blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry, relationships

Used To Be Somebody

hand-field_Daniel Jensen
Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

I know you all are busy
life gets more complex every day
and you just don’t have time
for hardly anything
so don’t worry
you don’t need to check on me
I know you’re minding your business
and someone else will do it, right?

Someone else with more time
and more resources
and while everyone’s busy
leaving it up to someone else
I slip through the cracks of absent smiles
fade into the rear view mirror as life moves on

faster

faster

don’t worry, okay?
when I sink
I’ll hardly make a ripple
and leave nothing behind
and perhaps someone will say

Wasn’t she

Didn’t she?

Life moves on you’ll soon forget
those who fall behind
and are left out of mind
Here’s a new day
don’t worry
it really doesn’t matter because
I’m already gone

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, relationships, short story

Inktober 28 – Ride

woman facing ferris wheel while making heart hand sign
Photo by Garon Piceli on Pexels.com

listen:

Despite everything, Jo couldn’t help but feel excited. She’d come to the amusement park with four friends, hoping to forget about Ben. So far it was working, though she missed having Molly by her side to share inside jokes and angry rants about her ex. They giggled through the haunted house and ate way too many sugary treats. She even won a bright blue bear at the shooting range all by herself.

When they reached the front of the line for the Ferris wheel, Jo hung back at first. Then she swallowed hard, took a deep breath and got into the last car. She should be strong enough to conquer her fear.

The car rose and she was too fascinated watching the people below to remember she was alone. Her friends were laughing, paired off in the cars ahead. Jo laughed too, until she spotted them. Far below Ben and Molly walked hand in hand, then stopped to share a lingering kiss. Right out in the open, where anyone could see. Like they hadn’t a care in the world.

Jo stared down at the couple, her knuckles white around soft blue fur. Her heart slipped its moorings and fell to earth. From such a height, it was bound to shatter.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 22 – Ghost

washington-dc_David Mark
Image by David Mark via pixabay

listen:

I walked down a street that seemed much bigger in my memory. Where were the dangers our mothers warned us about? It was a perfectly ordinary row of houses. Small front gardens were tucked behind hedges in every stage of growth from tight restriction to careless abandon.

I stopped outside the wildest hedge of all, overgrown and formless. Branches glossy with recent rain reached damp fingers towards me. A faint scent of unseen roses blew past. The pale green front door was peeling and the windows were blank. Still, your voice drifted down to me.

“You’re early!”

“You’re late.” I tapped my watch in mock anger but my lips betrayed me. “As usual.”

“Sorry, wait for me.” You flashed that unforgettably brilliant smile, and vanished.

Alone again, I turned my collar up against light but persistent drizzle. Suddenly colder, I wished past and present would unite into the future you promised before we slipped through each other’s fingers, and were lost.

Wait for me.

That’s what you always said. And I did.

I came back, but all I found were ghosts whispering in the wind.


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 21 – Treasure

rose-treasure chest_Pezibear
Image by Pezibear via pixabay

listen:

“Are we in the right place?”

“Yes, definitely.”

“Am I getting close yet?”

“Go a little further north… and you’re nearly there.”

“How about…here?”

Her back arched. “Oh yes,” she sighed. “You found the spot.”


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 19 – Sling

island heart_Jonny Lindner
Image by Jonny Lindner via pixabay

Aimée hung her head and sighed. Where had it all gone wrong? She’d tried to be a cosmopolitan woman, and when that didn’t work she took refuge in sex on the beach next to a blue lagoon. That was possibly unwise and in any case ultimately unfulfilling. Manhattan was hardly any better.

Damn all men, and damn one man in particular with his easy smile and warm, gentle hands. She couldn’t forget and she refused to cry.

Though a couple of painkillers helped a little, there was one more thing she could try that might cradle her broken body and ease her suffering. She raised a shaky hand.

“Bartender!” Aimée spoke slowly, carefully. “One Singapore Sling, please.”


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audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, short story

Inktober 18 – Misfit

cocktails_bridgesward
Image by bridgesward via pixabay

listen:

Lovely afternoon, perfect for a garden party don’t you think?

 She nods and smiles, sips her Pimm’s. Strawberry and orange slices are fine, but cucumber doesn’t belong in a cocktail.

Jeremy made partner and our eldest goes up to Oxford this year. Time flies, doesn’t it?

 She wears a new summer dress of fluttering silk with wedge heels. Stilettos and lawns don’t mix, and she won’t make that mistake again. Everything is going well. She talks, smiles, laughs when appropriate, passing among well groomed and apparently happy people.

