Island Blog- Balance

I realise something and every something is something.

For over a year I have been completely involved with myself and my situation. Although it is understandable, it is also, at times, questionable. I don’t mean to question the depth and length and horribleness of grief, no. I get that bit, even if it is clown-tripped by a happy face painted on to a sad one. The ‘process’ is both eye-rolling and unavoidable, dammit. I am a woman who makes things okay no matter the shards, the damage, the blood and the disaster. It is hard to step away from that and to allow this slowness to inhabit my mind, sleep, body and mind.

Every alert alerts me. I have learned this, being a woman who will not, will not, be confined by someone else’s peripheries. I have allowed that too many years back and back is back and I am a forward person. My ankles are strong, my body agile -ish, my soul questing, my mind curious. All good so far. Far. A wonderful word. We all love ‘Far’ if we are honest because not one of us wants the opposite, which might read as Not Far, at best.

My alert is twofold. Not one being the either to other, nor more powerful in impact. How strange life is. One is the birth of a new life, a new girl, a new little girl within my huge family. The other is a death of a woman I know to have fought like a battleship throughout her life and who is dead too soon. I do the scale balance thing in my head, see the ancient star sign, Libra. I make no sense of it, of her, in my head. Balance, after all, surely, is something I can understand in a worldly way. This balances that out, that balances this in. No. Never.

When we try, when I try, to make sense of awful things happening to good people, I founder on the rocks of confusion. I draw back, pull back out into the ocean and still I can’t make sense. Am I counting the rocks, feeling the tide pull, the onslaught of a capricious onshore wind as if somehow the math in me will come up with an answer? Yes, perhaps I am, but no amount of worldly knowledge will protect me from the unknown. The new birth, a celebration, something wonderful and then a death, too young, too unfair and with no explanation. I think that’s it, the no explanation thing. It is almost impossible to explain, and let me rest there because what I want to do is to honour her life and what she meant to me.

The new girl is but 2 days old. The dead girl ditto. I am working on balance.

Island Blog – Balance, Demons and Sightlight

I watch a paddle boarder skim up the sea-loch. She is travelling at one hell of a lick on an ebbing tide but I know her and she is experienced in such matters. She stands straight as a die, the salt surface flat and unruffled. I can’t see her smile but I just know there is a wide one on her pretty face. Balance. She has it, knows it, holds it. I find myself envying her, not for the paddle board thingy, but for her ability to balance. I have never been balanced, not like that. I am not saying I am clumsy because that wouldn’t be the truth. I am a dancer and know my feet, the ground beneath them, my space available, my pivot, my spin, or I used to. I don’t mean that sort of balance. I mean mental balance.

I know we have weeks for things, for awareness, for an alert that shows us, to a degree, how others are living, the others we might not think about much at other times, or, at least, not with a mindful engagement. Last week was Mental Health Week. My ears pricked up. I am all over mental health, being, as I am, essentially unhealthy in that arena and with a backlog life of working to control, manage and accept it. In my youth I saw people with obvious external evidence of mental compromise. So did you. But what I did not see were those who look just fine, are beautiful, kind, high functioning, holding together what looks like a normal life and who are really going through inner hell. Now I can see them, when they let me. Having noticed the PTSD in my own father, my father-in-law, my uncles, my mother, my aunts and a load of other relatives, myself included, I know how incredibly exhausting it is (and was for them) to maintain that ordinary life, the one that gets you out of bed, into clean clothes and down the stairs to live another day.

When I had the hand of Life always at my back, was the IT for absolutely everything inside a day, I paused not for thought on mental health, mine or anyone else’s. There was no time for pausing. It was go, go, go from the second my tired feet touched the floor and all the way up to the moment they finally lifted back into bed. Sleep was an exhausted one and not always refreshing. Days wove around me like ropes until I honestly believed I would drop strangle-dead half way through making soup. I remember driving down to collect children from school with an evening ahead of dinner for 16, gourmet, plus at least 10 for a kitchen meal plus children to bed, cocktails to pour, bright chatter and lift-light required from me, the hostess, the mother, the wife, the IT, and seriously considering driving on until I ran out land. Often. The inner strength of a human being extraordinaries me.

