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This Is Me

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THIS IS ME A CREATIVE PROJECT ABOUT IDENTITY These workshops all took place in March 2021 on Zoom during lockdown Fifteen women and non binary people came together in three groups We started our sessions with Tai Chi we improvised told lies talked and wrote about anger consent and power We created characters discussed form and points of view wrote fiction and told autobiographical stories Exploring who we are our complex identities The project originated from a collaboration between myself Angela Clerkin and Professor John Maltby Psychology Department The starting point was an exercise exploring personal constructs and social identities developed by Prof Maltby I used this exercise with the workshop participants as a basis for insightful discussions deep sharing and writing prompts The constructs can be seen at the end of this document Inside is a selection of the writing produced by the participants during the This Is Me workshops and a record of some of our conversations Much of what we explored and achieved was experiential rather than being captured here Hopefully the spirit of collaboration mutual support growing confidence wellbeing playfulness and community will shine through It was my pleasure to spend time with all these fabulous people now it s your turn enjoy the words and creativity within Angela Clerkin Creative Fellow Leicester University Thank you to Professor John Maltby Dr Marie Nugent Michaela Butter and Elle Phipps University of Leicester Wellcome Trust funding supported by Attenborough Arts Centre PARTICIPANTS Moyo Gemma Eve Momina Teegan Sophia Maelle Eva Yewande Eleanor Kelly Marie Anukriti Maddie Kirsty

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I WISH THAT it was safer for women in the streets at night we had face to face teaching the education systems in the world were more focused on kindness I could get rid of the carpeting my parents made less noise on the phone everyone in my neighbourhood interacted more we could remove the existing government everyone was given a stimulus cheque the richest people shared their resources with the poorest I could party with my neighbours it was easier for women to access everything they need passports and visas didn t exist I liked my brother there were no student loans more trees and plants everywhere my housemate would leave all the rooms were sound proofed we had a private garden dad was at home more often I had more confrontational friends my horrible neighbour would leave customers were nicer we were still part of the EU every child was safe people didn t argue everyone supported each other little kids weren t rude we could stop climate change there were no borders we could get rid of my sister s boyfriend the university was more eco friendly we could stop redundancies and not fire lecturers there was no racism we could stop poverty all over the world I could put dad in therapy that my mum and dad didn t have to work so much there was accessible adult learning freely available we could nationalise everything everyone in power in this country was removed I WISH I could stop being tired was more trusting was better at keeping secrets didn t worry about my choices was less egotistical and self hating had more self confidence I wish I had better self esteem I thought I was enough had no chronic pain was confident in my sexuality I wish I lived closer to the beach

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1 TELL A LIE When she was born Kelly M came out of the womb constantly tapping her fingers and stamping her feet She knew what she was born to do You see Kelly M was the world s best drummer the most creative anyone had known She air drummed her way throughout school and became Instagram famous in her teens even though she didn t need it As an adult she performed seven days a week One night New York the next London and Dublin and so on around the world But one day the press declared another for the crown of world s best drummer the upcoming player named Kerry M Kelly M was secretly enraged but remained conservative on the outside She knew her fans and her talent would have her back She requested a drum off knowing she would win It was live streamed across the world as well and being in a 30 000 capacity sold out arena Kelly and Kerry battled it out through classics such as Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes and Thunderstruck by ACDC and surprisingly to Kelly they remained neck and neck The final song My Sharona by The Knack confirmed it Kelly rightly won and remained best in the world Kerry broke down in tears something Kelly didn t expect She walked over gave her a consolation hug and whispered one day you ll find the beat of your own drum Over the and more but the creative asked if next few years Kelly continued to tour but started to get older tired She was honest with herself that she couldn t continue world needed a world class drummer to lead them in times of need She needed someone to take over She called Kerry and she would be her prot g to which she gratefully accepted Meanwhile Kelly set up a drum training holiday camp which sold out every year She realised her talent needed to be shared and this was the way to do it In the year 2070 when drums were phased out for hologram ones Kelly remained an activist and started an underground soundproof secret society where drum lovers could meet and play She left a legacy when she died at the old age of 171 if you put your ear to the floor and listen very carefully you will hear the faint beat of a drum

