Have you been whispered about? Have you ever felt the cold prickles of recognition when you realise your name is being said, but not to you. Have you ever had an opinion about anyone else? Of course you have.
Mostly our thoughts and comments of this and that dissipate like the haar on the edge of the sea, while the kettle boils and the next story is brewed.
Some stories however, stick. And keep on sticking.
Becoming a little legend, which has its roots in a social group or family, cements itself further in the pub or playground and in the judgement of the gathered groups of ”Aye beens” tutting and huffing like they’re auditioning for ”Are you being served… .”
This goes on not just for a blether that day, but gathers snowball momentum over weeks, years, generations.
A while ago I told you a story about an experience we were having. It was told in a way that was honest but also showed the impact on us and the perpetrators for what they were. It had remained hidden. For along time, I had heard things like, That’s terrible, but I don’t want to get involved. Almost as if it was contagious. Being Bullied isn’t catching. I said nothing, so nobody knew.
Sometimes you just got to say no.
Shouting loudly and having a set of rules everyone has to abide by, might be what everyone is used to.
and all that anyone has ever heard.
But not everyone is made that way
When one of my guinea pigs gets a little bit scared, she doesn’t run away. She just shuts her eyes, puts her head down and snuggles in to my arm. I think she’s on to something..
Our move to our cottage was to be our sanctuary. It was our braver than brave thing. Anything after that was just details.
Just like Bonnie, we keep our head down and assume those in our immediate life must quite like us or they would not be there. A good way to live. And ensures everyone gets a lot of cuddles and regular food.
For every action, there are consequences which we must be responsible for also. Some are entirely real… whilst some…
I believe things and people are meant to try us. And teach us.
All of our stories are different . If you ask every one of your friends how they see you it will be slightly different . Trying to hold a picture of who you are is impossible. All you can do is know you do no harm.
We all show a variation to everyone, and not always intentionally. Our velvet selves stay wrapped in tissue for when we can truly enjoy wearing them again. But we are also patchwork, and denim and an old faded cotton shirt stitched over and over.
And in the meantime, in this global pause for thought, while we all lounge in pyjamas and forget how to hold a real conversation, .. we are free to imagine and just be.
In our isolation because of my illness, I have found an honesty in a way of life .
The irony of the neighbourhood pedant believing they can cut you off; is that we actually end up truly connecting with those we like more than anyone. ever !! Our time and our people are precious. Our days are filled with the wonders of modern technology and archaic methods of keeping in touch with those in our tribe, all over the world.
I have also found ; A beautiful place to live in, which; If I could walk further; offers temptation every day.. to look for birds , and wild life and painting inspiration and clouds and just pure fabulousness.
The kindest friends you could ever know, our everyday companions on social media groups, accomplishing my daily Art tasks and keeping us and each other going during these last few months. A few really super immediate neighbours and two minutes down the road an amazing network of folk we could not have got through the pandemic without. Friends who have truly been a lifeline when I am ill , or an animal needs a walk or help.
In every place you go there are a few who think it belongs only to them. There is always a chance at first that unkind people, just like a mistreated animal might be a little coaxing. Getting to know why they are unhappy and defensive is the first step to getting anywhere. Becoming defensive yourself and mimicking them is simply what a lot of angry people want you to do. It proves them right, if gives them a hobby and makes you look as bad, if not worse than them. (Because you then get upset it fuels their game) There is nothing more annoying than someone smiling, ignoring your taunts or being at ease in their world. And gives them nothing to battle you about.
I received a message about the village asking if it was a nice place. Of course it is. And there are millions of reasons to move here, visit, get a holiday home or explore the area. I have been involved in many community groups and educational information resources in the few years we have been here.
It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.
At school I was not very sure if my art was any good. I had one art teacher who thought it was fabulous but also wanted to buy all my vintage brooches from me and get a lift for him and us maverick 6fh formers to various exhibitions in London, and another art teacher who hated all of us, had a mewling cat with no fur under her desk and who scribbled on all my drawings. One day, recounting an extremely upsetting tirade from the second art teacher about colour theory, and moaning about her bitter teaching methods over my herbal tea in the 6th form common room, I looked up, at my friend’s face, sitting opposite. She had stopped replying, and was looking horrified. ”She’s behind me isn’t she?” I said ”Yep,”said Maria.
