Island Blog – Turbulence, Calm and Letting Be

Good heavens how life can tumble us! One minute I am tootling aboot inside my ordinary and the next I hear news of someone mid turbulence. It slams me to the wall and I can feel my breath hold as I try to make sense of the shock. It is not easy for me inside my ordinary to completely get what they are going through. How can I? I am not who they are; I don’t live in their home, have their concerns or know their joys. As I peel myself off the wall and breathe out, I find myself pacing a bit as if my pacing a bit will create a map that leads me to a solution, to the beyond of their sadness. But all I can see is a load of disconnected squiggles, in my ears the sound of another heart breaking.

It thinks me. Do we, do I, believe that the easy and ordinary days will always be here, holding us up, boring us to distraction, keeping us safe? Well, no. If I look out upon the natural world (interesting that we as humans appear to be separate from the ‘natural world’) there is nothing but turbulence with spots of calm. It is a constant whirlwind out there. There is life, there is death. There is freedom and there is entrapment. There is safe and there is danger. Nature understands herself and she has left us far behind. As I walk beneath the sky-tipping trees I stop awhile amongst the snatch-shadow of limbs, wind-buffeted. Shadows do not lie before me like palm branches for my walking. No, they are dinging about like disco dancers in a frenzy and the mud track lights and darkens strobe-like. The sky-tipper branches create mosaic of the blue sky, moving, shifting, dancers in the wind, waving their arms like longing mothers welcoming children home. Come to me, come to my arms, my mother warmth, my love. I can make everything better for you.

I hear the songs. Pines shoosh, beech leaves clatter and click, hazels and willows whisper. A whole symphony with the wind as conductor. I walk alone but I am not alone at all, not if I mindfully engage with everything I see, hear, smell, touch or taste.

Today it might be still. Today it may only be for those tree intuits to hear the voices of the trees and the soft wave sound of the wild grasses. Or, there might be a raging red blooded hooligan who decides, well, I am bored, It’s Thursday (Thor’s Day #God of Thunder) and I just fancy a rampage. I confess I never know. Himself always did. Batten the hatches, he would say. Bring in the sunshine chairs. I walk now clueless but mindful and noticing and curious and I am learning to connect as he did. I don’t know all my clouds. I don’t understand the sky formations that formation over me but I am learning.

I remember turbulence and calm. Turbulence was the norm and calm the odd moment, so that my ordinary days showed up as turbulence. I got the hang of it. In fact, I rather liked it. There was never anything boring about turbulence. I knew the language, met it head on in doorways and grew strong in myself, in the confidence of my elastication, my bounce back and I was strong enough to adapt and to resolve. Children returning from school brought turbulence, a hooligan, a hurricane of limbs and shout. I learned how to bring them down. Not literally, although it has been known. No, it was more about allowing, noticing, being patient and kind and a whole load of letting go.

In my now life, most of the turbulence is within. I argue with myself about who I am now, what is my purpose, where am I going, if anywhere and, if there is a ‘where’ left, how the hell I get there. There will be an answer, or answers, of course. To look back with a smile and with thankfulness across a long expanse of a life shared, of memories burgeoning with colour, sounds, sights and experiences, is crucial. The smile, I mean. Although there are things I think I would have done differently was it possible to address those situations with my now head (impossible) I am not burdened by regrets. I am practical, after all. I know it is a fool’s errand to imagine I could change anything in the past. I also know how possible it is to change things in the present and that is exciting. Playing around with frock-layering, tapestry landscapes, baby playmats, music, TED talks, audio books, walks in the wild, albeit each one worked on in solitude, gives me great pleasure. Within each activity I may be alone with my thoughts and memories but when I step into one of those memories I find the young woman I was, one who achieved so very much and who was so damn lucky in life. She always landed on her feet. She was loved and respected. She was good at negotiating with turbulence and she was kind. Quite a list. Now she needs to be kind to herself, the hardest thing for all of us because our inner critic appears to be in good voice. I have no clue why we listen to that voice above the other softer, kinder, more understanding voices, but we all do it.

So, frocked up, music on, sun up, rain down, I look sideways. I was never a fan of Either and Or. There is a vast expanse of opportunities between those horns and even if I must needs pay attention to the instant way I default to either this or that thinking, I won’t give up. I know I cannot sort everyone’s life out and I also know that they can and will. I begin from here. And the best I can do for those whose lives I would dearly love to put back in a happy order, is to just be there for them and to let be.

