Sunday, 31 July 2011

Parenthood after 50

I had my son in my late twenties. That was in the mid 1980s. Back then it was quite normal for women to have children in their mid to late twenties, and it was not regarded as being a particularly young age, though amongst my friends of the same age  I seemed to be the only one having a baby before reaching thirty.  However, I remember that my antenatal group was made up of women who had already had one child and were mostly  in their thirties and there was a woman who was forty-one and a first time mother, quite unusual in those days.

Photographer: Alicia Clarke
Subsequently the average age to have children, particularly among middle class working women, rose to mid thirties, and more recently first time mothers in their forties seem to be pretty much the norm.  And now the postmenopausal mother has made a bold appearance. A pregnancy after fifty is a bit more complicated and it needs IVF, but it is possible and several women have fulfilled their desire for motherhood by becoming pregnant in their fifties. A friend of mine recently emailed to say that she was going to have a baby. I was puzzled because she is actually fifty-four. She revealed she had received IVF in India. Married for the second time at fifty-two, they both wanted a baby and this was the way. She had had a child in her twenties, from a previous partner. Her new husband had never had children before and was fifty-one. I thought she was brave and clearly very much in love for wanting to go ahead with a pregnancy at an age when women are technically grandmothers.

Photographer: Alex Ingram
Many people do think that having babies in your fifties is absolutely crazy. I used to think that too, simply because I remember how physically exhausting it is to have young children. It is not about the pregnancy as such, that is the least worry. Bringing up a child is quite a commitment, can older parents really cope? My mother was thirty-seven and my father was fifty-one when I was born. In all honesty I dont think my father really wanted any more children, he had had far too many already, but my mother really wanted a child with him and the rest is history, as they say. However, my father could not keep up with me as I was growing up, it is a fact. I used to think it was because of his age till someone pointed out that my siblings, born when he was much younger also had had problems with him while growing up. So it was not a matter of age but of temperament and disposition. This made me rethink my whole attitude about midlife parenting.

Being a parent is nothing to do with age. Young parents can be very bad indeed. Older parents can be wonderful. It is to do with wanting children and understanding that having children is a commitment, a real responsibility. It is not easy to be a parent - I should know, I am one, after all. I was blessed with a perfect son but there were moments of panic, moments of anger, moments of fear and great anxiety. I was mostly a single parent, though I was helped by many people along the way, to whom I am most grateful. I felt some freedom when my son finally graduated - his graduation ceremony ritually marked the moment when I felt I could sit back and enjoy being freed of a big chunk of my main parental duties, as my adult son left soon after to take up employment. But one is a parent for life, there is no getting away from it.
Now in my early fifties,  I have no particular desire for babies, certainly no desire for single parenthood, though sometimes I regret having only one child. But like my friend, who knows, I might change my mind. I am grateful to be living at a time when parenthood can be obtained at any age, so long as the means and right attitude are in place.

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Friday, 29 July 2011

A murderer in the family

Photographer: Toby Slater-Hunt Model: me
Since the Oslo mass murders there have been several articles written about Anders Breivik and his very normal middle class family background. His father Jens, a former diplomat, tracked down in France, where he now lives with his third wife,  said in an interview that Anders should have turned the gun on himself, adding that he was ashamed of him and that he would never see him again for the rest of his life. Katherine Birbalsingh, a teacher and educator, commented in The Telegraph  that actually Jens Breivik has much to answer for in connection with his son's psychological make up. Strong views.
It is impossible to condone Anders Breivik's actions, and yet, hearing his father say that he would never again acknowledge him as his own somehow does not sound right.

That of Breivik  is a very extreme, truly horrifying case and one which is too recent to allow us to view it dispassionately. But it raises an issue that is often swept under the carpet.  Criminals do have families. So what happens if your father, your son or your brother commits a serious criminal offense which involves taking someone else's life? How does it affect you? How does it affect your subsequent relationship with the family member who is a felon? How does it affect your psychological make up and the perception of you that others have? How does it affect your relationships with others, especially the significant others in your life?
Reactions vary. On one hand there is shame and the desire to distance oneself, on the other there are still feelings of affection for the family member, with whom you have shared a substantial part of your life, and often the inability to comprehend how things could have turned the way they did. And yes, there is also a sense of guilt. Inevitably, as a son, daughter, mother, father, or a sibling, you ask yourself whether you could have done anything, anything at all to prevent it from happening. But what?

