Wake-up call, part 1

It is Christmas Eve, and I am in my kitchen. The kitchen that has failed to contain raucous parties, as they spill out onto the patio beyond. The kitchen with the solid pine table in the centre, 6 IKEA chairs with green and orange cushions surrounded it. Reminding me of my childhood kitchen table, the centre of family life.

My father sitting at the table. I don’t recall what we are discussing. One moment I am leaning against the counter, the next I crumple to the floor in agony, my legs collapsing underneath me. Failing to protect myself from this invisible blade that has stabbed me in the gut and wrenched me open.

I had wanted to be a mother since I was a child myself. I had jobs, not careers. My career was going to be my children. The months before I became pregnant, recurring dreams kept haunting me. So intense were these dreams, these messages that I had married the wrong person, that in the morning I would nervously open one eye a crack, cautiously checking that it was indeed my husband that was lying next to me in bed. Finally, there were no more excuses, no more reasons to delay. I became pregnant immediately. The dreams stopped.

I remember a time before I hated Christmas. Before I discovered that my mother had lied to me. The eldest of 3, when I guessed that Father Christmas wasn’t real, instead of inviting me into the secret, she fabricated more untruths. In making me believe again, she made me feel stupid in front of my friends, and the magic of Christmas was lost. This was to be my daughter’s second Christmas. One she might even remember. Her father persuaded me to have the tree up from the first of December, and I reluctantly agreed. As it turned out, this was to be a Christmas forever etched in our memories.

I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. Mum says I taught myself. She tells a story of how she took my books away to try and get me to do something else with my time and I began to read junk mail coming through the door, so my books were returned. Some of my fondest memories growing up were spent browsing books in the library. Choosing which ones to take home next. Would it be Howl’s Moving Castle? Dogsbody? Old friends that I had read before? Picking some of these books up I already knew how the story weaved and ended, and how it would make me feel inside. Or a new world? An unknown? Time for a fresh adventure? As I grew older my choice of reading material changed. I began to absorb the teen fiction, to try and make sense of my world. I soon moved on to the adult section of sci-fi and fantasy, but a novel filled with teenage angst and heartbreak stayed with me. A tale of someone who found love and friendship not in spite of, but because of the bad things that had happened to her. It triggered a future memory within me, a knowing that something bad was going to happen in my life that would transform me.

Did I manifest this? Or did the book guide me to what was coming? This knowing stayed with me and became a part of my existence. I became so used to seeing potential danger and hazards that I no longer questioned it. If I saw the bus I was travelling in tumbling down the mountainside, or the car I was driving hitting a wall. That was just my brain showing an alternate reality. “Thanks for showing me that, it’s ok, it didn’t happen, I’m still here on this road. Everything is alright.” And yet, I did not see this coming. I always expected it to be something that would happen to me directly. That I would be the one physically altered in some way. This seeing the worst, it stopped in its tracks after she left.

If you’re going to tell me something important, tell it to me three times. I can’t remember which of the myriad of books I read this in. Once to introduce the idea. Twice to say ‘I’m serious, what about you?’. And the third and final time to lay your cards on the table declaring ‘I really want this to happen. Are you in, or out?’.

The first time I was told about Molly’s death was a week beforehand. She had fallen asleep in the car and I transferred her to her pushchair, loudly clicking the black plastic buckles into place as I did so. I never strapped her in any more. Why did I do that? The friend I was meeting was childless and had chosen the meeting place; high uneven steps hewn from stone were the challenge to reach the entrance a metre or more off the floor. Bumping the pushchair up the steps I lost my balance and the buggy tipped. Seeing her body launch out of the chair and be held by the straps instead of landing on the floor below, my heart was in my mouth, as I tried to stay calm. This was why I had fastened those straps.
The second time I was told about her death was the weekend before. When she ran across the road, thinking she was playing a game. There were no cars. There could have been cars. I picked her up and stood her on the wall next to me, we were eye to eye. I told her off, explaining why, not knowing if she understood any of it. Did I hold her close afterwards? And tell her that I loved her, and just wanted her to be safe? I like to think that I did; I suspect I did not.
The third and final time came and went without me seeing it. Perhaps that was for the best; the postmortem later revealed there was nothing that could have been done, the damage was in the basic functions area of the brain. They probably wouldn’t even have spotted the bleed. And if they had, operating would have killed her. Our girl was a timebomb waiting to go off. Would it have changed things if I had been there? Could I have seen the danger, and stopped it? Or just delayed the inevitable? She went to sleep that night and never woke up.