That cut short my gossip career. My tiny, horrid teacher had a look I hadn’t seen when she’d shouted at me. It was more human. It was as if my words had made her think. I might have been justified but I didn’t feel good. She looked like she was actually thinking about my feelings, but also had some her own. And she left the room. Words have power. She wasn’t nice to me, but I still felt bad !
If we know how it feels to be harmed by words, there has to be ways of protecting ourselves without sinking or losing our selves. We don’t have to become the teacher that persecuted us.
Think of a little bottle of inky poison. Longing for you to write with it. But as soon as you do it gets on your fingers and stains them, and rubs off on your shirt, you answer the phone and then you doodle on the table with your pen, it is contagious… someone reads your doodle, and takes a photo of it . Your ink is everywhere, on their hands now too and even now on a photo on instagram.
You don’t need that kind of inky nonsense ruining your life
Our colours are vibrant and unique
(Be the washable kind)
And walk away from repeating what other people say
That isn’t the same as not getting involved. if someone needs genuine help, drop everything.
A place can be tainted by its stories, its newsreels, its few who seek to cause drama for the sake of drama. Unfairly creating an ink blot on a beautiful landscape. But a place is bigger than that. And given time, and new news stories, a place can recover from the stories built in its bricks and paths and pub bar stools.
Sometimes new flowers grow that you haven’t seen before
and get a whole new heap of fans
We found this picture of our house on instagram yesterday. Our house pre Covid often got photographed by smiling camera laden tourists hanging over the fence. Seeing a different view.
Everybody has a different way of looking at the world and in order to enjoy ours fully we have to break the cycle of judging others.
I decided to take a few things out from my previous post about the incident here. The story remains the same. But we can chose not to be led by it. The place we live, like everywhere has too many pockets of kindness too, too much rich heritage and beauty and too much potential to be dulled down by decades of frustration . Because keeping those attributes of a place alive, even by reporting it, continues its legacy and keeps new vibrant people away.. and guess who would love that?!
Places grow, evolve and change. Or at least they should to stay healthy
So we must celebrate the new and wonderful as well as the old and cherished, just like any family..
And If all else fails, you can always just stay hidden in a cardboard tube.
When I grow up I’m going to be an astronaut. And a policeman and have a zoo. Yes dear. Now. Eat your shepherd’s pie.
When I grow up in going to be a ballerina with a health food shop that helps refugees and run for local councillor.
Darling that’s amazing, you’ll need to learn lots of interesting things, keep focused and believe you can do it. Because you can do anything. . As long as you don’t take advice from anyone else.. ever!!!!
Or at least keep a very open mind about what motivates us humans to fear the goals, dreams and aspirations of others.
Achieving and believing in ourselves was a pool we only dabbled in the shallow waters of as children;
The deep end. we were mostly conditioned to believe was for a vague group of other people . Braver, better, richer, cleverer, more well rounded humans who buy some trick of osmosis had known from birth that they were awesome. Many of the people I speak to in art or mental health group have a real fear of success in their work, or to see their ideas flourish. What if they fail. ? Where did that seed of doubt germinate?
Throughout this pandemic our relationships have changed, not only with each other but for many facing inwards for the first time since they could tie their own laces and run out of the school door, they are now having to see themselves a bit more up close and personal. (Including I might add the tedious rigmarole of self hair cuts and eyebrow plucking. )
Some of you might be closer to people than ever before, some might be struggling because of a lack of trust in technology. Sadly, I can guarantee that despite always writing and creating with my own mum in mind, she will always refuse to switch her computer on. She has one, but claims it doesn’t like her and no amount of help, instructions with diagrams or gentle guidance whilst on the other end of the phone line will convince her otherwise. ‘I know what you look like,’ she tells me, at precisely 9.15am every Friday on the phone. There is no changing her mindset. That is how it is and that is how it stays. I suppose I actually could have a monobrow by now and certain people on the Christmas card list would be none the wiser!!
Some conversations are never had in the way we would like or need. My mum makes me laugh now, but all of us are fundamentally the same, even if we say we don’t want or need approval or love from anyone else. From birth all children want is to be seen. Before it was crushed or squashed or side-lined by your family or ignored you were a little wriggly star. A perfect sponge and mirror to the world around you , mimicking nature and making it your own… ( I’m getting vague memories of sitting in a tree talking to fairies, and no it wasn’t last week…) You didn’t know any better than to show the world you existed in your own wonder and didn’t give a fig what anyone thought. Until you became conscious enough to name those feelings, until you understood you had a place , and kept ending up there.
