Island Blog – Shape Shift, Jump and Dream

I woke this morning with thoughts of a lowly nature, aka, negative. Although I find the way our culture always veers from one extreme to another, from superb to ghastly, from white to black without any noticement of the myriad greys betwixt and between, infuriating, I cannot easily find said greys between negative and positive. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that your light is either on or it’s off and were you to affix your wires wrongly, you might explode.

So, back to the negative thoughts. I am unworthy of joy, of any good thing coming to me; I am not God’s favourite wee girl; I do not deserve to be happy. That sort of negativity. On rising into my frocks and warm woolly jumper (positive word, for one cannot jump much when feeling un-jumpworthy), I considered my thinking. We humans have approximately 6000 thoughts each day. If, I mused, each thought was worth, say, £1, then by close of play this night, I will have earned myself £6,000, whether negative or positive in construction. It is quite a thought, and that’s another £1 in the bag. However, this amount of cash in my mental bank account does not determine my level of happiness nor my sense of well-being (another phrase I detest). So, how might I both earn the cash and update my bank of happiness? Let’s break it down.

I have one egg left. Negatively speaking. But at least I have one egg left. Positive update. My pile of logs is outside and it’s raining. But I have logs and a waterproof jacket. I am not feeling like sewing today. I have sewing to occupy my hours. My audio book is about to finish and I have used my free credit for this month. I have access to many more, some of them free.

I am sure you are getting this. As I turn around my thinking, I begin to feel much better. Just look at how lucky I am, how blest, how filled with abundance in my life! I even feel like a wee jump or two, and all I have done is to re-arrange my thoughts, to shape shift them. It is the easiest thing in the world to do, this inner flipping, but I must be vigilant and diligent and on the ball with myself in order to avoid the claggy bog. And I want to avoid it. Life is short (another detestable cliche) and I wish my own life to mean something to me, not just to other people. For most of this short life I have made others my priority. Now there is just me and it would be so easy to fall into despair and pointlessness. I will not do it. It becomes a game. A thought comes in, earning me cash. I look it straight in the eye. You do not serve me, I say out loud to no-one there. I shall flip you. And, thus I earn another £1.

Today I plan to apply for a renewal on my passport. On reading the instructions online, I discover that the photo of this old girl must be taken with no background at all, no pictures, plants or shadows. A cursory glance around my rooms tells me the photo won’t be taken here. And, there’s another thing. My photo must be captured from 5 feet away. Now even I will find it hard to be 5 feet away from myself. Well, dammit, she says, negatively. So, plan B must involve another person who could easily stand 5 feet away from me. I can remove pictures from a blank wall, not smile, not look away, stand absolutely still and wait for the click. However miserable I look in this stand-still-don’t-smile photo, the image will not stop my thinking. All the while I will be adding cash to my inner bank as I travel back to Africa, or to Spain, or to wherever the heck I choose. I will be walking on board, showing my blank face to some official, endeavouring, as I always do, to make him or her smile and failing as I always do. I will come through passport control with anticipation butterflying beneath my ribcage, my eyes searching for that well-loved face, anticipating that bear hug. This time will come again, one day, and I just earned myself another bunch of cash.

Meanwhile, I will continue to shape-shift my thoughts. I will listen to audio books whilst I sew and jump and dream of the lands of Faraway where we can all be our own selves once again, when we can look up into the wide open sky and know we got through this, not by doing nothing, but by doing absolutely everything we could possibly do in the most positive of ways.

Island Blog – Disappointment Reversed

Suddenly there is change, a huge change, a life change. Some say, mournfully, that Christmas is cancelled but that is a load of tosh. Who can cancel an inevitability, after all? The day will come whether we mourn or celebrate. I have questions here. Are we still breathing? Did we wake up this morning, heavy with disappointment or did we wake, our minds buzzing with ideas for what we can do, whom we can celebrate? Perhaps a bit of both, in truth, but which thinking will win? If we grieve for what cannot be, for the ones we cannot be with, either because of the new ruling or because they are buried six feet down, we make a big mistake, for Christmas will not come again until another year has passed beneath our feet. The benefits of wasting time are nil. We have no time to waste, people, and no right to do it. If we have time, this time, any time, we are custodians of that time, as many have no such luxury. There are sick people, lonely people, abused people, dead people. If we do not find ourselves in any of those categories, we are indeed blest.

I imagine there will a lot of food left over this year. A big turkey or goose or nut roast that sits uneaten and un-shared; treats and gifts still with us, ones we now need to post and ones that will not arrive in time; little faces who won’t see grandparents, aunts and uncles; games that won’t be played; quieter homes. Next year we will talk about this time. Some will say it was the worst year ever, that Christmas was a disaster. Others, those who don’t waste time moaning about what cannot be, will say how thankful they are to have made the best of both the year and the strangely empty Christmas. I know which I will choose. Confusion has surrounded us since March. March! It is the longest time, yet not long enough to confound us, not as it might have done in times of endless war. We have no idea how fortunate we are. This past year is not the worst ever. It is just a year within which a lot happened. Just one year. And during this year, what do we remember of the good and great things that happened? The random acts of kindness, the surprising messages of support and encouragement, the way we learned to zoom or hug virtually, the phone chats, the waves and smiles of passers by, the food left on a doorstep, all happened because of this so called terrible year. Surely such gifts are worth remembering.