Island Blog – Curiosity and Attitude

I love mornings. Always have and I don’t mind early. According to my ma I could lounge about in bed till lunchtime as a grumpy teenager but all that changed once I floated up the aisle in my Edwardian frock and made my vows, sans obedience, for the record. I cannot imagine the damage that vow has done to so many women of generations past. Well, actually, I can. It was hard enough sticking with ‘in sickness and in health’ or ’till death do us part’, which it eventually did of course. I never thought I would manage that bit having been infuriated for decades. I had wings but they were clipped, or maybe I clipped them myself. Who cares. What I feel good about now is that, in spite of me wishing I had been born a greylag goose with all the challenges and thrills and freedom of migration being quite acceptable in all their circles, I accomplished the whole shebang. Let us not dig too deep into the way I accomplished this massive accomplishment. A lot of the time I slammed doors, ran away, hid my secrets and spat into his coffee. That’s enough for now on the subject.

Mornings. Curiosity. Opening like a flower to each day. Sometimes I am like a daffodil that needs de-heading, sometimes a vibrant rose, smelling divine and perfectly formed. I never know what way the which of it will be. I just spring out of bed, ping into the bathroom and out again, pull on a frock or jeans and scoot downstairs towards the coffee pot. Since himself flew to the higher realms I haven’t always been the rose. Sometimes I sprang, pinged and scooted just to outrun the mare of the previous night, but didn’t always manage it. She has four legs after all and I only two. But, in the main, it was my decision not to repeat the mare even to myself. Always the same theme, wanting to run but stuck in glue, wanting to scream with a mouth full of silence, the usual. At least I don’t meet an overrun of rats as my old ma did. I told her she deserved it. All those years of criticism and judgement. And we laughed about it because she thought I was making a joke, which I wasn’t.

Each day comes anew, obviously, and with potential. A deal of the unfolding of that potential lies inside me, in my attitude, my list of ‘ways to live again’. There are many. But the most important start point, the blocks from which to leap, ping and scoot through whatever the day brings, is my attitude, followed closely by my action. I like A words. They are beginnings and that’s a favourite B word. A and B. Much better than beginning sloppily midway through the alphabet. I mean, do I go back or forward now? I never do that. I start at the beginning with a big fat A. Or two.

I notice, have oft noticed, that without himself to ‘correct’ my diction, choice of clothing and sound levels, I am surrounded, enclosed and flailing at times within a new freedom. Freedom, another favourite word, and, as a word, it is the call of the wild, a heart thriller, new lands, new skies, new choices, independence and excessive sound levels, but to actually live in freedom is quite a different flower, sometimes a daffodil needing decapitation, sometimes a rose. I swing from one to the other, sometimes hour by hour. I don’t know what to do with all this freedom. Could someone hem me in please? I know how that feels, how to live as a reactionary, how to slam doors, swear like a fishwife and throw spectacular tantrums. All that pent up energy has nowhere to go now. It can feel like a phantom pregnancy. No chance of birthing. How bizarre.

I am learning to step out of myself, just a few steps back, and to observe. I am rather interesting, I decide. A query in a frock, someone worth further investigation, more study. I am curious about who I am just now. The overstory is still me, looks like me, sounds like me, laughs and jokes and cries like me but beneath what you see, what I see in the mirror, lies complexity personified. Both dead daffodil and vibrant rose. Very confusilating. But I know enough to know that it has only been a few months after almost 50 years of having my diction corrected and my sound levels on mute, so patience is required. That’s a P word, yes, but I know that attitude and action are my ways to be patient, so I’m allowed a P dash. If I am thankful for all of my life, all of it, the memories, the darkling times, the fear, love, misery and joy of it and I let it all settle within, patiently, then this gratitude will grow a new flower in me. As will action. Not the sort of frenetic action that hides me from the grieving process but the little insignificant-in-themselves actions I take daily; a little sewing, a bit of reading, a lot of bird watching and a moderate amount of walking in the wild, all actions that lift my eyes off myself and into the real ‘out there’. These actions create my attitude and as the circle circles, my attitude creates more action, more interest in ways to live again, to flower anew and to keep moving on through the alphabet, letter by letter.

