Island Blog – Alone and Together

This morning I see one bushbuck, one giraffe, one warthog. The bushbuck, nervous, ears twitching for sounds of danger comes to the water hole. He has probably been tossed out of the family group, the herd, if, indeed, there is a herd, and is alone in this vast terrain. He will be seeking another group, a mate, the chance to clack antlers with a rival in order to earn his place. The giraffe looked at first like a movement of tree trunks as I could only see his legs but as he slowly wandered onto the track he was caught in silhouette against the rise of the African sun. He looked back at me through velvet eyes as I looked at him, then turned to lope away, all speckles and sand and alone. The warthog is a grumpy old bugger. Yesterday, as I walked the pup around the house, he started forward and I took off like lightening. Nobody wants to meet the front end of one of those horned-up wild pigs. His vision is poor but his temper is rich and his sense of smell very strong. It was the pup he didn’t like, being a natural wimp around humans, for which I am always grateful. I lifted the pup over the rails of the stoep and arrived shortly after in what must have looked like a very ungraceful half-somersault, my dress up around my ears and my sandals all wonky-chops.

It thinks me of wandering alone. Although I know full well how precious are community, family, friends and other social encounters and relationships, I also know we all walk alone through this life. Each one of is an intricate tangle of nature, nurture, experience, choices, personality and character. We also all look different, which if you think about it is quite a miraculous feat of engineering. Even as one of identical twins, the word identical is an overstatement. Deep inside both will have an unique pattern, no matter how the outside is designed. One can sing, the other can’t hold middle C without slippage; one finds this joke hilarious, the other puzzles to find more than a polite smile; one loves eggs done this way, the other, that. And so on.

When we were five young children and travelling north for our Scottish summer break, our mum had us knitted and kitted in matching jumpers. We could choose the style but not the colour. Yellow, one year, blue the next and so on, always in bright primary colours. We had to wear them for the journey. Mum said that it was so she could find us in places like York Station or on Princes St, Edinburgh as we skittered like excited monkeys through the crowds of moving feet, eyes level with a thousand navels and worse, even more handbags that could deliver a mighty head clonk if we weren’t paying attention. I don’t think we looked after each other much, being intent on our own agendas and deeply fed up of being One Of Five. Although I didn’t visit the same knitted uniform on my kids I do remember those wild times such as boarding the right train intact as a family, or shopping in a mall where, quite frankly, havoc could be wrought at any moment and always by One Of My Five.

I see that the world thinks in terms of numbers now. We are number this on a plane, at work, in school, in a theatre, the tube, the office and it saddens me because we are not numbers, we are individual people, no two alike. We are Just One among many other Just Ones, linked through culture, our job, our street, out village, our church, our market, our orchestra, our singing group and more. But I is not always We. Paying attention to the ‘I’ is something we may have forgotten altogether, such is the pressure of group thinking. We may also have forgotten how to nurture and nourish and listen to the I. In this fast moving world of apps and social media, advertising, subliminal or overt, competition, addiction, poverty growing disproportionate to wealth, corruption and the general malaise of apathy and defeat around Big Brother and his Nanny State, we (no, I) must remember what it is to be unique among millions. I must stop running and think for myself. This might take a while because, if I am honest, it is easier to go with current worldly thinking, which has a strong and powerfully persuasive voice but which is really relieving us, ever so slowly, of our own unique voices. I might wonder what it is I do think. I might come up blank, at first. I might not know where to begin following my own inner voice, once I can hear it again. I might find myself stopping to talk with a street beggar and feeling deeply conspicuous. (it gets easier with practice). I always wanted to, to give, to show respect, but none of my friends do and if I have ever faltered beside such a sad picture of a human life, I would feel a firm hand on my elbow, guiding me away, and a bright schoolmarm voice in my ear suggesting ‘Coffee?’

We travel alone, and yet together. We need each other for friendship and so much more……..but it is our prime duty to respect our own unique individuality, to relocate that inner guiding voice and then to take appropriate action, because every single one of us is here for a purpose, one purpose per living soul. It is our job to work that one out. Alone.

