Island Blog – Because she cares

The farrago is clearing, as if, as if, I move through it, like a fog that eventually gets fed up of all that fogging nonsense and puffs itself out. The path ahead becomes clear, or clearer. It takes a moment or two to re-align my eyeballs with this new clarity as the density of unseeing becomes vision. A human falter. But we know how to survive and suddenly. When fog clears, our senses are heightened. We adjust. We must adjust in order to move on intelligently. But, we cannot always rely on self, on the aloneness of the singular, not in all situations. Because I was lost in the turmoil and fear of fog, I spun like a dervish without intention, without a plan. So, I reached out. I called my sister. I have three and each one is wise in different ways. This one is beautifully pragmatic with a can-do attitude, cautious but never compromised by caution. She investigates it, thinks it through, pulls it apart and studies it. I came to her like an unravelling jumper and she, well she, did not knit me back up again. She just saw, immediately how I felt. She is not afraid to speak and I felt so much better after our talk. It was like I came down from some planetary freak out.

It thinks me. I know, have always preached, that we need each other, that reaching out for help as we feel we are drowning, is not a weakness but a strength. However, I did feel foolish at first, me, the older sister, needing a guide through the fog, my personal fog. Then I did what she does. I looked around me at the complex thixitude I had made all by myself and for myself, I thought it through and studied it and I smiled. It takes someone else, a one you trust with all your fears and failings, your admitted weaknesses no matter your age or place in the pecking order, to hold out a hand and to bring support.

The words ‘help’ and ‘support’ took on a different shape for me in the caring years. They came as crutches and support bars affixed to walls. But I need to re-jig my thinking on that and to remember that there are times in every single life when we need to trust another enough to tell them how we feel. Yes, it means unzipping our breasts for a full revealment and I get that it is something we would rather not do. I felt it and for a whole foggy week. But, I have learned and am still learning that, no matter how experienced we are, how apparently wealthy, how strong, how much of a leader we have become, we are human. We meet fog. We meet fear. And, when we do, we must reach out to someone we trust, someone who we once guided but who now might just lift us up just because she cares.

Thank you my sister.

Island Blog – Natural Friends

It is one thing to find friends among other humans and quite another to make a friend of Circumstance or Fear, of Change and of Time.

To elucidate, I have finally cleared out the last of his shirts, the plaid ones, the ones I kept just in case. In case of what? I asked myself, somewhat irritably, just yesterday morning. In case he returns from the grave? Well no, I hope not as I doubt he would be in good condition after all these months in a wooden box. Well, why then? I find myself infuriatingly persistent at times. I thought I might cut them into patchwork squares for my baby mats, I say, whilst flicking through the big pile of clean and folded items, all blues and reds, lines of colour running through, the material soft and warm. Time steps into the room and lays a gentle hand on my shoulder. I know, I whisper, not turning around. Time is invisible after all and isn’t expecting me to look her in the eye.

I go downstairs and pull out the last black bag. She is right. Time is right. Time is my friend and kindly even if she does nudge me forward when I often want to stay stuck in the mud. I take a deep breath and begin to load up. Black is a good colour for this task as I don’t have to see any of its contents once swallowed up by the dark. I tie the top of the bag and harrumph it into the little reading room. I still have to drive it to the charity shop but that will happen when it happens. You can’t go back to it, warns myself as she stands in the doorway like a prefect. I bat her away, head back down the stairs and prepare my bagel, avocado and poached egg breakfast. The first mouthful sticks a bit but I keep going. Thank you Time, I say.

The wind has howled and battered against my windows for days now. Wind at night, that big, noisy crashbang of a thing, has always scared me. Fear comes up to attempt sleep when I do and she stays all night long, waking me often. She, Fear, is an insomniac after all. Everyone knows that. By the morning my bed looks like I hosted a wrestling matching it, the sheets all twisted and the duvet turned around until the fixing buttons clack against my ear piercings like a tap dance. I avoid thinking about the night ahead, the next night in this hooligan of a wind. I lash down the wheelies, close the garage door, watch the birds ding about like shuttlecocks, pretend I’ll be fine. In other words, I am resisting Fear, pushing her aside, singing la-la-la a lot.

My little sister calls. I call her that even though she is a grandmother twice over because she is a lot younger than me and the size of a dart, tiny, feisty, accurate in her projections. She talks about the full moon, how it upsets her sleep every single month, how her fed is right up on all things moon. She asks me how I am sleeping and I tell her just fine, well fine for me which means about 4/5 hours of a night. No moon trouble for me because I’ve got her number. Great! she comes back. Send it to me so I can tell her to eff off. I chuckle. Ah, No, that’s not the way. You have to befriend her, not fight her. She tells me she slept fine the following night.

It thinks me as I realise that I am fighting Fear of the big wind and this is what wakes me, scares me, upsets my sheets and twists my duvet around. I listen again to my own advice. Make friends with the moon and she will stop bothering you. Ha! So if I make friends with the wind I will free myself from the Fear of it. I do exactly that and, although the wind, which must surely be exhausted by now, keeps up her crashbang, sleep comes and stays a while.

