The meaning of words

latte

 

Talking with a friend the other evening, we discussed the meaning of words, how we each see and hear a word differently according to our experience of using a word in context.  Both of us might have liked to take the conversation deeper, but as we were at a celebration, it was never going to happen.  Happy people, all saying hallo, moving around the room, laughing, joking, having fun, sharing words that require no inner Googling.

We are taught in all the good books to accept, that acceptance is half the battle, half of any battle within a relationship, whether in work, school, home or community.  To accept that we are different, not just on the outside, not just in the way we see colours or moods or situations, but deep inside and based on childhood learning, familial teaching, experiences and lifestyle.  How on this good earth can we ever expect that to work?  It presupposes that whatever subject arises between us is never going to land in a soft place, unless, of course, we can accept our differences and just enjoy the chat.  I have a friend who is colour blind.  He sees everything in shades of grey.  I can wax as lyrical as I like about the Autumn colours and he will just chuckle.  I imagine for a moment not being able to describe anything at all in terms of colour.  Well, I can’t imagine that, and yet, he, who has never seen red or green or anything in between is barely phased at all.

That particular example is pretty easy to accept, but there are many others, millions of others where we can potentially butt heads.  I want white walls and you hate white.  White reminds you of hospital waiting rooms.  I attempt to change your mind because white, for me, is cloud, ice cream, frost on winter branches, school socks, Persil.  But I cannot change your experience of white any more than you can change mine.  One of us has to accept.

Or, is that resignation?

My friend at the party did have a moment of two to think deeper whilst I yelled my return hallos into a very noisy room.  He has always been good at that, being a deep thinker and on his feet regardless of noise.  He first thought that resignation sounded like giving in, like a weakness, a washing of hands, but, then he found a different way to understand that word.  Resignation is pro-active, not necessarily reactive.  ‘I resign’ sounds powerful, autonomous, in control of self, of my own mind.  It’s also a very good way to hold onto dignity should I come to the realisation that I am about to be fired.

Back home, I know that I have consciously chosen both those words to explain how I am managing my role as carer.  I accept that I have been gifted a role in this new production.  It isn’t the lead role, nor the one I would have auditioned for, but it is the one assigned to me.  On a minute to minute basis I get to choose how well I play my part.  When I meet bad temper, does it cause me to react like for like?  Yes, sometimes, when I am tired or when I take my childhood understanding of those words, the way they fit together, the way they sound and let them hurt me.  To him, they mean nothing much.  He was just grumpy, that’s all, and once the words are out, five minutes later, he is cheery and chatty and asking me if I slept well.  I was seeing, at that vulnerable moment, colours he never painted. Those words, projected like a fireball, were aimed nowhere in particular and rooted in frustration and fear.  I get that when I am not tired or low or feeling sad.

Then, there is resignation.  I am resigned to the fact that I am here, right now, and for the long haul. Does this make me feel weak?  Am I giving in?

Absolutely not.  In choosing that word I take control, not of the situation, not of him, but of myself.  I resign myself to the fact that this will not get better, nor will it go away.  I resign myself to no end in sight, to more bad temper, more of everything.  And I learn, bit by bit, inch by inch, that if I watch the words carefully, seeing them in my colours and yet understanding that he may well only see in shades of grey, then I can accept that words are just words.  It’s in the interpretation of those words where lies their power.

If I sound like your mother when ticking you off about not picking up your socks, you will scoot straight back to childhood and respond accordingly. You will probably whine and then sulk.  I undoubtedly do sound like a mother, but it will be my own peeking through those words because she is the one who taught me the inflection and tone and colour of a ticking off.  I do it her way without a second’s thought, and, as all mothers around dropped socks sound much the same, I could easily sound like your own.  I try a different tone, a different choice of word assemblage floating towards you on a fluffy cloud, but the message still stands.  ‘Pick up your fricking socks will you!!!!’  And the response doesn’t change.  Nobody responds with a ‘Of course I will, I’m so sorry, it will never happen again’ (aka an adult response) do they?

So, if none of us have really ever grown up at all, then how do we manage to look and sound like adults right up to the point when words blast us back to the playground?  We may be suited up and sensible but if we don’t begin to understand that words mean different things to different people, and then to consciously work on our childhood bungees, learning how to release them, to become the adults we purport to be, then wars really will never end.

