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 – Finish the Line

I remember at art school being taught a valuable lesson. I was the only abstract artist in the class but I still needed to learn it. When painting a landscape, townscape, seascape, the observer knows where the horizon should be, unlike in an abstract piece. The land or sea ends and the sky begins. A cathedral will be taller than Mrs Jenkins semi. A child is smaller than an adult, in the main. We know without the need for over-explaining and if the stop/start thingy is penned in sharp black, it irritates us. It is telling us what we already understand and does not respect our intelligence at all. Let the eye finish the line. That is the lesson. It is no different when writing or speaking. How often do you roll your eyes as someone says to you, having already said the sentence once, As I Already Said…….to then repeat exactly what you took in first off? Glory it drives me wild. I have to stand there and hear it all again feeling like a struggling kid in Primary One. I hear that repetition is important but it still drives me distracted. I take great care not to fall into repeating myself, even as I know I sometimes do and particularly with my own grown children as if they might have nodded off at some point and thus need mummy to resurrect that vital bit of advice. I can feel the silent sigh through the phone line and it blushes me.

Being too wordy comes from passion. Whatever I am feeling passionate about, albeit momentarily, rises in me like a lift of startled chickens, all flap and feathers and squawk. I must get this across to you and the only way I feel I can do this is through over-explanation and repetition. Why? Are you not an adult who has gone through endless situations, scenarios and experiences wherein you gathered a world of information, assessed it, filtered it, checked it through your own lens and then let it settle within? Of course you are. I wonder if this need to over explain is birthed and rooted in our innate need for connection, the need to be seen and to be valued in someone else’s eyes. Short sentences, after all, can sound clipped and nobody wants to be unkind. Certainly I don’t. So, when someone starts to explain on repeat, I may lose interest, but this must not show for I am compassionate and authentic. I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me. But what about me in this situation, pinned to the wall? If I stop your babble, will this feel like criticism to you? Will you turn to go berating yourself for being a chatterbox and hating me for flagging it up? I suspect so. I recall Himself saying, just after I burst in with a story to tell, Can You Please Get to the Point? In his lack of interest in detail, I lost my own.

Allowing you to finish the line is all about respect – for you, for your intelligence but also for myself. I don’t need to explain everything. I don’t need to repeat my story. I trust that both of us will see what we see and hear what we hear. The need to explain or justify is really just insecurity. Perhaps, I say to myself as I stand in the blast of explanation, one already aptly explained some moments back, this person knows what it feels like not to be listened to respectfully. Perhaps he or she longs for compassionate, interested audience. Now I am back down on my heels and calm, leaning into it, into you, as the welter of words crowd my ears, even if the rhubarb has boiled dry and the smallest child is feeding muesli to the calf who, on finding the kitchen door open and it being cold outside, has wandered in for a warm up. It takes me no time at all to finish the line. This person is cold at night and needs more blankets. That’s it. However I now know that Grandad is arthritic and Gemma is frightened of the dark so she stayed home with Granny Music and that this person lives in Leamington Spa, well, just outside, but Granny Music lives right in the town where there are street lights right outside her home and Sandra has just passed her A levels, well, most of them, not maths, she’s not good at maths even with a private tutor who has awful breath and lives with 20 cats and it’s a long drive in the dark to get Sandra mathed up and it was a waste of money after all, not Sandra, though, she’s not a waste of money, of course not, she’s 17 now and very pretty and we are getting the early ferry next Saturday I hope that’s ok for you and where can we see otters?

I let the calf back out, muesli powder on her black snout. My visitor walks away armed with blankets and a couple of hot water bottles, feeling heard and respected. I just know it. The rhubarb is beyond hope now but that’s ok. There’s plenty of time to make an alternative crumble. I look at the clock. Fifteen minutes, that’s all this visit took and yet I have seen a whole lifescape in that time, one I will think about all day. I look out at the wide sky and the tall trees and find a warmth inside me. What came to me sharp and infuriating and with dreadful timing for the rhubarb at least, now feels like a soft line, a link between me and my visitor. I could feel her anxiety, touch her loving mother heart, see the care lines around her eyes and feel a deep respect for who she is.

I wonder how Granny Music got her name? I will never know but that’s ok. My own eye can finish the line.

