I am Cliodna

Walking in, the excitement and dread runs through my body.  It is a different kind of adrenalin rush, it’s slow – it has an undercurrent of foreboding topped by a wave of pleasure.

Your feet hit the water and you think its not too bad today, every time. 

You stride in and the creeping cold wraps itself like fat juicy tentacles around your thighs as the water suddenly hits the place where the flame usually burns.

You conquer it and stride forward; battered by wave after wave, but you continue stoically.

I often scream, I don’t need to but I like to.   

You get to the torso, it takes the breath away but you continue, you keep on breathing.  Always at this point you decide you can’t make it this time and you think about turning back.  You can’t turn back because that would be worse.  So you only go forward.

The breasts – protecting the heart – feel the pain so sharply in this pact with the sea.  The icy cold water needles them, your masochistic tendencies make you smirk.  This is the danger point. I gasp and I realise I am holding my breath.  Exhale.

As a try to override the innate flight reflex I say to myself “I am Cliodna, the daughter of Manannan”

I really am a daughter of Manannan; I have felt the wrath of his anger on the island where I grew.  The sea has been in my life since I was born.  I have sailed stormy seas and survived many times over.

The power of Cliodna pushes me as I sink my body into the water with a sigh, a deep blissful sigh that silences everything except a faint flatline I hear between my ears.  The water feels like a white energy field absorbing into me at a cellular level.  Suspended by the cold, head above the torpor, living, breathing, alive, really really alive. Tingling sensations making me laugh out loud as I move my legs and arms and the water rushes in everywhere. 

Nothing matters in that moment, I don’t even know who I am, and I don’t even care. 

Just a body in the sea.  A creature, a goddess, back to nature; reborn every time. 

I never want to leave.

Tinder Has Left the Chat

Ten months into an alcohol free life. Something is bubbling up and I don’t quite know how to handle it. They say that ten months in can be a tumultuous time because the pink cloud you have been feeling starts to drift away and you are left with some of the darker clouds moving slowly over your head. This last week something felt off; I started to get eczema again – a signal to me that my body is in distress (in my butt crack of all places), I have not been motivated to go swimming or to the beach, I have felt angry with friends and felt like shouting FUCK YOU into the sky. Nothing in particular I could put my hand on. Just a feeling, a simmering disgust, barely contained anger.

I try everything to change my mood when I get like this; I walk, I listen to podcasts, I eat healthy food even though I am dreaming about shoving doughnuts in my face. I don’t and it takes all my fucking strength – I don’t because I am in the middle of changing my life and I am sick of taking two steps forward and then three steps back. The boring cycle of behaviour I know so well.

My body is physically changing too – perimenopause I think. It can be from one week the happiest of highs to the lowest of lows. The go-to things that could relieve this pain and discomfort are booze and sugar but they are the two things I am staying clear from because guess what? They make me feel even worse.

I was meant to go on a date this week with someone really interesting and handsome but I realised a few days ago that my heart wasn’t in dating full stop. I started to feel a sort of dread and anxiety about it all because I am just not ready to be vulnerable or even friendly with a new person in the loaded space of Tinder dating. This is the second time I have bailed on someone in the last year and I hate myself for it because it is not fair on them. But I try so hard to feel “normal” and like I am ready to connect with others but then I realise I am not and I back out.

I have deleted Tinder and I have learnt my lesson that I am just not even half ready to go down a path of meeting anyone. I know that now. Dating is fucked up really – I don’t think I am suited for it; I want to meet people in real life and build up friendships. I met my ex at Carnival and it was instant connection at first sight. It was fun to be chatted up in reality, spontaneous and none of the pre-date wondering if they will fancy you in the flesh or not. So it is fair to say I am done with online dating.

I am looking forward to getting my first year of alcohol free life in the bag and to celebrate it I am going to take the famous sleeper train from London to Scotland and spend some days in the Highlands. I thought about whether I would want to do that with someone, and honestly the answer is no, I want the solitude. I want the freedom to wander and to celebrate my first year of sobriety on my own. It feels like empowerment to me. I have spent years of my life in long term relationships and my single life has been some of my happiest. Acknowledging this is powerful.

So I say to myself, I am not ready to share my life, I am not ready to share my life and that is okay.

“Hope you find some happiness”

The other day on Twitter I got into a row with a woman who I had been following for years. The crux of it was I disagreed with a tweet one of her mates posted which said something like “why do men who put never married or had kids on their dating profile see it as a badge of honour when it just shows you cant commit”

I put forward that marriage and kids does not equate commitment and a few other people commented in this way too. Apparently the tweet was a “joke” but honestly where is the joke? I can’t stand that kind of judgement on anyone who has not quite lived up to the social conventions we apparently need to follow. Joke it may have been but there is a serious load of bullshit behind it all. I engaged with this tweet in a reasonable way saying I wish we wouldn’t judge people like this as I am an unmarried and child-free woman and yet I have had serious commitments in my life and that perhaps people putting it on their profile isn’t about a badge of honour but about wanting to find similar people who may find that important. Also, why can’t it be a badge of honour?

But aside from that tweet which I wasn’t offended by (just disagreed and wanted to add in my view) what followed was offensive.

