Island Blog – Dark to Light

Sometimes there is dark. Not the outside dark which comes this time of year, but the inside one, the one with more fingers, more legs, more traverse. I know this dark. So do you. It never gets to hold ground anymore, nor the chance to grow roots, although I remember times when it did exactly that, and so, and so, I flap it away, move beyond it, turn my back. But I remember the hold of it. In the winter months there is an awful lot of dark beyond my window. Nights begin early and hang on like there really might be no tomorrow. I light a candle in my warm conservatory to eat a breakfast of half a toasted bagel, half an avocado, squished, and one poached egg. I can’t see any of it but I can see the outline of the plate and thus am able to centre in on the food. Once nourished and almost without a spill, I can do the ironing, light the wood burner, wash the dishes and change the bed, all in well lit rooms. What is it, I wonder, that so intrigues me about the dark? Although there are times when I wait impatiently for morning to wake up, in the main, I am calm with my candle and my invisible breakfast. By now, once the light is lifting the birds and showing me my overgrown garden, I am prepped for the day. I am dressed, my slap is on (although I did apply it pre dawn and therefore might need to check my face before a trip to Dugie’s shop), and my fingers itch for writing.

The darkness within is not my enemy these days. Nonetheless I am cautiously un-smug about that, remembering the winters of discontent and my inability to lift my boots from the suck and pull of an imaginary swamp. It is beyond me now to see how I could have sunk so low, what with all those bright and energetic children hurtling like missiles throughout the walls of Tapselteerie. But I did and others do and there is no quick light-fix for the darkness within. Those who have never experienced such a state can never know how lost a person can become. And it is a slow process, an insidious creeper, as if the damp, cold cave is swallowing me bit by bit. My mind becomes dull, my body slow and shivery. I cannot get warm physically or inside my mind. Nothing anybody can say or do will lift my spirits until gradually I see little point in getting out of bed at all.

On the other side of such a state, I still cannot proffer a solution. So how did I rise from that swamp and when? Was it because I decided not to allow such a state to form and how did I recognise the first signs of its planned invasion of my self? Perhaps, although I do believe there is a lot more to it than that. What I now practice can be written in just a few words. If I feel just a bit down, I look for something, anything to be thankful for. Sometimes I can only come up with one or two things but, and this is critical, I tell myself that two things are better than one is better than none.

Another practice when feeling slow and sluggish is to do just one thing, any one thing, inside such a day. For me it might be, and has been, that I swept the floor. That’s it, that’s all I did, but, again, I congratulate myself on that one achievement. I refuse to listen to the judge in my head, that smug smartarse who is quick to remind me of all the things I haven’t achieved, of all the things I used to achieve, of my lack, of the high standard I have always and heretofore expected of myself. Oh Go Away, I say, out loud. What do you know of me, I mean really? You are just a robotic voice in my head, the critic, the emotionless automaton. Whereas I am blood and bone, living, loving and temporarily lost in the dark. No comparison, just saying.

In my family and in my life I expected much of me because that was my conditioning. No ironing till the afternoon. No television or sitting down in an armchair until the evening. No slacking ever, not never, not even if your body and mind are frazzled and exhausted. Certainly not. Always be available for everyone else and put yourself last, eat the smallest portion, be the first to rise from the table while others remain comfortably seated and engaged in conversation. No washing up until everyone has left the room, or the building and it is an irrelevance to mention that it is way past 11.30pm and my day begins about 3 hours before anyone else’s. If the baby cries, it is my job to uncry it even if I too am dressing for a dinner date. If the children have measles, noisily and all night long, scratchy as baboons and hot and miserable, it is my job to soothe and ease their struggle. And so on.

It helps that it is only me here now, of course it does, but I somehow managed to fend off the judge long ago. I do remember a sudden realisation that the only person who was falling apart was me. The rest bounced like Tigger through the days, through the dark, turning it into a grand opportunity for hiding games and mischief. Understanding that I had, and have, the power to stand against the inner darkness was and is pivotal to healing. With that understanding comes a new energy, an excitement and enough curiosity to seek a new way. I will not let this darkness subsume me ever again. I have no idea how I will achieve this but ‘that’ is not getting me again. I will notice the first signs of tiredness and announce that I am going for a rest. I will iron at dawn if I so choose. I will watch Cinderella at lunchtime if that’s what I want to do and what is more I will watch it from within the comfortable folds of an armchair. If someone pings the doorbell, you go, you make coffee and listen to their inane blether. I am busy. Busy being myself. Busy living just as you all have lived and I will do this living thing without a smidgeon of guilt because guilt is learned and I am awfully busy unlearning it.

