Island Blog – A Dalliance with the Dark

In spite of a strong ability to focus on the light in everything and everyone, there are times when the shadows band together, creating dark. I can see it coming, feel my arms begin to flail and my happy heart turn tearful. The inevitable is coming and I know it will pass, as everything always does, but my own core strength is no match for it. At first, I feel irritation at things I had thought were completely accepted, in a state of order like soldiers, rank and file, and under my command. Then I might react, verbally or with tuts and sighs to those irritations, my cheerful voice dulled, silenced or delivered in a minor key. Dammit, this shouldn’t be happening. I have been in control of me for so long now. I must be falling back, losing my grip on things. I search for reasons. It’s because I am weary of this, of all of it; of the endlessness of caring, the fight against a strong desire to run for the hills; Groundhog Day, over and over and over and, by the way, there is no sign of it ever being truly over; The domestic round, the isolation, the fear of Covid 19, the washing, the cleaning, the lack of excursions, meals out, coffee with friends or the chance to jump in muddy cuddles with my grandchildren. A collusion of reasons to fall into darkness.

But I don’t want to. However, at the point, ie now, that I accept such times as perfectly normal, as times other people go through just like me, that it is not my sins finding me out and the Great Judge is not jabbing a finger of blame in my direction, I can begin to relocate the light that never really left. In accepting such times as understandable, as reasonable, as justifiable, I stop beating myself up. Although the days roll on ad infinitum, it is fair to say that only Mary Poppins could sing through such interminability. An ordinary human will falter, the inner tantrum will rise from time to time because we are not fictitious characters nor are we robots. We are remarkable, indeed we are, living through this with our best attitudes and most inventive brains, but we must also allow ourselves to grow weary of the drudge, sad at the lack of ‘out there’ opportunities and picnics on the beach, fed up of the same four walls, the same encounters in doorways, the brain-numbing battles of will over the same issues over and over again. Without external encounters our thinking remains just that. Our own thinking. Sharing tales, stories, ideas, laughter and recipes in a sociable situation will always lift a flagging spirit. We miss that and sometimes, very much indeed, no matter how positively we are living through this strange time.

So I am not failing, nor falling. I am still a sunshine me. I choose not to be the Great Judge. Instead, I will settle the stooshie inside my heart with kindness and empathy, stepping as lightly as I can into yet another day.

Island Blog – A Different Summer

Looking back on life, I imagine we can all remember one particular summer, for its joy or for its unjoy. Perhaps it was that one, as a carefree youngster, first in love, heady with dreams and hopes and madly keen to escape the confines of diligent parenting. Perhaps it was that memorable holiday, the colours, swirls and shape of which are ingrained in a mind, body and soul. Perhaps it was the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, the time the wisteria went crazy up the walls, dropping sweet perfume and amethyst blooms every time you walked underneath.

This one, the one we are welcoming right now will surely be a collective memory, one we will talk about, write about and think about for a very long time to come. By definition, ensuing summers will still be summers but might appear ordinary, now that we have met extraordinary. I love this time of year. Less clothing, more colour, bare feet and crisp salads; sunshine skin and long bright evenings; new life all around, birds, animals, flowers; brown babies, freckles, picnics and barbecues. Everything in me shifts with the rising warmth, reflections of green at the waters edge, the sound of Earth singing us back to life.

Okay so this summer is different and although each summer is different, in that we have all moved through the winter and, therefore, learned new learnings, this one is more different than most. But, even as we are refused access to each other, to dinners out, lunch al fresco at a local restaurant, long walks together or parties on the lawn, we can still summer. I know that the isolation can chip away at us, because, as humans, as social creatures, we long to share. Witnessing something wonderful, something new and delightful all on your own is just not the same. There will be many, like me, who are talking to themselves. I tell me many things throughout the day, share jokes and stories and me is a good listener, wise, too, sometimes irritatingly so. I remember learning once that inside me are as many as 25 others, all still me but different aspects of me. There is the Judge, of course, the poker-faced harridan with a lemon in her mouth. She is the most vocal, but as her repertoire is unimaginative and predictable, I can soon shut her up. There’s the little Alice in Wonderland and I am very fond of her. She always wants to play or shrink or sup tea with the Hatter and, together, we have great adventures. Then there’s Mrs Sensible. She is the wise one who keeps me from sailing out to sea without a compass. There is the Wife, the Mother and the Grandmother, and together we are quite a team. We are the ones who move through each day in acceptable clothing and with a well-ordered mind. Keeping a balance of the females inside my head is sometimes tricky. Sometimes I want to run riot, to disappear into my imagination, to break the rules of the well-ordered daily routine. And sometimes I do.

We are all having to search ourselves to find the fun, at times. And, for all the worries and concerns that have cut us off from each other, we have the chance to learn something wonderful from this summer. How we live thereafter will be directly aligned to what we have taken the time to study and consider. Great things will grow from the ashes of this, much like the flowers are doing right now, just outside the window.

Island Blog 31 – Valentine’s Day!

Driftwood heart

A day longed for by many, fizzing with champagne and flowers and hopes and promises, and one shrugged off by others, usually those in stoutly sensible lace-ups and crackly anoraks.

‘A load of romantic nonsense!’ they say, indicating, with a chuck of their square chin, that such an unrealistic, time-consuming and pocket-emptying affair should remain ‘over there somewhere’ and dare to move no closer.

Their wives think differently, of course.  They have grown weary of being realistic over the years and might rather appreciate the odd attempt, however odd, at an indication that this man with whom they have walked through most of their lives, does, in fact, realise they are a fully paid up member of the female species, and that, beneath that crackly and efficient exterior, there beats a soft, gentle and loyal heart.

Although this heart feels, most of the time, like a rather unattractive pulsation of tubed-up offal, it could glow again, with the smallest gift, the tiniest whisper of proffered affection, and I don’t mean an emaciated clutch of terminally ill carnations bought from the local garage and dumped on the kitchen table.

‘We don’t do things like that.’ they say, these men as if it was a good thing and one ‘we’, at a certain point, grow out of, along with wetting the bed and playing conkers.

I ask them ‘Why not?’  which is always my favourite question when someone says they don’t do this or that, because, in the main, they have absolutely no idea or have quite forgotten why, having ‘not done’ that thing for a very long time.  Then they pull back a little, in case whatever I am showing signs of might be catching, and, at the same time, their sensible wives pull forward as if hoping that it is.

We do celebrate Valentine’s Day, still, after over 40 years.  I am not saying I have felt much like it at times, nor I imagine has he, but one of us at least has not allowed romance to starve to death  over time,  and I am glad of it, because what we have not lost is the fun in a marriage, and, to be honest, if there isn’t fun then it is just a life sentence.

However, fun does not appear by magic, it is a delicate plant that needs daily attention.  Not bothering is so much easier.  We women will always rise ourselves up from any ashes that come our way, but we can only do so much rising once the rust sets in.   As we watch others being bought fresh flowers or taken out to dinner, or being told how wonderful/pretty/clever they are, we know we want the same.  Our problem is that we have forgotten how to ask for it.