2021 gave me a lot of life lessons- These things shall be.

I actually spent a lot of 2021 overcoming a variety of somewhat self-caused health adversities. I began the year with a goal of completing a 5km park run, it was a rollover goal as the Covid pandemic had thwarted my efforts in 2020 and it certainly continued to do so for the first six months of 2021.

I adopted what I thought was a sensible regime for a person of my age and health status to get to the required level of fitness, speed and stamina to achieve my 5km goal to be completed in under 40 mins. The first two months I suffered with shin splints and invested in good running shoes and compression socks and then for a couple of months there was no stopping me.

I did really well in the first five months and got to a place where my base run was 3.4km and I could comfortably complete 5km in the 40-minute bracket but just as the summer sun began to shine my desire to hit 20km per week with 4 main runs saw me acquire a hip strain which put me out of running for a full six weeks, just as the park runs opened their doors. I wore it well and used the bike and cross trainer and began a journey into pilates to strengthen my core so that as soon as possible I could resume my running journey. 

It was August 4th and it was the day of reckoning, I donned my shoes and out the door, but after a mere 2.1 km had to stop as my right calf was seriously hurting, I limped all the way home, and did every variation of raise ice bathe through a full shift at work before dissolving into a heap of tears at the end of the day and getting hubby to take me to A and E. I explained that I thought I had stress fracture in my tibia, they were busy and triaged me standing in the corridor and thought my story laughable especially as I was still standing and sent me home to go to the urgent walk-in centre the next day.

Xrays, one MRI and 10 days later it was confirmed and they finally gave me a pair of crutches and sent me home with a moon boot. The recovery was slow and I was told in no uncertain terms that running was off the cards for the rest of the year.

What did I learn, I learned that I should have been content with the fact that I was able to run 5km and kept a regime that was suited to me, and not the same regime that everyone else seemed to have adopted. I was part of a FB running group for more mature folk but they were all notching up marathons at weekends and managing the likes of 5km a day and they all had stories, and yet they weren’t natural-born athletes. I didn’t need to run 20km a week though or a marathon at weekend. I liked the fresh air and the rain and the scenery and the exhilaration, the challenge, the sweat, the sweet joy of success, all of which I could easily achieve in what was my base run of 3.4km. I could run 3.4 km two or even three times a week and it was working wonders for my cardiovascular health and self-esteem and I didn’t need to feel that this was inadequate or not good enough. That goal of competing in a 5km park run is still a goal  I can still aim for it, but maybe I have to recognise that at my age with my bone health there is no shame in a little bit of jeffing along the way especially if that means my bones won’t break.

2022 is going to be the year of acknowledging me as myself and not as something that needs to be compared to anyone else. I am going to run because I enjoy it, but get to a physical point first where it is going to be possible to do it safely. I have started by looking at running off road as the shock through the bones from tarmac is significant and I am going to ensure that for every amount of running I do I give my body the right amount of time to recover. I have started by gradually increasing my walking and by researching and finding some good off-road routes, they are better walked at this time of year when the winter has rendered most of the local terrain boggy sludgy. Walking takes a little bit more time so I need to make sure I plan accordingly, but already it is bringing its own joys, in my late afternoon walk today I encountered a Hare, some pheasants, two Highland cows and witnessed a beautiful sunset. 

In 2021 I learned that it is now time for me to learn about me, the me that lurks beneath. I had pineapple juice with my tea tonight because I like pineapple juice, I have gone back to playing in a band because I enjoy music and I love playing in a band. So much of my life has been centred around caring for and pleasing others that I have had to actually physically take stock of which few moments are mine and which are because they are expected or belonged to someone else. It is a time of experimentation. I have never really had a big sweet tooth, and I can finally verbalise that it is largely because I do have a preference for darker chocolate. I like after eight mints, dark gingers and walnut whips. I like smoky bacon crisps and eggs on toast. I like tomato soup and spicy food. I like a glass of Port and Wensleydale cheese with cranberries.

