Island Blog – The Luckiness

Oh we are so very busy, so fraught, so flapdoodle about Christmas. I remember being all of the above back in the last century when my five feral kidlings wreaked havoc in as many ways as they knew, and they knew many ways. Their excitement was loud and fraucous, high pitched and very fast. What happens to legs, I ask myself, as I cautiously descend the stairs and never jump anything over 12 inches high, remembering the blur of Child as it tore through a room causing even the wine glasses to fall over in the afterwrath of such a cosmic blast? When I was ‘busy’ and responsible for everything Christmas, the presents, the wrapping, the dressing up of the 20 foot tree with its point pointing to the floor because the ceiling just wouldn’t lift to accommodate, the star hanging down land twinkling like the drip from an ancient and cold nose, my legs were right beneath me and as fast as any cosmic child. I was lucky to have legs at all and so was my family. Had I been legless, the whole lot of them would have effortlessly escaped the rule book; probably burned it along with the logs that were more like tree trunks. At least my fully functioning and agile body could prevent disasters, catch the ferals to spin from room to room averting disasters such as the 20 foot tree falling on the sleeping dogs, cats and pet lambs and who let them in btw? Don’t give me ‘Aw, they’re cold’ or I’ll just cook them.

Now in my pensioner days, I rush not, nor am I busy. That chaotic life is in my past and thank the holy crunch for that. No more must I panic about stocking gifts, other gifts, in-law gifts, writing a zillion cards to a zillion people and the annual freak out about serving up a Griswold turkey; the making sure that the in-laws, who invariably arrived in an argocat with a bumper laundry basket filled with well wrapped gifts settled into chairs aligned just right, candles at the ready, lambs definitely out and who brought that crow in? Atop the tree, well, not actually at the top because we all know where the top is, but in the tree nonetheless and shrieking worse than any child. I had to blow out all candles at that point. The thought of feathers alight gave me indigestion in my imagination and that is not a comfortable feeling. Ah, such a past. So many adventures. Such a lucky woman. My life, our life, would kick the Griswolds into second touch, for certain.

When I write that I am not busy, let me explain. My days are always engaging and active. I stack wood, I walk, I clean, I write, I sing and I dance, but the have to, that pushy crow-shout in my ears is quiet now. I can do what I like when I like. Sometimes I don’t like either of those but I can still perform the tasks and there’s another word I like. Perform. Thinks me of my non-existent stage life. Did I tell you I was offered theatre work and turned it down to marry himself? Well, I did, and I regret it not. In fact, my agility and ability, both physical and mental as a stage performer, storyteller and activist (a good one) has supported my life as wife, mother and now grandmother. Lucky me. When I take a wee wander back through time there is a lot I forget until out of nowhere a memory lifts like a swan from the water and I watch it fly up, up into the vast blue sky and I smile. I was there. I was her, that woman, that wife, that mother, those times are mine to treasure. I also recall the stomps and stamps and slammed doors, one of which fell off its hinges with the force of me. I am proud of that even though, at the time, it was of great inconvenience.

This morning I tootled into the harbour town for fuel and fish. I really don’t know why anyone ever bothers with going off island as everything anyone could ever need for feed is grown right here. As I lifted into the mist, the mist flashed with sunlight, the frost sparkling on the grass and on my little mini, along the empty switchback road, I passed the grave, the new headstone. I stopped the car and watched it for a few moments. There it is. There you are, facing the rising sun and with a view you always loved. T’is right and rightful. T’is your landing place and it will be mine too, one day. There’s a new grave. I knew that man, that quiet, gentle man. He is gone too. I wonder if you and he have encountered each other yet. I like to think so.

The town was quiet. The shops alight, their windows dressed in baubles and gifts and mostly empty; the town lights all a’twinkle, few cars parked and only a few islanders on the street. Not like the old days, in the last century when the pavements would be buckling beneath the feet of those with gift lists, stocking lists, in-law lists; those collecting food and fish and turkeys and chocolates, when ‘on’ and ‘line’ were two words that never went together. Well, now they do and we are lucky to have that option at this time. Now let’s go otherworldly. Beyond our fuss and fret, beyond our rush and our busy, what is the voice of Christmas? Is it love, is it giving, is it peace, is it sharing what we have? When the packaging is burned, the toys broken, the meal devoured, even a Griswold meal, what are we left with, the something that will succour us through the Big Cold Months yet to come?

