Island Blog – If this is how it is, then Act

I feel sad for our world today. I know I live in a tiny part of it, beautiful, stunning, peaceful but yet tiny. It doesn’t stop me noticing the rest. Although for many years I have busily inhabited the aforesaid beautiful, stunning and peaceful place, it seems like there is a loudspeaker on the others, on the bigger world. I know of corruption in governments, of hidden information in order to keep the ‘masses’ quiet and I have never been okay with that. It is as if the ‘masses’ are mindless idiots who don’t think and who don’t need to know. I am one. I am protected up here with the Gulf Stream and with lunatic winter gales the biggest threats to my survival. They don’t stop me knowing, even as I am able to turn off the news, ignore the ‘bad stuff’ that might infect my sleep.

In my busy young mother overthetopworkedout life, I ignored with impunity. After all, there were guests to feed, hospitality requirements (endless) and a family to protect and provide for, so I never had a scooby about wars and corruption and governments hiding pretty much everything. Now, there is silence, endless silence in my life and I finger my way into the light of outside information. I don’t understand most of it, which, by my way of thinking, is just the point, but I know when I hear, or don’t hear, something that butts against my gut, when something in me stands up. Hairs, goose bumps, those sorts of things. If you stood me up in a group and demanded explanation I could not find the words. Much as my dream job was to be a thoroughly difficult woman in all situations, I am not her. I loved to hear the confidence and courage from those who wore red shoes and lipstick and who stood to be noticed at great risk and just knew I would only ever be a choir girl to their solo.

Now I find myself needing to be that soloist. Not in a group, not in public, not on a soapbox on the corner of a dank lonely street but for my own self. I see, even from the aforesaid magical place, that I must make difficult choices, brave up and stand for myself. We would love to have had clear direction from our ‘leaders’ but even they had no idea how the virus would morph, develop and consume. Nonetheless I see good leaders and I see dithery ones. I still won’t blame. This is up to me, me is up to me and, you know what, it is how it was when people thought for themselves instead of waiting for direction in a crisis. We seem to have lost the use of that muscle.

I find myself listening to the news more now, just the headlines. There is fear and doubt in all our hearts. There is detail and posturing although how anyone can posture against an invisible enemy astonishes me. It’s a bit Scifi. But, I remind myself as I contrive a grin with my teeth, this is how it is now. My mail box is coloured with bright offers of ‘freedom’ through summer sandals to cheap flights to loans. The world has gone mad. The leaders are flagging (not all of them) and the country is sagging like an old woman tired of the fight. Another winter of fear? Maybe. Another lockdown? Maybe. Another slug of fear in our whisky? Maybe. Another endlessness of isolation and loneliness? Maybe.

I always see a ‘Maybe’ as a butterfly, or a moth. I have done since childhood, perhaps because the word was employed so often by my mother as I asked the endless questions that drove her crazy. And, the thing about Maybe is that she has two sides. Will and Won’t. Show and Hide. Run and Stay. And more. There are times for each side of her and we need to tap our own intelligence in order to know to react. Our own intelligence. Not the government’s, not that or our opinioned friends/mothers/relations, not that of our neighbours, but our own. Some of us have not gone there for years, maybe decades. Hallo Maybe…. But we have it people, strong within us. Ask yourself ‘What do I believe?’ What Do I think?’ And keep asking until the only right answer comes. Then Act.

Island Blog – The Gift of Days

Sometimes we can see days as days, as days, as daze. Like numbers, like names of the week, like a length of hours and minutes and even seconds, although most of us don’t notice the seconds unless we have a Fitbit thingy or are timing a boiled egg. But we know days. I can ask someone How is, or was your day? They can answer many ways but the one that gets me is this one. Bad Day. I find myself confounded. I stand still on my feets but the upper half of me is fizzing like a firework. I have a zillion questions inside my mouth – there is barely room for my teeth. But, I keep quiet, initially. I say to myself, I know the place this person is in. I have been depressed enough to consider leaving this life by my own hand, and not just once. What I want to do is to bring in the sun for them but I know that if their whole day really was a bad one and I go and explode my can of coke-cheer all over them, all I will achieve is a sticky mess. However, if I feel the bridge between us is open to walkers, I might take a few steps. I might smile and ask, All of it? And, every time the body pulls back, a smile rises and they admit, after consideration, Well No, Not All of it, but if today was a gift, then this one was socks. (quote) We laugh and the air brightens around us, and I am always glad I stepped onto that bridge at such times.