To be seen isn’t the same as being praised. To be recognised in all your colours, all your YOUNESS in the eyes of your closest ones is your mirror. Their acceptance and appreciation of you as a package, and more than that, their pride in that package fuels you, and nurtures you. You are free to stop wondering if you are good enough. That is the gift of recognising others and why we must tell them
If this becomes lacking, we have to learn to give ourselves or the people we love the gift of being seen. And definitely not become the perpetrators of what we hated to feel in our worst memories..
It is an vital part of your health in every sense, but especially at the moment, to feel at ease with your essential self. To be the person you weren’t taught to be by watching your parents or siblings or the dynamics that crushed many in the classroom or office. It is far better to have a child that wont stop performing in the living room, than one too scared to tell you their fears.
For many people, this insular period in time has been a good excuse to rummage in drawers and in attics, throwing up objects and photos from our pasts that have led us to where we are now. Positive Reflections on the huge and varied lives we have lived is a good thing. We don’t often get to stop and check in like this, taking a pause and a breath
Many of you have learned ways to compete with boredom or fill your time, or learn a new skill or study for a different type of job. For some tapping back into that hobby from 1989 has proved joyous and become a much needed focus for the long winter days.
I put a post up on my face-book page asking people to tell me what they had been up to, or made, or created that they were proud of during these isolated 18 months. I didn’t really think much about the question, and expected a whole lot of replies as usual. But, it was surprising how few of the creative and talented, amazing people who inspire me every day, didn’t offer anything about themselves in return. There were barely any. One response that surprised me said they were told ‘Pride comes before a fall’ .
I lay awake thinking about pride, and about the preconception that being too happy with an accomplishment creates a vanity which in turn creates the likelihood of a well deserved topple.
And I realised that we might have an instilled sense of that rule from somewhere. About being too pleased with ourselves, in case we are seen to be showing off. And I remembered why I left home. I was painting art in my bedroom, at 18, with the neighbours children attached to me like limpets as I was babysitting. I was maybe singing. I would definitely have been friendly. A family friend of my Mum’s was round drinking tea. Afterwards I was summoned and told I was too happy and sparky, (the friend had commented, and it had made them feel ashamed of my ‘differences to everyone else’) To this day I remember the stone sinking in my chest, that feeling of horror, and appalling realisation that they cared more about a virtual strangers flyaway opinion than the creative, but really quite nice person their child was growing into.
It took me a long time to understand why, that it wasn’t really their fault. it was their own conditioning and fears of standing out that drove everything that wasn’t beige to have to be rubbed out. I just knew I had slowly begun to fade there too, so I had to go. Leaving home, travelling to New York to nanny, going off to Art school and being free was the start of adult life. Unless we challenge these misconceptions nothing changes for anyone, but it isn’t always possible to do that straight away. Facilitating positive mental health routes for others motivated me, and I always say there is no better teacher than helping others through personal experience.
Our own generation began to understand that it was alright to flourish a little bit… I still think we are carrying the weight of the ages, but we are doing a better job at not passing that on. If we look at the way our children’s generation are able to self publicise with their tick tocks and insta posts, that is. For so long we collectively carried the residue of our parents fears of standing out for being different, daring to try, daring to try, fail and try again. If we live with a negative person, someone who is scared of seeing us succeed, in case their failures and lack of insight or imagination become apparent : we will be met with a lack of interest, or worse an uninvited actual critic. But if these people are important in our lives, their opinions matter. They are the rocks we build our sense of self on. Or not. And so, without the right cheerleaders, we believe we are useless. We make half hearted creations. We prove ourselves and the world and them right. Pride does indeed come before a fall. But it isn’t your pride. It is the lost pride that should have been readily rained down at the breakfast table.
Flourishing against any kind of negativity in our lives is like swimming against the tide. I spent the last three months of my degree in my lovely big shared Edinburgh flat, getting a ridiculous amount of artwork created. Gone were the voices and critics which I was sensitive to after my upbringing. I flourished. And I sold out my show. This was my West End Craft Fair Stall in Edinburgh with set up help from the Princes Trust.
