Island Blog – About That Gasp

As I wander today beneath leafy boughs lowered by all the flipping rain, I look up to a bright blue sky. Not an ‘often’ thing here, not nowadays. Now that we have collectively and successfully stood against Mother Nature, she is bringing in the clowns. Oh she will survive, of course she will. We are not important to her future but she is very important to ours. The aforesaid boughs used to be way above my old head but not this summer. They bend and make me bend, even me, the shortarse that I am and I decide to engage. I don’t brush away. I touch and say hallo. Hallo I say and then (I say) you were way up there last year and now you come to greet me. How wonderful and I thank you. I say. The green is changing. The leaves in Spring are vibrant with youth, ebullient, reckless, much like my kids were, much like I was, pulsing with life and excitement and with absolutely no fear of the future, no care for an ‘old folks’ warning. No care at all. And now the leaves are turning, gentle soft, compliant. Aah, I whisper. You know the way it needs to be.

Mindfully walking, slowing my pace and this last is, I confess, a ruse to fill in the hours, I consider the way thinks change as age softly wanders in to make a home. I watch a second hatch of young blackbirds being taught flight control, see their wings elongate daily, hear and hear their little squeaks of panic, of search for parental guidance. I see butterflies, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Common Browns, Common Blue, although how this one could ever be called ‘common’ beats me; the black and yellow striped caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth (spectacular crimson beauty) on buttery yellow ragwort. I see the way endless varieties of bumbly bees with copper pointed tails, round black tails, rust striped, harlequined, big, small, huge and sounding like airoplanes, or the tiny wild bees, also an endless list of varietal marvellousness as they whizz and ping around me because I am in the way or, maybe, they just want to check me out. And there’s a thing that smallens the biggest ego. Just right there. Well it does mine, and in a way that creates and fixes a sense of perspective.

Walking in this ego bashing perspective thingy, I don’t feel small at all. I feel important. I may be a piddle in the oceanic vastness of the world, in the millions of years the world has been a world without me being in it, in the splintering of timelines and the ridiculousness of controlling prophets, royalties, presidents, prime ministers and influential powermongers, but a piddle can upset any gathering. At best, it is an apology on a floor. At worst, it can pollute a freshwater lake. Not that I want any of this, but it just serves to elucidate my point. What was my point? Give me a minute….

As I s l o w l y wander through the hours of days and the days of weeks and la la tiddlypom, I inhabit a lot of thinks. A lot of them I cast away like a burned pastry rim. Go! I say, lifting like Vesuvius from my bed coverings because those burned pastry rim thoughts only ever propagate overnightly or around 4 am. I am mistress of them, now. No need for a messy eruption. Instead I consider the wonder/wander of evolution, the evolvement of states of being, not just species. The slow walk from married to not married; the shucking of a long term marriage when one dies; the death of a child; the suicide of a child; the sudden rejection. There are many states and from the initial shock a seed is sown in the dark, in the cold, silent, silent, silent loving ground, and for some time. Then, one day, one day, it pickers up from the gravel and you see it and you gasp.

Life is all about that gasp.

Island Blog – Enough for me

I’ve been thinking. Thinking can be quite a full time job I find, have found. Sometimes it can be destructive, sometimes instructive, sometimes pointless, sometimes pointful. Because a gazillion thoughts crowd our minds from the minute we wake up and all the way up to whenever we manage to fall asleep, we must learn how to handle them. It’s like all your children, plus their friends and their friends friends and cousins are all around you shouting demands at the same moment. Their little fingers pluck at your clothes, their voices screech like jays and you, only you can sort out this mess. You rear back, try to find some place of quiet in which to find a solution, or many solutions, often without success. But you can actively get away from all those children by leaving the room and closing the door, running upstairs to lock yourself in the loo whilst you unwind the mental tangle, calming it into a good idea, a distraction, where with thoughts you cannot. You have to manage them internally and there is no upstairs loo available.