Island Blog – All Rise

There is a rising. There always is one of those for we who believe that nothing and nobody stays down for long. Even the dead rise in spirit, lodging in our hearts and minds, refreshing our memories, balancing them. We rise from bed, from a chair, from grief, from a dark season. The moon is half herself this morning, shining like a beacon in a flip-flop sky of pink clouds and blue promise. In my garden green things are pointing to the heavens. I have no idea what some of them are, only remembering in a vague way what bulbs I sunk six inches deep, and where. Surprises appear daily and I stand at the window watching a little more green, a little more bulk, a little more determination to sprout in the goodly earth. Birds lift and flit among the emerald leaves, land, peck at the seed which will insist on falling off the bird table even without a wind blow.

I light the woodburner to ward off the morning chill. It is light already. I recall those endless darkling mornings, mornings that never seemed to un-darkle all the way up to tea time. They are behind us now and I am glad of it. Going too is that bitter cold, the threat of chilblains and spine shivers, frozen fingers and numb toes. We are rising, all of us, together, as we move into Spring. We are brave enough to come downstairs barefoot, leaving our fluffy slippers under the bed; soon we will no longer need our thermal vests, socks or pyjamas and we will be able to talk with a passerby without risking hypothermia. It is a good thing, a much needed thing, a promise, a rising. We have come through the longest winter I have ever known bar one – the first winter on Tapselteerie when the cold froze itself, when it was warmer to be outside, when the vast halls and walls of a mansion house tried to break me. She did not succeed because I was determined to rise, will always rise, no matter who, no matter what. Just like you. How marvellous we are, we humans, we risers, in spite of the ground shifting beneath our feet, the storms tearing us to shreds, the rain calling us to drown. We are fractals in Euclidian space, individual elements, but we are also unconfined, wild, feral, unpredictable and there is a glory in that, a rising. Something or someone tries to keep us down but we refuse to stay down. Against all odds we will always push out new shoots, always point to the sky, always bloom and flourish, even from a dying bed, even from within a prison, a castle of cold and unforgiving walls. We are invincible because we are in complete control of our thoughts and our thoughts can rise us from the darkest places. I know this. It is my firm, immovable belief and it always has been. Oh, I have fallen, believe me and oftentimes, but I have not stayed down. Life is such a beautiful and precious gift and we only have one.

Let us keep rising into whatever this beautiful and precious life offers. Let us see with wide open eyes every tiny gift that comes our way, no matter what. A smile, a conversation, a zoom, an unexpected kindness given or the chance to gift one, a word or two of encouragement, a helping hand, time, love, compassion, empathy. After all, not one of us will survive this life and we are a longtime dead. The time for rising is right now, this minute, this day.

All rise……..

Island Blog – Free to Live

Yesterday I went for my covid vaccination. There is a new something in my blood, in my muscle tissue, that will forever change me. I am not the woman I was when I left home, all nervous and in loose fitting clothes for easy access and with my mask in my hand. The swerve and swoop of the drive through the silent and single tracked glen showed me big warm cows and fluttering water birds already singing a Spring song and behaving like they just fell in love. This swerve and swoop thingy will tell those who know me that I was not in the driver’s seat. I haven’t swerved or swooped for decades. I prefer 30mph at best. My son drove me and here’s another change. That time in the car with him was energising. We spoke of this and that, of cabbages and kings, of children and DIY and how am I and how is he. He made a mental note to collect fuel at the garage once we arrive and whilst he waits for me.

We arrived at the church with its footsteps urging Faith, Hope and Love and I walked over them feeling all three. I walk to the door of the church hall and see about 5 women sitting apart. I presume these are vaccinatees awaiting their jags so I pull away and back to the car to wait, for we are early by ten minutes. More cars pull up. Through their windows I see well known faces I have not seen for at least a year and it lifts me. We smile and wave at each other. They are also nervous and in loose fitting clothing. And waiting. After a few more minutes I go back, thinking this:- Flaming Hec, Fairbairns, why are you always so obliging? Get up and go ask! jeez…… perhaps these figures through the glass door are nurses, waiting inside whilst we litter the road with our own waiting. We could all be here for days. So I did walk back up over Faith, Hope and Love and those 5 women did indeed turn out to the nurses having a lunch break. They beckoned me in, more faces I know so well and have not seen for almost a year. Smiles and welcomes and how are you/s. It felt so good to be among people. It felt so good to see their bodies move, watch them laugh and interact and to flow like fresh, living water. The jag took seconds. Relax your arm. I chose my left, for I have heard an arm can be a bit sore for a couple of days and I am a rightie. Love your tattoo she said as the needle went in. Everyone does. It is, after all, a work of art.