This day I walked a corridor. On the one side was exhaustion due to poor sleep (again) the tears like a rising wave behind my dry eyes, the feeling of failure, of alone-ness, of pointlessness and on the other side my always ready clean page on which I dutifully write what I am thankful for, what I did today, that sort of nonsense. Of course, it isn’t nonsense at all but it can feel like it sometimes. I do it anyway. I do it so that my demons won’t get me. What I really want is a lobotomy, even though I don’t. Some of us seem to be born with demons, or we readily pick them up as children. I am not good enough. I fail. I don’t deserve love and when it comes I push it away. I do things to make someone happy and when they thank me I brush them off. No matter how much I appear to succeed, I fail according to me. Whatever I start, I don’t finish. When I have the sudden inspiration to do something the demon comes in to remind me it will never work. These demons have big voices, are so believable, and it seems to me that no matter how many daily practices I employ, no matter how good the going can be for a while, they are just patiently waiting for me to get a bit tired, a bit down and in they come like a West End show I can’t not watch. (double negative, sorry Dad). Like today.

However, and the cheerleaders out there will be waiting for this, for me to present the positive even if I don’t really believe in it. I did achieve quite a few things. I played music (to drown out the demons). I welcomed the carpet fitters, cleaned up after them, re-assembled the bedroom, changed the sheets, potted 15 seedlings, walked the wee Popster, completed 3 more baby quilts, washed clothes, hung a few paintings, ironed 3 frocks, lugged wood, spoke to one of my lads, did some paperwork.

And I am thankful for quite a list. I forget my talents at times. I forget who I am and writing this list, even as the pen wiggles in my fingers and my eyes roll and I sigh the biggest sigh, I make myself write. I am thankful for:-

My singing voice (even if the song is what……resting just now.

My home

My kids, my life, my friends (name them), my ability to cook (don’t feel like it much these days), my sight, strength, the way I can repair things others would throw away, my new carpets, the way I can pick out a tune on my piano with chords first time off, my gift of writing. Even my demons.

Because what I have come to realise is that strong demons are just one side of the coin. The other side is a sort of lift-light brilliance with no idea how or where to shine. They say it is not failure we fear most, but success. Although I am still working through what the heck that means, I am beginning to get it. I know I have a very high IQ. I also know you don’t want that. It is a lonely place and a place where confusion reigns. In a school environment it is just fine if you have a high IQ and behave yourself, but if you have that high IQ and rebel you become a monster. I was the latter.

I write this just in case there is some other beautiful, kind, high functioning humanoid who relates to demons and lift-light. I just know there are many, even those who would tell me they aren’t bright, aren’t this, aren’t that but, in some deep place, relate. I salute you. We have a great deal to offer the world but first our single task is to shapeshift from demon rule to lift-light rule. This is not simple. I have a counsellor, no, two counsellors because I know, as I know that I cannot take apart a tractor engine and reassemble it effectively, that I need help. I may always need help. It bothers me. I am 68 for goodness sake. I should know my way by now. After all, don’t all other 68 years olds, other 40 year olds, other 20 year olds, know their way? (They sure look like they do) However, the answer is an unequivocal NO. Just because others look like they know their way and appear completely happy with it, is one socking great delusion. They are just good actors. You are you, unique, as am I.

However if you, if I, are one of the ‘tapselteerie’ ones, then let us learn ourselves. We may have mental health issues, according to the world, be awkward around the rule book, feel lost in an inner silence, but maybe, if we can flip the coin, we can be the ones with vision who can fly over the ordinary, the limitations of life and be the ones who might, just might, see further that Debenhams closing or whether or not the one way system in Edinburgh is causing everyone to be late home for their tea.

