Island Blog – Try It

I don’t have a single thing to grumble about, not one, not even half of one. I have a roof over my head, one I can safely presume will be still over my head on waking the morra. I have five strong and healthy children and 12 ditto grandchildren. I have the freedom to choose what I will eat tonight with no fear of lack or hunger pains. I have fresh clean ever-flowing water, a telephone, a cooker, a bathroom and flushing loo, two of the latter. I have no restraints on my goings out nor my comings in. My day is my own. The list could fill a book and I am daily grateful for my health, my lot in life, my past and my present and there’s the key. To live in the present is to have life by the cajones. To be in touch, connected, engaged and curious is the only way to live a life to the full. Of course there are sad moments, down days, self-pity parties and la la but who doesn’t have them? However a grateful heart will always find something to be thankful for even in those times, even if it is only appreciating the fact that there are shoes on feet that fit, ones without sole holes.

I think that humans spend way too much time overthinking themselves. Burrowing into the regrets, blame and resentment of the past is so daft it’s hilarious. Oh, so you think you can change the past by doing this burrowing thing? You cannot. It was. It is not anymore. So, looking at the anymore right now begs a curiosity, a thankfulness for the butter on my bread, the fact that I can walk, hear, see, hold someone close and give the gift of a smile or a kindly word means everything. There is no other thing as good as everything and those of us who live by this creed, who have done the daily work required to shift a natural negative outlook on life to a positive and thankful one are the happiest people in the world. We are not cash rich and there are ‘things’ we might think we want. We are possibly bereaved, abandoned, neglected or even abused but none of these will control our thinking and, as you already know, our thoughts control our perception of life and even create our circumstances. Think well on that the next time you begin to list your ailments. Nobody wants to hear because every single one of us has them, one way or another. Instead, ask how are you? Did you love ice cream when you were a kid? What’s the naughtiest thing you ever did? What’s your favourite music? Do you have bluebells in your garden? Do you have a pet parrot, pig, lizard, rat, horse, dog, cat, extra terrestrial?

In other words, (or questions) lift lift the conversation until you are the one upbeat person everyone wants to bump into. The elevation you bring will elevate you too. Trust me, I am flying home from the local shop most days. It really works and the long term benefit of a fun, upbeat, interest-in-others attitude means that try as I might to find something to grumble about, either in the present or the past, I find myself at the bottom of the barrel with nothing in my hands. And, as to the future…..well I am certain that a heart thankful for every tiny little thing that means I am still alive and really appreciating every single gift might well mean that heart beats on because it is excited, enlivened, shared and treasured.

Try it.

Island Blog – I Can Do This

Having my young and strong bodied children with me for a few days shows me my age, not that I have any problem with ageing for it is a very natural part of the living process. Nonetheless, my observations shunt forward somewhat around such ebullient fluidity of movement, of thought. I smile, I did smile a lot, as they leapt off steps, landing two feet square, knees flexing whereas I consider each step, paying close attention to my feets and pausing prior to each cautious descent. In fact it chuckles me. It seems like just yesterday I watched my own mum, my in-laws doing this pausing cautious thingy whilst I was still a gazelle, albeit minus two legs. In a doorway with a step down into and up again from the garden, on the stairs, at the top of a set of steps or when wheiching a body in and out of a car seat, I could flow then as they could not. Now I am experiencing it all for myself.

I find the same around packaging, lids and cork-pulling. But, unlike some, I am determined and my favourite of all phrases is my mantra. ‘I Can Do This.’ It might mean I need to ascend a hillock on all fours. It might mean the descent is on my bottom. It might mean I have to cut the packaging with sharp scissors instead of using what are left of of my teeth. It does mean, in the realms of cork-pulling, that I must needs squat on the floor, hold the bottle between my feets and brace myself against the kitchen unit in order to avoid a backwards somersault when the cork comes out but I will succeed because I Can Do This. I say it out loud, just to ensure the full attention of my whole brain, expecting it to communicate new strength to all required limbs. And it does.

When speaking an affirming and encouragingly defiant phrase out loud, I can feel my body responding immediately. Ok, she says, wake UP you sleepyheads! The Boss requires an elevation of pep right now. It always works. When himself vacated his position as the strong one I did flapdoodle a bit, I confess, but there is something about finding oneself on the spot that brings the opportunity to rise strong in circumstances as yet uninvestigated fully. I didn’t then need to find the strength, either of mind or body, to achieve the result I wanted. Now I do and with that ‘I do’ comes the option to falter, fall back, to bemoan my lack as if that lack is terminal. It isn’t. I have succeeded in more situations wherein I was lacking, or believed I was, since being alone than I would ever have believed possible back in the lack. The thing is this:- I don’t want to miss out on anything. Allowing myself to miss out would be my way of dying long before my death and to hell with that shower of nonsense! Ok, others may run far ahead of me, skipping down 3 flights with alacrity, popping corks with one hand or skipping over hillocks, but I will allow myself my place behind them all and I will find my way. I will run the gauntlet of my ouches and my anxieties and will think of life and not on the demise of it because demise is for someone else who gives in too early. I don’t even like the word.