Thats you! She smiled and I reapplied my loose fitting clothing. As I moved back to the car, to my son, I spoke with the queue of other 60 odd year olds, friends, familiar and loved faces and ones I have not seen for almost a year. We shared news, briefly. How is life? Oh, you know, ok. I saw their eyes above their masks and saw the strain. We will all feel it but seeing it in another’s eyes tells us the truth. This past year and the not knowing of the one in which we have now landed will show in our eyes and on our faces once the bandit coverings come off. It has to. Loneliness and isolation, fear and frustration, exhaustion and the loss of faith and hope is inevitable.

We have sunlight. That is what we tell ourselves. We have a new day, our inner core strength and our gratitude list. But there is a cost. Any time of deprivation will cost us. However we do have resourcefulness and that bloody mindedness that keeps us rising like the light, like the tide. Ebb and flow we are, rise and fall; sometimes a lift for others and sometimes needing a lift ourselves. It is reassuring somehow, this need for each other, this need to have a visual on those we took for granted before, calling out a brief Hallo as we hurtled through our to-do list for the day. Can’t stop, must dash, another time. And now we move sluggish and slow, filling in the hours, wondering when we can get back to that unthinking normal.

Another night, another morning. I move like an automaton through the early chores, light the fire, make breakfast. The silence in the house feels like a weight today. So many questions float around with the dust motes and with nowhere to land. Life with another is all about interaction. Question asked, question answered. Now I have to answer for myself. Agreed, the irritability factor is removed from my life now but a part of me, on mornings like this, long for it, for connection, communication, interaction; a meet in a doorway, a stand back, an ‘after you’; a smile, a laugh, a ‘listen to this’ or a ‘did you know that..’ Nothing. I hear a song come on the radio and the lyrics sing me. I hear about some stranger’s achievement or a joke or a story. I listen to the wind and hear the rain blatter the conservatory roof as those little bits of fallen masonry skitter about like mice tap dancing. Still dark, but I did lug in wood yesterday having checked the forecast so it’s only a garage snatch and grab.

All across the UK people are coping or not coping with this extended isolation and the discomfort of not knowing when it will all finally get better. Sometimes I play a game. I take myself into the little town to meet a friend for lunch in the bakery. I hear the buzz and bustle, the exchange of chat between other tabled folk, between the serving lassies and the customers in for a pie or a cake. It’s warm in here, happy, ordinary, normal. Later I decide to dress up and to go out for dinner. Seafood I think. I always do. Candles, the clink of glasses, the smiles of the waitress, the wave to the chef as he pops up for air, the feel of my dress and the chats with those who pass my table on their way to theirs. These are distant memories, once the norm and taken for granted, for who could have predicted the life we are all now living? I remember signing up to work in the hospital cafe on the mainland as a volunteer. My shift was settled, my uniform secured. That was almost a year ago.

I wonder what will come of this time? The faces I met with yesterday told me we have all changed in ways we never imagined. The easy flow of conversation was not as before. Standing back, no hugging, no touching, no sneezing, guffawing or coughing. Moving awkwardly around each other is confusing. We are not like this and yet we have had to learn new ways and the toughest part of all lies in our not knowing when it will stop. Will we remain fearful and awkward long after life begins to flow once again or will we let go of that fear and awkwardness? I have no answer. Friendships may have been lost through this time and new ones forged. We will emerge as newborns into the light of ordinary life I suspect, blinking in the sudden light of it, our eyes looking out for love, for connection, for purpose and direction; for lunch al fresco, picnics, dinner by candlelight, impromptu parties or just walking with mates, close up, touching, hugging, sharing rise and fall, ebb and flow, free to live once again.

