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Marmalade sandwich

Alice Smith eats cold beans from the tin in Part 4 of her series from the hospital bed ‘Connecting to the mother keyboard.’

Have you ever eaten beans straight from the tin because you had no clean spoons? How about feeding the dog using a knitting needle to scoop out the meat? Rising from the throne on one leg? It’s surprising how enterprising you can be when you are forced to hop round on one leg and you are a single woman. Whilst recovering from a broken ankle (hello from week 10 living on one leg!) I’ve learnt many new ways to cope. But what has happened to the social support system we created back in the 1950’s to help us at times like this? It broke.

You broke it Maggie/Blair/ Boris (tick as appropriate)

The electric scooter company won’t deliver. The landlord isn’t prepared to fit ramps. The physio is backed up so you have to refer yourself online and pray to the bottle or your god of choice. The social worker looks at you like you are the last straw and suggests you order a daily take out sandwich (budget anyone?) She finally agrees to send in ‘reablement’ (sounds very Orwellian…..) to make a sandwich because ‘you are an alcoholic’ but only if ‘you lock away your puppy.‘ Red Cross workers will make you a sandwich but refuse to wipe the surfaces and it’s 9 weeks since your kitchen even smelt a squirt of bleach. In the meantime, it’s beans from the can and a marmalade sandwich because this is Wonderland after all….

Shit happened

What happened? If middle England really knew how flimsy state support has become they would not be sleeping so soundly under their Dunelm Mill duvets. I am only temporarily disabled – what about all the millions of people struggling whilst their out of touch social workers disappear on sick leave? It’s all breaking folks. This can only end one way unless the care sector gets mouth to mouth. Now.

Alice Smith is recovery from a serious injury and is writing a series of blogs from the hospital bed called ‘Connecting to the mother keyboard.’

Are you a grafter?

In part 3 of her blog series from the hospital bed ‘Connecting to the mother keyboard‘ Alice Smith wonders – Does God really love a trier?

Try harder myth number 1. Try harder. Having been evicted from the teaching profession in 2015 – school teaching now officially being a Try Harder profession – I earnestly believed back then that God loves a Trier. This dramatic eviction from a private school where I had Tried Hard broke something in me. Just like the boyfriend who constantly picks at your appearance, classroom teaching as a way to earn money is Toxic. You can always Not Enough. Constant negative appraisal works the same in both shame based spheres.

Sound familiar? Well let’s move on out to the cosy charity sector shall we? Women’s Aid. Champions of the survivor – or should I say victim? I made it all the way to the interview for a trustee role on one broken leg only to be asked – are you a grafter? Will you Alice Smith take us Women’s Aid and Try Harder? Yep….hello the abusive cycle (Try harderNot EnoughTry harderNot Enough) has now infiltrated survivor organisations.

Am I a grafter? Are you? Well if you look up the original definition of the word, it means trickster. So yes I will take the label – but not the unpaid trustee role.

What’s the answer? Create our own businesses, rules, side hustles and keep them fresh. Only give our energy to places where we are celebrated (and paid?) Don’t Try hard. Simply live. Breathe. You deserve this life. You don’t have to prove your worth to be here on this fabulous earth. Stop Trying. You are Enough.

Alice Smith is recovering from a serious injury and writing as series of blogs called ‘Connecting to the mother keyboard.’

Bed post

‘All of your battles will show you who you are.’ Maybe. But they are more likely to show you who other people are….

In Part 2 of ‘Connecting to the mother keyboard‘ Alice Smith explores 2022 friendships

Get the fuck up!

Hospital and convalescence is the best place to contemplate your life – your success, your failures, any regrets and the state of your bank account and job. (Sick pay anyone?) Most of all, convalescence is an Observation Post from which to view your friendships. Or should I say ‘friendships?’

Room with a view

The view from lying on a hospital bed is nothing if not honest. Do you have any visitors? How many? Are they regular or do they sit and run? And when you get home does anyone visit or are they ‘too busy?’ Every injury and illness – like divorce – drags us to a harsh friendship audit. As with every major life event, friends fallout is not always welcome…….but who ever said they liked spring cleaning?

