Journey

Everybody has a book in them, or so it's said. But it's something else again getting it onto the page and to a place where it might be shared.

I have been writing since I was a child. Always, my dream was to see my name on the spine of a book. Books gave me life, a dream to live by. Through their portals I could escape easily into other worlds. Books also saved my life ... yes, really!

This is the story of my books and my journey as an author. I hope it will inspire and give hope to writers young and old.

Getting published can be a waiting game. It's hard .. and it's getting harder. But then sometimes it happens in unexpected ways and suddenly, we are living the dream. And we realise that it isn't after all the winning that is important so much as the journey along the way.

I would love to hear from anyone who connects with what is written here. A signed copy of any of my books is available. You have only to write and ask:

janineharrington53@gmail.com







Monday, 9 January 2017

THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS

Fragmented Life
At first sight, the room appears bare. Spiders lurk in the shadows, spinning lacy orb webs, stretching them across wooden table and chairs, bringing specters of art to an otherwise blank canvas. Dust chokes this isolated world. Time stands still. It remains a fractious kingdom, elements of ill-temper and pique producing knots in its atmosphere, creating a restless silence and broody gloom.

Out of the shadows hovers a figure. Wraith-like, it weaves around the room, following a familiar pattern. Bare feet lightly touch floor boards, an arm dangling down each side of its body as, slowly, it edges to a window covered in grime. Outside, Common Chickenweed, Shepherd's Purse and Thistle remain snagged by Galium aparine. They create a live tapestry of intertwined threads in variegated greens and browns, spiralling up towards the light, reaching for freedom, gripped by the ties that bind. The garden is rampant. Small white trumpets of bindweed provide the only smudges of colour in an otherwise monotone display of common shades of grey, ranging between black and white. A gate hangs from its hinges. While beyond stretches a footpath leading to a world raked with colour, sights, sounds, memories caught in a whisper of wind ... and people.

She's been alone too long.

Yet this day is somehow different to all which have gone before. Even the spiders cease their endless spinning and cautiously wait to see what might come.

The girl dressed in long shapeless attire folds back into the shadows. But then, her foot appears on the edge, half-lit by an unexpected beam of sunshine, shafting through a gap in the grime on the window. Another foot follows, An air of expectancy fills the room. It is so unexpected she gasps, audibly, elevating a spiral of dust. Her gaze turns to the window, eyes feverishly roaming through the wilderness outside, seeking, searching for she knows not what. The path, the gateway leading to another world ... someone is coming!

Someone is coming ... soon!

Quickly, she reaches for the farthest corner of the room. Once there, her head falls, fearful of gazing into a cracked mirror hanging there. Caught in the moment between then and now, again she steps to the window ... before circling back to the mirror on the wall.

It's been so long ... too long. Who is it who's coming? What will they think? How will they react?

At first, she doesn't realise she's spoken the words aloud. But the sudden sound of her voice makes her jump. She yearns for human company. To feel again the pleasure of sharing. To know she isn't alone ... not any more ... not for as long as that person stays. Yet another part of her remains nervous, on edge. Why? For so many, she realises it's the most natural thing in the world to hear someone at your door, to drink tea with a friend, to chatter and laugh easily. For her, however, it creates a crack in her world, as if something has been undone. She is reminded of words echoing through Time ...

'Beware, the walls of protection can too easily become your prison, entrapped, ensnared.'

Is that how it feels now?

Looking up releases an image in her mind of what she once was like once upon a time.

Now, gazing intently into the mirror ... she seeks out that same image, knowing realistically it would have changed. But then again, unprepared for the sight before her.

She stands for a long time. Looking, searching, willing for what is meant to be there to show.

The looking glass gazes back at her, as if challenging her concept of what she might expect. But now the thread of thought again summons up courage, and she responds to the challenge, eager now to see her reflection in the glass.

But ... there is nothing there.

Through the glass of the mirror, no image gazes back at her. There is only the smudged mirror. The glass. An image internalised. It is as if she is lost forever. Forgotten, abandoned, a figure unknown.


I first had this dream when my daughter was a teenager. I remember sharing it with her, looking for reasons why my image would not have shown in the mirror. Was I a ghost? Had I died? If I died, how did that happen? What was I doing in this cottage? It fitted no memory of a past life. How might that feel? Where was everyone else in my life? Why was I so alone? Was it a premonition? In turn, my daughter used my dream to forge a story which helped gain her a GCSE. While the same dream has returned to me many times over the years.

