From the Sky down

How did the world get so full of information 

every minute of every day reality tv and 24 hour news

and who thought it would be a good idea 

to fit it all right here in the back pocket of my jeans

all the information and the miss information 

and all the truth is out there but it’s hidden buried beneath the propaganda and the curated lies 

don’t get me wrong sometimes it is the good

but it’s mostly just the bad and the ugly with a filter slapped on that’s supposed to convince us that we want it

and everyone has an opinion on everything hiding behind their keyboard with the belief they’ve earned the right to share it

and no one is brave enough anymore to just admit when they don’t know

because what does it mean if the whole world fits inside your phone and it’s smaller than you are but you’re still not big enough to contain it

So we shrink ourselves down trying to make ourselves bigger

because it all so conveniently fits inside the palm of our hand as we loose time we can never get back scrolling on the device we built for connection that’s causing all this separation

while they tell us over and over again that if we would only keep on striving to do everything they said

while they sell us this dream that if we just invest enough hope and we sacrifice our mental health we can get lucky enough to go viral and catch a break or two that will turn this life around

and if that happens someday we could maybe have an Instagram feed that makes us look like we’re the one that’s normal

if we start again from the ground up maybe we could could be enough to fit inside their mould and that would make them proud

and I tried for a while I really really tried 

to shrink to conform to fit to fit in but fitting in just made it clear I didn’t have anywhere I belong

when it all came down to it I wasn’t built for this and it was a little late in the day I’ll admit but I realised I’m a bird

and I couldn’t spend my life swimming inside their fishbowl

and if those of us that are born to fly really want to change the world if we want to overcome

We have to be far too busy building something beautiful from the sky down to ever stop and listen to the voices that want to cage us.

– Louise Alexandra Erskine

The Space to Receive

The Space to Receive

The space to receive

Yung Pueblo once wrote that being able to receive love is as important as being able to give love, the trouble with that is that I’ve never been any good at receiving. I didn’t grow up with the tools to know how and life taught me there was always an ulterior motive and that the sooner I figure it out the better chance I have of surviving it. I have struggled deeply with asking for help and then learning to accept it when it comes, the idea I can’t do everything alone and that that’s okay has been a heck of a journey and its an understanding I have come to rather later in life than is ideal.

Love is a complicated thing to often associated with things that aren’t really love at all, the trouble for instance with people telling you you’re beautiful is that it sounds good and people think it’s nice but in a weird way it completely undermines your confidence, its got nothing to do with who you are, it’s out of your control and it fades easily. You can’t build your spirit on something that exists only at the surface. I was used to people wanting to consume me because they fetishised my hair or liked how I looked, and then pretending to be interested in the parts of me that meant something or made up who I am just to get what they want, and then I got used to watching them walk away when they didn’t get it and also when they did, and I got used to letting that reaffirm my belief that those parts of me that were deeper weren’t enough or were too much, or sometimes both at the same time.

A long time ago, or at least it feels like a long time, truthfully I don’t remember when it was but at some point in I guess the past year I asked God to teach me how to receive love, because all I knew at that point was that I had never truly been loved and the pain of that was unbearable and I didn’t want to die with it still being true. I didn’t want to live forever only being half loved because its more survivable somehow, it isn’t and I wasn’t willing to spend the rest of my life living in fear of being vulnerable.

The thing about receiving though, is that in order for it to be possible you have to have the space for it, if you don’t create within yourself the space to receive then it doesn’t matter how good what you’re given is because you won’t have the capacity to hold onto it. You can get a beautiful new coat but if your closet is full you’re either going to have to clear something out or you’re going to leave the new one on the banister and the dog is going to chew a hole in it (true story). If you have no clue where to put the gift or what to do with it then you won’t be able to look after it or protect it and it will break, and some of those little shards will cut you and will be just insidious enough to fit into the space that you did have. The same space that good thing was too big a blessing for and wouldn’t fit into. So the hurt is something you’ll carry long after you loose the gift and all of the joy is gone.

Slowly I’ve been learning to receive grace, I’ve been learning by making space, I’ve been making space by letting go of all the unwanted things that were filling me up and taking up real estate inside me they didn’t deserve, I’ve learned to let go, I mean not instantly it’s still a process but I am finding my peace so much quicker each time I do. I’ve had to learn how to let go of not just my anger and my resentment, even when they seem justified but of my responses in those situations. I’ve learned the hard way that pushing someone away preserves nothing least of all me and hurts more than waiting on them ever would have. 

