Island Blog – Two Ways of Looking

I have weird taste in breakfasts. Where most good folk are chomping on muesli, yoghurt and fruit, I hanker for poached egg over warmed avocado and chopped banana with lemon juice, salt, pepper and herbs. Sometimes I tuck into last night’s leftovers. I don’t have a sweet tooth, in fact teeth play a lead part in my breakfast choice because it takes me a whole lot of work, and time, to sort them out after muesli. I also eat very early, long before the sun is up so that lunch is often required around 11 am. Living alone, this is not a problem at all. Who cares when I eat? Who will notice? Only me and that’s just fine.

There are times, I confess, when I think enviously of those who sleep for 7 wonderful hours and who, on waking, can sip tea or coffee, read in bed, pondering the day from the warm snuggle of a duvet for another hour or so. These people sleep, I understand that, whereas I can manage a few short hours at best, waking into darkness and with no desire to remain in bed for another second. I am way too excited about the day ahead, too curious to see what awaits me downstairs. Did I wash the supper dishes? Did I buy something online, something I absolutely do not need at all? As I rise, I laugh at myself, at those questions. Washing dishes after each meal was a big issue when I cooked meals for large numbers of hungry people, most of whom were in my own family, but not now. One plate, one pan, one knife, one fork. I can barely see them on the draining board. Back in the years of manifold dishes there would have been a crockery crash had I not washed up after every meal. But it does think me because I know how easy it is to not bother as a live-alone person ages. There is nobody here to judge my standards after all. Ah, no, that’s not true because there is me and I am the strictest judge of self. My standards are always in need of improvement, and I have vowed as I watched other live-alones get sloppy that I would never allow that in myself. So, the dishes are washed, the floors swept, the bathroom clean, the rugs bashed to death and if the dog starts to smell, she is dunked in a bucket and scrubbed to a shine.

In short, it is exhausting being me. I often wish I could lower some of my standards, not one of which I expect to see in another living soul. Quite the opposite. Was I reared to be so damn critical of myself, allowing no laxity? Very probably. But surely at my age I could be less driven? It seems that I am fated to run all the way up to the end. I can’t even sit still for long, the dance in me is too dancey. I am curious about what might be around the next corner and I just have to find out, even if it is only another corner, which it often is. This doesn’t slow me down at all and when I think of this condition, this endless curiosity, I can see it two ways. Fidget, restless, too imaginative, hyperactive, or really alive, curious, interested, imaginative, mischievous, fun, inspiring.

I pick the latter.

Island Blog – A Secret Garden of Change

When change or improvement of standards are required, they nudge me, bump me, sprawl me until I turn to acknowledge their existence. I don’t really want to make friends with any of them to be honest because change, or improvement of an existing way of doing things, requires effort and action and the only person who can effect said change or improvement is little old me. Me, who, btw was quite happy not changing for ages, dammit. But these infuriating bumpers, nudgers and sprawlers will not give up. They know, smartarses that they are, that they know a better or, worse, a new way to do an old thing. However, I have to admit that on consideration I can see their point. There is always a better way to do anything, everything, always. Pretending I am not interested just sharpens their wits so that they bounce and trounce me from around corners that were just corners before – nothing lying in wait for me. It’s like hide and seek except they are the only ones hiding and seeking. Okay, okay, I say from where I have landed all ungainly and definitely cornered, okay. I’ll do it.

Now the work begins. I must deconstruct the doing bit of this thing, embark on a new spreadsheet #myanathema, write a list of do’s and absolutely do nots and this is the hardest bit. Absolutely do nots are so well established in my neural pathways that it is going to take the wiles and the wisdom of Captain Cooke to navigate new passage and I’m already yawning. However, I do know what comes next for I remember this embarkation process of old. Change is a procedure and can drag on for months. What it does not do is arrive for one sleepover with an instant solution in its pyjama pocket. I don’t get handed a miracle, complete, accomplished. Oh no indeed. What I need to do now is to relocate the secret garden, find the key and walk myself inside. Once within those walls that hide me from the world, I must open my mind, be still, reflect, consider and above all, not come out again until I know what I need to do next.

In order to effect change, to add gravitas to a new way of seeing and doing an old thing, or even to not do that old thing anymore, there is an uncomfortable period of self restraint. In small matters such as biting someone’s head off every time they slap their lips together whilst eating toast, or turning into Miss Trunchbull at every spill of milk, or a big matter like eating a whole cake for lunch every day, thus putting on 3 stone in a week, there must be a time when self control, diversionary tactics and a plastic smile must be applied appropriately. Whatever it is, we all know what we need to do but not always how to do it. The steps towards refinement of a person are so personal that there is no official manual to follow. And some of don’t fancy refining anyway, which is perfectly okay by me. I am not one of those people. I most definitely fancy refining but it still irritates the bejabers out of me. Just when I think I could not do this thing any better, those nudgers, bumpers and sprawlers who, obviously, don’t have enough takers for their grand designs, arrive to trip me up and, with my eyes rolling back in my head, I am eventually given no option but to turn around and acknowledge them. Again.

When I have finally conceded defeat and am still and reflective inside the secret garden I always wonder why I resisted to the degree that I did. Surely everyone loves to be better, kinder, more sensitive, compassionate, interested – curious to find out how they will feel as the process of effecting change reveals that which was hidden before. It’s like an Alice adventure. Wandering through the fruit trees, noticing the delicacy of petals, their vibrant colour, hearing the birdsong, the bee song, the rustle of soft breezes combing the leaves on the tallest tree, looking up at the wide, clear sky, all this stops me, halts my breath, slows my mind. And it is healing me too. From here I can see the old thing, the old way, as definitely passed its sell-by date. Why did I not see that out there? Well, I’ll tell you why. Out there, running like a hare on fire, doing things out of habit, routine or because my mother always did it that way, leaves no room for my imagination to rise above zero. I might think everything is tickety boo but that is my illusion, my delusion. Inside the secret garden of change I can see that now. I can breathe at my own speed, hear my breath, feel my heartbeat. I notice, that’s what I do, in here, waiting, reflecting, accepting. Out there I could run into a herd of elephants and not see them until we collide.

Everyone has a secret garden and everyone has a key. That’s the wonder of this human life.