Island Blog 190 – Heaven

dancing

I have these lines from songs in my head.  They arrive allofasudden and I catch them, pin them down, look at them and begin to sing.  I could be pulling weeds (wild flowers in the wrong place) or sieving tuna in brine (yeuch) for Smallpants the dog, or even walking upstairs with a load of folded undies and in comes the melody, the lyric, the lift.  I keep going on my road to somewhere ordinary, but suddenly with more colour, sound, chiascuro (love that word).  I don’t feel weighted down at all, in fact I feel lighter.  I suddenly see my feet that can dance, feel my hips that can sway, my arms that can hold and enfold, can make a statement without a single word crossing my lips. I arrive on the landing like a feather, full float-and-spin, light as gossamer, open to any touch down.

This is how I live now, and, believe me, it is full blown life.  In reminding myself that although I am humanly and humanely attached to the soil and rock of this goodly earth, I have a spirit in me, and spirits, by definition, are unattached to ground control.  To have both equally respected and equally free to speak requires good management.  Not all of us are good managers.  I thought I was a frightful manager to be honest, because I thought, once,  as so many do.  You are ‘either’ this ‘or’ you are that.  Black/white.  Good/bad.  Successful or a failure.  Right or wrong.  Now, (and for heavens sake it has taken forever to get here) I know that all those shades of grey are where my power lies.  Now I can hold two opposing ideas in my mind and accept both – Creation and Evolution, for example.  I argue with neither and, besides, not one living soul, however brilliant can prove either one.

So, life bites me and yet I feel more alive because of it.  How this can be is also not a question I ask myself, myself being of limited thinking on such matters.  Holding on to a line of thinking, and one that may well be not my own original thought, I will always be stuck at the gate.  I don’t want that.  And I have found music to be a lifeline.  Although I am here, functioningly here, doing what I will do until it’s done, I can slip sideways into otherness.  I like otherness.  Otherness keeps me grounded and lifts me high at the same time.  Two opposing ideas, but they are not ideas, because they have always been themselves.  For anyone to go beyond ‘surviving’ (and when I hear that word from the lips of one who has a roof, regular food and a car, I do have to work hard to avoid smacking them) they need to embrace spirit and body.  The two, by the way, are not divisable, nor separate entities as some might have us believe.  Both are united within each one of us, both accessible as thrusters and both at our command.

I wake early and slip as quietly as I can over the creaking floorboards, circa 1870, to make tea.  I bring it back upstairs and get back into bed, curtains open on the tidal dance of the sealoch, the wave of the trees, the salt froth where sea meets river and the cry of gulls, harassing the young sea eagle as it tries to land on Tommy’s pines, and I write, I write I write….all my night thoughts, my howthehecs, my whatcanIdo’s and then, sated, I pick up my bible and feel my way to a passage, always (no exceptions) just the right wisdom for me on that morning, that time of life.  Then, I lift myself, body and spirit aligned into the day.  If I am lucky, and up last, I smell coffee, and if I am first, I make the smell myself.  I feed the birds, calling out Good Morning Lovies and there they are, a spit away, chirruping a welcome, and in my ears there is song, there is always song……

Heaven……I’m in heaven……and my heart beats so that I can hardly speak……..

If this life is all we have, it is so so much more than enough.  It is a gift.

Celebrate.

Island Blog 189 Letting Go

new journey

I have just had the best fun ever – hoovering under the beds and shifting two of them to different places.  Revealing that neglected oblong of carpet can be such fun.  It’s like discovering the planet of Lost Things.  I found a butterfly nut which threw me somewhat and an old roll of masking tape, an earring, some toe clippings and a new mouse hole.  There was the usual tufty covering of fluff and toast crumbs and feathers and it gave me immense satisfaction to suck the whole lot up the electrolux tube.  My trusty hoover has a name, one it came with.  Endurance.  It’s written large across its tummy.

