Category Archives: Religion

Crystal Moments

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It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the last two weeks have been life changing for me. Transformative even. In many ways it’s been the culmination of a journey that I’ve been on for a while, making good and determined progress in the last year or so. And yet, though it’s a product of that journey, the moment I’m in now is also something unique and special.

I can’t convey everything in a blog post. Words wouldn’t do it complete justice, and much of it is too personal, not meant to be shared with the world. It is not mine to hold alone, it has been shared where it needs to be shared, and is safe. But I want to write something…

I’ve been keeping a journal over the last year or so. It’s fairly sporadic. As it turns out, I started a new notebook this week…ending my last one with the words “this is the end where I begin.” Today, I sat with a cafe latte and a chocolate brownie (my traditional grounding and comforting food) and wrote “I will remember this moment.” I didn’t mean the delicious chocolate brownie, the blur of rain on the window, or even my optimistic reflections on just having moved into a new home, on my own, for the first time.

What I wanted to remember about the moment was its purity and clarity. There are times when you seem to see the essence of life, of yourself, of compassion and your own truth. They’re moments that seem to turn to crystal…permanent, beautiful, pure and yet complex. And those crystals are points on the timeline of your life, always glistening there. Perhaps they’re pure, clear quartz or gentle rose pink. Happy citrine or protective, healing amethyst. But they remain, clear moments in time, always.

Quartz crystal (Image from Wikipedia.org)

Today was a day of intense emotion. The sort of intense emotion it’s probably best not to face alone. But if someone will come with you on that journey and help contain that emotion, never shy away from it. Ask the difficult questions, allow yourself to be vulnerable. Search and search some more for the places the shadows are hiding. Sometimes the painful intensity is what helps you reach back through the layers to find the essential you. The essential you has fears and faults. But you can’t comfort or forgive yourself unless you go to that place. Neither can you celebrate the qualities that are most important to you, the things that underpin your life.

And I found a place where all is still. All is clear. Imagined peace and beauty came into the world with me. There is a release and a relief, dizzying and calming all at once. I became the essential me and appreciated the wonderous nature of what I am. It is a place full of endless joy, a place where gratitude comes quickly and easily. Where I can examine my fears and let them go. Even mourning a loss becomes possible, not all-consuming, because I will go on beyond it, into the future. It inspires confidence and honesty, faith and questioning…and it makes me humble and ready to listen. To learn. To recognise wisdom in the world and disregard the things I don’t need to hear. To hear and trust the voice inside. Whether, for you, that voice is intuition, your God, or something else, you have to listen to hear it properly.

It is a sort of security in myself I’ve never had before. I find I want to be challenged now. I’m ready for the hard questions, the tough decisions, to take on things I’ve never done before. No more shying away. Because I know who I am, and that won’t be diminished by a challenge or a question. It will help me answer. For the first time in my life I am ready to acknowledge that I have been brave. And in claiming that, I find a new bravery. If I’ve done it once, I can do it again. Because the veil has lifted and I feel my connection with the world…And there’s no guilt or fear. Some sadness at moving on, yes. And times when I want a hug and to be cared for. But people don’t stop caring because you’re being brave, like I think I used to worry they would.

I know who I am.

I am thirty years old and I have a good amount of wisdom and understanding for those years. Except most people don’t think I look my age, which is a good thing. I am a woman, who rather enjoys being a woman. I am gay and happy to be born this way, though I don’t think sexuality should define anyone. I am Christian, which is harder to acknowledge than I want it to be and comes with a lot of questions, but I’m getting there. I am a writer, I adore words and I have a vivid imagination, but I want to use my love of words to study too. I cry easily and that’s not a fault. I have been in some dark places but I survived and the darkness has been pushed out by the light. People care about me and I am unceasingly grateful, I will never take it for granted. I am a history geek and know tons of information about all kinds of things: this is not something I need to apologise for. I am perceptive of how other people are feeling, and I care deeply. And I’m actually happy to be me.