If we are fortunate enough to still be here, to be able to eat well, to be free to choose our attitude before the inevitable, then we can still celebrate Christmas, life and those we love. We just need to think, and right now, how we will do that. We have 4 days of 24 hours left to re-design our plans and our attitude. Learning how to be adaptable and versatile is a by product of ‘tough’ times. In easy times, there is little need to employ either. Why would we? When what we expect comes without troubling us much, we just float along like sticks in a river. But when the floods come and the water swirls and twists and lips over the banks, we can get stuck in eddies or stranded on rocks, wet and going nowhere. In our minds there is tremendous power. By choosing not to lie, wet and going nowhere, we can change everybody’s anything. If one person decides to shine their light into a roomful of darkness, then everyone can see. The light may not illuminate all expectations, but it will, once eyes grow accustomed to the brave flicker, allow others to find their own light and before you know, the room becomes quite magical.

And disappointment is reversed, in one single decision to celebrate this wonderful time.

Island Blog – Life, Death and Corsets

I thought it would get better, exponentially, as if I had a sore toe, with rest and chicken broth and good nursing care. But this is not a sore toe. This is a yawning maw of days ahead, learning, reluctantly, to begin a new life. Did anyone think this through? If I was 25 again, wiry and with skin that actually fitted my bones, then possibly the prospect of ‘beginning a new life’ might just have sounded like fun. Now, it just feels scary. We get so set in our ways, do we not, even without clocking that this is happening, until it stops, dead, and the future is anyone’s guess.

As a body ages, we deal with it. We harrumph into bigger knickers and aggressive support bras and cover up bits that we used to show off, quite the thing. Our frocks lengthen. Old knees are a bit ‘witchy’ after all. Make up takes longer to apply and should only happen at all in full daylight and with a magnifying mirror. I have seen some shockers out there in my time, orange tipped noses and the face stopping at the jaw as if it wasn’t part of the neck at all, apples on cheeks and lips leaking towards the nose. A wearer of jeans will note that her bottom is sinking. She might need a belt, but that can become a hazard too as it fights mightily to keep a connection between buttocks and the middle bit we used to call a waist. It is so depressing to accept we need either a larger size, or, worse, old woman jeans with legs wide at the top and enough room in the upper part for most of a weekly shop. Fingers look like twigs or sausages and there is no going back.

All of this laughs me. I have no problem at all about ageing. In fact, I am rather proud of it, to have got this far, to be able to bear witness to such an extraordinary change. Animals don’t do it this way. Dogs or cats might get thinner, show some white hairs, but the rest, the wild things or even the not wild things, like sheep or cows just slow down and then stop, dead. I have been gifted the chance to wonder at the conflict between my body and my mind. As a ‘bereaved’ I know that the fears I have are all about my bodily capability and never my mind. My mind is strong and capable, versatile and inventive, but my body may not be able to follow my lead. Ah, I say to myself, I don’t like that. The answer comes back, What are you going to do about it? (Why does she always ask me that irritating question?) I round on her and ask her direct. She says nothing. Just throws me a wry smile like she knows everything and I don’t, which is probably the truth of it.

So it is just us, we humanoids who notice and wail about ageing, or deny it altogether. If I say to someone (is there anyone left out there?) that I am old, they flap like birds in a stramash and witter at me that I am not old, that I am as old as I think, that there are years left in me. That sort of twaddle. I like being old, I say. It means I have really lived and better, survived when so many others have not. There are my peers and younger, good strong loving impossible individuals who fell at a fence. Characters, warm-blooded feisty and hopeless at life as most of us are, getting it wrong more than right, full of regrets and defiance, energy and exhaustion, and yet they forged their trails when they found themselves in a position of responsibility for others, living out that life out in colour and rage and joy and fear and were quite marvellous at the whole thing.

Being stilled is sobering. From a huge and impossible presence in another’s life, in others’ lives, to a flatbed, to pale and cold, to gone. It will take longtime to accommodate that thought, never mind allow it to move its long stay luggage in. Hard, indeed, initially, to remember the actually there person who now is not. But he was always there, like, forever, through my this and through my that, knowing my faults (!) and my successes and very probably highly opinionated about both.

