In January of 2018 I finished the last of the margarine in my fridge and donated the eggs to my neighbour. After a nine month stint of veganism in 2016 I had returned to the dark side of animal cruelty via a shame-faced and guilty visit to that famed Scottish restaurant. (I was in a low life state and answered the call to the Golden Arches as a cry for help) But with the slew of high-profile, pro-vegan initiatives like Veganuary and supermarket plant-based ranges I felt confident that this time I’d have more sticking power. And I’m happy to say that as of December 2018 I am still vegan (despite one or two late-night faux-pas’ usually precipitated by too many G&T’s)
I am vegan for the animals, for the environment and for the generations of Indigo, Crystalline and Star Children being seeded on our planet RIGHT NOW who have a greater sensitivity than their forebears, who empathise with all living Beings and who need to see that their instincts are right and can be honoured in our society.
I like piercings. My first love had his nipple pierced and (having experienced one for the first time this year) I now want only to date men that possess a Prince Albert. My mum pierced my ears at the tender age of four months old and I added a second pair to my lobes myself later so I’ve always had four in my ears but this year I added Helix, Tragus and Daith to my collection of aural adornments and increased my facial furniture with a medusa, vertical labret and septum joining my standard Indian-style nose piercing. South of the neck, I had both nipples done (my favourites by a long stretch) and a belly bar. Lady parts is a step too far in my opinion.
I allowed myself to become embroiled in my older brother’s love life (never again) when the womanchild (he seems to have developed a penchant for infantile, vapid girls) he’d chosen to use as a spunk repository and to pay half of his rent called me in tears about how she was allowing herself to be treated. As a survivor of domestic abuse I have very little patience for this kind of self-pity so I told her in no uncertain times that she already knows what she needs to do and informed her that I do not offer free counselling and psychotherapy to randoms. Part of me wishes I didn’t have such a strong, emotional response to weak women but I am a product of my experiences. I tried to temper this by becoming involved in a Sisters Uncut campaign to reveal the underhand Home Office tactic of embedding immigration officers into Domestic Violence services. Sisters Uncut do great work and their survivor-centred, consensus model of democracy is impeccable but ultimately I didn’t have time to get more involved and I hated being the only Woman of Colour and sounding so comparatively working class to the rest of the room. I bought and learned how to use a Dry Suit so that I can dive in the inhospitable climes of England and the rest of Europe. I’m not sure why.
I read several life-changing books this year, not least Renne Eddo-Lodge’s timely “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” and Akala’s incredible literary debut “Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire” They both raised my political consciousness in different ways and I decided to apply to the Metropolitan Police, more as a social experiment than out of any real desire to be an officer of the law. I could enjoy it if it were truly about protecting the interests of the inhabitants of our fair city but I knew it would be unlikely to involve much of that and that as a woman and especially as a Woman of Colour if I did get in I would endure racism, misogyny and marginalisation. I conducted an online questionnaire, had several interviews, a drug test and roleplay scenarios with disgruntled shoppers played by out-of-work-actors. I had to provide details of my mother’s employment history and the immigration status of her third husband was questioned. (He has only been in the country for around fifty years, after all!) I had to undergo a psychiatric evaluation by their internal psychiatrist because of an incorrect diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder made by an overzealous volunteer. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get in. They said that a Bipolar Diagnosis made me unsuitable for the rigours of the role. And to cover all bases a few months later they sent me a letter saying that they had discovered an undeclared motoring conviction and that my non-disclosure amounted to deception.
I attended my first Pole Dancing lesson and really enjoyed it. Alas, it was the first and last but it at least inspired me to use the pole I have in my front room as more than a weight-bearing support beam. I received a £700 tax rebate. I really have no idea how they calculate these things but was very grateful and hope to be thusly rewarded next year too. I reckon they draw names out of a hat though so the chances I’ll be a winner two years running are slim. I completed the breastfeeding component of my Red Tent Doula Preparation Course and saw my estranged wayfarer friend, Penny, on one of her rare visits to the UK. We enjoyed a gentle Cacao Ceremony (essentially an extortionate hot chocolate with a bit of incense, mantra and lying about on yoga mats thrown in). I fell pregnant and got excited about the thought of maternity leave from the hellish, dull, thankless drudgery that I called my “job”. I would be able to stop selling my hours for a few quid and get down to the career-enhancing business of becoming a mum. Without lived experience I felt mums wouldn’t trust that I’d be of any use to them as a birthing partner and now was my chance to get some.