Me and mine

If your friend has children or a husband you are unlikely to see them too often. This is because we are now safely and permanently (?) conditioned to put ‘me and mine first.’ If they visit you that means that they ‘neglect’ husband who loudly states ‘Why should you help? She only has herself to blame if she doesn’t have anyone. Stay away from weirdos like that.’ These women are trapped in a patriarchal cage which – even in 2022 – still feels like the chains on the sink only now the kitchen is nicer and the holidays got better. (Instagrammable.)

You should be better

One of the most surprising observations from the Bed Post is the friend who tells you ‘You should be better by now.’ Also likely to criticise the state of your kitchen as a ‘health hazard,’ and your expanding waistline ‘no more snacks – it’s spreading’ this friend leaves you worse than she found you. Breaking Rule Number 1 of Caring 101.

The problem from where I am lying is this- we are just not used to recuperation periods after injury or illness any more. Thanks to our capitalist mindset we actually enter sick rooms like Alan Sugar, ready to criticise an unproductive person who used to be our friend. The idea of a convalescence or a recuperation period being essential is no longer even understood. We are ‘on or off.’ We are a productive cog in the machinery or we have to be shamed until we hurry up back to our place. Add to this, a compete grief illiteracy which sees us shutting sick, old or dying people away from sight. The result? 2022 friends who do not know how to bring comfort to you when you are injured.

What have we done?

Alice Smith is recovering from a serious injury. This is part 2 of a series of blogs from the hospital bed called ‘Connecting to the mother keyboard.’

Dear Mr Blue ….

Dear society, does my pain offend you? Draw curtain. Open mouth. Insert highly toxic morphine. Shut up. Where am I again? Mmmmmm…….make mine a double shot……

Alice Smith writes about pain in part 1 of a series from the hospital bed ‘Connecting to mother keyboard.

Society encourages us to medicate whenever we feel pain. Nowhere is this more evident than in the hospital ward. Approaching the end of recovery from a serious injury I have been high for 70% of time I was on the ward – despite telling staff I am a recovery alcoholic. Is it any wonder we have an opioid crises when pills are the sweets now used to stop us crying out in pain?

Over nine excruciating weeks I have had plenty of time to examine the relationship between pain and fear. Not for an MA. For myself. Guess what I found out?

Curtains for you

Pain is an emotion affected by the reactions of others. It makes you uncomfortable nurse? Draw curtain. Open mouth. Insert highly toxic morphine. Shut up. Where am I again? Mmmmmm…….make mine a double shot next time……

Where does that pain go?

It’s just you and your pain in a hospital bed at 3am.

Pain threshold shaming

I lost count of how many times nurses mentioned my pain threshold – some said high, some said low. Surely it’s not fixed? Like our mood, our reaction to pain is going to vary from hour to hour and day to day? If you admit to pain and show pain well then…..you have a low pain threshold. You have failed to be a productive member of society. Stop showing this emotion! Do not cry! Draw curtain. Open mouth. Insert highly toxic morphine. Shut up. Where am I again? Mmmmmm…….make mine a double shot……

Where does that pain go?

Trigger happy

In hospital with PTSD you may as well be speaking a foreign language. Trauma, what? That’s a physical thing (spoken slowly)- fixed with medication according to the medical model. Mental health somehow got separated from our bodies and now we lie like those soldiers after world war 1 knowing something is wrong and feeling ‘othered.’ This is what I discovered through being endlessly triggered by professionals who don’t listen :

Our triggers come from mismanaged fear.

Pass the biscuits Duncan

The fact is that we are all in pain and morphine or alcohol or biscuits or sex does not take away the pain . It only numbs it. Next time you feel pain (emotional or physical) notice what you reach for. And notice other people’s reactions to it – Fear? Hiding? Enabling? Embarrassment? Draw curtain. Open mouth. Insert highly toxic morphine. Shut up. Where am I again? Mmmmmm…….make mine a double shot……

Alice is recovering from a serious injury. This is part one of a series of Blogs from the hospital bed called ‘Connecting to mother keyboard.’

Excuse me, love. It’s your stop

Empty

Drink to – what happened to you?

Drink to – what if?

Drink as consolation for the lies.