And I know what the most important thing in life is, for me. The quality I find when I look deep within myself. When I hold that smooth, shining crystal moment and peer into it. Compassion. The sort of compassion which frees me from the shadows and makes me strong. The sort of compassion which then becomes a light in the world and helps others see in the darkness.

I don’t yet know how I will use that compassion. I have a lot more questions to ask of myself. But I want the difficult questions because finding the answers is an adventure.

Just lately, I’ve found the image of the butterfly cropping up again and again in my life. And it resonates so strongly. I feel reborn. I’m just getting used to the colours of my wings, the feeling of being able to fly. When a butterfly first emerges from the chrysallis, it sits for a while in the sunshine before it takes flight. I’m enjoying the light…forming that perfect crystal moment of light, hope, peace and colour. It will be preserved forever, perfect and pure.

But the air is heavy with the scent of flowers, there’s a warm enticing breeze. There’s a beautiful world to explore. I’m going to spread my wings and fly.

 

Beginning at the end.

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I’ve been enjoying the coverage of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations today. It’s hard not to get a little thrill out of being British on a day like this. I’m mostly ambivalent about monarchy as an institution, but what I have been enjoying is the sense of continuity. The Queen’s been reigning for 60 years, most of us can’t remember another monarch. And we’ve been ruled by (more or less) related kings and queens for centuries (with one notable gap). The river pageant today was the biggest in 300 years. But there was something like it 300 years ago. And it was impossible not to think of the great Tudor river pageants, those of the first Queen Elizabeth in particular.

Elizabeth II (via Wikiepedia)

 

Elizabeth I (via Wikipedia)

I like continuity. Something about it moves me and reassures me. I used to be very frightened of endings, of changes, of moving on. That fear is still there. When something is good, I want it to go on forever. I’ve not tended to have faith that the future will bring something equally good, or better. It’s partly irrational fear, partly lack of faith in myself, and partly lack of belief in other people. I don’t like to lose things. I’ve hoarded possessions, contacted people out of the blue after years, given up huge parts of myself…all in order to hold back change. To stop anything coming to an end.

But things do change. The royal court today is not remotely like that of the first Elizabeth. Part of what we’re celebrating in this Jubilee year is how much change there has been while Elizabeth II has been on the throne. Yes, she is a fixed point, but nothing else is. The element of continuity is lovely, but change cannot be avoided and, in fact, it should be celebrated.

 

I found some baby pictures recently. I loved looking through them, they made me quite emotional.

Me and my Mum c. 1983

My Dad and me c. 1983

 

I’ve always wanted to go back. To a time when things were pure, undamaged, when I was full of potential and nothing bad had ever happened. I didn’t like the feeling that the happy little girl, with her happy parents, was someone else, such a long time ago. I didn’t like the loss of continuity with her. I felt guilty that my choices had taken me away from her. It felt like so long ago and so far away. Which made me feel a little stranded in my present self. And frightened of losing anything else, of any more endings.

But change is impossible to avoid. Time ticks on and things have to change, there has to be a moving on. There has to be an ending. When I’m reading a good book, I realise it can’t go on forever. There will be a conclusion. There might well be a sequel in which I can revisit the things I liked about it. But I do have to close that particular book and put it on the shelf. I can admire the spine, think over the story, take it out and look at it, flick through the pages. But you can’t have a never ending book.

This has probably been the hardest part of life for me to accept. There’s a whole host of reasons, but I’ve always struggled with it. Just recently it’s been bothering me even more because I’m at a massive turning point. Not even a turning point, but a real ending in many ways. I reached a point, during the night last Friday when the sadness overwhelmed me in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. It’s rare that I can’t stop crying and the tears are more articulate than any words. But it felt that way. I couldn’t shake it for the whole of the next day.

Then, in one of those weird convoluted ways that amazing things happen, I heard a song. ‘The End Where I Begin’ by The Script (from their self-titled album).

The lyrics caught me:

Sometimes tears say all there is to say / Sometimes your first scars won’t ever fade away / Tried to break my heart / Well it’s broke / Tried to hang me high / Well I’m choked / Wanted rain on me / Well I’m soaked Soaked to the skin / It’s the end where I begin.
Sometimes we don’t learn from our mistakes / Sometimes we’ve no choice but to walk away…It’s the end where I begin 
Now I’m alive and my ghosts are gone / I’ve shed all the pain I’ve been holding on / The cure for a heart / Is to move along, is to move along…What don’t kill a heart / Only makes it strong
It’s the End where I begin

Sometimes we don’t learn from our mistakes Sometimes we’ve no choice but to walk away…

And suddenly, the sense of the continuity of life struck me again. I am so grateful that I found my way to this song. You see, I realise I have the scars, I’ve been soaked the skin, my heart has been broken. It’s already happened and can’t be undone. But it has made me stronger. I survived it. I am that little girl, even now, and I’ve come through the rain and the battles. Scars are healed wounds, the bleeding has stopped, but they are reminders. And it’s time to walk away, to move on. To accept the end as a beginning. It’s like a circle. Every time you try to find where it ends, you also find where it begins.

It’s interesting too. I’ve been going to church a lot lately and yet it’s only just struck me that the central story of Christianity (whether you believe, take it as truth, or a metaphor) is one of an ending being a beginning. That’s what the story of Crucifixion and Resurrection is all about. If it was not for that terrible ending–of brutal death on a cross–there could not be the new beginning–the Resurrrection–the message of light and hope and eternal love. The end is the beginning.

I can’t go back to be that little girl in the pictures. But I can remember that she is part of me. Childhood ended, but I simply began again. There are always endings. I will endure loss. Some things will remain, they will stay with me while other things end. Other things will return, like the characters in sequels to well-loved novels. I can’t always control it.

But I can begin at the end and go through it and past it and onto things that are better, deeper, brighter, more fun. I will still be me. I will still be the happy child. But I’ll be the complex adult too. I’ll take some things with me and move on from others.

Now, this moment, summer 2012, in a year where continuity is being celebrated. This is the end where I begin.

 

(and by the way, my latest novel, The Locket and the Flintlock, is now available in both ebook and paperback form!)

 

Affirmation of faith…in myself…

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Wow, it’s a long time since I posted anything! My excuse is the same as last time. Work, work and more work. Plus, this time, a fair amount of illness and injury too. I’ve been coughing, sneezing and limping just lately. And nearly falling down the stairs too. But I am currently–apart from a strained ligament necessitating a bandaged foot–in pretty good health! Good job, since I’m at work so much!

All of this work was making forget that I’m a writer. I know, that’s a steady theme of this blog, reminding myself I’m a writer. But it’s a constant in my life. People ask what I do and I only usually remember to add that I’m a writer as they’re walking away. My other job is wonderful and fascinating, but I would like to remember I’m a writer from time to time.

Lots of good things have happened lately. I have confidence in my ability to do my job well, and to have fun doing it. I’ve realised just how many friends I really do have to invite to my 30th birthday party. I’ve found I can let go of things hoped for in the past and replace them with new hopes and dreams. That people sometimes really do want to hug me. I’ve taken to wearing clothes I want to wear, not ones to hide behind. I’m being myself in conversations–more of a struggle in the past than you might suspect. I’m branching out in so many ways…emerging from the mournful night into the joyful day. It’s exciting.

But there’s always that undercurrent of doubt in myself. Of not quite believing compliments. Of over-analysing conversations after I’ve had them to see if I said anything stupid. Of not wanting to expose my real self to people. There’s a whole host of reasons and I’m working on making those things melt away.

A lot of those doubts manifest themselves when I think about my writing. Am I really a writer? A real one? With books people want to read? This past week has done a lot to answer those questions. On Saturday 17th March I went to States of Independence, an event for indie publishers held at De Montfort University in Leicester. The corridors and rooms were full of stalls covered in books and pamphlets from all kinds of publishers and writers. I had the privilege of spending time with Bold Strokes Books editor Victoria Oldham and authors Kev Troughton and Andrea Bramhall, behind a table covered in a wide and wonderful selection of BSB books. In the afternoon, we did a 40 minute session on LGBTQ publishing, with readings and a Q&A session. It was wonderful. I had no fear sitting at the front of that room, nor standing up to read my excerpt from Ghosts of Winter. I answered questions happily. And I felt the interest of the people in the room. The acceptance of me as a writer, on my third published novel. A voice of experience, no less. And as a gay woman too. I’ve always struggled to talk about my sexuality in front of people. I shy away from labels and stereotypes. But I found I didn’t mind. And people wanted my advice. They wanted to buy my book. It was astonishing. But it was also amazing. I have rarely felt as comfortable in my skin as I did for those few hours. I have rarely felt so distinctly that I was in the right place, at the right time, doing what I should be. I spent the rest of the day wildly happy and also immensely grateful for the opportunity to feel strong and positive in a way I really haven’t done before.

Bold Strokes Books book at States of Independence

With Andrea and Kev at States of Independence

Then, today, to add to the excitement, the Lambda Literary Awards finalists were announced. And Ghosts of Winter is on the shortlist! Right there in the “Lesbian Romance” category. I’m still stunned, in the best way possible. It’s such an honour. I always thought such lists were for other people’s books. And certainly, I’d been feeling very distant from Ghosts of Winter lately. But to be named there with some other wonderful authors (including the most fabulous showing for Bold Strokes) is amazing beyond words. To know that my book has been read and appreciated…it’s so wonderful and moving to me. I am deeply grateful. Of course I love Ros and Anna, the protagonists of Ghosts all over again. But more than anything, I realise that I wrote a good book. I am a writer. And a good one! I’m incredibly excited.

On Saturday I’m going on a retreat day at an Anglican convent. I signed up because for me it’s vital to explore my faith, whatever shape and form that takes, and to ponder it a while. I’ve only been going to church for a year and I know it will be a journey that lasts the rest of my life. I’ve been exploring and pondering myself for longer and really working on it for a couple of years now. It will also be a constant journey, but I’ve reached a very important waymarker. I think that finally, I know who I am, what I dream of, what I hope for and what I’m good at. What I should be proud of. I have a firm faith in myself.

And that makes moving forward an adventure rather than an ordeal.

Next on the list? The Locket and the Flintlock will be released in May! 😀

 

 

Epiphany

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Happy New Year to everyone reading this. I hope it’s a wonderful year for all of you. 😀

So, today is Epiphany. The last day of Christmastide. Twelfth Night (or that could have been last night, depending which calender you follow…) I’ve just finished off the Christmas ice cream and ordered some bathroom scales. A diet begins tomorrow. But I’m not blogging about calorie-related resolutions, you’ll be pleased to hear…

Today is the day that Christians celebrate the visit of the Magi to the baby Jesus. “Epiphany” comes from Greek and Latin, via Middle English, meaning “apparition.” It represents not just some wise men from the “East” paying tribute to a newborn Messiah, but the manifestation of Jesus to the gentiles. That makes a it a very inclusive festival, if you ask me. The message being that Jesus came for everyone. Okay, we don’t all believe in Jesus…but the idea of hope, light and love being something everyone can have a share in is one that I like.

'Adoration of the Magi' by Gentile da Fabriano

I have always been fascinated with the story of the Magi visiting Jesus, ever since I first learned the Nativity story, and that fascination has never gone away. They’re only mentioned in one of the Gospels (Matthew), we don’t know for sure there were three of them, who they were or where they came from. They’re almost mythical, mysterious and exotic. Wise men, astrologers or kings? And those wonderful gifts, gold, frankincense and myhrr. Something otherworldly, symbolic and luxurious in the squalor of a stable.