I Can Do This, I tell myself when I have to barrow a load of wood into the shed. I Can Do This, when I manage to press the wrong button on the right machine and it goes into either chatty overdrive or a huff; when I find it hard to twist a lid or descend a hill or climb a fence or any other little challenge that comes my way. I will even manage to free a toothbrush from its ridiculously tenacious package, because I Can Do This.

What are your favourite words of self-encouragement? If you don’t have a line, pinch mine. I have it written in fat felt tip on a card where I can see it all the time. and each time I feel a falter coming on, I read it, speak it out, lift my chin, straighten my spine and smile. Suddenly I am invincible and it feels so very good. Life is for living no matter a person’s age. And remember this……

Circumstances do not control man (or woman)

Man (or woman) controls circumstances.

Island Blog – Flying Flagrant

What a weekend! All the family together minus the old sea-dog, for some years. Five children, their partners and 12 grandchildren. And me. And the sunshine. I watched the little ones fly flagrant onto and off paddle boards, across rocks, up hillsides, all legs and squeals and motion. Come on! they cried and Hurry UP! Their young parents fed them, dried them off, eased hurts, settled them for bed. It was a squash but the best sort of squash. And there were huddles, of little leggy ones with enough secrets going on as to become suddenly silent when an adult appeared unexpectedly. Huddles too for the parents all finding out about the real deals in each other’s lives after all this time of not having much of a clue beyond the usual upbeat I’m fine and All is well sort of phone tennis.

I noticed many things to think me. How children fly free and how beautiful it is to watch; how my own children as parents have settled into their legs, their more cautious step. Not one of them flew flagrant over rocks although had a precious child fallen, they would have moved like otters over those same rocks. Instead they watched, as I did with all the flagrant flying lost to me. But here’s a thought. I did it once, in the right time for doing it. I had that. I did that. And, in my mind, I still do.

Island Blog – Moonlight and Shadows

05.15 and something wakes me. Light. Light has a sound, or, more accurately, a vibration but I can hear it as well as feel it. As a sleeper just below the surface at all times (thank you motherhood) any change in what was becomes a new what is and this morning’s ‘what is’ has pulled me out of my dreams and back into my bed. I was floating high above the world, looking down whilst faces long gone joined me, their long gone voices humming familiar. I turn to check the window and see light pushing around the blackout curtains, almost aggressively, demanding to be recognised and framing the thrush eating strawberries patterned curtains like a huge canvas. Light is calling me up and out and there she is, huge as a giant’s eyeball and looking pinkly drunk. Aaah! I sigh and just know I have to respond for sleep has left the building, that fickle friend who always seems intent on escape for unknown reasons. Perhaps, I wonder, as I buckle up my fluffy and impossibly white dressing gown, sleep also needs sleep. Has anyone ever considered that?

Downstairs at a dash and into the sunroom where my breath escapes in a whoosh. She is magnificent, overflowing with soft pink light, a perfect sphere in her dying throes. I kind of plan such a spectacular death as I imagine we all do although I don’t really want this spectacular death throe-ing thing to last thousands of years. Just saying. There is so much beauty up there among the dying, it wonders me how our own can be so unattractive by comparison. I watch her for a while, only noticing I am no long breathing when I get that underwater feeling, my lungs screaming at me to get back on the programme. She watches me. We eyeball each other. A few passing clouds try to eat her but she simply lights them up, sapphire, rose quartz, a lace rainbow veil on a bride to be. As they pass, I see a lunar halo, cirrus clouds glittering with ice crystals so high up in the atmosphere to be reassuring. There is an atmosphere, for now.

I sit with coffee in the not dark, the silence absolute for even the firstbird song is halted in the face of such majesty. Moonlight shadows pin my walls in the shape of geraniums, the blooms salmon pink and almost luminous in the lemony light and on the backside of this wide and slow dawning, as the moon submits to father sun, sinking to her knees behind the hills, deep grey clouds like flying saucers hold in stillness.

Island Blog – Questioner. Answerer.