I’ve had to let go of offence and learn that someone else’s words aren’t what hurt but the wound already in me that those words touched. I’ve had to let go of my defensiveness, my need to prove everybody wrong and how easily I take on board the opinions of people that haven’t earned the right to give them. I’ve had to learn to stop building walls, to stop isolating myself and to stop running, self sabotaging and pushing people away in some sort of misguided test where I don’t believe they’ll fight for me so I create my own self fulfilling prophecy where I’m disappointed that they don’t stay even though I told them not to.

The hardest things to let go of were the lies I believed about myself that I wasn’t worth anything, that I didn’t belong anywhere or have anything to offer that anyone could ever want, and that I never would, the belief I didn’t deserve to be valued or loved or cherished because I was never going to be enough. And I had to first accept and then heal the part of me that sought out relationships that affirmed those beliefs.

This as with anything in life that we have to overcome can be a daily battle and a daily, sometimes hourly choice to see the good in it and to keep holding on. The story I make up when it’s all feeling too much is that I was wrong about everything that I ever have been, am now or could become, and that I’m just stuck again in some toxic cycle where I hurt all the time, am too much to handle, am completely unloveable and will be alone forever and that nothing I feel matters so I should just numb it all out and listen to the same old lies as they fall from a new tongue as I settle for any available arms that I can just lay in for a while even if it means ignoring everything that’s important to me. I’m not going to pretend that those days aren’t dark or scary and that I don’t ever let them spiral but I can let you know that I’m winning against them, most days are good days and the darker moments don’t last that long, that the joy of the lord really is my strength and that no matter how long the night may feel the dawn always comes.

This leads me to the other important thing I’ve had to learn, and that is to be intentional with how I am filled, nothing exists in a vacuum and the job I have had alongside all the letting go is to strengthen the parts of me that need holding on to, to nurture my gifts and talents and set healthy boundaries. I’m learning to speak to my self with love and compassion and be gentle even in my mistakes, allowing myself the freedom to fail is important and i’ve learned there’s no use crying out for the chains to break if I don’t let go of what they tethered me too. 

I learned this past year that you can’t give without judgement what you are unable to receive without self criticism, if you can’t receive help without feeling weak you can’t give help with perceiving weakness and the same goes for love if I can’t stop treating myself like an unfinished product that has to meet certain requirements to be deserving of love then I can’t embrace all the beautiful scars and flaws that make someone else who they are.

Fast forward to now and honestly there are so many ways life is so good and I fall asleep long before I finish my gratitude list each night but there are areas in which at times I’m also feeling pretty empty, there are days where I struggle to pour out what I don’t have.

I know they say you can’t pour from an empty cup and there are ways that can be true, I know that sometimes you feel like what you have is so small you don’t even count it amongst your blessings anymore, and that we have a natural tendency to want to hold on tighter to what we have left because we have this misconception that it’s easier to give from abundance. I wonder though, if we haven’t first learned to give when we have little whether the more we have the more we can be afraid to loose when we still feel its not enough, but I also know that so often with God the action creates the provision and choosing to keep on pouring is how you get filled up.

I know that there’s hope in feeling empty because I finally have the space to receive what is meant for me and I know that it’s immeasurably more than I could ever ask or imagine. 

So I can’t tell you what’s coming next but I can tell you already in faith that it was worth the wait and each and every lesson along the way.

Dating with CPTSD

Dating with CPTSD

Dating with trauma is complicated there’s no one size fits all option for how to deal with life. Sometimes you can meet someone that aligns with you in ways you daren’t have imagined possible that fits you like a glove, and sometimes that still isn’t enough because you aren’t both in the same space when it comes to overcoming triggers or because you are or because you just aren’t brave enough to let each other in far enough to see past it.

Dating with trauma is I guess something I underestimated – we could easily have gone on for months without a bump in the road and maybe then we could have faced one together when it came, but timing being what it is that wasn’t our story here. We both hit triggers incredibly early on which I maybe we should have expected but we didn’t and we were both blindsided by it and it broke my heart at a stage I probably shouldn’t have even been that invested but rightly or wrongly I found someone that I could see myself falling for and more importantly building something with, and that’s hard because in a lot of ways it’s no one’s fault it didn’t work out that way nobody is to blame, there’s nobody to be mad at and I felt powerless so I did the only thing I could and gave God a good telling off he didn’t deserve, secure in the knowledge he could handle it and I wouldn’t break him.

I’m sure if I wanted to I could blame myself or I could manufacture some reasons to blame him or blame my ex or his ex for causing the trauma we couldn’t see each other past, but that wouldn’t change anything or fix anything and at the end of the day I know the thing that broke me also built me and I don’t regret the journey that led me to become who I am today.