Island Blog – Seed Pods, A Hawk and Me

Today there is a breeze – a welcome one, even if it is already 27 degrees out beyond the cooling thatch of the stoep where fierce old Father Sun is warming up for a ten degree elevation. Little brown seedpods scurry across the velt as if chasing each other. The big stones, left behind as the bushland erodes even more, show me their shoulders, rounded from a thousand years of ocean turmoil. These huge stones have stories to tell. I remember years ago flying in a tiny plane, not much bigger than a swan, through the fjords of Iceland, heading north to where the houses run out and only the ice tundra remains. The sharp toothed mountains reared into the blue sky like pointing fingers, young still, in the lives of mountains, unlike their Scottish cousins whose stories go way further back. These mountains, these teenagers, could still fell a man (and a plane the size of a swan) just by falling out with the sky, thus creating a synaptic flu. And, as with we humans, one person with flu affects everything and everyone else.

As I sipped my coffee and watched for a giraffe visit, I heard a guinea fowl. The distinctive sound is not usually heard in solo, for guinea fowl, those comical hen-like birds travel in groups, all talking at once. The singular sound alerted me and soon I saw, first, the bird running at a surprising lick between the still-bare trees followed by what I thought was another fowl in flight. the guinea fowl lifted into the air somewhat clumsily, still yelling its head off, still alone but for its follower. Ah……not another fowl but a hawk! The chase was lost to my view and I had no phone with me to capture such a sight, nor would I have had the time to focus and press ‘video’. It all happened so fast – the large hen fowl, the smaller hawk in pursuit, an unlikely meet. Who knows? Not I, said the cat. Not I said the goose. And nor do I.

This all thinks me. The seed pods tippling along in the wind, powerless to change a single thing. The guinea fowl in the wrong place at the wrong time. The old round-shouldered stones and their younger cousins poking at the sky to trouble it as all teenagers will do around authority. In my days and weeks here I have studied and rested, read and watered the plants who could never wait a week for refreshment, not in this dry heat. Sometimes, and for no reason I can find, I am like a seed pod, trundling this way and that across some bare-assed tundra and the best I can do is to make little trundling noises as a bully wind decides where I go next. Someone might say something that reacts inside me like an axe-chop and all my anxieties rise to welcome the blow, confirming what I always feared, that I still haven’t got it right, whatever ‘it’ is. I might hold my ground (mindfully) but my rational mind has abandoned me and all I want to do is to hide in the dark of the broom cupboard with all the other old brooms whose bristles are more like whispers but which nobody quite got round to chucking on the bonfire.

Other days I am the guinea fowl in the wrong place at the wrong time. I can feel the terror and hear the hawk and a greater part of me just wants to give up and wait for the inevitable, however slow and unpleasant that would be. Funnily enough, I never feel like the hawk, not in such a chase. Even if I do know that hawks need food like all the rest of us and is not able to pop to Tescos for a weekly shop, I still prefer to envisage such a magnificent creature soaring over my head and enjoying the upthrust of thermals.