Island Blog – A Mouse, A Monday and a Child

It’s Monday, but it could be Sunday for all the quiet out there. On the island we are taking this Covid 19 virus very seriously indeed, unlike other places, or so I am told. We plan to survive this siege and although our drawbridge is now firmly up, we have found a way to keep in touch. I get funny videos and cheery texts and FaceTime calls often and I am very grateful for them. Being a natural hugger I now have to stand far away from anyone I meet, washing my hands before touching anything they have touched, and it feels deeply weird. We are looking in now, finding things for entertainment, edutainment and upliftment. All those ‘ments’ are forcing us to use our big brains, and inventiveness is the key.

So, this morning, I decide to print out photos of my hundreds of grandchildren and their parents, captured moments of fun, in wild places, doing crazy things. I know where my Picturemate printer is. It’s on a shelf in the Land of Mouse, a dark cupboard underneath the stairs. The space is like a mini fairyland, draped exquisitely with cobwebs, the many shelves holding ancient nonsense. There are photo albums that date back to slavery, old recording equipment, wires for nothing we still employ and, in the nighttime bit, the big fat darkness, lie the Christmas decorations, silenced for another year in the belly of an old school trunk circa 1820. I can see where the mouse has made a nest or two, chewed through some obsolete wires, nibbled at the edges of this album or that cardboard box, and I whisper Good Luck Mate. I don’t mind living with you as long as you respect my Importants. Eventually, I find the printer and haul it out through the cobwebs. Now to affix it to my laptop with the right plug. So far so good. I find the downloaded photos and begin.

And that is where I stop. All I manage to achieve, in spite of double and triple checking the settings is one leg of one child on one spit of paper and the other leg on the next. At this rate I will have to assemble 12 photo sized cards in order to make one whole child. And there are 3 of them in this picture. It makes no sense to me, but even though I apply my finest and calmest logic to the matter, I make no headway, much like in the printing process, for the head of child number one never printed at all. I unplug the printer, save the photos in my gallery (I think) and return the box to fairyland. I think the mouse has jinxed it.

In the bigger picture, this little pictorial upset is nothing. But, we must be careful not to let such small things grow. And we must help each other to do the same, to see wide and free and the drawbridge down once more. It will come. And this time will have thinked us all. We will have found strengths we never knew we had, friends we never thought cared that much, ideas that come, that only ever come in times of extreme fear and deprivation. The human spirit marvels me.

I just wish mine could work out how to print a whole child.

Island Blog 149 Fire and Ice

 

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149 – another Prime Number – indivisable by any number other than 1 or itself.

I like that.  That’s me.  Others may suggest alternative descriptions of something or someone so resolutely singlular, not many of which would raise me high on any Christmas card list.  Words like Selfish, Stand-Offish, Stubborn, Thoughtless, Narcissistic, Ego-Centric and so on and so fourth and fifth and sixth.  You get my jist.

But (and there’s always a few of them) in order to carve a furrow along which I am happy to walk, I have to be the one to carve it.  No, no, not that way!  they might cry.  Look, see, here’s a nice womanly path, one full of other nice womanly dudes with behaviour manuals and clean tea towels in their well-ordered drawers.  One look is enough for me.

How I have managed to love love love being a wife and mother of many, whilst maintaining my singularity is a puzzle to me.  Actually I didn’t manage that maintaining thing to be honest whilst living in the melee.  It was a question of forward motion at all times to avoid being crushed, but now, with hindsight, I can see that my intense and consuming need to be singular, even in those times, kept talking to me – an internal sustaining dialogue, despite the requirements of hostessing, mothering, catering and, against humungeous odds, domesticating those in my precarious care.

Anyone who has forged ahead in life has to be of singular persuasion.  Forging ahead and tidy tea-towel drawers probably argue with each other.  Now, shall I forge today or tidy my tea-towel drawers?

Some might say there are those who could do both and in the same day, but I doubt it, because the whole thing about forging is that it decides not only what you do or where you go, but who you are, your choice of path.  Consequences arise inevitably.  For example…..if I choose not to cook supper because I am busy writing, which is important to me, this ‘me’ who is completely forging and not a bit hungry, I may well upset you who are:

a.  Hungry

b.  Not a little irritated that I have abandoned my post.

c.  Alarmed at this turn of events, and concerned that, if ‘allowed’ this turn may take an unhealthy hold on me.