Drink for me.

Drink to you.

Drink to be alone.

Drink to feel………afraid.

Alone

Drink to get back to……

Drink as consolation for what we don’t understand

Drinking to forget, to let the memories set.

Drinking to STOP

Drinking for yes.

Drinking for you.

Drinking to stay awake.

”Awake

Drinking to Life and to Death.

Drinking to fix it.

Drinking to break.

Drinking to go higher.

Drinking to go low.

Drinking….drinking….drinking.

Excuse me, love. It’s your stop.

Alice Smith 2022 #5 years’ sober

Jesus loves me, loves me not

Jesus loves me

Heaven is full of echoes and Hell tastes of smoke and mistakes. Am I in Heaven or Hell? Where are you? Can I be in both with the backdrop endlessly flickering from one to the other through the chapters of my life? The edge of glory will trip me up, no doubt. Heaven is full of echoes from Hell. It is never silent like those chaotic memories you re- member and it is fleeting as the sun sets. Hell tastes of smoke and the mistakes that sent us here and the tastes that keep us here. A choice or a conclusion? Design or amusement? Fun or malignant intention? With an angel on each shoulder I cannot always hear the beat of the drum I march to. The snakes inside us always want the apples and even if we can choose our poison there are only so many ways to die. In Heaven I dream but in Hell I never dream alone. Shared dreams are our collective torture. Collective memories become dreams of victory. It is all so surreal and it cracks as we step on it. Like meringue – sweet, brittle and worthless. The sun burns and glows in Heaven where our glory will never fade (or so they say) but in Hell the floor is alight with our burning memories. We are barefoot in both but it’s a grounding in powdery sand whilst great gulps of air pull us under endlessly. Forever and ever Amen. The sound of the seagulls and the sea keeps us sugar sweet in Heaven but in Hell the silence we yearned for all our lives is not what we yearned for all of our lives. The silence kills is all over again, like the dip of water. It will not stop in the middle of the night that does not stop. In a wordless, timeless tunnel we pray too late. No one is listening to our whispers. The silence does not listen. It echoes back to us in our thoughts in some sort of mystical amplification and we wish to die – we already have. Heaven is one long syrupy afternoon shifting towards a sun that never comes. An endless, moonless day – holidays are good precisely because they end and life is to be lived precisely with the energy that it takes to end it. Heaven never ends so where is my motivation? Hell never ends so how do I escape? Both of them are prisons of my own making. In between countries – over the edge is a flickering between those two lies. I am there somewhere within the distortion. If only I had control of the switch. Jesus hates me.

Jesus hates me

Our daily, monthly bloody lives

I cannot learn from these women. I can only learn from Future Me.

We were scared of our own bodies when we were still in school. Training bras pinched us and res-trained us and even then – in those first few secret shopping trips – we felt men’s eyes upon us as we chose. A no choice choice. Could sex be anything other than a quick coupling for male satisfaction?

We were scared of our own bodies and we wondered what would happen next. They started to bleed and this was seen as shameful . We were told to hide all evidence of bleeding from the boys who would find it distasteful. Our bodies were tastes after all. The Bible backed them up – bleeding was shameful and dirty. We could not wash it away with water because it was inside us, this dirt. We were making something shameful with our new bodies. We were not ecstatic. We were not proud.

We were scared of our bodies – we watched those female teachers who seemed to have aged into stiff, stuffed shirts and suits that did not fit them, fixed to fit the male lens. Women’s bodies do not suit a jacket. Female power scares systems and attacks those women who refuse to buy into the concept of the male lens. Dressing like a man, you mean business. It’s an illusion but we didn’t know that then. At the time, I just stared at those women – the tall, too thin women who were detached from their sexless bodies, the apples who tottered on heels and thrust their heads back to defy gravity. The overweight, shapeless women who kept their heads down in their jumpers when challenged. The small, exquisitely groomed women who didn’t care what we did because their husbands were rich and this fact seemed to detach them from our daily struggles to be an ugly girl. Our daily, monthly, bloody lives. The women who hid behind masks of makeup and laughed too loudly. The ugly girls all grown up into the most power they could ever hope to achieve – wrestling with a group of 12 year old girls, chased by younger, prettier graduates who could do it better.

