Island Blog – Just For Today

I can do anything just for today. I can think what I like, just for today. Today is all I have in truth and tomorrow never comes anyway. Everyone knows that. So how will I inhabit this day? What will I decide to do or think? How remarkable it is that I can choose these, no matter what ‘luck’ does or doesn’t come my way. Inevitably, there will be moments that happy or smile me, and moments that seek to trip me up, to send my frocks a flying. Feeding the birds holds both. I am happy and smiley to feed them even as I absorb a cloudful of rain and feel quite whisked about by the horizontal blasts of a damp wind flipping my hems. Chopping wood smiles me and I like the comforting crack of axe success as the big log splits in two. Lifting the log basket tells me my stomach muscles are in good working order and I am thankful for that.

Radio Two plays me happy encouraging tunes but the news is pretty dire. I choose not to let it bother me. There would be little point in bothering, anyway, as there is diddly squat I or anyone else can do about it. However, there will be an opportunity for me to do something for someone else, to lift their spirits. All around me, faces are doing their best to smile out but I see the worry in their eyes. I don’t know what disappointment they may be dealing with, what despair has taken root in their hearts and minds, but I can offer a welcoming smile. Smiles pass through windows after all, saying a great deal without words. I am looking out as they are looking in and we can share that moment, that distant connection. Just for today I will think of someone to call and then I will dial their number. Even if they don’t answer, I can leave a cheerful message of upliftment.

Just for today I will do 2 things I don’t want to do. One of them might just be hoovering. Or it might not. I know that Henry is lonely in the cupboard under the stairs and it’s dark in there and this knowledge alone might spur me into hoover action. Might. I make no promises. After all, there are other things I don’t want to do such as wiping out a kitchen cupboard or digging up the dahlias for a winter dry out. It’s a bog out there, slimy and heavy and I will need to be quick-quick in order to catch a dryish moment between showers. I could do my exercises, which aren’t mine at all, to be honest. Someone else designed them and mostly I ignore them as much as possible. It seems such a waste of time, stretching and bending and rotating my shoulders, but I hear it’s good for me at my age to keep supple. Or, I could sort out the mound of legal paperwork that comes when someone dies, something I have managed to ignore for quite some time. The thing about doing something I don’t want to do is the feeling of personal success once the task is completed. I will focus on that, turn up the tunes and get the heck on with it.

When my mind strays to the gloomy, I will notice and take action. I have become quite good at noticing and taking action. This is something to do with a refusal to allow misery in. I have let misery in oftentimes during my life and I can tell you, it is a most unwelcome guest. It doesn’t come alone either. Misery brings self-pity, despair and loss of self-control. Well who on this goodly earth wants any of those lurking about inside their head? Not me for sure. Although I cannot control what happens to me, I can always control myself and my attitude. Sometimes I get frustrated when a person refuses to see that no matter what happens to them they can choose their reaction to it. But, I remind myself, I only understood it when I found I was seeing mud instead of stars through the bars of my life, and, besides, all of us learn new truths at different times. It is not for me to preach but only to uplift and encourage.

Just for today I will follow a programme. I will waste no time in moithering. I will be decisive and prompt in whatever I undertake. I will not moan, grumble or show irritation, no matter what goes wrong. I will be happy all the way through the day. I will decide to take time for myself even though this is rather irrelevant nowadays because all time is my own. There are no distractions, no calls to arms, no interruptions beyond the tring-a-ling of my telephone. However, there is much to be said for 30 minutes reflection and rest. I would have killed for 30 minutes reflection and rest not so long ago, after all. If I stop whatever I am doing to spend 30 minutes somewhere peaceful, such as on a wander into the fairy woods, my thinking will change as I stand in marvelment beneath the bows and branches. So much bigger than me. So much older and wiser. So much to say without words. Look at us, they whisper. Aren’t we majestic? Then I will bring that majesty home with me and it will filter through the house, lifting, uplifting, freshening the air. It may take me the afternoon to dry out, but I will have achieved much more than dripping skirts and the onset of trench foot. I will have made myself get up and out and into what is solid and strong, loyal, beautiful and ever-changing, qualities I want for myself.