The new mouse hole gave me pause for thought.  The horrid green carpet is horrid and green but also worn, ancient, curling at the edges and, thanks to one of my carpet tantrums some time back, only half there at all.  A stanley knife and a ferociously toned right arm cut it raggedly from the far wall to the bed where they were forced to stop.  I painted the floor boards and put a jaunty rug over the big gap just outside the bathroom so as not to lose anyone en route for a pee.   If I shoved beds about plus the big dresser and the dressing table, I could wheech the rest of the horrid green carpet away to the wheelie bin, crumbling underlay and all.  That way the mice wouldn’t have to go through the ghastly process of chewing through all that horrid green=ness – eish, yeuch.  They could just pop up through the boards.  But I stayed my hand.  I know me and my childish enthusiasm, how it far excedes my aging energy levels and physical strength.  Not only would I have to roll up horrid green and the crumbling underlay (which would continue crumbling all the way downstairs and out into the rain) but I would then have to drag Endurance out from her understair nest and fire her up all over again.  I would be covered in underlay and the dust of a thousand years, coughing and spluttering, grubby and hot.  Hmmm – no,  the horrid green can stay a while.

I have new beds arriving – and that is what all this shifting of heavy plant is all about.  I have never in all my married life bought any piece of furniture as new.  Not once.  I know it sounds like I might have lived a mildew and old stains sort of life, but that isn’t really true.  Other folk move items along you see, sometimes items in perfect condition.  Others hand them down to poor souls like me who marry their sons.  Big fat dark brooding dressers become a part of life, welcome or not.  They might be worth something of course, being Queen Anne or Chippendale or Adam.  Preferring Ikea is just bad luck I’m afraid and I will agree that one can have huge fun playing hide and seek, or, better, sardines, inside the old Queen Anne.  It is even quite possible to nervously anticipate the Ice Queen as one fumbles a pathway through frocks and fur coats and dress suits, the cloying burn of mothballs sharp in the nostrils.

It thinks me of how something has to go out in order for something new to come in.  As long as I hold onto the old in me, I will never know the new.  You might say, Who wants to be new? but all of us know that restless feeling and can relate to the sludge of boredom, the same old same old of a long lived life.  What we might not know is the change that would make all the difference lies not in new surroundings or even new beds, but inside the mind of a human heart, and all we need to do is open the door shoving the fears out into the street.  It is easy to blame work or colleagues or location or partner or fate but the truth is that every one of us got our own selves to where we are today.  It was nobody else’s fault.  The good news is, that means I can change things by changing me, and here the world is full of crazy advice and quant sayings that thrill us all the way to Tescos with a new lightness to our step.  Look on the bright side is one such saying.  So I do, honest I do.  I do and I do and I do and I’m worn out with doing it.  It’s superficial this method and cannot be sustained.  All it takes is for someone to upset us, a yoghurt pot to burst in the boot on the way home, the child-minder to cancel, and there is no bright side.  No, this is not the way.

So what is?  I believe that our wordliness is our stumbling block.  Our logical mind controls most of our lives and we are out of balance as a result.  In short, we do not play.  So caught up are we in chasing money, status, prestige, success, affirmation and street credibility that we sacrifice our souls.  We have forgotten to lose ourselves in books, in stories, in adventures.  We encourage children to paint, to imagine, to make art and then expect them to put it all behind them once they come to that discussion of ‘what you want to be in life.’  We snuff out the light, the real light, the sustaining light by which we can find our way right up to the last gasp, for the world will just as quickly strangle us, and will certainly never carry us through all the challenges we meet as we live out our lives.  We need our imagination fed and watered for those times we really need it, not withering away under our floorboards.  We need laughter and imagination to turn ugly into beautiful, disaster into success, troubles into opportunities.  I don’t want to know about adult classes for this and that unless the adults really seek change and will continue relearning how to create and to play long after term ends.  I want to see a world that focuses more on the human spirit and less on the state of the country’s coffers.  I want to see more kindness and gentleness, compassion and encouragement, and less political rantings. I don’t give a monkeys who runs a country of monetary imbalance, unrest, division and addiction.  We can all create as we did when young.  We can all still play, adventure, sparkle, believe in otherness, something out there, something we cannot explain no matter how clever we are or for how long we research it and the joyous result of allowing ourselves to create as a priority is that our life changes, gradually, into a completely new one.  We travel without going anywhere at all. We fulfill the deep desire of our own souls and in doing so, we become kinder, we slow down, we become less selfish, less fearful, there is enough for all, more than enough.

