December

20170925_144215

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.

Advertisements

Resilience

20170226_200059

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…

Timing

20170226_200349

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?

Sadness

20161223_170044

Sated? Weary? Enough? Strange meanings for such a short word… and my heart is not in it anyway. The modern (if you call middle English modern) meaning is more than enough (there’s that word again) to carry wearily… ok, that’s it! I am giving up on linguistics for now, before I start agreeing with the definition. I am not in the mood to be cajoled out of what I actually feel, which is sadness.

You see, a friend is moving away for a while. That while is not forever and it is not even a very long time as these things go… what’s a season when time goes so fast I can barely recall where this year is up to?

So one puts on a brave face and talks about this and that because there is always so much to say and never enough time to actually say it and make the connections and explore your own ideas and find common ground and share oddments and tweaks. And one laughs and smiles and generally pays attention because, yes, that’s what this is all about, being present, with your friend and never mind that there are another million things you should be seen as doing.

But then the time is up.

And that while mentioned above is actually starting and it will continue to exist, encompassed in this lifetime, and you can’t really avoid it anymore.

Have you noticed how difficult it continues to be to cry? People might even ask what’s wrong and do you need a counsellor with your fries? No, no, no, better wait until you’re at home…. what? Cry in the bathroom under the shower? How very quaint! Let’s be adult about it, though, and defer all this emotional “stuff” until another time… an appropriate time for sadness… that’s sad, isn’t it?

And then, if you please, one realizes that sadness just is and won’t just go away and saving face by appearing brave serves no one. So one says “I’ll miss you” because really, why not? With whom should I banter over memories of a country I have not actually seen?

I will wait and keep busy and be an adult and all that. Distraction does work and so does social media and email and pictures. I will, as the saying goes, “deal with it” and I will not even need a counsellor.

But, my friend, there are so many things still unsaid… the strangely squat mists over the low lying fields that looked as if a faerie sea is slowly advancing towards you, and then driving through it the car lights make alien circles of pale rainbows and cattle appear like spectres out of the clearly delineated layers of earth, fog, clouds and blue sky… then there’s the realization that cloudy skies are always more interesting than the clear ones, and because of the humidity there’s a much better chance of actually finding that precise shade of blue eyes have… and then there’s that song, Piazzolla’s Oblivion, a saxophone solo you would have enjoyed…

I will need a good memory, to last me a season…

Minute

dsc05820

Not the time unit, but the adjective. Same origin and journey, really, but funnily enough you pronounce them differently 🙂 Don’t get me started!

It occurred to me while talking to some people that not only are the minute things the most annoying but they are also the building bricks of our lives. We live our lives (the good parts, and the bad) second by second, not day by day, and definitely not year by year. Even if we look at events that change lives, we realize that it’s what’s going on before and most often what happens afterwards that make the change, not the events themselves. So with a death, that is over quite quickly, but the lead up to it, and our grief afterwards, change the weave, the pattern and ultimately the fabric of who we are.

They are also the ones that we are not supposed to sweat, that we are supposed to pay attention to and that we are also supposed to be grateful for. Perhaps not at the same time, but the contradiction is there nonetheless. 🙂

So here are some of the minute things of my life, in no particular order:

Having a cat that doesn’t scratch, shed, rip or otherwise damage people and property.

Not having any carpet in the house that a spill would ruin.

A 4×3 cm edition of Pablo Neruda’s “Twenty love poems and a desperate song” in Spanish.

Wooden joinery that gets wet and then doesn’t close properly.

Potatoes that taste of something, a lovely casserole and the stories that go with good company and eating together.

Using a Niwashi Shark to tidy up jasmine – soooo satisfying!

Finding out what a morepork sounds like – I thought it would be a deeper sound… you know how we say to-wheeet – to-whooo when we read to children? Deeper, ain’t it?

Finding out how big your garden actually is when you get around to clearing up.

An app that actually works and does what it says it will.

Finding that exact perfect gift for your friend without even searching for it, just walking by.

Rummaging through the pile of bills and discovering the piece of paper on which you wrote the phone number of the person who’s going to make your life a lot easier.

Mentioning a problem you’re having and someone coming up with a solution that sorts out not only that problem but a few more as well.

Enough for now, I’ll pay attention to more as I go.