I know that some folk think that when things go wrong, they are doomed, either momentarily, or forever, and that my way of being, of thinking, is just nonsense. Perhaps it is. Perhaps I am deluded, mad, even. But if I have learned anything of value in my life it is that to focus on what isn’t, what cannot be and what isn’t there, is just plain depressing. Looking instead at today, just today, and deciding that I will see whatever happens as an opportunity and not a stumbling block (poor little me), tells me I have complete control, not over the events but over myself and my attitude. And that feels just fine.

Island Blog – Birthday Hallelujah

This day my wild son Ruari turns 40. Nobody, especially he himself, ever imagined he would make it thus far. He was bent on self-destruction from the get-go. Risks were normal for him. Frying bacon at the big hot Aga at 4 am, stark naked, aged 2, and balanced precariously on a chair I had no idea he could even shift, never mind climb on to. He was making us a surprise breakfast. He would think nothing of setting fire to anything that took his fancy, or climbing onto the highest roof and, once, shinning up a lamppost in the centre of Edinburgh after a boozy dinner, all the way to the top, like a monkey. My eyes rarely stopped rolling around him and my heart was always in a state of turmoil, because whatever came next never entered the heads of anyone else. It was too dangerous, after all, but not for him.

Now look at him! Shortlisted for Entrepreneur of the Year Uk, married to a beautiful, feisty and very tall Viking and with two lovely wee daughters; launching a global business that innovates and supports any who choose to leave alcohol behind and thus to become fitter, happier, healthier. Check out OneYearNoBeer to see for yourselves. I am so very proud of him and not just because of what he has achieved, but of how he has turned his whole life around; how, through walking his own talk, he has generated a huge following of all ages who were lost once, and are no more. There is no greater leadership. Experiential wisdom cannot be bought, nor learned like a script. We do not follow a talker. We follow one who is leading by example.

I wish him another 40 years. Who can say where his lunatic road will lead? I am happy to say he is considerably less reckless these days although I know that light in his eyes, the one that twinkles like the North Star, the one that tells me he is still the wild child and always will be. Delivering a child so unique and impossible, so fast and so enterprising may sound like the most wonderful thing, but it had its consequences. I was never not worried about what he was up to, or planning to be up to, and he was baby number 4. But, despite all the eruptions and chaos he brought to bear, that fabulous face, that gloriously cheeky grin could, and still does, melt my mother heart. I could see, as could his dad, the extraordinary talents he was born with and we both wrung our hands as we agonised about the chances he had of living to this age. We knew that, given the right protection and the right guides, this child would rise to stardom, hopefully feeling happy and proud of who he is. We just had to wait and see, like all parents of a genius.

I honour him. I also honour the beautiful, feisty, very tall Viking, for without her, he may well have spiralled off into the stratosphere. She through love and support has helped him to grow into himself. I don’t know if he likes himself now. I don’t know many of us who do like ourselves. But I can feel a peace around him these days, a confidence born from his own self belief, one no longer rooting from the naysayers, the bullies, the neglectful teachers, the cruel bosses. He is becoming his best self.

I know his dad would have been so happy for this day. He would have growled out a happy birthday song and he would have told this crazy boy how very proud he is of him. As am I.

Island Blog – Gone

When a someone very close is gone, all that is left is a big silence, as if the rooms stop breathing too. In this case, the ‘gone’ is a husband of 48 years, a father to five, a grandfather to 10, a brother to one and a friend to thousands. Nothing he ever did went unnoticed. His high profile life meant he touched on many others, affecting their decisions, choices and opinions. He had plenty of those and was certain he was right. Sometimes, perhaps oftentimes, his core beliefs were like solid boundary walls, impossible to scale. Nonetheless, he made us all think from the other side of what we might have believed to be fact.

