I’m sat in my own bed drinking tea, it’s a luxury.
We finished our walk yesterday, 110 Miles (more than we thought).For the last two days we walked with Tom Roden, choreographer and Director; talking through artistic ideas, the landscape, sore knees and blisters.
I don’t know how I feel now we have finished.
Mixed, it was intense at times.
It’s easier to reflect in bullet points!
-Wear good socks, they protect your feet
-Check your kit before you go, it might have holes in it
-People will be kind and help you, particularly if you ask
-You can walk further / carry more / than you imagine, it hurts but you can do it
-Sometimes it’s ok to let people help you, we don’t need to be strong all the time
-Walk with good friends,
-Silent walking is golden
- Abuse and violence is everywhere and people are hungry to talk about it
When we arrived in Lyme Regis we had a celebratory drink; the young barman asked us what we were doing. We told him. As we sat outside in the sun with our drinks he came out and thanked us. Of course, the themes resonated for him and he was moved to come and tell us. As we made our way to the car to drive home I felt tearful and overwhelmed with the scale of abuse and violence that sits so firmly in our society.Whether we are allies / survivors or indeed both - it is time.
I’m restless for change.
Wow wow wow
What an uplifting day we had yesterday on our participation day. Despite the rain a small and perfectly formed band of brave warrior souls rocked up to walk with us in the morning, with more joining at lunchtime and yet more walking from or waiting at West Bay to meet us.
We walked together (obvs), talked and took space to think and feel.
The sea was fierce and the cliffs were high and dramatic. On Freshwater beach we made the word RESTLESS from found objects - rocks, driftwood and seaweed. On the beach at West Bay we lit a fire, formed a circle and made the simple empowering statement that each of us was there to say no to abuse and violence. One participant sang to us. Her song, about the sea, traced a metaphor for deep emotions and returning to feeling after the numbness of shock and trauma. Another read to us from Marianne Williamson “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”
We made a dance together, each person contributing a movement inspired by their day - simple and beautiful gestures of crashing waves, soaring birds, reaching hands and open hearts.
Coming together as survivors and allies feels like a daunting prospect - isolation, secrecy and shame are hard wired into us - but the actual act of gathering, sharing and bearing witness was warm and affirming. I take my hat off - a very stupid cat hat with ears -to each one of us, to all living with this story and each transgressive step out of silence.
Yesterday was great and sobering.
I know I’ve already said this but it feels overwhelming, this is everywhere, every pub, every campsite, the scale of it, always sobering, over breakfast at the B and B we talked about our project with a couple who were staying, guess what?
The themes of abuse and violence strongly resonated with them.
Again and again and again, it seems that every time Viv speaks up; even when we’re both tired and I secretly think “ shall we just drink tea and not say anything this morning?”
It lands, and over and over we hear about the affect of abuse on lives.
We walked with a fantastic group of people yesterday, past an old row of cottages that I used to go on holiday to as a child, over big drop cliffs, a rainy lunch spot and finally West Bay.
We made a fire and all spoke out the same words
My name is Sarah
My voice is powerful
I say no to abuse and violence.
It was hard not to cry hearing others say it and harder to say than I thought it might be.
It’s our last day today,
My blisters are sore and it looks like rain; every step is saying no to abuse and violence.
Yesterday we walked along the Fleet Lagoon - the body of water created and protected by Chesil Beach, that runs about 9 miles along the coast from Portland. It’s a beautiful and important nature reserve which yesterday in the drizzle felt stagnant and bleak, emitted a strong and unpleasant smell of sulphur and failed to inspire me.
On land we walked past a large MOD compound - also protected by high fences and razor wire. The previous day on Portland we had passed the prison similarly enclosed.
I have discovered this is not my favourite stretch of the coast path. It made me think about the urge to defend and protect ourselves and how this can shut us off from and mar the beautiful. And also how (in the case of Fleet Lagoon) the natural protection of a long gone geological event has created a sanctuary where delicate, unique things thrive. I guess protection is double edged.
As we approached Abbotsbury - the landscape rose up away from the sea and changed to sculptural, undulating shapes as the sun came out and uplifted us both.
Of course it’s all personal and my responses just affirm to me that now is not the time for me to shut off or protect myself but to be out there getting amongst it all exposed and vulnerable.
Joy of joys we stayed in a B and B last night so I am sitting in bed with a cup of tea writing this. Absolute bliss. It is pissing it down outside and is going to be all day, we are both dreading it. We spent some time last night bursting our blisters with an opinel knife, intimate.
My feet really really hurt yesterday. We only walked a small distance but I found it hard.My left foot has four blisters on it, three on my toes and one on the ball of my foot near my toes. I’m sure not coincidentally it’s on the foot that I broke earlier on in the year. When you already have a weakness it’s easier for other injuries to begin, one can lead to another. My non - broken ankle foot is blister free.
People on campsites have been so kind. I know I wrote it yesterday but it still felt good. Finding allies when things are hard I guess.
We had lovely food at a pub in Abbotsbury last night and as always Viv is amazing about talking about our project. It’s not always easy to say “we’re walking as a creative protest against childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence” We have got better at saying it, Viv often says “I’m a survivor”. It puts so much context around the work and brings it right into the forefront.
Every day we have met someone who resonates with this story, or it is their story. Once Viv is brave enough to say “I’m a survivor” so do other people; it’s heartbreaking to consider the scale and uplifting to think that every blister filled wet step is about speaking out /walking out / holding heads high and being visible/brave/powerful and together.
For all those kind people who have made us tea, stored our bags, charged our phones it really helps.
I’m hoping for some hot tea along the way today, it looks grey and stormy but I know we can do it.
Yesterday got better - surprisingly better considering very little sleep, blistered feet and emotional overload.
We walked with hip hop artists Beth Griffin and Dave Leong and Comms lead Becky Millington from the South West Coast Path Association around Portland. Like when Quinta joined us earlier in the week it is exciting and interesting to engage with fresh energy and new creative perspectives.
I’m always struck by the courage people bring to engage with this content which is not easy and touches so many lives in so many different ways. I’m also stimulated by their responses and creative ideas in formation.
We took time (after a much needed lunch break from the rain involving lasagne) to walk in silence together being with nature and the elements and our own thoughts and responses.
There is such solace in the steady action of walking, the constant sound of the sea, the feeling of sun, wind and rain on my body.
For me - living with a dissociative mental health condition as a result of the abuse I survived - it is great effort to feel solidly embodied. When the body has been the site of abuse it is logical to not want to inhabit it - but ultimately there is nowhere else we can live except in our bodies?
After a long night and waking with grey skies looming the day felt like it could be a struggle.
But things improved.
I have been struck by campsite communities/ the lack of walls and maybe just being outside brings people together. A kind family are looking after our bags at night ( the tent is so small they can’t fit in with us). Yesterday morning with no way to make tea ( I bought the wrong make gas canisters) They offered to make us tea. I was so grateful I cried a bit.
When you have very little ( or almost nothing) a cup of tea is amazing.
Then as if by magic Beth and Dave our brilliant vocalists ( rap/spoken word/ vocals) turned up at the campsite- early! Having left Gloucestershire at 6 pm to join us.
We were a bit nervous about having to walk with others, we were both feeling exhausted after not much sleep. How wrong we were, it was brilliant to have young infectious energy around. Positive , supportive and new. Becky from the South West Coast Path Association joined us too, again more amazing, positive supportive energy.
We all walked 15 miles up and around Portland bill. I didn’t love it all. A lot of tarmac and cars as well as some beautiful coast line. We didn’t have our packs to carry which was liberating but weirdly my left foot really blistered up.
Scampi and chips
A mojiito at the end
Blisters and plasters
And a sense of warmth as Beth /Dave /Becky drove off at the end of the day.
To walk with others felt really special.
To share our thoughts
Share a path
Share a view and hear another voice
If you’d like to walk with us on Sunday please do
Whether you’re a survivor or an ally, or sit as many of us do between the two we would love to walk with you. We would love to feel your support and also share the beauty of what we are doing. The sea, the rocks, the beaches, the wind and the rain.
Yesterday swimming in a ceaseless and delicious sea at Osmington I thought more about the central metaphor running through Restless - the sea as activism and the power of continuous collective action. The waves keep coming each one surging forward quietly or fiercely but definitely and reliably. Then drawing back into the swell until the time is right and powered by its relentless drive it pushes forward again. Meanwhile other waves do their thing.
This week I am a wave throwing myself forward - this is scary and urgent, joyful and hard. Because I do this work sometimes people ask me how I have recovered enough to be able to speak out. Make no mistake I live with the impact of my abuse everyday - I do activism to meet my rage and devastation - to harness it - own it and call for change. I have in place an enormous amount of support to enable me to do this.
Last night - 3.30am - exhausted and unable to sleep - squashed in our tiny tent - buffeted by the wind coming off the sea - feeling too much - anxious not to disturb Sarah (which I did repeatedly) and other campers (I think I didn’t) - I had a full on panic attack. Sitting sobbing under the stars and feeling so alone despite being here with one of my best friends in the world and a wide circle of loving friends and family who have my back - I felt how dismal it is to be a survivor.
Today I need to draw back after 3 days of surging forward - we have Beth and Dave hip hop artists and Becky from the SW coast path joining us - we will walk in the rain - and I will need to be gentle with myself.
Anyone who is surging forward today in whatever way know that I am with you and would love to hear about it - you can tweet on @VivGordonMFD or email me on email@example.com
I’m writing this the morning after as it was to much to do it yesterday.
In fairness yesterday was easier.
Day two was crazy, I think I’m fit and strong but I wasn’t sure I would make it.
I have loads of reflections that I think are easier in bullet points, I’m wary of sounding like an arty farty, badly written, attempting too many metaphors type
I woke last night to find Viv crying, she was distressed and needed to get out of the tent. It was hard for me to watch and feel helpless. I also feel angry. Fuck you you fuckers. How dare you have done this to my beautiful friend.
This walk isn’t easy; physically or emotionally; it’s beautiful and we are here for each other but it’s challenging and thinking about / living with abuse is never far from our minds
Today we walked 20 miles carrying full camping kit in a landscape the coast path info describes as a rollercoaster. They’re not joking. Some of the hills were so steep Sarah was crawling on her hands and feet and I was taking micro-rests every 10-15 steps
My reflections on resilience include:
A. When something is overwhelming it serves me well to only think about the next step
B. Trying to work out how to do anything but A is impossible
C. Feeling overwhelmed and worrying about what’s coming next takes up more energy than is available
D. Pushing through hurts - my feet ache like never before.
E. Listening to myself and taking rests whenever I need to - even if I need to embarrassingly often - helps
F. When you get to where you want to be it’s satisfying
G. I like the feeling of pushing myself beyond what I think I can do and finding out I’ve got more in the tank than I thought
H. Friends are good
I am too tired to write more or post this until the morning
Words fail me
welcome to my blog
I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist and survivor of childood sexual abuse, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.