History

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I was somewhat confused last week for a couple of days. They were not good days, to be fair. I was walking in the old part of my town, where houses sit in quaint or highly maintained beauty. I like old houses, although I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in one. I love the quality of materials, the ornate details, the spacious feel of them, the established gardens. I wouldn’t want to take care of one by myself though, they were not meant for it and I would end up resenting it.

But I digress…

I was confused because here I was, watching history, surrounded by it, and yet I longed for history with everything in me, until it was painful. It took a lot of walking and analysing to figure out that, like beauty in another article, it was the degree of history, for want of a better word, that I was getting all muddled up about. Let’s see if I can explain.

I live in a very young country, set on very young land. Now don’t get me wrong, I enjoy living here and there is something to be said about the rebellious certainty of youth, children and teenagers alike. When I arrived here, I was in human years a bit older than this country. But human years being what they are, I am now much older than this country. A different generation already. Hence part of my discontent. From peer I feel now like a parent, wanting to guide, to teach, to shelter. If you have teenagers you know how well that will go down

I am grumbling, I know. There is nothing to be done, there is no substitute for time and experience both. So there is no fault. It’s just that, human years being what they are, I will be long gone before anything changes, and that is annoying

The confusion I felt was exactly this generation gap. The houses I was admiring are old in human years alone, and even then just barely. The history I was longing and yearning for goes a lot further back. Not just in human history, but sheer age of the land. Something to lean on to without feeling guilty I suppose

I can see only two ways forward. No, I am not going to get over myself. Denying a need does not a content human being make!

First of all I can get closer to the natural world of this country, especially as represented in the myths and legends of the native people. There is, after all, a time line of nature that might even be called permanence in our language.

The second thing I can do is travel to a place that has the history I need. Like burnt out execs blobbing in an all-inclusive resort I can also go to get my fill of history in older countries set on older land.

Sounds simple and in a way it is… now for the waiting until money and other things line up… maybe start with a passport as my Christmas present?

Mountain

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I grew up on the plains, near the river. I know the impossibly wide stretches of land that call the eyes to reach further, and then further still.

I live a few minutes from the sea. I know the foam of the waves giving shape to the wind, and the reflections of the sky in the water.

I want to plant a forest. I know the way the canopy breaks up the sunlight and the branches fluttering their leaves make me tip my head up and name their colours.

But I am mountain people. Born as I was, growing up as I did, living as I do, with the plans that I have… that has never changed. I remain of the mountains, and the mountains are calling.

One in particular, the one nearby, is in many ways a representative. I always think of this mountain as masculine. It’s a volcano, therefore younger than most mountains I have seen. Much, much younger than the mountains I always longed for. But he allowed me a home, and thus became the axis of my life. Loyalty and awe started it, then a better understanding therefore love grew alongside those. Confidence, too, now that I think of it.

I am happy today, and walking fast to contain the feeling (at least in public), I was watching this mountain. The snow glowed pink in the sunset, then faded into blue. The beauty replaced the human aloneness, that sharp tone that gives happiness its actual power. Beauty beyond humanity however, notwithstanding the eyes that measured it. And yet I was happy, so I couldn’t think of myself as lacking beauty – a human quirk, I am sure 🙂

So I talked quietly and acknowledged that in my mortal pride I can still recognize the degree of beauty we’re talking about.

You see, I have always felt this mountain as alive and awake and aware. Powerful, oh yes, and sacred to its original people. Not suffering fools gladly, and very much particular about the people who are allowed to climb. With sacred springs and odd far-seeing faces, with a terrible temper and a pleasant disposition 🙂

Whimsy, but then symbols are allowed for the people who choose them.

I am living here, near this beautiful mountain.

I am trying my wings around him, wobbly flight then sure gliding. There will be many more mountains. In my native country, I hope. In places I read about and love, with mountains so old that even myths are becoming new stories again. In places where autumn cloaks the mountains in colours that reach into the soul. I will see his brother through the drifts of sakura flowers.

And then I will come back, and the first sighting after the long travel will be the same:

Beautiful

Calling

Home

Contrast

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Rocket science is supposed to be hard: to learn, to apply, to justify. In contrast (this is a straightforward word that doesn’t seem to hide anything) the intimate life of people, including one’s self, should at least be perceived as easy. Which, really, only begs the question: why are people so determined to compare apples and oranges? Maybe it is the “new” brain dismissing and rebelling against its forebears

If they have anything in common though, both rocket science and self/social awareness require prolonged, persistent application, taking over for a while life itself. And truly, I believe that we need to do both, just at different stages of our lives.

For instance, while rocket science is the domain of university life, the other subject belongs to the teenage years. This may seem a bit strange, given the research outlining that the brain is under construction during those years. But social and self awareness are, in my opinion, the “construction” part. Not hard to see: the reading, the all night talking, the constant challenge of rules, the risk taking. The absolute self-absorption, the realization of untold power… challenged by the painful vulnerability to each and every outside prod.