I have a million memories. In equal amounts I have been furiously distant, happy to leave him inside his fortress and then right beside him, looking out across the wild expanse of life. I suspect this is marriage in all its honest and raw truth. Nothing worth its salt is consistently simple, not if it has mettle and fire in its belly and our life had plenty of both. When I think back to my rebellious youth I roll my eyes. I was heading off piste rather a lot. In fact, I am not sure I was ever on piste. Then I met him and he seemed able to play both like music, ready for nonsense and lunatic forays onto unexplored slopes and then sliding easily back onto the path well travelled. And, always, guiding me, holding my hand, yanking me back to safety, always my rock. Even when he could no longer do the things he used to be able to do, his very presence made me feel safe. I’ve no idea how I’ll brave the next bit of my life, but I do remember all he taught me and I will always be able to stop, breathe, remember and get the hell on with it.

Rest in peace, you old sea dog. I’m going to miss you for the longest time, even if I can, now, move the furniture around, go where I please, talk LOUDLY on the phone, guffaw at random, turn the tunes up at 7 am and eat celery sticks without having to go to another room for the crunching. The hole you left will probably get bigger. I have no idea who I am without you. It will be an interesting journey for sure and it begins now.

Island Blog – Sharing the Story

This morning I decided to sort out my freezer. It didn’t take long as there are only 3 drawers below the fridge but you’d be surprised how much of a farrago I can create over time. Most of the bags of bits are translatable into something I recognise but none of the tubs have labels so it is anyone’s guess as to what their contents will thaw into. Something dark could be blackberry compote or red onion gravy and it does tend to matter which one gets served as pudding. I pull out one such tub and a bag of something that looks like meat thinking, rather devil-may-care, that whatever is in the tub will somehow be workable. I am nothing if not inventive.

Now it is all of 9 am and there’s a whole day stretching out ahead of me expecting to be noticeably and productively lived. Can’t disappoint it. So, what next? I know, I’ll strip the beds and wash the linen. Well, my part stops after stripping and that takes ten minutes. Next…….I could hoover the carpet if really pushed or I could ignore the crumbs and keep my eyes on the future. I choose the latter. There is a top and a skirt waiting to be conjoined which may or may not work. My sewing is enthusiastic, my imagination wild with ideas, but my skills at logic have always come home last. I can see, in my mind’s eye, this classy home-assembled frock, wowing all who see me in it (which won’t be anyone till the Autumn) but there is a gap in my Dom Sci training. I must have looked away at some point and it’s too late now. However, this doesn’t stop me forging ahead, and it takes some time to pin, tack and sew the parts together. I take the dry washing upstairs and have a chat with my soft toy collection. They are a motley crew of characters collected over time. A couple of them appeared one day attached to a small child who decided they could do with some granny time; some are left after my own children grew out of them, knowing that I never would; one, Sheepy, fell out of a window in Sauchiehall St Glasgow which is where I found him. He was flat, filthy, sodden, and cross-eyed but after a good soak and blow dry, he fluffed up nicely and has been here ever since. He is still cross-eyed but far less flat. The whole surface of the chest is covered in little people and they all grin at me as I rise the stairs. They are my little team of supporters and I always smile back.

The important thing, I am finding, is to stop my mind falling into slumber. If I entertain myself and my mind with a routine of sorts, allowing the odd dash into spontaneity and unlikelihood, whilst sustaining a healthy approach to the necessary round of small things, I can make it all the way to the evening. To enter into a day with no plan of action just doesn’t work for me. And, yet, it used to work so well. I could plan all I liked but then a child falls into the bog or gets stuck up a tree, or leaves home, aged 6, in a wild fury, to mention but a few of the many things that always happened should I dare to make a plan, it was essential that I moved to plan-less mode. In these unusual times, however, it seems important for a well-laid out daily plan to be well-laid out and implemented. As we are all confined to quarters and some to eighths or even sixteenths, I imagine we all feel this. After all, there is a limit to how many times you want to count the roses on the wallpaper, or sort the freezer, or hoover the crumbs. Small things get bigger if they are given enough attention. And that can be good and it can be bad. If the small thing appears as an irritation and is allowed to grow, I could find myself in a frightfully bad mood by lunchtime. On the other hand if the small thing is a kindness gift, due attention given to detail and presentation, then everyone is happy.

