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Demon Dreams

Dreams have been a driving force in story and magic since our ancestors told tales
around the campfire. The connection between what goes on in our dreams and our unconscious is so startling that it’s no wonder mythology and religion are full of stories in which dreams are the way for the divine to speak to mortals. When we dream, it feels like we’ve fallen asleep in one dimension and awakened in another where different rules apply every night – every dream in fact – and where, struggle though we might, we are most definitely not in control.

 

People have always believed that there’s something magical about dreams, that in our sleep, we can see the future, be warned of coming catastrophe, see the face of a lover, even see our own doom. These days there’s not a lot that can’t be explained by science and technology. Magic is the realm of fantasy novels and super heroes, but dreams, well there’s still something almost magical about them. We can tell when someone is dreaming; we understand the physiological process, we can understand in part why we dream certain things. But even knowing what we do about the anatomy of sleep and dreams, a nightmare is still terrifying, a disturbing dream still stays with us for ages after it happens, and a sexy dream, well who doesn’t wish we had a lot more of those?

 

One of my very favorite classes in Uni was a psychology class that involved keeping a dream journal. All we had to do was write down what we’d dreamed every night. I was surprised to find that, in the beginning, I had trouble remembering much more than an image here and there, but then I’d never thought much about my dreams before that class. My teacher suggested I keep a spiral notebook and a pencil on my bedside table and that I set my alarm at two-hour intervals. Each time the alarm went off, I was to jot down just a few key words that would kick-start my memory in the morning, then go back to sleep. At first it was mostly mundane bits and pieces that I remembered, but it didn’t take long until I was remembering multiple dreams and detailed sequences.

 

I was so impressed with the results that I kept a dream journal for a long time after the class came to an end. I only stopped because it was beginning to take more and more time as I remembered more and more details. Later, when I worked with a Jungian analyst for a couple of years, dreams once again took center stage in exploring my inner workings. The thing about dreams is that every image, every action, can either symbolize something that could be important for the dreamer or, as Freud observed, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

 

Long after I stopped keeping a dream journal, I still wrote down powerful dreams, dreams that disturb me, or dreams that left me feeling like maybe I’d touched something deeper in myself. I recorded them and then I analyzed them and explored what they meant to me, what the Self was trying to communicate. I almost always found my efforts rewarding and enlightening.

 

There are dreams we’d like to linger in a little longer, there are also dreams we can’t wake up from fast enough. In the interviewing of the Guardian, which I am sharing now on my blog, as it unfolds, I am doing a lot of dreaming. In fact, I must approach the Guardian’s prison inside of Susan through a dream, and even from there, I am never sure I am in a nightmare I can’t wake up from or a dream I want to linger in.
While Talia, the succubus who helps me enter that dream state, promises me I’m perfectly safe … well, between a powerful succubus and a demon imprisoned inside a vampire who is herself a Scribe, with a capital S, I’ve seldom felt truly safe since I began the interviews. And no matter the reassurances I get from both succubus and vampire, how can anyone guarantee my safety in the Guardian’s presence.

 

New episode of Interview with a Demon coming up Tuesday.

Stay tuned.

 

At last! The Pole Shoot!

 

This past Saturday, a year and two weeks after I began pole training, the long awaited
photo shoot finally happened. It was nothing like I had planned out in my head. There were a few unexpected turns at the end. On Tuesday before the shoot, I pulled a muscle under my shoulder blade during the pole class warm ups. That meant no going over my moves for the shoot and no last minute practice on Thursday either.

 

On Wednesday, I spent time with my personal trainer, Klaudia, working to mobilise the shoulder and neck and other areas that had stiffened up to compensate for the pain. The next three days were filled with lots of stretching, Epsom salt baths and a diet of anti-inflammatories. Meanwhile my pole instructors were very supportive and promised me they could get me into the moves for the shoot.

 

 

It seems that for a photo shoot it’s all about getting the shot, and as my instructor, Lauren McCormick, told me ,technique goes out the window, which took the pressure off me and off my shoulder.

 

I wish I could say I documented everything in photos right down to the packing up of what I’d need for the day of the shoot. I wish I’d done that, but I didn’t. There are not shots of me getting on the train, me putting on make-up, no shots of me warming up. All my detailed plans went out the window with the injury, and suddenly the game plan was simply to get through the shoot with minimal pain.

