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Showcase: The 31 Days Of May + The Suitcase + Body Image And Body Positivity + The Pulse Of Change

Edited by Helen Aitchison

It’s the second week of June and the second Showcase of the month. Our theme ‘Overcoming’ has been interpreted in so many ways by excellent writers, which makes the pieces inspiring, eclectic and encourages a reflection for readers. I hope this week’s pieces do that for you.

The first piece is an extract from my novel. Published with Cahill Davis Publishing in April, The 31 Days Of May is my third novel. With themes of mental health, trauma and loss, these topics are things no one is immune from. However, the book is also about serendipity, strength, support from strangers and finding our place in the world (and our people).

The 31 Days Of May (Extract)

Much of their time together was silent reflection, Victor often trying to make May smile with a silly anecdote from work, his lips curling at the end as May watched sadness drawing its curtains behind his eyes. He wasn’t the same. How could he be? All those years with his best friend, decades of being in love. And love doesn’t end when a life does. Instead, Victor yearned for someone who he couldn’t wake up with, spend the day with or go to sleep next to. Fran was now only a photograph in a frame and locked in the memories in his mind.

Christmas was agonisingly hard. May noticed things missing she’d taken for granted. The void left by her mam that would simply never be filled, never heal and the repeated realisation that three had become two and joy had become pain. The homemade sweet mince pies that May used to smell as soon as she opened her bedroom door—warm, golden aroma drifting through the house as she felt her stomach almost smile with what was to come. The Christmas tree coming down from the loft on the right day, twelve days before Christmas, despite Victor complaining in jest each year that it was too soon.

The missing reality of May and her mam decorating the almost twenty-year-old tree as Dad ate nuts. Unbeknown to May and her mam, he would sneak the odd glance at the precious women in his life and smile without them knowing. He would shout the odd order — ‘That one needs to go higher. Nah, not there, higher up, so you can see it’— referring to the decorations that May had made at school all those years ago that were falling to bits like the slippers he had been wearing all year. He would let his girls get on with it, well almost, as he watched a Christmas movie or Only Fools And Horses, which he had seen hundreds of times but still made him laugh out loud. They were underwater, and she knew this would be the time she and Dad would sink or swim.

‘I’m not getting the tree out this year, May, I can’t be bothered,’ Victor said defeatedly as he placed his hand on his cheek. He seemed to sink further into the sofa cushions, as if hiding from the time of year.

‘I know it’s hard, Dad, I feel it too, but Mam would want the tree out; she loved Christmas. We are already late putting it up.’ She mustered a half-smile, thinking that her mam wouldn’t be happy it wasn’t already in pride of place.

‘We can do it together. It might not look as nice as when Mam and me did it, but we can try?’

Victor stared at where the tree normally stood, proud in the centre of the bay window. There was a strong sadness in his eyes. Was it really that he couldn’t be bothered or that he couldn’t bear it that it wouldn’t be his Fran decorating the tree? They were both in pain, but May had limited tools to deal with her grief, never mind her dad’s as well. She loved him, but it was exhausting trying to keep things going at times, to keep treading water, especially when the waves were threatening to pull her under. She was still the child; she needed him to be Dad, to be strong for both of them.

Victor glanced at the floor and then held his head in his hands. An almost silent sigh left his open mouth, barely audible, yet May heard it so loud it could have moved the birds from the trees. Pain echoing, bouncing off all corners of the room. May leant over, closing the gap between them on the sofa, and hugged her dad as they sat in silence in the family lounge. Her dad almost melted into her arms.

‘I’m going up to get the tree from the loft now, Dad. It’s already two days late.’ May stroked his back and pulled away. ‘Will you catch it?’ She stared at her dad, tired eyes wide, urging him to cooperate. He nodded a weak yes, and they got up to bring the tree down from the loft.

The Christmas tree had so many memories. Covered with chocolates that would all be gone by Christmas Eve and decorations that had been passed down from grandparents, handmade by May, purchased on family holidays and bought by May at the Christmas market with Scarlett each year. So many memories that only came out once a year but were sewn into the tapestry of the McClelland family’s history, every stitch created with unbreakable love.

Each decoration picked out of the box seemed to feel like another layer of their hearts being cruelly peeled off. The pair smiled, sobbed and sighed as they decorated the tree that had witnessed so many wonderful taken-for-granted Christmases. But they had to have Christmas, for Fran.