Where there should be an unspoken supportive hum in your head because you know how much you are valued, and there is nothing but the roar of self doubt, this can paralyse us . OR
It can be our motivation When we as humans find our gifts and skills, our joy and ideas we desperately want to share with the world, to not be able to share that is tragic.
Where would we be without the passion to design, draw, write, make music, cook, open conversations about new adventures and new thinking, to paint, to decorate, to get fit, to raise money, grow beautiful gardens, photograph the bounty before us and share it with the world. Almost none of these things, done by anyone I know, or by anyone I’m guessing you know either, is done solely for a prize or recognition. To Create is like breathing, like a desire, a passion for life, which has the most marvellous of outcomes of making other people happy too. We cannot be held responsible for anyone else. We can offer our stuff to the world, we can do our best. It isn’t your burden to live another person’s life for them. Making the hugest deal of your life though will impact on those around you like ripples in the ocean. All we can do to live a best life is to be mindful of how we do that, what we put in the world and why we are doing it.
A few of my friends have gone through huge journeys to find the confidence to do things like this. Perhaps it is the upside of not having support, that we learn to push ourselves that little bit more. To reach into a place where you find contentment that much easier to grasp. It literally makes me grin so much when I find out that David our friend with the dog has also been a poet and showed me his published books. His hidden tender depths are astonishing. ( Get well soon by the way ) Dear Rob, my lovely friend, who had a stroke, and who I taught art to and whom I met his lovely wife Ruth through. She and I are now great friends, she creates the most stunning quilts you’ve ever seen, and not only that, most of the things she makes she gives away.
Claire patiently making her beautiful cross stitch for her lovely family. Claire and her husband and children helped me every single week at an art class I ran in Edinburgh for children, taking boxes to the car and cleaning tables. They are so so kind.
This post was originally inspired by my bin man. He casually told me once that he was also a singer and actor. Oh and whilst driving the truck takes these lovely photographs ! In lockdown he and his team have stayed upbeat, vans breaking down and everyone’s rubbish piling up sand dunes. It is a lovely thing to know how people celebrate the gaps between work and sleep and who the real people are. Well done Douglas and team. You guys are amazing, thankyou.
I know Artists, some famous, some scribblers, writers (likewise,) nurses, teachers, holistic practitioners, mums, crafters, singers, and even nuns. And they all have skills I didn’t know about.
Today I wore Channel no 5 to Marks and Spencer’s to buy food for Mother’s Day with the monkey. I haven’t worn it in a year. Before it turns to vinegar, it was a lovely feeling to smell and feel a bit like my old self.
Doing things which evoke a particular sense of pleasure which resonates in only you cannot be explained or should be justified. The reason it is so hard to celebrate yourself is the mindset that at any given point we are doing things to please someone else, or gain approval. Saving things for best might mean you wake up one day, and your best is behind you.
Because we need someone wiser? older? more experienced ? to tell us our choices are worthwhile beautiful, meaningful in the world. If we stand up and fail what happens then?
Actually not very much…
I was asking my facebook question because I saw the quality in the things my friends do all the time, not because they are vain or pompous or climbing a ladder to success in a sharp suit smashing everyone in their way… But because they are gentle, quiet understated and mostly never tell anyone else what they get up to. Many beautiful things go unnoticed and uncelebrated. And either way the creator has the same relationship with that exercise. It makes them happy. And they are in a place, for some, finally where they are allowed to be.
. Its the things that people don’t ask for recognition for that makes my heart sing. My 106 year old nun doesn’t want it for her artwork. The care package sent by one of my group as their teacher, was not done for thanks, and took the giver completely out of their comfort zone to make it for me. That is a mountain and I am filled with gratitude.
For me I only care about the genuine kernal of appreciation I now can say I have for myself, my journey and my daughter. Some things work out, some don’t, but to live a life which feels instinctive and has hope, is way better than living by the rules of another. Any one of your creations, your meals, your walks, your photos of dogs, your haiku poems, your folded drawer of t shirts. You made something that wasn’t there before. And that is a tiny bit marvellous Perhaps tomorrow you can study to be an astronaut
You all have unique skills and the creative strength to keep going. The hidden gems you planted a long time ago in a pocket somewhere, may well be fully grown sparkly trees by now. What has struck me recently, is how my intelligent, wonderful, creative students, friends, and those people I have continued to admire over the years have all maintained an aspect of learning, and have an open mind to other’s ideas. You are like collages of your years in the world. Evolving and growing in wisdom, shedding off out-grown ideas like skins and staying open minded, unafraid to travel forward
. It might sound cliche but I feel proud of all these amazing people educating, writing, creating, still learning skills, making the most of this time with their children and animals. Your resources are limited, but your wills are stronger than ever to finish what you started.