Range Rover Caribbean mergers options

Her smile is a rictus grin, concealing scars left by her climb from the grim pits of hell to the favoured, sunny uplands of success. No pain, no gain so they say, but you must hide your wounds under layered politeness so no-one knows.

Tax haven stockbroker horses Dior

 A headache forms, throbbing at her temples. They might be in the same place now, but they’re not the same. All these years she thought this was the pinnacle but now, up close and personal, she’s not sure she can fake it any more.

It’s cold at the top and the air is too thin. Her breathing is rapid, shallow.

And she hates Pimm’s.


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audio, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry, relationships

Carry you

a dark tree-lined road with shafts of sunlight
image by seth0s via pixabay

listen here:

I thought I could carry you with me.

We walked hard roads together
leaning on each other in bad times
laughing side by side in good times
we didn’t know our lines would run parallel
only for so long.
A tiny shift
a tiny space
the lines diverging
and I try
try to hold on
because
after all
we are seen and we are known
we are something to each other
not easily found, I thought.
But since I set my compass to wider horizons
you dig at me with your discomfort
scratch me with your disapproval.
And I try
try to hold on
because
after all
I will miss you too
your sarcasm and tears
your perspective and your fears
the way we huddled together for warmth
long into dark nights.
But with every angry jibe
the chasm grew, so
I placed you tenderly behind a shield of glass
raised for my own protection
seen, not felt
cry if you must
and don’t forget
I love you even as
you shrink in my rear view mirror.
I should be looking forward
and I try
try to hold on
but
after all
time is the great separator.
Almost beyond touching distance
yet it still hurts.
I wish you well
but

I wish I could carry you with me.

blog, creative writing, Pat Aitcheson writes, relationships, short story

Better Half

selective focus photograph of half eaten doughnut with sprinkles
Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

Ethan looked around furtively, making sure he was alone. There was no sign of Dalia but his girlfriend could sneak up on him like some kind of ninja when she wanted, and he was in no mood for another fight.

“I’ll wash up,” he called out.
Her muffled reply came from the bedroom. “Thanks babe.”

There was really nowhere to hide in their rented flat. They’d agreed it was fine for a start, even though it was more like one and a half bedrooms than two. But three years later their future was still on hold until they could save enough for a deposit on a place of their own. How did people manage without a big salary or generous parents?

He never got used to the disappointment but he couldn’t give up hope either. With a sigh he tore the scratch card into tiny pieces and dropped them into the bin, before scraping the leftovers from his plate on top. Maybe next time.

 

Monday came much too soon. Even worse, he had another packed lunch instead of something tasty from the sandwich truck like everyone else. Bills were increasing and his next review was months away. There was no chance of Dalia getting a pay rise either. None of this made his sad ham sandwich and own brand crisps look any more appetising. He sighed.

“Lunch al desko again?”
Ethan looked up at the familiar face of his colleague. “Yeah. Sacrifices must be made for the greater good and all that.”
“I get it.” Anna looked around, then stood closer. “I’m popping out. D’you want your usual?”
“Don’t know, things are tight.” Ethan couldn’t look Anna in the eye, couldn’t explain he wanted – no, needed this and there seemed no other way to do it. “Only have five.”
Anna murmured, “No worries, I’m short this month as well. Wanna split?”
Ethan risked a glance and found Anna was smiling. She knew where he was coming from. He extended his hand and they shook solemnly.
“Fifty fifty. It’s a deal.”

At two o’clock Anna rushed up to his desk, pulling on her coat.

“I gotta go, Jason just threw up all over the childminder.” She grimaced and dropped the card on his keyboard. “Not what I need. Hope you have better luck.”
“Thanks, hope he’s okay,” he called after her. He slipped the card into his wallet and got back to work. There was no way he’d risk his manager catching him slacking. He needed that promotion.

That evening Ethan slumped on the sofa after sliding a frozen shepherd’s pie into the oven. He rolled his tense shoulders but it didn’t help. Exercise would help, but his gym membership was long gone and he loathed running, no matter how evangelical his friends were about it. He sat up then, remembering the scratch card. He’d be over the inevitable disappointment before Dalia got home. The timing was perfect.

He was still sitting when he heard her key in the door.

“Hey. You’re a bit late, everything okay?”
Dalia shrugged. “Road works, bus was late, blah blah I’m over it.” She dropped her bag on the table like always and kicked off her shoes. “Is that dinner I smell?”
“Might be a bit overdone, but anyway.”
“As long as it’s edible, I don’t mind.”