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2 TELL A LIE Stopping time comes easy to me It s a rather lonely process the birds stop chirping the wind stops blowing every motion of every living being comes to an abrupt halt It is as if the world holds its breath for me And rightfully so I gently step outside my body and wander around Noticing and studying everything I remember when I first stopped time in the sunny March of 2015 We were arguing I was petrified Consumed in fear and unjustified guilt I just wanted it all to stop She smashed a beer bottle at my feet You re scaring me I said trembling in fear Her indifference hurt me more than the glass breaking at my feet I looked down at my feet Looked at the glass shining in the sun my pupils dilated and I realised what I had just done I had stopped time I went up to her Waved my hand in front of her face She didn t move Her face remained indifferent as ever Mocking me and my fear The distinct pores on her face The sweat rolling down her neck She had that vein popping out of her neck when she held herself back She was always impatient with me Sometimes I wondered why I accepted her love the way I did I lived in fear I would stay still when she shouted But this time she stayed still

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3 TELL A LIE When we dare to question societal ills we are told that s just the way the world works When bodies litter the street when the destitute have nothing to eat and all the while billions are being syphoned off to the elite we are told that s just the way the world works But not for me I shaved a thick line through the parting of my wiry mane I donned ripped faux leather trousers and a shirt which refused to cover my breasts tinged the remaining hair on my body slime green and grabbed my soap box Stepping on to the podium catching a spelk in my often peeling always bare feet I watch as blas business folk filter through the mechanical jungle in perpetual exasperation I feel nauseous with pity If only I could give them my powers then they would be free from their humdrum existence Surely they must see the emptiness of it all There s no way one can find meaning in bureaucracy it s a farce There must be some invisible force holding them all back But not me I guess I must have a kind of x ray vision that allows me to see through the pretence of it all to see the repugnant naked truth I smirk at their folly take a deep breath and scream at the top of my lungs hoping I can rouse one of them from their slumber THE LIZARD ELITE IS HERE

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4 TELL A LIE I m here on the beach in Vik Iceland the huge thunderous waves are roaring and crashing down onto the black stone beach White foam disappears once it hits the shiny black surface of the shore I contemplate my duty and my disobedience and how I am torn between these forces and realise that here alone with nothing but the monochromatic scene and the elements that neither mean anything Nothing at all Suddenly I feel a heat growing inside me It burns so hot I m scared to touch it with my own skin for burning my fingers I close my eyes and before I can wonder how I m going to deal with this fire I open my eyes and I m in a densely crowded room surrounded by voices talking over each other and I just don t care for any of it I don t care what they are saying I don t try to pick out who is saying what I just drown it all out and instead find the quiet within myself I couldn t care less about understanding why we re all here what purpose there is to it or who if anyone or anything herded us all into this small cramped room like battery hens We re here and that s it What does it matter trying to find connection with background noise None of these people matter They have nothing to do with me nor I them I m perfectly happy here with my own thoughts and feelings an island in this box full of pests I see a flash of something in the corner of my eye Someone who like me just wants some quiet I feel the warmth come back to my chest this time it s right where my heart pounds and suddenly it s not just noise it s music that I hear and smiles and tears I hear a huge crash of water and I m back on the beach alone with nothing but the elements and a warmth in my heart that shines as bright as the sun breaking through the clouds

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5 TELL A LIE I have always loved to run As soon as I learned to walk I knew that wasn t enough I wanted to go faster I wanted to feel the wind through my hair and the ground hitting my feet I trained and trained and trained My legs got stronger and stronger and I got faster And one day something in me unlocked Something just clicked right into place Now I can run faster than cars than motorbikes than trains I run faster than all of my competitors I have won countless competitions and the thrill never weakens The feeling of adrenaline through my every fibre sets my soul on fire and I just never want to stop I can clearly remember the first time I pushed my limits further than I ever had before and the flame inside me burned with such an intensity I felt that I could fly Now here is where the story gets interesting dear reader and you must believe me when I tell you about the day I ran so fast that I actually did learn to fly Out of my back just between my shoulder blades sprouted the most mesmerising pair of wings you could imagine each as wide as I am tall and shimmering in the sunlight with the glitter of a thousand mirrors Each beat took me higher and the speed I had earned on land I now had in the air I have travelled around the world since that day and have never once had to pay travel expenses I run and run and get faster and faster and then the wings expand and propel me skywards It is a powerful and wonderful feeling and one I wish everyone could feel I firmly believe that my wings are the truest part of me and with them I feel truly free