In times of long moments which can feel like hours, thoughts cluster, conjoin, form fat shapes like dumplings, weighing heavy and so amalgamated that it is nigh on impossible to sort the wheat from the chaff. They dumple in my head, that’s what they do. What was it, that last fleeting thought? I don’t know, don’t recognise it, not as it is in this state of dumple. Who would? So what to do? I am pulling on my mental boots as I acknowledge the complete irreverence and lack of respect from these thoughts. How dare they assault me this way, tell me, or infer, that I am less than I might be, have failed too many times in the past and HaHa you can do nothing about that now you fool! I swipe them away like bluebottles. I’m going out, I tell them. Without you. I slam the door, truss the dog and begin to walk.

Immediately I am aware of stepping into the real world, my spiralling thoughts silenced. Now I am looking with my eyes facing out and not in. Left behind is the familiar, the four stone walls, the paintings, the photographs, the dust on the floor and the to-do list. I am alone but not alone, a body moving into a world not under my control, the random chaos of pure Nature. It isn’t random at all, nor chaotic but to me with my stays tightened in a back-home mode, my memories contorted into a twist of nonsense and untruth, this outside world seems just that. Birds flitter back and forth, butterflies butterfly and windshift troubles early greening limbs. Bumble bees claim the soundbite, hesitate me beneath willow catkins and I stand to watch their fat little bodies claim the sweet. Yellow, white, with round arses and pointy ones, tiny miner bees, even bluebottles tap the nectar. Percussion, timpani, glorious. Two paces beyond the willow and I hear nothing at all. Their sound is just for them and not for me but I hear it and it fills my head with hope. Life will always want to live.

Further, and I stop to welcome wee wind battered primroses, their butter faces reaching for a sun they will not meet this day. Star moss leaps out from stand-water, even from the crook of a tree where limbs have split for their own reasons and who have now offered a place of safety for some other leap for life. The wind today is kinder. The iceslice punch softened. I duck beneath a larch bough, heavy now with spindle green and with the hope that no unthinking walker will cut it back as I have seen before, as if this limb didn’t own its space and as if folk have forgotten how to duck. The latter I decide. Humans are so very arrogant and so very mistaken in their arrogance. Just saying.

I return soaked and thankful to my outer clothing and my boots. But more, I return changed. As I tentatively open the door to my four stone walls, I hear nothing. No thoughts loud my thinking. I am zinging on what I have just walked through and which welcomed me. Life will always want to live.

And that is more than enough for me.

Island Blog – Let Go and Welcome

After a few days of wondering who the hellikins I am and what to do next and then the next next, I awaken with eyes rolling. I have done this often in my long life, this eye rolling thingy. It’s as if I run, run, run for days in my own strength until that strength runs out, as it always does. Reaching that place, be it a crossroads, a wall or a chasm, something wiser than me yet in me stops my feets. And there is a relief in that, an eye rolling, a letting go. If I pull back from that image, I might see failure, but I am learned enough not to do that because I know that the moment of lift comes straight after it. Every time. After each letting go, new paths appear. I cannot explain it nor do I attempt to. I just know the pattern.

I think we imagine we can decide something and then everything will fall into place. When it doesn’t work that way, we take it personally. We think we, or others, or things, or the weather or the neighbourhood we live in or our job at work etc are to blame. No matter our age, circumstance, knowledge of loss or the place we currently inhabit, we believe it. And it is IT. So we make new decisions based on that, on IT.

But what if we thought beyond that IT? No, not thought, because anything ‘beyond’ is obviously beyond our thinking. What if we just trusted that the world is a wonderful place, that those angry people we might meet in shopping queues are just like us only hurting, that there is hope for the millions starving, lost, abused, silenced, living in dreadful poverty? How might we consider ourselves in such encounters?

I walked today and met Finneas. I have seen him a zillion times before but today, in this wind, in this soft face rain, he called to me. A fine pine, a tall one, right up to the clouds, no branches, just his pine dreadlocks meeting the sky. I watched him sway, from his roots to his dreadlocks. Miles of trunk just moved gently with the wind. He stands in a beech wood. He will be kind to them. Beech mothers are feisty. An oak would not survive here but the mothers accept pines, maybe because the pines are grandfathers to them and they, like goodly women, are happy to cohabit. (slight joke). I say “met Finneas’ because he has never told me his name until today. I felt emotion, tears at the beauty of such long term survival, the bending, the allowance of beech mothers, the way the wood works together and for so very long, longer than any of us will ever live.