Then there are societal attitudes. If your brother has killed, there will be those that will secretly wonder whether you too could kill, perhaps in cold blood -  the irrational "it must be in the family" response, so to speak. Not to mention how the family member's criminal record, once the family member leaves prison, can affect practical matters such as certain types of insurance and in some cases,  might lead to your being very carefully scrutinised if you are applying for certain jobs - and the criminal record is definitely not yours! I recently read in a forum about a couple of people involved in teaching who were worried about their siblings' criminal record affecting their employment. It should not, it would be illegal, but  no one was able to give a clear answer.
Even more worrying was reading about attitudes of total condemnation of those that have spent time in prison, have paid their debt to society and are now trying to make a new life for themselves. I wrote a post way back again about a very extreme case, that of Venables and Thompson who killed little Jamie Bulger back in 1993 and I discussed  the reactions of those who would not admit of welcoming them back into society. People will always be divided. As I said in that post, we are all capable of murder. However, most of us choose not to do it. And those of us who do it need some help to understand why we should not do it and some support to change our behaviour. People can change and we should try to give them the chance to accomplish that change. 
It will be hard to advocate that for Breivik but it is the only civilised way of responding, beating hatred with love.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The worst drug

Last week was eventful.  We witnessed the horror of the Norwegian mass killings, which have left everyone, and I mean everyone, deeply shocked. The thing that is most disconcerting is that Breivik's logic is twisted and deranged but... the opinions he holds about a white Europe cleaned up of Muslims and blacks are unfortunately shared by a sizable minority. And to me that is the most unsettling and worrying thing.  When I posted the photo below on deviantArt I was appalled at the number of racist comments it attracted.
Better writers than me have commented at length on Norway and the implications of the killings so I will not elaborate further except to say that I hope and pray we can all put this behind us and heal the deep wounds, somehow.
Another sad event of last week was the death of the very talented but so very troubled Amy Winehouse. At 27 she joins the so called "Club 27" made up of artists, especially rock musicians, who died at just 27, following a self destructive path laced with excessive consumption of drugs and alcohol.  It seems that Amy died of alcohol poisoning. Despite all the attempts at cleaning up, Amy really stuck to the idea of not wanting to go in rehab, as she famously sang, not really, despite various attempts, including one in May this year, when she apparently arrived at the Priory clinic totally drunk and semiconscious, as reported by newspapers.   Could her death have been prevented?  Was it an accident? Was it deliberate? We will never know.

I am ambivalent about suicide. I do believe that people do have the right to choose for themselves whether they want to live or not. But it should be a rational choice, not something that people do out of desperation, because someone or something has pushed them into it , no matter how unwittingly.  I cannot comment on Amy's reasons because I did not know her personally, nor do I know what it is like to be famous and be crushed by the weight of that fame and its demands. As many have said, her death  really seems a complete waste of talent and beauty. I am truly sorry to see her go and I hope that wherever she is, she can now find some peace.
What worries me out of all this is the fact that most people continue to ignore that alcohol is a killer. Alcohol poisoning is far more common than one would think and it causes death. People pass out and choke on their own vomit, especially if they are alone, with no one able to raise the alarm. Many a college student have died after binge drinking, yet I feel that this has not been adequately discussed and publicised. Alcohol is a legal drug, freely available from licensed stores, found in most homes.
According to statistics recorded by Drinkaware about 157 people a week die of alcohol poisoning  in the UK - this seems to be an average figure and it keeps on growing. Most of them are young people who indulge in binge drinking.
There are people who live a  life of alcohol addiction for years eventually dying when their liver gives in.  But many more people die of alcohol related deaths, which may include accidents caused by the effects of alcohol on reflexes.
So alcohol is the worst drug of all and it is legal. My question is: if other drugs too were legal, including heroin, would that make it worse? Or would it help the fight against addiction? I would really like to know.

( Model Alex B.  Photos by Alex Ingram )

Friday, 22 July 2011

My condolences

I was about to post again about relationships and dating, but the news of the Oslo mass killings has really shaken me.  I have visited Norway and enjoyed Norwegian hospitality. I did a wonderful shoot with John Erik Setsaas and  Elisabeth Jakobsen in Trondheim last autumn and I treasure the memory of that week in Norway.
My heart goes out to all the  Norwegians and to my Norwegian friends, to whom  I offer my sincerest condolences, hoping that they can get over this tragedy and look to a brighter future.