I lived in Slovenia for a while, and often strayed into other countries, such as Austria and Germany. There, you would see  C + M + B written in chalk about doorways, with the date of the year. A blessing for the house in the coming year, with the traditional initials of the Magi. It has a touch of magic about it, something transcending pure Christianity.

C + M + B 2009 written above a door in the Czech Republic (from Wikipedia)

Giotto di Bondone's 'Adoration of the Magi' showing the Star of Bethlehem as a comet.

And then there’s the matter of the starthey followed. It’s controversial, that star. There’s been plenty of attempts to work out if any real astronomical event could account for it (there are theories, but they don’t really hold up). A miracle? A detail added to fulfill a prophecy? Sent by Satan (as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe)? In the end, we’ll never prove the Star of Bethlehem was real, any more than we’ll ever have proof that God exists (or otherwise). But it’s a wonderful idea. A light, burning in the sky, leading wise men through the desert to a place where they will find the source of peace, love and light, to where they will find meaning. Whatever your beliefs, surely the beauty of that is undeniable. We’re all looking for our star, a light to follow…to lead us forward through desert places, to show us the way, to help us find hope and joy. At the beginning of this new year, I’m keeping my focus on my own personal guiding light…aware of my own epiphany…

Because epiphany isn’t just about wise men in the desert. In our modern terminology, “epiphany” is something more personal. It’s a moment of sudden truth, clarity of perception, or insight. I know that feeling. Okay, there hasn’t been a revelation in a split second. But really, in a whole lifetime, what is “sudden”? In many ways the last year has been my epiphany. Every passing month brought with it a new revelation, a new understanding, a new ability to feel in a way I never dared to. And that brought a new way of looking at the world and my place in it.

I can feel that in every moment now, as I contemplate the year ahead. Epiphany is the time Christians ask for God’s blessing over the year ahead. I’m doing something very similar. I’m looking ahead to a good year and allowing myself to hope. I don’t remember another year I’ve been so hopeful about. True, there are parts of it I am not looking forward to. But I know how to deal with them now. I am not going to allow myself to be scared of the world, or of the people in it. Or of myself. If keeping to that involves working at it, then I will. And if that sounds trite, so be it. For me, it is an epiphany.

It’s going to be manifest in my writing too. The Locket and the Flintlock will be out in May (from Bold Strokes Books) and I’m very proud of it, as I am of my previous novels Truths and Ghosts of Winter. But I feel something more adventurous inside me, waiting to make its mark on the page. I see the world through wiser, more perceptive eyes. And therefore, I write with more wisdom too. It’s exciting.

So, today, I am celebrating in a quiet way. I feel like I’m at a turning point. My star has led me to a place of hope. And I will ensure that light doesn’t die.

Christmas!

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I’ve just reached the end of first round edits on The Locket and the Flintlock (coming from Bold Strokes Books in May 2012). It’s exciting. I’ve created characters I love so much I wish I really could bring them to life so I could meet them. And I’m feeling very inspired for the book I want to write next too…very inspired. Like I might actually start writing. Which is all excellent and distracting. I’d barely noticed the passage of time until I went into a supermarket today and noticed the shelves had been stripped bare as though there was a natural disaster on the way. Of course there isn’t. It’s just Christmas…though I don’t know how on earth it got here so quickly…

So, it’s the night before the night before Christmas. It’s quite possibly going to be the strangest Christmas ever. For reasons in my life that I won’t go into, I don’t have a tree…or garlands…or tinsel…or lights. I do have a Christmas pudding. I mean, some things are too important to miss. I don’t have a pile of gifts waiting to be opened (a few, but not a pile). And I don’t care.

