Power and control

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The brain is weird. Mine is, for sure, but I don’t know anybody else’s that isn’t. Who can honestly say that they have never had a thought so far removed from their usual pattern that they hastened to suppress it… or indulge in it 

Well, this weird brain, with which I am in loving but unholy alliance, has this issue about survival. It makes contingency plans. It insists I carry my cellphone with me at all times, even when it’s a nuisance. It remembers plants that kill better than plants that heal – then finds them in the garden. It maps exits and cardinal points in every room the eyes can see. So far, so suspicious.

But the darling believes that the best chance of survival it has is to make me as capable as possible. This is the training regime I am constantly being reminded of:

Stand up straight, don’t show fear, take control of the situation.
I don’t trust that person – don’t back away, silly, get closer and find out why.
Develop your upper body strength, you know that is your weak point.
Why didn’t you enrol in those self-defence classes?
No, I don’t like to see humans treated inhumanely (news, movies, documentaries, Freud) but if you don’t know how will you be able to endure it if it applies to you?
Remember to take the little one’s inhalers if you have to run.
High heels? How are you going to run in them? Fine, you look good in them, now pack a pair of flats just in case.
Dangly earrings? Don’t you like your ears firmly attached to your head?
Did you remember to fill the almond and sultana box at work? How about the tuna?
What do you mean you are not taking a jacket? Yes, I know it’s 40 C outside, at least put it in the car, you don’t have to carry it!
I don’t care that that handbag is cute, the strap is not long enough for you to put it on your shoulders! Hands should remain free! Yes, a wrist strap is acceptable – barely!

Now I don’t have to listen to my brain… as long as I am prepared to put up with extreme lack of comfort  So I usually compromise, which keeps it in the nagging rather than screaming mode. I still haven’t enrolled in self-defence classes and my upper body strength is negligible. But my attire satisfies it most of the time – it helps that I am in that kind of profession – and I bring enough food at work – money, you know?

So bring it on! I am, after all, prepared!

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Stress

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Most of the time I feel quite competent, thank you very much!  Then I figure out I still have a lot to learn… duh! But most of the time what I need to learn is quite clear and, as I have a passion for it, I just go forth and learn it.

Occasionally though I get… lost, for want of a better word. It is clear I need to learn something, but what exactly that is takes a bit of time to decipher and, in some cases, once I have done that, I also discover that the knowledge I am trying to acquire is… undesirable. That in itself is enough to put me off my food. Then I have my inevitable response to the anger and disappointment of others (I get upset, you know?). Put those together and I need to have quiet conversations with my cellular mechanisms regarding getting back into balance or else 

“This too shall pass” and all that aside, after I have played Killer Sudoku and Scrabble in an attempt to distract my brain so I can deal with my gut without interference, after listening to calming piano music to allow the gut to relax and then gone outside to get my hands in the earth (rain and cold… oh, my poor hands!), then I can re-engage the brain into analysis. I do this better with someone to talk to – surprise! 
If the crisis is of small to medium proportions I have found that talking it through works even if the other person doesn’t respond the way I need. You know what I mean: they have had it worse than me, it could have been worse, don’t worry about it, why are you being so upset…

If the crisis is big however then I need to find someone who will listen to me rant and rave, then bring me back to analysis. Apart from a few beautiful friends, I have found counselling amazing from this point of view and for the short term. I am aware that I could have done the same thing to and with myself… it would have taken me years though, with counselling it was all done and dusted in a few sessions (no, not the pain, just the acceptance and the context). I think it’s because, warm as that person was, there was nothing personal that I needed to invest. I didn’t need to feel embarrassed I was taking up precious time. I didn’t have to take into account life views or beliefs. I almost didn’t build a relationship and made do with rapport. Listen and direct to problem was all I needed and the counsellor performed beautifully 

I also tend to procrastinate if there’s something wrong. Maybe it will sort itself out. Maybe it will just disappear of its own accord. Maybe other people will do it. Of course I know I am going to feel worse until the situation is resolved and feeling worse spurs me to anger most of the time, anger gives me the motivation to act and then I find out that either the situation is not as bad as it appeared… or it’s just as bad and now I know it, therefore can deal with it.

So there, now off to plant the garlic, read (yet more!) Harry Potter and sort out the paperwork 

Life

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I guess I exaggerated a bit 3 months ago when I wrote that the changes were settling in… they were just getting started 
For a while I thought I’d found another outlet for the mass of ideas and trivia and connections that I have instead of neurons. So I didn’t write anything other than work stuff.
It was horrible 
I had no time (an exaggeration!) and when I did have time the sorry excuse for a laptop struggled even with Open Office (since when did I become so dependent on a word processor?). But you know that habit people sometimes have when they give diaries and journals as presents? Does any of you actually have one tucked away in a corner? I found three  So one evening when the entire situation had become unbearable (I am right little so-and-so when I don’t write) I picked up one of those journals and I put real pen to real paper… and didn’t stop, it was wonderful! Of course, to my embarrassment, I wrote a short story linked to Harry Potter. It was clear why, don’t get me wrong: the little one has adamantly refused to read anything but Harry Potter for the last two months, so you could say I am steeped in the magical world (I can’t wait until she is old enough to get her started on Lord of the Rings… maybe start with the Hobbit?).

My hand hurt from writing, so I also got over myself already and bought a computer so I can type the short story up  But I hope I learnt my lesson – write, for goodness’ sake, in whatever form you can!

Also during this period I have re-done several fun personality tests – I can report that I haven’t changed much, even though some of my tendencies have solidified over the years. I find it very interesting to re-visit things like that after sometimes a decade… for curiosity’s sake – and for those who haven’t realized that yet, curiosity never killed the cat, probably saved a few of its lives though! Some of those tests (like the 16 personalities one – the zodiac of personality testing 😛 ) were scarily accurate. Others, like the DOPE (Dove Owl Peacock Eagle, not that plant!) were more interesting because of the scoring system than anything else. And here’s the interesting part: we use these tests for employment purposes (not so much here) because we are too distant from each other to actually get to know ourselves and those around us. There are also so many of us and in a lifestyle that doesn’t allow for the knowing of ourselves, let alone the others.

See, my mind is nowhere near where it should be… but I am getting there, and that’s such a relief! Having my type of brain working only in the shallows of life is uncomfortable to say the least, but I can still use those times to sort out things for my convenience, so I can get back into the depths I like to swim in…

 

 

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)

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!”