In the woods of our lives, we might fight for space, enough room to understand our place and to speak it out. Or, we might let go and welcome.

Island Blog – To be a Mother and Saying Farewell

An eclectic role for sure, if such is possible and if say it is then it is. Although I’m about to lose a lot in the translation of such a word, let me play. When a woman becomes a mother she is about as lost as a goldfish in the ocean, barely able to breathe, exhausted and completely lost. She finds no others of her species, everyone else being salt-friendly and busy. However, with this new little one, she knows that it is she who must be eclectically “IT’ for……for….where did he go? Oh, there he is over there, chuffing away to a sea snail who is not all that interested, and if he was it would take him at least three days to turn around for a look. She hasn’t got three days to spare. She is on demand every moment of every day plus seconds of panic, of despair, of constant checking. She is wild now, thinking wide, way beyond her understanding of normal thinks, and nobody, not even dad, gets anywhere near even if he or they might have an awfully good suggestion. She is all Bugger Off and tail swipes. She is deadly. She is Mother.

When she considered this Mother thingy, she might be forgiven for thinking Disney. However, Disney was obviously never a mother. The sweet glory of an instant co-ordination between mother and child is, I am sorry to tell you, a load of tripe. This baby is everywhere but where he should be. This baby shrieks loud enough to call in the Whales and upset the Navy in their sonar missions. What is this? Naval Officer Jenkins might ask, his eyebrows lost in his fringe, quizzical and holding out the ear plug thing for his upline to hear. The whales, happily traversing 35 continents via the swirl and twist of oceans, stop and founder. Let me tell you, a founder among traversing whales can cause a tsunami 10,000 miles away, upsetting fisher boats and slopping Lady Merriweather’s gin all over the Captain of a luxury cruise ship, thus informing him that she is a secret drunk and that his trousers are in an embarrassing state. The butterfly effect, sort of.

This day my firstborn, taller than me by about half a mile, left again for his next shift as ship’s Captain and no matter his age and height, I am that goldfish mama again. When he is here, everything is wild again, everything is fun, anything is possible. His attitude to life is upbeat and can-do. I wonder who taught him that. Does he remember upsetting the Navy, the fishing boats and the whales with his baby screams, or me with his curiosity? I doubt it. But I remember. And now, when he is gone I go back there, back into that ocean, back to where it all began. Tomorrow another son departs and I swirl inside the loss of them even as I know I gain more just because I am their mother; because I am the only one they will ever have; because I have the memories of this shared time and those memories are enough, have to be enough.

It isn’t that I want to be ‘IT’ anymore. I don’t, but don’ting doesn’t stop the feelings, doesn’t weaken the bond. I never knew it would be like this. I doubt any mother does. But here it is and for us all. Confounded still, up and down with the whole gamut of role changing at every level all day and well into the darkling nights, still learning, still thinking eclectically, I am at the heart, a mother and one who will never not be. Not never. And, for all the sadness at saying farewell, it is enough. It has to be.

Island Blog – Thing with a Point, Small Whispers

Have you ever said, or asked yourself – What’s the point in me doing this thing? I certainly have and still do, only now I understand that even the smallest step is always worth taking even when I can see no end result, no point that brings me the whole Something; that Something that would show me the point of my pointless steps and would surely confirm that I was actually prophetically brilliant without realising it.

Every single day proffers opportunities and we evaluate each one. What is the point in me sweeping the kitchen floor when nobody but me will see it today? What is the point in my adding a few more stitches to my latest fantasy landscape tapestry when I make no effort to market them? What is the point in applying loud makeup? For the sheep to ‘baa’ at or for the birds to tweet to their own Twitter mates? Why am I considering hoicking out that lithograph of an ancient stuffy old ancestor I never ever met, just to add ink and make a print? For whom? Whom cares?