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LOTUS FLOWER d a o l r u e Let yo e r f e d b o o l b ur o y t e d L a e h r u Let yo d o o l b r u o y t Le d a o l r u o y t e L e be fre e k a n s ed l i o c Like a sprung spiral cloth d a e h r ou y n i d e d d e hed emb s u r c ae r b e t r ve stump dead t i s i y l l a re d a o l d n r a u l o y o n Not d e s o p m d i o o d f o loa n d e s y o e p n m o i m d o n loa l l i st d e s o y p t m i i n g i d d loa no d e s o p m i d a lo ll i t ers w o l f nt a r g a r f t f et o l s o i n v i s e e u v l l b e rs n u e o e r p g a h c a we wr e p w o l l n e a y m a h d S e r s s u r e n w o o l l f l a s f s e n l e w m a a l t f s t e m n o violen l l a f e s u l l a g t e e h e p t k i s l n d i r s a u l w l o o a t t f t k p a c e o i e l t k f s s I s r e stigma flower w lo f f o t n e c d s r o e c h t l a n c i i l t i a b um e We flo e s o t t a o l f I

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6 WALLPAPER I could take my knife and drag it down slowly Start at your cheek and draw pretty patterns into it Then when I m satisfied and it s stained in a lush scarlet I ll keep going From your lips to your hips But I won t I have better ways of claiming what s mine Your favourite wallpaper Leaving it spattered with my blood so you know it s mine That you re mine You said forever I said I d fight And I will I ll break your precious marble table in two You say you re done That you want to leave You tell me that I m too much to handle I see red My blood on every one of your prized possessions In your sheets Your clothes You think it s okay to make a bunch of fake vows and run away when I get aggressive When I get passionate I love you I won t give up I won t step away You re mine And you always will be You don t understand why I m saying all of this It sounds insane I sound insane Brutal and toxic Maybe I am Maybe that s me I love you You can t run

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7 I M HERE I ve only just learned that I m allowed to say no to people How the fuck am I supposed to know when I ve been angry for long enough I m in a safe space now so I know that I can let it out without consequence I can be angry I can be scared I can shout and cry and run without being punished Only now that I ve started I don t know how to stop Where are the controls to lower the floodgates back again It s like a storm in my head a ringing in my ears and nothing feels solid or real anymore Not even my own hands I can t feel the wall even as I put my fist into it I am scared I m fucking terrified and I don t want to be Why can t I stop breaking things My fingers have gone numb and fuzzy They feel swollen and sluggish as if I d just been stung by a bee But they also feel cold like I ve kept them in ice for a couple of hours The crest waves And is gone I m staring down at my bloody knuckles and my body is shaking from sobbing I hadn t even realised I d begun to cry My chest aches and my top is wet with sweat But I m back At least part of me is As if moments ago I had been stuffed to the brim and now I ve emptied out and hollow It s a relieving hollowness in truth My limbs are starting to come back to myself I count my fingers on my left hand 1 2 3 4 5 and on my right 1 2 3 4 5 I wiggle my toes and they respond to the command I m in my room I realise sitting against the foot of my bed on the floor There is a hole in the wall and a broken stool in front of me but I m here and not there And fixes can be made I think I have some antiseptic wipes in the medicine cupboard in the kitchen