In my studies, I am learning both to ‘ground’ and to ‘elevate’ in my daily meditation (well, almost daily). It’s all done through imagination and I have plenty of that to spare, too much most of the time to be honest, and the imagery really does calm and restore me. But, and here’s my jagged toothed poke at the sky, I really do wonder at the efficacy of loading one wee woman with so much imagination whilst others seem to have just enough to live a normal and pleasant life. I think things nobody else thinks, or would admit to, perhaps. I go down into valleys and up the rocky mountains whilst others walk calmly along the road. I can see them. I can talk to them but I cannot walk that way it seems. My way (thank you God) is a daily bother about appropriate footwear for a terrain I did not choose and am quite unprepared for. Are there others like me out there, I wonder? Yes, I know there are and the reason I write all this in my blogs is not just to reach out to all you others who have to abseil slimy rock faces instead of take a wee donder along a road built by man and following the line of least resistance, but to know I am not the only one who fights life every single step of the way. It isn’t that I am unhappy with my lot, far far from it. I love my life, am in love with my life. I have the imagination to see far far into the void even if it terrifies the bejabers out of me. I can climb mountains in the wrong footwear if I have to. I have something extraordinary within (thank you God) even if I do wonder (and often) what on earth I am supposed to do with it all. I have envied, many times, the folk who just get on with life, who don’t think too much and who appear rarely, if ever, consumed by doubts, fears, anxieties and predatory hawks; those who see what is visible and who are not concerned with what is not. It looks like such a pleasant way to live, but I could not live that way however hard I tried. My inner nutcase is way too strong for me to conquer. I know. I’ve tried to kill it off since way back when. She, and it is obviously a she, so obstinate, so strong, so defiant, so stubborn and loud and ornery. No hiding in the broom cupboard for her, dammit. I have even tried to outwit her; wearing clothes that look like other people’s, or practising normal ways to live, to speak; voicing opinions that present me as #notme but it never lasts for long. I get the giggles. This me is this me. End of.

And here you are, my fellow crazies. I see you on your own rock face and I am waving from my own – in the wrong footwear with the hawk screeching in my ears and a bully wind buffeting my ass. Above all of us who take the path less travelled, if indeed you could call it a path at all, so invisible at times, so thrawn with roots and other trip-ups, is Father Sun, Mother Moon and a sky wide enough to hold all of us down whilst lifting all of us up.

And so it is.

Island Blog – A Day and The Beast

Some days I wake in an uncertain light. Oh, the light without is as normal but not the light within. It flickers on an off like a dodgy bulb, predicting eventual out-ness for ever. I rise quickly, wondering in my half sleep if the dodgy light is only here with me beneath the covers. Unfortunately not. Going through the ordinary process of washing, dressing, opening curtains and pulling back the covers to give the innocent bed a good airing, the uncertainty stays close. I cannot explain it, never could and now, with my ageing knowledge, I never will because it always, without exception, leads me down the path of self-beration. Or, is it self-beratement? Or self-berateness? None, or all of those?

Whatever I choose to name it, it is entirely itself. My inner judge who has been sleeping for a while now is really a slumbering beast with teeth and claws and is a tremendously accurate portrait painter. Before the first snarl I know what it is going to say and how it will say it. Accusations of failure, neglect, foolishness and downright sin are all in its mouth, just busting to breathe out poison darts on a swoosh of stale air. I no longer engage. The fact that these judgements are always the same without a trace of compassion or effective guidance have numbed me to their supposed power. In short, I have learned that it is not the beast that scares me at all, but only my own apparent determination to allow the beast room at all inside my head.

The tactics I have employed are most effective. If I, the carer of this inner beast keep caring for it, feeding it with attention and other nourishments, it will never leave me. Why would it? It is cosy in there, safe and most importantly, unchallenged by other kings and principles, beliefs and choices. It reigns, or reigned, supreme. Right, Mate, I tell it. I need to do some work on this, on you and on me. So I begin at the beginning, in childhood. I don’t trawl back through memories to find anything in particular for the memory is a fickle friend as the above makes clear. Instead I study, under guidance from an online course, how to love myself better. Actually, how to love myself at all, given that most of us don’t love ourselves anyway, me included. If I take the hand of my imagination and we go together into the fun of childhood, the play and the games, the innocence and the laughter, we find plenty of it. Remembering only the hard times is very unfair of me and not the whole truth by a long shot, but I am not alone in making this choice. Invariably when someone is asked about their childhood, they will recall the hard times, the tough mother, the absent father, the bullying at school, the spots, the fat, the teasing, the shame of being alive at all. Why? Well, I cannot answer that beyond saying that our default as humans is usually to see the worst, remember the worst, speak it out as if it was all we ever experienced.

