wants and needs

‘Wants and needs Aimee … wants and needs. Love is finding someone who can meet both of these’.

This, the opinion of my uncle which he foisted on us, as he held court at the dinner table – his personality expanding to fit any space into which he entered. I guess he’s the closest to a father that I’ve had and one thing I’m sure of, is that he loved me dearly. But love was an emotion that remained stifled in his heart and throat, demonstrated only by the annual ritual of a fistful of cash thrown on the floor.

Memory lane is not one I wish to meander down very often. I’m increasingly compelled to spend as much time as I can in the present and as Eckhart Tolle suggests, taking short journeys into the past or future if it serves me well. But sometimes, life events take you in a direction not of your choosing, as they did last summer when I made the journey back home to the place of my birth.

In a montage befitting of the silver screen, I revisited my childhood haunts – the town centre, our favoured busking pitch, the park on the way to my old school, the dreaded tennis courts and finally all the way to the crematorium. At this point things took a tragicomic turn, as I hid behind a tree waiting to see who turned up and wondered if my father would emerge from the shadows. Whilst the likelihood of this was slim, it was not not beyond the realms of possibility as the last I heard my uncle had kept a proverbial window open, albeit one step removed.

Despite significant mental gymnastics inside my head, there was very little to be seen from my vantage point. Four men in a smokers’ huddle looking suspiciously like rent a crowd pall bearers and a lone woman on a bench, wasn’t quite the send off I’d imagined. Nor was walking down the aisle holding the hand of his estranged daughter to the sound of Orinoco Flow accompanied by his backing vocals. His love for Enya knew no bounds. It would have been funny if it hadn’t been my life and by the third song it kind of was. Even in death, he’d managed to blast his presence into every corner of the room.

My mother and sister were out of the country, experiencing an altogether different musical experience on a Strictly Come Dancing cruise. And my partner was adventuring abroad with his three children. So here I was on a solo fact finding mission, my face pressed hard against the glass of my past. I listened as the few supporting actors in his passion play, relayed the final alcohol soaked years and months. The most sobering discovery was that his walls had remained literally covered with pictures of us – the people he’d severed ties with one by one.

This image of my uncle living estranged and yet surrounded by photographs of his family had a profound effect on me. It’s become a visual reminder that no one owes you shit – not even your family. That the time, interest, friendship and love people offer us is a gift. If like he suggested, we seek partnership with those who are able to satisfy our wants and needs – what happens when our respective desires are not aligned? Is the value we place on a person as insubstantial as our changing whims?

I’m more inclined to believe that the ability to forge sustaining relationships stems from learning how to be at ease in our own skins. To find out what motivates, inspires and compels us to get out of the bed in the morning. To steer our own ship regardless of the storms without. And when we find our passions, to spend as much time as we can pursuing them. Then, instead of approaching others from a position of need, we can meet as equals and embrace our intersecting trajectories with curiosity.

That I’m writing this is almost laughable. It seems like forever my focus was firmly fixed on losing myself in others to make life more bearable. I completely overlooked the fact that my greatest ally was staring me in the face. I will never leave me. I know what I like and what I don’t. I can take myself out to dinner and buy my own fucking flowers. It’s taken decades for me to work out that without a creative outlet, I’m an empty shell. And relating to others from a position of need has only ever resulted in a feeling of lack.

Through writing and making, I’ve found a way to express myself and a place for my thoughts to rest when existential angst has worn them out. And from others, all I long for is to feel connection, to be accepted and understood and to feel free.


the hours

‘ … but there are still the hours aren’t there? One and then another and you get through that one and then, my god, there’s another …’

Perhaps a strange film choice as balm for my sorrows but whilst there comes a time to emerge like a phoenix from the ashes, sometimes you just need to lie down with the wolves and seek solace in those who understand.

Many years ago when I watched this film, the words resonated so strongly with me, encapsulating the hopelessness of being trapped in a life interminable. Never mind getting through each day … what about the hours, the minutes the seconds. When time stretches before you and there’s nothing to fill it outside the darkness of your mental landscape, you look for ways to speed things up.

And when you find them, the world becomes a veritable playground with a plethora of options. I started early with all encompassing emotional attachments to people. But humans are slippery buggers and their desires have a habit of not coinciding with our perceived needs. I needed a back up plan – something I could pin down when the object of my affection evaded me. And it came in the form of one of the most pervasive and socially acceptable substances available – alcohol.

My elixir of choice has varied over time but in adulthood I discovered a dependancy that was both functional and aspirational – I’d affectionately dub the last two decades as my chardonnay years, except I’m starting to look back through a different filter. The intoxicating promise of that first glass – stalling the restlessness of the overthinking mind in the warmth of temporary relief. Sharp corners soften, time accelerates and social interactions are heightened in a fallacy of intimate connection.