Photographer: John Erik Setsaas, Modell: myself

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Culpability and moral responsibility

The recent spate of suicides caused by online bullying and also some cases of domestic violence in which the woman was apparently driven to suicide have raised again the question of culpability as opposed to  moral responsibility.

Photographer: Jan Murphy
The law is very clear about this. Suicide is a voluntary act, a decision taken by someone of their own free will and unless it is a case of assisted suicide, no one can be held legally responsible for it. Or can they? More and more questions are being raised on this.  Someone can of course be regarded as morally responsible for another's suicide, especially if the person who commits suicide can be proven to be depressed - but then most suicides are committed by people who are depressed and see no other solution before them in order to end their sufferings. However, moral responsibility remains something personal and many individuals do not even ask themselves questions about the ethical  implications of their own actions. The idea therefore that someone may be culpable for another's suicide is quite novel.
Let's look at a few hypothetical cases. For these I will be using various material drawn from real life stories  but variously combined. For convenience I will refer to myself as a would be suicide but please do not take this to the letter, I am not thinking of taking my own life nor has anything mentioned here ever happened to me.

Photographer: Martin Robinson
Suppose I had decided to kill myself and told someone about it. That person would be expected, from a moral standpoint,  to do something, like alerting the police or a doctor. If he/she does not act and I do go ahead with my plan, that person would not be legally responsible for my death but questions would be raised as to why he did not act to prevent it, knowing my intention. So far so good.
Now suppose I was feeling very depressed and was trying to reach someone to resolve a conflict. Suppose that person was too busy or plainly irritated by my wanting to speak with them and systematically refused, claiming to be harassed. Suppose that person also flippantly commented to another that I was a pain and someone should take action and deprive me of my liberties and sedate me to keep me quiet and this was relayed to me, causing me further distress. Suppose that person also wrote messages on social networking sites saying he was being stalked by a madwoman, that the only way he could get rid of me would be if I was dead, that I should be locked up, that the world would be a better place without me. Suppose he also got his friends to support him, ganging up with him and stopping me from coming  near them in social situations. Feeling quite distraught I decide to throw myself under a train. That person again would not be legally responsible but questions would be raised on whether his behaviour has led to my decision of taking my own life. Still the responsibility for the act of suicide would be mine. If I also wrote a suicide note saying that the only reason why I have decided to take my life is that this person has made my life hell and I see no end to my suffering, that I find his aggressive and intimidatory behaviour too hard to bear, then it might be possible to try this person for manslaughter, especially if there is medical evidence as to my being very depressed, which would make me vulnerable,  whereas earlier the only thing one could do, if at all, was talk about his moral responsibility, a matter for his own conscience alone.
This significant change has been brought about by an important case tried in 2006 which established a precedent. A woman after being beaten for the nth time by her bullish husband took her own life. She had left a detailed journal recounting how over the past six months she had been leading a life of pain and torture, emotional and physical. The man was acquitted from the manslaughter charge but the case  established the principle that, with the appropriate medical evidence, it would be possible to prosecute someone for driving another person to suicide.
Photographer: Michael Culhane
 "Driving someone to suicide through psychological harm should be on the statute books" says Sandra Horley, Chief Executive of the charity Refuge which deals with domestic violence.  
There is a difference between a suicide that is approached as a rational choice and a suicide that is committed out of sheer desperation, under severe distress. Most of the laws dealing with suicide are archaic and in some countries suicide is even illegal - though there is little by way of punishment that can be doled out once someone is dead. 
I am not sure whether I really welcome the idea of culpability in the case of someone else's suicide. It does make sense in cases of domestic violence and bullying but it could be misused. On the other hand, OJ Simpson would not have so easily walked away had the question of culpability been raised in the case of his wife's suicide. If you remember, it was initially alleged he had killed her but it was then accepted she had killed herself. Had culpability for her suicide been taken into account the verdict may have been different. 

(All photos modelled by Alex B.) 