Every week amazing people do ordinary things which keep other people going, making sure we are all ok and for this I am grateful to be part of so many positive connections.
This is Jim. Jim is the star of our zoom every week with his technical green screen wizardry . He has taken huge steps , not least trusting and using a phone, let alone all this newfangled cleverness. We are in stitches and nobody looking in would guess your mammoth journey. Thankyou so much for keeping us all entertained. And to all my group, you inspire me and one another to remember we are all a puzzle piece in a bigger jigsaw. You just need to find the right box.
And this is Isabel Robb, working hard for a Brain Tumour charity by pushing herself with her ten thousand steps a day. This is Amazing. Isabel brings up her son with additional needs as well . She is a kind and selfless wee diamond. 🙂 Go Isabel xx
Both of these women I know, won’t mind me telling you that their journeys began in a far less happy and confident place: due to life’s unpredictable circumstances. It has been with their sheer spirit, courage and humility that they have worked a day, a step and a goal at a time to achieve these aims and recreate new lives for their families. All at Cedar are proud of the entire group of Women who have beaten their fears to get where they are. .
And not trying to climb the mountain on day one
Sometimes, we are prevented from reaching our potential in life because those around us think they have our best interests at heart. Sometimes the reasons are much more complex. But if you start to unpick the response you might get; when you, for example, announce your wonderful new solo travel plans, or business idea, or new career as an opera singer.. it can be so overwhelmingly negative that you rip up the dream before it has even begun.
And that suits everyone just fine. It proves they were right. That they know you better than you know yourself…..
Except of course they don’t..
Often people closest to you, will instil their fears of you doing something wild, crazy, free, liberating, enjoyable, wonderful, or just different…. which mimic your own self sabotage demon sitting on your shoulder already….and this will line up quite nicely with you NOT actually being able to do it in the first place, and at the first sign of defeat you give yourself permission to give up. PROVING ALL OF YOU RIGHT. And the cruellest irony is that this is usually nothing to do with your idea or plans or dabble into new territory. These emotional responses pushing you back down where you ‘belong’ are the fears of your friends, or family, often going back generations. Add in jealousy of not achieving that same kind of thing themselves, not getting to stand in your shoes, and it is a heady mix of sabotage blended to look like care. It is not cruel to be kind. It is probably just cruel.
Anyone truly in your camp will listen to all your ideas and be able to separate their feelings impartially. Give advice but still say go for it.
In order to achieve anything at all in life, no matter how trivial or overwhelmingly impossible it might seem to anyone else First we need to know
1 We actually deserve to be happy and to do this thing we crave to do
2 Today is as good a day as any to start. Tomorrow is an excuse. Get a notebook and write down your idea.
3 Write down all the reasons for doing this thing and what you will feel
4 Write down all the reasons why not to do it , and what others will feel
5 Be grateful for what you have/ who you are already. This thing will add to your life. You are already you. That’s why you can do it.
6 Some days in the creation of a thing are like rainy weather. Shut the curtains, snooze and do it later.
7 Keep the big end result in your mind, but be flexible with this. A perfect alternative might pop up when you least expect it.
8 Make physical plans, maps, picture collages of your idea. Make lists . The more focused you are the better.
9 Do something every day towards your goal. I often multitask two blogs at once, or paint and listen to an audio for something I am studying. Squeeze things into the corners of your day. My hours are limited with fatigue, so my sympathies go out to you if you are a reader with a chronic condition. However. You still exist. You can get to your goal. Just do it from the sofa, or your duvet.
10 Don’t procrastinate. You aren’t a child. Nobody will tell you off if you don’t start this venture off, You shouldn’t have to force yourself, although obviously we all have good and bad days. You are accountable only to you.
11 This will be perfect. But your version of perfect, nobody else’s perfect. Half a mountain is better than no mountain at all.
12 Expect yourself to be happy, achieve this goal, be humble and share your experience.
13 If distractions are an issue of your own making, change the goal, as this might not be what you clearly desire. But if distractions are your children or animals- get a shed.
