Island Blog – Dancer

This lovely day I am aswirl with thinks and memories and some very deep hurt. Bereavement, however much of a relief it might be, does not adhere to a timeline. Recently I have gone through the however many stages of grief backwards, flip side up, out of order or all before lunch. I make the mistake of berating myself for this chaos but only until I literally wash my hands of any control. This chaos is not birthed from me. This chaos just snuck in and is currently picking away at wounds and digging the black hole even deeper than seems possible. I had no idea there was so much space inside for black hole-ness, one I cannot navigate nor have a conversation with because any questions I send its way just echo back to my ears in triplicate minus an answer. All I can do it seems is to trudge through the hours of light and the longer hours of dark until this chaos gets tired of chaoting and moves on to bother someone else. If, I tell myself, this process actually looked like one I could understand, I might be then able to formulate an algorithm, one that would guide me step by step up and away from the turmoil. But I can grasp a hold of nothing. All is smoke, mist, cloud wisp and yet so heavy and solid around me. I cannot run from it, nor hide. I change my thoughts but my mind is colluding with the chaos so quickly does it shift back to the black. I get the Amy Winehouse song now because I feel it, just like she did. It takes huge and determined focus to remain in the positive when I am not having to pretend to the Out There, a role I can play with ease. A song, a phrase, a catch of light, a lift of birds, among my beloved trees, all can shunt me back to a memory that cuts like the sharpest of knives. I remember, I remember, I remember. I remember that song, that disco tune, Chain Reaction, the one you always played for me when the dance floor was empty and it was up to me to bring the kids off the walls. You grinned and watched me taking over the whole floor, spinning, moving, electric, fiery, wild. Many years ago, yes, but it comes back so clear, that smile from the stage and my smile back.

I suspect this dark time is a good thing and I don’t fight it. I sit with it, walk with it, let it flow through me, no fight, no fight. It is exhausting, upsetting, deeply painful and my mascara is invariably decorating my chin, but when I remember saying to my counsellor about 4 years ago whilst in the thick of caring for a man who still looked like my husband (sort of) but who was not that man, that all I wanted was to cry real tears, so taught and fraught and caught up was I in controlling my whole self, I realise I have achieved my goal. And there is a feral beauty in that for it has been a deep longing for many decades.

I smile as I realise how drawn I am these days to running water, a waterfall, a trickle, rain, a slow tidal dance as if my eyes are glued; it takes something loud to snatch my attention away. Walking this sunshine afternoon, I found my favourite tree. Looks about 100 foot tall, its topknot fingering the clouds, a softwood, strong and with the girth of half a country. I remember it holds water after rain until the water pools in a holdcup where two great limbs conjoin. Then, all of a sudden, the level raised to meniscus as it hits the air, it begins a spill and a walker by is soaked. I stood beneath the massive giant and looked up. Drops from way up there landed on my mouth, nose, eyes, head and shoulders. Ha!! I chuckled. You minx! I moved back a little only to be pelted once again from another branch. Game on! I said and for a few moments, a few playful moments, I and the giant made each other laugh out loud as he stood still and I danced, just me, alone on the floor moving to the song of the singer and the rhythm of the rain.

Island Blog – Because she cares

The farrago is clearing, as if, as if, I move through it, like a fog that eventually gets fed up of all that fogging nonsense and puffs itself out. The path ahead becomes clear, or clearer. It takes a moment or two to re-align my eyeballs with this new clarity as the density of unseeing becomes vision. A human falter. But we know how to survive and suddenly. When fog clears, our senses are heightened. We adjust. We must adjust in order to move on intelligently. But, we cannot always rely on self, on the aloneness of the singular, not in all situations. Because I was lost in the turmoil and fear of fog, I spun like a dervish without intention, without a plan. So, I reached out. I called my sister. I have three and each one is wise in different ways. This one is beautifully pragmatic with a can-do attitude, cautious but never compromised by caution. She investigates it, thinks it through, pulls it apart and studies it. I came to her like an unravelling jumper and she, well she, did not knit me back up again. She just saw, immediately how I felt. She is not afraid to speak and I felt so much better after our talk. It was like I came down from some planetary freak out.

