Island Blog – No Crime

I am working on myself. T’is no surprise, really, considering I am now popped out like a cork and into a lone life. Not lonely, well, sometimes, but not all times. Just lone. I like the word. It thinks me of a wolf or an explorer nobody believes in. It speaks of courage, determination, vulnerability and faith, regardless of any worldly snorts of derision, a great number of which come from all those voices inside my head, the ones who, for decades, kept me ‘safe’ and away from prying eyes and dream-promoters. I would be a dancer. Not safe, no future. I would be an actress. Ditto. I would sing in a band. Okay but not after 11 pm and I’ll collect you then as it will be dark and dark is laden with no-goods and false promises. I would wear these crazy boots, this hat, that flamboyant frock. On a Monday morning? And so on. Although those voices belong to bodies long gone, I can still work them like puppets on my hand. I can speak for them, and I do. Did.

I say ‘did, because I am learning to unprotect myself from these controllers. To be honest, I didn’t actually realise I could change them for ever simply by acknowledging their existence. I thought to turn them off, madly fumbling for the switch. I thought to turn my back, to ignore them, to yell at them to SHUT UP! It never worked and now with the help of a therapist I am discovering a new way, the way of gratitude and acknowledgment, of respect proffered to those who did protect me out of love back then when I could easily have thought to exercise my wings on a high clifftop just to know what it might be like to really fly. They, the old protectors I have conjoined into one voice. It makes sense to me as they all said the same thing, held me back in the same way, had me believing that being a woman meant fragility, foolishness and the inability to lead; a woman with too many feet off the ground; one that required renovation, a new construction according to the laws of man, mother, mother-in-law etc. You should wear a nice tweed skirt for this, not a lemon tutu, and sensible shoes, not those elvish boots, and gloves sans sequins, ditto hat, and those bare legs……no. Here are some 20 denier tights, nice caramel coloured ones, with a seam to keep you straight. Less eye make-up too so they don’t mistake you for a panda. Etc.

Obviously I laugh at this now for these are mere trivia in the work of controllers. The real harm that can be done by those who, lovingly, seek to dominate and guide, is much more subversive. It is a gradual denial of self that leads to inner doubt and ditherment. What do I feel? Oh, I don’t know. Could somebody tell me please? What do I think about this? Erm……….(look to husband), He will tell you what I think. So much easier as I have not a scooby anymore. But the other side of this protection is very welcome indeed. I did need looking after for sure. I was lost and young and clueless about the dastardly workings of a dangerous world, and I needed guidance. However, in buying in to this comfortable protection, I lost myself. Now, cork-popped into my new life, I am seeking her, that girl/woman who has lived long and prospered; whose God given gifts are manifold and whose heart is warm, loving and still beating away behind her scraggy chest.

And this is not just about me. I know thousands of women (and men) who will relate to my experience. I know how life works now. There is a time when a person will, perhaps unconsciously, gravitate towards another within whom she sees just what she needs to feel safe. There is no crime in that. We all do it. However, as the world moves around the sun, tilting more each day, we change as we grow. In that bubble of confidence that comes from feeling safe, we grow braver and that ‘brave’ builds self-confidence and assertiveness, something that makes life a bit bumpy for the protector. I get that. Unless that protector is able to change accordingly, there will be war because once a wimp finds courage he or she holds on to it with both hands. It felt heady, exciting and burgeoning with opportunities. I could do this! No, you can’t. I could speak out my opinion amongst a group of men. What???? You have to be joking. I could sing in a band past 11pm and walk home. Ridiculous! Get back to the dishes and the children, Woman, and maybe go see the doctor for a stronger dose of anti-depressant.