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8 DROWNING I bear the burden of anger and frustration at other people s incompetencies Why can t people do things right I don t understand why they can t see I am just trying to help them I don t understand why people engage with their feelings when there are more important matters There is no productive way to express emotions I channel everything I have into working into my passions I bear the burden of anger and frustration at other people s incompetencies I feel it like a tidal wave engulfing me It cascades into my lungs down my throat gushing into my lungs It is as if the oxygen modules I breathe are replaced by anger seeping into my blood Every sense of my being absorbs it Relax you say Is that what you would say to someone you could visibly see drowning You cannot see it But I am drowning I bear the burden of anger and frustration at other people s incompetencies It cascades into my lungs

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9 CREATE A CHARACTER I think people assume I am a hard man a tough cookie to crack people may say However the opposite is true I start each day with a rich double shot of espresso before I have even brushed my teeth I need the caffeine to get me out of bed more than I need teeth absent of plaque It is a beautiful bright glorious day I tuck my feet into the nearest pair of shoes I can find I wrestle the complicated locks on the back door Finally outside I take in a deep breath and just be contemplating the day that lays ahead But that s just background noise to the bounty of nature that is in front of me I make my way over to my greenhouse the grass crunching beneath my feet from the previous frosty night I notice a small sparrow has begun building a nest inside Must have got in through the crack I ve neglected to repair But it s a wholesome sight to behold amongst my sprouting vegetables It makes me think about the edible wonders I can create today I like the idea of a jam rolypoly I have been fancying one of those

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10 CREATE A CHARACTER Violence and murder don t mean anything if you can t get some kind of use out of it I don t like that word Murder That s what my lot did before they began with me We don t murder Murder is a useless act with a useless end I never kill anyone unless the result is worth it It s a bit like hunting I suppose The hunter doesn t kill the animal for the sake of it No they use every part of the animal To honour it And that s what I m doing No one dies unless I can use that death to its full potential Otherwise it really is just straight up murder The dirty thing I use my resources That s why I ve got the gunmen I have rather than splashing out for the real thing They may be knuckle headed idiots but they have skills in murder and mayhem I reuse them I make them have a purpose Like hunting dogs

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11 CREATE A CHARACTER I was never that brave as a kid I remember running from the rebels through the wasteland screaming for my mother but she was already gone Snatched up by rebels But as an adult you won t ever find me running When I found him I ripped apart every fibre of that rebel leader until he could only scream for mercy But no one knows about that No one ever will Tonight everyone will see me walking into a gilded ballroom in a thigh split dress with a champagne glass pressed to my lips walking like I own the floor My stylist keeps saying I should try something other than black but how would I even hide my assortment of knives and pistols in forest green or sky blue They all tell me they want me but my reputation precedes me and they know I never miss a shot My eyes may be pitch black but they can spot the slightest movement from a mile away Watch out

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12 CREATE A CHARACTER I am a skydiving instructor As one could expect I am an adrenaline addict Even after jumping off planes almost every day for seven years I don t ever get enough of that thrilling feeling that conquers my body each time I open a door letting in the high wind that calls me to dive into the sky This feeling it s incredibly powerful Like a therapy it calms me down when I feel nervous it helps control my emotions when I need to stay focused and lets them out when they re too overwhelming to be kept in It makes the sky a place of peace where I can free my mind from the troubles of life But my passion for being a skydiving instructor is not about jumping for myself no it s really more about teaching others how to jump how to pass on the love of skydiving I get to meet people new people all the time All with very different profiles from the trainee who chains their sessions to get their licence as fast as possible to the insecure beginner aiming to overcome their fear of heights Funny thing is I always identify better with those that are scared Sometimes people ask me if I have a secret to being confident while throwing myself out of the plane from thousands of feet high I reply I don t have a secret no but I do have a story And the truth is my story starts with that of an adolescent who like them was terrified of skydiving cont

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CREATE A CHARACTER When I was 18 before starting university and as a challenge for myself I decided to take part in an intensive military program that would last a year It was hard but I loved it Or at least I loved it until the skydiving training started I was forced multiple times by an instructor to jump against my will even though everyone was well aware of my fear of heights My first experiences were like nightmares Until that is I got a new instructor the one who was going to change my life The training sessions with her were different At the beginning even though it didn t seem like she was putting any effort into making me feel better I always felt reassured in her presence I kept feeling better more confident as each session progressed I couldn t see it at first but with time I understood how she was helping me During each session that we had together when I was scared she was scared with me Not that she was scared of jumping herself as a beginner would be But because we re human beings even the most accustomed remain vulnerable deep inside She used this fear as a strength to own the emotions and let me read them in her so that I wouldn t feel alone If being vulnerable didn t stop her from jumping why should it stop me She taught me how to own my vulnerability and make it a safe place and by doing so passed on to me her love of skydiving And that is how I am so confidant and why I love to help people feel safe as they re taking a leap into the void