I walk today through soft air, breaking into it, splitting the atoms then turn to watch them come back together at my back, as if I was never there at all, leaving no evidence of my passing, not even footprints for the track is mostly dry. This is a relief, the dry track I mean, after months of slopping mud, the backlash of mudfreckles peppering the backs of my legs. Larch fronds dangle, long green fingers, the sycamore blossoms buzzing with bees. They sound like tiny airborne motorbikes. Coniferous giants, evergreen through the coldest of months push out just a little, bright lime against the winter-tired needles the colour of wine bottles. Even the fallen trees push out hope, in parts, still working with the sun, still holding on to life. These huge giants, felled in some vindictive gale, remind me of another giant of a man felled a few days ago, gone. Somehow, when a person I know goes down and stays down, one who lived a few doors away from my own, it feels sharp, needle sharp. He was about my age and always out walking, always full of craic and laughter. Although he will not know this Spring, not from this earthly place anyway, I will think of him whenever I walk along the little track, one he loved as well as I do.

I wander on, noticing with my usual gasp of delight followed by a greeting spoken out loud, new buttery primroses along the bank, more leaves coming here and, oh look, over there and even way up there! Violets too, tiny delicate lilac petals peeking out from behind the protection of a rock or a drystone wall, sudden lifts of pastel beauty, wood anemones too, or their foliage at least. Tree ferns fall from on high, way up the bellies of the great old trees, like tiny green waterfalls. They tremble as a luff breeze tickles them. I can almost hear them giggle. Rounding the apex of my walk, I watch for seals hauled out on the rocks, listen for their song, but they are not here this day. I say hallo to a beech tree who began her answer to the questioner sun by pushing out as far as she dared before turning her face upwards. She is a force indeed to be admired for her belly is wide, her backbone strong and she is a fine match for the others who grew straight up from a straight up beginning.

It ponders me.

The sun poses the question. He sends warmth and nourishment. He calls out the bees, the butterflies, the dragonflies and all the other buzzing things of which we are not quite so fond, the answerers. He rises the earth, eats it up, challenges it, is relentless yet life-giving, pulling up life from the nearly dead, just for one more summer, just one more, don’t let go yet, the Mother needs you, you and her little clueless people. And we, too, are answerers. We rise into the new warmth with smiles that need cranking up a bit as Winter finally feels the threat of meltdown and begins his retreat. We change our attitude, become more open like petals, delicate but trusting. We risk vest off, open more windows, sit awhile on a tree stump or a bench to listen as passing talk tells her tales of other lives, other hopes and dreams. We catch moments, moments that didn’t seem to exist behind our winter walls, sounds drowned out by lashing rain, sleet, and witchy winds.

Soft now. Let it be. Let us and others be. Questioner or Answerer, both are we. We can shine light in places without light. We can be curious about how someone else thinks, how they live. We can show that we care, that someone else matters just as we hope we do ourselves.

Island Blog – To Break through Sunder

There can be times in a life when torpor sets in. Or so I am discovering. Perhaps it begins with a yawn one morning when noticing a floor needs sweeping or when what to eat for supper is of little interest. Noticing such a fledgling state of mind at this stage might bring on an internal slap, a ‘get up and get on with it’ admonition spoken out loud or in silence, the voice sharp, matronly, critical, judgmental even. But if, as in macrame, this torpor is permitted daily freedom to build one knot into a pattern, it soon becomes an accepted, if not acceptable, un-presence of mind. And before I know it, I am its obedient servant. Perhaps such times are allowed now and again. Too many of us (and too much) are driven by expectations, our own of ourselves or those of others or worse the ones we think others demand of us, most of which are imagined and therefore not real. However I am not one to just allow torpor nor stupor to dupe my mind, at least not once I notice what’s going on up there inside my skull. I sense the danger of ‘can’t be bothered’. It smells of metal and lemon pith. ‘What’s the point?’ is another one. This one smells of sleet and cold porridge and comes with a shivering wind. I can turn from both, berate this inner crazy and perform a task of beauty which may well be the preparation of a delicious but simple meal or the sweep of my mindful brush across the kitchen floor. It might be a gentle wander through the woods or just the opening of my ears to birdsong, my eyes to the brave tulips about to bloom, or perhaps my ears to the miraculous sound of my own breath, in and out, in and out.

I can’t always manage it of course. Who on earth can? Life is not always a daring, bold adventure but sometimes a battle to just get through the long hours of a single day. One day can awaken fresh and happy in an unexplainable way. The next doesn’t really want to wake at all, again for no obvious reason. I am learning to accept this conundrum knowing that the happy and unexplainable day, within which I felt light on my feet, full of energy and laughter at pretty much everything, is a gift and the other is a reminder to love myself no matter what, to be kind as I would to anyone else. To love oneself is, of course, is the hardest thing to do and not just for me. So much about loving self sounds like arrogance, self-importance, narcissism. And therein lies the problem, the reason a person might never even try to love the broken adult self, let alone accept the possibility, no, probability, that loving oneself can heal every wound, eventually.

