Grief is such a complicated thing. You can’t control it. You can’t anticipate it and you certainly can’t plan it. You can’t sit down, have tissues at the ready and say, “today’s the day I’ll… More
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
-Antoine De Saint-Exupery
There are times when I find I cannot create an idea to write. I cannot imagine anything worth writing. It is something many people face but I have found that just listening to some music and writing what it inspires me to be worth doing.
So that’s what I did. I found this instrumental video on youtube and let it play in the background as I wrote what flowed into my head.
Her FairyTale Ending
Grace stood alone.
Her reflection stared back at her as she looked into the depths of the mirror. She didn’t recognise the girl that was looking at her. Pale and mud-splattered cheeks were now a rosy pink; lips soft and stained red, eyes shadowed by a light gold. The girl before her was not herself but something they’d created. Grace missed the messy hair that had once been carelessly tossed into a bun, that was now twisted into an intricate knot decorated with a pearl crown.
Eyes lowering to her throat, she reached up and ever so carefully teased the silver that lined her neck. Her shoulders were bare, the silken material of the dress beginning at her arms and chest, cascading down to kiss the floor. There was no denying the beauty of the gown; it shimmered with flecks of silver through the bright white, diamonds lining the corset. No expense was spared on this. It was breath-taking, but it wasn’t her.
The woman that watched her from the confines of the mirror shimmered and was replaced with another. Her dark brown hair fell in ringlets around her oval face. Her cheeks were splashed with dirt, yet her eyes glimmered excitedly and her dry lips were stretched into an eager smile. She was different to the girl that stood there now. She was happy, content. It showed in her smile.
‘When had she last smiled like that?’ she wondered, as the apparition of her past-self bubbled away. With a sigh, she turned from the mirror, the dress swirling around her legs as she tried not to trip in the heels she’d been pushed into.
It wasn’t that she was unhappy in her new life. It was just that she knew deep down that it wasn’t her life. Being chosen to wed a prince was the dream of all the other girls. Yet why did she yearn to marry a man who did not love her, but the crown? Walking slowly, she passed by murals of past Kings and their chosen Queens. Her eyes flickered over each beautiful face and deep down she worried how she would compare to them. Did she even want to be like them?
She’d always dreamed of leaving her tiny village and simple life. Fantasies of finding her own Prince Charming were not uncommon for her when she was young, just like every other girl. Yet now that Grace was about to get the life she’d always thought she wanted, she hesitated. It wasn’t like she had imagined; not as fancy nor as beautiful. The portrayal given to her in Fairytales made it out to be wonderful and everlasting, but it was hard and joyless at times.
Pausing by a window, the silent girl gazed out at the landscape around her. Since she’d arrived she’d been kept within the walls of the castle. “For her protection,” the Knights had repeated each time she pleaded to be let out. How she desired to walk through the gardens, dance around the trees and just enjoy the air and land around her once more. Was this going to be her life from now on? Hidden behind a castle door for all of time, she thought, with a frown marring her features; never to experience the simple things once more.
Grace had thought this was what she wanted; but the more she dwelled on it, the more she began to question her dreams. Was the small village really so bad? Was living with her family, bickering with her sister and helping her mother in the shop so draining as she thought?
Unconsciously, as her thoughts lingered on her family, a tear trailed down her cheek. She’d ran from them the first chance she’d got, eagerly taken the hand of a stranger who claimed to love her at first glance. It was her fairytale, she couldn’t say no, she hadn’t wanted to. So she went. No goodbyes. No tears. But she missed them terribly; many times she wept to herself, thinking of all she had done wrong and what she would change if she got the chance.
Squeezing her fists tight, she brushed away another stray tear as voices shouted up to her. Leaning out of the window, she gazed down at the young girls, daughters of some Lords who’d arrived for the wedding. They smiled up at her and eagerly waved. Grace gnawed on her lip watching them. She did not smile or wave, instead, she envisioned her sister in their place who began sobbing at the loss of her elder sister. Her chest ached, her throat clogged up and Grace spun from the window. She couldn’t do this. Not like this. She couldn’t marry a man who did not know her or care to know her all for a life she had believed was better for her.
Her footsteps increased as she started down the hallway, and soon she was running. The shiny bracelets she wore caught on the dress, tugging on the seams and she stumbled. She ripped the bracelet from the material, not caring that it tore. The charms scattered to the floor as she yanked them from her skin, the necklace followed, as did the little crown. Her heels crashed against the wall as she kicked them away and burst out the doors.
Voices called out to her as she barged down the large steps. It did not bother her that she bumped into many guests, she did not care that they saw her stained cheeks or torn dress. Her hair flared out behind her as she raced towards the main gates. She couldn’t do this. He didn’t love her, and she knew now that although this life was a Fairytale and she would never want for anything, it wasn’t for her.
She wanted to work with her father, she wanted to spend time in the forest with her sister, sing with her mother; she wanted to live happily. Perhaps not with riches, but she knew now that money wasn’t the only wealth – happiness was what she longed for more. She’d turned her back on it once, but she understood now.
She ran all the way back to her small village. Her once beautiful dress now a mess of leaves and dirt, her feet aching and bloody, her hair windswept and her make-up a disaster, but she was smiling. Her cheeks stung as she smiled, much to the confusion of the villagers who spotted her.