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ng i l l a c s i o Your ech me h t l a e w p e e into the d e r o c s t i of in e c a l p y m I find nd a e d i w r u o y y l l e b s u o r gene g n i t a l l i t n where sci th i w e m s t e e colour gr kind words o t s e g a n a m Light r u o y h g u o r shine th s l l a w k c i th me n o o c o c u o Y t c e f r e p d n I fi e r e h r e t l e sh s s e n i l g u e from th t u o h t i w s e that li rs e t a w y l o h Your r e p e e d e m beckon e v o l n i e m submerge er n n i y m h s i and nour longing to complete n o i t c a f s i t sa u o y h t i w My home is r e v e r e h w e I am secur you are o t e m e r a p You pre e d i s t u o s brave what e v a r b e m e k You ma SAFE CAVE

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13 BOUNDARIES My family are the only people I feel safe setting boundaries with That I can get uppity with I m the opposite With my mum especially I will do things to make her happy That has an impact on me I ve lived my life according to what my dad wants me to do I don t want to make my mum cry so I do things to please her I like to be palatable So I hold back parts of my personality How I choose to dress I will always put other people first Because of trauma as a child I am boundary central I take a hard line It s not always a good thing I don t like conflict It s easier for me to be the one to let things go and agree to what they want to do Sometimes I find it difficult to set boundaries Don t be polite to men who creep you out I don t want to make people feel uncomfortable Sometimes they step right over it flagrantly ignoring my boundary My ex housemate used my toothbrush and opened my mail I was never taught about boundaries I ve never really talked about it before

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14 SAY NO You know those aunties that ask you to help them dish out the food at the church party when they notice you sitting around Or the ones who ask for help with their shopping when they see you on the road Those ones yeah Say no One thing we aren t taught as children growing up in African households Nigerian for me is how to set boundaries To keep pride in the family and present ourselves well in our diasporic communities we are told to put our best foot forward and help out whenever needed in public But what if you were sitting down because you felt overwhelmed or walking in a different direction to where that aunty lived And by no means here am I saying to be impolite or say no just for the sake of it But as we grow into aspiring wellfunctioning adults we need to unlearn that behaviour of saying yes in order to uphold a warped and outdated sense of pride This way of thinking can be so detrimental in your relationships and spheres of life where you constantly say yes to people for the sake of making them like you Newsflash if somebody cannot like or respect you without you doing something for them that is not okay and they re probably not good for you African parents have created in us this need to be liked and approved of by society as though society didn t already try to tell us that enough Unlearning this behaviour can be a difficult process but it s one we need to engage with And you can do so starting today So the next time somebody asks you to do something that is super disruptive to your routine or not in line with your values say no

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15 AGONY AUNT LETTERS Dear Agony Aunt I have an issue that I need help with There is this man and he won t leave me alone He doesn t seem to understand that when I block him it means I don t want to speak to him And he has found me on other social media that I didn t even give him I have blocked all his main accounts but he makes new ones to message me on I have no idea what I can say to him to make him stop I feel like it was my fault because I never really tried to stop him when he started I guess I wasn t stern enough When he sends me messages he gets angry he blames me for everything calling me all these mean kinds of names and saying that he will come find me He is making me fearful I feel like I m just letting him get away with everything Do you have any advice Dear Reader First things first it s not your fault It s not your job to be there for this man or to make him feel special Put yourself first Know this is unacceptable behaviour Never let a man try to control your feelings or your actions Believe in yourself that you can put a stop to it even if that means going to extreme measures