Today, often it feels as if I am now living that dream.

Okay, my garden isn't quite the jungle portrayed, and my home is better equipped than that of the girl. Otherwise, I can empathise with her feelings. I know what it is to be that alone, that afraid, off the radar to the extent that it's as if nobody knows I'm here. Left alone long enough, it's something which puts you on automatic pilot. Days pass. You have no idea any more of the date or the time. Everything slots into place the way it should, because it happened that way yesterday and the day before, and all the days before that. Loneliness can be like a death. And I'm talking now about being totally alone ... without having anyone come to visit, with no family or friends in the area, and the onus being on you to go out for everyday needs, or do without. It's so easy to feel like the wraith in my dream. And then, if you go out, to feel invisible. The longer you are alone, the more it settles in you, affecting you inside out to the extent that, to be with people can actually feel frightening, and you hurry back to your burrow, to the comfort of at least a place you know well. Any change is startling. It throws you off balance. And when you don't have happy memories to look back on, you live in the here and now. A moment by moment existence. 

Oh, don't get me wrong! It isn't that we don't want to be a living part of the world. It isn't we don't want to feel wanted, needed, loved. It's just that we exist in a fragile world. A fragmented world. We dread something going wrong with the TV because it's our lifeline to what is happening outside. Little worries and frustrations get blown out of all proportion. 

No-one can understand this way of living unless they have shared the experience!

At night, as darkness falls, we gather all shreds of comfort around us, threading them together like one huge comfort blanket, trying to identify something to hang on to through the long hours which lie ahead. Sleep can be bliss when it comes. Switching off from thoughts, nagging doubts, living in isolation. During sleep, our souls break free, reaching for the stars and visiting. While we wake to another morning early, ensnared in panic attacks grinding deep in the pit of our stomach which forces us out of bed ... or if we're disabled, pain forces us to go in search of the 'Pill Party' to enable us through another day.

'I'm so lonely I don't even want to be with myself any more.'

'Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.'

'We sometimes think that all we want is to disappear, when all we really want is to be found.'

'I used to think that the worst thing in life was to end up alone. It's not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel alone.' Robin Williams

'If you don't understand my silence, how will you understand my words?'

'The biggest disease known to mankind is loneliness.'

There are so many ways of describing loneliness. But words don't even break the surface. It's all about emotion and what's going on inside. If you haven't been there ... you can never know. You can't really know unless you have no-one living with you or expected through your front door. You can't know until you spend days, weeks, months, deeply affected by the isolation of living alone, crying oceans of tears, swimming through layer upon layer of unspoken words, unshared feelings, and you switch on the TV to bring life, light, colour and sound into your home. No, it's not about pushing people away as someone once suggested. We don't push people away. But we do have the right to protect ourselves if we're being ridiculed, and/or abused verbally, mentally or physically, by drawing a definitive line under those who would do us wrong.

We have enough to cope with living on a day-by-day, moment-by-moment basis, without adding to our pain. 

Inevitably, in living alone, we have to accept that Life isn't going to come to us ... we have to force ourselves out, to forge sustainable relationships with people outside if we are to remain part of the community as a whole. It's the reason I sought out the very welcome and friendly Lunch Club on a Monday for my only home-cooked meal courtesy of the Salvation Army, where firm friendships are built and sustain us through long hours between. A friendly little bus of locals collects me for a trip to Morrisons on Tuesday afternoon where we spend an hour shopping, especially beneficial for heavy items such as milk and orange juice carried right to the front door by a courteous driver who started this service, using his bus for those who live alone. Ladies meet on a Wednesday afternoon for a Talk, followed by tea and biscuits. If I hadn't located these groups and got involved, I would still be utterly alone, as I was the first year and more after Tony left me. It isn't the life I intended. Nor is it one I would wish. But this is the reality of everyday existence. And if it wasn't for my writing, my Family at the Salvation Army, and my Kindred Spirit veterans and their families, I would truly have gone out of my mind, contemplating ending it completely.

Everyone has a gift.

Everyone should feel connected.

Everyone should have someone who supports, and helps them feel needed, valued, loved.

Everyone should have love flowing through their hearts and mind, in the firm knowledge that they are not really alone, and that they only have to reach out to find a friend.

Copyright: Janine Harrington









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