Sexual relationships and a reader's comment

Photographer: Neil Huxtable Model: myself
My earlier post has invited some interesting comments but for some reasons rather than leaving them here people felt the need to send me personal notes on deviantArt, where I always publish a teaser every time I write a blog post.
Some young men wanted to share with me that they had had meaningful relationships with older women and really enjoyed the experience. "It was not just a sexual thing" writes one of them , "it was intensely emotional".
I was a little puzzled by the comment. I never said anything in my post about sexual relationships not being emotional. In fact this is something I have always maintained, that there is not such a thing as sex with another person which is "just sex". It is a fallacy. A sexual relationship even if only a short encounter is always emotionally charged. By emotion I don't mean romantic love. But when  getting close to someone physically, exchanging bodily fluids, sharing a moment of intimacy, it is never "only just sex". It is a meaningful encounter and the more open you are to it, the more meaningful it will be.
I remember reading a book about sex workers. The story the women told gave a very different  perspective on the idea of sex as just sex. There was the escort girl that had been hired by a man who had lost the use of his lower body in an accident. He was young and wealthy and in a wheelchair. He wanted to feel a woman's body next to him and just be able to give the woman as much pleasure as possible.  For her that was her first experience of paid sex. "I felt this huge wave of love for him"she wrote "I knew that I would never see him again after that night but while there with him I felt transported. I dont think I have ever had a better lover. I discreetly took the envelope with  the money afterwards. As I was tidying myself up he said " I am sorry I messed up  your make up". I left in a hurry, feeling tears rolling down my cheeks."
I believe love is something we feel and give freely, regardless of circumstances, age, physical appearance. The more we give, the more we get back. So next time you have a sexual encounter with your long term lover or a new one who may not be there afterwards open your heart and give.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The older man and the boy

I love Halpoid's blog posts, especially the latest one.  As I was reading about how he feels with regard to  being with a much younger woman I began to recall my own experience as a young woman disastrously loving a much older man. Older men with much younger women, older women with much younger men. Is age a defining factor in intimate relationships? Yes and no. It is a complex issue. More than the physical age it is our emotional age that needs to be taken into account and this is shaped by the relationship we have had (or not had) with our parents/carers, which will give us a blueprint for  approaching intimate relationships in our adult life. I discussed this in an earlier post about attachment theory. We can change the blueprint. As we become conscious of our patterns, we can let go of them. It is not easy but it is certainly possible. Sometimes it takes a whole lifetime before we are able to do it. Sometimes we never manage to do it, I certainly know people going through life in a state of complete denial about the issues they carry within. Sometimes we do it very early on - some of us are gifted with awareness and the ability to make changes within, in a seemingly effortless way. These are the people with 'old' souls, who seem to have been born with wisdom.
I have always been conscious of my own issues at some level, but have not always been able to resolve them. I have not actually. They reappear in my life and I do not recognise them. The therapy I am involved in now is helping me to make sense of what has happened in my life journey.
I grew up with a very distant father, even though he was physically present. I had several sisters and half sisters, so competing for his attention was part of our routine, there were too many of us. Though he claimed to love everyone the same way it was a conditional type of love: if you do this, I will reward you with my affection. Most of all, it was his detachment that really hurt and his inability to show a real interest in us as children. I would often talk to him only to find he had not listened to a word of what I had said.  He loved us and cared for us materially but in a very indifferent sort of way, he was always too tired to enjoy being with us (something to do with age perhaps? He had me and my sister when he was already in his fifties, his other children were in their teens). He also had strict rules about what could and could not be done and these often seemed very arbitrary.

 I loved him intensely but I constantly fought with him, most of the time I disagreed with him and that was unacceptable. I always wanted to know why I should do this or that and he would refuse to tell me, I just had to do it. So I had to spend much time hiding from him, trying not to be around him, waiting till he would be in a better mood, to avoid being the target of his aggression. My father never touched me or hurt me physically  but he was very intimidating, I was quite scared of him. It got worse as I grew older, and eventually I left home, keen to live independently. He was not happy with it. For over two years he cut me off and refused to speak with me. I only communicated with my mother. He still supported me, I was a student, but simply would not acknowledge my existence.
At  twenty-two and away from home I met a man who was forty-eight. He'd been married to a very charismatic woman who had finally left him after his nth affair some five years earlier. This man's compulsion to seek out new women all the time would have put Mick Jagger to shame. They had three children, one of whom slightly younger than me.  I started dating the eldest son, who was at college during term time, but with his dad during vacations. I cant remember why he was with his father as he much preferred living with his mother, to whom he was fiercely loyal, but as I recall, it had something to do with his mother's location, she had moved to the States. This gave me a chance to go to his house quite often and get to know his father. At some point I told my boyfriend that I really liked his father, who was always very flirtatious with me and had invited me to lunch with him a few times. Of course it went down very badly. Suddenly I was a demented bitch, with no sense of shame etcetera etcetera. Notice how I would be taking all the blame, but it always takes two to tango.