June saw me add to my tattoo collection with the larger-than-life face of my beloved dog, Shiloh, on my calf. I joined the SGI UK and had a Gohonzon receiving, a ceremony declaring my faith as a Nichiren Buddhist, on June 3rd. 3 days before my 32nd birthday and carrying my first child I felt optimistic and independent and was struck by how genuinely happy complete strangers were that I had chosen to take this step. I was given a butsudan by the boyfriend of the former Young Women’s Division Leader, Laura, who, over the last few months of chanting together, attending study meetings and discussion groups, had become my friend. A butsudan is kind of like a tiny wardrobe designed to house the Gohonzon and later it was enshrined in a simple gathering of other members. I felt empowered. I’d wanted a significant other to share this special day with but didn’t let being single stop me from committing in faith. Soon after, the gentleman I’d been trying to get to take an interest in me finally agreed to see me and kissed me as we walked in the park. I thought “This Buddhist chanting stuff really works!!! I was in the heady, honeymoon period and overlooked his sexual immaturity and the fact that he had a daughter (something that would usually be a deal breaker) As a single-mum-to-be I’d decided I had better broaden the net.
I ignored more worrying developments in my fledgling relationship. My partner was becoming anxious and stressed about my approaching motherhood and would frequently offer unprovoked musings on how he predicted I would take to being a mum, how hard the early days had been for him and his ex-partner (they had been in a failing relationship and were both self-medicating with Cocaine and alcohol so I failed to see the parallels) and how we would never be able to do anything fun or spontaneous ever again once I had a “screaming baby hanging off my neck”. Eventually, he offered an ultimatum that if I were not going to have a termination then we should stop seeing each other now. I agreed to have a termination and scheduled it for the Summer Holidays so that I would not need to miss any work for my recovery. Yet more red flags presented themselves when once it was decided that I wouldn’t be taking the pregnancy to term our wholesome relationship which had previously consisted of cooking, talking, eating and making love gained the unwelcome elements of binge-drinking, drug-taking and nursing a communal hangover. I went to Wilderness festival with a friend of mine. I lactated for the first time in my life. I discovered that the friend and I have grown apart and no longer have enough in common for the friendship to be worth maintaining. Too much neglect, too many resentments and unspoken objections have built up between us and for now and going forward I am letting it drop away. Friendships seem only to make me feel lonely and neglected. Relying on people, whether they be friends or family, to provide companionship and aid has proven to be a fruitless endeavour.
Having not experienced the ups and downs, the bumpy and varied terrain, of ovulation and menstruation for some months my return to cyclical life came as a big shock. I saw clearly that so many traits, occurrence and characteristics that had previously been misdiagnosed as mental ill health or misidentified as a flaw in my character were actually due to a general lack of appreciation for the natural stages of the creative cycle in our culture and my own mismanagement of my energies throughout the ever-returning phases. I can be forgiven for not knowing how to manage these phases and even for being ignorant of their existence because this embodied, experiential knowledge has been bulldozed by the ideals of productivity, efficiency, profit, endless growth and all the other tenets that Capitalism and the masculine-directed, Via Positiva hold dear. Paradoxically, using this framework I actually became more productive. I rested during my Winter and I wrote and performed poetry during my Spring and Summer. It was an absolute revelation and yet it wasn’t. I listened voraciously to Maisie Hill’s description of the phases, I read Sjanie Hugo Wurlitzer and Alexandra Pope’s “Wild Power” over and over again, I devoured the content on their Red School website, including the free Hormone Harmony online course and related Facebook page, I listened to Miranda Gray’s “Red Moon” in which she depicts the phases as archetypal Goddesses and I immediately started charting (daily recording and awareness of which day of your cycle you are and how you are feeling). It felt more like a return to an innate and natural practice I had abandoned (or been forced to abandon) long ago. I am so grateful that I have rediscovered this uniquely female spiritual practice and I look forward to making even more progress in my Self and in my relationships as I continue to use the Cycle to guide and contain my life. I feel confident that with this new knowledge I can attract and maintain the right relationship.
Another of the recommended practices associated with Cycle Awareness is a “listening partnership” This is a specific amount of time that is regularly allocated to talking, uninterrupted, to a partner. They do not offer advice, interject or pass judgement (Well, they might, but unlike with friendships they do it silently in their heads) When the time is up you offer the same. I began a listening partnership with an awesome mum-of-one who, like me, had become newly-involved in Menstruality and Cycle Awareness. I am happy and proud to now call her a friend and my weekly 20-minute purge has become something I relish and cherish. It’s kinda like a micro therapy session but because it doesn’t take so long and is free there’s less chance you will end up resenting it. Also, hearing yourself speak while somebody else listens and noting the things that you bring up (when given this rare chance to really be heard) and also the things you don’t bring up has been revelatory. I encourage every woman to start one and stick to it.