If I continue to walk this path it will eventually become the norm, expected and, to a degree, accepted.

Really? Well my mother never told me that and nor did anyone else by the way Jimmy (certainly not him), but it doesn’t mean I can’t learn it now.  Anyone can learn it now, any now, however grey and worn and old and tired.  People who decide to make a change will always find a guide when they need one.  Thing is, you have to take the first and scary step.

When a volcano erupts, it doesn’t ask permission.  ‘Oh, now, sorry to bother you, but would it be okay if I erupt next Tuesday night about 10pm, hmmm?’

When a glacier decides to move along a bit, causing masive tidal chaos, seals to flip overboard and huge ships to bonk their noses, it doesn’t check with anyone first.  It just moves.

These are prime events, huge events with consequences for us all, and, of course, barely related to any human ‘forgings’, but they illustrate my point to a degree.  If I wait for permission to forge, when my internal voice is hot enough to bend steel, then what on earth is my life all about?  I may well be remembered at the wake as a Good Woman (with tidy drawers) who was kind to everyone, never said NO, and certainly not in capitals, and who always put others first, which, in my opinion, says only a small thing about me.  The BIG THINGS are :

What did I do with my life?

How did I make a difference?

What legacy do I leave and who will learn some wonderful new freedom for themselves, by observing my work?

If the answers are Not Much, Didn’t, and Not Much, then all I have done is make a sandwich.

We are born of Fire and carved by Ice, like mountains.  We might take a little trip inside ourselves and remind ourselves of that.

 

Island Blog 106 A Timely Light

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First of all I want to say thank you to everyone who comments on my blogs.  Your responses to my own thoughts, thrown out into the world, come back to me like a soft warm morning full of birdsong.  I write as I feel, looking not for a Well Done, but to touch on another’s life, to connect a couple of dots perhaps, to feel I am not alone, not physically, but in my innermost self, that woman I am stuck with, as she is, with me.

It makes me consider these two women – the visible one and Her Indoors, and the oftentimes mismatch between the two of us.

In the early hours before dawn, I ask myself big questions, such as who are you?  and what do you want of this life? and why do we get in the way of each other?  and why is it we aren’t perfectly aligned in our thinking?  I know it may be a tad late to be addressing these major issues, but I seem to be doing it now and, besides, time is an illusion, whatever that means.

When I meet someone, I observe her intently.  I learn much about her from how she says what she says, her body language, her choice of dress, the pitch and volume of their voice.  I can hear clearly what the inner person is saying, however much talk comes out of her mouth.  Is she really herself or is she fitting in to the shape either she, or others, require of her?  Is her confidence real or built only on the sand of her expectations?  What drives her?  The need to be thought of as a ‘good’ woman, or the need to be true to herself, or a bit of both?  Does she feel she has done her very best in this life, or is there an ache of regret and loss, and how well has she managed to conceal it under bright merriment and high rise cheese souffles?

I often feel there is a wasp in between me and someone of whom I have just asked a personal question.  One like….. Are You Happy?  Oh, I will get a list of all those things she may quickly pull into the room like the success of her children, the fact that the Co-op now sells mixed peel outside of the Christmas period, the arrival of the Redwings to colour up an autumn scene, but she won’t answer me direct.  After all, what she feels about her life is not important at all.  What is important is how she can make others happy, and this the point when I am in danger of falling out with Her Indoors, because I understand it completely and it is surely a goodly way to live, isn’t it?

No, it is not enough, and becomes glaringly clear when the children fly the coop, and she is without purpose, unless she has been ‘selfish’ during the busy years, and taken time to develop and grow her own interest, one that can support her to the end of her days.

When I look back on my own life, I see how fortunate I have been in my choices.  I found a man who has never understood for one second the shrieking sharp-toothed Her Indoors, but has loved her anyway, even if he did have to walk about in full armour-plating for many years, which was wise of him considering my deadly aim.

I think we don’t need to seek acceptance, nor understanding for the inner person, except from ourselves.  The big mistake is to bury her, or him, for this applies to both species, and then to blame an outsider for our own refusal to let light in.

Without light, nothing grows but fungus.