I like listening to music, making things and learning new things. Today I have been teaching myself how to use formulas in spreadsheets and that’s okay, because I enjoyed it.

So 2022 is a year of liberation and freedom, I don’t have to be an instagram post, I don’t need to be the best at anything at all, I don’t need to win at anything, I don’t need to measure myself against anybody else. It really doesn’t matter. Every moment where I derive pleasure in some aspect of my own life, no matter how simple is a win for me. I have absolutely no idea why it has taken me 55 years to work this out.

We were brought up as hard-working, strong working-class women, we had access to a good education, these things shall be, but there was also a great deal of passivity that was ingrained in our very being and that boiled down to the fact that we always deserved less, somehow we were never worthy enough and someone else always deserved more. The truth is though that we never deserved less, and we were always worthy enough.

ⓒ Alison Jean Hankinson

For Sarah.

Steadfast we stand, we shine our lights in solidarity to the memory of your soul.

The tragedy that took away your cherished life is beyond unimaginable and I send my heartfelt love and sympathy to your family and loved ones.

It is so hard I have drilled it into my children and so many girls that I have taught about how to try to be safe on the streets. Not because I wanted them to be afraid, but because I didn’t want them to ever come to harm. As a mother for me, that has always been the one thing that was important, for them not to be harmed. What saddens me is that they have both already had to survive sexual harassment that is unwarranted and unwanted.

I have walked in the middle of the road on a dark night to avoid the parked cars, I have changed my route and taken a longer safer one, I have quickened my pace at the heavy sound of footsteps behind me, I have had my keys clenched firmly in my fist poised and my cellphone ready to dial.

I have avoided going out at night, been the sober driver so I didn’t leave myself or any of my friends vulnerable. I have gone to evening events and my mantra is always the same – I can have a glass of wine when I get home. I have worried as a mother, ensured that my girls could phone me at any time of day or night and in any state of drunkeness, My husband and I have rescued them in the middle of the night, provided a taxi service to ensure that no-one was left vulnerable or alone.

I have survived being followed, being stalked, being cat-called, seeing men expose themselves in public, (more than once- I was just 7 years old the first time it was in the Children’s play park.) I have been assaulted and stood my ground and had to protect myself and I am acutely aware that I am not alone and that most of what I have described is laughed off, unreported and unchallenged.

In my thirties I was assaulted and abused for going into my local bar without my husband and no-one in the bar stood up for me.

Yesterday at the age of 54 I went on a 5km walk alone, by myself, along the canal in the daytime, for me it was my attempt to reclaim the day in memory of Sarah Everard. I do go walking on my own but always in places where there are likely to be other people. There are hills I would still like to climb but I still lack the courage-it is a work in progress- I am working on it.

In Whangarei in May 2016 we did reclaim the Hatea Loop with what seemed like the whole town, following a shocking sexual assaultof a runner in the early hours of dawn. We turned out to walk at sunset, men women and children, and when this lockdown is finished maybe we can do this in memory of Sarah too.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

That which drives us

I look around me as winter reaches its finale and I am mindful of the fragility of our current existence.

It should be what we have that drives us, not what we have not.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

The stench of trauma

Olfactory associations.
In 2001 we experienced a hugely traumatic event in Cumbria, our county was ravaged by foot and mouth disease, it began in early February and by late March virtually the whole of the County was restricted and lifestock was culled in the thousands. Some estimate that as many as 20,000,000 animals were slaughtered during the course of the year. Where they found an outbreak livestock within a three mile radius were culled-this was refered to as a pre- emptive cull.

I remember driving along the cavernous empty motorway, virtually nothing seemed to travel along the M6 other than the slaughter trucks with their “Livestock reduction programme” signage and the trucks eventually carrying the rotting carcasses to burial sites like the one at Great Orton. At the time I was working as an education advisor for Cumbria LEA and although my schools were all in the South Cumbria area much of the work we did was as part of a team and covered the whole of Cumbria, travelling to Penrith and Carlisle was part of my weekly routine. Part of our team’s remit was to support schools in supporting the mental health and well being of their student populations and so the we did play a very large part in the later responses to the crisis.