If dementia had not come knocking, I would never have travelled this journey of learning, of inner Googling.  It is humbling, oh yes indeed, uncomfortable, yes, angry making and very frustrating at times, but the lessons I am learning tell me that whatever circumstances any of us live in, we can always go deeper, become stronger, wiser, more aware, more compassionate, more ready for fun.

More likely to wear the Unicorn Hat.

Island Blog 157 Light on Dark

 

 

Blue eye, close-up

 

We rarely draw the curtains against the night.  Even in the winter, when the dark creeps out from the woods so much earlier to dim our eyes and send us running for the long life light bulb switch – even then I hesitate to make that final call, so entrancing is the ‘out there’.

Out there a massive power shift is already playing out.  The creatures of the night are waking, alert and ready.  Their eyes are not ‘accustomed’ to the dark, they are made for it right from the very beginning; it is their light.  The rest of us whose vision is, at best, impaired in darkness, must draw in, draw our curtains, hide from danger, sleep.  There is a strong pull of the wild in me as dark descends, a longing to be a part of it, and without a torch.  Turning back from the window, having reluctantly closed off the night, I face warmth and safety, some polite crime on television, or a read beside the fire, supper, and I wonder what I’m missing.

Rabbits know fine what they’re missing, ditto hens and rodents.  Although the latter do pop out at night, they must needs scurry beneath the dense shelter of undergrowth for the screech owl is about.  Even scurryings won’t save them from the neighbouring cats.  So, it isn’t darkness we, or they are afraid of, but the creatures who inhabit it.  In our case, imagined ones too, demons and lurkers and no-gooders with an eye for weakness. And we are weak in darkness, compromised and slow to focus.

And so, we turn in, pushing the darkness back into the woods and back across the sea, flooding our night with light, and more light, neon and flashing, computer screens, television, digital clocks, standby lights on printers, sound systems, streetlights lighting our hurried steps until we find our own doorway, unlock it and step into our nests, leaving the stars behind.  We cook, argue about homework, phone mother, answer emails, bathe and sleep until the light begins to rise again, a slow green at first, then lifting white or blue or pinkly clouded into the full light of day.  But maybe we miss something.  Maybe that’s what I feel so strongly.  The way we divide our days and nights into themselves, stored neatly, controllable, separate, and, yet, they are one.

To stand out inside the darkness, to feel it’s soft mantle about our shoulders, and to stand long enough to see is a wonder.  Even without visible stars, even on the blackest of nights, there is still light.  We make it.  It emanates from our ancient human spirit, this light, and all I have to do is wait until I am fully present.  Dashing out with the recycling is not the same.  I need to stand, to let the inside worries slip away, to move, without moving, into the wholeness of the dark, to let it become one with me.  I become aware of movement, of sounds, of the depth and texture of the dark.  My ears hear, my eyes see, my mind empties of everything that lies behind the front door.  It is, as if it is another world, one of bustle and of chaos and the quack of televised nonsense, of clatter and youtube, of the ping of an arriving email, of the whirr of a fridge, the hum of a computer, the ticking of a clock.  There is no time out here, no hum, no white noise, only the immediate and raw darkness, broken by the rustle of mouse deep in the dry stone wall, a triumphant hoot, a warning cry, the rush of spring water over rocks, the wind through the pines.

No currency exchanges hands out here; no bartering or negotiating required.  No clothing, fashion, menus or public transport.  No strife over friendships or loyalties, no business sense, no degrees, no difficult mother in laws.

I stand for a while, a part of the darkness.  I feel vulnerable and alone and I thrill to those feelings, for this is real life, real dark, real and raw and sharp and edgy.  This is Order.

Then I turn back to what the world calls order, with a twinkle in my eye.

Island Blog 115 Primary Three

 

2013-12-13 11.27.05

 

Thirty Three years ago this morning, a child was born.  A boy.  The Third Boy – 3 being the first prime number, the lucky prime, the only prime triangular, the triad, the noblest of all digits, and the only one of five to be born on the island; the only one to spend his first night on this earth in matron’s bottom drawer.