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16 AGONY AUNT LETTERS Dear Agony Aunt I ve been taught that consent and boundaries are important but I m not sure how to express them to my friends and family Dear Reader Setting boundaries for yourself and recognising the boundaries of others is an essential part of consent and everyday life Especially when it comes to looking after yourself and others that you care for but it can also come with issues When thinking about setting new boundaries or expressing new ones you need to consider yourself slightly above the people close to you otherwise you ve lost the conversation before you ve even had it with them The first step would be to have a conversation explaining what the new boundary is and why you want to set it up Maybe they ve asked you to do something you re not comfortable with or perhaps it s something that you used to enjoy but no longer want to do Either way you must first lay it all out for them to understand clearly Hopefully this first step is enough quite often you will find that talking to friends or family is easier than you anticipate they know where you re coming from and they agree to your boundaries However there is a step two for disgruntled family members or irritable close friends Stand your ground This is the hard part but it s important for you to remember that the boundary is your choice and it s important that if you don t consent to something you must let them know In the long run they ll accept it and if they don t then it s better to have been kind and responsible for yourself than for others So just say no to whatever is making you feel uncomfortable whatever you need to create a boundary for Maybe you take a step back from the person or the conversation just enough for you to be kind to yourself

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17 AGONY AUNT LETTERS Dear Agony Aunt I need some help I ve recently told my friends that I don t want to date men anymore that I want to date women But the complicated thing is I want to date both But I try and explain this to the women I date and they get cross because I m not gay enough to be a lesbian I explain this to the men I date and they get pervy or feel uncomfortable because I m not straight enough to date them Why do I either have to be a lesbian or be straight I do not even think I am Bi I just don t feel like there s a place for me Dear Reader Say no to labels you do not have to label your sexuality as anything Labels are a social construct created to put us into neat little boxes but the reality is humans do not fit into neat little boxes If discussing your sexuality makes you feel uncomfortable then say no to discussing it with anyone who refuses to understand If you re dating someone then tell them that your concentration is on them and it does not matter if you are sexually attracted to men women or both Find a way to be happy and find a way to be comfortable with who you are Say no to labels say no to uncomfortable conversations say no to anyone who has an issue with you and your boundaries

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18 SAY YES Forgive yourself and say yes Get rid of the shackles of your guilt and say yes In a society where your self doubt is monetized say yes to yourself for when you say yes to yourself you say yes to love Say yes to love for now and forevermore Say yes to yourself and feel your soul weave into the earth You were meant to be here Time moves through you quickly so don t let this go so say yes today Break all agreements and contracts with dread and fear for you have nothing to fear as long as the moon shines on your skin Just like the moon accept all your phases of your fullness and emptiness Practice patience and peace Accept all the parts of yourself that you have willingly and unwillingly repressed rejected and disowned You owe it to yourself to be liberated Say yes to yourself and say yes to love

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19 INSTRUCTIONS FOR HAPPINESS Step One Take care of yourself feed your body exercise your body this will help you feel strong Step Two Show gratitude in your life for the good things Write down 3 things you re grateful for it can be anything if you ate your favourite biscuit today write it down Step Three Try a positive outlook on life has it rained Then the good news is the outside plants have been watered Step Four Acceptance You re not going to live a life of happiness if you let little things stop your day Things may seem big at the time but a few weeks later they don t mean anything Accept and know what you re feeling in the present but don t let it run your future Step Five Do things you want to do don t let people tell you who to be Don t allow anyone to dictate your life You want a tattoo go get one If you want to fly a plane instead of being a doctor go train to be a pilot Live it the way you want Say Yes to yourself

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Say Yes To a 48 hour working week One hour for leisure six hours for sleep Four for personal care and household upkeep Try hard to remember to drink and to eat Say Yes To hitting targets higher than the sun And hearing no praise when all s said and done You ve got to try harder On your very last run You did 75 now how about 81 Say Yes And when you ve worked until you can t anymore Start to piss in bottles and shit on the floor Not in retaliation just to boost your score Alternatively Say Yes Say Yes to Class War

