B4Peace: Ideal self

It just so happens, my dears, that EBL’s birthday is in April. Some years ago I received a gift of a necklace with a rune on it for “hawthorn”, which is supposedly the April plant (despite being called “May” or “Mayflower” in modern English). I have no idea what the source of this claim might be and I don’t really care. I was dead chuffed, as we old folks say, with the hawthorn connection because I had also in my youth read Robert Graves and learned that the hawthorn is the symbol of the Goddess representing at various times of the year her different faces of maiden (pure white flowers), mother (luscious red berries) and crone (gnarled black branches during winter).

triple_goddess_symbol

We have a hawthorn in our garden and it is a joy to live with. The flowers are gorgeous, the berries attract hordes of greedy birds and the branches clutch the winter skies with thorny fingers demanding that Spring return and refusing to take No for an answer, refusing to give in to winter’s icy brutality.

What if my inner goddess was like that, pure, nourishing and unyielding? What if I was able to be like the hawthorn?

In this month’s Bloggers for Peace post Kozo asked that we imagine our ideal self and how we could make peace happen in the world.

This is the point where I should do a polite thing and mention triggers because this post is not about to be joyful. The more I thought about this prompt the more I struggled to find my ideal self. The more I thought, the more I realised that no matter what I do or how hard I try to be the positive me, the goddess, it will not work and underneath I am still the old, twisted, damaged and depressed self, and there is no end to it. So if reading about someone’s struggle with depression is difficult for you, please take this opportunity to find something more nourishing for your soul and shake the dust of this post from your virtual feet.

I’m not sure how moaning on about my depression will promote world peace except that through understanding someone’s experience, one among far too many, we might all learn to live together more healthily.

I’m not sure it will work, but I promised I would post for peace each month so here we go.

To meet this month’s challenge I tried to find ways in which there was some kind of inner goddess inside this rather pointless person. To retain the vestiges of convention I started with maiden. What kind of a girl was I and how could I bring her best qualities into my life? As a child I wanted to be good, and make my family happy. I suppose children do usually want that, at least initially. I was loved, there is no doubt, by my father and grandmother and various relations, although I was a huge disappointment to my mother and we never were really close. Yes, this is the mother who lives with me now, brain eaten by dementia. I have been caring for her and disappointing her for as long as I can remember and nothing changes. I no longer expect it to, of course, but sometimes I think it would have been nice to have had a good relationship. However, we did not connect for whatever reason. Overall, it leaves me painfully aware that I failed as a child.

Well, perhaps there is more luck to be had as Mother. After all I have four Offspring, so perhaps I did something right. I always wanted a large family and a country home with chickens, home-baked bread and possibly a vegetable plot. That was based on Enid Blyton stories and daydreams of roses over the door and being able to climb the Magic Faraway Tree during holidays.

Except I was a terrible mother. I had no role model to use except the unrealistic ones in books, magazines and films. I had post-natal depression very severely for several years and I went out to work while Sigoth stayed home and parented. He is great with children. It turns out I am not. We lived in an Edwardian terrace near London so I could get work. I worked ridiculous hours to earn enough to support the family, at one point holding down three jobs at once. I was exhausted and depressed and terrible with the children, and never had the time or energy to pay them attention. It’s a miracle they stlll talk to me, but then I expect they want to be good children too.

OK, EBL, some of us are late developers. Perhaps you will make a wonderful Crone. You are enjoying getting older after all.

It is true, this is the most positive period in my life, and I want to celebrate the accumulated wisdom and experience of my first half century. But when I look at what I can contribute I honestly see nothing. The best thing I can do is to go away and die so I am no longer harming anyone. That way I can decompose and give back some useful nutrients to the soil. Sorry if it sounds melodramatic; it is, of course. That does not make it invalid.

This is the sum of my wisdom. The ideal me is a dead me. The best I can do is no hurt. The best I can give my children are no demands.

To be clear, I don’t hate my life. I have a job I enjoy, a partner who is practically perfect, children I adore, friends, a social life, a supportive community, enough income for my needs, a home I love. I am very fortunate. There is the odd event which causes distress, as in everyone’s life, but nothing unusual. I don’t want to change anything. I just don’t want to live. I feel no serious connection with the world and so no attachment to it (not in a good Buddhist sense though). I simply don’t have anything to live for. I have felt this way since childhood.

People think depression is caused by a thing, an event or a circumstance. It may be so for some people. Not for me. This is simply the way I am and there is no discernible reason. I am just a defective human.

