Island Blog – Let Go and Welcome

After a few days of wondering who the hellikins I am and what to do next and then the next next, I awaken with eyes rolling. I have done this often in my long life, this eye rolling thingy. It’s as if I run, run, run for days in my own strength until that strength runs out, as it always does. Reaching that place, be it a crossroads, a wall or a chasm, something wiser than me yet in me stops my feets. And there is a relief in that, an eye rolling, a letting go. If I pull back from that image, I might see failure, but I am learned enough not to do that because I know that the moment of lift comes straight after it. Every time. After each letting go, new paths appear. I cannot explain it nor do I attempt to. I just know the pattern.

I think we imagine we can decide something and then everything will fall into place. When it doesn’t work that way, we take it personally. We think we, or others, or things, or the weather or the neighbourhood we live in or our job at work etc are to blame. No matter our age, circumstance, knowledge of loss or the place we currently inhabit, we believe it. And it is IT. So we make new decisions based on that, on IT.

But what if we thought beyond that IT? No, not thought, because anything ‘beyond’ is obviously beyond our thinking. What if we just trusted that the world is a wonderful place, that those angry people we might meet in shopping queues are just like us only hurting, that there is hope for the millions starving, lost, abused, silenced, living in dreadful poverty? How might we consider ourselves in such encounters?

I walked today and met Finneas. I have seen him a zillion times before but today, in this wind, in this soft face rain, he called to me. A fine pine, a tall one, right up to the clouds, no branches, just his pine dreadlocks meeting the sky. I watched him sway, from his roots to his dreadlocks. Miles of trunk just moved gently with the wind. He stands in a beech wood. He will be kind to them. Beech mothers are feisty. An oak would not survive here but the mothers accept pines, maybe because the pines are grandfathers to them and they, like goodly women, are happy to cohabit. (slight joke). I say “met Finneas’ because he has never told me his name until today. I felt emotion, tears at the beauty of such long term survival, the bending, the allowance of beech mothers, the way the wood works together and for so very long, longer than any of us will ever live.

In the woods of our lives, we might fight for space, enough room to understand our place and to speak it out. Or, we might let go and welcome.

Island Blog – Thoughts, Red Speeders and Me

Thoughts are always busy I find. My head is a freeway for them. Sometimes I fly above the chaos and stare down, mystified. How can one small head allow such mayhem? I mean, I am watching speeding, overtaking on the inside, collisions and fatal hesitations. It seems to me that all of these rushing thoughts want to get my attention, regardless of how much damage each one does in order to achieve it. If I focus on one, that red speeding one, the one that tells me about yet another failure or shortfall for which I am solely responsible while the rest blur into a rainbow mist. The red one won. I no longer notice the well behaved thoughts, the kindly ones, those driving carefully and with no intention of upsetting anyone else, especially me. Why are they so well behaved, enough that I don’t notice them much, if at all? They are the ones who are not out to pull me down but instead to build me up. Is it that I think them boring? Is it that I have not heard enough uplifting encouragement from the older humans in my life that I think it is ok to ignore these guys? Well, maybe but that is no authentic reason to be stuck in that belief, be it true or imagined. Hell no. I am a radiant, powerful human being who chooses to live life with joy and pleasure and I have met Joy. She’s a keeper.

I flick the red speeder away and decide to notice the good thoughts, the ones down there running on kindness and consideration, joy and pleasure, love and happiness. I watch them change gear a lot, slowing to allow another to overtake, pulling over for a big truck to pass, stopping often to allow a break for anyone else involved. There are many of them now that I look closely, as many as the speeders, the takers and the critics. It seems that what I choose to pay attention to is up to me and my vigilant looking, the picture below me, around me, within my head. Hush! I hiss, suddenly overwhelmed, and there is a slowing down, a hold up, a line of thoughts stuck bumper to bumper with no chance of moving ahead until I clear the blockage. The kindly thoughts just wait patiently, turning to make sure others are not scared or stressed. The red ones shout and yell, hit the wheel, swear and stomp about like fools achieving nothing and yet, and yet, these are the ones I believed in just a few moments ago; the pretenders, the nothings, the past voices that have been dead and therefore no threat for a long time now. Was I giving them the kiss of life? Eeuch! I am so stopping that and right now.

So how do I do that? Well, sadly it is not a one stop decision, although it is at the one stop part, but thereonafter it is a daily watchdog thingy. Whenever I notice a red speeding thought, one that tells me about my failings and my mistakes as if they define me and confine me and align me with hopelessness and haplessness, I will not give them focus, no matter how pretty they are, how alluring. It amazeballs me that I am so ready to tell myself how much I have failed and fail still, but I read that it is a common human condition, as common as the cold. Our brains are the most powerful thing known to man, more so than any amount of technology we know about now and any of it we will discover and develop in the future. We are so incredibly powerful. My doctor once said to me that physical disease is not our killer. Our brains are, or, rather, the way we let them control us instead of us controlling them. I think her wise even if the whole thingumajig of daily noticing of red speeders makes me yawn because, like everyone else, I want lovely things to happen to me just because I am a magnet for good and because I care about others and la la la. Nonetheless, we all have a job to do and never more than now as we tire of isolation and fear, of what the hell and where do we go now even if we are brave enough to do the ‘go’ thing?

