Island Blog – Balance, Demons and Sightlight

I watch a paddle boarder skim up the sea-loch. She is travelling at one hell of a lick on an ebbing tide but I know her and she is experienced in such matters. She stands straight as a die, the salt surface flat and unruffled. I can’t see her smile but I just know there is a wide one on her pretty face. Balance. She has it, knows it, holds it. I find myself envying her, not for the paddle board thingy, but for her ability to balance. I have never been balanced, not like that. I am not saying I am clumsy because that wouldn’t be the truth. I am a dancer and know my feet, the ground beneath them, my space available, my pivot, my spin, or I used to. I don’t mean that sort of balance. I mean mental balance.

I know we have weeks for things, for awareness, for an alert that shows us, to a degree, how others are living, the others we might not think about much at other times, or, at least, not with a mindful engagement. Last week was Mental Health Week. My ears pricked up. I am all over mental health, being, as I am, essentially unhealthy in that arena and with a backlog life of working to control, manage and accept it. In my youth I saw people with obvious external evidence of mental compromise. So did you. But what I did not see were those who look just fine, are beautiful, kind, high functioning, holding together what looks like a normal life and who are really going through inner hell. Now I can see them, when they let me. Having noticed the PTSD in my own father, my father-in-law, my uncles, my mother, my aunts and a load of other relatives, myself included, I know how incredibly exhausting it is (and was for them) to maintain that ordinary life, the one that gets you out of bed, into clean clothes and down the stairs to live another day.

When I had the hand of Life always at my back, was the IT for absolutely everything inside a day, I paused not for thought on mental health, mine or anyone else’s. There was no time for pausing. It was go, go, go from the second my tired feet touched the floor and all the way up to the moment they finally lifted back into bed. Sleep was an exhausted one and not always refreshing. Days wove around me like ropes until I honestly believed I would drop strangle-dead half way through making soup. I remember driving down to collect children from school with an evening ahead of dinner for 16, gourmet, plus at least 10 for a kitchen meal plus children to bed, cocktails to pour, bright chatter and lift-light required from me, the hostess, the mother, the wife, the IT, and seriously considering driving on until I ran out land. Often. The inner strength of a human being extraordinaries me.

This day I walked a corridor. On the one side was exhaustion due to poor sleep (again) the tears like a rising wave behind my dry eyes, the feeling of failure, of alone-ness, of pointlessness and on the other side my always ready clean page on which I dutifully write what I am thankful for, what I did today, that sort of nonsense. Of course, it isn’t nonsense at all but it can feel like it sometimes. I do it anyway. I do it so that my demons won’t get me. What I really want is a lobotomy, even though I don’t. Some of us seem to be born with demons, or we readily pick them up as children. I am not good enough. I fail. I don’t deserve love and when it comes I push it away. I do things to make someone happy and when they thank me I brush them off. No matter how much I appear to succeed, I fail according to me. Whatever I start, I don’t finish. When I have the sudden inspiration to do something the demon comes in to remind me it will never work. These demons have big voices, are so believable, and it seems to me that no matter how many daily practices I employ, no matter how good the going can be for a while, they are just patiently waiting for me to get a bit tired, a bit down and in they come like a West End show I can’t not watch. (double negative, sorry Dad). Like today.

However, and the cheerleaders out there will be waiting for this, for me to present the positive even if I don’t really believe in it. I did achieve quite a few things. I played music (to drown out the demons). I welcomed the carpet fitters, cleaned up after them, re-assembled the bedroom, changed the sheets, potted 15 seedlings, walked the wee Popster, completed 3 more baby quilts, washed clothes, hung a few paintings, ironed 3 frocks, lugged wood, spoke to one of my lads, did some paperwork.

And I am thankful for quite a list. I forget my talents at times. I forget who I am and writing this list, even as the pen wiggles in my fingers and my eyes roll and I sigh the biggest sigh, I make myself write. I am thankful for:-

My singing voice (even if the song is what……resting just now.

My home

My kids, my life, my friends (name them), my ability to cook (don’t feel like it much these days), my sight, strength, the way I can repair things others would throw away, my new carpets, the way I can pick out a tune on my piano with chords first time off, my gift of writing. Even my demons.

Because what I have come to realise is that strong demons are just one side of the coin. The other side is a sort of lift-light brilliance with no idea how or where to shine. They say it is not failure we fear most, but success. Although I am still working through what the heck that means, I am beginning to get it. I know I have a very high IQ. I also know you don’t want that. It is a lonely place and a place where confusion reigns. In a school environment it is just fine if you have a high IQ and behave yourself, but if you have that high IQ and rebel you become a monster. I was the latter.