So, now it’s up to me. Me and myself and she is doing a grand job with her snorting and her opinions and her wry smile. She keeps me right and, don’t tell her, I am glad of her company. We are 2 in 1 even if I baulk at the thought of it. I spend much time working on exponentiation. It keeps my mind bright whilst she swans around all febrile and wispy and lifting those eyebrows to the clouds. She hasn’t aged, you see. She is forever young and full of beans and quite infuriating as a result but I do tap her energy as my skin fights to escape my skeleton and I am in danger of a skin puddle.

I remember my first corset, so excited I was, shopping with my ma in the lingerie department of a shiny store. It was so white, with little roses in just the right places and stretchy enough not to constrict my breathing. Ma told me she was not so lucky. Hers had 25 hooks you could never see in the dark and if you got one wrong you yawled sideways for the whole day. The world of corsetry was kinder in my day. I do remember wondering why I needed one at all. What was wrong with my wonky body anyway? I was shushed and marched on. It was the way of things.

Isn’t life always just the way of things? Death too?

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 – Letting go

This year I decided to plant a few things and then just to wait and see. I have got my underpinnings in a right fankle during past summers as the so-called weeds reared like bucking waves and just as impossible to control. I never watched a weed flower. Out with you! Off with your head! I was the Red Queen to my so called weeds. Poor loves.

As I have completely forgotten what ‘few things’ I have planted, or where, everything is a surprise. My red crown is parked at the back of my Narnia wardrobe (please forgive fairytale confusion) and I am just sitting, crown less and watching. Of course, I have no idea what subversive hi-jinks are going on beneath the surface, what clutching control and which dominatrix is at work, but I do know that this letting go is beneficial to my abdicated soul. It is so very peaceful to just watch, to just let go. Past summers had me tutting, grumpy, eye-rolling, stomping, yanking and swearing. At what, or should I say at whom? Mother Nature does what she does and there was me (love bad grammar) thinking I was bigger than she, or is it her…..This ‘garden’ was hillside once, sheep shorn and wild, free to roam, free to collect seeds that could survive the salt blast and the sharp-toothed winds, the frost in May and the broiling sun that comes with no warning at all. Who am I to decide on control? I have seen land closed for 50 years by acidic forestry growth, burst into a riot of foxgloves when the trees are felled. I have seen this ancient land wait patiently for light and space, enough to make me gasp. Whatever shenanigans go on above surface bear no relation to the strong and peaceably waiting power of the below, the unseen, the guessing depth of life always waiting to live. Above surface, there are irritable fingers trying to control, a red queen or two, a factory spread, a car park, a township, and Mother Natures sighs, whispers to her own, Be Patient my little ones, you time will come again.

Well they are all coming again big time in my little patch of wonderful. I have not a scooby what anything is but everything flowers like it was their own personal Christmas Day and the bees are everywhere, plus the other things like look bees but aren’t, the flies, the triangular buzzing things and many many more insects pollinating and feeding themselves nectar at the same time. I laugh and I smile and I just love this letting go. It thinks me of other things I can let go of.

Well, once you start, there really is no stopping.

Island Blog 15 – Red Wax, White Water

Last night, during dinner, I kicked over a long-stemmed candle holder sitting on the floor.  It was, agreed, a daft place to leave it, down there on the ground, but the red candle sent pretty colours onto the white wall and, besides, nobody was expecting an idiot to walk into it.  I must have been in purposeful forward motion, for the whole thing flew into the air and slammed against the wall.

White wall, red candle, you can imagine the mess.

Apart from feeling awful at the breakage of the glass holder (one of a set of 3), I was horrified at the red dots that seemed to cover most of the room.  Perhaps I should take up football.

This morning I set too with a plastic spatula on my hands and knees, lifting each dot, some the size of a fifty pence, some pinheads and they were not just on the floor.  The wall, the music speaker, the wooden chest; nothing escaped my powerful right kick. Now all is as it was, amazingly, apart from the speaker which, hopefully, doesn’t affect its performance…..and me.  I still feel awful about it.

Why is that?  You may ask.

I think it’s that I don’t like to make such mistakes, to break or damage someone else’s something-or-other.  I think I should have learned by now to move slowly, be careful, THINK before I act or speak.  Rooted deep in childhood are our responses to life as an adult.  I know this, because I know this.  The process of self-forgiveness, at any level, is one big task, at least, it is for me.

So I want to be what……perfect?  As if all those years behind me make a solid and permanent change?

It’s not possible. But what is possible, is my response to making mistakes, and that, my friends, is one of my biggest challenges. Knowing that theory is one thing.  Living it out, quite another.

This morning, coming in from the showy garden, having put red meat scraps out for the kites, (I missed the photo opportunity again!), I saw the white water stains on the wooden floor boards where I leave my boots. I know it’s me, for nobody else does this food-putting-out thing.  My heart sank and I rushed to Google a cure. Mayonnaise, it seems is the answer. I am on it, or will be after I finish writing this.

Please don’t tell me that everything comes in threes…………

white water - Blog 15