Let me paint the picture……….It was a wild and stormy night (which it was) and I was determined to miss the last ferry.  I knew a-plenty about birthing by then, had already had 3 labours (one being the Only Girl) and did not want to be inside a hospital.  The first two had been home births and the process is straightforward enough anyway – I mean, there’s only one direction to go down, and all I have to do is swear a lot, push when told to and trust in the doctor and nurse, both of whom I knew well.  So, in the middle of this gale, and in the darkness and in the crankitty old landrover with its binder twine door hinges and sheep food in the back, we rattled to the old folks home and Mrs MacFlorrie’s bed.  Not that she was sharing with me, you understand, but was, instead, shunted down the corridor to bunk up, temporarily, with another ‘old folk’.  That is how it was in the olden days, for we had no island hospital back then.

He was small and stayed that way for a while.  They suggested a growth hormone, but we said..

‘Leave him be. When you have this many children, it’s handy to have one you can just pop in your pocket.  Whilst other boys are growing and talking about how big they are, Rhua squeezes through the gaps.  he is as wiry and as fast as Spiderman, and just as fond of heights.  Look at me! he shouts, aged two and half, from half-way up a cliff face, or from the top of the massive old oak tree, and we all do look, just to keep him quiet, and we keep looking, although I must have looked away at least once, as there is another baby on the way.’  (Island Wife Chap 17)

When he came home to Tapselteerie, he spent any sleep times, never longer than 20 minutes, day or night, in the tea towel drawer, whilst I worked in the kitchen.  Because the house was so huge, I could never have left him upstairs, just below cloud level, for goodness knows what he might have got up to.  He was the one who tipped all liquids and powders from all bedrooms into the loo and mixed up a cauldron of seething bubbles and curious smells.  He is the one who left home aged six in the dark of a wild night, with only his toys as luggage.  He is the ‘chef’ who signed up for trial of a deep fat fryer, one that arrived in the back of a big lorry.  The delivery man did not believe me when I tried to send him away, saying it was a mistake.  He would not countenance that he had driven all the way from the depot in Glasgow to this isolated place, with moon rocks and pitfalls and nothing but sheep and heather for days.  I had to show him the 6 year old chef, before he would even consider returning to base camp.

It was this third boy who rose from his short sleeps with a head full of ideas, and a deep sense of purpose.  I found him once frying bacon on the aga, start naked, aged 2.  For our breakfast, he said.  He had already laid the table, with brandy, bread, salad cream and red sauce, tonic water and chocolate. It was hard to be cross.  How he managed to lift the heavy aga lid, without nipping his manhood in the bud, still amazes me.

I took to sleeping outside his bedroom door, lying across the narrow landing on the servants floor (no servants to be seen) in order to save us all from this boy’s nocturnal ideas and sense of purpose.

When he finally grew into a young man, he hit the world with a force it might not have been ready for.  Wherever he went, wherever he worked, he was enthusiastically bonkers, and very successful.  And now, as a father and husband, and broker in the flatlands, he still is, but it is not the outward success that matters, but the man he has become.  A man I respect, admire and adore.  One who makes me laugh, whose heart is huge and strong, who can blag and wind up, who can reach too far, fall down, and get up again in a nanosecond.  Although he is born of me, he is himself as are all my kids, and each one of them delights and surprises me.

I remember the illnesses, and the times of trouble.  I remember the nights of worry, the fears and hopes, the dreams dying, the prayers a-plenty, but when I look at them, at any of them, I am so very proud.  All we ever wanted for our children, was that they find their own way into a fulfilled life.  I know this is not a thing that comes gift-wrapped – indeed no,t for it is a process, and a long one, but to see young people on what appears to be the right track, is indeed a blessing for any mother, or father.  We couldn’t give them life on a plate, or expensive tuition or finishing school in Switzerland, but we gave them Tapselteerie and we gave them adventures and memories.