At first it was the smell of burning pyres that haunted me most, the smell of roasting flesh, the pyres were enormous beyond anything anyone could possibly imagine and often burned for weeks on end until the Department for public health declared the smoke as dangerous to health and forbid them to be used a as a disposal method anymore- that was when they moved on to creating huge burial pits for the never ending trucks full with the carcasses of dead farm animals. Then I remember the stench of rotting flesh as the carcasses were dumped at Great Orton. Too many were culled to be able to transport or buru them in a timely manner and the army was drafted in to help with the process. My husband was drafted in to work for atwo week shift, they weren’t allowed to come home during that time and it took him many months to recover from the tasks he was asked to do during that time. The dead animals lay bloated and rotting on smallholdings and farms and the build up of gas was so dangerous that their bellies had to be punctured before they could be dumped in teh over burdened pits. You could smell Great Orton from my parents house some 10 miles away in Port Carlisle if the wind was in the right direction. There are 26 trenches at Great Orton and in them just less than half a million carcasses. It has now been turned into a nature reserve as a memorial- Watchtree.

Dave bought me a lemon scented air freshener for my car so that my nose had some respite from the constant stench of trauma and it gave me a different aroma to focus on during those lengthier journeys. Trouble is the lemon scent became associated with the scent of the trauma it was tryi g to over come and I cannot bear to have lemon scented air freshener any more in my car, or for that matter in the house.

This pandemic will also have it’s own smell, for me, as I work from home in my extended isolation the aromas are pleasant, coffee roasting in the pot, good nutritious home cooking on the stove or in the oven, the clean crisp smell of a frosty winter morning as I go for a gentle jog.

The aromas for many others will be unforgettable, unimaginable and will become the unmistakeable stench of trauma to them for the rest of their living days. Our trauma from foot and mouth was quickly forgotten and the things we put in place to safeguard against the trauma for the children and their families have long since vanished but the smell will never go.

We must care for these people onec the pandemic is over, we must acknowledge the trauma that they have suffered, as it will always be a part of them and the memory will never fade when it has such a strong olfactory association.

Dedicated to all those who know and have known the stench of trauma.

If you wish to read a little mor about the FMD 2001

https://www.visitcumbria.com/foot-and-mouth-disease-in-cumbria/

Alison Jean Hankinson

it is enough

If you have food in the cupboard and a roof over your head, it is enough.

If you have worries that wake you but family that make you, it is enough.

If you have known love, shown love and grown love, it is enough.

If you have dreamed a little, worked a lot and been satisfied with your endeavours it is enough.

If the art of giving is more meaningful than getting, it is enough.

In the dark moments of life if you can still see a tiny flicker of light it is enough.

It is enough. It doesn’t have to be as vast as the oceans or as deep as the sea or as high as the mountain,

and you don’t have to be the richest, fastest, bravest, tallest, it isn’t about how much your worth measures but how you measure your worth.

It is enough. This I have learned.

Whatever I am, whoever I am, wherever I am, if I give with gladness of my heart it is enough.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

cropped-profile

 

When I was about 18 a very close friend of mine observed that I always seemed to be searching for something and that she worried that I might never be happy. I remember because it troubled me too, it was as if there was something missing from my life and I didn’t really know what it was, and I mistakenly labelled it happiness or perhaps even love. I think it took me many years to realise that it wasn’t missing at all that I just hadn’t recognised it even though at times it was staring me in the face.