All that mattered to her was the small house before her as she threw open the little gate. All she wanted was the people that waited inside. Before she could reach the door it was pushed open and a younger version of her with the same messy hair and shining eyes barged out in a tattered dress.
The sisters collided on the path, their arms coiling around each other. Grace clung to her little Melody, as the young girl sobbed against her. She cried more freely now, her tears wetting Melody’s hair. Some villagers wandered closer, drawn by the commotion as Grace’s parents stepped out and engulfed their daughters in an embrace.
As she stood there, surrounded by those she had left, Grace felt it. That warmth that had been absent while she was in the castle, the familiar and welcome tingling in her chest. She was home, and more than that, she was where she belonged. She didn’t need a prince to make her life complete. She needed the people before her. Her family.
Sometimes your very own Fairytale is with the ones that have been with you all along.
Image found HERE
How it feels Without Her
For years, I thought grief was uncontrollable sobbing, a constant stabbing pain in the chest. The way it is seen in the movies. Dramatic and vocal expressions of sadness. Perhaps that’s the way it is for some. But it isn’t for me. And for a while, I thought something was wrong with me because I didn’t react like this. Because I was silent and numb. Perhaps, I’m just broken.
For me, grief is the growing silences as my eyes fixate on her rings that I now wear, as my fingers trace over the shape of her cross that dangles from my neck. The way my eyes linger on her photo on my phone when I lapse into quiet and think “I wish I could tell her this”. The moments I forget and go to her room expecting her to be there, the times I call out her name and await an answer. The days I dial her number without thinking. The nights I sit awake as sleep abandons me. For me, grief is not knowing what to do without her here. How can I be happy when she’s not with me? Am I allowed to? Grief is wondering how life goes on now that she’s gone.
I’m lost. I know I’m hurting but I don’t feel it. I know there should be a pain in my chest but I feel nothing. I know my eyes should sting with tears, but they don’t. They drip silently, almost without my knowing at the most random of times. I’m hurting, but I’m also separate from the pain. It’s there, but I’m not suffering from it.
Is this a way to grieve? Am I even grieving? I don’t know. Perhaps, it will only hurt me further in the long run. Yet, I find some comfort in it. In not being shrouded by pain at the mere thought of her. By being able to speak her name without feeling like it’s taboo and that her memory should create sadness. By remembering her and being able to think “I’m happy I got my time with her”. Even though it wasn’t nearly enough, I’m happy I got to spend 21 years of my life with her. I never believed in love at first sight, but I loved my mother from the moment I opened my eyes so doesn’t that make it love at first sight?
She never taught me to live like this. She never taught me how to survive without her. Because she never expected to leave me so soon. She taught me so much. How to be positive despite all the negative obstacles. How to care and help others. And most importantly, how to smile and laugh even when my heart is breaking inside. She showed me how to love unconditionally. Maybe that’s why the pain hasn’t encased my heart yet. Because I still love her so much and despite her being gone, I can still feel her love for me. It’s sheltering me, surrounding my heart in a warmth that I never want to vanish. She’s with me, just not physically.
I’m not going to lie. It pains me to look at photos of her, it pains me to remember her at times. But the pain only proves how much she impacted my life and loved me. The pain makes it real and keeps me from getting trapped in the illusion that she may just be still in the hospital and I haven’t seen her in a while.
I cry. I cry alone at night. Sometimes I cry until my body forgets everything but the tears, until I forget to breathe and I am left gasping and choking for air. Until I’m left trembling and clutching my throat in the hope of physically ceasing the pain. Sometimes I revert to a child, calling out “I want my mommy” with no one to answer me. I cry and then feel guilty for crying. I know people say tears don’t make a person weak, they only show that they’ve been strong for so long. I don’t like to cry. I don’t like that my memory of her, my thoughts of her, are tainted with pain.
Yet I crave it at times when I feel myself become too numb. When I become isolated and lost from reality. I want those memories to hurt me because it means I loved her so much. I want to hear her being spoken of by others. I want to know she affected them too. How she made them laugh and smile, how she helped them at times and loved them just like she loved me. I want to know their memories of her, to hear other sides of her that I never saw. I want to know stories of her from other people’s views. I want to know all there is to know about my mother. Everything she didn’t get to tell me.
Perhaps that will help me figure out how to grieve.
When I’m ready.
-Image from here
It’s almost been a month, yet still feels like a day. In a year, will it also feel the same? Everywhere I look I see your face, in the quiet I hear your voice. Your laugh assaults me at random times, your smile wavers in my mind. You’re with me. But you’re not.
I know you’re gone, you’ve passed on and are free from pain. You’re looking down on me, my own guardian angel, following me through my life now. Yet…Yet I don’t feel it. I don’t feel the pain I should. I should be crying constantly, choking on tears. I should be overwhelmed with agony. Each thump of my heart should send fire through my veins, it should burn me and leave me gasping for a breath I cannot take. I should be screaming to the heavens to bring you back; I should be a mess. But I’m numb.
It’s not real. It can’t be real; you can’t be gone from me. You were supposed to be here, to see me graduate University, to see me walk down the aisle, to help me prepare for my first child. You were supposed to become a grandmother who spoilt her grandkids. You were supposed to grow old and be here. But you’re not.