14 Be consistent every day. Timetable your tasks and very quickly you will see results that add up to something tangible. Read in the bath, listen to audio, get up a bit earlier, work with the rhythms of those around you and yourself. I am writing this at half past five am. By teatime, my lupus addled brain is foggy and needs to draw instead.
Where there’s a will there’s a way. And .. In the words of my daughter;
”there enough people already being average….
To aim your highest you might have to wobble a bit first…
and you are better to be a sheep dog than a sheep….’‘
Perfectly said Leah. Didn’t need the rest of the blog!……xxxxx
Good Luck with your next venture.. do let us know how you get on !
This week has made me realise just how fast the Roller-coaster between feeling pure joy and the physical paralysis sadness can wreak in this wonderland we call lockdown. It is amazing. One minute everything is so boringly normal you could scream stepping into your Monday pants, and then all of a sudden there you are staring into the eyes of yet another crazy person with too much time on their hands and not enough energy directed at their own underwear drawer.
I might be the most tolerant person you’ll ever meet, so please don’t think I’ve had a bump on the head. But this Tiger mum who keeps her 7 cubs safe… ( only one human one) unknowingly woke up in the Jeremy Kyle show. The weather was warm with a promise of Spring sunshine. Along came a tornado.
Whilst in my favourite pyjamas, secretly desperately chuffed with myself for changing my broadband and setting up my new tv package, I was basking in the happiness that can only be found in a remote control and Netflix and twiddling with business computery things in front of the fire, various animals snoozing next to me, child happily playing for once outside with her best friend . Bliss.
The air is starting to ease it’s winter tensions, Spring smells had begun to tease us in the morning, just slightly too cool to actually drink tea outside, but almost. And as I uploaded photos, this week , it felt lovely, both of us in the middle of creating new projects, some things nobody knows about yet, some things are revisited, some are ongoing and some are bearing fruit ; and like the garden and the clothing possibilities in the morning’s choices, we are starting to unfurl towards Spring..
There was a hammering on the door and an angry woman’s face. In mine.
The people attempting to cause problems for others in the world aren’t really what this art and positivity site was supposed to be about. But that is unfortunately a mirror for life’s weird and wonderful journey; we do not get to chose everything in it. Sometimes the big kid stomps on your sandcastle. And it is whether you let the big kid stop you ever building another one again, that counts.
. When we moved to an idyllic little village we had visions of an idyllic little village, leaving the city outskirts for the sanctuary of a new start, we created a beautiful new home by the sea, with all the freedom a child could need . In the short few years we have lived here, both of us have now been subjected to behaviours by adults last seen in the playground .
Whilst there have been reports filed, this is apparently quite a frequent occurrence to anyone not born in a small village. And the Police and other agencies have been overwhelmed with a stack of historical paperwork on these small town politics, chasing the blue skies into grey storm clouds… Sounds a little bit to familiar to me.
Making physical and verbal threats to other humans is clearly unacceptable.. Which was what the authorities also thought. Especially when unprovoked and repeated.
There are many reasons, as we’ve discussed before, why people believe their feelings are more important or true than others. And therefore they feel they can dominate people because of this.
And the smaller and smaller a place you go, the worse this gets. Ironically, it is usually the most beautiful of places too. Having lived most of my adult life in Edinburgh where you could be any version of yourself at any time, nobody would notice. Walking home dressed in face paint from a performance, or covered in paint one day and dressed in a suit the next. The melting pot of human diversity in most places is what makes it healthy, interesting, fun and normal.
I don’t know how it feels to wake up and think anyone else’s business is mine, apart from those I love
Despite having the same physical symptoms every day, keeping positive and creative keeps chronic conditions more bearable. Having layers of meaning and joy with the little little things we do, helps with all our states of mind. We eat so we don’t get inflammation, we breathe better, we maintain simple clarity for our family and health, we take pleasure in the ways of life that are colourful and joyful, especially when those things connect with other like minded people.
So….. When that subtle but vital cloak of protection is constantly snatched away by jealousy or ignorance it is not only another thing to maintain, but starts to become a very scratchy garment to wear instead. Thankfully we have an amazing network of friends and support out with the immediacy of certain goings on. But I am compelled to write about this because I know from your letters and responses that our experiences are not singular. If one of you feels something, somewhere we all do, or know someone who does. And hopefully it can help a little to discuss and compare .