Island Blog – A Different Summer

Looking back on life, I imagine we can all remember one particular summer, for its joy or for its unjoy. Perhaps it was that one, as a carefree youngster, first in love, heady with dreams and hopes and madly keen to escape the confines of diligent parenting. Perhaps it was that memorable holiday, the colours, swirls and shape of which are ingrained in a mind, body and soul. Perhaps it was the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the time the wisteria went crazy up the walls, dropping sweet perfume and amethyst blooms every time you walked underneath.

This one, the one we are welcoming right now will surely be a collective memory, one we will talk about, write about and think about for a very long time to come. By definition, ensuing summers will still be summers but might appear ordinary, now that we have met extraordinary. I love this time of year. Less clothing, more colour, bare feet and crisp salads; sunshine skin and long bright evenings; new life all around, birds, animals, flowers; brown babies, freckles, picnics and barbecues. Everything in me shifts with the rising warmth, reflections of green at the waters edge, the sound of Earth singing us back to life.

Okay so this summer is different and although each summer is different, in that we have all moved through the winter and, therefore, learned new learnings, this one is more different than most. But, even as we are refused access to each other, to dinners out, lunch al fresco at a local restaurant, long walks together or parties on the lawn, we can still summer. I know that the isolation can chip away at us, because, as humans, as social creatures, we long to share. Witnessing something wonderful, something new and delightful all on your own is just not the same. There will be many, like me, who are talking to themselves. I tell me many things throughout the day, share jokes and stories and me is a good listener, wise, too, sometimes irritatingly so. I remember learning once that inside me are as many as 25 others, all still me but different aspects of me. There is the Judge, of course, the poker-faced harridan with a lemon in her mouth. She is the most vocal, but as her repertoire is unimaginative and predictable, I can soon shut her up. There’s the little Alice in Wonderland and I am very fond of her. She always wants to play or shrink or sup tea with the Hatter and, together, we have great adventures. Then there’s Mrs Sensible. She is the wise one who keeps me from sailing out to sea without a compass. There is the Wife, the Mother and the Grandmother, and together we are quite a team. We are the ones who move through each day in acceptable clothing and with a well-ordered mind. Keeping a balance of the females inside my head is sometimes tricky. Sometimes I want to run riot, to disappear into my imagination, to break the rules of the well-ordered daily routine. And sometimes I do.

We are all having to search ourselves to find the fun, at times. And, for all the worries and concerns that have cut us off from each other, we have the chance to learn something wonderful from this summer. How we live thereafter will be directly aligned to what we have taken the time to study and consider. Great things will grow from the ashes of this, much like the flowers are doing right now, just outside the window.

Island Blog 124 – Chiaroscuro

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It’s not a sausage.  It’s a delicious word, nonetheless, and it is the meeting point between light and dark.  Of course, there is always a meeting point between light and dark, day and night joined together until the sun burns out, the light and dark, or shade, in a painting.  Used in the world of opera, it describes two voices, one soprano, one deep, might be contralto, might be tenor or bass, joined to create a thrilling balance for our ears to hear.

So, this lovely ‘meeting of opposites’ has a pretty name and if you say it with an Italian accent, plus the hand gestures, you can quite lift your day.  Chiaro, means ‘clear and bright’, and Oscuro, dark and obscure.  Five musical syllables, and the ‘Ch’ is pronounced as ‘K’.

This meeting of contrasts is everywhere in our world, and, without one, we fail to see or appreciate the other.  When it rains a flood for weeks on end, and the water moves indoors, it must be a very dark time.  Outside, in the village hall, on the sodden streets, in a corner shop, there will be smiles of light, offers of sympathy, support and hope.  I don’t have to see it for myself to know I speak the truth.  Whenever life feels dark, somebody or something casts light in our path and, with that light, we find we can go on a bit further.  At another time, darkness brings a welcome relief.  It’s the balance than matters.  We want both in equal portions to find a happy rhythm.  But let’s just consider the chiaroscuro of life, the meeting point, and an entity in itself.

As we look we find ourselves, for we are both light and dark.  All of us.  Our relationships, too, for they are also a meeting of light and dark.

Well, you can forget the dark, someone might say.  Who wants dark in a relationship?