‘From the mound of dogs and kit, they(the children) marvel at everything, and, in their marvelling, I can taste the freshness of seeing things for the first time, the elation and sparkle in that seeing, like having lemonade in your veins and butterflies in your head.  There are no seat belts in the back of the Landrover, and no law to put them there, so the children bounce and whoop and flip like monkeys, free as air, as the car rocks like a boat in a storm.
Suddenly, my head is bursting.  Enough!  I roar, causing everyone to freeze mid-flip, and Alex to swerve.  He is not pleased.
Why are you shouting? he asks with a frown across his face, deep as the Limpopo River.
I don’t bother to respond, enjoying the sudden silence.  Instead, I turn to fluff up a very flat collie and to settle my sons the right way up.
What are you going to spend your money on?  I beam at them.
Jake is buying a Lego set, one of those big ones with enough pieces to block the vacuum every week.
Rhua wants an Action man.  Well, that figures.
And Solly?  Well, Solly wants a gun and chorus.
A gun and chorus?
Yeah! Gun and chorus, like Duncan’s at crayboop.
He is getting upset, as he always does when we have no idea what language he speaks.
Okay, okay Sol, that’s grand.  We’ll find one.
Cassie, seeing my predicament, pulls her finger from her mouth.
It’s a dinosaur with flashing eyes.  Duncan’s got one and he brought it to playgroups.  It’s called a Gunnacaurus.
She says all this in a monotone, staring straight ahead, like a code breaker in a spy movie.  I wonder what we would all do without her translation skills.
I bend my head down to hers.  Where do we get one?  I ask.
She looks at me in puzzlement.  A dinosaur shop, she says.
Of course!  Silly me.    (Island Wife Chap 21)

So, to the First Odd Prime Number I say…….Happy Birthday!

Island Blog 113 Secrets and Mindfulness (plus donkey)

2013-11-22 16.18.16

 

 

 

Inside us lies a world of secrets.  Secrets we share with one or two trusted people, and secrets we never ever tell a soul.  There are secrets we won’t even share with ourselves.

I am learning the wonders of Mindfulness.  What it asks of me, this Mindfulness thingy is that I pause long enough to notice my responses to any stimulation, any event, any person, any words aimed at me, and so on.  For instance, if you say to me something like ‘ I wish you wouldn’t always kick my donkey when you walk through his field’ I might respond angrily, especially if it wisnae me in the first place, but just some woman who bought the same red jacket last Autumn. If I did kick the donkey, then I might respond defensively, maintaining that the donkey is bad tempered and sly, watching out for me crossing his field and making sure he whaps my shin when you’re not looking.

In both these cases I am holding a secret.  The first one will be that I think you are a stupid smug donkey-owner and I never liked, nor trusted you one tiny bit.  You are a gossip and probably spreading no end of rumours about me down at the shop.  I don’t tell you this, of course but hold this secret within my soft interior, a secret that rises like bile in my gut every time I have the misfortune to meet you in the road.

The second one could be that I do sneak about kicking donkeys, even if they do mind their own business and are astonished any time my boot makes contact.

I appreciate that the above example is a tad silly, and I would also like to state, for the record, that I have never kicked anyone’s donkey, even though anyone’s donkey most certainly has kicked me. But that’s another blog, another time.

My thoughts, my private thoughts are my secrets.  I like them, but there are times when I must allow them to fly away because holding onto them will harm me.

Anger and resentment for example will make me ill, or, at the very least, bring me lower back pain and plooks. Oh I know, absolutely know that people who say anger is a bad thing have never been angry enough.  Fear of anger, my own or just anger in general gives the powerful emotion very bad press, and quite wrongly so. Anger is an energy, creating adrenalin and heightened strength, and, mindfully employed, can achieve remarkable good things – lashing out with sharpened weaponry not being one of them. If I can accept and be thankful for this surge of anger and think about why I felt it so strongly when all you did was break my favourite coffee mug, I will eventually be able to understand the root of it all.  In the current climate, someone will probably tell me it’s all my mother’s fault, but I must look beyond her.  Although she is a convenient soft landing for the punch of blame, she won’t be the whole reason I can promise you that.