We can all take a hit, often a random one and feel sad and unfizzy. That feeling, if allowed to fester, will morph into more of the same. However, telling ourselves to stop thinking that way, to focus on what we are thankful for, may not prove a strong enough combative and, besides, that advice is plain irritating. I think at such times that it is important, and nourishing, to sit with the ‘flat’ and to allow it to pass. It does take courage to do that, to adopt a willingness to accept that this feeling I am feeling is just a feeling, and no more. Sometimes, if the feeling is recurring, I will investigate. Why does this come to me at all, never mind oftentimes? I don’t ask anyone else. Just my own heart because as we all know, our own heart will never lie to us and will always give us the best advice whereas others, however true and loving will give an opinion. Not helpful.

I wake, as you already know, full of beans. I adore the dawning of a new gift-day. I am not sick, not dead. Therefore I am beansed up just because of the aforesaid. Childlike, I yank back the curtains to reveal a blowsy wildflower garden, already chirping with every little bird you can name. They await me, and when I do appear, heavy laden with various foodstuffs, they stay around me. I know to walk slowly and to softly warn them I am coming around the miniature maple fronds so as not to startle. Later I will wander up to see grandchildren and to hear about yesterday’s birthday party, that huge green-iced cake covered in horses and sporting candles as tall as Hobbits. Walking in the afternoon around the coastline, through the woods and across the expanses of wild grass, I will sing my thankfulness in nonsense words to a made-up melody. I have no idea what I am singing but the nonsense words come and in my mind I hold the warmth of my thankfulness, an image of all that I am thankful for. It is often quite a squash once I mindfully count up each tiny second of a thing. 360 seconds for each hour. That’s a load of thankings.

I believe in mind self-control. I do not believe any of us are victims of circumstance, no matter what that circumstance may be. If I am in a poorly lit, slow-moving, dank swamp of a place, only I can get me out. Oh yes, I can ask for help, in fact that’s essential for an uplift from a swamp, for someone else to recognise my struggle, but it is I who must decide I will not stay here any longer. Someone might say ‘I hate my job’. I say Look into changing. ‘I am miserable in my relationship’. I say Look into changing. ‘I am frustrated, bored, unfulfilled and broke’. You know what I say to that. Bit by bit, step by step (and it may take a long time to turn around) I know, as you do, that every day is precious and that I am important and valuable and that the gift of days can be snatched away at any moment. Knowing all these knowings, I have no alternative but to live to my fullest. And right now I can take the first step into my own future. Walking out, noticing, seeing and pausing to see more. Out is the key. Home I know, its walls and confines and the keeping in of it. That door, in hands reach, will lead to the Out of it. Sometimes Out is terrifying. But Out is the answer to too much In. And the In will cripple given half a chance because when we are fixated on the self, all we do is circle old beliefs, thoughts and memories. Just going for a walk can bring in something new, enough to shift the thinking plates, to make space for light to come in. I know it because whenever I find my knickers in a twist, I need to walk out, call someone to find our how they are, drive somewhere, anything that unstales the air.

‘Each day is a gift. Don’t send this one back unopened.’

Island Blog – The Day Before and Hoodwinker Boots

Yesterday I was in the darkling woods, all day long. I could not lift into the light, got stuck among the trees, heard no birdsong, saw no sky. I haven’t had one of these days for a long while and it settled uncomfortably about me like a sodden jumper, cold and shivery. I sat with myself and we had a little chat about it. My mouth was overflowing with questions. Am I sick, going doolally? Am I selfish, thinking only of my own angst this day? Should I do something for someone else and would that guide me out of these tall dark sopping woods? Answer came there none. She just sat there, across the table from me, smiling slightly, her lips curved up at the edges, not smug, but knowing.

I get it, I said, my mouth now empty of whys and whats. It just is as it is. As I pondered my soggy state of mind, I realised something. She sees me doing this realising thingy and her lips curve even further up like she’s got an upside down rainbow on her face. He was my courage. That’s what unnerves me this darkling day. I remember him saying to me a thousand years ago that he was always surprised at my fear of pretty much everything. In my world, so he said, there were lions behind every bush and snakes crossing all my paths. There was fire outside all grates and thunder meant lightning and lightning would strike me down or strike someone I loved, like my horse. He was right. I knew it then despite my spirited rebuttal and subsequent flounce from the courtroom.