If we all thought Wardrobe = Narnia, the world would become a very different place and, like the journey of a thousand miles, it just takes one person, one step.

 

Island Blog 188 Deliverance

child reading

‘Deliverance – the action of being rescued or set free’

Every morning I wake early.  As my little swiss alarm clock froze at 08.23 some weeks back, I am never sure how early, and I no longer mind.  When it first stopped,  confounding all efforts to kick start it, I felt slightly alarmed (sorry) on retiring, because I might wake, and how would I know the hour?  For two nights, I had my mobile on the bedside table, feeling safer for its reasurring presence until I saw myself being fearfully controlled.  Now I just guess, and lie there watching the birds and the sea-loch whilst my thoughts flow softly in and out of my mind.

My thoughts are on my current reading.  At the moment, Alice Miller is telling me that what happened to me in my childhood was not right and that I have spent all my life making a pretty tale of what was not pretty at all.  We all do it to varying degrees.  Although I have no sensational story of cruelty, I know I was misunderstood and dominated and that the wounds inflicted still show as scars.  I consider motherhood, my own mother, my own mothering of five little people.  It’s a huge subject and not one any of us would like to take an exam in.   One day we look large but fetching, struggle a bit to get comfortable or sleep, have a bit of indigestion and some lower back pain.  The next day we are handed a screaming, squirming, sticky infant who never shuts up, and who makes us bleed, cry, despair and fight the urge to run every other moment for years and years.  However, that is the way it is, and always was, and always will be. Perhaps that complete lack of preparation is the best way to undertake the huge responsibility of walking as guide beside an equally unprepared, vulnerable, and easily damaged child.. Note I use the word ‘guide’  A guide is ‘ a person who shows the way to another’.  Unfortunately, and in the main,  we dominate and define a child. How they behave reflects on us, after all.   Mostly we make the child fit into our house of ideas, our shape, our ways of behaviour and, in doing so, we are not listening, not paying attention to the child’s own personality to his development beyond her ability to conform.  Many of us unconsciously play out a re-enactment of our own childhood, which probably didn’t do us any favours, but about which we know a great deal, and about which we rarely ask questions.  Others of us make conscious decisions to parent differently and for all the mistakes we made, it wasn’t not listening to our children.

I read books too on religion – usually quirky ‘out there’ ones that speak with a voice of challenge – challenge of authority, of dogma, of the appalling control religion has applied over the years, the abuse, the outrageous inhumanities in the name of God. I do not believe in that God, nor the one who brings destruction and disaster, nor the pious one who appears only on Sundays, nor the one who says one thing and does another.  My God is sacred, a mystery, avoidance of human definition however much the scholars try.  I don’t need to explain God nor defend Him.  Nor do I need to persuade anyone else to believe in Him.  I just know He is always there and more constant than any other being or non-being for that matter.  However, these books I read are about religion not about God, and there’s a whopping big difference between the two, unfortunately.  Man got in the way, man and his/her need to dominate and control.

The thing about reading over a wide area of subjects, is that my mind is hungry to learn more.  I simply find a book  or a book finds me and I dive in, as I used to as a little girl, immersing myself in a new adventure.  As this little girl, I was ticked off for reading too much.  It was considered an idleness.  I laugh now at such nonsense, but at the time, it stopped me being me.  I made myself conform, run in teams (loathsome) and join in games (even more loathsome) to appear ‘active’ and ‘un-idle’. It was never natural, never comfortable, never fun.  Even through marriage I could hurry to hide a book under a cushion and return to the stewpot if my mother-in-law arrived at the door.  It has taken me years to be openly honest about ‘me’ – even longer to brave reading Alice Miller.  Knowledge requires action and I know this well.  So, avoidance is good until it isn’t, until it needs, demands to be born, comes out screaming for milk and comfort and guidance.

Life is as it is.  It was as it was.  But I know now that painting a pretty picture of childhood doesn’t set me free, doesn’t deliver me at all.  It might look and sound good to the world, to say ‘it didn’t do me any harm’ but it did.   If we invested more time in such idleness as reading, we might just change the world.

Or just the life of one child.  That would be a grand start.