I was lucky (no, really?) that I was expected to “know thyself”, that I had books and people and an environment safe enough that I went through my teenage years while not suffering more than the minimum possible.

I emerged clutching my prize, so to speak. I had hope, I had faith, I had love, to quote one of my Christian friends. I had them literally, not in any religious sense, although religion has also played a big part in the making of this agnostic evolutionist with eyes firmly fixed on humanity.

That learning stood me in good stead. Years later, when adulthood seems too much like hard work, when I crave solitude and the meeting of souls, when conversation of any depth is much rarer than I would wish for, chafing at obsolete rules, I deem myself lucky. For I know the contrast, I know what we are capable of. I know the potential that is in us. Lost under routine and poorly understood responsibilities, there is so much more to us than just that great leveller, the daily struggle.

So the plan for today is to have deep conversations with people I love. To re-arrange the clothes’ horses to allow room in the lounge, so that the pacing can resume in glorious solitude, late at night. To read a few pages at least of a book that doesn’t expect anything less than total involvement.

And you know what? I will do it, too!

Unreasonable

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I want to find that one person who understands me at each and any moment in my life. Never mind that I sometimes need years to understand myself. Never mind that I have so many people who understand a part of me, because, after all, we are not living each moment to its fullest and when we need to talk we usually limit ourselves to one part of who we are. Nevertheless, yes, unreasonable of me, I want to find that person.

I want to listen to your words and know who you are. Never mind that I see your actions and they speak true. Never mind that I have enough understanding to know that your words can be a lot harsher than your thoughts ever are and as far away from your actions as it’s humanly possible. I know, unreasonable of me!

I want to see your beauty in all its difficult glory. Never mind that you think yourself ugly, silly, dumb and difficult. Never mind that you travel to exquisite places and the beauty doesn’t lift you because you feel it is so far beyond your reach. I will get impatient and tell you off for hiding under conventional standards because yes, unreasonable of me, I want to see your beauty!

I want to feel everything. Never mind that I am out of practice, never mind that there are some things I cannot feel for various reasons. I am made to feel, I am made to experience the retreat of reality under the weight of feelings. Never mind that in the routine of life feeling like this is dangerous for peace of mind and for peace in general! Despite all this, unreasonable of me, I want to feel everything!

I want to reach out and take what I need without apologizing, without even asking for permission. Never mind that life isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if life was like that, the world we live in isn’t like that. Never mind that, even if the world we live in was like that, asking for permission is always a good idea! No, I don’t want to come back to reality! Unreasonable of me, I want to take!

I want to share with you. Never mind that there are no words for the first buds on the tree opening up. Never mind that there are no breaths deep enough for the sky disappearing into shades of clouds above the mountains. Never mind that there is no heart rhythm enough for that book, that movie, that concert. All this notwithstanding, unreasonable of me, I want to share with you.

It should come as no surprise that the only constants are you and me…. and my unreasonable entitlement!

Resilience

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Sometimes we need to stop. Sometimes we need to distance ourselves from a path that is no longer ours. Sometimes we need to look across time and recognize habits for what they are: comfortable, soothing, but ultimately the past.

Then we are ready. Not necessarily to change then and there, but to allow ourselves to contemplate change as a possibility, not a disaster. The opening of the mind may have happened before, but I think we realize that the mind is not nearly enough for change. The heart has to be involved, otherwise we are stuck between the old and the new with no way to go back but also no way to go forward. Because our hearts aren’t in it.

For a species who recognizes we do not like change we are terribly good at inflicting change on ourselves. It becomes a criteria desirable for any employment. 🙂 Although I would argue that even the best of us at change are really the best of us at dealing with the fall-out of change. In other words, we still suck at change but we can roll with the punches better and, in some cases, learn to love the stress response. Adrenaline junkies, anybody?

Resilience is the word of the day. That quality that sits so uncomfortably between stubborness and aspiration, that moulting of the stress that allows us to grow. It’s the recoil of the decision-making, otherwise known as consequence. It’s the forward leap using the momentum of the push back.

I was pondering resilience because I am now better at recognizing it in myself and others. I had this feeling when I was young that time will help with something. That I am going to step into my power and wield it as I should. I am not sure I was thinking of any magic, although… well, there is a part of me that feels ancient. Permanent. But that is for another time.

I take myself for granted. In translation, I know I can count on myself: my body, my mind, my feelings, my principles. In part, this is because I left childhood behind me. I take life seriously and words even more so (I don’t have “boys” and “girls” in my circle of friends). I can face a situation and determine my response without generalizing.

I am resilient. There is no boasting in it, although you will find some pride, as usual. I would boast if I had worked at it and succeeded. Instead, I was, as usual, lucky. I was given enough hard stuff to gain resilience, but not enough to warp me out of all recognition. But I had so few of the risk factors that it seemed almost inevitable that I would gain resilience. No, I am not saying that people who have risk factors can’t gain resilience. It’s just that they have to work at it whereas I… I only became aware I am resilient because I paid attention. Because I had a mirror close by. This mirror, the little one, is only now learning about resilience.