 

 

Fortunately I went in with the very best supporter. Mr. Grace went with me to cheer me on, take photos of the shoot and to set me down and give me strong drink after it was over. Having him with me made everything a little easier. Plus it was great to share the experience with my best friend.

 

The photo Shoot was held at the fabulous My Body Rocks Pole Rocks Studio in Reigate, a place I’ve become very familiar with in the past six months. It’s the parent studio for the Guildford studio, and the brain child of one of my heroes, Samantha Holden. I have secret fantasies about just moving in to this place.  Yes, it’s as totally cool inside as the door suggests.

 

 

Most of the mistakes I made had to do with the planning, not the shoot itself. I needn’t have worried about that. Between the lovely photographer, Simon Hooley, and my instructors, Lauren McCormick and Ben Weeks, and with my husband there to cheer me on, I was in good hands.

 

But I showed up way too early, thinking I would use the time to warm up and maybe relax a little, go over the moves in my head. Warming up was limited because of the shoulder, my head was such a muddle that I couldn’t actually think enough to go over my moves even in my head. I already had on most of my make-up. Changing clothes took five minutes, and putting on the feather necklace and playing about with the feather fan took another five.

 

 

It didn’t help nerves that the second studio, which was open for us to warm up and practice in, was a hive of activity. There were people working on hoop. There was a couple of women practicing doubles on the pole next to me. Along with that there was a constant flow of people coming and going. They were all fabulous, and I would have loved watching them any other time. But Saturday, I just felt intimidated, even though they were all very supportive.

 

 

However, once my time came, two very strange things happened. First of all, the half hour photo shoot felt like it went on forever – in a very good way, but I was exhausted by the time we were done. Simon joked that he made it his job to make sure we left the shoot completely broken. Actually, he was very helpful and very lovely. Second of all, it was over in a heartbeat. I don’t know how it could be both. I only know that it was.

 

Yes, the shoulder did hurt with almost every move – especially the getting into the moves. But it didn’t hurt as bad as it could have, and I was careful and took advantage of offered help to get into positions. I quickly learned to intersperse the hard moves with some easier ones. That saved the shoulder and saved me from being more exhausted that I already was at the end. When I started out with a superman, which is one of the hardest moves for me, and I managed it without too much trouble, I knew I’d be okay if I paced myself. After that the nervousness went away, and the whole thing became fun.

 

 

Another lesson I learned is that sometimes the very simplest of moves looks far more elegant than the ones that are the most difficult. The camera doesn’t really show technique or how hard a move is. It only shows the subject, and really, it’s all about the subject … that would be me … looking her best. And that is something Simon does VERY well.

 

During the shoot, Raymond took photos and short vids on my camera so I would have some idea of what the whole process looked like – what I looked like. I’ll have the proofs probably later this week. My husbands documentation, his efforts are what I’m sharing with you in this post. Believe me when I have the actual photos back, I will be sharing them far and wide.

 

 

I say that, but the truth of the matter is that Saturday afternoon when I shared a couple of them on Facebook, I found it a little hard to let them go. I found myself feeling shy and nervous, even still worrying about what other people might think of a 59 year old woman getting half naked and hanging from a pole. Sometimes the things we do for ourselves other people might not understand, and a huge part of the challenge is often to remember that it doesn’t matter. We’re doing it for us. Having said that, I have had nothing but support and positive feedback from people. Perhaps that’s another major lesson to me. While we might not always understand why someone feels compelled to do something, I think everyone understands that need to pursue a challenge that speaks to us.

 

I’ll have the final post of this year-long pole journey when I get the photos back from the shoot.

 

 

Writing it Down

 

Sometimes you just have to improvise, as a writer. My good friend, and fabulous
writer, Kay Jaybee always writes everything long hand before she transfers it on to the computer. I seldom do any more because generally speaking I can’t write fast enough to suit myself.  And more importantly, I can’t read my own hand writing. But sometimes needs must.

 

Last Thursday I found myself waiting for a friend in a coffee shop with a dead battery on my phone, no laptop, and the Muse poking me really hard in the ribs with her big stick. The friend was stuck in traffic, and here I was with time on my hands, a story to write, and not a damn thing to write it on. I couldn’t even find a napkin.