This is my second dry January – last year I celebrated the achievement on February 1st, by buying the finest bottle of wine I could afford. I’m now thinking that perhaps I missed the point. Seeing the challenge as a hiatus in normal functioning – a race to the end with the promise of double points next month. This year, I asked my pals on Instagram for some tips on living more soberly. One thing I know is that deprivation and denial will never work for me as motivating forces. Whenever I make a positive change, I need to feel I’m moving towards rather than away from something.

One suggestion was to ask the question ‘How does this serve me?’ and reading those words was a lightbulb moment for me.

I’ve held so tightly on to my freedom as a self determining individual. To be able to say one thing and later do another according to my changing will, embrace spontaneity and eschew reason when faced with the lure of a chaotic diversion. Having spent years on a path of self discovery – and only from wisdom afforded by retrospect – I can honestly say this ideal has been a major cause of unhappiness. I’ve learnt that I function the best when I’m grounded by routine, stability, stillness, creativity and considered consumption.

And yet, despite all my focus on development, I’ve kept one small area off limits. Except it isn’t small – it’s an entrenched pandemic. And whilst I’m not outing myself as an alcoholic, I do think I have all the building blocks -genetic predisposition, life history, obsessive patterns of behaviour – to become addicted to a whole smorgasbord of substances. And whilst I’ve not yet fallen down into the abyss with a single ticket to oblivion, I do wonder what vice I would turn to if the shit really did hit the fan. And as the nature of life is to love and then systematically lose all the things you love, there’s no escaping that shit will come.

Which got me thinking, why not stop before it starts. I’ve been drip feeding myself health giving habits since my 30’s, easing myself in with bite sized chunks. And my 40’s heralded the arrival of new drugs of choice with gifts of unprecedented influence. Time thieves which swallow every second available – the hours which in earlier years stretched endlessly ahead, now dance before me like a prized possession. My waking hours are now delineated – time spent making and writing and time not spent making and writing. And all my energies focused on making more time for the former.

I started out this month focusing on my relationship with alcohol and asking whether it was going to be a dry month/year/life. Abstinence is not a word I’m drawn to but finding things that bring me joy are. And making the choice to do them for the long term gain is. So what next … I honestly don’t know. I’m trying to live life more in the day and less in my head and I’ve embraced this opportunity to really examine my habits of old and new and question the value they bring to my life.

Special thanks to @wholelifewithamy @hipsobriety @laura_mckowen and the Home podcast which inspired this post and has given me so much food for thought this month.

the kindness of strangers …

… or as a dear friend of mine likes to say … ‘friends we have not yet met’. Whilst my relationship with social media does not come without inner conflict, I am unreservedly grateful to have made connections with fellow creatives whose values I share. I’ve been truly humbled by the kindness of people I’ve met here on my blog and over on Instagram.

Part of what attracts me to my chosen craft is its solitary nature – hour upon hour spent absorbed in a project, liberated from my over-thinking mind. However, as someone whose glass is perpetually half empty, spending too much time alone can be counter-productive. Especially when a plan has unravelled and I err towards an all or nothing mindset.

Through social media, I’ve been on the receiving end of such generosity of spirit, which has encouraged me to continue making and writing about the process. I was recently gifted this self described ‘sketched trial’ from @thescentofwater, which sums up my compulsion to write and create in a way that I can’t in words. One woman’s sketch is another woman’s work of art – it’s something I will treasure forever.

And some more day brightening gems from friends I haven’t yet met: a feast of patterns in the latest issue of Ottobre accompanied by a homemade granola recipe from @mariangravemaker; a pin cushion and Linden pattern to trace (I foolishly cut into my original before copying) from the lovely @leemac36 and a photo of Maude accompanying one of my first followers Eimear, on a ‘semi-formal event’.

The change in seasons had me temporarily floored with my evenings disappearing into the darkness. Until I discovered the Danish concept of Hygge and decided to embrace the opportunities fall and winter bring. Whilst continuing to pear back my possessions, I’ve been cosying up my micro-living space and marrying function and beauty with a handmade ironing board cover. This project was the quick win I was looking for thanks to excellent tutorials from Tilly and the Buttons and Wendy Ward, along with some top tips from Eimear.

I’ve been watching Season Three of the absolutely brilliant Transparent and one of the stand out lines was Shelley’s proclamation ‘I’m a BRAND’ in reference to her one woman show ‘To Shell and Back’. It reminded me of the conflict I have with social media which is not the medium itself, but as with most things, my relationship with it. Having addictive traits, there’s real potential for me to get swallowed up in the ‘show and like’ aspect, thinking I am only as valid as my latest offering. So, I’ve been resisting the urge to bang out more makes and endeavouring to be more considered, when it comes to where my sewing adventures take me next.

I’d love to hear what projects you’ve got in the pipeline to take you through this changing light?