Then my mind turns to Circumstance. I think she is a different matter altogether because of her unpredictability and her tenacity. She is going nowhere, no matter how much wishing and whining goes on. She is no respecter of wealth, colour, age or choice. She is solid and she is flighty. To make friends with her requires a lot of inner thinking, because to be able to accept her inevitable presence inside a life is the key to peace and we all love that one. I have enjoyed glorious visits from my siblings and now they have gone. My days are my days now and I must approach each one with a Tigger and a Pooh in my mind. I will begin a new landscape tapestry. I will settle forward into my solitary life once more. I will walk the Poppy dog, catch a falling leaf, watch the colours rainbow as they die. I will laugh at my imaginings and write down the ones that laugh me most. And, every time Circumstance or Fear, Change or Time appear at my side to ruffle my feathers, I will say Welcome, come in, let’s chat my friend.

Island Blog – Miss Shrimp and my Heartbeat

I find at times a hesitancy in my belly when I come to write. It isn’t block, as such, more like someone’s fingers on my arm pulling me away from the qwerty keyboard. Invisible fingers, head fingers, my fingers. A puzzlement. I ask the question. Are you advising me ‘not now’ or are you telling me I have lost the knack and must needs curl up in wordless silence like a hedgehog? When I worked on Island Wife, or, rather, when I first decided to begin at the beginning, I felt a fear at my back, like there were two critical eyes boring holes, right through my five layers of jumper and sending their aggressive beams into my brain and right through my body. Go Away, I said, flapping a tea towel over my shoulder. I will not listen to that claptrap. How do you know anyway? You haven’t written a book now have you? Oh no, you are just like Miss Shrimp in Eng Lit who also never wrote a book but considered herself God’s Eyes on all literary matters, most of which were none of her business. She was jealous. She wrote and I quote from my school report, the same report my mother flourished before my downturned face as if in rebuke:- ‘Judith has an inflated imagination.’ I smile at that now. If said Shrimp had realised just how much of a compliment that was, her with her thin lips, established scowl and clumpy brogues, she might have reconsidered her words. All it told me, and clearly, is that she didn’t have an imagination and was rather cross about such godly erratum.

In truth, this skinny sliver of self doubt is simply that, based on an almost complete absence of evidence and truth. It comes unbidden, unsought and to every single one of us in whatever area of our life is held most preciously dear. If I cannot cook salmon as well as my chef sister, it phases me not. She is a professional after all and cooking is her passion. It is only in the field, the world of writing that I am most vulnerable. If I cannot recite most of Roget’s Thesaurus in order to locate the best way to describe a thing, situation or person, I feel a frisson of panic. I remind myself, and quickquick, that the writers bible is sitting right beside me on the desk and it will take me a matter of seconds to find the word I have forgot, but the fear of ‘losing it’ remains like indigestion in my gut. Why can’t I remember today what I knew yesterday? Well, not quite yesterday, more about 100 yesterday’s ago, to be honest.

Mrs Sensible appears beside me. Listen you twit, you are not even widowed a year and prior to that you spent 10 years caring for himself as he, inch by inch, curled himself back into a foetal ball. You are just learning how to live alone, to conquer your fears, to redesign what life is left to you. Give yourself time, and a break. She rolls her eyes and heads off to tidy up the fridge, the state of which can only be described as chaos, even after checking Roget. She is right, I know she is and the indigestion eases. It thinks me, this self-doubt thingy, coming as it does just at the wrong moment, just when I think I am doing really well and moving on and all those other ridiculous cliched truths. In conversations this past weekend, we touched on this. As we get older we become more and more aware of our own mortality, of time passing too fast (and too slow), of losing it. Instead of life being something we never think about, we think about it all the time. We are expected not to lie back and take life for granted but instead to hold each precious moment like a heartbeat, the ultimate jewel. It makes me chuckle when I read on a death certificate that Jim Shortlife died of heart failure. Well who doesn’t?!

And so to the qwerty. If I sit here long enough as my self-doubts catapult about my ankles like naughty children, and if I allow the noise to turn white as mist, the momentum I create in writing words will whisk that mist away. I am taking action despite my self-doubt and fear. I am not curling hedgehogs. I am refusing to listen to Miss Shrimp. My heart is still beating.

Is yours?

Island Blog – This Day

I just have to write about it because it is fire in my heart and, as we all know, fire dies to embers in the grate, and in our minds it takes a smokey back seat if it is not captured immediately. So I am being ”immediately’. I am beginning to realise, is the only way to really live. Parked stuff melts into grey; other peoples demands rise like new flames into that grey and it will dissolute, diminish, and ghost and unfortunately that ghost takes a stand in the doorway of revelation, blocking it.

My little sister arrived today with her partner. It has been easy 2 years since I saw her, hugged her, looked into her eyes. They are bright, for the record, she who has braved massive stuff over the years. She is as wild as I remember, tousled haired, dancer body, feisty, bright, and so so very giving. A complete inspiration around small children because she can catch them and entrance and connect from nowhere and anywhere and they love her and remember her for life. When I watched her come in to see two of her nieces today, one of whom, aged 5 was unsure she would remember her aunt, well, it was a concerto of perfect music. There is something about the flow between ages and distance and she, my sister, has it in the bag. Not that she contrives it. No manipulation, just a gift.