The woman I’ve become is incredible and I love her but I’m also under no illusion that she has a long way to go and needs a lot of grace to get there. 

I made the mistake of interpreting my present through the lens of my past and so did he and that hurt us both. We dragged pain and resentment and insecurity into a situation it didn’t belong in. So while what we had was incredibly good and should have been something we were celebrating we fought all the wrong battles on all the wrong levels and pushed each other away.

All I can do now is attempt to understand my part in it all and how and why I reacted to things the way I did in the hope that I won’t ever make these mistakes again, but allowing for the fact I probably will and if not these then new ones and I have to remember to be gentle with myself and with others and remember that tough love doesn’t work on hurting people including me.

I understand a little better now that when you’ve never been allowed to need anything there’s a complicated bag of emotions involved in admitting that you do – it’s hard to ask for something you’ve never been allowed, it’s harder still to figure out how to do that without treating the person your asking for it from like they’re the same one that intentionally deprived you of it not just someone that doesn’t understand you yet. It’s hard to know if you’re allowed to call or text, and when you have to fight a huge battle inside yourself to reach out to someone first and they don’t reply it can feel like an unbearable rejection even though it isn’t.

I understand now what a giant chasm there is between knowing your own worth and trusting someone else to see it and trusting that they don’t need convincing of it and that not everything has to be fought for. When conflict is all you’ve known and you’ve only been told that you’re worth nothing and shown that you mean nothing it’s hard to let go of feeling like you have to prove that you are – so that’s what I did I fought a fight that didn’t exist and broke the thing I was so desperate to protect.

I didn’t just break it either I pushed it past breaking point, I needed a reaction to feel like I mattered I lived too long on a rollercoaster where being hurt meant the same as being loved and I needed to be yelled at or punished somehow to feel like I mattered. So when I wasn’t and someone else’s pain wasn’t being thrown at me I felt like there wasn’t any there because he didn’t care. And it felt that way even though I knew it wasn’t true and even though he explained that he needed time to process and was sorry he shut down.

Trauma bonding is no different than any other addiction so even though I’ve been a long time out of that situation my body still doesn’t quite know how to not need it and I guess maybe it’s true that addiction never goes away you just learn how to control it and that scares me because I so deeply want this part of me gone. Inadvertently in the end I didn’t mean to but I I guess I was testing him or testing God because I wanted to be fought for, but the painful truth is I shouldn’t have needed to be. 

For a little while I thought I found someone that could see past all of that in me, that somehow because so much of my story is out here for everyone to see that he would somehow have enough insight to be ready and understand what he was getting into, he didn’t and that wasn’t his fault it was mine. I know I needed to learn all of this but I wish beyond everything else there had been a way for me to learn it without hurting him. Not just because I have to carry the weight of that with me now but because I know he does to.

Now I have to live with knowing I broke something so good and hurt someone incredible that didn’t deserve it because I couldn’t just give it time and not pick it apart, in the space of the uncertainty all the voices from my past resounded like clashing symbols inside my head – relentlessly all day every day until I drove myself out of my mind and in the end it hurt so much and it felt like no one cared that it hurt or wanted to understand why it did so I killed it on purpose because I talked myself into believing it would be easier. I ran away foolishly hoping that somehow he would see through it and ask me to stay. It isn’t. He didn’t. I was wrong and now it’s so much worse.

Disappointment hurts and so does hope all I can do now is own my mistakes, learn from them and take the time to heal again. If I’m being honest after I’ve done that I don’t want to try this all again with someone new, I don’t want someone else to make me feel any of the things I felt with him I want to save them and protect them because they’re all I have to show for the heartache, but in time I suppose that will change and until then I refuse to live life afraid of leaning into the storm when it comes. 

Somewhere out there is someone that will be ready to face all of this with me and for now I am grateful to have learnt a little bit more about who I can be, I’m grateful I learned I could enjoy affection and that I could feel safe with someone and that just for a moment I could rest my face in their neck and breathe them in and they could feel like home. I’m grateful I learned how much courage I have even if I don’t always show it in the right way and I’m grateful all of it happened even if it was too short and hurt like hell because I’d rather drown walking on water than not get out of the boat. 

The Losing Game

Wow, you’re sexy for an older reader! Catch what I did there? I ran game on you. 