Island Blog 103 – New Things and Clown Fish

clownfish

There are things I have never bought.  I’m not talking yachts and diamonds, but household things like a new sofa or a multi-functional, all purpose blender.  I have looked at them online and not believed one word of their wonderment.  For a start, in that exciting world of sofas, which, by the way, fails to excite me at all, I puzzled over two things.  One is the material and the other the exhorbitant price.  In my world, a sofa could be wrecked in one short day.  It could be stained with all manner of tenacious colourings and smells, be flipped on its back to become a defence against military attack, or offer a comfortable resting place for swamp creatures such as collies or children just in from the rain forest, so I never bought one, not ever, relying instead on second hand ones already ‘broken’ in.

However, the multi-functional all-purpose blender has niggled at my peripheries for a while now.  I do have a small liquidiser, which can whizz up easy stuff like over-ripe strawberries and yoghurt, and an old magimix which belonged to Granny-at-the-gate and got left behind when she went northwards to heaven, but it leaks and, besides, is not multi-purpose, whatever than means. I also have a bread-maker that produces amazing works of sculpted art.  I sprayed one once with enamel car spray and it lasted a whole winter of island rains before I threw it over the fence.  It hit a rock and I wasn’t sure which one had shattered.

So, last week, with a helpful link to a good one from my healthy eating sister, I ordered my own copy.  A few days later, when dashing out the door to feed the 15 doves who have adopted me as mummy, I fell over a box the size of a small bathroom, which had been silently delivered earlier that morning.

Can’t be.  I thought.  Are there half a dozen of them in there?  Oh, no, of course not.  it will be all packaging and poly bags warning me not to put them over my head, or that of any in-house child.

I find myself, at this point, wishing I hadn’t ordered it at all, because now I have to do something like unwrap it and assemble it and then, worst of all, whizz a few somethings into a whole new something.  Then, I will have to spread it, or slap it on meat, or fish, or drink it.  The very thought brings on a yawn and I go to do another job for a while.

Eventually I have to face it so I lug this huge container inside the porch and grab a sharp knife.  Ok, here’s the top of the whizzer and here’s the bottom.  So far, so good.  Isn’t that enough, I ask myself?  Well, in a word, no.

Ten bags are nestled among the moulded corrugations of cardboard, each one wrapped in polythene danger.  I remove it all and lay each piece out on the counter, which I can no longer see.  Even the Clown Fish in the tank dive for cover.

I begin to assemble.  30 frustrating minutes later, I still only have the top and the bottom identified.  There are round things with small holes, round things with big holes, whisks, plastic discs, a small rocket, metal blades contained in immovable shells, each yelling out LOUD PROMISES of finger loss should any contact be made.  I am now a bundle of nerves and have to call my healthy sister who just giggles unhelpfully.

Did you assemble yours?  I shriek at her.

Nope, she says.  Her husband did.

Well, I have one of those but he is at sea, so that doesn’t work.

She guides me gently onwards and the motor leaps into life, although it has nothing to do but spin around at a terrifying speed, for now.

Later I bring together not a well-thought-through list of ingredients from a tried-out recipe, but just what I have in the fridge.  A bit of almost mouldy red tomato pesto; half a bag of raw spinach; one apple with the brown holes removed; one floppy carrot; a clove of garlic;  5 pitted black olives (ha! you thought I was going to sabotage it with pits didn’t you!!) and the juice of one orange.

Well it whizzed for two seconds and stopped.  I poked about with a wooden spoon and it whizzed again for another two seconds and stopped.  It went on offering me the same resistance, one I have only ever met before in myself, for half an hour, but I was determined to win the fight.

What I ended up with is a paste that resembles the inside of someone’s liver, but it tastes delicious.  It made me think of how important it is for something to look good for us to want to eat it.

Trouble is, I have only used one tenth of the flipping thing.  The rest of its working parts slumber in a dark cupboard. Just the thought of working out what they do makes me want to join the Clown Fish.