Suddenly being scared, or anxious and confused because of something, someone out of your control, can physically overwhelm all your senses and your body’s defences.
It is hard enough to deal with if you have the strength to go and kick box a giant padded dummy, but if your immunity is medically low, your body literally starts to attack itself. Go figure. It joins in.
The world is supposed to be a magical and kindly place. We should be able to trust all the creatures in the forest. There should be kindly folk at hand on our adventures and little birds singing on our shoulder.
Just like in the story books
Thankfully, as I had both cctv, and my daughter was cavorting about with her best friend in a field making Tick Tick videos, both events were recorded. What I can’t get out of my head, is my daughter’s reaction after she had politely answered the screaming woman, and after the car sped off. That fear will haunt me, hopefully far longer than it will her.
We all recognise this feeling. Bullies from the snotty lunch money thieving playground ones to the ones we accidentally become involved with in innocence, trusting their stories of past heroics and future bounty, or the sudden and unexpected lashing out of a probably sad, angry human whose path your shadow fell onto.
Their fallout is the same, the negative, horrid, damaging, heavy, words, actions, threats, imminent behaviour strikes fear which goes way beyond the action of simply getting the stuff out of their heads into the world. These arrows land on the victim like physical blows and can change their entire outlook.
If we let them. And if our invisible armour isn’t adjusted.
I couldn’t stop crying. My face hurt from it. But somewhere I knew it was temporary. I ran out of words a little bit and couldn’t move. My body was changed. The life force we need to choose our clothes, make a meal, be centered, that energy that usually flows was frozen. I had to say to a few people, for a few days, give me a minute. Those days were stolen .
When we get attacked, we get invaded. Sometimes it is easy to brush off, sometimes though, especially if it has happened over and over, it can be one time too many. Here was a numbness and a seemingly irrational powerlessness.
There was too many associations with other situations which were similar. But I knew this. I could feel it like a cold hand pushing me back into a dark forest of feelings I just didn’t want to go into…… I witnessed myself experiencing this mad event through the eyes of my future self and knew letting this negativity win wasn’t an option.
Observing my earthly body thus, it occurred to me that we must go through a series of bodily trials when we are shocked, appalled, worried and exhausted. Physically stunned, we lose our hunger for food, or the usual routines, but our senses are acutely aware of our loved ones in our peripheral vision.
Your head gets crammed with cotton wool, your body wants to do is turn inside itself. Your eyes are leaking all by themselves and start to be filled with sand, which you keep trying to hide in front of your children. Gone is the tiny reserve of energy you stored up for that evening’s or day’s essential plans like cooking or bathing or folding laundry . Your already exhausted immune wrecked body is on hyperdrive looking for the enemy but attacking only you. When you are ill and you are bullied, you are being slowly rubbed out from the inside and it takes a will of iron to stand in the eye of the storm, preserving precious energy.
But of course you must. Every day, everywhere, situations are occurring where terrible things happen to good people day after day. This in the big scheme of things was horrible for us, but was dealt with and we are lucky to have the ability to make future choices. A pandemic, already challenging the world’s mental health, already forcing the isolated into isolation is why all differences should be celebrated not picked on. If we as humans are watched, it should be with loving eyes , because your self is so marvellous. This is no time for not being able to shine.
After so much life on hold, we can’t hide our selves too.
We are equipped with ways to cope with sudden shock, if we hear our higher kinder self. As much as we want to please the concerned friends trying their best to help. What we all need sometimes is a different thing. Your true friends can and will want to learn to understand this, just as you do. All we can do is keep being open. Last night I received a lovely phone call from a 90 year old nun . I taught her and several of her friends in a care home. She and I haven’t spoken in three years but have sent letters. It was like we were on the phone yesterday. One of the residents, another Elizabeth Walker, who was dear to Leah and I , died yesterday. Monika gently talked about how she had sat with her and it had been very peaceful.
Life is short, and sometimes tricky but there is always a light on. There are so many good people it is almost ridiculous. There are still so many reasons to brush yourself down and keep going. There are so many people in our lives even if we don’t see them for the longest time.
Forcing my legs into the cold, and leaving the Grinch in bed, the bear and I went to the beach today at 7.15. Am. He loved it. Nobody to scold him for running up to them and mimicking a small horse.
He galloped about, I watched the sky, bigger than all of us. We watched the swimmers, braver than all of us. I managed just enough steps to feel a bit proud. Next time I’ll get to the water. He waited nicely at the car and we listened to story tapes on the way to do the shopping in Aldi. I shopped in peace, and was met like a long lost friend because we hadn’t done our shopping in person there for a month. ( having done it online when I hadn’t felt well). Next time they said the staff would take it in turns to drop off my shopping.
We even managed to witness God on the A1, n a miraculous burst of light on the sea. And stopping on the layby wasn’t accompanied by ‘ God mum, you’re soooooo embarrassing’
Life can and always does make progress and another day passes without going backwards. The line between easy and hard is often paper thin, and a moment of someone else’s madness can be enough to create an effect like the blurry button on your camera phone.. In these times, most people are still kind, and in the widest world billions truly are incredible. Sometimes it is the thought of the cold that is the hardest challenge . But as these guys are there every day, my guess it is must get warmer once you brave that first step…
Everyone loves a little healthy kingdom ruling once in a while though… just ask a dog. The difference is they cover you in big wet kisses afterwards.
Once out of the house, the village, The Grinch was happy to have peace, bear was happy to have space and it felt good having challenged myself to do these things alone.
Today our chicken got out of her hutch. A small victory swiftly regretted after a brief flap around the trampoline when a giant pair of bear like jaws came hurtling down on her wing… Whether it was surprise at landing a catch or his practice at being so gentle with the guinea pigs every night; they just stopped and stared at one another in shock . Holding one in each hand like toddlers in a food fight, the Beast had to be gotten out of the way temporarily in order to coax Sugar back.
Safely back in the kitchen but trying to get out of the cat flap, bear watched as Sugar frolicked for a while with me in tow. Wondering how I would convince my lower body half to get all the way down to the ground to catch her, I rang Dr Doolittle on her mobile. Knowing full well that it was highly unlikely she would tear herself away from making her latest mini movie..
And then I stood still..
Slowed my heart rate and considered all eventualities briefly before leaving fate to step in
And just like that, Sugar wandered into the cage, as if nothing had happened.
In our time there have been a series of challenges which have bordered on unbelievable. But they have only underlined the sanctity of home, of stillness and of loyalty to those people in your life who never judge, never comment, never complain; just allow you to be you.
These recent experiences may be the beginning of a new chapter for us. Who knows. As my friend Yvonne, who lives in Spain and who I miss dearly says’ Going beyond our shores is so much healthier for understanding other people.’ Certainly, staying in one place and growing more judgemental and bitter is not a life choice, regardless of the petrol it saves.
All through this week I have been listening to the audio of the Wintering by Katherine May. My friend Nicola reminded me of the existence of Audible and recommended this book . It has been an absolute pleasure to be immersed in the beautiful visuals of May’s words , sensitively conjuring up how necessary and elemental our own seasons must be. Through chopping carrots and kale in the mornings to folding towels or finishing drawings, hearing her exploration of why and how we winter makes us see how there is a vital need to stop and refuel, especially when we find ourselves on empty , to gather in, restock, replenish, recharge, re new . It has come to be my new favourite book on so many levels.
Wintering isn’t a four month period. wintering is stepping back and knowing that you must preserve your energy, skills, sense of self and purpose, gather your fuel, gather those you love, gather your breath. We are all in a kind of winter at the moment. losing some of the choices we normally use to gather momentum to propel to the next season. Without outside reminders in big ways, explosive adverts for chocolate eggs and holidays, get aways and rewards for surviving another cold spell, we must be our own advocate, our own reward, our own chicken soup. ( Sorry Sugar)
There is a big big world out there, full of all of you inspirational people . Perhaps we land in a place for a while so that we can winter and create without distraction. And then really find our words.
Sometimes we must stand still and save precious energy whilst we figure out what the big dog will do next. Sometimes we get to gather in all the tools that only we know we need, and sometimes when the time is right, we can walk calmly back into our house that we chose, because we know we chose it, and it no longer feels like a prison. And we will all know that there will not be monsters or viruses or big black creatures at the door.
Personally our view will always be beautiful. We will keep building our sandcastle and put the most beautiful shells we can find on it. And if it gets washed away, kicked over, well do it all again tomorrow; because that is half the fun.