Island Blog – Voices

I’ve been quiet for a week, which is odd for me. I can barely be quiet for ten minutes, but that has exponentially changed since Covid and then Death. In the days when I took everything for granted, like someone there, a recipient for my bolt of chatter or question or demand, I let fly my words, barely taking time to assemble them into the sort of order my Dad would have admired. Then came Dementia demise. Then came Covid and the silence of it all. Not just here, inside this home, between jabbering me and talkless he; not just because carers no longer came with their bright cheerfulness and their kind competence and their chat of pets and kids and road surfaces and the weight of their work, but because the world stopped. That’s a big silence and such a sudden quiet where there was always a noise we might have berated, and which, over a period of time, lands as a loss in a human soul. We might have scrabbled for any noise, anything, just noise, just life, just chatter, any something that says Yes Life Still Lives.

My reason for being quiet is that I have had a week of abusive phone calls and texts and all from the same mobile number. Initially, I answered the phone, for why would I not? The first was sexually explicit, the second (on answerphone) was threatening, the third, the same. That was last weekend. These came to my landline which seemed odd. I called the police and they were gentle and supportive and encouraging and, considering they are dealing with front line ghastly, and in the winter rain and sleet and in the darkest hours, so very remarkable.

The calls continued for a week. But the police were working at it, heaven bless them. They located the guy and his mobile, which doesn’t make him sound all that intelligent and they will knock on his door. I was helped another way. My son took it upon himself to speak to the abuser and kept calling and calling until he got through to admonish him and to let him him know he is known . I also called a friend who came out of hours to fix a bolt to my back door. What I feel is loved and supported. Life can be tough at times, at many times, but there is going to be somebody who racks up for you, as they did for me. Son. Police. Friend. Lucky, fortunate me.

Although I did have a week of fear, No. Terror. But this was my imagination working overtime. The chatter, in other words. Had the old dude been here, he would have laughed me out of it. I know this. So, brave up, look out, do NOT give in to fear (no caps), but just keep moving, one wee faltering step at a time. We will chatter again. We will meet and ps, btw, the snowdrops and daffydowndillies are pushing like rockets through the earth and headed for the sun.

Shall we join them?

Island Blog – Disappointment Reversed

Suddenly there is change, a huge change, a life change. Some say, mournfully, that Christmas is cancelled but that is a load of tosh. Who can cancel an inevitability, after all? The day will come whether we mourn or celebrate. I have questions here. Are we still breathing? Did we wake up this morning, heavy with disappointment or did we wake, our minds buzzing with ideas for what we can do, whom we can celebrate? Perhaps a bit of both, in truth, but which thinking will win? If we grieve for what cannot be, for the ones we cannot be with, either because of the new ruling or because they are buried six feet down, we make a big mistake, for Christmas will not come again until another year has passed beneath our feet. The benefits of wasting time are nil. We have no time to waste, people, and no right to do it. If we have time, this time, any time, we are custodians of that time, as many have no such luxury. There are sick people, lonely people, abused people, dead people. If we do not find ourselves in any of those categories, we are indeed blest.

I imagine there will a lot of food left over this year. A big turkey or goose or nut roast that sits uneaten and un-shared; treats and gifts still with us, ones we now need to post and ones that will not arrive in time; little faces who won’t see grandparents, aunts and uncles; games that won’t be played; quieter homes. Next year we will talk about this time. Some will say it was the worst year ever, that Christmas was a disaster. Others, those who don’t waste time moaning about what cannot be, will say how thankful they are to have made the best of both the year and the strangely empty Christmas. I know which I will choose. Confusion has surrounded us since March. March! It is the longest time, yet not long enough to confound us, not as it might have done in times of endless war. We have no idea how fortunate we are. This past year is not the worst ever. It is just a year within which a lot happened. Just one year. And during this year, what do we remember of the good and great things that happened? The random acts of kindness, the surprising messages of support and encouragement, the way we learned to zoom or hug virtually, the phone chats, the waves and smiles of passers by, the food left on a doorstep, all happened because of this so called terrible year. Surely such gifts are worth remembering.

If we are fortunate enough to still be here, to be able to eat well, to be free to choose our attitude before the inevitable, then we can still celebrate Christmas, life and those we love. We just need to think, and right now, how we will do that. We have 4 days of 24 hours left to re-design our plans and our attitude. Learning how to be adaptable and versatile is a by product of ‘tough’ times. In easy times, there is little need to employ either. Why would we? When what we expect comes without troubling us much, we just float along like sticks in a river. But when the floods come and the water swirls and twists and lips over the banks, we can get stuck in eddies or stranded on rocks, wet and going nowhere. In our minds there is tremendous power. By choosing not to lie, wet and going nowhere, we can change everybody’s anything. If one person decides to shine their light into a roomful of darkness, then everyone can see. The light may not illuminate all expectations, but it will, once eyes grow accustomed to the brave flicker, allow others to find their own light and before you know, the room becomes quite magical.