Have you ever met somebody quite unbelievably light?  For this person, everything is ‘wonderful’  I have met such people and I didn’t believe they were real at all, for it is against our human nature to be all light and no dark.  Of course, the dark bits can be hidden for years, but they will show themselves in behaviour choices, skin condition, ailments and disease.  We are fashioned in balance, and our journey through this life is one of learning and more learning.  We develop a creative agility in order to survive and this means we must recognise the dark and the light and make them both welcome at our table.  I know I have wished for all light and no dark, but, even as I wish it, I know I am a fool, for how could I ever really feel another’s pain and grief, if I had never felt my own?

I have heard folk banging on about the shoulds and shouldn’ts of benefits, taxes, governmental rulings, as if everything ‘should’ be dished up on an endless supply of pretty plates.  I know that some are struggling, many are struggling, with real problems in their lives, with limitations and deprivations I can only ever imagine, but hand-outs seem to be expected across far too wide a swathe of humanity.  If we sit at home, watching complete nonsense on the tv and building on whatever is currently causing angst, and never step into the light of day, of course all we are going to see is darkness. If we feed Black Dog, Black Dog will grow big and strong.

I remember my old granny telling me that when I felt sorry for myself for longer than ten minutes, I needed to cheer someone else up, with a phone call, a visit, a text message, and never mentioning one word about my own self-pity.  My mum always says she is ‘absolutely fine’ when anyone asks her how she is.  And, do you know what……..  both those women have it nailed, because in both cases, their refusal to wallow, their very act of lifting the collective moment, initiates a dramatic change deep inside.  I can leave a house, having arrived with both my legs heavy as old porage, my chin scraping the ground and all my aches and pains playing a noisy percussion throughout my body, as light as air and thinking no longer about Me, me, me.  Something extraordinary has happened quite silently inside me, something that tells me I am the chiaroscuro of the afternoon, for, in me, the light met the dark and became a thing of balance and beauty.

Next time you look at a wonderful painting, or listen to a piece of music, or a song, remember that, although there is both high and low, dark and light, lift and fall, tears and joy, that this is what, this is who we are too – a glorious blend of opposites.

And then step out and share it.

Island Blog 17 – Moon Talk

What I like to do around this time is step outside with a glass of red wine; any time of the year, makes no odds to me, for what I am wanting to  join in with is the evolving of day into night, when bustling daylight gives way to the gloaming (Scottish word) and everything around me begins to settle.  The only bird not already in bed is the blackbird, and sometimes, a late robin.  Even if I can’t see them I know their song, and their song changes at dusk (explanation of Scottish word).

Actually, their song changes at other times, like in early Spring when they are rivaling for a mate.  But that’s another blog, another time.

If it is raining hard, I may only manage stepping into the garage, with its open maw, but, in the main, I can stand for a little, watch the sky and let myself both absorb, and be absorbed, by the coming night.  Tonight the moon is wonky, not that she feels in the least wonky, but she looks that way to me, for her fullness is coming, but not just yet, making her an oval in the black heavens.  Full moons mean something when you live by the sea, and I don’t mean beside it, but ‘by’ it.  When your next move must shift to accommodate the powerful pull of the moon and she, the moon, is always guaranteed to make a big statement.  The tides are very high and very low at ebb and flood, and if you work with a boat, you have to know this, or you land in trouble.  Big winds, grumpy weather leading to grumpy seas, high winds and sudden squalls all work together at full moon, to unsettle mankind and remind him he is not in control at all, however much he may think he is.  And women change at full moon.  Have you ever worked that out?  I know that, when I did, it made me laugh and that knowledge settled inside me like a loving hug (for me) and a warning to my man.  Now he knows, and so do I.  I am a creature of the moon mother and now that we accept this inevitability, we can both be sensible, most of the time. In real life, that is, the life where we accept, even if we don’t understand, the balance between our physical and metaphysical selves, we can move easily within that life, without trying to fix or alter it, but, instead, to love it and claim our part in it, for it is wonderful indeed and, by the way, our only chance to shine like the moon in someone’s sky.


One man and his dog