Ethan brought the plates over, but could only play with his food while Dalia cleared her plate. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Drinking on a Monday, was it that bad?” She raised one eyebrow, and Ethan tried to smile back.
“No, no, things were pretty routine, mostly. I’ll open a bottle of wine—”
“What’s got into you tonight? Something happen at work?” Dalia sat up straight, brow creased in worry.

Ethan fumbled with the corkscrew as his stomach lurched. He needed to calm down.

“Ethan, stop. I don’t want wine, talk to me.”
He put down the corkscrew and bottle and came out of the kitchen to resume his seat opposite. “Sorry.”
“Ethan?” Dalia’s eyes were wide. “Tell me.”
“I know you don’t approve, but hear me out. I wanted – it’s impossible isn’t it, trying to save up—”
“What’s happened?”
“Please, just listen. We’re doing everything we can, yeah, packed lunches and buses and me cycling to work in the summer so I only play once a week, and then today this happened.” He pulled the scratch card out of his pocket and pushed it across the table with a shaky hand.

“Scratch cards? Bloody scratch cards?” She flushed and raised her voice. “You know how I feel about gambling and what it did to my family. How could you?”
“Dalia please look at it.”
She snatched it up and glanced at it. Then her mouth fell open. “Is this some kind of joke?”
Ethan came to stand behind her. He pointed at the numbers. “It’s real.”
“Four M? What’s that mean?”
He whispered in her ear. “It means we won the jackpot. Me and Anna, we share four million pounds.”
“Who’s Anna?”

Ethan wanted to scream his good news but he managed to control his voice. “I work with her, she bought the ticket. It’s a ten pound game for the big prize so we went halves.” He smiled down at Dalia but she didn’t respond. Probably in shock – he’d felt the same when he scratched off the last panel, then stared in disbelief for forty minutes.
“Say something sweetheart. We won!”
“I – it’s unbelievable. Are you – I don’t want – are you sure, Ethan. Don’t get my hopes up—”
“I’m sure, as sure as I’ve ever been. This is it, everything we ever wanted, we can have. A house, a car, anything.”

Dalia squealed and when she stood up Ethan scooped her into his arms, laughing and kissing away her tears. “We won!”

He was elated, caught up by possibility and dreams of their future as they punched the air and danced round the living room before collapsing on the sofa.

“So am I forgiven for the scratch card?” Laughter bubbled from his chest. He felt light as air and crazy but in a good way.
“Does she know?”
“No, I wanted to tell you first of course.”
“Okay. And are you in a proper syndicate?” Dalia’s tone shifted to something more serious.
“Nothing formal, we agreed to split it. Why?”
“Well it’s your card isn’t it? So you’re the winner. You don’t have to say how much you won.”
“But I agreed. She paid half, so we split it equally.” He spoke slowly, his joy leaking away under Dalia’s stare.

“No legal agreement. She’ll never know.”
Ethan shook his head. “We agreed.”
Dalia scoffed. “Agreed? This is our future we’re talking about. Who is she to you anyway?”

Ethan stood and started to pace. He had to make Dalia understand and he couldn’t see the problem. “She’s a colleague, that’s all. Since I’m eating packed lunches I don’t get to the shops, so she buys my tickets.”
“How long?” Dalia snapped, her eyes cold.
“How long what?” Things were spinning out of control and he couldn’t keep up.
“How long have you been lying to me, buying tickets you know I don’t approve of with money we don’t have with some woman—”
“Can you hear yourself? Isn’t two million enough?”
“Not when you’re giving the other two to another woman. It’s the principle.”

Ethan backed away from Dalia where she sat rigid on the sofa.
“Principle. Right.” He picked up the winning card and placed it in his pocket. “No legal agreement, you say. Well we’ve got no legal agreement, have we? Three years watching every penny, eating cheap food, drinking cheap beer, all because I believed in a better future with you.”

Fear bloomed on Dalia’s face. “Ethan, I—”

“You know what, I’m glad we had this chat. I’m glad I figured you out.” Anger burned steady in his chest and he watched Dalia’s growing agitation with detachment. This person was a stranger.

“Just give her like half a million, anybody would be happy with that. Ethan, please.” She started towards him but he held up his hand. He looked past her tears and shocked expression, and he didn’t like what lay beneath.

“Anybody but you. I wonder what would be enough for you. I gave her my word and it’s the right thing to do for God’s sake. It’ll change her life too and she deserves that.” He slipped on his jacket and shoes.

