Daffodil Head

The daffodil bulbs which I planted in neat little patches around my garden last autumn, are beginning to bloom.

Their little heads are a joy to behold in the prevailing melancholy of my heart.

Something deep within me is stirred by them all, their little heads of yellow, so delicate, so intricate, so utterly charming and beautiful.

One of the little daffodil heads draws my particular attention and illicits from me a deep heartfelt respect and longing which I find hard to contain in my fragile heart.

It is perfectly formed, its yellow is the brightest yellow, and its head is connected to its slender green stem robustly and as proud as all of the other daffodils in the garden.

I am drawn to it, because its head, unlike the others is on the ground. Its lovely little head is touching the soil which is nourishing it, but this daffodil is not destined to stand tall and flourish as do all of its brothers.

I inwardly grieve for its loss, despite its beauty, this daffodil head will never stand tall because the stem which sustains it, has not the capacity to lift it from the soil, because this stem is broken, but not severed.

I look again, and I see that despite its predicament, this daffodil is radiating its beauty and stands out from all the others because its line of sight to my eye is lower than all of its sisters.

Your life, dear daffodil, has touched me.

Your pain and disappointment mirror that of my own life. I too am a thing of beauty whose head has not been able to rise and stand tall with its peers.

Despite this, dear daffodil, we radiate beauty, we are formed by perfection into perfection until ultimately we decline and return to the soil from which we sprung after those few flowering days of our lives.

Dear daffodil, I tenderly kiss your head of beauty, I call to you, through my tears, that you have been seen and loved.

I thank you for sharing your beauty despite the ordeal of being grown on a broken stem; despite the ordeal of your head touching the soil; despite the ordeal, I imagine, of knowing full well that you were not destined to thrive in the fulness of your truth.

William Defoe

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Odd Sock

In recent days, there has been an odd sock in the front of the drawer which holds my socks.

My sock drawer is situtated in a cabinet, which holds my underwear above it and a tin box and cotton square hankerchieves below it.

Today, home alone recovering from illness, I felt well enough to change the bedsheets and whilst doing so, I notice in the corner of my eye a pile of ironed clothes ready to be placed in the closets which adorn the room to hold them.

I find, that the pile is not organised, as it might have been if I had been ironing (a task incidentally which I never do, but I imagine that is how it would be if I was to do so!).

The ironing had been done in a random order, socks, underwear, socks, nightwear, jeans, shirt, socks, blouse, jeans, shirt, socks, underwear, etc etc.

I sort through the load, bringing my organisational skills to a serious disorder of the clothes.

I arrange bespoke piles on the clean bedding of socks for her, underwear for me, blouse for her, shirt for me, jeans… jeans again both mine, a little damp, so I hang them over the radiator to air them off.

Phew, I have avoided putting, at a later time, a dry toned, hairy leg, some might call it beautiful, into a damp denim tube. I am satisfied that order is being restored.

I keep going through the pile, I find an odd sock,and looking around on the bed I see nothing with which it can be paired, its’s purpose is suspended in perilous animation.

I suddenly recall the odd sock in my sock drawer, is it a match I wonder? or is it a duplication of a potentially worthless item?. Phew, again!, it is a match. I join them together and place them in my pile of socks.

I have finished sorting, so I quickly open drawers and drop my things into their correct place, and slide doors open to find the hangers, do the hanging and slide them closed.

The socks which have been separated have been reunited and are lost in and amongst the other garments with the same purpose into my middle drawer.

Somehow, coming off my feet a few days ago, they were separated in the process of washing and drying them. Their usefulness held by a thread, held by a willingness to give some time to the hope that they would eventually find each other, without any attempt to actually go look and support their cause.

Their finding of each other, is as random as the the act of losing each other, unplanned, unintended, unlucky.

Their reunicifaction secures for them a purpose and a future, a life of service, a life of care, a life for me in the service of my feet, a life for me in the service of my conflicted heart.

William Defoe

When the Body Asserts Itself Over The Mind

In recent weeks, I have felt under enormous mental pressure and overwhelmed with the demands of my work responsibilities which I work long hours to fulfil.

In the undercurrent of my life is an emotional torrent, a fast flowing river of anguish over the my choice to suppress my gay sexual identity.

I expect my body to carry the load and I encourage it to alleviate my mental and emotional strife by pushing it to run as a means balancing physically the trauma of my life each day.

This week, I sensed that all was out of control and unmanageable. I made some decisons to work at the weekend, regardless of the consequesnces so that I could be alone with my thoughts, uninterrupted to get on top of the issues which are unresolved in my head.