© Helen Aitchison, 2024

Connect with Helen on Facebook: Helen Aitchison Writes, Instagram: @helen.aitchison_writes, X: @aitchisonwrites and via her website:


Next is a striking piece called The Suitcase by Lyndsey Dickenson, from a project focusing on mental health. The description of the mind being a suitcase creates a perfect vision and understanding of the weight of anxiety, depression and mental illness but still with the belief of hope.

The Suitcase

My mind is like a suitcase I can never unlock.

It goes with me everywhere, its bulky contents bearing down, making my journey more arduous than I would like it to be. I feel its weight as I schlep it on every step of my journey.

I have tried to leave my suitcase where it cannot be found, abandoned and hidden, hoping it will not come back. But this is a suitcase that can never be lost; it always finds its way back to its owner.

Its heavy load remains, like a stubborn stain only I can see, unchanged and hidden from others’ view. I feel its weight as I schlep it on every step of my journey.

It is time to unpack my suitcase and consciously fill it with lighter, more transportable goods. I will force open the lock, rid my case of the cumbersome, unhelpful belongings I have been dragging along for years — obstructing my journey and holding me up at life’s key junctions.

I feel its weight get lighter as I start to dance the steps of my journey. It is now time to check in at the gate of life still to be lived.

There are adventures still to be had, and a suitcase only half filled.

© Lyndsey Dickinson, 2024

The Suitcase was first published in Hope, 2024, Write On The Tyne.


Body Image And Body Positivity, by Lee Allen, is next. I found this piece important to share, particularly with a view to helping those identifying as male and also to dissolve stigma and stereotype around body image. Lee’s honesty is validating, inclusive and thought-provoking. An important message in an inspiring piece.

Body Image And Body Positivity

“Fall in love with taking care of yourself – mind, body, and soul.”

Many of us struggle with our body image at one time or another. We look in the mirror and don’t like what we see. We criticise ourselves and believe cruel words others say to us.

Rarely do I allow myself to be so publicly vulnerable. But through conversations surrounding mental health, body confidence, body shaming and body autonomy, it felt important to share a little about my own battles with body confidence and push outside my comfort zone  – especially as we rarely talk about it from the perspective of male body image. We, too, should raise our voices in support.

October 2019 marked the final milestone in a 12-month weight-loss journey. It was the first time in my life I truly felt comfortable in my own skin. Monitoring my progress had become an obsession. But the anxiety still lingered in the background; by July 2020, the discomfort I felt in myself began to resurface.

In August 2022, I was again struggling with my body image and the repercussions that may have on my physical health; contributing to a decline in my mental health as the year neared its end. It wasn’t until February 2023 that I could see myself in the mirror and feel somewhat comfortable.

Too often we are expected to feel shame for our bodies, if we don’t match what society deems palatable or attractive. In general, the body is something to be hidden away, dressed a certain way and always seen through the lens of the onlooker, viewed on their terms.

Enough! We do not require validation. Nor has anyone the right to make us feel inadequate for the mould we were born with: to mock, to judge, to shame. We have every right to feel comfortable and confident in our own skin.

We are all a work in progress from multiple perspectives  – our physical form is not all of who we are. Nevertheless, we are allowed to embrace it as part of us; in fact, it’s vital for our self-care. Our body is the only one we have. Through it we sense, experience and communicate; its health determines our quality of life, our longevity. We should listen to our bodies: they have a lot to tell us.

Take care of yourself today 🧡

© Lee Allen, 2024

Connect with Lee on Facebook: @LeeAllenAuthor, on X: @LeeAllenAuthor, on Instagram: @LeeAllenAuthor and via their website:


Lastly, we have The Pulse Of Change by Vrushali Khadilkar. This poem had me nodding in agreement as I read it. A wonderful message on change, acceptance and overcoming.

The Pulse Of Change

Change is compulsive,
Distortive and yet could be,
A major yin to your yang,
A string that hooks you and catapults you far and wide.
Throws you off,
Strikes wows in delight.

Change is compulsive,
Disorienting, and yet could be,
It is what we need to crack open through the mundane verbiage.
Wasting time, tasting life,
Are the little wins that define,
How you tasted change,
How you restored life yet again.

In the times of change,
It breaks the shackles of,
What we know.
It whisks us just right at the end and,
It makes sure we feel more alive, again!

© Vrushali Khadilkar, 2024


If you’d like to see your writing appear in the Write On! Showcase, please submit your short stories, poetry or novel extracts to:

Read Issue 20 online here or find it in libraries and other outlets. You can see previous editions of our magazines here

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