The moments. The pictures, we remember, the affection and the warmth, the rebirth, even if I raise the busy and the frantic. I remember it and them. They had their place in my remembering and they are so much a part of it all. However, they are just part of the structure of just one day, and just one day can create ripples. We know this. What we need to learn is the wholeness of everything, including Christmas Day. There will be ups and there will be downs, and in that intricacy, there is a landscape. Rest in the whole. Look at the bumps and the awkwards, the imperfections and the exploding turkey and smile. We are who we are and we are just perfect just as we are. Just as we are. Lucky us.

Island Blog – Rethink the Butterfly

I remember times when we could move in and out of each others lives without second guessing the wisdom of close encounters, sharing laughs and songs, music and chatter. I am sure you do, too. These past months have shown us how limited that freedom now is. We don’t like it. We feel confined, scared at times, at best, cautious. We have to think for ourselves and make our own decisions regardless of governmental announcements and that state can be confounding, overwhelming. I flit like a butterfly between overwhelment and decisiveness, caught up in the barrelling winds, soaked in the rain of it all, only finding rest inside my own home and alone. Many, many folk will know how this feels and for now we can see no end to this battering.

However, being forced to think and to make our own informed choices about what we do, where we go and whom we meet with is good for our brains. We are not schoolchildren. We have autonomy no matter the restrictions laid down for us. They are very important, nonetheless because nobody really has a Scooby about this virus and its dastardly plans. Is it dying or is it morphing into something even more destructive? Nobody knows, not the governments, not the scientists, not the medical profession for this enemy is invisible, secretive and immensely powerful. We move through each day with caution, most of us, and as we wake up our immensely powerful brains, we have to stand for what we believe in, even if it upsets someone else, or many someone elses. This is not an easy thing to do for we all want to fit in. We second guess ourselves. Is this decision not to attend a gathering based on wisdom, my wisdom, or fear, my fear? Well, the answer is both. We need awareness of fear, the knowledge of it, the inner study. We need, in short, to think and to question those thinks.

Not so long ago, wars raged for real with military ranks marching into battle. Those left at home faced huge restrictions, fear for the fighting men and women, shortage of food, of warmth, of security. Time dragged, days rolled into a long line of misery and frustration but in the middle of all that confusion, individuals stood strong. Mothers queued for many hours to make sure their children could eat bread. Young women and the men who could not make it to the battlefields, entered into the intelligence services. Folk butterflied in hospitals, on the streets, in soup kitchens, in schools, helping elderly neighbours, working on farms and in many other ways. The country pulled together because of the war, in spite of it because the human spirit will not be defeated.

We are in a different war now, but it is war nonetheless and every single one of us can do something to make life a bit better for someone else. Many have been bereaved and they need comfort. Many are lost in fear and isolation, the loneliness chipping away at their self-confidence, spinning in confusion unable to see more than one step ahead. They need friendship and connectivity, even remotely, through a window, on the phone, through a zoom or a text. I’m thinking of you. We will not emerge from this unscarred, none of us will. It has shifted the tectonic plates of our thinking, played shinty with our beliefs and shattered the structure of all we heretofore believed solid and strong.

And now Christmas is almost upon us, one filled with concerns and ditherments. Do we, should we, can we, ought we? I shake my head. I have no idea what to do. I know what my heart wants, as do you but if we look beyond our obvious desires, what do we want to see? Good health, yes. A future without viral attack, yes. But a vision requires restrictions in the present. Not at all comfortable. However we are fools if we pretend everything is okay or bury our heads and hope we won’t be the one to get sick, won’t be party to bringing sickness in for others. It is, in the end, all down to individual decision, popular or not. Easy to say, I know. Damn hard to stand strong and light in confinement and darkness.

In Spring, the butterfly is a wiggly worm, a maggot, a nothing much. Inside the safety of its cocoon, it develops beauty. Then, one fine day, it breaks out to enchant anyone who sees it. This unbelievable metamorphosis is only believable because we know it will happen. In these dark times, in the wind and the rain and the uncertainty, vision, trust and faith are everything. If we are patient, careful, considerate and with an eye to the future, the lucky ones will emerge and fly once again in new colours, even more beautiful than before.

