Island Blog – Slow Day in a Big Life

Sometimes a day begins as if someone has a finger on the pendulum, slowing it down. I know about pendulums. I have been working with an old stable clock, a beauty, for the past ten days tweaking said pendulum up a bit, down a bit as the minutes either raced away, leaving the morning behind like it never happened or slowed down so that the morning was still the morning at 3pm. I think this day me and the pendulum might just be in sync. It is extremely exciticating, as if I have found a new friend and wonderful synergy. I swear that clock is grinning with an all-the-credit smile from high up on the kitchen wall. I remember the stories about it, the way it told accurate (hmm) time in my father-in-law’s stud in Yorkshire so that the time for exercising the horses worked with the grooms, the stable hands and the master. Quite a feat. In my shared life with this lovely clock, its tick and its tock kept the beat in our farmhouse kitchen and its old yellowed face with Roman numerals was my go-to when children needed to get to school or it was time to scoot out and open the veg shop. This clock was our time keeper. This clock has hung in complete silence for 2 years, since I could not be bothered negotiating with truculence, too busy with the demands of caring. Nowadays it is a rare thing to encounter a pendulum clock because, perhaps, it is just too much trouble to work with pendulum time. And I get that. People want instant and digital which, in my view, takes a lot away from the understanding of time and says a great deal about how impatient we have all become, even though I was there myself not so long ago.

So, back to this morning. Yawn, wake sharp. Tell you why. Right in front of my face was a woodpecker intent on wood pecking. It scared me. I could see in its eyes that it was certain I was a dead tree and was preparing to hammer a hole. I am most thankful I woke up. Lord nose what state my face might have been in had I not. It was 4 am and light and the garden birds were dinging about in a singalong sort of way which definitely helped the getting out of bed process. On mornings when most other folk are sleeping deeply and I am fighting off woodpeckers, it is a given that the day will be a slow one. Anyone who breakfasts at 05.30 will know what I mean. I will be ready for lunch by 10.30 and so on. But this morning was not just about waking t’wirly. I sometimes find the business of widowness a tricky one. It isn’t that I miss the man overly, even as I do, and it isn’t that I am depressed or miserable or any of that stuff that doesn’t come into my mind. Actually, I don’t know what it is. There is, quite simply, a sense of whatwhat?. What shall I do. What shall I think. What matters now and what doesn’t. What should I cook for dinner. What is the point of all of the aforesaid whats. Answer comes there none. So, Hallo Slow Day.

I read a bit, wandered a bit, swept a bit, chopped wood a bit, walked a bit, watched a bit of tv. A bit day and a slow one but there is, from my experience, only one way to tick and tock my way through the hours and that is to keep moving. I am sure there are many who know such days. I watch walkers, drivers, birds go by, all purposeful and planned up and I feel a twinge of envy. They know where they are going and what they doing and when dinner will be and what time it is and I do not. However, I am no fool. That thinking is delusive. So I auto correct many times in a slow day. It is just a day. Be open, be curious, be mindful, just be. So I just be for many hours, longing for the slow change from day to evening whence I can finally decide that it is now acceptable not to invite Henry out for an excursion around the downstairs carpets. Such a relief. I have heard him knocking all the day long. Tomorrow I tell him, and I just know he is rolling his eyes in the dark because I told him tomorrow, yesterday. Tomorrow never comes I say and the poor chap is confounded. I can tell from the ensuing silence. I feel a bit bad. Hoovers are not really intelligent enough to understand such a concept. They are more play school intelligence.

As the evening sun shines, warm against the sharp cold of this morning, an elevation of attitude, I feel a softening, an acceptance. It was always there, the sun, but not prepared to shine. I was this jumper, no, the warmer one, no, a cardy too and a fire and now I am stripped of all of the above and ready to remember something I think I might have forgot. This slow day was just a slow day. I look back over the months, over the past year, and I remind myself of how far I have come. Try it. I see the way I have come through woodpeckers, pendulums, time constraints, self doubts, slow days and loads of time and times and I smile. Well done warrior. Well flipping done. In a Big Life, there will be slow days. Accept that and keep on keeping on.

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- Rule of Thumb

The dawn turned the far hills blood red. Although Father Sun rises behind my home, he makes his presence known in casts of colour, short-lived but marvellous to see. The sky, flat and brushed with Payne’s grey, Rose Madder and Ultramarine looks like it is unsure about what to do next. Threatened storms may roar around us as they often do, we who stick out into the Atlantic like a determined finger, independent of any weather forecast. It thinks me.

In a few days I will have been married for 48 years. We both will. A lot of what happened over those years were not as I had dreamt, nor planned. My ideal of a marriage is not so unusual. White knight, independence, the freedom to make my own choices, take my own actions, sing my own song and all under the loving and approving smile of a benign king. I would share the throne, choose my own frocks, laugh loudly when I wanted, speak out my truth and be heard. I’m not saying this never happened because it did, but where I thought this would be a rule of thumb, I found, at times, that I was under said thumb and unable to rise to my full stature.

Did it damage me, this thumb thing? It did not. Instead I have learned that on many of those remembered and unremembered times, I had a lesson to learn. I would have been, and can still be, too quick to respond, to act, to speak out. My vivid and often unrealistic imagination could have launched me into trouble without that thumb. I thank the thumb owner, that’s what I do, now that I can look back and join up the dots. I married a man 10 years my senior for a very good reason, even though I didn’t do so consciously. Somehow, my sub conscious knew what was best for me, what or who would keep me safe from danger, from myself.

I would never, even in my wildest dreams, have lived the live I have lived, the one I shared with my king. I would never have known the exciting highs nor experienced the awful lows without him and his thumb. In balance, and this is where the dot joining comes in, my life, our life together has been extraordinary from the beginning and all the way up to the now. When I recall our adventures, the spontaneity of them, the sudden Let’s Go thing, the way we led our children into independent thought, creative action, kindness towards all living people and things; the way we laughed and partied, invited and welcomed, shared and made ourselves known in the work we collectively undertook. The way we steadfastly marched on through bad times, poor times, times when our inventive strengths pulled us through. And the way we made a difference, made memories that so many others share and still remember with fondness and a chuckle.

It was never plain sailing, not for either of us. I doubt that marriage ever is, for anyone. But, to survive and thrive through such a vast ocean of years is to have made many sail corrections. Thousands. Millions. And we have, and we still are making those corrections, working with the winds of time, rising over and over again, no matter how big the waves, how fickle the chop, how far away the next peaceful harbour.

I feel honoured and proud. We did it. We got through. And we are still here, still breathing, still sailing towards a new horizon. Together.