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20 HER EYES I m looking into her eyes those dark brown Crayola eyes It feels as though she s staring straight into my soul It makes me move in my seat uncomfortably Can she see something I can t I ve always called them her Crayola eyes because they are brown and that s it There are no other colours at all no hints of green no flecks of gold around the iris Just brown like a child has coloured them in with a felt tip A deep and beautiful brown Beautiful is probably the wrong word for them when I think about it now The way she looks at me isn t beautiful it s intense it s powerful I never know if she wants to murder me or make love to me it s almost addictive I stumble on my words and shift in my seat some more Why does she have to look at me like that I can t get my words out but I need to tell her even if it means those eyes will never look into mine again cont

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21 She squints slightly and cocks her head to don t have to watch anymore I say under up her eyes staring above us HER EYES making her gaze even more penetrating one side I sigh and look down so I her eyes break I can t do this my breath There s silence She looks at the ceiling fan it spins quietly The seconds turn into minutes After what feels like an eternity she speaks softly That light has always been too low I need to change it really you re always having to duck to go underneath it My pulse starts to race I can feel my heart pounding in my chest Did you hear what I said I can t do this anymore I m sorry I Of course I heard you she retorts sharply bringing those eyes back to meet mine defiantly What is it you want me to say to you Ok Leave I m sorry you can t do this anymore That our relationship is such a burden Her voice cracks I hear that lump form in her throat this is the bit I was dreading Those eyes those dark brown eyes shine over with unspent tears They soften Why does her gaze only soften when she s hurting

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22 MY MOTHER S EYES I gazed into the damp elliptic misty blue eyes of my mother What I perceived was not her fervorous spirit nor some innate feminine allure but contempt disappointment pain The glint of pride with which I was once beheld had gradually festered as I evolved into a creature she no longer recognized One she was incapable of understanding Or rather I had become an abstract concept which she did not have the time or desire to decipher I wonder what she sees when her eyes meet mine

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23 DARK BROWN They say the eyes are the window to your soul But mine are too dark I m told I grab the sides of the sink and inch myself as close as I can to the mirror to stare within and see what my eyes reveal about who I am My nose touches the mirror and my eyes squeeze shut as its coldness hits me I reopen them and gaze into myself hoping that I dive into a deep neverending well of me What will they reveal Do I see the epitome of complete darkness blocking out any possibility of light Evil aggression rebellion Or the exact opposite and I am light itself The source of life and all that is good Or maybe there s nothing beyond the surface just a shallow pool of darkness that no one can pierce through I stare at the dark skin that matches the eyes and question why God gave both to me Why would an engineer create a locked box without the key One minute and then two go by I feel silly after five and step back to see if that will help

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24 EYES They are a place of understanding that can overcome the barriers of society language cultures and even species They tell us stories sometimes more powerfully than speech does I ll keep my eyes open and let them read my story when I run out of words

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The Dragonfly Powerful wings delicately woven with spun silver Flutter excitedly to keep her in flight An extra set for Angels to ride upon is what they say Her blues greens and turquoises shining bright Moving through the air with speeds so fast Showing her absolute power to those who see Busying herself with the task at hand Dragonfly Paying no mind to others for she is free So powerful so determined so purposeful Yet beautiful in her vulnerability Her being so fragile and dainty Unaccompanied in her air tranquillity To be both powerful and vulnerable Strong and fast yet tender Shows the perfection of her creation Her beauty poise her splendour

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This is Us purpose v intimate power v vulnerability sexuality v duty unconditional acceptance v tolerance romanticising v objectiveness fear v courage exploration discovery v safety responsibility v rest social v nature love v acquaintance safe v tiring proud v difficult supporting v independence choice vs gift alike v unique fighting vs acceptance understanding v confusing stress v peace defiance v resignation solidarity v desertion atypical v convention trust v self worth resilience v love family v personal belief choice v family helpful v useless dependence v independance control v chaos pretence v self playfulness v naivet happiness v race protecting v harmful kindness v job warm v distance creative v conservative sociable v reserved free flowing v structure protector v daring internal v external

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Thank you Dr Marie Nugent Prof John Maltby Dir Michaela Butter AAC ClerkinWorks