I love you. We barely said those words when I was young, but they became a mantra when you got sick. I love you. You love me too. I love you lots like jelly tots. You love me like jelly. Don’t you see? If we loved each other so much, why am I not suffering as I should be? Is this you? Covering me in a cloud of numbness, still protecting me even though you’re gone? Is this grief? Am I in shock? Or did a part of me die with you? Did my heart break and the piece of me that could feel slipped away with you? Am I broken now?
I do not understand what is happening to me. I smile and laugh but it’s all fake. I slip into moments of distance silence when I see your image on my phone. I lose focus and just want to sleep. Though when I do, silent tears soak my pillow. I toss and turn remembering the times you’d come to my room and comfort me after I’d had a nightmare. I remember the times you cared for me when I was sick, yet when you were ill, I was helpless. There was nothing I could do to save you. If I could have, I would have given you my pancreas, my lungs, my heart. My life. I would have given it all for you to still be here.
This is a jumble of words, a disarray of thoughts. Since you’ve left me I have lost reason, I have lost my train of thoughts. I cannot concentrate, I wandered the house going from room to room looking for you. I call your name, but you don’t answer. It slams into me at times, threatening to crack the wall I’ve created. You won’t answer me again. You won’t pick up the phone. I won’t hear your voice. Each time I see a photo of you, I’m hit with the thought that’s all I have now. Photos and memories. We won’t make any more together. No new photos will be taken, no new memories will be made.
I’m scared, I’m alone. I’m broken. God broke me when he stole you from me. Slowly, this shell of numbness is breaking. Reality is creeping up on me. Mama, I’m starting to see it. You’re gone. Forever. You left me. You taught me everything, Mama, expect how to go on without you. How do I live now? It dawns on me for brief moments. They leave me trembling and lost for breath. Red-eyed and tear stained cheeks. Then after it, I’m shrouded with guilt, especially if others see me cry. Mama, I do not want my pain to hurt others. I do not want them to see me cry, I must be strong. I’ll smile and once again get lost in the numbness.
But I know you didn’t want to go. It wasn’t your choice. It was a long time coming. You were suffering for so long. Battling what started as one form of cancer but grew to three. Mama, you fought for three years when doctors said there may only be six to nine months. You stuck with us, you showered us with your love and warmth each day, never once dwelling on your own pain. I never wanted to be in this position. Even when things got tough, a large part of me still believed you’d be here forever. But Mama, it’s going to be ok. I promise. I know you’re in a better place. You’re not suffering anymore. The cancer has gone away. You had a smile on your face when you passed so I know you’re at peace.
I’ll be ok Mama. Despite thinking I’m alone, I’m not. I now if I crumble and break, if I give in to the shattering of my heart, I have friends who will catch me. Those who will grab me and hug me and be there until the agony eases. And you’ll be watching over me now. I wear your necklace and each time I touch it I know you’re with me.
Mama, I’ll never say goodbye because that means it’s final and that I will never see you again. I won’t utter that word. Instead, I promise to call your name, to tell you I love you and to cherish your memory until I can wrap my arms around you again.
So I’ll finish this with a simple;
I miss you.
*Copyright on image: All right reserved 2017 (image my own).
*Written in early 2016
Sometimes people don’t react the way you want them to in a situation. Some people are there with you from the beginning; seeming unfazed by the events occurring, immediately ready to help you. Some people appear, those whom you haven’t spoken to in years, but are once again back in your life to be there for you. Some people run. They back away from you, from everything that is happening. They are unable to adjust to the sudden change, to the news, and so they try to get away. But never lose hope on those people. They just need time to come to terms with it, to think it through and learn to accept it. And when they come back, they’ll spend endless time trying to make it up to you.
For a long time, I was running away. While I didn’t run in the physical sense, I did retreat into myself and brushed off the seriousness of what has been happening around me. I fell into the illusion that if she was at home and I could see her, she was ok. That her visits to the hospital were only checkups, nothing else. I lied to myself, but I can’t keep doing that. It’s only now, two years after she was first diagnosed that I am coming to terms with the fact my mother isn’t ok. I’ve stopped running away now and I’d found that writing has really helped me. So below is a piece I wrote, showing what I’ve felt.
The words echoed through my mind as I stood there. The world spun around me, tilting dangerously as my vision blurred. I was frozen, stuck in that moment. Trapped, alone and isolated. The two words rang tauntingly in my head, singing in my ears, over and over.
She stood opposite me, her hand reaching out for mine before dropping to my shoulder in some weak form of comfort. I could see her lips moving as she spoke, continuing her speech on what it was, what it would mean, and everything else. It was only a dull mumble compared to the voice screeching that word repeatedly in my head.
“I know it sounds scary, but it will be ok. I’m not going anywhere…” Her voice trailed off as I remained there, dumbly staring at the floor for answers to questions I hadn’t even created yet. With a squeeze of my shoulder, she retreated from the room. No doubt going to tell the others.
My fingers tingled, suddenly turned cold before they went numb and I was falling. My knees collided with the floor and pain should have radiated through me, but I felt nothing. It never registered in my mind; the pain was numb to me. There was a weird hollowness in my chest, an emptiness I’d never experienced before. Dull eyes stared ahead as the words continuously sounded around me.