I believe in good things like love and peace and happiness, but they are not for me. I cannot describe the best thing that happened to me today or this week or in my life, because none did. Or rather, they did happen but I don’t remember, like a dream that fades as your eyelids creak open in the morning.

I thought I was getting past this, but apparently not quite. I am not so distressed or perturbed as I used to be, but nothing has filled the gap left by those destructive feelings. There is just a big hollow. It’s not actually unpleasant but it isn’t as if it has been replaced by unicorns and rainbows. Looks like I missed the boat on those. It is an improvement I suppose. I won’t be distressing Sigoth or frightening the children by sitting in my chair crying and rocking for hours on end any more. That’s good. Perhaps that is the best I can be, and if so, then I shall hope it continues until I attain perfection in the way that is inevitable, a consummation devoutly to be wished.

Elsewhere shining lights burn more brightly than mine. Other bloggers for peace include:

http://everydaygurus.com/2014/03/31/monthly-peace-challenge-woman-in-the-mirror/

http://sarahneeve.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/april-b4peace-post-my-portrait/

http://klamiot.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/woman-in-the-mirror-i-wish/

This post also contributes to the Mental Health Awareness Blogging Project.

Namaste.

 

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Purple on the inside

birthday cake

This is the time of year when I start to think about age. My mother’s birthday was last week, mine is next month (she remembered hers alright, unlike the names of her grandchildren or when my father died; it’s so ingrained she won’t forget that until the last), along with Sigoth’s and two of the Offspringses. It’s pretty much birthday time all the time at EBL Towers just at the moment.

Ageing is not a popular pastime in western culture. I think that’s a shame, because we all do it every day and we can’t change that, so we might as well enjoy it. For example, I am about to become 52, which sounds like fun. There was a song my mother liked when I was a child about a deck of cards. It’s mawkish and sentimental, but at least it makes 52 a magic number. I have to say, 51 is not very exciting unless prime numbers are your thing. I like proper numbers that are made up of other smaller numbers, in different patterns and combinations. I think it makes them more interesting. I am not interested in a number you can only make by multiplying it by one. It leaves no room for creativity.

Perhaps I will invite friends round to play cards and eat cake.

There are many reasons I enjoy getting older. I have mentioned before that I suffer from depression. I have done so since I was a child and there hasn’t been anything anyone has been able to do about it, myself included. It doesn’t sit well with me, because I am a fixer. The pills don’t work, no matter which ones I try. Talking therapies are too expensive, although the occasional short series of sessions I have managed to access have been partly helpful but insufficient for any long term benefit. Pulling my socks up has only made holes in the toes.

It turns out that in my case ageing seems to be part of the answer rather than part of the problem. I know many people don’t like it or see it as positive but I really enjoy it. My depression has generally been worse during times of hormonal excess – puberty, pregnancy and menopause were all especially difficult, when the demons were at their worst. Now I am past all that nonsense, things are calming down.

I don’t know how other people experience depression, if they do. In my case it has been like a veil between me and the rest of the world. At times the veil has been relatively thin and I can reach through it and make contact with people. At other times it has been so solid and unyielding that I am trapped, able to see dimly through it but disconnected, unable to be heard or seen by others. The veil is always there, but lately it is gossamer thin, at least most days. It has worn away to a cobweb over time and I for one am cheered by that. Perhaps it will turn out that I am the mightier, that I have more staying power, that I will be the one to win the race. That is not what I expected, and I am glad for it. Who’s the stronger now, eh?

And I blow a raspberry at the veil. It mutters to itself in a corner and I start to see it for what it is – a bully, not insuperable, not immortal and not intact.

Today the veil was thin, yesterday it had a burst of energy. But I think I am winning the war, if not every battle. The tide is turning.

I like ageing. As I grow older I become careless. I care less what people think or say or do. I not only quote Jenny Joseph but actually wear the purple on the inside as well as the out.

Namaste.

 

Most people don’t realise

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Today I have five things to share with you. Buckle up, blogfriends!

  1. Most people don’t realise that I learned to play classical guitar.
  2. Most people don’t realise that I wore built-up shoes as a child due to knock-knees.
  3. Most people don’t realise that I am genuinely ambivalent about Marmite.
  4. Most people don’t realise that I don’t recognise faces easily.
  5. Most people don’t realise that I have wanted to kill myself.

We hide, intentionally or not, many facets of our lives. Sharing everything would be information overload of the most intense variety. However, depression and mental illness are too often hidden because of stigma.