That  was a major mistake (or should I say lesson?) in my life, I suffered a great deal because it took me a while to realise I was only a piece of meat. At twenty-two I was pretty, intelligent and intellectually curious  but also very naive and very vulnerable.  It ended in tears, my tears, that is. It meant losing a few friends too because the boyfriend never forgave me, despite knowing that his father had quite a reputation, the word went round that I was immoral and had initiated the whole thing.
Thinking back this is but a reflection of a major pattern in my life. People and circumstances always changed, ages were different and quite inconsequential, but the pattern of trying to reach out to someone who is emotionally unavailable, of feeling insecure and unloved, of being identified as the one at fault for this or that reason, of being ostracised by a small community, has been constant. Every time it metamorphoses into something else and I dont recognise it until much later, when I begin to hurt. It makes me wonder why angels or angel like beings bother to pull me back when I am about to be run over, I really cant see the point...
Here 's to a beautiful sunny morning. I look forward to my photoshoot in Scotland.

(All photos modelled  by Alex B. All photos in this post were taken  by Neil Huxtable  but postprocessed by me save the last one kindly postprocessed by LmAnt. )

Friday, 15 July 2011

Thank you, stranger

Photographer: Jan Murphy

Someone saved my life yesterday night. I had just got out of the tube station closest to my home. I was about to cross the road, the traffic light was green for pedestrians, though it had started flashing. A car was approaching full speed (and I really mean full speed) on my left. I kind of wondered whether the driver would be able to slow down and break by the time he reached the traffic light, the car  was really going too fast. But I thought he should be able to, after all the light for him was clearly red. And so I started crossing. The car was getting closer and closer, no sign of breaking, probably the driver could not. Someone pulled me from behind, I really mean pull. The car went past and if this person had not so unceremoniously pulled me  it would have hit me.  I began to swear at the driver. Then I turned to see who had pulled me and saw no one. Whoever that person was, he or she had disappeared.

Photographer: Martin Robinson
I crossed the road and walked through the park. It was not 11 pm yet and it was a nice, clear evening. I began to notice all the good things around me, the trees, the open sky, the lovely row of houses and the smell of summer hit me. I knew that if I had not been pulled I'd probably be lying on the road if not dead certainly with all my limbs broken, wounded, maybe about to leave this world any time. There would have been the noise of ambulances and police cars. People screaming.  I also thought that clearly it was not my time to go yet, death had passed me by and yet reminded me that it is always there, following us, ready to strike. I have always loved The seventh seal, not least because Max von Sydow truly looked like my now dead father. Do we play chess with Death, I wonder?

Photographer: Martin Robinson
Death comes for everyone in its own unique way. Some people take their own lives, some people are killed, others die of illness. There does not seem to be a rule about when we die. We just do when the time comes and for each of us it will be different. As I was walking home it occurred to me that I have come close to dying several times and yet it did not happen, because it was not meant to. I remembered another occasion when I was with my son, at the time only seven and we were both about to cross the road and a car was going to hit him. I was looking away and had not seen the car, distracted by a shop window. Someone shouted 'Watch out', I saw the car  and stopped, putting  my arms around my little boy to prevent him crossing on his own and thus being hit.

Photographer: George Swift
Yesterday's experience really shook me. It made me appreciate my life as it is. It restored my faith in others and their goodness. Maybe we do have guardian angels, maybe we dont. But whoever saved my life last night acted as an angel. I would like to say thank you for the chance I now have to live my life better than I have so far. It really is a beautiful and fragile thing and we should make the most of it as when it ends there's no restoring it, not the way it was.

(All photos modelled by Alex B.)

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Letting go

Photographer: Jan Murphy.