Quaint

20161109_125634

It’s one of those words with changeable meaning. Originally it meant clever, ingeniously unusual, something to marvel at. Nowadays it is used in an almost derogatory way: obsolete, old-fashioned. Sometimes though it goes further and means simply unobtrusive, nothing to write home about, and if relating to décor, to be changed to something more modern.

Kind of like us, then 🙂

Even if the Chinese didn’t say “may you live in interesting times” it remains a favourite wish of many to do so. Craving adventure, out of ordinary events, escapism, forgetting perhaps that we also need solitude, peace, a roof over our heads sometimes, security even. Not to mention the money that must be made somehow, relationships that need sustaining, books that are too heavy to carry in a backpack.

I am one of those people, you see. Railing sometimes at the routine I am told will make my life easier. Watching jet planes tracks across the sky and wishing I was on one of them. Wanting to go with the retreating wave.

It doesn’t mean I am forgetting the above. The small pleasures, the gratitude for so many things, the safety routines can bring to everyday life. Just that sometimes I am also aware that there is more to life than just the small circle in the sand I have been marking. That’s where the envy comes for those who travel, who create, who explore.

If I remember correctly, those anti-suffrage used to say that women who go to higher education will no longer be content with the life prescribed for them. It was true, too! 🙂 Whole systems needed to be changed to accommodate those women.

So what to do when life is prescribed and I am no longer content with it? When the soul demands that the eyes witness what documentaries present? When the spirit rebels against bedtime as night dreams can’t hold a candle to daydreams? When the body aches from sitting in the office and asks to be allowed to roam at will?

Reading remains a staple, sometimes to the point of obsession, but fiction can’t hold me anymore. If I am to be stuck on the couch then I want my brain to fire on all cylinders. I can find emotion and feelings elsewhere! Music, especially live, is another good way to escape routine. Walking, while useful, is no longer enough in the weekends, so gardening will have to take its place, especially permaculture where the brain is involved as well, not just the wonder at life appearing out of seemingly nowhere.

It seems to me then that the brain is the culprit then, so it’s the brain that needs to be pleased until the time will come for an escape from the routine. And stubbornness will have to suffice, until freedom is at hand. And if there is a sacrifice… well, I assume it will be sleep!

Disorganized

20160813_142901

Now I am really disappointed with myself for missing two things, an important one and a possibly important one. The first was an event the little one participated in, Peace Day. I apologized and I think I may have been forgiven. It was total forgetfulness. I did not write it down to remind myself, so I will not beat myself over it (what with me being human and all that).

The possibly important thing was not forgotten, that was sheer procrastination. It could have led to a change in my life, so I had to think about it and the reasons for that procrastination. Part of it was, of course, life: I have plenty of time; I need to research this a bit more; I need to talk to someone about it. The other part though is a lack of purpose. A bit of burnout, a bit of disenchantment, a desire for change but without the urgency. So the result is more of a live each day as it comes rather than striding confidently in the direction of my dreams.

That’s not necessarily bad, but it does mean that I am not making the changes to my life that I deem necessary. I don’t act on the opportunities that present. I observe the status quo without giving it either direction or meaning and as a result I feel even more disempowered. Do I like it? Let’s not joke about it, I dislike it but, apparently not intensely enough to matter.

Sometimes the best I can do is let it grow, accumulate, until the dislike turns into a call for action. I know I am capable of that, I have done it many times.

I was wondering if I should really push myself harder and just get it done earlier. I thought really hard about it, not just overthinking it, but actually trying to figure it out so that I may use it as a template for other periods in my life. Would I benefit from doing it and, if so, how would I go about pushing myself harder? In other words, how not to be a procrastinator?

The answer to the second question, “how would I go about it?” is reasonably simple: talk to people as opposed to making the decisions alone. I use it sparingly as I am very impulsive so I rush into things. Making decisions alone takes a longer time (and, as you read above, patience is not my strong point) but chances are the decisions will be more considered.

The answer to the first question has a bit more nuance. Yes, pushing myself would benefit me (no one likes a procrastinator) but it would deny time its value in life. Some things need to be done slowly, in the fullness of time, for the right reasons. In effect, in answering the second question I answered the first one, too.

Or you could say that as a procrastinator I just found good excuses to procrastinate

Fine, I will give you that. I will say I am just going through a phase, taking some time out, and get back into it as soon as feasible. Work, parenting, assignments, gardening, travel, friends… my life is full and that’s the way I like it. Now I just need to live it a bit more efficiently. What to start with though?

Ah, I know…