And disappointment is reversed, in one single decision to celebrate this wonderful time.

Island Blog – Life, Death and Corsets

I thought it would get better, exponentially, as if I had a sore toe, with rest and chicken broth and good nursing care. But this is not a sore toe. This is a yawning maw of days ahead, learning, reluctantly, to begin a new life. Did anyone think this through? If I was 25 again, wiry and with skin that actually fitted my bones, then possibly the prospect of ‘beginning a new life’ might just have sounded like fun. Now, it just feels scary. We get so set in our ways, do we not, even without clocking that this is happening, until it stops, dead, and the future is anyone’s guess.

As a body ages, we deal with it. We harrumph into bigger knickers and aggressive support bras and cover up bits that we used to show off, quite the thing. Our frocks lengthen. Old knees are a bit ‘witchy’ after all. Make up takes longer to apply and should only happen at all in full daylight and with a magnifying mirror. I have seen some shockers out there in my time, orange tipped noses and the face stopping at the jaw as if it wasn’t part of the neck at all, apples on cheeks and lips leaking towards the nose. A wearer of jeans will note that her bottom is sinking. She might need a belt, but that can become a hazard too as it fights mightily to keep a connection between buttocks and the middle bit we used to call a waist. It is so depressing to accept we need either a larger size, or, worse, old woman jeans with legs wide at the top and enough room in the upper part for most of a weekly shop. Fingers look like twigs or sausages and there is no going back.

All of this laughs me. I have no problem at all about ageing. In fact, I am rather proud of it, to have got this far, to be able to bear witness to such an extraordinary change. Animals don’t do it this way. Dogs or cats might get thinner, show some white hairs, but the rest, the wild things or even the not wild things, like sheep or cows just slow down and then stop, dead. I have been gifted the chance to wonder at the conflict between my body and my mind. As a ‘bereaved’ I know that the fears I have are all about my bodily capability and never my mind. My mind is strong and capable, versatile and inventive, but my body may not be able to follow my lead. Ah, I say to myself, I don’t like that. The answer comes back, What are you going to do about it? (Why does she always ask me that irritating question?) I round on her and ask her direct. She says nothing. Just throws me a wry smile like she knows everything and I don’t, which is probably the truth of it.

So it is just us, we humanoids who notice and wail about ageing, or deny it altogether. If I say to someone (is there anyone left out there?) that I am old, they flap like birds in a stramash and witter at me that I am not old, that I am as old as I think, that there are years left in me. That sort of twaddle. I like being old, I say. It means I have really lived and better, survived when so many others have not. There are my peers and younger, good strong loving impossible individuals who fell at a fence. Characters, warm-blooded feisty and hopeless at life as most of us are, getting it wrong more than right, full of regrets and defiance, energy and exhaustion, and yet they forged their trails when they found themselves in a position of responsibility for others, living out that life out in colour and rage and joy and fear and were quite marvellous at the whole thing.

Being stilled is sobering. From a huge and impossible presence in another’s life, in others’ lives, to a flatbed, to pale and cold, to gone. It will take longtime to accommodate that thought, never mind allow it to move its long stay luggage in. Hard, indeed, initially, to remember the actually there person who now is not. But he was always there, like, forever, through my this and through my that, knowing my faults (!) and my successes and very probably highly opinionated about both.

So, now it’s up to me. Me and myself and she is doing a grand job with her snorting and her opinions and her wry smile. She keeps me right and, don’t tell her, I am glad of her company. We are 2 in 1 even if I baulk at the thought of it. I spend much time working on exponentiation. It keeps my mind bright whilst she swans around all febrile and wispy and lifting those eyebrows to the clouds. She hasn’t aged, you see. She is forever young and full of beans and quite infuriating as a result but I do tap her energy as my skin fights to escape my skeleton and I am in danger of a skin puddle.