My key is to hold on to the constants and the perpetuals. Okay they might be soft toys or they might be out there in nature, like birds and rocks and daffydowndillys, for those of us who can see nature between buildings. I am aware there are many who would have to look very hard to see nature at all in this time. The odd pigeon might not cut the mustard. Drab streets, rules about going out, and so on. It’s just tougher, as it always is, among those for whom everything is always tougher. But now, here comes the leveller. Nobody is privileged against this enemy. No amount of wealth or privilege makes one jot of difference, and we are all afraid at times.

In times of ‘strait’ and fear, of lack and loss, thinking outside of ourselves is most helpful. The day will take its usual length of time to keel over so we may as well entertain ourselves and everyone else we can think of right up to night. Sharing what we have, teaching each other, working together, thinking outside of self, sharing ideas, recipes, jokes, stories, all these create bonds that no enemy can cut. Developing a relationship by asking questions and really listening with empathy sets that relationship up for life. Investing in what we can do for someone else has consequences, beneficial to all parties. Too long we have only shown interest in our own lives, families, friends, work and choice of sandwich filler. A change of heart demands action. I agree that we need to take care of ourselves in order to stay the right way up, but it is good, nonetheless, to remind ourselves, gently, that we have this golden opportunity to do something we have never done before. Like sending an I Love You message, just because. Maybe someone you know could do with talking about how they feel. Maybe they might need pulling closer to the fire to hear a story.

We will all have stories to tell once this is over. We can start writing it now.

Island Blog – Woman

I’m thinking about her today. I am one, after all. A woman I mean. As Dennis rages like a husband outside my door, threatening to uplift the new conservatory, I turn in to my thoughts. After a Dennis sort of morning I put on music – my sanity these days. Have you heard Disturbed sing The Sound of Silence, or Elbow’s Fickle Flame or Lily Allen sing Somewhere Only We Know by Keane? I research music a lot and am helped considerably by my youngest, equally in love with music. Lyrics, musicality and beat can lift any soul from a dark place. I recommend it if the dark surrounds you this day, or any other day.

I add something super dull to the shopping list, holding said list in place with a heart shaped stone as if Dennis might get in somehow and snatch it. Actually, he is welcome to it. I get dead bored of shopping lists, of washing clothes on the right setting, of wiping down tables, of mopping spills I never spilled. It seems to me that women are always on the move and it is just as well or most of the world would just sit down and wait for a sandwich. Not only do we end up on the sandwich rota but we are required to pop here and collect that on a regular basis. Then there are screaming children to squeeze into clothes they don’t want to wear ending in a fraught drive to school. There’s a flaming mother-in-law to appease and toilets to clean; there are beds to make, rooms to tidy, gardens to tease back into life; phone calls to answer, batteries to replace, dogs to feed and supper to be planned, bought and prepared. I am sure there are modern women who fold their arms, say something colourful and then go out for Prosecco with the girls but I don’t meet too many of those. From girlhood we are conditioned. I see it with my own little grand-girls, the unconscious teaching by their mums, the learning they absorb through example. I want to throw fireworks at it all, but (and there’s always one of those) I cannot see how the family would survive if women stopped being IT. That indomitable spirit is in each one of us. How else would we survive? Although life does dump on us, despite the fairytale wedding and all those impossible promises, we find an inner strength we never knew we had. It seems we can take pretty much everything on the chin and still keep our sense of fun and fight.

A man once said, a man I admire to the skies, that he had no idea how we women kept so full of life. Observing the very obvious attitude of the world, that of demoting women at every opportunity, plus the lie that they believe in equality, this man made his own mind up. God bless him. We need more of him. He can see our spirit and he loves it. Loves it! it doesn’t frighten him at all, which is, of course, what it does to men in general. Strong women remind them of their mothers and they really don’t want that image in their minds.

This fighting spirit is powerful and dangerous. Powerful when guided right and dangerous when left to turn into low-boil anger. I have learned the difference between the two, often. I know when my angry puts down roots and applies itself to the whole garden, and it needs uprooting. Power is quite different, something precious to be nurtured and loved and admired. It is a part of every woman. Although young girls learn submission and polite behaviour in order to survive the early years, that spirit is still alive inside them and it will out, trust me. And it scares even them, the first time; the time they see injustice, feel it, are hurt or attacked. It will rise like a hot dragon breathing fire, one who needs teaching. Not now Dragon. Yes, now Dragon. That sort of teaching. We learn this as we form into the women we will become and it is a good thing. I have met women whose dragon controlled them and their life was not a happy one.