 

Benign banter

It has been a time of renewal, a time of shifts and loss and mourning, a time of giving and holding others, a time of allowing self to be swept aside. My father in law passed away on Dec 1st, one short week earlier we had finally moved house, the nights were long and cold, I packed and unpacked, we haemorraghed money- my husband was a selfless soul endlessly on the road caring for his father and mother, answering endless telephone calls- moments lost, tablets forgotten, repeated conversations, fragments of life recurring then receding, we collected groceries, cooked meals, later we watched as he listlessly slept and shouted and screamed in some other life, some other world crying through pain for help and searching for security and struggling for each long laboured breath until he was gone.

Each day I have gone to work, in my new job, loving the company of my new colleagues, welcoming the benign banter of everyday life, desperate for a smidging of something that resembled a slower pace, a calmer moment, welcoming the newfound calm of our homely little house, genuinely craving the solitude that I know will energise and bring renewal. The moments where the sky in all its splendour is the most treasured and important thing, when the cold chill biting at my fingers and toes reminds me of the joy of life, longing for the frozen earth to yield to spirited snowdrops and there to be enough space for me to savour the solitude that I love so much.

January brings snow

and frozen slivers of ice

Witch Hazel shivers.

© Alison Jean Hankinson.

 

 

This is for D’verse. Love to all and Happy New Year.

Photos Hank Kendal 068

In these moments where we live and breathe.

It has been a complex year and all I know is that many of you out there will have faced your own tough challenges, some that have been overcome with grit and determination and others that have almost broken you with the weight and depth of their difficulty.

There were days this year where I genuinely thought that there would be no resolution, that the interminable darkness and despair would swallow me whole, that my worthiness had been buried never to resurface under some massive cumbersome rock that could not be shifted.

I learned that it is important to feel wanted and needed and worthy and that for me these things come from the work that I do and the relationships I build with the people around me.

I learned that I need to feel connected and secure and that for me comes from having a home and a place to be in the world.

I learned that heartache and heartbreak are cruel masters that spare no-one and that all around me there are people whose stories would make my own look like a walk in the park, that we all need kindness and compassion. That a smile and a hug are the simplest gifts that can give someone a brighter moment in their darkened day.

I learned that many of us fear death, and that at the end it is not dignity that matters but the holding of the hand, the soothing of the brow, and just knowing that someone sits beside you.

It is this moment that matters, not the money, or the glamour, or the furnishings, the shadow of our former life or the lure of future success, but this very moment.

It is the simplest action of human understanding that matters, listening carefully to those around us, sharing their journey holding their hand as well as hoping they will hold ours, not the politics, the rhetoric, the arrogance of selfishness but the humility that is born from suffering, enduring and surviving.

I learned that it is important to be kind and compassionate to oneself and that every moment is a taonga to be treasured.

Namaste as the year draws to a close.

May there be moments of peace in our life.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Light and shadows of loneliness.

As the day casts its long shadow homeward

I recognise that so much of it has to do with the light.

They say it is always darkest before the dawn and perhaps that dawn is the realisation that the fear, shame and guilt linger longest in the hours of darkness

and they dance and pirouette amongst the silhouettes and shadows to a tune that beguiles and steals the light.

We light candles, we whisper of hope and future happiness and draw circles in vain to cast aside the demons.

We crave love and long to belong to another so that we have a hand to hold in the darkness a kindred spirit to guide us through the pain and suffering and lamentable servitude to solitude.

Sunrise.

Night yields to day and despair drifts away and the endless ebb and flow brings us slowly to the shores of our halcyon dreams.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

This is my contribution for World Mental Health Day. I think loneliness is a huge issue for so many people young and old alike and I think the hours of darkness are able to bring/conjure up their own unique set of torments.

For those who struggle to sleep it seems a long night.

For my girls.

Submitting this for open link night at d’Verse.

It has been a while.

Sometimes you have to be still.

Sometimes you have to pause, ponder and be patient

And trust that time heals

That pain yields

Gives way to peaceful easing

And we are born again into a new beginning, a new being and a new belonging.

It has been a while

But sometimes you have to be still.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: