Sunday, 27 July 2014

Doing the work.

I have been back in the UK a week now.  It felt strange coming back to the relative quiet of the mysterious fens here in Burwell.  We have a tiny barn conversion (courtesy of my in laws) in around 22 acres, my husbands parents live a stone throw from us.  I wasn't quite sure how I was going to handle my father in laws constant visiting several times a day.  It started off well but has become a bit of an issue.  I am practising patience and boundary lines in my head.  It's difficult.  Any kind of introspection - god forbid mental illness should ever be mentioned) is seen as weakness in this family.  Work work and more work is the cure for everything could be their mantra.  If only that were true.  That very sentiment plays a huge part in how I have come to end up in this pile of angst.  I am taking time to rest. To heal. To restore.  Getting out on a market, opening a shop, doing trade fairs are not part of this remit.  How to get that across to people who have only ever known 'work till you drop and then some more' is more of a herculean task than I care to take on.  Approval, with its hungry head lurks ever near.  It's time to look it squarely in the eye and say 'no more'.  For some people more is never enough.  It's time for me to let go of that childhood need.  The only person right now I need validation from is myself.  It's scary but I am sitting with it.

A lovely friend phoned me several times.  I didn't pick up for a while.  She nagged me to get to see the doctor about my still swollen feet, legs and bump on the shin.  I gave in and went, which wasn't so bad.  The doctor was quite lovely, despite my evident fear of actually being in her surgery.  I'm sure this abject fear of hospitals and doctors has been reinforced from when they told me my father had three months to live.  He didn't want to know, and I held that tragic information for several weeks until I could hold it no more.  I was as I had been for many years, the parent of my family.  I was 32 years old, feeling like a hundred and really only a scared kid myself.  The real underlying fear, I am sure is fear of death, buried deep since childhood.  I wonder if one of my abusers used to threaten me with this.  As with most of my memories about my childhood abuse, I don't remember actual conversations.  Only the pivotal ones, where my conscious thought began to realise this was wrong. Not normal.  I could never find the word no.  But I digress.  I met my friend for lunch after seeing the doctor.  I have to have some routine blood tests for kidney function, (being on water tablets necessitates this) and a general all round MOT of bloods.  I put it to the back of my mind and enjoy catching up with this dear friend.

After my monthly session with Shelley via skype, I began thinking about the stuff we talked about.  She helped me to see it was no accident that the good looking Greek doctor told me to rest for 'a year', just as it was no accident that I had previously declared a 'year off to restore' (obviously I hadn't been doing much restoration!) It also seemed quite strange that I hadn't got any firm bookings for my normally quite busy 1:1 retreats in Kefalonia for the latter part of the summer.  This was the first year in several years that I wasn't booked up.  I couldn't understand it, despite several large ads being placed which I don't normally do.  I was beginning to understand.   Shelley with her wonderful insights and well placed observations was helping me to understand my own psyche and where it was trying to take me.  I knew it was time to stop and begin the thaw.  I also knew from previous trainings I had taken and counselling I had received that Shelley was more than special.  She 'got' me.  Not many others had.  I had never really connected or felt safe enough to show my vulnerability, on a couple of occasions when, in desperation I had opened up - they just weren't experienced enough to hold the space for me or to take me on the next part of my healing.  Some felt threatened by my depth of self enquiry I had already learned from or by the insight I already had.  Shelley felt different.  She didn't try to box me in, label me or coerce me in to doing or being anything.  She patiently waits until I 'get it' which sometimes is a while and she has this most amazing knack of just as I think I know something, she'll turn it on its head and I realise I actually don't know anything much about myself as I previously thought.  She highlights where I am living in shame, fear or overwhelm.  She is helping me to feel. Her work to me and with me is invaluable.  I am both nervous and excited to be finally taking pen to paper and doing the work.  She's also helping me to piece some of the information that threatens to explode from my ever busy mind, into a kind of sense of order.  Helping me work out where my thoughts have come from.  She's also helping me to get out of my head and into my body, to let emotion float up, to thaw, to process and to understand.  Stagnant energy that's what I have stored for such a long time.  Art and writing I know will help me to shift and move this.  Then I hope I will have so much more to share with the guests that come to me for healing.  In my own healing I hope I will be better equipped to help them.

I also made a decision this week.  I have revisited the work of Dr Lucia Capaccione.  She is also an expressive arts therapist and I did, a few years ago decide to do a year long training with her.  It didn't happen for a variety of reasons at the time.  The birth of my wonderful grandson Spiro, our return to summer living in Greece, and probably because I was just not ready to open up and being the journey I am now beginning.  I am working in conjunction with Shelley Klammer and the work of Dr Lucia Capaccione to explore and understand more of how my thinking and choices have led me to now.  Art and more importantly my version of art will be my guide and companion.  It's art from my soul, my psyche, my core self, my authentic self.  It doesn't require analysing nor approval.  It's for me to fathom out, use and restore.

It feels right to be doing this work.  Despite the voices that threaten to halt me, the sneering ones, the bullying ones, the ridiculing ones that take delight in my distress.  I am doing a little each day, safe in the knowledge that this is leading me to a better place. A place of nurturing, love and kindness.  I still have many of life's challenging hurdles to clamber over, but with the never ending quiet - and I do mean quiet - support from my husband, my real friends and my family, I know I can get there.  I am also stronger than I quite believe at the moment.  This I know.

This week thus far has been an emotional one.  A tearful one. An uncertain one.  Yet in my quiet solitude, my slow minded state, I have found the first inklings of what an emotional thaw feels like.  Soft tears have fallen.  I have moved my body with gentle stretching and back exercises.  Taken a small walk, gathered natures gifts, eaten well and felt quite out of my comfort zone that bulldozes through feelings with more plastic plaster coverings, sneakily disguised as good ideas, money making, egotistical salves to soothe fears.  I realise this is what I do to 'make' myself feel better.  I realise they have been shiny bright bling trinkets which don't hold their shine for very long.  A surface level soother to prevent the authentic real feelings from showing up.  For the first time in a long time I am urging myself to just be.  To look within and outside for my salvation.  To deal with confrontation in a caring kind adult manner where it is safe to be heard, and not resort back to the child who doesn't know quite how to address the adults overbearing bullying.  It's not feeling easy.  That little child who has got me to hear still wants the power.  The problem is she is isn't equipped to handle the consequences.  It's OK for me to gently tell her to move over, my real self will protect her and take the reins for a while.  Bugger this is hard work but it seems to be what I need right now.  Now if I could just explain this whole thing to my father in law who is hoovering yet again to invade my sacred space, without him declaring me 'potty'.  Now that would be a breakthrough for both of us!  Celebrating the first Sunday I have not trekked out to car boots for shiny things which I really don't need.  Grateful for sunshine, space, green grass, yoga mat, yogurt, fruit, seeds and this blog.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Diary of An Unfinished Woman: Such a long while!

Diary of An Unfinished Woman: Such a long while!: It's been such a long while since I last blogged, over a year in which much and little has happened!  At the start of this year, I for...

Such a long while!

It's been such a long while since I last blogged, over a year in which much and little has happened!  At the start of this year, I formally announced to myself and my little tribe that 2014 would be my year of restoration.  After a busy busy stressful and overwhelming several years, I decided to stop focusing on business, take a break from earning money and just take time out with the support of my lovely Mr Gorgeous, to rest, heal, write and restore.  I then promptly set about filling every waking moment with busyness, courses, website building, stuff to do and more.....Out in Greece where I was attempting to host my original 1:1 retreats, I created with help from angel workaway Kim, a magical garden which started as a weed and mud filled space.  We planted and grew amazing veg, enjoyed an abundance of lemons from the trees, flowers bloomed everywhere and it was just gorgeous.  I was here in paradise on this wild Greek Island called Kefalonia, according to many, so why did I feel so very much out of sorts.  Depleted.  Fed up. Exhausted. Tearful and sad?

The courses, the homework, the garden, the house move, they all took their toll on me.  I was not feeling 100% anyway due to a nasty collision with a hard metal post in the Enchanted Garden of the Six Potatoes, compounded by a horrible slip on a wet tile and another bang on the already swollen and painful chin a week later, did nothing for my already fat ankles and sore leg.  As the temperature started to soar, I became more and more lethargic, tired and depressed.  Taking care of my most precious grandchildren was becoming a struggle as I wrestled with the heat, I missed Mr G and hadn't picked up a paint brush or pen for weeks.  The beach at the end of my road went un-walked and driftwood was left to drift as I had no enthusiasm for anything.   My poems went unwritten, my life held many regrets and I didn't want to really speak to anyone for any period of time and I felt desperately lonely on this Island I had come to think of as my second home.

A friend of a dear friend came to lunch in the garden a few weeks ago, she happened to be a nurse.  After spotting my lumpy chin and swollen ankles, she urged me to go and see a doctor, she was worried it might be a DVT.  I then became worried it might be that, so after much wrestling with my reluctance to visit the GP, I finally went.  Pushing past my absolute fear of doctors and hospitals I had to have a triplex scan and possible heart test depending on the results.  My wonderful daughter, worried about her mum, came with me.  I was terrified.  The results of the scan were good.  No heart tests were needed.  The doctor issued me a stern admonishment.  Legs were to be elevated daily from 9-6 for a year.  A year!  I wondered how on earth I was ever going to be able to do this.  During the next few days lying on the sofa with my legs resting on a cushion, out of the sun and totally fed up, I began thinking long and hard about how I tended to push myself, hard so utterly hard, all of my life.  Businesses, moving, doing more, better than, learning obsessively and all the other choices I had made which led me to here and now.  It made me look at the underlying needs which drove me on.  I realised I had to be honest with myself, ask myself the questions normally reserved for my coachee's and guests on the healing retreats.  They were questions I didn't want to look at.

Whose approval was I seeking?  What was I gaining but the constant striving to do better?  What was lacking in my life that made me so driven?  How was I really feeling about my current situation? Was it my
for my father now passed whom I was never quite 'good enough' or my kids who I totally love and adore, what it me trying to make up for some of the guilt I carried about their upbringing and not being the best mother I wanted to be.  Could the desire for my husbands reassurance that I was the woman he truly wanted to marry (he was quite young when we got together and I was a few years older).  Did I want reassurance from my husbands parents that they were finally happy, after 30 years of being with their son, that I was accepted loved and cherished by this undemonstrative family?  Thinking about them always leaves me with
an unworthy feeling, rather like knowing you've come from the wrong shelf and always trying to climb up to the right one.  Being separated with two babies didn't go down well from the start.  Couple that with my Irish heritage, my working class roots and their obvious disapproval has left a last mark on my self esteem.  I really wanted them to love me.

And so, the more I thought, the more I realised that the scared frightened not good enough, little girl that had suffered horrific abuse in childhood, from an age younger than I care to remember, was actually still running my show.  I looked at my lifetime of learning, self-enquiry, development and growth.  I remembered all the hundreds of books I had read and still read, searching for answers, the courses I had taken, the trainings I have done, the healing I had administered to others, but never myself, the therapy I had taken part in.  Had any of it made a difference?  If it had why was I still operating out of shame, guilt, neediness and all the other emotions that regularly coursed through my being?    I began to see clearly the 'masks' that I had been wearing to survive, to get through, to gain acceptance and approval.  The 'just because I am big it doesn't stop me doing ANYTHING mask, the clown mask, the leader mask, the sorter outer mask, the funny girl mask, the clever person mask - who was I really without a mask, I wondered.  I had crumpled.  All my roads had led to now and I had no energy to look for any more signposts.

I flew home after having a couple of heprin injections to allow me to fly, a week later.  My body depleted, my mind full of worry and without a usual plan in place for the next part of my journey.  I was tired, tearful and full of remorse at how my life seemed to be crumbling and this strong, fearless, never normally ill woman had become a bit of a shell.  I was also scared, frightened and totally fed up living in fear.  I went to the doctor who wasn't unduly worried but sent me for some mot tests anyway.  She was nice, kind and for once I felt ok.  She congratulated me on the small amount of weight I had lost and encouraged me to carry on.  I felt like a child who had been given a hug from her happy mummy.

I had my monthly session with Shelley, an expressive arts therapist, coach and all round beautiful angel of encouragement.  This gentle lady has never ticked me off for not doing any of her exercises she sends me after our call, she has gently and kindly held space for me while I have out-poured both on paper and verbally all of my stuff, I have occasionally cried, whinged alot, ranted a bit, and generally moaned.  She has listened to it all and has tried to show me a different way of seeing things.  To be honest I haven't gone into depth on the brilliant healing art stuff she emails me.  I asked myself why.  Could it be that I would have to stop the running, stop the creating, stop the plastering over now plainly obvious wounds, and begin to dig deeper rather than gloss over what was really paining me with another set of creative ideas, plans and dreams?

 Talking to Shelley this time, I began to listen, really listen.  I heard what she was saying about taking a 'year off' both from myself and the doctor's warning, and finally understood the meaning behind the metaphors.  I looked at the signs and signals that I had been ignoring, my chronic back, my leg, the exhaustion, my ongoing weight issues and my mental state of mind.  She warned me that if I didn't stop the running and start to allow a thaw to commence around my carefully frozen feelings buried deep inside, that I would never be able to shift the stagnant energy that was so clearly stored in my vital cells and psyche.  Incidentally, I had had a present from a dear friend earlier this month, which was a session with a psychic healer in New Zealand called Deb, she was fabulous and our half hour session turned into an hour and a half, she also mentioned blocked energy in both legs and the heart area, could it be coincidence that both these wonderful women were tuning in to the same thing?  Shelley gently told me that it was vital for me to get out of my head and into my body, it was so important for me to allow my feelings, anger, rage, good, bad, happy, sad and the other myriad of emotions I had so long ago stored away, to be allowed to show up.  If I didn't give myself this gift, she pointed out, then I would never heal that which was screaming out to be healed.  I would become ever more depleted and quite possibly seriously ill.  It was huge food for thought.

After our call, I realised that despite all of my past life learning, understanding and self growth had been operating from my head, with very little being allowed to enter my heart-space.  That was just too scary.  It would have left me feeling too vulnerable, to small, to exposed.  I was living and viewing my world from an adult viewpoint but operating from the platform of a small child who had frozen away emotions for self protection.  A child who had no-one to turn to only herself, a child self, a brave little girl who could take on anything because the worst had already happened.  I cried when I felt this realization. I looked at the pain this kid had gone through, the shame, the time she had tried to tell someone but had only got a walloping for speaking like 'that', the despair, fright and fear when she was left with her grandfather and the consequent other abusers as she grew older.  Amazingly, I didn't collapse into myself.  I did pick up the colouring pens, the paint and my journal.    With no thought I let the pen do the work, let the pen draw out the words, the cries for help, the anger around my abuse.  

I had spoken with Shelley about how a fragmented part of ourselves makes a concious and unconscious decision at a certain age when we haven't been protected or cared for.  This leading part will operate to keep us safe, get its needs met with whatever it has to do in order for that to happen.  I knew I could make adults laugh.  I knew I came across as a funny little character at times, I had heard family members say so.  And I now realise that a decision was made by the vulnerable little girl I was around 10 years old, to be funny, be a character, be carefree, fearless and clever.  Maybe then I might just get my dad's approval, my mothers smiles, my teachers encouragement, maybe they could like me enough to protect me.  Maybe then I could stop being scared and relax in the safety of their protection.  That is what a small child with an old head on her shoulders believed.

 Of course that never happened, no matter how funny, humorous, clever, intelligent or smart I was.  I just kept trying harder to make it happen and so it became a horrible kind of hamster wheel, from which I could never get off, the abyss was always waiting to absorb me.   I could finally see how my frozen emotions disabled me from being real, from allowing self belief to grow, and the few emotions I did let through were not enough to let me live an authentic happy and confident life.  No amount of courses or self growth were going to help me feel any better unless I was brave enough to confront the stuff which has haunted my unconscious and sometimes conscious thoughts throughout my life.  My little one inside has been running amok, trying to find safety, guidance, to be heard, to find the sweet meadow of non-judgement, to find truth, to feel loved, to be acknowledged and to be believed.  I have been driven by fear - fear of everything - but have worn the 'fearless' mask for so long it's become second nature.

 I never realised I could turn down the volume on my fear in order for my anger, sadness, grief, shame and the whole gauntlet of unexpressed emotion to surface, rise and be processed.  I always wondered why I could seemingly speak about the abuse with no charge, no emotion almost passing it off as 'one of those things'.  I didn't realise I had a barbed wire around my polar ice cap, and used several impenetrable defence mechanisms to 'keep me safe'.  I suspected all the 'numbing' behaviours that I had assumed in the past were of course part of the defence system I had set up, and even to date taking up smoking again after five years of being a non smoker, didn't push the 'escape' be aware button that I had clearly pressed.  Of course, I knew all sorts of things, having done courses with Brene Brown, Eric Maisel, Julia Cameron, Barbara Sher, and these weren't lightweights by any stretch, I knew logically how it all worked, the why's the wherefore's and the how's.  The problem was where I personally was concerned, I wasn't allowing myself to FEEL anything about my challenges and past life choices.  I couldn't, I wouldn't, I didn't WANT to feel my feelings.  I was too terrified of collapsing into myself and never finding me again.  I wouldn't accept my version of me that I presented to the world was not the 'real' me at all.  It was a mish mash mix up of the things other people wanted me to be, to look like, to do, to behave like or so I believed and then I would get the much yearned for brownie points I desperately needed that would confirm I was ok, better than ok, I was loved, adored, wanted, listened to, was important in someone's life and I mattered.  I realised how long I had been trying to hide from 'untrue' labels but conversely at the same time slapping new ones on, accepting anyone's version of me, which covered the holes that threatened to let out the ugly, shameful, fat, useless me.  Well actually the fat found its way through quite easily, blasted fat, it attached itself to me in the dark of the night and has been determined to stick around!  These new labels that I stuck on whenever I felt vulnerable, frightened or not good enough had created thick coat around my true spirit.  No wonder I was exhausted trying to measure up to everyone else's idea of who I should be and some of my own unhealthy ideas also!

Finally, could this be the time I really do STOP WAIT and LISTEN to the heart whispers that have been so patiently waiting for me to hear them, the soul callings that surface from time to time only to be pushed away like an old worn out part of shoes.  Will I begin this healing journey with a whole heart, look deep inside to what has been waiting for so long to be seen?  Will I not only start this journey, but stay on it, navigate the boulders, the rocky bits, the painful chasms, the emotional highs and lows and keep on the path?  Can I start to accept kind help from the people who have been wanting to help me?   Will I be able to get out of my head and into my body, and allow those long stored feelings to emerge, knowing I will be OK?
I have begun this unknown journey.  It will take some time.  I have started to let the real me come through. The quiet me, the peaceful me, the gentle me, the feminine me, the put myself first me and to hell with what anyone else thinks me, really.  It good this feeling of gentle peace, in this quiet space here out on the fens.  I know I will be going back to Greece in a few weeks but am not even thinking about it at the moment.  My energy is ok, a little low but what energy I do have I am for the first time in a long time, giving to myself.  No rescuing others, no sorting, no ideas, just a time of gentleness and self care.

It's a relief to know and feel I don't have to be the greatest, most cleverest, most sparkly anything.  I am beginning to let the tears flow and that's OK.  It's just stagnant energy leaving, its OK to be emotional.  I have nothing to prove.  I have no-one to impress.  It's OK to be me - wobbly warts and all.  I realise it won't be all plain sailing.  I know small steps taken consistently and gently will help me far more than dashing off to learn something else new that I 'must' know to validate my worthiness in the world.  I know being really gentle with myself, my soul and my being is my key to healing what has dogged me for so long, and becoming whole and healthy again.  I have a little support network which I learning to trust.  They will help me to unlock the answers inside.  I know deep down that I am worthy of love, real affection and am good enough to take my place on life's complex stage.  I now have to start feeling it and believing it.  I have all the tools waiting to be kindly used.  The temptation is to give in to the demanding one who has been steering my boat for so long.  I know my wisest self is ready to take over whenever needed and is waiting to help me re-parent and integrate that little girl who has been such a star to get me thus far.  It's time for self love, gentle listening, kind nurturing and making time to do the work that will help me to be at peace with myself.

This blog which I have taken to writing again will be my witness to the emergence of my authentic self, my most lovely self and in its pages I will share my journey in the hope that it might help others in similar circumstances to do the same.  I will use the gifts I already possess of insight, art, writing, poetry and charter my small steps on this scary, blissful, hopeful, exciting and healing passage into wholeness, self acceptance and healing.  I am not sure where it will take me, no certain of the destination but I do know it will lead me to a kinder understanding and happier place in which to continue my life's work and destiny.
I would be honoured and delighted if you decide to accompany me.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Finishing up in Greece...for a little while

Having come to the end of my eight weeks in Kefalonia, and now returned to the UK and Mr Gorgeous, I have had time to reflect and ponder on the great, good and sad bits and what I am grateful for.

What I have heartbreaking in parts is leaving my delicious two year old grandson Spiro and my five month pregnant daughter. That's hard as a mum and grandma.  Also, leaving the utter peace and tranquillity of my surrounds in the mountains and on the edge of a very Greek village, where my days have taken on a natural rhythm, born of a bygone age, where one was guided by nature and the seasons.  I've relished the blissful sound of silence, the stillness of blue sky afternoon and the soft lapping of a clear blue sea, having the while pebble beach all to myself while more sensible locals enjoyed the shut eye of an afternoon siesta.  I am missing the slow lazy smile of delight and the sound of pleasure in my grandsons voice when he says Amar (his name for Grandma) in a deep growl which belies his young age. And I am also missing the evening ritual of waving to the three old folk who sit in the same place at the same time each evening in a very high mountain village and wave as I pass by shouting Yassou couklamoo, it makes me feel very loved and happy!  I shall miss the shouting, the wildness, the raw energy of the hard but real way of life which assaults all the senses ranging from the amazing highs when your soul is fed on smells, sights, sounds around every bend and the deep lows, of feeling isolated, lonely, unfriended at times and wondering what the hell is going on as every day brings a new drama.  And at home now, I am missing a dear friend Anne who makes me smile every time I am in her company.  She is very beautiful, down to earth and inspiring and I adore her.

I am however, deeply grateful to see Mr Gorgeous again and jump into bed each night to feel safe, secure and loved in his heartfelt embrace.  I am looking forward to seeing some of my lovely customers who buy my little artful treasures on Ely Craft and Collectible Market.
And I am really looking forward to seeing my lovely mum who has been very poorly in hospital, she is on the mend but we are very lucky she is still with us. It makes you realise how important our loved ones are.  I had a great conversation this morning with my best friend Aunt D who I love more than life itself and I am in deep gratitude that I was able to sit and natter with her for well over an hour in the comfort of my little dolls house barn in Burwell amongst the trees and in the fens.  I'm also looking forward to reconnecting with some of my very close friends who have always loved and supported me in whatever I have endeavoured to do, they are few but very precious and best of all I am so excited to be seeing my son Dan Canham's latest production which has had wonderful reviews and is a tender and soul reaching piece of musical dance theatre entitled Ours Was The Fen Country which by all accounts is really touching peoples souls.  He is a treasure and a delight and I am so looking forward to seeing that next week and him of course!

So all in all I am blessed and grateful to be so lucky to be able to live and work in both countries, the fantastic and amazing wild crazy island of Kefalonia and the slow fenland pace of Burwell with my little barn and the sounds of the fen swirling all around me.  Of course I make sacrifices in order to do this, and live extremely mindfully, carefully and artfully in order to have enough money for the bare basics sometimes.  I appreciate this would not be a way of living for everyone but it is for me, and with the small amount I earn from my artwork here in the UK and the small amount I earn from my Breathe In Space retreats in Kefalonia and (a few one offs here) I can manage to get to spend time in both places and enjoy the things that are really important to me. So I am managing just, to do what I love; making art, living some of the time on a Greek Island, meeting lovely people at the UK art and craft fairs whilst appreciating all that nature has to offer in the way of clear blue seas, black night skies, twinkling lantern stars, baby goats at my door and the deep rich soil of the fen as it whispers its stories for me to write my small stone poems and blog posts like this one.
Yes, both my spaces give me a place to breathe, time to reflect, a space to create and the chance to clear my mind of the inconsequential, the unimportant, the mundane and the no longer needed stuff to make room for the hopeful stuff, the mindful moments, the sparkly opportunities that wait in beckoning wings, the glittery moments and the happy dots that make up this feeling of wonderful abundance.  I have peace...I am lucky.  I am loved and bit by bit each day I know I am enough.  I have made friends with my imperfect bits, the saggy parts, the wrinkled places and I smile more these days, I belly laugh more, I giggle a lot.  I know what is important.  I am thankful for that knowledge.  I am on a journey of self healing, self love and making life as beautiful as I can for both me and all that step into my little sparkly circle of love and abundance.  What do you know now that you always did know but just didn't remember?  I'd be interested to hear from you :-) xx Big love and sparkles as always x