This woman proceeded to tell me that I must be deeply unhappy as a person (from my three quite measured tweets!) and that this must have touched a raw nerve with me and that she hopes I find some kind of happiness in my life. What the actual fuck? I was told I should have scrolled on by if I didn’t like it and that I obviously have a very sad life to be seeking out offence. But also in the same way her mate could have just shut the fuck up about what people write on their dating profiles right? Why is SHE so bothered? Oh sorry yea it was a joke, ha ha ha ha dead funny like…..comedy gold.

Remarkably this is a woman who tweets daily on twitter that she is having a pretty tough life to which I always felt empathy for if I am honest. What is it that makes people feel they can psychoanalyse others’ on the internet – what is it that your only defence to a disagreeing tweet is to try to create a narrative about the life of that person? What made me feel sad about the whole thing was that at no point was my tweet directed at anybody, it was pretty standard twitter commentary, but then to have someone try to say you’re sad and angry just for having an opinion is the worst kind of gaslighting. Women doing it to other woman too is pretty gross in my mind – us women are always being analysed; told we are too much, too happy, too sad, too angry. The whole exchange made me feel totally shit if I am honest as this was someone I actually liked and thought was okay.

Then I started to question – am I okay? I couldn’t sleep, I was radiating with anger – how dare a fucking stranger try to patronise me for no reason. The fact another woman couldn’t see what I was trying to say as in these things you are laughing about have a real life impact on people like me. When I sensibly told her that she said that I shouldn’t sob about being judged as she is a disabled single mum – ahhhhh it is judgement top trumps is it! Then I realised that everything she was saying was more a projection of perhaps her life choices and that there is probably resentment there. Not my fault it looks like she made some shit choices (she moans enough about) and I honestly don’t ever look for empathy from strangers, but I also don’t deserve aggro.

After a few hours of gnashing my teeth I realised that my life choices are 100 percent what I am happy with. Society might paint me as slightly odd as I didn’t have kids (SIGH) but I want people to really understand that I do not regret not having kids one little bit! I know people often don’t believe that and think I must be crying into my pillow every night about it but honestly no. Not everyone is maternal/paternal and that is totally okay. I had a phase for a few years around age 35/36 where I did have a little hankering and I could have had a kid then if I wanted. I also could have had a kid with someone this last four years but I decided to get the IUD fitted so that I had no accidents! No regrets at all.

Now the marriage thing – I am not sure where I stand on it. It seems a load of bollox in some ways and most people around me who got married also got divorced too. I have this thought that I will get married one day but maybe in my sixties, less chance of divorce, unless they are a complete murderer – have you ever seen “The Devil I Married”?! My friends gran got married in her eighties…
Marriage is not off the menu for me, just I am not that arsed about it and I never dreamt about being a bride – I was a tomboy who wanted to be a stunt double when I grew up.

So as I lay there ruminating it all I realised I am pretty damn content in my choices and yes maybe a raw nerve was touched because frankly I am just sick of feeling like a failure or that I lack commitment because I didn’t do certain things – it weighs heavy sometimes. All of the times I am told “don’t worry you will find someone” or “don’t worry you are still young at 44, Halle Berry didn’t have her kids until she was in her late forties” or the worst when people nod sympathetically at you with worry in their eyes when you say you don’t have or want kids! They sometimes just can’t compute it.

Luckily for me, I have loads of friends around me who are the same as me – a bunch of hot, sexy, clever, happy, free women who have made big commitments like owning property, doing PhDs, founding businesses and charities, some have lovers that come and go or long term partners, but most of all they seem to be certain about their choice and they enjoy every single minute of this life!

The tricky world of Friendships and not drinking

Was thinking recently about the different types of friendships that we make in our lifetime. I am one of those people that has a load of friends I still keep in touch with from twenty years back. I like that I have regular reunions with university friends, people I worked with, the crew I picked fruit with backpacking in Australia 23 years’ ago. I like that I do make the effort to keep in touch with people – it is always reciprocated and it doesn’t really take much. They are kind of on the outside friends; they see the good bits, we laugh at old in jokes, music and sayings; we share each others the milestones in life and we meet up every other year or so.

However, getting older changes things in the way you want your immediate relationships to run. I have a small number of close friends these days. I keep it that way as I cannot be as available for people as I used to be. Partly being busy working full time and running a side hustle as well as (constantly) doing up my house all on my own. Also, I genuinely love and need my own company and freedom; I crave it. I can be fickle too – I am self-aware enough to know that about myself. My emotions can swing wildly and I am just too old in the tooth to be around people who I don’t feel comfortable with or who are too demanding of me, or who bore me.

I noticed recently after nine months of no alcohol that a lot of the time I used to drink for a bit of confidence/soothing in social situations but also because I often found it easier to listen to people that I wasn’t that interested in if I had the focus of alcohol. This might make me sound like a bitch but what I mean is not everyone is going to be interesting to you nor you to them but oftentimes alcohol creates a smoothing effect for that. Imagine yourself now with all your friends and acquaintances at a party without alcohol? How many of them would make the cut? Would you have fun with all of them?