By mid-week my throat began to hurt. It is my weak spot and an inflammation in my mouth imposed on me the rest that I would not take.

The rush of infection in my mouth brought me low and forced me to stop, forced me to rest, forced me to recognise that my body had had enough.

The severest of pains in the tender fleshy parts of my mouth, constricting my swallowing action with the added discomfort of pain being felt in my ear and on my tongue.

I have taken note of this moment when my body physical has asserted itself over my mind, and over my worrying, and over my plans to keep going.

I have sensed that I would be sensible to take note of my body’s power to take control of me, to bring me low to a point where I have had to succumb to rest.

The body is the temple of the mind, and of the soul, and at it’s centre is my heart which yearns to be seen and loved. I am in awe of its power to protect me from harm, receiving into its biology the medication which will heal and repair the fleshy wounds, soon restored, rested and ready to be more careful with the demands I place upon the physical frame which holds my life.

William Defoe

A Feeling of Anxiousness

I am experiencing a lived feeling of anxiousness.

It’s physical effects, which I am honed into, is of a fluttering in my chest, as if there is a little bird flapping frantically in an attempt to escape it’s captivity in my heart.

It’s mental effects, are a deep fear and foreboding that something is wrong, something is off the tracks, something is happening or will happen over which I have no control.

It’s emotional effects are a constant effort to put on a face to the world, in which I hide my pain, in which I suppress my deepest longings, in which I tell myself that these feelings rise and fall like the swell of the sea which I must just ride out.

It’s cognitive effects are frightening because I fear that I will not be able to sustain my working capacity in a role which demands so much of my cognitive skills to be competent, confident and concise.

These feelings of anxiousness are an unwelcome companion on my journey through life, but they are not unknown, nor are they my enemy, they are thoughts and feelings from deep within my soul calling for me to be safe.

I try my best to attach these feelings to something tangible, something that I can relate to, an event that has happened, or an event which is happening or an event which I fear will happen in the future which I can overcome if only I can understand what its basis is for being present.

These feelings ebb and flow and connect themselves to multipe strands of life, which are in most cases the simple run of the mill experiences that come with being alive.

I am busy trying to be a good husband and father, a son and a brother, and yet my feelings of anxiousness, warn me of impending loss, punch me with feelings of doubt and regret, tease me with hopes and longings that I can never realistically expect to fulfil.

My response is to attack these feelings of anxiousness with physical activity, running, sex, long walks and attack them also with quietness, a space to think, a space to find balance, a space to sleep, and attack them with creativity in reading, writing and painting.

My experience of being integrally coached has taught me to welcome all my feelings, they are all part of a bigger picture of the canvas of my life and that if I welcome them all, I will have a lived hope of respite from the dark days and emerge once more into light, peace and calm.

Eventually the fluttering bird trapped near my heart, will be free once more to fly and soar in the vastness of the sky.

William Defoe

Agitated Feelings

Earlier this week I watched a beautiful film “The Fundamentals of Caring” which touched me deeply within my soul.

I was affected by the wounds which the care giver and the care recipient were trying to manage throughout their humorous and compassionate journey to see the worlds deepest pit.

I have noticed that when something beautiful touches my emotional state, my own wounds of the soul seem to ache all the more and the joy of this film, washed back over me in a second wave of the deepest agitation and pain.

It has been so bad, that my awareness of the physical manifestations of the anxiety which I have experienced has felt dangerous and intolerable.

Last night, sat in a relaxed state with a glass of beer in my hand, I was acutely aware that beneath the exterior appearance of calm, my inner emotions were out of control within me. I randomly announced to my wife that I needed to see a doctor for some medication to see me through this difficult period of severe agitation.

It lead to a conversation in wnich some issues were explored, peripheral issues in respect of financial, work and family worries, which compound the deepest wounds of my suppressed sexaulity which although acknowledged, these were not dealt with.

I hold back, to save my wife any further pain or worry. My choice to remain married is solid, but it comes at a price which sometimes feels too hard to bear.

Layered into the physical, emotional and mental pain, is the imagined pain of suspicion, perhaps even bordering on paranoia that I am being tracked in my movements or talked about by acquaintances who percieve my truth.

A toxic cocktail of anxiousness and fear is contributing to my current agitated state which I know will pass, just as the tide which ebbs ond flows on the shore sometimes arrives with the tumultuous crashing of waves on the sand, until subdued in calmer weather, it creeps in and out, bringing with it the gentlest breeze.

William Defoe

January’s End

I have tried to remain positive in the cold, dark month of January because it has been a time for me in many past years of unhappiness, anxiety and inertia.