However it is good to just know the dragon is there, to feel her power and strength and to know she will always be there for you, and for me.

Island Blog 160 Heads and Tails

best-inspiring-quotes

This morning I walk out into sunshine.  The greylags are crossing the sea-loch, their babes in tow, paddling like the good little muckers they need to be.  Collared doves float between the telephone wire and the bird table and a little mouse just shot along the windowsill (on the outside).  When I empty the compost bucket into the worm-tastic bin, I stand for a moment watching the new mini-hive with just a handful of workers tending a new queen cell, buzzing in and out, always doing the right thing.  Baby birds line the fence, their beaks open, their wings fluttering, their voices pleading, and, sure enough, there is a parent to make everything okay.  The little blackbird we found in the garage, once lifted into the back garden, yelled its head off until mum and dad appeared, making encouraging noises and darting back and forth between the branches.

‘Yes, yes…..they say, we know you haven’t grown a tail yet dear, get over it……. but if you don’t remember those wings can lift you off the ground, then you never will!’

It thinks me about the way they live, those that have a purpose and know it and never forget it.  Okay they are creatures, not humans, but I am game to learn from anything and anyone.  Learning to fly, sans tail, is something we can all do if we choose.

And, unlike animals, we can think and we can reason.

Perhaps that is our problem, because we might forget at times to be thankful for what we have.

Example…….I look out at the garden and I think….oh flip just look at those weeds!  I look around my house and see the dust.  I have a shopping list and I don’t feel like shopping.  But these are just my work, my everyday, my purpose.  Within each of these tasks I find it, if I focus on the task itself, and if I consider it a thanks to life.  Yes, I have weeds that grow faster than I can yank them out, but, at least I have a garden;  yes, there is dust, daily arrivals of it and yes, it shows up in the sunshine, as do the filthy windows, but, at least I have a furnished house with windows; yes, I have a shopping list but at least I have money to buy what I need, a shop down the road, a car to take me there…….and so on.

With these and so many more of my gifts, comes responsibility, my responsibility to each of them, to honour each one, with respect and good humour, for what is this life, if not a gift?  Whatever hardships I may encounter, they will never be as hard as they are for others.  I tell myself that, often, at times when I forget I have wings.

These times are valuable times.  Pushing them away, pretending they’re not there is never the answer.  Feelings about life come and go;  times are good and times are not good;  the way we see something one day is not necessarily the way we will see it the next.  We all want to be happy all of the time, and, yet this is an ideal, an impossible dream, perfection.  In order to become the best we can, we need a lost tail day or two here and there, because, although it may be uncomfortable, it helps us to remember that we do have wings.

Oh, and good news for those with lost tails…….

They grow again.

 

 

Island Blog 11 – Speed it up

Blog 11 (V2)

Today despite the fabulous blue cold outside, I felt like a big fat lump.  I’m none of those things, but I can still feel each one of them.  It’s like gravity is pointing her finger at me and lowering everything a tone or two.  I couldn’t find the right key to sing out my day, although I did, of course, make the effort.  This lunchtime, after coffee and a small, very small, slice of lemon torte, ho hum, my gorgeous daughter-in-law and I popped into the hairdresser next door.  I am ‘going’ grey which is pants in my opinion.  Not the grey bit, but the ‘going’ bit.  Why does everything take so long??

So, let’s pump up the pace and get this dinky little hair stylist to make it happen, to speed up the ageing process, at least, on my head.  I sat there, trying to read the magazine text, but having left my specs at home, I was only able to see the models and you can imagine what that did for the ‘big fat lump’ syndrome. Every time I glanced up at ‘Ageing Mirror Face’ my head was just a little blu-er, but, you know, I didn’t care.  You know that place where you are too sorry for yourself to care what happens next, as long as it isn’t more of what came before?  Well, I was there.

An hour later, after an ash tone over completely bleached hair, I am looking like a silver star. As I walk back home, through the blue cold, turning gently and quietly to darkness, there is a bounce in my step and I smile to myself.

How extraordinary is this ordinary day!