“She shared her little win with me you know. That time I said I got a bonus from work, well it was a scratch win and I put it all in our savings account, like we agreed. Because I’m honest all the time, not just when it suits me.”

“Ethan don’t go, please I’m sorry I didn’t mean it.” Tears streamed down her face and she reached towards him but he moved past her. “Okay we’ll split it,” she wailed.

He paused at the door with his keys in hand.

“I used to think you were my better half. Show people some zeroes and you find out what they’re really made of.”

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, relationships, self improvement

Escape From Outrage – How To Be Less Easily Offended

angry masked girl_Patrick Fore
Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Being offended doesn’t, by itself, make me right.
Garon Whited

Are you easily offended?

Do any of the following sound familiar?

  • How can X group hold Y opinion that’s *obviously* wrong?
  • How dare he look at me like that?
  • She hasn’t said anything but I’m already upset because people like her all hate people like me.

We live in a world where people take offence at just about anything, whether important or trivial.

Whole industries are built around us paying attention to events and people that have no direct bearing on our lives.

We’ve been convinced not only that all our opinions matter a great deal, but also that we must express them —  loudly and with increasing venom.

Everyone’s shouting, but few are listening.

This means that everyone is capable of both giving and taking offence.

Giving it is framed as exercising free speech without being responsible for its effects.

Taking it means being accused of being oversensitive, unable to take a joke, a snowflake. And then there’s another chance to become offended or hurt. It’s like an endless game of tennis with pain as the score.

There are ways to navigate this minefield and survive.

Different And Equal

In essence, you are neither inferior nor superior to anyone. True self-esteem and true humility arise out of that realization. In the eyes of the ego, self-esteem and humility are contradictory. In truth, they are one and the same.
Eckhart Tolle

Freedom of speech is a defining feature of democracies. This right belongs to everyone, especially those who disagree with you.

Your first thoughts on a matter reflect deeply held beliefs and prejudices which often go back to your family of origin. They’re tied to triggers and first impressions, allowing the brain to make snap judgements. These can be reinforced by schooling and media and are an automatic response that is barely examined.

Your second thoughts might agree with first thoughts, or they might differ. These are the beliefs you have formed after considering your first thoughts in the light of experience and new information. They need time and repetition to become automatic and overwrite first thoughts.

You’re free to speak, but you should wait before exercising that right.

By holding your tongue, you gain the chance to make a more considered response, one that shows a more mature personality. Suspend judgement and think, then respond.

You’re also free not to speak. It’s always an option to be silent in some circumstances.

The right to speak does not mean that others must listen. You can respectfully agree to disagree and move on. Also, use mute and block on social media to exclude some voices that routinely disturb you.

You can argue this leads to smaller echo chambers without dissenting voices, but social media lacks the nuance for reasoned debate, especially in these highly politicised times. Reduce contact with people who cause friction in your life.

More Than Stars

Exaggerated sensitiveness is an expression of the feeling of inferiority.
Alfred Adler

In a world of starred reviews and comparison websites, we all want to be at least four out of five. In extremes, hearing the equivalent of one star can bring us to tears and/or aggression depending on whether the anger is directed internally or externally.

If you can’t take any criticism, take a step back. Since none of us is perfect and we know it, anyone who touches on an insecurity is immediately judged hostile. But there may be information you can use if you examine what’s being said to find a core of truth, separate from the emotional hit.

Discount personal vitriol and look at your behaviour.

Could you change how you do something?

Do you need to change, but have been resisting it?

Are you angry about being caught out?

Own your feedback, do the work, and nobody will be able to goad you in that way again.

Their Opinion Is Not Your Mirror

People get addicted to feeling offended all the time because it gives them a high; being self-righteous and morally superior feels good.
Mark Manson

You are not someone’s opinion — including yours. You’re much more than that. Most times, expressed opinion reflects its holder and not its target. We see the world as we are.

So, sidestep the opinion. Ignore it. Refuse to engage in a fight to see who can offend and be offended more. Most of us have enough baggage of our own without taking on other people’s insecurities as well.

a baby with downturned lips sitting on a plaid blanket on grass
Photo by Ryan Franco on Unsplash

The Centre of the Universe

One who enjoys finding errors will then start creating errors to find.
Criss Jami, Killosophy

You probably know someone who has a criticism for everything and is happy to share it. They may dress it up as advice or concern. Either way, they’re right and everyone else needs to be told which ways they’re wrong.