And it is simple. Not easy, not at all, but simple. How simple it is to someone else, after all, without judgement, wanting only that they are warm, safe, secure, free and unconditionally loved. Yet we seem inept at best in gifting all of these to our own selves. My way of rising from the sunder of my past is to actively silence the inner judges, all perceived, imagined, long dead and of no use to me at all, not in my present life. I doubt they were ever of much use to me. To be reprimanded for a ‘crime’ at any point in my life came, after all, from outside of me, loudly, angrily, thence some punishment or other would ensue and I would survive it. It was done, over, behind me. Why on earth would I continue the punishment within and for years, perhaps? What lunacy! What lunacy indeed. Knowing this, seeing it now, I can laugh at the addles in my brain, the old wiring, the macrame knot pattern and with loving fingers, unpick the whole thing, bit by bit. I can notice the triggers that tug, no, yank, at the ties that bind me to my long ago and then I do something for myself. I might listen for the birdsong, step out barefoot onto night grass or even sweep the floor. Something, anything, that tells me I am here, I am important, a part of a very long and beautiful story, one that I can add to any time I like. I make mistakes, poor judgements and many failures and I know that I can wither at the perceived enormity of the mountain they make in my path, or I can laugh at the mountain, turn away and head in a whole new direction where the sky is wide open and the fragrant wildflowers tickle my bare legs as I walk.

Island Blog – Enough for me

I’ve been thinking. Thinking can be quite a full time job I find, have found. Sometimes it can be destructive, sometimes instructive, sometimes pointless, sometimes pointful. Because a gazillion thoughts crowd our minds from the minute we wake up and all the way up to whenever we manage to fall asleep, we must learn how to handle them. It’s like all your children, plus their friends and their friends friends and cousins are all around you shouting demands at the same moment. Their little fingers pluck at your clothes, their voices screech like jays and you, only you can sort out this mess. You rear back, try to find some place of quiet in which to find a solution, or many solutions, often without success. But you can actively get away from all those children by leaving the room and closing the door, running upstairs to lock yourself in the loo whilst you unwind the mental tangle, calming it into a good idea, a distraction, where with thoughts you cannot. You have to manage them internally and there is no upstairs loo available.

In times of long moments which can feel like hours, thoughts cluster, conjoin, form fat shapes like dumplings, weighing heavy and so amalgamated that it is nigh on impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. They dumple in my head, that’s what they do. What was it, that last fleeting thought? I don’t know, don’t recognise it, not as it is in this state of dumple. Who would? So what to do? I am pulling on my mental boots as I acknowledge the complete irreverence and lack of respect from these thoughts. How dare they assault me this way, tell me, or infer, that I am less than I might be, have failed too many times in the past and HaHa you can do nothing about that now you fool! I swipe them away like bluebottles. I’m going out, I tell them. Without you. I slam the door, truss the dog and begin to walk.

Immediately I am aware of stepping into the real world, my spiralling thoughts silenced. Now I am looking with my eyes facing out and not in. Left behind is the familiar, the four stone walls, the paintings, the photographs, the dust on the floor and the to-do list. I am alone but not alone, a body moving into a world not under my control, the random chaos of pure Nature. It isn’t random at all, nor chaotic but to me with my stays tightened in a back-home mode, my memories contorted into a twist of nonsense and untruth, this outside world seems just that. Birds flitter back and forth, butterflies butterfly and windshift troubles early greening limbs. Bumble bees claim the soundbite, hesitate me beneath willow catkins and I stand to watch their fat little bodies claim the sweet. Yellow, white, with round arses and pointy ones, tiny miner bees, even bluebottles tap the nectar. Percussion, timpani, glorious. Two paces beyond the willow and I hear nothing at all. Their sound is just for them and not for me but I hear it and it fills my head with hope. Life will always want to live.

Further, and I stop to welcome wee wind battered primroses, their butter faces reaching for a sun they will not meet this day. Star moss leaps out from stand-water, even from the crook of a tree where limbs have split for their own reasons and who have now offered a place of safety for some other leap for life. The wind today is kinder. The iceslice punch softened. I duck beneath a larch bough, heavy now with spindle green and with the hope that no unthinking walker will cut it back as I have seen before, as if this limb didn’t own its space and as if folk have forgotten how to duck. The latter I decide. Humans are so very arrogant and so very mistaken in their arrogance. Just saying.

I return soaked and thankful to my outer clothing and my boots. But more, I return changed. As I tentatively open the door to my four stone walls, I hear nothing. No thoughts loud my thinking. I am zinging on what I have just walked through and which welcomed me. Life will always want to live.

And that is more than enough for me.