 

The Muse, however, does not take excuses under any circumstances, so I was forced to find another way to get the ideas down. There was a roll of blue paper towels — the kind sometimes used in bathrooms and for cleaning tables — sitting on the edge of the counter. When the barista wasn’t looking, I nabbed a couple of feet of it, dug a pen from the bottom of my day pack, and started to write.

 

An hour later, when it was clear my friend wasn’t going to make it before I had to leave, I had filled a good bit of my “scroll” with tiny, but not too terribly sloppy, chicken scratches. I had to slow down to keep from ripping the paper, and the resulting story, believe it or not has benefited. The claustrophobic, trapped, unable to move feeling I was hoping for comes across well on the medium of blue paper towel.

 

Inspired by the necessity of the situation, I have taken to carrying a small notebook in my day pack now. It’s a lot lighter than my laptop, and the feel of pen to paper does access my creative self differently. So far, I’ve managed to keep my handwriting relatively legible for easy transfer into the computer. I’m pleased, and better still, the Muse is pleased.

 

 

 

 

Falling in Love with Rodin All over again

 

 

Yes, I am a romantic to the core. Yes, you all know this by now. But I had the pleasure of being in “romantic heaven” on Sunday. Well, actually, it was the British Museum. And while any visit to the British Museum is a little slice of paradise, this particular visit was even more so because it was Rodin and the Art of Ancient Greece.

 

 

 

 

One of my very favourite sculptures ever is Rodin’s The Kiss. And one of my very favourite exhibitions to visit regularly in the British Museum in the Elgin Marbles.

 

 

 

 

Imagine my delight when this special exhibition is an intermingling of the two with the focus on how the Parthenon and a trip to the British Museum influenced all of Rodin’s work.

 

 

 

 

Seeing the art of both set next to each other was a total delight. But best of all, was the wonderful insights into the heart of a creative genius by another creative genius, Rainer Maria Rilke, who was briefly Rodin’s secretary.

 

 

 

 

I guess you could say I was actually a little closer to romantic hell that I was heaven. I Much of Rodin’s work is an extension of his Gates of Hell, which was to be a representation of Dante’s Inferno. (Sadly other than a projection, only this clay representation of that masterpiece was on display. See the link for a better view)

 

 

 

 

For a better view and more details about Rodin’s Gates of Hell check out the Youtube link.

I was fascinated by the darkness that Rodin never shied away from in his work. As a writer, I feel it’s my duty also not to shy away from the darkness, even, maybe most especially, when I really want to.

 

 

 

 

The sculpture was commissioned in 1880 for a museum that was never built. But Rodin was so pulled into the effort, so inspired by it, that he continue to work on it and off until his death in 1917. Many of his most famous sculptures, including The Kiss and The Thinker (who was originally Dante sitting in the tympanum of the sculpture) were inspired by and taken from the Gates of Hell.

 

 

 

 

I was fascinated by the darkness that Rodin never shied away from in his work. As a writer, I feel it’s my duty also not to shy away from the darkness, even, maybe most especially, when I really want to.

 

 

 

 

That got me thinking that perhaps I am inspired by my own gates of hell. Perhaps we all are.

 

 

 

 

The recurring themes of darkness in my stories are, as was Rodin’s Gates of Hell, less about sin and punishment than they are about the human condition, my own condition, the fragmenting of self and the constant reworking of that self. Which raises a question I have often asked myself. Are we inspired by the darkness to seek out the light, or is it only the presence of the darkness that allows us to see the light at all?

 

 

 

Pole: More than a Physical Challenge

I’ve got a little under two months before the photo shoot that I’ve been blogging about and working toward almost

since this pole journey began. The past few weeks have been a roller coaster ride of confidence and lack thereof. I’m not alone in this. It seems to be common among the group of women I started pole with. All of us are signed up for the photo shoot as a way of gaging our progress. We’ve been training for ten months now – long enough to see major improvements in skill, strength and stamina, but also long enough to see just how far we have to go and to be impatient, sometimes disappointed, with ourselves that we’re not getting there faster. There are good days and there are bad days. There are days when it feels more like regress than progress.