If you find yourself getting angry about a celebrity’s choices or something on TV on a regular basis, you’re spreading your circle of influence too wide. You aren’t the centre of any universe except your own, and that’s the only place you can make actual changes.

That woman’s plastic surgery or that man’s choice of partner do not require your input, and you can divert the emotional energy into your own life. Let entertainment be just that, and sidestep the negative vibe of constant gossip.

Often, you use misplaced moral outrage to avoid working on your own issues. Social media is full of virtue signalling where people are conspicuously and publicly offended to score social points but achieve nothing. Be careful where you place your attention.

Embrace Imperfection — Even Yours

Remember you don’t own people, let them decide, choose and live. There is no inferiority and superiority; it is just your crazy imagination.
M.F. Moonzajer

When we recognise our own flaws in others, we reject them — and usually the person too. The inability to forgive ourselves first is the root of much sensitivity. We hand out punishment for the flaw in any way available, whether verbal attacks or online hate.

Ask yourself why this person has made their statement or action. Consider reasons that don’t involve you directly. It’s often not about you, even if it’s directed at you.

Then consider if they’re acting on their first thoughts. Give them the benefit of the doubt at first, because we all need to learn to wait for our second thoughts, the ones that more fully align with our principles and experience. Be civil because that’s the kind of person you are.

Ask yourself if you’re guilty of the fault you find in others. It may offend you because it’s close to home, whether it’s a self-indulgence you deny yourself or a desire you’ve been taught to suppress.

If they are deliberately offensive, ignore the chance to correct themselves, or escalate, then it’s time to walk away. They have more growing to do, but it’s not your job to teach them.

For example, in common with most female physicians I’ve been addressed as Nurse too many times to count. Nothing wrong with nurse, it’s just not my title. A polite correction is usually enough. But if a patient keeps using that title in a mocking tone, alluding to “real” doctors and positive discrimination repeatedly, they show that they’re hoping to offend. And make no mistake, I am irritated.

But I don’t explain myself, apologise for not being what they expect, or otherwise engage except to get the job done. Their projection of issues with perceived inferiority or authority aren’t my concern. As George Bernard Shaw said, “Never wrestle with a pig because you get dirty — and the pig likes it.”

If you accept your imperfection and that of others, paradoxically you are less fragile. Nobody can use your flaws to crack you open and goad you into helping them do it.

Let It Go

When you’re attached to something, whether through love or hate, you give it an importance it doesn’t have.
Marty Rubin

Some people hold tight to their negative emotions. They cradle them and feed them with their attention until they are defined by them. They become known for their thin skin or loud outrage on certain subjects. They have missed the truth.

Emotions are something you have, not something you are.

Other people’s emotions are not your responsibility, but you should follow the golden rule: do as you would be done by. This alone will help because it’s impossible to never offend anyone.

Strengthened by self-acceptance, tempered by empathy, and equipped with rational thinking, you can step back from constantly feeling offended or overly sensitive. You can observe those feelings and let them go. And you can make real choices about your future behaviour without either denying your feelings or allowing them to dictate unthinking behaviour.

So next time you find yourself getting worked up by something, ask yourself is this about me?

If it’s not about you, let it go. You don’t have to have an opinion on everything, nor do you have to attend every fight you’re invited to.

If it is about you, do something. Work on your blind spots and weaknesses, or work to make needed change in the world around you.

Use your anger positively and you’ll find life much calmer overall, and that has to be a good thing.

audio, blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, poetry, relationships

A Bitter Taste

pasta-heart_moni08
moni08 via pixabay

listen to this poem here:

I made her favourite dinner.

Onions simmered to vanishing
tiny-chunked tomatoes
meatballs just the right size
absolutely no mushrooms of any kind
no wholegrain healthy pasta
everything the way she likes it.

Then I watched her poke at the sauce and say
too salty
not what she wanted
not hungry anyway.

And I thought
one day
you will make something for someone.

It will not showcase the breadth of your skill.
It will not win any awards.
In days or hours it will likely be forgotten, but
you’ll put heart into every tiny part, regardless.

And when they push it away you’ll tell yourself
it does not matter
not that important
it’s okay.

Some lessons can’t be taught.

Some flavours must be tasted
swallowed, haltingly
bitterness in each regretful bite.

I love her, so I let her walk
from plate untouched and love unspoken
and I spared her the knowledge
that one day

it will be her turn.


(first published by PS I Love You on Medium 1 Sept 2019)