This post is a contribution to the Blog for Mental Health Project 2014. You can read more about it by following these links.

http://acanvasoftheminds.com/2014/01/07/blog-for-mental-health-2014/

http://blogformentalhealth.wordpress.com/

I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

What don’t people always realise about you?

Namaste.

 

B4peace: The Enemy Within

Every month I try to post an entry on Bloggers for Peace. It is an interesting challenge, and certainly has produced some fantastic reading for me as I consume the outpourings of other contributors. I want to thank Kozo for this idea, because I think it has been a fantastic exercise, and one I hope will continue beyond December. But in November we are ramping up and facing an even tougher gauntlet:

This month, I want you to open your arms to your enemies. Think of a person, a place, a nation, a culture, a religion, a gender, or an ideology that you view as a enemy.

Well, I think any of you who have been with me a while will know that this particular writer has her own challenges and frustrations in this area. Your EBL displays only too human an outburst when provoked. I try to rise above it, I really do, but it just doesn’t happen very often.

But to call these people enemies… To think of the queue jumpers and crazy drivers and tabloid journalists and royal family sychophants and yes, even paedophiles and mass murderers and abusers of the vulnerable as enemies feels like a tall order. It has been to my amazement that actually I really do feel like loving the sinner while hating the sin, albeit in my very own, EBL-esque way.

Don’t get me wrong: most of them need locking up for the good of society. Such as the ones who risk my and Sigoth’s lives as they hurtle past us on a blind bend because they just have to be the car in front, regardless of speed limit, driving conditions or visibility, or the drunken lorry driver who crashed across the central reservation of the M1 and killed my friend, her husband and two small girls.

And don’t get me started on the notable deliberate evil-doers, such as Joseph Kony, Kim Jong-Il, Than Shwe, and so on – I’m not even starting on the list of consensually agreed “bad guys” from the 20th century or earlier. Frankly, their mothers are ashamed of them and they all need to sit in their rooms for a long time to think about what they have done, While they are there the rest of us need to make sure those doors are secured so they do not come out again to do more and worse.

Let’s not forget the inexplicably anonymous folk either. For the terrible things done on a personal level to friends and acquaintances, it is better for them to comment, but I want to be here for you if you need me.

So all in all, I can see a whole shed load of bad, but I just can’t get to the enemy part. I see danger because of their actions, and I believe we need to respond, without sentimentality, to it. Tough love means making people confront the consequences of their actions. If they ever do, it may destroy them; if they do not, then they must remain apart, unfit to join the bulk of humanity, which for all its petty flaws can pretty much agree on what is beyond the pale, when you get right down to it. If these villains really can’t get there, then they are damaged or sick and need to be mended. In my opinion violent criminals are by definition insane and should be placed in Broadmoor until either they are treated successfully for their ailment or until they die; either they can be fixed, in which case we rejoice, or they can’t in which case they are contained. Whichever.

Then we come to politicians who provoke mean-spiritedness and stigmatisation and several –isms. They need a sharp talking to, and I’m the one for it, let me tell you. People who follow their lazy ideology need some bringing up to speed on treating others as they would like to be treated. Journalists of the same water are included in this category, for the sake of completeness. Honestly, the effect of their rabid headline son the likes of my poor old mother is frankly in contravention of the Geneva Convention on Human Rights (in this case to live without fear).

But enemies… not so much.

I admit to being surprised at myself. I can rant for England about people who think wrong thoughts (in my opinion) or do stupid / bad / hurtful things. You will know EBL has Opinions and may venture to enlighten you on occasions.

But enemies…

The shock of it came a couple of days after I started thinking about this challenge, when I finally realised who the True Enemy was, the one person I despise and loathe above all else, whom I never forgive for their mistakes or cut any slack or excuse. It was a painful moment to understand I did have an enemy. It was me.

You see, my dears, I really don’t like me very much. I may not be alone in this, but nevertheless, this week I realised I actually like myself less than those people I have just listed for you. At first I disliked myself more for being so stupid as to think that. I am reasonably certain I have done somewhat less harm in the world than they. But still they evoke less visceral reaction that when I think of my own mistakes. I blame myself for everything. And I wonder why I suffer depression! How stupid of me! (See what I mean?)

Well now, that clever Kozo has made me confront my unreasonable behaviour, and I need to think more about this, in the quiet of my own head. Enemies are exhausting. All that hating helps neither of us. I can’t try to be better if all I get is kicks and sneers. I can’t expect myself to improve if I keep demonising and demeaning me.