Cancer. It’s cancer.
Then, with a sudden stuttering inhale I was sucked back into reality and the tears splashed to the ground. They cascaded down my cheeks rapidly, clinging to my skin before they were pulled to the floor. My vision was blurred. My chest heaved as a broken sob tore from my lips. Tremors hit me then. I started to shiver so violently, I was hunched over. My forehead kissed the floor. My nails dug into my arms as I hugged myself, trying to keep myself together.
It hurt. Why?
I couldn’t breathe, something was trapped in my throat. It blocked the oxygen to my lungs. The mysterious blockage manifested as that word in my mind. It clung to the walls of my throat, spreading wide to cease the air supply. It wanted me to die. This invisible foe, this cancer.
Voices echoed down the hall. They were coming back. Slapping my hand over my mouth, I dragged my body to my feet before dashing out of the room. The door crashed shut behind me as I sprinted out into the street. I didn’t stop running until I could dart down an alley, away from curious eyes. There, I slumped back against the wall before gravity dragged me to the ground.
The blockage in my throat coiled against my skin as it slithered upward. It tickled as it forced its way into my mouth despite my attempts to swallow it down before crawling out of mouth, becoming a reality.
A silent killer. A form of pancreatic cancer. Incurable. Set deep in the body, unable to remove. Twisted around blood vessels. Operation too dangerous. Treatment needed. Chemotherapy. Radiotherapy.
No matter what I searched online, it was all the same. Was I making it worse for myself as I looked at the images of patients? Their skin stretching over their bones, a greyish tint making them look like the multitude of zombies I’d seen in movies. Bloodshot eyes from the overdose of pain medication. Broken fingernails resulting from damage due to loss of feeling in fingers. Hairless heads exposing the vulnerable scalp, bare foreheads lacking eyebrows, and haunting eyes unprotected by eyelashes.
“And so as Yeats says…” The teacher cut off abruptly, her hand falling from where she’d been pointing to the board as she tilted her head to the side. “Ellie? Is everything alright?”
I was standing. When did I stand up? I inhaled, curling my shoulders inward as I sniffled. My lips moved, wanting to speak but I couldn’t voice my thoughts. It was there again, that blockage in my throat, keeping me silent.
Shaking my head, I snatched up my bag. My books were left on the table but I continued on, moving quickly down the aisle towards the door. Their eyes were on me, crawling over my back and face as they murmured to one another. It itched, their gaze almost physically touching me.
“Ellie! You cannot leave.”
I heard her follow me. Her feet scurried across the floor as I pushed the door open, my bag swinging off my shoulder. Stuffing my hands into my pockets, I lowered my head. The corner of my lip twitched in order to stop my lower lip from quivering.
She grabbed me. Her false nails digging into my arm as she spun me around. Again, I was left looking on in surprise when I found her on the floor instead of towering over me in her heels. Mrs Jones stared up at me, her lips parted as her hand covered her right cheek. My chest heaved with each breath and I glanced down, seeing my right arm raised. My fingers were curled into a fist.
When had I-?
Backing up a step, I misplaced my foot and stumbled. Mrs Jones stood and reached out for me. Her brows had furrowed together, her lips drawn down as she made to step closer. She knew. They all knew.
One tear oozed from my eye, drooling down my cheek before it curved under my chin and traced the path of my neck. It bled into my top as I swallowed and my jaw muscle flickered, keeping my lips clamped together to suppress any sounds I could make.
Whirling around before she could stop me, I rushed to the exit and escaped that place. My feet battered against the path as I raced away from there. It was something I did a lot since that day. Run. Run from home. From people wanting to talk to me. From strangers giving me those looks. From those who wanted the gossip more than to share their concern. From everyone. Even her.
Shutting the door behind me, I pressed back against it. I shoved the back of my hand against my mouth as I breathed through my nose and shut my eyes. One, Two, Three… The numbers were recited in my head in time with my breathing as I forced my body to calm down, to suppress the wave of emotion. I’d gotten better at locking these bouts of expression away over the weeks.
“Is someone there?”
The weak feminine voice made my eyes open slowly. I looked down the hall as my hand dropped to my side. Pushing the sleeve of my top over my knuckles, I used it to scrub the evidence of my tears from my face and patted my cheeks before moving from the door.
As I walked down the hall, I found my steps slowing, my feet dragging one after the other. Until I came to a stop. Glancing through one open door, I frowned at the sterile bathroom. My mind conjured up the memory of a body huddled over the toilet, gagging and hacking up a dinner she had hardly eaten.
Shuddering, I reached in and shut the door. My bag fell to the ground next to it as I forced myself to take the last few steps to the end room in the hall. The tremor was back in my fingers now, as it always was when I reached this room, and I scowled to myself before grabbing the door handle and pushing it inward.
I paused in the doorway, scanning around the room for the longest moment before dragging my eyes to the bed. The figure sitting there, with her back to the headboard, wasn’t like the images on Google. She wasn’t grey-skinned, though her hair had been shaven of her own accord. Her eyes were not bloodshot, nor dazed as if she was over-drugged. She wasn’t lifeless like I’d imagined.