It thinks me. I know, have always preached, that we need each other, that reaching out for help as we feel we are drowning, is not a weakness but a strength. However, I did feel foolish at first, me, the older sister, needing a guide through the fog, my personal fog. Then I did what she does. I looked around me at the complex thixitude I had made all by myself and for myself, I thought it through and studied it and I smiled. It takes someone else, a one you trust with all your fears and failings, your admitted weaknesses no matter your age or place in the pecking order, to hold out a hand and to bring support.

The words ‘help’ and ‘support’ took on a different shape for me in the caring years. They came as crutches and support bars affixed to walls. But I need to re-jig my thinking on that and to remember that there are times in every single life when we need to trust another enough to tell them how we feel. Yes, it means unzipping our breasts for a full revealment and I get that it is something we would rather not do. I felt it and for a whole foggy week. But, I have learned and am still learning that, no matter how experienced we are, how apparently wealthy, how strong, how much of a leader we have become, we are human. We meet fog. We meet fear. And, when we do, we must reach out to someone we trust, someone who we once guided but who now might just lift us up just because she cares.

Thank you my sister.

Island Blog – Wave away

I write, now, from a distance. It reminds me that memories are hot just once and that they quickly cool. It takes conscious effort to warm them up again, to pull them back into touch. I’m busy doing that.

I met some beautiful people on the cruise, all of us strangers to each other even as some were known to the captain and crew. It awkwards people. They are suddenly unsure about how to move, where to stand, what to ask and when. There is hesitation around the dining table when dinner is called. I see it. I feel it and hear it in the flutter of an elevated voice whilst navigating the steps from one deck to the next, from the saloon down to the cabins. I feel it myself. I know, as the wife of a sailor sea-dog that nobody in their right mind ever attacks decksteps facing forward. Reverse is the way. Arrive at the steps, turn, locate step one and repeat until you reach the new horizontal. Well, we all long for horizontal but aboard ship this is never a given. But on this trip, once we had all got ourselves over the ‘trip’ thing, one that didn’t only apply to steps or dining table navigation, we knew we only faced sea-lochs, and, even if they can scoosh up a stooshie in a storm, the waters upon which we bobbed promised the odd rise and fall, like when you flap your hands in a bath tub to make the bubbles froth. And, we had a very skilled skipper who has taken many trips out to St Kilda where there is no land for generations and no promise of safe anchor. Looking at it this way, this cruise was like bobbing across a puddle.

The young chef did not fail us, not once, not even with a burned biscuit. The guide, far too experienced for her lovely youth, kept us intrigued and informed and although I did try to catch her out, I failed. The stewardess who did all of the caring, and I am not going to list her tasks because she was just always there should anyone want anything from a cup of tea to a glass of whisky, from another blanket to a reassuring and pro-active response to any question. And always with bright eyes and a smile. Jeez, I thought. How in the hellikins do these givers keep giving over so many months and to so many people, especially the ‘challenging’ ones? They just shrug when I pose that question. Most, they tell me, are lovely people, interesting and interested. I nod. Good, I say, and sheath my sword. I do this because these cruises are unusual and so thoroughly planned for the complete comfort of every single customer and it does mess with my sword action when someone complains, not because the cruise or the crew fail them but because they need therapy. Just saying.

The standard of service, the quality of the cooking, the service, in my opinion, was 5 star, if not 6. Catering to guests on board ship, facing ocean squalls and angry horizons is something we, as guests, might wonder about a bit, whilst we hold tight to the rails and reverse down deck steps but what it must mean to the captain and crew is a mystery, just as they want it to be. Our white faces may turn to ask, Are We Ok? and the answer will always be a smile. Of course we are! I remember it way back in Tapselteerie days and I mean way back, when I might be crew and the boat was something you could make out of lego and the sea huge and the prospect only just short of dire because at the helm was the auld bugger and he knew the sea and never ever felt he was in control of her. He negotiated with her, he told me. Work with me Lady, he would whisper but if any soaked and terrified passenger hand-railed him or her self to the bridge to seek hope, the auld bugger turned, grinned and reassured no matter the patter of his own heart. I digress, again.