“You, yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” Buddha

So while I go away and lie down in a darkened room, I suggest you read what others have written more memorably and poignantly in response to Kozo’s challenge. It’s going to be quite a ride!

http://everydaygurus.com/2013/10/31/monthly-peace-challenge-love-thy-enemy/

http://fishofgold.net/2013/11/06/to-my-enemy/

http://grandmalin.wordpress.com/2013/11/03/november-post-for-peace/

http://cardcastlesinthesky.wordpress.com/2013/11/10/a-happier-thanksgiving/

http://lauriesnotes.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/b4peace-monthly-challenge-a-quiet-prayer-of-thanks/

Namaste

Waking up alone

My dears, I know you think I am posting but it’s actually a magic pixie who is posting on my behalf while I am away for work. That’s why if any of you have been kind enough to comment I have not yet replied. I am thinking of you all, though, never fear. Be brave, I’ll be home for the weekend.

I dislike being away from home. I have moaned about it often enough. However, it occurred to me the other day that what I actually dislike is waking up alone.

The reason that startling revelation hit my consciousness was that last weekend I had a bug. Not a software bug, a proper virus. No, not a computer virus… A mean little germ got into my guts, settled down, had descendants and it resulted in me with my head down the loo at 3 am and periodically thereafter until the internal wars of digestion had seen me ultimately victorious and employing a full and healthy set of antibodies to send that old germ packing like the Swiss Guard at the Sack of Rome.

During this period Sigoth exhibited the better sign of valour and ministered to my every need from a safe distance to make sure he didn’t fall foul of the same bug. Very sensible of him really. We can’t afford to have both of us laid up because of the mother.

I still didn’t like waking up without the chance of a snuggle. Just a few precious minutes before the next busy day begins is all I ask.

When I am away I wake up alone. I often wake up alone at 3 am just because it’s not my bed and not my room and not my village. There are cars and party goers outside and random guests in the corridor and air-con gurgling. None of these noises help me sleep like a baby, except that babies often sleep by waking up at intervals and yelling for comfort. I don’t yell but neither do I tend to go back to sleep.

It happens sometimes when I sleep in at home and Sigoth gets up early, usually when I have been away and not slept well for a few days and need to catch up. Then I wake up in the luxury of my own bed, and roll over to find a big empty space that should be full of snoring Sigoth. There are times I fall asleep in my own bed before he comes up at night and wake up in the morning after he had gone downstairs and I am disoriented by solitude. My fuzzy brain wonders if it’s the future and I am alone forever; whether he is ill, or has died, and I’ve forgotten; whether he left me for some reason I cannot quite bring to mind or have blocked out; whether he no longer cares.  My desperately accumulated sense of being safe and happy and at peace is shattered in a moment of uncertainty and I begin to suspect I have been fooling myself for thinking anyone would stay with me.

I hear a sound, turn my head, and there he is with a tray of tea and a crossword, and the angels are blowing trumpets on the landing and turning cartwheels in the bathroom because he is back. Fireworks roar across the ceiling, exploding by the wardrobe and drowning out the dove burbling at the top of the chimney. Choirs reach a crescendo and the crowds dance in the street. There is the end of war and famine and sickness and poverty. The whale is saved. Hell, every last endangered arachnid and crustacean is saved while we’re at it, even the ugly ones. The sun has got his hat on.

This time.

Namaste.

Chaos stalks me

I have had a couple of days off this week and decided to take a chance to catch up on some creative projects. What bliss! No work for 72 hours that was not of my choosing. I started reading a new book, I worked on the Alleged Novel. I worked on the knitting project and did some yoga. By today, the third and final day, I was feeling good. Oh so good.

My friends, it should have been a warning.

When I feel too good, it is likely to be too good. This is not just my depressive personality talking. It’s experience, my dears, true and uncompromising experience. I should have heard Chaos stalking me, because it snuffles quite loudly, but I wasn’t listening. That is how it gets past your guard, you know, You stop listening.

It all began with a slightly desperate note left on a piece of toilet paper. To be fair it was the only paper the carer could find in mother’s room, so quite ingenious really. But what the note said was they had run out of some of mother’s tablets. Now the tablets are supposed to last until the weekend because we order them every four weeks and they provide four weeks’ worth of drugs.  For whatever reason, this time we ran out.