In the last nine months I did a bit of a call out for sober people in my local area and I have met some truly wonderful souls who totally GET IT! What I have found quite disheartening is the people who I do like feeling uncomfortable around me not drinking. Maybe sober me just isn’t their bag – fair enough. But, I think people who feel uncomfortable around non-drinkers most definitely need to have a look at why that is. It is a shame. What I decide to put in my mouth should not have an impact on what is supposed to be a friendship but UK society has people hooked into booze culture. People fall away and that is absolutely natural.

In the middle of the pandemic I started to go to the sea every morning for a swim and have made some lovely friends down there. A real cool community of women who encourage each other; and as we get out of the sea, cold but exhilarated, wrapped in our towels, we share coffee and chit chat. This connection with the earth each morning is life affirming and really helped me feel much happier with my life and what I am doing. One of the women I have recently made friends there said to me as we sat on the sand post swim this morning that this community of women and the sea almost feels like a calling.

Today I am nine months free from the torture of alcohol and booze culture. Someone said on my instagram post celebrating my nine months that it must have taken great willpower – no, that is not true. I don’t want to drink a poison, I don’t want to sit with people who make me feel drained, I don’t want to live a life where I am running on 70% battery in a brain fog. I want meaningful authentic and huge loving connections and I am absolutely grateful for it all.

I #alcoholfree #healthlife #friendships #noalcohol #sobriety #nqtd

Loaf

russian doll

A damp loaf of a body, she sweated all over as she tried to move her enormous weight around the bed that was her prison and sanctuary.  The tiny body inside the blubber silently screamed as the waves of fat calibrated. The bed creaked in time with the gasps escaping her mouth; the mouth that got her in this mess.  The mouth that had never said the things she wanted to say, it just ate, ate, ate, shoved it all down.

The stench of rotting flesh permeated the room; a fly landed on her right breast happily feeding off the map of old food that had been there for days. She had no way of swatting it because her arms were weighed down with curtains of fat.  She just looked at the fly and felt jealousy of its freedom and of its simple existence. Although her existence now was just surviving inside this body inside this room.  She wondered where the fly had been before it had chosen her. Her skin was so hard now that she couldn’t even feel the fly tickling her mass.  She turned her neck to the left to check the time as her stomach was demanding its fill, but that cut off her windpipe as the fat started crushing and pulling; soon the fat would implode into her and then she would be free.  She would sink into that sweet darkness, suffocating.

She tried to move again because being in one spot for too long felt like iron pokers were digging into her as the fat pooled and punished her bones. The backs of her knees were raw and oozing where they had chaffed; the smell was like the stench of Manhattan in  mid-August, rotting bins and urine hanging in the air.  Giant sores under her belly folds looked like her flesh was being torn apart by ripping hands; gaping and violent chasms of misery.

Her brain and body had become living Matryoshka dolls but in an opposite parallel – her brain had become smaller and her body had become bigger in a direct correlation.  As she had shut down her mind to stop everything, her body had become larger than life which was funny to her because this wasn’t living.

The doorbell rang and she used the entry phone attached to her bed to see who it was before she let them in.  Oh she was relieved, the food had arrived, it was the only thing she had left now. Six people entered her room, chattering all different languages, becoming instantly silent as the smell hit them first and then the sight; the sight of this gargantuan human with dead eyes looking back at them.  She gained pleasure watching them open mouthed horrified all of them thinking they would never get like her. It made them feel good.

The tour guide instructed them to step forward with the food that had been requested by her on the app; steaming food was placed around her on the bed like an offering.  One of the tourists reached out to touch her elephant rough skin – she never used to allow them to touch her but now she can’t feel anything it doesn’t make any difference; let them get their monies worth.  She knows she will get better reviews if they can touch and then more people will bring food and soon this will be all over…

All of them watching her eat, transfixed at how desperate and quick she fed. Her mouth open and always stuffed, her gullet packed sometimes choking her making her eyes water.

The food suspending everything for a moment; she was dancing, hair flowing on the beach at night, running into the sea.  Back before all of this, before, before,  before, the word she can’t seem to stop.

 #fiction #fat #dystopian #dark 

 

Perspectives on Street Photography

The Daily Post

Photographers sharing their perspectives on street photography:

Jon Sanwell, Without An H
Hanoi, Vietnam

Shane Francescut, The Weekly Minute
Ottawa, Canada

Stephanie Dandan, Infinite Satori
Traveling in Southeast Asia

Joshi Daniel, Joshi Daniel Photography
India

Leanne Cole, Leanne Cole Photography
Melbourne, Australia

Stephen McLeod Blythe, All My Friends Are JPEGs
Glasgow, Scotland

Donncha Ó Caoimh, In Photos
Cork, Ireland

Last year, we published posts that touched on street photography: Russ Taylor shared his creative process on photographing people all over the world, and Dominic Stafford talked about documenting the streets of Southeast Asia.

But what is street photography? Over on Photo Theory, John Meehan writes:

What is striking about attempts to define “street photography” is the striking lack of consensus.

On the Nature of Street Photography

Very simply put, some people view street photography as an art form — a genre of documentary in which a photographer captures real life as…

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