Earlier I wrote a post about rewriting the past. The gist of it was that rather than dwelling on negative memories, one should dwell on positive ones, to avoid living a life marked by anger, pain and desire for revenge.
However, what I am not willing to do is delete people and situations from my past. I can delete the pain and view what happened with some detachment, but 'delete' the occurrance, no, I will not do that, it makes no sense.
This is a grand opening to tackle a very mundane matter which has been causing some irritation and misunderstanding all around.
Some time ago I joined an art blog as a contributing editor. I was fully aware of the personal conflict existing between the current editor and  his former close associates, which at some point turned into a feud, with complete strangers taking sides - never a good thing. I took the view that it was a personal issue, albeit a very delicate and highly painful one for both parties. In other words, I refused to be involved. I looked at the actual project, which is that of publishing online some of the best work to be found in art nude. I loved the idea of contributing features and bringing some exposure to new and upcoming artists.   The project is entirely non-profit, I certainly dont get paid for contributing. I do something similar in my capacity as moderator of a couple of deviantArt groups,  I do it entirely for pleasure.

One of my main interests in contributing to this unnamed art blog is to showcase the work of art models from their point of view. I am happy to feature models who usually select their favourite photographs among those in their body of work and comment on the reasons why they like those photos.
A model by definition is the subject of a photograph. S/he is a collaborator, without the model that photograph would not exist. Yes, there is the whole issue of copyright, which is the photographer's. But unless this is specified to the contrary in the model release or in the agreement the model signs, models are entitled to use the photographs for which they model in their portfolios, the actual book or the online folio - the latter is more common. They cannot sell pictures or reproduce them for profit  without permission. Most models do not care about selling anything, they simply want to be seen, as this will attract even more bookings. When they do commercial work they use tearsheets in their portfolios, so called because they are ripped from the pages of the magazine where the ad had appeared. Nowadays tearsheets are scanned into online folios.
The above gives an overview of the issue of models and their images.

Back to the matter at hand. I asked a couple of models whether they would like to be featured in the blog. They agreed. I reminded the first one, who was a newbie,  to check with all the photographers she has worked with whether she could publish online, in this not for profit art blog, any of the images of hers taken by them. They were all very happy, provided, they said, their work was duly credited. One of them said he did not want to have his images published (anything to do with the fact I was the editor?) but as the model was very proud of them we agreed to mention the images and  give a link to the photographer's portfolio without reproducing them. It worked well (and it was free publicity for the photographer), no objections so far.
The second model, very experienced,  sent her images with some very interesting captions. She is the muse of a known photographer, so her body of work consists of images which she has actively collaborated with him in making. He is happy for her to use these images. She has also worked with other photographers and had the distinction of having a beautiful image of hers published in a well known art quarterly, showing her nude in Savile Row, with her reflection in the brass plate of the famous Dege and Skinner shop. It was an early morning shot. It never occurred to me to question whether there would be a problem in reproducing that image which is actually in her online portfolio, of course with the usual credits.  I thought everything was sorted.

Test shot for commercial shoot modelled by me. Courtesy of my former agency Dynamite Models

The feature went up the day before yesterday. This is where the whole thing gets messy. My co-editor wrote yesterday a hasty email saying he took down the image following comments received by the photographer, which he interpreted as signalling unhappiness at being in the feature.  He did not tell me what the comments were.  I thought it all seemed a little  unfair to the model who was justly proud of being the subject of that photograph.  I quickly changed the text, mentioning the publication in which the photo had been published and giving a link to the image as it appears in the model's online gallery, once again crediting the photographer and also the publication for carrying it.

What actually happened will remain a mystery. It seems  that neither my co-editor nor the photographer were entirely happy about that image being featured and /or the links given, so the best course of action was to  remove the paragraph altogether, which I did last night.

Photographer: Jan Murphy

Later the model  sent me a message to say she now no longer likes the picture and this has been removed from her online portfolio.  Well done, Heather, in a tug of war if you let go of the rope the other party will find that there is nothing to pull.

I have a view about this incident. I take no one's side. I just think that whatever happened in the past happened, but there is no need to  dwell on it any further. For both parties to deny all traces of earlier collaborations is ungracious. To forget that at the end of the day the feature was for the model to showcase her work as a model and instead be swayed by old rancours was a little churlish. There was no need to delete anything, the whole thing snowballed and turned into an unnecessary drama. The model  ended up becoming a scapegoat. Kudos to her for  removing herself from this position by completely letting go. She should not have had to.
La rançon de la gloire, said my co-editor, whose mother tongue is French, summing up the situation. Not quite. Attempting to delete and rewrite the past, I'd say, with reference to the whole episode.
Let's hope these incidents will not occur again, for no one gains anything from them.

