Alternative

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Yep, Latin again! You’d think by now I would have been able to find alternatives…

It means to do something by turns or to have options, choices, possibilities. This is not nearly as easy as it seems, especially if you consider that alternative is not always the synonym of option. It involves interesting linguistic exercises based partially on the origin of the word from the “alter” (other) root so you can’t really say “the other alternative” because that would sound as “the other other thing”. Fun and games, huh?

Anyhoo, back to the meaning of the word, I was musing on the importance of having them. Alternatives, options, possibilities, choices. What you can live with and what you can’t leave without, to paraphrase a common expression. They seem to go hand in hand with culture, upbringing and, most especially, expectations and anticipations, already covered somewhere else in this blog.

It occurred to me that half of my perception of choices is related to my attitude towards life in general – optimistic, life is good and can be enjoyed. The other half of my perception is linked to my upbringing as an individual. My body, my soul, my spirit, my right, my heart, my choices.

Entitled, you might say, and so I couldn’t possibly understand what it feels to have no choice at all. But can we not? Imagine, at least, and try to understand, and try to change some of the status quo? Empathy is not so rare once you start looking for it, although good intentions can and have to be thought out better than the golden rule might imply – imposing one’s values on someone else never a good colonialist made

But there is another choice, if choice it can be called. If we are hit over the head with our vocation, what choice do we have? If a deity is apparent, if an ideology is enacted, if a person suddenly becomes the world, what choice is there? Whose is this body that I used to call mine? To whom does this soul answer to? Towards which ideal does my spirit fly? What right do I have other than serving? And what good is this heart if not as an object of toil in a very specific endeavour?

And yet we stand, we breathe, we fight and work and life goes on – reality as a choice… who’d a thunk it?

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Anticipation

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Not surprisingly, it comes from Latin. Also not surprisingly, it is related to expectation and hope and prediction. Surprisingly though, originally it referred to action, not passive waiting. I like this kind of words 🙂

I was considering today the difference between expectation (discussed on this blog in another article) and anticipation. The difference, I think, is at the above-mentioned action level. Expectations are sometimes inspirational, sometimes a pain in the neck, but they are concepts and ideas only, and as such they can hurt you more as it’s difficult to neutralize them. Anticipation, on the other hand, is very active, very specific and a lot easier to use than expectation. Let me explain by using at least two examples (what we would consider a positive and a negative one).

Stage fright is the most common example of negative anticipation. We worry ourselves sick, of course, if we are normal (people being in front of a group of others who are not their kin, that they can’t see well and who are not smiling in welcome – and we’re supposed to enjoy it? Ludicrous!). In other words, we have expectations of how we need to perform, then we anticipate us stumbling, forgetting the words etc. Those scenarios drive us to distraction, but more than that, unless we find a way to limit them (rituals, mindfulness, repetition…) they will come true.

That leads me to the positive anticipation, like that used by professional athletes and others for ages! Visualizing yourself winning the race, or even just running, has clear effects on the body and the mind. It is obvious we can use it in so many situations. And if sometimes that feels like cheating, just remember that negative visualization is cheating as well! That is, of course, a knee-jerk response. The way I prefer to say it is that we are thinking the future into existence, and we might as well make it a good one if we’re going to so much trouble 🙂

That leaves me to cover the most common type of anticipation, which is mostly both negative and positive. I refer, of course, to desire. Please feel free to read as much as you wish about it, to describe it as best you can, to try to reign it in as much as your belief urges you to. There are few things in this life that will move humans to greater action faster than desire. It can make us go through the entire gamut of emotions a human being can experience, including some that by rights should not even exist – sick with joy, anybody?

The feeling of rising out of the initial darkness, the escape from routine, the longing for meaning, all of them are encompassed. We truly do not know how strong we are until we deal with this particular type of anticipation. We also do not realize how complicated our lives are and how many obstacles humans create for themselves until we experience desire.

Now the question remains: should we give in to desire? And what about love? Where does love fit in with it?

Learn

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Mulch the garden. You have better things to do than weed every single hour you are in the garden.

Don’t plant more than 2 courgette/zucchini plants. You still have the boxes of grated marrows from last year, which you had planned to mix in casseroles.

Enjoy the ranunculus. For the southerly will topple the heavily petticoated blooms to the ground.

Replant before the flowers appear. You do want fruits, don’t you?

Be merciless. That small plant you have ignored? It will take you half a day to cut it back in a year’s time. Yes, that includes jasmine.

Plants are resilient. Especially fig, in the place where you don’t want it.

Cover the strawberries. There are more birds than humans in your garden.

Scatter clippings over your beautifully raked garden bed. Your neighbours’ cats see your garden as the toilet anyway, do you have to give them a litter box as well?

Crush snails. Dig them in.

Try to crush slugs when they’re small, later only sharp implements can help – yuk! Or hedgehogs.

Speaking of hedgehogs, don’t poke your ungloved hands in a pile of leaves.

Speaking of hedgehogs again, go around your car in the morning and have a good look down the driveway. Those creatures are worth their weight in gold. Or slugs 🙂

Be patient and resigned. You may never have the lilac and paeony you desire. But it’s worth a try.

Save the bumblebee queen. They are heavier and less delicate than honeybees. Your flowers don’t really care.

Ignore the roses. Once the delicate grafts have died down, the rootstock will outlast you. You may even get some rosehips.

Plant garlic. Nothing so satisfying as anticipating using it in 6 months’ time… except maybe actually using it and enjoying it – congratulations, you are now self-sufficient in garlic!

Consider visiting the open gardens during the festival. But only on good days. You will feel inadequate anyway.

Smell the hyacinths, daffodils, wait for the snowdrops, admire the cherry blossoms and stop to stare at magnolias. Rhododendrons will follow.

Encourage the pansies and the marigolds.

Go to sleep. 🙂