Birthday musings

I have been thinking about what would have helped me a year ago – and the answer is – nothing. I did the right thing and walked away from a hostile & toxic environment. Leaving the University was about wanting to learn  how to become more self-sufficient and have more internal motivation. After years of working for large organisations where my sense of agency and my autonomy had become eroded I knew I needed time and space to explore how I could develop a more intrinsic source of motivation for my writing and learning. Moving to a small organisation seemed to be a logical step BUT well I have rehearsed much but the opportunity to develop new skills well… that has come about in a very different way to the one I had expected.

Two years ago I had assumed that I would find the transition from education back to practice quite tricky but I never anticipated the distress it would cause me. I found some marvellous poems by Moniza Alvi sat on my bookshelves – the poems express images and words that delve into the experience of trauma and have been nothing short of heart stopping for me. I didn’t realise I had the book but at art class on Monday we decided that I should focus on developing collages around poetry. So on Monday I returned home and perused the bookshelves for a poem that spoke to me and demanded to be explored in my expressive abstract collages… well I found them in Moniza’s collection Europa – published by the rather wonderful Bloodaxe Books..

So reading the poems and creating the (yet unfinished) artwork has allowed me to recognise that returning to practice in 2014 opened up a “sleeping wound” – one caused from being a student nurse back in the early 1980s and being treated like a piece of disposable cutlery – only useful for “light” duties and then thrown away – not valued nor cherished.

There is no way I could have anticipated that the type of nursing or nurses that I ended up “managing” would cause me such emotional turmoil. Also I could not have anticipated that my distress would enrage and frustrate my boss and result in manipulation and deceit. Well now I know what lengths people will go to protect their territory and also know that I now have a very sensitive BS detector and if I feel wary of motives and integrity I trust my gut. Going forward with either finding employment or a business development I need to give myself time to recover from shattered self-confidence and that re-opened wound. I am not sure how receptive people will be to me disclosing my insights but I am willing to take a risk and admit my vulnerabilities. The last few months have given me time to read and explore my understanding of myself and what has got me to still feeling a failure despite evidence to the contrary. What is it that leaves you feeling dissatisfied and disappointed? – and I have learnt that it is all about not feeling like you are enough. Brene Brown’s work has helped and I intend to explore that more and use her work to provide a framework for my musings.

I also have just read a wonderful book by Sharon Blackie ( ) that considers the bind we get into as women when we compete with men and try to take on values and beliefs that leave us empty. Sharon writes about the Wasteland (the things that destroys or limits all that makes your heart sing) – Sharon identifies that the first stage of the journey is naming these things and the questions we need to then ask of them. Reading the book has been nothing short of a revelation and I don’t intend to ignore what it is telling me. For years I have feared being an expert – of knowing too much about too little, a one trick pony or a “know-it-all” – too big for my boots etc etc – you get the picture – I am always waiting to be taken down a peg or two but this time I am going to see if I can find a path that allows me to reclaim some of my 17 year old self and her vim and vigour. Sue back then thought that most things were possible and wanted to be a professional singer but politics and pragmatism trumped dreams SO I became a student nurse, hated it but enjoyed being in Cambridge but left behind the music. The next few months and I hope that I can find ways of nourishing myself with art, music and friendships.

The journey isn’t going to be easy but then again the last year has been hostile terrain and I survived so the next steps might be about thriving and not just surviving. We all ought to have time and space to explore how we can best cope with the demands that life chucks at us so I am being kind to myself and not beating myself up about not getting myself sorted yet.

Poetry has yet again provided me with a new way of looking at my experience and has supplied a rich seam of insight to excavate…





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