 

Island Blog 187 Acceptance

acceptance

 

In life we all have things we resist.  If you are like me you can keep up this resistance thing for months, causing yourself no end of lurking doubts and fears.  However, the minute I accept something, something I cannot change, all those lurkers turn to dust and that’s when I know I made them all up.

When any of us need to move into a new place inside our life and we know it has to be however much we don’t want it to, resistance is futile.  We know this, but it doesn’t stop us turning away again and again.  This is not for me, we say, I can change this pumpkin into a coach if I just keep going, keep moving, keep running.  The exhaustion that follows crumples us into a gloomy heap of laundry and we feel defeated and upset.

Then, one day we wake up to what we have been madly trying to avoid.  This situation is not going away.  Resignedly we turn to face it and there is stands, as strong and as sturdily built as it was the first time it walked right up to us and stood in our path.  Hallo, we say, begrudgingly.  What do you want of me? Shaking and scared we stand there like a child on day one of Big School, our hearts a flutter, our feet glued to the ground.  But, we have turned and that is all we need to do because at that very second, Life sends angels to guide us on.

In the face of this acceptance, a lot of the angst falls away.  We might not like it, this inevitable situation, nor think we need it anywhere near us, but the truth is we do.  What life sends our way is quite specifically ours and there’s a reason for it.  Although that platitude irritates the bejabers out of me, I can think of no other way to put it.  It isn’t that I am required to fix the situation, but that there is something in me that needs to adapt in order to bring a solution, and, in my acceptance and willingness to change,(even if I don’t yet know what into) the situation itself changes.

Well that sounds like pants to me, we protest.   I was fine as I was, getting on with life, managing most of it effectively and with energy and enthusiasm, most of the time.  Aha, says Life, well that’s true, but now I need you to change.  It’s outrageous, I know, but this is what happens for we were never meant to stand still.  Standing still means you miss the bus every time.  Standing still might mean you get a great view but that view will never change.  We pretend we are happy with that, the same old landscape day after day, incorporating our well-planned routines, our habits, our safety and security.  I always do it this way, this routiney thing.  This is why we stamp and rage about roadworks because they mean we have to go a different route to work and that is extremely irritating.  It is why we always expect a call from a foreign child on Sundays and are upset when they miss; why we expect others to be as they always were before; why hormonal teenagers infuriate and upset us. If we are honest, we all fall for these unwelcome differences, and the reason is our own deep need for everything to remain as it was.

It is no way to live, not really for it shows us nothing new and worse, never shows us what we are capable of.  We are dancers, with an innate curiosity for life, however old and infirm we might be.  So why do we feed this illusion that our way is a good one when we are probably already bored to death with it.  We are designed as pilgrims, as travellers and journeymen, versatile and interesting and always open to new adventures?

I am so thankful I met a man who couldn’t stand still for a minute.  Although I raged against each change, he has taught me a lesson of such value that it now runs through my veins like life blood.  It doesn’t mean that I automatically embrace change if it ‘promises’ discomfort and loss, but what it does mean is that the resistance phase is shorter each time.  I know I cannot change this situation, but there are about a thousand ways I can change myself.

It smiles me, the thought.  And, by the way, we can learn a great deal from hormonal teenagers. They aren’t scared to change.

Island Blog 186 The Spirit of Monday

It’s Monday again.  The first day back to school, the first day of the week, a new beginning.  Things start on a Monday but rarely end on one.  We begin diets on a Monday, or bring into force new resolutions. It is a natural first base for so many aspects of our lives.  To some it matters, the name of the day.  To others with no limiting weekly agenda it is just another day.  Just.  Hmmmm.  There is nothing ‘just’ about another day.  To wake up at all is a bonus, for starters.  To have the freedom to move inside that day, making choices and carrying out tasks of value is even better.

Waking early, my thoughts crowd in, as if they have been impatiently waiting to do so for a whole night.  They clamour for positions, shouting at me until I have to shove them out of the bed.  All those self-doubts and deep fears rise from their lurkings and stand full square and tall before me.  If I give one of them so much as a nod, I am in trouble.  So I don’t.  I hum, like Pooh, to myself and I get up quick to wash and dress, lifting myself into the day consciously.  If my conscious mind can quiet my unconscious long enough, then I can get downstairs and into the super juice before those doubts know I’m missing.