I made you feel good about yourself by undermining you. Depending what I went on to discuss you may have gone away still thinking – I AM pretty sexy for my age, and where’s the harm in that? Except it is harmful. I’m not only playing on insecurities you might have about the way your body is changing as you get older but its also the perpetuation of the cultural belief that ageing is unsexy. It’s a manipulation designed to make you more prone to bad decision making. If I was trying to sleep with you I’d have massively improved my odds by simultaneously making you feel both sexy and like a ticking time bomb the clocks about to run out on.

In 2005 an investigative journalist, frustrated with his own love life joined a community of “romantic” players to learn how to get women into bed. The resulting book ‘The Game’ rather than reading like an exposé became a best selling dating handbook, in which men were taught how to gain the upper hand.

Women’s rights have improved massively in the past 120 years. We have this newly empowered ‘we can do anything men can do and do it bleeding’ attitude. We work like men, dress like men, thanks to the Shewee we can even pee like men, and most importantly in the context of this article – if we want to, we can have sex like men, and if we really want to save time we can have sex without men, with no make up, wearing our intensely comfortable, ugly pyjamas before making a cuppa and binge watching Netflix.

Then comes this book and instead of teaching men to form partnerships, uplift and empower women, its reinforcing all the insecurities women have after years of oppression and lousy product marketing telling us we aren’t enough, it fortifies the idea that women exist for sexual gratification, it teaches men to identify physical attributes a woman could be self conscious about and exploit them to make her more susceptible to sexual advances.

I get it with my hair – wow you’re beautiful for a ginger / its not for everyone but I’ve always had a thing for a feisty read head, or possibly my favourite, you know when they lean in really close like they’re letting you on in a secret and tell you they know that red heads are freaky between the sheets and that its okay because they like it, as if its shameful to be a bit kinky or as if the colour of my hair in any way determines my sexual preferences. I also get “oh you’re so tiny I could keep you in my pocket” and I’m like was that a compliment or a threat? Because it would not be the first time I’ve been carried away from my friends by a complete stranger – which I assume comes under the chapter on isolating the target. 

The overarching problem with this technique is that it leaves everyone feeling alone. It seems shocking now but this is a book that was liked by 87% of readers on Goodreads, and has a 5/5 rating from Waterstones, and its not just damaging women its damaging men! We are living in a time where the leading cause of death in men between 35 and 49 is suicide.

It’s based on the idea that people can be beneath you, you’d be ‘dating down’ or ‘punching above your weight’. Are we not each of us just flesh and bones trying to hold a heart together? Can you truly believe that a person’s looks or job elevates them? It also works on the assumption that everybody has the same physical preferences. She’s really fit so she won’t like me – why not? you’ve never even spoken to her how could you know? It also discredits the possibility that sexual attraction for women especially, has less to do with physical appearance and more to do with chemistry, one of my exes was six feet tall, the rest wouldn’t let me wear heels, nor for the possibility that that intelligence or a sense of humour is sexy, I’ve asked on instagram and you know what’s REALLY sexy…

Kindness!

By creating a dating handbook designed to undermine a woman’s self esteem we inadvertently have a generation of men believing that being themselves isn’t good enough, its taught them the only way a woman will pay them attention is if they trick her. There may be a temporary high that comes with initial sexual success but this prolonged behaviour means we find ourselves in a society where everyone feels cheated and damaged, putting up walls that cut them off from feeling vulnerable and establishing real human connection.

I can’t tell you I have some genius way to fix it, I don’t. But what if the next time it happens you let him know that running game won’t work, then pay him a genuine compliment. Even if he’s not your type you can find one thing to say. You walk away feeling empowered and he feels noticed. Then maybe the next time he approaches someone he simply says “hey I noticed you from across the room and I’d really like to talk, can I buy you a drink?” maybe people start paying attention to the details of each other, maybe they don’t have to ‘blast last minute reservations’ and maybe at the end of it all we develop a culture where we feel valued enough for it to be safe enough to just walk home.

Butterfly Resurrection

honestly she wasn’t sure how she felt

or was she was ready for

but when she walked beside him

she felt a quiet gentle fluttering in her stomach

as though, just maybe

not all the butterflies were dead

Louise Alexandra Erskine

those little flecks of golden light

shining in your eyes

they are enough to illuminate

even my darkest places

Louise Alexandra Erskine

without ever knowing it

he had taught her heart to beat again

Louise Alexandra Erskine

he took her to bed

and for the first time

she knew

how the sun feels each morning

as it rises in the sky

Louise Alexandra Erskine

it wasn’t the climb she was afraid of

it was the fall

Louise Alexandra Erskine

the walls were high

and time moved slowly

but brick by brick

he stayed long enough to take them down

and what he found there

took his breath away

Louise Alexandra Erskine