(All photos modelled by Alex B)

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Soul Retrieval and Don Juan

Photographer: Sam Pidgen
After thinking long and hard I have decided to go for a soul retrieval treatment. What on earth is that, asked my highly sceptical son earlier today, when I told him.  According to wikipedia it is a New Age shamanic practice often coupled with past life regression, whose purpose is to reintegrate the soul as this may have become trapped, disconnected, fragmented or partially lost through traumas and similar experiences. Carlos Castaneda calls it  recapitulation. Last week was an important one in my life. Just as  I was reflecting on my current malaise, the sense of doom I feel, the anguish, the sense that someone is draining me of all my energy through invading my psychic space, JonMWells on deviantArt sent me a link to Castaneda's books, downloadable in pdf.from Torrent. 

 Photographer: CM
That message instantly brought back memories of the time when in my late teens  I read and reread Carlos Castaneda's  experiences with Don Juan and Mescalito. I immediately got hold of the first book of the series, The Teachings of Don Juan,  and started the journey down memory lane. Then I remembered Tensegrity, the technique created by Carlos to activate the Magic Passes, I went online to refresh my memory  and coincidentally I found a class near my home. I went there last Tuesday and it was very, very interesting, I will certainly go back. 
And then I felt the urge to find out more about soul retrieval and past life regression. I searched on the web and found a consultant that does it. You have to follow your instincts in such matters. She had all the suitable affiliations and testimonials but it was her face I felt drawn to. So I called her and went immediately for a free consultation, which was to establish what I needed. 

Photographer: Gina King
I explained how I felt. I gave her some personal history, people that have recently died, people I have had conflicts with etc etc "Let your unconscious mind speak" she said. "Answer this question. In percentage, how much of your soul do you feel is with you now" "Twenty per cent" I said, without thinking too much about it, it just came. "No wonder you feel so depleted". We went through other similar questions about how many lives I felt I had shared with this person or that person.  She asked me about my son. "Fourteen" I said, again without thinking. We both laughed. Yep, he has been with me through all those lives, no wonder I have always felt he had come along to protect me - I often refer to him as "my sanity", as he truly is, he is the one that brings me back to reality. 

Photographer: Erwan 
I was hooked on this. I have made an appointment for the first session, I really look forward to it.  I have decided that I will work on myself throughout the summer, I need to feel really well and empowered once again. No anonymous comments on my blog will ever cause havoc for me again!
Some of you will probably think I have gone insane. No, not quite, let me explain. I was actually discussing something similar with my therapist who is a Lacanian psychoanalyst. Work with her is slow but very, very deep, we are working on details. Sometimes we discuss concepts,  whatever comes to mind.  One day I remembered something I had read about psychotherapists being the shamans of contemporary western society and I asked her how she felt about it. "Never mind about me" she said. "How do YOU feel about it?" "I like it as a definition" I said "it makes sense" and I also remembered a book I read a few years ago by Piers Vitebsky. It was a compelling ethnographic account, with very moving stories, of the dialogues with the dead, through a shaman, that the Sora tribals of Eastern India  perform.  


The book put side by side the Freudian interpretation of mourning and  melancholy, fundamental to western attitudes to grief and bereavement, with the Sora cosmological system,  respectful of  their inner logic. Through the shamanic performance the Sora engage in a dialogue with their memories, the dead conjured up by the shaman are none other than public memories.  The Sora  negotiate their sense of loss and their grief through this shamanic performance, a way of "banishing" painful memories, the "spirits".  You have to take this system in its wholeness and understand it works only if you embrace its inner logic, explaining it from the inside as it were, in the same way as Castaneda, a trained anthropologist,  embraced and explained the world of Don Juan. 
You do the same when you embrace a Freudian worldview in psychoanalysis and indeed when you embrace "soul retrieval".  Whether it is my soul's fragments or my memories does not really matter - it is the healing that matters. 

Photographer: Eoghan Brennan
Were it possible I'd apprentice myself to Don Juan, as Carlos did, but the likelihood of doing it in London today is very remote - Don Juan is not here and I dont know how to conjure him up. And there is that small matter of having access to Mescalito...
So for now it is soul (which for some reason my spell checker keeps on changing into "sold") retrieval and Tensegrity. I feel I have been held back for so long, I need to feel whole again and the way to do that is through going deeper and deeper down Alice's rabbit hole.

(All photos modelled by Alex B)