I used to wonder if we can learn resilience. It seemed to my young eyes something that you either have or don’t. But in this mirror of mine I can see the learning taking place. Because I can offer comfort and touch. Because I am there to discuss possible responses to everyday upsets. Because I can explain complexity (pacifism and patriotism being yesterday’s discussion) thus allowing understanding to grow.

But mostly because I stop and pay attention and respond with love. Time alone will tell if this way is better than throwing the little one into the water with no swimming skills.

I have hope…

Procrastinate

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I started writing this almost a week ago… 🙂

Very straightforward for Latin, I have to say, it actually means to defer. It is more specific than the current usage as it actually contains reference to “tomorrow” but otherwise perfectly understandable, if annoying.

I am not very fond of procrastination, even though I do it so well Others are even less enamoured of procrastination and have outstandingly explicit and eloquent things to say about it.

But this is an apology so I looked at what good can procrastination do. I am talking only of procrastination, not of time management difficulties. Those are not choices, procrastination is.

Let me make it clear: it is not a character flaw, it is not a difficulty, it is not an accident. It is a choice, and as such it is a consequence of a process that involves a lot of the individual, some of the system and most of the environment in which it happens.

Most people that I know of (including myself) do not procrastinate out of malice. It may be a passive (or is that passive-aggressive?) protest against circumstances we do not agree with. It may be a sign that more rest is in order so we can make better decisions. It may also be too difficult in which case it becomes again a passive way of saying it

What it can help with is timing. It’s a delaying technique but it may also be triggered by waiting for another piece of information needed to complete our knowledge. Or waiting for just the right time to do something. Or the right space in which to say something difficult.

Sometimes I am so tired that anything past breathing is way, way too much. So I procrastinate.

I don’t like it. I don’t think anyone does. But saying (and I have heard them all!) that the above are “just an excuse” is the same as saying “I don’t care why, just do it my way/the accepted way/the right way” despite what (I believe) are valid reasons.

And that makes me more, not less likely to continue to procrastinate.

Vicious circle, much?

Lately I have procrastinated sadness, if such is even possible. But I can’t let it overwhelm me during the day. And sometimes even nights are out of bounds. So I defer it. There is romance reading, pop music listening, cartoon watching – light hearted fun that nonetheless allows another hour to pass.

I can expect that much of myself, indeed. For sadness will come, and will not be denied entry.

I might as well make the decision when to open the door.

Timing

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It will come as no surprise to anybody who knows me that control is very dear to me. Control of one’s passions, control of one’s words, and actions, and really, pretty much everything else that can be controlled. As an aside, I find it beyond bewildering being upset at things not under our control. I don’t, by any stretch of the imagination, take a detached view of the world, I fight and fight hard for the things I believe can be influenced, I just don’t see much point in fighting the weather, so to speak (now, influencing said weather is another matter entirely and I am not opposed to doing so).

The thing with control though is that much of it depends on time, and even more of it depends on timing, so that’s what I will focus on today. Time is necessary to learn control, to learn what can be controlled, to practice gaining and keeping and relinquishing control when one needs to. Serenity prayer, anyone? 🙂

Timing is more difficult. Most of us, certain in our own mortality, still manage to plan (i.e. to assume that we will have enough time to get where we want to). And when it comes to ourselves, in most cases, in this part of the world called the first, we have that time. We buy it with medicine, and education, and relationships.

But timing does not depend only on us. It is not only ourselves that need to be taken into account, nor just our wishes, nor indeed our actions alone. Timing includes someone else’s time, and sometimes the time of the age we live in. It’s what we mean when we say “life (or s**t) happens”.

A financial crisis, a war, an illness… many things can crumble plans, and the control these plans imply. We are often too isolated, we believe ourselves too small to influence these big things. But they are not the weather. We should fight, and fight hard, to influence them, human or not as they are. And we do, with medicine, and education, and relationships.

We are not all teachers. We are not all doctors or scientists or in charge of financial institutions. But we can all have relationships. And if timing can come into its own, it is on the relationships that we need to focus our individual efforts. And by timing I mean making choices. Simple ones, like not saying the bad words we want to say. More difficult ones, like standing our ground when we could just go with the flow. And difficult ones, like acting on the values we hold dear rather than the things we believe in.

I have discussed my view of control in another article on this blog. See, control is not just reining in, a force that is restrictive of freedom.Control can be passive and neutral, negative, or positive in that it allows action. Sometimes going through life (or the s**t described above) is control enough for powering a small country. Sometimes life seems out of control, depending on which tooth of the tiger sinks into which sensitive piece of our flesh. Our abused children, our bullied youth, our neglected elders, the sick and the maimed, have enough on their hands just to make it through to another sunrise.

But if we are well, and whole, and reasonably functional… what is then our excuse?