I have tried to keep active, ignoring the cold, or more particularly ignoring the perception of the cold which my mind wants to protect me from, and I have gone out early in the morning to run in the cold and dark streets before sunrise.

I have tried to sleep for longer, ignoring a perception in my mind that the cold and dark are my enemies, keeping me a prisoner within the walls of my home.

My sleep has not been due to a feeling of malaise, but rather it has been an active and positive attempt to rest, to notice the benefit of being rested, and to nurture a sense of gratitude that I am relaxed and calm enough to endure it.

I have tried to walk, particularly on sunny bright Sunday afternoons, feeling the cold on my face, but being wrapped up in winter clothes, overcoat, gloves and scarf to generate an internal furnace of warm blood to stir my sense of good health and wellbeing despite the elements.

My favourite walk, was on one evening in deep fresh fallen snow, as I circled my home on the roads which surround it, taking in with joy the solitude, the eeirness, the lights and shadows and the sound underfoot of fresh crushed snow.

I have tried to read, sat with tired eyes, after a long day at work, in front of the fire with a book and a cup of tea, trying to lose myself in the other worldliness of a novel, thinking how historic references to social and economic hardships have changed or adapted in the present day.

I have built a jigsaw and a picture emerged from the assembled pieces of a famous English city which I have never visited, its steeples and towers on the skyline and academic and scientific excellence calling on me to make a pilgrmage to it later in the year.

The imagined streets in my minds eye, unseen in the pieces of the jigsaw, where all the birds and people are fixed in inanimated suspension like the images on the Grecian Urn*.

I have immersed myself in deepening my commitment to my own development. I have taken time to understand the origins of my nervous system and I have discussed with my coach the events and circumstances in my life which trigger movement of my responses to threat and fear on the autonomic ladder.

So, January is at an end, there is hope of better weather and warmer temperatures and a growth in daylight as the days and weeks emerge into a Spring of new born lambs and daffodils.

This is mirrored by a strength and resilience nurtured with me on these January days to appreciate and to take notice of what is important to me in the life I am living.

William Defoe

*John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn

Uprooted Tree

I am an English Catholic, a supporter of the benefits of a United Kingdom, but deeply respectful of the hopes and aspirations of my fellow citizens in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland who crave for independence.

I have been drawn recently to the Queen’s visit to Ireland in 2011 and how that visit sought to draw a line under the hurt caused by passed centuries of not treating our neighbours as our freinds.

My catholicism, held strongly in my consciousness, originates in my Irish ancestry, but I am English, I am a unionist, I am gay.

I have been drawn this week to the tragic early death of the Archbishop of Glasgow, Philip Tartaglia at the age of 70. It has been a shock for the cathoilic commnity in Scotland as his death had not been anticpated by ill health or age.

I have been drawn to his funeral rites, the words of his brother Fr Gerard Tartaglia at the vigil Mass, expressing his disbelief that his brother had died, and at the words of Bishop Hugh Gilbert at the funeral Mass in which he compared the loss of the archbishop to the uprooting of a strong and solid tree in a storm.

This uprooting of strength, this uprooting of goodness causes pain and as with an oak felled in a storm, the roots once torn up from the earth cannot be replanted, but in the shadow of the felled branches, the earth stirs with saplings and new growth which lie in the fertile ground of the previous incumbent of that space.

I have struggled to keep my roots in the ground, they have been at risk in recent years of tearing themselves up with the vain hope of being replanted into another space.

I have learned that whatever I have been, whatever I am, whatever I aspire to be in the future is already to be found in the roots from which my life is sprung.

The catholic roots within me from beautiful Ireland, the unionist roots within me from remarkable England, the gay roots within me from the biological genes I carry are intertwined in the solid ground under my feet, and it is from there that the foliage grows and makes me into the complex being that I have become.

William Defoe

A Partial View

I have been feeling into how incomplete my perspective is on my place in the world, and how this can change one day to the next, or at times, it can feel immovable in a place from which my capacity to move on is limited.

For many years, I have sat in the same pew in church, singing with the other choir members from the tenor row at the back.

In recent weeks, due to coronavirus, there has been no singing and so I have sat in a variety of places which are in the main, very unfamiliar.

The pillars, obscure the view from my seat in some places of the altar, or the giant crucifix, an outstrecthed arm missing some weeks or the head, or perhaps it is the priests chair, or the lectern which I cannot see.

I have to adapt, to these changes in my view, by either accepting it, or leaning my head to either side to give myself for a few moments a glimpse of a wider reality than I have in my sedentary partial view.

I have been consumed for a number of years with the partial view of my identity, it has unfolded within me into an acceptance and at times into a longing which has brought with it the deepest of pains.