And. It is her birthday. Managing to catch an earlier ferry, she and her man arrived early. Now, we had a plan. A seafood smash and grab thing around 5, pre this knowledge. Quick as squirrels grabbing nuts as they smell a frost, we set to, as they say here. Food was hurried up, tables laid, wine chilled, balloons ballooned and I watched her arrive. She is a tad glorious to watch arriving. We feasted on fresh caught seafood. We laughed and joked and shared, sorted little ones on the wet slide and in the paddling pool. It was a glorious celebration of my sister and also of ourselves. We needed this. As I dippled and scanted my way back down the track I thought this.

In the nothing of the last scary months, this was a very big something. And I am thankful, so very very thankful.

Island Blog – After the Rain, Relation Ships and a Blackbird.

This weekend my daughter came with her girls. I know they all love it here, the freedom, the wild swimming, the spontaneous Let’s Do it thingy. Even I did that. Boots at the ready. My daughter knew little else other than ‘here’, the wild places, the free flow of life, even as she had to go through the awful teenage years, the indecision, the lost and found of herself. But, still, she, like her brothers, think of this place as home. It was a wonderful two days, jam packed with pretty much everything and nothing really planned. We went with our moment, as you have to with all the sudden island rain and the shapeshift of seasons within a single day. If you are busy not paying attention, a whole gamut of weather can swamp you, or, worse, you can miss a sunlift, an elevation, an invitation to connect. Get involved with Spotify or something on TV or your FB page and an opportunity moves on by, missing you as you, with hindsight, will miss it. As a result of this missing thing it is easy to see rain as a continuity. Which, btw, it is not.

The day my girls left, it rained stair rods. I doubt all of you know what the heck stair rods are. They are those rigid steel rods that hold (or held) carpets down on stairs where the horizontal meets the riser. They were ferocious in my rememberings. Meeting one of those in bare feet with the enthusiasm of youth in an exuberant push t’wards elevation and the ensuing pain did stay with that foot for some time to come, gaining no sympathy, despite the bruise. Those were the days when I knew that butting up against a rigid was altogether my fault, as was pretty much everything else involving collisions. Too fast, not thinking, not planning ya-di-ya. But as it still happens to me, although not with stair rods for they no longer exist, I can still bruise and bash myself through sheer exuberance, acting spontaneously and without considered thought. It is either that with me or it’s frozen immobility. I have never managed to be grey.

My daughter is the opposite of me. She always was. She is very obviously a lady. She is calm, quiet, considered, gracious and thoughtful. She would never dive into a swimming pool before first checking it has enough water in its belly. Our differences have been both a perfect match, like yin and yang, or a pulling away. This visit brought a new light to our connection. We are learning to grow an adult friendship. Now it may seem that this beginning has come a little late to those who managed to forge adult relationships with daughters when the daughters first became young women, but in my family it could never be that way because himself required full spotlight, leaving only a little glow for the rest of us to forge anything at all. He was unable to allow us time together without him and so his departure has gifted just that to us. I observe all our relation ships now have new rigging. Slowly, slowly, we are setting sail on a different sea and in a new direction. It is not something I ever expected but I am loving it. How strange life is. How heavy is the influence on children when parents still hold on to their own childhood baggage, that learned behaviour that, on reflection, can be destructive and can keep a unit confined to barracks over many long years. I know I colluded in that confining thingy but, as is obvious, there is nothing I can do to change what was, what I was, who he was and what we did to our children. They are, each one of them, strong, dynamic and good loving people. And, like us, damaged. But I can do something about the Now. I can change, say sorry, listen and learn. I can be humble and encouraging, I can leap into the new with open eyes and an open heart. I can sail alongside each one as we adventure on, working with the wind shifts, the tidal turns, the clouds, the sun and the rain.

‘After the rain’ doesn’t always apply to the outside stair rods making way for the sun. Rain will fall on the inside and the outside of us, and rain is life-giving water. We need it and when it does slow and stop and the world opens up like a smiling face, we can be thankful for both the rain and for the stopping of it. Taking every moment as a gift, not missing a single one, watching, learning, observing and listening, we can change or begin anew at any age. I find saying sorry for being crap at times very freeing. I am learning how to honour whom I was as a mother. Both awful and wonderful, rain and sun. It is the best anyone can be. To have the courage to be vulnerable, especially around children can mean so much to those children. I recommend it. I don’t recall ever hearing my parents say they were sorry for the things they got horribly wrong. Their generation held it all inside, too afraid to be humble for fear of losing control and status. I can see that. But we, my generation, have learned from this and have discovered that, contrary to old beliefs, it is a strong and brave man or woman who steps up, palms open and says I am sorry and who really means it. And, after the rain, the blackbird’s song is pure and bright and completely new.