And so here I am 3 days later, curled up in agony on the floor in my kitchen. My child gone. My identity stolen from me. What is the point in going on? I do not want to live any more, if living means having to feel this kind of hell. My despair is overwhelming, filling my heart with sorrow. I had found my darkest hour. Just as I was feeling like plans were beginning to form, a voice enters my head, pushing aside the wall of grief like Moses commanding the sea to part. ‘You do not want your mother to feel as terrible as you do right now’ it firmly says. This voice jolts me out of my grief and holds my attention. For the relationship I had with my mother at that time, and the way I was feeling at that moment, I couldn’t have cared less how my mother would have reacted to my decision to stop living. This voice, it sure as fuck has not come from me.

Later that day, I had a strong knowing come to me; It was Molly’s time. She had come to us for a reason, and she was not meant to have lived any longer than she did. I had finally been given my reason to dislike Christmas. This was the time that I had been warned about. Seeds were planted.

Scrolling forward eight months. I experienced a miscarriage a few weeks earlier, and had declared this was a sign. It was time for us to live more wildly. To discover who we were without feeling the societal pressure of who we ought to be. Find ourselves first, before having another child. Throwing myself into work at my beloved Bulverton marquee, the late night venue for the folk festival I had been attending since I was 14, I was sober and my friends were drunk and off to bed. An old friend scooped me and some other stragglers up and we headed back to the party tent. And so it was that I found myself drunk on whisky and reciting Alabama 3 lyrics as dawn was breaking. ‘Don’t you wish you didn’t function, don’t you wish you didn’t think. Beyond your next paycheck, beyond your next little drink. Well you do, so make up your mind to go on, coz when you woke up this morning, everything you had was gone’. I had transported myself back to that voice that came to me in my kitchen.

There is a reason you are still here. Find it.

Being Neuroquirky

What do I mean by neuroquirky, and how did it come into being?

The term neurodiverse is often incorrectly used when neurodivergent should be used instead. Neurodiverse means a group of different neurotypes, whereas neurodivergent refers specifically to those who have less typical brain wirings. It’s a mistake that people who are prominent in media have been making, which leads me to confusion sometimes over whether I have used the correct term. In conversation at one point I used the phrase neuroquirky to mean neurodivergent and it just kinda stuck.

All those with different neurologies are welcome here. Be it ADHD, dyspraxia, dyslexia, autism, dyscalculia, synthesthesia, hyperlexia, OCD, Irlen syndrome, or being highly sensitive. Acquired brain injuries, learning disabilities and mental health issues can also be deemed non-neurotypical. If it feels like you fit in here, you’re probably in the right place.

My belief is that we are here to make the world a better place, and that begins with understanding our quirks, loving ourselves just as we are. Not trying to exist according to someone else’s rules. Just because those rules work for others does not mean that they will work for us.

catwalk novice

Huddled at the side of the stage, my peers around me. Sort yourselves into order, we are told. Those who have done this before go first, so the others have something to follow. And yet, even the experienced are nervously shuffling backwards. I feel an all too familiar bubbling within me, as I recognise the panic in those around me starting to rise. A sponge for everyone’s projections, I have no way of moving to stop it from taking hold. I wrap up warm, and push my energy outwards, creating a shield to protect me. Knowing it will not hold for long with this nervous tension crackling in the air, I embrace the position of second place the universe has given me. The leading model steps onto the stage, displaying her artist’s work to the audience as she walks down the catwalk, posing as she goes. Then comes my turn.

My robe dropping to the floor, I step carefully onto the stage. Intuition has guided me to bring a fluffy gilet, once white but now stained yellow with the dust of festivals, as a prop. Thrown casually over my shoulder, it provides weight to ground me, as I make my way across the stage. ‘Woop woop, go Kirstine!’ Cheers from the audience are ringing in my ears. I look across in delight to see my artist’s mouth gaping in awe, a look of pride in her eyes as I drop my gilet to the floor and walk down the catwalk, clad only in body paint and the smallest of modesties, posing for the cameras as I go. As I make my way off the stage, I am radiance itself.


The universe guides me to healing my past, when I am able to slow down enough to listen, and wait for the timing to be right.

Finding freedom in dance

There we were, in the middle of the common, on public land. Visible to anyone who walked by. People walking their dogs. A running club passing by. A group of friends sitting having a drink together in the evening light. All that separated us from the eyes of passers by was a line of brightly coloured beanbags across the grass, and the music streaming into our ears. We danced together, in unison. All dancing our own dance, as we danced to the same tune. Feeling the power of connection, of unity, of freedom. Being held by one another’s presence, feeling safe inside this bubble that we had created together. Aware that we were being watched, being photographed, being filmed, by passers by. One person who cycled past stopped to watch, and witnessed our dance for over an hour. If I was to be judged by these people I thought, I may as well be judged for doing something that I loved, and being fabulous doing it.