Instead, she smiled. A smile that was the center of many of my childhood memories and I gasped. My hand clenched on the door handle as my shoulders jerked up with a sudden inhale of air, a silent sob that exhaled as one word.
Through my blurring sight, I watched her own lips press together but still held that smile as she sat up further and patted the bed. Jerking forward, I scrambled onto the bed towards her as she curled her arms around my back. I sagged against her side, tears flooding down my face as she rocked us back and forth gently.
“I-I’m sorry,” I whispered between sobs as I gripped onto the sleeve of her pajama top. My fist wouldn’t close fully as my fingers trembled too much and lacked the strength in that moment. “Don’t leave me. Please.”
“Shush, it’s alright. I’m here and I’m not leaving you, I swear,” she murmured back. One of her hands moved to my head, stroking my hair as she twisted so her lips could brush against my forehead. Her tears trickled onto my hair as she promised;
“I will beat this.”
Update: 1st March 2017 – You won each battle you faced, you always smiled and cared for others more than yourself. But unfortunately, the cancer did not back away. Mom, you are my light and my hero, but you shone too bright and God just wanted you back. Love you.
header image from here
“It’s OK to not feel OK, right?”
She asks you this question, one day while you walk down the road. Unexpected, unprepared you hesitate and glance down. Wide innocent eyes that always reflected love and happiness now peer up at you with concern; deep in the emerald glow of her eyes was a pain you’d never known.
How do you respond to a question like this? Would you say, “Yes it’s ok to feel this way,” and quicken your pace, turn from the prying gaze and walk on feeling proud that you gave her the truth. It is OK to not feel OK, to not always be overcome with happiness and joy in that moment of life. Would you tell her it’s OK? But not seek further, not wonder why she would think of that question at all?
Or would you stop, turn to the young girl beside you and lay a hand on her shoulder. Would you meet her gaze with your own, letting her see the pain and worries that were buried deep within yourself like her? Would you kneel down so she could see them clearly? Would you smile to her gently and ask the simple question “How do you feel?”
It is easy to simply say, “Yes it’s OK” and continue on, to not pry into her mind and see why would she ask that. It is easy to walk on and block out what had happened, to take comfort in the fact that you mustered up the courage to answer her question and that that was enough.
It is not easy to face her question the way you should. It is not easy to stop what you are doing, bare your own insecurities to her so that she may she see she is not the only one struggling. It is not easy to meet her wondering eyes and ask her how she is feeling. It is not easy to listen as all the times she told you she was ‘fine’ ‘alright’ ‘good’ or ‘OK’ were just a lie.
It’s not easy to come to the realisation that you never knew. You never saw how she truly felt, never heard her cry at night into her pillow, never saw her blink away the tears at the dinner table, never noticed her.
Instead, you saw what you wanted, what she thought you needed to see. You saw the strong girl, who laughed and smiled, who was there for everyone else. Always the shoulder to learn on, always the one with the answers. You saw what you expected her to feel, and constantly you told her “I’m so proud of you” “You are so nice, so kind” “You’re a great friend” “You’re so strong”. Each word reaffirming your belief that she was OK.
But to her, those words were an instruction, an order to follow. “I’m so proud of you” as you are, don’t change now, stay like this for me. “You are so nice, so kind” don’t stop caring for me; I need it. “You’re a great friend,” listen to my troubles; help me with my issues. “You’re so strong,” I depend on you to stay like this, don’t get weak.
She was what you wanted. Strong, kind, caring, she was there for you. Helped you through everything. But all the while she had to hide how she truly was. And so she thought, I can’t be unhappy, I can’t be sad they won’t like that. I need to be strong.
See what you did? You made the girl believe that it was not OK to feel not OK. You taught her to hide her fears, her worry, and her pain. You taught her that the only ones who could feel it were you and that she had to be the strong one. She needed to be the one to take care of you. She wasn’t allowed to not be the girl you wanted because it would make you realize that she wasn’t perfect.
So I ask you now.
“Is it OK to feel not OK?”
“If a story is in you, it has to come out” – William Faulkner
Writing is both a brave and terrifying thing. It stems from the ideas and imaginings of the author. Those can be extremely emotional, personal and difficult to create or they could be just random thoughts that pop into their mind. Whatever it is that you picture; if it has the potential to be something more. Make it something more.
I started writing when I was around thirteen after I’d delved into reading numerous books. Plots would form in my mind constantly and at first, I’d dismiss them, thinking I’d never be able to create anything from them. But one day I got curious and wanted to see what I could make from one of the ideas and so I sat down with an A4 notepad and a pen and just wrote. That’s it, no laptop or anything, I just wrote whatever I thought.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”
At first, it was a bunch of ramblings, random thoughts and undeveloped plots but soon one expanded into a short chapter. A little piece of a tale about a girl searching for something. What? I never knew as she never found it. The short story ended with her walking away from the narrator.
I believe that all writers, whether they are new or experienced and published, want to get better and better. To improve their writing style and the depth of their plots. I know I do. I can look at past pieces I’ve written, not only years previous but even something I wrote a week or even hours earlier, and judge my writing abilities. My grammar could be better, my transitions from one scene to another could be smoother, my dialogue could be richer.
“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff and gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say the most valuable traits is persistence.”