I write this just in case there is some other beautiful, kind, high functioning humanoid who relates to demons and lift-light. I just know there are many, even those who would tell me they aren’t bright, aren’t this, aren’t that but, in some deep place, relate. I salute you. We have a great deal to offer the world but first our single task is to shapeshift from demon rule to lift-light rule. This is not simple. I have a counsellor, no, two counsellors because I know, as I know that I cannot take apart a tractor engine and reassemble it effectively, that I need help. I may always need help. It bothers me. I am 68 for goodness sake. I should know my way by now. After all, don’t all other 68 years olds, other 40 year olds, other 20 year olds, know their way? (They sure look like they do) However, the answer is an unequivocal NO. Just because others look like they know their way and appear completely happy with it, is one socking great delusion. They are just good actors. You are you, unique, as am I.

However if you, if I, are one of the ‘tapselteerie’ ones, then let us learn ourselves. We may have mental health issues, according to the world, be awkward around the rule book, feel lost in an inner silence, but maybe, if we can flip the coin, we can be the ones with vision who can fly over the ordinary, the limitations of life and be the ones who might, just might, see further that Debenhams closing or whether or not the one way system in Edinburgh is causing everyone to be late home for their tea.

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 116 To See Darkly






I saw this large white thing on the sealoch, pushing the water into a triangle with the rocky shore as the third median.  I peered for a bit through the paint-spattered windows as the cover of the night slid back to reveal a new morning.  I always do this ‘peering’ thing first, actually not just first, but second and sometimes third, in a vain attempt to kid on that, overnight, my eyeballs have grown young again.  Ah, halcyon days….. when I could see so much more, often too much, and sometimes that which would have been better not  seen at all, and certainly not by me!

Anyway, I waffle away from the large white thing.

Before it disappears completely, travelling at a fast lick through the frothy tide line, I grab the hefty set of Zeiss binoculars, or ‘bins’ as I gather they are fondly known, and nearly fall into my coffee with the weight of the things.  I don’t believe any bird watcher ever held these up to their eyes for long.  I would need to consider the employment of a personal trainer for at least a year just to manage a period of time longer than 35 seconds.  However, being a woman, I can achieve a great deal in 35 seconds, so I stick them onto my face and focus quickly, to the usual no avail, because why?  Because, as well as giving me instant arm ache and the beginnings of a shake in my ulna, well, both ulnas to be honest, the flaming glass bit mists up as my hot eyeball challenges the cold lens.  Vital seconds pass, as does the large white thing, into the trees that overhang the near shore.  Hmmm.

I call it a Snow Goose.  It was too big for an eider duck and too small for a swan or a flamingo.  Snow Goose it is.  There!  I feel dead chuffed and highly priveleged and can live this fantasy for days.  I saw a Snow Goose today!  That’s what I say in the shop to a resounding chorus of envying OOhs and Aahs.

It makes me think.  Of how we can see things that aren’t there, and not see things that are there.  How an un-misted glass lens can show us something we think we can explain, and how a misted one can talk complete pants to our human brains.  When we ‘see’ something through our eyeballs, we bring a process into being.  First, we see, then we fix this vision into a place, and then, without any conscious decision, we pad it out with all manner of daftness, imaginings, past baggage, phobias, indoctrinated beliefs and hopes.  When I see a beggar on any street, I see someone calling for help, and I will always give something. I follow my own heart in this matter.  When another sees the same sad sight, they may feel angry, begin to judge, or see laziness, bad choices, weakness – in other words, they might look down on the beggar as less than human.  It’s called ‘perception’ and it is in every one of us, however much inner work we might embark on to learn humility and compassion.  We can’t help it.  It is part of who we all are.

When I decide, which I sadly do, now and again, that someone else is heading in the wrong direction, I say so.  And then I learn a new fact or two about them, and regret, deeply, my hasty judgement.  I work on, to soften my perceptions, or, rather, to shut them up, but they can rise unbidden, un-called for, and always at times when I am not mindfully in control of that sneaky little set of wires that run from my brain to my mouth.

One area of perception, that never fails to cause a stooshie, is that of Boundaries.  Whether it is between black and white, the Ukraine and England, England and Scotland, or the African States, there is this thing about boundaries that could curdle milk in a nanosecond, one that everyone has an opinion on, based on personal perception.  Oftentimes, I hear folk talking heatedly on a ‘boundary’ subject. It can wire up a whole shopping queue once it gains momentum, but what saddens me is that I so often hear not what any individual really thinks, but what someone else has said on tv or written in a newspaper.  When you actually consider the other human beings involved in these situations, with only theories posturing as reality, how can anyone opinionate?

My world may be laughably fantasmic to some, even to many, but if we all  (and I believe we all do) want a life of peace and neighbourly-ness, then our arms must be open, our hearts too and, one day, our countries.  Voltaire said, ‘It is sad that, if we are to be a patriot, we first have to make an enemy of the rest of mankind.’

I think a different way to you, and you, to me.  I feel differently about the whys and the hows and the whens of things, but this can either be a glorious Snow Goose pushing through the saltwater of a new tide on a new morning – or, it can be ignored as something I couldn’t quite see, through my glass, and darkly.