It wasn’t always like this. Being seen by others did not come naturally to me as a child.

That ballet performance when I was young, on a real floodlit stage, where I had been made to wear burgundy knickerbockers and dance alone to Little Jack Horner. I wish someone had told me ‘Don’t look past the lights’. Or, if they had, that I had listened, and understood.

Little Jack Horner. This is not what I signed up for. Where are the big choral numbers, fabulous costumes, others dancing and singing alongside me? The children in the wings, they are not my friends, no rallying support from them. I peer through the lights to try and spot my mother. If she is watching and enjoying it then maybe this ridiculousness will all be worth it. But instead, I am met with the sheer vastness of the hall. A hall I am quite familiar with when my father performs on stage here. But now, I am the one standing here bathed in lights, on this enormous stage. Feeling very small, and very very alone, suddenly aware of how huge this black stage covered in dust and footprints is, from out there in the hall. The sea of faces watching me, and perhaps worse, the sea of grey empty chairs behind them. This hall feels lost, I know it can house so many more people. How can I fill this hall with my performance? I froze in fear. I was not ready for this.

If only someone had taught me to keep my mind, my imagination, my energetic self, within the lights of the stage.

The universe, she has guided me, when I have slowed down enough to listen.

Getting older, my parents decide I am ready to learn what they enjoy; Scottish country dancing. Making friends, being part of a team, the dances having a set structure to follow, it is just what I need to have confidence that I can do this. By the time I attend folk festivals, ceilidh dancing is a breeze in comparison, and this has become my route to making connections with people, to begin to find my tribe.

As a young folk dancer I am transfixed by the whirling tatters, the blacked out faces, the noises of big sticks bashing and bells on knees jingling in time to the stomps of feet. Not forgetting the haunting tunes and drum beats that accompany their dance as the border morris sides captivate the crowds with their fierce roars, whoops and yells. ‘Bloody Morris dancers’ my father mutters, and I feel the disapproval flood through my body. Does not stop my face lighting up with joy when I see and hear them perform.

I begin spotlighting the main stage as a way to earn my ticket, and one evening a bulb blows. Unable to work that evening I find myself instead attending a roots night. Weaving my way through the crowds, finding my friends near the front, I know this is where I should be. On stage, the wild haired fiddle player’s fingers flying, bow dancing across the strings of his instrument, casually pushed into his arm as he whirled and cavorted around the stage. And when the drones of the bagpipe kicked in I am in heaven. I had been to these events before, but the music in this one sets me alight with the music of my ancestors. Playing tunes I’d drifted off to sleep to as a child. I had found freedom in this world and it was in unstructured dance.

I found confidence to dance more freely at nightclubs and the dance floor became my stomping ground, my escape from the world. Years later and pregnant at weddings, the dance floor again provided safety, as it became my escape route from unwanted drunken conversations. Learning to dance sober. Another important step.

After the death of my daughter I find myself seeking to forge a new family, and connecting with the communities of my childhood. AmDram or Dance? I choose dance, and join a border team. Hiding behind a top hat sprayed green, bedecked with feathers and an L plate, held in place with a red ribbon, wearing a mask of green face paint and wrap around shades, a jacket covered in strips of fabric that extend outwards as I spin, and clutching a Very Big Stick, I swiftly learn dances and slowly but surely find my way towards yelling, whooping and fiercely roaring my way into and around crowds who come to see us dance. A very different version of me, when the fires are alight within.

And then, chronic fatigue found me. And lessons in how to contain energy, not to waste it. I discovered how to access my chakras, and began to connect to what was going on inside of me. I was finding new ways of being, as I became fresh versions of myself. In slowing me down, the universe had found a way for me to become the mother I needed to be to the child that had begun to grow inside of me. In nurturing her, I was learning to nurture myself, as she taught me how to listen to what I was being shown. Lazy parenting was showing me the parts of myself that had been crushed as a child, and in learning how to take care of that precious little person that I had grown, I was also learning how to parent myself, in ways that I had never before known.

My route back to a new normal finally found me dancing again, as I discovered that it gave me energy, igniting the blue touch paper inside and fuelling me for a week or more at a time. I learned the times when I felt constrained by fear, my body tense and on edge, my mind numb with exhaustion; these were the times I most needed to dance. To release the energy of the world held trapped in my body, allowing me to break free and live again.

So many stories. So many becomings. Each time I falter on my path, it is dance that helps me find my way back.

Dance has been one of my routes to calm, what’s yours?