There are many parts of my writing that I can improve on but the only way to improve is to continue to write. Though often writers go through long periods of time when the mere thought of writing is not desirable. Writing is often impulsive, when a thought hits you, like a light going off over your head and suddenly words are coming to you easily. This doesn’t alway happen and usually, it’s when I don’t feel the urge to write, when there are no powerful ideas going through my mind, that I find I can write the most.
“If I waited til I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.”
I don’t think there is a way to define writing, a process to create the perfect writing style. It varies constantly, from person to person but also with different emotions. The way you feel about a topic you’re writing on manipulates the flow of the text. A writer uses their own emotions to help influence their work, to make it unique and their own.
“A writer who waits for ideal conditions under which to work will die without putting a word on paper.”
– E.B White
No matter what or why you write, whether it’s because it’s for college or school, for your own personal view, or a novel for all to read, nothing beats that feeling you get when you write that one sentence, that one line that brings the whole text together and leaves you reeling in that fact that you did it. You wrote it. No one but you. And isn’t that the best feeling?
A little twist on the known fairy tale of Little Red Riding hood that I created for a module in University.
“Don’t wear red, they’ll see you.”
There was a legend in Samantha’s town, an old myth of a girl who’d wandered into the lurking woods at night. She’d followed the narrow dirt path winding through the dense undergrowth towards her grandmother’s house. Clad in a crimson cloak, she stood out from the multiple shades of emerald, lime and moss green of nature and caught their attention. There was one little rule in her town. One simple and easily obeyed unwritten law; Never enter the forest at night.
That was when they hunted. They gathered in a large pack and tracked their prey for miles, hooked on the scent of flesh. They’d slink through the grass, dragging their coarse fur covered bellies over the muck to mask their scent as their moonlit glowing amber eyes tracked their quarry. They’d work together, converging on their meal, herding it to where the alpha waited. He would latch long sharp canines into its vulnerable throat. The bite would tear skin from bone, rip muscle from tendon, and send an arch of warm blood soaring through the air. The panicked prey wouldn’t have time to scream before its life ended.
Samantha knew the legend. The girl had gone against the rule in order to visit her sickly grandmother. She’d walked on, not hesitating at the sound of the whistling wind or paused when the wind was replaced by feral howls. She’d continued, even as a mysterious fog lingered close to the earth, blurring her way.
“They came for her, prowling behind her. Attracted by the bright red of her cloak, they edged nearer until it was too late for her. They say her screams could still be heard if any dared to venture there at night-.”
“You know you’re not funny right?” Samantha interrupted her friend’s story, as she strolled through that same place.
“It’s not a joke, Sam. The story is true,” Jack retorted, irritated on the other end of the line.
Ever since that night, many years ago before Samantha was born, other girls have ventured from their homes into the forest. It began as a dare. Once every few years, a girl would be challenged to spend the night in the same area that ‘Little Red’, as the town now called her, had died. Over the years, some girls had gone missing. Each had been clad in red, as was the tradition of the game. Killed by the same beasts that took ‘Little Red’. This year it was Samantha’s turn.
“And I’m going to prove that it’s not.” She traced her fingers along a sapling. “It’s only a stupid fairy tale.”
Jack sighed and Samantha could envision him shaking his head. “You should come home. Forget about the bet.”
“Relax,” she drawled, tilting her head back to see that the blue sky that was visible through gaps in the tree limbs had darkened, giving off a murky illusion. “It’s almost night. I’m not giving up now.”
Jack’s voice was cut off by a loud, static crackling. Samantha winced pulling the device from her ear. Staring at the small screen, she frowned when it displayed there was no reception. She’d wandered this path many times in the daylight and always had enough coverage on her phone to take a call.
Slowing to a stop, Samantha tapped her screen intending to call Jack. But as she pushedo the green button, her device went black. Blinking, she furrowed her brows and shook it as if that would sort the issue. Nothing.
“Stupid old phone,” she huffed, stuffing it into her jeans. She crammed her hands into the pockets of her baggy red jumper. The hood was up over her head in case any low flying bird decided to drop a little bomb on her. It had happened numerous times before.
Samantha spotted many little birds swooping beneath the oaks and hawthorns to dive into the thick leaves to perch on wooden arms. Some were hopping back into their nests for the night. A small brown blur scaled the birch next to her. She stared at the furry tailed squirrel as it darted into a hole in the tree.
The dirt path curved out of sight, shrouded by shadows and the approaching night. Lingering in place, she scanned the once colourful grove. Now, it appeared like a mass of grey in the growing darkness. Low hanging branches resembled misshapen claws stretching down to scratch her skin. Stepping away from them caused something to snap beneath her feet. The audible crunch echoed like a breaking bone. Samantha tensed. She clamped a hand over her mouth and she glanced down. The shattered remains of a twig laid beneath her foot. Samantha had to squint in order to focus on it for there was a white mist licking at her feet. The fog crept forward as a low haunting whistle sounded around her.
“Just the wind,” she mumbled as the foliage swayed to an invisible beat, reaching for her. “Just the wind.”
Wrapping her arms around her waist, Samantha stepped in the direction of the vanishing route. It looked as if it were being devoured by the shadows. She continued on, the vapour trailing after her, closing in on either side of her. It slithered from the undergrowth as if they had gaping mouths that oozed the white smoke.
