Change, again

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Almost 6 months of changes are slowly coming to an end. There is still more to come in this batch, but the bulk of changes is settling in as we speak. Some changes were gradual and anticipated, others sudden and surprising. Some of them for the good, others for the loss. So instead of gently teasing out information, round it up nicely in words of rhythm, finding the metaphor that would please the heart and put it all in a coherent 1 page blog article, I have been hoarding the information, watching bits of trivia sharpen themselves on spikes of stress and exhilaration.

I am truly made for this, I know, even as I put the brakes on reckless behaviour in the aftermath of change. Much as I enjoy safety and security and stability (and I need them, too, for me and others) I need to row as well as steer. I need to be a leaf floating on the water as well as the stone making up the river bed. How else will I know how strong I am if I am never tested? Heck, that sounds, even to my ears, ungrateful, and yet that’s the last thing I feel. I am not such a dunderhead that I am looking for trouble, that I tweak life out of boredom or a craving for adrenaline. I am not challenging life to put obstacles in my way, I am not asking to leave what I have built to start again just for the sheer adventure of it.

But I do know that life is not just endless cycles of home, work, hobby, sleep. Or, rather, it can be, but I am not meant to do this forever. And isn’t it ironic (systemically tragic, more likely!) that there are many who would be happy to do this forever, who would say that they have a good life? Some of them because they’ve wanted it, but so many more because they truly believe that this is how it’s supposed to be… again, I feel ungrateful, especially as I am thinking about the alternatives I see on the news whenever someone turns the dratted thing on. But I am grateful, looking at places in the world where human life is worth less than a handful of dirt. I am grateful that I have life and freedom and peace and dignity and options, when so many don’t.

It’s just that… well, if we always compare our lives with those who struggle, our expectations of ourselves and our lives diminish. If our lives are stable and secure and safe, then surely that’s as good as it can get?

And yet, for me, that is just the beginning. Necessary, but just the beginning. Because we are so much more than automatons. Because we feel so much more than comfort. Because we can so much more than bread and circus.

“A ship in harbour is safe. But that’s not what ships were built for” (J.A Shedd, 1928)

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Diving

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The girl child is impulsive, affectionate, creative, tactless, destructive, demanding.
The woman is sunny, stubborn, talkative, pragmatic, powerful.
The crone created time itself back when she was a bit bored with eternity. She is somewhat cynical, set in the ways of fate and outstandingly optimistic, probably because of this.
They are all present, and engaged and I love them to bits, of course, which is a good thing as they’re part of me, after all. Hence I can paraphrase a Harry Potter masterpiece and say that I don’t have the emotional range of a teaspoon, given that I can feel at the same time apprehensive, worried, excited, exhilarated, anticipative, envious and a host of other ways, not always related and not always (but sometimes) about the same thing. And that’s even before I count the many ways in which I love some people, intensely dislike some others, yearn and long and miss and hurt for yet others (sometimes the same ones) and generally live a productive life. 
I feel comfortable in this sea of feelings and emotions, even though sometimes I could wish for a boring day or at least a quiet one. That would probably be the inevitably complementary influence of the male persona 
But that’s just me… and I am in a world with others, and the sea I just talked about suddenly gets put in a much, much, bigger picture.
I like to have relationships. Deep relationships, by preference, although no relationship is to be sneered at. Even bad relationships carry lessons we need to learn.
To deconstruct it a bit, it needs two people. I can perform, sparkle and entertain if there are more people, but a dyad of the other person and myself is the optimum, where I can focus. And there has to be willingness from the other person. To talk, to share, to react. I don’t need them to “open up” or even to be truthful. That would defeat the purpose, in a way. I don’t do therapy, fixing, dream analysis or anything like that, although I do have opinions (noooo!!!) and I am not afraid to share them (ouch!).
I used to say that I look at the world through a love lens, but that is not an accurate metaphor. I don’t generalize in the sense of “I love everybody” – that is sooo not true 
I don’t use love as a detaching tool, on the contrary, detachment is the one thing I try very hard to avoid. If I love, it is a specific person, not the idea of person.
Maybe the rope metaphor… you know, where I hold one end of the relationship rope and I throw the other one and I… what? Reel the other person in? That sounds just a tad… predatory, wouldn’t you say? 
Maybe there isn’t a good metaphor. And the only thing that come to my mind is that quote from my beloved Heinlein, misogynist and eugenist though he was:
“The more you love, the more you can love–and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Negative

 