I piddle about with upbeat courses, affirmations, mirilations and striations. I swither and dither on the edge of wastelands, of brokenness and lack looking out at the pretty lights in the distance, ones I haven’t walked towards for years. I swale and fail, I rise and fail, I falter and halter but by heck if by noticing my thoughts and taking over my lunatic brain until it gets my message, until it sees me standing on the dust path with my stop hand up, my focus on the kindly thoughts, the uplifting ones, the beige ones, then, I am going to stand. If I do it every day, every time I feel myself louded out by the naysayers then just maybe, the red speeders, the bully thoughts will see a radiant, powerful human being who chooses to live life with joy and pleasure, and will eventually feel lonely enough to book in for a respray.

Island Blog – Dark to Light

Sometimes there is dark. Not the outside dark which comes this time of year, but the inside one, the one with more fingers, more legs, more traverse. I know this dark. So do you. It never gets to hold ground anymore, nor the chance to grow roots, although I remember times when it did exactly that, and so, and so, I flap it away, move beyond it, turn my back. But I remember the hold of it. In the winter months there is an awful lot of dark beyond my window. Nights begin early and hang on like there really might be no tomorrow. I light a candle in my warm conservatory to eat a breakfast of half a toasted bagel, half an avocado, squished, and one poached egg. I can’t see any of it but I can see the outline of the plate and thus am able to centre in on the food. Once nourished and almost without a spill, I can do the ironing, light the wood burner, wash the dishes and change the bed, all in well lit rooms. What is it, I wonder, that so intrigues me about the dark? Although there are times when I wait impatiently for morning to wake up, in the main, I am calm with my candle and my invisible breakfast. By now, once the light is lifting the birds and showing me my overgrown garden, I am prepped for the day. I am dressed, my slap is on (although I did apply it pre dawn and therefore might need to check my face before a trip to Dugie’s shop), and my fingers itch for writing.

The darkness within is not my enemy these days. Nonetheless I am cautiously un-smug about that, remembering the winters of discontent and my inability to lift my boots from the suck and pull of an imaginary swamp. It is beyond me now to see how I could have sunk so low, what with all those bright and energetic children hurtling like missiles throughout the walls of Tapselteerie. But I did and others do and there is no quick light-fix for the darkness within. Those who have never experienced such a state can never know how lost a person can become. And it is a slow process, an insidious creeper, as if the damp, cold cave is swallowing me bit by bit. My mind becomes dull, my body slow and shivery. I cannot get warm physically or inside my mind. Nothing anybody can say or do will lift my spirits until gradually I see little point in getting out of bed at all.

On the other side of such a state, I still cannot proffer a solution. So how did I rise from that swamp and when? Was it because I decided not to allow such a state to form and how did I recognise the first signs of its planned invasion of my self? Perhaps, although I do believe there is a lot more to it than that. What I now practice can be written in just a few words. If I feel just a bit down, I look for something, anything to be thankful for. Sometimes I can only come up with one or two things but, and this is critical, I tell myself that two things are better than one is better than none.

Another practice when feeling slow and sluggish is to do just one thing, any one thing, inside such a day. For me it might be, and has been, that I swept the floor. That’s it, that’s all I did, but, again, I congratulate myself on that one achievement. I refuse to listen to the judge in my head, that smug smartarse who is quick to remind me of all the things I haven’t achieved, of all the things I used to achieve, of my lack, of the high standard I have always and heretofore expected of myself. Oh Go Away, I say, out loud. What do you know of me, I mean really? You are just a robotic voice in my head, the critic, the emotionless automaton. Whereas I am blood and bone, living, loving and temporarily lost in the dark. No comparison, just saying.

In my family and in my life I expected much of me because that was my conditioning. No ironing till the afternoon. No television or sitting down in an armchair until the evening. No slacking ever, not never, not even if your body and mind are frazzled and exhausted. Certainly not. Always be available for everyone else and put yourself last, eat the smallest portion, be the first to rise from the table while others remain comfortably seated and engaged in conversation. No washing up until everyone has left the room, or the building and it is an irrelevance to mention that it is way past 11.30pm and my day begins about 3 hours before anyone else’s. If the baby cries, it is my job to uncry it even if I too am dressing for a dinner date. If the children have measles, noisily and all night long, scratchy as baboons and hot and miserable, it is my job to soothe and ease their struggle. And so on.