This isn’t going to be a “bah humbug” blog post though. I’m not going to bemoan the commerciality of Christmas and be all self-righteous about having opted out of it. I haven’t really. It’s just happened. But I’m incredibly glad it has, even if some of the reasons for it aren’t ones to celebrate.

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present (from Wikipedia)

For once, Christmas is about connecting with the spirit of this time of year. Because they’re not being outshone by decorations and lights, each and every card means more to me, and I’m really thinking of the people who took time to send them to me. And there’s quite a crowd on the shelf, which never ceases to surprise me. That many people thought of me for long enough to write a card. Wow. I’ll always be grateful. And there’s all the e-mail greetings, hugs and smiles. All of them mean the world.

I’m also very aware of the meaning of Christmas this year. For me, going to church is involved and that’s been incredibly special. Tomorrow I’ll be at a Christingle service where we will hold oranges representing the earth and candles representing Jesus as the light of the world. In so many ways Christmas–for Christians–represents the beginning of the story, the birth of hope and joy. Whatever religious doubts there are–and I have plenty of my own–it’s hard not to feel some of that. More than that, the coming together of people to celebrate light in the depths of winter is something so much more ancient than Christianity. This is the time of solstice, Yule, Saturnalia, Hannukah…and countless other celebrations to banish the darkness and encourage the coming of the light…just because my winter celebration is framed in Christian terms, it doesn’t mean I don’t feel connected to all of those other festivals. All of those people who have celebrated at this time of the year…for centuries…all the people who will celebrate this year. Christmas is a time of community, of being together…and even when I am alone, when I think of Christmas, I am part of something.

Christingle

Christmas is a time of childhood, of course. We sing the carols we’ve always known. We remember waiting for Santa to arrive. As such, for me at least, it’s a time for reflection too. Childhood is over. Santa is not going to come, I’ll never be Mary or an angel in the nativity play. But that’s because I’ve grown up and while there’s a certain amount of loss involved in moving on, in becoming an adult, and while some hopes have to be abandoned, others take their place. I don’t think about what I want for Christmas anymore. I pause and contemplate my hopes for the coming year.

When I was a child, every year without fail, I was dressed in a costume for Christmas. It started with Santa, with a red dressing gown and cotton wool beard. I was a fairy with sequins sewed onto a white vest and a netting skirt. I’ve been a cracker, a parcel, a tree. My mother made these costumes for me. I would put them on and then parade around in front of grandparents, uncles and cousins and be admired. Or should I say, the costume would be admired. According to those who saw this display, the best of them all was the year I dressed as a snowman. It was quite a costume. Made of white, thin foam, it covered me from shoulders to toes, and even had mittens to hide my hands. The head was a huge hollow ball of the same foam with a snowman face (coal black circles of card for a smile and a cardboard carrot nose) glued to the front. I viewed the world through two blue plastic circles to be sure my eyes didn’t detract from the overall effect. Impressive. A fun Christmas memory for my family. But I honestly don’t remember whether I enjoyed being in there or not. It’s a blank. No one else really knew whether I enjoyed it or not either.

I think a lot of Christmases have been like that, even without the costume. And not just for me. We do what we think we should and forget what it’s all about. All that outward festivity and inward stress. All the commerciality in the name of a spiritual festival. All the family celebrations barely masking hidden tensions.

But this year is different. I’m not dressing up as anything. I’m happy to be me. I’m happy for Christmas itself to be stripped back to basics. A time of quiet and peace and allowing the light in to the dark places.

So, tomorrow, my Christingle candle will have a lot of meaning for me. Even if you’re not celebrating the holidays in a way that involves lighting a candle, I would urge you to do it anyway. Just for you. Have your own festival of light. Light a candle. Think of all the other diverse people in the world lighting candles…dancing in the light…or longing for it in darkness. Feel connected and part of something. And think of the year ahead. The message of Christmas is hope. What do you hope for? Allow yourself those hopes and be at peace with them. In doing so, you will allow others their hopes too. In the midst of all the hustle and bustle, that is the most wonderful of Christmas gifts.