Chances are, nobody. Not a who nor a whom; not at step one, nor two or even ten, but when a body remains committed to the small steptasks, something wonderful joins that bodymind on the long and winding road. As I make myself perform these, frankly ridiculously ridiculous, tasks that have popped into my intelligent head only to be sideswiped by my intelligent head, I feel a sense of achievement in my soul. Now, the soul is powerful and it has a voice. I turn to address the cynic in me and hold up my hand. Stop right there. I am doing this ‘pointless’ thing because something way bigger than you or me sent me a whisper. Through a word, a song, a looking, a noticing and I am tired of being so grounded in earthly limitations. I have wings and you, Mrs Cynic, do not. You are not spiritually wealthy. I can tell by the tight purse of your mouth.

So I do all the pointless things because every one of them has a point, in itself, its own point and who doesn’t want one of those? If I honour the whisper as the one who can make this thing a better thing then, what is not to like? In my long life, I have found that the end game is often imagined. The success story we read, the achiever, the award winner, the one who won Strictly. We are fools to aspire to such ‘success’ unless we are prepared to swallow the bitter pill of the millions of small steps that would make that success possible. I don’t want awards, nor to win Strictly, but I do want that sense of warm pleasure that comes from any job well done, no matter how pointless it felt at first. It doesn’t matter if nobody sees because I do and I am my finest seer. We all are. I wonder sometimes that we teach our children shortcuts, to run fast and not to stop for anything, resulting in hollow hearts. Taking the fast route can work at times but not all the time. There are small whispers being missed at a cost.

So, I would say this. When a small task whispers in, take action and value that connection. You never know what will come in to help and to guide. Don’t give up and don’t give in to old Purse Lips. What does she know, she who never partied till she lost a shoe? Live wild, people, no matter how old or young you are. Adventurize your life right now. Otherwise that life, our only one, is nothing at all.

And nothing is pointless, at best.

Island Blog – This Journey

I will agree that these lockdowns have given us time to reflect. It has also given us fear and a stuttering of easy movement. Any journey holds both. Even going to the local shop on a little island. Imaginary demons lurk on every door handle and in every breathy encounter. Even from behind a mask we are cautious of guffaws so we try not to be funny, even if being funny is our absolute thing. For those of us who love to cheer others no matter what, our vocal chords are compromised if not fettered, our lungs on hold. We turn our faces away from other faces we know so well, pushing out a gentle Good Morning with as little puff as we can, for we must not forget the responsibility we carry. Touching anything is risky. Touching each other, forbidden, even if touching is our absolute thing. It is stultifying at times and we must not give in to imaginary fears. We must keep journeying for we cannot hold back the days any more than we can hold back the virus. Both are invisible.

Other invisible things also keep coming, rolling beneath our feet like thunder. These things can confound. Not now, we say, Not Now! But they do come anyway, bringing birds into bellies, all a-flutter and a-twist. Some of us must go to another place, a hospital, perhaps, for a check up or an essential operation. We must ride the road, traverse the water, open doors, breathe in air that may or may not be healthy and fresh. I think of these folk, compromised, fearful. I hope they have good family support. I wish them the very best outcome and enough courage to push away the fear. These journeys, in ordinary times, were bad enough. Now it must feel like a walk into Dante’s Inferno. I know of some who are back home now and healing well, who have journeyed through the Inferno and are cool again and safe. This is how it can be and this is what to focus on, never mind the flutter and twist of belly birds. It is natural to be afraid at such times. We feel thus as we face the unknown.

My way is to look at the other side of things, the flip side, the arrival and not the departure. When a journey is inevitable, no matter how badly we might wish it away, there is a choice. Look at the fear and feed it, or don’t. Instead look at the smile on your face when it is all behind you, when this journey that looms is already a fading memory. Look at what you can learn as the journey flows beneath you. Notice and reflect and store these observations away for a future think. Precious are these observations, the shared chuckles, the muffle of masked conversation. Look out and up at Nature as she flies by the car window. See how the clouds part and conjoin, how the sun takes a quick peek at you, enough to dazzle. See how quiet are the roads, how the rain spits up from the car ahead, how crimson are the tail lights. Listen to the music coming from the speaker. In other words create a distraction, create many of them. What you allow into your mind is what your mind will develop. It is such a powerful lesson to learn. No matter the journey, no matter the timing, we have a chance to learn something we never imagined was there at all.

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.