I remember my first corset, so excited I was, shopping with my ma in the lingerie department of a shiny store. It was so white, with little roses in just the right places and stretchy enough not to constrict my breathing. Ma told me she was not so lucky. Hers had 25 hooks you could never see in the dark and if you got one wrong you yawled sideways for the whole day. The world of corsetry was kinder in my day. I do remember wondering why I needed one at all. What was wrong with my wonky body anyway? I was shushed and marched on. It was the way of things.

Isn’t life always just the way of things? Death too?

Island Blog – Coming out, Irony and Eye rolling

‘Coming out’ means something in contemporary language, I know, and I don’t mean it that way. However, the process of coming out, of walking into the spotlight and of facing down the imagined and, perhaps, very real reactions this coming out may bring is what I am doing.

Since a long time I have self-medicated with red wine, too much of it. I had good reason, I told myself, as I pushed on through a difficult marriage and then dementia caring, but that good reason has lost its truth. To continue to self medicate when the husband is gone, along with any caring demands, is just lunacy. I don’t want it any more. I don’t want the guilt, regret and sheer terror each morning after a bad sleep full of nightmares. So, I have reached out to an addictions counsellor and our work is beginning. Although I am 67 and old (in my opinion) it doesn’t mean life is now a slow slip down the slope, not at all. There is another book in me, after all, more songs perhaps. I haven’t sat down at my piano for ages. It sits there, open-mouthed, ebony and ivory and beckoning. Why on earth not? Well, I am guessing that this self-absorption is taking over my mind on a daily basis. How blissful might it be to just get the heck on with life, with Life? I imagine wonderful, freeing, energising, peaceful.

I write this because I am betting there are many folk out there caught in a similar trap. Addictions come in many shapes and sizes. Drinking, drug use, running, over-eating or eating disorders, spending money, and many more. It isn’t anything to be ashamed of because every single one of these is birthed from a deep inner pain, one that may well date back to childhood. At first, it feels great. At second it creeps silently in to claim more territory and before you know what’s happened, you cease to exist without it, cannot imagine a day without this addiction. However, the great news is that there is help out there, gentle, empathetic, intelligent guidance and support. Hallelujah!

I don’t feel shame writing this. Living covertly, unauthentically, is crippling and there comes a time to stand in that spotlight, to come out, not to shock others but to admit to being human and caught in a trap. So here I am. I know that once a person has the courage to admit, to speak out and to lay themselves bare, the healing has already begun, even if there appears to be no way ahead. This is faith. Faith in self, in life, in the power of experienced guidance and in believing that, no matter how old a person is, there is plenty more to achieve in this single glorious life. And, just maybe, someone else will read this and know that they, too, can claim back the ground if they can just find the courage to come out.

My son, Ruari, has just won the Spectator’s Innovative Entrepreneur of the Year for Scotland and Northern Ireland with his work on encouraging and supporting people (of all ages) who want to stop drinking too much; to turn their lives around. Check him out at http://www.oneyearnobeer.com.

The eyes of my brain are rolling with the irony.

Island Blog – Looking through Windows

My impatience, during this ‘grieving’ thing, oft gets the better of me. Why am I not sorted yet? After all, I knew he was going to die earlier than he might have done because dementia grabbed him by the throat. Why do my emotions swing like an overly excited pendulum, from an inner darkness to the bright light of freedom and opportunity, not once a day, not twice, but non flaming stop?

‘Ah, you humans……..don’t you know that your time is not my Time? My Time is a very different creature, one unfettered by schedules and earthly dates. You expect things to fit in with your plans but this is not how life works’. And that is that, apparently. I know it has only been just over 3 months. I know that those who have gone before me will say it will take 12 to 18 months to re-locate myself, not least because the last time I knew myself was almost 50 years ago; that time when I could say “I’ without being sternly reminded that ‘I’ is now ‘We’ and that most of that ‘We’ was on his terms of employment. To be honest, the ‘I’ I was back then was a strange creature, lost in Wonderland, curious, yes, but scared of my own shadow, unlike Alice. Understandable, then, that the promise of safety and shelter beneath the ‘We’ umbrella drew me in and out of that sharp, cold teenage rain. But now I am required to find myself again.