Samantha used the tree trunks as guideposts as she walked on. She pressed her palms into the bark, feeling the ridges nip at her skin. On one of them, however, something softer than wood caressed her skin. Samantha tugged it from where it was stuck and rubbed it between her fingers. Thicker than hair, it was coarse between in her hands. And short. The tufts of fur fell to the earth. To the side of her came a light clicking noise. A stick breaking. The bushes rippled by her. Something was moving them. It wasn’t the wind.
A low howl drifted to her as the trees groaned and all the chatter of wildlife deepened to a collective growl. She shivered and looked around. Orange eyes reflected back at her. The way was invisible beneath her feet now. The fog thickened and danced up along her legs. One foot after another, her pace quickened to a jog. As if to mock her further, the branches pushed lower to snag at her clothes.
The rustling of the underbrush was a sign. It was following her. The vegetation around her creaked. The sound echoed as if nails were gnashing into the wood. She jumped, feeling something tug on her jumper. She never saw it. The hollow hole in the ground was shielded by the mist. Her foot slipped into it, and she stumbled, her ankle twisting beneath her weight. She crashed against a large hawthorn before falling to the earth where rocks and twigs scraped her. Her teeth jarred together, cutting into the inside of her cheek. She coughed, spewing out saliva and blood as the taste of iron kissed her tongue.
Samantha remained sprawled as another howl echoed around her. Her palms stung from the small slashes when she pressed them against the dirt. A soft material tickled her fingertips and she grasped it. Silk slid through her hands until something round pressed into her palm. In the darkness, she couldn’t see it. Tracing it, Samantha could make out the indent of a name. Jane. Gritted substances flaked as she pushed her thumb against the name. The feeling reminded her of peeling old dried blood from a cut.
Stumbling to her feet, she ran through the wilderness, her hood falling back. She pushed into the thick underbrush and raced on. Vines caught on her hoodie, brambles tugged at the material and with some jerky movements, Samantha ripped the jumper off and continued to charge on. Now with her skin bared, the woodland freely scratched at her, drawing blood.
She could hear them. More than one trampling through the undergrowth after her. She ran, so they gave chase. Heavy paws thumped against the floor, crunching the leaves and sprigs as they went. Pairs of glowing amber eyes wavered in and out of the darkness. She could feel them near as she tried to evade them. Her chest burned with each stuttering breath she took along with the stinging pain that pulsed in her side with each step she forced her body to make. Her hair clung to her face. Sweat dripped down her skin and stung her open wounds. The world blurred from her watering eyes. The pain in her chest laced up to her throat as it throbbed. Her panting breath sounded like screams in her ears. Samantha’s legs trembled, threatening to buckle beneath her as she raced on.
As she twisted around trees and ducked beneath reaching vines, the jagged bark bit into her palms, splintering her. Samantha skidded to a halt in a clearing. The moon gleamed down on the grass, highlighting a figure. There was someone there. Inhaling, Samantha was slammed to the earth before she could cry for help. The heavy weight on her back vanished. Samantha choked, flopping onto her side to regain her breath. She scurried to her feet and stared.
He stood there. She knew him. She’d known him since she was a child. With his freckled face and round cheeks, she knew it was him. At his side, sat a dark dog, with thick fur. Sensing her stare, the dog bared his teeth showing off sharp fangs glistening with saliva.
“I told you go home,” Jack spoke lowly. The large dog stuck close to his side as he stepped closer. Samantha backed away. He raised his hand. A large mask with pointed ears and a snout covered his face. Amber eyes now watched her. “I told you.”
Arms latched around her neck from behind. A clammy hand slapped over her mouth as the other gripped her throat. Samantha’s scream was silenced.
Header image from google images
As part of my four-year course in the University of Limerick, it was necessary for me to partake in a semester of study abroad, known as Erasmus. I chose to attend the University of Ghent in Belgium as my destination last semester and I couldn’t have been happier with my choice. Belgium is breath-taking, to say the least. I could rant for ages on its beautiful landscapes, kind people and amazing food but instead would rather let the pictures speak for themselves.
Ghent is, to the say the least, a must place to see for everyone.
The city is a spectacular blend of old medieval style buildings and new modern works. They combine to create this diverse city that is riddled with culture. There is a history behind each of the buildings and there are many guided tours that help shed light on the life surrounding Ghent. One high point I found in the city would have to be the Gravensteen Castle which is Dutch for “Castle of Counts”. Placed in the centre of the city, it is an excellent viewpoint for the whole city from the top as well as being a great touring opportunity. Not to forget the towering cathedrals that were dotted around the city. Each just as beautiful as the other and great places for high photo shots of the surrounding area.
The Leie River bank alone is a centre point for many people, especially students, who conjugate here to relax and enjoy the sun. The weather itself was a surprise for me, I expected Ghent to be rather similar to Ireland from the months of September through to January; cold, wet and rather dreary. Yet it wasn’t, for most of the time the sun was present and days were warm and enabled me to tour the city many times over.
Not only is the cultural aspect of Ghent a must-see, but the city itself is filled with shops and activities. Take a boat along the Leie River to see the true beauty of the place or else venture through the streets and get lost in the multiple shops, both high fashion and cute little gift stores. It just so happened, that two weeks prior to my arriving in Ghent, they opened their first Primark store. Needless to say, most of my weekends were spent wandering through this three floored shop and wasting away money on cute little items.