Those teachers had their favourites but I hated them all. There was not one decent role model amongst that bunch of losers who represented all the ways to never grow up. I couldn’t learn anything from those half dead women – killed slowly by societal expectations. I could only learn from her. Future me.

Alice Smith on working class teachers in working class schools

Ugly girls win

Drink me Alice

Ugly girls win,

We win the war but lose the battles,

we win the booby prize.

We make you do it.

We make you ugly.

Ugly girls win.

We win the battles but lose the war,

drowned in our own self 

loathing clothing.

We are free

from beauty additives, 

activated in disgusted sheets 

when the webcam cheats us 

out of marriage and home.

Ugly girls win.

We win instant gratification.

We win wine!

A cheap vinegary smack on the back

of the throat.

We win nobody’s vote.

We win time.

Pile it up into days, weeks and months of lonely internet banking, 

Dripping it like honey, 

making it funny for diminishing returns

but  –

our fun stops.

Ugly girls win.

We win short lived teenage sympathy.

We’re stepping stones to better things.

The best we can do is give 

a listening ear 

in their infrequent armistices

whilst they regroup and repoint and repluck their eyebrows.

We’re on the sidelines of this war.

We win white feathers for our bravery and we…..

We are grateful for all eye contact.

Ugly girls win.

We win bored hands and sliding eyes, 

that look behind us as we kiss, 

stiff backs and whiskey lies…….

to us.

We win nothing at school but we get to lose and be grateful,

moving through all the dress sizes,

watching our lives………. never quite fitting.

We win third place and have to face those girls with nice hair and smooth fathers, 

always first rate.

Forever.

Ugly girls win.

We win nothing.

We win it all.

The invisible wall is too smooth and high to even try to climb

So we paint it with what could have been clouds 

and think about the next prettier life.

Alice Smith 2022

First novel Ugly Girls Win coming soon…followed by many more….

What do you see?

Alice from 361 Life Support reveals what she learnt at the launch of the Power sharing report at the end of a 2 year power sharing project working with the Sheila McKechnie Foundation in London.

I see you and I see me

Show me what you see when you look at me,

the thoughts that I was not the way you planned’

If stigma means ‘other’ can you see how you ‘other’ people in your daily life?

Can you see Beyond?

Can you see Beyond the status markers? (nice books in your zoom background)

Can you see Beyond the labels? (CEO, activist, survivor, artist)

Can you see Beyond your own destructiveness, Beyond the limits of your own listening? (listening to validate your own pre -judgement aka prejudice)

Can you see yourself in the looking glass – the good and the bad? The complete you?

Can you see the complete Alice?

Can you see your own power, your own privilege, your own chip on your own shoulder?

Can you see the vulnerability of others without patronising or trying to win and can you show your vulnerability in the workplace? Or is it the exclusive responsibility of people like me – survivor – to provide this vulnerability for your event /organisation /funding ……standing way off over the edge whilst you look down from above, then throw down a voucher for #Lovetoshop?

Is everything a trade of power?

Is everyone a transaction – what can I get from you? Is this what networking has become?

The Power sharing project didn’t give us any answers, it created more questions. Better questions. That is progressive. We started off seeing power through 20 different lenses. With uncomfortable conversations (Are you paying us? What are you being paid to facilitate?) the project became transparent and honest and it changed the viewpoints of the members. Not into one homogenous viewpoint but a kaleidoscope. This is magical.

Is ‘This is how it’s always been‘ the end of the conversation? No. From where I am standing, from where I am looking and from what I am seeing – this is how it could be. I am an optimist. How about you?

Burn the merry go round

One more go on the merry go round then

Burn it.

Turn it fast ’til I can’t feel,

peel the layers ,

reel around the fountain

swirl and spit into the breeze

as memories freeze then

Burn it.

Turn it.

Turn me on then jump on and join us,

come on in,

the more the merrier.

Don’t think just

Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we

Burn it.

Alice Smith on 5 years’ sober. Join us at 361 Sober Sunday evenings 6 – 7.30pm online. Sign up at 361lifesupport.co.uk