It helps that it is only me here now, of course it does, but I somehow managed to fend off the judge long ago. I do remember a sudden realisation that the only person who was falling apart was me. The rest bounced like Tigger through the days, through the dark, turning it into a grand opportunity for hiding games and mischief. Understanding that I had, and have, the power to stand against the inner darkness was and is pivotal to healing. With that understanding comes a new energy, an excitement and enough curiosity to seek a new way. I will not let this darkness subsume me ever again. I have no idea how I will achieve this but ‘that’ is not getting me again. I will notice the first signs of tiredness and announce that I am going for a rest. I will iron at dawn if I so choose. I will watch Cinderella at lunchtime if that’s what I want to do and what is more I will watch it from within the comfortable folds of an armchair. If someone pings the doorbell, you go, you make coffee and listen to their inane blether. I am busy. Busy being myself. Busy living just as you all have lived and I will do this living thing without a smidgeon of guilt because guilt is learned and I am awfully busy unlearning it.

Island Blog – Ice, Clarity and Skeletons

An ice-white day, from start to finish. When I awoke at 3.30 a.m. I walked out, barefoot, in search of the Aurora. She wasn’t playing, not yet. But if we are graced with such weather again, maybe next month, she will dance in the skies behind my home and I will watch her as my bare toes meld with the earth. I recall, well, coming outside from a robust and loudly musical ceilidh, to see her dance her lights across the stars, and for quite some time, until my mouth threatened to freeze wide open and my toes grew chilblains I wouldn’t meet till the morning. I will never forget that night. March 3rd 1993. Funny how dates can stick when others flounder grey and insubstantial within the soup of memory, like slime.

I walked the whole round today. I have avoided it for days, maintaining to myself that I am always tired and, thus, justified in my short walk which isn’t a walk at all, not really. Some of my friends, my sisters, my brother, speak most jauntily of a mere 7 miles and twice a day, and, whilst they cover this ground in my mind, I am left slouched and idle in my 20 minute trudge through a ‘not-walk’. So, this day, this ice day, this day of clarity when Ben Mhor, so clear and so near, looks like the whole mountain might suddenly appear in my kitchen, I decide not to agree with my trudge self, but, instead, to walk on. And, I am glad of it. I could feel the eyeball searing cold of the Atlantic hit me as I curved myself around the apex, even though there was not a stitch of wind, nothing even enough to shimmy a leaf. I paused, often, to really look. Striations of ice lay on the stand water, water that will, possibly, give birth to tadpoles in the Spring, whereas now it just reflects the sky in rainbow connections. The trees, skeletal and defying identification for I am great with leaves and considerably less great with bark and shape, lean over me like big sisters, strong and well rooted. The ground is caramel with fallen beech leaves, glowing eerily in the light of the sinking sun, sienna with a touch of ochre. The track is puckered with ridges of frozen mud, elevated by boot trudge, by the hooves of horses, the snatch-track of bikes and I feel a peaceful calm run through me. My pace is timpani inside the silence. A jay screeches, a woodpecker cuts the silence and I watch it lift and flip away. Ravens, their voices so confident, commenting on the day, black and slow in flight, flap lazily through the blue. Lady Larch, the queen of the woods, catches all the orange of the last sun. In a human world, she would be a model. She is certainly tall enough.

A constellation of star moss lines the track on my homeward walk. I stop to marvel at the frost-bright crowns each stem wears upon its head. On the track, the grey stones have grown an old man’s stubble, white with light, but, unlike an old man’s stubble, it melts beneath my fingers rendering the stones an immediate ordinary. I come back through my little wonky chops gate. The latch no longer meets its docking. T’is a winter thing. Come Spring, it will happily click shut again, but, for now, I must needs elevate one side of the gate in order to connect with the other. Inside the fire yet burns and as merrily as it always does, the smile of welcome; welcome home. I make tea and press play on my talking book, resuming my place as observer to another’s taut and well paced story. My story is not well paced. It is only in the re-telling of a story that any well-pacing can be brought to bear, as if distance from the drama matters. And, I concede, it does matter. In the thick of the drama, however undramatic this drama may be, everything is sharp, frozen even, and with no recourse to sensibility. On the other side of any story, the eyes of the observer are essential, even if the observer is she who lived through that story, or he for that matter.

Veg roasted, candles lit, fire encouraged into a new and warmer flame, I am content. I have walked further this day. I have watched ice halo star moss; I have laughed at my ignorance of trees without leaves and stood beneath those massive skeletons in awe. I saw the Atlantic buffet, albeit kindly, the basalt and granite shoreline; I studied the ice diamonds on the track, one I walked today. Walking on diamonds.

Every girls dream.