Back home, rain threatens. In Africa, where people and animals die of thirst every day, rain promises. Same rain, different view of it. Simples. if I can take a day like yesterday feeling out of sorts, scratched and snarled at and just move gently through it, then it passes. If I can tell myself that I am a true survivor, a strong and beautiful woman who has lived her life to the full from the year dot, then the beast gets bored and goes back to sleep. If I can consider how to spend my time on such a day, outside my thoughts, reading, perhaps, sewing, asking questions of others who may well be very much in need of such attention, then the beast is ignored and neglected. Eventually, with practice and allowing no thoughts of self-criticism to arise, not even one, during such a day, the beast will leave the building. I know this, because I am practising just that.

And the days will be as they will be. I never know what a day will bring, but, by golly, I am ready, like a sharp witted warrior, and the ones that set out to bring me down are no match for me at all.

Island Blog – Little Fires

I believe that grandparents have a gift. One that is gifted to them. They also have a gift to give, through translation, nothing lost, unless they choose to ignore the opportunity it brings them, and by extension, the generation below and the one below that.

On the first gift, I can say it comes as a surprise. This gift is one of a second childhood. Not physically, of course, but in a renewed lease of life. From banging on about arthritis to clambering over a fence with a cackle of glee; from medication programming to random acts of play; from soup at midday on the button to fish finger sandwiches just because we’re hungry – with ketchup, naturally. The awakening of the sleeping child is painless. Sparkles return to rheumy eyes and stolen carrots from the veg counter at Tesco’s are an absolute must. An old woman who has plodded, fallen- arched, and for many years, up one aisle, politely rounding to the next, might suddenly find herself speeding up for a swing-wheelie at the top. The giggles of the little ones egg her on and she just can’t help herself. Her mind is full of naughty ideas that came from nowhere. After all, these half-pint charges of hers have been sternly groomed for a perfect public face and mummy never does any of these things.

As mummy, we don’t either. Many of us are so caught up in right and absolutely wrong that we contain, without intending it, the free spirit of our children until their bodies can barely bend at all. And here comes the second gift, the one given. With granny we can fly and fly high. My granny was like that and we all adored her. The mischief in her eyes set little fires in our own and although she was in all ways the perfect lady, she showed us a side of her true self that my mother rarely saw as a child. I feel sad about that and wonder how much, and how often, I contained my own children in boxes at least two sizes too small for their exuberant personalities. But how else to protect, teach and develop a child into the adult we want them to be, hope they will become? This, in itself sounds like a box, but only to my granny ears. So is it just that we can ‘hand them back’ or is it that second chance to what, make amends? My own children, now parents, are not always delighted at granny’s antics. Initially I faced a few stern reprimands on my behaviour, feeling like the child in trouble and most uncomfortable. Can I say God or should I pretend he doesn’t exist? Can I answer questions on where babies come from, asked by a ten year old, or should I say “Ask Mummy’ thus making it very mysterious and serious? I get my nickers in a right knot at such times, and dither like an old woman who never thought an original thought, or was never allowed to.

9 grandchildren in, I now am more relaxed about the nicker knot thing. I pause a lot after a question is asked. I might distract, as I would a puppy chewing on a cat, suggest some toast or a bounce on the trampoline. I might answer the baby question, but vaguely, with something safe, like ‘Mummy’s tummy’ and leave it at that . As to God, I might say, some believe he exists, some don’t, and round with a question for them. What do mummy and daddy say? Always a safe bet, that one.

I don’t remember my mum having any bother with dithering. She just answered as she saw fit, no matter what parental bans we had put in place. And blow it. Thats what she said. She had no intention of bending to our whims and I cannot imagine ever being brave enough to challenge her. In my day and with my mother, challenge was verboten. However my generation have been confounded with all the new information about parenting. Strait jackets were out, for starters, and choices offered to small people on the best dinner plates. My own children, and I have heard them all employ this, would ask their 3 year old what she would like for supper. I managed to keep my snort silent, although it gave me indigestion and required my scrabble into handbag depths for a Rennies. Now, I am used to it. I remember, once, tapping a child on the leg when her tantrum threatened the entire neighbourhood, and being strongly warned never to touch a child again in anger. It wasn’t anger, I began to say, but said no more after making eye contact with the parent in case. The Childline number is readily available, after all, and there are posters in every school in most of the rooms, and at a child’s eye level.