My over response to unkind words, or of being abandoned, rejected, accused or blamed will have its roots in childhood. Could be at home, at school, anywhere in the playround of youth.  Often, the lineage of those roots is untraceable back to source.  So what?  Mindfully I can accept this and move on, but not move on and hold onto them.  I must move on and let them go.  I don’t need them, they weigh me down and make me secretly kick donkeys and over-react to broken mugs.  I know I don’t like unkind words, but I also know that you may not have meant them they way I heard them.  I know I don’t like the accusing gossip in you, but you very probably don’t like much in me either and, as we don’t have to meet, let’s not. I don’t want to be rejected or dissed or ignored or abandoned, but life is going to throw all of them my way at some point.  If I am mindful of my response to any of these as they cross my path, I am going to hear my own secrets.  Instead of pretending that it is all ok and that I don’t hurt at all, I will be able to honestly allow anger to rise against the pain and deal with it all by myself.  I won’t need to snap at anyone, or kick a donkey.  Then, when you break my replacement, replacement, replacement coffee cup I will be able to say (and mean it) that it doesn’t matter one jot because it’s only a cup, and can be replaced (providing there are any left), whereas you are irreplaceable.

Island Blog 65 – Follow me follow

Bumble Bee

Yesterday, the Bee Father decided to investigate all his hives.  It’s the time for swarming, he tells me and I remember one of those not so long ago;  a great blackening of the back garden and the Sun quite peely-wally behind  a thousand whizzing bees.  I heard the noise first and went up the garden stets, well, two of them, or maybe just one.  It was mightily clear to me that the cup of coffee awaiting me on the table was going to go lonely cold for I, sure as hector, was not taking one more step into that melee.  I could have disappeared completely and would likely have swatted and begun a war.  The swarm finally cuddled up with the New Queen on a bough of larch, bringing it at least two foot closer to the ground.  The solid ball hung there in a perfect shape until the BF climbed up to unhook the ball and drop it into a cardboard box and covering it with a piece of white cotton.

Whilst he worked high above me among the lofty Soldier Pines, where the sun dapples the wild orchids and the bees live in harmony and peace, I could hear a marked rise in the tonal buzz.

We are not enjoying this, all of us, it tells me, for we buzz as one.

After the BF had gone right through 3 hives, discovering all was well, that there were not too many queen cells growing new queens to generate a swarm or two, down he came, quite bridal in his white and veil, to sit and eat a quiet lunch with me.  I had carried up an array of dishes, bits of this leftover and that leftover with salad.  For a few moments, all was peaceful munching, until She appeared.

She is a Follower, one of those female worker bees, set the task of making sure any unwelcome visitor goes a very long way away.  Whilst he sat quite still, she bumped against his face and his head, never landing.  After a few minutes, he got up and walked slowly down to the cool of the garage, thus planning to let her know he was leaving.  He came back without her but it was only minutes later and she was back, bumping her warning against his face, head and neck.  She came nowhere near me and I was right beside him.  I watched him never swat (fatal) and sit calmly, waiting for her to get bored or decide her point is made or whatever it was she wanted to tell him in no uncertain terms.

3 more times he walked away, waited a little and returned.  3 more times she found him.  By now I’d had enough of this lurching lunch and removed myself indoors.  The little bee had popped over to check me out, but I was spooked by her right in my face.  I don’t mind once or twice, but she was just too persistent.

Much later in the day, after another hive was checked, the dog walked, church over and thoughts of supper in my mind, we went back up to sip a glass of wine in the warm evening sun.

Within seconds she was back and bumping round and round his head.

I think it’s that aftershave I put on this morning, he said, as we re-settled inside, but we both know the real truth.

Charisma.

Island Blog 17 – Moon Talk

What I like to do around this time is step outside with a glass of red wine; any time of the year, makes no odds to me, for what I am wanting to  join in with is the evolving of day into night, when bustling daylight gives way to the gloaming (Scottish word) and everything around me begins to settle.  The only bird not already in bed is the blackbird, and sometimes, a late robin.  Even if I can’t see them I know their song, and their song changes at dusk (explanation of Scottish word).

Actually, their song changes at other times, like in early Spring when they are rivaling for a mate.  But that’s another blog, another time.