Island Blog – Day One, Lucky Us

And so it begins. With this day. The only one we can ever be sure of, those of us who awaken into the morning of it. How shall we spend it, I wonder? For those of us of a merry disposition, the options are endless, for no matter our current limitations, we will see each moment unfold as an opportunity to smile. Even if the wood won’t split or the poached eggs slip off the spatula to land with a hot splat on the floor, spreading into a lake of liquid gold quite disproportionate to that of their polite containment in the poaching pan, even then a smile can be lifted to the face of one whose disposition is a merry one. But what of those who cannot find such merriment, at these times or, indeed, at any time? It must mean that life always feels cumbersome at best, vindictive at worst. I am sad for such people because I know that not one of us is born for such a life. Babies do bawl, yes, once the air hits their lungs but who is surprised at that? From that moment they are ready for anything, trusting and malleable and ready to learn whatever they are taught.

In my family, the teaching was not that the world owed us our lives, indeed not. If we wanted something we learned to work towards it and not to whine pleas through wobbling lips. We were taught to ‘get on with it’ should life throw us a curve ball and I am glad of it. This tuition, that sometimes felt cold and dismissive, gave us the chance to look to and then to develop our own aptitudes. When things went horribly wrong, and once the initial shock and panic had calmed a little, we found, and still find, ourselves looking this way and that for a way through, one that would, will, make everything better, if not best, once again. Damage is done and I would not argue with that, but to have a source of what is currently known as a Can Do attitude, is a much sought after blessing. I know this when I encounter souls who have no idea what to do next, and I am often surprised at the way they sink back in acceptance and defeat. I can make no sense of it, until I think it through, reminding myself of the look on their stricken faces, the paralysis in their bodies, the whimper of fear in their voices. They are not unable to find a way through, but simply were never taught how to dig the tunnel or scale the wall. Here is my chance to lend a hand. Here is my chance to offer support and encouragement to someone who did not benefit from the lessons I have learned from childhood. I have no idea of the constraints of their own, nor the joys nor the pains of it and I probably never will, but I can bring to them my merry disposition, my smile of encouragement, my shoulder to lean on.

Now that we are all, like it or not, landed in a new year, we can consider the gifts that we alone can bring to bear on a broken, yet beautiful, world. We can lift our eyes from our own piddling little life and offer ourselves to another in friendship, respect and recognition. No matter what colour, creed or disposition; no matter funds in the bank or a begging bowl; no matter that we live in a home with a view or inside a cardboard box in a shop doorway. What matters is this. We have made a massive balls up of collective living for long enough. We, whoever we are and wherever we lay our hats, are a collective. We may not be able to change the world, may not even believe that whatever efforts we make along that line are going to make one jot of difference, but we would be wrong in that thinking. Think pebble and ripples.

This year will be what we make it. A merry disposition is learnable, at any age. Life is not out to get us and nor does the world owe us a living. We are that Living.

Lucky us.

Island Blog – Friend, Ships and Wide Open

If I was to ask you – how many true friends do you have – might you have pause for thought? Let me help you out with a definition or two…..

A true friend is always wide open. They may not be able, at the very moment of your ‘massive drama’, to speak with you on the phone, or rush over to your place. Perhaps her granny has just fallen into the wheelie bin whilst searching for her missing dentures; perhaps the kids have buried the dog in the sandpit and all she can see is a wiggling mound; or, maybe, she has just burnt the strangled eggs, is late for work, can’t find the kids, the granny or the dog and her partner has gone off with both sets of house keys. But, rest assured, this true friend will be thinking of you all the way through her own massive drama and will make contact the very first moment he or she can. Then when he/she hears of your pain, she will not compare it to hers. She might not even mention it. She will listen, respond without fixing, suggest nothing unless you ask for such, just leaning into your flow of pain, putting her hand in yours and saying – Let’s sail together on this.

This probably narrows the list down somewhat. On reflection, you might think, I wouldn’t go to this person, or that with my massive drama because it will pass and if I tell him/her I will need to follow up once the missing members of my family are re-located, returned to the upright and able, once again, to breathe. Or, perhaps this person might think you weak, or fix you with some cutthroat bright solution which will confirm she knows you’re weak. How long has she thought that about you? It gets worse, this line of thinking. It heads one way only, into the pit of all that you feared, have always feared. And now it’s the truth. You are a lame duck, a pathetic wimp of a woman and nobody likes you anyway. You can see the neon flashing sign above your head. It reads, Loser. So don’t add this one to your dwindling list. Nobody is that desperate.