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If you are like me and trying to follow the diamond rather than the golden rule, sooner or later you find yourself with an excess of negativity. This other part of ourselves is not a comfortable place to be in, though, so we find outstandingly creative ways to either get out of it or distract ourselves from it. I acknowledge those who cannot control that negativity. I am also aware of those who prefer to wallow in it and call it everything from realism to ageism to what-not.
But in this article I want to focus on the role of the negative. For those young enough 😛 to have used photo film, you know the fascination of the negatives, the way our brain struggles and then begins to make sense of the reversed image, the play of shadow and unnatural light that coalesces into a weird beauty.
In a more real world (says who?), as I mentioned in another couple of articles, the negative is a lot more useful for survival than the positive. That’s why our brain notices it first and attempts to address it first. No matter the stark beauty of the wide open space of the savannah, that prowling big feline you see coming towards you gets noticed and dealt with so you can admire the scenery another day 
The upside to that is, of course, safety. If we succeed in reaching a safe place, the theory says we can allow that survival-oriented part of our brain to be at rest and we can concentrate on being human, including paying attention to and creating beauty. Most of us seem to have forgotten we have that switch though… does that mean we do not recognize a safe place when we see it anymore?
But there is another role of the negative, especially when we are talking about feelings. They are, of course, great motivators. Probably because of that link with survival, we usually act on the negative faster, and put a lot of effort into it. The results are… hmm, what’s a polite way of putting it? 
I will refer you to the entire range of fiction, and most of the non-fiction writing… just in case you haven’t noticed it, it ain’t pretty! For a milder version, the religious and inspirational teachings focus on teaching the brain to avoid acting in those ways, which is an acknowledgment of the way they usually pan out.
But if there is one thing our brain can do, is learn. We can learn to guide our actions, even when those actions are triggered by negative thoughts or feelings (greed, hate, jealousy and the like). I have tried to learn this with the shades of anger that are my usual negative response to life. I am in a vocation that allows me to use anger to try and change systems. I can also use it to arrange the life around me to be safe. I am not sure if anger can work at a group level (revolutions, anyone?) but at a personal level heck, yes it works! 
Don’t get me wrong, I can wallow in anger myself for a while, uncomfortable as it actually is. I can fantasize about revenge driven by anger – and I am inventive! 
In the long run though, that doesn’t matter because anger is a motivator for action, but (wait for it!) it is not the action. That has been, and is, and will be, under our control – and that’s the way I like it!

 

Anger

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It would come as no surprise that I struggle with the prosaic side of life. I don’t mean necessarily routines, of which I have plenty, just those that cannot be lifted out of a strictly physical existence. I get uncomfortable when I am told that this is the “real life” as I immediately list in my head all the other things that life consists of that have very little to do with the prosaic.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that dishes need to be washed, I just choose to use that time to practice singing my favourite songs. That, not washing the dishes, is the main activity. Since I got myself a dishwasher I sing a lot less… some would say it’s a good thing 
So when I find myself sad and upset – these are feelings but they keep me sort of trapped low to the ground – I need to exert myself to soar out of it. Sounds a bit naff, doesn’t it, when you put it that way. But I am not used to exerting myself for that! Because it’s easy, as a rule.
It’s what I am meant to do. Take reality and twist it into beauty and joy and aspiration. Analyse reality and find patterns and ideals and history. Synthesize reality down to purpose and kindness and love.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to get stuck in misery. It is all around us. From the media wondering if WWIII has already started, to the small tragedies, missed opportunities and wasted hope of endlessly blighted lives. Heck, sounds horrific even for someone like me who doesn’t watch TV or willingly reads “based on a true story” anything.
Yet again, it is our big biased brains using information selectively (survival being what it is, bad news are a lot more useful than good news). So it’s time to bring out the big guns 
What am I reading? What am I listening to? With whom am I talking? What am I doing with my spare minutes? How much time I am spending in the garden (tomatoes are ripening so fast I can’t keep up, carrots need to be pulled out and more planted in, apples and sunflowers need support as they are heavy with future harvest)? What can I do with my body to expend some energy? Can I create? Who do I love and how do I show it and can I get some, too?
I know I am lucky. I am defiant because I can defy, oppose the weight of “reality”. I can use anger productively, and I am angry! I can be as sanctimonious and selfish and obnoxious as I need to be (for a short time 😛 ) in my pursuit of the life I want to lead.
Because I refuse, absolutely refuse to be kept down, even when I am there. This is my duty to myself, that I can stand up, stand proud, toss my unromantically short hair back and smile with my teeth until my eyes catch up with the grimace:
“Right, let’s do life!”

Minutiae

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It is the sum of our minutes that make up our life. And most of our minutes are spent doing little things; you know what I am talking about: open curtains, feed the cat, make lunches, wake up and make breakfast for the little one… and that’s before you even go out the door!

Most of the time I am fine with the way I spend my minutes. Or, should I say, adulting doesn’t seem a chore, even though I still firmly believe that we are made for greater things than that. I know I can do better than that.

Sometimes though… I need a holiday. A holiday is not when I move from the bed to the couch, although I can do that as well as the best of them! A holiday is when I can put my overalls on, get into the garden and stop when my arms are in danger of falling off. A holiday is when I shoo everyone out, get into the little one’s bedroom and come out when it’s in order. A holiday is when I go up the mountain and strain my muscles to the limit. A holidays is when I visit a friend and actually go through all the stuff that we want to talk about.