Then there was the food. I am a food loving girl and usually plan my days and trips around my meals. Ghent did not disappoint. While the meals in restaurants were a tad more expensive than what I was used to in Ireland, some main courses being between €16-€22. It was all worth it. Every restaurant I visited was at such a high standard, be it a three-star, more or even just the deli shop across from my University building. All the staff were kind and very attentive, especially when not laughing at my utterly horrible attempts at Dutch. My favourite part of dinner would be dessert. They do this dessert, it’s so simple but delicious that I would go out of my way to have it. I mean, I would go to a restaurant and just order the dessert, I loved it so much. Now, I’m not talking about the famous Belgium waffles, though they were delicious. I can’t remember the name of it but it was just ice-cream with hot chocolate sauce over it and wafers. Not the fake chocolate sauce you may get at some places, but real chocolate melted and then drooled over the ice-cream. I don’t know why it was so delicious but, perhaps the mere simplicity of it is what made it so good.
On top of all this, Ghent gave me an opportunity to grow as a person. Being my first time living aboard and away from the comfort of family, it meant I had to fend for myself and learn everything by practice. I also met some amazing people there who helped me along the way, went on wonderful trips with me and became close friends. It was a great trip and hopefully, the beginning of many more wonderful ones to come.
Part of my travels during my time in Ghent saw me going to Brugge. My gosh, it is an incredible place. I couldn’t even begin to write about it. From the stunning scenery to the buildings, the markets, the high-end fashion streets, and especially the people. Brugge was an unforgettable day and I am definitely planning on heading back there for a proper holiday. I need to explore this city more. I’m not going to go into detail about my brief day there because I think the photos I captured speak more about the beauty of the place and the amazing people I met and became friends with during this time than I ever could.
*Images subject to © Copyright 2015*
TESOL is a module that I am studying in University. It stands for Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. It is a 3 part course that is taken in the second semester of third year (this semester) and the two semesters of fourth year. TESOL is a very interesting and insightful class to take though I am finding it quite difficult.
There is a large intake of theory provided in each two hour lecture. I’ve learned about the past practices of language teaching throughout history, such as Grammar Translation (GTM) which was introduced in the 19th century. It is also known as the ‘classical method’ or the ‘Prussian method’ of language teaching. The main aim of this method was to be able to read high culture literature of the target language. Due to this it focused on written abilities rather than oral communication.
On top of that we are learning all about word classes of the English language and Phonemes. Phonemics is related to the study of sounds of a particular language. Seen in the screenshot to the side are the phonemes linked to the English language. This is just an example of a few, there are many more to learn. This is the main aspect of the module that I am finding difficult to grasp. Both trying to memorise the different symbols for the sound and learning the sounds itself.
As an Irish person, the type of English I speak is known as Irish English. This means there are many words and phrases that I say differently than someone speaking British English or American English. Therefore when learning the phonemes of the language I must change the way I speak them to be like that of British English for teaching. This is different for me and doing it can be tricky to accomplish.
TESOL provides opportunities of working abroad for those who complete the course and get the certificate at the end of fourth year.
In my American Literature module we recently studied the novel ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald written in 1925. It follows a group of characters that live in a fictional town called West Egg on Long Island in 1922.
This novel interested me as it described the Roaring twenties and covered themes such as idealism as well as resistance to change, mainly from those coming from ‘Old Money’. F. Scott Fitzgerald, himself, was well known during the 1920’s having coined the term ‘Jazz Age’. Like the characters in his novel, he drank a lot and experienced extravagant parties. However, when it was first published it received mixed reviews and did not sell well. It wasn’t until World War 2, after Fitzgerald has died thinking he was unsuccessful, that it was revived and soon became apart of the high school curriculum. Today, the novel is widely renowned to be a literary classic and has had many film adaptations created from it.
Narrated by Nick Carraway, a World War 1 veteran, the story primarily focuses on a mysterious millionaire called Jay Gatsby who is obsessed with the desire to reunite with his love, Daisy Buchanan. They had parted due to Gatsby going to war and during that time Daisy had married another, Tom Buchanan. Tom came from ‘Old Money’, like Daisy. Both their families were wealthy and in the book, Nick describes how Tom brought “a string of polo ponies from Lake Forest,” (11) with him from Chicago. While opposite to him was Gatsby, a man of ‘New Money’ which were often looked down upon by the ‘Old Money’.
As the stories goes on, the narration dos not follow a linear pattern. This intrigued me as often at times it’s not Nick telling the story. There are points where he speaks from the point of view of Jordon Baker who tells him about Gatsby’s and Daisy’s past or as Gatsby himself telling him about who he really is. As well as that, the story does not start with the reveal that the two past lovers knew each other, but their history together is revealed in bits throughout the novel. This unique way of story telling keeps the reader engaged, I think, as you are never quite sure about what will happen.
Despite being only 170 pages long, the novel contains many twists and turns to keep the reader guessing if there will be a happy ending for Gatsby and Daisy and even for Nick himself. Before reading it, I did not think this type of novel would interest me but it is something I would recommend to another.
*Featured images taken from here*