I got Womanist tattooed on my chest. I hadn’t been inked in months and as a fairly small piece it had the benefit of being relatively cheap. I prefer and relate to this term more than I do to the “Feminist” which has heavy connotations to the White Middle Class movements of the 60’s. I had had just about as much as I could take of my job. My mum despairs of me and worries over why I can’t stick at things but I am less concerned. I simply have a low threshold for misery, unfulfilling work and boredom. Where others are more or less able to continue down paths that are contributing nought to their self-development and growth and actively sapping their joie de vivre I can only do this very temporarily before the option of suicide becomes overwhelmingly appealing. I’m incredibly grateful not to have been born at a time or circumstance where I don’t have the option cos I would not last in a dictatorship or extreme poverty anymore than I did as a Learning Support Assistant. I really have the world of respect for people who can stay in this role for fifteen years with no chance of career progression, tirelessly serving the challenging young people in their care. It takes an incredible patience, heartedness and selflessness that I did not possess so I stopped pretending I did and focussed on being happy. I trained as a Lewisham Healthy Walks Leader and began leading the weekly “Pregnant Women and Mums with Babies” walk. I signed up to numerous public health training sessions like First Aid for Mental Health, Cannabis and Stimulant Awareness. I went to the cinema every week, I visited my local theatre and saw anything and everything that was playing. I went on anti-fascist and anti-racist demonstrations (the UK and many other countries in Europe are experiencing a Far-Right resurgence) I attended yoga classes and I realised that I’d let my creativity, my spark for life, justice and equality die as my desire for stability and certainty had grown. I’d stayed nine months in a job I hated, abhorring each day. Just so that I could start a mortgage which would then necessitate me staying in that job permanently in order to keep up repayments. I’m not ready for that kind of sentence. Instead, I became a placenta remedies specialist and can now independently process new mums’ placentas into smoothies, capsules and tinctures for their consumption and use.
My application to be a surrogate was declined. I’d provided my medical history and had a long interview. Surrogacy UK consider very carefully applicants who have not yet had their own families. Because of the current legal system, after baby is born and before a Parental Order is signed it is possible for the surrogate to change her mind and not release the newborn into the legal guardianship of the Intended Parents. Something that would obviously be devastating for them as they have travelled this path fully expecting to become the recipients of a newborn. Surrogacy UK assume (or maybe know?) that the incidence of this is more likely if the surrogate hasn’t completed (or in my case, even started) her own family. They were worried that either I was being deceitful, alleging to offer to do this for the couple but actually wanting a baby for my self or that I might change my mind throughout pregnancy, birth or the immediate postpartum period and at some stage before I had signed the Parental Order decide that to remain the parent of the child actually. They had failed to understand (or believe) that my reasons were professional and borne from the sense of curiosity and awe I have for birth. (Not motherhood. Birth) Not only would I be able to make a kick-ass promo video of my Self throughout pregnancy and labour, showing potential clients that I have experience and hopefully encouraging expectant mums to take a natural, holistic approach to pregnancy and birth but I would also get to experience this mystical, awe-inspiring stargate-opening for my self. I respect Surrogacy UK’s decision and think I’d rather generate that relationship with a couple organically anyway rather than have it mediated by an organisation. I finally “lost” my job and focussed on my first passion, writing. I wrote blogs, articles and started a play script with the working title “Birth of A Side Chick”. I read Yasmin Boland’s book, “Moonology” and became inspired by her career and life, combining her two obsessions: Astrology & Writing, to become wealthy, visible and to empower others. I can use my skills and interests to do the same and in 2019 I now have many more tools at my disposal to help me do so. Having noticed that I wasn’t doing nearly enough towards a cause I professed to care about, that of environmental protection, I researched ways to live less wastefully. I found a zero-waste shop a short bike ride away from me and in the New Year I will get all my food and toiletries there which will cut down my plastic use. The added bonus is that I’ll also support, smaller, local businesses and not the greedy, tax-dodging corporations who tend to always put profit way before people. Similarly, I noted that I could be pro-Black in a much more tangible way and decided to put my money where my mouth is and attend the monthly Thursday Club events that have building a cohesive Afro-Caribbean community and that community’s self-determination as their central aim.
I finally achieved Red Tent Doula Certification after a year and a half of reading, research, networking with practitioners and birth professionals in my local area and practising self-care and self-love. I felt proud of my efforts and excited for the mentoring process and the growth of my business and gaining greater involvement and experience as a birth worker. I have applied to study Midwifery and have now to decide if I want to join the profession in the UK, which appears more and more to be undermined by its proximity to Obstetrics and lack of professional autonomy (The regulating body is the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which, as of 2017 no longer comprises of a Midwifery Committee) or if I’d prefer to train with Vanessa Brooks, in Postmodern Midwifery and then be forced to work outside of the profession as a highly-trained doula but unable to legally represent my self as a Midwife. As yet, I am still undecided as to what I will do but am drawn more towards working independently and am very optimistic for 2019 and all it may bring for me, for women and for our planet.
Sincere thanks to all who lit my path this year, Love Rhia x