 

Most of the time I don’t think about being twenty to thirty years older than almost everyone else in the studio. I know I’m fit, I know I am holding my own, even doing fairly well. Most of the time I’m just focused on meeting the challenge of the day. But what to wear for the photo shoot has brought my age neurosis back to me with a vengeance. I’ve mentioned in earlier posts that skin contact with the pole is necessary to perform some of the more difficult moves. Wearing less and less clothing to compensate for more and more complex moves has been, and still is, one of my biggest challenges. Most of us start beginning pole in our sweats and tee shirts, and if we stick with it, the process becomes a slow, and sometimes, reluctant strip tease. As we learn and improve, we move to leggings, then to shorts, then to racer back tops we can tuck into our sports bras when we need belly for grip. Then finally the day dawns when we graduate to pole shorts and tops, with not much more coverage than a bikini, and we just get on with it. And here’s me in all my vanity wanting to look good and fearing being judged for not looking twenty no matter how good I look.

 

Yes, it’s only my neuroses that have me feeling this way. I’ve never worked with a more encouraging, more non-judgmental group of women. The camaraderie has made the journey nearly as much fun as the challenge of the sport itself. The difficulty of learning pole and the strength it demands has been a great equalizer. We all know what it has costs in terms of bruises, pain, sweat and tears to get to where we are now. So that means as much of the battle to become skilled at pole is dealing with my own repeated crises of confidence as it is learning technique. The truth is, of the two battles, the one that goes on in my head is by far the more difficult. And when you’re the old lady in the group, you’ve had a helluva lot more time to fill your head with neuroses and irrational doubts and fears.

 

Owning my age is one of the wonderful things that has come from my pole training. I’ve made an amazing discovery. There is no downhill slide once you pass the age of fifty and find yourself looking sixty smack dab in the eyeballs. There is, however, a paradigm shift – or can be if we’re willing to open ourselves to the possibilities. I was fearless when I was younger, back before I had been battered about by the world a few times. But the older I get, the more I fear. That seems to be common when you’re our age. God how I hate that phrase! It’s like the excuse to end all excuses, the get out of jail free card, the “let you off the hook” disclaimer for everyone over forty – as if the rules no longer apply. As if it’s now time to coast our way on into the end zone with as little effort as possible.

 

The paradigm shift comes when we’re bold enough to say, fuck it, I’m just going for it! Whatever ‘it’ is. There’s another kind of fearlessness that happens as I approach sixty. I’ve battled my own version of ageism long enough to know that most of what I fear is never going to happen, and it’s going to be a long boring journey to the grave if I let those fears of being our agecontrol me.

 

The push, the challenge, becomes to live in the moment, to live urgently and boldly, to remind myself when doubt rears its ugly head that age is just a number. It is NOT who I am. I’ve been on this fitness journey long enough to realize that the bumps and bruises and aches and pains as well as the challenges met and the triumphs celebrated are an outward manifestation of the deeper journey going on inside me. The slow strip tease, the exposure of skin – bruised and abraded, and not as supple as it once was, goes so much deeper than muscle and bone. It becomes the laying bare, the exposing, of the inner wounds and bruises, the deep seated fears that I’ve kept hidden away. It is a viewing of myself more clearly, a loving of who I am and what I’m becoming more completely. It is perhaps learning to be more gentle with myself even as I push myself harder than I ever have before. Oh, it doesn’t mean that the battles are over, that I am still not filled with doubts, still not afraid of the challenges ahead of me, still don’t want to run away and hide underneath my duvet. But it means I’ve had some success at pushing through the fears, and success breeds more success — something worth reminding myself of every day.

 

The wonderful surprise of it all is that I’m stronger, fitter, more sure of myself now than I ever was in my twenties. And the even bigger surprise is that I keep getting more so. My skill improves with my strength and stamina, and with those my confidence and my view of the world as a place full of possibilities, until I can honestly say, and mean, life is better at fifty-nine than it ever was when I was twenty or thirty. The paradigm shift is a reminder that I get to choose. I get to embrace this journey and move forward in spite of my fears, because overcoming those fears, one step at a time, one challenge at a time is truly what it means to be fearless.

 
© 2018 K D Grace
The Romance Reviews

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