However, the joys of playing hooky with grandchildren are the best. Naughtiness and mischief fan the embers of my internal fire any time I am with them. And I am reminded, often, of the gift I have received and the gift I can give – that reconnection with my own childhood and the chance to be the child free, the child outside the box, setting all the other children free from their own boxes and, together, heading off into a fantasy world of mischief and fun and laughter.

I am going to have to live for decades more, it seems.

Island Blog – Smoke and The Beyond of Things

Today it is humid. I won’t say we can barely move but it’s close, in both senses of the word. 40 degrees and humidity is way above that, leaving our bodies slimy and lethargic, our minds on ice and aircon. Outside, the animals must work with this for they have no option. Rain, much needed and in copious amounts, threatens, lands us a few fat drops and then rolls away laughing. We fill the water bowls, big deep terracotta things close to the house for we know that the water hole is shrinking. It leaves cracked dry mud at its edges and offers little in terms of relief for all the giraffe, zebra, buck,nyala, wildebeest, warthogs and birds who need it to be full and rain-clean. Thunder grumbles, lightening flashes, but it is just a game to them. They are not down here and wasting away for the lack of what they hold in their power – the knife crack that will split the clouds, forcing them to dump their precious cargo on this hot sandy desert. Even the buffalo grass is holding firm, refusing to push shoots above the surface. The only grass that is visible has risen beside the outside tap that leaks. These wispy green shoots look surprised. I imagine them wondering where all their mates have gone and feeling just a tad foolish for having been so keen to get above ground. The blue mountains have spent the day in a blur as if coated in smoke. I see nothing of the laval deposits, nor the faces of, now let me see…….at least 12 creatures from real to mythical and clearly cut from the now solid rock. I have a hippo mother and her calf, a rock biter, an ape baring his teeth and a rather wonky-chops horse who appears to be melting, to name but a few. They are all hidden this day.

It thinks me of relationships, those ships that bounce across the same ocean, yet each travels alone. One, like the keen grasses, bursts out too soon through excitement or anticipation. Sure, this person may regret their action once faced with, well, nobody else, but it is his very nature that brought him into the sunlight and, who knows, his might be the better choice.

Although the smoke hides the mountains from me, it doesn’t mean they aren’t there. I have watched and studied their faces for weeks now. Someone else might tell me they are just mountains. They have no animal faces carved into their solid rock shoulders. These are merely fictions of mine, something to be fondly allowed. What they really mean is that they cannot see what I see. The beyond of things. When someone is completely living in the worldly world, they rarely see the beyond of things, and people who do are drunk or deluded or children.

I swim in the pool, feeling the fat drops of rain fall on my shoulders. At 40 degrees, this is a blessing, not a curse. But, it is only a few and I can hear the clouds cackling like old witches who had the power to fell fortresses back in the day and now can only, at best, halt the cloud dump, which is inevitable and will come one day soon. The swim is a relief and a pleasure. Zebra trot across to eat the early grasses…….oops! Warthogs do the same but the rest of the bush is sand and hot and empty of cover and carpet. For now. Until the rains finally come.

Right now, the retriever pup is being dunked in the pool. His super warm coat is a disadvantage in this hot country and yet he is bouncy, well and full of puppy nonsense. His human parents teach him to find the steps in the pool for easy exit, should he ever fall in by mistake. The acacia is greening up daily, the giraffes visiting ever more frequently and Spring is moving in. So weird to have left Autumn behind and to move into Spring. I watch socking great wasp queens looking for nesting sites, bugs of all colours clattering across the decking, some safe, some lethal. Lizards leave droppings everywhere and geckos who seem quite joco about living under the eaves of the thatch drop the same from above. Tiny pellets land on me at odd times, but I can see nothing when I look up.