The guests and I got over the awkwards pretty quick. Soon we just moved and flowed and navigated steps and so on as if we had lived together for longtime. Conversation began to flow and in that flow I watched hangups float downstream, those protection rackets that protect and confound incoming, friendly or not. I watched shoulders lower, eyes stay on another cross table, hand and arm movements flow freer. T’was a delight to see, like a dance. By the end, oh shame, the end, we were looking each other eyeball to eyeball, no shift, really pleased to have known what we have known of each other in four short nights. Humbled, or I was, encouraged and uplifted, astonished at times for the stories that lifted like roses from the dark ground of a person. As we waved farewell to each other at the end, I walked on with a new lift because of those stories. I may forget them but I will never forget the storytellers.

Thank you James, Lynz, Kat, Jordan and Hebrides Cruises. I thoroughly recommend.

Island Blog – Repeat Daily

The way I see things when I am tired, stressed or fed up is never how they really are. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. In certain moods or when pressure feels heavy as a truck on my head, I slip into a weird world, one full of victims with me being the biggest. I am at the mercy of whatever comes my way; my seeing becomes slanted, ditto my hearing and my poor underused brain turns into an untethered disco ball. Instead of being inside this body, I am all over the place, running here and there like a headless hen.

And then the next day comes, the next songbird dawn, the new light, and what happened yesterday seems small and insignificant, solvable in a few simple steps. Why I couldn’t see it that way yesterday beyonds me. Yes, I was tired of repeating things, gently; yes I was upset about the rain getting into my post box; yes I was lonely and wondering when life would begin and yes I was pitching for a fight. I guess the nice lady from the Council, just doing her job, is fortunate I didn’t get to speak to her. I have no idea what she called about, beyond a vague and fluffy explanation (and even that word is too long to describe what I did learn). Are we still shielding? Are we allowed to see anyone and would that be from Now or from July 31st, and are we still getting the food deliveries? I know the answer to the last question having just learned it from a friend, but the rest, himself nodding and saying No and Yes and then No again could mean he has signed us up for a pilot mission to Mars. I guess I will find out eventually, if a space suit arrives by carrier.

My point is that, in my strong and right mind, I can see all the mild irritations and the intense enfuryments as just things colliding with my just thoughts and just feelings. I can step back, breathe, observe and quantify, deconstruct and take appropriate action. When in a compromised state of being, it looks and feels as if I am under attack from a mysterious, invisible band of mercenaries, with me in their sights. Of course, it would be impossible, being an ordinary extraordinary human woman, to sustain such a peaceful equilibrium at all times and in all sets of circumstance. life isn’t like that for any of us. Tsunamis will rise and threaten to destroy; rain will seep into post boxes, mushing paper and packaging, days will feel trudgemonkey and food will go off in the humid heat, just before I go to re-heat it for dinner. Life is not plain sailing and we all know that. But, if I can set up an inner programme of self-encouragement, write down uplifting affirmations to stick on walls, seek conversation with friends and read good guide books – if I eat well, exercise, laugh a lot, show kindness, share love and think more often of others that of myself, I will have prepared myself for anything that might come my way on any given day.

Which is what I am doing this day. One day at a time.

Repeat daily.

Island Blog 84 – Surprises

helping hands

 

So I come down to the South.  Bears live here, and snakes, and dangerous people with sculduggery on their minds 24/7.  Even with my intelligent 60 year old head fixed atop my human frame;  even mindful of the fact that my imagination is more at home in Mordor than it ever is in the sleepy wolds of Great Snoring, I still hold onto the idea that a few miles south of Carlisle, everything goes to pot.

When I was a little girl I was terrified of the dark;  couldn’t sleep, couldn’t close my eyes in case the bad things came to collect.  And, of course, they were all after me.  Not her, over there, or him, the other way, but me.  Because why?

Heaven knows.

In my adult thinking, with the culture, of in-depth psychology infiltrating my every sideways glance, I imagine it is something to do with an overactive ego.  An elevated sense of my own importance.

Well, phooey.

Anyway, the point is that I came here into a strange place, with no natural leaning towards geography (was expelled from the class I seem to remember) or road maps, I have found my way all the way from the island to the recording studio and not one step of this journey was without help.  Oh, I didn’t stand at a crossroads and burst into tears.  Indeed not.  But, at each point, where I faltered and wondered, some kind person asked if they could help.  More than that, they walked the mile with me.

From car ride to guide, frome breakfast to supper, every single step.  I was not pushed or pulled. Just lovingly helped, and it looks to me like all these people do it naturally.

It is a gift.  And I never knew it was there, till I stepped out and opened my eyes.