Over long time, like most of my adult life, I pinched his courage. He was afraid of nothing, if you discount my mother who terrified the pyjamas off him with her slick sharp tongue. I made a decent enough shape of it throughout the years, still terrified of all things but braver, bolder, more able to push through the fear in my hoodwinker boots. Even when he was fixed in a wheelchair, compromised almost completely, he was still my rock, he was there, I could see him and we could smile together, two upside down rainbows sharing a moment of reassurance and encouragement. Now he isn’t here anymore and although I would not wish him back, not as he was, not even as he was before the more recent ‘was’, I can still feel that catch in my breath as I stand before the enormity of living alone. Most of me loves the view, the space and the freedom. I don’t have to explain, justify or qualify my actions, my decisions anymore. I am not the first responder for requests, calls for help, for errands; I don’t have to clean toilets every hour or so; my washing machine is bored; I can sing along to Verdi’s Requiem in any key I like. I am free. And without purpose. And that is the truth of it. When a man has been the sole purpose for 49 years, a woman can be forgiven for wondering who the hell she is when he pops his clogs.

It is a good realisation. I look across at myself and say so and she agrees. Well done, she says. You got there. From such a new understanding grows a path, like a tree from a seed, only it won’t go straight up as a tree ought to, heading for the sky and poking the eyes out of the next door tree with busy branches, greedy for light. No. This path is like the yellow brick road and it’s right there ahead of you. Can you see it? Follow it and you will find new purpose, one you have never thought of before.

I can see it, the path, my path. Today I wake, still alone, but without the dark of yesterday dripping misery all about me and I am thankful. Now all that I have to do is to locate the whereabouts of my hoodwinker boots, Dorothy, The Tin Man and the Lion and then to start walking.

Island Blog – Hope for Change

There’s a hum I hum when things infuriate or frustrate me, when I meet a bump in the road. It, the hum, begins in upper case and probably in B minor, my favourite key and the one that fits best between clenched teeth. These bumps in the road are not just there for me, but for all of us at times. Of course, there can be no actual bumps inside this house because, if there were, himself would be tipped, all ungainly, from his wheelchair and then I would be tasked with the job of lifting him up. Neither of us want that. Once he is down there, gazing at the cobwebs, the seat of the wheelchair is as far away as base camp, Everest, or it looks like that to me. So, no bumps allowed.

However, actual bumps are not what I’m talking about. I mean bumps, as in ‘stops’ in the running of a life; things that go wrong without asking if it’s ok to go wrong. They could be little things or huge things, but, either way, they alter facts. Life herself makes a subtle shift in a new direction and it is easy to get left behind as she turns away. Standing by the roadside is not taking anyone anywhere, so we are expected to accept this shift and to turn with Life. We can do this in B minor, with clenched teeth, or we can take on the major key and loosen our jaw. I am actually sick to death of loosening mine. I have done it a zillion times and will, inevitably, be required to do another zillion times before the fat lady sings the whole flipping song. But, being sick to death of this required repair work on my attitude is not all that helpful. I get indigestion, for starters, and then cross and then crabby and before I know it, the bump has become a Monroe, one I will really struggle to climb.

Rebecca Solnit (another favourite) said that ‘Change comes, not by magic, but by the incremental effect of countless acts of courage, love and commitment.’ And I believe her, however fed up I may get with all these acts of courage, love and commitment, required daily. I may be an official unpaid carer but so is everyone else. If we don’t care, we might as well walk into the sea with stones in our pockets, for life has no meaning at all. The danger in our country now, perhaps across the world, is apathy, not caring, giving up, shrugging at the gift of Life and making no effort to engage with our fellow humans. With Christmas coming, many are thinking of others in a wonderful caring way, but that mustn’t stop come January. If, like me, the opportunity to improve my attitude comes at you daily, hourly, minute by minute, then we are the lucky ones, for we have no choice in the matter. We cannot be outfoxed by a bump in the road. I have learned and still am learning that I can make or break a situation with my attitude. I can make someone smile, or make someone cry. I can lift and encourage or cut down and break. That power is immense and we all have it. The choice is down to us. We may not be able to predict a new bump in the road but if we have decided not to make this broken world any worse than it already is, we can find our way around the bumps with laughter in our eyes and loving care in our hearts.

That way lies hope, change and the first few lines of a new song, one we can all sing together.

Island Blog 76 – Webcage

Spider web

 

This morning, early, I took my camera outside to capture what looked like froth covering everything.  Trees, long grass, bushes and the fence.  Closer up I recognized the froth.

Spider webs.

They got me thinking.