Doesn’t mean they aren’t there.

Island Blog – Curiouser

I think, if asked right now, what is my favourite book, I would answer Alice in Wonderland. I say ‘right now’ because I read about 15 books a month and they range like mountains in their diversity, over continents and across the world, ignoring oceans and other stops in the proceedings. I read books on Nature, History, Spirituality, Science (well, easy science and including Geology, Astrology, Mountainology and other ologies) Novels, Poetry, Essays and whatever else catches my eye at any one time. That time depends on mood, openess of heart, time and weather. In the colder days, cold writings pull me in. The Eye of the Reindeer being one that springs to mind. In desert times, when I am too hot for toffees, I might pick up something about a woman in the Amazonian jungle fighting mosquitos and other things that bite or swell, like a river, for instance or the chest of a malefactor.

But, when someone asks that question about my favourite book, and I am obliged to answer, I will say Alice. She walked with me through childhood. I had the long hair, the curiosity, the wilfulness and the desire for escape into adventure. Even my mum said so as she rolled her eyes and shook her head. Oh Alice! she breathed, even if that wasn’t my name, but I knew what she meant. Inside I smiled, even though she may not have intended a compliment.

To be curious is to be a child, so they say, but the greatest thinkers counter that, urging us to remain curious throughout our lives. When we put away childish things we might be excused for chucking curiosity out too, but we make a mistake in doing so. I agree that we should probably stop sucking our thumbs in public, or eating soup with our fingers, but, in the chucking, the very core of what makes us human goes too. Suddenly we have to be sensible, and that word has distorted itself. It originates in a late Middle English ‘perceptible by the senses’, its origin from Old French or from the Latin ‘sensibilis.’ Either which way it refers to what we sense, not what someone else senses on our behalf, such as ‘sensible’ shoes or behaviour or choices. In other words, not my choice at all.

Watching a child or puppy or kitten or small thing learn something new, with a little fear and a lot of bravado always fills our mouths with Aaaws and our hearts with a skoosh of watery warmth. Is that nostalgia for what we left behind so long ago? Why did we leave it, and where? Have we, in our sensible shoes and with our sensible choices got just a bit lost in the forest? I get that we are required to live politely inside our worlds. Anarchy is scary and nobody wants that amount of unrest, not least because there is quite enough of it on the inside of our own front door, but our choices are never hung on the horns of dilemma. It is never either this, or that, either black or white, either crazy or sensible. No way.

There is a place in between This and That, where the BFG and Winnie the Pooh and Alice, Dr Zeuss and children all live in perfect harmony. This place is not for anyone who has understood sensible to be ‘it’, that turning into an adult, minus all childlike fantasy, hope, fun, play and curiosity is what we all inevitably morph into; that life becomes a circular saw on repeat. I know it threatens when we are overly influenced by worldly pressures and opinions, I know this well because I fell for it too. But, and this is the wisdom of old age, I now know that my falling wasn’t new. Generations have done it, turning into stuffy and distant dads and over-chirpy controlling mums, both of whom concealed and protected their self medication in the face of emptiness like a ‘precious’. Those of us who lie sleepless and disappointed, full of wonder but not the Alice kind.

Well, the good news is that nothing is ever lost. We might have agreed, momentarily, on the sensible shoes, but we have not lost the curiosity knack, any more than we have forgotten how to ride a bike. All we have to do is turn, ever so slightly towards what we know really matters; the play of our children, the sudden sunset that begs us to watch right up to the end; the time when cats reset a computer just by walking across the keyboard. Or, that moment when someone says ‘Coffee?’ when we have a long list for Tescos and are running late. Those times where Curiosity beckons. Where we could just find laughter and sharing and suddenness and light and all those things you never find in a Tesco queue.