Merry Christmas to everyone who reads this…and may 2012 bring you joy, love and peace.

And a fabulous Doctor Who Christmas special! Another essential of the season! 😀

Doctor Who at Christmas (from http://www.bbc.co.uk/doctorwho)

A Candle in the Darkness

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I realised recently that darkness and light play a massive part in all of my thinking. Whether it’s about creating an atmosphere in a novel or story, knowing which parts of the old prison I work in will freak visitors out most effectively and where a frightened child will feel safe, or about more philosophical, deeper feelings and the metaphors through which I understand the world, I see a lot of things in terms of darkness and light.

Image from Wikipedia

I wonder if this is really the most fundamental of all the ways in which we relate to our world? There is little more straightforward and predictable than night following day and the light coming again at dawn.  It is a part of the experience of every human culture, for all of time. So, many religions use darkness and light as a way of talking of the difference between evil and goodness, or sin and redemption, death and life. Shakespeare used the theme effectively in many of his works, Macbethsprings instantly to mind. We talk of the Dark Ages and the Enlightenment.

There are interesting paradoxes once you start to explore the concepts of darkness and light. The dark is frightening and dangerous…yet it is also a place in which we can hide, obscured and undiscovered. It is peaceful even while it can suffocate. It is a place of passion and restful sleep. But there is no clarity and all is guesswork. Meanwhile, the light can be too stark, leaving us exposed and vulnerable and blinking in bewilderment. We can see with clear vision, but that also enables us to see what is wrong and allows little comfort. And what of the twilight times, when the spirits walk and shapes blur and all is about transition, the eternal cycle of day and night? How do we feel as we slip from one state to another? Should we cling to the light and fight the darkness? Or accept its embrace?

Image from Wikipedia

I’ve been exploring Christianity just lately, going to church. My favourite Christian song of the moment is “Shine Jesus Shine.” It’s impossible, I find, whatever doubts I have, not to feel uplifted by the message of hope. And it’s all about light. Jesus, to a Christian, is light and hope, the way to fight the darkness. Most religions celebrate light and flame in some way, at some point in the year, often in the darkest depths of winter. Hanukah in Judaism, St Lucia’s Day in Sweden, candles and the Yule log in the Pagan and Christian European traditions of midwinter and Christmas, the Hindu festival Diwali…the list is endless. We even light candles on our birthday cakes.

Image from Wikipedia

Humans, it seems, need light every bit as much as flowers need it…we’re drawn to it more irrevocably than moths.

Sometimes though, it is hard to walk out into the light. Darkness, frightening though it is, obscures our faults, the things we are ashamed of. It allows us to be stealthy, watching the world without being seen. It can be a safe hiding place. Why leave it and be exposed? However much we long to bathe in light, it undoubtedly requires a greater honesty and acceptance of ourselves to do so. Being seen requires us to be brave and
steadfast in our belief in ourselves. But it is, undoubtedly—as scores of our traditions show us—also a basic human need.

My advice to anyone lingering in the dark is to remember that you’re a creature of light. The hope is there, however obscured.  You just need to find it and not be frightened of it. Light a candle or a gentle lamp in a dark room. Feel the golden glow spreading from its source and surrounding you, soothing you more than the darkness ever could. Let it show you for who you are and be proud. Let it be a halo around you. Be aware, for a while, of the darkness outside the halo. Examine it from your new perspective.  When you can bear that light and it becomes a fundamental part of you, you won’t want to slip back into the shadows, you’ll step into the brightest light without fear.

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” Carl Jung

 “We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine.” Dwight L. Moody.

 “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence actually liberates others.” Marianne Williamson.

Google “Quotes about light” and just see how many words have been spoken and written about it. Some of them very beautiful and thought provoking. Come out of the darkness. Shine. Today, I finally understand how that feels.