Yesterday, in the hot bright sunshine, I saw not one of them. They were all invisible until this morning’s heavy dew painted them clearly for my eyes to see.  And that is the whole plan. If I was a fly, this could be dead dodgy.  I could ping into one of those sticky tendrils and be lunch in seconds.  If I was a wasp or one of our honey bees, I might be dinner instead, for no spider will attack things with stings immediately, for very obvious reasons.  And they always know, the spiders.  I have watched, many times, a stinging thing fly into a web and become part of it whilst the spider dashes out, stops dead and dashes back again to wait.  Things with stings have more time for an escape plan.

In life, we all know the feeling of being caught in a web.  The ‘spider’ in charge may be bigger and more powerful than us, or half our size, but this fact matters not one jot in the end.  Once we are trapped, and held fast by the web, we can either struggle ourselves into an even tighter fix, or we can work ourselves free.

It might be our job or aspects of it that spins an invisible web to catch us.  It might be a relationship, or aspects of it.  It might be habits, contacts, colleagues or our own mistaken need to repeat old patterns.  Whatever is holding us, weakening us so that we ever so gradually dull our own wits and lose purchase on our freedom, we have to recognize it, and therein lies the rub, for we will blame anything and anyone as our wings grow weak and our fears take control.

As a result of becoming trapped in a webcage, I might take on and develop bad habits.  I will probably grow fat or I will grow thin.  I will become a bit manic (if it is possible to become a ‘bit’ manic) about a fitness routine, or my own private space or the way I like things done until I can no longer see anyone but myself in relation to the rest of humankind.  What I will not see is that, if I just rest a little, I can probably work out an escape, because resting means dilemma to me.  I cannot stop moving, because if I stop moving, I will have to think and the inside of my unhappy head is the last place I want to spend any time at all.

But this is exactly what I need to do.

Someone, possibly more than one someone, once said that in order to find a way out of the pain, we have to stay inside  it, engage with it, to accept it, and to move on beyond it.  It sounds ghastly at best, but from experience I know it to be true.  The alternative is a lifetime of running, and not from one bad situation to another, although that is exactly what it will be, but from our own self.

What we all need to do to free our wings is to stop and say…….ok, Pain, talk to me.

If our job/partner/lifestyle is slowly killing us, we must find the courage to acknowledge it and take action.  Yes, it is scary, but I have done it and felt terrified in a strange land, one I now know well with views and spaces and light and fun; not one of which I saw before I acknowledged the dark pain and fear, reminded myself that I have wings and a sting,and rose myself up and away into a new sky, trailing a strand of web.

Island Blog 48 – Mother Love

Island Blog 48

 

This morning way too early I wake and step through the automatic doors of the hotel to say hallo to the new day.  The sky is closed, a thick pale grey over the wasteland which calls itself an industrial estate, perhaps in the hopes that it will be once industry moves in.  Outside a young woman smokes a cigarette and shivers.

I live here, she tells me, as I am homeless.  I must have looked surprised, thinking, as I did, that a hotel is not where I would expect to find a homeless anyone.  She says she has a little boy, aged six and the council have lodged her here temporarily whilst they find her a place to live.

I know my jaw drops, for it suddenly seems so huge, being homeless with a young son.  I ask her about his father and she tells me that he had hit the boy, just once, but once was enough, especially as she gave him 3 days to show remorse before leaving.  She says in that split second, what love she might have felt for him left her and stayed gone.

Her family lives in Cornwall which is light years away from here, but she won’t go home as it would disrupt the child, who loves his school, and, by the way, his father lives up here.

I thought about mothers.  What we do, what courage we find, what love we show.  We may get it all wrong, but that strong protective fire deep inside us burns bright from the moment of birth and stays with us for the rest of our lives.  Nobody, not even the child’s father, stands a chance against such a powerful energy.  We would give up our freedom, our quality of life, our life itself for our children and, if asked, we could not explain why that is.  It is both a gift and a life sentence and we have no defence against it, nor can we escape its hold on us.  Most of us, regardless of personal cost, wouldn’t want it gone anyway.  It becomes our drive, our reason for waking every morning to bring out the sunshine, even if the sky forgets to.

She finds herself some breakfast and eats alone among a scattering of strangers, all dressed crow black for the working day ahead.  I’m going back to bed now, she says…..my boy cries at night, doesn’t sleep good and I stay awake to hold him.

The cleaners will wake her around 11 and she will wait here, beneath the wide screen set to silent, with the hotel muzak beating out its quick fixes, until school is out.