Insomniac Ramblings

Usually I sit up all night on a hill some time near midsummer, as a religious dedication. Not this year.  It’s nearly 5am, I am sleepless and typing, with Tom keeping me company via skype, and James asleep next to me. I am heavy with tiredness – more than physical, this is a soul deep weariness and it tastes a little bit like defeat. This time of night does that to a person.

There comes a time on those summer night vigils when I start to believe that it’s never going to get light again. It was similar for me this last winter, with the ice and cold so overwhelming that it became hard to imagine sun and warmth returning. In such long nights and hard times it is easy to see why our ancestors might have seen evidence of gods in these momentous changes. The sun rise, when you’ve sat up waiting for it all night and endured the darkness, is a miracle. Everything is made new. The world becomes innocent again.

I haven’t been sleepless like this in a while – it used to be a regular part of my life, but this last year I mostly had the insomnia licked. Tonight I can’t quite find the knack. And it will knock out today, which is unhelpful, but, I have the interweb and there are useful things I can be doing, like this.

Beyond the curtains, the sky grows pale, and I think of a time, a year ago, when Tom and I talked on skype for the first time, until I realised dawn had started beyond the window. I think of festivals, and rolling into bed with the dawn chorus. Heart pounding so hard in my chest that rest seems beyond me.  And when it comes, it will be a heavy, drunken sort of sleep.

It’s been the longest, darkest night in a while. I remember other long dark nights, I cry for them as I cry for this one. Maybe that’s in part what the vigils – intended and unintended – are. A chance to step into the darkness, and wait for the sun to return, trusting that it will. Light comes back, things get better.

And so for today, in the early hours, I end my instalment of what someone charmingly called ‘that disgusting blog of yours’ hoping that she is still reading. If you seek for signs of yourself in other people’s writing, you may find them. If you look for evidence of cruelty and persecution directed your way, you may well find those too – not because they are there, but because you see that way. If you, dear readers, imagine that I go to all this effort for you, personally… what can I say? I write these blogs for me, in the hopes that they turn out to be useful to others. They are a record of the journey, not an attempted assault. After the long night, there may be morning, and I may even be awake enough to see what it brings.

Oak Man 2

Bran is on the train from London and is in process of meeting Jenni. He’s a solitary soul but is opening up slightly with her.

She’s intrigued by his battered fiddle case and asks him what “itinerant” means.

He talks of travelling, moving around but it’s the word gypsy that hooks her, although he claims to have no gypsy blood …

Elen Sentier


I don’t know what to write about today, so I’ll just let the line flow along the page, let the words flow. Perhaps someone can find meaning in it. Perhaps I can. The act of writing is an act both of release and of taking control.

I only have any control over my life because I believe that I do, and because I think I can roll with whatever gets thrown at me. But there are days when the grief, the dismay gets too much and I wonder how we will ever get through this, how there can possibly ever be a good place on the far side. I have lived in a nightmare and I want it to end, but how to wake up?

Then I think back to the person I was a year ago, so lost and wounded, carrying the weight of blame for too many things, my soul shattered. A year of singing back the missing parts of myself. A year spent learning to trust again, to open, and to heal. I have a way to go yet.

But I am not yet free of the past. Last night’s accusation, about how I irritate and grate, how I am constantly attacking and bringing up problems still echoes in my ears. And yet, my perception is so very different, that I am quiet and keep my head down and try not to make a fuss unless something really matters. I am so grateful for the people who believe in me, who offer back reflections that do not make me look like a monster.

Today I weep for the past and the things I have been through. I have confessed the worst of it to my family, and there was some relief in that. And they step in, trying to help, to support me, and I feel so guilty that I cannot manage all these things myself, I feel so useless, letting them down, too pathetic. And I cried, and they told me it was ok, and that they would help me through. Burdens of responsibility lifted from my shoulders. I have carried so much, and so far, and thought myself weak and insufficient for all the things I could not do, but my family, are not blaming me for being soul tired and distressed. They just want to help.

I wish I had been able to speak sooner. I wish I had known how to say that I was fearful and in pain, that I could not cope. For a long time, I have needed someone to step up and help me fix things, but how could I admit that? I expected blame for shortcomings, not kindness. I am still shocked by kindness. I lived with so little of it for so long. I lived on crumbs, telling myself it was a feast, and the fault lay with me if I was still hungry. Too greedy. But they were crumbs, and I was starving to death, heart and soul.

It was a slow erosion of self, slow enough that I did not see it, until there was almost nothing left in me. I don’t know how a person guards against that. I can’t much offer advice for how not to go there. I know this. Just keep talking. Trust people. More than one person. Tell the stories of your life and make sure they seem ok to someone else, and listen if they say otherwise. It was the silence that undid me, the carrying that great, unspoken weight, and never giving anyone the chance to tell me to run, never giving anyone opportunity to come in and rescue me. Not for too long. I thank the gods there is Tom, and that he helped me feel safe to talk, and told me none of what had happened was ok, or my fault. Today, my mother’s words echo his. Terrible. And not my fault.

I am breathing very slowly. I am typing, because I can. I have spent a lot of time holding my child. I will get through this, somehow. But today hurts, and I can see no way forwards, even though I think there must be a lot. If you can spare a prayer or a little magic for James, Tom and I, we’d be glad of it. And spare a moment for anyone else around you who is in pain, or in crisis. So many folks are. Life is hard enough without people undertaking to make it worse for each other.