Image from Wikipedia

Clarity

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The name Pandora translates as “all giving”. In Greek mythology she was the first woman. The one with the box. When she opened it, all the evil escaped and swirled around, spreading out into all the world. All that was left in Pandora’s box, was hope. My last blog post, it strikes me, was called “Confusion and Hope”. Interesting.

I’ve felt a lot like Pandora. Without wishing to sound at all martyr-like, I’ve given a lot of myself, tried very hard to please…been as worried about disappointing people as Pandora was of disappointing Zeus when she disobeyed him and opened the box. And I’ve blamed myself for opening that box, letting lots of bad things swirl around me and confuse me, letting them hurt other people.

"Pandora" by Rossetti

But, in the last days, that murk is clearing. I can see what’s left in the box. It’s hope. It’s bright and it’s strong. It’s a butterfly, with glowing wings, waiting to fly into the blue skies.

I always knew it was there. Hope never vanished. Only now, it seems tangible. It seems strong. I can see it clearly. It’s more than hope. It’s a belief in my future.

Suddenly, I find I have clarity. It’s an interesting experience. To see myself for what I am, and to realise I have to define myself. Not in opposition to anything or in relation to anyone. Just as me. Just for me.

Who am I? Now there’s a question. I’ve started to tell people I’m a writer again. Just yesterday someone told me that my novel, Ghosts of Winter touched their heart very deeply. Those were my words, my characters. I’m proud to be a writer. I feel part of my writing ambition remains unfulfilled. In my next novel, I will do something about that. When I work out how to write it…

 

I’m gay. I struggle a little more telling people that than I do telling them I’m a writer. I’m still trying to work out why. The word “lesbian” makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know why that is either. Sometimes women in general make me uncomfortable, especially en masse. It’s strange. But it’s part of me.

 

 

I’m exploring my spirituality. I’m doing so within the “family” of a Church of England church. Such established, orthodox, paternalist, heterosexist religion is in direct contradiction to much of what I believe in. And yet, I’m asking questions. Why is it okay for someone to interrogate their spiritual beliefs and come to a faith in Mother Earth or Budda without condemnation? Some religions seem to be trendy. Why am I frightened of the Christian church? Surely all it is–like every religion and belief system–is another way of exploring the idea that there is something more than our fleeting existence. I’ve met with more acceptance in that church than I have within my own family. It was easier to come out to the vicar than it was my own mother. I’m not sure what I believe. But I find I can explore it now…without fear and with confidence in my conclusions…

Window at St. Margaret's Church, Aspley, Nottingham

I finally feel like an adult. Everyone I know has assumed their proper age in my mind, and no longer do I feel inferior to, and more naive than, everyone I meet. I have something worthwhile to contribute. I sometimes know more than other people…

And I have dreams again. I know they’re dreams and, as such, might not come true. But they are exciting, something to aim for. They are part of how I will relate to the world in the coming months. Having the clarity of mind to know my dreams is more wonderful than I could ever expect it to be.

In clarity, you see, there is no certainty. My dreams may deviate, or never come true at all. My mind is full of questions, about myself and the world. But that’s the point of clarity. When the view is clear, you can see all the way to the horizon. You can see all that lies before you and look at it carefully, in all of its vivid colours. You see the beauty and the mystery. Sometimes you see the problems too. But the point is, you see them clearly. And that means you can meet them head on.

My favourite quotation: “If you have built castles in the sky, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put foundations under them.”  (Henry David Thoreau)

I can see my castle now. I can see the foundations I’ve been building under it for the last year. They’re strong. Now I can start to fill the rooms, paint the walls…and look out from the tower and see the view. The skies are clear.

 

I’m about to start work on my next novel, though it’s a secret for now. I’m not writing a proposal, that doesn’t work for me. I’m taking a risk. How does Victorian Gothic sound? Ghosts of Winter is doing well. And next month is the BSB event at Waterstones. All good stuff!