For years I have sat in blame and in shame. I don’t need either any more, but those protectors, whilst curtailing my various lunacies and sending me for more meds, still live on inside me. Ignoring them is futile. Blaming them even more so. They were more than good to me. Without them and their protection, I could well have flown off that cliff and what a waste that would have been. So, this new way, this way of grouping them together and giving them a name means I am acknowledging their work on my behalf. I can ask this multi-personed protector to protect me in a different way. Hey, Tinkerbell, I say (my favourite feisty fairy) I want to thank you for all the wonderful ways you kept me here, moderately sane and breathing; the way you saved me from myself and other animals; the way you kept me alight with flame and warmth; the way you guided me through hardships, children rearing and tough days. I honour you. However I am now asking for your loyal protection in a different way. I no longer need to numb nor to hide in the briar patch. Will you stand beside me with all your experiential wisdom and your exclusive knowledge of who I am and walk with me into the rest of my glorious life? She’s here. I can feel her, hear her. For the first time ever I can see the possibility of walking and waulking with this guide, this protector who never did really want to hold me back, who loved me, loves me, who just did what I asked her to do. And all I had to do was to acknowledge her as I had longed to be acknowledged, for who she is, for who I asked her to be way back when.

Although neither of us know where we are going, we are new friends in old bodies and that is enough for now. First off, there is a briar patch from which to extricate ourselves and beyond those sharp-toothed tangles I can see dappled light, new green shoots and over there, waving trees. When I twist my neck and look skyward I can see a new moon-bride, her accompaniment of stars, patterns of lace in a rising dawn. The glorious cycle of life, death and rebirth.

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.

Island Blog 34 – To Rise and Fall and Rise again.

Today I spent a happy time with 3 other women over lunch.  We talked of many things, and sometimes all at the same time, but the theme that wound its way through all our conversations, was the ‘how’ of living.  How we each manage it.

Some of us walk a steady, even path, although it wasn’t always so steady.  Another is young, and she will take many paths, mainly out of youthful curiosity.

Do we lose that curiosity I wonder?  Or have we found that it doesn’t only kill cats?

The way we germinate the seeds of our own personal existence, it seems to me, is decided by the choices we make as we live out our life.  But if we felt we had no choice, or if choice was made on our behalf, does that mean that those seeds never grow and bloom?

There is a theory that we make our own choices, whether it looks like it or not.  Actually, I do agree with that theory, but I also hate it at times.  It is so much more pleasant to present myself as a victim of circumstances, or of some overbearing ‘other’ in my life.  After all, I could have been this or that, had I been allowed to make my own choices.

Couldn’t I?

When you live like I do, on a daily roller coaster, you are allowed to cast envious glances to those marching steadily along their level path of choice.  It’s fine when I am riding on point break, towering over the world and shouting ‘Woohoo, Look at Me!’  but quite another as I sink into the troughs and nearly drown.  And I do it every single day.  It is, in a word, exhausting to be me, but I am me and that’s that.

So, Me, how are we to accept that we made this choice very early on in life?  Our sisters seem very sorted, our brother too, and we all came from the same nest.  What, or who decided that we would think too much about every flaming thing, lifting up the carpet of life over and over again until the tacks give up and ping off into the unknown, leaving a permanent curl for everyone else to trip over?

Enough questions.

I have found that my first important decision each day lies not in what I do, or where I go, but in how I see what I see.  This doesn’t mean I should spend all my time looking inward but quite the opposite. When I have heard that someone is off to find themselves, in India or some such place, I have to conceal an inner snigger. In order, it seems, to feel ok, no, better, good about being a volatile lunatic, like I am, is to look at the world of which I am an essential part.  I know that sounds a bit cocky, but to be honest, it works for me.  If I can tell myself that I am here for a specific purpose, just as I am, with my own seeds to nurture and grow, then my roller coaster begins to make some sense.  After all, I can see higher and lower than the ones on the steady path.  I can spin among the clouds and swim in the deeps and I can use those powers of observation to help another.  I can take what looks like a heavy load and call it a gift. And I need to do this exactly where I am, because to flip off to India would be fine, but only if I could leave me behind.

Which I cannot.

If I am the one who has to surf the biggest waves, then let me learn how to surf.  If it is I who must sink into those troughs, then I must learn to be a cork.

And then, let me have the presence, the absolute engagement with where and who I am, to find one who fears their own sinking, and to show them that they can do it too.