Even though Curiouser is not a dictionary word, in fact, precisely because it is not, I call it to the witness stand. We need wild things in the witness stand, even if the sensible and judgemental world would have a conniption at the very thought. At least the wild things can swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth without thinking a single thought.

And be believed.

Island Blog – Patching and a Merry Dance

As I complete my task of sewing up a hole in Sheepy, it comes to me. All my days I have worked on repairing the tears other people made in things, in each other. From Sheepies to hearts, from fixtures to fittings, through burned casseroles to burned chances, I have pulled out my needle and thread or my magic wand or the car keys and set out to patch and heal. I felt like an angel at times when it seemed to work and an obstacle in the way when it didn’t. This morning’s epiphany showed me that a lot of my actions were, in fact, self-gratification. Although my intent was to dry sad eyes and to mend broken hearts, I had set myself up as the answer to the problem. In other words, it was really all about me, not them. It saddens me to realise this. My own longing for love manifested itself in my attempts to please others, more, to be the one inside their lives who could patch to perfection. A wiser me would have done it differently. A wiser me would have stood beside them in their desert and listened, comforted, told them they can sort this and asked them how they might see themselves doing just that, whilst assuring them I would stay right beside them at all times.

I am grateful, always, for the way life teaches me important lessons. Not as an opportunity to blame myself but to move forward in my learning, with curiosity and acceptance. The way a new understanding comes into my head whilst repairing a hole in Sheepy chuckles me, even if I do immediately dash back over the decades past with a machete in my hand, ready to take revenge on my earlier ignorant self. Woa! I say. Steady girl. That woman back there had the best intentions and did good, really good, mostly. She didn’t know what you know now, old woman. She didn’t know the lack of unconditional love in her own life would drive her to select herself as guardian protector of pretty much everyone in her care. Give her a break and tell her Thank you for all you did in love.

These are wise words. Seeing something old in a new light, one that illuminates all the faulty wiring simply means I tried my very best under the circumstances. No matter that I was naive or seeking to fill my own black hole with good deeds (which never works by the way). Let the judge in me leave the courtroom. I recall my mum saying a similar thing to me once after she had felt criticised and judged by us. She said, simply, I Did My Best. And so she did.

However, whilst we girls and women of good intention repair until our fingers bleed, we may forget that we too need that care and love. I certainly did. I took the smallest portion, the back seat, the last straw. I taught myself to accept mean graces because all the best ones were doled out to others. I was the one who cleaned out the landcover with a smile, allowing everyone else to run indoors for toast and jam. I was the one who couldn’t sleep if a child was troubled at school. I was the soother, I was the warmth and the safety net. But what was I to me? Not enough and there’s another learning. In my day to think of self for more than five minutes was heresy. Women who shared the same turning of the earth, at the same time as I, knew this too. To be accused of being selfish was devastating.

Now we know different and thank goodness for that. However, it does present us with a problem. If we have loved and patched and healed others for most of our lives, how can we now place ourselves centre stage? The super trooper is too bright and we have forgotten our lines. Do we have opinions or did we just repeat the ones we heard others opine? Do we like pasta, kangaroos, thunderstorms, cats, driving, dancing naked in the rain? Can we quickly make a decision when someone asks Early Grey, Darjeeling, Builders, or coffee? Oh……I’ll have what you’re having. Wrong answer. But we all make it. We have spent so many years obliging that we have mislaid ourselves.

Recently I have been stopping myself from answering like a well trained robot when faced with a question. I pause. this pause can irritate the questioner. It’s a simple question after all but I am tossed on a stormy sea and feeling seasick. In the past I was a I’ll Have What You’re Having sort of woman and she is quick to come forward at such times with her pinny on straight and her bright voice loud in my ears. I push her back. Hold………! What is it I want? I know what I want but I don’t think it will be popular so I can’t let it out. Speaking my truth takes balls and I am terrified of critical judgement, of upsetting the others, the applecart. However, it also feels free-ing.

I suspect it is never too late to learn. I’m curious, too. I might discover what I do like, what I do want and that learning might lead me a very merry dance.