So there I was in a flat panic. The surgery insists on 48 hours notice and mother needed those tablets in the morning. I anticipated an argument on the phone. I imagined they might refuse to provide the tablets she needed (although I didn’t think it was likely). I imagined a huge row. I panicked about what would have happened if I had not had a holiday and if I had been away all week, like I usually am. Sigoth would only have seen the note in the evening after the dispensary had closed. There would have been no tablets.

I literally paced up and down the dining room before I felt able to call the dispensary. The phone went to answerphone because the dispensary closes between 12 and 1 o’clock. This drives me mad, because usually you can only phone in your own lunch break and so it is really hard to get through. No matter, I only had to wait until 1 o’clock.

I waited until ten past, to be on the safe side. I still got the answerphone but someone picked up on the third attempt. She was very nice about it and Sigoth and I drove into town after he finished work and picked up the tablets. Mother will now be drugged to her eyeballs again.

So all’s well that ends well, as they say in Stratford on Avon. Yet again I catastrophised needlessly. And yet, and yet – I usually am away. It was luck. And I know every day that such small crises can appear from nowhere and my world turns upside down. Suddenly in the middle of a working day a phone call overwhelms me, and I phone back and email and rant and rave because I am not at home and able to do the simple thing needed.

That upheaval is the chaos stalking me, and when I can do the simple thing, I don’t immediately recognise it. I feel the disaster before I feel the solution.

This stress denies my claims of restful creative endeavours. That’s how stress works. When you aren’t actually pacing or chewing your fingernails to the root, or pulling out hair, then your hard fought sense of peace and equilibrium can be shattered in a second. Peace is a fragile thing.

It’s so easy to snap from peace to panic; so hard to go the other way.

These events are not personal. No one is setting out to make my life difficult, although unwittingly they do. The carers don’t think to tell me about waning medical supplies in good time, but on the day they run out. The dispensary didn’t really plan to close just as I needed to call them, or require 48 hours’ notice just to frustrate me, but to allow them to cope with requests in good time and presumably reduce mistakes and stress for their own staff. Knowing that doesn’t help.

What I now need to work on is the return ticket, from panic to peace. I need a mantra, or song, or picture to bring my feet to that path.

And once I have achieved that I will have the secret of world peace. Watch this space.

Namaste.

Unique

We are all special, each in our own way. Some of us make the world a better place and some of us just cope with getting by. A handful of people contribute a net disbenefit, so to speak, but I am firm in my conviction that they are the tiny minority, even if they do occasionally seem to make the most noise.

Today there was some discussion of the child within, the unique person who can be seen emerging from the infant and growing into the adult, and latterly peeping out from the eyes of the elderly through their force of personality. We continue to feel much the same on the inside while our bodies start to ache and our brains become increasingly puzzled by the latest mobile phones.

My friend went on to propose that how we treat our children, by which she meant how society, as well as the actual parents or carers, treats its children, will create a secure child who feels loved or an insecure one who grows up with problems. I felt she was right. My own upbringing, while far from tragic, was also far from ideal and I am very insecure. The resulting chronic depression I live with is evidence in favour of my friend’s argument.

However, I decided to avoid that particular old chestnut today, and focus on the wonder that is a human being. This is probably because I watched my Cirque du Soleil DVD last night and am still in awe of what some people are able to persuade the body to accomplish. On the other hand I can touch my toes, so all is not lost.

Naturally, I cast my mind back to my youth in the green days of the last century. One text book I studied on Child Development had a poem by Aldous Huxley, which bizarrely I read the once and instantly memorised. My brain used to do that back then, just remember things for fun without me even asking it to do so.

“A million million spermatozoa,

All of them alive:

Out of their cataclysm but one poor Noah

Dare hope to survive.

And among that billion minus one

Might have chanced to be

Shakespeare, another Newton, a new Donne –

But the One was Me.”

The Fifth Philosopher’s Song

There is a final response verse which is less uplifting, but don’t worry about that here. The point is the same: we are each unique. Some of us (not you, obviously) may be uniquely appalling, but most of us aren’t. My tutor in Child Development would make that point, adding “Children grow up to function well in society, usually despite their parents rather than because of them.”

So here I am, and possibly here are you, and here are all the rest of us, getting by, each in our own way. We cannot mourn the possibilities that never were, but can only make best use of the ones we have. Where individually we have weaknesses, together we have strength.

Who needs another Shakespeare anyway? As he said himself, you can have too much of a good thing:

“If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken and so die.”

Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1

Namaste