Island Blog – From There to Here

Leaving 40 degrees and arriving back to zero in the belly of a couple of planes with the ambient temperature of an airport or two in between requires a person to be vestment canny. Well, I really don’t know what I was thinking as I packed for Africa but it appears I put little thought into my return. Today I am wearing most of my frocks over jeans with a vest at skin depth, a long sleeved tee over the said frocks and a jumper to complete my shapeless bulk. When I step outside, I add to that a puffa jacket and a scarf long enough to wind into a neck brace. A most fetching look.

I noticed, among my fellow passengers, as a foggy Glasgow appeared at the windows, that they had considered a vestment strategy. How had I not? This question has thought me a lot since I returned to zero. All I can guess is that I was in such a flapdoodle as I packed for the sunshine that my brain dealt only with the immediate. Then I realised that dealing with the immediate has become my default, for everything is immediate around dementia care and any unnecessaries are pushed into the shadowland. Although it is delightful, in many ways, to realise how much of life can be unnecessary when necessary, it behoves a girl to remember those things that still await her in the wings of her life. In Africa I went to a spa and had my nails done. This was a first for me as I usually just bite them off or clip them to the quick so as not to scratch anybody by mistake (or intentionally). I have enjoyed watching my French polish flash little white moons into my looking and this little indulgence will not revert to the shadowlands again. Although this indulgence may not be a regular thing, at least I know the pleasure of it. It isn’t just the nails and how they look. It is the time taken for myself, to sit and watch someone else caring for me. This is important, for all of us, not just me. Taking time to spend time with Me is not something many of us talk about without either getting embarrassed at the blank faces around us as we try to explain what we mean, or getting the giggles. Well, it does sound a bit ‘out there’ does it not? I think the key is not to bother explaining it at all to a world completely caught up in logic and the daily dash to Nowhere. Of course, not everyone is doing this dashing thing but most of us are if we are honest.

But the wisdoms keep coming. They go back to Rumi, to Ancient Greece, and further back, and we still don’t listen, because we have not learned how to live this way, the way of emotional intelligence, the way of good health, calm hearts and heads, peaceful sleep, gentle breathing and love of self, not matter what the demands of our lives. I don’t think it’s easy, far from it, but I do know we need to wake up to a different way of being. In a hysterically busy world we are but cogs in a million wheels, or that is how it seems. children, work, families, governments, religions, rules rules and more rules can overwhelm the very best of intentions. We can feel like tumbleweeds in a desert wind.

So how to change that feeling of being out of control of a life? I am no guru with a mouthful of answers but what I have learned in this decade of dementia care with all its associated ‘immediates’ is that I want to come out of this as intact as is possible. Too many of my compadres have fallen sick as a result of intense caring over a long period, wherein any time for self was intermittent and without a plan. Perhaps, like them, I thought it wouldn’t drag on for years but it does. Perhaps, like them, I thought I could wait for me, that I would be there at the other end, just as I was before. I don’t now. Now, I know better. This is a journey and there is no map, no destination I can stick a pin in. And it’s ok. In fact, I would not have learned the valuable lessons I have learned had dementia not come knocking. One of these lessons, the one I most value, is the importance of self love and how it never seemed important before. I don’t believe I am alone in this. With accusations of selfish up-yourself coming from older generations, schoolmarms and all the other ‘For Your Own Good’ ies, it would have cried anarchy and that meant trouble at any age. But I have learned to own the ‘selfish’ accusation and it fits me well. Let them think that, is what I said to myself and myself grinned wide.

There is no rule book for self love either. Only this. Stop and listen, as the world threatens to swallow you whole and the noise of it is deafening and the demands relentless, to what your heart whispers. Hear it and do as it guides you. Just once will do for now, because when it whispers again, you will hear it more clearly. Then go with it a second time, a third, a fourth and on and on until your heart is a match for both the outside world and the inside mind. I admit there is quite a lot of stopping required at first, until you get in step with You, but the rewards are endless. Eventually the outside of you fits the inside no matter what Life brings.

I arrive home tomorrow. Let’s see how clever I am at walking my talk when the old ways and I collide on a familiar doorstep. One thing I do believe in is all that stopping to listen to the inner whisper.

It just has to have made a difference.

Island Blog 24 – Many a Mile

Island Blog 24

(c) Jennifer Fairbairns

On the eve of a journey I get collywobbles.  That is a word, I just checked, although it not being a word, as in a dictionary word, would never stop me writing it.  Sometimes there is just no acceptable word or phrase to describe what I am feeling, or seeing and so I just make it up.

In my young days of being the Elocution Queen, propelling my voice, ‘Chin UP girl!’ with my neck pushed forward like a goose on the attack and all my tendons tight as telephone wires. I would have been upbraided by Miss Stuffy Drawers endlessly.  She of the stuffy drawers is long dead, bless her old heart, so I feel quite reckless these days when choosing my words.

Onomatopoeic, they are, in the main, and sounding like themselves, the way they feel.  I could waffle on about the colour of my feelings too, but I might lose you sensible readers who like to hear a regimental march in the laying down of prose, although nowadays anything goes.

Or does it?

I love language, any language, whether it be Spanish or street talk, even if I don’t understand one word, as long as it is spoken from the heart and not contrived.  Sometimes even the Queen’s English can sound contrived, if it is pompously delivered and devoid of feeling.  Words are music after all;  they have a rhythm, phrasing.  They need to convey both information and emotion, even if it is just giving someone directions to the station.

Which brings me neatly back to my collywobbles.

Tomorrow I fly.  Not with the geese, as I have always wanted to do, but with British Airways back up to Scotland.  I have, by mistake, booked an aisle seat so I won’t see any more than the back of someone’s head.  It’s not that I am fearful of flying, nor of a train bus or car journey, so I can’t really explain my inner state at all.  Perhaps it is just stepping away from what has become the norm for me.  Perhaps there is a frisson of anxiety about going back to whatever I am going back to.

How can I get back into the old routine?  Do I want to get back into the old routine?  Do I even have one?

And so on.

I felt this way starting a new school, or the first day of a new job, and there is a beauty in there somewhere if I can just lay my hands on it.  If I can rest in the process, if I can worry not, but trust that all is just as it should be and I am the only one who can do whatever I must do, then I will take each step mindfully and be inside the moment.

Holy men have learned themselves into such a state.  Hermits live alone for years to find it, this inner peace.  Material things will never be enough, however much I may think they are the solution.  Enlightenment is a personal journey, a quiet reflective one, one lived step by step, inch by inch, and all my anxieties do is rush me ahead of myself, into an imagined non-reality.

I met someone once who told me he was enlightened.  I fought back a snort.  If someone has to tell me he is enlightened, he is most definitely not.  No-one who has reached that state would ever feel the need to say a single word.

I obviously have miles to go.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

–        Robert Frost