I didn’t think I was lost, not really. Despite the rollercoaster of marriage, children and rules, I knew who I was. I was a wife and a mother. I was cook and cleaner, business gofer, facilitator of others’ dreams and goals, full of sparkle and energy and quite able (a lot of the time) to ignore any inner cries for escape. Now all those memories face me through each window. Hallo, they say, noses pressed to the glass. We are all still here, you know, Mrs, not Mrs anymore. I don’t want them peering in at all. I don’t want to look out upon them all tattered and gnarled and persistent, jigging with that glee that thinks me of bullies. I could close the curtains, t’is true, but that doesn’t mean they go away. I could ignore them but, well, ditto. Apparently I just have to let them have their day and to keep walking down this new path.

I remember, well, looking through windows and wishing I could fly south with the geese. I would even have accepted ‘north’ in the darkest of times, but I am a grounded woman and we tend not to be flyers, Mary Poppins notwithstanding. However, inside a mind, the opportunities are endless. I know now that the worst failures and the best adventures happen inside a mind. In there, all choices and decisions are made. Right argues with wrong, downs argue with ups and light dances with dark. It doesn’t really matter what physically happens inside a life if the inner windows are kept clean and clear. Demons, bullies, failures, regrets come to us all and it is up to each one of us as to how we empower or disempower them. On the side of Light, we have the same choices. Although nobody can sustain a positive outlook on everything and everyone all of the time, it is possible to develop a strong reserve of endorphins so that, when the demons dance and cackle through the windows of a mind, a person can just watch without attachment or engagement.

Especially if those windows are triple glazed.

Island Blog – Feeling the Bones

As I walk beneath the coppering beech trees, the bare bones of ancient larch, the garnets of gold on this tree and that, like halos, I become suddenly aware of my body. Paying attention to this I can feel each muscle ripple and stretch, contract and stretch again as my legs take me down the track. In my mind’s eye I see my bones, my skeleton and it makes me laugh out loud. I think, What if someone saw me like this? All flowing frock and skinny bones. I hear the creak and grind of ball and socket, the constant movement deep inside my skin, my protecting armour. I think of all that movement, that silent and secret life of very important organs and other bits of gloopy squidge that mean the bones can keep me going. I stretch my bare toes inside my furry boots, consider each one and its unique purpose. I feel the stones beneath my rubber soles and notice how that foot, those toes, work together without me doing anything conscious at all. One toe less and I would be wonky chops for as long as it took my brain to catch up, to readjust, to set me level once more. I flex my fingers, the only part of me not moving, as they hang limp inside my warm fingerless mittens. They curl in repose and are colder than any other part of me. I lift one hand to my face and study those gnarled old digits which have worked hard and for many many years at all sorts of different things. These bumpy looking sticky-out appendages can play soft and soothing piano. They have held newborns and adults in times of joy and times of grief. They have obediently frocked me up of a morning and then deconstructed me at bedtime. They have made tea, dinners and beds. This finger has pointed. Often. In anger, at an astonishing sight, at the openly merry mouth of a welcoming cafe in a rainstorm. This thumb has pressed, eased and held down string for knotting. So many important actions I simply took for granted.

Moving on through the canopy of beech and alder, hazel scrub and ancient pines I notice a newly dead pine, tall as a building and now naked as a skeleton. A peppering of holes tells me of woodpeckers and unfortunate bugs. The spine is almost white, all sung out now and suggesting firewood. The tide flows noisily out followed by a shriek and cackle of gulls, snow-white against the smoky grey of a raincloud. Earlier I had watched 3 otters fishing in the sea-loch, when the tide had stopped to draw breath before turning back to Mother Atlantic. Flat water. Otters like flat water, I have noticed. I suspect it is a more peaceable hunt for them.

Still aware of my body moving, still feeling and noticing, I realise I haven’t done this before, not quite like this. I didn’t set out to notice. The ‘notice’ just came as if something had changed outside of me drawing my attention. Staying with the moment and allowing it to take control I consider what this body, this mind, this vital combination has achieved through life and what it is achieving now. Perhaps as we age we grow more aware of such things, whereas in youth we just expect everything to work without question. Perhaps. Does it matter? No, it does not. What matters is simply that I respond to the gentle nudge of awareness and that I engage with it.

I am happy to report that the walkers I did meet on the track were not horrified by a skeleton in a frock and furry boots and I am glad of it. This special and powerful invitation for an inner dance was for me. Just me.