by unmarked pages with no view visible through the windows and then realised the one thing that could inspire them to continue, to create, to grow and to explore their worlds.

They stood there and looked to each other, and laughed until they woke – separate and yet united at last.

Short Story: Inspiration

Sliding down the bed from a position of comfort to what can only be hoped is an entrance to sleep. Muscles grown used to semi-reclined posture signal their momentary discomfort, but whether in hope of a ceasing or completion of the maneuver is harder to say.

A book read, now ended, rests on the bedside table. It’s cover gleams in the illumination of the small lamp beside it, beckoning just one more caress of the spine and a turning of its pages. Its siren call of ‘one more chapter’ is now a whisper of ‘what comes next?’

Sleep beckons, but the stimulated mind resists, churning and coiling with words and phrases seeking each other’s meaning and completion; repetition battles a growing weariness until it itself ceases to have meaning and becomes thumping noise rattling inside my skull.

I should be sleeping, but instead my muse is calling. Instead of flutes and flowers and the promise of sweet caresses however, she has her hobnail boots on, and is thoughtfully swinging a snooker ball in a sock.

Body aching and protesting before I’ve even settled, with a brain on fire and babbling nonsense, I know when I’m beaten – and so to my notebook I must turn

Inspiration All Around

You might have noticed a few new stories on the blog, and these will continue to come, though I may not post absolutely everything I write under this new challenge. I am also picking back up the novel as well as other odds and ends.

This new activity is inspired, as ever, by what’s going on around me: by friends and family, by my partners and co-workers. This inspiration may not always be happy and sweetness and light though. I am still a grumpy old sod with an eye for the ridiculous in all that surrounds me, so I know that a trying work day is as rich a vein of inspiration for me as conversations in the small hours, or events seen in the street.

Today certainly seems to be inspiring the grumpier side. The details are not important, but I’m reminding myself here that I really don’t need to wind myself up about what might be, or anticipate problems I may not have to deal with.

More directly, looking after myself with proper food and drink is the immediate order of the day. The writing and silliness and joy will follow the self-care.