My wife, has a partial view of my truth, knowing it, but not accepting it, wanting to control it and manage it, and unable to free herself from the times when my behaviour has caused her pain.

I don’t think that either of us in a combined sense, have a full view of our situation.

If we were to find the courage to try to join our partial views, we’d still have to negotiate our understanding, obscured by the pillar which is the mystery of my sexuality, but if each of us could move our heads from side to side, to get a better view, then it stands to reason that our combined view of the whole would be increased, if we shared our insight to fill the gaps.

I have learned in my coaching experience, which has enriched my life, that I can never take the moods or actions of one day and define my life by them.

Tomorrow, does not forget yesterday, but instead it has the capacity to bring something new which will change a perspective, soften a stance, turn into something or turn away, always grappling to find sure ground, solid ground, grounded ground, from which to alter the partial view.

William Defoe

Hard Times

I have just finished reading the novel “Hard Times” written by Charles Dickens first published in 1854.

It is a reasonably short book, but perhaps I am slow reader, or the print was small, but for some reason in took me several weeks to read it.

I like to read every word, and try to understand the deeper sentiments in the novel, which in part, as in many of Dickens novels, are a critique on the social and econominc injustices of the times, touching in this novel on workers rights (or should I say lack of them), the harshness and controlling behaviours of early trade union leaders and mill owners, and the indissovibility of marriage.

As I had anticipated, I was moved very deeply by aspects of the intertwined tragedies of the chararcters in the novel, shedding a tear here and there, feeling overwhelmed, touched, hopeful, sad at different times in the script.

I took the trouble to underline one sentence, which touched a place within me for which I write this blog, but which so often feels suppressed within my breast, and which is a lonely load to carry.

After divulging her unhappiness to her father, he sits up all night pondering on the heart-rendering circumstances of his beloved daughter’s unhappiness in which he has played a part, being a man awake to the needs of the head, but blind to the calls of the heart.

He says to her “when I consider what has been known to me for hours, has been concealed by you for years”

This reality touched a deep nerve within me, because I too have a lived experieince of living a suppressed life as a gay man in a heterosexual marriage.

I have in recent years, I found the courage to speak out, but except in the most exceptional confidences which I have entered into, which can be counted on one hand, there is now a constatnt feeling in my breast that my isolation and pain continues because my truth is still held to ransom by forces of reason which I adhere to within my own heart to keep it suppressed.

Hard Times indeed, for me, and perhaps Hard Times for you too, which keep out the light, to protect the myth which is played out in my family and community as my truth.

My truth, hidden within, is a thing of beauty, which is not fully formed into a resolution to dance in the streets, but finds its expression in a longing and a desire to be known, to be accepted, to be liberated.

I know from my own limited experience of the damage caused by living an experience which is not honest. I have spoken my truth, I have found pockets of support to see me through the hard times in which I live, it is my dearest wish dear reader, that you too will find a space to express who you were born to be.

William Defoe

Unhappy Ending

During my summer holiday, I persevered with a book* which at its climax had an unhappy ending (in my opinion).

I had sensed this would be the case as I continued to read through the hundreds of pages of print.

At the end a catalogue of unfortunate circumstances, which conspired to work against a happy climax, and yet I had this overwhelming sense that a re-write from 5 or 10 pages back from its end could have delivered what I had most hoped for.

I sense this in the daily management of my self and the longings of my heart which are tearing me apart.

I have worked so hard to be happy, and yet the deeply unfulfilled aspect of self and the consequences of holding this anguish in my heart for so long makes my strength to maintain and nurture everything else which is good in my life unbearable.

I want there to be a happy ending to my story, but I fear that to succumb to the needs of self, would deliver the exact opposite.

I am trapped in a situation where having done everything in my power to live my life for others, the alternative in living my life for my self would be totally incompatible with my desire to be happy.

My gay self competes in my heart, body, mind and soul for recognition and fulfillment alongside my strong desire to be a loving and faithful husband to my wife.

As with the book with the unhappy ending, the author has to make a choice over the destiny of its main protagonists, and so with a sense of loss and a deep awareness of the alternative, I must also maintain my choice to put the needs of others first.

Apparently, I am destined for a reward in the afterlife – an afterlife which I struggle to believe in, and yet, its promise has a hold upon me because it too has a place within the complex psyche of my thinking which refuses to dismiss aspects of thought which i do not fully understand.

My story is not at its end, it has few more chapters to run, my feelings ebb and flow like the incoming and outgoing tide which attended to me whilst I was reading. The ending is unknown, and like the author of the book, I ultimately will decide on the upcoming pages of my life.

William Defoe

*Beware of Pity by Stefan Zweig