Friday, 15 January 2016

With Thanks to the Coal Dust

Day 47 (Saturday 16th January 2016)
47 AD, the year in which Vardanes I of Parthia (which later became known as Persia and
is now parts of both Iran and Iraq) was assassinated by his brother, Gotarzes, whilst out hunting.
Vardanes was praised by Tacitus for being a young and highly gifted ruler. During his reign he reimposed Parthian
control over the city of Seleucia on the Tigris. His brother claimed the throne after Vardanes death, but Gotarzes II
was cruel and debauched, resulting in the Parthians rebelling and petitioning for aid from Rome to
depose him - this area of the world has a tradition of civil war and unrest over the past millennium.
Today's deeply personal and powerful post is anonymous. Once you read it you will understand why. It has been published today at the author's request, as today is her 40th birthday. I am sure you join me in wishing her a happier and easier year ahead.


The Context
I am forty today.  It’s a moment of sorts.  I drafted this blog in 2015, hoping the advent series would run until 16th January so I could write about the threshold of turning forty.  I drafted this blog to contain words about having courage to overcome fears, drawing strength from the love and support of family and friends, and daring to achieve our dreams as we live our lives.  I took that approach because 16th January 2016, in some sort of indescribable twist, was also the day I could tell everyone I was pregnant for the first time.

Except I’m not pregnant anymore.  

My miscarriage started on Christmas Eve and it was in a Holby City Christmas that my love and I found out that “there is no heartbeat”.  The complications that ensued resulted in emergency surgery which meant, even in the depths of what was A. Nightmare. we were able to prioritise.  Our minds turned to my health above everything else.  

That paragraph has taken me two weeks.  

It has taken me two weeks to find courage to write about something that is awful and common.  Common, yes.  But not common to me.  Common, yes.  But hidden away in rooms with two-seater sofas, a high backed chair and pastel coloured leaflets. Common, yes.  But so difficult that we don’t speak about it. Common, yes.  But if I tell others about it does that mean I am weak, not smart anymore, not hire-able?  I chose to rewrite this blog because as it turns out, it is still about overcoming fears, drawing strength from the love of family and friends and achieving our dreams.  

The Theme
Comets.  For me it’s about light.  The light we leave as trace in our connections with others, whether we are aware of it or not. It is also the light we turn to when we need it. Perhaps spiritually or perhaps quite literally.  When I walk in nature with the sun on my face, my shoulders don’t just drop, I become aware of them in a different way.  I am light without what I had been carrying with me.  In its absence it becomes noticeable.  In that light, as I walk, I can see more clearly, examine more accurately and understand differently.

Comet McNought, 2007
Coal dust.  For me it’s my family and my lineage.  My family are coal miners. One granddad was out on strike, whilst the other worked in HR for the National Coal Board.  One a steady and smart man, packed to the brim with a sense of fairness and family values, and the other exactly the same.  I picture a dense grey sparkling matter, as vast as space, that I lean in to when I need it.  A substance that accommodates me and that provides resilience.  It is a rebooting space to go to.  My personal Etch-a-Sketch.

The Point
It is the strength I find, in my moments in the light and the dark, that is carrying me now as I get used to being two people for a while.  The one that says “Yes, it was lovely thank you, very restful.  No, we never do much for New Year.  How was yours?” and the one that is woken by sweaty panic every morning because the anaesthetic isn’t quite out of my system and I don’t know where I am or what time of day it is.  I just know to breathe and it will become clear.

Some of the Moments
The sun on my face the first day I was babysat by my brother.  I found him to be a bit more lenient than my folks and my other half, so I made my escape. With my laces trailing I shuffled down the driveway to lean against the fencepost.  I tilted up like a sunflower. I let the sun pour over my face and I let myself cry.

The darkness in the night where the fear is high.  It’s a place where I don’t know what will happen to me. Even though I know none of us really do know. It is where vulnerability courses through me.  The hand I reach for holds me and keeps me steady.

The smiles I get from scanning Facebook.  At its best, it is a gentle Elvish nurturer, connecting me to my loved ones around the world.  At it’s worst, it is a game of demonic roulette, as it can conjure up images that close up my throat and squeeze out my lungs.  Painful and critical reminders that life is going on.

How relaxed I feel in my body when I dream of a holiday.  My mind palace is a different place to that of Holmes', and I like to go there a lot at the moment.  I spend time in a place where I am well and free and where I can make plans for some devilish fun.  Those times will come.

The voices of the women in the recovery room.  Gentle lady after gentle lady emerged from the fog to hold my hand, to share their words of connection; “I have been where you are”, they said, one after the other.  “Fruit and vegetables, and plenty of sunshine.” And when I cried, the lady that leaned in and whispered slowly in my ear “Breathe, long, and deep”. She stayed close to my ear and breathed with me for a while.

Some sort of conclusion
We control very little.  We are in an industry where we long for authenticity, for showing up, for openness, humanness, purpose and mindfulness.  Yet there are times when we need to know we don’t have to show up at all.  Times when we need the world to hold us and contain parts of us that we can’t contain for ourselves. We need our protected places to go to in solitude and with loved ones where there is strength in the light and the dark.  We can put a little bit of ourselves here and a little and different part of ourselves there.  For now, I choose to show up in words.  I understand in a new way what it is to say; “this writer has chosen to remain anonymous to protect their identity”.   There is a part of me that needs protecting on my 40th birthday. That is my trace today.  With thanks to the coal dust.



  1. Sorry for your loss - thank you for your story - and best wishes for now and the future.

  2. This is a very brave piece and I understand. You will get through this and eventually you will even get over it. Give your self time.

  3. Such a raw and brave piece. Tears are splashing on my keyboard as I write. I wish you all the very best for 2016.

  4. So sorry to hear of your suffering. Best wishes for your birthday.

  5. Common, yes. But rarely so bravely and movingly articulated. Deep respect.