I know I am not alone in this.  I know that we all meet ourselves as we awaken and that we all need to put effort into our alignment with the new day.  We need to lift our own spirit until it is fully awake and can lift itself.  But, that spirit needs our help.

Recently our sky reception went down.  We thought it was a sky thing until the nice man came to show us the lead that had fallen out of the sky box.  It took a week for him to come, and so we watched dvd’s instead each evening, good movies that told a story, and all at once, unlike tv dramas that drag on for weeks and, despite watching the ‘earlier’ shots to remind of us of the storyline, both of us have spent an hour wondering who is who and are we sure we saw the last instalment?  And not just that, the dramas have become so gory and so menacing that neither of us want to see them any more.  Give us Downton Abbey or Call the Midwife any day, or documentaries on something interesting and stimulating.  All this obsession with cruelty and torture may well indicate a truth in our world but I don’t want to see it played out, however clever the storyline.

Those dramas affected my dreams.  During the week of movies my dreams were delightful and encouraging, funny and uplifting.  It thinked me about what I put in and the direct connection to what comes out.  How could I not be influenced by visions of horror even if I know it’s acting, that the blood is from Heinz, that the people, children and animals are not in pain?

So, this Monday is a new start for me.  No more ghastly dramas.  The world is beautiful and overflowing with goodness. People are inherently good and doing their very best.  I shall put that into my mind from now on.   I know there is sadness and cruelty all around, but if I fill myself up with all that beauty then I will eventually end up with a fat happy Pooh-sized spirit, one that can actually do some active good for others, just by what I say, what I do, how I see life. The macabre fascination with evil is not for me, not if I want my own spirit nourished. I don’t want to know about an eye for an eye, or about a sick mind.  Whether we like it or not, we are deeply affected by what our eyes and ears take in.  If we watch evil, we might be forgiven for thinking that this is the way of the world. And in this, we would be completely wrong.

Our spirit is strong, yet fragile.  We choose how to nourish it.

Island Blog 185 Thinking makes it so

 

rule your mindLast night I listened to the darkness; an owl hooting in the distance made me shiver for the mouse, hiding beneath the skinny branches of last year’s brambles; the cries of an oystercatcher across the sea-loch cut through the black like a white hot blade and, as it grew quiet again, I could hear the little burn mumbling and tumbling its way down to mother sea.  The thoughts that went through my mind at each encounter came randomly, as thoughts always do.  Was this sound the sound of imminent death or just the music of the night?  Did the mouse get away and, if it did, is that a good thing?  Not, I suspect, for the owl.  And oystercatchers always sound like they’ve got their nickers in a twist, whatever it is they might be saying.

I know my thoughts are plentiful and noisy.  I know that my thoughts can be very black or as bright as a summer garden in July, depending on how I feel about life at the time.  Giving credence and an audience to any thought allows it to develop, so it is my choice as to how the next scene is played out.  Before I knew this refreshing and freeing fact, I considered all thoughts to be of value.  They have been sent to me; they are real; they are my fault (if black) and just lucky (if bright).  Now I know this to be just so much nonsense.

If I have control, not over the appearance of a thought, but of its lifespan, then I am truly freed from all that has ‘defined’ me over the years.  I am not my thoughts.  I am, however, the result of any action I may take in response to them. I am my actions, for this is how I show the world who I really am, not who my mother made me, or my gym teacher or my past influencers or even my present ones. It isn’t what I say that shows me as I am, but what I do, and what I do is always influenced by what I think, hence Shakepseare’s mighty wisdom ‘ for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2.

Most of our day is spent in private thought.  We process and sort these thoughts every second of every waking moment.  The domestic thoughts are generally quite simple to address and to process but the thoughts that cause us to doubt ourselves, to beat ourselves up for not being enough, searching, as we all do for the why is everything, the root, the reason for that thought being there at all are the thoughts we must stop in their tracks.  If thoughts come unbidden and unsought then they are not necessarily welcome.  To allow a thought to grow requires us to give it audience.  If we have a tendency to self-deprecate then we must be mindful of such thoughts.  Chewing them over in search of an answer that will lift us into a smile again has never worked before, so why would it now?