If it is raining hard, I may only manage stepping into the garage, with its open maw, but, in the main, I can stand for a little, watch the sky and let myself both absorb, and be absorbed, by the coming night.  Tonight the moon is wonky, not that she feels in the least wonky, but she looks that way to me, for her fullness is coming, but not just yet, making her an oval in the black heavens.  Full moons mean something when you live by the sea, and I don’t mean beside it, but ‘by’ it.  When your next move must shift to accommodate the powerful pull of the moon and she, the moon, is always guaranteed to make a big statement.  The tides are very high and very low at ebb and flood, and if you work with a boat, you have to know this, or you land in trouble.  Big winds, grumpy weather leading to grumpy seas, high winds and sudden squalls all work together at full moon, to unsettle mankind and remind him he is not in control at all, however much he may think he is.  And women change at full moon.  Have you ever worked that out?  I know that, when I did, it made me laugh and that knowledge settled inside me like a loving hug (for me) and a warning to my man.  Now he knows, and so do I.  I am a creature of the moon mother and now that we accept this inevitability, we can both be sensible, most of the time. In real life, that is, the life where we accept, even if we don’t understand, the balance between our physical and metaphysical selves, we can move easily within that life, without trying to fix or alter it, but, instead, to love it and claim our part in it, for it is wonderful indeed and, by the way, our only chance to shine like the moon in someone’s sky.

 

One man and his dog

Island Blog 10 – On Thinking Too Much

Actually it can be bad for your health.  Well, don’t people say, as you wander through some complicated quandary over a cup of tea, or six……..’You think too much Whatever-your-name-is!’  as if that sorted it out for you.  And that is how you respond.  You nod, chuckle, or try to, at your own sillybilly-ness, and wave farewell, still puzzled and slopping with tea, and now with a label on your forehead that says I Think Too Much.

 

This knowledge adds to your problem.  What you need now, you tell yourself, is a bell to ding as you plod miserably towards the frozen goods, to find something for supper.  After all, aren’t you a leper of a woman among all these bright bustling ‘others’ with purposeful step and cheery lipstick?  How could you have got it all so wrong for so long?  And, didn’t your old mother, now frozen boned and 6 foot under, always tell you that thinking too much is really self pity?  She never felt it.  No time for that.  She had to win two wars all by herself and that’s no task for a moaning Minnie whose self esteem forgot to leave the birthing ward with her and whose brain goes into cramp every time anybody asks a really difficult question such as ‘Would you like tea or coffee?’

 

I should have learned by now, you tell yourself, remembering all those wise words of advice you thrust on your daughters whilst they faced their own dilemmas, sounding just like your own mother and just as ridiculous.  After all, what did you know about ‘popping’ or ‘tweeting’ or ‘shots’?  I would have said, in order, balloons, birds, guns.  But I would be wrong on all three counts.  And that makes me the fool.  Not because I don’t know what these new descriptions mean, but because I pretend its the same as in my day and it isn’t and never can be.  What we old folks need to do is look to ourselves.

 

On that note, back to you over there mooning over the McCain chips.  I have some ideas, based on my own search for self-esteem, which has been 60 years in the lower end of poor.

Yes, yes, I know I LOOK confident, but so do you when you put on your slap and pull on your sensible kit even though you just know you look fat in that pair of crimplene slacks, and will look as exciting as a poinsettia in June by the time you have lugged all those heavy groceries back up the hill.

I’m just a mother, a granny, a housekeeper, we tell ourselves.

Poppycock I say.  Burn your crimplene slacks, as I did my dresses, although don’t do it, as I did, in a cane waste-paper basket.  Way too dangerous.

And who invented crimplene anyway?  I have never worn such an uncomfortable aberration of fibres; fibres that can set off an 80 kilowatt spark whenever anyone gets too close, which is probably its whole purpose.

 

Whilst thinking too much, I consider that once we women become mothers, we are thus defined in the eyes of the world.  It gets worse at that glorious time when one of our own children gives birth to their own.

Now, we are Granny.

What happened to my name?

I know I should consider myself fortunate to be called anything as long as it’s not ‘Old Bag’  But what, I wonder became of me? Who am I, who was I once?

 

During the scary crimplene-burning process, I realised that I alone must dig deep inside to re-locate my self-esteem (yes, it was there all along only nobody said) and get to know it, to tend it with care, regardless of the smirks from those who much preferred me with none. I am not defined by my husband, my children or my grandchildren, nor my friends, nor my neighbours, nor my peers., and I can have my own opinions.  I must begin to look at who I am, at what I believe in, at how I respond to something, to anything, and to bravely find my own voice and speak it out into the world.

I have no idea how to do it, but didn’t someone once say that stepping out into a fog is better than watching it through the window?

That way, at least we can cause some havoc.