Island Blog 187 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.