I have learned to acknowledge each thought as just a thought, as if each one is on the wind, blowing at random through my brain.  Over time I can recognise the self-indulgent bad girl thoughts and send them packing, although this does not mean I ignore any thought that might be there to guide me.  I make many mistakes, in what I do and say, and my thoughts help me to put the things right that I have made wrong.  But, after that is done, it is done.  Although attending thoughts like unecessary bridesmaids keep flowing down the aisles of my mind, whispering that ‘sorry is not enough, you have to grovel, you dreadful person, you who keeps on getting it wrong over and over and over again, and at your age, for goodness sake’……………..I let them flow right on out and into the ether for they bring with them the trappings of a false guilt and I have no desire for such trappings. Life is altogether too wonderful for that.

This morning I rose to birdsong and the whoop of a hyena.  I think a local dog has learned to whoop in an hyeniac way because the chances of a hyena in the neighbourhood are slim.  I remember waking in an African night to that call, close by and it thought me of the simplicity and the complexity of what it means to be a wild animal, acting without thought on consequence of action.  I doubt a hyena bothers much with guilt or self-deprecation as we might.

And yet we are never at the mercy of our thoughts, and we are always in control of what happens next.

 

 

 

 

Island Blog 184 Sense and Sensibility

 

children hold the world

This morning I endeavoured for some time to transport some music tracks from my laptop to my phone.  I wanted a simple thing, really.  To be able to listen to my music through headphones whilst out and about.  However, it was not a simple thing at all.  As I tried to understand the goobledegook language, one that changes daily and makes no sense to me at all, I managed to move my music from one file to another file, to dropbox, the cloud, Itunes and something called Groove. Not one of them would sync with my phone, despite the fact that said phone was firmly plugged in and recognised (so the icon said) by my laptop.  It’s been two hours now and I haven’t thrown a hissy fit although the frustration is immense.  It should be so easy.  Young people find it easy and it thinks me.

When I was young, there was no technology beyond electric kettles and big bulky monochrome televisions.  In my lifetime we have moved from slow to superfast and all of us have had to either keep up or be labelled a philistine. I’m not complaining about it in general, for there are a million good and great things we can now achieve in split second time instead of waiting a week for anything to move to stage two of its proceeding.  However, the cultural change is slightly unnerving. This open-ness of life reduces our privacy incrementally, requiring us to protect something that is in effect our identity.  The young, who have learned all this in school, are quite in step with it, whereas I, and, I suspect, others of my generation, am often confounded, lured into communication traps with a well-meaning and trusting heart, and filled with self doubt as a result. We begin to compare ourselves unfavourably to those who don’t make such stupid mistakes. Our confidence is shaken.

Becoming an in-law is one such area; becoming a grandparent, another.  I never thought for one minute it would be complicated at all.  I doubt my own parents did when these changes came knocking at their door.  Life moves on, we move with it naturally, don’t we?

Well no.

I have found myself in a right pickle and more than once.  I moved, spoke, acted as I had always done around my small children, and yet, as they grew to adulthood, I met road blocks.  Overnight, it seemed, I had gone from free flow to awkward stumble.  I had to draw in my head for some BIG thinking.  It was pointless looking back to the days of my parents, when nobody said boo to any goose over the age of 50, especially not if that goose was family.  Back then, old rellies had the voice and anyone younger had to listen to that voice, whether it spoke rainbows or hailstones.  Not nowadays.  Nowadays our children will speak to us in ways we would never have dared to employ.  Nowadays we cannot spout the so-called qualities of old traditions without being questioned, laughed at or shot. Being open, being transparent brings its own set of results and not all are pleasant or comfortable.  I have spent more time considering what comes out of my mouth in the last 10 years than I ever did in the preceeding 30. Not a bad thing at all.

Whilst I was thinking inside my shell, something dawned on me.  We as parents had encouraged our children to be themselves, to speak out, to be individual and independent.  We wanted them to be who they were, who they wanted to be, not what we thought was best with our limited experience of a newly fledging world. We gave them that freedom and they took it.  Most of my generation had no such start in life.  So, it was we who changed the course of things by educating our children in sensibility.  We cannot, now, complain at their sense of self, when we might still be searching for our own.