This true friend might not be the first person who comes to mind. After all, not one of us is immune to self-protection. Most of us keep our true selves very private, considering what we will reveal and how we will reveal it on a moment to moment basis. There are things I have told no-one, not never, and I am sure you are not so different. But when you look at your list, pondering each name and reflecting on past history, shared moments both good and uncomfortable, you will eventually get that list down to about 2, if you are very lucky. And this, my friends, is absolutely normal. We may have hundreds of acquaintances, but the true friend, the one who just sails along with you, keeping a respectful distance when required, one who watches you fly the crests of monster waves as a purple storm approaches, or who keeps her eyes on you as you head towards jag-toothed rocks in some crazy game of Chicken, and who prays for your safe return, well, she’s the truth.

In a perfect world, this would describe a mother or a father, or both. Parents who do not load their own expectations of supreme success onto the soft-boned backs of their young, who do not reward according to achievements; who welcome you home late, under-age drunk, in suggestive clothing or with a biker boyfriend twice your age and with no space left for another tattoo; A loving mum and dad who, when you fail your exams for the third time, or when you tell them you cannot spend another day in this college, university or relationship, no matter how much of a messy split, will welcome you into loving arms and who will stand beside your decisions for all time.

I hope I have been that mum. I suspect we all do, we mums. To be a true friend and a parent is not simple, however. We want for our kids what we didn’t have for ourselves. We know, as they don’t, how tough the world is on colour, creed, race, sexuality, relational splits, career women, traditions, freedom of speech, independency. The labels live on. In fact, they are thriving. Nobody escapes the criticism, the labels, the judgement. But a true friend, one who sails beside you, who sees who you really are will make all the difference in the world. Even if this friend lives miles away she knows you without needing to own you; you don’t have to start from the beginning with her, not ever. She knows that you will fill in gaps if you want to and not if you don’t. She may well challenge you, you can be sure of that. But inside that challenge there is only heart, only love. You can tell her to truck off, as she can tell you to do the same, but she is authentic. You are authentic. Your true friendship is authentic.

Ok, so now we might be down to one. Still lucky.

Island Blog 86 A Big Stretch

Island Blog 16 (1)

 

 

In the early hours of this morning, I wake.  It isn’t night and yet it isn’t day, not quite, although a weak light through the curtains tells me that it will be soon.  I check my clock with my little torch.  3.30 am.  In an hour, I will hear the sparrows in the creeper begin their chattering and the neighbours cockerels, sounding a little gagged from within the thin walls of their wooden huts, will begin to greet the morning.

I stretch and can feel the familiar cramp begin sort of half way down.  This time, I let it come, but it rises too high and I am forced to shift and bend my knee until it ebbs away.  I lie thinking of how I need to stretch, and not just my limbs, but my mind too.

As folk gain the weight of age, I notice many stop stretching.  We’ve done our stretching, they say.  Now we don’t do that any more.  And they begin to compress and to rust.

Although our bodies have the most wonderful capacity to repair on a day to day basis, we do have to work harder to stretch, to keep supple, but we also must understand that our repair mechanism will never be as efficient as it was when we were 30, or even 50.  And why should it?  Bodies break down, of course they do.  Not one of us can live for ever, and our own aging process is just the way it is, for us.  Some are ‘lucky’ some are not, but we all must face it and accept it with grace.

However, and I always have plenty of howevers up my sleeve, this is not the same with our minds.  These hidden computers can kick ass long after our bodies, and this is where we must sustain the stretch mechanism.  We must oil it and work it, love and cherish it, make it new every morning, no matter what.

When I face something I don’t want to tackle, I am sorely tempted to push it away.  Nobody would judge me for that, or even know, or perhaps, even care, but I would, and there’s the rub.  Is it just me who thinks that to stretch is to reach, or, at least, to try?  Not to stretch is not to know and then to wonder and then to regret.  For me, anyway.  I don’t want to waste a single moment.

As a young woman I thought I would live without effort.  I don’t mean that life was without effort, quite the opposite in fact, but I spent no time bothering about my physical or mental demise.  Nowadays, with two close friends gone too soon and too young, I understand both the fragility of life and its strength.

And its strength lies in my control to a great degree.  Not by re-action to whatever life sends me, but by action.  Not ‘waiting to see’ but watching and grabbing everything that comes along with a can-do attitude, even if, after trying, I can’t do.

I think, in answer to a recent question, this is how self-confidence grows.  Not because I am brilliant at this, or at that, but because I gave everything, every single thing, my best shot, and each time I do, I feel good about me.

And then, if I miss the target completely, I can laugh at my failure, because nobody minds and nobody remembers it.  What they remember is that I made that stretch.