It seems that for me a holiday is when I take big bites. It’s not the number of things I am doing, it’s the level of energy I am able to put into what I am doing, the intensity of the interest and what I am doing, too!

So when I know where my interest is, where the intensity and energy want to be then anything else I do makes me feel boring. Like I am not doing what I should be doing. Adulting then does seem a chore, I am short-tempered and distracted.

It drives people around me up the wall, it does! Because apparently adulting is non-negotiable, whereas I am of the opinion that if I am an adult that I can choose the stuff I am doing… within reason. My reason, of course 

Does that sound just a tad whingey? Ok, I’ll admit it! I would dearly love to come back into the house from the garden or off the mountain and find that food has been cooked and the house is tidy and all I need to do is sit at the computer and knock off another course paper. Maybe one day, when I am not a slave to the bank, I will hire someone to do just that, lady of the manor that I am 

Until then, I am learning to use my remaining minutes wisely… or not, as most of them are taken from the sleeping allowance. And being an adult is still 10 times better than whatever passes for second place 

Pendulum

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You know that type of situation when you want to change a few things (small, big, whatever) but the time is not yet? Maybe you are not irritated enough, maybe the price of change is too high, maybe you get busy with other things, or maybe you just procrastinate.

Sometimes we think about that change for so long that even after we do it it remains at the ideas level and we forget we’ve done it! At least I do!

But most of the time, sooner or later, the price of change comes down and/or we start swearing in native languages (not necessarily ours and not necessarily extant) and we actually get on with the change and accomplish amazing things. This is when people like myself think that you are taking too long if things are done the next day!

Things are helped along if the universe conspires with you and seemingly impossible things become totally do-able even before your first cup of tea. And if said things save you money after the initial outlay, all the better.

The exhilarating part for me is that I can move at my normal speed: fast. I don’t mean running, I don’t do that kind of thing. I mean thinking fast, doing many things in the day (one after the other, multitasking is not nearly as much fun as it’s famed to be), switching fast from thinking time to doing time. Most people seem uneasy if I move fast all the time, but they seem a bit more forgiving if you give them a short explanation as to why you are rushing.

Oh, I have missed that! It takes energy to operate at less than optimum, so I spend a lot of energy waiting and slowing down and standing still. It’s exhausting, but it does serve to make me more socially acceptable. I can even (gasp!) ignore teasing because I slow down. Usually, at normal speed, teasing gets in the way, it’s annoying and makes me think quite badly of people: why can’t they just say what the heck they mean so I can get on with my day? (did I mention I take myself very seriously? 😛 ). But if I slow down then, even if I can’t enjoy it, at least I can let it pass. I can even try my hand at it, but due to lack of practice I am either too soft or too harsh… eh, better give it up as a bad job

Overdoing things… yep, know aaaaalllll about it! I can slot the important things in the schedule, just not everything. The holidays season is here, so the least I can do is say “no” politely when I am overwhelmed.

Note to self!

December

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Running through ancient arched tunnels, painted grey by some unknown figment of my imagination, the dream follows the classical pattern: I am chasing a train that won’t wait for me. I don’t know where I am, other than the name of the city. I can see the trains sometimes, between one tunnel and the next, but I am somewhere up and can’t seem to reach the next level down. I have spent the day in this Saxon sounding and looking city, going from one amazing site to the other, each more magnificent and more imposing than the previous one, lured by beauty and the eagerness to experience all that I can for one day only.

I wake up at the normal time but the feeling of the dream doesn’t fade. Well, I don’t have to think very hard as to why. What is it about December that sends people into paroxysms of activity, most of it unrelated to the actual celebrations?

December doesn’t usually bother me, as I enjoy the holidays and the pace and the sheer vitality of the whole jolly silly season. But that is when I am in sync, heart free, mind engaged, soul madly drunk on life and the whole of me generally in control of the reality that’s mine.

Not so this year. With so many of my walls up and a few things not going as planned, I am dodging from tunnel to tunnel in the waking hours as well as in my dreams. Threads of relationships that should flow smoothly plaited together fray apart. When the walls are up in one direction I seem to be hit from another side. Some things I, of course, do to myself, as I am reluctant to give up anything (I am, after all, a full on hoarder of emotions and experiences!).

Change is coming. I can feel it, promote it, engender it. I have probably chosen a bad time but sometimes you just have to do it, take it on the chin and roll with it. Nobody ever dared to tell me it was going to be easy I wouldn’t have believed it if they did, really!

I can guide change on the pathways I want it to take. I can settle it into my life when the time comes. There are many things I can and will do. And the first thing is to make some time for myself. Alone, as I rarely am, so that I can hear my thoughts, caress my feelings and organize my ideas. In order to be kind to yourself I guess you first have to make that time exist for yourself. Appointments, rather

I stand, mostly open, feeling slightly battered and overwhelmed by the very things that usually make up my joy of being alive. But I was talking about trees the other day, and they are forever moving yet grounded still. I should be like a tree. Standing.